Monday, July 15, 2013

Motherhood and Professional Callings

I have taken a break from blogging while working on my book. I'm happy to say that the book is fully drafted now! Stuart and I still have some polishing to do, but it should be available in the coming few months. Hooray!

Now that I have a chance to get back to my blog, I want to tackle a critical issue that my students (particularly female students) often ask me about: How do you balance the idea of a professional calling with the choice to be a stay-at-home Mom? There are no easy answers here. And as a working male, I am perhaps not the most credible voice.

I do have some strong feelings, though. And my good friend Michelle, a former MBA classmate of mine, articulates them more convincingly than I can. So I want to share her story and her words with you.

Before I introduce Michelle, however, I want to assert strongly that we can still exercise our calling in life if we choose not to be employed. The way that society equates having a calling with having a job does a terrible disservice to women who choose stay-at-home motherhood over professional careers. The media and other leading voices sometimes express thinly veiled disdain for women who choose to do their life’s work on the home front. They imply that women who stay at home are somehow suppressing their potential and succumbing to archaic societal expectations. If this view is right, and a calling is something you can only pursue by choosing a professional career, then stay-at-home moms surely have sold themselves short. But if instead we define a calling as using your unique gifts to serve an important cause, then motherhood and family life become the noblest and most urgent expressions of calling.

This is where I want to introduce Michelle.

Like many young people, Michelle had a hard time deciding what to study in college, and agonized a lot about what she should be when she grew up. It was during this time of uncertainty and stress that Michelle sought a "priesthood blessing" from her father (for Latter-day Saints, such blessings are a way to receive inspired counsel). Although the blessing provided comfort to her then, it would take years for her to fully appreciate how it would guide her future. Among other things, the blessing promised her that God would be beside her, helping her to discern her mission as she went along through life. It also told her that there were many ways she could accomplish her mission in life. This diminished her fear of missing her “one right path.” In fact, her path soon began to unfold in ways that surprised her.

Michelle served a mission for her church, even though that hadn’t been her original plan. She later decided to get an MBA, an idea that she said came out of the blue. While in school, she discovered dreams and passions that she hadn’t recognized before. One of them was a fascination with technology in management. She landed a job in telecommunications and business process, thousands of miles from home, and loved it.

Eventually she met her husband in her new community, and later decided to quit her job to raise her children. Over time, she found ways to keep her resumé and her network current, even as a stay-at-home mom. She did some consulting work on the side and tried her hand at starting a business. She became a member of the undergraduate advisory board of the Marriott School of Management. She anticipated going back into the corporate world at some point.

But that point has never come. About 10 years ago, Michelle developed serious health problems that severely limited her energy and mobility. For someone who had been a “doer” all her life, this was a monumental challenge. Not only did her illness threaten Michelle’s ability to return someday to the work she loved, it also made motherhood – her most important job – more difficult than ever. But Michelle remained inspired by her father’s blessing. The Lord had promised that He would guide her to find her mission in life, and that there were many ways she could fulfill it. She continued to have a driving desire to use her talents to engage with the world.

Michelle discovered that one of the few things she had enough energy and time for was blogging. Writing a blog also fit well with Michelle’s gifts for technology and communications. She envisioned a blog that would provide a community for LDS women, and that would introduce others to their lives and beliefs (see Michelle didn’t anticipate how large the response to her blog would be, nor the new connections, interests, and directions it would foster for her. For instance, driven by the searches on her site, and inspired by Elder Russel M. Ballard’s 2010 LDS General Conference talk on addiction, she became deeply involved in helping various organizations and individuals get more information online about addiction and recovery.

Looking back, Michelle sees the hand of God in almost every step that led her to the blog. She realizes that without her health challenges, she never would have seen this opportunity. She reflects:

“I couldn’t have planned it. I couldn’t have set a goal that said ‘I’m going to be this when I grow up.’ I’m along for the ride. It’s very different from having a dream and pursuing it with all your might. It’s trying to keep an eye open for doors, and having my limitations be part of what opened those doors.”
Michelle doesn’t have a job, in the traditional sense, but she does relish a sense of calling, although she feels that God continues to refine her calling as she seeks to balance her professional gifts with her family responsibilities. She says:

“First and foremost, I want to validate motherhood. But our culture is swinging the other direction. It’s almost minimizing motherhood as a career. The more we validate motherhood, the less conflict mothers feel. Women don’t have to do something else to prove their worth or fulfill expectations.
“We should cherish motherhood because there is nothing more important. But God gives us gifts and talents to use them. It’s just a matter of discerning how to go about it. He expects me to always be asking if I’m doing this in the right balance.

