Ted Lasso, Moana, and The Great Resignation
Jordan Raynor sits down with Dr. Michaela O’Donnell, Executive Director of the Max De Pree Center for Leadership, to talk about the helpful difference between “betting the farm” and taking the “next doable risk,” how Russian nesting dolls can help us think differently about calling, and 3 things to consider before joining the Great Resignation.
[00:00:05] JR: Hey, everybody. Welcome to the Call to Mastery. I’m Jordan Raynor. This is a podcast for Christians who want to do their most exceptional work for the glory of God and the good of others. Each week, I host a conversation with a Christ follower who is pursuing world-class mastery of their craft. We talk about their path to mastery, their daily habits, and how the Gospel of Jesus Christ influences their work.
Guys, today's episode is a treat. We're talking with my new friend, Dr. Michaela O'Donnell. She's a brilliant leader, currently leaving the Max De Pree Center for Leadership out at Fuller Seminary in California. She's also the author of a terrific new book called Make Work Matter: Your Guide to Meaningful Work in a Changing World.
So, Michaela and I sat down recently. We talked about a lot of things. We talked about Ted Lasso. We talked about what we can learn about calling from Moana. We talked about the helpful difference between betting the farm and taking the “next doable risk”. We talked about this beautiful image of how Russian nesting dolls can help us think differently about calling. And we also touched on three things to consider, if you're thinking about joining the great resignation. So, before you quit your job, make sure you listen to this terrific episode with Dr. Michaela O'Donnell.
[00:01:41] JR: Michaela, welcome to the podcast.
[00:01:43] MOD: Jordan, thanks for having me.
[00:01:45] JR: I was perusing your Instagram, like a creep. That's a weird thing to do, right? Or at least to tell somebody that you're – I don't know, whatever.
[00:01:53] MOD: Yeah, you could have done it without admitting it, Jordan.
[00:01:56] JR: I saw you’re in Maine, like the the same week I was in Maine this summer. We were up there with the kids. You were celebrating your 10th anniversary. Is that right?
[00:02:06] MOD: Yeah. We could have indulged in seafood together. Yeah, it was my husband and I 10th anniversary. So, we were without our children on that trip.
[00:02:14] JR: It's a great way to do it. We had a ton of fun with our kids. There's no better spot in the world than Maine in the summer. Am I right?
[00:02:21] MOD: It was my very first time to the state. Our basic pattern of every day was hike and hike and hike until we drop. And then eat and eat and eat to refill the calories, but mostly indulge in the delicious seafood. I would agree with you. I have never been somewhere quite like Maine in the summer and we plan to go back regularly now.
[00:02:41] JR: You got to take the kids to Rose Island, Rhode Island. We still get a kick out of saying Rose Island, Rhode Island. A hundred times, that's half the fun. But there's this great lighthouse, and it has this secret door. It's awesome that like basically only four-year-olds can fit through. You go through this door and it opens up out into the balcony of the lighthouse. It's epic. It's like one of the coolest things my kids have ever done. They really dug it. So, check that out.
[00:03:11] MOD: I will. Rose Island, Rhode Island. Okay, I said it once. I didn't know if I was going to be able to say it once. But I've got it in my memory.
[00:03:19] JR: Hey, so for those who don't know, tell us about your work, The De Pree Center for Leadership. What in the world do you and the center do, Michaela?
[00:03:29] MOD: Yeah, thanks for asking. So, I am the Executive Director at the Max De Pree Center for Leadership at Fuller Seminary. We are obviously named after Max De Pree and for those of you who are hearing that name for the very first time, Max was longtime CEO of Herman Miller, office furniture company, really well known for high quality products that treat bodies well, and are visually really nice to look at, located in Michigan. He was also a longtime chairman of the board at Fuller Seminary.
I never met Max. Max passed before I got a chance to meet him. So, when people describe him, the basic picture that I've gotten to him is this, that he was the kind of person who was who he was wherever he was, whether he was in a boardroom or acting as a CEO, or honestly as a granddad. He was a man of faith and of hard work. It's that same sort of seamless life and integration of faith and work that we seek to support people in at the De Pree Center. And what we sometimes say is we want to leverage the resources of our seminary, which is, you know, takes all sorts of shapes and sizes, for the sake of marketplace leaders, people who are not traditionally served by seminary, because seminaries would historically be aimed at helping church leaders. That's a bit about what we do at the De Pree Center.
[00:04:49] JR: I love it. What's the road that brought you to this work? Like what was your path?
[00:04:55] MOD: If you, a decade ago, would have told me that I would spend my time talking to people about their work, I would have laughed in your face. Honestly, I might have said that sounds boring. I don't think I want to do that. Yet, here I am just feeling like this is a very good fit. So, the road here is certainly part of that.
