In my twenties, right after college, I started an outdoor adventure organization where I took teams on four-month backpacking trips around the world. We’d fly one way to Central America and then work our way back to the U.S. border by ground. We’d fly into Hong Kong and travel up through China and Mongolia, down into far western China, and ultimately to the basecamp of Mt. Everest in Tibet. I did this for several years, then went back and got a Master’s Degree.

Once I got the degree, this organization ultimately shifted into what I’m doing today. I take prominent leaders and pastors on outdoor adventures with a small team. Bob Goff climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro with me. I took Matt Chandler on the Inca Trail. Mark Batterson and I rafted through the Grand Canyon. I say all that, not to brag, but to point out that what I’m doing is pretty darn fun and fulfilling. It’s pretty much living a dream come true for me.

So when someone hears what I do they nearly always ask: “How do you get into that line of work?”

I tell them I started the organization. Which leads to another question:

“How do you start something like that?”

I usually say, “Just start.”

I realize that answer seems completely unhelpful and maybe even a bit cocky, but I usually don’t have time to explain the circuitous, often-frustrating, fun-filled journey it’s been. In all honesty, it has been a wild, confusing journey getting to where I am today. The truth is, I probably had no business doing what I did right out of college. I was clueless on a lot of things.

But I’ve come to realize that what those folks are really asking is, “What’s the formula for doing something that makes a difference and also brings fulfillment?”

I’ll give those who ask some basic pointers on lessons I learned the hard way and continue learning. But I always have to remind people of something:

There is no formula.

I think God does something unique in each person so that we learn to depend on him for direction rather than formulas.

Sure, there’s practical things you can do and lessons you can learn from others. Read all you can. Always ask lots of questions of those you admire. But I can guarantee you, what God put in your heart is something unique. Every person has a unique problem to solve and message to share with the world for God’s glory.

Rather than look for a formula, start looking at how he wired you. Look for what he has made you curious about. Look at what interests he has already placed in you. Look where he has already placed you.

When you look for a formula, boxes to check, you will never find your true and unique calling.

The path God has for you is different than anyone else on earth. Don’t compare your journey to others. Just take the steps he has placed in front of you.

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Based on personal experience and the experience of lots of others I’ll tell you that it probably won’t happen as fast as you’d like. You may not immediately find your calling on the first shot. But that’s ok. It’s the journey that matters. You are learning with everything you try. You are building your skills and knowledge base. I wasn’t ready to lead teams of leaders and influencers when I started. I had to learn a few hard lessons first. What I started with taught me those lessons, even though I didn’t realize I was learning. I just did what was in front of me.

If you’ll stay faithful to do your best at whatever is in front of you – even if it’s not ideal right now and your ultimate goal – you’ll find that God will lead you to where you need to be. It will all unfold in phases. In the words of Soren Kierkegaard, “Life is lived forward, but only understood looking backward.”

There is no secret formula. Step ahead and see.

Joël Malm is an entrepreneur, communicator, and personal development coach. He has started everything from a business to a not-for-profit, and he’s even started a church. As founder of Summit Leaders he uses outdoor adventure and personal coaching to help people find their calling and pursue a vision for their lives. His expeditions have taken him around the world to places like Mt. Kilimanjaro, Grand Canyon and Machu Picchu. He has traveled in over seventy countries on six continents and speaks three languages. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and a M.S. in Counseling.
His book Vision Map, published by Moody Press, is available wherever books are sold. He and his wife Emily currently live in Texas.