“We worship a God of abundance and compensatory blessings. He is not out to strip us of what matters to us, even though he asks for sacrifice. In reality, I figured out more of who I am because I’m a mom, and that gives me the ability to be more fulfilled in other parts of my life.”

Michelle’s path toward her calling remains less than clear to her. Recently, she has felt strong promptings to pull back from some of her volunteer involvement. She is still making sense of those promptings – is God signaling to her that she is entering a season when her family needs her undivided attention? Does He have new unanticipated opportunities and challenges in store for her? Michelle has seen enough surprising twists in the way God has used her that she has come to trust the promptings that guide her calling. As she puts it, “I want to be potter’s clay.”

As she looks back on the unplanned opportunities that have come her way, the word that comes to Michelle's mind is “astonishment.” She has been astonished in precisely the way Eliza R. Snow expressed when she taught:

"Let your first business be to perform your duties at home. But, inasmuch as you are wise stewards, you will find time for social duties, because these are incumbent upon us as daughters and mothers in Zion. By seeking to perform every duty you will find that your capacity will increase, and you will be astonished at what you can accomplish.”

If, as we have argued, callings are about finding that place where your unique gifts and talents can be used to benefit others, then motherhood is as eligible for the status of calling as any professional identity.

Monday, September 17, 2012

How the Daily Grind Can Prepare You for Your Calling

I'm back! A radically busy summer -- along with a fairly sudden move to a new house -- has thrown me off schedule a bit. But I'm back into working on my book, and wanted to share a fresh story: 
My dear friend Sam is a great example of how patiently doing all you can in the midst of a less-than-exciting career can open doors to something far more fulfilling. After his family sold the business that he had co-owned throughout his early adulthood, Sam struggled to find work that would both provide for his family and give him a sense of professional achievement. Eventually, Sam found some success by building a small business. He finished concrete floors – usually in residential garages. Although there was adequate demand for his skills, the work felt repetitive to Sam and didn’t provide him the sense of challenge that he longed for. Moreover, the job required Sam to continually pound the pavement for new customers. Going door to door was the only way he could maintain his livelihood since his job provided no opportunity for repeat customers. As Sam put it, “I was firing myself after each job I finished.” 
Sam kept at his business for six years, getting by – sometimes just barely – but never feeling like he was doing what he loved or providing for his family in the way that he wanted to. How would Sam ever find his calling while he was stuck finishing floors? At one particularly low point, Sam asked his stake president (a church leader) for a priesthood blessing (a form of inspired ecclesiastical guidance) to help him know how to provide better for his family. The blessing gave him some very pointed assurances – including that he need not worry, and that God would soon provide Sam a way not only to make a comfortable living, but also to help others in the process.
One day soon after the blessing, Sam was hired to finish the floors of a cabin belonging to a man named Rob, who is a successful entrepreneur. As they drove up the canyon together, Sam inquired what business Rob was currently working on. Rob described a new venture that involved providing social media services to companies through Facebook and other internet-based platforms. Sam was intrigued by the company’s product, and immediately started thinking about business owners he knew who might be interested. Sam told Rob, “I think I can sell that!” Rob appreciated Sam’s enthusiasm but explained that he already had a sales team in place and didn’t have a spot for a new person.
Undeterred, Sam started talking to his various contacts about the new business anyway. And here is where Sam’s unique gifts started to surface in a significant way. You need to know that Sam is extremely gifted at connecting with people and forming relationships. He describes himself as the type of person who can’t stand by in an elevator without striking up a conversation with another occupant. Sam’s friends affectionately refer to him as “The Mayor,” because wherever he goes, he seems to run into someone in the community that he knows. So it wasn’t much of a stretch for Sam to believe that he could find people who would share his enthusiasm for the new business idea.
Within a few months, Sam had brought so many new clients – including some very large ones – into Rob’s business that Rob really had no choice but to hire him. By his second month of employment, Sam had more sales than anyone else in the company. When he talks about his work now, he has a sparkle in his eye and an infectious enthusiasm. It’s obvious that he has taken a huge step toward work that represents his calling in life.
When Sam looks back on his years as a floor finisher, he has a sense that it was a necessary, if not always pleasant, experience to prepare him for the work he is doing now. Finishing floors gave him a commitment to meticulousness that has enhanced his professionalism. Selling his services door-to-door heightened his confidence in approaching potential clients. And, most strikingly, Sam admits that he never would have found his current job if it hadn’t been for the opportunity to finish the floor of his boss’ cabin.
As he reflects back on the years of struggling as he searched for his calling, Sam feels that his faith played a critical role in helping him get where he is today. He said,
“The Lord is involved in our lives in the smallest, simplest ways, and we don’t even realize it. The question is whether we have that childlike faith to see it. Instead of questioning whether it’s the hand of the Lord or not, we just need to say, ‘yeah, that was the Lord.’”