About a decade ago, I got a Master's at Fuller, an MDiv and met my husband there. And we both had our master’s and we were graduating, and it was 2010 and 2011, which here in California was right in the height of job freezes and et cetera, based on the Great Recession. We quickly learned that in a recessed economy, theology actually wasn't that a marketable skill. So, there we were, trying to figure out what to do. I come from a family of teachers and entrepreneurs, and honestly working-class folks back in the Midwest in Nebraska. In that moment of not quite knowing what to do, I proposed to my husband, let's start a business. That's what I think we should do. That's how I think we should work our way out of this unknown –
[00:05:55] JR: This terrible economy.
[00:05:57] MOD: Yeah, I know, right? Who does that? And we should try to pay our rent by doing this wildly unpredictable and risky thing. And, Jordan, he's a really good sport. So, he said, yes. He said yes to that. And we started our company. It's a branding and video company, did that for several years. Before eventually, I had some mentors back at Fuller say, “Basically, Michaela, we feel like you've got gifts for the church.” And I said, “I feel like I'm exercising those gifts right here at Long Wonder Media.” They kept kind of coaxing in a way that I've learned, I don't know about you. But I've learned to listen to trusted mentors, when they keep coaxing to really not just do what they say, but to trust the path that they've walked before. And that eventually led me back to Fuller, led me to some dissertation work, led me to the Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where now through a bunch of series events over the last four or five years, I am the Executive Director.
[00:06:50] JR: I want to go back to the basics. I think this is really important. I think a lot of the advice people get when it comes to making career decisions is it's very introspective, right? It's what do you want to do? Are your kids old enough to love Moana, yet? The movie Moana?
[00:07:06] MOD: Yes. I have an almost six-year-old, so we know the songs well, Jordan.
[00:07:10] JR: So, the call isn't out there at all, it's inside me. Right? I get to choose what I do. But there's so much, if we believe that work is service to others and as Christ for us, I think that's pretty clear, then we should probably pay attention to what other people are saying about where we should spend our vocational energy. It sounds like that was a big part of the equation for you, right?
[00:07:35] MOD: Yeah, I mean, two things there. One, let's just dig into Moana a little further.
[00:07:38] JR: Oh, my gosh, please. All day.
[00:07:41] MOD: If you have not seen the movie, the quest for Moana’s kind of search for significance, professional significance, eventually doesn't end in what people are telling her to do. It ends in her making a decision. But the irony there, and the part that I think is really important to highlight is that it's this moment when she finds this thing that the characters have been looking for all along, and in a moment of empathy realizes that it actually belongs somewhere else. So, she sees a character called Te Fiti. Again, I know this movie well.
So, first of all, the idea that we would be able to discern what we ought to do next, outside of empathy is I don't know that that's possible. So, that's one thing. That's actually what you mentioned, you were talking about, like mentors and guidance, people who have empathy for us, people who know us, people who have watched us, and people will give the advice, “Okay, just kind of figure out what you're passionate about and do that.” And I don't know about you, Jordan, but it's taken me a long time to learn what I'm passionate about and a long time to understand my own sense of giftedness, and that's just because I think that's the way it goes. So, we get other people in our lives, who have spent a long time doing that work both in themselves and watched other people, they can become a real gift to helping us sort through the chaos and get clear.
[00:09:01] JR: Totally. So, you're hitting on one of my all-time favorite topics. Over the past few decades, many in the west, have had more opportunity than ever before, to follow our passions and do what makes us happy kind of this overriding Millennial, Gen Z career advice. And yet, we're the least happy generation ever at work. Why is this in your opinion? What's the disconnect? Why is following our passions not leading to the sustainable satisfaction of vocation?
[00:09:38] MOD: I think that's a fantastic question. I know that you and I share some energy around this. So, I’d be curious even to hear what you think after I say this. I actually think that the setup is one that's not setting us up for success. As you know, through the large arc of human history, work has served more of a utilitarian aspect and that doesn't mean that everybody hated what they were doing. And certainly, I would be in the camp that work is a good and holy gift from God appearing before the fall in Genesis one. But it's unique that now work is a container in which we are supposed to make sense of ourselves in which we are supposed to realize who we are, and do that self-actualization work.
Honestly, that's a lot of pressure to put on work. That kind of too small of a container, right? If we're people who are wired to one another, and wired to what God's doing in the world, then we have to imagine that there is opportunity for meaning making everywhere. And then the last thing I would throw in is, right at the time that we're asked to do that is pretty young in our lives. So, we're in our early 20s, graduating college, some of us go on to grad school and we quite honestly don't have enough life experience, to have the whole picture of life.
