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A New Take on Callings & A Life Delectable (with a Challenge to Yoga “Purists”)

There’s a story I want to tell about purpose and calling that’s different from what we assume is true.

We assume that people with callings “receive” them in certain ways. #1: As a young person, you know your singular desire and you follow it with fervor. #2: When you’re an adult, a burning bush or a voice or a sign “speaks” to you in some mystical moment, and you know your destiny – and, hence, a calling must be divinely inspired. #3: And you only get “one” such calling. (Better pick up the phone when it rings!)

But when you track wonder, something else can happen. Here’s a different story. 

Leg I: The Paths & the Problem
Laura Olson had tested several paths. The wine business (her parents own one). Modern dance in college. Copywriting for major beauty product companies including Estee Lauder. And then yoga and eventually teaching Ashtanga Yoga – a type of yoga that emphasizes a regular sequence of movements to get your mind focused and clear (and your body fit in the interim). All the while with an abiding passion for tweaking & editing food recipes.

For a while, yoga was “it” for Laura. She became a walking, talking, grooving yoga testimonial. Her worries quelled. Her issues with food and eating reversed. Her zest for life boosted unlike any other path.

But there was one glitch, a big glitch: The purist attitudes about food and living perpetuated within various yoga communities by both practitioners and teachers. Attitudes like these: You cannot eat meat and call yourself a yogi. You cannot drink wine and call yourself a yogi. You cannot indulge in desserts and call yourself a yogi.

Laura nailed a problem with these absolutes: They compounded rather than helped some people’s problems with food. Laura had met several people who were not eating healthy – even though they called themselves vegetarians. Others punished themselves with diets. Some people “medicated” their woes with comfort (and junk) food.

Their implicit attitude toward food was “don’t enjoy it – or if you do, feel guilty about it.” The above “you cannot” absolute decrees (which, by the way, are not consistently emphasized once you study the philosophy of various and contradictory yoga traditions) took away two key facets of being human or of having a practice of any kind – 1) delight and 2) the agency to discern and to make up one’s own mind.

And Laura nailed a more personal problem: Now in her middle years, she wanted to earn her living more independently and in an enterprise that reconciled her passions in yoga, food, and branding. Hmmm. How to proceed?

Leg II: Enter Tracking Wonder
Laura called me with this set of quandaries. It would take a few meetings to define the above problems precisely. We examined her existing revenue streams and projected future possibilities. But one of our most obvious challenges was how to bring together these three passions in a coherent, meaningful, authentic way.

Tracking wonder is not for the faint of heart. Why? Because it does not offer easy answers. Wonder keeps cracking us open to possibility until we’re sure we are on a path that’s true and real. It’s not easy to stay in possibility for too long. We’re wired to get a good-enough answer and move on. Tracking wonder trips that wire.

And wonder guides us into a land so unfamiliar and simultaneously rich with possibility (remember Alice’s rabbit hole and Dorothy’s Oz?) that we’re often begging just to get back home, forget the whole enterprise, eat some cookies, and go back to our day job the next day.

But Laura has what it takes to track wonder, fertilize confusion, and make a purpose-driven path that matters.

Be patient & persevere. Laura and I have worked together for over a year. It can take that long to make big transitions, define a new enterprise, execute it, and launch it. Of course, there were times when she wanted to throw in the flag. What true enterpriser doesn’t? But with wit, smarts, and darn good smoothies, Laura thrived.

Test things out. Laura is willing to experiment with new ideas to see how seemingly disparate things (delicious food and wine and yoga and branding?) can be combined in beautiful, meaningful ways.

Keep connected with your Wild Pack & your Nurture Pack. A small group of trusted friends offered their responses to certain enterprise ideas along the way. Along the way, she also made time to be with her husband – a vital source of support and nurturance. (Note: Every wonder-tracker needs packs of allies & mentors.)

Trust yourself. Laura often trumped her Wild Pack’s reactions and doubts about certain decisions. That’s vital. Most great ideas don’t test well because testing markets tend to be conservative. She also often trumped my advice. A good sign she was listening to her own voice, not mine.

Be open to opportunity and connect. By attending key conferences and reaching out to other influencers in her field, Laura now writes articles for Body Local – a start-up in Manhattan that brings her messages into thousands of her demographic’s in-box.

Keep the day job as an option. In one version of The Story of Pursuing Your Passion, the advice is, “Take the leap and leave your day job. Your passion is your parachute.” True in some cases, including mine (although much more than passion helped me), but the decision needs a more nuanced approach. With a fickle economy coupled with the inherent challenges and trade-offs of starting your first enterprise, leaving your number one revenue stream all at once might be foolish and unnecessary.  So, Laura is developing a plan that lets her keep a couple of lucrative branding clients while advancing other desired revenue streams. Smart.

Leg III: A Life Delectable
Laura has staked her mission:

That we can “delight in great good without sacrificing health. A great glass of wine can fit perfectly with your passion for yoga and spiritual seeking. And branding your venture doesn’t have to spoil your spirit. With the Delectable Touch, yoga can have panache, healthy food can be pleasurable, and branding can have passion.”

And how’s this for a calling?: “Laura Olson is a culinary nutritionist, yoga coach, wine enthusiast and whole living expert with a knack for blending health and hedonism. She helps people craft A Life Delectable with spirited yoga, food savvy, and beautiful brand messaging. What we eat and how we live can be both decadent and health-promoting.”

Cheers to that!

Laura’s story illustrates a new moral altogether about pursuing your purpose and answering your calling: You don’t necessarily “find” your calling or “receive” your calling. You can create your calling. You can create into your calling. By engaging with conviction and creativity into a complex project or enterprise that matters to you, you can create the calling. And that is true agency and responsibility for one’s calling.


If you want smart tips & recipes for eating, moving, and branding your way to a delightful life, I invite you to visit A Life Delectable now, receive your free copy of the A Life Delectable Manifesto, and check out Laura Olson’s signature offerings. And if you’re in Manhattan and ready to get in flow with a grounded & inspiring guide, sign up for Laura’s upcoming workshop.

What do you think about this take on “creating your calling”? Does it resonate? Am I off-track?

See you in the woods,
P.S. Later this week, listen in for a special conversation on purpose & calling with Jen Louden of Teach Now and Tara Mohr of Playing Big. -jbd

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  1. Thank you, helpful in my own evaluation of where i am at and where i am going. Always confidence in the unknown. *c

  2. Ah, the year of discernment and experimentation and launch! I’m wrapping up one of those myself. Powerful. Mysterious. Sometimes excruciating.

    Thnaks for this article, so helpful.