Finding Your Calling in a Transition World

So you’ve read plenty about The Great Turning our society is going through.  And you fully understand (perhaps unlike millions of others) that the old ways are fading away, and that your “job,” your career, your livelihood is going to look kind of different.

You’ve kind of realized that your parents’ expectations as they raised you, and/or the careers you were trained to expect as you came through your schooling, just aren’t happening.  Those types of jobs are drying up and blowing away.  Your few friends who got into them say they’re hardly worth it anyway.

You’ve learned about climate change, and peak oil, perhaps biocapacity/”peak everything” too.  You get it that the economy is imploding.  Maybe you were part of Occupy, and feel the great social injustice that the old ways perpetuated.  You’ve read a bit about the idea of this Transition that is happening, as society begins to change itself from the course it has been on, to something completely different.  And you realize that you've got to do it too.

But how do you find it?

A Private Search

I went on a bit of a similar journey.  Personally I’m at the cusp of stay-at-home-mom returning to the workforce.  The landscape of the working world has completely transformed during the decade-and-a-half I’ve been out of it.  I’d done quite a bit of volunteer work, but that is a very different scene.  I was facing going back to classes to gear up to reenter the corporate world I left many years ago, all the while knowing that corporate world was on self-destruct like some massive Death Star, or … 

Or what?

My volunteer work made me quite happy.  I felt like I was doing something to make the world better, rather than contributing to the Death Star part of it.  I didn’t want to leave that great feeling behind.  What could I do within a Transition world?

Looking under old rocks

I’m sure there are many ways to do this, but I’m a quiet reflecting, self-education kind of person.  I turned to books and journaling.  A D-I-Y career search.  My purpose in writing this series of posts is to share with you what I did, in case it helps you in your own journey.

I returned to an old favorite, Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow by Marsha Sinetar.  A quick online search revealed that Ms Sinetar had written a somewhat-newer book, To Build the Life You Want, Create the Work You Love: The Spiritual Dimensions of Entrepreneuring.  Oooh!  Social Entrepreneurship was on my mind, because Rob Hopkins et al had been writing about it.  For less than $10 a used copy was at my door.

To add to that came Live the Life You Love, by Barbara Sher.  “10 Easy Lessons” it promised.

The Sher book is more introspective, causing you to inventory skills you have had – perhaps latent or underdeveloped skills – reaching all the way back through your past into childhood to tap into your personal strengths.  Sher guides you to create a very personal pack of index cards which help your vision emerge.  What do you love to do?  And how might you develop doing that into a grander pursuit, one which pays your bills?

Sher wrote in 1996, well before peak oil and climate change were in widespread awareness.  Yet her construction – the cumulative inner work of her 10 “easy” lessons – is every bit as appropriate 16 years later in a vastly transformed Energy Descent world.  When one goes through heartfelt exercises such as hers, one does not emerge with Death Star-type answers!

The direction of the new future

Sinetar’s To Build the Life You Want hones in on answers and gets more pragmatic.  Focus.  Purpose.  Once you’ve done the Sher work, you’ll have some idea how to respond to Sinetar’s coaxing.  Sinetar illuminates the creative, intuitive side of the entrepreneurial spirit in a very enticing way.  She also gives guidance on Risk-Taking and Strategy.

I recommend the Sinetar book because I think the economy of the Transition future is going to be far more entrepreneurial, rather than oriented toward “corporate jobs.”

Another exercise I’ll insert in here, is the one in the first chapter of Laura Fredricks The Ask: How to Ask for Support in Your Nonprofit Cause, Creative Project, or Business Venture.  Fredricks challenges you to examine your relationship with money, and to confront the emotional baggage you are carrying there.

While I can’t say these books told me precisely what to do, they certainly did help me zero in on a few possible options.  They helped me to identify a few paths I might try, and helped me find the inner confidence to evaluate, then take, the risk.

More resources:

  • $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau is right on track for where many potential Transition entrepreneurs are beginning.  Guillebeau’s many examples emphasize again and again how it doesn’t need to take millions to start a solid business.  It’s really about thinking creatively.  While I don’t recall him revealing peak oil awareness, he certainly understands the idea of not wanting to sell your soul to the Death Star in order to keep food on the table.
  • If the personal track that emerges for you is consulting, try Alan Weiss’ The Consulting Bible.  Disregard the “seven-figure” swaggering boast on the cover.  Dive in to the meat of it and sift through for the many tips you can apply to Transition-type businesses.
  • What are Transition-type businesses?  List of links at
  • There are many books on social entrepreneurship, but IMHO the slim Mission Inc by Kevin Lynch and Julius Walls Jr. is one of the best.  In simple language, it covers all the bases:  structure, planning, finances, hiring, marketing, metrics.  Gets you thinking about the panorama of juggling balls you’ll need to keep in the air in order to be successful at delivering positive world-changing impact while still keeping the doors open.


Joanne Poyourow is the co-founder of the Environmental Change-Makers community group in the Westchester neighborhood of Los Angeles.  She is widely regarded as the "initiator" who brought the ideas of the international Transition movement to Los Angeles.  A CPA by training, she has designed two community gardens, and authored several books including the forthcoming Economic Resilience, a survival kit for local communities.


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