So, it's at that point that we're being asked to go out in the world, and work toward our passions, which in all likelihood, we're just starting to really learn about. That's something that people in their 40s and 50s, and even later on, have a much different perspective on people in their 20s. I say that from a front – that was my journey. It's kind of like, “What am I going to do? I should know, I should have clarity. I should know what I like to do. I should know what I'm passionate about.” I'll throw in another phrase, what God's calling me to, and yet I don't. And yet, it's trickier. I've become an advocate much more for the kind of a day by day on the way theology of vocation, an attitude that would encourage us to dive in and experiment and learn about what it is we'd like to do and to stack up the result of that experimentation, toward the conversation about what God is calling us to do. But I know you swim in this too, Jordan. So, I'm curious what you think.
[00:11:54] JR: No, that's like spot on. You basically just summarize a lot of one of my previous books, this book called Master of One. And then I talked about, we're asking kids to choose their, “one thing”, vocationally way too early, way, way, way too early. I haven't picked the 20s is too early for most people to know that man, yeah, this is how God designed me to operate. And this is the thing I'm going to choose to go really big on, right? It takes a lot of experimentation, a lot of trying and failing so that we can find the thing that we can do best in service of others.
I think that perspective is really important, because the passion hypothesis is incredibly self-serving. It's all about what value can a job bring me? What so fulfillment can a job bring me? But if we flip the coin and say how can I best serve the world? How can I best serve others and make others people happy? I think that's a much more sustainable path to finding vocational joy for ourselves, right?
There's good like data coming out about this. I've talked about this a bit on the podcast. This is research out of Yale, named Amy Wrzesniewski. Are you familiar with Wrzesniewski’s work?
[00:13:07] MOD: I’m not.
[00:13:08] JR: She’s fascinating. So, she spent her whole career trying to figure out what leads people to call their work calling, as opposed to a job or a career. And she studied this with doctors, computer programmers, administrative assistants, and consistently, the number one factor in describing somebody's work as a calling is not whether or not they were “passionate” about the work when they started it. It's the number of years they have spent practicing their craft. Passion follows mastery. We get to love what we do, by getting really good at it. But we got to experiment a lot before we pick that one thing that we're going to get really great at. Does that make sense?
[00:13:50] MOD: Yeah, I think it’s fantastic. And then the implied bit there is that we're going to experiment and actually have a bunch of other things that don't go super well, and that drain us. We've got to pay attention to that data in order to be able to pay attention to the experiences and make sense of them. We've got to be comfortable with that concept that we're going to try a bunch of things that might not work. I think failure, we all have really different relationships with failure.
I mean, one of the things that I ask people for this book, and I asked them four questions like, how have you learned to define success? How have you learned to define failure? What practices have move you towards success and what practices have helped you deal with failure? By and large, people that were objectively successful, both in the official research I did, and then a lot of conversation sense. People who are objectively successful, are more comfortable talking about failure than they are success. They're more comfortable saying, “Oh, this one time we tried this, and it didn't work out. But here's what we learned. And all this other time, I was trying my best and I fell flat on my face. That was really tough, but here's what we learned.”
And then we asked them about success. They're like, “Yeah. We've done some good work, and I've done some good work. But there's so much more that that we want to do. There's so much more that God's calling us to.” So, that relationship with longevity and learning about ourselves that necessitates, yes, finding out what it is we're meant to do and how calling takes shape, but also all the bumps along the way. I think that's really critical.
[00:15:21] JR: Yeah, I think it speaks to a common theme. Maybe the common theme I've heard on this podcast, like humility is the trade of people who are truly world class in what they do. And that's why they're more comfortable in the skin of talking about what went wrong, and what they've learned. They’re serial learners, and you can learn a heck of a lot more from failure, oftentimes, than you can in success, right?
[00:15:47] MOD: And it goes back to the identity thing, right? So, if work is our main container for identity early on, and it's where we're trying to make sense of ourselves, and things aren't going so well, or we can't quite get there, we're very unsure, our sense of identity becomes really wiggly and doesn't feel great. That is a less secure position to be in. When I encounter people who are humble, I also encounter a real sense of secure identity in God. That's where I think that humility comes from.
So, it's ironic that the very thing we are searching for, which is meaning in our work and significance, and putting our hands in our hearts and our heads, the things that matter, comes in part, by relocating our identity back squarely to Christ, so that as we come back to the conversation of work, it just doesn't have as much pressure on there, and we enter it from a humble posture.
[00:16:38] JR: It's this idea that like work becomes an expression of our identity in Christ, rather than the source of that identity, right?
[00:16:46] MOD: That's a key shift. I think that if we said that to most people, they'd be like, “Yeah, of course.” Of course, works in expression and not the source. But in action, the messages that we swim in, I don't know that that's quite as clearly and of course.
[00:17:02] JR: So, go a level deeper here. How do we make the leap from this being head knowledge crisis, my identity, ultimately, my work, to this been functional day to day? Not intellectual salvation, but functional salvation?
