How to Find What You Love, Love What You Do, and Do It for the Rest of Your Life

By Marcus Buckingham

Reviewed by Chris Wendel

During his long career as a researcher and bestselling writer, Markus Buckingham’s groundbreaking work helped develop the Strengthsfinder self-assessment, which helped businesses identify talents that match people to fulfilling roles.

The idea is that each of us had unique experiences and talents, that if guided correctly, can make us more valuable in the proper setting. In his latest book, “Love + Work,” Buckingham takes this attribute matching further by examining links in each of us that reveal the work we truly love.

In Buckingham’s case, those years of research with the Selection Research, Incorporated (SRI) and Gallup Corporation set him up to be uniquely qualified to explain this matching of passion and profession. His previous books: “Now Discover Your Strengths,” “Nine Lies About Work,” and “First Break All of the Rules” also revolve around identifying the unique parts of each of us so we can navigate career satisfaction.

“Love + Work,” which came out earlier this year, gets more specific with this quest, asking probing question that drill into what we candidly enjoy.

So how do we get to the place where we can nail down what we love and differentiate it from what is just a passing fancy? Buckingham asks readers to think of a time when they got lost in their work and time flew by. “Love + Work” urges readers to think hard to hone in on these joyful experiences, calling them “red threads” that we can purposely integrate into our work.

It’s not that we have to love our work all of the time. Buckingham believes that if 20% of our work day involves the work that is driven by passion, it is enough to make a big difference. Instead of a work day being of a series of meetings to trudge through, he wants us to flip our thinking so each day becomes an opportunity to identify our own uniqueness and specialization. He introduces us to “Wyrd,” a Norse word that refers to unique, natural occurring identities that each of us possesses.

Buckingham helps readers flag these red threads of what we love through a series of questions. He then leads with examples to demonstrate how to take the red threads and weave them into our careers and lives. His advice should work well with someone who is just starting out with their career or someone stuck in an untenable situation.

After going through a series of the book’s “I love it when I…” questions, I found myself thinking back on times in my past when I ignored choices I felt excited to pursue, instead doing what others thought I was good at. In one of the book’s sections, Buckingham describes “The Excellence Curse” or a situation where you’re great at something, yet at the same time achieving this excellence drains all of your energy. If other people keep telling you that we’re good at something but those activities don’t lift us up, it’s probably not what we really love to do.

Buckingham goes further to show how recognition of our loves relates to supervising employees, nurturing a personal relationship, and parenting. Buckingham wrote “Love + Work” coming off the uncertainty of the COVID pandemic. During this time, he lost his father and thought hard about how to prioritize his own efforts going forward. He believes that we struggle not because of a lack of time, but because of a lack of energy.

Buckingham’s personal stories and anecdotes add to what is already a well-researched and well-constructed book. I enjoyed the audio version of “Love + Work” which brings out Buckingham’s upbeat and caring personality. Like his previous books, “Love + Work” turns the trick of making behavioral research both interesting and fun. It’s refreshing to know that having more of what one loves in life is possible for any of us.

Chris Wendel works for Northern Initiatives, a mission-based lender located in Marquette, Michigan. Northern Initiatives provides funding to businesses in Michigan and know-how to organizations throughout the United States. Wendel lives and works in Traverse City.