webpage includes some of the most interesting letters that
I have received since the 21st Century Edition of The Joy of Not Working was published. As
indicated in the introduction to the Appendix in the 21st Century Edition, I have been particularly amazed by
how the book has affected people differently since it was
first published. Some readers indicated that they developed
a better work/life balance after reading the book; others
revealed that they quit their jobs; still others said that
they were inspired to leave a boring job that they worked
at just for the money and find a job that they really like.
must admit with some embarrassment that a few of these readers
are living The Joy of Not Working better than I am.
Although I don't work hard or long hours, lately I haven't
taken a one-year break, or longer, from work as some readers
have. Undoubtedly, I have something to learn from them.
have taken the liberty to highlight in blue what I consider
the most important points in the letters that follow.
Steve Kursman from Birmingham, Michigan, wrote this letter:
I just finished reading your book The Joy of Not Working and wanted to send you a note of thanks.
I had chosen it from the library shelf on a whim, but the book really struck a note. Thanks for helping me to re-examine my work/life balance and to reinsert more creativity in what I do — something I did when I was younger. It is important for the pursuit of leisure and work.
Best of luck.
Very Truly Yours
Vicki Wilhite from Palo Alto, California, wrote to me in March 2006.
I just wanted to write you and tell you how much I adored your book The Joy of Not Working. I read it two months ago. I have managed to be on my "unexpected sabbatical" for exactly two years today! That was my goal (my secret goal) from the day I was laid off on March 12, 2004. I figured taking a month off for every year I worked full-time wasn't too much to ask (24 years = 24 months).
I found your "leisure tree" concept exceptionally helpful. I loved all the quotes you found, especially those of Falkner and Agassiz
— and the cartoons too!
I must tell you that it wasn't easy at first to enjoy myself and let go. I am 48 years old and I am dreading going back to the labor force. I am reluctant and unwilling; like Herman Melville's main character in his short story "Bartleby the Scriverner." I find myself saying, "I would prefer not to." I used to be a hard worker, always doing my best and taking pride in that. Now I think I've been duped all those years or that I was under some spell, some delusion/illusion.
Do you have any advice for one who is really good at not working, but who will need some income for rent and food? How do I convince/persuade myself to go back, to enter the fray? Can you tell I'm not internally motivated? Not only do I dread going back to the grindstone, but I also don't think I possess the stamina to do something for 8 hours a day any longer. Even contemplating a part-time job gives me the jitters.
Any suggestions would be much appreciated.
Once again, thanks for writing your book.
For the record, I replied with the following to Vicki:
In regards to your question about how to motivate yourself to go back into the workplace so that you can make enough money for rent and food, I really don't have a specific answer for anyone. No doubt you fall into the category that a number of my friends and I fall into — the "organizationally averse!" In fact, there are miillions of us out there.
In order to avoid organizations, and still surive if you have no money to live on, you have to figure out a way to make money outside the organization. This is what my new book Real Success Without a Real Job is all about. It will be released by Ten Speed Press in September.
Tradeback, 240 Pages, ISBN: 1-58008-800-7
How to Become Richer by Throwing
Away Over $100,000
Thomas Allen (his name has been changed due to nature of the letter) of New York city wrote to
me in March 2005. Up until then I had received several hundred
letters about The Joy
of Not Working but none of this nature. Apparently Mr.
Allen decided to forego over $100,000 after the material
in the book put his problem in proper perspective.
Dear Mr. Zelinski,
Recently, I went on strike, furious with my client, feeling that
I was always abused. By striking, I put them in a very compromised
position that they'd have no way out of except by meeting
my demands, which was a six-figure-dollar amount. They prepared
to fight, but it was a lost cause. All I had to do was hold
out for a couple of months and they'd eventually give up and
I'd be rich! So why couldn't I sleep at night?
One day my sister in-law let me borrow your book, The Joy of Not Working. Three chapters
in and I immediately realized what a terrible mistake I was
making. My problems weren't with my client at all. They were
myself. I had lost my passion for the work months earlier,
and as a result I began to find other ways to combat the emptiness
in my life: guitar, taekwondo, learning
foreign languages, dieting. I wanted to add more, but I couldn't;
work blocked the way.
It seems so obvious now, but at the time I was quick to blame
the people at work rather than the idea of work itself. Once
I put these two parts of my life together, the solution became
crystal clear. I called my client at once, explained my position,
and we agreed to part on good terms.
Am I nuts? Did I really just pass up a small fortune
because I couldn't put up with a little fight? I don't think
so. I think I'm richer now because of it. A day lived to its
fullest is worth far more than any money you could hope to
earn by sacrificing it.
Thanks for helping me see what was always there.
An Attorney at Law Who Did Not
Want to Sue Me
In September 2004 I received
a letter from Jeffrey Carson (his name has also been changed due to nature of his letter) from the eastern United States. The letter head indicated that Mr. Carson was an Attorney at
Law. The really good news was that he had no intention of
suing me on behalf of a client or himself.
