Review: “The Art of Work” by Jeff Goins

In this review I will basically talk about the most interesting things in the book and add my own thoughts and analysis.

“The Art of Work”

This book tackles the topic of finding our true calling. That is, finding out what we were put on this Earth to do.

Jeff mentions that everybody has their own unique strengths and it is up to us to figure out how we can use these strengths to add value to society and the world at large.

However, a significant portion if not most of the book talks about how to figure out what we were meant to do in the first place as many people may feel lost and directionless.

Here are the four main themes in this book to find out what your calling is.

1. Choose to act

By choosing to act, you immediately do three things.

One, you expose yourself to experience. This way, you try different things and figure out what you like and what you dislike, what’s for you and what’s not for you.

With action comes clarity.

“Practice can teach you what you are and are not meant to do.” – Jeff Goins, The Art of Work

This ties in with what Thomas Jefferson once said:

“Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.”

Two – by proactively choosing to act and figuring how you want to contribute to this world, you’re not leaving your destiny up to circumstance.

“But a man who procrastinates in his CHOOSING will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.” – Hunter S. Thompson

And finally three – by choosing to act, you expose yourself to possibility and opportunity.

“And if you are paying attention, you will recognise them [opportunities] for what they  are – chances to hear the call.” – Jeff Goins, The Art of Work

But Jeff also touches upon in his book how people tend to dissociate from others who they deem special to justify their own inertia. As Jeff puts it:

“We’d rather believe the fairy tale that says some people are just special. That way, we don’t have a responsibility to act.”

This is a terrifying, debilitating psychological trap to fall into.

I touch upon this trap myself in an earlier post of mine called “Extraordinary Person” which I had written way before I had read Jeff’s book. I talk about how deeming over over-achievers as “special” or “extraordinary” is a convenient dissociative psychological mechanism that makes us feel better about our inertia and lack of progress.

It’s easy to perform such mental gymnastics and the worst thing about thinking this way is that you rob yourself of the opportunity to become this extraordinary person yourself.

It’s comfortable to dissociate yourself in this way in this way. But comfort isn’t necessarily a good thing. Here’s Jeff:

“In an era where we prize comfort above nearly every other virtue, we have overlooked an important truth: comfort never leads to excellence.”

Watch out, for your own sake.

 

2. Look at the commonalities in your life

Whatever the experience we’re going through and whatever skills we’re acquiring, there will be overarching commonalities that should be treated as clues as to what work we were born to do.

Jeff says that “previous experience is conspiring to lead you in the direction of your life’s work” and for this reason “you must listen for clues along the way, discovering what your life can tell you.”

As a result, certain commonalities in our lives will emerge.

“Take time to look back at all you’ve experienced, and listen to what your life is saying. (…) A calling is what you have when you look back at your life and make sense of what it’s been trying to teach you all along.”

– Jeff Goins, The Art of Work

You already have the answer to your problem. It’s deeply embedded in the unconscious part of your mind.

Elements of your deepest desires bleed into your everyday routine. They manifest themselves in your everyday of your life.

Maybe you enjoy writing? Or you have a penchant for communicating with others? Perhaps you are drawn to the thrill of public speaking?

You will naturally put yourself in the position to take advantage of these skills and use them on a daily basis. You will do it because you love doing it.

Look for the commonalities in your days. These are the clues your subconscious is giving you.

“Look at the major events of your life and write them down. Note everything significant you can remember, even the things that seem silly or irrelevant but come to mind for some reason. Don’t try to decode the meaning; just put down everything you can think of. As you reach the end of the list, look for a common thread, some recurring theme. (…) you will begin to see a theme, a surprisingly obvious thread that ties it all together.”

– Jeff Goins, The Art of Work

But if we manage to miss the subtle calls of what it is that we were meant to do – we can always look back on the commonalities and connect the dots in retrospect.

Interestingly, this is very similar to what Steve Jobs mentioned:

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

3. Anything learnt or experienced will not be wasted

As you go through life, you go through different phases which offer their own unique types of experiences.

Going through these experiences, you gear up with new skills and acquire wisdom along the way.

With every opportunity, you gain knowledge and experience – each from a different source – all of which you will be able to use later in life.

