The Answer

The Answer by John Assaraf and Murray Smith ****

I’ve been a fan of John Assaraf for a while now, although this is my first introduction to Murray Smith.  Books written by more than one author sometimes have a disjointed feel to them, and this is no exception.  I didn’t mind the differences, though.  It can be refreshing.

The first half of the book was basically written by John Assaraf.  It is more general, following along the same lines as The Secret, although I liked it quite a bit more.  Honestly, this book clicked for me in a way no other book has before.  I loved his analogy about the NASA experiment with giving special goggles to some astronauts.  I think the book is worth picking up at the library, just for that section alone.

The second half of the book is much more practical, and it is obviously written by Murray Smith.  He is a successful businessman with a very interesting past, and he talks about the lessons he learned which are specific to business development.  They are clear and concise, and I believe ultimately very helpful.

If you are not interested in business, I still recommend picking it up and reading the first half.  After checking it out at the library, I could not wait to purchase my own copy.  I gave it 4 stars.

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Who Moved My Cheese?

Who Moved My Cheese? by Dr. Spencer Johnson ***

As far as self-help books go, this isn’t high on my list of must-reads.  On the other hand, it is a book than can be read in an hour or two, so it’s quick and easy to get the benefit of the book.

The book basically consists of a story about mice and people, and how they react to change.  The purpose of the story is to help you respond positively to change, and to take it for what it is instead of spending time wishing for what was.

Okay, downsides first.  I recommend skipping the first and last sections of this book, and not because the content is bad, but because the writing is.  It is very cheesy (pardon the pun) and not that interesting.  The real content of the book is in the middle section.

Upsides:  the story illustrates the point well, and doesn’t take too much time doing it.  I am partial to books that don’t waste my time.

If you find yourself in a shifting world, (and who doesn’t?) and could use some perspective to guide you through it, the book is definitely worth a couple hours of your time.  I gave it 3 out of 5 stars.

The E-Myth Revisited

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber*****

the_e_myth_revisitedI sort of came across this book accidentally, while searching for something else at the bookstore.  It looked intriguing, but in an effort to moderate my bookstore spending, I held off buying it until I did some research.

It didn’t take me long.  I started noticing that my other self-help favorite authors loved Michael Gerber, and this book in particular.  He has several similar titles, but this one is the original.

I loved this book.  I cannot say enough good things about it.  If you are considering starting a business, you must read this book first.  It will help you clarify your vision, your process to success, and your ultimate goals.

The first section of the book takes you through a typical cycle of business start-up, growth, decline, and ultimate failure.  I identified with every step in that section.  Maybe it’s just anecdotal, but I felt that was a pretty accurate description of the typical new business.

The next section lays out his plan for success.  He describes how to look at each section of the business, assign tasks to the right person, systematize each job, and eventually become a more hands-off type owner.

The book is well-written, easy to understand, and organized.  I have most definitely added it to my own self-help shelf!  I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

P.S.  Visit the E-Myth site!

The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch****

the_last_lecture_2I think I was the last person on the planet to hear about this book, when I won it as a prize a few weeks ago.  Some of you have probably heard of Randy Pausch, and his “Last Lecture” given just before his death.  Videos have circulated the internet, and have even been seen on “Oprah.”

This book is an extension of the actual lecture.  It is not really a self-help book in the traditional sense, but as the author sets out to give advice and help to his children, and anyone else who will listen, I thought it fitting to give it a review here.  This book tells the story behind the lecture, the thoughts he pulled together, his motivations, as well as the actual content.

A friend told me she thinks he comes across as arrogant in the book, and I can see where she is coming from.  He is, a little bit.  It could, on the other hand, be a healthy self-confidence.  In either case, I did not find it too annoying.  There are moments of humility and meekness that punctuate the confidence.

I quite enjoyed the book.  It is interesting that while I do not agree with many of the authors personal religious or political beliefs, both sides frequently led to the same conclusions.  He has common sense advice, which includes such pearls as asking for what you want, being nice to people, and learning to get along with those you disagree with.  I was personally touched by his success in achieving his dreams, and I think my favorite part of the book was the end, where he talked about how his dreams were accomplished.

I have great respect for the way he handled the last months and weeks of his life.  Knowing he would die gave him time to prepare words, videos, pictures, and mementos for his very young children, who he knew would remember very little of him, if any.  His attitude toward life and death is admirable and inspirational.

