Find Your Calling: Reverse Engineering
Updated: Jan 8, 2019
I recently mentioned to some friends that just before God called us into long-term missions in Japan I spent a few weeks “reverse engineering” my life. One of them followed up with me afterwards and wanted to know more, so in these next three posts I’m writing down a little of my story and the 3 processes that God used to change and set the direction of my life. I hope these will be helpful for you. Part 1 describes the Five Fundamentals process, part 2 explores the concept of Ikigai, and part 3 walks through the process of Reverse Engineering life.
#3: Reverse Engineering
I got this idea from a Mark Driscoll sermon many years ago, and decided to apply it during the Spring of 2014 while we were living in Japan and working for the U.S. Army Bands.
The idea is simple, but powerful: Let’s say you live to be 80 (a pretty decent chance if you’re in good health and in a developed country). How do you want to live the last 10 years of your life? What will your finances be like? Where will you live? What relationships will you have? How will you be spending your time? After you answer these questions (and any others that come up), back up another 10 years and ask, in order to get to those final 10 years (70-80yrs old), what do these 10 years (60-70yrs old) need to look like? What things need to be already in place, and what things need to be done during this decade? Then you just keep backing up the decades until you get to whatever age you currently are.
Now, I think doing this particular process well requires a Christian understanding of life, and here’s why: If your goal is to retire and spend your twilight years on the golf course, what happens if you die young? You’ve missed out! But Christians aren’t told to retire, we’re told to disciple others. Our work for the Kingdom doesn’t end. So if the goal in your last 10 years continues to be still discipling others and still engaging in Kingdom-building work, what does it matter if you die young? You were on a trajectory of long-term work for eternal purposes anyway!
So for me what it came down to was that I want to live my last 10 years discipling and encouraging artists in a mentorship role, producing music and art projects that build community and breathe life into culture, loving my wife and playing with my grandkids. So how do I get to those last 10 years?
60-70: Continue investing (grandkid accounts?), actively seek out artists to mentor, begin loving in my grandkids as they arrive, encourage young artists A LOT, love my wife well, live a life faithful to the Gospel.
40-50: Continue investing, begin raising up next-generation artist-leaders, do more public speaking and writing, shift primary production work to younger/more talented people, disciple my kids and love my wife well, live a life faithful to the Gospel.
30-40: Invest well (kids education, “retirement” accounts, real estate?), prepare for and develop mentoring/discipling relationships with artists and church folks, work hard at producing and performing, enable as many projects as I can, begin speaking and writing, develop Worship music distribution in Japan, disciple my kids and love my wife well, live a life faithful to the Gospel.
One thing you will notice here is that none of this is very specific. It doesn’t say which company I’ll be working for, how much money I’ll be making at various points, what specific projects I’ll be working on, or anything like that. These are general guidelines for the decades that helped me set a trajectory for my life. The beauty of this trajectory is that it is malleable to the situation God gives me. If I’m in America or Japan, these things don’t really change in their essence, only in the ways they work out.
After I had been mulling through this trajectory idea for a couple of weeks, I ended up in a train station late one night, talking with a missionary. As he spoke about Japan and the needs of the church there, suddenly things made sense. God used this process for me to think through exactly what my skills, my desires, and the trajectory of my life were, and then in one blinding lightbulb moment showed me how it all came together, specifically on mission in Japan. Determining this trajectory, along with establishing the 5 Fundamentals and thinking through the Ikigai diagram, set me up for God to deliver a calling that I would have NEVER been ready to receive earlier in life. I remember praying as a teenager and during my college years that God would just give me a specific life purpose, and then my not having it and trying to figure out what to do as I graduated, fell in love and married, joined the Army Bands, had our first child… I was always driven and developed in my interests and abilities, but I never had a strong vision of the point of it all except that I wanted to be useful for God's Kingdom. Yet, I certainly wouldn’t have been ready to receive this calling at any earlier point in life, having not thought through these concepts.
I guess my last piece of advice here is these things are only written on paper, not set in stone. Especially if you’re young, you might not even be ready or able to think through some of these things because you don’t have a developed skill set or heartfelt desires yet. That’s OK. God wastes nothing - not your tears, not your prayers, not the times that XYZ life change came and caused your world to crack from core to crust. These are just tools, and I hope they are useful ones for you at some point, but not every tool is for every job. Thanks for coming on this journey over the last three posts with me. May you be blessed!