Thursday, March 24, 2016

Book Review: The Work: My Search for a Life That Matters by Wes Moore

Wes Moore's inspirational story in The Other Wes Moore, inspired me to look for this book about moving on with his adult life and finding work that matters. But it wasn't quite what I was expecting. I was expecting more of a straightforward memoir, like the first book. Instead, we get moments of memoir, although superficial and skipping over large parts (in particular we barely get to know his fiancee at all). And interspersed are stories of inspirational people he meets along the way, from one of the founders of KIND bars to the assistant director of the Peace Corps.

After his stint at Oxford University for his Rhodes scholarship, Wes tries out banking, and then goes to Afghanistan (he's been in the military all along), then focusing on finding his life's goals when he returns. With all the inspirational stories, he gives brief but full biographies of these amazing people, delving into what in their backgrounds inspired the way they live their lives, and I particularly liked the story of three siblings who founded a nonprofit that ultimately failed, but they didn't see themselves as failures. The story of the assistant director of the Peace Corps was to me the least effective even though in some ways she was the most inspiring--she didn't feel real. No matter what hardships she faced, she had such an unwavering attitude of optimism and belief that things would work out, that she was hard to identify with. Someone who never doubts is hard to emulate. But the other stories were inspiring, although, as someone in my 40s who knows what I'm doing with my life, it all felt a little remote and somewhat irrelevant to me. I certainly remember massive worries and the feeling that I would never find my way--and if all I was doing was eliminating jobs one by one that I didn't want, I would never luck into the right job for me.

This book would be perfect for a recent college grad (or soon to be college grad.) Asking a 22-year-old what they're going to do with the rest of their life only causes anxiety. Giving them this book might actually help them think about that question and formulate a path. Mr. Moore is an accessible writer with a kind attitude and is easy to identify with, despite his opportunities and advantages. He doesn't take his advantages for granted and he struggles with the guilt he feels, not maximizing his economic potential and if that's worth the personal sacrifice to his soul. This book doesn't proscribe any answers, but can help a young adult, struggling to find their way in the adult world, see a way forward and what options are available.

I bought this book at my local used bookstore.

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