The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do by Jeff Goins. Thomas Nelson. 240 pages. 2015. Audiobook read by Jeff Goins.
This book is an excellent introduction to the subject of calling. It is well-written, easy to read, interesting and practical. The book is organized into three major sections: Preparation, Action and Completion. In those sections he covers seven overlapping stages of calling. The stages are: Awareness, Apprenticeship, Practice, Discovery, Profession, Mastery and Legacy. In each stage he uses ordinary stories of people to illustrate the stage. Being a graduate of my hometown Illinois State University, I enjoyed the story of Jody Mayberry from ISU about his calling as a Park Ranger.
Goins tells us that finding your calling is a path, rather than a plan. He refers to a calling as the reason you were born. I wouldn’t quite go that far, believing for example that the reason I was born was to worship God and tell others about Him. However, I would apply what Goins writes as to say that our calling is the work that we were born to do. He also refers to your calling as that thing you just cannot not do. He states that your calling is not a destination, but a journey that doesn’t end until you die.
Goins introduces us to Viktor Frankl’s three things that give meaning to life. Frankl said “When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.” Goins tells us that a calling comes when we embrace the pain and that a calling is not necessarily fair. Finding your calling is not a passive process. You must persevere and commit to the path.
I enjoyed the section of the book in which Goins wrote about accidental apprenticeships and the role of mentors in helping us to find our calling. He writes that we never find our calling on our own.
He refers to deliberate practice as that practice that leads to expert performance. That section reminded me of Malcolm Gladwell’s discussion in his book Outliers of roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Goins talks about practice being painful.
Goins tells us that finding our calling is a journey and that we must see the journey as one of building bridges, not as leaping off of bridges. It is a process and it takes time. Finding our calling is a series of intentional decisions.
I enjoy great quotes and one he shares is from Frederick Buechner, a favorite author. Buechner wrote “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
Goins writes that a calling is a journey, a mystery, but also intentional. He writes about how failure plays into our calling, how we can see failure as our friend, and what he refers to as pivot points.
He writes about seeing our calling as a portfolio. I found this section to be particularly interesting. He states that our calling is more than our career. Instead he states that there are a variety of things you do (work, home, play/hobbies, etc.) that make up your calling portfolio.
Goins writes that calling is a gift to be given away. He states that success isn’t the goal, but legacy is. Your life, when lived well, becomes your calling. Goins writes that we have to understand that there will be some work that we will not finish. We will all die as unfinished symphonies. Success isn’t so much what you do but leaving a legacy that matters. We should be careful of the cost of pursuing our calling. No amount of success is worth losing your family, for example. We should also be careful to master the craft but not let it master us.
An appendix is included which features a summary of the seven stages, seven signs you’ve found your calling and also seven exercises to complete. He also includes questions for discussions that would be helpful when reading and discussing the book with others.
Overall I found this book enjoyable, practical and easy to read, featuring many interesting stories illustrating his points. I particularly enjoyed references and stories about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Frederick Buechner, J.R.R. Tolkien and Dorothy Sayers. If you enjoy audiobooks, Goins reads the audiobook edition as well, and does a good very job.
While I find the best book on calling to be Os Guiness’ book The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life, I found this to be a very good, more secular introduction, directed to a mass audience, on this important subject.
You can find additional resources at www.artofworkbook.com.
Faith and Work Book Clubs – Won’t you read along with us?
The Generous Justice Book Club
Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Tim Keller
This book, which I had read when it was first published, was listed under recommended reading in Matt Perman’s fine book What’s Best Next. Tammy and I are reading it and being challenged on every page. Won’t you read along with us? This week we conclude our looks at the book by reviewing
Chapter 8: Peace, Beauty and Justice:
- “Shalom” is usually translated “peace” in English Bibles, but it means far more than what our English word conveys. It means complete reconciliation, a state of the fullest flourishing in every dimension—physical, emotional, social, and spiritual—because all relationships are right, perfect, and filled with joy.
- When the society disintegrates, when there is crime, poverty, and family breakdown, there is no shalom. However, when people share their resources with each other, and work together so that shared public services work, the environment is safe and beautiful, the schools educate, and the businesses flourish, then that community is experiencing social shalom. When people with advantages invest them in those who have fewer, the community experiences civic prosperity or social shalom.
- But the world is not, by and large, characterized by shalom.
