Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From then on, you are inflamed with a special longing that will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment. -John O’Donohue in Anam Cara
I love books, especially the ones that motivate you to become a better person. As much as I love reading these motivating books, nothing normally comes of it after. I haven’t found too many that call me to action, that inspire me to change.
That is until I read The Art of Work by Jeff Goins.
If you don’t know Jeff, he is sort of my idol and I see a lot of myself in him. He’s a powerhouse in the blogosphere and has received praise from other giants such as Seth Godin and Michael Hyatt. I stumbled upon his blog, Goinswriter.com, in recent months and have been reading it religiously ever since.
Jeff recently released his newest book, The Art of Work, on March 24th. I received an advanced copy of the book and read it over the course of a week. By the time I finished, my life was never going to be the same. If you are searching for meaningful work and want to make something of your life, this book is for you.
The Art of Work is a road map to abandoning the status quo and finding a life that matters. Jeff expands on the notion that each of us is “called” to meaningful work by clearly laying out a path before you to help you to follow your dreams. He’s not only lived through this experience by becoming a full-time writer, he’s studied hundreds of people who’ve done the same and shares their stories in his book.
Earlier this week I had the amazing opportunity to sit down with Jeff (via Skype) and talk about his new book. I’ve provided a summary of the conversation below, but if you want to read the entire transcript of our conversation, you may find it here.
What inspired you to write The Art of Work?
Two reasons, one, I went through this experience myself of finding my calling and it was a surprising journey. It didn’t quite happen as I thought it would. The second reason is the more I talk to people, the more I hear people describing their work in terms of calling or purpose. People aren’t just talking about their jobs as a means of making a living, they are wanting work that will build a meaningful life. I think there is this trend in our culture now where people are seeking significance over success. I didn’t hear a lot of people really acknowledging that.
We are less concerned it seems with creating this meaningful life in which my work and vocation integrates with the rest of my life, including my relationships. So, I just felt like the way we were talking about how we find meaningful work, about discovering our purpose in life wasn’t the whole picture.
This process of trying to figure out what to do with your life and then the end result surprising you, that was compelling to me.
You talk about how your journey didn’t happen quite as planned, can you elaborate?
I didn’t really have a plan. I was just trying to do this thing that I felt compelled to do. In some ways I felt I was becoming myself, I was stepping in these shoes that were a perfect fit but I had never worn them before. Several years later, I’m quitting my job to become a full time writer and this online entrepreneur.
I was looking back on it and I didn’t really plan any of it, I was moving in a direction that as I moved down that road things became more clear as I took action. None of this I could have conceived of or planned. It was so much bigger than I could have imagined.
I think there is a lesson in there about what it means to find a calling. If you can plan it, if you can conceive of it, if you can visualize it and do it, them it’s not really a calling. I think it’s too small. It has to be bigger than you.
I think that idea that clarity comes with action is so much more encouraging to us who feel stuck or lost, or we don’t completely know. I keep hearing people saying this over and over again: ‘I just need clarity, I don’t know what to do.” And I just don’t think that’s the way it works. I think you do stuff then the clarity comes.”
Do you feel the millennial generation is primed for this concept of The Art of Work?
Yes, I’m 32 years old and most of these conversations I’m having, I’m having with my peers and they are not satisfied with working a job that pays great and affords them all these great privileges if the work itself is not satisfying. They are not willing to trade their significance for success. In fact, many are avoiding any sort of commitment just so they can stay free from those obligations in the event that some day the work that they love will come along.
What’s the most common question people ask you?
The biggest question I get from people is “Can my calling be more than one thing?” Yeah absolutely! I think that your calling, in a way, is one thing because it’s a portfolio, but also it’s the combination of all the things that you do. It’s all of your interests and passions and hobbies combined intentionally.
I mean if you think about a portfolio, it’s an intentionally curated body of work, it’s not just everything that you do. This idea that you have to do this one thing for 40 years is not practical and I don’t think it’s actually the way that we’re made. I think that we’re made to do multiple things and we got various interests. The cool thing about it is the world is making more room.
Our generation is quick to the Google search bar when we want to learn something new. You have a chapter in your book about apprenticeship as a different approach to learning, how does one go about finding an apprenticeship or mentor?
I think the best way to get mentored is to not go find a new mentor out there, the best way to get mentored is to see the one that is already in your life right now. Look around at the people that are already investing in you, that are already a part of your life and make the most of those relationships.
Like the guy that lives down the street from me that every time something breaks in our house I call him, he rushes over to help me. That’s a mentor that I could make better use of. I think that the way you get mentored, the right way, is to find different people for different areas of your life and intentionally seeking them out. But don’t ask them to be a mentor, I mean that’s a big thing, don’t ask them to do anything except hang out, like have coffee or do something together. Then use that in what I call an accidental apprenticeship. Use that to kind of create this ad hoc faculty of people in your unconventional education that can help you get to where you are supposed to go.
If you do that, like Steve Jobs did, like Ginny Phang did, who I mention in the book, you realize that “I don’t have to have some amazing education, I don’t have to get the best internship right out of college. There are people around me right now that I can learn from if I’m willing, if I have the eyes to recognize these people and use every experience as preparation for what’s to come.”
At what point should someone take the leap and go “full-time” with their passion or their calling?
I think it’s not about taking a leap, it’s about building a bridge. This idea of going full time with your dream has to be some scary risky thing isn’t completely true. It is true, it does take risk, but all of life takes risk, right?
Building a bridge is all about moving in the direction of my calling now, doing what I can do right now to take the next step, and before I know it, I’m on the other side looking back realizing, “Oh my gosh, I’ve built this bridge.”
I like that analogy for a few reasons, one is it takes time, two it’s secure. As you are building a bridge you are never stepping out into the unknown, you are just taking the next step, you are laying a brick, taking a step, laying a brick, taking a step (I realize that might not be structurally sound way to build a bridge) but once it’s built, in theory, you can bring other people across without asking them to jump and do this big audacious thing.
That’s what Ben and Kristy Carlson have done with Long Miles Coffee Project (mentioned in the book), they’ve built this thing, took risk, but really all they did was they took the first step they knew how to take, they looked for opportunities and they continued to seek out those opportunities intentionally without being kind of crazy in terms of audaciously going after it.
I love the chapter in your book about “pivoting,” would you like to summarize that concept for our readers?
Yeah, the bottom line is you cannot get to where you want to go, you cannot get to success without failure. Most of us think that failing is a setback and we’ve got to overcome it. I think failure is an opportunity to readjust your trajectory to kind of change directions a little bit, and I call that pivoting.
This is a common word to use in the entrepreneurial space, businesses get to a point where they are stuck and they’ve got to pivot. Groupon is a great example of this, Groupon was a non-profit organization and it was designed to use social media to get people to volunteer their time to vote on some sort of charitable act that they were going to go do together as a community. It did not work, they lost a million dollars. They were having to lay people off, and then one of the founders said, “Let’s try to sell something.” And they went to a local company and they said, “Hey if we get X amount of people to buy such-and-such, can we get a discount?” 13 billion dollars later we would say that pivot was a success.
So when you look at how Groupon got founded, they never intended to do this thing. The point of The Art of Work is you need to start moving in the direction you feel called, you feel is your passion or your dream, but as you move in that direction be open to how failure can teach you some of the things you might be doing wrong, including maybe you are going after the wrong goal as in the case of Groupon.
Well Jeff thanks for taking the time to sit down and chat, The Art of Work is a great piece of work and I really appreciate it.
Thanks Declan! Thanks for having me!
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