It's Monday and I've taken the day off. I've just finished reading
The Joy of Not Working,
which I found at the bookstore last Saturday. It's always
exciting when a bit of revelation occurs in one's life. After
two heart attacks and a near-death cardiac arrest last winter,
you'd have thought I'd have gotten the message, but this work
ethic doesn't go down easy.So, after
six months of near-suicidal depression about work and how
much I hated it, I found your book. I can only say, from the
bottom of my heart, thank you.
work is hell, bored at work
with Thank-you from All of Africa
I find letters from readers in
countries outside North America particularly interesting. Fatimah S. Ahmed from Abuja,
Nigeria, wrote to me in October 2004.
First, this is just to say "Thank you" from all of Africa, andNigeria in particular.
The unemployment rate here is terrible but your book has made
a difference in our lives.
I just finished reading "The Joy of Not Working." It is the most
inspiring book I have read in a long time and it has given
me so much comfort and confidence in my self.
I am a student studying Law at the University of Abuja, Nigeria.
I still have two more years before I go to law school.
Ever since I got into university I feared a situation of being
unemployed after school. I look at successful people in posh
cars and extravagant houses and I pray and wish to have it
all. I truly felt that in order to attain happiness I must
own so much money and work really, really hard. But then I
came across your book and that was it for me - no more worry so much about what the future holds
for me. Instead, I will enjoy and take advantage of my free
time to the maximum.
The part I enjoyed most was "Activities for your Get-a-Life
Tree. Guess what? I have outdone you. I added 300 more activities
to the list.
Thank you so much. You have changed my life for the better.
I received a letter from Dan
Karpf of Andover, New Jersey, in June 2004. I have been
surprised by the number of people who have quit their full-time
jobs after reading The
Joy of Not Working. Dan
Karpf was one of them.
Dear Mr. Zelinski,
I've wanted to write to you since I finished reading your book
almost two months ago.
After working for various companies for
the past 17 years, I got fed up with the long hours and long
commutes and wished for an easier life. Thinking about quitting
the company I was working for after being cut down to 3 days
a week, I came across your book.
You have written down what I was feeling. Although I am too young
to retire, why should I push and stress myself to come home
to sleep and start all over again the next day? I had purchased
a house by a lake two years ago and didn't have any free time
to enjoy the country life I wanted to. By working three days
a week, I found that I am able to pay my bills and survive.
Cutting back useless expenses, and doing
part-time consulting, I quit my job and never looked back.
I am relaxing more, resting on my hammock, and cooking dinner
for my wife who is still doing the commute. Although I am
back at work, I set my own hours, and am home by
Thank you for teaching me that life is
worth living and is more than work! I recommend your book
to everyone who is looking for a better life.
Baqus Bruce from Smith's Landing,
New York, sent me a postcard in July 2004. As you will probably agree,
he has a lifestyle that many would like to have.
- An Excellent Book. I have only worked a real job for 4 years. I'm 56. I dropped out of Engineering
College after 3 years, after going
to the Woodstock Festival.
am now a landlord. I do 100% of the repairs, have good tenants,
and do very much enjoy what I do. I have too many hobbies
to list including old cars, motorcycles, & boats, coin
collecting, reading, bicycling, hiking, buying and selling
stuff, etc. I have a junk store that is really just a hobby.
I also finished building my first house deep in the woods
mostly from scourged materials and solitary "labor." Now I'm
starting a second one. I have a house in the mountains and
another one two blocks from the ocean in S.C. I guess to some
people I am living The Life of Riley. I have no time for a
"What's Wrong with Us Here in
Century?" asks This Reader
Doug Payne from Timmins,
Ontario, wrote to me in December 2003.
read your book "The joy of not working" and enjoyed
it very much. The title only tells part of the story, as it
ought to be called something like "How to be better at, and
enjoy leisure, work, other pursuits, and life in general,"
or something like that. At long last I see there is someone
else out there with some good common sense about balance in
life. In the following paragraphs I have some observations
and comments to share with you.
going on further I'll tell you something about my background,
as it is similar to yours. In the late 1980s and early 1990s,
I worked with the utility Ontario Hydro as an engineer. All
went "normal," or what at least passes for normal until the
restructuring started in 1993. Meanwhile, the Ontario Government
of Bob Rae (NDP) was facing a budget shortfall and decided
to solve their problem by reducing workers' hours in the form
of unpaid days off (Rae Days). What a great idea I thought,
hoping this also would happen with Hydro. It didn't happen
(too bad), and Rae Days also came to an end in 1995 with a
change of government. That same year, Hydro had a voluntary
reduction plan to get rid of staff, of which I took advantage.
