How to Find What Matters in Your Work with Dr. Michaela O'Donnell

Have you ever questioned your job’s purpose?

You're not the only one. The concept of work has evolved considerably in the last several decades. Despite this, we continue to be sucked into a world of work with outdated tools and expectations. As a result, we are unprepared to pursue meaningful professions that give us fulfillment and benefit our communities. If this practice continues, we will be left with unsatisfactory outcomes and unmet goals. It could also hinder us from understanding how to carry out the work God has called us to do.

In this episode, Michaela O'Donnell joins us to discuss why working does not define our life's calling. She also shares the findings of her study on how empathy plays a role in achieving success. Finally, she imparts wisdom on doing meaningful work in this fast-paced world. 

If you're searching for ways to make your work matter, this episode is for you!

3 Reasons to Listen:

  1. Discover why people attach their identities to their work.
  2. Redefine the meaning of success.
  3. Learn to find your life’s calling.


Episode Highlights

[03:23] Michaela’s Background 

  • Michaela leads, creates, and strategizes as the head of the De Pree Center. 
  • Her life’s mission is to encourage people to think deeply about their work. 
  • Some people are not sure of who they are. 

[06:46] On Identity Issues

  • Some people are uncomfortable with defining who they are. 
  • Work is so revered in American society that it has become a part of people's identities.
  • When you recognize that your identity is anchored to your work, you start having the tough conversations. 

[09:56] Materialism and Work

  • People are enamored with hustle culture because society has taught us that our value equals the sum of our professional successes. 
  • As our society progresses, we must consider how we can stay Christ-centered.

[15:53] Root of Hustle Culture 

  • Michaela acknowledges that she has no idea what causes workaholism.
  • We are called to work for God's Kingdom.
  • America worked hard to construct a new empire and become a world leader.
[16:58] “As people of faith, we are always living in multiple kingdoms. What is our work here? It is to join in the mission of God and be aligned with the Kingdom of God, even though every day we're here in these multiple kingdoms.” - Click Here to Tweet This

[19:19] Who is Dr. Michaela?

  • Michaela grew up in a large, Irish, Catholic household where most of her relatives were teachers or business owners.
  • Michaela met her spouse in a seminary, and they married during the Great Recession. They eventually established a creative agency, which they continue to operate today.
  • She pursued a Ph.D. in Practical Theology, with her dissertation focused on work in the changing world. 
  • Her field of interest led her to become the Chairwoman of the De Pree Center.
  • The books she wrote and her work in the center help leaders across industries to live lives with Christ at the center. 

[23:23] Knowing Max De Pree 

  • Michaela learned from Max not to compartmentalize work from living the word of God. 
  • Max considers the mission of the Lord as integral to his business and the product they make. 

[26:42] Redefining Success and Failure

  • There are a lot of success models that don't work. Tune in to the full episode to know the questions Michaela asks in defining success. 
  • People are more comfortable talking about their failures than their successes. 
  • Each person has their own definition of success, and practicing empathy leads us toward that vision. 

[31:36] Faith and Work 

  • Society only applies faith in certain aspects of life, and work is not included. 
  • It’s the little things that help us toward our life’s purpose. 
  • The story of the Good Samaritan tells us how empathy can be a tool in discovering our own path. 
[31:56] “…faith gets segmented to certain brackets, and work is not usually one of them.” - Click Here to Tweet This

[36:57] Finding One’s Calling

  • Work and calling are not the same. 
  • Calling is a nesting doll in which you can locate the invitation to belong to God at its core. Listen to the whole episode to hear the other remaining layers. 
[37:39] “Working and calling are not the same thing. It's just nowhere in the Bible, does it say that calling equals paid work.” - Click Here to Tweet This

[42:19] Our Assignment

  • Calling suggests permanence. It’s better to use the term “assignment” because it’s more natural and versatile. 
  • However, Michaela still wants to use the word calling because it suggests that we’re compelled to follow God. 
  • Compelling others results in genuine followership. 

[47:15] On Impatience Impeding Calling 

  • Society has become too impatient in finding its calling. 
  • People must see time as an asset instead of a hindrance. 

[52:47] Conflict on Generation Gap 

  • Boomers, Millennials, and Gen-Z’s have different expectations. 
  • Each generation has its talents stemming from its unique socio-economic locations and cultural realities. 
  • The key to resolving conflict among different ages is to engage in conversation. 

[57:06] Attempting to Fix The Unfixable 

  • There is no definite answer to whether we’re fixing something unfixable. 
  • However, we can work with what we have right now. 
  • The Kingdom of God always bends toward justice and love. It also promotes redemption and renewal. 
  • What we do redounds to the Kingdom of God. Thus, what we are doing is still worthy. 
[58:21] “…who knows if this system is redeemable. But as people that live in multiple kingdoms, we trust and believe that the Kingdom of God is on an arc that bends towards justice and love; and is moving toward redemption and renewal.” - Click Here to Tweet This

[59:49] Make Work Matter’s Goal 

  • Michaela’s book is an invitation to hope. 
[58:43] “But we trust that whatever we sow into this system, whether we're burning it down, or adding value back in counts in the Kingdom of God, and so it's worth doing.” - Click Here to Tweet This
  • It helps you find meaningful work in the changing world. 

[01:03:23] Seek, Go, Create

  • Seek the Kingdom of God. 

Enjoy the Podcast?

Seek Go Create is for anyone seeking excellence, moving towards success, or creating something new. We share topics, stories, and conversations that allow us to rethink how we live, work, and lead.

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To growing and becoming all we are created to be,


About the Podcast

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Seek Go Create
Redefine Success in Leadership, Business & Ministry

About your host

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Tim Winders

Tim Winders is a strategic coach, author, and host of SeekGoCreate, a podcast, and YouTube interview show. He has worked in the areas of leadership, business, and ministry for almost 40 years. Tim was the guy that looked like he had it all: the big house in a Country Club resort, two businesses valued at over a million dollars each, plus over $15 million in real estate. But, in 2008, the real estate markets crashed. After a slow and painful erosion of his companies, he and his wife were bankrupt and homeless living out of their Honda van by 2013.

Fast forward to today. Tim and his wife are still homeless, but they consider themselves essential nomads. They live, travel, and work in their 39-foot motorhome while enjoying the best locations North America has to offer. Through this journey, he is convinced that we must redefine success in order to live our best life. This topic is what he has explored with his guests on the SeekGoCreate podcast since 2019.