#ArtOfWorkBook: Unexpected Influences

[This is Part 2 of a series of posts inspired by Jeff Goins’ The Art of Work. Until March 24th, the book can be pre-ordered for only $6.99, the cost of shipping, and it comes with a ton of online bonuses. Check it out at www.artofworkbook.com.]

In Chapter 2 of The Art of Work, Jeff Goins tells the story of Ginny Phang, a woman from Singapore who, when faced with a crisis pregnancy, found a calling she didn’t expect: becoming a doula (birth coach) for other women in need. What’s interesting about Ginny’s story in the book is that she didn’t have the typical family support network to encourage her calling; in fact, her support came through unexpected people at several key times in her life.

Jeff uses Ginny’s story to talk about “accidental apprenticeships,” in which we encounter people who influence us or mentor us at key moments in our quest to discover our calling. He writes, “Every story of success is, in fact, a story of community.” Each of us has people around us who will often provide what we need when we need it–though not always in the way we expect. Even those who seem most frustrating and challenging may be giving us a gift. Jeff writes:

Chances are, your apprenticeship will not look like you imagined. Your mentor may not be the teacher you dreamed of, and that’s the point. This is what your education is, not what you think it should be. A teacher who challenges you, who doesn’t meet your expectations, who forces you to think and act differently, is exactly what you need. That is, after all, the job of an educator.

Your “teacher” may not be a teacher at all; he or she may be a family member, colleague, pastor, or author.  I’ve had a handful of unexpected influences. I will mention one here.

I mentioned in the last post that, throughout my early schooling, I wrote creatively and was supported by my teachers. They encouraged my creativity and praised my efforts. Then, when I went to college, I ran into the buzzsaw that was Joe Hall. Dr. Hall was my professor for the Honors-track freshman composition class. He graded with a cruel green pen, and my papers bled green for weeks. As laughable as it is to look back upon now, I was indignant when he shredded my freshman papers. Didn’t he know that I was the best writer in my high school? Didn’t he realize I had real talent? Answer: he didn’t care. He significantly raised the bar of expectations, and it crushed my seventeen-year-old ego. It also challenged me; I was going to have to become a better writer. I ended up taking a creative writing class with Dr. Hall later, and while we never saw eye-to-eye on some things, I came away from the experience a better writer. I grew to have great respect for the man, because he expected much from his students.

Maybe you have someone like that in your life. Someone who came along as you were trying to pursue a dream or calling, and knocked you down a peg or two.

Maybe you had a friend or teacher who loved you enough to call you out on your hypocrisy, or stick a pin in your foolish idealism or arrogance.

Maybe you encountered someone who encouraged you at just the right moment, or pointed you to the resources you needed.

God brings people into our lives for His purposes, and sometimes those people seem to be our enemies or obstacles rather than our teachers. But if we walk humbly with our God, and seek to learn from our difficulties, we can find the toughest critics (with their wicked green pens) can be some of our greatest benefactors.

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Your Turn: Have you had unexpected allies, accidental apprenticeships, or difficult teachers come along in your life? How have they helped to shape who you are and how you pursue your calling?

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