The Earned Life Book Summary - The Earned Life Book explained in key points
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The Earned Life summary

Marshall Goldsmith

Lose Regret, Choose Fulfillment

4.4 (474 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

The Earned Life by Marshall Goldsmith is a guide to help us find meaning in our careers and personal lives. The author encourages self-reflection and presents actionable steps to pursue what truly matters, based on his extensive coaching experience with successful leaders.

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    The Earned Life
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    You don’t have to be a Buddhist to profit from the Buddha’s wisdom.

    Many centuries ago, a sage from South Asia had a revelation. Life, he realized, is impermanent. Nothing lasts. Pleasure and happiness are fleeting. So, too, are our dreams and sorrows. 

    For the Buddha – that was the name of this sage – life was constant change. Renewal. Every breath we take, he said, transforms us; we become different people from moment to moment. The only true reality, he concluded, is the present. The past belongs to a past you, and the future to your future self.

    The Earned Life isn’t about Buddhism – and neither is this Blink. But the author suggests that we treat the Buddha’s insight as a kind of thought experiment. What if you assumed he was right? What if, just for the sake of this mental exercise, you looked at the world through his eyes? 

    Here’s his bet: this Buddhist paradigm can help everyone, Buddhist and non-Buddhist alike, to think more clearly about what it means to lead a fulfilling life. 

    That’s because so many of us are trapped in what he calls the Western paradigm – a view of the world which denies impermanence. The view that says you’ll always be the same person, no matter what happens. That imagines there’s a single answer to all the questions that gnaw at you. That implies there’s a path to permanent happiness – a path that solves all of life’s riddles.

    The Western paradigm, in short, promises that you’ll be happy when . . . well, what? In the end, you can’t escape the reality of impermanence. The goal posts keep shifting. That dream house could be bigger. Or smaller. Or closer to your grandkids. The promotion you hoped for doesn’t bring you the status you crave; the pay raise you fought for only makes you realize what money can’t buy. There’s always another goal – the next big thing that’ll really make you happy. 

    Endlessly pursuing such shifting goals, the Buddha thought, turns us into “hungry ghosts.” We’re ravenous, but nothing fills – or fulfills – us. That’s a paradoxical, futile, and miserable way to live. 

    So what’s the alternative, and what do Buddhist teachings about impermanence have to do with it? 

    Here’s The Earned Life’s take: accepting that everything grows and fades unlocks a powerful tool for personal development. Why is that? Well, for one, it’s a license to move on. When you come to see that the person you have been isn’t all that you can be, you open yourself to new adventures. But that acceptance also attunes you to the present by giving you a powerful motive to be better now

    Your achievements, your good reputation, the reciprocated love of the people you love – everything is impermanent. All of it can fade. Such things, then, aren’t “possessions.” You can’t lock them up for safekeeping. You can’t take them to the bank. You can’t invest them and live off the interest. They have to be re-earned. Constantly. Every day, every hour, and perhaps even with every breath. And that, really, is the most important takeaway here: there’s no point at which we finish earning our lives. Not until the moment we stop breathing.

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    What is The Earned Life about?

    The Earned Life (2022) poses a simple yet profound question: Why does a life of constant achievement often leave us feeling empty? The answer can be found in ancient Buddhist wisdom: it’s not meeting ambitious goals but rather working on meaningful goals that really brings fulfillment and happiness. 

    The Earned Life Review

    The Earned Life (2021) explores the art of building a rewarding and fulfilling life through intentional choices and actions. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With its practical strategies and practical examples, it offers actionable advice on how to create a life that aligns with our values and aspirations.
    • By discussing the importance of self-reflection and personal growth, the book empowers readers to take charge of their own happiness and success.
    • Through inspiring stories and relatable anecdotes, the book keeps readers engaged, ensuring that the journey to self-discovery is never dull.

    Who should read The Earned Life?

    • High achievers who feel like something’s missing 
    • Anyone interested in personal improvement 
    • Secular-minded folks interested in spirituality

    About the Author

    Marshall Goldsmith is a leadership coach and best-selling author. He is a member of the Thinkers 50 Hall of Fame and has been named in the Top Ten Business Thinker rankings for eight consecutive years. His 41 books, which have sold over 2.5 million copies and been translated into 32 languages, include influential titles such as Triggers and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.

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    The Earned Life FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Earned Life?

    The main message of The Earned Life is that living a fulfilling life requires taking responsibility for our actions and choices.

    How long does it take to read The Earned Life?

    The reading time for The Earned Life varies depending on the reader's pace. However, you can read the Blinkist summary in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Earned Life a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Earned Life is worth reading for anyone seeking personal growth and fulfillment. It provides valuable insights and practical advice.

    Who is the author of The Earned Life?

    The author of The Earned Life is Marshall Goldsmith.

    What to read after The Earned Life?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Earned Life, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Emotional by Leonard Mlodinow
    • Born to Win by Zig Ziglar with Tom Ziglar
    • Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter
    • Get Out of Your Own Way by Dave Hollis
    • What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith
    • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
    • Remote Work Revolution by Tsedal Neeley
    • See You at the Top by Zig Ziglar
    • The Negativity Fast by Anthony Iannarino
    • How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes