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Jordan Raynor: Passion vs Mastery

Jessup Chapel
Jessup Chapel
Jordan Raynor: Passion vs Mastery

During calling and career week, entrepreneur and TED speaker Jordan Raynor weighs the balance between passion and mastery of one’s career.


Hey guys doing this morning. So if you get sick of hearing that when you’re in the crowd,

yeah, that’s like the worst question speakers can ask. So I was at the beach with my wife and my kids this weekend. And I was we were talking about this event and talking about coming to a university setting. And my wife and I actually met in college. We met our first weekend at Florida State University go Knowles, any fans. It’s worth a shot is worth a shot now, but we were reminiscing about the fact that it’s been 15 years. I know my gray hair makes it look like our girl graduated college, you know, 30 years ago, but it’s been 15 years since we started Florida State we both entered in 2004. And 15 years is a long time a lot changes in 15 years. When I started Florida State University. The iPhone didn’t exist. This was my first sport. Yeah, Blackberry fans a round of applause for Blackberry. Yeah, no, give it up. Give it up for rim.

I still believe that this is like one of the greatest phones ever made. Did you guys ever play brick breaker maybe on your parents? To this day? Candy, you could keep your candy crush? I’ll take brick breaker every single day of the week. Yeah, so iPhone didn’t exist. 15 years ago, that was my smartphone. And believe it or not, 15 years ago, Facebook was actually cool. Can we say that this close the Palo Alto? Yes, yeah. So you had to have an email address right to get an account. It was like a huge day in 2004 when Facebook opened up to Florida State students, and then Believe it or not to really date myself. Streaming Netflix was like unheard of. I’m actually in the middle of reading the Netflix autobiography, which just came out last week. It’s really good by the co founder and the CEO of Netflix. This is how we watched TV. In college. Yeah, there was no binge watching last in 2005, we had a wait for days to ship our DVDs back and then get another one to figure out what happened to Kate and jack and Sawyer, and all these guys. So in a lot of

ways, my college experience was very, very different from yours. But in a lot of ways, I think our experiences though 10 to 15 years apart, are quite similar. That’s what I want to talk about this morning. And I think they were similar, especially when it comes to the advice that you and I received from parents and other adults in our lives. About questions about career and calling and the questions that you guys are exploring this week. You’re Jessup. So like you guys, when I was in college, I was desperately trying to figure out what in the world I was going to do with my life. I don’t even think I knew the term entrepreneur. When I was in college. I didn’t know what that meant. I was just trying to figure out what I was going to do. And I constantly had this internal soundtrack, playing in my head with this advice that my parents gave to me about how to find work that I love. Right. So Tom and Lynette Rainer, or your typical parents of millennials, right. So my parents were far better off than their baby boomer parents were. And I think because of that they had these crazy high expectations about the opportunities ahead of my brother, and myself, right, they were boundlessly optimistic about our futures. And so my parents are constantly telling us the same things. I’m sure a lot of your parents told you. You can be anything you want to be. You can do everything you want to do, you can have it all and above all else, when it comes to your career. Just do whatever makes you happy. Right? Raise your hand if any of you guys have ever heard anything remotely similar to this. Okay, pretty much every hand in the room. Good. So we’re tracking on the same lines here. And of course, it wasn’t just our parents, right? They were giving us this advice for me it was even my friend’s parents, right and even influential celebrities right that were giving us this advice. 80s icon. Jon Bon Jovi and Bon Jovi fans in the room once said nothing is as important as passion What a ridiculous statement from Mr. Bon Jovi. Oprah told us that passion is energy, fuel, the power that comes from focusing on what excites you? This guy might not be a celebrity to you all, but he’s a huge celebrity to my little girls, Ellison and Kate, which are pictured right here. This is my dad, whom they affectionately called claw, Paul, my dad is missing two fingers. And so it’s a very sick joke. And so instead of going to Papa, he’s club ball. It’s amazing. It’s okay to laugh. It’s okay to laugh. So, so my dad grew up in selling All right, sold through the hospitals, the daycare facilities to the revolving door of restaurants that would open one day and close the next and so he I swear every day of my childhood would always tell me, Jordan do whatever makes you happy, so long as you never open a restaurant, right? Our parents want us to find happiness in our work. We all want to find happiness in our work. We want our work to feel like a calling. And this is mostly a good thing, right? If you turn the pages back in the Bible to Genesis one, we see that God created work. Pre fall pre synthes work was one of the original forms of worship. Work is a good and God glorifying thing. And thus, we should expect our work to bring us great joy. I think it’s good that you are sitting here looking for careers that can bring you great happiness. But here’s the question I want us to answer this morning. I want us to ask whether or not this follow your passions. Do whatever makes you happy advice is actually leading to the results that we’re all after that we’re that we’re actually leading to happiness in our vocations in this sense of calling. Or

