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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. After all, who ever heard of a [begin italics] serious [end italics] self-help book? But that's what I set out to write."

As O'Toole explains in this book, Aristotle struggled with many of the same difficult circumstances (more than two centuries ago) which most of us face in 2005: " his career as a teacher and a consultant to leaders of ancient Athens, Aristotle thought long and hard about what it means to live a good life and how much it takes to finance it. His thoughts on this matter are particularly applicable today, given the baby boom generation's anxiety over insufficient retirement savings and shaky investments: Aristotle shows how we can find happiness at almost any level of income. Moreover, he argues that the ability to find true contentment correlates only tangentially with the amount of money one has cached away. Unlike so many of today's `life advisors,' Aristotle integrates financial planning with the broader task of life planning."

Throughout human history, there has been a constant challenge to get lifestyle and quality of life in appropriate balance. As O'Toole notes, "Aristotelian ethics concern moral decisions related to how we should allocate the limited time of our lives. We must each plan how we will allocate our energies among such activities as earning, learning, playing, being with friends and family, and participating in the community. As we make these choices, Aristotle warns, we will fail to achieve 'the chief good' -- that is, we will fail to be happy -- if we pursue the wrong ends."

If the pursuit of philosophy is to serve as a practical guide to action, and I believe it is, then the wisdom which Aristotle gained from his own experiences will guide and inform our own pursuit and achievement of "the chief good": personal happiness. In the Foreword to one of O'Toole's previously published books, The Executive's Compass, Lodwrick M. Cook (former chairman and CEO of Atlantic Richfield Company) explains O'Toole's use of the central metaphor: "The beauty of the compass is that it provides a framework for the executive to create order out of the growing chaos of cultural diversity and conflict of values. Like a real compass, [O'Toole's 'value compass'] helps us to find where we are, where others are, where we want to go, and how to get there. Like the Aspen experience itself, O'Toole's compass is aimed at developing executive judgment by expanding our understanding of the interrelationships of fundamental values."

Cook's comments are also relevant to Creating the Good Life. For those now struggling to define and then create the good life for themselves, whatever their current circumstances may be, Aristotle's wisdom can indeed serve as a "compass." In this volume, O'Toole prepares his reader to use it effectively.
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on May 30, 2005
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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on February 8, 2015
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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on July 15, 2014
"Considerable effort is required to develop the capacity for for moral choice, and it takes many years from birth to maturity to develop it." or "In Aristotle's construct, physical sight is natural, but ethical insight is learned" or "He tells us that moral blindness is unlike physical blindness and that the morally blind can learn, under certain circumstances, to see. The rub is that they first must acknowledge their blindness". And as I read this book, I'm only 39% in it, I'm enjoying every chapter and making highlights as I move along. My self at 72, and in good health and spirit, I find, that this is a book that may contribute to anyone who would like to do some thinking at anytime. I like it and I would recommend it.
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on July 13, 2016
This is written by and for baby boomers. The author seems to have relatively successful life but was not completely satisfied and in searching for "the" meaning. "A white man in his 50's or 60's sitting in his executive office in a stable company" is the image I could draw in my head reading the firat chapter. There's nothing wrong with the image but giving that image to the reader in the first chapter might be not that desirable if this book wanted to reach out to broader audience than his own kind. I am interested in Aristotle's and Adler's philosophy but I didn't want to proceed any further.
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on January 11, 2009
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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on April 5, 2006
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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on January 11, 2015
Excellent Book for anyone interested in finding answer to the eternal question ' How am i supposed to live my life ' !
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on April 1, 2016
Keep returning to it after first read several years ago.
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on December 18, 2014
Bought it for my husband and he likes it.
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