Love and Work: How to Find What You Love, Love What You Do, and Do It for the Rest of Your Life by Marcus Buckingham. Harvard Business Review Press. 266 pages. 2022
This is Marcus Buckingham’s tenth book, and I’ve read most of them. I’ve especially been helped by his work on strengths, and in particular his 2007 book Go Put Your Strengths to Work. A lot of has changed for Buckingham since then, including getting divorced and now engaged, his family going through the college cheating scandal and currently being the cohead of the ADP Research Institute.
There is a lot to process in this book about work (which I was most interested in), school, relationships and parenting. Some of his observations and recommendations may come across as shocking. For example, he tells us that high school, college and work are built in such a way as to distract your attention from your unique loves and loathes, and instead convince you that there’s nothing enduringly unique about you. He states that they are purpose-built to persuade you that you’re an empty vessel, and that your chief challenge in life is to fill this empty vessel with the skills, knowledge, grades, and degrees required to climb to the next rung on the ladder. He writes that we must find ways to put love back into our lives—into our schools and our workplaces, our parenting and our relationships.
Buckingham tells us that people generally don’t spend much time learning about who they are at their very best. To do anything great in your life, he tells us, you will have to take seriously what you love and express it in some sort of productive way. In this book, he shares what he has learned through research data, gives us some questions we can ask ourselves, and tries to teach us a brand-new language to make sense of us in our world. He also shares a lot of stories from his own life.
Buckingham writes that to help you find yourself again and thrive in a life that feels fully your own, you’re going to need to learn a new language, your love language (but not “those” love languages). The very first word to learn in this language is Wyrd. It’s an ancient Norse term, the idea that each person is born with a distinct spirit. This spirit is unique to you, and guides you to love some things and loathe others. To discover your Wyrd, trust in your loves.
He also introduces us to our red thread activities. He describes these as follows:
“When we are inside an activity, we love we are enveloped, so in the moment that we are no longer aware of ourselves. You are not doing the activity. You are the activity. Activities where you disappear within them, and time flies by.”
He tells us that our red threads won’t tell us in which particular job we will be successful. Instead, they’ll reveal how we – one particular individual – will be most successful in whatever job we happen to choose. He provides “The Red Thread Questionnaire” to help us to identify our red threads. Once you identify your red threads – your strengths – your challenge will be to weave them into the fabric of your life, both at home and at work.
He shares three signs of love—instinct, flow and rapid learning. He shares his feeling about being open to feedback, advice from others and other’s reactions. He shares five myths and truths to guide you in becoming a Love + Work leader. He shares his feelings about cascading goals, performance ratings, centralized employee opinion surveys, and performance feedback tools. He shares a “Love + Work Organization Interview”, a manifesto for child-centered schools and colleges, and thoughts on a space-making approach to parenting.
Buckingham tells us that the book is about you and how you can make sense of yourself and build a relationship with yourself based on love. I really appreciated the parts of the book about our work and the workplace. Not being a parent, I was far less interested in the parts about parenting or schools.
Below are 20 of my favorite quotes from the book:
- How you feel at work—whether your work is uplifting or soul-destroying, whether it fulfills you or empties you out, whether it makes you feel valued or utterly useless—all of it will be experienced most keenly at home, by you and the ones you love.
- At work, according to the most recent data, less than 16 percent of us are fully engaged, with the rest of us just selling our time and our talent and getting compensated for our trouble.
- Your weaknesses need to be dealt with, but your instinctive loves are where you’ll experience exponential growth.
- Anything of value you offer to others is your work.
- When you see someone do something with excellence, there is always love in it.
- The only way you’ll make a lasting contribution in life is to deeply understand what it is that you love.
- The true purpose of your work is to help you discover that which you love: work is for love.
- You don’t need to love all you do. You just need to find the love in what you do.
- For your loves to turn into contribution, pay attention only to the specific activities you love, not the outcomes of those activities. Pay attention to what you are going to be doing, rather than why. “What,” in the end, always trumps the “why.”
- Virtually any job is awful and soul-destroying if it is being done by a person who doesn’t find love in it.
- We shouldn’t assume anyone performing a job excellently must find love in all aspects of it.
- In study after study, those people who reported that they had a chance to do something they loved each and every day were far more likely to be high performers and to stay in the role than those who reported that they believed in the mission of the company or liked their teammates. It’s not that those other two things are unimportant; it’s just that what you are actually being paid to do is more important.
- It’s up to you—no matter what role you find yourself in—to take responsibility for weaving what you love into what you’re being paid to do.
- Distraction is the enemy of excellence.
- Workers who reported that they felt part of a team were not only 2.7 times more likely to be fully engaged, they were three times more likely to be highly resilient and two times more likely to report a strong sense of belonging to their organization.
- If you are not part of a team, our data shows, less than 10 percent of you feel engaged, resilient, and connected.
- Many organizations impose on you processes and tools that appear to have been designed to deliberately distance you from who you really are.
- If you can’t give each person weekly attention in some disciplined way, some way that starts with them and their answers, then you will be driving love out of your workplace, with all of the negative repercussions that come with it.
- The reality of what it’s like to work in the organization is always and only a function of your fellow team members and your team leader. The data on this is unequivocal.
- Trust is just everything. Without trust you can’t usher love into your organization.