Wow, 70 weeks salary just to quit! Since then, I've been back
three times to the successor companies as a temporary employee
(including presently working at Hydro One) and have worked
other places also. More importantly, I've had time off between
jobs to relax, travel, pursue other interests and generally
enjoy life. If I knew what I know presently, I would have
still mad this excellent choice. As a result, I may be financially
poorer, but am richer in every other way. Presently, I find
myself more relaxed and less stressed out, healthier and more
fit, more informed on many subjects, and more well-rounded.
Never again will I go back to the ball and chain and drudgery
of working full time. Of course, your book has further reinforced
the idea that I am on to something good. How about you, are
you still enjoying your retirement?
wrong with us here in the 21st century? There are
more time-saving inventions than ever before, more wealth
than ever before, and higher worker productivity than ever
before and yet we're working longer hours than ever before
in history and burning ourselves out in the process. When
unions renegotiate contracts, why are they not pushing for
more time off? Better yet, why is no one pushing for reduction
in work hours instead of cutting staff when companies are
having financial trouble? (Remember
Nortel and Bombardier recently.) Based on what I've seen,
our society is long overdue for a shorter work week. We seem
to live to work rather than work to live, and are not enjoying
it at all. We also appear to want to give up our time and
life energy to buy more "stuff" to clutter up our living space
(Did you ever hear that George Carlin skit about "stuff?"
It's funny and accurate). Add to that our obsession with junk
like gas-guzzling SUVs. It's like our motto is: "Whoever has
the most stuff when they die wins." What ever happened to
the hippies of 1970s generation that wasn't into materialism?
are those who believe (quite wrongly) that a shorter work
week would be bad for the economy. The reality is many hours
of work are wasted in non-productive pursuits like gossip,
office politics, complaining, and other ills which are actually
caused by the long hours. It's like a hydro turbine that produces
50 MW of mechanical power, but uses 40 MW of power overcoming
internal drag. If we worked shorter hours, there would be
less stress-related illness which would save a fortune in
Medicare costs. The reduced hours could be turned into more
jobs for those who are out of work, and reduced the social
costs of unemployment. There would be a lot less anger showing
itself in rude manners like road rage. The whole arrangement
would be a win-win situation for all. What do you think of
have another comment, or perhaps a question. There is a myth
out there about people who retire and are bored with nothing
to do. Is this idea true or is it another myth like one about
the carburetor which would give a full-size American car 200+
MPG, which was never marketed because oil companies bought
up the patents. I've been "retired" many times over the last
8 years and can tell you I absolutely LOVE it! The only reason
I work periodically is to recharge my financial portfolio,
and prefer not to work the warmer months of the year. Work
often gets in the way of other pursuits I would rather be
doing. In this age where we are so overworked, I think we
baby boomers should be eagerly looking forward to the relief
and reprieve of retirement.
but not least, some day (when retired again) I may write a
book about my findings, as you have done. When that time comes,
I may ask you for some ideas and hints on how to go about
it. Who knows, if enough of us spread the word of a better
way to live, it could have quite a beneficial effect on the
up the good writing!
A Japanese Woman Who Took Three
to Create Her Get-a-Life Tree
I knew that the second incarnation
of the Japanese edition of the book had happened even before
I received my complimentary copies from the publisher; several
readers from Japan
took the time to write before I received the copies. Junko
Ogata from Miyagi wrote to me in January 2004.
read your book "THE JOY OF NOT WORKING." It changed my free
time, my way of thinking, and my life. Before I read the book,
I didn't like myself very much. But I changed, and began to
be happier. Thank you very much.
tried to expand my "Get-a-Life Tree" to over 50 activities.
It took three days. One activity was to write a letter to
you. This is my first letter in English. Writing a letter
in English is a very creative activity for me.
started to work at a hospital as a medical technologist last
spring. I enjoy playing piano, walking, reading your book
again and again, and so on. I want to send another letter
to you. So I have to learn English harder.
This Japanese Reader Wants to
Akiko Kajitani wrote to me in
December 2003 from Shiga, Japan.
a Japanese graduate university student. My major is social
policy and I'm studying about change of lifestyle such as
read your book "The Joy of Not Working" recently and I sympathized
with your book, because I have eight years' experience working.
heard that many American and Canadian people become "down-shifters."
Some cases have been reported by the Japanese media. Your
book made me cheerful and offered me a chance to study at
university. The purpose of this letter is to say thank you.
I don't know whether I can graduate in two years, I'll remember
that I can always strike a balance between work (my present
work is studying) and life. Plus, I enjoy being alone.
I'll later try to write to you as a member of the down-shifters.
With No Money or Other Advantages,
This Woman Has
Been Semi-Retired for Twenty-Six Years
Dixie Darr from Denver,
Colorado, wrote to emphasize that conventional
wisdom about working in our culture is far from wise.
just finished reading The Lazy Person's Guide to Success, and
enjoyed it just as much as your book, The
Joy of Not Working. At age 55, with no money or other
advantages, I've been semi-retired for 26 years.
then, I decided that working full-time so I might someday
enjoy a leisurely retirement made no sense, so I deliberately
limited my work hours to about 25 per week. Now, instead of
looking forward to retirement, I find I already have a lifestyle
that I can continue for the rest of my life - and I'm writing
a book to motivate others to do the same.
books are more than an inspiration; they're a validation that
the conventional wisdom about working in our culture is far
from wise. Thank you for the insight.
