74 of 75 people found the following review helpful
How to build success which lasts by creating a life which matters,
This review is from: Success Built to Last: Creating a Life that Matters (Hardcover)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.