if that’s not the best strategy, what is a strategy for finding true joy, true sustainable satisfaction that can last an entire career? So those are the questions I want to answer in our brief time together this morning. But before we do, I want to go ahead and assign a name to this conventional wisdom that we’ve started exploring this morning. I prefer to call this follow your passions, do whatever makes you happy advice, the passion strategy, right? Raise your hand if you’ve read anything by Cal Newport, author of deep work, digital minimalism, cash, man, because nobody knows this guy that blows my mind. He’s written three New York Times bestselling books. He’s a professor of computer science at Georgetown University. And easily my top five probably top three authors right now. He’s brilliant. Anyways, he has a great definition of the passion strategy. So in his critique of the passion strategy, he describes it as this, the key to occupational happiness is to first figure out what what you’re passionate about, and then find a job that matches that passion. Right? So it’s a pretty good summary, I think of the advice, the career advice that most of us grew up here and follow your passions, follow your dreams, do what you love, do what makes you happy. Right? So that’s the passion strategy right there. By the way, whether or not you’re likely to be skilled at the thing you’re passionate about is largely ignored by proponents of the passion strategy, whether or not you’re skilled. That’s not the point. The point is that you find something that you’re really passionate about, and you’re able to get paid to do it. Right. And by the way, there are really good reasons why this advice has become so popular. I think we’re living at a time if you’re sitting in this room at William Jessup University, you’re in a four year university, you have you and I have more opportunities for our careers than any generation before us. Right? My parents, my grandparents didn’t have nearly as many options for their work as we didn’t. So very naturally, they want us to explore all the options in front of us. The fact is that we more than any generation before us have had more opportunity to follow our dreams to actually do whatever makes us happy. And yet, the data keeps coming in. And it’s abundantly clear that this strategy is failing at an epic scale.

According to Gallup, 70% of Americans hate their jobs today, by the way, this is measuring people who have been in the workforce for 10 1520 years who grew up like me hearing this advice. 70% of Americans are disengaged from their jobs. The same study from Gallup showed that 21% of millennials reported changing jobs in the past year. LinkedIn published a separate study recently that found that you guys, what are you guys, Gen Z is that we can whatever, whatever we’re all it’s all kind of merging together. Now. You guys Gen Z are on pace to change jobs an average of four times in your first decade out of college. By the way, I’m not judging. I changed jobs. I don’t know five times in my first decade out of college. Here’s my point. We’ve never had more opportunity to do what makes us happy. And yet so so so few people in the workforce today love what they do. Clearly, the passion strategy is failing. So my question is, and it’s a question I’ve spent the last couple of years researching. Is there a strategy that can predictably lead to the satisfaction of vocation of feeling as if our work is a true calling on our lives? So fortunately for you guys, fortunately for me, there’s a Yale professor named Amy resin neski, who has spent her entire career trying to answer this question. So Professor resin eskies studies organizational behavior, and she spent years trying to understand what is it that makes people describe their work as a calling, as opposed to a career or merely a job? And over the years, she’s posed that questions to that question to people across a really wide variety of professions, right, so she’s done studies with doctors, clerical workers, college administrative assistants, and even computer programmers. And in study after study resin esky has found that the strongest predictor of someone seeing their work as a calling is not whether or not they were passionate about the job before they started. In study after study, the number one predictor of whether or not somebody is going to say their work as a calling is the number of years they’ve spent in a particular job. In other words, the path to vocational happiness that we’re all looking for, isn’t found in following our passions. It’s in sticking with something long enough to become masterful at your craft. It turns out that passion is a side effect of mastery. Passion is a side effect of doing your work extraordinarily well. I warned you, Thomas, half of these guys are going to hate this chapel this morning, I warned you before I came up here. So risky study, and many others like it help us understand why the passion strategy is so flawed, right? It takes years to develop skills and a particular craft in order for that profession to feel like a calling. But if you’re following the passion strategy, you expect once you match pre existing passion with current job to almost immediately feel this sense of calling Cal Newport the Georgetown professor says this quote, the more I studied this issue, the more I noticed that the passion strategy convinces people that somewhere there’s a magic write job waiting for them. And then if they find it, they’ll immediately recognize that this is the work they were meant to do. The problem of course, is when they fail to find a certainty bad things follow, such as chronic job hopping and crippling self doubt, and quote, chronic job hopping and crippling self doubt. If that doesn’t describe my generation and your generation, the workplace. I have no idea what does that hits the nail on the head. But here’s the good news. Academics like Amy Rose neski. And I believe, as we’ll see in a minute, Jesus Christ Himself, offer a better strategy offer an alternative strategy that does lead to sustainable satisfaction in our work. And I prefer to call it the mastery strategy, right. So unlike the passion strategy, which encourages you to do whatever makes you happy, the mastery strategy focuses on service to others and primarily doing your work as a means of making others happy. By the way, as followers of Christ in the room this morning, the fact that the passion strategy is failing 70% of the world shouldn’t shock us at all. Why? Because the advice is out of line with Jesus example in the life that we lived. In Matthew 2028, Jesus said that the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and praise the Lord that that was the case. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been singing the songs that we did this morning, hallelujah, praise the one who sent me free. If Jesus looked at his work and his time on this earth, primarily through the lens of what was going to make him happy, he would never go on to the cross on our behalf.

