The Joy of Not Working: A Book for the Retired, Unemployed and Overworked (Anglais) Broché – 1 septembre 2003
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Mr. Zelinski makes an excellent case for living a full life free of regret. I liked his positive attitude and constant motivation towards discovering and embracing my passions. His examples of persons who left a dreary job in favor of pursuing their dream occupation might be just the prodding some folks need to make their own leap (a similar book had that effect on me, and earned my eternal gratitude). Overall, the book's lighthearted tone and numerous applicable quotes were uplifting, and every chapter brightened up a break or lunchtime at work (although displaying a book with this title on your desk might upset a Bill Lumbergh-type manager). My favorite part was his short section on becoming an author. Every aspiring or discouraged writer should keep it handy as a pick-me-up.
However, the Life of Riley is a subjective thing, and finding your version of it might take some time and testing. Yes, it would be ideal to immediately discover and make a living in one's passion twenty hours a week. However, it may take awhile to actually discern your calling and develop it into a viable occupation. Until then, having a decent job that provides time and funds for investigating potential passions off-hours doesn't suck. Indeed, that place in life can serve as a transitional period to test the waters while preparing for the risk of a deeper plunge. But if the thought of showing up to work makes you want to take a hostage, then it's time to jump ship right now. From experience, I can second Mr Zelinski's claim that it's worth it in the long run.
Unfortunately, anyone who's not Western and single might find the Life of Riley difficult to achieve. I'm an American singleton, so I have the luxury of finding myself without having to worry about supporting a family, where my next meal is coming from, or if another car bomb will explode in my neighborhood this month. I doubt that a minimum-wage earner with a spouse and two young kids to feed or a woman who lives in Iraq would be able to imitate Mr Zelinki's lifestyle. Perhaps in those situations the Life of Riley will need to be redefined.
At any rate, "The Joy of Not Working" is a great read that provides a much-needed reality check for the average 9-to-5 person. FYI: I've checked out a couple of Mr. Zelinski's other books, and there's some repetition between them. For example, this one and "How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free" are different in focus, but often similar in content. Keep that in mind before making your purchase sight unseen.
As an instructor in adult education on the subject of retirement, I have looked for books on the subject that cover the major areas of retirement in a positive vein. I think The Joy of Not Working is an absolute classic. I use it as the basis of my class, and I get nothing but positive feedback from those who buy it and read it. As a start, it is clear that retirement is not for everyone. Many people will hate it or not even consider it for various reasons. This book is not really meant for them. It is for the rest of us who are looking for reinforcement and encouragement in making the retirement decision. The author helps us through any thoughts of feeling guilty or fearing bordom in retirement. Then, he is off on a great section that provides very practical ways of filling our increased leisure time. His Leisure Tree chart is worth the price of admission alone, and this is followed by pages of detailed activities in case one has not come up with enough on his or her own. Additionally, there are sensible suggestions on finances, happiness and all kinds of other things that relate to getting on with the joy of retirement and leaving the workplace behind. I highly recommend The Joy of Not Working as THE retirement primer for those who want a positive outlook on life and one's future in a world that does not evolve around work. As I said in the begining, such a life will not appeal to all. But to those of us to which it does, this book will be prized on our bookshelf. Bravo Ernie Zelinski. I truly believe this book is a classic that will wear well with readers for decades to come.
Zelinski's book has many things going for it. For example:
(a) Too many of us are workaholics.
(b) We need structure, purpose and a sense of community, with or without a job.
(c) Work smart, not hard ("peak performance").
(d) The checklist on page 54 can be a wake-up call.
(e) We can gain several hours a week if we give up television.
But as a career consultant I am concerned about the book's core advice. Page 55: "The first day your job does not nourish and enthuse you is the day you should consider leaving. Indeed, I advise you to quit."
Pretty strong stuff! In my experience, few jobs provide daily nourishment and enthusiasm every day or even every week. I would say, "If you've outgrown your job, begin a search for alternatives. Don't do anything until you have a plan."
People do miss their jobs - even jobs they hated. I have never seen statistics, but my experience suggests at least 50% of those who quit without another job regretted the decision. One discussion list posted a note from a 40-something woman who had chosen enjoyable, low-paying jobs in the personal growth field. Now she was ready to move on, with no nest egg to fund a career transition.
Job dissatisfaction actually can be a misleading signal. Many people who seek a career change actually need to relocate geographically or work on relationships.
My biggest criticism of the book is the potentially misleading presentation of information. For example, the author mentions "a research study conducted in 2001 by Florida's Nova Southeastern University" which found that over 38% of stockbrokers making $300,000 - $1,000,000 suffered from "subclinical depression" while 28% reported "clinical depression." (Overlap? Additional? We're not told.)
Most studies are conducted by individual researchers, not universities or even departments. The author does not cite his source or indicate whether this study was actually published in a reputable peer-reviewed journal.
How was this sample of brokers chosen? What methods were used to assess "subclinical depression" or "clinical depression?" Was the depression long-term or situational? Was this study carried out in 2001 before or after 9/11? Where's the cause and effect: does the field attract individuals with a propensity to depression?
Other studies are mentioned but not cited or described in detail. For the Schnore study of retirees, I'd want to know how their satisfaction was reported and tested.
Additionally, throughout the book, Zelinski presents letters from readers. He seems to suggest that, "If these folks can do it, you can too."
But nearly all his examples come from people who took only the very first step: quitting or deciding to retire. On page 96, Zelinski writes, "Perhaps you will [say]...married people can't possibly quit their jobs like Ian did. Then go back to page 57 and read the letter [from a married man with 2 kids who quit his job]...Case closed!"
Unfortunately, the letter on page 57 was written by someone who had just marched in to his boss and quit. We don't know what happened afterward. Case not closed, in my opinion!
We do get a few examples of success: a professional who became a music busker in Toronto, someone who moved into a friend's trailer to live on $6000 a year, someone who travels cheaply, and several people who saved a stash of cash and now live comfortably from investments or a spouse's salary. Many readers (and most of my clients) will not relate to those examples.
We should also realize Zelinski writes from Canada, a country with national health care. It's not perfect, but it does open up career options. Those happily unemployed are subsidized by taxes from those who face a 50% tax bracket at surprisingly low salary levels.
I also believe that not everyone will enjoy a life of hobbies and volunteer work. Working for money gives you an edge, changing your thoughts, habits and conversations. Zelinski himself is neither unemployed nor retired: he is a full-time writer. His four-hour-a-day schedule is actually quite typical of professional authors of books. I once heard best-selling mystery author Jon Kellerman speak about writing 3 pages a day. Zelinski aims for four.
Bottom Line: Joy of Not Working is worth skimming to experience a philosophy that can be adapted to many lives. Unfortunately, the adaptation will be up to you.
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