Sunday, October 14, 2012

On How I Won't Measure My Life

How Will You Measure Your Life? is obviously not a book for someone like me. It is full of useless platitudes: "It's important to understand what makes us tick," meaning "understand what motivates" us. You don't say? "It's difficult." Indeed! "We can learn from how companies develop." Really? I rather doubt it. "We need to employ, a combination of "emergent and deliberate strategy," i.e. between what's happening and what we want to happen. What else is new? "A strategy ... is created through hundreds of everyday decisions about how you spend your time, energy, and money." No, that is your character, not necessarily your strategy! "Intimate, loving, and enduring relationships with our family and close friends will be among the sources of the deepest joy in our lives." Perhaps, but they are also often the sources of the deepest misery in our lives. In any case, this advice is as trite as it gets. The same is true of other jewels of advise, such as "sacrifice and commitment," the "Greek tragedy of outsourcing," "understand your capabilities," "never outsource the future," "enterprises and families are very similar" in wanting their junior members making the right choices, "staying out jail."

Most important for my initial interest was the question about questions. I wanted to find out about what interesting things he might have to say about questions. But here too the book falls flat: "If we ask the right questions, the answers generally are easy to get." I guess that is the kind of advice to expect from a boy scout leader (see p. 153).

The $10.00 I spent on this book were not well spent. But I learned one thing from this experience. I should resist buying a book electronically on one intriguing hint. Had I gone to the local bookstore and browsed its contents for ten to fifteen minutes in the book, I would have realized that it wasn't for me, that it was over-hyped (if that is not a pleonasm). It is like almost all "self-help books." It's not that I have something against the genre of self-help books. I did like: Ari Kiev, A Strategy for Daily Living. The Classic Guide to Success and Fulfillment. New York: The Free Press, 1997 (originally published 1973).

On the other hand, given the cost of gas, it was not such a large monetary mistake. What I consider the bigger mistake is the time I wasted reading it.


Michael Leddy said...

Your experience here is one I’ve repeated too many times. I can’t trust myself to give the book a real onceover in a bookstore, as my inclination is to see books as worthwhile and buy, buy, buy. I end up getting many things from the library so that I can be disappointed at no cost.

I just looked at Amazon’s description of this book. I think the best answer to the questions there — “How can I be sure that I'll find satisfaction in my career? How can I be sure that my personal relationships become enduring sources of happiness? How can I avoid compromising my integrity — and stay out of jail?” — is “You can’t.” I’m with Sophocles in these things.

For something better than this book, I‘d recommend Peter Drucker’s Managing Oneself.

MK said...

You are right, of course, both on Sophocles and Drucker.