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What You're Really Meant to Do: A Road Map for Reaching Your Unique Potential [Kindle Edition]

Robert Steven Kaplan
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)

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Book Description

How do you create your own definition of success—and reach your unique potential?

Building a fulfilling life and career can be a daunting challenge. It takes courage and hard work. Too often, we charge down a path leading to “success” as defined by those around us—and ultimately, are left feeling dissatisfied.

Each of us is unique and brings distinctive skills and qualities to any situation. So why is it that most of us fail to spend sufficient time learning to understand ourselves and creating our own definition of success? The truth is, it can seem so natural and so much easier to just do what everyone else is doing—for now—leaving it for later to develop our best selves and figure out our own unique path. Is there a road map that will enable you to defy conventional wisdom, resist peer pressure, and carve out a path that fits your unique skills and passions?

Harvard Business School’s Robert Steven Kaplan, leadership expert and author of the highly successful book What to Ask the Person in the Mirror, regularly advises executives and students on how to tackle these questions. In this indispensable new book, Kaplan shares a specific and actionable approach to defining your own success and reaching your potential. Drawing on his years of experience, Kaplan proposes an integrated plan for identifying and achieving your goals. He outlines specific steps and exercises to help you understand yourself more deeply, take control of your career, and build your capabilities in a way that fits your passions and aspirations.

Are you doing what you’re really meant to do? If you’re ready to face this question, this book can help you change your life.

Editorial Reviews


As seen on Fox Business, CNBC, Lou Dobbs, and MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

“This book opens the mind of the reader to a lot of self-exploratory questions rather than offering blind advice. It helps you understand yourself deeply and build a foundation based on this before starting a journey towards your dreams.” — Business World magazine

“compelling and personal and contains individual exercises that provide interesting insights readers likely haven’t considered before—whether how to manage your career or a complete career change. If you have ever asked yourself, in any work situation, at any stage of your career, “Why doesn’t someone just tell me what to do?” this book is a worthwhile trip for you.” — CIO Digest

ADVANCE PRAISE for What You’re Really Meant to Do:

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, professor, Harvard Business School; author, Confidence and SuperCorp
What You’re Really Meant to Do is a wise, deeply personal, and always practical book by a leader of leaders. It is essential reading for all those who want to define success their own way.”

Paul Farmer, MD, PhD, professor, Harvard Medical School; co-founder, Partners In Health—
“As I have seen him do in classrooms in Haiti and at Harvard, Rob Kaplan provides a powerful and pragmatic prescription in What You’re Really Meant to Do. Building on his widely praised work on leadership and efficacy, Kaplan offers compelling narratives of those he has coached and counseled—from executives to entrepreneurs to recent graduates—as a guide for anyone pursuing a purposeful professional life.”

Henry M. Paulson, Jr., seventy-fourth secretary of the US Department of the Treasury; Chairman and CEO, Goldman Sachs (1999–2006)—
“Rob Kaplan has spent years mentoring and coaching executives and young professionals, and there is no one any better. This book is a superb guide for helping people understand themselves and reach their unique potential.”

Bill George, professor, Harvard Business School; author, Authentic Leadership and True North
“Rob Kaplan’s brilliant new book inspires you to reach your full potential by taking responsibility for your development as a leader and as a human being. If you follow his thoughtful, pragmatic approach, you will live an even more satisfying life. Filled with real-world examples, Kaplan helps you build your road map to fulfillment.”

Vanessa Kirsch, founder and Managing Director, New Profit Inc.—
“Forging a fulfilling career can be one of the most difficult challenges we face. What You’re Really Meant to Do provides a compelling road map for discovering your passions and unlocking your full potential. A must-read for anyone looking for professional growth and fulfillment.”

About the Author

Robert Steven Kaplan is Senior Associate Dean and the Martin Marshall Professor of Management Practice in Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He is also cochairman of the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, a global venture philanthropy firm, as well as chairman and a founding partner of Indaba Capital Management, LLC. Before joining Harvard in 2005, Kaplan was vice chairman of the Goldman Sachs Group.

Product Details

  • File Size: 489 KB
  • Print Length: 234 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1422189902
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (April 16, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00B6U63ZO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,318 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
54 of 60 people found the following review helpful
I saw Robert Kaplan on television, was greatly interested, and just finished the book. Unfortunately, this book is written only for those working within large corporations with lots of job security and many choices about career paths and ranges of compensation. I don't know if those people exist anymore. His talk about teams, coaches, bosses, and management reads like something out of Tom Peter's era, when America was rich, jobs weren't being slashed, and employees weren't required to do the work of 2-3 people. He even offers advice on how to choose the right job when you first graduate from Harvard Business School! "Finding your passion" to Kaplan simply means being mentored into a more rewarding job in your corporation or –– super radical idea –– moving to a different large corporation. The section on assessing your weaknesses and strengths is most valuable, however, it is structured largely within the context how of your boss and direct reports view you, and therefore has limited usefulness for those who are engaged in more entrepreneurial endeavors. Too bad.
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50 of 60 people found the following review helpful
Self-improvement initiatives or, if you prefer, self-fulfillment or self-actualization initiatives, are best viewed as an on-going journey, not as an ultimate destination. Many authors of books about that process invoke the map or road map metaphor, and rightly so, because it implies and (yes) enables all manner of appropriate dimensions of internal as well as external exploration and discovery. This seems to be what Robert Steven Kaplan has in mind when observing, "I have come to believe that the key to achieving your aspirations lies not in `being a success' but rather in [begin italics] working to reach your unique potential [end italics]. This requires you to create your own definition of success rather than accept a definition created by others...This approach takes courage and hard work. It does not yield easy answers or get you to a final destination. It is, instead, a multistage, lifelong effort. It involves developing a different mind-set and a new set of work habits."