We all want our work to feel like a calling, right? But here’s the hard truth about calling. Oh, by the way, I think I think we’re like getting on the edge of talking about calling a little too much. In the church. I think we’re almost idolizing this idea of calling and one of the things that gets lost in the conversation, I think, particularly the church this if our work is to be a calling. Somebody has to call us to it first and foremost. And secondly, once they do we have to submit ourselves to the agenda of our caller sacrificing our agenda along the way. The only way that your work is ever going to feel like a calling on your life. If you submit your life if you submit your work to the agenda of your caller, by the way, any marijuana fans. Yeah. Oh, yeah. All right. So I love a lot. I love Lin Manuel Miranda. Yeah, I was just talking to Hamilton talking about Hamilton with somebody. And the odds were I could preach an entire sermon on Hamilton I have. Do preach, preach.

I mean, come on non stop. If that doesn’t show you our need for the gospel. Come on What does know so in marijuana so I have a five year old a three year old Ellison and Kate, you just saw them on the screen we love molana. And the I love the song, the whole climax of the movie when marijuana figures out her purpose in life and she’s on the boat and she sings. The call is out there at all. It’s inside me. So I sing this with gusto. I sung it with gusto at the beach this weekend with my kids. Here’s the problem. As much as I love Juana and Lin Manuel Miranda, one has got it all wrong. How can How can the call come from within ourselves if our if our work is to be a calling? It’s got to come from outside of ourselves? And again, we got to submit ourselves to the agenda of that color. What’s the agenda of our Savior? What’s the agenda of the God that we sing worship to this morning? Jesus made this agenda crystal clear. his agenda is God’s glory and service to others, period. Nowhere in Scripture does it say to follow your passions, or do whatever makes you happy. In fact, I would argue in a lot of ways, the Bible says the exact opposite of this. The Christian life is one primarily characterized by service. In Romans 12. One Paul called us to pour our lives out as what as living sacrifices, not for our own happiness for for the sake of God’s glory, and for the good of others. The point of work isn’t primarily to make you and I happy. The point of work is the point of life, to love God and love others. Well, how do we do that through our work? Not by focusing primarily on our short term happiness, we love God and love others? Well, when we focus on the Ministry of excellence, of doing masterful work, truly masterful work, that loves our customers, loves our employers, our co workers love the world exceptionally well. But here’s the beautiful promise that I think we see in Scripture we’ll look at in a second. When you and I focus first and foremost, on the Ministry of excellence of doing our work primarily as a means of serving others and making others happy. I think scripture promises that we also find the deep sustainable happiness and joy of vocation. Where do I see this? I think Jesus made this pretty clear in one of his most famous parables, the parable of the talents. If you have your Bibles, you can tap there with me or you can you know, just watch the screens because we have it there. Let’s read this very familiar passage together. Starting at let’s start at verse 14, go through 23. Again, it will be like a man going on a journey who called his servants and entrusted as well to them. To one he gave five bags of gold to another two bags and to another one back each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who would receive five bags of gold when at once and put his money to work and gained five bucks more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more but the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his masters. Funny, right? So two people are doing their work with excellence. One of them is right. After a long time, the master of those servants returned in several accounts with them. The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five master he said, You entrusted me with five bags of gold See, I have gained five more. His master replied, Well done, good and faithful servant, you have been faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your masters happiness. The man with two bags of gold also came Master, he said you entrusted me with two bags of gold. See, I have gained two more, His master replied, Well done, good and faithful servant. You’ve been faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things. And again, you see it, come and share your masters happiness.

