Hey everyone, you are listening to Author Hour, the show where we interview authors about their new books. Today’s episode is with Alec Kassan, the author of Planting Your Purpose: A 20 Day Guide to Discovering God’s Calling. Do you ever feel burdened by the expectations of others or worry that you’re not living your life to the fullest? Maybe the advice of following your passion is no longer enough to motivate you. In this episode, Alec provides you with stories and insights that can help you turn things around.
See, Alec believes that finding our calling and our purpose are not things that require some dramatic epiphany moment. Instead, it’s simply the willingness to take one step in the direction where God is pointing and having faith that God will guide you every step of the way. Alec believes that God’s spirit is pulling you towards something greater than where you are now. His mission is to help you uncover your calling and find your purpose. By the end of this episode, you’ll be one step closer to finding out who God made you to be. Now, here is our conversation with Alec.
Alec Kassan: Yes, I’ll never forget the day I woke up and it was super early in the morning, the light was like barely even coming in through the windows, and I’m sitting at the edge of my bed and I had this thought of like, man, I can’t believe that I’m that guy. I am the guy who is living in his parent’s basement.
And it’s not that it was a bad house setup or bad basement, it was just that at the point that I was in my life, I saw myself being so much further than where I was. After graduating from college, I was like yeah, I’ll get my degree and this degree will open up all these doors of opportunity and it will just be great.
I’ll be making a lot of impact and money, but all the doors that I found that this degree was opening were just towards paths that were totally unfulfilling. It had me just sit and question, like man, “What have I been doing with the past five years of my life?”
The thing that really hurt the most was at that point, I really saw myself having my own house, making my own income, and none of that was happening. It really felt that everything I was doing was kind of all for nothing. It was a shame because every type of inspired thought that I had always felt like it was a place of God really directing me some place to go when I felt like I had that inspiration from God, I would totally pour my whole heart into that project or into that opportunity. It seemed like they all would start off strong and then just sort of, not go anywhere.
It would be difficult because I could sense that God would say, “Okay, it’s time to let go of this thing,” and I thought, “But I put so much hard work in–all this time and resources and you just want me to let go of it?” And he’s saying, “Yes.”
After like five years of that, in school and coming out, and then just going back home to my parents, I was like, I’m done. I just remember sitting, I was praying, and I was saying, “God, I’m done. I’m not moving anymore until I get some more clarity of where you’re trying to direct me.” And at that moment, there’s a thought that kind of came up, bubbled up in my head and it sort of felt like–if you could imagine a cup of coffee. Just black coffee, no creamer in it, and there are these bubbles that sort of rise up from the bottom of it. Only as it got closer to the top could you see that these bubbles were coming to the surface. As this idea came to the surface of my mind, it felt like what God was trying to tell me was, well, you need to know what the vision and the mission is.
It wasn’t vision and mission like this stereotypical business sense, but it was like vision, meaning where is it that you’re trying to go, what’s the end goal? Then mission was like, how are you going to get there? Okay, well, God, what is it? What is the mission? And then, the next thought that came to my mind was, “Good, that’s a good question. Keep asking those questions,” and I thought, “That’s how this is going to be.”
I started going on this journey just trying to learn from other people who have run successful ministries, who have started successful businesses and learn from them about how they did it. There’s a saying that I had heard, which is that success leaves clues. I thought, okay, well, if I can learn what they learned in 10 years and get that in just 10 minutes, I can probably buy back all the time that I had spent in school that didn’t really go anywhere.
That’s essentially what I started to do. I started conducting all this research, reading about all these different people, these famous pastors and entrepreneurs, and business leaders. From it, I started to form all this information that would later become the book Planting Your Purpose. That’s the origin story of how the book came about.
Charlie Hoehn: I love that Alec, I really relate to that story. I was saying earlier that I went through a similar journey when I graduated during the recession and spent months applying for jobs, not getting anywhere and wondering, “Man, what were the last several years for if it didn’t prepare us to get out and succeed in the world?”
It sounds like you had a very entrepreneurial journey which I’m sure, every entrepreneur listening to you can relate to. That feeling of trying things over and over and nothing getting the traction that you need to be financially successful or to serve people at a higher level. Tell me a little bit more about what kind of things you tried that didn’t pan out?
Alec Kassan: Well, the very first thing. What I went to school for, you might think that I must have gone to school for some business thing or maybe seminary–nope, it was health and exercise science. I was trying to be a physical therapist and that was the first peg that fell down. I was trying to go to school for physical therapy, and the second year in is when I started to intern at a physical therapy facility and immediately, I was like holy cow, this is not for me. I was so thankful that I did that internship.
Charlie Hoehn: How did you know?
Alec Kassan: It was just a thing where it felt like all of this effort that I was putting in towards helping people, I thought that I wanted to help them sooner. Some people go to physical therapy because they get injuries and then they have to get rehabilitated so that they can regain normal function.
There’s a lot of people who were there who were injured just because of improper over-use. If you can imagine your car, if the wheels aren’t properly aligned, it will damage the car after driving a hundred thousand miles with misaligned wheels. It’s going to really damage the car and that was all the people that I was seeing. I realized that they’re just not walking properly on their feet, which is causing their knees to buckle, which causes the hip pain that throws out the lower back, which is giving them the neck pain, and now they have these headaches. I thought that I can’t help them that much now, it’s too late.
I thought that maybe I can be a personal trainer where people want to take that step. I tried to be a personal trainer too, and I realized that I didn’t know what that next thing was, but I wanted to help people even earlier than that.
Ultimately, what I began to realize as I’m learning more about physical therapy is that I was also really diving deep into my walk with Jesus. He was starting to highlight that I really want to help people on a deeper level. I was seeing it as a timeline and I was trying to help people earlier, but he wanted me to help people on a deeper level. I was misinterpreting those cues, which was why I wanted to help people before they got injured.
The personal training job, eventually I got let go from there. They were downsizing and then I thought, I’ve got all this knowledge of personal training, I’m going to start a fitness app. I was working on that and it felt like I was constantly working and working on this thing. It just wasn’t bearing any fruit.
Then I was thought okay, well, I just have to maybe pause for a little bit and then I started getting some inspiration for a YouTube channel. I still have the YouTube channel called The Current Christian but it wasn’t taking off as much as I had wanted, but it was kind of cool because that laid the foundation for building up the biblical knowledge that I have now to help produce Planting a Purpose. Hopefully, that story answered that question.
Charlie Hoehn: I’ve got a buddy right now who he has been in the exact same position, he’s a fitness trainer, he’s been working on an app for years, and it is so hard to walk away from those projects. But like you said, you started hearing that it was time to walk away from these things and to discover your purpose. Planting Your Purpose: A 20 Day Guide to Discovering God’s Calling–the cover of this book is beautiful by the way.
Alec Kassan: Thank you.
An Unfulfilled Life
Charlie Hoehn: I love that it’s structured to be a 20 day roadmap, it’s not too much, it’s not too little. Before we walk through the process a bit, tell me what are the common challenges or problems you see people having without having a purpose? What does their day-to-day look like or what are symptoms of people who don’t have a purpose?
Alec Kassan: Well, one thing. There’s a lot of studies out there that have straight up just asked people, “Are you feeling satisfied and fulfilled with what you’re doing?” Our culture is so if you go up to someone, you say, “Hi, my name’s Rob, what’s your name?” or “My name’s Tim, what do you do?” It immediately goes to vocation and goes to people’s work.
It makes sense because we spend a third, 33% of our entire lives working. There’s this Christian organization called Barna Group who went around and was asking people, working Christians, just how are you feeling in your current role. Two-thirds of all of the working millennial and Gen X Christians that they talked with said that they were dissatisfied with their current roles at work and 60% of the millennials and 65% of Gen Xers said that they weren’t fulfilled with the future opportunities that their work was offering.