It would have been easy for Sam to despair, or to think that God had forgotten him, when he was struggling for years with his floor-finishing business. But in retrospect, Sam can now see his professional struggles, and less-than-fulfilling work, refined him through those challenging times to prepare him to do work that allows him to use his best gifts. 
Sam's story should be an inspiration and comfort to those of us who feel like we are just grinding away at unfulfilling jobs. Having an unpleasant job is not the worst thing that could ever happen to us! Virtually any job provides us opportunities to learn something about ourselves (even if it's figuring out who we aren't). Sam's formula is pretty brilliant: Work as hard and well as you can at whatever job you are blessed with, but at the same time, be intensely vigilant and opportunistic about new and unusual prospects. You might just see the hand of Providence!   

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

If I Miss My Calling in Life, Do I Get a Second Chance?

I thought I'd share an excerpt from the book I'm currently drafting (which is a faith-based treatment of professional callings). This is my offering to those of you who find yourself thinking "If I don't find the one right career path, I'll mess up my life forever." (I used to think this way as a college student.)


All of us have probably experienced that horrible moment when we realize we have been driving our car in the wrong direction for a long time – maybe hours. Being on the wrong road invariably makes us think about missed opportunities. If we hadn’t missed the freeway exit two hours ago, we might have had four more hours of family time at the reunion! We might have been able to get to sleep at a decent hour rather than driving late into the night.

Freeways, though, have the wonderful quality of being vastly interconnected and retraceable. If we lose our way on a road trip, there is always a way back, even if we incur a major delay. But life’s highways don’t always seem like that. Like Robert Frost notes in his great poem “The Road Not Taken,” when we choose one path over another, we recognize that we may never be able to go back to the unchosen path.

“…Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.”

I recognize that many life choices are irreversible. If I choose to go to law school instead of medical school, for instance, then most likely I have closed the door on ever being a doctor. So, for those of us who enjoy having options, making big choices can be excruciating – not just because choosing is hard, but because each choice also seems to represent a forever-lost possibility.

When we buy into the world’s dogma that callings are a matter of personal choice, it puts tremendous pressure on us, the choosers. We may feel like life is a high-stakes guessing game, where we try to match our career choices to the will of God. We tell ourselves that if we are really in tune with the spirit, we’ll get it right and be on our way to a personal promised land. And then when things start to go badly for us, we quickly conclude that we must have gotten it wrong after all – which means that maybe we weren’t really in tune to begin with! And since life paths aren’t usually retraceable, it also might mean that we can’t ever get back to where God wanted us to be. We have blown our one chance at following God’s plan for us, and will forever be off in left field!

I hope this sounds a little melodramatic, and perhaps even somewhat humorous, to you. But have you ever fallen into that line of thinking? If so, stop and think for a moment about how God works with His children. Jesus Christ's teachings, and His sacrifice on our behalf, show that God is a God of second chances. He provided a Savior precisely because we get off the path. Is it reasonable to think that a Heavenly Father who sacrificed His own Son to allow us to make spiritual mistakes would then relegate us to a life of unhappiness merely for making a professional mistake? Of course not!

Happily, today’s occupational world is an extremely complex and diverse one. It is simply not a realistic concern when young people panic that an early career choice might lock them into a trajectory that they don’t enjoy and can’t escape. That is not how careers work today. Although we don’t have reliable data on the number of career changes the typical person goes through (common claims that the typical person has seven different careers during his or her lifetime are almost certainly a gross overstatement), the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the average job tenure of all employees at 4.1 years. Given the frequency of job change in the contemporary working world, there are ample opportunities to gradually reshape your professional identity. In the working world of today, Robert Frost was right that “way leads on to way,” so that there are almost always opportunities to shift course, even if it requires sacrifices or augmented education. Your journey may not be linear. But guess what -- nobody's is.

