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VINE VOICEon September 9, 2004
"The Joy of Not Working" is a welcome antidote to the workaholic mentality. A former engineer, Mr. Zelinski dropped out of the corporate rat race in favor of "The Life of Riley." He does what he loves (consulting, speaking, and writing) to make a living, and indulges in leisure the rest of the time. That doesn't mean he loafs around all day watching TV or playing video games. He discourages such empty distractions in favor of well-rounded activities like learning another language and volunteering at a homeless shelter.

Mr. Zelinski makes an excellent case for living a full life free of regret. I liked his positive attitude and constant motivation towards discovering and embracing my passions. His examples of persons who left a dreary job in favor of pursuing their dream occupation might be just the prodding some folks need to make their own leap (a similar book had that effect on me, and earned my eternal gratitude). Overall, the book's lighthearted tone and numerous applicable quotes were uplifting, and every chapter brightened up a break or lunchtime at work (although displaying a book with this title on your desk might upset a Bill Lumbergh-type manager). My favorite part was his short section on becoming an author. Every aspiring or discouraged writer should keep it handy as a pick-me-up.

However, the Life of Riley is a subjective thing, and finding your version of it might take some time and testing. Yes, it would be ideal to immediately discover and make a living in one's passion twenty hours a week. However, it may take awhile to actually discern your calling and develop it into a viable occupation. Until then, having a decent job that provides time and funds for investigating potential passions off-hours doesn't suck. Indeed, that place in life can serve as a transitional period to test the waters while preparing for the risk of a deeper plunge. But if the thought of showing up to work makes you want to take a hostage, then it's time to jump ship right now. From experience, I can second Mr Zelinski's claim that it's worth it in the long run.

Unfortunately, anyone who's not Western and single might find the Life of Riley difficult to achieve. I'm an American singleton, so I have the luxury of finding myself without having to worry about supporting a family, where my next meal is coming from, or if another car bomb will explode in my neighborhood this month. I doubt that a minimum-wage earner with a spouse and two young kids to feed or a woman who lives in Iraq would be able to imitate Mr Zelinki's lifestyle. Perhaps in those situations the Life of Riley will need to be redefined.

At any rate, "The Joy of Not Working" is a great read that provides a much-needed reality check for the average 9-to-5 person. FYI: I've checked out a couple of Mr. Zelinski's other books, and there's some repetition between them. For example, this one and "How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free" are different in focus, but often similar in content. Keep that in mind before making your purchase sight unseen.
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on December 26, 2000
The following is a review I did years ago of the first edition of this book. There are later editions that are not out of print, so the book is still very much in print and I still highly recommend it. It think Zelinski is the best there is when it comes to writing about retirement in a positive, helpful light. George Fulmore.

As an instructor in adult education on the subject of retirement, I have looked for books on the subject that cover the major areas of retirement in a positive vein. I think The Joy of Not Working is an absolute classic. I use it as the basis of my class, and I get nothing but positive feedback from those who buy it and read it. As a start, it is clear that retirement is not for everyone. Many people will hate it or not even consider it for various reasons. This book is not really meant for them. It is for the rest of us who are looking for reinforcement and encouragement in making the retirement decision. The author helps us through any thoughts of feeling guilty or fearing bordom in retirement. Then, he is off on a great section that provides very practical ways of filling our increased leisure time. His Leisure Tree chart is worth the price of admission alone, and this is followed by pages of detailed activities in case one has not come up with enough on his or her own. Additionally, there are sensible suggestions on finances, happiness and all kinds of other things that relate to getting on with the joy of retirement and leaving the workplace behind. I highly recommend The Joy of Not Working as THE retirement primer for those who want a positive outlook on life and one's future in a world that does not evolve around work. As I said in the begining, such a life will not appeal to all. But to those of us to which it does, this book will be prized on our bookshelf. Bravo Ernie Zelinski. I truly believe this book is a classic that will wear well with readers for decades to come.
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Believe it or not, I have the soul of a lazy person. I have enjoyed time off from 6 weeks to a year. I've enjoyed freedom in my work, especially now. So I totally understand the joy of Not Working.

Zelinski's book has many things going for it. For example:

(a) Too many of us are workaholics.

(b) We need structure, purpose and a sense of community, with or without a job.

(c) Work smart, not hard ("peak performance").

(d) The checklist on page 54 can be a wake-up call.

(e) We can gain several hours a week if we give up television.

But as a career consultant I am concerned about the book's core advice. Page 55: "The first day your job does not nourish and enthuse you is the day you should consider leaving. Indeed, I advise you to quit."

Pretty strong stuff! In my experience, few jobs provide daily nourishment and enthusiasm every day or even every week. I would say, "If you've outgrown your job, begin a search for alternatives. Don't do anything until you have a plan."

People do miss their jobs - even jobs they hated. I have never seen statistics, but my experience suggests at least 50% of those who quit without another job regretted the decision. One discussion list posted a note from a 40-something woman who had chosen enjoyable, low-paying jobs in the personal growth field. Now she was ready to move on, with no nest egg to fund a career transition.

