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Guiding Lights: How to Mentor-and Find Life's Purpose Paperback – November 28, 2006

3.9 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"We are all teachers," writes former Clinton speechwriter and author of The Accidental Asian. We all have something of value to transmit to others, and Liu has a new spin on how best to do it. Having spent two years talking with official and informal instructors and their students from all walks of life, Liu arrived at five strategies he believes are integral to teaching. These include receiving before transmitting—that is, tuning in to the student's unique qualities and motivations; unblocking and unlocking—helping students overcome their inner obstacles; and zooming in and out—breaking the subject down and then connecting it other matters. A good teacher himself, Liu embeds his lessons in narratives, e.g., following a baseball pitching coach through a season and tracking Jocelyn Wong's climb up the career ladder at Procter & Gamble thanks to a supervisor who was able to see and release the creative passion Wong had suppressed. Liu is a skillful writer and has homed in on points that can help anyone who teaches, whether a parent, a professional mentor or just an older and wiser friend. But he's also a good storyteller, and his anecdotes are frequently more illustrative of great teaching than his theories.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

This book documents the stories of 15 mentors as well as the very personal journey of a former Clinton speechwriter, journalist, and author (The Accidental Asian, 1998). Two years in the researching and writing, this is a riveting analytical description of how great teachers made a difference and how they work their magic. The 15 stories are as disparate as American lives: Ivana Chubbuck, a Hollywood acting coach, who's instructed Halle Berry and Eriq LaSalle; eurhythmics teacher Bob Abramson, who helps students release their inner musician; and chef Alice Waters, of Berkeley's Chez Panisse, who gives to youngsters a real sense of what food and agriculture mean. The five common lessons that Liu extracts are, perhaps, not world shattering, but they do help define and refine what the best of mentors should be: one-on-one listeners, unblockers of barriers and negative self-images, interpreters of commingling relationships, designers of great cultures, and enablers of role switching, allowing students to experience teaching. The very worthwhile outcome of 24 months of thought and study. Barbara Jacobs
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (November 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375761020
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375761027
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #739,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is one of the finest, most beautifully written books I have read in years. As someone who has just completed the jump from always being the protege to being both mentor and protege, I am amazed by how the stories of teaching and learning in all walks for professional life--from the boardroom to the streets to the stage to the classroom--are relevant to me. Liu's admonishment at the beginning of the book not to just read the stories that seem directly relevant was well placed. I strongly encourage everyone who is concerned about the selfishness in our society and in our professional environments to read this book. Liu's lessons will help you understand who influenced you and why--and will challenge you to pass on what you have learned to those around you. And he will give you concrete tools for doing so in a way that empowers both student and teacher. This is a book for everyone and could not have been published at a more necessary time in American history. I expect it to be (deservedly) a best seller. Liu's prose is brilliantly descriptive and evocative. You will enjoy this book very much. If you enjoy it as much as I did, then you should buy a second copy and pass it along to a friend who would benefit, and challenge them to do the same. Together, we can start a movement in this country of one-on-one life-changing transformation.
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Format: Hardcover
This engaging book is about falling in love with learning and moving learning into living.  Author Eric Liu writes, "All thinking is analogy-making.  All learning is analogy-finding.  All teaching is analogy-showing."  His book is filled with analogies drawn from his own fascinating life and from the mentors he spent two years observing and working with as he experienced their processes of teach ing and empowering.  These experiences took him to hundreds of locations including schools, a baseball training camp, dance and music studios, corporate offices, a prison, a gangland "hood" and an Ivy League college.  Liu has woven a richly colored and textured tapestry of learning from a variety of cultures and occupations, as well as failings and strivings and successes that mark contemporary life in the United States.  Every teacher and learner should own this book.  
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Format: Hardcover
This is a beautiful book that explores learning and mentorship in the broadest human and existential context, and draws fresh insights from this approach. Liu investigates the interaction between great teachers and their pupils not only from the standpoint of their particular craft, but the broader story of how teacher and pupil find themselves brought together, change each other as human beings, and eventually go their separate ways. It shows us how teaching can be not just a 9 to 5 gig, but perhaps the activity that shows our distinct human-ness better than any other. Anyone with interests in education and mentorship, or who has been touched by a teacher of the past, would see in this book a reflection of themselves.
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Format: Hardcover
Recommendation Eric Liu is a gifted, practiced writer whose prose shines, particularly when he writes about his life. This book chronicles his quest to learn what makes someone a great mentor. Quest genre sagas share lessons learned along the course of the journey, and usually culminate with some variation of Judy Garland's parting words in 'The Wizard of Oz': "...if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with!" Liu's verbal gifts and originality enable him to avoid most, but not all, of this New Age genre's pitfalls. Liu discovers the five characteristics of great teachers, as personified by the 15 delightfully diverse mentors he interviewed: a sought-after Hollywood acting instructor, a major league pitching coach, a forensics teacher, a corporate motivational speaker and more. Liu approaches each mentor with reverent inspection, as if each unknowingly possesses a clue to the puzzle of what makes a teacher extraordinary. While the book's business relevance may be somewhat limited, Liu's essay-stories are consistently original, thoughtful and engaging. That's why we give this book a strong recommendation, particularly for coaches and trainers.
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