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Bruce Feiler

Finding Meaningful Work in a Post-Career World

3.9 (357 ratings)
17 mins

Brief summary

The Search by Bruce Feiler is a captivating exploration of the power of family history and the quest for identity. Feiler takes readers on a journey through his own genealogy and shares valuable insights on how we can connect with our past to shape our future.

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    The Search
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    Three little lies about work

    So the first thing we need to do is dispel some illusions you have about work. Let’s call them what they are: lies.

    Lie #1. I have a career.

    For millennia, work hasn’t been viewed favorably. Even in the Garden of Eden, work was simply a punishment for disobeying God. In many languages, the root of the word for work carries negative connotations. In French and Spanish, for example, travail and trabajo, respectively, are rooted in the Latin for torture. But by the beginning of the sixteenth century, many people had gained more control over their lives. Numeracy and literacy improved, agriculture gave way to industry, and a new word emerged: career.

    In the early 1900s, Frank Parsons – who’d never held down one job for particularly long – opened an office to assist others in making “good career choices.” His approach gained popularity, leading to the widespread adoption of a visual representation of a person’s career: the résumé. Soon, employers started requesting résumés from prospective employees.

    This linear approach to work has been detrimental: deviating from your career path or spending too much or too little time in one job can be detrimental to your résumé.

    Today’s world of work is anything but linear. New technologies have emerged, causing shifts in work and required skills. It’s become important not simply to concentrate on periods of stability, but also on periods of instability – when things go wrong, when you realize it’s time for a change. To fully grasp this concept, the author Bruce Feiler has coined the term workquake.

    Lie #2. I have a path.

    So what does workquake mean? Feiler defines it as “a moment of disruption, inflection, or reevaluation that redirects our work in a meaningful way.” There are many causes of workquakes,including, for example, taking a new job, going back to school, losing employment, the birth of a child – or, as witnessed in the last few years, even a pandemic.

    Although workquakes can be scary and destabilizing, they also present opportunities for growth, renewal, and self-reflection. They allow us to re-story our lives. These disruptions are becoming more frequent and diverse, with long-reaching consequences. Feiler says that on average, individuals experience a workquake every two years and 10 months, and that women encounter them 22 percent more often than men.

    Effectively, this means none of us has a path anymore. It often means saying goodbye to advice like Follow your dreams or Pursue what brings you joy with determination. Feiler’s research showed that only 38 percent of people were doing something that they dreamed of as a child or teenager, and only 12 percent were following their passion.

    So perhaps you need a plan to follow? Well, also no. While some people have a clear plan – they know they want to become a doctor, for example – most people’s plans veer off course at some point due to unexpected encounters, events, or circumstances. Feiler refers to these as butterflies, drawing on the concept of the butterfly effect. In his interviews, he found that everyone who’d experienced an unexpected shift in their work could identify their butterfly – whether that was a person, an experience, or a thing. Feiler’s advice is thus to “follow your butterfly.”

    Lie #3. I have a job.

    Virtually nobody has just one job these days, they have multiple jobs. Indeed, Feiler’s research revealed that the average person has three-and-a-half jobs. Many people use the word job broadly, encompassing not only paid work but also anything that involves responsibility, such as serving on nonprofit boards or taking care of their children. Even if we exclude unpaid work, Feiler found that 63 percent had more than one job. And then, of course, we also work on our relationships, parenting, social media, and our bodies. Every role is a job. Feiler refers to this new way of defining work as Work360. Within it, he says, there are five jobs everyone has.

    Let’s start with your main job. What exactly is that? Is it your primary source of income, the activity that occupies most of your time, or maybe your primary source of meaning? Perhaps it’s not even possible to say. Fewer than half of Americans now have what could be called a main job – actually, only 39 percent do.

    Next, you might have a side job – often referred to as a side hustle – that provides more money, meaning, future options, or a combination of those. It might act as a vehicle for becoming self-employed while you support yourself through your main job. Feiler found that around 75 percent of people have at least one side job.

    The third type of job is the hope job. This is something you do in your spare time – perhaps you write novels or sell homemade cookies – hoping that at some stage it will develop into something bigger. Incredibly, 89 percent of people have a hope job, ranging from writing a memoir, creating comic books, or making jewelry, to performing burlesque or starting a new business. Whatever it is, we’re prepared to sacrifice our free time if such a job makes us happy.

    The fourth job type is the care job, involving caring for someone else – child, parent, or neighbor, for example. Such jobs rarely make money, but they provide us with meaning.

    Lastly, there are what Feiler refers to as ghost jobs. These are often deeply personal and unsettling, resembling a job in their impact. Astoundingly, 93 percent of Feiler’s participants experienced inner battles that felt like jobs. Ghost jobs can involve workplace discrimination, such as racism or sexism, struggles with self-confidence, or financial worries. Everyone encounters such ghosts from time to time, and it is crucial that we acknowledge their existence rather than allowing people to suffer in silence. 

    So now we’ve covered three lies about work. But are there any truths? Well … there is one.

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    What is The Search about?

    The Search (2023) provides a roadmap to finding meaningful work. It asks insightful questions and provides many real-life examples of people who, freed from outdated work scripts, have transformed their lives and written their own stories of work and success.

    The Search Review

    The Search (2003) explores humanity's eternal quest for meaning and connection through the lens of the biblical story of Abraham. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With in-depth research and interviews with scholars and religious figures, it offers a nuanced perspective on the search for spirituality and purpose.
    • The book presents compelling insights into the impact of ancient texts on modern culture, shedding light on our shared human history and values.
    • By intertwining personal experiences and historical analysis, it takes readers on a thought-provoking journey that challenges existing beliefs while providing fresh perspectives.

    Who should read The Search?

    • Professionals who are looking for a “career” change
    • Individuals going through a transitional phase and seeking direction
    • Those looking for a way to achieve a better work-life balance

    About the Author

    Bruce Feiler is a renowned American author and speaker, known for his expertise in writing about family dynamics and personal growth. His main merits lie in his ability to blend personal narratives with insightful research, offering readers practical guidance. Feiler has authored several best-selling books, including Walking the Bible, The Secrets of Happy Families, and The Council of Dads, which have garnered widespread acclaim for their engaging storytelling and valuable wisdom. He’s also a long-term writer for the Sunday New York Times.

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    The Search FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Search?

    The main message of The Search is the importance of adapting to technological change and harnessing the power of search in our lives.

    How long does it take to read The Search?

    The reading time for The Search varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary of The Search can be read in just a few minutes.

    Is The Search a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Search is definitely worth reading as it provides valuable insights into the impact of search technology on our lives and how we can navigate it effectively.

    Who is the author of The Search?

    The author of The Search is Bruce Feiler.

    What to read after The Search?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Search, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
    • Atomic Habits by James Clear
    • Bring Your Human to Work by Erica Keswin
    • Languishing by Corey Keyes
    • The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
    • Understanding Artificial Intelligence by Nicolas Sabouret
    • Getting to Neutral by Trevor Moawad
    • Emotional First Aid by Guy Winch
    • Read People Like a Book by Patrick King