#ArtOfWorkBook: Hear from Jeff Goins himself about how to discover your calling!

[This is the final post in a series inspired by Jeff Goins’ The Art of Work. Until March 23rd at 11:59PM, the book can be pre-ordered for only $6.99, the cost of shipping, and it comes with a ton of online bonuses. That’s less than 24 hours away, people–no time to waste!!! Check it out at www.artofworkbook.com.]


I was planning on doing a few more posts about The Art of Work, but I thought, “What better way to help the readers understand the book’s concepts than to let the author himself speak!”

Jeff has a fantastic weekly podcast called “The Portfolio Life” that addresses topics like creativity and calling. One of his recent episodes was about the seven stages of finding your calling, which he details in The Art of Work.

If you want to get a taste of his overall message in the book, this is a great way to do just that. The episode is less than 30 minutes long and gives you lots of great content to think about and apply to your own journey.

Here’s the post from Jeff’s blog with the links to the podcast episode. Check it out!


And I want to make one more quick appeal: if you or someone you know are wrestling with what to do with your life, Jeff Goins’ book The Art of Work is a great resource that gives practical steps for discovering and pursuing your calling. Until tonight at midnight, you can order the book and pay only the cost of shipping, plus you get a ton of online extras and bonus content. Go to www.artofworkbook.com and order yours today!

#ArtOfWorkBook: “The hard is what makes it great.”

[This is Part 3 of a series of posts inspired by Jeff Goins’ The Art of Work. Until March 23rd at 11:59PM, the book can be pre-ordered for only $6.99, the cost of shipping, and it comes with a ton of online bonuses. That’s only 3 days away, people–get on it!!! Check it out at www.artofworkbook.com.]


“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

–Jimmy Dugan (Tom Hanks) in A League of Their Own

Chapter 3 of The Art of Work is probably one of my favorites. In it, Jeff talks about the “myth of talent” and the importance of painful practice. He suggests that it’s practice, not talent, that makes the difference in an endeavor, and that even those who have natural ability owe it to themselves to push themselves past the point of what comes easy in order to discover what they’re really capable of achieving.

He writes:

In an era of human history in which we prize comfort above nearly every other virtue, we have overlooked an important truth: comfort never leads to excellence. What it takes to become great at your craft is practice, but not just any kind of practice—the kind that hurts, that stretches and grows you.

A question I wrestle with from time to time is, Am I really a writer? Don’t writers…write? There are different views on this question of legitimacy. Some would argue (pretty convincingly) that if you’re not driven, if you don’t have a compelling need to write, then you need to quit kidding yourself and move on to something else. I see the logic here—writing is challenging and lonely work. There’s no instant feedback and recognition. It’s an act of faith that what you’re doing means something, is worth something. If you’re not willing to sacrifice the time and sleep and energy to create, you may be more enamored by the thought of being a writer than the actual writing.

The counter proposal is that sometimes writers need time away from writing in order to figure out what is worth saying at all. The longer this season lasts, however, the more important it is to take a hard look at what you love and what you don’t. Your passions are often revealed in how you spend your time, money, and energy (unless these resources are tied up in other necessary things, and you’re living under constant frustration—that’s a different conversation).

More from Jeff Goins:

I don’t know where this idea that your calling is supposed to be easy comes from. Rarely do easy and greatness go together. The art of doing hard things requires an uncommon level of dedication. You have to love the work to be able to persevere through those difficult times, those painful moments when you would probably rather quit. How do you do that without an uncanny amount of passion? It’s not possible. You must love the work. Not until you find something you can do to the point of exhaustion, to the extent that you almost hate it but can return to it tomorrow, have you found something worth pursuing.

I can admit: this is how I’ve felt about church ministry from time to time. As I’ve expressed recently, there have been moments in the last year when I was ready to throw up my hands and say, “This clearly isn’t my calling.” But the love and the Lord have kept me going.

And I think I can say the same for writing, to some extent. I’m not as prolific as some of you, dear readers, but I’m working on it. I keep blogging. I keep writing poetry. I can’t seem to quit this, because it won’t let go of me. I’m still getting bursts of inspiration for stories to tell, and I’m scribbling down all those notes until I can start fleshing them out.

So I’m just going to keep moving my fingers and making the clickety-clack sound, and hopefully you’ll keep reading what I share, and one day, I’ll hold up something made of physical paper and ink and say, “Mine.”

Until then, I need to keep practicing and keep posting. Thanks for taking the ride with me.


Your Turn: Have you ever reached the point of painful practice, when you both hate and love the thing you’re passionate about doing? How did you break through that temptation to pull back and stop?

#ArtOfWorkBook: Unexpected Influences

[This is Part 2 of a series of posts inspired by Jeff Goins’ The Art of Work. Until March 24th, the book can be pre-ordered for only $6.99, the cost of shipping, and it comes with a ton of online bonuses. Check it out at www.artofworkbook.com.]

