Book Review: Limitless

auntie stress limitless

Limitless is an actionable book by Laura Gassner Otting that invites you to carve your own path in order to live your best life. It’s about work, exploration and discovery; it’s also about living a life that gives you meaning. With meaning comes life satisfaction and consonance.

Consonance is the key to becoming limitless, according to author Laura.

"That comes from understanding how much importance you place on, and from where you derive, the four elements of consonance: calling, connection, contribution, and control. Once you know that, you will be able to decide whether you need to change your career, workplace, or yourself to truly achieve your own success on a one-of-a-kind path. Consonance is easy to recognize, but it takes intention to achieve."

As I read Limitless, I often found myself thinking that this would be a great book to help senior high school students or university students plan out their career trajectory. I know many young people who struggle, wondering what to do next and how to be happy doing it. Laura offers some sage advice on page 21:

"A limitless life path requires congruence between the two - your work world and your home world - such that the values you live in each world bolster each other. Happiness can be a byproduct of being limitless, but being limitless is not a byproduct of happiness."

On page 59, Laura encourages readers to take risks:

"Though it can be disconcerting, I’ve always been attracted to positions for which I have no seemingly obvious qualifications. The space in between what you are qualified to do and what you want to do is the credit advance you get on that passion investment; it is the nest egg of the skills and network and knowledge you’ll need to acquire."

Building a life that brings consonance is about setting yourself free to explore, to practice, and yes, to fail. Finding your own voice to fill in the gap between what you are qualified to do and what you want to do. It’s a way of exploring options and expanding your skill set.

"See failure as a fulcrum."

Comparatitis

While you’re exploring, practicing and failing, avoid the Having-It-Allympics. (I love that term!)

It’s the stress-making disease of comparatitis – where you compare and judge yourself against the accomplishments of others, as described on page 128:

"All these prescribed definitions of success, with all of their screaming voices of perfection, contribute to the noise already in our own heads about how maybe we don’t measure up, don’t balance it as well, can’t have it all."

It’s crazy-making and it’s limiting. Callings are as individual as you are. It is something that has meaning to you – your own higher purpose.

Informative Anecdotes

Laura shares a number of anecdotes about people who are leading limitless lives and enjoying life satisfaction. A life with consonance.

Here are just three examples:

  1. The janitor who worked at NASA in 1962. He recognized that he played a crucial role in maintaining the cleanliness of the building so that the others could go on to do their work in an environment that was clean and sanitary. He felt pride in the work he was doing and his definition of success was his own. He had consonance. This reminds me of the advice given to us by one of our professors in the Faculty of Education. He told us to be considerate and kind to the school secretary and custodians. They are part of the education system and can help teachers do the job they are hired to do. It often takes many hands of differing abilities to get the bigger job done.
  2. The runner Rick Muhr who had achieved success in the corporate world, but found that it wasn’t enough. A chance conversation at the Boston Marathon Expo led to his dream job at Octane Fitness. His managerial skills, combined with his running background allowed him to help the company improve and execute a national sales strategy for the Zero Runner.
  3. How tennis player Serena Williams spends time working on the areas in which she struggles. She knows that in order to come out as a stronger player she needs to spend time being uncomfortable practicing and improving upon her weaknesses.

About that Résumé

Avoid the four horsemen of the résumé apocalypse: humility, myopia, amnesia and urgency. Keep your résumé up-to-date and it will serve as a potent reminder of how your work matters, or if you have strayed off the path. My friend Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter crafts beautiful résumés for professionals. She writes extensively about the importance of telling your story via the results you’ve achieved. She reminds us that:

"Resume updating required significant rewriting and strategy (versus a quick, easy update process)."

Urgency Emergency

Does the “Tyranny of Urgency” leave you feeling stressed and unfulfilled? Are you caught up in deadlines, distractions and doing more and more work, which in the end doesn’t bring you closer to living your best life?

Each chapter ends with open-ended questions to help you gain perspective so that you can cut through the blinding fog of chaos in order to have a clear view of your environment.

Be You

As Gretchen Rubin often said in her book, Better Than Before, “Be Gretchen.” In her case, one of the things she discovered about herself was that she didn’t like meditation. She gave it up, in order to “Be Gretchen.”

Laura encourages you to be you, even if it means being a “slash professional.” Have an anchor job (one that pays the bills) and an orbit job (work that can be done more flexibly), such as that of Sanjay Gupta, the medical correspondent for CNN, who also performs surgery. Or take part in the “gig economy” – looking for work that is interesting and meaningful to you. String enough gigs together and you can earn a living. Work in a corporate environment. Work for yourself.

Limitless helps you step onto your unique path. When you cement your interests, experiences and personality together, you have a good foundation for limitless potential.

Final Thoughts

This review only scratches the surface of what you’ll find in this book. It’s amazing what Laura has managed to pack into in 141 pages. As you dig into the archeology of Limitless, you’ll unearth a number of treasures that will help you uncover and discover your consonance, so you can live your best life.


With gratitude to Joelle Speranza at Smith Publicity for an advance reader copy of Limitless.

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