Consolations of the Week

It’s been quite a week. Besides the joy of seeing a new Pope emerge, my week has been blessed with many gifts where different people offered me much to be grateful for.

The first are a bunch of new students and a new colleague. Instead of our usual spring break plan of organizing and taking students on an alternative spring break experience we decided to concentrate on what we do well on those trips which is helping people focus on the reflective elements of these trips. The University was already planning to do a fee alternative break experiences of their own and they invited me to be part of one of them. It was a “give where you live experience” in Buffalo. Each day the students went to a different service organization in Buffalo that served the needs of children and teens in the area. They even asked me to set up a day of service at our parish school which had our students being teacher’s aides for the day and another group painting sets for the kids’ upcoming performance of “Annie.”

The highlight of the week was working with a bright young woman named Baylee. Fresh out of undergrad, Baylee is working on a graduate degree at UB in higher Ed administration and she planned and organized the trip and trained the two student leaders, Kate and Erica who were also amazing. Each night I’d gather with them to help deepen the experience through reflection. The students had some amazing insights and the full day I spent with them at St Joe’s was a heartfelt reminder of how much they have to offer to people who are in need of their gifts. Baylee really did a wonderful job and was gracious enough to invite me into their space and gave me an opportunity to witness to all the good work that had been done. I had great conversations with the students over meals and evening hang outs, hearing about their relationship struggles, their homelike and their college experience alongside the service experience.

I was also able to offer them a brief tour of our church building. And nearly all of them signed up to do service projects with our campus ministry in April. One student even said she was inspired to go back to mass after the tour of the church and many others were certainly thinking about it. In our “highs and lows” of our days one student said, “Without a doubt, my high was the church, cause I haven’t been in a church in sometime and it was so peaceful and beautiful. I’m glad I know it’s there.”

Yesterday, I traveled to New York City and spoke at my old stomping grounds at St. Paul the Apostle to a group of about 60 young adults at their group called Apostolist. It was a networking event where lots of business cards were exchanged between people. I got to talk about my book, Loving Work and sign a bunch of copies. Lots of inspiration was flowing and I could see the wheels turning for people. It was interesting to see so many people who were looking to deepen their experience of work and many who are hoping to change tracks in their career. Fr. Steven Bell, CSP invited me and it is always great to spend time with him and his dynamic personality. He introduced ,e and it was the first time I’ve ever been referred to as a “Titan”.

So all in all, much to be grateful for. I also get the opportunity to see my parents, my best friend, my college roommate, celebrate a dear friend’s birthday and spend time with friends who soon will be married. A fun-filled two days in my hometown that has already renewed my spirit.

Today, let us pray for the gift of inspiration and renewal in our lives. Come Holy Spirit and renew our lives with hope and energy to be able to be men and women for others. May St. Ignatius intercede for us in helping us to find God in all things today.

And it is St Patrick’s Day in NYC….a great day for a parade!

Albany Loves Loving Work

Fran Rossi Szpylczyn blogged about my book at There Will Be Bread her amazing spirituality blog at the Times Union in Albany. She talks about her own struggle with career change.

Let me be clear – I did not hate my old job, in fact, I loved many things about it, especially the people the people that I worked with. However, in my new job, despite the lack of prestige, pay and privacy, I could not be happier. I am loving work. And loving work is also what I do, because the work of the church is to love. This makes me one very lucky person!

Spiritual director, campus minister, and author Mike Hayes explores this kind of transformation – and how others might set about doing the same thing, in his latest book, Loving Work. (Orbis, $16.00, 120 pp.) For Hayes, it is not just about loving what you do, but it is about being who you are – and that includes bringing loving into the work that you choose to do.

In full disclosure, Mike is a friend, and I was asked to provide a cover blurb, which I will restate here. After reading the book I said, “Some books are kept for a long time, because they nourish the soul or they are practical guides… Mike Hayes offers us both things with great wisdom in a book that you will want to keep.”

Infused with sound Ignatian spirituality, warmth, wisdom, humor and a tremendous amount of insight, this book offers a way forward to better work – and a much better life. Whether pointing to practical details and planning, or focusing on our relationship with God, we are shown the value of the importance of seeking work that feeds the soul, as well as work that creates our living. What struck me most is the no-nonsense approach that Hayes’ employs, which is direct, yet incredibly human at the same time. His experiences in business, spiritual direction, and campus ministry are all pressed into excellent use in this book.

One of my favorite chapters is called, “If You Could Be Anything.” Sparing no details, Hayes discusses his own crisis of the heart with clarity. Despite his successful (and longed for) career in radio broadcasting, something is just missing. No stranger to the world of faith, his two worlds begin to align as he explores his own “anything.” The results have led him to where he is today.

These are tough times, and getting a new job is not all that easy. And perhaps that is what makes this book more important than ever. If we can’t really achieve what we thought was our dream, perhaps that should truly compel us to discern and claim what our true work might be. Risky? Sure. But if we don’t try, how do we ever know the greatness that we are called to?

