April 27, 2016
Staff Picks: Born for This, and The Atomic Weight of Love (for What You Do)
Earlier today, I read an essay by new novelist, Elizabeth J. Church, called "Stalled." In it, she reflects on why, in her 50s, she made changes in her life to become a writer. It was a deliberate decision, sparked by the death of her husband, and a realization that she herself had a dream she had yet to fulfill, that she herself had stalled. Her book, The Atomic Weight of Love, is, she explains, also “about inertia, about adaptation that crossed into the territory of self-abnegation and martyrdom.” Not only do I want to read Church’s book, as I often reflect on inertia as a force in my own life, but it struck me as an excellent entry point into Chris Guillebeau’s new book, Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do.
Once upon a time, you had a dream, one that, as you aged, you likely decided was impractical or impossible. (Cue Andy Williams.) Maybe you wanted to be a sports star. Or an artist. Or a doctor, lawyer, or FBI agent. But you realized that achieving that dream would require too much sacrifice or be downright unlikely to happen. The more direct and approved and sometimes necessary route to a normal kind of life was to choose a college, take a job, make some money, and make peace with your circumstances.
Yes, it’s possible that those two things—your dream and your life—intersected and you are one of the lucky people that Guillebeau describes as having won the career lottery:
There may be a few superhumans out there who know from age five exactly what they want to do when they grow up, and what form it will take. For the rest of us, it’s almost never that simple. Jobs and careers don’t fall from the sky to land at our feet, where we simply pick them up and accept them as the perfect fit for life.
It’s not that simple, and it’s not that common. But the good news is, it is also not too late. If this all sounds like you, then, Guillebeau is your rightful guru. “You don’t have to choose between doing what you love and making a good living,” he says, and, in Born for This, lays out various methodologies to achieve just that.
Often times, we believe that obtaining our dream job means that we must embrace a lifetime of eating ramen and couch surfing. Guillebeau isn’t encouraging those types of sacrifice, as none of us want to “face a false choice between love or money—we’d like to do what we love and be well compensated for it.” To find that sweet spot, he explains his “Joy-Money-Flow” meter. While joy and money may be self-explanatory, his use of “flow” represents a use of your top talents and skills. And that’s the first place Guillebeau starts his counsel: determine what you are good at. Make lists. Take classes. Ask your friends.
Doing these exercises and learning from the anecdotes and testimonials, you’ll be much closer to finding your unicorn of “Joy-Money-Flow.”
The even better news is that once you’ve found your ideal combination, you’ll know it. It will feel like it was right there waiting for you all along. That’s the beauty of finding the work you were born to do.
Born for This is a primer. It will start you out with the basics. And while it’s not a deep introspection on the meaning of work or career renewal, it’s the breadth that appeals. Guillebeau reviews any number of scenarios that create job dissatisfaction, and reveals tips and tricks on how to make a change. From getting a new job to getting a promotion or change in your current job, from taking a sabbatical to making the most of being fired, Guillebeau is at his best when he is providing a new perspective on how you can indeed love what you do. Even when he’s suggesting a “Side Hustle” that can augment your current, less satisfying work, but not completely alter your course.
Toward the end of the book, Guillebeau tells us that in addition to wanting to be an NBA star, he also wanted to be a musician. But then he realized that music offered a number of constrictions he didn’t find as satisfying as he assumed, and that it was the idea of “touring” that truly appealed to him. “I just wanted to connect with people in different places, and I was drawn to a lifestyle of changing scenery.” In becoming a travel writer, he achieved just that and much more. (Guillebeau includes instructive subsections of the book that detail how to “get a book deal” and “build your own fan base” for those of us who still dream of becoming writers and musicians.) Ultimately his whole life, as well as this new book, is a guidebook for how one might find what one is born to do, even if--especially if--you have no idea what that is.
Chris Guillebeau closes Born for This with three appendices, the last one a lesson on how to Win at Tic-Tac-Toe. Really? Yup. While I won’t reveal the strategy he presents, I mention it because the inclusion brings us full-circle to the start of the book where he presents a small section on “Tic-Tac-Toe for Career Strategy.” In it he explains that Tic-Tac-Toe is “a game of perfect information. There are no hidden pieces.” Not true for finding the work you were born to do. But with Born for This, Guillebeau lifts the veil on which moves to make, and, like Elizabeth J. Church, provides readers with “a consideration of what any of us choose to do in the face of inertia, of obstacles to fulfillment of our dreams … ”
About Sally Haldorson
Sally Haldorson's job as 800-CEO-READ’s General Manager is to make 800-CEO-READ a great place to work for our employees, and a consistently high-performing customer service organization for our clients, authors, and our partners in the publishing industry. In addition to her General Manager duties ensuring collaboration, integration, and quality, she reads, writes, reviews, curates, and edits for the company. Helping craft The 100 Best Business Books of All Time used parts of both skill sets. Outside of work, she is most likely to be found hitting a tennis ball around or hanging out with her boys (husband, child, dog) at home.