[00:17:15] MOD: Yeah, that's a great question. So, I'm a practical theologian by trade. So, the question of how does it actually look is one that's really critical. I will go back, I'll start with empathy, because I think that this is one of the key things that takes us out of our questioning and spiraling. I encourage people to do a very simple exercise, both in the book and just anytime I'm teaching a workshop and the exercises, making a list of people that you encounter every week in your work, depending on our job, sometimes it's a pretty small list. So, sometimes I ask people to expand out to a month and look at your calendar, quite literally, who are you interacting with over the next week or a month and list all those people down. And spend some time with that list and start to ask God, “Okay, who on that list might God be inviting you to move toward this week or this month?”
As I do this, I encourage people, I encourage you to narrow down to three. And also, you got three names circled. And then I say, “Okay, I'll just pick one. Pick one person that you're going to intentionally move toward this week, and then people do it. Jordan, I kid you not when they come back, they're like, “Oh, wow. That led to this conversation or this.” And they're just very surprised by the result of intentionally moving to one another.
I think that's a critical step in terms of humility, and practice and discernment, because it's the first step in just getting out of our own head and actually moving toward people in relationship. Because what happens in those conversations, your sort of, and if you will, manufacturing, water cooler kind of moments with your increasingly rare as certainly as people's work has moved in many different ways in the last 18 months. So, there's this start. And then out of that, all kinds of stuff come and you can break that down into little bitty bits. But you know, I won't go into over and over right here. I think the very first thing in terms of making all this stuff practical, is actually getting out of our own head and getting into relationship with those we're working alongside.
[00:19:15] JR: You've danced around us a couple times. I want to ask you this a little explicitly. What does the Bible say and not say about calling? This has become a very loaded term. I think a really confusing term for those in the church today. I know you address this in your book. So, break this down for us. What does Scripture have to say about calling?
[00:19:37] MOD: Yeah, thanks, Jordan. I agree with you that the word has become very loaded. In fact, as part of my role at Fuller Seminary, I teach classes and I walk in – I teach a class called practices of vocational formation. It's all the spiritual practices that help people be formed and fit for whatever God is calling them to do. On the first day of class, I walk in and I asked my students, what is calling? What actually is calling? We sort of do some groupthink here. What usually ends up resulting is something like calling is the thing that I was made to do. Or calling is a job I really love, or a calling is a job I am passionate about. That's usually where we get.
Jordan, I would love if that was actually a biblical definition of calling, because all those sentences sound really nice. The problem is, nowhere in the Bible does it say calling equals paid work or profession. It’s just not – that equation that we've done is a cultural and sociological and church equation. It's not a biblical equation. I think part of the reason that we've done it is exactly as you said, calling is kind of a confusing word. What does it really mean? What's the concept? How are we supposed to think about it? There's a long lineage of theological study on calling and parsing that out and without going into 2,000 years on church history, not that it's not valuable or that we couldn't do that.
[00:21:11] JR: That sounds great.
[00:21:12] MOD: Yeah, I'm sure to you and I, and everybody else is like, “Wow, no, thank you.”
[00:21:17] JR: Go back to Moana, fast.
[00:21:20] JR: Go back to Moana, the heart of Te Fiti. It's been helpful for me to come up with a picture for this. And the picture is set of nesting dolls. I like to think about calling as a set of nesting dolls to really capture the layer. Sometimes we talk about calling as central and then particular, but even in the way we talk about it there, there's a bifurcation between them, and they're kind of separated. So, it's been helpful for me to think about calling like a set of nesting dolls. In that very core is the call to belong to Jesus, right? This is Matthew 4 stuff. This is follow me, and that is the central most call which is expressed in work to use your terminology of earlier, but certainly is not a work thing, right? So, the call to belong to Jesus.
The next nesting doll out, I would say is the call to participate in God's mission, of redemption and restoration of justice, love, shalom, however, you might want to turn that. I like to add a second, Corinthians 5 here, we have the ministry of reconciliation, we're ambassadors of Christ. So really, to work toward whatever God is working toward in the world. Belong to Jesus, and then work towards God's mission of redemption.
The third layer out is one that I think you might have a lot to say about based on your first book and that is all the way back to Genesis one, and that is God's called to create. We’re created in our DNA. A lot of us have lost that in the process of becoming adults. But I am a firm believer that we've all got creative DNA in us. So, the call to belong, the call to participate in redemption, the call to create, really in loving service of each other. And then finally, the outermost doll is the call towards all the particulars. That is usually where we start and where we usually locate and where we usually try to say calling is all about work.
We've got Moses as a leader, we've got Esther, we've got the Mother Mary. There are all these examples of how God is asking people to do very particular things and that can be work. But it can also be going places. It can be relationship with people. It can be beyond just paid work. Those particular callings are places to express everything else that's nested within. That's a picture of how I like to think about calling.
