Stop Trying to Find Your Passion - Liz Forkin Bohannon (Podcast Episode 28)
Have you found your passion at work? That one perfect job or life mission that you're great at, that only you can do and excites you to jump out of bed every single morning? If your answer is no, then our guest Liz Forkin Bohannon says, "Stop trying." Liz was once herself directionless and clueless about her purpose, but today, she is the CEO of Sseko Designs, an international ethical fashion brand that works to educate and empower women around the world. Liz says, 'You're never going to get anywhere trying to find your passion. You need to build it.' She is the author of the book, 'Beginner's Pluck: Build Your Life of Purpose, Passion and Impact Now.'
He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (NRSV)
Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” (NLT)
He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants forever.” (NRSV)
Additional Resources Referenced
Sseko Designs: https://ssekodesigns.com
Beginner's Pluck, Build Your Life of Purpose, Passion and Impact Now, by Liz Forkin Bohannon
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Leah Archibald: Making It Work is brought to you by The Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Theological Seminary and the Theology of Work Project.
Mark Roberts: Welcome to Making it Work.
LA: Through conversation, scripture and stories, we invite God into work’s biggest challenges... so that you can live out your purpose in the workplace.
MR: I’m Mark Roberts.
LA: And I’m Leah Archibald. And this is Making It Work.
Have you found your passion at work? That one perfect job or life mission that you're great at, that only you can do and excites you to jump out of bed every single morning? If your answer is no, then our guest Liz Forkin Bohannon says, "Stop trying." Liz was once herself directionless and clueless about her purpose, but today, she is the CEO of Sseko Designs, an international ethical fashion brand that works to educate and empower women around the world. Liz says, 'You're never going to get anywhere trying to find your passion. You need to build it.' She is the author of the new book, 'Beginner's Pluck: Build Your Life of Purpose, Passion and Impact Now.'
Liz Forkin Bohannon, welcome to the Making it Work podcast.
Liz Forkin Bohannon: Thanks so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here.
LA: We are so excited to talk to you. So first of all, for those of us who don't know, tell us a little bit about what you do and about your company, Sseko Designs.
LFB: Yeah, so as you mentioned, I'm the co-founder and co-CEO of a socially conscious fashion brand called Sseko Designs that is over 10 years old now. We began originally as a way to create economic and educational opportunity for young women who come from backgrounds of extreme poverty, but who are really academically gifted, and really 10 years later, that's still what we are up to, so we have now an international fashion brand, so we work, we started in Uganda and we now work in Uganda and Ethiopia, Kenya, Peru, India, all over the world with like-minded suppliers and artisans who are creating community and opportunity for women and girls in their specific local communities, and then those products are sold here in the United States through a, you guessed it, community of women here in the US though, working not just globally to create economic community and the opportunity for women globally, but for women right here at home.
So through a network that we refer to as the Sseko fellows, these are women who sell the product in their own communities, they earn an income, and we've got folks from all different kind of walks of life, some that are in it for the discount on the beautiful clothes and the community and the purpose, and might spend a few hours a week with us and then other women who are walking alongside of us to build full-time incomes and businesses and teams, and who are really social entrepreneurs in their own right, and together between the fellows here in the US, and then our global community of producers and artisans are trying to build something that is beautiful and beneficial and uplifts women everywhere.
LA: And tell us, for those of us who are already trying to Google it and do a little shopping while listening to the podcast, why don't you spell it.
LFB: It's Sseko Designs. So that's S-S-E-K-O Designs.com.
And get ready, we just launched our spring collection and it's a real treat. So if you're browsing while you're listening, I can promise your eyes, your eyes are gonna be more tickled than your ears, I might tell you. The Sseko site is more beautiful than my voice is beautiful, so it's a great supplement.
MR: I have a couple of things, one is just to say, so I'm not really a clothes guy, but I went to your site and I gotta tell you, your stuff is really beautiful. I mean... And if I say that, that means that that actually says something. Second thing is, you can now answer my big question, how did you get that name? 'Cause I didn't see any explanation on your website of how you got S-s-e-k-o.
