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July 2, 2009

Working without Wilting: Jago produces a cracker

by quaesitor

Wynne Working wo WiltingI promised a few weeks back to add a few thoughts about my old friend Jago’s new book: Working without Wilting. After reading and enjoying this book, it has confirmed my previously held conviction that Jago is the Maestro of Metaphor, the Boffin of Bullet Points and an Aficionado of Alliteration. And so I suppose in some ways, that means he writes like a Management Consultant. Which is no surprise, because that’s exactly what he was for a relatively short period. But that time was clearly enough to hone his communication skills. He writes in an informal, light style, making his points with crystal clarity, peppering his text with humour, anecdotes and pithy comments. While the alliteration and metaphors did provoke a wry smile occasionally, they do serve his purpose.

And that purpose is to help people think carefully, honestly and positively about their work – and in this, the book succeeds admirably. The 5 primary metaphors Jago uses as coat-hooks for this – Treadmill, Trampoline, Trout, Trumpet and Tardis (see what I mean?! Though I should say I was bitterly disappointed that Tardis didn’t start ‘tri…’) are suggestive and memorable.

Where the book really comes into its own, however, are the personal touches – he is very game in his inclusion of self-deprecating incidents from his own working life, and these genuinely help to land the points he’s making. Incidentally, it’s obvious Susannah’s observation that he’d never once caught a trout in the 9 years of their relationship still rankles (see p94). It’s a hard life, Jago (but then, I can’t talk on the trout front either).

Each brief chapter concludes with the testimony of an individual who has had to battle with, or put into practice, some of the challenges just outlined. A number of them are particularly powerful and helpful. This is accompanied up by a useful summary diagram (complete with Yucca plant – read the book to see why) and some summary questions for personal application. And for good measure, these alliterate as well: Recap, Relate & Response!!

If I had any crits, it would be simply the need for a bit more of an explicit biblical framework, so that biblical references don’t seem like proof-texts. I know that this is not what they are and I do trust that Jago has done his work on it – but it would make a good book even better if this was more on the surface. To be fair, he does articulate some of the bigger framework (e.g. work as worship) at the end – but I was left wondering why this was left to the final pages. It is so important and essential. In the early chapters I found myself frequently nodding in agreement but wishing he’d justified his comments more from scripture. Having said that, Jago is very good on the more explicitly practical passages of the bible – his sustained engagement with the Sermon on the Mount really stands out.

On a more general point (because this is a question related to many Christian books on work on the market and so not a question particularly related to Jago’s), I wonder how much we need to temper our understandings of work, job fulfilment and career by the fact that these are really minority, western luxuries when considered in global terms (e.g. the world of Slumdog Millionaire…). When we lived in Uganda, it was clear that for most, a job was a matter of food and shelter, and even life or death (there was no social security safety net whatsoever). And while a few had the opportunities to choose a ‘career’, the vast majority couldn’t. They needed work full stop – regardless of what it was. The question of finding fulfilment never came into it. The necessity of helping friends in that situation to see even the most menial jobs as part of their worship was therefore even more acute. Jago touches on Col 3 (on p171-172) and perhaps that could be a stepping off point for thinking this through.

Nevertheless, these are very minor gripes. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It will be a real challenge to the seasoned worker. But it will be especially helpful and constructive for the new graduate starting work for the first time. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it is an IMPORTANT book for them to read! Therefore UCCF staff-workers and other student workers should insist that EVERY ONE of their graduates is armed with this book. It will set them in good stead for the future – so that they genuinely “start well to finish strong”.

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