The ancient Greek philosopher Plato once said, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”

In a book out this week, “Way of Zing: A Guide to Aligning Work & Life,” the authors take that notion further, offering their thoughts on ways to not only examine your life, but to make choices that can lead to a more fulfilling and prosperous one.

As a former president and CEO of the Nelson Family of Companies, locally known as Nelson, co-author Mark Gregory Nelson interviewed, placed and counseled thousands of people over the years. It astounded him, he said, to find that people who had successful careers hated their jobs.

“The number of people that are disengaged in their work and lives is startling. Too many people … feel little connection between their internal passions and their day-to-day work activities. Prosperous businesspeople are unhappy — living lives that are misaligned and out of sync with what really matters to them,” Nelson wrote with co-author William Silver, dean of the School of Business and Economics Department at Sonoma State University, in the book.

The authors also found in their careers that recent college graduates were unprepared for the challenges work and life throws at them, also lacking passion and purpose. Then there are the people who may enjoy what they do and find satisfaction in it but don’t get paid enough.

“There are people struggling. They may be successful on the outside, with a prestigious job, the car, the money, but they are spiritually or morally bankrupt,” Silver said.

Nelson said he had an epiphany in about 2000, when it struck him that no one had put the two things together — how to be passionate about your work and get paid well — in a book.

“There are books on finding your happiness and passion, and then on the business side, there are books on how to build your business. I felt there was a huge disconnect,” Nelson said about writing the book.

“Way of Zing” provides practical tools to do that, and achieve work–life alignment, using something they created called a “Zing Compass.”

Points on the compass are “Prosperity, Discovery, Meaning, Connection.”

They contend the compass can help readers focus on why they are taking a certain path, and which other paths they should consider.

Using the compass process, the authors say their process suggests the reader ask themselves why they are choosing a particular course of action, whether to prosper, to discover, to connect, and/or to create meaning? If the answer to does not fall into one (or more) of the four quadrants of the compass, they suggest people ask “why?” again. And again.

In this way the compass is used to examine one’s life inside and out, to look deeply into fundamental values, ideas, feelings, and beliefs to find out what are your core passions are and why you do the things you do.

As someone understands their inner core, it becomes possible to follow a work/life path that is fulfilling and matters.

“Create a dialog with the world and yourself. Ask yourself over and over what really matters and why. I ask myself that all day long: ‘Why am I going to the coffee shop?’ Do that and the universe will speak to you,” Nelson said.

The compass is also a directional guide, providing answers as to why you are taking a certain path in front of you, and also what the world needs from you. It offers 16 “Zing Pathways” — practices to help be more vital and relevant.

“Which path in front of me will have purpose and also relevance to others?” Nelson said. “It’s a different way of thinking about life with objective practicality. We often forget to take a pause and say, ‘Wait a minute, how can I look objectively at my life externally and internally?’”

Nelson and Silver met at SSU years ago and found they had many of the same values and beliefs, and differing views that complimented each other.

And they walk their talk. Neither considers what they do for a living “work.”

Nelson “works” at Altus Equity, a real estate investment group, and he is also a father, husband, philanthropist and mentor to aspiring entrepreneurs.

“It’s been a trip, building the model and actually living it,” he said.

In addition to being the Sonoma State business school dean, Silver is on the board at Sonoma County Vintners, a father and husband.

When asked what he does for work, Silver said he doesn’t have just one job and can’t ever tell if it’s work or not.

“I would put working in quotations,” he said. “Everything you do in life is an opportunity to satisfy yourself and the world, if they are aligned. The idea of Zing is that anyone can live a life where who they are is what the world needs from them. We want to align the world one person at a time.”

Cynthia Sweeney covers health care, hospitality, residential real estate, education, employment and business insurance. Reach her at Cynthia.Sweeney@busjrnl.com or call 707-521-4259.