[00:23:36] JR: It's probably the best picture I've ever heard. That was really great. That was really helpful. I can see our listeners nodding with me. I really love that. I don't think I've heard it put more beautifully than that. So, you blogged about this recently, I want to dig in a little bit, it’s so timely. The Great Resignation. According to Gallup, roughly 50% of people are actively considering quitting their jobs. I'm curious if you think the Great Resignation is being driven by a perceived lack of purpose in the jobs that people have? Is it exhaustion? Is it something else? What's at play here? There's probably no simple answer to this, but I'm curious to get your take.
[00:24:22] MOD: It's a great question. And in some ways, I think the Great Resignation is the latest manifestation of work dissatisfaction. Any point over the last several years, you could Google how many people don't like their work or how many people are disengaged? And you get really high statistics. But there is this really timely phenomenon where now, many people are not just saying they don't like their work. They're actively considering leaving their work.
[00:24:48] JR: That is new.
[00:24:49] MOD: That is new. I think it was August, maybe September, one of the previous month, this fall, we're starting to see record numbers and numbers that haven't been In the last 20 years. It's not just the hypothetical phenomenon. So, the question is what's happening? I do think that this is multi layered. I think one important thing to talk about is that there are many industries in which it is difficult to work, and to get some of the basic rights of work. I'm thinking about the hospitality industry and or the restaurant industry.
I won't pretend to be an expert on either industry, but if you've dined out at a restaurant in almost any city in America, in the last several months, you've bore witness to the fact we talked about Maine at the top of this, Jordan, we couldn't go out to eat in Maine this summer, because there's nobody working. We had to get reservations two weeks in advance, and it was not the standard tourist experience. There is a question, okay, the we've got certain industries that aren't necessarily working for workers. I think we're seeing some Exodus there. In an economy was so much opening around, people have choices in ways that they don't always have choices. I think that's one part.
There's also this purpose bit. One, because work is a container in which we believe that we should have purposeful interactions and do things that matter which I would be a proponent of, we want our work to have purpose. And so again, in a time, where a lot of us in the last two years, because of COVID, and the pandemic, for all kinds of reasons have reassessed, what matters, have reassessed how we do things, some of us more drastically than others. We're reassessing work. We're reassessing our relationship to it, and we're reassessing if the kind of work we're in is actually working for us.
I think those questions are going beyond just individual choices. I think people are saying, “Are these industries working, is the way we're working?” We started to see companies say, “It's permanent work for home.” One article I read, I can't remember where. I should remember where if I'm going to talk about it, but I'm going to do it anyway. Basically, Amazon was going work from home from now on, is this thing to sort of meet this moment.
Jordan, what I thought, not all Amazon people are going to work from home. I saw the Amazon delivery driver on my street three times today. So, there's a divide that's happening, that we have to really pay attention to and who's getting mobility and choices and getting to participate in the Great Resingation in a more privileged way and who's not? And how might we think about systems that support everybody in the economy? So, I think it's complicated. I certainly am watching it just like everyone else's, and trying to make sense of it along the way. I honestly, I'd be curious what else you're seeing Jordan.
[00:27:41] JR: I think there's a ton of factors here. I wholeheartedly concur with this idea that we as Christ followers, in particular, have got to be thinking about ways to make this economy work for all and not just for the privilege. I do think purpose has a lot to do with that. But I think this is a perennial problem. I think if you get this, there's this huge spectrum about what workers believe about the meaning of work, right? I think a lot of them are painting with very broad strokes here, right? But my parents’ generation, Baby Boomers, I think we're on the left end of the spectrum, work has no meaning. It's a meaningless means to an end. I go to work, to get a paycheck, to enjoy the truly meaningful things in life, my family, my local church, institutional things.
Now, millennials and Gen Zers, we've swung the pendulum in the complete opposite direction. We've been talking about this, this whole podcast. We expect to work to provide us with ultimate and satisfaction. We don't look to the institution of church or state or family, to provide that. We look to work. And now we're all finding a way, again, that's also disappointing.
In Scripture, I think you find the only middle third way, right? This God who works and says that all work can be good work and is good and God given but that nothing but Christ, can provide that ultimate sense of purpose and meaning. I think this is a great opportunity for the church, to come alongside people who are struggling with purpose and work and point them to Jesus, in a very winsome way with those that we have relationships with the people we're intentional building friendships with, it's a great opportunity to point them to the ultimate purpose of life, which is Christ. Those are few thoughts.
But I am curious, like, how do you think Christians ought to be set apart in our response to this moment, this Great Resignation?
[00:29:38] MOD: I was just thinking that and I would affirm everything that you said. As Christians, I think that we have multiple responsibilities and I would frame them like you Jordan as opportunities here. I think a lot about, and probably this is because I've been writing about this, it's sort of timely with your new book, actually. I’ve been writing about the rhythm of work and rest, and does time look like and what might that be? And that's taking me back to the book of Exodus and the contrast in the Kingdom of Pharaoh and the Kingdom of God.
