Find Your Great Work By Michael Bungay Stanier – Book Review

Find Your Great Work
By Michael Bungay Stanier
Inspiration, Marketing, Career Planning, Goal Setting

find_your_great_workI recently finished reading Find Your Great Work by Michael Bungay Stanier. I enjoyed the book – the bite sized chapters are dense, focused and insightful and the exercises are helpful and provide a good way to immediately apply the lessons from the writing.  I also enjoyed the unique way the book was organized and the ideas presented.  The “napkin sized” theme gave the book personality, but ultimately, I recommend Find Your Great Work based on the content and the value it added to my life – not only because of the cute book design.

Find Your Great Work – Book Summary

Find Your Great Work opens by first defining what Michael means by “Great Work.”  The first chapter describes three different types of Work: Bad Work, Good Work and Great Work.

  • Bad Work. A waste of time, energy and life. Doing it once is one time too many.
  • Good Work. The familiar, useful, productive work you do and do well.
  • Great Work

“The work that matters, inspires, stretches and provokes. This is both a place of deep comfort – “the flow zone” – and discomfort. The comfort comes from its connection, its “sight line” to what matters most to you. The discomfort comes because the work is new, is challenging and as a result there’s an element of risk and possible failure – and it is work that matters, work that you care about.”

Find Your Great Work then lays out the Five Foundation Principles of the book, the Great Work Truths. While I will just list them here, they are elaborated on further in the book. The five truths are:

  1. Things only get interesting when you take full responsibility for the choices you make.
  2. Changing your focus changes what’s possible.
  3. To do more great work, you must make not one but tow choices:  What will you say Yes to? And what will you say No to?
  4. To do great work you must be willing to take a stand, ruffle a few features and reset and expectation or three. […] If everyone’s happy, then you’re not doing Great Work.
  5. Great Work is not a solo act.  […] You need to welcome others on your journey.

The rest of the book is a series of chapters consisting of lessons, a dozen napkin size maps (uncomplicated worksheets) to help guide yourself towards Great Work and various exercises  questions designed to make you think about the direction you are heading, and provide jumping off points for filling out the maps.

Find Your Great Work – Favorite Chapters And Lessons

My favorite section of Find Your Great Work was maps 4-6, which is all about choices and deciding what is most important to us. This section really resonated with me, because I think about how I spend my time a lot and, and about which commitments to keep – and which commitments to let go.

For example, In Map #4 Michael presents an exercise where he has us consider “what’s negotiable” – what are the things we absolutely must do, and what are the things we are going to say no to?  I enjoyed the way the exercise was laid out, but what I was especially impressed with was how thorough the exercise was.  Michael has us consider and weigh everything from People & Relationships to Goals, Ambitions and Dreams, to Personal Feelings.  Like the other chapters it is short, to the point and the exercise looks deceptively easy at first – but truly weighing everything and considering what is negotiable – and what isn’t 0 is a somewhat complex task, made easier by the map and Michael’s guidance.

One theme that ran throughout the book was to get away from doing busywork and focus on work that matters. This resonated with me as well, as I discussed previously how I strive to avoid metawork and do “real” work.  Here’s a little clip taken from the Find Your Great Work website:

You’re not doing Great Work.

What you’re doing is a lot of work. You’re answering emails and making phone calls and cutting deals and attending meetings. You’re managing other people and stressing out about whether that project is going to get done on time and reminding yourself every three minutes not to forget to pick up your dry cleaning.

That’s not Great Work.

You know what Great Work is.

  • It’s the stuff you dreamed about when you first started this career.
  • It’s changing the world.
  • It’s making a difference.
  • It’s going home at the end of the day feeling good about yourself because you know that today, you made the impossible happen. And that mattered to other people.

On another note, I think too often authors create exercises and worksheets that are overly complicated, and in the process the actual message of the worksheet gets lost. I give Michael a lot of credit for laying out very simple maps, accompanied by the exercises that help the reader tackle very difficult, soul searching questions easily.  The exercises and guiding questions at the end of each chapter are just that – guides.  The actual maps (worksheets) are very manageable, and not at all off putting (which I don’t say too often about worksheets).


Find Your Great Work contains information, exercises and insights that will apply to a broad range of people.  For readers looking for a new direction, or who feel they have gotten stuck in a rut and have so much more to offer, Find Your Great Work provides practical advice coupled with easy to understand worksheets (in the form of napkin sized maps) that help you get to the heart of what’s important in your life.  Find Your Great Work provides a framework for reviewing your life, your goals and your priorities.

I enjoyed the book, and highly recommend it. If you are interested, you should click through to learn more about Find Your Great Work here.

Find Your Great Work – Additional Media

Find Your Great Work Movie