Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Studs Terkel “Working”

November 2, 2008

Studs Terkel has just died. You may not know him, but his brilliant book “Working” (first published 1972) influenced me in the writing of “How to Enjoy Your Job” (published 2008). “Working” has the sub-title of “People talk about what they do all day and how they feel about what they do”. 

It is striking that people’s jobs may change but the feelings we have about work are the same across generations. People want to work and make a difference in their community, they want to look after their family and earn a good income. They want to do something worthwhile with their time. They want to be valued and respected, even if the job they do is menial. 

Looking through his book, there are no IT consultants, no knowledge workers. Gen Y is not born yet and Gen X is still toddling. People do not work on computers. But the language is similar, and the problems are the same. I have just reread the chapter that is most like office work. The closest I could find to that is the “Project Manager” under Bureaucracy section. There is this telling sentence.

“The most frustrating thing for me is to know that what I’m doing does not have a positive impact on others. I don’t see this work as meaning anything. I now treat my job disdainfully.”

How many office workers identify with this in 2008? 

It is a great book as it tells the stories of people’s working lives in their own voices, much as Po Bronson is also doing now. I still believe you can find happiness in your work, and if not in your daily grind, then you must find it outside of your job. But don’t underestimate the effect of your job on your life, your health and your happiness. 

“…work, is, by it’s very nature, about violence – to the spirit as well as to the body. It is about ulcers as well as accidents, about shouting matches as well as fistfights, about nervous breakdowns as well as kicking the dog around. It is, above all (or beneath all), about daily humiliations.

To survive the day is triumph enough for the walking wounded among the great many of us.”

From “Working” Studs Terkel’ Introduction.

I could do anything if only I knew what it was: Barbara Sher

October 11, 2008

Sometimes you read a book and parts of it just leap off the page at you. This is such a book! 

Here are some of the key points I picked up – but it is absolutely recommended reading. 

  • Are you doing what you are “supposed” to be doing? Are you pleasing other people – your family, your college, your friends…or are you being true to yourself? Sometimes you have to move away from your tribe and act on what you want to do. 
  • Take action even if you don’t know what to do with your life. By setting off in a direction, you will soon know whether you are moving towards or away from what you want. It is easier to change direction once you are moving. Action will also raise your self-esteem and bring “luck” your way. You will find out much more by moving than by staying still. 
  • Many people say they want “meaningful” work – but what does that really mean? You need to focus on what makes you happy and uses your gifts, not on what other people think meaningful is. [A personal note: I wanted to help abused women and started volunteering at a charity, but I soon found out there were more effective ways to help using gifts I really had.]
  • If you don’t know what job you want, identify the job from hell. Write down all the things you couldn’t stand doing, and that make you feel awful. Describe the place, the people, what you do all day. Then reverse it. 
  • You don’t have to quit the day job to pursue your dream. In fact, it’s better not to as it gives you too much time, and too much pressure. You can end up returning to work disheartened and leaving your dream behind. [Personal note: I took 3 months off to write my book. I didn’t get very far and soon drove myself nuts by not achieving. I went back to work and left writing behind for 2 years. Finally I started again while working fulltime. I wrote on weekends and evenings, and finished my first book, How to Enjoy Your Job, in 9 months. I am now starting on the next book – and still working part-time.]
  • Practice, start part-time and keep your day job. Remember that Einstein was a patent clerk by day. 
  • You can have it all, but not all at once. If you are one of those people who want to do everything, write down your life from now to aged 95 and space out all the things you want to do. There is time. You can have multiple careers, and most people do now, but you have to focus on now first. 
  • If you are really miserable at work, then pay attention and sort yourself out. “Your story has not been written”, so live it. Don’t wait for life to find you. Find life. 
  • “the cure for sorrow is to learn something”. If you hate your work, learn something new in your spare time. Take classes in pottery or art, poetry or country dancing. Anything that takes you into a new place where you meet new people. You will be refreshed and this will spill into the rest of your life. 
  • The corporate world is a good training ground for the rest of your working life. It teaches you the basics of what work entails, how to dress and how to behave, what corporate speak involves, and what you love or hate in a job. 
  • If you aren’t able to set an exact goal, set a working goal. Start moving in the general direction of your goal and change it as necessary. Move towards what interests you, and away from what dulls you. 
  • Be a networker, be a joiner. Meet new people, join groups, ask questions, talk to people. You will find new opportunities for your life and your work. 
  • There are different goals at  different ages. Be gentle on yourself and allow your priorities to change over time. 
  • Life is full of necessary chores, but we have to do them anyway because the rewards are obvious. 
  • Sort out your number one goal first, and then use your energy to follow your dream. [Personal note: sorting out my love life was an important first step to then using that energy on my dreams. Relationship stress sucks a great deal of energy from you.]
  • “…what thwarts us and demands of us the greatest effort is also what can teach us most” Gide 
  • We are human and our lot is is to learn and to be hurled into inconceivable new worlds” Novalis, 18th century poet

