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A Parable of Finding Your Place in Life

Written by David GregoryAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by David Gregory


List Price: $11.99


On Sale: May 20, 2008
Pages: 0 | ISBN: 978-0-307-44632-9
Published by : WaterBrook Press Religion/Business/Forum
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Business degree in hand, Logan enters the immense Universal Systems building and is hired as an organizational analyst — a trouble-shooter. His job: evaluate the company’s five divisions, each on a separate level and each operating on startlingly unique principles. Which set of principles is successful? Why is most of the company’s profit generated by one tiny division? What is real profit, anyway? And who is the enigmatic executive that Logan ends up reporting to?

Logan engages in a life-changing pursuit for The Next Level–a fascinating parable that will help you answer some of life’s most perplexing and vital questions. Joining Logan in evaluating each level’s approach, you’ll be inspired to consider the big picture of your own life from an entirely different perspective — one that holds the key to life’s ultimate purpose. No matter where you are now, get ready to embark on your own passionate pursuit of The Next Level.


Chapter 1

Looking for a job was the last thing Logan Bell wanted to be doing that morning. Playing video games, hiking, body-surfing, sleeping in–he could think of a hundred preferable alternatives.

But none paid the bills, and none provided an answer the next time his dad called and said, “So, Son, found another job yet?” That, perhaps, was his greatest motivation: having an answer. Any answer.

His dad, he had to admit, was right. Walking out on his first job after college, even if the boss was a complete jerk, didn’t look good on Logan’s résumé. Better to get another job immediately than take a much-needed break–especially a job at a leading software company. Logan’s undergraduate business degree might never land him where his dad was, near the top of a major high-tech company. But working for one would count for something.

Or so Logan thought as he pulled into the massive parking lot of Universal Systems Inc. “I’m here to apply for a job,” Logan told the first-floor receptionist. She smiled and pointed to a bank of elevators on her left.

“You need to see the Director. Fifth floor.”

“Is it true that you have to apply here in person?”

“Yes. You need to see the Director. Fifth floor.”

“The Director? Director of what–human resources?”

“No, the Director of the company.”

“You mean the CEO? The CEO sees people who just walk in off the street?”


“Is there someone a little lower down I could talk to? I’m not looking for an upper-level job.”

“No. The Director personally interviews all job candidates.”

Logan couldn’t imagine how the CEO of an organization so large could interview all applicants. Universal Systems occupied the entirety of an immense circular building with five unusually tall stories. Behind the receptionist, in all directions, stretched the first floor as far as the eye could see. It was filled with employees sitting at desks and in cubicles.

There seemed to be no point, however, in further discussing whom he should talk to. He stepped toward the elevators, then turned back to the receptionist.

“Where do I go once I get to the fifth floor?”

“You go to the Director’s desk.”

“And where would that be?” Based on what he saw on the first floor, he could imagine wandering for hours trying to find the Director’s desk.

“You won’t have any trouble finding it,” she assured him.

He turned and walked toward the elevators, unsure how her answer could possibly be true.

A few moments later the elevator doors opened to another expanse. Like the first floor, the fifth extended as far as the eye could see. There were no walls to impede one’s view of its massive length and breadth, just desks stretching forever. In fact, unlike the first floor, this one was almost bereft of people. In the distance, a group sat around a conference table.

Beyond them, Logan noticed a man sitting at a desk. He walked in that direction. The man behind the leather-topped oval desk looked to be about forty. He was dressed in a brown business suit with a blue tie. The nameplate on the desk read simply “Director.” He rose from his chair and extended his hand.

“Welcome to the fifth floor. What can I do for you?”

“My name is Logan Bell. I came to apply for a job.”

“Wonderful. Have a seat.”

Logan sat in a leather captain’s chair in front of the desk. “I’m…I’m a bit surprised to be directed to you. Do you really interview all applicants?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Do you have any openings? I’ve heard that this is the place to work.”

“We always have openings.”

“I’d like to see if I’m a match for any of them.”

“You will be.”

“What do you mean? You don’t know what I do.”

“All our job classifications are always open,” the Director replied.

This had quickly become the strangest interview Logan had ever experienced. Not that his experience was that extensive: a couple of summer jobs in high school, one all four summers of college, and his first post-college position.

“You mean, you are always hiring for all jobs?”


“Universal Systems must be growing by leaps and bounds.”

The second Logan said it, he cringed. That sounded so…juvenile, and it betrayed the fact that he hadn’t bothered to do a lick of research on the company before arriving.

The Director, however, didn’t seem to react adversely. “Yes, we are always growing.” He leaned back slightly in his chair. “So what is it you would like to do, Logan?”

“Well…” Logan couldn’t believe he was being asked such an open-ended question in an interview–assuming this really was a legitimate interview. “My degree is in business management. In my first job out of school, I was a human resources generalist at a chemical plant. But I’d like to work for a company like yours. My father is a senior vice president at Vescon Technologies, so…I figure high-tech is a good direction.”

“Why don’t you go to work there?”

“I just don’t know if that would work out so great, long term.”

“I understand.”

“So do you have any HR jobs available?”

“Of course,” the Director replied. “But let me ask you a question. Did you enjoy human resources?”

“Well, I realize my first job was entry level, and I would naturally be advancing into positions that would be more…”

He stopped. It was all BS, he knew. And something about this place and this man told him he could drop the BS. “No, not really.”

“Then there’s no point in having you do that, is there? What do you enjoy doing?”

Most of what he enjoyed doing, Logan figured, would be of little use to a company. But within his field of study, he found one topic especially interesting. “I really like OD–that’s organizational development.” He hesitated. “I suppose you know that. Anyway, I like to examine how a group or an organization works and figure out ways it can work better.”

“Then let’s have you be an organizational analyst. We’ve needed someone to do that kind of assessment here for some time. You sound like just the man.”

“Are you sure? I mean, I don’t have any real background in that. I just liked it best in school.”

“That’s good enough. You’ll learn more on the job.”

“Do you want to see my résumé?”

“No,” the Director replied. “You strike me as a bright, capable young man. I’m sure the quality of your work is fine.”

“Should I bring it for my second interview?”

“There is no second interview. You’re hired.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that. I always trust my first instinct.”

Logan stared at him, dumbfounded. The Director leaned forward in his chair. “Do you wish to accept the job or not?”

“Yes. Absolutely. I mean…I just can’t believe…” He shut up while he was ahead.

“So,” the Director continued, “let me further explain your job to you.”

Logan was to start on the first floor. An HR person named Kyle would set him up. He was to assess operations on that level–talk to employees, attend meetings, observe processes. Kyle would arrange access to everything he needed. He was to determine the biggest problem on the floor and report back to the Director.

“Wouldn’t it make more sense to assess the organization as a whole rather than level by level?” Logan asked.

“In most organizations that would be the case, but in this one the various levels operate independently. Each division of the company occupies a separate floor. They don’t have much interaction.”

“Maybe that’s a problem.”

The Director smiled. “Yes, I’ve considered that.”

He wrote something on a Post-it note and handed it to Logan. “You can simply e-mail me. Nothing long and complicated. Just your basic observations. You don’t have to impress me
with your report-writing ability.”

It all sounded simple. His job was to hang out, see how things worked, and determine what the problems were. Nothing could be easier. If he had written a dream job description himself, it wouldn’t have been this good.

“Do you have any questions?”

He hated to interject anything uncomfortable into the discussion, but certain issues hadn’t been addressed.

“You haven’t mentioned salary…”

“I’ll let Kyle go over that with you. I’m confident you’ll find the pay acceptable.”

“And benefits?”

“Ours are top notch. Kyle will review them with you.”

“And who will be my supervisor?”

“You’ll report directly to me.”

“To you? Always?”

