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The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life Hardcover – July 7, 2015
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From the Publisher
David Kelly interviews Bernie Roth, author of The Achievement Habit
David Kelley (DK): You've been at this a long time. Words like creativity, innovation, design thinking, and empathy fly around. What resonates with you? What words do you like to use?
Bernie Roth (BR): To me these words tend to be overused. I'm not a big fan of any of these words. I would say empathy and design thinking are the words I currently use the most. I stay away from innovation and creativity as much as possible.
DK: When I was a design student I always felt that creativity had the connotation that either you had it or you didn't from birth. It was a funny word in that way for me.
BR: There were studies that concluded there are certain characteristics many creative people have. For example, if you played classical music or liked poetry the odds were you would be among the more creative people. However, there was also the idea of unleashing buried creative potential, which resonates more with how we think of it nowadays.
DK: Almost everybody that I meet, when I say I'm friends with Bernie, they say "Designer and Society." What's been the big deal about that class is that it affects people's lives so strongly.
BR: It's empowering. It's exactly what you call creative confidence. It unleashes the sense that: "I can do stuff. I don't have to live in relationships that don't work. I don't have to have dreams of someday doing something. I can go out and do it now." The point the class makes is that your life is right now. Basically you are not going to change when you graduate. If you don't get the habit of doing right now, chances are you're never going to get it. The class is organized to give you the experience of doing, you have to do something significant right now. Once you do it, wow, then you're off and running.
DK: What are some examples? What are the kinds of things people do?
BR: One of my favorites is the student who had a strained relationship with his father. He reconciled with his father, and then three months later his father suddenly died. That was powerful.
DK: You know, you're doing a lot of damage at the d.school by teaching classes and helping students. By damage, I mean good. What do you expect ... I mean, it wasn't that easy to write the book? Although it seemed like you did it pretty straightforwardly. What do you expect to accomplish with the book that you can't do here by teaching students?
BR: What's happened with the book is interesting. I wrote the book as a personal expression, without even having much expectation. Actually I was just going to put it on the web and not worry about it. I am very pleasantly surprised by what has been happening. Starting with friends reading the galleys, stories keep coming back to me of how the book is assisting people. I just read an email from a woman who was inspired by my book to write her own book. Someone else got a big personal insight regarding his son's psychological breakdown. A woman in her 88th year is meeting with a group of other seniors and using activities in my book to give them meaningful interactions. It turns out the book is a surrogate for the class, in that people get inspiration out of it and it gives them permission to do stuff and suggests ways of doing it. That's a big plus in my file.
“Bernie Roth is the central pillar and the conscience of the d.school at Stanford and one of its real gems. It’s exciting that he now puts his best ideas into this book for many more of us to benefit.” (David M. Kelley, Founder of the d.school at Stanford University, Founder and Chairman of IDEO)
” The Achievement Habit is a masterpiece in describing how to think creatively and fulfill your life’s ambitions. Everyone who reads this book will clearly see why Bernie is considered one of the most creative and liberated thinkers today.” (Paul Hait, Entrepreneur/Olympic Gold Medalist)
“Bernie Roth is a master teacher who unlocks his students’ minds and hearts allowing them to create the lives they dream to live. Finally, his wisdom is available to the entire world.” (Tina Seelig, Professor of the Practice, Stanford School of Engineering, Author, Insight Out)
“Before unleashing design thinking on others, unleash it on yourself. You, and the world, will be far better for it. The Achievement Habit reveals a host of invaluable approaches to this most personal of design projects.” (Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO and author of Change By Design)
From the Back Cover
Cofounder of the Stanford d.school Bernie Roth shows you how the power of design thinking can help you achieve goals you never thought possible.
Did you know that achievement can be learned? As Bernie Roth explains, achievement is a muscle. And once you learn how to flex it, you'll be able to meet life's challenges and reach your goals.
