Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do by Jeff Goins

The Art of Work by Jeff GoinsThe 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.
*** ½

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.

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