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Discover Soulful Work: Interview with Jo-Ann Triner

Jo-Ann Triner’s new book, "Soulful Work 2.0: Powered by Inner-Person Potential," was inspired by her long-lasting fascination with callings as vehicles for expressing infinite love within communities. In her writings, she draws upon her spiritual journey and theological study in a religious community, her dissertation research on quality of life in the workplace, and thirty years of service in educational leadership roles.

Jo-Ann's career highlights include decades of service in a variety of educational leadership capacities including curriculum designer, instructional leader, grants writer, and independent researcher. She orchestrated her district in attaining a National Excellence Award and Best Practice Awards, showcasing her team approach to innovative education. Jo-Ann is now president of Soulful Work LLC and writes on the topic of principled leadership.

Beyond the accolades, "Soulful Work 2.0" is an invitation to explore the power of embracing one's calling and finding purpose within our daily lives. Through Jo-Ann's words, readers are encouraged to uncover their potential for growth and contribute love to their communities. This book is a journey of self-discovery that resonates with anyone looking for meaning in their everyday experiences. At the core of this book is a call for a radical rethink of the age-old employment model that has worn out its welcome.


You’ve had an interesting journey. Tell us a bit about your background.

Adult life for me began at the age of seventeen when I entered a Catholic Convent at the beckoning of my teachers who were nuns. This gave me a spiritual grounding that equipped me to see today’s societal issues from a different perspective. As I transitioned from this mission-driven culture to a money-driven culture 6 years later, I came away with a serious case of culture shock from which I have never quite recovered. After a few years in public relations, I began my 30-year professional career in Educational Leadership. Those career experiences offered wisdom from the practical playing field of life that I have applied in my book.

Jo-Ann Triner holds a Doctor’s Degree in Educational Administration with thirty years of service in high-level leadership roles. Now in her second career, she is founder and president of Soulful Work LLC, set up for the advancement of principled leadership and the creation of soulful work cultures. Her writings are at the confluence of her spiritual journey and theological study in a religious community, her dissertation research on quality of life in the workplace, and her own leadership experiences.

As an administrator, Jo-Ann was an award-winning grants writer, curriculum designer and instructional leader. She worked with the brightest and the best, orchestrating a National Excellence Award, Best Practice Awards, and countless other recognitions for innovation in education. She has enjoyed a lifelong fascination with social issues of the soul-deep kind.

Triner currently serves on the Board of Directors, the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, a non-profit founded by Sir John Templeton to achieve cultural transformation through a blend of scientific research, spiritual-philosophical reflection, and effective practice.

What inspired your book, Soulful Work 2.0?

This book arose organically at the confluence of 4 distinct life experiences, each like a tributary feeding into one great river current:

In transitioning from a mission-driven culture to a money-driven culture, I experienced enormous cultural shock. In the first few months, I witnessed ruthless competition, people working at a frenzied pitch, one-upmanship, winning at any expense, betrayals, bullying, and rapid occupational burnout. I entered a culture of product over people, self-importance over the common good, and public victory at the price of personal defeat. The humanizing culture of my past was displaced by the dehumanizing culture that destroyed many from the inside out. This contrast is part of the inspiration.

My educational leadership experiences offered a window into the lives of working people from all walks of life: teachers, students, support staff, and parents in the wider educational community, all struggling with quality of life issues relevant to their work. With doctoral studies underway, this job morphed into a qualitative study on this topic.

My doctoral dissertation research on quality of work-life was followed by decades of research and development focused on the nature of work, the history of work, the hazards of work, and the future of work in the coming Age of Artificial Intelligence

These diverse dimensions of my life inspired the book. They represent a multi-faceted approach to the problem of an oppressed workforce that could be ascertained no other way.

Why is it important for you to get this book out there?

It is important for me to get this book out in order to accomplish the following:

To connect with my audience and to give them a voice.

To respond to a critical need for a radical rethink of the way we work.

To coalesce the critical mass of painfully employed people for whom I write.

To offer a vision as we leave the Industrial Age past and enter the Age of AI.

To demonstrate, strong, bold, daring, compassionate leadership.

To change the unrewarding nature of work that is now a cultural norm.

To bring labor and management into a common conversation as we plot a way forward.

Because the timing for this book has never been more right.

Because a critical mass of employees and employers is coalescing over one of the greatest sociological issue of our time.

Because the rising generation wants no part of the old industrial model of employment.

Because this is a 7.8 trillion dollar problem worldwide

Because employee disengagement is one the rise, the timing has never been more right.

