The4thDave Reviews: “The Art of Work” by Jeff Goins

How do you discover what you were really meant to do?

There must be a mountain of literature for people who have the deep desire to do something creative or challenging like write a book or start a business.  I’ve done a lot of reading in this genre, especially in the last few years.  If I had to pick some of the best such books I’ve read, books like Todd Henry’s Die Empty and Jon Acuff’s excellent books, Quitter and Start!, would spring to mind.

To that list, I would also add a new book by Jeff Goins called The Art of Work.

Goins’ latest book is about the process of discovering and pursuing your calling, which breaks down into seven stages that take you from preparation to action to completion. To do this, he weaves in the stories of about a dozen people from around the world who overcame difficult circumstances, faced heartbreaking personal disappointment, and persevered to discover their true vocation.  These personal profiles give emotional power and resonance to Goins’ very practical approach to the question of discovering and pursuing your calling.

According to Goins, the stages of this journey involve things like paying attention to the passions that are already present in your life, finding unexpected influences, and practicing your craft in a specific and painful way. He discusses concepts like “building a bridge,” pivoting from failure, living a “portfolio life,” and building a legacy. (Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to explore these concepts one by one, so I hope you’ll stick around for that.)

What Worked

This book was a page-turner for me, and much of what Goins had to say resonated deeply. Each chapter’s profile story was encouraging and challenged me to think about my own life and calling. The book was full of quotable lines and paragraphs; I kept underlining and starring sections to revisit and chew on later. The chapter on “painful practice” is incredibly challenging and exciting, and I found myself nodding through the whole thing (as well as most of the book). In short, the whole book was pretty great.

There was just one question that hung around in the back of my mind…

What was Missing

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, I hope you’ve discovered that I am a “born again” evangelical Christian. This means that Jesus is my God and King, and my whole life is about serving and honoring Him, making His name great through everything I do. This doesn’t just apply to my religious ideas or my internal world, but it should make itself evident in my home, my work, my speech, my ideological views, and even my writing. When I read books or watch movies, I do so through that lens. That’s how I see the world.

Jeff Goins is, by all accounts, an evangelical Christian. While he doesn’t talk about his faith too much publicly, I’ve been able to read between the lines enough to see that’s where his religious views line up.  But rather than write specifically for the evangelical audience, Goins has written The Art of Work to have a broad-based appeal, so that it can be applicable to anyone anywhere. I understand what he’s going for here; this is a good message that would benefit people all over the world, in different cultures with different beliefs.  I appreciate his desire to make this message accessible to all.

However, as a Christian reader, the one nagging question throughout the book is: “How is my vocation a spiritual issue? How can my talents and my calling be used by God for His work? How does my faith in Jesus affect my search to find out what it is that I’m meant to do?”  This is the one area where I think The Art of Work falls short, at least for me.

I recognize this may be an issue of my putting expectations on the book that were not Goins’ intention to meet. But, in terms of applying the principles of this excellent book to my life and calling, I hoped for more attention to be paid to how our faith informs and directs the search for our calling.

(And I feel I must add this: Goins’ only clear use of a Bible story was a retelling of God’s call to Samuel. Goins tried to draw the analogy that Samuel “almost missed his calling,” and only heard it when he was paying attention. I was actually pretty bothered by this, because I felt like it really cheapened the Biblical idea of a divine call. I was encouraged at first to see any reference to Scripture, but I would rather Goins’ not use Scripture at all than use it out of context.)

Final Review

Bottom line: I loved this book. It was really well-written and easy to read, full of many great ideas and encouraging quotes. While I wish there was more content that addressed the spiritual nature of a calling (and the one key use of Scripture was a sour note for me), I still benefitted greatly from reading it. I would recommend The Art of Work to anyone who has a dream or desire to create, build, or pursue something awesome with their lives.

=====

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing more about the ideas discussed in The Art of Work. In the meantime, Jeff Goins is providing an amazing offer.