Rather than allowing indecision to paralyze you because you don't want to choose the wrong career, I recommend boldness! We shouldn't fear making a wrong choice; the more fearful alternative is not doing anything at all. There are likely many different paths that can gradually lead you to your sense of calling! 

Friday, June 15, 2012

How Ordinary People Find a Calling in Life

I spoke at a banquet for graduating students the other night. As I looked around the room, my thought was, "They really don't know what they're in for! Most of these students have some major goal they are striving for, and most of them will probably get there. But almost none of them will get there the way they expect to!"

That's the nature of professional callings. They are almost never linear. And as with some of my recent blogs (e.g., Dr. Hull and Michael Gates Gill) it sometimes takes traumatic setbacks to help us find our way. I have become convinced that we don't choose our callings so much. They tend to choose us!

But there is a danger of being melodramatic and suggesting that you either need a life-altering crisis or the heralding of angelic choirs for your calling to be revealed. That's just not how it usually works. 

So, here's a story -- one that I love! -- that is a typical tale of a calling found. Unlike Michael Gates Gill's story about Starbucks, this one will never be made into a major feature film. But it's an inspiring, instructive story nonetheless. Many thanks to my former student, Matt, for sharing it with me.

This is how callings usually happen:

In 2003, Matt was a psychology student in need of a summer job. His fiancée, who had planted flowers for the city, finagled him an interview for a lawn-mowing job. He landed it.

When he arrived at work, however, Matt’s new boss gave him the option of becoming the crew leader of the weed whacking and lawn edging crew -- much harder work, but an opportunity to supervise other people and make a little more money. Matt accepted. It was hot, strenuous work, and Matt felt that the work was beneath me. He was a college student, after all! But, he decided that if he was going to do the job, he should devote himself to doing it the best he could. To this day, he doesn’t think the parks have ever looked as nice as they did that summer!

As summer drew to a close, Matt wondered what job he could find next. One day, his boss called him into the office and told Matt about an opening in the Power Department as a meter reader. Matt applied and was hired. His work required him to walk 6-8 miles per day. Again, he felt overqualified , but decided to be the best meter reader he could.

Later that year, Matt graduated with his psychology degree.  But job prospects were dim. “What in the world am I going to do with a degree in psychology?,” he began to wonder. He realized that he had no clear idea what he wanted for his career.

A few weeks later, a full-time engineering position opened in the city's Power Department. Matt had never imagined working full-time for the city. He had always had “bigger” plans for himself, which he now realized were actually no plans at all.  But with few other options, he interviewed for the position, got the job, and started a couple weeks later.

To his surprise, Matt discovered that he enjoyed his new job.  He learned new skills and technologies, and soon earned the title “AutoCAD guru” of the city. Another year brought another job opening within the Power Department. Given Matt’s limited work experience, it seemed like a long shot. But his college degree paid off, and helped land him the job.

Matt has been in the position for the past five years now, and just finished a Masters of Public Administration degree to prepare himself for future promotions. Now, looking back on how his career has unfolded, Matt has had an unexpected realization: “Maybe I’m supposed to be exactly where I am. Everything seems to have fallen into place for me to be where I am today.”

As a high school student, Matt never would have said that he wanted to be an executive of a Municipal Power Department when he grew up. But here he is. He’s really happy with his work. He didn’t set out to choose this as his calling in life. But it seems to have chosen him.

So, how do we account for Matt's discovery of his calling? A few major takeaways occur to me:

- He was open to opportunities as they arose and accepted challenges
- He poured his heart into his work, even when it seemed beneath him
- He sought education and learning as he went along
- He paid attention to what he enjoyed and what he was good at, and let it guide him

And there you have it. Maybe not the most glamorous story. But Matt provides a very good strategy for letting your calling find you!

By the way, this story is absolutely consistent with what many zookeepers told us in our research. Almost every one we interviewed expressed the feeling that the right doors had opened for them, and that they had been mysteriously guided along life's path. None of them attributed the fortuitous unfolding of events to the hand of God. But I certainly do. I believe that a loving Heavenly Father will help any of his children who diligently seek to serve -- whether they are believers or not -- to find ever-increasing opportunities to use their gifts to bless others.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lose Your Job, Find Your Calling?

