77 of 78 people found the following review helpful
It is important to understand the two methodologies by which the authors obtained the material for this book. As they explain, first they completed more than 200 personal interviews from 1996 to 2006; after analyzing the responses, they identified 21 broad topic categories that emerged from the conversations. "The strongest of these made it into the book." Then, with their manuscript already drafted, they tested their assumptions by creating a unique independent survey to challenge their conclusions. What they call their "World Success Survey" was made available online (on April 18, 2006) to subscribers to Knowledge@Wharton. More than 365 people from around the globe responded within the first week.
"This independent sample of data provided a comparison set and validation for our interview findings, and showed significant differences in perceptions and mindsets between respondents categorized as `successful' or `unsuccessful' in their professional or personal lives."
It should also be noted that the authors "overlaid an unusual time limitation" on the "universe" of people interviewed: a 20-year minimum. With very few exceptions, they eliminated those who had achieved significant success in their careers for less than two decades. The group was largely over age 40 and the oldest individual interviewed was 95.
Others will have their own reasons for holding this book in high regard. Here are three of mine. First, the authors challenge conventional thinking about how successful people stay successful. Those interviewed as well as those who responded to the "World Success Survey" redefine success. For example, that everything in life should be kept in "balance." Those whom the authors characterize as "Builders" agree that, as culturally defined, "balance is in fact bullshit - as a popular concept, it ranks right up there with the idea that that there is just one passion for your life, and when you know what it is, you'll be happy. It rarely works that way." What is the lesson to be learned? People need to concentrate primarily on finding a place only for everything that is of greatest importance to them. That's the "balance" they should be seeking. I recall an interview of Katherine Hepburn during which she was asked what was the secret to her success. "Elimination. I simply got rid of anyone and anything that really didn't matter one bit to me. You know, dead weight, excess baggage, that sort of thing."
I also appreciate the fact that, throughout their book, the authors allow those interviewed as well as those surveyed to speak frankly about their successes but, more importantly, about their failures. Builders think of both success and failure as feedback. They don't judge either as a complete win or loss. Moreover, they view each "failure" (however defined) as an especially valuable learning opportunity. Technology pundit Esther Dyson asserts that anything worth doing "will keep you in a constant state of trial and error, so take good notes as you stumble along. When you make mistakes, just be sure to make new ones."
Retired Stanford business professor James G. March asserts that short-term "reality is an insult to the vision. You have to be self-delusional to create change - it's a useful craziness guided and founded on your clear identity and knowing what you must do." What lessons in leadership can be learned from Don Quixote? According to March, "We live in a world that emphasizes realistic expectations and clear successes. Quixote had neither. But through failure after failure, he persists in his vision and his commitment. He persists because he knows who he is." Builders are not only willing but indeed determined to put up with the grief that results from pursuing their dreams.
My third reason for holding this volume in such high regard is that, throughout their narrative, the authors insert dozens of apt quotations from an extraordinarily diverse range of sources; they also suggest (in their own words) what they consider to be key points. Here are two representative quotations:
"Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away." Antoine de Saint-Exupery
"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." Helen Keller
Now here are three representative examples of insights which the authors share:
"No one can tell you what risks you should take. We are insisting that you must choose a path that you love, for better or worse."
"Enduringly successful people have found that the answer to their life's purpose is buried not in passionate pain or love alone, but in the struggle over both together, working in strange harmony."
"This is one of the best lessons from human history: You may or may not be to blame for what happens to you, but either way you are responsible for doing something about it."
In Built to Last which Porras co-authored with Jim Collins, the authors share what their research revealed about enduringly successful companies. There were (and are) important lessons to be learned from the exemplary companies, even if several no longer meet the deliberately strict criteria by which they were selected. My guess (only a guess) is that many of the those who helped to build and then sustain those exemplary companies created for themselves "a life that matters," one which included but was by no means limited to their business career. In this volume, Porras, Emery, and Thompson duly acknowledge that it takes tremendous commitment, discipline, and sometimes great courage to continuously engage in the practice of aligning career and personal life.
"The only thing that provides lasting success (and happiness, if that's part of your personal definition of success) is the day-to-day practice and struggle to move the three circles - Meaning, Thought, and Action - toward alignment in your life and work. It is an adventure that you are better off embracing with all of your heart and soul because it is a challenge that never ends as long as you are here."
To build success which lasts, therefore, create a life that matters. It is as easy and as difficult as that.
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
"Built to Last" came out a dozen years ago and had a big impact on the way people in business talked about what it was they were doing. When you boil all its concepts down, it was about making active choices. Don't be limited by the existing structure. Don't fall for the trap of not being able to do what you need to do because you think you have to do something else. Make sure that you know what your core foundation is and preserve that while you are fostering growth with Big Hairy Audacious Goals and trying lots of things, and making sure that your companies purposes and values are aligned.
This book takes those same principles, and a few others, and recasts them into three overlapping circles of meaning, thought, and action. Where those three overlap is the place where the title of book, "Success Built to Last", lies. Rather than researching companies as in the first book, Porras, Emery, and Thompson interviewed 200 "successful" people. Some famous, some rich, some not famous, some not rich. They were looking for common factors in what made their lives feel successful to them.