Okay, in Pharaoh's Kingdom work was exploitive, it was harsh, it was greed centric, it was anxiety driven, and it just was hard. It was not good for all involved. God rescues the Israelites and delivers them, they are no longer enslaved, gives them the 10 commandments and includes a Sabbath rhythm as part of that and says, this is obviously modeled after God's own Sabbath rhythm that we see in Genesis, but says, basically, you will not be like Pharaoh's Kingdom, your rhythm will look different. It will actually look different, and you will rest and the rest isn't just for you. It's for everybody who's entrusted to your care. It's for everybody here. Rest is a communal thing.
The reason why I think this is a good starting point is because this is such an issue. And when you talk about the Great Resignation, so many people are asking questions of purpose, but also pushing back on what's felt like a boundary list and always on work in the last year. Okay, if we're working from home, then we're always at work that's problematic in many ways.
So, the first thing I would say is that our very rhythm of how we work should look different. And this is in contrast to hustle culture, grind culture. You use the word hurried, right? It's in contrast to that. That is a distinct choice and a distinct mark, I think of people who say, here we are existing, living in a world where there still are lots of Pharaoh like forces, lots of Pharaoh like kingdoms at play. Of course, there are, because we're in a human world. But the Kingdom of God is also here and we are going to pledge allegiance to that, and our actions are going to look like that, starting with rest.
Then you go back to a whole bunch of other things. It mostly comes down to the way we work, the way we treat people. I talked about calling earlier, and one of those things being to work toward redemption. I'll give a very practical example. Now, I've got someone on my team, he's just so skilled at operations, and Google Drive and project management software. His gifts make me a much more productive person, actually, because he cuts through a lot of chaos. When he first got into all of our Google Drive folders, he's like, “These are messy. These are very, very messy.” And I was like, “Okay, yes, I didn't set them up. But I have not been part of the solution.” Another way to say that, Jordan, is these are broken. These systems are broken. These Google Drive systems.
So, now I'm not talking about big systems that are at play, I'm talking about something very practical on our computer screens. He went in and cleaned them up, and he went in and cleaned him up. And I kid you not, it probably saves our entire team, a collective five hours, maybe eight hours a week in work. And he was redeeming something that was broken. So, noticing those opportunities.
One being oriented by a rhythm of God's work in rest, but then getting very specific and moving – again, that's an empathetic choice, moving toward others in empathy and saying, “I've got resources, and I can be part of that solution. And I can help to redeem broken systems.” Let me put my shoulder toward that work. If we had Christians doing that in the very bland, even mundane spots, i.e. Google Drive, throughout companies and organizations and interactions, imagine the ripple effects of that, Jordan. Imagine.
So, when I think about how Christians participate or don't participate in this moment, it actually starts with getting very, very tangible and building on some of that, and then these are experiments again, and then seeing what happens. Are those leading us on a path to say, “Yeah, we need to realign our basic structure of work towards another organization”, or, “There's actually a lot of good work to be done right here, right in front of me. And I feel like God's got me here and God's asking me to stay here.” So, in order to ask the big questions, I would say we've got to zoom all the way in and start very small.
[00:34:04] JR: I love it so much. And to zoom out to the macro level for a second, right? Like the economy is a mess. This is not a political statement. It's a mess. The unemployment problem is a huge problem. What headline, I'd love to see New York Times, that the church just rolled up their sleeves and got engaged and is like, “Everyone to work. Find something to fix. Find something that's broken in your local economy, in your local coffee shop, in your local marketing agency, and get to work and fix it.” Because we believe that broken things don't belong in the kingdom. I think it'd be pretty powerful testimony to the world.
So, Michaela, you just posted this great blog post for really aimed at people considering leaving their jobs, and you outline these three helpful things to think about these three helpful steps as you evaluate this decision. Can you share those with us?
[00:34:53] MOD: Yeah, absolutely. And these are all principles from the book. I'll do them in some brevity here, but they're certainly more there. Three things. Reflect on the road thus far. Try a name where you're stuck. And identify and take next doable risk. Let me just unpack each of those a little bit.
I think one thing that is often missing, when we’re trying to discern, should I stay? Or should I go? Should I take this thing? One of the steps we often miss is actually the step of reflection. And kind of like what has happened so far, what has already gone right or wrong? So, one of the things I have people do is I actually have them draw in terms of reflecting. I have them get out a piece of paper, and I have them draw out their road of calling thus far. I tell them, “Your road might feel like it's zigzag or there were some cliffs or it might be windy. Your road might be out and next to a beach in Hawaii, or in downtown Manhattan, you know what your road looks like. So, go ahead and draw it.” They draw it and do it. I say, “Okay, now start to add the big milestones. Add the milestones of things that have felt particularly significant on your road of calling this far.”
Jordan, I don't define calling for people. I just let them do what they're going to do here. And people put milestones down and encourage them to add visual representation here. Okay, if this was a season that you felt like God was really dealing with you, and it was difficult, add some boulders. If this was a season, where a lot of friends really came around to you, put yourself in a road trip car, and to really get visual about that.
