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Living Without a Goal Hardcover – January 1, 1995


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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

In what may be the most radical business book ever published, philosopher Jay Ogilvy shows that living without a goal is the only way to accomplish anything. In the 1980s we ran our lives with all the direction and confidence filofaxes and to-do lists could provide. Always knowing exactly where we were headed, we climbed toward the goals corporate America held out in front of us like so many carrots: higher salaries, better titles, more impressive offices. But after a decade of climbing, the air is getting thin. We crave the chance to create, to express ourselves, and to make a difference, not just a living. It is time, says businessman/philosopher James Ogilvy, to tear up the to-do lists and grant ourselves the freedom to enjoy what E. M. Forster calls "the lights and shades that exist in the greyest conversation." Ogilvy shows that richness and color and flavor flood back into our lives once we set aside the goals that hold us captive. He explores how philosophers (from Plato to Nietzsche), lovers, ideologues, and executives have at one time or another lived without goals. What emerges from his argument is a new look at how to achieve personal creativity and freedom by fashioning one's day to-day life, not as a larger goal-producing machine, but as a personal work of art.

From the Inside Flap

In what may be the most radical business book ever published, philosopher Jay Ogilvy shows that living without a goal is the only way to accomplish anything. In the 1980s we ran our lives with all the direction and confidence filofaxes and to-do lists could provide. Always knowing exactly where we were headed, we climbed toward the goals corporate America held out in front of us like so many carrots: higher salaries, better titles, more impressive offices. But after a decade of climbing, the air is getting thin. We crave the chance to create, to express ourselves, and to make a difference, not just a living. It is time, says businessman/philosopher James Ogilvy, to tear up the to-do lists and grant ourselves the freedom to enjoy what E. M. Forster calls "the lights and shades that exist in the greyest conversation." Ogilvy shows that richness and color and flavor flood back into our lives once we set aside the goals that hold us captive. He explores how philosophers (from Plato to Nietzsche), lovers, ideologues, and executives have at one time or another lived without goals. What emerges from his argument is a new look at how to achieve personal creativity and freedom by fashioning one's day to-day life, not as a larger goal-producing machine, but as a personal work of art.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 201 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday Business; 1st edition (January 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385417993
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385417990
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,251,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I like to go off and think deep thoughts probably a little more than average.
Bill Pierson
Spike and Lila could have been fleshed out more; they only appear as actual characters in one chapter, though Ogilvy refers to them elsewhere.
Lleu Christopher
I like Ogilvy's premise that we should stop striving toward a distant Goal and be more artful about the small details of living.
Aspen Leaf

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Lleu Christopher on January 15, 2003
Format: Hardcover
First of all, the editorial reviews for this book are mistaken on two points; the author's name is James, not Jay Ogilvy and this is NOT a business book. The principles could be applied to a business environment but the book hardly deals directly with this at all. James Ogilvy deserves credit for attempting to unravel a very complex and paradoxical (e.g. how can you have the goal of not having a goal?) issue. How can we, in a goal-oriented society, live without being driven and obsessed by an endless parade of grand goals? The simple answer, and one that is given in many other books, is to say that we should relax and "let go" of our desires in a Zen or Taoist manner. Ogilvy does advocate this, but he also attempts to deal with the question in a more thorough and philosophical manner. Unfortunately, his arguments sometimes seem like streams of consciousness that don't always accomplish their...goals. Still, the discussion is always interesting. Some of Ogilvy's best lines seem almost like incidental, throwaway phrases that don't always fit into the larger argument. I suppose that's consistent with his message. He does make a few quite valuable and coherent points. He differentiates "small g" goals and "large G" Goals. It is the latter he would have us relinquish. If we live entirely without goals, our lives will sink into nihilism. If we pursue large Goals, however, we will always be seeking gratifications in the future that will almost always disappoint us even if we do achieve them. Ogilvy illustrates his case by creating two fictional characters, Spike and Lila. Spike is a young slacker type who illustrates the pitfalls of goallessness; Lila is a Goal-driven baby-boomer who has been let down by one Goal after another.Read more ›
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Joel Brown on June 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
When I saw this book on the shelf of my local library, I knew that it was something I had been looking for. It has always struck me how, pyschologically, humans are always thinking towards some greater end in their future, and in the mean while miss being alive in the present moment of endless creative possibilities. James Ogilvy logically defines the life of Goalessness, and clearly specifies the philosophies that it is NOT and what it is confused with. It is a life of artfulness and without extremes, from the perspective of abandonment of politics and religion. Living without a Goal is like creating a work of art in the sense that artistic creativity serves no goal outside itself. Like the artist in his studio, the person in a life must create from the inside out rather than relying on some great blueprint in the sky to justify her actions here on earth. Better to take artistic creation as a metaphor: to see in the challenge of artistic creativity a model or a likeness for the challenge of living life without a Goal. It is not selfishness, it's not hedonism, but it is also not a life without desires (detachment, as in Buddhism) and yes it WILL be a patchwork of smaller goals lest you find this idea impossible or absurd. The difference is that they are not hinged on to any other greater goal besides themselves. There is a necessary balance between freedom and discipline. I highly enjoyed his philosophical and clear, honest style of composition. Recommended!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Peter L. Forte on September 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I finished this book this afternoon and have just finished reading all the reviews. First I would like to remark on all the negative comments left by other reviewers. An excellent point was made that the book has a lot of seemingly unnecessary hard-to-undertsand philosophy, some of which I never could quite fully grasp myself. If you're someone who doesn't read a lot and/or is not familiar with the particular philosophies discussed, I would still recommend this book, but try not to get to caught up in following everything this guy is saying because you'll be re-reading entire paragraphs all day. I also agree with the contentions that this book was not exactly what most people would have expected based on the title. I have a cousin who tends to be lazy and is unemployed currently and seems to have little motivation when it comes to achieving long-term goals. He saw the book on my shelf and asked me how it was. This is when I finally decided to read it. THIS IS NOT A BOOK FOR THOSE LOOKING FOR AN EXCUSE TO SIT AROUND DO NOTHING! Its not about giving up the idea of setting goals altogether but about how to not get too caught up in your goals that you forget to enjoy the ride, which, according to the author, is what this book is really all about. Its about living like and artist. Even artists have goals, they just go about them differently and that is what this book explains how to do. I would also like to point out that the moment of understanding in this book will most likely not occur until the VERY END in the final pages of the last chapter. Its like the author spent the first 180 pages preparing your mind so that you can understand his ultimate point, which again, is summed up in as little as the last few pages.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
James put into words what I have blindly felt my way toward for many years. Radical thinking when written and even more so in 2015 when sayings such as: "If you don't know where you are going you won't know when you get there" abound. Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose and nothing ain't nothin' if it ain't free". Good book. But you might not like it at all. It doesn't matter. He never had the Goal of pleasing you so you would buy it. That is freedom.
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