Job dissatisfaction actually can be a misleading signal. Many people who seek a career change actually need to relocate geographically or work on relationships.

My biggest criticism of the book is the potentially misleading presentation of information. For example, the author mentions "a research study conducted in 2001 by Florida's Nova Southeastern University" which found that over 38% of stockbrokers making $300,000 - $1,000,000 suffered from "subclinical depression" while 28% reported "clinical depression." (Overlap? Additional? We're not told.)

Most studies are conducted by individual researchers, not universities or even departments. The author does not cite his source or indicate whether this study was actually published in a reputable peer-reviewed journal.

How was this sample of brokers chosen? What methods were used to assess "subclinical depression" or "clinical depression?" Was the depression long-term or situational? Was this study carried out in 2001 before or after 9/11? Where's the cause and effect: does the field attract individuals with a propensity to depression?

Other studies are mentioned but not cited or described in detail. For the Schnore study of retirees, I'd want to know how their satisfaction was reported and tested.

Additionally, throughout the book, Zelinski presents letters from readers. He seems to suggest that, "If these folks can do it, you can too."

But nearly all his examples come from people who took only the very first step: quitting or deciding to retire. On page 96, Zelinski writes, "Perhaps you will [say]...married people can't possibly quit their jobs like Ian did. Then go back to page 57 and read the letter [from a married man with 2 kids who quit his job]...Case closed!"

Unfortunately, the letter on page 57 was written by someone who had just marched in to his boss and quit. We don't know what happened afterward. Case not closed, in my opinion!

We do get a few examples of success: a professional who became a music busker in Toronto, someone who moved into a friend's trailer to live on $6000 a year, someone who travels cheaply, and several people who saved a stash of cash and now live comfortably from investments or a spouse's salary. Many readers (and most of my clients) will not relate to those examples.

We should also realize Zelinski writes from Canada, a country with national health care. It's not perfect, but it does open up career options. Those happily unemployed are subsidized by taxes from those who face a 50% tax bracket at surprisingly low salary levels.

I also believe that not everyone will enjoy a life of hobbies and volunteer work. Working for money gives you an edge, changing your thoughts, habits and conversations. Zelinski himself is neither unemployed nor retired: he is a full-time writer. His four-hour-a-day schedule is actually quite typical of professional authors of books. I once heard best-selling mystery author Jon Kellerman speak about writing 3 pages a day. Zelinski aims for four.

Bottom Line: Joy of Not Working is worth skimming to experience a philosophy that can be adapted to many lives. Unfortunately, the adaptation will be up to you.
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on February 26, 2002
Mr. Zelinski's book is dangerous stuff. I was warned by the people who recommended the book to me... don't read it unless you are ready to make a change. I bought the book, and managed to pull myself away from my 4 hours of evening television one night last summer. I finished the book, and I've never looked back. Ernie's book helped me to figure out what it is that I am really passionate about. And from the book I gained the courage to leave the Corporate job that was sucking the life from me. I now have a whole list of active, engaging activities from which to choose. No more vegging in front of the tube. No more letting my career be the defining pillar of my life. Do yourself a favor, and read The Joy of Not Working. But be warned, you'll never look at TV the same way again...
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on December 11, 2000
Well writen and honest, this book has really changed my life. I am 36 years old and have spent 10 years working my way up the corporate ladder only to find that what I thought I was working for was often the last priority to me, my family and myself. This book has helped me immensely to transition from "company man" to self employment. I believe this book is not about being a bum, but being truely HAPPY in what you do and learning to enjoy life to the fullest! I have made this book a manual for my life, constantly re-reading it and thinking about it. I have purchased this book for 5 friends and family members so far and everyone has loved it. If you are ready to start enjoying life...get this book and live it! Excellent book Mr. Zelinski!
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VINE VOICEon June 15, 2006
The essence of this book is attitude adjustment. Most people tune out when they hear "attitude adjustment" because of the way that it usually misused in North American society. It is usually misused by managers that want you to accept a rotten situation and "adjust" to being an obedient and cheerful slave. When Zelinski uses it, he means that you need to realise that the situation is rotten and that you need to free your mind- and realise that there are options and you don't have to be a slave. It is all about realising that wage slavery isn't the norm, nor the only option. In fact, I realised that I probably would go farther than the author when it comes to taking chances. He states that short of certain death you should take the leap- I have come to believe that you cannot even take death into account. You need to say, live or die, I'm going to live free.

I also found it reassuring in the way that it is pointed out that classical Greeks such as Plato and Aristotle would be horrified by what we consider "normal" work. They would have considered it slavery and beneath the dignity of free men. The Greeks lived for leisure. Our puritan work ethic is abnormal, unhealthy, and historically anomalous. There is nothing sadder than a person who enslaves himself due to conditioning by a socialisation process designed to profit others. You don't even need to pay an "overseer" for this kind of slave- he carries one in his head that tells him that he is worthless if he isn't working and making money.