LFB: Yeah. I think it might be buried somewhere very, very far deep in the archives of a Q&A, but nseko is the Lugandan word for laughter. And I mentioned that we actually started in Uganda, that's kind of where our origins as a community are, and so it's based off of the Luganda word for laughter, and in Luganda, and really other languages in Uganda as well, the double S is really common to start off a word, which is obviously very rare in the United States. I don't know if we have any words that start with a double S, but it's a really, really common feature in Uganda, so I thought it was a fun way to incorporate a nod to our country of origin, if you will.
MR: Well, thank you. You've now brought peace to my soul, so I can listen to the rest.
LFB: Good. I'm so grateful. I'm so glad you're gonna be able to sleep tonight.
LA: So I'm already sold on your company and your company's mission, and it's because you bring a lot of passion to your work, obviously, and yet you have this book where you're telling us, don't go out trying to find your passion. Is that a disconnect? Why don't you tell us why?
LFB: Yeah, absolutely. I have to be probably the only leader and a motivational speaker in the world that loves to get on stage and tell people to stop trying to find their passion and other really inspiring messages like own your average and dream small. But the reality is, if you've known me for 10 seconds, I'm pretty passionate, and I believe deeply in the value of living a life that is connected, that is integrated, that is passionate. I have really big problems with how we as a culture and society talk about passion, I think it's filled with a lot of people who are on the other side of the journey, who then are looking at their journey through the kind of lens of hindsight and it's just landed us in a place where we use a lot of platitudes, a lot of things that not only are they not helpful, I actually think they're kind of hurtful, and one of those phrases is, find your passion.
This is like a mandate of our generation, of our culture, right, just go out there and find your passion, and what I find is it just builds up this really unrealistic and unhelpful picture about how one goes about doing that, and I would say that the difference, the language that I like to use is talking about building your passion, and it can be like, okay, are we splitting hairs here? Is that really semantics? But I actually think it's really important in general, I think language is incredibly important, and I think a lot about words, and I think they matter, but I think the difference between the posture and the expectations that you have when you set out to find something versus when you set out to build something are really significant because finding your passion isn't some magical thing that happens, you don't wake up one day, you don't kinda have this moment where everything feels like it fell into place and you feel all of this confirmation, and you've discovered this thing, right. It puts so much pressure on us to open the right door to say yes to the right opportunity, because it kind of positions it. It's like, well, if you don't, you're gonna be wasting your time when you could have been finding your passion, right.
When we think about building just our posture and our mentality and our mindset completely changes, it becomes a lot more... I think we feel a lot more empowered, there's a lot more autonomy, right, when you're like, I'm gonna go out and build my dream house, there's no part of you that thinks it's gonna accidentally happen, right? There's no part of you that thinks like, I might just get lucky and wake up and my dream house is there, right, it's like, no, you think about going out, you think about dreaming, you think about putting plans in place, and then you think about a foundation and then you know you're gonna go over budget and it's gonna take longer than you think it's going to...
LA: There’s leeway for mistakes in there.
LFB: Totally. Mistakes and then also there's beauty in the process, not just the end goal, right. So it's so often we discount so much of our life because it's like it wasn't that aha moment, so that was wasted time or energy, or I made the wrong decision, versus really believing that there's something for you to learn that the path isn't linear and that the more present and engaged and committed you are to figuring out what is it right here right now that I actually have to learn that is a process of me building that passion. It takes away some of the magic from it in a good way, and I think it deposits the magic in an even better way that just requires us to be a lot more present and open and curious, and frankly experimental with how we think about where we're gonna land and what it is that's gonna really bring us to life.
LA: So can we ground this in a life experience a little bit, could you tell us about a time in your work where you were struggling to find your passion and you switched to a mindset of building your passion?
LFB: Yeah, and I talk about this in 'Beginner's Pluck,' my book that kind of outlines my journey, but really... I have a chapter in the book that's called Surprise Yourself, and it's all about just being willing and open to be surprised by what actually excites you and what brings you to life, because so often, I think from an early age we're encouraged to kind of wrap up our vocation and in our identity, and then we go and we get a degree in a specific thing, and so we kind of start to have this narrative that it's like if I go off that path, have I failed in that thing, or... There's just a lot of angst that's involved in it, and I like to joke that when I was in college, there's plenty of things that I liked, but the two things that I kind of actively disliked, I kid you not, were fashion, so uninterested in fashion.
