How do you discover what you were really meant to do?
There must be a mountain of literature for people who have the deep desire to do something creative or challenging like write a book or start a business. I’ve done a lot of reading in this genre, especially in the last few years. If I had to pick some of the best such books I’ve read, books like Todd Henry’s Die Empty and Jon Acuff’s excellent books, Quitter and Start!, would spring to mind.
To that list, I would also add a new book by Jeff Goins called The Art of Work.
Goins’ latest book is about the process of discovering and pursuing your calling, which breaks down into seven stages that take you from preparation to action to completion. To do this, he weaves in the stories of about a dozen people from around the world who overcame difficult circumstances, faced heartbreaking personal disappointment, and persevered to discover their true vocation. These personal profiles give emotional power and resonance to Goins’ very practical approach to the question of discovering and pursuing your calling.
According to Goins, the stages of this journey involve things like paying attention to the passions that are already present in your life, finding unexpected influences, and practicing your craft in a specific and painful way. He discusses concepts like “building a bridge,” pivoting from failure, living a “portfolio life,” and building a legacy. (Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to explore these concepts one by one, so I hope you’ll stick around for that.)
This book was a page-turner for me, and much of what Goins had to say resonated deeply. Each chapter’s profile story was encouraging and challenged me to think about my own life and calling. The book was full of quotable lines and paragraphs; I kept underlining and starring sections to revisit and chew on later. The chapter on “painful practice” is incredibly challenging and exciting, and I found myself nodding through the whole thing (as well as most of the book). In short, the whole book was pretty great.
There was just one question that hung around in the back of my mind…
What was Missing
If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, I hope you’ve discovered that I am a “born again” evangelical Christian. This means that Jesus is my God and King, and my whole life is about serving and honoring Him, making His name great through everything I do. This doesn’t just apply to my religious ideas or my internal world, but it should make itself evident in my home, my work, my speech, my ideological views, and even my writing. When I read books or watch movies, I do so through that lens. That’s how I see the world.
Jeff Goins is, by all accounts, an evangelical Christian. While he doesn’t talk about his faith too much publicly, I’ve been able to read between the lines enough to see that’s where his religious views line up. But rather than write specifically for the evangelical audience, Goins has written The Art of Work to have a broad-based appeal, so that it can be applicable to anyone anywhere. I understand what he’s going for here; this is a good message that would benefit people all over the world, in different cultures with different beliefs. I appreciate his desire to make this message accessible to all.
However, as a Christian reader, the one nagging question throughout the book is: “How is my vocation a spiritual issue? How can my talents and my calling be used by God for His work? How does my faith in Jesus affect my search to find out what it is that I’m meant to do?” This is the one area where I think The Art of Work falls short, at least for me.
I recognize this may be an issue of my putting expectations on the book that were not Goins’ intention to meet. But, in terms of applying the principles of this excellent book to my life and calling, I hoped for more attention to be paid to how our faith informs and directs the search for our calling.
(And I feel I must add this: Goins’ only clear use of a Bible story was a retelling of God’s call to Samuel. Goins tried to draw the analogy that Samuel “almost missed his calling,” and only heard it when he was paying attention. I was actually pretty bothered by this, because I felt like it really cheapened the Biblical idea of a divine call. I was encouraged at first to see any reference to Scripture, but I would rather Goins’ not use Scripture at all than use it out of context.)
Bottom line: I loved this book. It was really well-written and easy to read, full of many great ideas and encouraging quotes. While I wish there was more content that addressed the spiritual nature of a calling (and the one key use of Scripture was a sour note for me), I still benefitted greatly from reading it. I would recommend The Art of Work to anyone who has a dream or desire to create, build, or pursue something awesome with their lives.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing more about the ideas discussed in The Art of Work. In the meantime, Jeff Goins is providing an amazing offer.
Until March 24, when it is released officially, you can pre-order The Art of Work and pay only $6.99 to cover the cost of shipping. That’s right, the book is being given away for free, and you only have to pay for shipping.
In addition to pre-ordering the physical book, you’ll get access to a bunch of online content, video blogs, a workbook, and other downloadable materials that go along with the book.
This is a phenomenal deal, and I would encourage you to check it out. Visit www.artofworkbook.com for more information.
You can also learn more about Jeff Goins’ other work by visiting Goinswriter.com.
[An advanced copy of the book and online content was provided by the author for this review.]