Book Review: The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success

The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success , by Marcus Buckingham, is an interesting little book. It comes in a foil-wrapped slipcase containing the book, a DVD, and a small notebook for making observations. The book itself is short, as is the DVD, so there’s not much fluff. For this alone I’m tempted to give the book an A, as far too many improvement books seem to be published to hit page targets rather than just communicate.

The premise of The Truth About You is that we all have strengths, and in order to live happy, productive lives we should play to those strengths.

The author debunks the idea that we must focus our efforts on our weaknesses – instead of trying to become good at things we hate and are naturally not good at, we should play to our strengths and capitalize on them.

I agree with this. I shudder to think about the gazillions of productive hours in corporations across America have been squandered by optimistic middle managers trying to act on annual review suggestions to address areas of improvement that will never really be improved. Instead of celebrating what each employee brings to the table, and encouraging them to hone those attributes, we instead focus on the impossible task of making them all equal in all areas. Stupid.

The process of discovering these strengths lies in making observations about what activities leave us feeling happy and satisfied. While I agree that it’s important to play to one’s strengths, I’m not sure it’s very useful to record what we’re doing when we feel strong or empowered or happy. For me the observations just weren’t very actionable.

For example, I was in my workshop making a woodworking project. I feel very good. I feel strong, and empowered, and all good things. What observation should I make? I enjoy woodworking precisely because I DON”T do it for a living, so I don’t think it’s useful to observe that woodworking makes me happy. Stepping back a bit, what makes me happy about woodworking is creating something new – that’s good.

But “making something new” isn’t very actionable. Or, perhaps because I’m in a job where my main goal is to create new things it doesn’t seem actionable.

Regardless, the book will make you think.

It’s a good book to give as a gift because it’s attractive, and the case & DVD help make it more than just a book. It’s not very long so the recipient won’t feel like they’ve been handed some massive project. They can read the book in an evening, carry the notebook for several days, and have fulfilled the intent.

It’s also a positive book, and I don’t think anyone would take offense to it the way they might at receiving, say, a book on weight loss.

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