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by Roman Krznaric

Pub Date: May 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-250-03069-6
Publisher: Picador

An inspirational self-help book with an intellectual pedigree.

For those interested in making a career switch (or just brooding on alternatives to their unfulfilling jobs), this pocket guide by a former British academic turned lifestyle consultant organizes itself along familiar lines: the three this, the four that, the emphasis of italics, the easily digestible verities and slogans so common among the genre. Yet the advice from Krznaric (The Wonderbox, 2011, etc.) has literary, philosophical underpinnings that give it uncommon depth, blurring the distinctions between where to work and how to live. Thus, the book not only distills fulfilling work to “three essential ingredients: meaning, flow and freedom”; it raises the issue of “what meaning really means, and how to find it.” Ultimately, much of the advice is common sense (bolstered by words and examples from Bertrand Russell, da Vinci, Rousseau and others), and much of the urging is to take that chance rather than settling for numbing security. Meaning (once we figure out what it means) and freedom are fairly easy to grasp in comparison with the trickier “flow,” which suggests work that you can lose yourself in, so that work hardly seems like work at all: “It most commonly occurs when we are using our skills to do a task that is challenging, but not so hard that we fear failing.” Perhaps the most counterintuitive piece of advice comes in the “Act First, Reflect Later” chapter, which doesn’t necessarily advocate recklessness but does suggest that planning can be procrastination and that the only way to see what the experience is like is to experience it.

Those who would seek out a book like this are already most primed to follow its suggestions.