And as people are doing that, they're able to start to stack up the patterns of God's faithfulness, thus far. It's doing the biblical task of remembering. I think remembering is key to even naming where you're at. Once we do that, then the second task is to try and name where you're stuck. And again, this is an exercise that we use with people at the De Pree Center in a program we call Road Ahead. The exercise comes – now, talk about iteration and experimentation and failure. I think I now use the 35th version of this exercise. It literally took me 35 tries to get something that was really solid.
But as I won't explain the whole exercise, but I'll tell you the two basic questions. One, and this is what I encourage people to ask next, where do you have frustration, disappointment, or even pain in your current work situation? There's probably not just one answer to that. So, you can list it out. I like to use sticky notes and just really get an exhaustive list there. If you have two or three things, I would encourage you to keep going. But here's the churn, Jordan, is asking what do each of those stuck points and or pain or frustration or disappointment reveal about what it is you're actually longing for.
So, this is the hope side of the pain or the frustration. And then all of a sudden, people have a list of two or three things that they're longing for. And then I say, “Okay, now pick one. Which one feels most pressing right now in the season? Which one are you really longing for? Which one is God talking to you through?” And people pick one, and they've got one. Now, that you've got a sense of what it is you're longing for, that starts to be the context in which we take next doable risk.
That's number three, identify and take next doable risk. This phraseology, next doable risk is very important for me. I am from Nebraska and so we speak in a lot of farm metaphors. I learned that through marriage. My husband's like, “Why are you always about the farm? You grew up in a city.” So, one thing we'll talk about our bet the farm kind of risk, right? These are the risks that you got to go all in on and really put it all on the floor. There are certainly moments that God is calling us to bet the farm, Jordan, but I think by and large, there are many smaller, safer, if you will, risk along the way.
I’ll give you like some parameters and examples. So, what I like to say is, this is a risk that you already have the resources to do, and that you can do within the next week, something that you already have the resources to do, resources being relationships, sometimes money, certainly time, a certain skill, right? And something you can do within the next week. So, let's say, for example, that I've got a book coming out and I want to be able to talk to somebody very wise and well known and trusted about this book named, Jordan Raynor. But I don't know Jordan and I don't know necessarily how to get to know him, but I think, we would have a lot of connection.
Okay, I have access to the internet, right? I have access to – and Jordan Raynor is a person who makes himself somewhat available. I have already subscribed to Jordan Raynor’s email list. So, what if, I send Jordan Raynor an email? Just saying, “Hey, I truly love what you're doing and I think there could be some overlap.” Now, we don't know if Jordan Raynor will ever respond. We don't know if that will ever lead to conversation. We don't know if we'll ever do a podcast together. But I know that I can try because I have an email account and I have seven minutes to craft an email, and I have a somewhat of a relationship, at least a one dimensional one with Jordan’s content he's already put out. So, that's a next level of risk. And when we're talking about what it is we're longing for, and risk that we have the resources to take within the next seven days, I would imagine that there's probably actually a handful of risks that most of us can identify.
[00:40:33] JR: That's really good. I loved your hypothetical –
[00:40:36] MOD: Just hypothetical.
[00:40:37] JR: Yeah, technically. If it happens, that is so, so great, and so helpful. So yeah, listen, knowing when to take that next doable risk is an important quality for any leader. Clearly, you're great leader. I got to bring this up. I couldn't believe this when I saw in preparation for today's conversation. You guys just published the Ted Lasso Leadership Lessons on your blog. This is the greatest thing in the world. You guys got the show runner for Ted Lasso to talk about – okay, first of all, how in the world did you get Bill Lawrence, the show runner for the show, to do this?
[00:41:19] MOD: Yeah, I looked at Lasso too.
[00:41:21] JR: We’ll talk about this for the rest of our time. I love Ted Lasso.
[00:41:26] MOD: Oh, I just finished season two. So, I'm right there and totally caught up today in love it. And I am also aware that Ted last it was not for everybody. Lots of salty language and certain situations. So certainly, I like to give a disclaimer, whenever I talk about it, I get very excited about it. But I do think that there's a ton to learn from there. So, how do we get you the show runner? Really, one of these happy accidents and one of this next doable risk. My colleague, Tod Bolsinger, he put on Facebook, “Hey, I love Ted Lasso.” And he was starting to kind of digest some of the leadership lessons. Somebody else on his Facebook said, “Hey, I actually know Bill Lawrence, who worked on that show.” And you know what Todd did? He said, “Hey, could you connect us?” There we go. A next doable risk. “Could you connect us?”
[00:42:10] JR: So, you guys have got like six of these seven of these Lasso Leadership Lessons. What's one that you love? That you just love to share with our audience?
