The Christian Broadcasting Network

The 700 Club with Pat Robertson

Angela Williams


Author, latest, One Big Thing (2012)

Produced media programming in more than 40 countries around the world

Author of nationally known email newsletter, Ideas for the Change Revolution

Production and consulting company, Cooke Pictures

Appearances on MSNBC, CNBC and CNN

Work has been profiled in NY TimesLA Times and the Wall Street Journal

Many projects placed in permanent archive at Syracuse University

Ph.D., Theology, Trinity College and Seminary

Wife, Kathleen; Two Adult Children


Phil Cooke: Finding Out What You Were Born To Do

By The 700 Club

When film maker and media producer Phil Cooke speaks at conferences around the world, he says people literally line up afterward to ask him the big question: “What am I supposed to do with my life?”  He’s found that many people don’t know what they are supposed to be doing, where to look, or where to start to address the answer to this question.  Phil says they can go through their entire working lives, and still not really know what their purpose is or what they were born to accomplish.  In response to the big question, Phil loves to ask the questions: What could you be the best in the world at doing?  Where could you be remarkable? Are you good at your job, but not fulfilling your purpose?  Often, it is hard to discover the answers to those questions.   Phil says “In the pursuit of life, a wide variety of activities can be challenging, stimulating, and inspiring.  But when it comes to your career, calling, or dream, understand that you won’t get noticed for being pretty good at everything.   In today’s cluttered and distracted world in which your audience has an unlimited number of other choices, you’ll only get noticed for being extraordinary at 'One Big Thing.' ”

According to Phil, the One Big Thing is an overarching purpose in life, not a job or an occupation.  Finding your One Big Thing isn’t about complicated theories, figuring out formulas, or deep research – it is a journey that requires commitment.  Some people seem to be born with real passion and many others struggle to find their passion and purpose.  Phil says, “Discovering your unique purpose is important, but in this century, it takes more than just identifying that One Big Thing.  Today, you have to get your One Big Thing noticed if you’re going to influence your fam­ily, company, community, or the world.  Since our world is so distracted, it is a far greater challenge to get noticed today than at any other time in history.” For example, you may have a remarkable gift for inspiring people, but until you learn how to get that message heard, your impact will be small.  Too many people are pretty good, and that doesn’t get you on the radar.  Phil says his One Big Thing is to help people engage in culture and find their purposes.  He uses different forms of media to get his message out.  He doesn’t claim to have all the answers, but he can direct you to them.  He calls himself a tour guide, not a travel agent.  For the book One Big Thing, he wanted to explore why people are here and how they can accomplish their purposes. It is not a ‘how to’ or self-help book.

Phil says most Christians have a way too laid back view of what we are supposed to do and what God wants us to do.    We as Christians have a “wait on God” thing.  Phil says it is important to pray and seek for God’s purpose in our lives, but we have to step out in faith and live with intention.  It was well into Phil’s adult life before he even considered career planning or anything related to that.   The Christian tradition he was brought up in encouraged people to “wait upon the Lord,” “seek His will for their lives,” and see where He took them.  Looking back, Phil sees that while those phrases are true, he believes they were not referring to avoiding the “hard work of discovering our place in this world.”   In Philippians 2:12 the Apostle Paul reminds us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  Phil observes that today, we don’t like doing the work it takes to find our One Big Thing and that without living strategically, our life could become a catastrophe.  He also says Jesus was an advocate of understanding the times and building on a strong foundation as shown in Matthew 7:24-27 in His parable of building your house on a rock vs. building your house on the sand.

The Christian tradition teaches that God has a purpose and plan for our lives. Because Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we have a higher calling and a guide to help us navigate our way through this world and the next.  Phil says Christians have certainly run with the destiny theme, but still the questions remain: Do we have a destiny, and is it possible to discover it? Destiny is not a task, an end point, or something you check off a to-do list.  Destiny is a moving target and we are constantly pursuing it.  It wants to be pursued and discovered, because it’s in the journey we learn to understand and value what it means. We all have one important thing, but it only comes with coaxing, work, and action.   Sometimes determination alone may make the biggest difference.  Phil also points out that just because bad things happen it doesn’t mean they affect your destiny.  If a soldier gets injured or a person gets divorced, etc. – this does not mean their destiny is over.  Everyone has an underlying purpose.  Phil asks, “What would happen if everyone woke up and focused on what we are supposed to be doing, what kind of world would that be?”

Phil says asking yourself the right questions can help you discover your One Big Thing.  One question he likes to ask is: what drives you crazy?   The thing you hate the most could be the problem you were born to fix.  What do you hate? What drives you nuts? The key to your destiny could be found in the answer to those questions.  Your purpose may not come from a passion, a gift, a talent, or even a passing interest.  It doesn’t matter what your job is right now or what you do for a living.  The answer to what frustrates you could express itself in a new product, an original method, a movie, a book, a march, a campaign, a cause, or a religious awakening…it doesn’t have to be big, it just needs to start.   Even the reason why Phil wrote One Big Thing is because he is struggling with questions and looking for solutions.  Every day we encounter challenges and every day we have the chance to work through them. 

After you discover your One Big Thing, what do you do next? Here are some things Phil says to consider as you start refocusing your future on your One Thing: Be bold, but don’t be dumb – begin today preparing, strategizing, and pursuing your purpose, but don’t be drastic.  No matter how noble your intentions, your dream will be thwarted if you’re not in a position to make it happen. Don’t quit your current job until you have a transition plan in place. In some cases, it might take time to transition into your dream on a full-time basis.  Whatever your One Big Thing is, you can at least begin while you’re in your current position.  Building your foundation is important, and there’s plenty of preparation to do before you leave. Don’t burn your bridges.  If you’re leaving your day job, don’t make enemies.  Leave amicably and work hard to keep the relationship on good terms.  One possibility is to leave in stages – i.e. transition to part-time, freelance, help during busy periods.  Leaving on good terms is good in the long run. Trigger your connections. Keep your resume polished.  Then brace yourself for the risk.  Phil says dreaming isn’t “safe.” If you’re looking for a secure future, then your One Big Thing won’t be it.  Discovering your One Big Thing and stepping out to pursue its reality will be the greatest adventure of your life.  When that happens, work becomes passion, and you will join the ranks of the very few who have accepted the risk.  Remember, it’s never too late.  Many times we work years into a career and still never discover what we are really born to do.   The time to begin is now. 

Phil was born in a small mill town in rural North Carolina. For generations, his family all worked at a cotton mill, making sheets and towels. They started their jobs after high school and stayed until they retired decades later. His father, Billy Cooke, was the first to change the cycle in his family. He worked at the mill for a week then he decided that there was more to life than sheets and towels.  He joined the Marines, graduated from college, attended seminary, and received his PhD in theology. His father instilled in Phil a vision for change.
Phil also earned his PhD and has been an agent of change for millions of people through his work in television and the media.   He has produced media programming in more than 40 countries around the world.  In the process, he has been shot at, survived two military coups, fallen out of a helicopter, and in Africa, been threatened with prison. And during that time – through his company Cooke Pictures in Burbank, California – he’s helped some of the largest nonprofit organizations in the world navigate periods of dramatic disruption and change.

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