“Yes. You’ll be my right-hand man, so to speak. My eyes and ears in the organization.”

“What would be my opportunities for advancement? That’s pretty important to me.”

“I understand. If you successfully analyze each of the first four levels, you will have the option of joining me here on the fifth. If you do”–he nodded toward those at the conference table–“you will be in pretty exclusive company. You will be rewarded commensurately, of course. But first you must succeed at your assignment.”

“So all I need to do is tell you the biggest problem on each level.”

The Director nodded. “Correct. Things around here are pretty simple, aren’t they? But don’t expect it to be easy.” He stood and extended his hand across the desk. “I am pleased to have you with us.”

Logan shook it. “Thank you, sir. I hope I can live up to the trust you’ve placed in me.”

“Come back and talk to me anytime,” the Director replied.

“Tell me how things are going. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to come up.”

“Who should I contact to set up an appointment?”

“No one. Just come up to the fifth floor.”

“Your secretary doesn’t screen people?”

“I don’t have a secretary. Just drop in. I’ll be here.”

“Okay…thanks. I mean, thank you, sir.”

Logan turned around, hiked past the conference table to the elevators, and descended to the first floor. He didn’t have the nerve to ask what he was really wondering–why the Director had the entire fifth floor virtually to himself. It seemed an awful waste of space, a problem he might note at a later date. But that wasn’t his concern at the moment. He was just glad to have a job–and a better one than he had ever imagined.
David Gregory

About David Gregory

David Gregory - The Next Level

Photo © Louis Deluca

DAVID GREGORY is the author of Dinner with a Perfect Stranger, A Day with a Perfect Stranger, The Next Level, The Last Christian, and the coauthor of the nonfiction The Rest of the Gospel. After a ten-year business career, he returned to school to study religion and communications, earning Master's degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary and the University of North Texas. A native of Texas, he now lives in the Pacific Northwest.



Praise for
Dinner with a Perfect Stranger
“Here’s a wonderful feast for the mind and soul! Pull up a chair and eavesdrop on this provocative conversation. If you’re like me, you’ll hear questions that match your own–and answers that can change your life.”
Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, and The Case for a Creator
“The choice is yours: Enjoy a delicious meal of, say, veal fantarella with grilled vegetables. Or spend a quiet hour reading Gregory’s book. You may find an altogether different sort of hunger has been sated by the final page. Brilliant in its simplicity, fearless in its presentation of the truth, Dinner with a Perfect Stranger is one invitation you’ll want to RSVP.”
Liz Curtis Higgs, author, Thorn in My Heart

Praise for
A Day with a Perfect Stranger
“Brilliant. Masterful. Filled with liberating truth.”
–Stephen Arterburn, best-selling author of Every Man’s Battle, founder and chairman of New Life Ministries
“Fasten your seat belt for another marvelously divine encounter with the Perfect Stranger! Once again, Gregory masterfully demonstrates just how passionately and intimately our God loves each one of us. If you are looking for an encouraging faith encounter, the Perfect Stranger books are the most palatable and powerful tools of our day.”
–Shannon Ethridge, best-selling author of Completely His, Every Woman’s Battle, and Every Woman’s Marriage
“While I like Dinner with a Perfect Stranger very much, I loved A Day with a Perfect Stranger. This book has the potential to make people think about what drives them, what keeps them from God, and what will ultimately fulfill them. In a feelings-based and satisfaction-driven society, this is an invaluable tool. People are hungering for the answers to questions Mattie gets to ask. I can’t wait to hand it out to friends who do not yet know the Stranger in their midst.”
–Lisa T. Bergren, best-selling author of The Begotten
“Deftly using narrative to touch on common objections to belief in God, [Gregory] contracts religiosity with relationship with God. As a light, brief introduction to the faith, A Day with a Perfect Stranger is a good pick for women seekers.
–Aspiring Retail
Discussion Questions

Discussion Guides

1. Level One (Chapters 1-4)

What’s the predominant outlook on life by employees on Level One? In other words, what do they see as the bottom-line reality of life? What do they seek as a result?