What do you hope people take away from your book?

As a reader, you will understand the dramatic difference between employment of the outer person of flesh and bones versus the inner person of soul and substance. If you act upon that, then your suffering will bear fruit. You will not have suffered in vain. Best of all, you will be more equipped to redeem yourself from the soul-depleting work of the present moment that robotic machines can easily replicate. You will opt for being fully human in a world bent on dehumanizing. By contrast with our AI counterparts, we will quickly discover the heart and soul strengths that set us apart.

You will come to know that there is no way out of this societal predicament but IN. The argument for soul as the elusive success factor is founded on universal principles, not the time-honored norms and management trends that keep us mired in stultifying work. You will emerge with a deep understanding of what this means for you and for the future we all want.

Because you know better, you will do better. I promise readers that this body of work is not another heady exercise in profiteering from the pain of harried employees. It emerges from a lifetime of service and from considerable spiritual work. Wisdom emerges no other way.

The painfully employed may find solace. Managers, supervisors and organizational leaders will find insight, deep wisdom, soulful work principles and operational ideas that will fuel the radical rethink and bring about a necessary societal shift.

Part of your focus is on a radical rethinking of the way we work. Can you elaborate on that?

Since the dawn of the 1st Industrial Revolution to this moment, we have been on one giant trajectory leading us into a downward spiral. Countless innovations have numbed us all to the word “change”. As we now enter the 5th industrial Revolution and the Age of AI, we need a radical departure, not yet another “revolution” (going in circles) but the end of an employment paradigm that has been on life support since the very beginning. Yet another change for change sake would be agonizing and futile. For this reason, we need a radical rethink.There is work and there is the empty shell of work. There is soul-satisfying work and soul-depleting work. There is work that dignifies and work that denigratess, work that exhalts and work that demeans. Soulful Work 2.0 takes readers through our lhistory in this god-forsaken place and into a vision for the future that abandons the cold logic of profit and loss. This represents a radical rethink.

The magnitude of what lies before us represents no small change. This time it is Millennial Change of the soulful kind, built upon the premise that we are creatures of high callings, finally ready to embrace the whole prosperity package, not simply the paycheck. Radical indeed!

Full engagement requires something beyond the work of the body and the work of the mind. It requires the work of the heart and soul that will separate us from our robotic counterparts and allow us to reclaim our rightful place of preeminence on the planet.

What 4 steps can we take in America to turn this around?

STEP ONE: Engage in a national conversation and “radical rethink” of our centuries-old employment paradigm that has been on life-support for a very long time.

As Gallup Polls indicate, worker disengagement has been on the rise for decades, costing at least $450 to $500 billion in the USA and approximately $7.8 trillion worldwide in 2022 alone. Beyond the bleed of money that impacts our economy is the human toll that is incalculable. We must give voice to this fiercely important message that begs for a grassroots conversation of the compassionate kind.

STEP TWO: Commence a grassroots movement to flip the centuries old employment paradigm inside out with a value shift from products to people and to their quality of life.

From the dawn of the First Industrial Revolution until now, we over-valued products and services while under-valuing humans who do the work. In that age-old “Product Over People” mentality, we produced faster and better until we exhausted ourselves and plundered the planet. Tired of the felt tyranny of life in the workplace, the rising generation wants no part of this, a problem for labor and management alike.

STEP THREE: Learn how to moderate our hyper-cognitive minds so that we can access the higher intelligence of the heart.

Let us hasten the day when our AI counterparts with their high intelligence and mechanical dexterity can do the dog work. This frees up humankind to do the heart and soul work for which we were so ingeniously designed. A new era of soul-sustaining work will soon displace the soul-depleting work of the past IF we return to our true essence and our true callings.

Pure reasoning alone is not enough to get us out of the woods. Given the intensity of world affairs, we need to develop the qualities of heart that moderate our minds. In that sacred heart space, we find redemption from the societal mayhem in which people either self-medicate and ruminate about ways to self-destruct. Mind is only helpful to the extent that it informs the heart. This disconnect has been our default position for far too long and accounts for all of the argumentation and polarization of our day.

STEP FOUR: Think about the whole constellation of solutions imbedded in the book.

Inside, readers will find practices and principles that can free us from the old employment paradigm. They will discover that there is no way OUT of our present-day dilemma but IN where we operate from our center. This center is where our super-powers lie in abeyance, awaiting activation, and this is how we reclaim our rightful place of pre-eminence on the planet, especially in the coming Era of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

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