How Your Decisions Will Uncover Your Calling

By Jeff Shinabarger

Nicaragua was our haven for a two month sabbatical. Twice a week my family rented bikes from a social enterprise that was employing men coming out of addiction recovery programs or jail.

We were the first customers at the bike shop to request a child seat. Our daughter Jada was nearly two, so we needed a way to include her in our bicycle excursions. Theyunburied a single child seat from storage that someone had donated. The team welded the seat to a bike for us to use. Jada was tied in with a rope that was interwoven through the seat and double knotted. We learned not all countries are quite as “child safety device” oriented as the USA.

We would rent our bikes and follow a road for five miles that would dead-end at Lake Nicaragua. I resonate with what Ernest Hemingway once shared, “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” Seeing the culture while on two wheels made us love this place and experience real people.

Every ride, we passed the Coconut Guy on the way to the dock. I never knew his name, yet he and his coconut stand profoundly shaped the way I think about calling and what I am designed to do in life. He gave me a metaphor for understanding the process of calling.

He had a four-foot square plywood board propped up on top of a five-gallon paint bucket, balanced just perfectly to not fall off one side or the other. Taped to the front of the bucket was a piece of white computer paper with a sharpie message that simply communicated “$1” with an arrow pointing up. Following the direction of the arrow up, you realized that he was sitting under a coconut tree. The marketer in me loves simple signs that require just enough imagination to get your attention. You handed him a dollar and he shimmied up the tree, picked a green coconut from the tree, and brought it back down. He would then set the coconut on his perfectly balanced plywood and bucket table and with a machete start methodically carving the sides of the green coconut until the white heart of the fruit appeared. It took him just a minute to shape it into a cup-like design, puncture the top, stick a straw inside, and hand it over to the paying customer. Voilà! A fresh coconut drink made right in front of your eyes.

Isn’t it true, that what we see on the outside does not always match the intended purpose or design that is within each of us. Every time I saw this process, it made me question my unique design. As I watched the Coconut Guy carve off the edges with each whack of the machete, I thought of all the work I have tried over the years that has not matched my intention or ambitions. Some work seemed like a good fit but didn’t quite match my abilities and loves. Carve it off. I like doing one thing, but fail miserably when I try something else. Whack. Each life experience, each decision I make, each time I succeed or fail sheds off another dirty, crusty edge and moves closer to the best part, our place of true purpose. Just another step in the process of finding the tasty, milky core – our intended design.

Those bike rides gave me a lot of time to think about my life and the things I needed to shed on my pursuit to discovering life purpose. These decisions that define purpose separate decision makers from everyone else. If we want clarity in what we are intended to do, we must release and clearly say no to the things that we know are not a match for our calling.

What do you need to quit today, so you can pursue what you are made to do tomorrow?