The idea for this book came out of the experience of working with the faculty, staff, and graduate student reading groups at the Colorado School of Mines (CSM), in Golden, Colorado. Organized by Roel, these groups began meeting in 2009, and functioned as a sort of academic “book club,” the aim of which was to provide our CSM colleagues with a venue for discussing interesting ideas and concepts related to working at the university. For example, one early text the group discussed was John Medina's Brain Rules, which discussed novel and innovative ways to promote learning and productivity.
But a secondary outcome soon emerged – as the two of us participated in the groups, we noticed that they were meeting a need among faculty, staff, and students to build a community, a place where we could discuss ideas that were meaningful to us not just as employees but as whole people, humans who lived their lives through and beyond the walls of the institution. We read books and readings on topics ranging from spirituality to social justice to project management, and were edified by our colleagues’ commitment to showing up for sometimes difficult but often rewarding conversations about how to bring our whole selves into the workplace.
We also realized, however, that there were few books that addressed the specific concerns of scientists, social scientists, and engineers who wanted to better integrate their home and work lives, or who were struggling to feel both successful and joyful at work. In off-handed terms over lunchtime conversations, the two of us began discussing the possibility of creating a workbook for our reading groups that might offer helpful exercises and short readings for addressing the concerns of those trying to navigate their way through scientific or technical graduate programs, the tenure-track, or demanding academic and corporate careers in the sciences that seem to require ever more commitment and longer working hours.
As our discussions continued, we soon realized that a brief workbook wouldn't allow us to do what we really wanted to do, which was to describe the traits of those whom we believed were most successfully and joyfully integrating their work and personal lives.