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Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  7,648 ratings  ·  693 reviews
With wisdom, compassion, and gentle humor, Parker J. Palmer invites us to listen to the inner teacher and follow its leadings toward a sense of meaning and purpose. Telling stories from his own life and the lives of others who have made a difference, he shares insights gained from darkness and depression as well as fulfillment and joy, illuminating a pathway toward vocatio ...more
Hardcover, 117 pages
Published 2000 by Jossey-Bass
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4.19  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,648 ratings  ·  693 reviews

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Jul 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I read this too fast, like eating an incredibly rich piece of cake that gives you a stomachache and a desire to never eat again. I read this too fast, because it's only 109 pages, and these days that's a Post-It note to me in a world of dissertations.
I will buy this book, and I will read it again, and I will take at least ten minutes for each page.

The thing about Palmer's writing is not that it is lofty or erudite or accompanied by some hidden soundtrack of thunderous drums and resonant string s
Thomas Holbrook
Jan 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A friend whose Spiritual walk has given me a deeper understanding of courage and integrity suggested I may like this little book. I quickly became aware that the only thing diminutive about this tome was its size. When I began reading it, given the few pages it contained and the dimensions of those pages, I thought I would be finished reading it in a few hours. I spent 30 minutes reading the first five pages, I would read a paragraph and stare into the Middle Distance for five minutes consideri ...more
Kasey Jueds
Dec 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
When you're totally confused about a major life issue, it's so much nicer to think about what you're going through as a "process of discernment" rather than just a mess. I really appreciate Parker Palmer's gentle, thoughtful way of exploring how to make choices by being our best, truest selves, instead of thinking about what we should do or what we think other people want us to do. He also explores depression as a way of discovering that true self; not that he recommends becoming depressed, but ...more
A meaningful little book talking about the importance of letting your life speak. Even though I read this for class, I'm glad it was required because I felt like Palmer was talking to me - he's incredibly open and honest about his own struggles. Lovely read!
Leslie Reese
Jul 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is a small book both in page count and actual size but it packs much thought-provoking, soulful stuff. I took notes in my journal in order to be able to return the book to the library on time. Originally, I wanted to read it because I am one of those birds who---no matter how many years I live---I am always trying to ascertain if I am in the right place at the right time doing the right thing! This book doesn't talk about "vocation" as one's fantasy job or bread and butter career, but more ...more
Jan 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I was reluctant to read this in a time when so few jobs are available; wouldn't it be worse to know my "calling" when there's little or no opportunity to practice it? In fact, there is no better book to help me confront and enlighten such pessimism. No matter if I never find a dream job, I still have a vocation. Palmer writes about big ideas in a small, quiet, reflective tone; I can't wait to read more of his work.

Though his book was given to me at an Episcopal group for underemployed recession-
May 25, 2007 rated it liked it
With warmth and wisdom throughout, Palmer describes in a most linear fashion his own triumphs and travails from institutions of many kinds: social, spiritual, and higher education. He is as inclined to quote some calming poetry as he is to lecture on leadership. He taps all the right people for their own thoughts on life and leading (Buechner, Dillard, Rilke, Rumi) and organizes the book's five chapters beneath simple metaphors--the changing of seasons, and those in one's life. He loves an analo ...more
Nov 11, 2012 rated it liked it
a book which posits a question that it doesn't quite answer: how is one to know one's vocation when it calls?

at a certain point in life, those of us who have not found perfect satisfaction with life start asking Big Questions: what am i here for? how can i find my purpose, since my dissatisfaction is evidence that heretofore i have not? what can i know with certainty about choosing a new path to set my feet upon?

this is not the same question as: what job should i be doing? vocation and bill-payi
Jonathan Maas
Feb 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A Great Set of Ideals From an Author Who Knows What It's Like to Go Up and Down

Don't let the cover and the title let you think otherwise - this is not a soft feel-good book. It is soft at times, and it can make you feel good - but Parker J. Palmer has had his share of ups and downs. Job changes, life changes, hospitalizations that he thought he could not escape - he's seen quite a bit.

What are his lessons?

There are too many to mention here but here are a few -

Don't let anyone tell you what you
Nov 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Ian by: Co-Worker
I was able to glean some interesting things to ponder from this book despite some significant (in my mind) differences in the worldviews of the author and myself.

First, he inserted a few unneeded political comments. It doesn't change his ideas or material but it did leave a sour feeling as I read since I disagreed strongly.

Secondly, he seems to be quite a mystical person. This clashes with my personality and worldview as I am primarily analytical and practical. Imagery, abstraction, and allegory
Apr 17, 2010 rated it did not like it
I tried to like this book because Palmer had some really good messages to get across, but unfortunately I found his writing way too self-indulgent and dramatic. The book is barely over 100 pages but it took me forever to read because I kept getting so frustrated and annoyed with the author's voice. I also disagreed with the main premise of the book that we all have a destiny....I think we make our own.
Aug 20, 2007 rated it did not like it
There seems to be an epidemic of inflicting this drivel on poor recent graduates. DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK AS A GIFT FOR ANYONE THAT YOU KNOW! It is meaningless, cliche, indulgent, and ultimately preaches a very self-focused message. There are so many better ways to figure out what to do with your life than reading Palmer's inane prattling.
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read it because Kristin Tippet suggested it on a recent podcast and it was fantastic. I wish I had read it earlier in my life--perhaps it would have helped me as I made decisions. I will recommend that my students and my daughters read it as they struggle to find their vocation.
Troy Shelton
Dec 17, 2010 rated it did not like it
Awful, awful, awful. Since reading, my life has been speaking a lot. It keeps asking me why I subjected myself to this.
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
7/52 books read in 2018.
1/20 bookshelf reads in 2018.

This was a great read, even while I was suffering from a massive reading slump.
It is short & offers insightful information into finding yourself and through that finding your path in life.
Parker J. Palmer is a christian (Quaker), but as an agnostic atheist I still found meaning in his words & thoughts.
Uwe Hook
Dec 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Why you should read this book:

"Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent."

"Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear. Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling the who I am. I must listen for the truths and val
Sep 07, 2010 rated it it was ok
For Senior Seminar in English.

It's hard for me to rate this book, because I feel like I was told to go about it in a wrong sort of fashion. It was the first book assigned for my senior seminar in English--a class designed to help us figure out what to do with an English Major.
The Prof assigned this book to be read in a week, and told the class (more than once), that it could be "easily read in a sitting." About 30-40 pages into the book, I realized that that was not the best way to go about a
Feb 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
The bad: unapologetically postmodernist in its humanism, often seeming as though it's appropriating Christian language for a universalist, new-age, postmodernist moral - the same mantra all millennials grew up with (and, in my opinion, are being wrecked by): be true to yourself, as though all the raw material for fulfilled personhood is inherent solely in the individual. He even implies a distrust of any external voice in the discernment of personal calling - something which I find altogether te ...more
May 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Certain books prove that it takes depth of experience and a lot of contemplation in order to be both profound and concise. Parker Palmer is one such case. If his experiences haven't been as harrowing as Frankl's or as isolated as Merton's, they are in some ways more directly relevant to the modern experience of career's as a quest for fulfillment. Palmer has been an academic, a social worker, a teacher, and a writer, not to mention what can only be described as a Quaker-monastic. The summary sen ...more
Mar 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a deeply spiritual book (though not necessarily religious) about discovering and listening to those promptings that guide us towards our unique life's purpose. It is a sad book for in reading you will see the many times you ignored Life's call. But it is also full of hope, life-affirming, life changing hope. For there is yet time. There is all the time you need.
Jul 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book and it's the type of book I will buy in hard copy form as there are important words in there that I'd want to reflect on and read again.