Based on a legendary course Roth has taught at Stanford University for several decades, The Achievement Habit employs the remarkable insights that stem from design thinking to help us realize the power we all have within to change our lives for the better. By ridding ourselves of issues that stand in the way of reaching our full potential, we gain the confidence finally to do things we've always wanted to do. Combining design thinking, problem-solving, creativity, communication skills, and life adjustments, readers will learn:
- Why trying and doing are two different things
- Why using reasons (excuses), even legitimate ones, to explain one's behavior is self-defeating
- How to change your self-image into one of a doer and achiever
- How subtle language changes can resolve existential dilemmas and barriers to action
- How to build resiliency by reinforcing what you do rather than what you accomplish
- How to be open to learning from your own experience and from those around you
Our behavior and relationships can be transformed—if we choose to, we can be mindful and control our intentions to create habits that make our lives better. And with this thoughtful book as your guide, you can.
Top customer reviews
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Short version; It loses a star for failing to meet the promise of the title -HARD. It loses another for filler stories that bury the nuggets and insights instead of supporting them/adding meaning to the reader. Still there's good stuff in there.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for the author and his work at the D School and Ideo. That said, I reviewed his book, not his person or his professional achievements. I'm sure many of his students, friends and fam are giving the 5 star reviews here to be supportive and they know the spirit and intent of the author. Having only the book, I give it 3 stars.
This book is a light read about design processes, buddhism disguised as mindfulness, personal mindset, problem-solving, and life. It isn't a cohesive, systematic, whole product designed to teach you how to cultivate or understand the habit of achievement. There are some good insights in a few chapters, but they're often buried under 3 feet of personal stories that carry more weight/meaning for the author than the reader.
The title of this book is a clickbait title and a betrayal to the reader; the original sin of any author/content creator. On the whole, 80% of the book doesn't seem to be focused or clearly tied to the title. It not only fails to meet the promise of the title, it fails to solidly offer a consolation prize, which is okay in life, but a waste of a good title in this case. All in all, this book reads more like a memoir and far and away from the promise of the title.
If you've never read a book, or a self help book, or a good book on experience design, then I'm sure this will impress you (because you'll want to validate your own achievement). If you're a regular reader, prepare for a 3 star read at best. I read every word (unlike many a reviewer). And, looking back at my highlights and asterisks in the margins, I could have saved quite a bit of time without losing much value in the process. My advice to those who read this: skim through the stories and focus on the concluding points after the diary entries.
I felt the book is light on self-development, light on mindfulness, light on habit development, light on design and light on experience design tools to truly help you establish a habit of achievement. Basically, The book has some great insights and activities; a few (less than expected design insights from the head of the design school at Stanford and Ideo guy). And what little it offers is not anchored to a central idea of cultivating a habit of achievement. I expected more, better than what's available on the shelves from the author, and I would have settled for content quality on par with what's on the shelves to give a 4-5 star review. This book doesn't meet that standard.
This book offers very little insight on human behavior, neuroscience, or psychology and seemed to operate on some outdated concepts. For example, it mentions left-right brain activity which has been thoroughly debunked (the brain really doesn't work that way). Scientific research isn't required for a great book, but if it is to be used, it should be up to date and accurate (otherwise it perpetuates faulty thinking).
I also found many of the self-help concepts to be dated, mundane, and unrefined. Many of them are still valid but some are just plain, bad advice. I was hoping for more pinpointed discernment, pragmatism, and systematic /gamified or well designed approach to building an achievement habit.
Some Good Things:
-Roth does a good job of explaining that you give things meaning, and imbue them with meaning.
-Roth emphasizes approaches to problem solving and exploration of the problem, prototyping solutions, and using a bit of design thinking (mostly in one chapter)
- He provides several methods of ideation and exploring obstacles, and framing the problem (too lightly I might add but its there).
- He advocates for personal responsibility and reframing language you use to ensure you recognize your choices and decisions.
As an Sr. Experience Designer, Marketing Technologist, and growth minded person, there are better books that deliver on the promise of their titles. If you're lured by the title of this book I recommend that you check out:
- "Essentialism" by Greg McKeown - Full of substance, pragmatic wisdom and activity.
- "The Buddha Walks Into a Bar..." by Lordo Rinzler
- "Game Storming" by Dave Gray
- "Hooked" by Nir Eyal
- "Experience Design" by Patrick Newbery - HARD READ BUT DEPTH AND SUBSTANCE GALORE!