Just believed that if you were interested in fashion, you were shallow, you were materialistic, you had no idea what was happening in Syria, right. Just so uninterested in fashion. And business. I thought business, I had in the way that only a lovely 20-year-old with very little life experience can think so black and white, but really believed like, hey, there are people in the world that are doing cool stuff, and mainly they're journalists and they're non-profit leaders and they're activists and they're people, community members, and then you have people that just care about getting rich and building higher fences and building their own little kingdoms, and those are the business people, and I am very firmly in the former camp. I don't know if I would have said business is evil, but I definitely didn't see it as a mechanism for good, and then here I am 10 years later running a for-profit fashion business, right? And here's the thing, it's not like I'm holding my nose doing it, I'm passionate about fashion. I love it, I love... I'll say I'm less passionate about fashion like the industry, and I am so wildly excited and passionate about making stuff, making beautiful apparel, footwear, the versatility, like the creation, the implementation that actually the development, how it integrates in the supply chain, how people feel when they wear it, all of it.
I love it. It is so energizing to me. But I never in a million years would have said, I grew up and I was super passionate about fashion, and then now I have this career in fashion, and then same with business, I am a fierce advocate for using business as a tool for social good. We've always been a business since the very beginning, we've never been a charity or structured as a philanthropy or a non-profit, from our very earliest days, Sseko has had this belief that actually, if we wanna make a real difference in the world, non-profits and advocacy organizations and all of that stuff, it's great, it has its place in society, but also we have to be thinking business is, I would say, arguably the most powerful tool and structure in the world, and if we wanna really think about change on a systemic and scalable way, it's the thing that each and every one of us interact with every single day, multiple times a day, and I really believe in the power of using business as a tool to create positive social change, and so I'm wildly passionate about running a business.
LA: How did business and fashion go from things that you disdained to things that were in your tool kit to build your passion?
LFB: Yeah, absolutely. It was experimenting, being open to being surprised, being more fixated on a problem than I was on the solution. So when I showed up in Uganda, I met this incredible group of young women, they were in between high school and university, they tested into college, but they couldn't afford to go, and that became my very interesting problem of like, okay, here I say, I care about women and girls living in extreme poverty in conflict and post-conflict zones, and now, here's 25 women, this very just like... I could wrap my hands around that in a way that global extreme gender inequality is a little bit hard to be like... I could do something about that. Here's 25 women, many of them who at that point I had relationships with, there was this nine-month gap, and it was like, okay, we gotta figure out a way to bridge this gap between high school and university.
I didn't give two licks how we did that. To me, it was just like solving the problem is really... That's my focus, and so I actually started a non-profit and then learned a ton and was open to changing my mind, I wasn't fixated, my identity was not wrapped up in being like, I'm somebody who goes and starts a non-profit, so when I started to get the clues of like... Actually, I think there's kind of a better way to go about doing this, it was pretty easy for me to drop the idea and be like, oh, let's pivot. Let's do something else. I think we need to do business. I wanna employ people, I wanted to positively impact the local economy, so it was like, cool, drop that. Experiment. Do something different. Pivot, quarter turn, right.
So then I started a chicken farm and that was the point in the story, honestly, in the experimenting where I was like, cool, business model here feels... I'm really interested in that. My brain is pretty lit up, thinking about using business instead of a non-profit model to solve this problem, I see a lot of good in this. The chickens, however, I can't... I am not like I would wake up in the morning and just be like dead inside when it came to passion for chickens, just like, no, I'm not the girl for that job, I can't get excited about it, it's not fun, so then I just started experimenting thinking dreaming like, what are other things that we could do or make.
And I had made a pair of these sandals when I was in college, literally out of just this idea that I wanted a pair of flip-flops, that didn't flop, and I took a pair of rubber shower sandals basically kind of tore them up, added some ribbon to them and well, voila, I had these sandals, these flip-flops that didn't flop, and I wasn't passionate about it at all, but I was passionate about the problem of a business solution to create employment and bridge this nine-month gap and so I was just like, I don't know, maybe we could sell these sandals, also not interested in it really, but I just noticed as I went along and just gave myself the freedom to try something without putting it through the lens of like, could I see myself doing this for the next 75 years? Does my heart light up in the morning?
