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Let your life speak

April 29th, 2013 · Comments

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation is a great read.

Before I share with you my review, I would like to quote the review from Publisher Weekly because it captured this book’s essence very well.

“A gifted academic who formerly combined a college teaching career with community organizing, Palmer took a year’s sabbatical to live at the "intentional" Quaker community of Pendle Hill in Pennsylvania. Instead of leaving at year’s end, he became the community’s dean of studies and remained there for 10 years.

Palmer (The Courage to Teach) shares the lessons of his vocational and spiritual journey, discussing his own burnout and intense depression with exceptional candor and clarity.

In essays that previously appeared in spiritual or educational journals and have been reworked to fit into this slim volume, he suggests that individuals are most authentic when they follow their natural talents and limitations, as his own story demonstrates. Since hearing one’s "calling" requires introspection and self-knowledge (as suggested by the eponymous Quaker expression), Palmer encourages inner work such as journal-writing, meditation and prayer. Recognizing that his philosophy is at odds with popular, essentially American attitudes about self-actualization and following one’s dreams, Palmer calls vocation "a gift, not a goal."

He deftly illustrates his point with examples from the lives of people he admires, such as Rosa Parks, Annie Dillard and Vaclav Havel. A quiet but memorable addition to the inspirational field, this book has the quality of a finely worked homily. The writing displays a gentle wisdom and economy of style that leaves the reader curious for more insight into the author’s Quaker philosophy.”

My key takeaways:

  1. The American Culture emphasizes overcome one’s limitation and self actualization. However, each of us has our own unique calling. If we focus on what we should be doing (not what we’re called to do) and live to meet external expectations, we will end up in very miserable place no matter how successful we are.
  2. If we found ourselves keep hitting walls or burned out, it is probably a sign that you’re not following your true calling. You’re trying too hard to meet other people’s expectation. I have experienced this myself. In fact, I know very few people who are truly living their own calling.
  3. If we trust our inner self and let “self” to lead us, we’ll eventually find the optimal career path. This approach could take us to unexpected places but it will work out in the end.

Like a family friend who told me a while ago: “very few people truly love their work. and these people are truly happy.” I believe putting yourself into the right vocation is one of the most valuable gift you can ever give to yourself. Read this book and find your calling. You will be blessed.

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