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The Joy of Not Working

Updated on April 3, 2019
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Rebecca is an avid reader who enjoys promoting ideas that have merit. The ideas contained in this book are worth promoting.


Most people on their death beds don't regret things they did in their lives, so much as they regret the things they didn't do. They regret the time they didn't spend with loved ones, the vacations they didn't take, interests and goals they didn't pursue. Ernie J. Zelinski's book, The Joy of Not Working is for those who do not wish to find themselves in that predicament.

How This Whole Thing Got Started

Many years ago, while in his 20s, Ernie J. Zelinski took himself on an extended vacation. This, after three straight years of no vacation and a lot of overtime. He had a great time while on vacation. The inevitable result, however, was that he was summarily fired from his job. By his own admission, he was, at first, bitter about the loss. But, then he had time to think about it. He realized that he didn't miss the nine-to-five grind (which he admits was often more like eight-to-six with some weekends). Then he realized that, for him, a regular job was simply not possible any more. And, so, creative loafing was born. Zelinski has never looked back.


A Guide for the Overworked, Retired and Unemployed

Zelinski's book is a guide for those who find that the rat race isn't for them. It is an inspiration for those who are looking to get out. One of the first things Zelinski does is to give a definition to leisure: spare time over and above the time required to provide the necessities of life. This definition was provided by participants in a leisure seminar led by Zelinski. He touts the virtues of pursuing a life of leisure and outlines its many benefits. He discusses the puritan work ethic which declares the virtues of work for work's sake and dismisses it. He talks about the health benefits of leisure. He even explains how to be successful at leisure-- which, contrary to popular belief is not just sitting around doing nothing. He calls the pursuit of leisure, Living the Life of Riley.

The Dangers of Leisure

One of the things that Zelinski talks about in his book is the fact that many people claim to want to lead a life of leisure, but most people aren't prepared to handle it. We all know that working all the time can lead to both mental and physical health issues, but being unprepared for a life of leisure can be just as damaging. It comes partly from the mistaken idea that to have nothing to do means doing nothing. It also comes from the fact that once you do not have someone else telling you want to do, you may have difficulty figuring out for yourself what to do. Doing nothing, meaning having nothing meaningful to do, will kill you almost as quickly as overwork. It can inspire depression. It has also been noted that people who do not have something meaningful to do once they retire die much more quickly than those who do.


How To Spend All That Free TIme

So, once you achieve the Life of Riley, what do you do with your copious spare time? The simple answer is anything. Zelinski offers a variety of suggestions, the first being to discover your calling. He recommends taking time to consider your purpose and to pursue your calling. This can point you in the direction of meaningful activities. After that, your free time can be filled in a number of ways. You can learn a skill, pursue a hobby, give time to a worthwhile cause. One of the things Zelinski stresses is that doing nothing and being bored can be as damaging as devoting all of your time to a job that you are not excited about.

If He Can Do It, Anyone Can

Along the way, Zelinski shares testimonials and inspirational stories from those who have read his books and taken his advise. They are people who praise Zelinski for his intelligence and wisdom. They share their plans for getting out or their exploits since doing so. They make the reader feel that the Life of Riley is something that anyone can accomplish. And, indeed, that seems to be the point: why give your life to the nine-to-five grind when you can be doing anything else? And, if Zelinski and his followers are to be believed, you CAN do anything else.

The Man Himself

One Little Drawback

One of the drawbacks of this book is that it does not offer much in the way of practical advice on just how to finance the Life of Riley. Despite having time to enjoy one's life and pursue happiness and independence with one's leisure, it is still necessary to eat and have a place to sleep. That requires some financial compensation from somewhere. He does have one chapter that makes a cursory swipe at making a living. It is entitled Financial Independence on Less than Twenty Dollars a Day. It offers ideas that are just vague enough to sound possible. Despite this one drawback, however, the book is certainly worth the read. If you would like to figure out how to live on very little, there are plenty of self-sufficiency resources to offer you suggestions. Few, however, offer the inspiration of Zelinski's work.


If you feel that your life has become a long corridor of work with no light at the end of the tunnel, which is to say, a life with no point, then this book may be just what you are looking for. It will inspire you to give up the societal notions that work is a virtue unto itself and you must pursue it for just that reason. Instead, it will inspire you to think outside the box. Forget what society says you are supposed to do because it is what everyone does. Just because everyone does something, does not mean that it makes sense. Ernie J. Zelinski, amazingly, makes a lot of sense. And his books are worth reading because of it. Definitely read The Joy of Not Working. Your life will be better for it.


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