They’re there in a job that they most likely don’t like and then when they look to the future, they most likely don’t have hope for where it’s going to lead them. If we spend a third of our life in that, you can just begin to imagine all of the mental stress and mental burdens that come with that. Because as Christians, one of the character traits that are very heavily emphasized is this idea of endurance and perseverance.
If you think of sports, and again, I’m the exercise guy so I’m going to use a lot of sports analogies, but if you think of sports, which sports use perseverance and endurance the most? It’s runners. When runners hit those points of hitting those walls, the first thing that comes to mind is just two more steps forward, because they know those two steps are bringing them closer to the goal, to the finish line.
If you’re working in a job where there’s no future hope of where it’s going to lead you, then it’s kind of like, two more steps towards what?
They get this frustration and depression that’s coming on with all of that going on. When you do get done with your work, you come home, and you don’t have any energy to pursue any other type of passion. It just creates this downward spiral of this void of purpose. Of course, people try different things like, “I’ll just try to make more money at my job,” but it’s like a Bob Marley quote, “Money is just a number.” It can always be a higher number and statistically, there’s this thing where once you make a certain amount of income, the amount of happiness that you get from it is inverse. It does not go up.
There is that point earlier on when yes when we make more income, studies show that we are happier, but it does get to a point where it doesn’t matter how much more money you make, it doesn’t press that button of I’m feeling better, I’m feeling more joyful.
That’s where this purpose thing comes in, and not necessarily what is God calling you to do, but who is God calling you to be? That’s the real emphasis of this book, so it’s not necessarily like, you’ll get to the end of the book and realize, for example, I’ve been working as an engineer this whole time, but I was really supposed to be a piano player. It is more of what’s the character that God wants you to thrive in? What are the values that you should have?
Charlie Hoehn: What did this process do for you, where is your life now compared to where it was?
Alec Kassan: Well, that idea of future hope, it’s one of those things that I was telling you a little bit earlier. After having written this book it ended at a point where I just wanted to provide even more value. I feel like there are even more topics to talk about and more problems that can be solved. Going through the planting your purpose process for me helped me to better see vocationally where God is bringing me, and relationally it’s helped out a whole lot.
I am newly married and being a husband is brand new, I’ve never been a husband before. This is the first time I have been one and I don’t plan on being a new husband ever again. This is the most important role I think I have ever had in my entire life because no one else can replace me. In a job, you can get fired and a business can replace you but, I am not getting, A, fired from this position and, B, I don’t want anyone to replace me. So, what does it looks like for me to be a husband and having gone through the Planting Your Purpose book, the values that I discovered through it?
When you go through this, you are discovering who it is that God is calling you to be. It is not me telling you. I am not giving you things. You are the materials and God begins to highlight things for you as you are going through the book. So, by the end of it, I realized, “Oh wow, as a husband I am to be an encouraging, trustworthy, generous and serving husband.”
Those were some of the values. It is encouraging–I am looking for the strengths in my wife. And I am speaking light into those things, I am calling those things out. Trustworthy–when I say I am going to do something I am going to do it right then and there because that is something I struggle with a little bit. My wife will say, “Oh babe, can you help me with getting the laundry out?” I’ll be like, “Oh yeah.” But I don’t mean oh yeah, right now. I mean oh yeah, whenever I feel like it.
Charlie Hoehn: Three days later.
Alec Kassan: Yeah, right? Then we don’t have any clean clothes and it’s a mess, but yes, that’s trustworthy. I am going to get up, when I say I will do something, I’m going to do it right then and there. Generous–I am going to do things despite feeling like I don’t want to do them. When we are generous it’s not, “Oh, I have the things to give you.” It’s if someone has a hundred million dollars and they give a thousand dollars to some charity, that’s like a drop in the bucket for them. But for someone who is only making thirty thousand a year, if they give a thousand, then that is very generous of them.
So, moments when I don’t feel like I have the energy for something it’s like bam, I’m going to be a generous husband. I am going to do that. Then serving–everything I do I want to do for the betterment of my wife.
