‘The Power of Optimism’ by Alan Loy McGinnis
I’ve had this book a very long time and up to now I have managed to ignore it. The title seemed a bit too folksy and glib so it has been gathering dust for close on twenty years.
Big mistake; I can’t remember who gave it to me but whoever it was, was open-minded enough to look past the cover and the title to find a very down-to-earth book, full of wisdom and ‘hints and tips’ – how awful those words are (!) on how to lead a more satisfying and positive life without leaving the realms of reality.
McGinnis was a psychotherapist in California who founded the Glendale Counseling Center – yes, U.S. spelling and has written several books, the most famous – if you’ve heard of it – The Friendship Factor.
As well as being an author and a therapist, he was also a corporate consultant to business leaders…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – Sept 2017
‘The Power of Now’ by Eckhart Tolle
Most people will have heard of this book even if they’ve not read it. It has sold tens of millions of copies globally and been translated into dozens of languages. Tolle has been named the most influential living spiritual teacher in the world – even topping the Dalai Llama.
Big stats for a slim volume, yet it’s the brevity of the book which is one if its many strengths. No padding, no waffle; written in a concise and simple style which requires no previous knowledge or understanding of spiritual teachings – just an enquiring mind. It’s basically ancient Zen and Buddhist teachings packaged for a 21st century secular audience, but it’s done well. The simplicity of the format and prose makes it accessible to all.
The crux of the teaching is the idea that we are not…..click here to read more
Reviewed by Jenny Eaton – July 2017
‘Triggers: Sparking positive change and making it last’ by Marshall Goldsmith
Marshall Goldsmith is an American Leadership Coach and has worked with many CEOs around the world.
This is an excellent book, it helps the reader withstand the bombardment of triggers around us, including other people and the environment that could take us off the path to continuous self-development and behavioural change.
The author has written several other books and I find his style helps makes this one an easy read whilst at the same time challenging the reader’s current perceptions. There are one or two occasions when he slips into ‘victim speak’ when he states that the environment dictates what we do, which of course is nonsense. For instance, he writes: ‘Some environments are designed precisely to lure us into acting against our interest…..click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – June 2017
‘Authentic Happiness’ by Martin Seligman
Martin Seligman is known for his work in the area of positive psychology, in fact, here’s the blurb from the book cover: Martin E. P Seligman is the Fox Leadership Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, the Director of the Positive Psychology Network and former president of the American Psychological Association. Among his twenty books are Learned Optimism and the Optimistic Child: all of which can either add credence to this book or turn you off completely.
In my opinion, this book is a tour de force and successfully straddles the two genres of personal development and psychology. Some of the conclusions reached by the author I found controversial to say the least but my overall impression of the book was one of lasting…..click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – May 2017
‘The Idiot Brain’ by Dean Burnett
This book was given to me as a Christmas present by one of my colleagues at Mancroft and I’m absolutely delighted that she did. It’s an absolutely fascinating book written by a neuroscientist who works as a tutor and lecturer based in Cardiff. He dabbles in stand-up comedy and writes a science blog for the Guardian.
There’s a quirky strand of humour that runs through the book which helps it to be eminently readable and very easy to understand, despite the pages being peppered with names of the different parts of the brain. An early example of the humour is in the introduction where he signs off as ‘Dean Burnett PhD (no, really)’; he doesn’t take himself seriously which is quite refreshing for an academic…..click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – April 2017
‘Endurance’ by Alfred Lansing
In August 1914, Ernest Shackleton set out with a crew of twenty-seven men (it was intended to be twenty-six, but there was a stowaway who was allowed to stay on board) with the intention of sailing on the eponymous Endurance to Antarctica and then becoming the first to cross the continent west to east. This is the story of how, in failing to achieve their goal, they went on to provide one of the most inspiring stories of the fortitude and bravery of mankind.
This is not a swashbuckling tale of derring-do, it is an account of grinding hard work, extraordinary bravery, guts, character and incredible optimism when all the evidence was indicating that this was an unrealistic mindset…..click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – March 2017
Neil Gaiman’s ‘Make Good Art’ Speech
This one is a bit left field. It was a Christmas present from one of my daughters who works with me in Mancroft and it must be the shortest ‘book of the month’ I have reviewed.