Not surprisingly, it boils down to being active about your choices. Don't play by rules made by others, don't enslave yourself to goals you think others want you to achieve, and don't measure your life by another's yardstick. Down that road is misery and lots and lots of psychotherapy (with or without drugs). This book is full of good advice, good anecdotes, and helpful sayings about how you go about setting up your own life and your own success.
I would also recommend "Small Giants" by Bo Burlingham for more stories about people who found success and meaning in successful companies without following the "normal" path to growth, riches, and misery.
This is a good book and I hope it sells a ton. But that is probably a safe bet. Recommended.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Almost everyone wants to be more successful. As evidence of that, look at the rows of shelves in book stores filled with self-help and success-related titles. But no one wants to be successful for the proverbial 15 minutes and then sink into ineffectiveness and obscurity.
Jerry Porras (coauthor of Build to Last), Stewart Emery (an important figure in the Human Potential Movement) and Mark Thompson (an unstoppable interviewer and executive coach) have combined their diverse talents to provide powerful insights into what has worked best for those who have sustained personal success for over 20 years. The book is one part methodology, one part great stories and one part keen insight.
Here was the process that led to the book. Interviews were held during 1996-2006 with over 200 high profile people who had enjoyed lasting success (CEOs, community leaders, professionals, politicians and small business people). For the most part, they avoided the geniuses in favor of people who built extraordinary results from more ordinary abilities and resources.
In early 2006, surveys were done on a worldwide basis with subscribers to Knowledge@Wharton to test the findings from the interviews.
Regression analyses were used to sort out the key influences. The results were used to structure the book's key conclusions.
What did they learn?
The key concept is that continually successful people combine meaning, thought and actions in mutually consistent ways that provide sustained performance.
Let me describe each area a little. Meaning is important because it ignites passion in you and others. Success requires persistence. Without continuing passion, it's hard to be persistent enough to be a lasting success. In addition, passions bring energy. It turns out that continually successful people have all kinds of passions. Ultimately, successful people respond to a calling to answer their passion in a way that seems right, comfortable and full of integrity.
Thought is important because successful people use their own gauges of success . . . rather than the applause of others. Many successful people lack charisma . . . but their cause has more than enough charisma to attract all of the support they will ever need. You also need to learn by choosing to try hard things where you can make new mistakes to direct you in the future. But turn pain into performance. Don't let wounds hold you back.
Action benefits from taking on Big Hairy Audacious Goals (a remnant of Built to Last's research), seeking out knowledge by using conversations to test and develop ideas, and establishing alignment within those who are helping you succeed.
What kind of a leader are they describing? Some frequently cited examples in the book include Charles Schwab, Sir Richard Branson, Jack Welch, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, Herb Kelleher, Elie Wiesel, Condoleeza Rice, and Marva Collins. There are also plenty of non-marquee names whose stories will often impress you more than those you have heard of before. Even in the familiar stories, I found that the details included material that I didn't know before.
Basically, Abraham Maslow would have recognized these Builders (as the authors call their successful people) as his self-actualized individuals.
Two things stand out about the book. First, the authors make it clear that these lasting successes had a hard time achieving. It was rarely easy. Second, without a comparison group, I found myself wondering if there's a substantial body of self-actualized people who work hard at the same things . . . but don't ever receive much notice from those they are trying to influence. That second question is very important. What are the odds of becoming a long-term success if you follow this advice? I don't know, but you'll certainly feel like you're pursuing a life worth living . . . no matter what the cost is.
If you would like to re-examine your life, Success Built to Last provides a good template for comparisons that will cause you to look for more meaning, thought and action.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Somewhere in the first quarter of "Built to Last" is a telling section on why it's so hard to do what really matters. Essentially, the lesson is that doing what's expected, what's convention, what goes with what you know already how to do, with what you don't love and with what brings only "bright shiny objects" won't get you to do what you love. People who do what they love and what they are committed to deeply, do great things. The same is true for companies.
Authors Porras, Emery and Thompson talk about doing things with passion, things that matter. If you are dissatisfied with your career and life, this is a thoughtful book that helps you structure a life that matters to you (and maybe to millions of others.) I can say personally that I found many truths in this book that applied to me throughout what I did in my career and what I am doing now. It's a great book to get focus in that mid-life dissatisfaction--or to redirect youthful effort away from the "I should" into the "I shall." Recommended.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
In all the books I read, I rarely do so with pen in hand, underlining passages. This book was one of those exceptions... Success Built To Last: Creating A Life That Matters by Jerry Porras, Stewart Emery, and Mark Thompson. I'll be re-reading this book a number of times...
