by Laurence G. Boldt

©2015 Peter Fritz Walter. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

New York: Penguin Compass, 1996, New Edition, 2004 (Quotes are from the Original Edition).

Review

by Laurence G. Boldt is a highly recommended career guide pocket option for those who won’t work through Zen or the Art of Making a Living.

Now, when I say this, I have to justify it. I have worked two times through Zen or the Art of Making a Living, and yet did not find this smaller book obsolete because the books serve different purposes. The present booklet is not just a thinner copy of the larger career guide, it’s an entirely different book. It addresses perhaps a different audience as well.

To begin with, Boldt stresses in this book that you burst your limits if you are serious about finding really meaningful work. Bursting your limits doesn’t mean you have to become a superman or superwoman; it rather means bursting your understanding of the world, and your humanness.

It means accepting your soul identity, and do away as much as you can with social conditioning. That in turn requires you to get in touch with inside and give priority to your inner world:

At times it may seem that our inner world is nothing more than an endless chorus of conflicting voices. We hear them rattling around in our heads — the voices of the media and popular culture, the voices of our parents and peers, the voices of our escapist fantasies and infantile fears. To engage the creative life, you must be able to discern the voice of your own best self amidst the clamor and confusion of this strange and bewildering cacophony. You must be able to discriminate between what is really true for you and what merely sounds good./26

I have done this work from A to Z, over more than two decades, and can testify for the validity of this statement. This is your turning point or perhaps the test that the universe or ‘destiny’ puts up for you. It’s really that hard, and the author did not joke when he said bewildering cacophony. It’s not a movie that you can store away after having watched the journey of the hero.

The movie reassures you because you know how the story ends, but in your own life as a potential hero, you don’t know how it’s going to end. When you read the Bible, do you get a feeling that life is easy? Then read the Koran, the Tora, and then the Vedas. In none of the scriptures you are told that life is easy. So why do you believe it? You believe it because television tells you so. And it’s here where you are knocked out of your soul-being, like a football that is kicked out of the terrain, and lost somewhere in a street, where it has no more meaning. And if you are not connected with yourself, with your self, with what are you going to be connected?

What Laurence G. Boldt says is that life while it’s a game somehow is not an amusement, and that if you take it as an amusement, you are like the pack who go for everything just because everybody else does. If you are serious about your life and yourself, you will not take a job haphazardly, and you will do all you can to steer clear about what you really want in life, and about what you want in your career. And to do this, you have to be honest with yourself. Boldt confesses:

In my work as a career consultant, I have observed that men, especially, have difficulty admitting that their work life is not working for them. They endeavor to conform to the cultural stereotype of the macho man — the strong, silent type who has everything under control. They try to uphold the illusion that they have it all together, even though on the inside they may be falling apart. (This may be one reason why suicide rates are so much higher for / men).
Women generally seem more willing to acknowledge their pain. Among the men who seek my services, I see three general categories: young men or sensitive types who are not invested in the stereotype, those who come at the urging of their wives or lovers, or those who have already achieved considerable financial success. /35–36

You may think this is not the quick-fix career book you were searching for? Yes, right, it’s not, and that’s why it’s a good book. After all, you can win a million in the casino, tomorrow night. And what are you going to do with the money?

What touched me very deeply is what Boldt conveyed about his younger years, and how it came about that he embraced the career of a coach. He writes:

In my youth, I spent a portion of my spare time visiting the elderly in nursing homes. I was struck, time and again, by how many of these people expressed regret about things they had always wanted to do with their lives, but hadn’t. It wasn’t just that they had failed to achieve their dreams: they had never even worked at them. Many had secretly cherished an idea of something they wanted to do for twenty or thirty years or more, but had never taken even the first step./76

Can you imagine? Can you see yourself there? My grandmother, the day before she died in a hospital without being really sick, at the age of seventy-three, said that all she did in her life had been wrong. It was a shock for me. My grandmother was the only person of the whole extended family that I always respected, and who taught me so much, and who had a noble attitude that contrasted very strongly with the attitude of her four children. Why did she say this?

Later in life, through research on my family roots, I found the answer. She had a dream of something much greater than she had realized (and which was already great), but she had given up on that dream about twenty years before she died. That is probably why she died and did not live twenty years or thirty years longer. What my grandmother said on her death bed was true and not true at the same time. She was the person I had most admired in my young life, and for whom I would have testified to have done everything right in her life. But she saw herself differently, because she had much higher expectations of herself, and never had revealed those to us.

