Book Review: "The Enlightenment of Work"

6th September 2013:

This aritcle first appeared on the Desk Demon website. 


The Enlightenment of Work – Revealing the Path of Happiness, Contentment and Purpose in Your Job.

by Steven Nobel (published by Watkins Publishing)



Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”*  This book goes a step further: “Choose a job that you love, that’s in tune with your work ethic and morals, that helps you feel good about yourself, that helps others … and you will never have to work a day in your life.” 


Yes, so okay, that sounds like a tall order but Steve Nobel’s book talks you through several steps to make this possible. 


But this is not a “with one giant leap, your work can become fun, fun, fun” sort of book.  Mr Nobel spends some time acknowledging that many have little or no control over their work, are in jobs just for the money, to keep body and soul together - or without any kind of work at all.  He doesn’t belittle this or pass judgement.  He recognises that there are numerous reasons why we are stressed and unhappy with work (overwork, underwork, lack of control, bullying, conflict) and realises that everyone has a variety of reasons for the work they’re doing.   However, he does give some tips and ideas to make work just that little bit more bearable.  After all, we spend so much time actually at work – why not try to make it a happier, more fulfilling experience?  Now you’re thinking, “yes, that really is a tall order.”


Steve Nobel starts the book by telling his own story; how he hated his job, how he found it stressful, unfulfilling and boring.  He tells how it made him ill and eventually forced him to take time out and seek new employment.  He has, as they say, “been there”.


The book is a mixture of NLP, Taoism and Buddhism but as the author points out, you don’t have to be a Buddhist to get the most from this book.  Each chapter contains a little story to help illustrate a particular point.  Although many of the stories are about Buddha and his teachings, these are dissected and applied to a work environment.  But other stories also get a look in as outlines to different chapters.  My favourite story is from the Brothers Grimm’s version of Cinderella, used to illustrate the various characters you may encounter at work, how to recognise them and how to deal with them (a NLP tactic). 


When the Prince reaches Cinderella’s house with the lost golden slipper, the eldest step-sister tries it on first.  On finding it too small, her mother gives her a knife and says, ‘Cut off the toe; when you are Queen you will no longer have to walk.’  And the step-sister obeys.  The golden slipper now fits perfectly and the Prince declares he has found his bride.  As they ride away, he sees blood coming from the wound on her foot and realises he has been deceived. 


Maybe it’s just the offices I’ve worked in but … I don’t have to think too hard to identify the main characters in that scene.


As you would expect, there are exercises towards the end of each chapter, giving you ideas on how to deal with certain situations, how to increase your self-esteem, how to manage your expectations, and how to take time out.  There is also an introduction to meditation.  Do try these exercises even if you find some of the ideas too “new–agey”.  In fact, some readers may find the whole book a little new-agey but “The Enlightenment of Work” is all about encouraging you to think differently about your job.  And a little “new-agey-ness” can go a long way.


* widely attributed to Confucius but thought to be a mis-translation!



Christine - from her Shed

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