Look for The Art of Work in a bricks and mortar bookstore or library, and it will likely be shelved under Business & Economics | Careers | General. But it will be unlike any other business or economics book you ever read! I’ve always found that genre to be either boring or out-of-reach. Not this book! Jeff Goins is still young but writes passionately from both personal experience, research, and the lives of others he has interviewed.
Library of Congress catalog has The Art of Work under Vocation | Vocational Guidance | Self Realization, which is a better indication of the contents. The book has to have been a challenge to write because Goins delves deep and poses questions most would not. Vocations are not just for the few.
How do we find our own calling?
As Jeff says, our route to our own calling often is via a life of chaos with so many twists and turns and setbacks. It can make us dizzy before we arrive at the next waystation, both to recheck our direction and to see how far we’ve journeyed already. He helps his readers sort out what to do with our lives when life is not at all what we had planned. If you haven’t experienced heartache or tragedy yet, you will. How are you going to react to it? How will you handle fear when you wake with it on an almost daily basis? How do you get to where you want to be?
For most folks still, a vocation is an elite calling, something a person was meant to do, as in being called to the Ministry. The rest of us don’t often consider that it applies to all of us if we put in the effort to discover what our vocation is. And in many cases, it’s not easy to figure out what we were meant to do in this life.
The obvious answers are:
- Be kind to others.
- Follow our Savior.
- Spread the Gospel as we understand it.
- Share one another’s burdens to the extent we can.
- Raise good kids, and so forth.
But the above can be platitudes if said without deeper thought. We still have to earn a living and preferably, by doing something that is meaningful to us and to at least one other segment of society that really needs our help. Perhaps to many people, if our gifts are strong enough. And today we have work options that the average person before us never had. Usually after paying our dues (but sometimes before) we can even create our own jobs and work our own hours.
The journey to our callings can be long and very difficult. So, we just have to keep moving forward, however small the steps. It often seems a mystery where our innermost feelings come from, especially when there is no heritage for them in our lineage. For example:
- No one else in our family went to India or Africa to help leper colonies. Why are you doing that?
- Our family doesn’t have any artists or writers in it, only house painters and schoolteachers. Do you really want to waste your life on such an impractical job choice?
- You spent years training to pilot so many kinds of aircraft. Now you’re going to do What?!!
Before facing that kind of criticism, you prepare for a calling and you take action. After all, it’s not going to be a job. It’s going to be your entire life whether you have many years ahead of you or somewhat fewer. Goins lays out the seven overlapping stages of a calling: Awareness, Apprenticeship, Practice, Discovery, Profession, Mastery and Legacy. Every step we take toward our calling opens up another step. If we made a right choice, we soon begin to receive reinforcement that we are on the right path.
The Appendix to The Art of Work lists The Seven Stages with an explanation of each, Lessons with Exercises, Seven Signs You’ve Found Your Calling, and more. There are extensive end notes. All in all, the book is an enjoyable, satisfying, practical, and insightful read with many new ideas to challenge readers. The Art of Work teaches us how to discover and live what matters most in our lives. What we do with our new knowledge is up to us.