Introduction; From Great to Lasting - Redefining Success
Part 1 - Meaning - How Successful People Stay Successful: Love It Or Lose - Passions and the Quest for Meaning; Portfolio of Passions - It's Not About Balance; Why Successful People Stay Successful - Integrity to Meaning
Part 2 - ThoughtStyles - Extreme Makeovers Start In Your Head: The Silent Scream - Why It's So Damn Hard to Do What Matters; The Cause Has Charisma - You Don't Have to Be Charismatic to Be Successful; The Tripping Point - Always Make New Mistakes; Wounds to Wisdom - Trusting Your Weaknesses and Using Your Core Incompetencies
Part 3 - ActionStyles - Turning Passion Into Action: Earning Your Luck - Preparing for Serendipity by Using Big Hairy Audacious Goals; Naked Conversations - Harvesting Contention; Creating Alignment - The Environment Always Wins;
The Pleasure of Finding Things Out - A Look at the Research Behind Success Built to Last; Endnotes; Biographical Index; Index
While I normally like books that deal with self-improvement, I'm always a bit disappointed with the 20-20 hindsight involved. The author picks a person, examines everything they've done through the lens of results, and makes every action appear to be a stroke of genius. In reality, the decisions were made with no special knowledge or insight. They just worked out well. Success Built To Last differs in that there's actual research and statistical methods involved in distilling the traits and behaviors found in people who have been successful over the long run. These traits are then grouped into the particular thoughts and actions that are commonly found in these "builders"... people who have built a life of meaning and passion.
The book can be counter-intuitive at times. Conventional wisdom says you have to create equal balance among all aspects of your life. Success Built To Last says you have to find the "right" balance, and "right" doesn't mean "equal". You need to find something that brings you personal fulfillment and commit to it completely. That leads to success for you, although it may not mean success to someone else. And the rewards are not the reason to be working at your passion. The rewards are a result of following your dreams, and it's the reason that people like Warren Buffett don't stop working now that they have billions in the bank. They do what they do because it's who they are...
So many of the ideas in this book resonated with me. I consider myself fortunate that I *do* have a job that I enjoy and would do even if I had a choice. But while I'm in a better mental state than many, there's still plenty of room for improvement. Success Built To Last will help me refine my mindset and actions to be even more effective and successful in what I do with my life. I think this book is destined to become a classic...
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2006
In the movie business, in television and of course in publishing you always hear some version of "the story is king"...and yet many media creations don't deliver on that proclamation."Success Built to Last" fulfills it's promise. It is full of inspiring stories. The main body of the text itself contains a bounty of quotes and aphorisms that will fuel many continuing dialogs about success and become the seeds of future books. Opening this book to any page could provide a catalytic shift towards the next great passionate commitment in your life.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2006
Once in a while, perhaps once a decade, a new voice rises up which shines a unique light on a particular subject and manages to identify remarkably simple, yet unquestionably profound insight. In Success Built to Last, a trio of such voices has appeared, and just in time too, for I was beginning to think this was the decade that would be skipped!
This is a book about personal discovery, purposeful choice, and above all else, honestly confronting what really matters in life. Indeed, the very ingredients required for one's own success story. Make no mistake, as most of us have already discovered, no one can tell you exactly how to do it, or how to get there. Nonetheless, these authors have beautifully described and eloquently captured what seems to be a common theme in the stories of people who have created enduring success in their own lives.
What I found most compelling about the book was the utter simplicity of the truths it uncovered. Much like a master sculptor who will humbly tell you that what they really do is to "remove the unnecessary material and reveal what is already there," these authors have done exactly that. By carefully "chipping away" at the stories of enduringly successful people, they've been able to reveal a common, yet unmistakable theme that has shaped their lives - Meaning, Thought-Styles, and Action. It is this theme, and the ways in which the people described in the book have woven the pieces together in their own lives that is truly striking.
Most particularly because of the world in which we now all live, and of the realities we must confront, I dare say, this may be one of the most important books of the decade.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2006
Reader-friendly Success Built to Last is one of those rare books that presents important research findings, and then explains in a clear, concise and compelling manner how to take that learning and directly apply it to your life, business and community. This is by far one of the best books I have ever read - powerful lessons, told with splendid detail, beautiful exciting stories, this book is an absolute must read for people of all ages.
Overall, this book is so well written that I had a hard time putting it down. It is a simply fascinating read, studded with stories and examples that will keep readers glued to the page. Success Built to Last is also well researched and well argued and--and I don't say this lightly--stylistically flawless. This is nonfiction at its best.
This one's a keeper.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2006
The valuable life lessons expressed in this book benefit people in every demographic. It helps me put my life into perspective, and is a great help when work and life don't seem to be going my way. I can't think of a better way to end my day than by reading the stories from the world's most influential people inside Success Built to Last. Don't miss this book!
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 2006
Spending time with this book is like having a conversation about the really big issues of life with a dear friend ...like SUCCESS, love, passion and meaning along with making a buck and leaving an enduring legacy!!!
The book organizes around 3 core principles: Meaning - Passion - Action...
MEANING- making a difference for the sake of service: One thing that does last is love and meaning.
PASSION- we do it despite what it gets done: a portfolio of passions.
ACTION- getting it all done!
These principles are core to defining success a new way and fashioning a life that create wholeness for each of the interviewees, their companies and the people in their constellation. The ripple effect is huge.
What makes for enduring success? how do you make for a sustainable life? What makes this book so real is that the answers that come from the interviewees are real-- I can envision myself in their shoes. I can walk the talk toward a life of meaning and passion. I can grow toward a life of enduring success.