- The beginning of the book of Genesis tells us how in the Garden of Eden, humanity walked with God and served him. Under his rule and authority, it was paradise. All that ended, however, when humanity turned away from God, rejecting his rule and kingdom.
- When we lost our relationship with God, the whole world stopped “working right.” The world is filled with hunger, sickness, aging, and physical death. Because our relationship with God has broken down, shalom is gone—spiritually, psychologically, socially, and physically.
- Now we are in a position to see even more clearly what the Bible means when it speaks of justice. In general, to “do justice” means to live in a way that generates a strong community where human beings can flourish. Specifically, however, to “do justice” means to go to places where the fabric of shalom has broken down, where the weaker members of societies are falling through the fabric, and to repair it. This happens when we concentrate on and meet the needs of the poor.
- Reweaving shalom means to sacrificially thread, lace, and press your time, goods, power, and resources into the lives and needs of others.
- The strong must disadvantage themselves for the weak, the majority for the minority, or the community frays and the fabric breaks.
- Edwards taught that if, through an experience of God’s grace, you come to find him beautiful, then you do not serve the poor because you want to think well of yourself, or in order to get a good reputation, or because you think it will be good for your business, or even because it will pay off for your family in creating a better city to live in. You do it because serving the poor honors and pleases God, and honoring and pleasing God is a delight to you in and of itself.
- Proverbs 19:7 and 14:31 are texts that sum up a great deal of Scriptural material. The first text says that if you are kind to the poor, God takes it as if you are being kind to him. The second gives us the flip side; namely, that if you show contempt for the poor it means you are showing contempt for him.
- But there’s a deeper principle at work here. If you insult the poor, you insult God. The principle is that God personally identifies very closely with the widow, the orphan, and the immigrant, the most powerless and vulnerable members of society.
- In Jesus Christ God identified not only with the poor, but also with those who are denied justice.
- This was the ultimate instance of God’s identification with the poor. He not only became one of the actually poor and marginalized, he stood in the place of all those of us in spiritual poverty and bankruptcy (Matthew 5:3) and paid our debt.
- The God of the Bible says, as it were, “I am the poor on your step. Your attitude toward them reveals what your true attitude is toward me.” A life poured out in doing justice for the poor is the inevitable sign of any real, true gospel faith.
- The term “justice” here has to do with the Old Testament concept of loving and defending the vulnerable.
- So this is a call to create a believing community in which the well-off and middle class are sacrificially giving their resources away and deeply, personally involved in the lives of the many weak and vulnerable in their midst.
The Conviction to Lead Book Club
The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters by Albert Mohler
We’re reading this excellent book from Albert Mohler, one of the best that I’ve read on leadership. It is broken down into 25 relatively short chapters. Won’t you read along with us? This week we look at
Chapter 17: The Leader as Decision Maker:
- Leaders simply cannot avoid making important decisions, and effective leaders stand out because they are both courageous and skilled in making the right decisions again and again.
- Leadership is a blend of roles, responsibilities, and expectations. But the one responsibility that often matters most is the ability to make decisions—the right decisions.
- Organizations thrive when leaders make the right decisions, and they fail when leaders make the wrong ones. What is often less obvious is the fact that organizations can suffer worse when leaders refuse to make any decision at all. Indecisiveness is one of history’s greatest leadership killers.
- Before making a decision, the leader’s preliminary task is to determine if a decision actually has to be made. Odd as this may sound, many organizations suffer because the leader allowed a decision to be made that should never have been decided at all.
- Leadership by conviction takes some decisions off the table before the leader gets to work.
- Six simple steps, taken sequentially, can greatly assist any leader in this task. First, define the reality. Defining reality, as Max De Pree, an outstanding leader and author of Leadership Is an Art, reminds us, is the leader’s first task.
- Second, identify the alternatives. Often the most obvious alternatives are the best alternatives. But at other times, the best decision may be more surprising.
- Third, apply analysis. To analyze is simply to take apart. The leader takes the alternatives apart by applying certain tests. Convictional leadership applies the test of belief and conviction at this stage, asking the questions that frame the organization’s deepest commitments.
- Our beliefs, our convictions, our values? Unless this question rules over all others, the organization will inevitably forfeit or compromise its convictions. Convictional analysis must be rigorous, explicit, and open.
- Leadership by conviction means that there will be times when the organization faces an opportunity or option that every financial, numerical, and statistical analysis will suggest is a great decision. In fact, the only reason the organization and its leader should not take this opportunity is because it conflicts or compromises the organization’s beliefs and convictions. But that is more than enough to tip the scales.