Anyone who is searching for a calling in life would learn a lot by talking to Michael Gates Gill, author of the bestseller “How Starbucks Saved My Life.” I had the immense pleasure of spending more than an hour with Michael in New York City recently. At 72, he is almost childlike in his enthusiasm for the work he does – which might surprise a lot of people, since he left the lofty heights of corporate America to work as a barista at Starbucks. 
 When he was in his 50s, Michael was a well-paid advertising executive, living the high life in Manhattan, and raising a beautiful family. But that life was shattered when Michael got a pink slip from his agency. Shortly thereafter, his marriage fell apart and he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He spent a decade trying to regain his professional footing, but discovered that he couldn’t compete with the newly minted MBAs flooding the job market. Ad agencies wanted young faces and fresh ideas. Michael couldn’t get back into the game. Eventually, he fell into despair and desperation. How would he support himself? How would he get health insurance to cover his medical needs?
Sitting pensively in a Starbucks in upper Manhattan one day, Michael was mistaken for a job applicant. He thought to himself, “why not?” He applied and was hired as a barista. Thus began a journey of professional awakening that might astonish you.
Humbled by his circumstances, Michael threw himself into his Starbucks job. He took pride in keeping the restroom immaculately clean. He got to know the customers personally and befriended them. He swallowed his fear of the cash register and learned the skill of cashiering. He discovered, to his surprise, than he was happier than he had ever been in his corporate career.
Michael was also awestruck by the qualities and dedication of his coworkers – people he would previously have ignored if he passed them on the street. And he discovered that the business of serving coffee was a business of love – providing something that warms people and helps sustain life. He found a dimension of meaning and importance in his work at Starbucks that he had never experienced on the fast-track of corporate self-absorption.
What I loved most about my visit with Michael were his reflections that don’t appear in the book. In recent years, Michael has developed a deepened sense of spirituality about his professional journey. During the time of his career crisis, he didn’t think much about God. Reflecting back now, however, he attributes the twists and turns of his journey to the hand of God. Even though he weathered a devastating professional crisis, he is now full of gratitude, because those setbacks taught him how to relish life and find lasting satisfaction.
There is much we can learn from Michael’s journey. What will your career setbacks mean to you? Could it be that getting laid off is actually a blessing – a merciful re-tracking of your life to a destination better suited to your happiness?
Ultimately, Michael doesn’t think that serving coffee is his calling in life. He does still works at Starbuck and loves his job. But what has given him the most joy is telling his story through writing and public speaking. That is Michael’s calling. And he never would have arrived here without that pink slip that felt like a career-destroyer at the time.
P.S. I heartily recommend “How Starbucks Saved My Life.” Tom Hanks has bought the option to make a movie of the book, so watch for it in theaters as well! You can find the book here.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Finding Your Calling in the Midst of Adversity

My good friend, Dr. Dale Hull, experienced a major life change – not to mention a career change – in 1999. He was a highly successful OB/GYN physician at the time, but a freak trampoline accident suddenly rendered him quadriplegic. Because of his medical training, he knew at the moment he landed that his life would never be the same again. Not only would he be a different type of husband and father, he would also never be able to deliver another baby.

Dale’s recovery was an arduous, and ultimately miraculous process. After two and a half years of intensive therapy, Dale regained much of his sensory and motor function, and was even able to walk the Olympic Torch as it made its way to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, where he handed off to Karl Malone. You can hear Dale recount his incredible and moving experience by clicking here

Despite his surprising return to mobility, Dale was unable to return to his obstetrics practice – his dream job. The door seemed to have slammed on his calling in life.

I’ve occasionally wondered what I would do if I was suddenly unable to be a professor. Could I find elsewhere the same sense of purpose and meaning I have in my work? Or would I, perhaps, withdraw into a state of bitter resentment?

These were the challenges Dale faced. He had no clear professional path to follow. But, he began to notice a need. When other spinal cord injury victims came to him for advice, he recognized that resources for these patients were extremely scarce, and few had the opportunity to receive the type of treatment he himself had benefitted from. In short order, Dale began to transition from being a physician to becoming a nonprofit founder and executive director. His organization, Neuroworx (click here to learn more), provides cutting-edge treatment and rehabilitation for spinal cord injury patients.

