This is an excellent book. It invites and challenges the reader to look inside themselves to explore what their true and authentic vocation is within the world of work. However it goes far beyond that in inviting the reader to consider their calling in the wider and more vital context of others and the natural world.
A powerful clue lies in the title - it is an invitation to focus on 'our' calling as part of a bigger wider system rather than simply on 'your' destiny which may feel isolated and disconnected..
It is beautifully and simply written and manages to convey a deep and significant message in a way that is both palatable and readily accessible. A consistent culture of humour compassion and love flows throughout the book as it conveys some riveting and stimulating messages.
I found it a balanced mix of information and inspiration, education and encouragement, support and challenge, inward and outward focussing all neatly tempered with a great deal of humour and humility.
Gill Coombs combines her obvious expertise and experience of working with people as a coach, trainer and consultant with a keen awareness of the needs of business and organisational development. She shows there is not a necessary conflict between doing the right thing by ourselves, others and the natural world and also achieving positive business outcomes and long term sustainable growth.
In short she shows it is not naïve and thereby of no value to have an optimism that things can be better for us all.
One aspect of the book I particularly appreciated was that I did not feel compelled or even expected to agree with everything that is being suggested. That is not really the major value of this book, it is more about inviting, informing, nurturing and nourishing a much needed and in many cases long overdue debate.
In our modern world the idea of having a calling may seem somewhat old fashioned, as in some kind of evangelical higher calling, or at least there is an assumption that a true calling is reserved for those with some kind of higher purpose or special talent. The implicit message we receive through our, increasingly market economy driven, educational institutions and commercially controlled media is one of prioritising career opportunities and earning potential over personal development and creative expression. This is variously represented in terms of being productive and useful within society, but all too often leads to a sense of unfulfilled potential and personal dissatisfaction, ultimately manifesting as destructive behaviours on a personal, societal and ecological level. In this important book Gill Coombs challenges this assumption and argues that we all have a unique calling, which is often buried under layers of societal norms and expectations. She approaches the topic of humans at work from a holistic perspective, drawing not only on her own work as a management coach and facilitator but also finding insight from diverse fields such as ecology, biology, history, economics, psychology, physics, sociology and holistic science. She leads us through a review of the history of human work and the work place that includes a critical appraisal of the commercially driven, social engineering that has lead to so many of us unwittingly carrying out work that is ultimately destructive to people, place and planet. But it is in her presentation of the deeper processes underlying the current disconnect that her multi disciplinary, holistic approach really comes to the fore. While we might expect a book about work and the workplace to include a fair quotient of sociological and psychological analysis, Coombs surprises (and rewards) by broadening the palate and delving into the human experience in the wider context of our place within the whole of life. From this perspective she skilfully weaves a variety of case studies, both human and other than human, into the dialogue and takes us on a journey of exploration into the meaning of purpose and vocation. She reminds us that finding our purpose is fundamental to our journey, while our destination is an emergent property that is entirely dependant on the quality of our engagement with the journey. In this context the destination, or goal, is not measured in material success; prestige, position and money, but rather lies in our sense of connection, achievement and satisfaction with the work we are doing. For Coombs this is the difference between hearing our calling (and acting on it) and not hearing it. In the two chapters devoted to this she highlights the contrasting processes involved and the vastly different outcomes. But for me the real strength of this book is in the way she deftly invites us to realise our personal calling as a pathway towards changing the destructive nature of our current paradigm and regaining our place in the broader community of life. She is optimistic about our chances of achieving this and shares that optimism with her professional and personal vision of the society we can create. Hearing Our Calling is an important and valuable contribution to the work of re-visioning how we want to experience our western societies.
This book has been a very helpful resource in order to facilitate my understanding about my own work and the relationship I have with it. I hope many people have access to it, and a shift in the relationship between work and workers happens in order to (co)create a thriving and caring society, and a world embraced by wellbeing and goodness. Furthermore, Gill Coombs is an excellent writer, and the reading simply flows!
Reading this book came at the perfect time for me. If you're wondering what path to take in your life, how to interact with your work, or solidify your already strong calling then I'd wholeheartedly recommend this book to you. It clarified alot of things for me, and brought me a new awareness of other skills that I'm now starting to pay more attention to. Thank you Gill for writing this book!
This book is for people who are dissatisfied with their jobs, and would like to find their vocation. Coombs questions many unquestioned assumptions about the workplace, putting our work into the larger context of where we are as a society today, and the environmental crisis. I think this book will also appeal to people -- like me -- who feel a deep unease with 'business as usual' and believe that there are alternatives out there to many conventional modes of work. The book begins by exploring a general sense of unhappiness in the workplace, suggesting that our large institutions have inadvertently created a situation where people's best talents are underutilized or ignored. She then explores the history of work, and the underlying assumption -- or insistence -- that there's no alternative to how we live now. The most useful chapters, for me, were those that looked at finding your vocation. Coombs looks at the human community ecologically, suggesting that each of us has a natural role or purpose to play. The bottom line, Coombs suggests, is that business as usual is no longer possible, and that a general, society-wide rethinking is required about how we live. And there seems no better place to start this process than in the workplace. Recommended.