Marcus Buckingham's Love + Work: Getting Wyrd & Red Threads (Part III)


Part I

Part II

Marcus Buckingham is, by his own admission, “Wyrd.” He enlightens us: we all have a “Wyrd" [40]. What is it? He explains that “it’s an ancient Norse term, the idea that each person is born with a unique spirit. This spirit is unique to you, and guides you to love some things and loathe others” [40]. How he came up with this we don’t know. Did he do extensive research or chance upon a documentary?

Buckingham immediately tries to play down the spiritual nature of this wyrdness. He explains: “The concept of a Wyrd was [originally] explicitly spiritual. Today we don’t need spirituality to confirm the existence of your Wyrd” [40]. He has just neutered the Wyrd. The Wyrd-ness continues.

Buckingham explains that there are three things to know about your Wyrd. First, it is interwoven into your sense of self event if it's hard to find: “It can be quite tricky to figure out precisely what yours looks like” [42]. This is not helpful. Second, “it can grow up” [44]. It can become more intelligent, but it can’t change its shape. Third, it is your best guide if there is something about yourself that you want to change [44]. I needed to look at the cover of the book to see what I was reading.

Buckingham continues with the wyrdness: “So, to thrive in life, begin with this leap of faith: inside of you is a Wyrd, an extraordinarily complex combination of loves and loathes. This combination has the potential to be beautiful and powerful. It is the source of all your success, and your savior when the world seems set against you” [45]. Wow, that’s weird and very unclear. A “leap of faith” and a “saviour?”

Now, for further inspiration, Buckingham announces: “[When facing challenges] stand strong in the confidence that you possess inside of you a Wyrd that is all and only yours” [46]. He then explains the purpose of life: “Your life, lived fully, is the search for the strongest possible connection between what you feel—your loves—and what you give to others—your work” [46-7]. You may well ask what these types of statements are doing in a book by a strengths-based author.

Buckingham further notes, “Thus, the only way you’ll ever make a lasting contribution in life is to deeply understand what it is that you love. And the inverse: you’ll never live a life you love unless you deeply understand how to contribute to others” [69].

While making definitive pronouncements, he simultaneously makes off-hand comments. He notes, “Why do all creation myths around the world have such striking similarities?” [74] He doesn’t elaborate. That’s like saying all religions are the same. They are only in tandem with the superficiality of the one making the statement.

He talks about the “red threads,” the things you do well. He makes a counterintuitive point: “Your strengths are not what you are good at” [115]. Further, “Even if you aren’t quite good at it yet, even if you still have a long way to go before you get good at it, your strengths are activities where you feel the signs of love” [116].

The book is focused on you, you, and well, you. Buckingham states, “The real key to success and satisfaction in life lies in identifying which activities you are drawn to practice over and over again” [117].

Further, “Your life should be an ongoing search for love. Sometimes high performance will flow from your love, and sometimes it won’t. But in all cases, more love in your life means a fuller life” [126]. 

He advises, “To help you see yourself for the unique creature you are, begin by resisting the pull of comparison” [144]. To safeguard your uniqueness: hold on tight to your red threads (the things you love doing), be careful whom you choose to surround yourself with, keep your eyes focused always and only on contribution, and remember the massive extent of your uniqueness [150-2].

He doesn’t advocate for a balanced life. “Instead, a healthy life is one where you are in motion, where you are moving through life—all aspects of your life—in such a way that you draw strength and love from it, and this then give you the energy you need to keep moving” [159].

In short, Buckingham is more wyrd than insightful. He needs a dose of Patrick Lencioni. He is not able to construct any palatial arguments that would be convincing as someone qualified to opine on the purpose of life. He is intriguing more as a reflection of a New Age spirituality guru rather than for his insights. He has jumped the shark.