You can buy the book from here 

Barbara’s official website is here:

Tim Ferriss “Four Hour Work Week” Video Review

September 15, 2008

I love to read – and I love to share my passion for books!
Here is my video review of Tim Ferriss’ “The Four Hour Work Week”. Some of my favourite bits are also listed below the video.

Some top quotes and ideas from the book:

  • Lifestyle Design.  You don’t have to live the high stress, long hours life. You can assess the lifestyle you want and then design it. You don’t have to work all your life to sit on a beach at 65…you can go sit on one now for very little money. 
  • Outsource as much as possible. Weigh up how much time you spend on things. Automate them. Outsource them. Pay other people to do them if it gives you more time. Spend $30 on a cleaner once a week and spend a few hours with the family. Get someone from to write your articles for you. Virtual assistants are the way forward. [Note from JP: I have used several since reading this book and they are brilliant]
  • Be, do , have. Decide what you want in your life. Who do you want to be? What do you want to do? What do you want to have? and then get on with achieving it. Life is too short to be stuck in the office. Set extreme goals that are worth achieving. Question everything. 
  • What are you passionate and excited about? Go do that. 
  • Elimination. Have a “not to do” list and make sure you don’t do it. Don’t watch TV. Cut down your email to once a day (and then once a week). Don’t waste time being busy. Be productive in less time and spend the difference achieving your splendid goals. 
  • Find your muse. Discover a way to make money by virtual and outsourced means and free up your time to do what you love. This may take time to achieve, but you can make a plan and achieve it, so you can live a freer life. 
  • Empower people to make decisions without you. So you can have free time. 
  • If you don’t set the rules, they will be set for you. 
  • Living more is the objective. 
  • Know what you will do with this abundance of time. Look at your passions and missions. Move from a life of survival to one of passion and excitement. 
  • Experiences override possessions every time. Live life, don’t postpone it. 

I found this book inspirational and it is JAM-PACKED with information and links to great sites. 

Tim’s own site is here and it has calculators for your new life, and all kinds of free information to get you started =>

Tim also has a great blog – check it out here =>

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Eckhart Tolle “A New Earth”

August 23, 2008

The aim of this blog is to give you ideas, tips and strategies to enjoy your job, and your life. Eckhart Tolle’s book “A New Earth” contains wisdom that can be useful for you in these areas. In thinking more, and being increasingly aware of ourselves, we can change our lives now and for the future. Here are some key excerpts from the book.

  • “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is experience you are having at the moment.
  • The quote above leads into another favourite author of mine, Joe Vitale “Once you have learnt the lesson, you no longer need the experience.” If you want to move on from your current place, then learn your lesson first.
  • “Unease, restlessness, boredom, anxiety, dissatisfaction, are the result of unfulfilled wanting.” Happiness is contentment with what we have because there will always be more we want. Be grateful for what you have right now.
  • “Awareness is the greatest agent for change.” If you know the problem you want to fix, you can fix it. Be specific about what you want to change. There is no point just saying “I want to be happy” or
    “I want to be rich”.
  • “One of the ego’s erroneous assumptions is ‘I should not have to suffer’. Suffering has a noble purpose: the evolution of consciousness and the burning up of ego.” Look around you – no one is without suffering. Again, learn your lessons from it and find happiness where you can.
  • “Being present is more powerful than saying or doing.” Satori = moment of presence; a brief stepping out of the voice in your head, the thought processes and their reflection in the body as emotion”.
  • Feel whatever you are feeling now. Allow now. Be fully present in this moment and accept that this is you, and this is your life.
  • “Whatever you think people are withholding from you, give it to them first. Act as if you have it, and it will come.”
  • “The source of all abundance is not outside you. It is part of who you are. See the fulness of life all around you. The acknowledgement of this awakens the dormant abundance within. Abundance comes to those who already have it.”
  • “There is not only growth, birth, success, good health, pleasure and winning. There is also loss, failure, sickness, old age, decay, pain and death. Disorder erupts into everyone’s lives.” But these too are part of life, the shadow side we must also embrace and learn from. It would not be a fulness of life without them.
  • This too will pass. “Be aware of the intransience of form – inevitability of change – enjoy the pleasures of the world while they last.”
  • Be aware of your breathing as often as you are able, whenever you remember. Being aware of breathing takes attention away from thinking and creates space. One conscious breath makes space in the succession of thoughts.”
  • “When you are comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life.”
  • “Whatever you cannot enjoy doing, you can at least accept that this is what you have to do. Acceptance means – for now, for this, the moment requires this, and I do it willingly.”