Before I did that, I just did the thing and I started... I started traveling the country and on the back of a motorcycle and trying to find raw materials and trying to figure out who was making stuff and what machines do you need and what's the technique, and putting together a supply chain and thinking about costing and then the actual design of the physical thing itself, and I was just so surprised to find that I loved it. I was just so energized by it. I would stay up until 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning sitting on the floor of the little like hostel, that I was living at tinkering and cutting up leather and making sandals and prototyping things out and going and meeting with different suppliers, and I was just energized by it, and I couldn't have seen that coming, and I never would have discovered it had I not let myself just do the thing and then be open to like... I don't know. Does that feel good? Does that fit?
So it's all this... It was just so much iterating and so much experimenting and so little pressure, like I was so fixated on the interesting problem, which was to me creating this sustainable nine-month gap for female scholars that it kind of removed some of the, I didn't have time or energy to be be like, "Well, do you love it? Are you passionate about this? Is this your purpose in life?" I don't think I would have answered, "Yes" to that during that season, it was just like, "This is the problem, seems like this could be a solution," and I don't hate doing it so just keep going, and that over the last 10 years has developed into building a very sincere and very deep passion for these two ways in which I'm still to this day continuing to solve the very interesting problem.
LA: So instead of saying, I'm gonna find the one thing that excites me, Liz, you said, I'm gonna find whatever it takes to help solve this problem that I'm interested in, and you came to it with a very open-ended problem-solving methodology...
LFB: Yeah, exactly.
LA: Like what will work. Let's try this.
LFB: Exactly. Now, I still did give myself the freedom with the chicken farm, I think when I tried something that I was like, 'This doesn't... I'm not excited about this.' Being able to separate it out of like, okay, I'm excited, I am excited about the business part of the chicken farm, I'm wholly un-excited about the product, the chicken... The mechanism... And not throwing the baby out with the bath water. And being able to be like, that just put you in a more experimental mindset of like, okay, so keep the thing that worked, the thing that worked was the model, the vision of the ideology for using business, let's pivot from the chickens, what's something else we could do. But I think so often we're just so quick to be like, I tried this thing and I didn't like it, and so I just have to go in a totally different direction, or I failed at that thing or it was a mistake, instead of getting really curious and being like, no, let's be a little bit more nuanced about that, like what worked for you, what didn't work for you?
And really getting into that kind of posture of just iterating and innovating and experimenting without having to make judgment calls on everything.
LA: At this time, was there a scripture or a particular story in the Bible that really guided your search for a solution to this problem, or your attitude of open-ended questioning.
LFB: I don't know that I would say there was a specific scripture. I think in hindsight, I could go and answer that question for you. But I do think at the time, my posture and life was pretty guided by my belief that Jesus and that the Lord is with and among the marginalized, and I think in every culture, in every community that looks different, but listening and wanting to just go build community and friendships and learn.
And so for me, that was women and girls living in extreme poverty and conflict and post-conflict zones, but it was more out of a belief, not that that was something that I needed to do, but that's where... That's where life is, that's where Jesus hung out, and that's where I believe I'm gonna learn about myself and about the world and about who God is, and a belief that I think the scripture in Micah about loving justice and pursuing mercy and walking humbly is something that has been a verse that's guided my life pretty consistently since I came to know the Lord, and just like that, that being that co-creator, I love how, I love the verbs in that verse, that it just calls us to these action steps and postures that we have. It's not enough just to care about something, I think that that is something that I've become increasingly opinionated about, is that I think we live in a culture right now where people confuse opinions for passion.
It's like, 'Oh, she's so passionate.' And it's like, okay, she has very strong opinions, meaning she has super strong opinions. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with strong opinions, I have very strong opinions, but I wanna be very honest about... You can, holding an opinion costs you... It can cost you very little, and if you are completely removed from the effects of that opinion, like the word passion, the Latin root word is pati, which means to suffer for it, in order to say you're passionate about something, I think you have to be living a life that is reflective of your strong opinion that you hold or else it's just an opinion. Again, I'm not saying that opinions aren't useful, but they're very different than being passionate about something, and so I think for me, that was kind of one of my come to Jesus moments that propelled me to quit my job and to move to Uganda was the sense that I realized that was calling myself passionate about this issue of global extreme gender inequality, and then I looked at my life and I was like, That's interesting, like your life and the life that you're building in your community and your friends and your vocational track and all of it...