Until March 24, when it is released officially, you can pre-order The Art of Work and pay only $6.99 to cover the cost of shipping.  That’s right, the book is being given away for free, and you only have to pay for shipping.

In addition to pre-ordering the physical book, you’ll get access to a bunch of online content, video blogs, a workbook, and other downloadable materials that go along with the book.

This is a phenomenal deal, and I would encourage you to check it out. Visit www.artofworkbook.com for more information.

You can also learn more about Jeff Goins’ other work by visiting Goinswriter.com.

[An advanced copy of the book and online content was provided by the author for this review.]

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7 thoughts on “The4thDave Reviews: “The Art of Work” by Jeff Goins

  1. Thanks for the kind words and the honest review, Dave. You do a great at this, and I’m honored you took the time to read my book.

    To be completely honest, I struggled with how much spiritual content to put in the book. The reason I wrote The Art of Work was not to convince religious people that they have a calling. I think make recognize they do. In fact, it was to convince everyone that they have something they were born to do, even if they don’t get recognize the God who may be calling them.

    I believe the Bible reinforces this idea. It’s filled with characters who are called and sometimes don’t know it or understand it. In fact, I would argue most don’t understand the calling except in hindsight. Pharaoh comes to mind. As does King Nebuchadnezzar and Xerxes. But do Abram and Sarai, Esther and Jeremiah, and Jesus and Mary. They all seem to have some sense that they were born to do something and yet don’t always fully grasp the task at hand. In some cases, God speaks to these individuals but, as in the case of Moses, that doesn’t necessarily make things any easier or more comprehensible.

    Regarding Samuel, I take great comfort in the fake that he has no idea who was calling him and needed a mentor to discern that. I’m not sure that cheapens the call at all but rather humanizes it. At least for me it does.

    Of course, I could be wrong about all this. And maybe I should have put more Bible verses in there. But I wonder how much good it would have done. I constantly meet Christians who overall emphasize the spiritual aspect of a calling and under emphasize the practical nature of this process. I tried to do the opposite, and perhaps I swung too far in the other direction.

    That said, I believe the concepts in the book all have deep spiritual connotations. Example: listening to your life is really a prayerful, meditative act in which you search inwardly, listening to the voice of God (at least this is how I see it) for direction. He will tell you who you are and then what to do will become more clear. Or the concept of an accidental apprenticeship. This is discipleship in the most practical way I’ve ever experienced it. Building bridges is about fighting the urge to take a leap of faith and instead about the quiet persistence of the pursuit of a dream which seems to often been the case in Scripture.

    Anyway, I hope that makes things more clear. I don’t say any of this to invalidate your critique or to overlook the kind words you wrote. I just wanted to offer the perspective of the author and share what I was trying to do.

