Books: No way to steer you out of the woods

Ditch your boring job and turn your hobby into a nice earner? Simon Mottram finds little inspiration or useful advice here.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I really wanted to like this book. The idea of aligning your work life and your passions is something I've spent the past three years pursuing, with some success. My particular passion is cycling, and I've managed to combine this with my marketing experience to launch Rapha, a luxury sportswear brand for road cyclists.

It also seems that since the 1980s, we in the UK have managed to get our work/life balance spectacularly wrong. We work ever longer and stressful hours with little time for family or pleasures beyond shopping. I was drawn to the title of this book: it seemed like a welcome call for sanity. But I really didn't like Bear Hunt at all. What went wrong?

This is one of those self-development books that crowd the shelves in airport bookstores. That was the first problem. I've read my fair share of these books and some have been very useful, but I've found others to be rather nauseating, using trite and simplistic arguments and a gushing, endlessly optimistic tone. This may work for travelling salesmen at O'Hare, but I suspect it misses the mark with many people this side of the pond.

From its title to chapter headings such as 'Luck be a lady tonight' and 'Aha, kerching', Bear Hunt embraces the 'Covey orthodoxy' from the first moment. I find phrases like 'sticky ball principle', 'blink into the zone' and 'find your own courage' more suited to a Martin Lukes e-mail than to a serious and practical guide.

Bear Hunt is a breathless manifesto peppered with old and familiar management ideas. From tipping points, the right brain and thinking like an eight-year-old, to imagery techniques and getting 'in the zone', the concepts, catchphrases and examples are endlessly repeated and interwoven until the book reads like a business management 101 from Fast Company magazine.

Yet there is precious little about the particular challenges of earning a living doing what you love. How do you maintain your perspective and avoid complete obsession? What if the thing you love isn't the thing you're uniquely good at? What happens when you fall out of love with what you do?

I would have welcomed advice on these questions.

The biggest challenge for anyone considering abandoning their career to focus on what they love must be finding the guts to actually make the leap in the first place.

Although the author has a stab at demystifying the process and making it feel more attainable, all too often he falls back on words like 'faith' and 'courage'. More practical advice on tackling fears and making the change would have been useful.

Perhaps the case studies were supposed to do this job. But I found these neither constructive nor inspirational. Most of the people featured either already had the confident, driven personality that allowed them to follow their heart or had fallen into their current life by accident, through a process of trial and error. Can you really plan your way to earning a living doing what you love? I remain unconvinced.

The author claims the book is for anybody. In fact, the principles and advice seem more suited to aspiring entrepreneurs and middle managers looking for a change: people who might be said to 'live to work' rather than 'work to live'. But I suspect that many people don't see work in this way.

Fortunately, a great number of people seem happy to endure boring jobs, saving their energies for evenings and weekends. They may not want to throw all their passion into leading 'extraordinary lives'. And who's to say they're wrong?

Bear Hunt offers simple answers to difficult challenges. But it is neither inspirational enough to give you the confidence to make the change, nor practical enough to help you manage the transition and cope with your new life. In my experience, you need a good dose of courage and a deep reservoir of tenacity to change your life and start earning a living by doing what you love.

You are more likely to find these qualities by embracing the world around you, by exploring great literature and the arts, or through meeting interesting people than by reading a self-development book such as Bear Hunt.

Simon Mottram is founder of Rapha (www.rapha.cc)

Bear Hunt - Earn your living by doing what you love Malcolm McClean Capstone Press £12.99 MT price £10.99 To order, visit www.mtmagazine.co.uk

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