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April 10, 2006

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects -- The Butterfly Hunter

By: Jack @ 6:02 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

The Butterfly Hunter: Adventures of People Who Found Their True Calling Off the Beaten Path by Chris Ballard, Broadway Books, 280 Pages, $23.95 Hardcover, April 2006, ISBN 0767918681
My favorite business books are really well-written, perceptive and enjoyable. This book is all of the above. It's written by more than an author; it's written by a writer. Writers are the Malcolm Gladwells of the world. Chris Ballard is that good of a writer.
The book is about ten people--ranging from Spiderman Mulholland (his real name) who makes a living climbing tall buildings to fix busted flag poles to Doug Blevins who has cerebral palsy and coaches football kickers and punters--who have found happiness and fulfillment on the margins of today's work world. Like Richard Florida states in his classic The Rise of the Creative Class, Everything interesting happens at the margins.
Digging into these margins, Ballard said,
I was continually surprised by what I found, and not just because I was venturing into some pretty strange subcultures. I uncovered passion in the unlikeliest of places and wisdom where I never would have expected it. I was astonished at the candor and compassion of many of my subjects. They let me into their lives, and I took the opportunity--metaphorical visitor tag attached to my chest--to see what drove them, what inspired them, and what they hoped to achieve. Not all the stories are inspirational; some are cautionary, others complex. In the end, despite their diverse careers and at times peculiar worldviews, there were a handful of common themes that tied them together.

One common theme was that each character thoroughly enjoyed their job. As Ballard says,
The poet W. H. Arden once wrote, 'A tremendous number of people in America work very hard at something that bores them. Even a rich man thinks he has to go down to the office every day. Not because he likes it but because he can't think of anything else to do.' The characters I met had a different story: they couldnt think of anything else they'd want to do. What I wanted to know was, in so many words, how did they pull that off?

Written in a fun, lyrical style, this book is another example of the "new" business book where the message is in the story.
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