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Book Review of "The Art of Work" by Jeff Goins

Wednesday, December 2, 2015  
Posted by: Christina Mimms, SAIS
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Reviewed by Melinda Holmes, Director of Library Services, Darlington School, Rome, GA

Jeff Goins explains in his book The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do that everyone seeks to find purpose in their life; therefore, each of us seeks a calling. As human beings, though, we spend a lot of time trying to figure out our calling or vocation. Some people find their vocation easily, while others struggle much of their lives to figure it out. Goins emphasizes that being open to finding the job or vocation that you were meant to do is important. Finding a vocation that you are passionate about is also imperative, and if you find yourself working hard and loving the work you do, then most likely you have found your calling.

This book uses ordinary examples and ordinary people to demonstrate how to find your calling and what it looks like once you have found it. Goins believes that pining away for a dream job and/or focusing on what could have been holds people back from living their lives. He suggests that changing your mindset in order to recognize your calling can help you find your perfect vocation. In addition, he notes that it is important to remember that finding your calling is not necessarily about having the right circumstances, and that the path to your calling is not always straight. A chaotic path can also lead you to your perfect calling. You only have to look back at your past for patterns in your life. Studying these patterns can give you clues and direction for the right track to your new vocation.

Goins presents readers with the following seven stages for finding their calling:

1)   AWARENESS: Look for common themes in your life that form a pattern. You might not have realized it at the time, but your past experiences can provide you with important information for determining your calling. If a particular activity has always seemed easy to you but not to others, pay attention — this may be a sign of your calling. If you find that you have no problem spending hours on a difficult task, recognize your unique ability and determine if you might be on the right track to finding your passion. As you search for your vocation, do not be afraid to fail. Clarity comes from action, whether from success or failure.

2)   APPRENTICESHIP: As you seek your calling, you should be aware of the people in your past who have influenced you and led you to where you are today. Just as apprentices learned from master craftsmen in years past, you can learn from the mentors around you. If you are open to positive influences in your life, you may be surprised to find “accidental apprenticeships,” as Goins calls them, from personal acquaintances that lead you to your true vocation.

3)   PRACTICE: Most skills for professions require practice, but if you find yourself willingly giving your time and energy to a task that you would not naturally enjoy doing, you need to pay attention. In addition, if your practice leads you to go beyond your mentor’s knowledge and you make a unique contribution to society, you may have found your special calling.

4)   DISCOVERY: Try to figure out what you love AND what the world needs, and combine them. If you feel a gentle and consistent prodding, your calling may be close at hand. Keep at it. Tenacity will work in your favor. Remember that change is not always easy, but it is necessary. Do not wait for someone to give you permission to start your search.

5)   PROFESSION: Pivot points in your career are important to recognize. These moments when you decide to change course often lead you closer to your calling. Goins says that successful people do not succeed in spite of failure. They succeed because of failure. Use these lessons of failure to pivot toward new paths as you continue your search for your life calling.

6)   MASTERY: True mastery in a profession is evident when you push the boundaries and surprise others who thought the task was impossible. Masters do not focus on naysayers but focus on doing their very best and working their hardest to reach an ideal that he or she was called to do.

7)   LEGACY: When seeking your calling, remember that success is not the goal. Leaving a legacy is. Success is not what you do but what you leave behind. Remember that distractions while you are working are only reminders that a calling is more than a career — it is a life lived well.

Remembering that awareness is the first step toward finding a calling, readers will greatly benefit from Goins’ helpful explanations and simple strategies for discovering their own paths. His suggestions and sound advice will lead readers to find their own personal callings and self-fulfillment. 




Melinda Holmes is director of library services at Darlington School in Rome, GA. Reach her at



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