Have you ever wondered how you can discover the work you were created for? This is exactly the topic we’re tackling in this article. I recently interviewed Jordan Raynor, the bestselling author of Called to Create, which I read a couple years ago and I loved it.
And I had the opportunity of running into him at a Dave Ramsey event. Jordan just released his new book called Master of One, which we’re going to talk about some of the stuff in it.
Without further ado, let’s drop in on the conversation I had with Jordan.
You can view the interview in the, or read it’s transcription just below.
Bob: Jordan, thank you for taking some time to chat today.
Jordan Raynor: Happy to be here, man. Thanks for having me.
Bob: Yeah. So, I’m really excited, because I like talking about work and the work-
Jordan Raynor: Oh, good.
Bob: … the work that God created us to do.
Jordan Raynor: If you didn’t, I wouldn’t be here, yeah.
Jack (or Jill) of All Trades
Bob: Exactly. And so, in this book, you’re going against this jack of all trades thing, because I think that is something that, man, so much… I’m technically a millennial. I don’t know if you’re-
Jordan Raynor: I am, yeah.
Bob: Okay, yeah. So, our generation, if we’ll call it that, I think so many of us just go in so many directions and spread ourselves so thin that we lose all of our effectiveness.
Jordan Raynor: Yeah.
Bob: I mean, am I right?
Jordan Raynor: We’re good at a lot of different things, but we are not exceptional or world-class at any one. I mean, that’s my story. So, here’s the deal. Let me clarify something too on the front-end. I actually don’t have a problem being described as a jack of all trades. I think it’s inevitable, especially for the millennial who tries a bunch of different things until they find what they deem to be their calling vocation, whatever one thing in vernacular, my book.
Jordan Raynor: I think that’s fine. So, I’m a jack of all trades and I’m okay with that. I have a huge problem as a Christian being described as a master of none, right? If I believe that my work is a primary means in which I reveal God’s character of excellence and love my neighbor as myself, and I can’t point to anything that I’m masterful at, that’s alarming. That’s a huge problem.
Mastery vs. Mediocrity
Jordan Raynor: I just believe full-heartedly that the opposite of mastery is mediocrity. And mediocrity is a failure of love and a misrepresentation of the father that I’m called to image bear in the world. So, yeah. So, in the book, I’m proposing an alternative strategy, so fine. If you’re a jack or jill of all trades, great, but do the work in finding the thing that you could be world-class at and go really, really deep and really, really big on that one thing. Primarily, in service of neighbor, but also, by the way, I think that’s how we find the greatest vocational joy for ourselves.
Bob: Yeah, yeah, which I think leads to another interesting point. You touch on this a little bit in the book, but this idea of being led by happiness, chasing your own happiness. And I like this question that you posed. You called it a lie, but this idea that what if our happiness in life wasn’t the primary focus of our work? What if that wasn’t the sole filter?
Jordan Raynor: What if we’re not the center of the universe?
Bob: Yeah, yeah, exactly, but so many of us are. And if you look at whatever, Pinterest or Instagram, it’s like this is what you see nonstop in feeds. Go chase the thing you’re really excited about, the thing that makes you happy, whatever. Leave your spouse, if they’re not making you happy and all this just terrible advice. And it reminds me of Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom and his righteousness, and then the things will be added onto you.” You know what I mean?
Jordan Raynor: Yeah.
Bob: Okay. So, how do you talk to someone who is just under that mindset, who’s just believed that and how do you help them move forward through that?
Jordan Raynor: Yeah, sure. So, listen. I’ve been guilty of believing these lies. Let me just start by saying that.
Bob: Yeah, me too.
The Lies of Career and Calling
Jordan Raynor: I think we all have, right? So, in the book, I outline what I think are three lies of career and calling that virtually everybody has believed, especially millennials. And I think they’re particularly dangerous, because they keep us from focusing and mastering the work that we’ve been created to do, so three lies. Our number one, you can be anything you want to be, which isn’t true.
Jordan Raynor: I’m 5’6″. I cannot play in the NBA as much as I might have liked to when I was eight years old. Number two, I think we’ve bought this lie that we can do everything that we want to do, which isn’t true. I think most of us know that one’s not true. And the third, I think, is the most pervasive and one that I attack pretty hard in the book is this lie that our happiness is the primary purpose of work, right?