Amen! Couldn’t have said it better myself. Ignatius reminds us that we are not merely to “follow our heart”. Rather, our hearts inform our heads and that helps us to make a more informed decision in finding out what will best suit our personality in terms of finding work that we love.

I loved writing this book and reflecting on it this semester has renewed my own love of my work. This has been a great semester that will soon come to close and it reminds me how exciting ministry can be.

So thanks for the plug, Fran and for the morning reflection. Fran’s giving away a copy of my book, so if you don’t have your copy yet—head on over to her blog and try to win one or just head to Amazon and buy one for everyone in your family for Christmas so they can make great New Year’s Resolutions.

Praise for Loving Work

The illustrious Fran Rossi Szpylczyn gave my book a nice pop on

Not so many years ago, but in what seems to be another lifetime now, I was a successful corporate executive. Today I am not unsuccessful, but my life has taken a different path; I am a writer and I work for the Catholic Church. Am I still successful? Depends on your definition, I suppose! I’m going to say yes, because I am “loving work.”

As I began to chart another course in life, I pursued certification as a personal and career coach. Then came the pursuit of an advanced degree in ministry and the work to go with it.

So the idea of pursuing – happily – the work one loves and the work of love, is at the core of my being.

In full disclosure, I was privileged to read an early version of this book, and I was thrilled to do so. This slim volume is packed with power and wisdom from someone who has navigated his own passage from one type of work to another.

This book will be a treasured companion for those who read it. I can imagine giving it as a gift to those who are seeking their way in the world, particularly for those freshly out of college. At a time when jobs can be scare and hope in short supply, Mike Hayes’ insights will help them to discover that it is possible to find the work we love and to love the work we find.

If you’ve read the book consider leaving a comment or two on Amazon and if you haven’t read it yet—well, what are you waiting for? Order one today.

Honestly, I loved writing this book. It’s a short, quick read that’s filled with many stories from my radio days and from my ministry where I make the connection between living a life that you were born to live, that God gifted you with and merely going through the motions.

My favorite story in the book comes from my days at WFAN where I found myself working extra hard at the station’s radiothon for the CJ Foundation for SIDS–a wonderful charity founded by the then-station’s GM, Joel Hollander. Looking back on that experience led me to consider ministry more deeply. Read the whole story and then ask yourself where God might be calling you in your work.

Thanks for all the support with this effort. I got a nice note from Fr. Dave Dwyer inviting me to be on his show on Sirius-XM, so we’ll let you know when that happens.

Speaking of invitations, I am available for individual spiritual direction and retreats based on the book as well. Simply email me.

Enjoying the Right to Be Free and Work

On this Labor Day, my friend Paula Kampf reminded me of the rights of workers to be free. And that kind of reminded us of this song:

My book Loving Work has been published and released on this fine day when we celebrate work. It makes a great gift for all those who have worked hard to give you life, like my Dad (who the book is dedicated to along with my mother and my Jesuit Spiritual Directors), or those in your life who are seeking work and discovering who they’d most like to become.

Labor is always difficult. That’s why they call it work. However, it need not be draining. A job well done requires a bit of blood and sweat and tears. But that too, can bring joy and happiness at seeing a job well done.

So today, reflect on your work. Do you love what you do? Is it time for a change on the job? Might you discover something new about yourself and your vocation by just a brief reflection on it this fall. My book is just what you need to do that.

Pre-Order Loving Work…my Second Book

In November, my second book, Loving Work will hit the presses and I couldn’t be more excited. The folks at Orbis Press, especially the famed Mike Leach, have been great to work alongside.

This is a book on career discernment. It is slightly auto-biographical where I tell my story of how I transitioned from radio into ministry and then a bit on the move from Busted Halo® to Campus Ministry. Mostly though it’s a self-help book on how to discern what you might like to do with your career as you move forward through life. It’s a great book for young adults discerning first careers but an even better book for those of you who have a career and are looking to move forward but can’t seem to know how to get there. Think of this book as the 2012 version of “What Color is My Parachute.”

How’d I decide to write this one you ask? Well…it’s the book I wanted to write for some time now and it sprang forth from a workshop I’ve been doing called “Does God have a plan for me?” you can check out that workshop out on you tube.

So some of the stories are repeated in the book and others are brand new. We all learn by story and much like my first book, the stories are at the heart of this book.

So pre-order this and drive up my Amazon rating and then rate the book when you get it in November.

Oh and if you’d like me to come and do a workshop on this or a retreat–or perhaps you’d like to start your own discernment group but aren’t sure how to do that, then email me and we’ll talk. Let’s make a deal.

Loving Work: The New Book

So, I’ve been working on a book with Orbis Press (who has been such a pleasure to work alongside) on discernment regarding work issues. It’s a short book but one that I think will help lots of people understand the ideas behind discernment. It’s filled with stories from my life and others that connect to issues and ideas around discernment.

