During Covid, New York Times-bestselling author Arthur Brooks left his stable, highly engaging position in Washington, D.C., and moved up the eastern seaboard to complete the research and the writing of this book, and to push a reset button. His life story reflects the essence of From Strength to Strength.
Brooks begins with a quote from Psalm 84: “They go from strength to strength till each appears before God in Zion.” This book is an invitation to consider what might be the strength-to-strength markers in one’s own life, particularly as it relates to one’s vocation.
Brooks begins by sharing research around the proven decline of career knowledge, productivity, and effectiveness in relation to one’s age. From Strength to Strength focuses on the research and stories that show there is a second curve that opens a way to less striving and proving of oneself. The sooner one is open to this second curve, the more wholeness one might encounter in the second half of one’s career and post-career life.
Brooks himself envisioned a career as a professional musician but self-realizations and reflections forced him to make his first calculated career change in his early 30s and then a second one years later.
Brooks advises that the move into the second curve need not be a moment of crisis. Most of our lives are lived on an equilibrium, and we might even slide into the second curve unaware.
Brooks asks the reader to consider some simple questions: How many Thanksgivings might you have left? How do you introduce yourself at a party? Is your vocation the primary way you define yourself?
Brooks observes that many people have a growing interest in spiritual wellness in the second curve, which they might have neglected during the first curve of their adult life. Like Nicodemus coming to Jesus, they are searching for a crack in the door to discover or rediscover faith or meaning, often under the anonymity of a metaphorical night. Brooks suggests this might be particularly true for men. The increased interest in pilgrimages, such as the El Camino Santiago in Northern Spain, attest to this longing. The ordinariness of placing one foot in front of the other along a well-trodden path opens the time and space for needed reflection.
Brooks is not the first to define a second-half movement. Fellow columnist David Brooks (no relation to Arthur) uses the metaphor of a second mountain to describe this search for wholeness in his 2019 book, Second Mountain. Richard Rohr’s 2011 book, Falling Upward, unpacks this theme with a decidedly spiritual focus. Notably, all three of these highly recommended reads are authored by men. (Penguin Random House)