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What is Your Life's Work? Hardcover – May 3, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Recent research suggests that 75% of all American workers are disengaged from what they do every day and are seeking new work: they've lost sight (and their employers have lost sight), says Jensen, of what really matters most to them. After advising people on bringing simplicity to their lives, Jensen now uses letters written by people from all walks of life and career stages to show how one can recover that sense of purpose. He presents a wide variety of viewpoints and wisdom illustrating the five discoveries that can come from writing a letter expressing the important life lessons one has learned and taking stock of one's values, from "finding yourself" to "finding joy, serenity and fulfillment." Jensen does a wonderful job of pulling together meaningful, often moving letters gathered in the course of his consulting work, many of them missives to children or grandchildren that reflect hard-earned knowledge: a former police officer and prison guard "bequeaths [her] spirit of unrest"; a one-time Microsoft executive writes to her mentees that "I was so completely seduced by the excitement [of work], the adventure... I often forgot I had a body, that that body had limits...." While not every letter in this book will resonate with every reader, there is an abundance of meaningful philosophy, insight and advice. (May)
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“The most powerful book about life at work that I have ever read.” (Stephen C. Lundin, aka The Big Tuna, Ph.D., author of the best-selling FISH! book series)

“The candor and human decency expressed in this book should be benchmarks for every decision made on every job.” (Karen Katen, President, Pfizer Global Pharmaceuticals)

“What Is Your Life’s Work? reminds us how short and precious our lives are, helping us recover our own wisdom...” (Oriah Mountain Dreamer, author of The Invitation and What We Ache For)

“Unique, heartfelt, and practical approach to finding the courage to do more of what’s important and less of what isn’t.” (Julie Jansen, author of I Don't Know What I Want, But I Know It's Not This)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBus (May 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060766867
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060766863
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,389,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Here's the basic situation: Jensen contacted several hundred people and invited each to compose a letter to a loved one...or to several, perhaps children or grandchildren. BUZZ eventually generated several thousand submissions. (Mine was among them but not selected.) Jensen requested that each letter respond to a very basic but critically important question: "What would you tell your kids or your grandkids or dearest friends about what really matters at work?" Presumably the letters would share life lessons learned from poor choices made as well as greratest achievements, proudest moments, regrets, current concerns, hopes and dreams, etc. Everyone knew that her or his letter could perhaps eventually appear in print.

Jensen carefully read and re-read all the letters received, eventually selecting 64 for inclusion in this book. He then organized them within five "Discovery" sections:

1. Finding Yourself
2. Finding the Lessons to Be Learned, the Questions to Be Asked
3. Finding the Choices Which Really Matter
4. Finding the Courage to Choose
5. Finding Joy, Serenity, and Fulfillment

Jensen is correct: "In their letters, we see ourselves" and "In their struggles, we see our own."

In his recently published Creating the Good Life, James O'Toole explains what we can learn about "getting it right" from a Greek philosopher, Aristotle, who lived almost 2,400 years ago. In one of the most interesting sections in his book, O'Toole's discusses what he calls "The Deathbed Test": "Aristotle's test of true happiness is the degree to which one is free of deathbed regrets about his or her unfulfilled potential. He says that the realization at the end of one's days that 'I coulda, woulda, shoulda and mighta' is the definition of unhappiness.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca of Amazon HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"Work is not just an eight-hour interruption in our day. Most of us will spend most of our adult lives and most of our waking hours focused on our jobs. Whether we like it or not, we are defined by the choices we make at work." ~Bill Jensen

What is your life purpose?
Are you living your dream?

Reading inspirational stories about how individuals achieved their dreams tends to motivate me in the direction of my own dreams. Bill Jensen asks us an important and life changing question.

What Is Your Life's Work will help you to:

Find Yourself
Make Choices That Really Matter
Have the Courage to Choose
Experience Joy, Serenity, and Fulfillment

I loved reading the letters from women who explained why you should "speak your truth" and from men who explain why "You are who you Choose to be."

One of the best sections in the book is a letter from Kristi Dinsmore. She works in executive education and writes a letter: "Dear Person Who is Hungry For That Thing Called Joy."

In this letter she shows why you should have realistic expectations, have patience, ask for what you really want, compete smart and establish priorities.

I also enjoyed reading Mark Ritzmann's comments in his letter to Lucy. He explores the more pleasant aspects of work, making friends, laughing, having great hobbies and exploring life through changing jobs.

The conclusion of this book is a "Field Guide to Getting Started." In this section, you get to map out your own journey. After taking notes throughout this book, you should have a good idea of what you want out of life.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia Sue Larson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
If you've ever wished you had a parent or mentor who would have shared with you what it is that matters most in life, because you've noticed that people who get such mentoring seem to have some kind of natural edge in the world... you're in luck. Bill Jensen's book WHAT IS YOUR LIFE'S WORK contains some of the most powerfully moving written exchanges between people that you are likely ever to find, and these gems of real life stories will set you on fire with their honesty and love. Every counselor, life coach, parent and child can benefit from reading WHAT IS YOUR LIFE'S WORK, as some of the most important life lessons are touched upon in deeply personal ways.

In an age when it's been said that the art of letter writing is dead, this book dares to raise the subject of we can best find a balance between work and the rest of our life. The intense passion conveyed in most of the letters helps bring this subject to life in a way that is sure to help anyone rekindle their own inner fire, and regain a sense of what it is we're all working for that really matters.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Steven K. Szmutko VINE VOICE on August 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
How often do we define ourselves by our work? How often do we equate who we are in life with our job title: assistant director, associate vice deputy, CEO, chairman, stay-at-home mom, etc.? So many people focus so tightly upon their job description as their identity that they ultimately lose sight of their true self.

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE'S WORK examines what truly matters from a distinctly human perspective. It does so not by dry, formal statements of principles (e.g., the 7-steps, the 10-tenets, the 9-objectives, the 431 value-added theorems . . . you get the picture). Rather, the author offers the wisdom of numerous individuals, precious metals refined in the furnace of everyday existence. The letters and journal entries, selected by Bill Jensen from countless thousands, answer the questions of what really matters in life and how one awakens (or reawakens) the passion in one's soul. The lessons are personal, poignant, and powerful; they are also as unique as are the individual personalities.

In lives of depth and meaning, certain themes emerge: self-respect, integrity, balance, the importance of family, faith, passion, selflessness, and compassion (to name just a few). Mr. Jensen's selections, for the most part, emphasize the transcendence of the individual toward a greater purpose than the accumulation of possessions, or the aggregate of mere activities and accomplishments.

There are two individuals, whose legacies to their children are sadly that of egotistical arrogance and strident selfishness. The reader will quickly recognize these shallow individuals - their stories too are most valuable.

Although a scant 200+ pages, WHAT IS YOUR LIFE'S WORK packs a tremendous wallop, a wonderful wake-up call to those who have languished in a low-level comfort zone, or to those who aspire to a higher place. It is a wonderful series of discoveries to those seeking a life of fulfillment and meaning in those areas that truly matter.
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