I recommend this book for your shelf.  It is a comfortable read for adults, and I believe good reading for older children and teens as well.  I give it 4 stars.

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers *

fearI had high hopes for this book, and I have to say, the title says it all.  Literally.

Ms. Jeffers starts the book with a bold premise;  namely, that we can educate ourselves into dealing with fear effectively, rather than allowing it to hold us back.  I actually loved the first 2 or 3 chapters, where she lays out her theories and uses examples from her teaching to back them up.

After the first three chapters, the book starts to go downhill.  There is literally very little content.  If you have read the title of the book, you almost don’t need to read the book at all.  I stuck with it to the end, hoping that it would improve toward the end of the book, but I was disappointed in that.

My biggest departure from Ms. Jeffers opinions happened in Chapter 6, where she basically advocates divorce and abandonment of family if your family does not support your personal growth.  I have a different view of the value of family and marriage, so I had a difficult time reading this chapter.

I give this book 1.5 stars, because I loved the first 2 or 3 chapters.  I do not recommend buying this book, but it is worth borrowing from the library, and reading the first 70 pages or so.

Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done by David Allen *****

gtd1So, let me start by sharing how I came across this book.  I get a magazine in the mail called the “Costco Connection.”  I didn’t ask for this magazine, but Costco sends it to me anyway.  I never read it, and it generally goes right in the trash without even being opened.  One month, however, I decided to flip through it as I walked from the mailbox back to the house.  And, when I did, I came across this flowchart.  (Sorry, I know the quality is terrible.)

GTD Flowchart
GTD Flowchart

I was pretty fascinated by it, so I decided to read the article.  I was fascinated by the article, so I decided to go to David Allen’s website.  I was fascinated by that, (sensing a theme here?) which led me to drive directly to the bookstore and buy the book, so I could have it in my hands that very day.  I was glad I did.

It’s rare that I find a book that truly changes me, that inspires me to immediate action, that makes me feel that sweeping changes could easily be made in my life, but this book did that for me.  When I got to chapter 7, I literally put down the book and cleaned out my files.  It was an amazing experience.  Since reading the book, I have given myself an inbox (and various other files), I bought a labeler (which I love!) and I changed the way I use my PDA phone to make it much more productive and useful.
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This book parts from the traditional self-help book a bit.  Mr. Allen has developed a system that can help anyone become more productive, less forgetful, and gain loads of trust and confidence.  He doesn’t begin by explaining concepts and then giving examples.  He actually gives very specific instructions, and he kind of gets around to explaining the principles in the last couple of chapters.  He admits that his book departs from the traditional format in this way, explaining that centering your life on your values could actually make your life more stressful and complicated, rather than simpler and easier.
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I honestly cannot say enough good things about this book, and I not only recommend it for your self-help shelf, I recommend you buy a copy for everyone you know!  I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

The Secret

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne****

the-secret-2006-filmAhhh… The Secret… the movie that changed the world!  It’s tough to review such a national phenomenon.  I suspect many of you have seen or read it already.  Let me start by saying that this movie basically put me on the path that led me to read dozens upon dozens of self-help books.  Later, I listened to the audio version of the book.  The book obviously came after the movie, and has a few extra little tips and tidbits that the movie does not have.  I actually like the book better than the movie, which I didn’t really expect.

My kids love “The Secret.”  They have used it to get a flat-screen tv and a video gaming system, among other things.  Sometimes I tell them something like, “It’s raining, so we want to get a good parking space close to the door.  Everyone use the secret!”  And it works!

I think my favorite thing about The Secret is the large number of people that are associated with it.  Ms. Byrne has created a great collection of personal development experts to contribute to the movie/book.  These teachers are all very successful, and I believe they have received a lot just by being part of this.  It makes more sense that a good philosophy is one that wise leaders agree on, not one that is written by one man alone.

If I have a complaint, it is that the philosophy presented is a little simplistic.  I think there is a little more to it than thinking good thoughts.  Little is said about the work we do, or what we are willing to give or sacrifice for our dreams.  There is not much said about what things are appropriate to ask for, or whether manifesting things is really what life is about.  That being said, I do believe that The Secret makes sense logically, religiously, and spiritually.  It is a new classic that belongs on everyone’s self-help shelf, and I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.