The Single Biggest Mistake You Can Make With Your Career

Posted by in Career Success | 6 comments

I was getting ready to head out the door and my son, who was two at the time, said to me, “Daddy, where you going?”

“To work,” I replied.


ThinkingPhoto Credit: ores2k via Compfight

I stopped and thought about it for a moment, trying to come up with an explanation a two year old could understand.

Trying to think of all the possible responses I could come up with, I said, “to help people.”

Now, my two year old asked the question of why to just about everything, but this time his question really got me thinking.

Why do we work?

Certainly, at its most basic form, we work to bring in income.

But don’t we work for more than that?

Maybe we also work to feel productive, contribute to society, feel like our lives matter, or express our talents and gifts.

Maybe all of the above.

While paying our bills is a legitimate reason to work, there is often a deeper reason we want to work.

The Big Mistake

The biggest mistake we make in our careers is to believe our work is about us.

When our work is only serving our own needs it becomes selfish, shallow, and boring.

Our work can often be a wonderful place to use and exhibit our talents and gifts, yet there is a condition.

Our talents and gifts weren’t given to us for admiration or self-actualization, they were given to serve others.

When we switch the focus of our work to serving the needs of others, it takes our work to another level – a more sublime level.

So if you’ve struggled with finding work you like, maybe try looking at your work from another angle.

Who do you want to serve?

Your answer to that question will tell you why you work.


Question: Who do you want to serve with your talents and gifts?

  • Adam, good thoughts here. I think as I mature, I’m definitely becoming less about me and more about finding ways to help others. Thanks for the reminder

  • Dianne Drinkard

    Great post, Adam, and great question! I think I know who I want to serve….those who need answers for why their bodies fail them, and those who are searching for those answers and treatments. I just wish I knew how to do this, but I may have a clue…you have to start somewhere, right? And let’s not forget our Lord, who has given us each a purpose. Aligning with and fulfilling that purpose gives us great satisfaction and joy!

    • Thanks Dianne, I’m thrilled to hear you know who you want to serve. Start with the clues you have and you will find they lead you in the right direction. Yes, we can’t forget The Lord in this process either.

  • Jarrod Johnson

    Adam – Great post! I definitely agree with the point you made about the misconception of working to assume our place in society. Think about when you meet someone for the first time and they ask you “What do you do?” They immediately draw inferences about your socio-economic status, your place in society, and even whether or not they care to continue the conversation all because of a short answer to a simple question. Dan Miller of 48 Days has a great alternative to this question. Instead of “What do you do?”, he recommends asking “How are you making a difference in the world?” Now that definitely goes beyond simply explaining your job.

    • Yes, Jarrod it’s an unfortunate reality that we are often judged based on the type of work we do. However, there are many highly paid people who are miserable in their careers and lives. So income has no connection to satisfaction or contentment.

  • I work to get money to buy canned kitty food and fuzzy mice.