Book Review – The Joy Of Not Working (Ernie J. Zelinski)


When I first got started on my own quest to early financial freedom, one of the FIRST sources that really inspired me were the Early Retirement Extreme and Retire by 40 blogs. Jacob and Joe had achieved (or were on the cusp of achieving) the DREAM that I always knew deep down I wanted for myself. Over Thanksgiving weekend in 2011, I read up a storm and convinced myself, without a shadow of a doubt, that the path to early FI had to become my life’s new purpose.

Well, time sure does fly, and as recently as last weekend, I announced to the blogging community that I, myself, would finally be retiring and joining the ‘fraternity’ of early retirees.

I’ve never mentioned it before, but during the early stages of my ‘reprogramming’, I also picked up a copy of The Joy of Not Working: A Book for the Retired, Unemployed and Overworked- 21st Century Edition, before launching this blog in February 2012.

Please Note: The above is an affiliate link to

As an engineer who was getting into the habit of learning about more and more esoteric technologies and designs, you could say that I was a bit drawn to the book after glancing at the ‘Look Inside’ preview section. It just seemed like this would be a very easy, straight-forward read, which is one of the main reasons why I purchased a copy. I was super busy during the day, and didn’t want to take on some kind of dry, dense, super jargony book that was more suited for academics than your average everyday worker.

I wanted to read something that even a child could comprehend.

The Details

After reading just the first few chapters, I’m sure readers will be able to appreciate where Mr. Zelinski is coming from. The preface chapter really resonated with me because Ernie talks about how he was a working engineer who was terminated for taking an extended vacation, that was not approved by his superiors. Of course, his actions violated company policy, so there had to be consequences! Despite the fact that he was a high performance worker who had been at the company for many years, the bottom line in Corporate America is the bottom line!

No exceptions!

Certainly, this is something that I think all wage slaves struggle with daily in the corporate workplace. So many times, life just happens and we need to take time away from work… It’s so sad, but the reality is that in many instances, the companies that we work so hard for (day and night), will never accommodate our requests.

The lack of compassion and ‘humanity’ is something that I witnessed very early on in my career, which led me to realize that at some point in the future, I would need to find a way to decouple myself from this ‘machine’.

When it comes to Ernie’s case, being out of work wasn’t the end of the world for him. Being the creative and optimistic guy that he is, he took a negative and turned it into a positive. He encourages everyone else to do the same with their lives.

Throughout the book, Ernie will slowly but surely pull you, the reader, away from the ‘Matrix’, and show just how simple, beautiful, and wonderful life really is when you put it in the right context.

Cut out all the noise, and you will see the TRUTH

In our society, praise is often lavished to the person who works hard, has a team first attitude, and doesn’t stir up the pot. On the flipside, anyone who dares to step outside of the bounds and attempts to try new ideas, do things on their own (like a maverick), and attack controversial topics, will be the first in line to get fired. The world that exists today is very much predicated on maintaining the status quo and to keep those in power, remaining in power.

Like I’ve mentioned on this blog a few times, “If the rules of the game suck, go play another one.

I got that idea from Ernie.

Stepping away from the pre-established rules of society, Ernie then goes on to show you that ‘being a loafer’ and taking pride in ‘idleness’ really isn’t such a bad thing after all. What makes these taboo subjects so easy to digest is that Ernie likes to throw in very humorous quotes and illustrations throughout the book.

It’ll be hard for even the most ardent of curmudgeons to be able to finish this book without chuckling, or grinning at least just ONCE! 🙂

Here are a few good quotes:

“They intoxicate themselves with work so they won’t see how they really are.” – Aldous Huxley

“The end of labor is to gain leisure.” – Aristotle

“I don’t want the cheese, I just want to get out of the trap.” – Spanish Proverb

“The only thing wealth does for some people is to make them worry about losing it.” – Antoine de Rivarol

“Too many people are thinking of security instead of opportunity. They seem more afraid of life than death.” – James F. Byrnes

“The road is better than the inn.” – Miguel de Cervantes

“Success is important only to the extent that it puts one in position to do more things one likes to do.” – Sarah Caldwell


And so on…


Yes, it does take a certain mindset and personality to hear those type of things and not take offense to it. I know for myself, there was just no way I would have been able to openly share some of these opinions with old co-workers, who had become far too institutionalized and trapped inside the system.


But if the thoughts above resonate with you, you’ll probably get more use out of this book than others who wouldn’t dare to challenge conventional thinking.


There is an entire chapter dedicated to “Working less for the HEALTH of it”, which is something that I think everyone needs to pay attention to. Throughout my own struggles with chronic fatigue, almost EVERY SINGLE health institution that I’ve visited (massage, acupuncture, chiropractor, etc.), the practitioners all told me the same thing — “You wouldn’t believe how many burnt out corporate employees come here for treatment…

Health is a universal necessity and right now I think we’re facing an epidemic in the workplace. Too many employees are working themselves to the ground and very few realize that they don’t have to! Everything you’re going through and experiencing, some one else already has before… The problem with society is that topics such as health are so taboo to talk about that almost no one does… So we all struggle on our own, thinking we are an exception and not the rule.


