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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.

You can find additional resources at

The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do by Jeff Goins. Thomas Nelson. 199 pages. 2015

This was the second time I’ve read this excellent book on calling by Jeff Goins.  It’s a book that I’ve recommended to many. It’s a helpful easy read, sprinkled with a number of stories about people and their calling stories. Each chapter tells a different person’s story, illustrating a major concept—one of seven stages of a calling.
The author tells us that this is a book about finding your calling, about how you discover what you were born to do. A calling is that thing that you can’t not do, an answer to the age-old question, “What should I do with my life?” He tells us that the journey described in this book is an ancient path. It’s the way of master craftsmen and artisans, a centuries-old road that requires both perseverance and dedication—the narrow path that few find.
The author tells us that after encountering hundreds of stories from people who found their calling, he identified seven common characteristics, each illustrated in one of the chapters. Each chapter, which tells at least one person’s story, is based on the following themes or stages:

  • Awareness
  • Apprenticeship
  • Practice
  • Discovery
  • Profession
  • Mastery
  • Legacy

Rather than steps, the author states that these are more like overlapping stages that, once begun, continue for the rest of your life.
This is a very helpful book in helping you to find your life’s calling. As I read it, I highlighted a number of passages. Below are 15 great quotes from the book:

  1. You don’t “just know” what your calling is. You must listen for clues along the way, discovering what your life can tell you. Awareness comes with practice.
  2. Before you know what your calling is, you must believe you are called to something.
  3. A calling goes beyond your abilities and calls into question your potential.
  4. You cannot find your calling on your own. It’s a process that involves a team of mentors. And everywhere you look, help is available.
  5. Practice is essential not only to achieve excellence but to clarify the call itself.
  6. Finding your calling will not happen without the aid and assistance of others.
  7. Throughout this process of finding your life’s work, you must be willing to look for mentors in unexpected places.
  8. We don’t need more jobs. We need a better way to equip people for what they’re meant to do.
  9. An accidental apprenticeship begins with listening to your life and paying attention to the ways in which you’re already being prepared for your life’s work.
  10. Sometimes the people who help us find our calling come from the least likely of places. It’s our job to notice them.
  11. Your calling is not always easy. It will take work. Practice can teach you what you are and are not meant to do.
  12. Putting an activity through painful practice is a great way to determine your direction in life. If you can do something when it’s not fun, even when you’re exhausted and bored and want to give up, then it just might be your calling.
  13. I don’t know where this idea that your calling is supposed to be easy comes from. Rarely do easy and greatness go together.
  14. Discovering your calling is not an epiphany but a series of intentional decisions. It looks less like a giant leap and more like building a bridge.
  15. Find what you love and what the world needs, then combine them. As Frederick Buechner wrote, “Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”

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