Review by S. Leigh Hall

Before reading this book, find a comfortable place to sit. Grab a coffee, soda, or drink of choice. Then ask yourself to “recall an activity you deeply enjoyed doing and believe you did well. Go back as far as you can remember. Include activities from any sphere of life (church, family, professional, etc.). Describe what you did. What was satisfying about what you did?” p.46

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According to Burgis and Miller, this activity is the best way to find out who we really are as individuals, unique and unrepeatable as created by God. It’s also a critical step in vocational discernment as it reveals, in most situations, a pattern of behavior and choices helpful in discovering God’s basic intention for our lives.

People wanting to know us only ask about our external stories to which the usual response is place of residence, name of parents, and occupation. Such information is great on a resume when interviewing for a job or attempting to join a specific organization or group. However, this kind of information doesn’t go deep enough to discover our individual gifts and what God has planned for each of our lives. The authors’ theory suggests that relating a satisfying activity or series of satisfying activities gets to the heart of each person’s “motivational design.”

This book is unique in that it is composed by two professionals from different backgrounds, and they alternate each chapter. Miller is a vocation coach and vocation coach trainer for faculty and staff at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. Burgis is Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship at The Catholic University of America. What’s obvious is the knowledge and passion they share in mentoring young people to find their true vocation and how to live an authentic life despite the relativism of our culture.

Rather than conform to what is popular or what is deemed as worldly success, we are designed by God to seek love and fulfillment proper to what motivates us but also to share a self-giving love that unites us with the Christian community.  Burgis and Miller, through research, show the achievement story reveals the true self in a way more conducive to uncovering a person’s God given calling.

Unrepeatable begins with an explanation of the MAP (Motivated Abilities Pattern) developed by Miller’s grandfather leading to MCORE (Motivational Core) an automated assessment of motivational design based on SIMA, the System for Identifying Motivated Abilities started a few years ago by Miller and colleagues. Asking people to relate satisfying experiences rather than strictly factual information gives vocational mentors a better understanding of who they are mentoring.

To prove their theory, personal stories of celebrities, saints, clergy, and everyday individuals weave through the diagnostics in the book to engage the reader in an empathic understanding of and respect for others. Practical applications direct mentors in best meeting the needs of mentees as they discern their purpose in life.

Every person is gifted with a primary vocation from birth based on motivational patterns.

Finally the goal of every person, according to Burgis and Miller, is to be on a mission, and for a Christian, that mission is to “contribute to Christ’s work of salvation, which means sanctifying the small piece of the world that has been entrusted to them.” p. 215

The book concludes with a prayer for vocations, an introduction to Inscape, an organization co-founded by Burgis and Miller devoted to the vision of each person knowing, embracing and living to the full their unique personal vocation. It also lists resources for training and for discerning personal vocations.

I recommend this book especially if you are a spiritual director or mentor for young people; there is much to gain in practical applications. The worldview is definitely Christian, but anyone confused or searching for life’s meaning or purpose can find hope in the related stories.

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Genre:  Non-fiction

Author’s Worldview:  Catholic, Christian

Year Published:  2018

Audience:  New adult, Adult, Catholic, Non-Catholic, Atheist, Agnostics

Themes:  Vocation, Mission, Mentoring, Motivation, God-given gifts, Current Culture, Individualism, Conformity