I heard you comment on the popular show “American Idol.” You said that some of the contestants suffer from a faulty self-evaluation, which leads to “21st-century careerism.” Can you explain this further?
It is common to hear Randy Jackson, one of the “Idol” judges, summarize a contestant’s performance by saying, “Singing is just not your thing, dog.” The shocking thing is when the candidate, who by any measure was a terrible singer, replies by passionately telling the judges that they are wrong.
This happens time and time again. How can this be? Have these people not heard themselves sing? Did their friends set them up as a practical joke? Are they tone-deaf? Have they become so self-deceived they really believe they are good singers?
One thing is for certain: If that type of “American Idol” candidate, or anyone else for that matter, doesn’t honestly evaluate his natural God-given talents, he will never be able to seek fulfillment through a vocation. Instead, he will be forever trapped in a self-centered career mentality.
A person who is career-minded will make decisions purely based on what he wants to do. He pays little attention to what he ought to do. On the other hand, a vocation-minded person does the opposite. Being vocation-minded comes with both personal and spiritual maturity.
God created each of us in a very particular way with specific inclinations and natural talents. Like it or not, we are obligated to use them prudently and as best we can. When you refine those talents into skills, you are being a good steward, but if you spend all of your time trying to develop a skill with little or no natural talent, it will likely lead to misery.
There are many studies to support this position. In fact, Marcus Buckingham’s book Now Discover Your Strengths makes the point by debunking the myth that if a person turns weaknesses into strengths he finds success. The effort it takes to refine a very minimal or even nonexistent talent into a skill is painstaking. On the other hand, watering and fertilizing a pre-existing talent usually pays off.
I used the term “21st-century careerism” to address the growing desire by young people to seek fulfillment via recognition or fame. It becomes a “fame for fame’s sake” pursuit. Just observe how many people have become famous because of outrageous behavior or shock-value antics.
Living a vocational life is doing God’s will rather than your own. Conversely, a career mentality is the manifestation of letting your own will be done. The entire point is best summarized by Matthew 6:33: “Seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Catholic business consultant
Dave Durand is online at