As time grows a bit closer to the release date in October/November we’ll be pushing this a bit harder. But I have several workshops planned that your parish, diocese, organization can choose from on discernment. Everyone will come away with a process to help them in their individual discernment. Suggestions for spiritual directors and others who help people discern can also be offered.

This was a fun book. It’s a book I always wanted to write and the stories were such fun to recall. Some funny, some tragic, some moving and all of them helpful to the process of discernment.

As we head into the home stretch, we’ll tell you how to buy it.

Business Insider: Millennials Central Longing = Stability

Business Insider agreed with the central premise of my book Googling God and they have a great article today on 13 Ways that the recession has changed how Millennials view work. I agree with most of their observations and you should read them all and see what you think.

This one is my favorite and reflects much of my own personal experience with my students:

They’re sheltered and would like to stay that way…

But being sheltered and managed closely by their parents, this generation has “no interest in exploding the system, preferring to simply prosper within a world order that has previously been pretty kind to them,” writes Entrepreneur Penelope Trunk

Read the rest here:

But wait, there’s more. Penelope Trunk on her blog goes in depth with the above and there’s a piece here that I think she hits the nail on the head with:

Gen Y does not admit it, but their top priority is stability. This is a fundamentally conservative generation. And in the middle of this very long article in Business Week is an important quote from Andrea Hershatter, director of the undergraduate business program at Emory University and veteran of college recruiting:

“There is a strong, strong millennial dislike of ambiguity and risk, leading them to seek a lot more direction and clarity from their employers, in terms of what the task is, what the expectations are, and job progression.”

Stability and security and a need FOR DIRECTION is their central longing. Thanks for proving my book correct folks. With the students that I work alongside and even some colleagues the fact that ambiguity is so hard for them to deal with certainly is something I’ve experienced. Students are worried about picking careers that ultimately won’t satisfy them and don’t want to jump around to different careers. They often think that they have to have it all figured out immediately upon graduation. The fact that I’ve moved from broadcasting to internet ministry to campus ministry impresses many of them. And once they hear my story it seems to bring them some comfort in realizing that I can be their mentor firstly and that it’s OK to not have life figured out at 22.

That said, much of the time I hear from folks around the country that older baby boomer colleagues and ministers have no tolerance for their need for direct answers or even for direction. Millennials are people who want strategic plans, business plans and opportunities to participate in criticizing those plans to make them rock solid. They want things spelled out up front and some say in adjusting those plans if they find them wanting or short-sighted.

Many are afraid to fail. Mostly this is so because they’ve grown up expecting not to fail. Every student gets some kind of an award in their elementary and high schools. Losing that kind of affirmation is probably jarring but pushing back against “the man” is not what they are about. In fact, institutions are relatively trusted entities, until they don’t do what Millennials expect them to do.

Hershatter gives a great interview because she explains in detail why young people today are fundamentally conservative in their goals and decision making. Not conservative politically. (In fact, we know they are not conservative politically.) But conservative in their lifestyle. They are not risk takers, not boat rockers, not revolutionaries. Young people today want a safe, nice life, and clear path to that goal.

Things start to look murky because young people are so difficult for older people to deal with at work. Young people seem to be demanding that everyone change to accommodate them. In fact though, young people are merely demanding that the workplace live out the values that the people who run the work place – parents of Gen Y – taught at home: Personal growth (“turn that TV off!”), good time management (ballet Monday, soccer Tuesday, swimming Wednesday…), and family first.

So the question for us ministers to ask is this: Do we give young people clear goals, training and expectations? Do we have a clear strategic plan for them to follow? Are goals measurable and tangible? What ultimately do we want to be the result? Are we getting parents and families involved in some way–those who have the greatest influence on these students? Even simple things like the need to make relationships with other campus entities might not be obvious, or to try to spend time with peers on campus more often and be visible members of the Catholic Campus Ministry in a variety of ways to help break down some walls and build relationships with them is particularly key. It’s why some of the more visible aspects of being Catholic work well (social justice ministry that has tangible results, outward signs of Catholicism–wearing a cross for an example or priests who wear their collars, living in a Catholic dorm). Young people want to see the results and also in a busy world young people need to see the easy signs of Catholicism to even notice that Catholicism exists around them–especially true on a public campus.

We also need to be self-critical in this regard. So how are we contributing to the strategic plan with our younger colleagues? Leading by example is often better suited to millennials than simply telling them what they need to do. Working together always trumps working independantly. Essentially, millennials hope that the results are obvious and that we share in the joy of achieving them together. It’s a big reason why I love doing retreat work with millennials and why I love being a spiritual director with them. I train the students to run the retreats and this semester they even had a hand in designing a new format.

That said, I’ve also had trouble in getting students to “pick up the ball and run with it.” We often need to provide a time and place to achieve something as simple as making a banner for the student union. The minutia of details need to be spelled out often and then the students can achieve what is asked of them, but very few think of these details themselves.

What about our other campus ministers out there? What has been your experience here?