A Spaniard Who Lost Her Job
and Is Making
the Spanish Edition a Part of Her Life
Eva Villanieva Sanchez from La
Corua, Spain, wrote to me in October 2003.
I'm sorry for my bad English. I'm Spanish. I'm 35 and in April
I lost my job after 14 years. I've just finished your book
"El placer de no trabajar." (I don't know if the English title
would be "The pleasure of not working.") It was very interesting
for me. I will try to follow a lot of its recommendations.
For example, writing this letter - I don't remember when I
wrote the last one.
Thank you very much for this book. It is already a part of
With best wishes,
"Leisure" Redefined in a Way
That Will Do
All of Us a Lot of Good
I received the following letter
from Nuria Odinov Protopopescu of Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue,
Quebec, in January 2004. It is a long
letter, but one worth reading because of Nuria's slant on
leisure and philosophy about life. Nuria's letter inspired
me to spend more time enjoying my meals. No doubt it will
inspire a lot of other people to do the same.
read TJONW over my vacation time as I needed a break from
my studies. (Before vacation, while browsing through a bookstore,
I chanced upon your book. After reading the first chapter,
I discovered that it was not the quick read it appeared to
be and that I needed to spend more time with it to enjoy it.)
I'm glad that I was led to read your book now, and not years
feel my experiences thus far, as well as my responses to your
book, are quite different from the letters cited in it and
this has increased my desire to write to you. Still a student,
and still hanging on to my idealistic views (forever, I hope),
I have always regarded time as much more valuable than money.
I also regard unenriching, tedious work as a waste of time.
I have never regarded work as a means to receiving money;
however, maybe I had begun to see work as solely a means to
scientific pursuits and of improving my surrounding environment.
I have realized that I do want my work to be at least enjoyable
as it is intellectually stimulating and beneficial. Part of
my plan is to utilize summers (the months without an "r")
not for work, but maybe for a different kind of work. After
studying all year, the last thing I need in my summer is an
indoor job, so I decided a few months ago that I would stop
talking about how much I want to take boating classes, and
to finally do it. (I'm very excited.)
wanted to write, not because I have re-defined work, but because
I have re-defined leisure. I have discovered that, for me,
leisure is not about the type of or difficulty of an activity,
but the pace at which I am able to undertake it. When I create
my own pursuits and associated goals, it's leisure for me,
regardless of the nature of my pursuits. When I'm pressed
with opposing deadlines, and I am not my own boss, then it
have recently come up with a new definition of leisure as
any activity which is both enjoyable and has no imposed time.
Thus, living leisurely may include one's work, and the definition
is free of any association with money, or activity type.
A student's life can be difficult and stressful, but I love
challenging myself and I love the dual nature of my degree-Environmental
Biology and Chemistry. However, I do immensely dislike deadlines
and I also do not react well to the stress and pressure of
the exam situation. Like most students, I do my best to cope
with these circumstances.
have recently come to terms with the fact that I'm not going
to discover it all. So why not take my time and go at my own
pace? I still have issues with not feeling like I am doing
enough, and sometimes I feel that I'm not enjoying the beauty
of this world, BECAUSE I am so preoccupied with trying to
understand how it all works. Questions like: What is a flame?
Why do we see colors? Why is red . . . red?
have recently diagnosed myself with "philosopher's disease."
It is an absorbing, somewhat lonely, and often misunderstood
affliction, but I am not seeking its cure. I do not wish to
be a philosophy major, as I enjoy having something (like history
or science) to ground my philosophical musings to. While reading
your book, the Zen section led me to what I consider a potential
evolutionary hypothesis. I will let you know what comes of
favorite leisure activities are split between quite activities
- like reading, writing, thinking, sleeping, bathing, and
eating - and active activities - mainly dancing, singing,
playing guitar, and painting. I hope to add more physically
demanding (fitness) activities to this list. Although thin,
I have never been the sporty type. I see to always drift toward
more solo activities (like dancing and ice skating).My favorite indulgence is to go out
and spend hours eating one meal. It does not have to be pricey
or a large meal. I have often spent two hours eating a moderately-sized
meal. I enjoy fully experiencing the flavor of each bite,
especially when there is variety and each bite differs.
think more people need to learn not just to enjoy the moment,
but to slow down and expand the moment.As you said, "give the activity . . . your fullest attention
(page 140).I write to you with the new definition
for leisure because I have realized that, for me, leisure
does not conform to the definitions of work and play. I enjoy
my studies and I feel a NEED to explore the mysteries of science,
just as I feel a NEED to read, write, dance, sing, eat, bathe,
and sleep. My work fits in with my other needs . . . with
the only difference being that my work is filled with deadlines.As a student, I am somewhat powerless, but I am hoping to become independent
of these artificial constraints as soon as I can. I need to
feel more leisurely in my work and experience fewer deadlines,
to be able to learn at my own pace. Otherwise, I fear I could
lose my ability to appreciate the world, the way I savor the
flavor of a salad.
have often felt that I was an anomaly, but now I see myself
as a self-actualized eccentric.
