An MIT-trained scientist discovers religion and re-examines his life of ambition in this debut self-help book.
Marcus’ book isn’t meant to accelerate readers’ careers but to put their careers in proper perspective. In fact, its apparent mission is to lay bare the dangers of corporate “idolatry,” which it defines as “a lifestyle that puts the company first, and therefore makes people a lower priority.” The author was once someone who worshipped at this addictive altar, but he’s since discovered the joy of living what he calls “the balanced life.” At the heart of his advice is the golden rule, which he interprets as the demand to “consider the needs of other people before you take an action.” Of course, this rule is historically a religious tenet; Marcus, who practices Judaism, refers to his work as “inspired by religious teachings,” but he avoids strict religious sectarianism by identifying the rule as a “ ‘key reference point’ of a global ethic” not confined to the Judeo-Christian tradition. As such, he discusses the teachings of Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism, the Yoruba people of Nigeria, as well as philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes, Niccolò Machiavelli and Alain de Botton. Despite the book’s scholarly breadth, it’s designed to be imminently practical; chapters dispense actionable advice on “The Secret to Leaving Early,” “Creating Rituals for a People-First Life” and “How You Can Kick the Habit of Overwork.” Chapters conclude with a worksheet with discussion questions and helpful tips. Sometimes the advice can be strikingly particular, as in “What Happens if Features are Dropped for a [Product] Launch.” Like many self-help books, it often traffics in oversimplification and glib proclamation; it’s at its best, however, when it describes the limitations of corporate life as a source of purposeful meaning, as in “Why Work Can Never Be a Community.” In the end, its primary focus is what one misses by obsessive devotion to work: “Leaving corporate life was not the means to regain control of my life, it was the result of it,” he writes.
A thoughtful corrective to workaholic ways but one with sometimes less-than-groundbreaking insights.