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In Lean Out- A Meditation on the Madness of Modern Life, current affairs journalist Tara Henley sets out to discover alternatives to the always-on work culture of North America. For the last decade, our culture has been conditioned to draw inspiration from the elite few who thrive in high-pressure environments, those who, from the desk to the home, perpetually “lean in.” But From early retirement enthusiasts in urban British Columbia to moneyless men in rural Ireland, Henley uncovers a parallel track, in which everyday citizens are quietly dropping out of the mainstream and reclaiming their lives from overwork in all kinds of weird and wonderful ways.
In 2016 Henley was at the top of her game, working at the heart of Canadian media. After almost two decades in the business, she had traveled the world, from Soweto to Bangkok to Borneo to Brooklyn, interviewing authors and community leaders, rappers and philanthropists, politicians and Hollywood celebrities. She had experienced the thrill of sitting down with Beyonce. And of arguing with Kanye West. But when she started getting chest pains at her desk in the newsroom, none of that seemed to matter.
As she began searching for a path to healing her body and mind, Henley came to a surprising realization- For the last decade, our culture has been conditioned to draw inspiration from the elite few who thrive in high-pressure environments; those who, from the desk to the home, can afford to—financially, personally—perpetually “lean in.” If we wanted innovative solutions to the epidemic of burnout and stress-related illness, it was time to talk to those who’d been forced to go in a different direction- the outliers, the creatives, the rebels, and the eccentrics.
Throughout her fascinating journey, Henley explores the underlying causes of these disparate movements—a rejection of consumerism, a growing appetite for social contribution and a quest for meaningful, face-to-face contact in this era of extreme isolation and loneliness—and shares hope and inspiration for anyone who has suffered from overwork.
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