A review of The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

Book Review: The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

We all want purpose in this world. As children, we dream big and believe we can do and be anything. Somewhere along the way, whether through daily routine or difficult situations, we resolve that maybe those dreams were just childish fantasies. But the yearning remains and eventually a voice awakens: “What if I can find purpose and chase my dreams?

In an earlier blog post, I mentioned on of my most impactful moments that came out of reading Jeff Goins’ book, The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do.

I’ve since completed it, and as an avid reader with a propensity toward book ADD, I’ve moved onto my next reading adventure. But I wanted to share the heavy impact that Goins’ book has had on me, the way I think, and my future.

What The Art of Work is About

Simply stated, this is a book about discovering your calling in life. Your passion. Your vocation. That one or few things that you come alive when doing and were meant to do.

I’m no stranger to self-help books and admit I was skeptical with the title of this book, but at the same time, intrigued. I was feeling like I was coasting through life with a lack of purpose so the title really grabbed my attention.

Often we read stories of the big guys – the Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg types – who were either so lucky or so brilliant to solve a problem in the world and gain success. But The Art of Work is a collection of stories of “regular” people, woven together to highlight the journey one takes to a calling. These are folks like you and me who I probably never would have heard of had I not read this book.

There’s a story of a 5 year old, left paralyzed and blind after an operation, and his father, who turn their situation into one of hope for others by completing triathlons together. A mother in Indonesia who was alienated by her family for choosing to not have an abortion who goes on to become one of the first doulas in her country. Or the family that moved from the comfort of South Africa to the coffee fields of Burundi to discover themselves and serve the coffee farmers of that region.

The stories in this book opened my mind up to a new hope. Not only is it possible to discover your calling, but it’s something that anyone, even I, can do. With a little work, patience and embracing of mystery, it can be done.

A Proven Path to Discovering Your Calling

So here’s the Cliff’s Notes version and what has impacted me.

1. Listen to Your Life

This was the grand-daddy of all take-aways for me because it allowed me to think about things that I have done all my life that point to me to my future work. You don’t “just know” what your calling is – a lie that has held me back for years – but it is an intentional process of discovery. Looking for clues along the way will point to your purpose. Do not sit and wait to know what to do. Start walking, believing you have a purpose and paying attention to clues along the way, and your calling will become clearer.

2. Accidental Apprenticeships

Everything that happens to us is a learning experience if we choose to see it as such. Sometimes life throws a major curve-ball. There is death and pain and things we don’t expect. But what if each of those moments and the people involved could be teachers and mentors to what we are called to do? Finding a mentor is hard, when  you think of it as some official relationship that is face-to-face. But there’s actually mentors all around us. The books we read. The classes we take. The podcasts we listen to. You can be an apprentice to them all

3. Painful Practice

This is where the rubber meets the road. Where the work is really required. Goins tells the story of failed American Idol contestants – some that got tossed into the embarrassment pile, and others, like Colbie Caillat, who were rejected by the judges but later went on to win a Grammy. The difference being that Colbie took the rejection, not in pride, but as a chance to work harder and push herself beyond what she thought was capable. Goins writes:

Unwilling to try new things, we settle for good when called to greatness. Why do we do this? Because it’s easy. To push ourselves past what others expect, beyond what is normal, is difficult and sometimes awkward. But it is a necessary part of the process.

4. Building Bridges with a Series of Intentional Decisions

Jeff expounds on the “You ‘just know’ Illusion” and makes it ok to embrace the mystery. This is the whole reason why I started this blog you’re reading. I love building websites and doing creative things so I decided to start writing about it. I don’t know what will come of it but I’m learning a heck of a lot, and feel like I have much more clarity about myself than when I started.

5. Pivot Points and Learning from Failure

Sometimes we think that challenges and failure are a disruption to what we feel called to do. But it’s often failure that can lead us to success, not prevent us from it. If you want to find what your purpose is, you have to be ok with failure, there’s no way around that. It’s what corrects our course when it’s heading in a wrong direction.

6. Becoming a Master: The Portfolio Life

This chapter was like a confirmation of my very identity. Our purpose is not just one thing, but can be a number of things. What you do is not just your job but it is made up of multiple things. You could be a father, a husband, a pianist and also a writer. They are all connected, a portfolio of your life. My wife often jokes with me that I have too many hobbies (she’s probably right). But the truth is, I enjoy doing a lot of different things. The challenge is to understand what are truly just hobbies – like my love of flatland BMX, or “tricksy biking” as my wife calls it – and what may be something more tied to my purpose – like blogging or photography. We can master a few things that are core to who we are, simply enjoy the fun things and thus lead a fulfilled life.

This Post is Way too Long

So there you have it. Kind of a quick and dirty run-down but I hope it has inspired you. I highly recommend this book. To everyone. It will help you better define why you do what you do, where you want to go in life, and some of things about your calling that you really knew all along but needed some guidance to bring to the surface.

You can check it out on Amazon here (affiliate link): The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do.


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  1. […] you’ve read some of my other posts about Jeff Goins, you know I’m a fan. His podcast is shorter in length than the others I listen to, […]

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