Self-help, self-improvement, management and other advice books typically explain how you can fix the things that are wrong with you or improve the things that you are doing badly; few tell you that you’re already doing okay, actually, and not to worry, a message that may not sell a lot of books but that people nevertheless should hear more often.
What I loved about Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton was the positive, reassuring message that you should focus more on what you are good at rather than on your shortcomings.
I expected to hear more of that message in Find Your Strongest Life, but somehow it seems the book spent a lot of time describing in detail the problems of women who do not have their priorities straight: they are choosing to lead unfulfilling lives. And maybe you, reader, are one of those women! In fact, if you’re not doing this, that and the other thing, you probably are. If you identify more with this negative anecdote than this positive one, you definitely are, and you need to change.
That’s not a helpful message, actually; just more of the typical self-help snake oil: buy my book, follow my instructions, live a happy life. Don’t buy my book and follow my instructions, and you’ll be miserable.
Perhaps I’m not being totally fair.
The nine life roles Buckingham describes were interesting and useful to read about,
and you can take a free Strong Life Test to see which role fits you best. (Edit: It seems it’s not available any longer.) The book also contains a lot of helpful tips on how to be more positive and shift your life towards your strengths.
The book just didn’t strike me as positive overall. Perhaps the underlying message still seems to be, “If you don’t do this, you’ll be unhappy… and you’ll deserve to be.”
What Stood Out
The metaphor that success isn’t like juggling (throwing lots of things away from you), but rather involves choosing which aspects of life to catch and bring closer to you (xviii).
The core insight that happiness often consists of time spent engaged in a challenging task of the specific kind that suits you (8).
The hypothesis that there is no universal karmic justice:
Life is not designed with anyone’s happiness in mind, and it has the disconcerting habit of not rewarding the good as much as we’d expect, of punishing the wicked less vigorously than we’d like, and even, on occasion, of getting the two completely mixed up (24).
The idea that yes, expertise takes practice, but that you’re more likely to practice things you like doing in the first place (164).
When and Why I Read It
Bought it very cheap at an atrium book sale in Singapore because I liked Now, Discover Your Strengths. which has apparently been superseded by Strengthsfinder 2.0.
Genre: non-fiction (self-improvement, business)
Date started / date finished: 20-Mar-16 to 22-Mar-16
Length: 263 pages
ISBN: 9781400202362 (hardcover)
Originally published in: 2009
Amazon link: Find Your Strongest Life