Zen and the Art of Making a Living


“This is a career guide for human beings. It’s really a book about love in action, about joy, about beauty, about caring. It’s for people who want to express their talents in meaningful ways that serve others. Its purpose is not to cram you into some category or stuff you into a gray flannel box. Its aim is to assist you in developing what you need to express, what’s in you in the outer world. In other words, it’s designed to help you do your thing. If you don’t know what your thing is, it will even help you find it.”

…these are the words from the preface of this behemoth of a book. Seriously, I have never encountered a more comprehensive guide for finding the right career for you. Though it was written in 1999, the information it contains is valuable today. It is very well researched, with a wealth of resources… it is everything it says it is, and more. I’m glad to have had this chance to clarify a lot of issues I have been fuzzy on for ages.

I have spoken to so many people over the years who are not doing work that they even like, never mind their ideal vocation. There are many reasons for this, and this book is an excellent guide for getting to the crux of the reasons, and finding your way around or through your personal obstacles. I think we all have an obligation to make good use of our natural talents and skills, though in this complex world it is difficult. To often we sell ourselves short and settle for less than we are capable of, but it is never too late to make changes or even start anew.

What Doesn’t Work

  1. Being discouraged, reactive, and depressed.
  2. Hating your job and doing it poorly.
  3. Hoping it will get better and fearing it won’t.
  4. Complaining, blaming, or procrastinating and staying where you are.
  5. Feeling inferior because you lack training, experience, or connections — and doing nothing.

What Works

  1. Staying positive, objective, and motivated.
  2. Loving what you’re doing and putting your best into it.
  3. Having a plan and making it work.
  4. Accepting responsibility for where you are now and for putting yourself where you want to be.
  5. Believing in yourself and doing what it takes.

Laurence G. Boldt looks at the subject of career through many lenses. He views work as Art, Quest, Game, Battle, and School. He looks at traditional and non-traditional options. He guides the reader to assess their values, talents and skills and identify those they might need to work on. The chapter on Myth, drawing from the work of Joseph Campbell, is fascinating, and the chapter on Economics was especially enlightening to me.

There is some repetition and overlap between the chapters, and I did skim over many paragraphs which weren’t particularly relevant to my situation. This is bound to be the case in a book which attempts (and succeeds) to do so much.

Boldt asserts that if we are to live true to ourselves, we must embark on a hero’s journey, and build a vision not only for our own life, but to see our part in the bigger picture too.

5 thoughts on “Zen and the Art of Making a Living

  1. goodness, always wonderful to find what appears to be a kindred spirit…

    as for this book, just the sort of topic i’m interested in. but i often don’t click with such books. i wonder if i can dig it up from a library.
    thanks so much for bringing it to my attention. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lovely to meet you Autumn, and thanks for stopping by. I did actually discover a pdf version of this on the net, but it is so good I will buy myself a copy soon. x


  2. Sounds a very interesting book, so bizarre to think we could give over so much of our precious time to something we don’t enjoy and yet the prospect of making changes seems too insurmountable to try! Thank you for sharing and good luck with your quest 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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