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Trivialities served with incredible pomp
on April 28, 2000
Imagine Coca-Cola served in a golden beaker, presented to you as a wonder medicine that cures all the diseases. That's what this book's like.
The book tells a story of a man who, despite of his tremendous professional success, feels empty and unhappy. He meets a professor who introduces to him a way of becoming an On-Purpose Person - finding a purpose in one's life.
Sounds great, you say. There, that's the golden beaker I was talking about. The actual contents of the book are very banal. The first sixty-something pages are dedicated to a vague presentation of a most primitive goal setting and selection system: 1. write down all the things you want that you can think of; 2. choose the things you want most. And yes, Mr. McCarthy actually manages to waste sixty pages on that! Of course, this shouldn't make you think that he's very thorough or detailed or something. Roughly 80 % of his text is just the hero driving around and hearing how good the new system is and thinking how happy he feels. In the remaining 20 %, Mr. McCarthy actually describes the system in a very wordy, but unfortunately not at all in a systematic or comprehensive way. The system itself contains nothing new, compared to the one presented by Raymond Hull in his book How To Get What You Want thirty years ago. I've been doing things like that for years, I kept writing want lists, prioritizing them, reaching my goals - and still feeling empty and purposeless. Mr. McCarthy's book was of no help at all.
Well, I was talking about the first sixty pages. The rest of the book isn't much better. Our friend meets more and more people who tell him how happy they are, having found the purpose in their lives. You'll also hear a number of stories about famous people who's lives had purposes - Mother Theresa seems to be the author's special favor. The advice-to-blubber ratio decreases while the book progresses, then the book is over and you are left wondering what the heck was it all supposed to mean.
To sum up, the book can be considered almost worthless. You'll learn to set goals but you won't learn how to find out what really matters to you. If you haven't read ANY self-help books before, you might get something out of it. Yet, to really learn the goal-setting system Mr. McCarthy is trying to present in this book, you should read Mr. Hull's book I mentioned (if you succeed to find it). If you want to find your purpose, however, it will be hard for me to suggest anything - I am left pretty clueless by this book that I hoped would help me. However, Harry Browne's "How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World" just might provide you some kind of a start. One part of it is dedicated to that very subject and he presents three general techniques for trying to find out your purpose. (Be sure, however, to read the reviews carefully to decide if the book is compatible with your principles.)