The Greatness Guide
By Robin Sharma
Harper Books, 221 pages, $19.95
The Truth About Managing Your Career
By Karen Otazo
245 pages, $24.99
In our frenetic lives, many people want their management wisdom in bite-sized chunks. They seek information that can be assimilated in 10-minute bursts, between the many events that overwhelm their days.
Robin Sharma and Karen Otazo respond to that need in recent books. Mr. Sharma, a Toronto-based coach who wrote the best-selling fable The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, about finding balance in your life, takes a different tack in The Greatness Guide, with 101 essays, each requiring just a few minutes to read, that inspire you to improve yourself.
For example, he prods you to find your four-minute mile. Before 1954, it was believed no runner could break the four-minute mile barrier. But after Roger Bannister achieved that milestone, many more replicated his feat within weeks because he showed it was possible.
"What bill of goods have you sold yourself as to what's impossible? What false assumptions are you making in terms of what you cannot have, do and be? Your thinking creates your reality," Mr. Sharma says.
Instead of holding yourself back, you must set goals to drive you beyond these barriers. In that vein, he suggests finding positive reference points, like the 62-year-old front man for the Rolling Stones whom Mr. Sharma recently watched strutting the stage at a rock concert. Some people in their 60s figure they are reaching the end of their life, but not if Mick Jagger is their reference point.
"Positive reference points will pull you into a new way of seeing things and introduce you to a new set of possibilities. Doors you never knew existed will begin to open," Mr. Sharma says.
His father was a positive reference point on integrity, his mother on kindness, and his children on unconditional love and boundless curiosity. You may have valuable reference points from your own immediate circle, but he also points you to cyclist Lance Armstrong on persistence, entrepreneur Richard Branson on living a full-out life, entertainer Madonna on reinvention, management guru Peter Drucker on lifelong learning, and South Africa's ex-president Nelson Mandela on courage and humanitarianism.
"Often, we have weak reference points so we see the limitation of a scenario rather than the opportunities. With world-class reference points, you will realize far more of your potential and life will have more wonder," he says.
Most training and learning from seminars or self-help books doesn't stick because we resist the change involved. He lists four factors that keep us from making the changes we ideally would want to make.
Fear: We fear leaving the safe harbour of the known for the unknown. He says the key is to manage that fear by doing the very thing that frightens you. "Do it until you are no longer scared."
Failure: Since we don't want to fail, we don't try. That keeps us from taking the first step to improve our health, or deepen our workplace relationships, or try to realize some career or personal dream. "In my mind, the only failure in life is the failure to try. And I deeply believe that the greatest risk you can ever take is not taking risks," he says.
Forgetting: We are ready to change the world after imbibing some inspirational wisdom, but as soon as everyday life intrudes again, we are diverted from that goal and it slips from our mind. Instead, he says, you must keep such commitments top of mind, as he does by writing them on a three-by-five inch card and placing them on his bathroom mirror.
(Lack of) Faith: Too many people are cynical, convinced personal development suggestions don't work. That stems from a time when they were filled with possibilities and hope, perhaps as a kid, and failed at something. Instead, you need to view failure and risking as the highway to success.
In The Truth About Managing Your Career . . . And Nothing But The Truth, Ms. Otazo counters the traditional advice to "hit the ground running" in a new job. "The main problem with hitting the ground running is that you don't know what you are running into," she warns. Unless you are a time-limited consultant or interim manager, she urges you to take time to do the groundwork, reviewing files and talking with people, to understand the situation better, thinking about the long-term.
She urges you to speak in short, declarative sentences, since research shows that makes you appear more in control of the situation, and to pay particular attention to beginnings and endings in presentations. In conference calls, even though you are alone in a room, use gestures -- even punching the air -- to give you energy. But more generally, watch your emotions when working with others, since, like a carbonated drink, you don't want them to get stirred up and then explode, spraying everyone.
Her book, which is broken down into 60 truths about work, has a lot of solid information, much of it not new but brought together in a handy format. The other book, by Mr. Sharma, is aimed to inspire you to be a better human being; it's very smoothly written, although with a tendency to emphasize points with repeated phrases such as "this is a big idea," or, after a powerful quotation, "smart guy," that grate if you read too many of his essays at one time. But then again, you're not supposed to -- these are meant to be read individually, savoured, and acted upon.
Just In: Pitch Invasion: Adidas, Puma And The Making of Modern Sport (Penguin, 397 pages, $28) by Barbara Smit, tells how a rivalry between two brothers helped turn sport into an industry. A Corporate Solution To Global Poverty (Princeton University Press, 198 pages, $24), by George Lodge and Craig Wilson, shows how multinationals can help the poor and invigorate their own legitimacy.
Ten tactics for superb relationships:
Be the most positive person you know.
Be candid and speak truthfully.
Be on time.
Say please and thank you.
Underpromise and overdeliver.
Leave people better than you found them.
Be friendly and caring.
Be a world-class listener.
Become passionately interested in other people.
Smile a lot.
From The Greatness Guide by Robin Sharma