A Life at Work (Book Review)

A Life at Work: The Joy of Discovering What You Were Born to Do
Rating: 2 of 5 stars

A Life at Work: The Joy of Discovering What You Were Born to Do by Thomas Moore

This wasn’t the book I was looking for. That’s not the book’s fault, really, but it was a disappointment to me because it wasn’t what I was expecting.

Before I dive into the review, I have to do a bit of soul-baring. I have a decent job, and honestly in this economic climate, I’m grateful for that. I know plenty of people who don’t. But even though its a good job, I don’t love it, and I don’t make enough money to feel economically secure. I live paycheck to paycheck and that makes me really nervous. I have this fantasy where I’ll find a job that a) I look forward to going to or b) pays well enough that I have left over income to put towards making my life secure, or ideally, c) both.

So back to the review. This isn’t the book I was looking for. I was expecting a self-help book that would give me tools to try to decide what the “right” job for me would be. To find a job that I would genuinely enjoy doing, and that would support my lifestyle. Instead, this is more a spiritual book that uses Alchemy as an analogy for life and work. In the same way Alchemists gathered all kinds of materials and distilled them down (according to the author) during our lives we gather all kinds of experiences and distill them down until we find our purpose. And in fact, this is a book about “work” rather than “jobs” — the author suggests your life work might have nothing to do with that place you spend 8+ hours every day.

[Snarky aside: We know that most alchemists were charlatans. Not a metaphor I would use to inspire confidence in a reader.]

If the author ever gives us concrete tools to help us determine what we were “born” to do, I missed them. Which is possible because my mind kept wandering as I was reading. I did keep reading, though, because its such a seductive idea, isn’t it? Close your eyes and picture yourself springing out of bed every morning, eager to go to work and make a difference in the world, free of worrying about whether you’re going to be able to make the rent this month.

Had my head been in a different place I might have appreciated it more, and I’m going to keep it on my shelf in case I want to give it another read at another time, but at this point in my life, when I’m not thrilled with my job, not making enough money, and looking for concrete, pragmatic help, this just felt like a touchy-feely book for people who have more freedom to do as they please than I do.

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Note: I joined GoodReads the other day. This is an expanded version of the review I wrote over there, and I’m tweaking their “export to blog” format for use here. I’ve dropped the Amazon.com link (no one, as far as I can tell, has ever clicked on one of them, and Google penalizes the page ranking for Dragonchasers because of them) in favor of a GoodReads link that’ll give you quick access to reviews from other people.

I’m always looking for new friends on social networks, so if you’re on GoodReads, send me a friend request!