At this point in my brief commentary, I want to express appreciation of Kaplan's previous book, What to Ask the Person in the Mirror. Its title refers to anyone who seeks both knowledge and wisdom that will improve quality of life as well as standard of living. What Kaplan offers in abundance is assistance with framing questions that can help to achieve those worthy objectives. Those who read the book will be much better prepared to ask them; better yet, they will be much better prepared to obtain the right answers to them. In this book, as its subtitle suggests, he offers "a road map for reaching your potential," one that is accompanied by a wealth of information, insights, and counsel as well as self-diagnostic exercises to help his readers determine what they are really meant to be and to do.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why you should read this book December 30, 2013
By JP_Blat
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In this book, Robert Kaplan puts forward a compelling case to move our attention away from conventional wisdom and to focus on using intrinsic metrics to write our own definition of success. Metrics that are based on our own potential, strengths, passions and beliefs as opposed to what society expects from us.

Although chapter four is explicitly called “Understand yourself”, I will argue that a good chunk of the book including chapter 2 (Assess your strengths and weaknesses), chapter 3 (Finding your passion) and chapter 6 (Good vs. great that deals with values and beliefs) is about knowing and understanding yourself. This is quite valuable to the reader as identifying what you’re meant to do is clearly a quest to know, to choose and to connect with our own purpose.

As you get to understand yourself better, Kaplan challenges the reader to look at what our job or desired job requires and to identify gaps that might exist so we can take actions to close them. I found it quite useful that the author explains his ideas in terms of very practical and real situations that we tend to face during our careers. He complements these ideas with key questions and exercises that help the reader reflect and gain clarity on this elusive matter. Clarity that is also helpful in other areas of our lives.

I was especially interested in his definition of leadership: “Leadership is the ability to figure out what you believe and then summon the courage to appropriately act on those beliefs”.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great book December 21, 2013
By Brenden
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very thoughtful in terms of being self-aware in pursuit of a career choice. Very simple models for determining how your presuppositions based off of others ideas and wishes for life in general cloud your honest and clear assessment of your specific strengths and desires.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you read career books, many are written by folks in career counseling and advising. What is unique about this book is that the author's perspective has been shaped by business and academic experiences. The author, Robert Kaplan, ran global businesses for two decades, ultimately becoming the executive chairman of Goldman Sachs. These experiences in working with, and mentoring, individuals in business in various stages of their careers, prompted Kaplan to think deeply about human potential, development and leadership. He left Goldman Sachs to teach in the M.B.A. program at Harvard, teaching a course on Authentic Leadership based on Medtronics CEO'S book TRUE NORTH.

All of us yearn for success. The thesis of this book is that you won't feel satisfyingly successful without working to reach your unique potential. The good news about potential is that it is unlimited. Kaplan says you never get to the end of your potential as there are always ideas to explore, things to learn and skills to improve. Kaplan encounters a mix of folks in his executive MBA classes at Harvard and discovers many have great credentials and are achieving monetary success but are dissatisfied. What are they missing? Some older executives and professionals are feeling regret and bitterness concerning their career choice. He also encounters many individuals who are making less money, perhaps, but working in a field they are passionate about, using the skills they enjoy most using, and are happier than the folks who have pursued wealth or status at the cost of doing something in a field they loved. It's difficult to be truly successful in the long term if you don't have some sense of passion for what you do, Kaplan suggests.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good not great.
Good book, but just another topic on looking inwardly to find your passion.
Published 6 days ago by Matt Morgan
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book with an impact on my thinking!
Published 2 months ago by T Pierce`
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good reflective advice on how one gets to the place they are
Published 4 months ago by Betsie
4.0 out of 5 stars Working to reach your unique potential
"The key to achieving your aspirations lies not in 'being a success' but rather in working to reach your unique potential... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Andrew Everett
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good excercises.
Published 6 months ago by aliciasama
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book. Very practical self improvement book
Great book. Very practical self improvement book. It doesn't give you formulas or tactics. It suggests a process by which you have to design your path to success and happiness. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Vague and not very helpful.
Published 9 months ago by swamp paradise
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
this book was very helpful in helping me begin to understand myself and how I am
perceived by others
Published 10 months ago by Newton Musical
3.0 out of 5 stars An average book
This book was not quite what I was expecting. Although it has potential to be helpful, I've read other books that I found to be more helpful. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Marc Grenier
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding oneself is of paramount importance
There is a plethora of books about how to reach one’s potential in personal and business life. The name of this book looks very mundane so that I have mistakenly categorised it as... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Hubert Shea
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