Jeff Goins’s The Art of Work is a book about putting yourself in a position to find your calling and accumulating the resources and courage to act on your calling once you’ve discovered it. The book is filled with the tales of ordinary people who set out to make an extraordinary difference. The path to your calling is not straight or obvious. It is likely beset with difficulty. But the work you will do is itself a reward.
And it turns out that your calling may not be what you expected. It may or may not be your vocation. It’s possible that your vocation could be pulling you away from your calling. Your calling may not be your life’s work as you envision it, but it may be the work that takes a lifetime to accomplish.
The Art of Work employs the stories of impassioned people, who don’t view themselves as extraordinary, to give the reader a gateway to understanding and embracing the abstract concept of a calling. These are people whose life paths prepared them for a calling that they did not anticipate or expect. Goins writes, “The way to meaningful work doesn’t always look like a carefully crafted plan. Sometimes the route to our purpose is a chaotic experience, and how we respond matters more than what happens to us.”
Succeeding in your calling and accomplishing all that you have been called to do is not something you can accomplish alone. Even the man who perceives that he pulled himself up by the bootstraps did not make his own shoes. And don’t forget the cow whose hide contributed to the leather, and the farmer who raised the cow, and so on. We operate best and achieve most when collaborating with others. We need others not only to help us along the way, but sometimes to point us in the right direction in the first place. “You put yourself in a place where you can hear the call, you have someone to help you discern the message, and then you make yourself available to act.”
The hard part about a calling is not in discerning what you are called to do, but rather in acting on it once your calling has been revealed to you. Goins truthfully writes that “most would rather play it safe than be rejected by their friends or fall on their faces for the world to see. So they live lives of safety and relative obscurity, focusing on the things they enjoy and are praised for instead of daring to do something great. And time creeps by, taunting those who did not live.” What a haunting and resounding proclamation! Let us not “lead lives of quiet desperation,” as Henry David Thoreau suggests we are wont to do. Rather, let us have the courage and wisdom to dare to become someone good, “letting that goodness impact the world around [us].”
The Art of Work is outside the genre of books that I typically read. But having read Goins’s blog and listened to his podcast regularly over the past year, I figured I owed it to myself to read one of his books as well. I found it inspiring and deeply thought-provoking. I heartily recommend it. You can purchase The Art of Work on Amazon.
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