Five ways to think about meaningful work – in books

Over the last year and more I’ve been fascinated by the ways we seek and find a sense of purpose in work. In the process I’ve read several books which have shaped my thinking – and in some cases, completely transformed it.

Here are the five books that have most influenced me - each represent a different way of looking at meaningful work.

On collaboration: Find the others

One of the wisest pieces of advice I've been given in the last year is to find collaborators.

The trouble is that collaboration is one thing I've struggled most with. I have a stubborn mindset and I often feel like I must be able to find the solution myself. When working, when writing, too often I've found myself at a blockade and tried everything to break through - except asking for help.

But you don't always need to ask for help. Sometimes it's enough just to start a conversation, or ask a question.

On existential dread

Have you ever looked up from your desk with that ringing question in your head: “What am I doing here?”

Worse still if it’s followed by questions like ‘Does my life have any purpose?’ and ‘What does it even mean to have a sense of purpose?’

Welcome to existential dread. Or existential angst.

The magic of the three-month project

Following your dreams is easier said than done. Even when you have the best of intentions, it’s hard to commit to something that feels new and challenging amidst other tasks that feel more realistic.

Read on to find out how three month projects can be transformative - and how The Confetti project emerged from just such a starting point.

Freedom & Death Dice

Memento Mori - Remember death.

In the tangle of everyday life, death is not a tempting thought. But reflecting on the end of life can help you make the most of the present and live with a greater sense of purpose and intention.

A discussion about death and freedom with philosopher Roman Krznaric.

Finding meaning in community and connection: Arielle Tannenbaum at Buffer

In the process of searching for purposeful work it’s easy to focus only on the lofty goals, the things that have a great and obvious sense of worth. But, in doing so, we risk losing sight of that which makes life most worth living: our relationships and meaningful connections with those around us.

Arielle Tannenbaum went looking for meaningful work in psychology, in health coaching and at a nonprofit, but found her fit in none of these places.

Blind Pilot Miles Hilton-Barber on purpose and achievement

Miles Hilton Barber dreamed of being a pilot when he was a boy. But in his twenties he was hit by a genetic disease that destroyed his sight, leaving him totally blind.

His brother Geoffrey had the same condition. But the remarkable thing about these brothers is that they’ve both gone on to become record-breaking adventurers. The even more remarkable thing is that Miles (and Geoffrey) didn’t start adventuring until age 50! If you’ve ever felt held back by conditions beyond your control, or if you’ve ever worried that it’s too late to start, this story is for you.