Dan Miller, president of 48 Days, LLC and author of the widely acclaimed 48 Days to the Work You Love and No More Dreaded Mondays will be the keynote speaker for the 2012 Lilly Colloquium, to be held at Catawba College on Thursday, February 16, 2012. Miller will speak at 11:00 a.m. in the Omwake-Dearborn Chapel and again at 7:30 p.m. in the Tom Smith Auditorium. Both presentations are free and open to the public.
Each year, the Lilly Center for Vocation and Values brings well-known speakers to campus for the Colloquium, which is co-sponsored this year by the Catawba College Community Forum, the Catawba College Staff Council, the Ketner School of Business, and Phi Beta Lambda.
In keeping with the mission of the Lilly Center, Miller was selected for his proven capacity to inspire others toward discovery of their own unique sense of vocation or calling. He is a nationally known author and speaker who has been a guest on CBS' "The Early Show," MSNBC's "Hardball," and Fox Business News. He writes regularly for many popular magazines and web portals including AARP, In Touch, CBN.com, and Crosswalk.com.
Jay Laurens, coordinator of outreach programs for the Lilly Center, recently contacted Miller at his home in Franklin, Tennessee, and asked him to share a few insights on his books, as well as his upcoming visit to Catawba College. Below are excerpts from that conversation.
Q: The name of your company is 48 Days, and your widely acclaimed book is entitled "48 Days to the Work You Love." For those who may be unfamiliar with your work, what is the significance of the 48 days?
A: The 48 days timeline grew out of my concern, after meeting people who were clearly frustrated in their current positions. Two years later, I would run into them and they would have done nothing to change their situation. Some were simply procrastinators. Others were paralyzed by the prospect of change. If we are feeling the need to make a change – not just vocationally or professionally, but in any area of our lives - 48 days provides us adequate time to do that. We can assess where we are, get the advice and opinion of others, narrow down our options, do more research, choose the best option and, most importantly - act. This process can be intimidating, but it's also exhilarating!
Q: Both of your presentations during the Lilly Colloquium will be open to the public with no admission charge. The morning presentation (Thursday, February 16 at 11:00 in Omwake –Dearborn Chapel) will be geared more toward college students and the evening session (Thursday, February 16 at 7:30 in Tom Smith Auditorium) will have a bit broader appeal. Who should attend, and what should they expect?
A: The morning session will be titled Wisdom Meets Passion. We'll be looking at some generational differences in how we approach work, education, finances and living out our calling. The evening session will be titled Hold Fast to Dreams. Is now a time to pursue dreams and the unique application of our skills or is it better to just be practical and realistic "until things get better?" Anyone of any age wanting to take a fresh look at where they are in life – anyone wanting a new sense of purpose and direction - should join us for these lively events.
Q: Much of your work deals with the question of "Who am I, and why am I here?" How can we start the process of identifying our true purpose or God's calling in our lives?
A: It is absolutely essential that we look inward first. We must make use of our internal compass. We have the tendency to do just the opposite. We put more stock in what society, friends, family, and others expect from us. I believe 85% of the process of having the confidence of proper direction in our careers, and lives, comes from looking inward first – through self-examination, prayer, and meditation. We must ask ourselves, "What are my skills and abilities, personality traits, values, dreams and passions? What do I have to offer the world? From clarity in those, we can then develop a clear focus. Only then can we begin to see the application that would fulfill our true calling and purpose.
Q: What inspired you to write and speak about finding passion in our work and identifying our true calling? Were you influenced by personal experience?
A: I've always been fascinated by how we unpack our individuality and uniqueness. I see too many capable people living the lives expected of them by others, rather than pursuing their dreams. My own chosen life path has not been a linear one. It has given me the freedom to experiment and explore. My failures have helped me clarify new options at every turn.
Q: Could you speak candidly about a time in your life when you felt that, vocationally and professionally, you had failed? What did you learn from this experience?