Dale could have shut himself away and resented the cruel hand of fate. Instead, he found a way to marry his medical expertise with his unique and unexpected life experience. He created a new calling in his life – one that provides him a deep sense of passion and fulfillment. You should see the light in Dale’s eyes as he talks about Neuroworx!

Dale reminds me that a professional calling isn’t just about what you love to do. It’s also about using your unique experiences – both the fortuitous and seemingly tragic ones – to serve in a way that only you can.

One last comment: Dale shared with me something last night that touched me deeply. Immediately after his injury, he was completely dependent on hospital staffers to meet all of his needs. A host of different nurses and attendants cared for him. However, he found that whenever one of the attendants washed his face – the only part of his body that had any feeling – he could immediately tell by their touch if they were just doing a job or truly giving care. I hope my students and colleagues can feel the touch of my service when I interact with them!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Create your own calling? Lessons from my conversation with the Bear Whisperer

I sometimes wonder if the reason people struggle to find their professional calling is that the best job for them doesn’t exist yet. Maybe they have to invent it! Sometimes finding your calling requires radical innovation.

I found a great example of someone who invented his calling in life when I met Steve Searles in Mammoth Lakes, California a couple of weeks ago. Steve is best known as Animal Planet’s “Bear Whisperer.” But he would be the first to admit that he is an unlikely TV celebrity.

I met up with Steve at a coffee shop in the middle of a blizzard on a Saturday morning, along with my good friend and our teenage sons; we were in town for a ski trip. Steve generously shared his time with us (not typical celebrity behavior) to tell his story. (You’ll want to see him in action too. Check out this site for brief, astonishing segments of his TV show.)

35 years ago, the city of Mammoth Lakes hired Steve, an avid tracker, to solve a bear problem. He was given a “hit list” of bears to kill. But Steve had been observing the local bears and noticed that they maintained an orderly hierarchy based on status behaviors. Steve asked the city if he could try “educating” the bears rather than killing them. His employer agreed it was worth a try. Thus began Steve’s grand experiment: to try to become the biggest, baddest bear in town so that the real bears would know their place.

Steve began to adopt the bears’ status-asserting postures and mimicked their vocal signals. He experimented with pellet guns and pyrotechnics to show the bears that when they were in town, they were on his turf and better behave. But when Steve is in the woods with the bears, he gives them respect through his silence and submissiveness. The result? The bears know where their place is, and they have all come to know Steve personally and respect him (they even allow him to visit their dens). And amazingly, the bears help perpetuate order by keeping out intruder bears who don’t follow Steve’s rules. Mammoth Lakes is now the best place in the world for the coexistence of bears and humans. And in 35 years, how many bears has Steve had to kill because of aggressive behavior? You guessed it. Zero.

When Steve first started sharing his techniques with others, he was mocked by the scholarly community, which didn’t believed bears would respond to emotions like respect and love. Today, he is sought out to train other communities’ wildlife managers in his techniques, which have saved the lives of countless bears. In other words, by following his passions and his instincts, he has literally created a new type of profession. How’s that for a calling in life!

Steve would be the last person to take credit for his accomplishments, however. Like most of the zookeepers we studied, he attributes his professional success to luck. During our conversation, he said:  

“You’ll never find someone as lucky as me in your interviews. They gave me a task [to manage the bear population], and I just looked for the easiest solution. Life just came by and tapped me on my shoulder.”

He went on to express his love for his work: “It’s not just my job, it’s my hobby, it’s my pastime. I haven’t gone on vacation in ten years. I live in a postcard. I work with wild animals every day. I love every friggin’ day. I can’t get to work fast enough in the morning.”

I feel honored to have spent a fascinating and inspiring hour with Steve Searles. He didn’t set out to be a celebrity. He simply found where he could best contribute, and humbly poured his heart into work that he loved. Despite his protestations of luck, I think the reason Steve discovered techniques that no one else has discovered before is that he really, really loves what he does. His love for bears borders on the spiritual. And his love for his community is almost patriotic. It was this love that propelled him to innovate.

So, you can’t find the perfect job? Maybe we should take a lesson from Steve, pour our hearts into creatively solving a problem we care about, and let the perfect job come to us. That’s the sort of luck I can believe in.

You can learn more about Steve, his bears, and his work at