Sunday, September 23, 2012

“Are you just existing and calling it a life?” Book Review

Dave Bernard’s “Are you just existing and calling it a life?” ends with the following passage:

You will only live this day once. When you look back did you live it well? If you can say yes you should sleep well knowing that tomorrow is another day wherein you will again have chance to life it well. Enjoy the journey…”
Bernard’s latest book contains fourteen short chapters on how to live this day well and this life well. His book is an exhortation for the reader (or participant in life as I prefer to call the reader) to find his or her passion, which then will be the guide for the actions that fill your days and lives.

The search for passion is a lifetime adventure; subject to detours and modifications, as we know that “Man makes plans and God laughs.” But without direction, goals and hopes we will drift hopelessly and be miserable. If you are searching for a purpose in life then reach for this book, if you are happy with your state of mind then reach for the TV remote instead.

Bernard opens the book with a challenge for us to identify our passions, those things that will drive us for a lifetime. Just find them, easy to say, but hard to do. He writes that he has “some questions” for us to answer to help in this process. I laughed when I read the list on the next page and looked back at his reference to “some questions.” There are seventeen initially, and many more throughout his book. Thankfully, he doesn’t expect us to answer them all at one review; he gives the leisure of setting our own pace for the answers. The questions are short but the drive to the heart of the quest: what are you passionate about? No multiple-choice answers, Bernard wants your answers.

The subsequent chapters focus on various topics to use as a guide to find your passions. He utilizes pertinent quotes and brief thoughts as a starting point for the questions in each chapter. And the book is full of questions designed to flesh out your passion. Each chapter ends with “takeaways.” These takeaways are concrete statements and suggestions to actually find and implement the particular passion discussed in the chapter.

Some of the chapter topics could be changed to fit your style or interests. For example Bernard extols the benefits of fishing in some detail and with fervor in Chapter 12. You could substitute hiking, hunting, bird watching or camping just as effectively. Other chapter topics are more universal and ring true: work, family, good health and retirement.

Bernard’s presentation of his concept of passion search requires the reader to disregard the format of the book. Quotes intermixed with text, questions galore and chapter ending “takeaways” slow the reader down. Rereading and thinking are required, but this is not necessarily bad just different. In fact, reading slow and thoughtfully is an advantage when considering this short book deals with our entire working career and retirement activities.

I read the chapter on work three times and thought about my own career twists. Our goal is to find a career that we are passionate about is task that may take a lifetime. But Bernard encourages us to keep striving to find that career that gives us purpose. More importantly, he gives us suggestions that will help the reader with that search. He knows that it is unrealistic to expect a person entering the workforce to know what he or she wants to do for the next 20, 30 or more years.

I found myself wandering through several careers after I graduated college. Each career choice was a step in a journey. For me I found not a single field but a type of work that fulfilled me. In my case, it was not a single industry but the position that allowed me to interact with people and help them was most satisfying. I was a schoolteacher for several years, a manager of a wholesale plumbing company, a salesman, and an administrator of a religious institution. Each of these jobs was completely different on the surface but at the core I was doing the same thing. I helped people grow, solve problems and experience a meaningful life through my efforts.

Bernard’s “takeaways” in the chapter on work recognizes that people will change careers and gives the reader tools and suggestions for making the changes. Tools to allow the participant in life to move forward with each change and follow that passion into retirement.

This book requires thinking and assigns us the task of answering thoughtful questions about our life. He doesn’t ask you to score your answers, to rate yourself or compare your answers to others but rather to help each of us find our own path to passion. I encourage to read this book, scribble in the margins, read each chapter once, twice or more for meaning and it is not required to read the chapters in order. Leave this book in your night table, carry it in your backpack or brief case and refer to it whenever you doubt your current work circumstance.

“Are you just existing and calling it a life?” has given me the impetus to define my passions a little more accurately as I approach Chapter 13, Retirement. I have a to-do list for my retirement that I now realize needs reworking.

Now the work is up to you to find your passion.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Dave Bernard’s book to review.  I mentioned this book in my September 11, 2012 blog.  "Are you just existing and calling it a life," is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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  1. Where is the audio version of this blog as I don't read books!!!

  2. I've visited Bernard's site; now I should really read his book, because I know I spend too much time "just existing," and not enough time pursuing my purpose and my passions. I think it's a good point he/you makes, though, that your passions can change as life goes on, that we're always searching to enrich, expand and extend our purpose.