The Art Of Work Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: The Art Of Work is the instruction manual to find your vocation by looking into your passions, connecting them to the needs of the world, and thus building a legacy that’s bigger than yourself.

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The Art Of Work Summary

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When spending a year abroad in Spain during college, Jeff Goins discovered his love for writing, traveling, and realized he really wanted to make an impact on the world, but didn’t think he had what it takes to be a writer.

Eventually, a friend told him: “Jeff, you ARE a writer. You just need to write.” He sat down to write the very next day, and he’s done so every day since then.

This has led him to publishing 4 books since 2012, The Art Of Work being his latest one, and a national bestseller. He’s quit his job at a non-profit organization in the meantime, and lives in Nashville with his wife, son and dog with the incredibly cool name “Lyric”.

Here are 3 great takeaways from The Art Of Work:

  1. Make a list of all major events in your life to find your calling.
  2. There is no such thing as “self-made”.
  3. Don’t sweat it too much – live a portfolio life!

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Lesson 1: Start looking for your true calling by making a list of life events.

From the get-go, Jeff doesn’t sugarcoat things. It’s not easy to find your life’s purpose. If it was, everybody would do it and we wouldn’t look at the grim fact that only 13% of all people worldwide actually like showing up for work.

But he instantly gives you some great starting points.

First of all, it’s a lot about awareness, self-awareness, to be exact.

If you don’t know yourself well, you might not see your life’s calling, even when it’s right in front of you. Our true purpose often suddenly hits us in the form of a very strong feeling in your gut or at a major event in life, for example a turning point. Think Luke Skywalker meets Obi-Wan Kenobi. That’s how he found out he had to become a Jedi.

Jeff suggests you start by making a simple list of all the major events in your life. 

Note however, that major does not mean important. Yes, the day you started high school should be on there, just like graduation or maybe your first kiss, but some events might seem random, even though you feel they’re important. Maybe you’re just out for a golf session, and the second you hit the ball and see it fly away in a perfect trajectory, you know that’s what your life as a writer would look like.

Go through the list and ask yourself: When was I the most happy? When did I feel fulfilled? What made me feel accomplished?

Your calling lies hidden in these moments, so go find them!

Note: I’m proud to say that my blog post about finding your true calling makes use of this method 🙂

Lesson 2: There is no such thing as “self-made”.

Yes, motivational Instagram channels are great, but every time I read “self-made millionaire” I cringe a little bit.

Jeff says there is no such thing.


Because even the greatest of the greatest rely on teachers, mentors and guides. Warren Buffett had a mentor (Benjamin Graham), Michael Jordan had a coach, Justin Bieber had a vocal trainer and Jeff Bezos says he’s been mentored by the hundreds of people whose biographies he’s read.

Everyone you meet and everything you do is a chance to learn, so start seeking these people and opportunities.

No one achieves success alone, so you might as well start looking for the right people to help you along the journey now, rather than later.

Lesson 3: Live a portfolio life and don’t sweat it too much!

A portfolio life is a term Jeff invented, and it describes a life in which you base your identity on a wide range of things, not just one.

For example Jeff isn’t only a writer, he’s also a husband and a father. Living a portfolio life means refusing to be defined by just your work.

In fact, Jeff says next to work there are also home, which is all about friends and family, play, which is all about having fun and purpose, which is your life’s grand work.

A portfolio life is a life of freedom, and it’s getting more and more popular. The numbers prove it – by 2020, more than 40% of all American workers will be freelancers, and by 2030 they’ll be the majority.

Freelancing means getting to do a wide variety of work and making your own hours. This working style allows you to spend a lot more time in flow, where work is challenging, but you’re doing great.

It’s this kind of work that builds the basis of living the life of your calling, and it’s best achieved when you don’t sweat work too much and focus on the great variety that life has to offer.

The Art Of Work Review

This summary is very short, but it carries some great advice points. However, The Art Of Work isn’t too long, roughly 200 pages, and Jeff has some heart-warming (and also very touching) stories to make his points.

Jeff works hard, but he’s the kind of guy that doesn’t forget about the important and fun things in life, like playing with his son or making time for his wife – it’s exactly this kind of life that he’s leading you towards with this book.

As a man of many passions and aspirations, I deeply appreciate that.

He reminds me of Steven Pressfield.

If you want to make an impact on the world, but still have the time to appreciate life along the way, go for this book!

Who would I recommend The Art Of Work summary to?

The 22 year old in the middle of choosing a career, who’s worried she might never find her passion, the 35 year old who’s frustrated by seeing so many “overnight” successes pop up in the news, and anyone who mostly defines their life through their work.

Last Updated on July 27, 2022

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Niklas Göke

Niklas Göke is an author and writer whose work has attracted tens of millions of readers to date. He is also the founder and CEO of Four Minute Books, a collection of over 1,000 free book summaries teaching readers 3 valuable lessons in just 4 minutes each. Born and raised in Germany, Nik also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration & Engineering from KIT Karlsruhe and a Master’s Degree in Management & Technology from the Technical University of Munich. He lives in Munich and enjoys a great slice of salami pizza almost as much as reading — or writing — the next book — or book summary, of course!