Elise Ballard

Elise Ballard


How Parents, Especially Fathers, Can Help Children Find Their Callings In Life

Studying Epiphany Stories Proves a Father's Support Can Mean Everything

Posted Jun 19, 2011

People who have shared and are sharing their stories with me are not all world-famous, but some are. The people I'm interviewing are my friends, friends of friends, colleagues, suggestions from the site's Wish List, random people I meet, and people I admire whom I simply cold-call to interview. Currently, they range in age from fifteen to ninety-one, and are from widely varying walks of life.

To highlight some of the most common themes that emerged from all the epiphanies I've been gathering, I grouped them in categories in my book: Awakenings, New Directions, Miracles, Healings, Comings of Age, and Callings. Most epiphanies could fit in several or in all of these categories though, and there are other areas of life in which we could categorize these special moments. When I was writing my Acknowledgments for the book, I realized that the project itself was my greatest epiphany in that it had been all of those things for me - an awakening, a new direction, a miracle, a healing, a coming of age, and a calling. 

Calling (noun): a strong inner urge toward a particular way of life or career; a vocation, profession, trade, or life's work

Due to its many stories of people having an epiphany that has led to their fulfilling careers and lives, people keep telling me that they are giving my book as a graduation gift. I started looking at the Callings section in the book (though these kinds of stories are sprinkled throughout) and realized that many of these powerful stories had to do with parents, especially fathers, affecting their children in the area of their callings and careers.

The Importance of the Parents', Specifically the Father's, Role in a Child's Success

Family affects us of course, especially our mothers and fathers, and epiphanies specifically dealing with family members are found in every section of my book. (You can go read some specific examples about mothers in a previous post.) Fathers affected people directly and indirectly concerning their epiphanies. Some were affected because their fathers were missing from their lives for various reasons and they had to compensate. For others, their fathers had done things that were negative and the epiphanies brought healing or forgiveness for those mistakes or transgressions. But for the most part, when someone talked about his or her father concerning their epiphany, it was in a positive way.

I found a direct correlation of the positive effect of the parents, specifically the father, in many of the epiphanies in the Callings section, and it happens all of these people are extremely successful. Many have to do with the parents supporting their child's desires and dreams throughout their lives. When evaluating these stories, the true support of the parents, especially the father, directly affected the success of the child in life. The epiphany that Carol Lanning, my fifth grade teacher, had, "If you believe in a child, they will succeed," would seem to be very, very true. As she pointed out in her interview, the key is that you have to make sure you're letting children know and understand you believe in them and support them and actually take action in supporting them. And sometimes that may take some work. This information is nothing new, especially on a psychology site, but looking at it as a pattern in stories about people's epiphanies is just another prism in which to see, understand, and prove that it is indeed true and important to a child's success.

Examples of Epiphanies of Callings Related to Parents and Fathers 

Every one of the spiritual leaders' greatest epiphanies in life included in the book, Rabbi Shumley Boteach, Michael Bernard Beckwith and Frank Desiderio, had to do with their calling to be a leader in their various religions. All of them experienced the first tugs of this in their teen years and their parents had supported their quests. Ben Barry started one of the first "real people" modeling agencies in his parents' basement when he was only 14. Nell Newman was completely inspired by her father, Paul Newman's, example of business funding non-profit work and worked with him by expanding this idea into organic foods. Diane Warren, one of the top songwriters of all time, talks about her dad over and over as part of her epiphany trajectory. John Lehman, a former Secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan and an investment banker, had his epiphany about what he wanted to do with his life at 19 when his dad asked him some pointed questions. And finally, Barry Manilow's greatest epiphany in life is a beautiful story about the support and love of his very special stepfather.

Below are excerpts from some of these epiphany stories about the roles their various fathers played in these scenarios.

Your actions and words are always, always having an impact on another person-especially children. - Barry Manilow

"So, I looked up what the word epiphany meant. The dictionary defines the word like this: "a sudden intuitive leap of understanding, especially through an ordinary but striking occurrence." I've had a few moments like that in my life. But my first thunderbolt happened when I was thirteen years old. You would think it might have been my bar mitzvah, but it wasn't. It was Willie Murphy. Willie was my mother's second husband, my stepfather." (Read the rest of Barry Manilow's interview in its entirety here.)

Believe in your passion. Believe in your power. Believe in being stubborn. - Diane Warren

"...So after that epiphany at seven, I started hounding my dad to buy me a guitar so I could write songs, which he finally did when I was eleven. He brought me an acoustic guitar from Tijuana, and I started making up songs on that. And then I definitely knew: "This is my life." After I finished my first song, I knew there simply wasn't anything else I wanted to do. Somehow I knew I had what it took to be a songwriter...I started seeing music publishers at age fourteen and fifteen with my dad, and everybody turned me down, over and over again. I wasn't ready. It happens when you're ready. But I never wavered. I kept going because I knew I was going to be good at this. Faith caused me to take action on what I knew was true for me."

Follow your passion. Passion gives you the ability to truly experience the good times and get through the tough times because what you're working toward is so important to you. - Nell Newman

"...I had a very specific realization that instead of constantly having to raise money for the causes I cared about through traditional fund-raising methods, it would be more fulfilling-and probably easier and more efficient-to just make money for them, the way Pop was doing with Newman's Own. Pop's model amounted to creating food products, selling them, and then donating the profits to charity. My epiphany was that I needed to take his idea a step further. If I was going to create food products, their impact on the planet had to be gentle. So I wanted to grow things organically. This was a twofold approach to effecting change: I could support Pop's philanthropic ideals, paying royalties to Newman's Own, and also expand the amount of land farmed organically. This epiphany was really the philosophy behind the beginning of Newman's Own Organics in 1993."

If you have a passion for something and do it with excellence, you will prosper.
Money and career will follow. - John Lehman

"I remember the exact moment when it all came together for me. I was in the backyard at a picnic talking with my father. He asked me what I was going to major in. I said I was pretty much decided on international relations. And he asked the classic fatherly question, "How are you going to make a living at that?" It was this moment, right then, that I found clarity on what it was I wanted to do. I told him I wanted to help make policy. My dad went on, "Well, that's great. You should follow what you are interested in, but also think about how you're going to make a living. Are you going to be a career civil servant?" I said, "Absolutely not. I want to change the government. You can't do that from inside the bureaucracy." So I wasn't sure how, but I knew that's what I wanted to do. I never wavered. I never had any doubts." Read more. 

Excerpts from Epiphany: True Stories of Sudden Insight to Inspire, Encourage and Transform (Harmony Books, January 2011). All links to people on EpiphanyChannel.com lead to pages containing further information and links to each person's various websites.