Jordan Raynor: So, I’m a millennial. You’re a millennial. I grew up hearing my parents and very well-intentioned adults in my life tell me… I mean, the overriding career advice I got was follow your passions, follow your dreams, do whatever makes you happy and it turns out this is awful advice for a couple reasons. First, it doesn’t work. Millennials, more than any generation before us, have had more opportunity to “do whatever makes us happy”.
Jordan Raynor: And yet, Gallup and every other poll in the world tells us that we are the least happy generation at work. So, clearly, the strategy is flawed. And in the book, I actually talk about a bunch of different academic studies that show that the number one predictor as to whether or not somebody will describe their work as a calling as opposed to a job or career is not whether or not they were passionate about the work before they started it.
Jordan Raynor: It was the number of years they had spent getting good at the craft, right? So, passion is a side effect of mastery. We get to love what we do by getting really good at it which, by the way, shouldn’t really come as a surprise to Christians. I mean, you alluded to Matthew 6, right? We are called to model our lives after the one who came not to be served but to serve. Follow your passions focuses only on what I want, on what value a job can give me.
Following Your Gifts
Jordan Raynor: And I believe, and I outlined in the book, a much more effective, number one, and God-honoring strategy is to follow your gifts. Focus on doing the work that you can do most exceptionally well as a means of making others happy and that’s the most predictable path for finding vocational happiness for yourself.
Bob: Yeah, yeah, okay. That’s an interesting distinction there, because the counterpart that I would make and I think you just clarified is that a lot of times, our passions are indications of giftings that God has put in us.
Jordan Raynor: 100%, yes.
Bob: Yeah. And so-
Jordan Raynor: I wholeheartedly agree. And I talk about it in the book. I think it’s important to ask the passion question, right? I think it’s important to do some self-examination, figure out what you’re interested in, but not as the end as a pointer, as clues to the far more important question of what can I be great at. That’s the use of passion. It’s clues in a longer game of figuring out what I could be really exceptional at.
Bob: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, because I know in my own life, following… It’s just interesting, because I haven’t landed on the most fulfilling work in my life by chasing a thing that made me happy. It was by taking steps of obedience to what God was leading me to through some doors that didn’t feel like they were going to get me to where I wanted to be, but coming back to that same Matthew 6 verse.
Bob: It’s interesting that when you are about the father’s business and when you’re following what he has for you, it actually leads you to some really fulfilling things. And I found myself doing some of the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done in my life. And it wasn’t just by doing the thing that’s necessarily most thrilled about earlier on, but God led me there. You know what I mean?
Jordan Raynor: Yeah, yeah. I don’t think we should do work that brings us zero joy or zero happiness, right? The point I make in the book is that passion grows over time. Passion grows in correlation with competency, right? We get to share the master’s happiness when we focus on doing good work. So, I love that parable, too. I mean, there’s so much to extract from the parable of the talents, so many lessons you can glean, but one that I’ve always found really interesting is Jesus.
Jordan Raynor: We’re not told in the parable that the people that he entrusted his wealth to cared about doing that work. It doesn’t tell us that they were passionate about the work or that they were excited to do it. Two of them just did it and they did it well, and the other did not. And when they did their work well, then the master’s words were, “Come and share the master’s happiness.” They were focused on doing a good job to make the master happy, right? And then, we’re invited into this joy, I think vocational joy, too. So, yeah, that’s interesting.
Bob: All right. So, let’s talk a little about this, about how to find your calling a little bit and what this looks like. So, because I know just from talking to different readers and listeners that there are plenty of people who are in a position like I was years ago, really for many years, where I just didn’t know what I was called to do, didn’t know what God had me on the Earth to do.
Bob: And I struggled to try to identify what that thing was and it was a very unfulfilling, unsatisfying season where it was just angst. And then, when you step into that thing, it’s like hallelujah, just amazing. But for me, I had a long time in there. So, how do you talk to somebody who’s in that situation and what do you recommend?
Jordan Raynor: Yeah. So, I’ll answer this practically in a minute, but I want to rant for a second, because-
Bob: Sure, please do.
God’s Calling for Your Life
Jordan Raynor: And maybe it’s because I’ve just been talking about the book so much that I’m seeing this, but here’s the deal, right? This is a book about calling. I think we’re starting in the church to elevate calling to this idol status and really thinking about it-
Bob: That’s good.
Jordan Raynor: … in an unbiblical way, so here’s the deal. I think a lot of us think of calling as this idea that there’s one thing in the world that God has hidden for me to do, because I am so special and I have these special gifts. And, man, I got to go find that thing, because God needs me to do that work. God doesn’t need you, Bob. He doesn’t need me. If you and I die tomorrow, and God wants his work to continue, it’s going to continue.