None of it has anything to do with that, like none of it is actually affected by this thing that you say you're passionate about, and so it was kind of this moment, I was like, Oh, okay, actually you have an opinion about that thing, but if you wanna be passionate about it, go make your life, like go integrate it, go be on the ground and have relationships and have your life actually be swept up and integrated in a way that it just wasn't at the time... Yeah, so that was a long answer to your question.
LA: You mentioned the action words, the action verbs in that verse Micah chapter 6, verse 8, he has shown you, 'O mortal. What is good? What does the Lord require you of you to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.' There's no... It'll drop out of the sky. Like the action verbs are to act justly to love mercy, to walk humbly, those are... And those actions aren't huge, big explosive firework actions. They seem very small. I don't know, Mark, tell me... Mark, I wanna bring you into this conversation, tell me what is your take on Micah 6:8 and what those verbs mean to you.
MR: Well, I agree with Liz. They're great, great verbs. And if you've gotta put in a nutshell what it is to be a follower of Jesus, that Micah passage is great, and it's called to love and to seek, to walk, and there is an activity about that... Liz, your critique of passion is really good and really important. And part of your critique, of course, is that passion isn't something out there, you discover and you're really clear about that, and I think you were right on, but in the last things you were saying, there's another critique, and you point to this that I think for some of us, if I'm passionate about an issue, that's almost enough, if I'm passionate, then I can just live my life because I'm passionate, so you can be passionate in this time of history about racial justice in America. That's a good thing. But there is a question to be asked, and what are you doing with that passion? I actually, before this, I had a conversation with a Black leader today who was really challenging me and us in saying, you know, it's great to repent and come out with statements, and that's all important, but now the question is, what are you gonna do that's actually gonna make a difference in your part of the world?
MR: And what you're saying is, is just so great and the smallness of it is great too, because sometimes we think, well, what can I do about racial justice or what can I do about global inequities, what can I do about the challenges of women on the other side of the globe, and I can't go to Uganda, so I think we sometimes we let ourselves off the hook for the small mustard seedish... You know, there's another Bible verse Jesus talks about the mustard seed, if we're doing mustard seed work, it's not up to us to make sure it grows up into the big plant, that's God's work, and yet there's a faithfulness to act.
MR: And the only other thing I'll say Liz what I love about your stuff is in my own experience, and I think it's like yours, my passion for something often comes in the action of living into it out of a sense more of right and wrong, or duty or opportunity, so I don't sit around well, with my wife, I love my wife, but sometimes I'm not feeling all this love for... I just need to go do the dishes.
LA: Yeah, do an action.
MR: And in the act of doing it, then the emotion comes, then the passion comes.
LFB: Yeah, I totally agree with your sentiment about sometimes you have to lead with action and the feeling can follow as opposed to being totally led by feelings or emotion, they say that when you smile, if the physical action of smiling, regardless of your motivation or your emotion behind it creates and releases endorphins that actually make you happier right, and I think that's a really interesting micro example of having... There's this idea of orthopraxy versus orthodoxy, right. Where you have to... I think there's this thought that you have to have the right belief, and then out of the right belief, the right actions will come. I think that can be argued in some scenarios. I think there's times where it's like you just have to do the right thing, and through that, through the orthopraxy, you will build the right belief, and probably a belief that is more, I would think more relevant and grounded, and sometimes we can get so stuck up in either the feeling or the belief, and I think that there can be something really beautiful about time, just go do... Just go do the thing.
And ordering things correctly in that way. And I also completely agree with your thought, and especially I think we're seeing it right now, to your point that you brought up with race in America, right, that it's like, it costs you nothing to post a black square on blackout Tuesday, and I think it's... I still think it's great. I think it's a way of taking a stand and showing support, I'm not disparaging acting on a social media action. I think it's a very powerful platform. But if we're not asking the question of, but what comes next, and frankly, what are the things that I'm doing behind the scenes that are facilitating in that in my own life that it doesn't have to be like, I'm not gonna go out and start a racial justice organization, that's not my calling in life, I don't think I'm equipped to do that, I'm not the person, but if I'm showing up on social media saying like Black Lives Matter, but I'm not thinking about, okay, if Black Lives Matter, how does that play out in my home sitting around my dinner table with my two and four-year-old.
