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Rethinking and Achieving Success
on July 27, 2006
If you read and apply only one self-help book this year, I recommend that it be Succeed on Your Own Terms.
Most books about success aim readers at impossible heights of accomplishment and then provide 6-8 rules that are "guaranteed" to get you there. Then the authors head off for lots of speaking engagements where they earn six-figure pay days. Those books reek of dishonesty . . . from their obviously ghost-written prose to their calm assurance that everyone can be perfect if they just make a few simple changes.
Succeed on Your Own Terms is a happy exception: The book's authors have instead helped over 25,000 companies to improve the effectiveness of their people. Herb Greenberg is an inspiration also for having developed the consulting firm, Caliper, despite having lost his sight. But he doesn't play that up unlike those who are seeking to cash in on your eagerness for success.
You are also freed from the world's definitions of success: "The biggest ever . . . " Instead, you are encouraged to connect with what feels right for you to be doing.
From there, the book is filled with dozens of mini-biographies of the mental processes that people have used to achieve what they define as success. I thought that these insights were worth 500 of those books that give you 6-8 steps. I was also pleased to see that the magnificence of the accomplishments was underplayed . . . rather than overplayed as is so often done. For example, the biography of Mugsey Bogues, the shortest NBA player ever, doesn't dwell on his height limitations . . . but rather on how he thought about what he had to do.
You'll probably find some of these people familiar such as Ben Vereen, Senator Barbara Boxer, Roger Staubach, Jeffrey Laurie, Michael Graves, Congressman John Lewis, Congressman Charles Rangel, Sonny Barger, Senator Debbie Strabenow, Governor Jon Corzine and G. Edward Hanway. But many of the stories of the "unknowns" are actually quite a bit more interesting and inspiring. I recommend the stories about Samuel Pisar, Rebecca Stephens, Daisy Myers, Angelo Chianese, Paul Schulte, Susan Magrino, and Elizabeth Elting.
By the way, the examples disproportionately favor those who have worked for social justice. If that's not something that interests you, you'll be looking in vain for material about Ann Coulter.
That said, the most useful material in the book comes in Part IV that deals with Defining Moments, Having a Lesson for Your Children, What Does It All Mean? and How to Discover Your Own Defining Qualities. This last material culminates in a very revealing set of 35 questions that I encourage you to ponder, answer and review your answers from time to time.
But one of the nice surprises of the book is that you can take a free assessment of your qualities and how you can improve your effectiveness based on the famous Caliper method. Be prepared to spend some time on this. It's not timed and you are told it will take about 90 minutes. I spent over two hours and felt the time was well spent. The report that came back neatly defined both my strengths and the things I need to do to make those strengths more effective. Nice!