Jordan Raynor: He’s going to find the right man or the right woman to continue that work. And I think ironically, that is the most freeing thing in the world. I don’t think we necessarily discover or unearth our calling. I think we choose it, right? We have all been given a general call, glorify God, love neighbor and self. And there’s so much freedom in that. Now, I still believe that there is work that God has created us to do based on how he’s wired us in our interests, in our gifts, but there isn’t a right or wrong decision.
Jordan Raynor: You just got to choose something and commit to doing it masterfully well, because that’s how you glorify God and love your neighbors and yourself. So, in the book, I do offer a practical guide for doing this, for finding and focusing on mastering the work you’re created to do. I would argue, the intersection of this work God’s created you to do is the intersection of the passion question, of the gifting question, right?
Jordan Raynor: So, what am I passionate about? What am I gifted at? And where do I have the best opportunity to glorify God and serve others, not where do I have the opportunity or the perfect opportunity. There is no Mr. Right for our careers. There’s a Mr. Best, lots of different options, right? And in order to be fulfilled, I think you got to make a choice, but there’s not a right or wrong decision, in my opinion.
Bob: Yeah, I mean, I can speak for myself, but I’m sure tons of other people are in that paralysis place. And I feel like there’s so many areas of life where people are like this. I mean, waiting for a spouse or waiting, whatever, any number of things where you get stuck waiting for this perfect thing.
Bob: And it just causes paralysis where you’re not actually moving and trying anything. And, yeah, it very much seems like that. And I know in my case, watching how I walk through things, it almost felt like it chose me a little bit. Do you feel like that’s common?
A Lesson from Fred Rogers
Jordan Raynor: Yeah, I think it is. I mean, I think about Fred Rogers who I wrote about in Master of One pretty extensively. I think that was his story, right? So, Fred Rogers’ life started out like a lot of ours. He had a ton of different interests. And actually, he was good at a lot of different things. So, he was a very talented composer of music, right? He was also really good with kids.
Jordan Raynor: And then, he had this interest in television. And along the way, as he did a lot of experimentation, which I strongly endorse in the book, a lot of professional exploration. He found the thing that converged all of those very gifts in a single direction to make the greatest impact. And he went all in, and then he mastered this great piece of television for 40 years.
Jordan Raynor: So, I think in that sense, television chose Fred Rogers, but he at some point did have to make an intentional choice to say, okay, this is the thing I’m doubling down on. This is the thing I’m sinking my teeth into. I’m not going to go be a pastor. He actually did go to seminary, but I’m not going to be a pastor. I’m not going to be a minister. I’m going to be a telecommunicator. That was intentional for him.
Bob: Yeah, and I think it’s really interesting. I’m reminded of and I’m pretty sure this is correct, but Scott Adams, the guy who’s behind Dilbert. Are you familiar with him at all?
Jordan Raynor: Yeah, yeah, yeah, sure.
Jordan Raynor: Not his story, no.
Bob: Yeah, I remember hearing him talk a little bit about, and again I’m pretty sure this is him, talking about just that convergence of gifts. And so, he said, “I’m not the funniest guy. I’m not the best artist. I’m not the, whatever, best business person, but I have this unique skill set of these three things. And when put together, I’m pretty much one of the best at this three combo thing.”
Jordan Raynor: That’s interesting, at this recipe, yeah.
Bob: Yeah, yeah. It reminds me of what you’re talking about with Fred Rogers and I think that’s where the magic is, where that power is, is when all those things come together and when they converge. And then, additionally beyond that, when in God’s timing they line up with whatever, the newest technological shift that we see changing every couple years and how it just opens the door for that convergence for things to just really take off.
Bob: And I feel like I’ve seen that in facets of my business over the last decade where a couple of things have just started coming together where I’m uniquely gifted to do these three things and it makes me a pretty unique combination. And then, some really cool things happen as a result.
Jordan Raynor: Yeah, I mean, I’ve seen that in my own career, right? So, my story is one of pivots to increasingly focus on my path, my one thing. So, yeah, very practically, I spent the first 10 years of my life as a serial tech entrepreneur, sold my first two companies. Most recently, I ran a very well-funded tech start-up called Threshold 360 that’s doing very well here in Tampa, ran it for two and a half years as CEO.