Those values are ones that super stuck out for me as I was going through the book. Because God was highlighting that stuff for me in a very unique way. Using the analogy of planting and planting your purpose–it is a garden. There are some seeds that won’t do well in certain types of soil, and in the Bible, there is a lot of talk about having a hard and soft and fertile heart. So, I use that analogy in this book that if our heart is this garden and the seeds that we try to plant in there aren’t the ones that God wants to plant, then they are not going to be fruitful.
You can’t plant a cactus in a Florida marshland. That doesn’t work. You can’t try to plant an apple tree in the desert.
So, you are going through this book and thinking, “Wow, these are the values that God really wants to emphasize. Have these become fruitful in my life?” Knowing these things early on, I have only been married for almost a year now. Having that knowledge now, oh my gosh, I can’t even begin to imagine all of the petty arguments that have been avoided because of these things. It’s helped us grow closer together and it’s also helped avoid a lot of unnecessary friction.
Doing the Work
Charlie Hoehn: Congratulations by the way on becoming a husband, welcome to the club. So, I guess for your book, as you said, you follow the gardening analogy of laying the groundwork, cultivating, digging, envisioning, planting, watering–we can’t go through all of them but let’s walk the listeners through the groundwork. What do they need to do at the very beginning to lay the groundwork for their purpose?
Alec Kassan: Well, in the groundwork section of the book, it is very much about trying to establish that I want everyone to be on the same page when they are going through this book. So, for example, terminology. In the book when I am talking about calling, a lot of people hear calling and they’ve told me that they think, “Oh cool, so I am going to know my spiritual gifts.” I was like, “If it is about spiritual gifts, I would have mentioned spiritual gifts.” Or they’ll think, “Oh calling. So yeah, you mean like a job.” I say, “No, in the Bible, God very much cares more about who you are than what you do.”
So, laying certain terminology foundations like that. Then another one, for example, vision-mission. At the end of the book, you will have a vision-mission statement but again, it is not a business vision-mission statement. It’s a creed or a personal motto. For me, being an encouraging, trustworthy, and generous serving husband–that’s the vision. That is what I am aiming for and then the mission would be the specific steps of reaching and fulfilling that.
Other groundwork includes understanding the severity of what’s going on. 60% of millennials, 65% of Gen-Xers not being satisfied with their job at the workplace or not feeling fulfilled in the future opportunities that it holds. So, if there is someone who is going through that and they read that and they think, “Oh wow, okay so I am not the only one.” It makes it feel less like the individual is doing something wrong and makes them more aware that this is more of a systemic problem.
Charlie Hoehn: You have day three here, which says, “First things first,” what’s that part about?
Alec Kassan: On day three, there is a whole chapter talking about first things first. In the Bible, I have a quote here from Mathew 6:33. Jesus says, “Seek first His kingdom,” meaning God’s kingdom, “And His righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” He is talking about how people are very stressed out about, “Oh, what am I going to wear? Where am I going to get food?”
But what I want you to focus on first is seeking what God is doing in you and around you. This chapter, not only says to seek God, but it also points out the bad side-effects of what happens if you aren’t seeking that out first. Because a lot of times, I have experienced it in some churches where they take the real quote from the Bible, and they say, that’s it. It’s closed. I think, “Oh come on, give me some more.”
Charlie Hoehn: There is no room for interpretation there.
Alec Kassan: Yeah, right? So, I think, for example, what happens if you are putting people first? And if you are putting people first, your identity is based on how other people are treating you, do they accept you, what do they expect of you, their opinions of you, that totally influences what you view for yourself and it doesn’t matter if it is true or false.
If you are putting other people first, everything that comes out of those other people drastically influences your image of yourself. So, your trajectory, where you’re going in life, is totally limited by what others think is best for you. And it is sad because I know there are people in my life who really love me, but when they heard this idea, “Wait, you are not going to be a physical therapist? You’re going to what? You’re going to try to start a YouTube channel? You’re going to try it right? You know you don’t make a lot of money from books.”