A: Several years ago, I failed as a businessman and was faced with having to sell two businesses I had started. I was in a very untenable position. As banks merged and personnel changed, the informal "handshake" agreements I had come accustomed to operating under were now non-existent. Creditors, and even the IRS, were standing in line. I ended up with no business and about $430,000 in unsecured debt. Obviously, I was devastated at being in that financial situation. Still, I never pointed fingers or tried to place blame anywhere but with the guy in the mirror. This unexpected and unwelcome change forced me to take a new look at life. The lessons coming out of that difficult time opened my eyes to the opportunities that have served me so well in the last 10 years.
Q: You describe career choice as a "continuous, lifelong process." That's encouraging to many of us who still don't know what we want to do" when we grow up." Talk about that.
A: We expect 18-year-olds to lock in on a major and a career path for the rest their lives. That's unreasonable. It's really only the beginning of a journey. You are a different person at 35, 45 or even 65 – continuing to evolve. Preparation and experience along the way – both successes and failures - open up new possibilities. This is very much a lifelong process.
Q: You have written that many - if not most people - have buried their career dreams and passions in an attempt to be practical or realistic. You encourage people to embrace and pursue those dreams. How does that mesh with the pervasive mentality during these difficult economic times, that we are fortunate to have a job at all – any job?
A: Anytime we address simply getting a paycheck, we set ourselves up to bypass our passions and calling. Staying true to those will lead to creative solutions, more authenticity, and ultimately – more success and satisfaction. I am convinced that those creative solutions are just as available in a difficult economy as in a robust one. This is why many businesses and individuals are thriving and prospering during these challenging times.
Q: What about legitimate concerns regarding job stability, benefits, family responsibilities, and all of the other factors that keep us from boldly pursuing those dreams?
A: We must look for "and" solutions – not "either/or." Pursuing one's own dreams need not lead to ignoring family responsibilities in any way. It does not diminish our ability to be faithful providers. In fact, the authentic fit in being "fully alive" accelerates our ability to do just that.
Q: Given that the number of unemployed Americans is at an all-time high, what advice would you have for students preparing to graduate from college?
A: Don't rest on the strength of having a degree. Be prepared to describe your unique value to any organization. The likelihood of finding the "perfect" job straight out of college is very slim. Think of this as another step in that lifelong journey.
Q: What about those who may have already lost their jobs? How can they benefit from your approach?
A: When we lose a job, our instinctive reaction is to go straight to the classifieds to see what's out there in terms of available jobs. We are in panic mode. First, we should take a deep breath and then take that long look inward that I spoke of earlier. We must get a fresh sense of our strongest areas of competence and our passions. With clarity and focus, we can then approach the job search with confidence, boldness and enthusiasm.
Q: Is it accurate to say that many wrestle with the concept of job satisfaction because of a subconscious feeling that if we enjoy our jobs too much, then we must not be working very hard?
A: Absolutely! Unfortunately, there is still a pervasive theological and cultural assumption that work is essentially a curse, something to be endured rather than enjoyed. With that subtle undermining, it's impossible to release our best talents in the work we do each day.
Q: You say that we can "bring the same excitement to our jobs that we bring to our most enjoyable weekend activities." What are the first steps to doing that?
A: Having work that engages our strongest talents and passions. Knowing ourselves so well that we can identify work that "fits" rather than simply doing something that provides a paycheck.
Q: You often use the term "purposeful work." Describe what you mean by that.
A: Purposeful work implies that sense of calling that we talked about earlier. It engages our (1) skills and abilities, (2) personality traits, (3) values, dreams and passions. It embraces the best of what God has given each of us – individually.
Q: Some would argue that our society depends upon those who are willing to do the work that others are unwilling to do – for lack of a better term, the "dirty jobs" – in order to function. How does that fit with your philosophy of everyone pursuing his or her true passion?
A: It's interesting to see the diversity of work that appeals to different people. What appears distasteful to me, I find is often eagerly enjoyed by someone else. There is enough variation in how we are wired to fully cover all the "dirty jobs" as well as those that may have us on the golf course each day.
For more information on Dan Miller and 48 Days, visit 48days.com. For more information about the 2012 Lilly Colloquium, please contact Dr. Kenneth Clapp at (704) 637-4446 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Jay Laurens at (704) 637-4725 or email@example.com.
Speaker Tells Students to Find the Place Where Wisdom Meets Passion
About Dan Miller and 48 Days
The Lilly Center
Annual Lilly Colloquium and Past Speakers