Ernie J. Zelinski
International Best-Selling Author: 
Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free

Ernie J. Zelinski and His Best-Selling Books


Job Loss Is a Golden Opportunity!

  Ernie Zelinski

Job loss is a golden opportunity. It was for me.
Following is an article about how I Ernie Zelinski gained from being fired for taking too much vacation. It first appeared in the University of Alberta Engineering Alumni Magazine
The Joy of (NOT) Engineering
By Ann Marie Pelletier


 The Joy of Not Working Cover Image

Growing up on a farm in Grassland, Alberta, Ernie Zelinski [author of The Joy of Not Working ] didn’t know what career path to choose, but he was very good at mathematics, trigonometry, and physics. So, on the advice of his teachers, he enrolled in engineering at the University of Alberta in 1966.
Despite staying out an entire year, quitting twice, and missing 85 percent of his classes, Zelinski surprisingly graduated seventh in a class of 250. He might have ranked even higher, if he hadn’t failed first-year English three times. Zelinski thought, if he waited around long enough, English would be dropped from the curriculum and he wouldn’t have to take it.
Zelinski didn’t bother showing up for class. But before he could be accepted into fourth-year engineering, he was forced to take English in summer school. Choosing the easiest English class possible, Zelinski finally passed. Not with a super mark, however.
“That’s why it’s kind of odd now that I’m a writer. I keep telling people that if I can do it anyone can,” says Zelinski. “After I finally got my engineering degree, they took out English for a few years after that. That really bugged me,” Zelinski says, chuckling. “I figured I was going to outwait them.”
Upon graduation, Zelinski worked for Gamma Engineering in Vancouver. He returned to Edmonton to work, first for Bechtel, then Edmonton Power, where he stayed for five and a half years. His responsibilities included designing cable installations, supervising contractors and subcontractors hired to install the high-voltage underground cables, and contract preparation and administration.
While working for Edmonton Power, he realized he preferred mechanical and civil engineering to electrical. “I didn’t care for electrical engineering. I still tell people electricity to me is really weird stuff. About the only thing I handle now is switching the light on and off,” laughs Zelinski. “That’s how far I am removed from the engineering part of it.”
Nevertheless, Zelinski advanced quickly in his career at Edmonton Power. However, after three years of taking money rather than vacation time at the company’s request he decided he wanted two months off in the summer to make up for lost time. The company refused, but he took it anyway. He was fired on his return.
Zelinski was shocked, afraid, and upset. It was during the recession, and his job prospects were not good. To make matters worse, he lost most of his money in the stock market and had to sell the majority of his belongings. Yet, he was determined to neither work nor go to school for a year but just to enjoy leisure.
After taking time off, Zelinski eventually found himself back at the University of Alberta, this time in the MBA program. Graduating in 1987 with hopes of becoming a college instructor, Zelinski did manage to pick up some teaching positions; however, work was scarce. He was about $30,000 in debt from student loans, and he had to consider other options.
That’s when he decided to write and self-publish his first book about creativity, The Art of Seeing Double in Business (Ten Speed Press later picked the book up and renamed it The Joy of Thinking Big).
This marked the beginning of Zelinski’s successful career as a writer, entrepreneur, and professional speaker. In 1991, he wrote his second book, The Joy of Not Working. It was rejected by publishers, so Zelinski borrowed half the money from his mother to self-publish and market the book. Ten Speed Press finally printed it after he sold 50,000 copies in Canada. Today, this international bestseller has sold more than 250,000 copies and has been published in 21 languages.
“One of my biggest accomplishments was writing and self-publishing The Joy of Not Working,” says Zelinski. Despite the title, Zelinski is adamant that he isn’t anti-work. It’s about working smarter rather than harder and getting a balanced life.
Zelinski seems to have found that balance. This child-free bachelor rises around 11 a.m., runs or bikes for an hour in Edmonton’s river valley, writes at cozy coffee shops for about three to four hours a day, and prefers not to work at all in any month that doesn’t have an “r” in its name.
Since opting out of the traditional workplace more than 20 years ago, Zelinski does what he wants to do when he wants to do it. He also gains great satisfaction from the letters and correspondence he receives from his readers all over the world on a weekly basis, and he’s always amazed how his books affect people’s lives.
Zelinski has become something of a Canadian publishing phenomenon. “I’m really the exception in that I actually was able to make a living by writing all these years,” says Zelinski.
Canadian authors have roughly a one-in-ten chance of ever getting a manuscript published by a reputable publisher, and only one published book in ten ever gets translated. Zelinski has published 12 books, and every one has had at least three translations. His average is seven translations per book.
Zelinski and his books have received national press attention in both U.S. and Canada. Major newspapers such as USA TODAY, National Post, Oakland Tribune, Boston Herald, Toronto Star, and Vancouver Sun have featured him; he’s been interviewed by more than 100 radio stations and has appeared on CNN’s Financial News, CBC’s Venture, and CTV’s Canada AM.
Zelinski’s books are successful because they have universal appeal. Filled with humorous anecdotes, quotes, and cartoons, they are both entertaining and enlightening. From The Lazy Person’s Guide to Success to The Joy of Not Being Married, Zelinski never ceases to inspire and provoke his readers to pursue their life’s passions.
His success also lies in knowing his market and following social trends closely. During the recession in the 1990s, the unemployed ate up The Joy of Not Working. And one of his most recent books, How to Retire Happy Wild and Free, caters to aging baby boomers.
Zelinski is particularly proud of the mere fact that he successfully completed his U of A engineering degree. “I don’t know what the failure rate is,” he smiles, “but I remember the speech given to the freshman class: ‘Look to the left and look to the right; neither of the two people you see will be here by the time you graduate.’” Zelinski notes that the skills he developed during his engineering career have proved very valuable to him as a writer and self-publisher.
“Working as an engineer at Edmonton Power gave me the skills of handling contracts, which I do now with publishers. I draft up my own contracts.” Many people are shocked when they find out Zelinski has both an engineering degree and an MBA, but has chosen not to make a more substantial income working in either profession.
“It’s true! Some people have made a lot better money than me throughout the years, but I still believe I’m going to catch up with them one day. Remember what I told you earlier: I’m the tortoise,” smiles Zelinski. After all, his success is just starting to roll. His latest book about friendship will be out this year, and he’s hoping for a total of 100 book deals in the next few years.
“I’m feeling more prosperous than I ever have in my life!” he exclaims. I’m only working two to three hours a day, and I have my freedom too.”
By Ann Marie Pelletier
The Joy of (Not) Engineering - Faculty of Engineering - Magazine ...
Ernie Zelinski (Electrical '73) ... Upon graduation,