According to Roth, "By the end of the book, as a reader you will understand:
o Why trying is not good enough and how it is very different from [begin italics] doing [end italics].
o Why excuses, even legitimate ones, are self-defeating.
o How to change your self-image into one of a doer and achiever, and why this is important.
o How subtle language changes can resolve existential dilemmas and also barriers to action.
o How to build resiliency by reinforcing what you do (your action) rather than what you accomplish, so you can easily recover from temporary setbacks.
o How to train yourself to ignorer distractions that prevent you from achieving your goals.
o How to be open to learning from your own experience and that of others.
In this context, I was again reminded of the key insight in Ernest Becker's classic, Denial of Death. No one can deny physical death but, Becker suggests, there is another form of death that can be denied: That which occurs when we become wholly preoccupied with fulfilling others' expectations of us. Oscar Wilde once suggested, "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken." Roth takes a Wilde a step further, suggesting, "Be your best self and then become a better you each day." How? It's all explained in the book.
Hence the importance of design thinking. Roth acknowledges, "It's difficult to give an exact definition for design thinking, however, but because I am one of the 'inventors' I can certainly give you an idea of its principles, which we'll get into throughout the book." Here are five.
1. Empathize: "This is where it starts. When you design...you're doing it with other people's needs and desires in mind."
2. Define the problem: "Narrow down which problem to solve, which question to answer."
3. Ideate: Generate as many solutions or answers as possible "using any means you like -- brainstorming, mind mapping, sketching on napkins,...however you work best."
4. Prototype: "Without going crazy to make everything perfect (or even close to it), build your project in physical form, or develop the plans for what you're going to enact."
5. Test and get feedback.
As Roth would be the first to point out, identifying the WHAT of design thinking is easy enough. Explaining it clearly is far more difficult. Even then, presumably Roth agrees with Thomas Edison who observed long ago, "Vision without execution is hallucination." Both Edison and Roth are big fans of "whatever works."
These are among the dozens of passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Roth's coverage:
o The Familiar Unfamiliar (Pages 26-30)
o Right and Wrong (35-36)
o Decision and Indecision (51-56)
o Moving to a Higher Level (64-70)
o Reframing (70-75)
o Twenty-Two Ways to Get Unstuck (80-93)
o The Curse of Networking (100-101)
o Trying and Doing (105-109)
o Acting Under Pressure (114-118)
o The Gift of Failure (121-122)
o Context (137-138)
o The Hard Conversations (145-146)
o Constructive Criticism (154-156)
o Styles and Cultures (156-159)
o Who's in Charge? (165-170)
o Parting Lessons from Friends (209-214)
o Life as Chance (219-223)
o The Blessing of Work (226-230)
o Motivation (250-253)
I commend Roth on his brilliant use of a multi-purpose device, "Your Turn," throughout all ten chapters. Readers are challenged to reflect on what they have learned thus far, evaluate its relevance, and then apply it to their situation. In the last chapter, for example, after sharing his thoughts about a mantra, "It's not about you," he recalls a situation when he ignored it and only later realized, "It wasn't about me."
Then he redirects his attention to his reader: "The next few times something happens where you think people's actions are related to what you did or did not do, tell yourself, `It's not about me.' Then note how you feel and, if possible, check out how they feel." There are dozens of "Your Turn" deferences to the reader throughout the book.
These are among Roth's concluding thoughts: "Be smarter than I was. Realize that your mind is trickier than you think, and is always working with your ego to make you believe you are doing better than you really are. That's the human condition...You can choose to be the [begin italics] cause in the matter [end italics] of the circumstances of your life and you can instill in yourself the habit of achievement for a more functional and satisfying life. I hope this book contributes to these worthy goals."
You won't find a roadmap to self-knowledge in this book, nor even a compass. It isn't about Bernie Roth. Absorb and digest the material. There will be several times when you have a chance to consider an insight. It can serve as both a mirror and a window. What you see in the mirror will help increase your understanding and appreciation of who you are now and who you can become. You will also be better prepared to share your enriched and enlightened humanity with others.
I realize that no brief commentary such as mine could possible do full justice to the abundance of valuable information, insights, and counsel that he provides in this book. However, I hope I have at least indicated why I think so highly of him and his work.