That's not big. That's not fancy, I'm not gonna win a Nobel Prize for that. But it's important, good, small work, how am I showing up in the workplace, what does that look like? To believe the Black Lives Matters in the context of my work and with my colleagues? None of that is sexy and none of that is big and none of that is showy, but I do believe that by honoring this... I have a chapter in my book called Dream Small, and it's about giving honor and dignity to small dreams, because so often there's a scripture, and I think it's either... I don't know, Jeremiah, maybe Zechariah? I can't remember, that says, 'Do not despise small beginnings, for the Lord delights in seeing the work begin,' and I love that scripture, and I love that reminder that so often, and I think in our culture that's so filled with this dream big, do the next big thing, what's the next big sexy movement? And again, I love big dreams, I'm like, my profession is dreaming really big, and then convincing other people to help make it happen because Lord knows I can't do it on my own.
I'm not saying don't go after those things and there's a place for it, but also we can hold that with, but don't despise the small stuff and don't forget how much those small things really do matter and can one really add up. And two can actually be the thing that creates the momentum that leads to the big thing.
LA: The verse you mentioned is Zechariah 4:10, 'Do not despise the small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.'
LFB: Are you looking these up or are you like... Do you know all of the Bible?
MR: Leah knows the whole Bible.
LFB: That's amazing. Wow. There we go. I'm getting fact checked.
LA: I have a cheat sheet actually. I prepared in advance. That's not one that I have memorized, but I am just at this moment, seeing a connection between the Zechariah 4:10 verse and the verse we mentioned before, which is Micah 6:8. The last part of that, to walk humbly with God, like often when we talk about passion, we're like, I'm gonna find that big thing where I'm a super star, but the real guiding scriptures that you mentioned that have helped you build your passion are about being humble and starting from small beginnings, so convince us that that's true, even though Liz, today, you are a little bit of a superstar in your career, I mean you're CEO of a fashion brand, you have a new book out, everyone wants to go to you for advice about how to start, do a social entrepreneurship business venture. How do you convince people to really start small and be humble?
LFB: Yeah, humility I think is an interesting concept in our current culture that I think we've got pretty wrong. I think we think about humility is to make myself small. And I think humility is actually just recognizing your part in what Richard Rohr would call the big beautiful whole, and it's like recognizing that there is something so freeing and so both empowering and humbling about recognizing both your importance and your smallness in the grand scheme of things. I tell my two sons that I love to tell them how important they are, and then I love to follow up and remind them that they're not more important than anybody else, and if those two things can really co-exist... And I think about it, one of the mantras that I have to myself is thinking about the divine telling me like, Liz you're my favorite. But then also whispering, I tell my kids this too, I whisper in their ears, 'You're my favorite,' but I tell it to both of them, but I don't think it's an untruth right, and I think about that with God, just God being like, 'Oh my gosh, you're my favorite,' and then looking to whoever it is next to me, and then the divine also looking at them and going, 'Oh my gosh, you're my favorite.'
And I think that that sense, that it's like I'm God's favorite can come off as people like, oh my gosh, that's so egotistical, that's not good. And it's like, no, but if I actually believe that we're all created in the image and the likeness of our divine creator. And our creator saying that about each and every one of us, then actually, when I believe it for myself, it actually unlocks it and allows me to believe that for somebody else as well, and when I see that in myself and I can actually see it more clearly, in other people, it's not about making yourself small, it's about realizing the importance and big-ness both of you and of everybody else and that counter-intuitively also kinda makes you feel small, but then it makes you feel small, not in a dismissed or disparaging or false way, but small in this awe way, I think about just a vision of like, you're zooming out, you're zooming out, you're zooming out, and the majesty of zooming out and seeing your smallness versus that being like a sad or dismissive thing, and so I think embracing our part in the big, beautiful whole of creation, and then also recognizing the seasonality of it, right. It's about, we're all gonna be called to different parts in the play, and it's about recognizing the value and the dignity of every single one of those parts, more so than being obsessed with like, well, which part is it that you're playing. Because you're right.
