SUCCESS is a subject which has never failed to fascinate me.
Hence when I saw this book, Success, I went after it like a terrier after a fox.
Author Richard Hall and I reached an accord when I read in Chapter 1 – What is Success that “It’s not easy to define success because it means different things to different people. To some it is about money, to some it is about power, to some it is about gaining respect, to some it is about winning, to some it is about doing something that would be regarded as meaning something (a vicar, a social worker or whatever – successful? You bet – you need to see the work they do to understand this.) To a few it is about gaining immortality.”
And he seems honest too because in his Fast Forward, he writes: “People ask me if this is a ‘how to’ book. Although I deeply loathe the idea of ‘how to’ business books in the same way I hate table d’hote menus – too little choice in advice and what there is left over from someone else’s yesterdays – I have to confess that this is at its heart a ‘how to’ book.”
Of course, he follows with a quick, “But it’s a ‘how to’ book with a difference.”
His honesty can, at times, be cutting, like when he passes this remark on The One Minute Manager (by Ken Blanchard and Dr Spencer Johnson): “Powerful as this may seem, even if it’s just for one minute.”
Cutting too, like when he observes: “I was served by a guy called Greg at Argos in Brighton – he was brilliant, professional, knowledgeable, very fast. I hope he gets promoted. I asked him if he liked what he does. ‘I love it. Brilliant. Best job I’ve ever had.’ I could imagine him reading the Argos catalogue in bed ensuring he was word perfect.”
Call it honesty, or wicked humour, but Hall sure made me laugh with this comment: “Henry Kissinger said, ‘Power is an aphrodisiac’, which may be true – Bill Clinton seemed to find it so.”
The book is arranged in 22 chapters, offering a long menu of ‘how to’ options for increasing one’s chances of success, such as the way to use one’s time, the need to be curious about everything, and even abstracts like how to keep the horrors of voicemail and e-mail under control.
But I find some chapters to be redundant. An example is the two-page Chapter 21 – Trumped by a New Formula, where Hall takes a dig at a few of Donald Trump’s homilies, such as “dress well”, “be your own financial adviser”, “be paranoid”, “avoid shaking hands”, “follow your instincts”, “pay attention to the details”, and “get a prenuptial agreement.” Gee, I’ve just listed them all in only one paragraph!
To describe this book as “abstract” is an understatement; that word seems to sum up Hall’s style of writing. He writes like he is talking to himself, lost perhaps in his thoughts, and mumbles some off-beat phrases now and then, or makes remarks on things known only to himself.
For example, he lost me when he writes, “Robin Marlar rather surprisingly took against the ‘win at all cost’ ethic of, for instance, the Australians at cricket: ‘Why play if not to win? For fun, for friendship, for experience, to explore.’ For friendship? Arsene Wenger, meet Alex Ferguson. Now that was a fun experience boys, wasn’t it?”
And he is fond of dropping names all over the book, often without disclosing more. Perhaps he assumes his readers to be all-knowledgeable to know the persons he mentions.
If one can take Hall’s honesty and has the ability to make something out of his abstractness, there are some good advices to be found in this book, which is selling for RM56.50 in most major bookstores.
However, there is one more thing I still need to caution the readers: There aren’t that many cases or examples to back up those pieces of advice.
This is a ruddy shame since so many names have already been sprinkled, and yet ended up short on details. The book could otherwise have been more appreciated if only the author had expanded those names with tales to boot.
After all, on a fascinating topic like “success”, readers really like nothing more than to identify with some real persons whose success stories could give credence and so inspire them.