Book Review: Springboard by G. Richard Shell

‘The end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.’ – T.S. Eliot

‘Happiness is just three things: good health, meaningful work and love. You have that, you are happy.’ – The Wise Angel

‘You must bake with the flour you have.’ – Danish folk saying

The book ‘Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for SUCCESS’ by the creator Wharton School’s ‘Success Course,’ Professor G. Richard Shell is not a breezy read superficial success book that one likes to read while waiting at a railway station or an airport. It is rather a complete success workbook that is filled with a number of exercises that helps us to reflect on what success is to us and how can we go about achieving it in our life.

The Book is divided into two parts. In the first four chapters that constitute the first section, Professor Shell tries to help us in answering the question ‘What is Success?’ In the next five chapters Professor Shell tries to help in answering the question ‘How will I Achieve Success?’ The book starts with the six lives exercise wherein Professor Shell briefly chronicles the lives of six individuals to drive home the point that ‘there is nothing called a perfect life and there are trade-offs involved in every kind of life.’

In each chapter, in addition to introducing a few solid foundations that would aid us in quest, the author also uses the case study of some famous and some not so famous lives to illustrate the point that he is making. Some of the lives that we get to see in this book are that of Tennis Legend Andre Agassi, Celebrity Chef & TV personality Julia Child, social entrepreneur Eric Adler, one of California lottery winners Cynthia Stafford, the first person to a solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Charles Lindbergh and one of the most influential naval architects in American history William Francis Gibbs. What I liked about this book is that the author does not leave out the dark sides of success for some of the very people that he uses as case studies.

But the first narrative in the book is about Professor Shell himself. As a young man during Vietnam War era, Professor Shell shunned his family tradition of joining the U.S. military services and as a result estranged his relationship with his parents. From then on he embarked on perilous journey towards self-defeat and its lowest point had the wisdom to turn around to embark on an odyssey that will lead to his metamorphosis into a Wharton Professor helping talented embark on their unique journey towards success.

The book introduces us to multiple concepts including: Simcha, three types of happiness: Momentary Happiness, Overall Happiness and Wisdom Experiences, two types of respect: Recognition Respect and Informed Respect, Hungry Ghosts of Fame and Fortune, three ways of looking at work: jobs, career and calling/meaningful work, the SAME Personality Assessment, the PERFECT work motivations, three types of friendships: friends of pleasure, friends of utility and friends of virtue, among others.

In a way this is more of a workbook cum reference book and one would gain maximum benefit from this book by truthfully working on the various exercises given in the book. The book does a very good job of explaining the multi-dimensional aspect of success and the various trade-offs and pitfalls of following the cultural and societal stereotypes of success. The book would serve as a light house or guiding beacon when we get swept in the rat-race and by referring back to this book from time to time we can ensure that we are not led astray from our own unique success journey. The book could serve as a virtual mentor for people who have difficulty finding a real-life mentor.

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