[00:42:20] MOD: There is a phrase, “Be the little girl.” And there is this idea that comes out of the show that anybody can find themselves in a leadership moment. A lot of times when we picture leaders, we picture the people who have a lot of structural power, have accumulated a lot of accomplishments, and perhaps even get to tell a lot of people what to do. But there is a scene in the show, and one of the lessons where we talk about in anybody, even little children find themselves in leadership moments. I think that's such an invitation to see ourselves wherever we're at, we do have influence. We have leadership, and it really flattens the field in a nice way.
[00:43:00] JR: Wait, so I can't recall this scene. What's the scene where the little girl steps up and leads? Assuming there’s no spoilers here.
[00:43:09] MOD: So, this is – what episode are they linked this back to? It’s Roy Kent and his niece, I don't know. I'm not going to be able to call the exact moment.
[00:43:17] JR: Somebody’s going to figure this out and email us. Because I love – Roy Kent is my favorite character. I love the relationship with the niece. We've covered Moana and Ted – this is the greatest episode of all time, easily. Hands down. Alright, Michaela, three questions, we wrap up every conversation with. Number one, which books do you find yourself gifting most frequently to others other than your own?
[00:43:44] MOD: Yeah, guess my own right, giving that one away a lot recently. The book I probably buy the most for people is a book called Designing Your Life by Dave Evans and Bill Burnett. Dave's a good friend and it is just – they take the theory of design thinking and apply it to career development, and I think it is accessible and brilliant.
[00:44:02] JR: Yesterday, I was having lunch with somebody telling me how great Design Your Life is.
[00:44:07] MOD: Have you read it?
[00:44:08] JR: I haven't. So, I’ve been a fan. I actually think I bought it yesterday, I got to check my Kindle account. But I've been a fan of Dave Evans from afar, for a long time. Really need to invite him on the podcasts. He's such a great guest. I got to read this book. Alright, who do you want to hear in this podcast talking about how their faith influences their work?
[00:44:26] MOD: Yeah, well, now I want to hear Dave Evans, because we just talked about him. But actually, it's someone named Uli Chi. Uli Chi is part of our devotional writing team at the De Pree Center. I am convinced that after knowing him for years, he is the wisest person I have ever met in real life. And he's one of my advisory board members and so I get a lot of time with him. He is one of those hidden gems. Were all encouraging him to write a book so he'll eventually have a book out on wise leadership. But he is just someone I think everyone needs to be listening to.
[00:44:57] JR: What's one of the top things you've learned from Uli?
[00:44:59] MOD: Just a Last week, I was talking about something that was upsetting me and I felt bad about and I was taking a lot of emotional responsibility for, and I wanted to make everybody happy. It's my diagnosis of myself. He said to me, “Michaela, like one of your biggest journeys is going to be to learn when to care and when not to care.” And the when not to care is just so foreign to me. Of course, he doesn't mean and write people off, but just a differentiating ourselves from our role and our work and being able to let things go at the end of the day. So, that is the piece of wisdom that is currently rattling in my head from him.
[00:45:38] JR: I'm terrible at that.
[00:45:40] MOD: It's hard.
[00:45:41] JR: Really bad at letting things go like that. That's a wise, wise word. So, he's your Yoda.
[00:45:47] MOD: He is.
[00:45:48] JR: Okay. All right, what's one thing from our conversation this last hour do you want to reiterate or highlight for our listeners before we sign off?
[00:45:56] MOD: I think that empathy, in Moana, certainly risk taking. I think, it cannot be undervalued. And that those are deeply Christian ways of being in the world. So, I would just say that this career advice is the stuff that actually leads towards generativity and towards discovery, and towards helpfulness in our profession, is the very same stuff that aligns us with what God's doing in the world. Just to route those things, empathy, imagination, risk taking, and even reflection in the story of Christ.
[00:46:32] JR: Very beautifully said. Michaela, I just want to commend you for the exceptional work that you do. I love – by the way, I didn't mention this or Lord knows we need more women in this faith of work conversation. It drives me crazy how many white dudes like me there are talking about this stuff. So, just thank you for helping us discover the meaning in the jobs we already have. And for just taking a really biblical approach to this conversation. Guys, the book is Make Work Matter: Your Guide to Meaningful Work in A Changing World. It's available everywhere now after a paper shortage, right? Delayed the book. Fun times. Talking about our current moment. Michaela, thanks again for joining me.
[00:47:13] MOD: Thanks for having me. Jordan, this is great.
[00:47:15] JR: Hey, are you enjoying the podcast? Do me a favor, pull up Apple Podcasts on your phone, or view Spotify. Listen something else, go to your desktop, and pull open iTunes, find the Call to Mastery and rate the show. Leave a review. Tell us what you like, what you don't like, what we could do better. We're always trying to put more weight on the bar and make this content serve you guys better, so we can help connect the gospel to your work and your pursuit of doing great work for the glory of God and the good of others. Love you guys. Thank you for listening. I'll see you next week.