2. How common is this outlook in the world around you? Give examples. Do you find anything wrong with this outlook? If so, what exactly? Explain why.

3. Consider your priorities and goals in light of how you spend your time and money. In what ways do you have the same outlook as Level One employees?

4. Why does living as Level One employees do appeal to us? How does living this way fall short of our reason for being?

5. What do you think Logan’s aims are at the beginning of the book?

6. Level Two (Chapters 5-6)

What’s the predominant outlook of employees on Level Two? How do you see this outlook lived out around you?

7. Is there anything wrong with living to be ethical, or moral, or good, as Level Two people are doing? Is that to be the primary goal of our lives? Is there something more important than being good? If so, what?

8. In what ways do you buy into the outlook of Level Two as the primary purpose behind things you do? Give examples.

9. International Operations of Level Two is focused on the good deeds it can accomplish overseas–something that, on its face, is an excellent thing. How could this focus still miss the purpose of the Director and Shareholder? How does this affect your view of good deeds in the world? What about in your own life?

10. Level Three (Chapters 7-8)

On Level Three we encounter illustrations of people with differing views of ultimate reality–the nature of God, the nature of the universe/existence, and the meaning of life. Why is it easy for people to define ultimate reality as they would like it to be, instead of how it may actually be? How easy is it to see when this is happening in our own lives? Explain.

11. Take a look at your own dreams in life. What would you prefer ultimate reality to be like? (For example, a God who gives you what you want, or a God who rewards you for commendable self-effort.)

12. In what ways do your preferences concerning life make you susceptible to a skewed image of ultimate reality? Does your view of ultimate reality have a basis in fact that you can defend? Explain.

13. Level Four (Chapters 9-12)
Based on chapter 9, what appears to be the predominant outlook of Level Four employees? In what ways do your attitudes about life mirror this outlook?

14. Based on chapters 10 and 11, what is the truer picture of Level Four’s outlook on life? What are employees there really seeking? In what ways might you be seeking the same thing? What problems and disappointments (such as Ben expresses near the end of chapter 11) result on Level Four from this outlook on life? How do you relate to these problems and disappointments in your life?

15. How would you summarize the theme of the various seminar workshops in Chapter 11? What may be wrong with that theme? What would you say is the primary problem with the outlook of Level Four employees?

16. Does your outlook parallel that of Level Four employees? Explain how. What results does this produce in your life? Why don’t employees on Level Four experience the fulfillment that they expect upon arriving there? In what ways does this characterize your life?

17. Level Five (Chapters 13-15)

Why is outlook–the way people look at life–critical to Level Five? What is the predominant outlook of this level?

18. What is the principal change in outlook from Level Four to Level Five? Which of these outlooks most characterizes you now? Explain.

19. Why does seeing as the Director sees lead to producing the company’s true product? How does one learn to see as the Director sees?

20. How would you summarize the goal of employees on Level Five? To what degree is this goal yours in life too?

21. Near the end of chapter 15, the Director indicates that, contrary to Logan’s expectation, Logan isn’t yet capable of deciding whether he wants to work for his own sake or for the Director’s. Why is that the case? What does the Director tell Logan he needs to do instead? How does this relate to you?

22. What is your reaction to the last three paragraphs of the book? What do these paragraphs say about your own life?

23. The Next Level Overall

How would you characterize the Director’s heart toward Logan? What are the highest priorities, respectively, of the Shareholder and the Director?

24. How are these priorities reflected on Level Five? To what degree are they reflected in your life?

25. Why aren’t the outcomes of Levels One through Four regarded as real profit?

26. How have Levels One through Four in your life been training grounds to prepare you for Level Five?

27. What are the three main lessons you took away from The Next Level?

28. What do you think happens to Logan’s friend Kyle after the end of the book? What are your hopes for him?

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