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Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity Hardcover – March 19, 2001

4.6 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Readers who accept poet and Fortune 500 consultant Whyte's invitation to enter into "an imaginative conversation about life and work" are likely to be challenged as well as delighted by the beauty of his writing and the expansiveness of his views. Gracefully using the metaphor of a sea voyage to depict the journey through the world of work, Whyte views work not only as a means of support, but as a means for interacting with the world and developing self-expression and identity. While he draws on the philosophical underpinnings of the self-help movement aimed at finding one's "inner compass," Whyte doesn't offer the step-by-step pragmatism of other books. Instead, his approach is subtler and more organic, presenting an abundance of provocative ideas, especially on one's relationship with time and daily ritual, on the importance of dignity and ethics and on honoring the labor of one's ancestors. Interwoven with and undergirding Whyte's philosophy are passages of memoir, detailing his unique experiences as a naturalist in the Gal pagos Islands, for example, together with poetic references from Whitman, Spender, Dickinson, Rilke, Wordsworth and Whyte's own works. Even Whyte's friends are wise, as evidenced by a monk who tells him that the antidote to exhaustion is not rest but "wholeheartedness." Thoughtful readers will wholeheartedly savor this book. Agent, Ned Leavitt. (Apr. 2)Forecast: Whyte established a core audience with the much-praised The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America and through his business seminars on creativity. A six-city author tour, selection by the One Spirit Book Club and a recent excerpt in Oprah's magazine mark this as a title to watch.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In the midst of all the arid, bullet point-ridden business books, Whyte's stands out with its languid I'll-get-to-the-point-when-I'm-damned-good-and-ready approach. A poet, corporate trainer, and author of The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America, Whyte challenges readers to remember their childhood interests and enthusiasms. He claims that this is necessary in order to escape the deadening influences of adult "musts" and "shoulds" and to recapture the passion that one needs to do good work. Whyte discusses his own career changes, from naturalist to nonprofit executive to writer/presenter/coacher. Echoing Fortgang, his main point is the popular "Do what you love and the money will follow," but he personalizes it by telling his own story and by including snippets of focused poetry (his own and others'), so that it's not as hackneyed as it may sound. Because an excerpt appeared in the March 2001 issue of O: The Oprah Magazine, there's sure to be demand in public libraries.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; 1st edition (January 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0573221782
  • ISBN-13: 978-0573221781
  • ASIN: 1573221783
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #664,934 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I read The Heart ARoused and found it interesting, appreciated the poetic references. But Crossing the Unknown Sea! It was one inspiring book. And I would add that it is not only a "pilgrimage of Identity" and that it applies to the work environment, but basically, it has to do "where the Self meets the World" whether at work, in a relationship, or, as in my case, in retirement, which is a whole new arena of "self-meeting-soul." David reports "constant busyness has no absence in it - no birdsong at the start of the day." And that is where so many retirement plans falter. Without busyness, the retiree fears boredom, becomes entranced with golf or bridge or ?? and instead, finds him/herself terrified at the absence of meaning in his/her life. As a poet, I was inspired by David's meeting with Brother David, the matter of the antidote for exhaustion, "not necessarily rest," but "wholeheartedness." I was alive at the meeting between those two Souls, I felt as though i were there, hearing that word again, "wholeheartedness" and David's resolve "to do at least one thing every day toward (his)future life as a poet." And Brother David's extraordinary courage to confront his friend with the fact that he "was beginning to rot on the vine." I read this as I gazed at the mountains around Mammoth Lake - and remembered that whatever one's passion, a vow to work toward that goal every day is the only way to sail across that unknown sea. This book holds its place of honor on my bookcase, is a book I have sent to my children, and to special friends, friends who can appreciate the vast calm and meaning within its pages.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book a couple of months back when it was handed out at the end of a leadership seminar I attended. It is really an exceptional piece of literature. Some of the basic principles of life and work have been explained through simple art of story telling.

I work in a hostile environment. The management believes that employees are there to work for them and to tolerate their whims and fancies. For example, at the beginning of every new project our director asks for 10 different documents none of which is actually ever used. He insults people by belittling their contribution and makes life miserable for anybody who dares to stand up to him.

After reading this book I realized why I am working, who I represent everyday, what are my duties as an employee and what will happen if I quit. David's wisdom gave me strength to reassess my life and priorities and I realized that we had been dealing with work in a wrong way. Our work is really a way for us to express ourselves to the world. It is a window to our character and creativity. If someone insults me, he is insulting my parents, my family, all that I am.

I found the ideas revealing, the prose lucid and thought strong. I decided to act. Next time when the confrontation occurred, instead of running away, I stood up to my manager and told him that company policy forbids him from saying and doing things he had been doing. I further told him that I have worked honestly and if he couldn't respect that, he could hire someone who can do a better job.

From that day, he has stopped raising his voice and has become a very rational person with me. He knows I work hard and I don't listen to unreasonable demands and behavior.

I have been having a great time at work. My coworkers think I am great because the director listens to me and respects me. What they need to learn is that he respects my strenght and clarity of thought, 2 things that I aquired from this book.
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Format: Hardcover
I came across this book in the New Books section of my local library and the title intrigued me enough to take it home. I am always looking for books on work as I write a weekly high-tech careers column.
Whyte's style can be a bit "grand" at times, one of the hazards of a poet writing prose, but there are some very important ideas to be found here. Several times I found myself pausing suddenly to contemplate a line I had just read that effected me deeply. This book needs to be taken in small doses, allowing time to ruminate and absorb what you read.
If you are looking for a book with a unique take on the nature of work in the 21st Century, you would be well-served to pick this one.
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Format: Hardcover
There is so little real literature out there on the subject of work and its effect on the individual so it was wonderful to come across David Whyte's Crossing. I found this book a real jewel, a kind of navigational aid in helping me to reach a few horizons I had almost forgotten about. Crossing the Unknown Sea is both a marvellous, insightful tour of the human psyche and a deeply satisfying read. I recommend it to anyone giving their life or their work some real thought.
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Format: Hardcover
Couldn't put this book down, had to read it from beginning to end and immediately it was done, I started slowly again from the beginning. I found myself making hundreds of little crossings as I read David Whyte's beautiful prose: crossing to memories of childhood, to crucial thresholds in my life as a young woman, to a deeper sense of my present life and a fuller sense of the future. Amidst all the success oriented drivel out there on the subject of work this is a real heirloom gem; something to be passed on to others as a gift, to be thanked for, and to be talked about for years to come.
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