June 9, 2005
News & Opinion: BOOK REVIEW: What Is Your Life's Work (#6)
In short, I was disappointed. The book has its merits, but does not live up to the title or the text on its cover. The title is very catchy and will certainly help sell some books, but I do not think accurately reflects the majority of the content. The book is much more about figuring out what is important to you in your professional life, which I do not equate to figuring out your lifes work
It is not a traditional book, with 25 pages or so written by the author and another 200 consisting of 60 or so letters written by individuals and collected by the author. The letters are part of a technique used by author where he asks people to write a letter to loved ones to help the loved ones understand whats truly important at work, and to help answer the question "what is the single most important insight about work that you want to pass on to your kids?" The book does address this issue, but I don't consider this to be the answer to the question posed by the title. While the letters are interesting to read, I found few for which I felt the letter writer had figured out their lifes work (I counted 5), and many others where the letter writer still seemed to be struggling with some of the same questions the book purports to answer.
The exercise used to generate the letters in this book leads most letter writers to focus on the past and on insights learned. I have a different view of what constitutes someone's life's work. At 28 years old, I certainly hope I have much more life ahead of me than behind, and certainly hope that my life's work is measured on its impact to others rather than on the lessons that I have learned. While the letters contain good advice (like the kind you would hear at a commencement speech), with few exceptions, I did not find most of them "inspiring stories from people who found their way.
Tim Palmer is a avid reader who is currently a self-employed consultant dabbling in patents, technology and business; he is still trying to figure out his lifes work. He blogs at http://www.patentchronicles.com/.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.