The perspective on depression and how to support those going through it is just so helpful to me as I have been witness to it and often not sure on how to be of help.

I loved how he simplified the search for vocation and also how he explained how imposed ideas or ideologies can set you on the wrong track so easily. Looking inward instea
Oct 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: psbc
When my book club decided to read this little book and I saw its subtitle, Listen for the Voice of Vocation, my interest was not peaked. I thought, “Gad, I’m 72 years old. Why do I want to read yet another book about figuring out my true vocation?” But then Mr. Palmer said on the first page in his “Gratitude” before the body of the book even began, “ . . . an exploration of a subject that engages many of us for the better part of our lives.” Well, okay. That’d be me.

Right up front, in fact, in
Sep 30, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: books-read-2010
Received the book through a subscription I used to have from the Leadership Institute - called Leader to Leader. Book's premise is to find Leadership or vocation through inner truth. It is extremely spiritual and existential writing. I got lost in some parts about the book struggling to find the author's point. I did gain some valuable perspective with the examples he gave of Vaclav Havel - former President of the Czech Republic - who through the absolute depths of despair from communist rule ro ...more
Jun 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
It was fine. Some interesting insights & a few "bumper sticker" quotes, but I didn't feel like it really addressed the process of discovering your vocation. Some pop psychology advice about listening for your inner voice, but really, this was a lot fluffier than I expected from someone whom a great many of my smartest friends admire so much. At least it was short...maybe that should have been my first clue.
Sean Howard
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In a world filled with quick fixes and productivity porn, we can forget to listen to the voice inside of us. The voice that calls out for something more, something real. This book is one of my Magic Five. It is one of the books I turn to when I realize I am drifting and struggling to find peace, happiness or confidence in life. A true resource for finding and releasing our purpose into our lives.
Feb 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommendation from Reverend Jim

Interesting reading about his lifepath and seeing some struggles similar to my own. His honesty in describing his vocational path is refreshing.

"We arrive in this world with birthrights- then we spend the first half of our lives abandoning them or letting others disabuse us of them. As young people, we are surrounded by expectations that may have little to do with who we really are, expectations help by people who are not trying to discern our selfhood but to fit
Craig Bergland
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really like this book, and I must admit that I didn’t think I would. In the past I haven’t really cared for Parker Palmer’s writing, even though I know some people I respect very much who just love him - and so I tried again with this book. I am very glad I did. Perhaps my previous struggles were more about where I was at the time than anything else. Now I need to read more of him.

Anyway, this book takes a refreshing look at both discernment and vocation. I plan to use it in a group where thos
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: spiritual-memoir
Palmer's book was the basis for discussion in our adult church school class during Lent. I did not particularly relate to his musings about true self and his own search for his vocation. I would go to class each week wondering how the leader (and there were six different ones) would deal with the chapter. And yet each week we had excellent presentations and good discussions. So the book met its purpose for our church as we got to know each other better through it.
May 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: wellspring
I really like what Palmer has to say about being true to yourself and understanding your limitations as well as your strengths. I like the idea of vocation as a calling that comes from within rather than outside ourselves.
Mar 03, 2019 rated it it was ok
It's a very nice book with autobiographical stories about the struggle with depression and finding a meaning of life. Not being Christian or a Quaker, I found it pretty hard to personally identify with the author's stories. It's still an interesting book full of wisdom and some good points.
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Trinity Episcopal...: Let Your Life Speak (discussion) 1 11 Jul 03, 2013 09:59AM  

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Parker J. Palmer (Madison, WI) is a writer, teacher and activist whose work speaks deeply to people in many walks of life. Author of eight books--including the bestsellers Courage to Teach, Let Your Life Speak, and A Hidden Wholeness--his writing has been recognized with ten honorary doctorates and many national awards, including the 2010 William Rainey Harper Award (previously won by Margaret Mea ...more
“Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.” 197 likes
“Self-care is never a selfish act - it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.” 81 likes
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