Last year around my birthday, I shared a book that has impacted my career and allowed me to embrace my creativity. There’s something about birthdays that makes us all feel a bit more reflective, appreciative and ready to tackle new great things, don’t you think?
As I approach another year around the sun, I decided to write a series of blog posts this month about career books that will fill you up with inspiration to find your best career path and impact the world in wonderful ways. Kicking off the series, this week I’m sharing The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do by Jeff Goins.
To put it simply, I just absolutely, wholeheartedly love this book. As a lover of reading and writing, I’ve always felt a pull to write my own book. When I read this one, I kept having this gut feeling that this is the book I would have written. Clearly, Goins beat me to it, and I’m so glad he did because it’s pure gold.
Reading a book that I resonate with so completely was a breath of fresh air. If you can “yes” and “amen” your way through a book while going to town with your highlighter, that’s a pretty great sign that the message is something you should take to heart and work on applying in your life.
While we’re on the topic of career books, I want to take a moment to sidebar a note real quick about another one that’s been recommended to me dozens of times, What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles. This book… You’ve probably heard about or have maybe even read this book if you’re into career development. It’s highly acclaimed and everyone seems to endlessly praise it.
So I finally read it last year, and I need to be honest that this book is not good. I was practically cringing the entire way through it. The content is unbelievably outdated and practically useless nowadays. If you’re looking for a great career book, THIS is not it.
Whew. Now that I’ve said my piece, let’s get back to the featured book. I came across The Art of Work in 2015, not long after it was published. One message that stood out to me was Goins’ refreshing approach to dealing with failure.
He says, “The risk of not committing is greater than the cost of making the wrong choice. Because when you fail, you learn. But what happens when you don’t commit, when you choose not to act? Well, nothing. When you pause without intent, when you stall due to fear, you don’t learn a thing. Each wrong choice grows your character and strengthens your resilience, readying you for what comes next. Failure is a friend dressed up like an enemy.”
How incredible is that? Failure can actually be a friend. Our society treats failure like it’s excruciating and humiliating… like it’s the end of the world when we royally mess up.
Of course, there’s nothing comfortable about experiencing failure. But what if we could re-train our brains to understand the character, perseverance and resourcefulness that’s being forged when we fail?
Rather than sulking or freezing in our steps, we could work toward the next thing with more levity and a sense of peace that everyone experiences setbacks. It’s not humiliating; it’s a sign that you’re actively chasing after ambitious, brave pursuits. And that’s not a fail.
Goins’ approach to apprenticeship in the book is another piece I couldn’t agree with more. While college is valuable in so many ways, it doesn’t address or encourage the lost art of apprenticeship, or working under others to develop mastery of a skill over time.
Back in the day, if you wanted to be a carpenter, you apprenticed under a skilled and seasoned carpenter who would show you the way, teaching you the best practices to become a master of carpentry yourself. It would take years, but it etched a realistic, tangible idea of the work into the apprentice.
Having a mentor is such an integral part of adult development. It used to be thought that the brain stopped developing at 18, around when the body was done growing and when individuals technically reach legal adulthood. But new research indicates that the brain isn’t fully developed until at least age 25 (for me, I felt a shift in maturity in my early 30s!), so those years in your late teens and early 20s are imperative for learning, growth and understanding the world.
If you can have a wiser person walking with you through those integral years, teaching you important lessons about career and beyond, your mindset and goals will take on a whole new shape.
According to Goins, “The path to your dream is more about following a direction than arriving at a destination.” This direction can be supported and encouraged with the guidance of a caring mentor.
If I could give myself one piece of career advice when I was starting out, it would be to find a mentor and practice a sort of modern day apprenticeship early in my 20s and that it’s never too late to find one, either. Technically, our brains are done growing around 25, but they continue developing, shifting and learning throughout our whole lives. If you’re looking for practical, actionable tips for creating your own modern-day apprenticeship to help you transition into a successful career, check out Goins’ book.
The Art of Work normalized so many feelings about career and early adulthood experiences for me. It allows you to feel seen and heard, gives practical advice and tells incredible stories, including a couple about career heavy-hitters Steve Jobs and Walt Disney, of course, plus unexpected cameos like the infamous, off-key American Idol contestant, William Hung.
Goins says, “Most of us have some sneaking suspicion that there must be more to life than this.” If that rings true for you, go pick up this book today. You’ll be so glad you did.