Almost every time that I’ve heard this sermon preached, the preacher goes on and reads the final few verses of the passage and really focuses your attention on the wicked and lazy servant, the third servant, but that’s not what I want us to focus on this morning. Here’s what I want you to see. I believe Jesus is holding out a promise for you and me. When we like the first two servants in the parable, pursue mastery, pursue excellence of the work that God has created us to do. We are promised the vocational joy that we are all looking for even better. We’re told that we share the Masters happiness and what more perfect joy and happiness is there than the happiness of our Lord and Savior. The pursuit of happiness in our work is not a bad thing. I know some people who would say that it is I don’t believe it is I think Jesus is holding it out as an incentive and reward. But it’s important to note that in this parable, The first two servants may have been motivated by their own happiness in their work. But Jesus doesn’t tell us that. In this passage, the servants happiness isn’t the point of the parable. The point is the Masters happiness. And because the servants were focused first on pleasing Him, they were invited to share in his infinite happiness forever. When you and I follow the passion, strategy, and prioritize our own happiness, in our work above service to others, we get neither. But when you and I focus on doing masterful work, when we focus on the Ministry of excellence, we bring joy to the Lord, we bring joy to others, and the Lord graciously invites us to share in that happiness with him. I think that’s what we all want to be able to say about our work. I love what I do. And I’m really, really good at it. You guys are about to graduate college in the next few years, you’re not sitting here looking for work that you like, you’re not looking for work that you tolerate, you’re not looking you’re not excited about driving to a nine to five job, be grudgingly we all want to love our work. We all long for the joy that comes with finding the work we were created to do, and becoming truly masterful at it. We all want our work to feel like worship. And I think that’s something that God is deeply imprinted on our hearts. But here’s the secret that I’ve learned over the first decade of my career and studying this issue extensively. You only get to love what you do. By getting really, really good at it. The proponents of the passion strategy will tell you to do what makes you happy. I believe Jesus is telling us to do work that makes others happy. The passion strategy encourages you to love what you do, largely regardless of whether or not you’re good at it. I think there’s a better strategy, a more proven strategy. love what you do by getting really good at it. And finally, proponents of the passion strategy will tell you that passion may lead to mastery of your craft. But honestly, that’s not the point. Your happiness and your passions are. I’m here to tell you that passion is a side effect of mastery, passion follows mastery, not the other way around. No, listen, I’m sure there are things that you guys are passionate about doing in your careers. And I love that when I was in your shoes, when I was in college, I was passionate about the career I wanted to pursue. I don’t want you leaving here this morning thinking that your passion is irrelevant. It’s not your passion for what you want to do, coupled with the work of the Holy Spirit, is what’s going to enable you to push through the really, really hard parts of getting masterful at your craft. All I’m saying is this. Just because you’re passionate about some career today, doesn’t mean you’re going to find the deep sustainable satisfaction of vocation tomorrow, or once you find that perfect match that perfect dream job, the matching of your passions and what’s available in the job market. Raise your hand if you’re interested in entrepreneurship. Maybe you guys want to you’re interested in possibly starting a business in the future. So I’ve spent more than 10 years pursuing mastery of that craft. And let me tell you something, guys, it’s really freaking hard, right? Really, really, really hard and frequent. A lot of it isn’t fun. A lot of times when I have interns who like observe me they’re like, so entrepreneurship, you basically build spreadsheets all day. I’m like,

kind of Yeah, that’s kind of the game. It’s hard. A lot of it isn’t fun. But is it worth it? Is it worth it to spend the years maybe even decades getting massively good at the art of entrepreneurship, or whatever your discipline might be? Absolutely.

Why? Because I believe that excellent work reveals the character of an exceptional Creator God. mastery is what loves our neighbors as ourselves, not mediocrity. mastery, makes Christians winsome to the world and attractive, opening up doors for us to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. And as I hope you guys have seen this morning, those of us who are committed to masterful work committed to the Ministry of excellence, are graciously invited to share the Masters happiness and enjoy the deep satisfaction of vocation and calling. Let’s pray. Father, God, thank you for these young men and women. Thank you for the selfless example of Jesus Christ. Father God, I pray that every person in this room would view their lives more sacrificially after chapel This morning not just their work but their entire lives as a living sacrifice to be poured out, and service of others. And Father, I do pray that every single person in here would find work that they truly love because they are doing it extraordinarily well. in service of others. Amen.

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