Jeff Goins’ The Art of Work

Jeff Goins is someone who I connected with right away when I discovered his blog, Goins Writer, late last year.

art-of-work-book-jeff-goinsLike me, he’s a creator, a guitar player, an author, writer, and blogger. He even spent part of his junior year of college living in Spain just like I did.

Jeff has also excelled in building an audience for himself online over the past several years, for which I admire his persistence and accomplishment. People like Jeff inspire me to be the best I can be, and to help others do the same.

Jeff’s recent book release, The Art of Workprovided this type of inspiration for me – but more importantly his words encouraged me to find happiness within, independent of the exact path of my life.

A bit of encouragement

This encouragement started towards the beginning of the book, as Jeff discusses his early ambitions to be a professional musician. He talks about how life ultimately led him down a different path (I can relate to this), and enters into a mature discussion of the nature of finding our true purpose in life. Instead of complaining about his teenage dream that never came true, he explains to the reader how we can all find meaning and happiness in life – regardless where life takes us.

My father has often reminded me that happiness comes from within, along with a few key friends and acquaintances I’ve made throughout life. I’ll be adding Jeff to this list, because this book was not only an inspiration to achieve but also a reminder to find happiness in the journey on a daily basis.

Finding happiness within

This advice – to look for happiness within, and to choose it – may seem like a bit of a motivational cliché. It is, however, not a cliché but rather an important life lesson all of us deserve to learn, internalize, and appreciate. If you’re not happy with your life, there’s a good chance you are simply not observing this very simple, subtle shift in perspective.

This is true with many things in life, actually. We often know what we need to do, but for whatever reason we just don’t do it, and we hold ourselves back from success and fulfillment. It’s funny how so often the answers we seek have always been right in front of us, but we’ve simply failed to act or follow through on them.

If you can relate to this, then you would benefit from taking a few minutes to think deeply on finding happiness within. Internalize this concept and choose to be happy, looking for the positive in the world around you. Make it a point to program your subconscious to choose happiness every day, and you’ll be surprised at what you find.

Finding a mentor

Switching gears, there’s something else Jeff talks about in The Art of Work that resonated with me loud and clear: the importance of finding a mentor for one’s career.

He points out how for many centuries, apprenticeship was the primary way to achieve mastery in a particular field. (The mentor was of course a critical part of the process, providing the needed instruction and on-the-job training to become successful.) Then he points out how we’ve somehow gotten away from this tried-and-true system for learning in modern society, and encourages us to move back towards it once again.

While we do still have some apprenticeship programs available in today’s educational environment, they often don’t extend beyond cursory college internships except for in a few specific fields. Doctors go through a short residency period after medical school, for example, while many electricians get their start through apprenticeship or mentoring programs.

But even these programs are considerably shorter than they used to be (centuries ago, apprenticeships would last 7-10 years before the apprentice could qualify for certification as a journeyman), and the average college graduate won’t participate in any such program at all except for perhaps a brief internship.

Thoughts on learning and education

As I read Jeff’s book and thought more deeply on the matter of learning and education, I realized the importance of his message, which is a call to action not just for the individual but for the entire education system and political structures surrounding it: we need to get back to our roots. We need to make education more valuable again, and specifically more applicable to daily work environments.

If you’ve been to college before, you can probably relate to the fact much of the material you learned is too abstract to be immediately applied in your job. Sure, you learn to “think critically” and “finish” school, showing your future employers that you have what it takes to commit and follow-through on your obligations… but how come so few of us come out college without any real-world preparation for our jobs?

Considering the cost of education (typically tens of thousands of dollars), the length of the commitment (4+ years typically), and the fact we live in an information economy where the internet enables everyone to learn faster than ever before, you would think you’d come out of school ready to conquer the world, if not at least hit the ground running with your first employer.

Getting a degree, after all, is an information product. And information products are supposed to empower and enable the recipient in some manner, usually in exchange for money (tuition, in the case of university or college). What’s funny, though, is that there are bloggers out there selling business courses for a couple thousand dollars that have more readily-applicable information than 4-year university programs.

I know this because I studied business at UC San Diego, even set the curve in my upper-level marketing class!… and yet today I feel like I’m just scratching the surface with getting results with actual marketing campaigns.

UCSD continues to be ranked as a Top-5, Top-10, and Top-15 university in the US and around the world, and yet for all of those accolades, I left school with relatively little practical knowledge to apply to starting or operating a real business. Since then, it has taken several years of independent learning, trial-and-error, and mentorship (surprise!) before recently arriving at a point of confidence in opening my own business.

