I recently told Andrew Hill of The Financial Times that business books, in their core and their soul (if you’ll permit me that anthropomorphism), are self-help books where people go to make their company better, their job better, themselves better. Sometimes that sort of enlightenment comes indirectly, from books on strategy or a compelling biography that deepen your understanding through stories of success. Other times, as is the case with Fearless at Work, the book is very directly about self-help and personal development.
Fearless at Work leans on the author’s thirty-seven years of Buddhist training, and seeks an instructional answer to one question: At work, I want to be _________________.
What would you fill that space with? Most would say they want to be happy, successful, maybe fulfilled, and all are fine answers. But Mr. Carroll thinks that, as simple as those goals may sound, we know it is wishful thinking.
We all know that work offers both success and failure, happiness and angst. We know that work, indeed all of life, unavoidably presents both rewards and penalties, joys and disappointments. So, while most of us may wish to be happy and successful at work, what we really want, if we bring our aspirations down to earth, is to be confident: confident that no matter what work offers up—success or failure, happiness or disappointment, recognition or indifference—we can unshakably rely on ourselves to be self-assured, resourceful, and at our ease.
Unquestionably, this begins with knowing how to do your job well. But it also requires taming our minds and letting go of the restless panic that can stop us from doing anything at all. To help with that task, the author employs the “contemplative tradition of slogan practice” that has existed in Tibet for centuries, the best example of which may be The Root Text of the Seven Points of Training the Mind, or lojong.
Fearless at Work is comprised of 38 slogans—such as “Nothing Sticks” and “Lean In”—which head short chapters that elucidate the slogan and the wisdom it provides. The book is then organized in five parts: The Five Primary Slogans; Exploring the Ironies of Cowardice; Taming the Mind; Establishing a Fearless Presence; and Living a Skillful Life.
Many of us are constantly striving to find a work/life balance, but I think we know there is no such thing. But if we can learn to be more mindful of our experience in each moment, we will begin to see the possibility inherent in the moment, use it to its fullest, and be more confident (maybe even fearless) at work—and in our lives.