Russell Bishop and I have followed each others’ work for decades, but only recently did Ron Kaufman introduce us. I recommend to your attention his new book, Workarounds That Work: How to Conquer Anything That Stands in Your Way at Work. His website is here, and his bio at the Huffington Post is here.
I first encountered the word “work” in the way that Russell addresses and plays with it in his book when my father gave it as his excuse for not being available to play with me when I was a child. He said, “I’m sorry, son, but I have to work.”
That caught my attention. What was this mysterious thing that was taking my father away from me? “Work” has been interesting to me ever since, at first as an enemy of my relationship with my father, and later as a central issue in all of our lives.
In the middle of this era of vilifying theory and worshiping practice*, it is inevitable that this book must be positioned as a book about practice and emphatically not about theory, but really I think that positioning hides some of the most important things that the book is about.
Russell is a wise and experienced man who has started several companies that have made huge contributions to very large numbers of people. He is also an editor and regular blogger at the widely-read Huffington Post. He knows well the substance of the old and oft-quoted adage, ‘…to practice without theory is to sail an uncharted sea; to work with theory without practice is not to set sail at all.’
In his book, to make it a happy one for a modern reader, Russell puts the practice in the foreground and the theory in the background and the spaces between the words.
A better way of talking about this book, at least for me, might go something like the following.
In Workarounds that Work, Russell models – in his way of speaking, in the way he reveals himself, in the examples he brings, and in his recommendations – a way of being that revels in the challenge and joy of work, and does not flinch nor whine about the myriad roadblocks that inevitably confront anyone trying to do anything serious in life. He is a joyful warrior in the middle of the mess of modern working life. Russell shows clearly the power of humility, gratitude, an indomitable spirit, a commitment to find alternatives and not remain stuck in ruts, and the soft underbellies of the enemies we face in everyday working life.
I often say that the fifth of my story about five great generators of waste in our modern working world – the interpretation that we are doomed to a kind of indentured servitude called ‘work’ – is the nastiest and most destructive. ‘Thank God it’s Friday’ – the announcement that we toil away five days of every week just waiting for a brief respite of freedom and meaning each weekend – is our declaration that we consider 5/7ths of our lives wasted. A tragedy.
Russell’s book is an antidote to work as toil, and full of good things.
*(My aside: Vilifying bad theory is may sometimes be worthwhile, and can be satisfying, and the fields of management and leadership are particularly full of bad theory.)