Though perhaps at the time of building up these skills they don’t inspire much confidence as to what their use may be, they will somehow come in handy at some point down the line.

As long as you keep putting yourself out there, collecting experiences and building skills – if it hasn’t already, at one point it will all just click for you.

In short – anything learnt or experienced will not be wasted.

4. Painful practice

Lastly, a great way to determine your direction in life and what your “calling” might be is to observe what the activities that you can experience through painful practice.

“Pain is instructive to the person willing to learn.” – Jeff Goins

That is, if you can do something when it’s not fun, when you’re exhausted and maybe even bored, but no matter how painful the practice, somehow you still press on, forever motivated, forever curious regardless, that is a strong signal.

Picasso experienced painful practice with painting and through the highs and the lows, he’d paint relentlessly, whatever the cost. Picasso was simply passionate about painting:

“If they took away my paints I’d use pastels. If they took away my pastels I’d use crayons. If they took away my crayons I’d use pencils. If they stripped me naked and threw me in prison I’d spit on my finger and paint on the walls.” – Picasso

Closing thoughts

I will leave you with this final quote:

“Feelings are signposts to be trusted in your journey to your purpose. (…) Fear, indecision, not knowing – these are the obstacles that keep you from moving forward. And they never go away. But if you are going to find what you were meant to do, you will have to act anyway.” –  Jeff Goins.

P.S. Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to my email list.

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Review: Manage Your Day-to-Day.

Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Focus, Find Your Routine, & Sharpen Your Creative Mind Review

What Manage Your Day-to-Day did for me 

Upon starting whatmybrosaid, I became really interested with the idea of habits, structure, routine, and deep focus. 

I was on the look out for valuable advice and any practical tricks about juggling the various projects and undertakings I had going on.  

I wanted to be the type of person who was able to have multiple projects going on.

I wanted to be the type of person who was getting stuff done and being insanely productive all the while not compromising on time for play.

This book doesn’t offer a productivity system, but it offers valuable insights into the human condition from which these tips and tricks stem from.

And these tips and tricks are pretty universal as they help you tend to various areas of your life without neglecting any. 

It’s the little things.

Like:

Make use of the entire day.

Wake up in the morning.

If you want to improve your creativity, start writing at the beginning of the day.

That context and habits matter – creativity doesn’t just come but it can be elicited (this one was a major thing for me…I even wrote a super popular post about this subject)

Or that energy and willpower are vital things to take into account when planning your workload.

And lots of valuable advice on unplugging and taking the time to recharge so as to restore balance to your life, and why it’s important to find moments of pure solace in the age of hyper connectivity.

The devil really is in the details.

And this book is all about details.

Details that add up to broader picture of overarching success and productivity.

For me it was also a nice bonus that all the book was a joint effort.

That is, different types of writers, from various fields, whether it be from the world of film-making, business, or behavioural economics all used their unique voices and styles to add value to this great book.

By reading so many different, versatile styles, you learn what type of writing you like to read and notice how totally sometimes drastically different styles can still speak to you.

I find this quite cool because you’d have to read a few books in a row to reach a similar conclusion.

What Manage Your Day-to-Day can do for you

This is a playbook of ideas that will help you:

~ Improve your productivity,

~ Tweak your schedule to achieve a better structure in your life,

~ Optimise your work and gain control of your workflow,

~ Create an environment for yourself that would foster creativity,

~ Carve out time and energy for everything you want to do in a day.

On the whole, this little powerful book will give you a huge productivity boost.

It will open your eyes as to just how much you can accomplish in a single day. 

Why Manage Your Day-to-Day works

An impressive list of contributors shared their hard-earned nuggets of wisdom in this little book.

People like Dan Ariely or Scott Belsky who have enjoyed huge successes in their careers offer tips on how to perfect your routine, implement more structure into your life, or improve your creativity.

It’s all trial tested advice.

They are normal people who share many commonalities with you and me but for some reason excel at what they do.

And these reasons are in here.

If you want to be successful, just model success. 

P.S. Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to the whatmybrosaid email list for more posts like this.

Summary: The Dip by Seth Godin

Everybody wants to make their ideas happen.

In the beginning, all ideas are exciting.

You’re inspired.

Commitment levels are at a peak.

You get all of this support from your friends and family.

It’s an incredibly rewarding stage to be in.

But then comes a more difficult time that seeps into whatever you might be doing.

Your motivation starts to wane, you’re not garnering the regular support that you used to. It’s not a particularly rewarding phase to be in because rewards are so much scarcer than before.

In the Dip, it can feel like you’re running in place and not really progressing. You might be putting in all of this effort but nothing seems to change. You’re stuck.

This stage in your career, in your relationship, in pursuing your dreams, in making your ideas happen is called the Dip.

“[The Dip doesn’t] spoon feed you with little bits of improvement every day.”

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How to get past the Dip

The Dip is harsh. The Dip is difficult. The Dip hurts.

It is a breeding ground for uncertainty. It fills you with paralysing self-doubt.

The dip is a bit like a sieve. It’s designed to filter out the less committed, less passionate, less tenacious; to filter out those who, as Seth says, “don’t have the guts or wherewithal to take their work to the next level.”

Not many will be able to persevere when the going gets tough. Not many have the resolve to get through the times of constant uncertainty and near pathological self-doubt.

Sheer grit and determination will ultimately be the deciding factors whether you’ll get past the Dip or not. And if you’re passionate about something, you will be able to withstand the wherewithal of the Dip. 

“Passion yields tolerance – tolerance for all of the frustration and hardship that comes your way as you seek to make your ideas happen.”

– Scott Belsky, Making Ideas Happen

The Dip creates scarcity

Not many get through the Dip, though. People self-disqualify.

As Scott Belsky writes in Making Ideas Happen, “perspiration is the best form of differentiation.”

But few manage to put in the perspiration to reach the next level in their work.

This is what causes scarcity. And if we draw on Brock’s (1968) commodity theory, we’ll learn that scarcity enhances value.

“Where does scarcity come from? It comes from the hurdles that the markets and our society set up. It comes from the fact that most competitors quit long before they’ve created something that makes it to the top.”

-Seth Godin, The Dip

The Dip will test you

For many, the Dip will be a gruelling, uncomfortable time where there are more costs involved in sustaining our efforts than there are benefits.

Sure, that might be the case for a short while – but then it gets better. A lot of people though can’t bear to keep on going in the face of such difficulty.

People start the drop off one by one and give up on their dreams. Only the person that has the resolve to see through this arduous period by managing to persevere in spite of the circumstances will be the last man standing.

“Successful people don’t just ride out the Dip. They don’t just buckle down and survive it. No, they lean into the Dip. They push harder, changing the rules as they go.

Just because you know you’re in the Dip doesn’t mean you have to live happily with it. Dips don’t last quite as long when you whittle at them.”

-Seth Godin, The Dip

Consider Richard Branson for a second.

He wanted his own airline. But to make that happen, he couldn’t have just bought a bunch of planes and let skilled pilots fly them and that was that.

Before a Virgin Atlantic plane could take off from a runway, Branson had to get through the hurdles that the murky terrain of various laws and regulations have to offer.

On top of that, he had to deal with brand disparaging remarks of the competition who was trying to ruin his reputation and force him out of business.

That was Branson’s Dip. But he had the resolve to get through that challenging period where just about everything was turning against him. And he benefited greatly.

“If you can get through the Dip, if you can keep going when the system is expecting you to stop, you will achieve extraordinary results. People who make it through the Dip are scarce indeed, so they generate more value.”

When to quit

If you manage to get past the Dip, extraordinary results await.

However, that might not always be the case. Which is why you should know when to quit.

A Dip, as Seth says, is temporary. But a cul-de-sac (French for dead-end) is permanent.

The distinguishing feature of being in a cul-de-sac with your project, your idea, your job, or whatever, is that no matter how much effort you will put in, no progress will be made.

You just can’t move forward. It’s a dead-end.

You don’t want to be in a position where you’re wasting valuable time and expending precious mental resources on a project that isn’t worth the time investment.

“Why not quit? (…) because day to day, it’s easier to stick with something that we’re used to, that doesn’t make too many waves, that doesn’t hurt.”

That is why you need to be cautious of when to quit. You need to know when to quit so that you can free yourself up to pursue other, potentially more worthwhile projects that will have a higher Return On Investment.

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