Right now, I'm very much so playing a part that is called to being probably in a lot of ways, more center stage, but I think that that only works in a healthy way if it's like... But that's not my identity, and that's not also where I might be for forever, right. But at this moment in time, this is the opportunity and this is the vehicle and the mechanism for me to play my part in the big beautiful whole, and who am I to shrink back from that? And I think we have to be, I'm especially interested in the conversation as it relates to women, because I think that women have been conditioned and specifically in the Christian culture to shrink ourselves and to be ashamed of any bigness, and I just believe so deeply that when we dismiss or shame the bigness in us as the created, we are dismissing and shaming the bigness that where that came from, which is our creator, right? And in the same way, we acknowledge and we lift up and we exalt that in our male counterparts, that's something that plenty of studies have shown like, oh, we socially reward men who are big, who take up space, who have opinions, who are bold, who give direction and who are successful, and there are social consequences for women who exhibit those exact same traits.
And so yeah, exploring the concept of humility and how I think we've got it wrong, but then also offering an alternative for what that looks like is something that's important to me.
MR: That is so awesome. And can I give you an example? 'cause as you were talking, I keep thinking Mary, as in the mother of Jesus, is like the poster child for what you're talking about here, right? Because on the one hand, she is utterly humble and submissive to God, 'let it be done with me according to Your will.' There's this giving of herself fully to this divine calling that's gonna really change her life and in many ways is gonna be a hard life, and so I'm the servant of the Lord, she says, but then when she goes on to her song, we call it the Magnificat, first of all, she's absolutely about magnifying God, so it's God's bigness, not her bigness, but he has looked on me with favor on the lowliness, the upper lowliness, and then, surely from now on, all generations will call me blessed, for the mighty one has done great things for me. Right, so it's God is big, God is mighty. I'm the recipient, you know I'm lowly. Actually, all generations will call me blessed.
So there's kind of a bigness in there, and yet it's a bigness that is, you might say, dwarfed by the bigness and grace of God, but it still it's a lifting up of her, even if she's acknowledging herself as a servant, and yet all generations are gonna call her blessed. So I just think if you wanna look to scripture for somebody who is big and small at the same time and utterly sold out to God, we don't even know she has, in your language, any passion for this particular calling at this point, right? But we know that there's this faithfulness and it's about God and God's greatness and glory and grace, and she is God's servant, and therefore, God is the one who had magnified her 'cause she magnifies God. So what you're saying, man, it feels like serious Mary stuff.
LFB: Yeah, yeah, I love that. Yeah, that's really good.
LA: It's like the smallness and bigness that happens at the same time in the same way, and this is Mary's song is Luke chapter one, verses 46 to 55.
So if you were to look back and give your old self some advice Liz as you’re plucking chickens or before your trip to Uganda, what's some concrete advice you could give someone else who's like, gee, I don't know what next direction I have to go, or what next steps I have to take to build my passion.
LFB: I've learned recently about a concept called CQ, which is your Curiosity Quotient, and it's a real thing that can be measured. It has real implications. In fact, they have decided, they being the social scientists who run these tests, have decided that your CQ is just as, if not more important in determining your likelihood of long-term success as your IQ, and that fact has totally changed my life and has made me value, excuse me, curiosity, to a whole new degree. I think I've always... Not always, I think that there's been a part of me that has valued curiosity, but I think just continuing to remind myself, even in those early days when I didn't know what I was doing, and I felt for sure at times like I was a failure, I made a mistake or I was wasting time. I think just reminding myself of the... Being empowered to know that your CQ is actually something that you can change and grow, and that exercising and building up a muscle, you have to do that, it's not gonna do it naturally, and having that be kind of the lens in which I saw my decision-making.
Because I was like, I'm talking... I realized all of this in the moment sometimes, and I definitely didn't... I was very, very angsty as like getting ready to graduate college, like, who am I and what am I gonna do, and what's my life's purpose? And very, very angsty and very hard on myself, and so I think probably just the advice, just telling her that little tidbit and lifting up and honoring her sense of curiosity would be something that if I could go back and whisper in her ear, maybe I would, maybe I would share with her.
LA: Mark, what about you? Would you have any pieces of advice that you would offer someone who's like, geez I don't know how what I'm gonna do with this passion issue in my life.