What this means for education

Please know that I don’t say all of this to completely knock UC San Diego. I do feel I got a quality education there, and the experience of going to college, studying abroad (like Jeff), and participating in extracurricular activities certainly helped me grow as an individual. There’s no doubt that there is a value to maintaining our tradition of helping late teens achieve a rite of passage through their college years.

However, the message still remains loud and clear that our education system needs to get more focused on enabling and empowering graduates.Young adults entering their careers need more readily-applicable knowledge that will help them succeed on Day 1 out of college. We need to be more objective when it comes to crafting our curriculums. We also shouldn’t care so much how many award-winning professors work at a given university if that doesn’t translate into superior education for the students.

UCSD for example has maintained its high rankings by attracting such professors, but many of the classes I took while I was there were taught by assistant professors or visiting professors, some of which whose English was so poor I couldn’t understand what they were saying in class – leading me to drop the class and try again the next quarter.

At the same time, universities like UCSD continue to raise tuition – so they can afford to expand, and continue to attract (and pay) top professors to boost their rankings further – yet for the most part, curriculums, course material, and the core strategies behind education and workplace preparation remain largely unchanged.

In my mind, this is an issue — if extra money is being channeled into a university, then a good chunk of it ought to be used for the core purpose of what an educational institution is supposed to do: teach and facilitate superior learning.

What this means for your career

Let me bring my tangent back into focus in the context of Jeff’s book. I’ve interjected much of my own political dissertation into this review of The Art of Work, but let me drill down to the individual level again.

Considering education is often abstract and doesn’t always teach skills immediately applicable to your work or career goals, it is increasingly important for you to find a mentor as Jeff suggests. Finding a mentor gives you the opportunity to learn from someone who is actually “moving the needle” (successfully making things happen) in their field, and who can teach you to do the same.

Rather than being abstract by its nature, mentorship tends to be very specific and targeted – and good mentors will provide concrete steps that you can take to reach your goals. They will guide you at each step of the way, ensuring you understand all of the many details and intricacies that go into your practice. Then as they continue to learn themselves, they will pass along their knowledge to you in the future.

How can you find a mentor, you ask? I guess you’ll just have to read the book. 😉

Wrapping up the discussion

In conclusion to my review of Jeff Goins’ The Art of Work, I find it to be a very useful and refreshing piece of literature. It’s equally practical for a college student to read as a seasoned veteran nearing the end of their career. Furthermore, its lessons offer us a chance to discover a deeper meaning in our lives and dare us to be great, reminding us that happiness comes from within. While subtle by its nature, it touches on some deep issues that underlay true happiness in our lives, and aren’t we all looking for happiness?

The Art of Work also offers a very subtle message in between the lines, which I interpreted (though Jeff may not have meant it this way) as a much-needed challenge to the educational system – one which continues to raise prices without increasing value. Jeff even offers a clear solution to this issue by reintroducing us to the concept of apprenticeship – a concept that can be applied at the individual level, and (hopefully) also on a broader level in our educational system as it continues to evolve.

All-in-all, this book is excellent read for anyone who is looking to get more out of life, be happier on a daily basis, and/or challenge themselves to get a mentor and advance forward with their career. To that extent, it is both functional and contemplative – a book that you can expect to invoke some very deep and intricate thought processes throughout.

Some words from Jeff (a short interview)

I had the opportunity to correspond with Jeff about his book shortly after its release. Being the nice guy he is, he provided some great answers to my questions. Hopefully some of this information will help you in your own endeavors. Cheers!

Jeff Goins1) How did you structure/schedule/organize your time, prior to making the transition to being a FT author/blogger, in order to maximize your limited free time to work on your business?

I woke up at 5:00 am and wrote. I stopped watching TV at night and focused on my blog. I cut out most hobbies, including playing guitar, to make more room for writing. Since then, I’ve reintegrated a lot of the activities I cut, but it helped to focus. I used all my margin, which wasn’t much, for writing.

2) What three software automation tools do you currently use for that you couldn’t live without?

Gosh, I wish I had tools that automatically did stuff for me. It would make me have to work not as hard. That said, I do use some tools to make my job easier. I guess those would be Buffer, Aweber (which pulls my blog posts into an email format automatically), and Disqus which sends me all my comments via email and makes it easy to respond to people.

3) Most importantly, what ratio of avocado:onion:cilantro:lime juice is guaranteed to unlock secret superpowers?

Very important question. 2 avocados, 1/4 onion, a handful of cilantro (de-stemmed and chopped), and 1-2 limes squeezed. Also, Roma tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste.

Thanks Jeff!  It’s been a pleasure.

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