Identifying Your Cause
People often ask children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Children usually reply “a fireman, a doctor, an actor … ,” perhaps echoing a recent movie or naming the profession of a relative they admire. They have yet to realize that they will be asked this question over and over again as the years pass. Hearing the question as children was just our first experience with identifying our cause.
Your cause is a major force that guides your career decisions. Whether clearly defined and structured, or perhaps hazy and still in need of refinement, your cause is, as Howard Thurman phrases it in the quotation at the beginning of this book, “what makes you come alive.” In this first chapter we focus not on finding you a job with clearly defined steps up a structured career ladder but on helping you locate something much bigger— the force that will help illuminate your career path.
Sherry approaches the quest to identify a cause from the perspective of “your place in history”: how your search for a cause is inevitably anchored in the trends and happenings of a particular period in history. How will you find your place in today's historical context? What will historians say about your cause and career when looking back on them many years from now? Or more important, what would you want those historians to say? In Sherry's view how you approach these questions will help you define your cause and develop your career.
Mark, on the other hand, approaches the issue of finding a cause from the postcollege question of “What am I going to do with my life?” For him, there is less focus on the bigger picture of finding a place in history and more attention to microlevel decision making, namely, figuring out what is good for you at this point and going from there. Even if you are unsure of your exact cause or how you will want historians