The lesson of this is that you have to communicate your expectations, without being afraid you are going to be ridiculed for your ambition. Life is a strange soup, our universe is a strange pudding, it’s all about communicating vision. Yes. If you keep it inside, it’s like a plant you put in a cellar and that can’t really grow because it lacks sunshine. When you tell people what you want, and if it’s the craziest idea in the world, you get that sunshine, even if they criticize it, then you get the sunshine in the form of anger, which is also a sun. But when you keep it inside, you bury it alive. And these elders, in the nursing homes, had done exactly that, they had buried their lives long before they themselves were buried, because they had buried their dreams:

The prevailing atmosphere of nursing homes I visited was one of profound sadness and regret. It was poignant to hear these people — many bedridden, some with trembling hands — tell their stories of regret./76

This experience touched the young Boldt so much that he took something like a vow, dedicating his life to not only help himself avoiding the denial trap, but helping others to avoid it, too:

Even more moving was the emphatic way they urged me, with all the strength and force they could muster, to follow my own dreams, not to allow what had happened to them to happen to me. Had this occurred once or twice, it would have made a strong impression, but its repetition left an indelible mark. I learned more about how to live from these people than from all the books I had ever read or classes I had ever taken. At that point, I determined not only to follow my own dreams but to dedicate my life to helping others, in whatever way I could, to avoid the fate that had befallen these poor souls./77

And here I will stop this review, primarily for respecting the author, as extensive quoting would need the permission of both author and publisher, and second because I think it’s good for you to pause a moment and reflect about death, old age, and generally, things coming to an end, taking this view as an inspiration for changing your life, changing your perspective of life, and changing your attitude. You have not a minute to waste, not a moment to lose, and not a second to chat just for passing your time.

Your time should be dedicated to your mission — all the time! That is what this book is telling you.

