Book Review: Let Your Life Speak


Let Your Life Speak

By Parker J Palmer

Published 2000



Why I write book reviews, outlines, and reflections (link to bottom of page)


This book is a gold mine of vocational wisdom that I would recommend to just about anyone.  If you have ever wondered “what’s my purpose?” or “am I supposed to be in this career path” or “is this job right for me” or even just felt an itch about your career that you can’t seem to scratch I would certainly recommend this book. It’s a very deep book so if you’re like me, and most people in modern society and the instant gratification of cell phones and google has reduced your attention span to less than that of a gold fish you will probably need to read this in small chunks. The text is just too potent and deep to absorb too much at once unless you’re experienced in this type of reading (which I am not). I personally read the through the book roughly a half chapter at a time and at the end of each chapter went back with a highlighter to grab the parts that stood out to me. This book was so thought provoking that I could not help to read it a second time, chapter by chapter and take notes and write out some insightful questions that I needed to find my own answers to.


In general, this book is about guidance toward finding a vocation that allows you be your “true self” and make the most of your god given gifts and live a fulfilling life.  One of the most insightful questions asked is “Is the life I am living the same as the life that wants to live in me?” That takes some searching, and in my case it even took some time to fully understand the question but the first two chapters of this book got me in a much better mind frame to both understand and answer that question. The author talks about not willing yourself into your vocation but that you should listen and pay attention to your gifts to find your true path in life. Meaning you cannot force yourself against your own nature to do something and expect to achieve your potential and most importantly be happy and fulfilled. He makes a very piercing point that most people spend the first half of their life ignoring their true gifts and pleasing others and the next half of their life trying to find themselves again. He suggests going back to your childhood to find clues about your direction in life and your ambitions and that you can often see where you let the influence of others guide you more than your own gifts.  One of my favorite quotes in the book is by Fredrick Buechner who said that “Vocation is the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” That was a very powerful quote to me and sums up what I think everyone hopes to achieve in life. Find “deep gladness” in the work you do and the fulfillment of knowing that what you’re doing is fulfilling a “deep need” in the world. That’s purpose.

The author switches back and forth from theoretical advice and his own personal examples. He is not afraid to use his own vocational mistakes and reflect on a battle with depression at one point in his life to drive home the points that this book aims to communicate.

At the end of the book there’s also a list of 5 monsters that leaders need to deal with to be effective, which I found to be very insightful. My favorite as an example, is his discussion about chaos and how good leaders live with the fact that not everything can be controlled. A natural chaos in life is natural and needed for both creativity and progress.


The book is not long at all, it’s barely over 100 pages. Depending on how easily you can digest the depth of the text it can quick read or it can take you some time.  Most nonfiction books I read I would recommend to people based on their interests or careers but his one is applicable to anyone with a purpose in life, which I think hopefully applies to everyone, so I would recommend this book to everyone. I have always been a fan of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and refer back to it often in discussion. This book is a must for anyone that is firmly planted in the self-actualization part of the pyramid.  If your basic human needs are met, your own psychological needs are met and you are in a place where you’re concerned about making the most of your gifts, fulfilling your potential, finding your true calling this book is perfect for you.


Why I write book reviews, outlines, and reflections:

I love to learn, and for me reading is one of my favorites ways to learn. In my quest for learning through reading I did some research on retaining the knowledge I am taking in to make sure it’s not “going in one ear and out the other” as we like to say. One of my methods of retention is taking notes, writing outlines to study, and recording my reflections and reviews of the information. I used to take a lot of physical notes, but seeing my book shelf full of books with folder papers sticking out the top is not only unattractive but also not a very scalable way to store information.  Now I’ve started transferring over my handwritten notes and highlighter filled books into digital format, and just in case anyone wants a quick read of any of the books I’ve read, or curious about someone else’s insight on a book they’ve read I decided to start publishing these notes.


Latest Article I wrote about reading:

Great Article about reading retention: