Before you sigh and despair over the review of a dusty tome with advice about chucking your job and following your heart, let me point out that the more you bolster up your confidence, the better suited you are for actually taking that leap. Nine months into my own leap, I’m still reading these “push” books, both as a reminder of why I’m doing it, and to scour for tips on surviving the jump.
The author begins by admitting that this dilemma of finding meaningful work is something the affluent West is grappling with, and has no bearing on people living on the margins who have no such luxury. We now have very easy lives and an abundance of career options (paradox of choice). The ideal job is one where you doing feel as if you are working, where you’re in a state of flow.
He quotes Chateaubriand:
A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labour and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.
He suggests thinking about all our possible selves, imagining us down several career paths. Then he challenges you to test yourself in reality by taking a radical sabbatical, branching projects, and conversational research to learn more about the potential careers you can switch to. People are averse to change, evolutionarily we’re more sensitive to negative feedback than positive feedback, and so avoid risk.
He urges us to wean ourselves off the work ethic, to embrace Bertrand Russell’s ‘In Praise of Idleness’ where he argues there is too much work done in the world and it’s harmful to think that work is virtuous. And live more simply- if you don’t require a lot of money, there’s no need to earn a lot. Act now, reflect later.
This book sent me on a rabbit hole wherein I read Russell’s In Praise of Idleness (PDF link), of which many notes struck me, including:
In a world where no one is compelled to work more than four hours a day, every person possessed of scientific curiosity will be able to indulge it, and every painter will be able to paint without starving, however excellent his pictures may be. Young writers will not be obliged to draw attention to themselves by sensational pot-boilers, with a view to acquiring the economic independence needed for monumental works, for which, when the time at last comes, they will have lost the taste and capacity.