I work because there is so much I want to change in the world
around me. If I was comfortable with our current ways, I would
probably be content to swim and bask in the sun, listening
to Ella Fitzgerald for the rest of my days. For now, I must
also strive to improve what I can, while, of course, taking
the time to enjoy what already is.
you for your wonderful book. I am looking forward to your
"Mental Illness" Is
a Blessing in Disguise and Helps This Reader Work Less and Still Live Comfortably
Sharon Maren (her name has been
changed due to the nature of the letter) from Calgary,
Alberta, wrote to me in January 2004.
just didn't want your books to end. I read with much enthusiasm
The Lazy Person's Guide to Success and
The Joy of Not Working. They both made
me happy inside. Finally hearing that it is okay to not like
working and not feeling lazy for enjoying time spent slowing
my pace of life.
31 and so far I've managed to keep my working life to a minimum.
After getting a degree in printmaking, I went to SAIT [Southern
Institute of Technology] to study for a "real" job and ended
up as a draftsperson for a homebuilder. I was feeling pretty
trapped with my "career," finding my work repetitive, boring
and unfulfilling. After one-and-a-half years, I quit, went
to Australia and studied visual communications for
two years. Unfortunately, I developed a mental illness and
had to come back home to Calgary.
I got some help and once my illness was manageable I took
some night classes and then worked for a time at a couple
of small newspapers. I left these jobs as the work again got
repetitive (plus for one job I didn't want to spend a winter
After enjoying some unemployment, I began working for the
Yellow Pages. And yet again, the job was repetitive and mind-numbing
so I decided against a contract extension (but my illness
also played a part in this) so I've been free again for the
last few weeks.
My mental illness is also a blessing in disguise in a way as it forces
me to look for alternative ways of building myself a life
as it is difficult for me in mainstream society (Thank God!).
the past few years I've gotten really interested in the simple
living movement (that's how I found out about your books).
I never really have loved the jobs I've had, or the whole
office environment to be quite honest, a new mind set allowing
me to work less and still save and live comfortably is ideal.
And your books just add to the type of ideas I love to hear
Ernie! I'm going to try to apply your wisdom to make my life
a life that I can be proud of. I just finished The
Joy of Not Working yesterday and have told my family about
the important ideas in it -
next I'll spread the word to my friends.
From a Single Mother (Financially
Responsible for Four Children) Who Feels Being Fired Is a
Jill Tyksinski from Clinton,
New York, wrote to me in February 2004
to let me know that being fired from her job was a blessing
in disguise, as it was for me over two decades ago when I
was fired from my engineering job.
fell upon your book at the library this summer and renewed
it so many times to re-read that I finally bought my own copy.
By the way, I kept reading it sitting at a job where I was
am a 52-year-old divorced mom who is totally financially responsible
for herself and four children. I am a physical therapist who
this summer was working as a supervisor at a local hospital.
I used the past tense because in November (two months ago)
I was fired - fired for being what they called "a poor supervisor,
a poor leader." It did not matter that in two years I had
made multiple changes in some programs that resulted in major
improvements and efficiency in the health care provided and
additionally increased revenues for the facility. This is
probably why I had extra time on my hands fired - I made all
the systems more efficient.
mattered was that I was not a robot, like so many of my unhappy
colleagues. I loved the challenge of devising new systems
but I found that NOT EVERYONE LIKED CHANGE. There was safety
in the old.
From the experience I learned that:
them I was a lousy supervisor. I was always challenging the
"old way" of doing things and offering suggestions for improving
systems. I did not have a hidden agenda. Mine was pretty obvious
and external: IMPROVE PATIENT CARE. All the memo writing and
disgruntled grumbling and "side taking" that was the norm
at the facility was foolish to me. I would not tolerate this
from my employees that I was responsible for. I was not a
"cookie cutter supervisor."
2.To be self-employed is scary, but the freedom
of time/expression/creativity it allows is worth it. I am doing in-home physical
therapy with the geriatric set who really need me.
to make my own structure since I no longer have pre-designed
one. I am sure this will be my biggest challenge. But when
I am a success at it, I know that I will be even more proud
on top of the world right now. I am at a point in my life
where I can explore all the things that I have always wanted
to do. I can "make my own life."
I stayed at that job was for the paycheck, the security, the
safeness. Everything in life happens for a reason. I was supposed
to leave the hospital. I needed to be forced to take a look
at my life and my fulfillment. I have 48 more years to go
and I want them to be interesting.
