Catawba's 2012 Lilly Colloquium speaker, Dan Miller, told students on Thursday, Feb. 16, that their vocational happiness could be found "where wisdom meets passion." Miller, president of 48 Days, LLC, said wisdom and passion were equally important, "but if you don't have both, you won't be fulfilled."
Miller, author of the widely acclaimed "48 Days to the World You Love" and "No More Dreaded Mondays," said his generation looked more in the direction of wisdom as they chose a career path, while today's generation looks to follow their passion and "wants to do something to make the world a better place."
"There is a third leg of the stool," he explained, one that compliments wisdom and passion, and it is an economic model that will allow you to wisely pursue your passion and provide for oneself and family while doing so. He cited the vocational path taken by his son, Jared, as demonstrating these three legs.
Jared, Miller said, was not a typical child, or a student or an adult. He learned differently, thought differently and was always intent while growing up on helping improve the lives of others. As an adult, he wanted to help the less fortunate in Africa and traveled first to Rwanda and later to Kenya in pursuit of that goal. In Rwanda, he found women, widowed by the war there and with no way to support themselves or their children. Jared was able to bring these women together, teach them to make jewelry out of trash paper using designs provided to them by interns who traveled to Rwanda from the Rhode Island School of Design. That jewelry is now sold as high end in Chicago and Los Angeles and Jared's economic model, Miller said, works with his son's passion and has allowed the Rwandan women to feed their families.
"Jared did not go to college – it wasn't right for him, but he's a world-changer overseeing a microenterprise in a third world country," Miller said.
"Your skills and ability will find you a job, but passion will keep you there and allow you to thrive," he explained, adding, "Life has a way of numbing us down as we do things that are expected of us. My dad's approach to making a living was to do what was responsible – it had nothing to do with passion."
Miller defined an individual's calling as "the big picture," a career as "what you could do that would fully embrace your calling," and a job as "what we do daily." However, he said, "losing a job should never eliminate your calling."
He said that between the ages of 18 and 42, the average person will have more than 10 jobs, each lasting slightly longer than two years. The average tenure for a 20-something in a workplace, he added, was only 13 months. The calling, the career and the jobs are all part of an ongoing process of clarifying one's purpose in life. Quoting John Maxwell, Miller said, "There are two great days in our lives – the day we were born and the day we discover why."
For assistance in the clarifying process, Miller encouraged his audience to identify their responses to these items:
- Four or five ideas for starting your own business or a getting a better job
- Three things that you did just to help someone out with no expectation of payback
- The books you read or listened to that enlightened your spirit, confidence, knowledge and wisdom
- The number of hours you spent in quiet contemplation
By responding to these items, individuals get a better idea of themselves, he explained.
"Be careful about what we expect, it becomes our reality," he said as he shared an anecdote about an out of work man he knew who would begin his day by saying, ‘I'm going to go out and see who won't hire me today. '
"Today and in the future," Miller continued, "recognize that the opportunities are going to look different," and realize as the mother in Louise Alcott's "Little Women" did about her daughter, Jo, that she could not expect to lead an ordinary life because she "had so many extraordinary gifts."
"What is it that makes you unique? What sets you apart? That is what's going to change your options," Miller said. He shared these points on how to make those in his audience more attractive candidates to employers:
- Listen to your own voice.
- Look someone directly in the eyes.
- Smile more, even when you're talking.
- Practice a firm handshake.
- Sit up straight and hold your shoulders back.
- Listen carefully when someone is talking to you.
- Walk 25% faster than you normally would.
- Let go of resentment, bitterness and guilt.
- Express gratitude for everything in your life.
Previous notable speakers who have participated in annual Lilly Colloquia include Leonard Pitts, Martin Marty, David Bornstein, Sharon Parks, Mackey Austin, Joe Ehrmann, Sarah Susanka and Ruth Anderson. Catawba's Lilly Center for Vocation and Values is directed by Dr. Kenneth W. Clapp, senior vice president and chaplain. The Center was established in 2003 and funded with a $2 million grant the College received from the Lilly Endowment, Inc.
The Lilly Center seeks to help students and members of the larger community determine values for their lives and allow those values to guide decisions relative to the vocations they choose and the priorities they set. Critical to this process is the recognition that as the children of God all are called to use the talents and gifts that have been provided not only for the realization of their own capabilities, but in service to others and in making the world a better place.
PHOTOS: 2012 Lilly Colloquium with Dan Miller
An Interview with Author Dan Miller, Catawba's 2012 Lilly Colloquium Speaker
About Dan Miller and 48 Days
The Lilly Center
Annual Lilly Colloquium and Past Speakers