More detail about the book and study programs you can do at

Oprah also chose this book for her book club
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Work Life Balance: “What Matters” by Daniel Petre

July 12, 2008
Success and Work-Life Balance

What Matters: Success and Work-Life Balance

If your work life balance is non-existent, or you work for a company that expects your soul in exchange for your pay – then you need to read this book. Your life doesn’t have to be this way – and this book can help you look at what really matters in your life, and make the change.

Daniel Petre understands the corporate 27 hour day having worked at Microsoft and other large companies. But he chose to focus on his family and his life outside of work, facing criticism from other executives who seemed to resent his choices. This book challenges the practices of office face-time, number of hours worked as the yardstick for reward, office centred social life as well as work, and the only way is up.

Here are some of the insights I gained from reading this book:

  • It is important to figure out what is most important to you, work out how to do your job in the most efficient and productive way and then allocate time to other activities in your life – “be ruthless with your diary” and make sure you have time for the people and activities that mean the most to you
  • Remember that you don’t always have to move upwards in a company. You can choose to move sideways e.g. retrain or downwards e.g. work part-time or take less responsibility. People may criticise you for this, but you don’t need acceptance from your work colleagues. You need to make sure your life is focussed on the right things.
  • Concentrating only on work is a short term view – your employees and colleagues will not be there when you are sick, or need a friend, or when you retire. Those nights out on the corporate expense account are great sometimes, but not every week while your family eats without you and your kids go to bed without seeing you all week.
  • Studies have actually found that changing the way employees are treated boosts productivity more than changing their pay. Motivating people by treating them well is also cheaper – so everyone wins!
  • Sustainable leaders must understand themselves, develop and reward competence, cherish diversity, advocate equity, have the ability to communicate at all levels, have a deep understanding of the organisation, vision and strategy. They must be a human being first, then a corporate executive. They must have perspective – where life has many aspects and work is just a part of it.
  • A life of sustained success has all facets – health, family, wealth, work, social legacy, balance – “people obsessed with work end up lonely, sad, bitter souls”
  • When we were children balance was encouraged – we did lots of different things. Then suddenly we spend the bulk of our waking hours on one thing and nothing else is supposed to matter. We are sucked into this culture and we all want to fit in – but we mustn’t forget what is really important
  • Companies focus on asset maintenance for their machinery – but what about employees as assets? There should be a focus on maintaining people – and we are all responsible for making sure we ourselves are sustainable.
  • Get a reality check now and then. Remember how lucky you are even on the worst day at work. Perspective brings home what is important – your family, your health, your home.

This is a great book that will help you take stock of your personal situation now and reflect on where you are going with your career. You get what you focus on, and if work is everything, then the rest will fall away. Is this what you want?
There are exercises in the book that will help you identify what is important, where you spend your time and challenge your perspective. There are also cautionary tales of people who have had stellar corporate careers but are left with little happiness on retirement.

So, if you are struggling with work/life balance – I highly recommend this book!

If you would like to buy the book, it is available here
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How to Enjoy Your Job Video by the author, Joanna Penn

June 29, 2008

This is a short video of me discussing my book, “How to Enjoy Your Job”. It explains why I wrote it and why I think it is important for people to enjoy work. I am passionate about helping people change their working lives, and this video gives you an insight into how to book can help that.

You can get a free chapter and e-workbook
You can also buy the book from my website or from or

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Jack Canfield “The Success Principles”

June 22, 2008

“Formal education will earn you a living. Self education will earn you a fortune.” Jim Rohn

I am a huge believer in self-development and continuing education.
This is the first in the series of video reviews for books I recommend in “How To Enjoy Your Job”. 
These are books that have been important for my own development, and I also believe you will gain a lot from them.  
Let me know what you think – or if there is a specific book you want reviewed…

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