Quotes

  • Today, the American Dream has become a global dream and, in certain respects, a global nightmare. /XIII
  • Unless we are to face global unemployment on a truly horrific scale or the pros- pect of a virtual slave class of low-paid workers, new kinds of work must be cre- ated. This new work will not be created by the government, but neither will it come from the private sector, if we mean by that the massive global corpora- tions. It will be created, if at all, by individuals. It will be born by their inspirations, compassion, and natural talents. /XIV
  • We cannot demand from others what we can only earn for ourselves by commit- ting ourselves to living up to our best. /17
  • Without a doubt, bottled-up creative energy is a great source of stress. Energy wants to flow. Without constructive channels for creative release, it builds up in tension and stress, endangering our emotional and physical health. /19
  • Around the globe, useless, even degrading work steals the spirit and saps the joy from the lives of millions, while much necessary work goes undone. /20
  • Ironically, many people discover that when they shake off their fears about money and commit themselves to doing the work they truly love, they begin to experience a prosperity greater than they have ever known before. /21
  • At times it may seem that our inner world is nothing more than an endless cho- rus of conflicting voices. We hear them rattling around in our heads — the voices of the media and popular culture, the voices of our parents and peers, the voices of our escapist fantasies and infantile fears. To engage the creative life, you must be able to discern the voice of your own best self amidst the clamor and confu- sion of this strange and bewildering cacophony. You must be able to discrimi- nate between what is really true for you and what merely sounds good. /26
  • It has been wisely said that people get in trouble in this life not because they want too much but because they settle for too little. /32
  • In my work as a career consultant, I have observed that men, especially, have dif- ficulty admitting that their work life is not working for them. They endeavor to conform to the cultural stereotype of the macho man — the strong, silent type who has everything under control. They try to uphold the illusion that they have it all together, even though on the inside they may be falling apart. (This may be one reason why suicide rates are so much higher for / men). Women generally seem more willing to acknowledge their pain. Among the men who seek my services, I see three general categories: young men or sensitive types who are not invested in the stereotype, those who come at the urging of their wives or lovers, or those who have already achieved considerable financial success. /35–36
  • Perhaps nothing is more absurd than watching tourists dutifully trying to have fun. /37
  • Much of the exhaustion people experience from work comes not as a result of productive effort but from the emotional drain of political infighting, negativism, and jealousy. Since it is so prevalent, we are tempted to join in the gossip, back-biting, and back-stabbing. It is well to remember that people only feel the need to put down others when they have lost respect for themselves. /37
  • No creative work or life was built on fear and defensiveness. /39
  • It takes a great deal of imagination and resourcefulness to find your own way in a world determined to stamp you with the cookie cutter. /41
  • Even if we were willing to settle for them, dull repetitive jobs are rapidly being replaced by advanced technologies or shipped overseas to those who will work for less. /41
  • The problems of the world involve real pain suffered by real people. Solving them requires more than joining in the chorus of condemnation. / It requires that we make the effort to understand and the effort to act. /47–48
  • We know what we are against, but what are we for? /48
  • Sometimes we think we have no answers when the real problem is that we haven’t asked the right questions. /59
  • When we lose the center, the parts scatter and begin to war with one another. /70
  • Though perhaps not in so many words, you were told to compromise: compromise your dreams, compromise your ideals, compromise your sense of what’s right for what would help you get along. /71
  • James Allen said: ‘The dreamers are the saviors of the world.’ /71
  • As Aldous Huxley wrote: ‘A child-like adult is not one whose development is ar- rested; on the contrary, he is an adult who has given himself a chance of continuing to develop long after most people have muffled themselves into a cocoon of middle age habit and convention.’ /71
  • Genius is, as Charles Baudelaire put it, ‘nothing more or less than childhood recovered by will, a childhood now equipped for self-expression with an adult’s capacities.’ /72
  • As the Chinese philosopher Mencius said, ‘The great man is one who does not lose his childlike nature.’ /72
  • In my youth, I spent a portion of my spare time visiting the elderly in nursing homes. I was struck, time and again, by how many of these people expressed regret about things they had always wanted to do with their lives, but hadn’t. It wasn’t just that they had failed to achieve their dreams: they had never even worked at them. Many had secretly cherished an idea of something they wanted to do for twenty or thirty years or more, but had never taken even the first step. /76
  • The prevailing atmosphere of the nursing homes I visited was one of profound sadness and regret. It was poignant to hear these people — many bedridden, some with trembling hands — tell their stories of regret.
  • Even more moving was / the emphatic way the urged me, with all the strength and force they could muster, to follow my own dreams, not to allow what had happened to them to happen to me. Had this occurred once or twice, it would have made a strong impression, but its repetition left an indelible mark. I learned more about how to live from these people than from all the books I had ever read or classes I had ever taken. At that point, I determined not only to follow my own dreams but to dedicate my life to helping others, in whatever way I could, to avoid the fate that had befallen these poor souls. /77
  • As Horace said, ‘Those who postpone the hour of living as they ought are like the fool who waits for the river to pass before crossing; the river glides, and will for- ever.’ /78
  • As Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘Don’t’ listen to friends when the Friend inside you says, ‘Do this.’ /81
  • This transformation of consciousness, the birth of compassion, marks the begin- ning of a new, more vital and meaningful experience of life. From the perspective of this new life, the old ego-centered existence seems more like sleepwalking than living. /87
  • To know what we truly are, then, is to be in sympathy with all things. /88
  • The Chinese have a saying: ‘The duck’s legs are short, but if we try to lengthen them, the duck will feel pain. A crane’s legs are long, but if we try to cut off a por- tion of them, the crane will feel grief. We are not to amputate what is by nature long, or to lengthen what is by nature short.’ /99
  • This is one of the great paradoxes of life: the way to transcend nature is to honor it. /103
  • The joy of the sexual orgasm is the temporary self-extinction that occurs when pleasure becomes so unbearably intense that the self-conscious mind must give way. /103
  • We can easily become overwhelmed with all that is wrong with us. Many people spend the whole of their lives trying to fix themselves, preparing for some day in the future when they will be ready to live. They think of themselves as damaged goods, incapable of fully living until they are fixed and repaired. In the end, play- ing Dr. Fix-it never works, for it never ends. /104
  • Life is meant to be expressed, not to be analyzed or fixed. You will never get to your strengths by focusing on your weaknesses. You grow in strength as you fo- cus on and develop your strengths. /105
  • We are naturally happy and positive in our feeling towards life and must learn to become bitter or negative. We are naturally creatively resourceful and must learn to hesitate and doubt our capacity to handle the opportunities and challenges which life presents. We naturally move toward our talents, for the expression of talents is pleasurable and we spontaneously move toward pleasure. We have to learn to associate self-expression with pain, and to become resigned to settling for less than happiness. /106

©2015 Peter Fritz Walter. Some rights reserved.
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Advertisements