I ignored my calling for a long time. I focused on someone else’s definition of success and fulfillment; I stopped hearing and seeing the signals, signs, and promptings that were seeking to guide me on my path.

The result is that I found myself way off course.

Moving toward my unique destination is going to require listening to my authentic calling while ignoring the noise inside and outside of my head.

This is part three of a 4-part series on living the hero’s journey.

  1. Deep Change
  2. Creating a Life of Fulfillment
  3. Finding Your Calling
  4. Ultralearning

Recap of parts 1 and 2 – if you missed them.

We started with deep change. Deep Change is a term that I learned from Robert Quinn, who is the author of one of the most important books I’ve ever read – Deep Change, Discovering the Leader Within. Quinn writes,

“Incremental change usually does not disrupt our past patterns – it is an extension of our past. Most important – during incremental change, we feel we are in control.

Deep change requires new ways of thinking and behaving. It is change that is major in scope, discontinuous with the past, and generally irreversible. The deep change effort distorts existing patterns of action and involves taking risks.

Deep change means surrendering control.

Most of us build our identity around our knowledge and competence in employing certain known techniques or abilities. Making a deep change involves abandoning both and “walking naked into the land of uncertainty.” This is usually a terrifying choice, often involving a “dark night of the soul.

But the price of not making a deep change is the choice of slow death, a meaningless and frustrating experience enmeshed in fear, anger, helplessness while moving surely toward what is most feared.”

Dark Horse

Then we discovered the path of the dark horse and The Dark Horse Covenant by Todd Rose, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the co-author of the book Dark Horse: Achieving Success Through Fulfillment.

Rose and his research team found ordinary people who have followed their paths to fulfillment. By studying their choices, he’s been able to map a different way that is available to each of us.

In contrast to the standardization covenant, he calls it the dark horse covenant. Dark horse because they seem to come from out of nowhere to succeed when others may not have noticed them or may have judged them to be failing due to their nonstandard path.

Now, it’s time for part three, finding and following our calling.

“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”― Joseph Campbell

Find Your Path

Going back to another episode of the Art of Manliness podcast, I tuned into the work of Gregg Levoy, the author of Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life.

There Be Monsters

Beyond the known world, the old maps of the world featured drawings and words of warning – There Be Monsters because the ancient sailors knew that finding your route is scary.

You will be confronted with challenges and obstacles. But more importantly, your shadows, doubts, and fears will arise in the form of the Resistance.

You could resist, but that’s not why you came.


Finding our calling requires that we be receptive and listen, not just with our ears, but our whole being. It’s possible – even common, in our society, to drown out callings with the noise of distractions, the business of life, and the many numbing substances and behaviors available.

Busy is epidemic, and we’re spreading it to our children. Here’s the story of Charlie Ravioli, an imaginary friend who is too busy to play.

A self-reflective practice can help us find our calling. Some solo practices that can support being reflective and responsive to our lives are:

  • Journaling
  • Meditation
  • Contemplative Reading
  • Short Solo Retreats

But you don’t have to do it alone. Therapy is self-reflective, as is belonging to a group whose purpose is to wake up. It could be a mastermind group, a spiritual group, or a men’s circle.

Within the ManKind Project, we often call this “waking up, growing up, and showing up”. Our men’s circles – iGroups, are where this happens for many men. It did for me and continues to do so even after 11 years of sitting in a circle of men.

Rites of Passage

Callings can come to us through deep listening, art, dreams, and we can meet them during a rite of passage. Two rituals with thousands of years of tradition are the vision quest and initiation. Each requires leaving the known world to venture into the unknown to undergo the processes that will evoke a calling or mission.

These transformative experiences are not lost to time; they are available today.

  • Animas Valley Institute offers its Animas Quest. This rite of passage is described as “a contemporary enactment of the pancultural vision quest is a dynamic wilderness rite for men and women seeking greater depth and clarity about life purpose and meaning.”

Trying Out a Calling

When looking at significant change and living out a calling, I would often, and still do sometimes, look to the end of the journey for the result. I’d ask, “What will my life be like if I do this?” Of course, I’d imagine a smooth arc from one milestone to another to my ultimate goal.

Now, I remind myself that smooth arcs are for condensed for stories of success. It’s not the reality of a life of adventure. Instead of dreaming of the end, begin. Take the first steps. Along the way, we gain new insights and information. Keep asking, “What is called for?” “What am I learning about myself?” “What is my next unique waypoint?”

Seeking Clarity

Use the self-reflective practices suggested earlier. But, don’t isolate. You don’t have to ask yourself these questions alone. It’s often more powerful to have others ask you questions to help you clarify your path.

For ongoing support, consider creating or joining:

  1. Circle of Men – Imagine a circle of men, a circle of brothers, where everyone listens not only to what you say but also to the truth beneath your words. Everyone is in tune with your voice, your emotions, and your energy. Where men listen to hear the very best in you, even when you can’t hear it in yourself.
  2. Personal Board of Advisors – as described by Lewis Howes. “A personal advisory board is a group of people that you build around you to give you wisdom, inspire you, and, most importantly, create accountability.”
  3. Clearness Committee – is a Quaker tradition. The Center for Renewal and Courage describes it in this way. “A Clearness Committee is based on a simple but crucial conviction: each of us has an inner teacher, a voice of truth, that offers the guidance and power we need to deal with our problems. But that inner voice is often garbled by various kinds of inward and outward interference. The function of the Clearness Committee is not to give advice or “fix” people from the outside in but rather to help people remove the interference so that they can discover their own wisdom from the inside out.”

My Commitment

By the time this email goes out on Sunday morning, I will have been serving in the kitchen on an NWTA as a Man of Service since Thursday afternoon. I will ask for the support of a circle of men to help me clarify the path of my journey to return to the hospitality industry.

I’ll report back in the fourth and final segment of this 4-part series along with sharing the benefits of ultralearning.

Go Answer the Call