MR: Well, I mean, it sounds like you're setting me up, but you could read Liz's book, that would be a start. The other person who writes a lot about this in a very different mode, in a very different season of life is David Brooks. The columnist for the New York Times. He's good. So there is stuff out there that helps people, but I think even if somebody is just listening to this, and they come away with this freedom from the need to discover my passion as if I've just gotta sit there until I get some strong feeling and it's gotta come magically. And rather, so what you just said, what are you curious about? What do you care about? What right now is moving your heart at all? Where do you see a need? You talked about solving a problem, where is there a problem around me that I'm aware of that I could actually do something about? And what might that be? And so again, it's the freedom from the obsession with passion, it's the freedom to do small things. I love it that you talk about that too, that's right on... 'Cause I think that can give people in any season of life, I work a lot now with people who are in or entering retirement, so really on this other side of life.
But it's the same kinds of questions are saying like, what is next for me? I don't know what I'm gonna do with my life. And that same kind of freedom that you're offering is gonna be so important for them, don't feel like you've gotta do a big thing and don't feel like you've gotta have a big passion. Start where you are, use Micah 6:8, walk into it. And see what develops. And I think, so I think part of what Liz you are offering is it's freedom. Now, I would say, and you would say too, it's actually the freedom that God offers us through his grace, so what you're doing is taking that who God has made us, and re-framing it in a way that people can really connect to, and I think it's a great, it's a great gift you’re giving.
LFB: Yeah, and I think the recognition too that it's like...there's nothing I can do to make God love me less or more, and your passion actually falls into that, like you are beloved, you are beloved child of God, whether or not you have found it, whether you're doing it, whether it's just like, does it deeply affect your life and it is a good and meaningful thing to pursue... Yes. Does it change your status with God, will you feel more or less loved by the divine... I would say no. On the alternative side, I have a feeling you don't want me to cuss on your show, so I'm not going to, but I'm gonna say your ish still stinks, right, where it's like on the alternative side you could be living your passion and you're still gonna have issues like you're still gonna have stuff that you have to work out in yourself and you're still gonna have hard spots in your marriage, and you're still gonna have potentially financial woes. And people are still gonna get sick, and it's not a magic bullet.
It's so important, and it's so good and it's so worthy, but one of my things that it is such a red flag for me, like in an interview process, that I will not hire somebody who comes into an interview and who I can tell has some big problems in their life, with just contentment or... Yeah, having not "found it yet" and I can tell in their voice and by the way that they're talking about this opportunity, this job that it's like, but if I get this job at Sseko and I just can do something I'm passionate about, then...
LA: It's gonna fix everything.
LFB: It's gonna fix everything. And that is a huge red flag to me, one of our core values at our company is called bring your why, it's like you gotta do the work on your own, and then you, if you're lucky... And if you're living in an alignment, then you get to bring that to an organization, and every day you get to live out that why, and you get to experiment with it, and you get to have a real world like contribution, and that's a beautiful, amazing thing that I think is so wonderful for the human spirit, and when we can be living in integrity and an alignment, but no passion, no job, no opportunity is gonna fix you, that is taking something that is good, but it is misplacing it and making it...
Ultimately, I would say it's like making it into an idol, it's like saying, This is a good thing, but I'm taking it out of the context of where it belongs and I'm putting it into a place where it doesn't belong, and then by nature, I'm messing it up.
LA: I really do agree that when we start to say, finding my passion or even building my passion will fix everything, then we're barking up the wrong tree. We're forgetting this idea that passion involves suffering, sometimes Jesus' passion involves suffering and moreover, life involves some hardship, some suffering and some real work, and part of building a life that's meaningful in relationship with God means doing some of the hard work and means having some of it not be all sunshine and roses and fireworks all the time, and I think that's a message that would be my one piece of advice like, uh, you're okay, if you're not finding your passion, if your life doesn't feel like it's sunshine and roses right now, it might never be, but it can be really meaningful.
We will encourage all of our readers to pick up Liz's book, which again is called 'Beginner's Pluck, Build Your Life of Purpose, Passion, and Impact Now,' and you can get it to read or you can get it on Audible where Liz will read it to you as a bedtime story...
LA: Or as a day time story. Liz, this is really enjoyable. Thank you so much for joining us today.
LFB: Thank you both so much for having me.
MR: Yes indeed.