Ernie. Please let me know where your next seminar is. I want
An Unemployed Woman Who Believes
She Should Reinvent Herself
In February 2004 I received a
letter from Robin Greed in Sparta, New Jersey, who wrote
a long letter about being unemployed and how she agreed with
most of the content in The Joy of Not Working except for the chapter
saw a blurb about your book in the paper last week. The book
description interested me, as I am presently, due to my old
company, moving out of state. I picked up your book at Borders
and finished it in two days. This inspired me to write to
little about me: I am 43 years old, married, and mother of
3; (2 in college, and a 16-year-old still home). I enjoy being
around people, am blessed to have an interesting set of friends
and many fun acquaintances. I also enjoy and understand my
need for solitude. I happily spend the majority of time with
my Golden Retriever Homer: hiking, walking, and exploring
forests and parks. Other interests include: movies, good books,
being outdoors, birding, etc.
husband and I became parents early, at 20. I spent my twenties
raising my children. Went back to school during this period.
Love learning. Worked various part-time jobs for the last
13 years, the last a stressful 5 year gig with a real estate
my adult life I have felt I was missing my true calling. I
have always put everyone's best interests in front of mine,
and I still find myself putting my own life on hold making
sure everyone around me is o.k. with their lives. While I
love children more than my own life, I realize I am 43 years
old and have sacrificed so much of me for them and "the family."
I don't know what I would have done differently, but realize,
as the nest is becoming almost empty, it is time to find me
I am at this crossroads in my life.I
have been unemployed for the most part since November 1, 2003. I am not getting too much pressure from
my husband, as I can collect unemployment until April, and
cover the bills I am responsible for. Therefore I am trying
to use this time to reinvent me again, find out where I belong,
what job or calling in life can give me a sense of fulfillment
and enjoyment I have not truly felt in many years, rather
than just putting in the hours to get the paycheck.
many of your readers, I have always had a talent and need
to write, the Great American Novel being my dream since I
was around 5. I also desire to do work that makes a difference,
helping disadvantaged people or animals. I hated feeling like
a mere paper shuffler in my last few years.
was excited by my layoff, all these plans I had! But I have
not made the most of this free time of the last 3 months.
I can list positively: the many walks I have taken in the
woods, the number of books I have read and the number of times
I have stopped to watch a caterpillar crawl up a branch. But
at the same time, I have not worked very much at my writing.
I have not actively pursued work that I find fulfilling. The
last few weeks I have become what you might call a "passive
activist." I found myself getting more depressed and uncomfortable.
your book was one of those karmic things, meant to be. Reading
Chapter 8 regarding "Dynamic Inaction" really kicked my butt
and got me positive again! I have been feeling: guilt for
not earning money, not slaving at work as some of my friends,
and to top this off, feeling bored and unchallenged and dull
with my inaction. I was debating taking another office job
just to get a schedule! I understand my need for productive
activity to feel worthwhile, but the idea from your book,
that we can feel productive in active leisure activities,
as well as paid 9-5 work, is an idea that I need reinforced.
have always felt great accomplishment and happiness in activities
I love: creating a beautiful garden from a pile of dirt, or
writing a top grade story.But I find much of society does not give credit to those non-monetary
achievements. Work overtime and you are patted on the back
for your industry, create a new character for your book, and
sadly, you are deemed a loafer.
you say in your book, I have to learn how to overcome other
people's jealousy and lack of understanding at the way I choose
to spend my time right now, so I can get busy living my life
the way I should be living it, for once. It is difficult though,
when pressures from society, friends and even spouses can
be very negative, causing one to doubt their path.
your writing section: I read once, in the wonderful book "The
Artists Way," how prospective authors need to write just a
bit each day, to get back into the habit of writing. You thankfully
reaffirm this idea in your book. When you say, "Now writing
a book can be more difficult than writing it," you are so
right on! When you say, "talented people who want to write
and are afraid of failure," you hit a nerve.
am afraid of failing, of not realizing my life's dream. Of
finding out that I may be a fake. I realize that these are
psychological flaws I need to work on, and at the same time
I need to take your advice, "to walk the talk," whether I
am published or not. I will write, if only because it is a
passion and a need, and it is better to work at my dream,
than just sit around talking about it, fearing failure. So,
here I am writing you, my writing for today. Opening my mind,
getting it down. Thank you for the push and the belief.
are so many things I want to do with my life, but I believe
that fear of failure and the unknown, fear of rejection and
risk and opting for the "easy and comfortable," has always
kept me from doing many important things. Your ministering
for us not to settle for the "easy and comfortable" is another
strong message I needed to hear. So, each day I will try to
work at my writing and I will actively investigate different
activities to reaffirm me, and help me in my pursuit to find
out who I am and what I want (need) to do with my life.
just hope that neither the negative judgments of others nor
the negative self-talk that pops up on occasion will deter
me. I will have to keep some of your best quotes in my pocket
to whip out when needed!
so much for writing your insightful and helpful book. I truly
found it to be an inspiration.
A Leisurely Person in France Who Likes Solitude
"I have made this letter a rather
long one," remarked Blaise Pascal, "only because I didn't
have the leisure to make it shorter." Based on Pascal's claim
that writing a short letter takes more time than a long one,
Garcin Nickolas, from the popular resort town of Annecy, France, enjoys a lot of leisure time. In March 2004 I received
a letter from Garcin, which is the second shortest I have
ever received a bout The
Joy of Not Working. (The shortest appears on page 17 of
the 21st Century Edition).
grateful to you for praising solitude,
in your "Joy of Not Working."
to you, I don't feel guilty anymore for being solitary. On
A Woman in Poland
Who Wants to
Overcome Her Fear of Writing
Anna Gotgliowska wrote to me
from Kielce, a city in southeast-central
south of Warsaw.
She didn't say whether she read the Polish or English edition
of the book, but I was delighted to receive her letter considering
this was the first letter I received from anyone in Poland.
Anna was looking for support for being a writer.
to your advice in the book The Joy of Not Working, I am writing
a letter to a known person that is you in my free time. I
got rid of fear that I can lose my job so it's all thanks
to you. Again, thank you.
a long time I keep in my mind a dream of writing my own book
but I don't have enough faith in me. Besides, my family laughs
at my project. I was hoping that perhaps you will give me
courage not to give up. You are or you have become a strong
man. I admire you. But something must have happened that made
you change. Being on the bottom made you jump up, so now you
are happy. Am I wrong? Are you a happy person?!
down I feel I am a writer but I didn't reach the bottom to
change. My family is doing everything to keep me close to
them. They need me and I am in chains. Sorry that I bombarded
you with negative thinking, but you seemed to me as a friend.
Please write to me and tell me what you think.
A Texan Who Believes in "Big
Steven Page from Austin,
Texas, wrote to me express his love of
sabbaticals, while experiencing one for a year.
brother and I are coming to the end of our one-year sabbatical. I wanted to write and tell you what a help your book has been.
we were planning our time off, I searched the Internet for
ideas on how to do it. I typed in something about not wanting
to work and found your book.
chapters on Zen and money are my favorites. I have reread
those several times. I try to read some of the book every
week to keep me motivated. I need that motivation sometimes.
Seems our friends and relatives are
less than impressed by our sabbatical. You would think they
would be encouraging or happy for us. But no, they usually
ask, "Aren't you bored?" "What about your retirement?" "Sounds
too risky to me."
can think of only one person who has said, "What a great idea.
I think that is a terrific thing to do."
has been the greatest time of my life, so far. To get up and
do with my day what I want to do is wonderful beyond words.
I know one thing for sure; I am doing this again as soon as
I can. The other day
I watched a beautiful sunrise and didn't have to go to work
after! Are we bored? What risk? This is great! Silly people!
A Young, Jobless Woman from
France Who Now Believes Unemployment Is Not All
Madeline Escal from Suresnes,
France wrote to me in March 2004 to express how reading The
Joy of Not Working had changed her experience of being
thank you a lot for your marvelous book The
Joy of Not Working. I discovered it by chance in a bookshop
and it comes to me at a time when I feel quite bad.
am 23 years old and I graduated 8 months ago. I am still looking
for a job and because of this I felt bad and hopeless. Until
I read your book, I sometimes had the illusion that a job
would provide me all the happiness in life that I expected.
But I am convinced now it will not.
realize how this non-working period is good for me and is
an opportunity. I have the time to confront myself and remind
myself what is essential in life. This period gives me the
time to work on my personal enrichment. Your book should be declared as a national asset and offered to everybody
before entering the workforce.
it is time for me to act. But I will keep your book not to
far away so I can read it again if I stray too far from my
From an "Expat Trailing Spouse"
Who Wound Up Gainfully Unemployed due to Her Husband's Career
Karen Earnest, originally from
California, wrote to me in March, 2004,
from Tokyo, where
she was living with her husband and children.
your book was like someone turning the lights full on in a
dim hallway I was walking.
