“Given what I do now, most people are surprised to learn that I did not start my academic career until I was thirty-seven and spent most of my twenties unemployed, much of the time deeply uncertain about who I was and what I wanted to do. But I count those years as the most important of my life. It was during that intense period of living with failure that I gained my first insights into the meaning of success.”
~G. Richard Shell
Late last year, we chose Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success for Best Business Book of 2013. Now this excellent self-development book is available in paperback. We chose Springboard because it offers unparalleled application across all of the business sub-genres, providing readers with the tools to define success accurately and authentically for themselves. There is no more worthwhile work any business person can undertake, and so we chose to celebrate Richard Shell’s valuable contribution to the discussion.
Richard Shell literally teaches the course on success at Wharton, so who better than he to write the book? His 2013 effort, Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success, is an even-handed, well-researched, and thoroughly humanistic book about defining and finding success…on your own terms. “If you allow others to define your goals for you,” Shell warns, “then there is a pretty good chance you will end up holding a prize you did not choose and do not want.”
Springboard is a surprisingly modest work, despite Shell’s bona fides as author of the classic Bargaining for Advantage and co-author of the popular The Art of Woo. Yet it makes up for its lack of flash in erudition, practicality, and applicability. Truly this book needs to find a home on the shelves—and in the hearts and minds–of anyone who wants to be more successful. Here’s why:
A purposeful yet personable “living workbook ” to help you determine and achieve your success values, this book reads like you are hearing profound life lessons shared by an old friend. Shell doesn’t hold back from revealing his own search for identity, and how his years of traveling and dabbling at many professions led him to realize his “task was to write a purposeful narrative using the life I had left in front of me.” He helps all of us do the same with Springboard.
Springboard does not tell you how to achieve fame or fortune. Shell warns that the unexamined pursuit of such things can turn you into a success addict—a hungry ghost—unable to feed an ever-expanding appetite for such status symbols. Nor does the book succumb to the cult of ambition or the supposed power of positive thinking. Happiness is not the goal; self-knowledge is. Shell asks, “What, in the end, do you think success really is? And with that idea in mind, what specific steps can you take to achieve it?”
Because it focuses on you, and not it, Springboard will provide you the tools to align your expectations with your defined values and your unique capabilities. It will help you identify what truly motivates you most, and how to “stay on course by returning to these sources of energy each and every day.” The process will require some work from you—the reader; Shell will have you searching inside yourself and answering some often difficult questions about what you truly want and why, but in the end, you will be that much closer to your most authentic—and successful—self.
Why is Springboard our pick for the Best Business Book of 2013? And why should it be the first business book you read in 2014? We’ll let G. Richard Shell answer that for us:
It is your life story you are writing, after all.