  2. I am responding, albeit after mental dialogue and arguing. I am a simple recently escaped Jehovah’s Witness and come back to pure Christianity Christian. I am not seminary trained by any means. Most of my thoughts about God I keep private. They are mine alone based soley upon my working relationship with Him and my meditations in His Word. I attend the Episcopal Church. I chose this denomination because of their openness and acceptance of others. Jesus was our exemplar. He is our only means of knowing who the Father actually is. What he is. Jesus drew sinners to himself and his Father by his love for humanity—in particular the unrighteous sinner. He ate with Tax-collectors and prostitutes. He responded to the thief on Calvery with love. He never tried to browbeat or coerce strangers into fellowship with his Father. He lived his entire life sinless and blameless before God as one hundred percent human. He set aside his divinity while traveling among us. We all have an identical purpose on this Earth—serving Yehova with the love we are given in such surplus. This we do by helping human beings everywhere to do, be and achieve all their possibilities as humans. By reflecting God’s love outward, people will be drawn inward to the flame. God created us as humans and not mindless automatons. Free will ensures that we serve Him by choice; serve out of our love for Him. If it is not out of loving Him that our service to him comes then our service is meaningless to Yehova. Pointing out the humanity of Samuel points out a great truth. Many are drawn toward God not aware that they are even being drawn. Over time, their seeking becomes apparent to them and if not, they are far-better prepared to listen when someone shares about God. Many who speak so freely of their Christian beliefs wind up turning sinners away from God entirely because their ACTIONS only do their God a great disservice. Its the WALK and not the TALK that matters when evangelizing. And evangelizing should never be apparent. Subtlety matters. God’s light for mankind is supposed to be reflected in every breath we take. Every thought fleeting along its neuronal path. EVERY choice and action we make. If that is the point then the choices we make regarding what we are called to do are very personal, intended for our happiness in serving God and not intended to shepherd others into the fold. If we show love as Yehova means us to do, people will be asking us: “What makes you so happy?” “Why are you always helping out in the soup kitchen? You walk with a walker and can barely afford to buy food for yourself!” “You act different than other Christians. Why?” “Tell me more about God. About Jesus.” They do of me. I don’t go door to door any longer. I try to bring the door to people as a matter of practce so ingrained that it could be considered habit. Every day I want to make a difference in people’s lives. On some days that may be nothing more than making someone smile or even laugh. That can be HUGE for some people! Each day it is a question of whom can I help and how. Translated into evangelese that would be, “Today, to whom will I show God’s unfathomable love and exactly how am I going to do that? I know! Today I will take my salary for four hours work and give it to the church to buy groceries for a family in need.” And I can do that writing, web-developing, preparing financial statements for a client, making lattes at Starbucks, collecting garbage even—should that be what I want to be doing every day! I think I’ve made my point, though. I love my God. All I want is to intimately know my God and to serve my God. Everyday I work to goal. Everything else will fall into place.

    • Pentesofia: Thanks for commenting! I hope you stick around and keep reading. I hope my posts are a benefit and blessing to you.

      I agree that we Christians follow Jesus, who did draw sinners to Himself and showed them love and compassion. But I would point you to what Jesus actually preached. Remember, his message wasn’t just “love one another.” Jesus preached, “Repent [turn from your sin], because the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). He showed kindness to the broken and welcome to the stranger, but it was always in the context of truth. You’re right, he didn’t convert by force, but he clearly laid out that the way to the Father was exclusively through repentance and faith in Him.

      Jesus was fully God AND fully Man–He never stopped being God, but set aside the glory of His divinity in order to take on flesh. He lived a perfect life among us, but it wasn’t simply to be an example to us–it was to be a sacrifice for us. Jesus was the ultimate, spotless, perfect, Passover Lamb: he laid down his life to take on the punishment and guilt that our sin deserved. He bore the wrath of God in our place, so that all who repent and believe in Him can be saved. When we turn from our sin and trust in Jesus, His perfect righteousness is credited to us and gives us right standing with God. And when Jesus rose from the dead, His resurrection became a promise to us that we will be raised with Him!

      So. What is our purpose on earth? We are here to glorify God, in whatever we do. But we who follow Jesus are also commanded to proclaim the Gospel–to “go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything [He] commanded” (Matt. 28:19-20). I agree that our good works will draw the attention of others and bring glory to God (Matt. 5:13-16), but we are not just called to do good–we are commanded to speak the truth, to proclaim the Gospel!

      We cannot be afraid to speak about what we believe. Remember Peter and John were brought before the Pharisees in Acts 4 and commanded not to preach in Jesus’ name. They responded, “we cannot HELP but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:17-20). All throughout the New Testament, we see commands and examples of verbally proclaiming the truth of the Gospel. In II Corinthians 5:11-21, Paul tells believers that we are God’s ambassadors, ministers of reconciliation, who proclaim God’s plan of reconciliation to others. In Romans 10, we read that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. In other words, salvation requires truth communicated in words.

      This is my encouragement to you: search the Scriptures and see how Christians are commanded to not only proclaim the glory and goodness of God through their deeds and love for others, but also through their loving, winsome words.

      Thanks again for reading. I hope you continue to do so.

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