WOW! If I had to sum this book up in one word, that would be it.
Now, for many people the word ‘success’ reeks of sex, money, and power, but this book really frames the word ‘success’ in a new light, and approaches it in a fresh way.
Author Richard Shell, who runs a success course at Wharton college in the U.S, breaks his book into two parts. The first half asks “What is Success”” and helps the reader to define what success is for them. This is done in a number of ways, one of which is the ‘Six Lives Exercise’ whereby the reader hears of the lives of 6 people who are all successful in different ways. This is an excellent lead-in to thoughts and conversations (if used in a class environment) about values and reflections upon what we ourselves find successful.
The second half of the book, “How will I Achieve It?” is all about just that! It’s broken into chapters focused on subjects such as finding your calling, motivation, self confidence and persuasion.
I have read quite a bit in this space over the years, from psychology to self help to motivational literature. In this book Richard Shell mentions (and distills) almost every key point I have come across in these fields to date. Furthermore, the referencing system was second to none, every fact, figure and claim in the book was hyperlinked to the “notes” in the back which were themselves logically ordered for quick reference. Easy access, delicious!
Hands down, this is the best book I have ever read in this area. Would make an excellent 18th, 21st, 30th, 40th, 50th, (etc) birthday present for anyone willing to take the time to dig in.
Read on for a selection of Wot-I-Got out of the book (I made over 250 notes whilst reading this book, that must be a pb!) and see the PDF at the bottom of the page for my notes in full.
Numbers refer to kindle locations, and remember, all points have excellent references within the book!
Introduction, Two Big Questions
88: Quote: “It is only when we have the courage to face things exactly as they are, without any self-deceotion or illusion, that a light will develop out of events, by which the path to success may be recognized”
116: The “Odyssey Years”, between 20 and 35. A new period of life as defined by modern sociologists
346: Quote: on being true to oneself: “The challenge in social interaction is figuring out how to maintain your sense of personal authenticity at the same time that you make the adjustments needed to work with a variety of other people and personalities.
Part One, The First Question: “What is Success?”
Chapter 1: The First Answer: Choose Life
374: Quote: “There is no one who, if he listens to himself, does not discover in himself a pattern all of his own, a ruling pattern.”-Michel De Montaigne, French Philosopher
454: Finding Success-Four Key Themes: 1. Defining success for yourself often involves trial and error, 2. Seek awareness of the success values and culture of your family so that you can independently consider your own success goals, 3. Success is a multidimensional concept, 4. Success is not a destination
Chapter 2: An Easy Answer: Be Happy
690: The word happiness is used to describe three distinct things. Ice Cream (momentary) happiness, Lifestyle Happiness, Life Purpose Happiness. (note: not Shell’s terminology)
764: French and U.S women spend roughly same time eating, but french pay 2 x as much attention → more ice cream happiness
915: The Harvard Study of Adult Development/The Grant Study tracked the happiness and health of 268 men for 72 years. George Vaillant, study head, concluded with “the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships with other people”.
Chapter 3: Society’s Answer: Seek Status, Fame, and Fortune
1153: Hungry Ghosts-the name given by budhhists to people who can’t get enough status, wealth, or power
1323:The Amish enforce’ Rumspringa, they force college-age community members to leave their farms from 1 to 2 years to explore
Chapter 4: An Inspired Answer: Find Meaningful Work
1685: Book: What Should I Do with My Life?-Po Bronson, 53 stories of people’s search for meaning in their work (from >900 interviews
1688: Term: ‘Phi Beta Slackers’-Po Bronson, describes smart people content to follow the conventional career path of least resistance
1750: The ‘Golden Handcuff Problem’-Those with high pay get addicted to a high flying lifestyle, thus become handcuffed to their careers
Part 2: The Second Question: “How Will I Achieve It?”
Chapter 5: Discover What You Can Do Better Than Most: Capabilities
2366: Book: Human Nature and Social Order-Charles Cooley, Introduces the term “Looking-Glass Self” to explain the insights that can come from seeing oneself reflected in the looking glass of other people’s perceptions
2507: Essay: The Hedgehog and the Fox-Philosopher Isiah Berlin, Hedgehog is a specialist, Fox is a generalist
Chapter 6: Set Yourself on Fire: Motivation
2680: Andrew Wiles on solving Fermat’s Last Theorem. It is like exploring a mysterious, unlit mansion with many rooms: “One enters the first room of the mansion, and it’s dark. Completely dark.” after bumping into various objects, ‘you learn where each piece of furniture is.” Finally you find the light switch and at last you can see exactly where you are and where everything is… “Then you move into the next room” and repeat the process. The moments of insight and illumination come suddenly; the work to achieve them is slow, methodical and painstaking; and the experience of finally discovering the solution is deeply satisfying.
2680: Richard believes that reward-based motivation is a useful tool.
2764: Adam Grant of Whaton College documented that different personality types require different motivations boosts for the same work
Chapter 7: Learn to Fail: Self-Confidence
3062:’ Self Handicapping’- accepingt invites to parties and movies on the nights before big tests, thus your can say “I didn’t really try”.
3166: There are three different ways to attain level one confidence (ie: confidence in your true self)
-1. Someone you respect believes that ‘you can do it’
-2. A Rite of Passage
-3. The Power of Faith, more detail follows
3192: Roughly 30% of the effectiveness of medicine is said to come from the power of suggestion, even higher for pain relief.
3316: Level two confidence: The success mindset (see my blog post on Mindest-Ollie)
Chapter 8: Focus Your Mind: Passion, Imagination, Intuition, and Reason
3551: 78% of ‘highly accomplished professionals’ cited focused goals as a critical success factor
3563: “The Zeigarnik effect”-This mental crowding in one’s consciousness as a result of unmet goals
3575: Plato conceptualized the mind as a charioteer driving 2 horses, Charioteer=soul, Horses=passion and reason
3649: “The Recency Effect”-The brind most vividly recalls the most recent data and overweights that in your decision
Chapter 9: Influence Others: Credibility and Dialogue
3994: Quote: “That’s the way to really learn things – by yourself,”-Willy Gibbs, inventor of the double hull ship design, studied engineering independently whilst attending law school
4039: Aristotle divided friends into three distinct categories: Pleasure, Utility and Virtue in his book ‘Nicomachean Ethics’.
4345: Quote: “Friends are as companions on a journey, we ought to aid each other to persevere in the road to a happier life”-Pythagoras
4405: Quote: “The only true measure of success is the ratio between what we might have done and what we might have been on the one hand and…the things we have made of ourselves on the other”- H.G. Wells
4522: Danish Folk Saying: “You must bake with the flour you have”
4552: Quote: “It is not always the people who start out the smartest, who end up the smartest.”-Alfred Binet, inventor of the IQ test
4647: See Richard Shell’s (author) Success course syllabus here: http://lgstdept.wharton.upenn.edu/shellric/teaching.htm