Job Loss Image #1

Here is an e-mail that I recently received from a reader of The Joy of Not Working which also shows how the loss of a job can create a golden opportunity. 


I have changed the person's name in case the information is sensitive:



  The Joy of Not Working Cover Image

Hello Ernie:

Another co-worker and I had the great good fortune of being laid off at the end of June. We decided that we were the lucky ones. Only after we were out of the negative work environment did we realize how much stress we had been carrying and how exhausted we were. It took a couple of weeks of rest, good nutrition, and tender loving care from friends before I felt human again and didn't ache all over. Plus it took a while to file for unemployment benefits and to get back to the job-hunting game.

Once I was done with all the paperwork hassle, I picked up a few books to read in between doing housework and sending out resumes. I started with Michael Shuman's books, The Small-Mart Revolution and Going Local (I was curious about how to sustain local economies), then proceeded with Robert Fritz's The Path of Least Resistance (how to apply creative techniques that artists use to living my own life). After that, I picked up your book, The Joy of Not Working.

I am about halfway through the book and yesterday I finished my first leisure tree. Wanting more bang for my buck, I made a game out of trying to combine as many things as I could from the tree into a single day, and I made a game plan over morning coffee. I am interested in horses, I want to learn to ride dressage, I enjoy reading and writing and walking/hiking, and I need to exercise (both for health and to be a better rider). So I combined those things and created "dressage Monday" -- which of course I won't just be doing on Mondays, but I had to start somewhere, right? Here's how it went:


Read: articles on riding in Dressage Today magazine
Exercise: yoga - full set, for at least 20 minutes
drink a full glass of water
Exercise: leg stretches, using a step in the kitchen

break for lunch

Reading: three chapters of the book Balance in Movement (applying physiotherapy to achieve a proper seat on the horse)
Exercise: walking my elderly dog to the local post box, to post greeting cards (I decided to send the cards so that I would have to walk to the post box today!)
Watching: video of dressage training by Reiner Klimke
Watching: gold medal performance by Reiner Klimke in 1984 Los Angeles olympic games (on YouTube)
Exercise: 15 minutes on rebounder (mini trampouline)

break for a drink and a snack

reading: more articles in Dressage Today magazine
writing: sending a long email to Ernie J. Zelinski

It's a little after 6 pm now (I'm in Ohio, on Eastern time), and I still have plenty of time to do other things, like more reading and some weight training in the evening.

Exercise had been a problem for me in the past. I had so much tension in my body that it hurt even to do yoga! But now that I am not in a negative job situation, I find that exercise is very easy. Not only does it not hurt, but it is more meaningful because I have a specific goal in mind: strengthening my body to be able to balance better when I am riding and to ride for longer periods of time. I think that having a goal for exercise is a huge thing. For me, lack of exercise wasn't because of taking the easy way out, it was because I was in pain and also because I didn't have a specific purpose or goal for it.

Now that I am coordinating my activities for a common purpose, everything is incredibly easy to start and easy to continue through to the end (reading three chapters of a book, doing 15 minutes of rebounding, etc.). My day has been joyful and effortless and full of activity!

It all started when I decided to start training and studying like an olympian, since I no longer have that pesky full-time job.

Living in the USA, however, I am concerned about the fact that I will only be able to keep my health insurance for nine months. I will try to find a paying gig with benefits before then, but in the meantime I will be making huge progress in my riding, and the exercise and learning will be building my confidence for whatever I will choose to do down the road. In order to keep my horse, my husband and I have been cleaning stalls and helping to care for horses in exchange for my horse's board.

Plus, my riding coach wants a website, and he will give me some free lessons in exchange for website development and writing, which we will be glad to do for him. You cannot imagine what a relief it is for me to be able to keep my horse, I've had him for nearly six years, and he's a member of the family. It's also a big relief to still have lessons from a great coach; my friend and I just found out about him last winter, and I'd hate to lose him, too!

I am very grateful for your book, to show me how to give my life a specific direction and to re-frame my job loss as a golden opportunity.

One thing that I have to thank you for specifically is for mentioning reading as an activity that is active. I had been kicking myself for sitting around and reading -- even though I was learning a lot through my reading and the Fritz book was about a technique that would help me through life and help me find meaningful work -- because I saw it as passive. I was incredibly relieved when I saw reading on your leisure tree! I put it on mine as well, and now I can actually feel good about the reading I am doing, and that is another huge weight off my shoulders.

My time between jobs will not be a worrisome time for me, because I am now a woman on a mission and I am test-driving the life I will live the next time I am between jobs. It is and will be a joyful life full of self-directed learning and exploring.

Even when I am once again working at a job, I'll have a better idea of how to manage my time in the future. I will continue to be an olympian-in-training even while working 40 hours a week and planning how I can create my own business, so I will eventually be able to rid myself of the next pesky full-time job that I happen to acquire.

All the best,
Sharon P.



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