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Creating the Good Life :Applying Aristotle's Wisdom to Find Meaning and Happiness Hardcover – April 14, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-1594861253 ISBN-10: 1594861250 Edition: First Edition

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

To adopt O'Toole's own categories, this is a self-help book not for the many but for the rest of us—those willing to expend intellectual and emotional discipline in planning a life to fulfill one's potential: the true source of happiness, according to the author. O'Toole, a senior fellow at the Aspen Institute and author of more than a dozen books, confesses to having hungered in vain after literary stardom. Prompted by this disappointment to reconsider his life path, O'Toole began to ponder the relationship between happiness and success, and in this chatty, stimulating and at times gossipy self-help guide for professionals and business people, he shares his findings. Turning to Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, he finds that the ancient philosopher forces one to ask oneself tough questions and to abandon youthful fantasies about money, power and fame. O'Toole goes on to critique in Aristotelian terms the values, life choices and deeds of prominent "successful" Americans, including Rudolph Giuliani, Bill Gates, Silicon Valley legend Jim Clark, high-tech entrepreneur Larry Ellison and numerous leading CEOs. He discusses what he casts as the immaturity of Bill Clinton and praises the "truest Aristotelian" he knows—a former high school chum who abandoned a business career to mentor 29 underprivileged children. O'Toole's dogged application of Aristotelian principles to the business world is thought provoking and engaging.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

JAMES O'TOOLE is research professor in the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California and Mortimer J. Adler Senior Fellow of the Aspen Institute. He has written 14 books, the most recent being Leadership A-Z. He lives in San Francisco, California.

WALTER ISAACSON, the president of the Aspen Institute, has been the chairman of CNN and the managing editor of Time magazine. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller Benjamin Franklin.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books; First Edition edition (April 14, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594861250
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594861253
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #265,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps you're now asking the same question I once did: "Given the fact that he lived almost 2,400 years ago, what could Aristotle possibly have to say that is directly relevant to me?" In fact, a great deal. So many of us today -- especially those at mid-life -- are engaged in a search to find meaning and happiness. We often ask, as Peggy Lee once did, "Is that all there is?" The purpose of this book is show how Aristotle is an effective guide on that search, and how he can help each of us find our own practical answer to a critically important question, "What's next?"

In an interview to appear in the July/August (2005) issue of Chamber Executive magazine, O'Toole observes that "Aristotle was the most practical of all great philosophers. His audience was the business and political leadership of his day. He offered them wisdom they could apply in their own lives -- practical advice on matters ranging from ethical business practices to effective philanthropy. Aristotle even describes 'virtuous non-retirement' -- the lifelong commitment to engage in leisure work which is characterized by pursuit of the 'highest good' of individual excellence and the 'complete good' of community service. He offers practical tests to help us determine how much wealth we need to support us while we engage in those activities."

O'Toole goes on to say, "So my challenge was not making Aristotle relevant to today's successful professionals and managers; instead, I faced the nearly impossible task of making his difficult language clear to modern readers [begin italics] without dumbing it down [end italics]. I had to find a way to explore the depth and complexity of Aristotle in a way that makes sense in an age of sound bites and blogs.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Paul A. Baier on May 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The book is a recast of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics which was summarized ih Mortimer Adler's Time of Our Lives. What James O'Toole does well is to weave his personal story and struggles with these issues in a language and context of today. I found this personal view refreshing and move Aristotle's theory to a very practical level. The book is clearly aimed at baby boomers, like himself, who are struggling with meaning and unfulfilled career aspirations. Personally, O'Toole's writing got me to think more about the question of whether all vices are "fun and exciting" and all virtue is "boring". The book is easy to ready and allows one to access easily Aristotle's important writings. I recommend it for anyone struggling with these issues.


Boston, MA
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Page Hudson on February 8, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a book by a businessman for other businessmen, those who want to justify their lives by placing Aristotle in their CV. His audience appears to be wealthy middle aged executives looking for ways to feel good when they have piled up enough money. The practical solutions: life-long learning, giving back and keeping mentally alert are supremely pedestrian.
I learned enough classical Greek (in my mid 40s) to read Aristotle (very slowly) and Homer and Plato (also really slowly) too. I am not convinced O'Toole has even read him in translation. Perhaps another businessman's 'Pocket Guide'?
The Greek is far less rigid than the "meanings" O'Toole assigns to Aristotle. Homer and Plato he uses merely as straw men, foils to his interpretation of Aristotle (e.g. O'Toole repeats several times that Plato's idea of lifetime happiness is accumulation of material goods, nothing else). If you are rich and righteous and want to bolster the way you feel about yourself, this is for you. The format is pretty traditional among business self-help books: general principles a few anecdotes detailing the successful application of the ideas in fabulously successful CEO types and a sprinkling of how ordinary people can use the principles too.
Aristotle (and Plato and Zeno and Epicurus) all have immediate and relevant things to say to us today. Adapting principles to your own precise condition is hard. The writing we have are to stimulate ideas, to point ways. We have to discover and shape unique ways suitable for our life and times. If you suspect Aristotle has ideas that might change, might startle or color your life, go read him. If you want smug banalities and a book about business leadership, start here.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By MB747 on April 5, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book starts out with a strong review of Aristotle's ethics the application of these ethics to life in the 21st century. The writing is clear and easy to follow, even if you have no background in philosophy.

The second half of the book is weak. The book profiles people that the author believes have clearly failed or succeeded at finding happiness as Aristotle would define it. Unfortunately, almost all of the examples cited are wealthy, white men in their 50s, 60s and 70s. The book would have been much stronger if the author had profiled a broader range of people.
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By Stephen Parry on January 11, 2009
Format: Paperback
I had my attention drawn to this work by a reference to it in a Charles Handy book, and as I trust his judgement I bought the book. I was not disappointed.

For the very first time I understood Aristotle and his philosophical approach to life in general, I have even gone back to his original works and I found greater insight and enjoyment.

Creating the good life is not a dry exposition of Aristotelian ideas, its a very personal and relevent application of his ideas into the modern setting.

The themes are revealed by James O'Toole explaining his own struggles and assumptions, how one moment he thinks he has 'got it' and the next he has to re-think, but each time moving forward exposing the fallacies of his previous views on life.

If you are in mid life and are still searching for purpose then taking the time to absorb these ideas will at least provide you with a route map of discovery
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