Mike Leach on How to Find Your Calling

Mike LeachMike Leach had a problem. He had just graduated from law school, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to be a lawyer. He was married with a child, he was flat broke, and he owed $45,000 in student loans.

Leach knew the “rational” thing to do was get a job at a law firm so he could start paying off those debts and providing for his family. But he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was supposed to be doing something else with his life.

He decided to seek some advice. Leach wrote a letter to a hugely-successful lawyer named Gary Spence. He asked Spence if being a lawyer was worth it. He asked him, “If you had it do over again, would you?”

Spence responded with a thoughtful letter that confirmed Mike Leach’s reservations about pursuing a career in law. Spence told Leach there were times when he loved law, times when he hated law, but that he was always consumed by law. He told Leach, “If you are consumed by law, go be an attorney. If you are not, find something else.”

Mike Leach did find something else. Now the head football coach at Washington State, Leach explains how he found his true calling…

[Spence] suggested that I carefully consider what exactly consumed me. What did I think about when no one else was around? What did I think about going from the sofa to the refrigerator? What did I think about when filling up my car at the gas station?

Gary Spence’s opinion reinforced what I’d thought for a long time. The words he used resonated: being consumed.

Most people will say you should love what you do or enjoy what you do. Enjoy what you do, though, is an oversimplification. If you’re ever really good at any anything, you don’t enjoy it all of the time because there’s a chase and a challenge to it that goes beyond enjoyment.

There is a certain pain that goes into having truly great success. You will have to overcome a lot of obstacles. [Spence] encapsulated all of that.

I thought about law some, but I thought about sports, football in particular, a lot.

Yes—YES!—I should go out and try to become a football coach!

I didn’t want to look back on my life and regret never having tried coaching. So I went for it.

– Mike Leach, from his book Swing Your Sword

If you’re not following your true calling, it’s very difficult to achieve both success and happiness in life.

Of course, finding your calling is not always easy. Many of us struggle to find our purpose at different times in our lives. Your calling at age 40 may be a lot different than your calling at age 20.

But when trying to determine your calling, it’s important that you’re not seeking only the path of least resistance.

While I’m a big believer in finding something you love to do, Leach nails it when he reminds us that no matter how much you enjoy doing something, nothing is going to be a walk in the park every day. There are going to be difficult obstacles and challenges regardless of how much you love something.

The key is to embrace the challenge of it. Recognize that overcoming adversity is an essential part of achieving success—no matter what career you’re pursuing.

Don’t go looking for a challenge-free existence (something that is impossible to find). Instead, be honest with yourself about what consumes you. What do you think about all the time?

If you’re not consumed by your current profession, it may be time for a change.

Follow your heart. Follow what consumes you. That’s where you’ll find your true calling.