After all, if everyone else is working 9-5 and overtime on the weekends, who are we to complain? We think of ourselves as ‘wimps’ who need to toughen up so that we can keep killing ourselves further…


That’s not true! When I read this chapter, I was like, “Thank you! Someone else understands what it is that I’m going through and is willing to put it all out there!”


I no longer felt CRAZY and ALONE!


As Ernie shares in the book, “Who wants to be the richest person in the graveyard?”


The following chapters are ones that I will now need to refresh on for my own journey post-FI. Like how “Unemployed: The True Test of Who You Really Are” and “Somebody Is Boring Me; I think It Is Me”. Ernie goes over a thousand ideas to show how one can fill their days with worthwhile pursuits that enrich true happiness. Going over the list, I’m sure readers will be able to identify a few leisure hobbies and activities that can earn some decent ‘side hustle’ income as well. Blogging, I think is the most obvious one. Hey, that’s what I’ve been doing as a hobby for over 4 years now! It’s only now that this gig has started transitioning into something a little more than that…

Bottom line, throughout the book, Ernie encourages us all to use our brains above all us… Instead of approaching life’s problems and challenges from an adult’s perspective, Ernie likes to look at things from a child’s point-of-view. That may sound funny, but try the following exercise.

What do you see below?













A big black dot?






Yes, say the adults.




What do the children see?

  • Darkness outside of a round window
  • A black bear rolled up in a ball
  • A black hubcap
  • A horse’s eye
  • A black marble
  • A dirty quarter
  • A chocolate cookie


Old dogs can learn new tricks.


Coincidentally enough, now that I myself am unemployed and retired, I’ve got to refresh some of these ideas into my head and remember to think more like a child… That’s when the magic really happens!


The Pros

Here the are main things the book has going for it:

  • Extremely easy to pick up and read (not dense, wordy, or jargony).
  • The use of humor and cartoons to illustrate key points.
  • Controversial and the willingness to challenge societal norms.
  • Lots of outside the box thinking (with ideas/suggestions/case studies presented throughout).


The Cons

Here are some things the book may be lacking:

  • Not a book for helping someone establish a firm ‘financial plan’ and path to early FI.


The Joy Of Not Working, by Ernie Zelinski, is a book about freeing your mind and expanding the realm of what you think is possible with your life. The con that I listed isn’t really much of one, but something to keep in mind. If you’re out looking for financial advice, or tips on investment ideas, this isn’t the book for you. Personally, I feel like this is the perfect book to read just before starting out, or shortly after embarking on your own quest to early FI.


I am definitely glad that I first stumbled upon it in 2011, before coming up with an actionable investment plan.


Now that I am post-FI, I think it’s about time for me to re-read this book again.


Regardless, it’s a very easy, light read that I think any financial freedom fighter will be able to enjoy and appreciate.


If anyone wants to support this blog (I would really appreciate it!), here’s the affiliate link again to Amazon — The Joy of Not Working: A Book for the Retired, Unemployed and Overworked- 21st Century Edition



Fight On!

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Elle @ New Graduate Finance

Some of the quotes you shared really stood out to me. One of the smartest people I have ever met gave a talk about identity and happiness. She talked about how one of the biggest mistakes people make is “over-identifying” with different aspects of their identity. This reminds me of your point about working – people over-identify with their professional title and their place within their organization’s hierarchy. They allow their professional selves to become their entire identity, and become miserable when anything disrupts this pattern. Isn’t it great how some of the best books don’t need to use pretentious… Read more »

Brian - Rental Mindset

I recommend “motivation” books over “how to” books. Once the motivation is set, you will do anything to figure out the details of how to get it done. Pretty much the only book in real estate I have read is Rich Dad Poor Dad, which is extremely light on details, but plants the idea in the readers mind.

Ernie Zelinski
4 years ago

Thanks for the article about my book. I truly appreciate it. Perhaps you can place a summary of the article as a review of the book on Even if you can’t, I would like to show my appreciation by sending you a copy of the print edition of my inspirational fable “Look Ma, Life’s Easy (How Ordinary People Attain Extraordinary Success and Remarkable Prosperity)”. Believe it or now, I just received copies of the print edition today. So if you can send me your name and physical address to my email at Yahoo, I will send you a copy… Read more »

4 years ago

Nice blog. Glad I found it. I too am a former SV engineer who walked away from corporate america 1 1/2 year ago. I’m in my late 30s, I achieved semi FI with years of savings and consistent investing by 2008, but the lure of biweekly paycheck was too difficult to walk away from, especially during the outset of the great recession. Fortunately, a huge investment in your former employer both in my 401k and tax account back in late 2008 helped me walk away where work is just an option for me now as long as my lifestyle doesn’t… Read more »

4 years ago

Thanks for the shout out! Congratulation on achieving FI. Life is more than about working for other people. I like Ernie’s book too. It’s timeless. I need to reread it again soon.

Dividend Growth Investor

Thanks for the book review and recommendation. I would have to get it.