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Elizabeth Gilbert was always a model student. But at 17, she went rogue. Having discovered Ernest Hemingway, she decided that wagging school and curling up with his classic, For Whom the Bell Tolls, made much more appeal than trudging off to get an education. A few hours later her mum found her and carted her back to school but Gilbert learned something valuable. Unlike pharmaceuticals, books can make a person happy without any side effects.

Reading for pleasure was something I discovered at a young age. Eth Clifford’s, Help! I'm a Prisoner in the Library described my idea of heaven, finding myself in a library after hours surrounded by books.

The Power Of Reading The Right Book At The Right Time

My time as a model student ended at around 14. Being forced to read non-fiction I expressed my resentment by writing a scathing book report that was more a showering of expletives rather than anything resembling a logical argument.

Doc Mac, my English teacher, challenged me about what I wrote and in the years that followed taught me that books can break us out of enculturation and help us form a worldview of worth.

The first non-fiction book I chose to read was M. Scott Peck’s, The Road Less Traveled. It introduced me to the concept of having a vocation and the dedication required to find and express one’s life’s work, rather than simply exist.

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Some years later when I found myself Mired in a role working for a bank I stumbled upon Gregg Levoy’s, Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life. It prompted me to leave the finance industry and move into social work.

Having found a job that fitted, a colleague lent me Laurence G. Boldt’s Zen and the Art of Making a Living: A Practical Guide to Creative Career Design. Emboldened by his ideas I realised that designing an optimal career often involves moving into self-employment and refusing to get stuck in a rut, velvet or otherwise.

In refining my career aspect to make it more and more aligned with who I am and the values I hold dear, I’ve come to believe the Buddha was indeed enlightened when he included “Right Livelihood” as one of the limbs of the eight-fold path.

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Nothing has had more of an impact on my wellbeing than doing work that I love which also feels meaningful.

Victor Hugo once said,

“There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.”

Collectively, there is a growing desire to move beyond the belief that work is something largely to be endured.

In writing The Different Drummer: Follow your own beat to find enlivening work and lead an extraordinary life I hope that people will be inspired to redesign their career aspect and collectively we can direct our talents towards bringing greater dignity to others and help remedy the environmental issues and social injustices which shackle us all.

Read an excerpt from The Different Drummer