was comfortable and content in my life and in my job, working
in my 12th year in a California hospital as a psychologist. Out of the
blue, my husband's company offered him a 2-year assignment
in Tokyo. It was
a difficult decision because I did not want to leave my job,
our home, or uproot the children, but we eventually decided
to go for the new opportunities it presented for the whole
family. After I resigned, the freedom was exciting, and I
was happy to be spending more time with our children, but
I also felt lost. When we moved to Tokyo
last August, I was busy with the day-to-day stuff and enjoyed
being with the children and nurturing them through the transition,
but I myself felt adrift and yanked from my roots. Slowly,
I began to try and "pick up the pieces" like I had just been
through a hurricane. In addition to caring for the children
and our household, I found a part-time 12hrs/wk job in a community
counseling center. I signed up for piano lessons, Japanese
lessons, a French conversation club, church activities, and
school activities. I made travel plans for our family to visit
areas within and close to Japan. I began feeling like I was back on track,
but it was a track that was dimly lit. I had nagging doubts,
like is this all I should be doing? The lack of feedback was
major; it felt like such a non-mainstream lifestyle. Then,
reading your book, it was like you turned on the lights. My
reaction to your book was, "Oh I see, I am on track, this
path is fine. In fact, this path can be really exciting and
I think your book would help a lot of individuals who are
in my situation, so-called "expat trailing spouses" who wind
up giving up their job for the sake of their husband's or
wife's overseas assignment. I especially agreed with what
you wrote about missing one's old job: it may not necessarily
be the job itself (because there are all those negatives like
you listed), but the lack of structure, purpose, and community
that the job provided. So I feel reinforced in my efforts
to create structure in my daily life, pursue goals, and reach
out. I also liked your list of activities for the Get-a-Life
Tree. I laughed as I read the list and it inspired me to create
a very long list too, of things that I would find fun and
exciting but which I previously minimized as unimportant and
So, thank you for lighting the way. I am enjoying your book
and I am finding it inspiring to throw myself into this path
with more excitement and a sense of adventure and fun. Your
work has touched my life.
From a Woman Who Believes That
Books Like The Joy of Not Working Could Change Societies
Molly Hale e-mailed me in July
My name is Molly Hale. I have three of your books, The Joy of Not Working, The Lazy
Person's Guide to Success, and Don't
Hurry, Be Happy. I think they are all wonderful. I
have highlighter marks all through them (I highlight the passages
that I want to transfer to my journal).
I wanted to tell you that I brought up your name (and obviously
your books) in my futuristics class (University
of Louisville, KY). After reading
Michio Kaku's "Visions", a very future technology-based
book, we discussed the possible repercussions on the "soul".
This made me think about the direction of your books,
I believe they could change societies... for the better.
All the best,
Woman Who Is Experiencing "The Life of
Riley" and Is in Complete
Control of Her Life
Darlene King wrote to me in May
2004. Darlene did not say where in the United
States she lives, but the stamps on the
envelope indicated a Canton, Ohio, origin.
I am a 45-year-old woman who just wants to thank you for having the
forethought, common sense, and utter brilliance to write The
Joy of Not Working. I only wish I had discovered it in
October 2003 when my 21-year career as a clerical worker at
an Ohio manufacturing
plant ended due to massive layoffs. I stumbled on it purely
by accident when I was in my local bookstore reading newspapers
for free. I picked it up, read the Preface, and could not
put it down. It has become my second Bible. It reassured my
belief all along that people put too much emphasis on working
and making money and not enough on leisure and free time.Not that I was ever a lazy
person, but a thrifty enough one who always knew that the
fewness of my wants, bargain shopping, and saving money was
always something I had over other people. When my father died
14 years ago, I inherited a lot of money (thanks to thriftiness).
I knew then and there that I could easily trade in my permanent
full-time job for a part-time one or none at all. I didn't
dare, however, because of the intense criticism and speculation
of my family that I would endure. After all, how could I possibly
give up a decent job and benefits? Was I crazy? One thing
that decent pay and money in the bank does in the United States is
put you in a high tax bracket. If you're single with no children
like me, they figure you can be taxed to death because you
have no dependents. And I certainly was.
Furthermore,I never really felt fulfilled in my job. I was always healthy,
but suffered from excruciating migraine headaches almost my
entire tenure at the company. I began praying for more
free time and the end of migraines forever. I was constantly
on the go because my work load increased, I took care of my
elders and spent time with them, attended church, moved to
a new location, and made time for a boyfriend. I felt frantic
at this pace - not enough time for just
me. My prayers were answered unexpectedly because when I walked
out of my company for the last time never to return, I wan
not too happy about it. It didn't take me long, however, to
become happy. As each month of unemployment went
by, I started noticing my migraine headaches almost disappearing
completely and I started loving my new found freedom and independence.
The most joy for me is knowing that I never have to return
to another permanent full-time job again unless I choose to
do so (not likely). I may not make as much money as I did
before, but I am so much happier. I take time off when I want
it and choose the assignments I want to go on. This is truly
the "Life of Riley" for me. No more regimented vacation schedules
for this girl! I'm finally in complete control of my life.
No wonder I have so much joy. Plus, nothing in the world compares
to living pain free and healthier.
book, Mr. Zelinski, secured things in my mind. I believe it
was no accident I ran across it - I was meant to read it. Again,
thank you for being a blessing in my life.
"There are only four types
of officer. First, there are the lazy stupid ones. Leave them
alone, they do no harm. Second, there are the hard-working
intelligent ones. They make excellent staff officers, ensuring
that every detail is properly considered. Third, there are
the hard-working, stupid ones. These people are a menace and
must be fired at once. They create irrelevant work for everyone.
Finally, there are the intelligent lazy ones. They are suited
for the highest office."
General von Manstein about the German Officer Corps