In Chapter 2 of The Art of Work, Jeff Goins tells the story of Ginny Phang, a woman from Singapore who, when faced with a crisis pregnancy, found a calling she didn’t expect: becoming a doula (birth coach) for other women in need. What’s interesting about Ginny’s story in the book is that she didn’t have the typical family support network to encourage her calling; in fact, her support came through unexpected people at several key times in her life.

Jeff uses Ginny’s story to talk about “accidental apprenticeships,” in which we encounter people who influence us or mentor us at key moments in our quest to discover our calling. He writes, “Every story of success is, in fact, a story of community.” Each of us has people around us who will often provide what we need when we need it–though not always in the way we expect. Even those who seem most frustrating and challenging may be giving us a gift. Jeff writes:

Chances are, your apprenticeship will not look like you imagined. Your mentor may not be the teacher you dreamed of, and that’s the point. This is what your education is, not what you think it should be. A teacher who challenges you, who doesn’t meet your expectations, who forces you to think and act differently, is exactly what you need. That is, after all, the job of an educator.

Your “teacher” may not be a teacher at all; he or she may be a family member, colleague, pastor, or author.  I’ve had a handful of unexpected influences. I will mention one here.

I mentioned in the last post that, throughout my early schooling, I wrote creatively and was supported by my teachers. They encouraged my creativity and praised my efforts. Then, when I went to college, I ran into the buzzsaw that was Joe Hall. Dr. Hall was my professor for the Honors-track freshman composition class. He graded with a cruel green pen, and my papers bled green for weeks. As laughable as it is to look back upon now, I was indignant when he shredded my freshman papers. Didn’t he know that I was the best writer in my high school? Didn’t he realize I had real talent? Answer: he didn’t care. He significantly raised the bar of expectations, and it crushed my seventeen-year-old ego. It also challenged me; I was going to have to become a better writer. I ended up taking a creative writing class with Dr. Hall later, and while we never saw eye-to-eye on some things, I came away from the experience a better writer. I grew to have great respect for the man, because he expected much from his students.

Maybe you have someone like that in your life. Someone who came along as you were trying to pursue a dream or calling, and knocked you down a peg or two.

Maybe you had a friend or teacher who loved you enough to call you out on your hypocrisy, or stick a pin in your foolish idealism or arrogance.

Maybe you encountered someone who encouraged you at just the right moment, or pointed you to the resources you needed.

God brings people into our lives for His purposes, and sometimes those people seem to be our enemies or obstacles rather than our teachers. But if we walk humbly with our God, and seek to learn from our difficulties, we can find the toughest critics (with their wicked green pens) can be some of our greatest benefactors.


Your Turn: Have you had unexpected allies, accidental apprenticeships, or difficult teachers come along in your life? How have they helped to shape who you are and how you pursue your calling?

#ArtOfWorkBook: Listening to Your Life

[This is Part 1 of a series of posts based on Jeff Goins’ The Art of Work. Until March 24th, the book can be preordered for only $6.99, the cost of shipping. Check it out at www.artofworkbook.com]


How do you figure out what you’re meant to do with your life? One clue might be to look at what you have already done, or what you used to love doing.

In Chapter 1 of The Art of Work, Jeff Goins talks about Jody Noland, a woman who, in the midst of a painful circumstance, discovered a way she could help families cope with the pain of terminal illness. Jody said, “One way of knowing our gifting is when something that seems easy to us doesn’t seem easy to others.” Jody was able to start an organization that has helped many families, and she did it by looking at what she was passionate about in her own life.

Goins then asks the question: what if you don’t know what you want to do in your life? This is how he answers it:

We often think of a calling as something that comes to us, an epiphany that arrives when we least expect it. But the truth is, in some ways, it’s already come. You already have some sense of what you’re supposed to do with your life, even if you aren’t sure what it is. The trick is to find your vocation hidden in your life.

If we’re paying attention, we can start to see threads of a calling that are present throughout our lives, going as far back as childhood. For me, it was storytelling. I was a lover of books from the time I could decipher words. I used to get in trouble for staying up too late reading, and would sometimes hide under the blanket with a book and a flashlight. In middle school and high school, when assignments in English class called for ten sentences using our new vocabulary words in context, I wrote a serialized adventure story about spies and treasure-hunters, turning in a new chapter each week, and my teachers encouraged me all along the way. I often wrote for fun in college, filling notebooks and floppy disks (remember those, kids?) with short stories or story fragments. In my adult years, I never lost the love of words, and have been blogging on one platform or another for well over ten years.

What’s amazing is that I can also see how God has used and is using my love of story to minister to the lives of others. My prayer is that I will continue to grow in this area, so that I can write blogs and books that point to the Greater Story, and honor the God who has woven all of history around the scarlet thread of His redemptive work in Christ Jesus.


Your Turn: If you “listen to your life,” what can you learn about your gifts, talents, passions, and calling? Is there something buried in your past and in your heart that might be worth taking a risk and exploring? Comment below!

The4thDave Reviews: “The Art of Work” by Jeff Goins

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.)

What Worked

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.)

Final Review

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.]