- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: HarperBusiness (May 3, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060766867
- ISBN-13: 978-0060766863
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,322,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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What is Your Life's Work?: Answer the BIG Question About What Really Matters...and Reawaken the Passion for What You Do Hardcover – May 3, 2005
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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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“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)
Top customer reviews
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get this for sure if u want to feel collected and want to reconcile yourself. I know i pick this up every time i feel lost and hopeless; it doesn't care if u made it or not as far as material is concerned. I had recommended this book to 3 people whom are very well off and yet they too have felt lost in their "supposedly" full lives. I gave this as a gift to another who just started their first job out of college. ItS fantastic stories that move u :)
Dinah Maria (Mulock) Craik (1826-1887).
"We cannot go back and make a new start, but we can start and make a new ending." (as quoted by Mac Anderson in "Companies Don't Succeed...People Do!")
"The thing about reality shows is they offer the same appeal of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances, but it's all a game. There's a happy ending." (source unknown)
This is a powerful book, because in a sense, it captures the epitaphs of the living.
It demonstrates that the specter of death loses much of its power over us when we purposefully reassert our right to a Life worth valuing -- when we carry our predecessors' collective example, something greater than ourselves, forward into posterity.
Being actively present lets us regain the perspective needed to take back control of the steering wheel, and extract ourselves from the ruts of regretfulness (rear-view mirror).
Jensen establishes that it takes courage to re-examine one's Life as being more than just the recovery period between bouts of work: more than a faint dance of light across terminals, screens and filters that eclipse the precious moments in our midst, never to be recaptured.
According to Jensen ([...] "Everything a company does uses a portion of its people's lives, and it is a leader's responsibility to make sure that their time is used wisely . . . Time stolen from you at work means less time for whatever really matters to you." He also mentions challenging our limiting belief system, and not settling for experiences pressured upon us by others.
In other words, it's imperative that we create a space for our inner voices to surface, and our gifts to be appreciated. If we don't respect ourselves by setting boundaries and defining for ourselves what matters, no one else will.
While we all take great pride in our accomplishments and accumulated experience at work, we also have to know when not to hide behind it as an excuse. When we maintain a self that is distinct from what we do to make a living, we can more easily accept and embrace the life lessons that others are willing to share with us.
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. When Gandhi was in his forties and engaged in the practice of business law, he asked himself what he was likely to be able to say about his life at the end if he continued on his present course. He then decided to change his life and to realize his full potential."
O'Toole then explains that Aristotle offers "a useful set of questions that serve us as a self-assessment of whether our current actions and goals will ultimately lead to satisfaction with our life as a whole. The bottom line is that the time to start planning for a happy and fulfilling future is now, the perfect time to start asking 'what's next?' In my experience, Aristotle offers a lot more useful and practical advice than is found in most of the texts we assign in business school."
I thought about O'Toole's comments as I read this book. Both he and Jensen seem determined to help as many people as possible to ask the most important questions... and then answer them with honesty and courage. In his Introduction, Jensen points out that, according to more than 40 Gallup studies, about 75% of us feel disengaged from our jobs; according to the most recent U.S. Job Retention Survey, 75% of all employees are now searching for new employment opportunities; and according to the New American Dream Survey, about 83% of us wish we had more of what really matters in life. Obviously, a substantial majority of us (whatever the percentage) are experiencing a disconnect of some kind between what we are required to get done at work and what truly matters. Much of the material in this book indicates that.
Noteworthy is the fact that so many of those who wrote these letters cite that disconnect. They share with the letters' recipients (and with those who read Jensen's book) what caused each disconnect in their lives, its nature and extent, its impact, and what they learned from it. Also noteworthy is how candid the letter-writers are. The thoughts and feelings seem (to me at least) authentic but seldom self-serving. For most of those whose letters are included, it was probably quite difficult to confront errors of judgments, betrayals of trust, behavior which was hurtful to others, etc. In a sense, they take the reader into their confidence. Yes, as with a person sitting next to them during a long-distance airline flight, there is a degree of "safety": the letter-writers and the reader will have no further contact. I still think it takes courage to acknowledge one's imperfections, especially insofar as they have negatively affected others. It takes even greater courage to allow themselves to be identified when the acknowledgments appear in print.
For the most part, however, the letters in this book celebrate humanity (warts and all) while affirming that lessons can be learned from the experiences of others (no news there). What sets this book apart from any others I have read is that, almost immediately, I began to establish a rapport with the letter-writers, aided significantly by Jensen's narrative during which he helps to create an appropriate context without getting in the way. In the "Endnotes & Stats" section (pages 220-222), he shares the five most important lessons he has learned. This material is, for me, a personal letter from Jensen which he wisely includes at the end of his book.
I do strongly disagree with his recommendation that his book not be read cover-to-cover. Some readers will. Others won't. So what? Just as each letter-writer describes a process of personal discovery, so must each reader embark on one of her or his own...reading the book as she or her wishes. Straight through. Hop around. Cherry pick. Lock in on one of the "Discoveries." Whatever.
Jensen has allowed himself to be described as a "practical simpleton, tough-love gadfly, passionate speaker, researcher, father, and friend." No doubt he is all of that...and more. In this instance, his primary function is to introduce several people who share the most important lessons they have learned. It remains for each reader to select those lessons which are most relevant to them...and then benefit from them in ways and to the extent appropriate to their own circumstances.
Long ago, Voltaire suggested that we cherish those who seek the truth but beware of those who find it. Jensen and his 64 associates make no such claim. Their search continues...and so does ours, guided and informed by theirs.