This is a book that will help to break your mind free. You will begin to see that "leisure" isn't a dirty word- and it isn't the same as idleness. It is a matter of taking control of your own life and living for what you truly need to be doing. Of course, first you need to "know thyself", but the classical Greeks would have understood that, also.
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on May 24, 2005
This is primarily an inspirational book on living life to the fullest and not a guidebook for lazy people on how to live off the system. Throughout the latest edition of The Joy of Not Working, and in a special section at the end, the author has included numerous letters from readers all over the world who have taken this book to heart and improved their lives immensely. You can also read other letters about the book and actually download an E-book with the equivalent of two chapters of the book on The Joy of Not Working Website - [...] - but you will have to buy the actual book from Amazon or elsewhere since Zelinski does not sell it on his interesting and content-rich website.

Above all, The Joy of Not Working is for winners and not whiners. Ernie Zelinski stresses that a day lived to its fullest is worth far more than any money you could hope to earn by sacrificing it. He is also a proponent of the invaluable advice that originated with Confucius: Find a calling you love and you will never work a day in your life.

I take exception to the two or three recent negative reviewers of this book who say things like "Should Be Titled 'How to Live In Poverty Forever.' " These negative readers have obviously missed the whole point of The Joy of Not Working. It was never meant to be a book to show everyone in this world how not to work and still have a comfortable lifestyle.

How the negative reviewers of this book can expect that it should tell them how to pay their health care and plan out their financial lives for them is beyond me. One of the negative reviewers even goes so far as to deride Zelinski for giving an example in his book of a man who lives on $500 a month and is one of the happiest people he knows. Yet this negative reviewer cites the book Your Money or Your Life as a much better book. Interestingly enough, the late Joe Dominguez, one of the co-authors, lived happily in Seattle on less than $500 a month and, as Zelinski, maintained that financial independence is simply having more money come in that goes out.

The subtitle of The Joy of Not Working states that it is "A book for the retired, unemployed, and overworked." Zelinski should have clarified that this book is not for the negative people of this world. Michel de Montaigne stated: "Poverty of goods is easily cured; poverty of soul, impossible." The Joy of Not Working will help many people get over their poverty of goods and their poverty in the workplace, but it will not help the negative people get over their poverty of soul. No book or amount of money can do this.

I lost my passion for conventional work and the typical workplace many years ago. The Joy of Not Working reinforced my strong beliefs that there are many ways to combat emptiness in life and none of them involve working long and hard hours at a job you don't like all that much. Zelinski also reinforced my belief that the work ethic taken to extremes is a terrible mistake. It is promoted most vehemently by employers who either want to exploit you or by pathetic workaholics who are trying to justify why they work so many hours and have no real life.

No doubt as it has already, The Joy of Not Working will help tens of thousands of people around the world escape the insanity of the extreme work ethic and reclaim their creativity and their lives. At the same time, this book will show people how to find success, prosperity, and happiness on their own terms.
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on June 29, 2000
This book deals with getting the most out of life. He does not proclaim to have all the answers but cuts a very broad swath. He deals with working too much, not developing your own interests, and the difficulty of your work being "who you are". I was 23 when I read this book, looking at retireing at 35. I was also reading many books on retireing early and living frugaly. I worked 100-110 hours a week and had no plans after retirement. I do now. I am happier than I ever was before. I no longer identify who i am with what I do. This is one of my favorite books. I have sent copies to all of my relatives and a few other people as well. If you buy it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. The quotes alone are worth the purchase!
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on September 12, 1999
I read a book each week. Most are about retirement planning or how to become financially independent.
Whilst a lot of the material in this book is not new, it is nevertheless a book that I find that I am having second and third looks at quite a lot of pages from this book.
What many of us find difficulty with after 30 years of work is knowing what it is outside work that makes us happy. There are some very good sections in this book that help identify for you what it is you deep down really like doing. It seems silly that we need a book to help us with knowing that but a lifetime of the discipline of work does take away our abilities to dream, to imagine another world away from work and more importantly to survive after work is taken away from us either by retirement or retrenchment.
The section on the Leisure Tree hit a soft spot with me. This is a device to identify what leisure activities will give us the most pleasure.
This is a terrific book and a bargain buy at the price. If you have read Your money or your life, The Millionaire Next Door, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Live Rich, Die Broke, you should read this book as well. It will help fill in some gaps the others leave.
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on November 8, 2001
It was about 5 yrs ago that I first read "The Joy of Not Working". I had never read anything like it. I couldn't put it down. Although I had "only" been in my career for about 20 yrs, I was losing my passion. This book was the catalyst that got me reading other books, such as "Your Money or Your Life", and started me on the path to "retiring" at 50, which I will be doing at the end of this year.
I would definitely agree with those reviewers who called this book a classic. What is missing in some of the details of getting from here to there (see "Your Money or Your Life"), is MORE than made up for in making one think about work and leisure, in a general and creative way. I too have recommended this book to many friends, at least two of whom "retired" before 50, partly as a result of reading it.
I absolutely recommend this book to anyone interested in expanding their thinking on these topics.
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