Becoming Narrowly Focused
Jordan Raynor: And then, almost a year ago, I stepped down as CEO. I spent about a hour recruiting my replacement. I’m now chairman of the board, but I did that in part because I felt call to get even more narrowly focused on my one thing. Now, my one thing is actually broad. I think my one thing is entrepreneurship. And I was applying that in two directions, bringing a tech product to market and bringing content products, like the book, like my podcast to market.
Jordan Raynor: But I felt called to get even more narrowly focused. But now that I’m running this business, Jordan Raynor and Company, I’m able to see all of these varied things come into play, right? So, I’ve got my skills as a writer and my skills as an entrepreneur converging in this unique opportunity to express those gifts and to do really great work.
Bob: Yeah, let’s talk a little bit about focusing on this one thing and what this looks like. So, because I like you, I have a lot of things I’m interested in. I very much would have always defined myself as a jack of all trades. And the number of hobbies that I have just so greatly outweighs my wife, Linda. And it’s the same way with business aspirations and that’s been one of my biggest challenges as a business owner is not getting my hands into too many different things and spreading myself too thin.
Jordan Raynor: Preach, yes.
Bob: Yeah. So, my question to you as somebody who seems to be recovering from this a little bit, what has worked for you? How have you navigated that? Because, yeah, there’s a million things that we could be doing. There’s a million great ideas. And how do you purge and really focus?
Jordan Raynor: Yeah, that’s a good question. So, I think I want to talk about focus in two different ways. One is in the macro sense of our careers, right? And the second is in the micro sense of a particular workday. So, in the macro sense of our careers, I think in order to know what to say no to, you have to be really clear on what you’re saying yes to, which sounds simple but I don’t think it is.
Jordan Raynor: I don’t think a lot of people have taken the time to really articulate what they are saying yes to vocationally, what they’re really excited about going big on. And then, the second piece of that is just to surround yourself with people that you have asked to hold you accountable to that one thing and keep you focused on the work that God created you to do, right? So, I’ll give a really practical example.
Jordan Raynor: When I was running Threshold 360 day-to-day, I was also writing a book. That was more than enough on my plate, especially because I’m called to be an excellent father and an excellent husband. I couldn’t do anymore than that. And so, every quarter or so, every three or four months, I would come. And my wife and I live in a coffee desert here in Tampa. There is no good coffee within a five-mile radius.
Jordan Raynor: And so, without fail, every three months I come home and be like, “Babe, I’m going to invest in a coffee shop. I have to do it. There’s an open retail space right down the street. We won’t be involved at all. I know the perfect person to run it. We’ll just put up the capital, blah, blah, blah.” And she’ll hear me out very graciously, and then just look at me. And she doesn’t even have to say anything, because I know I’m an idiot.
Jordan Raynor: I know that I can’t open up a coffee shop, even as a passive owner when I have these other really big things going on, right? So, I don’t know. I don’t know how practical and helpful this is, but I think all of us overestimate what we could be taking on at any one given point in time.
Saying No to a Bigger Yes
Jordan Raynor: So, I think the default answer has always got to be no to projects and continually saying no to things, but I think Jesus was actually a pretty good model of this. It’s remarkable how many times in the gospels Jesus says no to things, good things, really good things, healing people-
Bob: That’s a great point.
Jordan Raynor: … because he had a bigger yes. He was committing to a bigger yes that he was focused on, right? And I think there’s a lot of wisdom obviously in the life of Jesus and a lot that we can glean from it.
Bob: Yeah, one of the things that, I was just thinking about this as you were talking about that, that I
have found that’s been helpful for me a little bit is the idea of thinking more project-focused in terms of start and end date on a project and thinking sequentially, because I often feel like if I can’t do it now, I’m never going to be able to do it. When I found that freedom think, “All right, I can’t do this now. I need to say no to this now, but maybe in three years.”
Bob: Maybe after I get these other things done, maybe it’ll make sense then. Maybe it won’t. Maybe I won’t even be interested anymore, but it allows me to unload it on my brain a little bit and to put it on the shelf and to be comfortable that I can re-evaluate it in a couple years.
Jordan Raynor: Yes. So, are you a fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done?
Jordan Raynor: Do you know this book? Yeah. So, I’m a huge fan of GTD methodology and a part of this is this idea of a someday maybe project, right? So, I have tons of projects in my task management system that are on hold and have been in there for years, right? And I look at them every single Friday to remind myself that, okay, hey, my brain has captured this. I know it’s in a safe place that I’ll review every week.