- Fourth, pause for reflection.
- Fifth, make the decision, and make it count. Weak leaders make weak decisions. Effective leaders make solid decisions and see them through.
- Convictional leaders make the decision, communicate it throughout the organization, and stake their reputations on it.
- Sixth, review and learn. Leaders learn from their decisions and from the process of making them. The leader learns fast, remembers honestly, and moves on.
- Leaders have to make decisions day by day. Convictional leaders are determined to make the right decisions, grounded in those convictions. But at the end of the day, all we can do is make the best decisions we can, knowing that the final verdict will not come from shareholders, board members, church members, or even historians, but from God.
Faith and Work News:
- Ordinary Christian Work. Tim Challies writes” There will be some who are called to full-time church ministry as their vocation. There will be some who will put aside manual labor in order to be trained and tasked as full-time pastors, dependent on the support of others. There will be some who will stop working with their hands to go into the mission field. This is good, and it honors God. But it is not a higher call or a better call or a surer path to pleasing God. We please God—we thrill God— when we live as ordinary people in ordinary lives who use our ordinary circumstances to proclaim and live out an extraordinary gospel.”
- Why Do You Work? Stephen Nichols looks at Psalm 104 for an answer.
- 3 Things to Consider About Your Vocation (Part 3). This article from the Theology of Work Project states “If God is guiding you towards some kind of job or profession, it’s more likely that you may find a deep desire for it in your heart.”
- Work is Sacred. In this brief video, Pastor Chris Neal states “The first thing God did was work and build and create. The first thing He commanded us to do was to work the garden. As soon as you frame work as a sacred task, that changes everything. At that point, your work can be done as worship to God and love for your neighbor!
- How Great Do You Want to Be? Mark Miller writes “Why are some organizations able to achieve AND sustain greatness? The quick answer is they are never satisfied. Regardless of the level of excellence they achieve, they always Raise the Bar. The leaders in these High Performance Organizations understand, it is better to raise the bar yourself vs. waiting on your competition to do it for you.”
- When Our Career Plans Aren’t Panning Out. Bethany Jenkins tells us about Johnathan Agrelius, and writes “How do we live in the tension of having a sense of God’s calling and not seeing it come to fruition? What happens when our career plans aren’t panning out?”
- Potential. In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell looks at one of his favorite words, potential.
- Time. In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell discusses the word time.
- Don’t try to manage your time – manage yourself! John Maxwell writes “How do you judge whether something is worthy of your time and attention? For years I used a formula to help me know the importance of a task so that I can manage myself effectively. It’s a three step process.”
- The 5 R’s Of Applying Scripture To Your Business. C. Patton shares his 5-step process for applying Scripture to his business practices.
- 7 Keys for Creating a Contagious Leadership Culture. Brad Lomenick shares several key ingredients to creating a great culture.
- Leadership Starts with the Heart. Phyllis Hendry writes “A changed heart equals a changed leader. And leading like Jesus – leadership that achieves strong relationships and results – starts on the inside, beginning with the heart.”
- Sharing Our Message: BW Leadership Institute. Bob Chapman writes that Barry-Wehmiller takes another big step in building a better world through the launching of their new BW Leadership Institute, created to share with other organizations what they have learned about building and fostering a people-centric culture.
- New Website for the Center for Faith and Work. After a year reflecting on imagination and innovation at the Center for Faith & Work, they recently went live with their new website. Their aim is to allow you to better explore and experience faith and work in action. The Center for Faith and Work’s 2015 Faith and Work Conference will be held November 6-7. You can register now.
Faith and Work Quotes:
- Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by him, to him, and for him. Our secondary calling, considering who God is sovereign, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live, and act entirely for him. Os Guinness
- Our lessons come from the journey, not the destination. Coach K
- If you are afraid of criticism, you will die doing nothing. John Wooden
- The most important concept from The New One Minute Manager, even with all the rewritten sections, is to catch people doing things right. Ken Blanchard
- If you’re doing what everybody else is doing, you’re probably doing something wrong. Andy Andrews
- Honesty is critically important in business if you want to build the relationships you’ll need to succeed in business. Dr. Allen Zimmerman
- Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service. Os Guinness
- Don’t prioritize your schedule, schedule your priorities. Matt Perman
- Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught. J.C. Watts