What do you think 1,000 elderly people had to say?

The glory of young men is their strength, and the beauty of old men is their gray head [suggesting wisdom and experience]. – Proverbs 20:29, Amplified Bible (AMP)

In Proverbs 4:7 (AMP), God teaches us that:

The beginning of Wisdom is: get Wisdom (skillful and godly Wisdom)! [For skillful and godly Wisdom is the principal thing.] And with all you have gotten, get understanding (discernment, comprehension, and interpretation).

The question is, how do we get wisdom? Of course, we start and end our search for wisdom with studying the Bible. In conjunction (cooperation) with our studies, we should also seek out the counsel of wise, aged people who have applied God’s principles throughout the ups and downs of life. God teaches us to value such wisdom, which is why He calls the gray (wise and experienced) head beautiful in Proverbs 20:29 and why He admonishes us to seek out wise counselors as we fight the battles of life.

Karl Pillemer set out to mine the wisdom of roughly 1,000 elderly Americans to determine what advice they would give younger generations. His five-year research project birthed the book, 30 Lessons For Living: Tried and True Advise from the Wisest Americans. The topics covered include:

  1. Marriage
  2. Career
  3. Parenting
  4. Aging
  5. Living life without regrets
  6. Happiness

Pillemer uncovered five key lessons in each of the six topic areas – hence the 30 lessons. Interestingly, of all the lessons the elders conveyed, one stood out above all of the rest: don’t spend years in a job that you hate. As Pillemer reports:

You know those nightmares where you are shouting a warning but no sound comes out? Well, that’s the intensity with which the experts wanted to tell younger people that spending years in a job you dislike is a recipe for regret and a tragic mistake. There was no issue about which the experts were more adamant and forceful. Over and over they prefaced their comments with, “If there’s one thing I want your readers to know it’s . . .” From the vantage point of looking back over long experience, wasting around two thousand hours of irretrievable lifetime each year is pure idiocy.**

In our youth, we regularly – and foolishly – buy into the notion that the purpose of work is to earn money. We also buy into the notion – foolishly – that the goal of work is to make so much money that we can buy anything we want. But, according to Pillemer:

The experts have a real problem with this scenario. The view from the end of the life span is straightforward: time well and enjoyably spent trumps money anytime. They know what it means to make a living, and they are not suggesting that we all become starving artists. But they also know firsthand that most people who decide on a profession because of the material rewards at some point look back and gasp, “What have I done?” In their view, we all need a salary to live on. But the experts concur that it’s vastly preferable to take home less in your paycheck and enjoy what you are doing rather than live for the weekends and your three weeks (if you get that much) vacation a year. If doing what you love requires living with less, for the experts that’s a no-brainer.**

Does Pilliemer’s research match up with biblical teaching?  Although 30 Lessons for Living was not written from a biblical point of view, the answer is, “Absolutely!”  The Bible is clear* that God designs people with certain packages of skills, abilities, and personalities that are maximized for accomplishing certain types of work. The purpose of the work is to 1) glorify God, 2) serve others, and 3) provide an enjoyable pastime for ourselves while we accomplish purposes one and two. If we engage in the types of work for which we are designed, we will find much more fulfillment than we could ever find simply chasing money. Now, even when we engage in the work God intended us to do, there will be days of struggle, persecution, and difficulty. Despite this, we will find joy in the knowledge that we’ve redeemed the time God has given us by spending it the way He intended for us to spend it. We will also find joy by avoiding its counterpart: God-induced misery. As JonahJeremiah, and Paul showed us, misery comes with trying to avoid the work that God has assigned to us.

How can we discover the types of work for which we were designed? Trial and error is what most people fall back on, but this is a hard way to find your calling. Instead, take time to assess yourself. Take a hard look at your personality, interests, skills, abilities, and values to determine what pattern of work God designed you with. While “taking a hard look,” ask friends and family members to help you identify your pattern. Also, consider utilizing a professional career assessment program, such as the Career Direct Assessment developed by the late Larry Burkett (Christian Financial Concepts, now Crown Ministries), to scientifically discover your pattern. Taking a little time to determine how God designed you will shave years off of the trial and error process. As a result, you’ll find you vocational purpose a lot sooner, thereby setting you on the fast track to engaging in the work that both God and Pillemer’s experts have advised us all to enjoy.

* For example, see Psalm 139:13Jeremiah 1:5Exodus 31:1-6, and 1 Corinthians 7:17

** Excerpt From: Pillemer, Karl. “30 Lessons for Living.” PENGUIN group, 2011-08-19. iBooks. This material may be protected by copyright. Check out this book on the iBooks Store: https://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewBook?id=440422388

imgRobbie Romeiser is a commercial real estate broker, real estate instructor, and author of the daily devotional Today’s Quote From God (www.TodaysQuoteFromGod.com). Desiring to help his own children follow God’s calling in their lives, Robbie founded Career Callings (www.CareerCallings.net) to help people find, prepare for, and pursue the work God has called them to do.