The Joy of Not Working

by Ernie Zelinski

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Early Retirement and Solo-Entrepreneurship

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rk is hell, bored at work


Real Life Success Stories

from Readers about

The Joy of Not Working

This 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.

I 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.

I have taken the liberty to highlight in blue what I consider the most important points in the letters that follow.

NOTE: Also See Letters about The Joy of Not Working on Squidoo, Retirement Letters Cafe, Letters about How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free on How to Retire Happy Website, and Retirement Letters for Principals and Executives at The Joy of Being Retired



One of the Latest Letters from a Reader about

The Joy of Not Working


Steve Kursman from Birmingham, Michigan, wrote this letter:

Dear Ernie.

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

Steve Kursman



Vicki Wilhite from Palo Alto, California, wrote to me in March 2006.

Dear Ernie.

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.


Vicki Wilhite



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.


Thomas Allen


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.


Dear Ernie,

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.

Best regards,

And sincerely,

Jeffrey Carson


work is hell, bored at work

From Nigeria 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.


Hello Ernie,

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.


Fatimah. S. Ahmed.


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Top 10 Reasons to Buy

The Joy of Not Working

1. You are more independent and more creative than most people.

2. You were born a lover of life and not a workaholic.

3. You don't want the cheese; you just want to get out of the trap.

4. You like books that are reader friendly with lots of cartoons, quotations, and exercises.

5. You like books that make you smile and challenge traditional ways of living and thinking.

6. You agree with the words of Bertrand Russell: "To be able to fill leisure intelligently is the best product of civilization."

You are receptive to the concept that we can achieve more if we relax, enjoy life more, forget about what the majority in society thinks is important, and focus on the things that really matter.

8. Your parents and co-workers will not approve of your adopting this book as your lifestyle Bible.

9. You know a good deal when you see one - if a book has been published in 17 languages in 21 different countries and has sold over 250,000 copies, it must have great value.

You know something important that the hard workers of this world don't know: the secret to a happy and fulfilling life is to work smart and not hard.


Purchase The Joy of Not Working



rk is hell, bored at work

A New Jersey Man Who Quit His Job after

Reading the Book and Never Looked Back

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 5:00. The summer is coming and I am looking forward to living in relaxation.

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.


Dan Karpf


An International Best-Seller

A Book for the

Retired, Unemployed, and Overworked

Over 250,000 Copies Sold

and Published in 17 Languages


Available at:,,

and fine bookstores throughout the world




This American Has Never Had Time for a Real Job

and Has Truly Lived The Life of Riley

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.



T.J.O.N.W. - 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.

I 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 real job.



"What's Wrong with Us Here in the 21st

Century?" asks This Reader

Doug Payne from Timmins, Ontario, wrote to me in December 2003.

I 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.
Before 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?
What's 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?
There 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 these ideas?
I 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.
Last, 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 world.
Keep up the good writing!
Doug Payne
Timmins, Ontario

A Japanese Woman Who Took Three Days

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.

Dear Ernie Zelinski
I 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.
I 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.
I 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.
See you.
Junko Ogata

This Japanese Reader Wants to Down-Shift

Akiko Kajitani wrote to me in December 2003 from Shiga, Japan.

Dear Mr. Zelinski
I'm a Japanese graduate university student. My major is social policy and I'm studying about change of lifestyle such as "down-shifting."
I read your book "The Joy of Not Working" recently and I sympathized with your book, because I have eight years' experience working.
I 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.
Although 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.
Well, I'll later try to write to you as a member of the down-shifters.
Akiko Kajitani


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.

Dear Mr. Zelinski,
I 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.
Back 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.
Your 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.
Dixie Darr

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.

Hi Ernie,
First, 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 my life.

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.

Hi Ernie,
I 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 later.
I 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.)
I 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 becomes work.
I 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.
I 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?
I 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 it.
My 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.
I 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.
I 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.
Thank you for your wonderful book. I am looking forward to your reply.

"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.

Dear Ernie,
I 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.
I'm 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 in Yellowknife!) 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!).
For the past few years I've gotten really interested in the simple living movement (that's how I found out about your books). Since 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 about.
Thanks 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.

Sharon Maren


From a Single Mother (Financially Responsible for Four Children) Who Feels Being Fired Is a Blessing

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.

Dear Ernie,
I 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 BORED.
I 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.
What 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:
1.       To 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.
3.       I need 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 of myself.
4.       I feel 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."
5.       The reason 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.
Thanks Ernie. Please let me know where your next seminar is. I want to attend.

Jill Tyksinski

An Unemployed Woman Who Believes That

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 on money.

Dear Mr. Zelinski,
I 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 you.
A 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.
My 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 management firm.
Throughout 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 again.
So, 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.
Like 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.
I 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.
Buying 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.
I 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.
As 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.
On 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.
I 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.
There 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.
I 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!
Thanks so much for writing your insightful and helpful book. I truly found it to be an inspiration.
Robin Greed

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).

Dear Mister Zelinski,
I'm grateful to you for praising solitude, in your "Joy of Not Working."
Thanks to you, I don't feel guilty anymore for being solitary. On the contrary!
Yours faithfully,

A Woman in Poland Who Wants to

Overcome Her Fear of Writing

Anna Gotgliowska wrote to me from Kielce, a city in southeast-central Poland 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.

Dear Ernie,
According 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.
For 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?!
Deep 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.
Best wishes,
Anna Gotgliowska

A Texan Who Believes in "Big Time" Sabbaticals

Steven Page from Austin, Texas, wrote to me express his love of sabbaticals, while experiencing one for a year.

Dear Ernie,
My 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.
When 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.
The 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."
I can think of only one person who has said, "What a great idea. I think that is a terrific thing to do."
This 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!
Thanks again,
Steven Page

A Young, Jobless Woman from France Who Now Believes Unemployment Is Not All That Bad

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 unemployed.

Dear Ernie,
I 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.
I 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.
I 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.
Now 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 path.
Sincerely yours,

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.

Dear Ernie,
Reading your book was like someone turning the lights full on in a dim hallway I was walking.
I 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 adventurous."

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 fluff.

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.
God bless you,

From a Woman Who Believes That Books Like The Joy of Not Working Could Change Societies

Molly Hale e-mailed me in July 2003.

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,

An Ohio 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.    

Dear Ernie Zelinski:
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.
Your 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.

Respectfully yours,

Darlene King

An International Best-Seller


A Book for the

Retired, Unemployed, and Overworked

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"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

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