Jordan Raynor: And I just make it a very quick split-second decision every week as to whether or not I want to activate that project in a given week. And that’s really helpful, just have an inventory of everything I might want to do, right? And for me, one rule of thumb in my daily workflow, I basically work on one massive project at a time. So, right now, I am launching this book. It’s the only thing I’m doing.
Jordan Raynor: Now, I’m doing other things that I have blocking and tackling that I have to do to keep my business running, that started as one-time projects and are now recurring requirements, like the podcast, for example. But other than that, in terms of new things, I do one big thing at a time. So, very practically, I am about to hire a chief marketing officer. I know that, for sure. Come March, when this book is launched, I’m hiring a CMO, but guess what?
Jordan Raynor: I’m not thinking about hiring a CMO. I’m not moving the bull at all on that until January 21st when Master of One is released in the world and I can start planning for that one big massive thing at a time. Because as you know, hiring anybody, that’s a big ordeal, right?
Bob: Yeah, yeah.
Jordan Raynor: That takes a lot of time, a lot of energy.
Bob: Yeah, yeah. And that makes sense. I’m going back to GTD, Getting Things Done, for people who don’t know. One of my biggest breakthroughs from that book was just this idea. I did not understand the mental baggage that comes with not having things in a proper place-
Jordan Raynor: Dude-
Bob: … so that you know you’ll back to them. That changed my life.
Jordan Raynor: It’s totally life-changing. It’s so simple. So, I have a mastermind group. We call it The Master Collaboratory for Founders and got 12 people, 12 super talented founders. And I’m like, oh, these guys get it. I’m not going to teach GTD to them. I taught GTD and just the magic of writing down anything that ever comes into your head. And you would think it was the second coming of Christ.
Jordan Raynor: They were beside themselves. It’s life-changing, so simple. So, by the way, if you’re listening to this podcast, if you take one thing away from this, write down everything that ever enters your head that is actionable, potentially actionable, anything that you have any level of internal commitment to change. That will change your life, and write in a place where you can regularly review it and organize it, whatever, but yeah.
Jordan Raynor: That’s a big deal. And, by the way, in order to stay focused on your one thing, that’s critical, because I have ideas. For example, yesterday at church, I had this idea of this trip to Europe I want to organize and actually sell. I’m pretty good friends with C.S. Lewis’ stepson. He’s invited me to bring people out to his place and out to the Kilns where C.S. Lewis lived.
Jordan Raynor: Oh my gosh, that would be an amazing trip. I need to do that. There’s no way I’m doing that within the next six months. I’ve already committed the next six months of my life, but I wrote it down. And I’m going to review it every week and that’s liberating.
Bob: Yeah, yeah. And adding to that, the thing that just changed so much for me was just knowing… creating a system that I knew I was going to look at it, because you won’t let it go if you don’t know that you’re going to look at. And then, you mentally carry that baggage and you have all these to-dos and all of this stuff, these great ideas. And you’re just carrying that around. Yeah, it’s just life-changing. So, it’s another book I recommend that’s fantastic.
Jordan Raynor: It’s the driest read ever, but it’s also the most life-changing aside from-
Bob: I think it’s probably been more than 10 years since I read it, so I don’t remember.
Jordan Raynor: It’s so boring, but it’s so good. It’s so good.
Master of One
Bob: Yeah, it was really good. All right. Okay. So, I’m trying to think of what else I want to ask you here. All right. So, what else would you want to say in whatever, two minutes, about this book? Yeah, tell us just a little bit more about Master of One and, yeah, why you were so fired up to write it.
Jordan Raynor: Yeah, I’m so fired up to write it, because I’m fired up about the glory of God. Glorify is a term we throw around so much in the church. It’s very hard to pin down the
meaning for. I love Piper’s definition of glorify. Glorify is simply to reflect his greatness and reflect his character. What’s his character? His character is excellence. We cannot say that we are image bearers of Christ, and then do mediocre work.
Jordan Raynor: And, by the way, you can’t do a million things at once and not do things of mediocrity, right? So, my plea for the church is to care deeply, deeply about excellence, because our work is a primary means of ministry.
Bob: All right, brother. Well, I appreciate you taking the time. And it was good to chat.
Jordan Raynor: Yeah, it was great to chat, man.
Bob: Yeah, all right, adios.
Jordan Raynor: Thanks for having me, Bob.
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