They are not saying that because they don’t like me. But they genuinely believe that what is best for me is to do the things that are safest. You can’t thrive if you are always playing it safe. Where we go in life is limited by those types of people. Our discernment is limited by other people’s perspectives and it is not that other people’s perspectives are bad, but you are only getting a small view of what is going on.
When people are trying to think of what is right or what is best for you, it is ultimately going to be that their decision is influenced by what they want and what they desire. Think of helicopter moms. What they would ultimately love is for all of their baby boys and baby girls to just stay at home and not ever leave the house ever.
That is just one example. Imagine putting money first or putting possessions first or putting pleasure first and then even putting your work first. It’s just like I feel I have to keep doing stuff, but God doesn’t call us to just continue to work. When Jesus calls to you he says, “Oh, you can find rest in me.” If Jesus is talking all this stuff about rest, then why am I so driven to do work? And if I had it be first, it could be totally devastating in my relationships and my health and things like that. So, this chapter, that day three, really goes into depth with all of those things and as you read through it, it’s ultimately going to happen. You are going to read something and say, “Holy crap that’s me, I am doing that.”
There’s this idea of being a living sacrifice that they talk about in the Bible as well and that idea is like a dead sacrifice. We don’t do animal sacrifices–at least we shouldn’t do animal sacrifices. But imagine them sacrificing an animal or even sacrificing money. Bam, you give money. It’s done, it’s over with, it can’t do anything but be a living sacrifice, it means you have the opportunity to get yourself up off the altar and walk away. So, recognizing these things is, “Oh man, I am putting these things first.” That’s part of being a living sacrifice, but you have to acknowledge it. And then you have to be willing to put yourself back in that place of, “Okay Jesus, I am going to put you first.” It is actually a pretty short day, day three, but it talks about a lot of really important stuff.
Charlie Hoehn: As I said, there are so many more things in the book that we just don’t have time to go through, which is why listeners will need to pick up a copy on Amazon. So, tell me, have you put a bunch of other people through this 20-day journey or even has your wife gone through it, and if so, what’s been your favorite transformation or success story that you have witnessed?
Alec Kassan: I think the biggest success that I have seen with people who are going through this is A, they say, “Wow, this is almost a new way of experiencing growth, spiritually.” And then the other thing is, it sparks that desire to at least want to go further in the journey. There’s this expression that ‘the opposite of love is hate’ and no, the opposite of love is apathy. You just totally don’t care. Jesus talks about that–how you’d rather have someone who is super hot or super cold in terms of their desire to be with Him.
But the person who is lukewarm, that is in the middle, doesn’t really care too much. This at least really sparks that desire of, “I want to go further in this journey with Jesus,” and because it is a guide, it allows people to do that. Maybe, in the beginning, it begins to stir that curiosity. And then by the end of it, it might be, “Wow, I’m feeling so much closer to God and I am so much more aware of what he is trying to do in my life to produce fruit in all of these various areas and these roles that I fill in my life.”
Charlie Hoehn: So Alec, tell the listeners where they can find you, where they can get more information about what you are doing, and potentially follow your work?
Alec Kassan: Right now, I am building out the website for plantingyourpurpose.com. I have all of my various Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter links on YouTube but if you go on YouTube, type in “The Current Christian” it’s three separate words, my YouTube channel should pop up first. I’ve tried my hardest to improve the search engine optimization for that, but The Current Christian. See me on YouTube there, feel free to subscribe, but you can also find me on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter through the links that I have provided on that channel.
Charlie Hoehn: Excellent. The book is Planting Your Purpose: A 20 Day Guide to Discovering God’s Calling. Alec, thank you so much for being on the show.
Alec Kassan: Oh hey, thank you so much for having me here. I’ll tell you the truth, I was a little nervous at first, but you know the time has flown by. You are a really great host and I am super thankful for that.
Charlie Hoehn: Thank you, sir, I appreciate it.