Neil Gaiman, in case you haven’t come across him before, is an English author who has won acclaim for his short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre, and films. Some of his best known works include the comic book series The Sandman, and novels Stardust, American Gods and the Graveyard Book.
This book is the transcript of Gaiman’s commencement address to the Philadelphia University of Arts Class of 2012 and is truly inspirational. It doesn’t matter if you’re not an artist, a writer…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – February 2017
‘So, Anyway’ by John Cleese
This is a bit of a left-field recommendation in that I appreciate that it is a bit of a generational thing because for many reading this, many of the names mentioned in the book may mean nothing.
So, anyway is the autobiography of someone, considered by many to be one of the towering talents of the British comedy scene over the last five-odd decades. This is by no means a personal development handbook nor one of those so-called self-help books, it is simply a story of a shy, putative middle class Englishman who almost literally stumbled his way to success after success.
He admits to having no goals or direction, he simply knew the right people, or at least the people who knew the right people that drove his long career …click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – January 2017
‘A Leader’s Guide to Influence: How to Use Soft Skills to Get Hard’ by Mike Brent & Fiona Elsa Dent
This book is written by two lecturers from Ashridge and is probably written in the kind of style you would expect. The authors have had worldwide experience in the Leadership and Coaching arenas and therefore bring a deal of credibility to the party. The format of the book makes it easy to read and the information is potentially very helpful but I didn’t find the book inspirational in the way that some other reviewers have.
I find the use of words like ‘techniques’ when dealing with other people to be a bit of a turn-off as it seems to sound as if we should be manipulative in a none-too-ethical way. In fairness, the authors do…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – December 2016
‘Feel the Fear and do it Anyway’ by Susan Jeffers
The review for this book is decades late – it was first published in 1987. I have recommended it on most of the courses I have delivered so now it’s probably time for a mention.
When I first heard of the title, I thought: ‘here’s another nice folksy, slightly corny ‘American’ book encouraging us to be positive no matter what.’ Pre-judge with no information – me? I couldn’t have been more wrong.
This book, though worded in gentler language than we use on The Winning Edge course, is down-to-earth, pragmatic and full of simple – not easy – ways of handling lifestyle and the problems that we create with our skewed and unrealistic expectations and perceptions…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – November 2016
‘The Unconscious at Work’ edited by Anton Obholzer and Vega Zagier Roberts
This book was recommended by an attendee at a Winning Edge programme and asked our opinion of it.
The book is aimed at those working in what are called the Human Services, the definition of which I Googled and came up with this:
‘The field of Human Services is broadly defined, uniquely approaching the objective of meeting human needs through an interdisciplinary knowledge base, focusing on prevention as well as remediation of problems, and maintaining a commitment to improving the overall quality of life of service populations. The Human Services profession is one which promotes improved service delivery systems by addressing…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – October 2016
‘Leading’ by Alex Ferguson and Michael Moritz
This month’s book is a bit niche – although it’s a pretty big niche because it’s all about, yes you guessed it – football. The book has been out for some time so I appreciate that many of you may have already read it. If you have, you will know that it is not intended to be just about football, the clue being in the title so the authors have attempted to straddle the two themes, leadership and the beautiful game and with some success.
If you listen to Talk Sport, you will love this book; it’s chock full of anecdotes about Ferguson himself, managers, players, owners, fans, agents, social media etc. etc. As you might imagine, some of the writing is quite pithy; some a shade self-pitying but Ferguson is very good at putting qualifiers into almost all his ‘negative’ comments so he gets away with his legendary forthrightness…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – September 2016
‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ by Daniel Kahneman
Daniel Kahneman is an Israeli-American psychologist who, in 2002, won a Nobel Prize (shared with Vernon L. Smith) for his work in economic science.
I found this book absolutely fascinating as Kahneman, bit by bit, uncovers the hidden biases that influence our decision-making. His work involves describing the two parts of the human brain that he calls System 1 and System 2. The role of the two systems are completely different. System 1 is the intuitive part of the brain that makes decisions quickly based on past experiences, existing beliefs and prejudices and System 2 works much more slowly and is analytical, deliberate and consciously effortful.
We like to think we are rational creatures and that our conscious thoughts can override our biases but science has proved that the ‘boss’ of our brain is System 1…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – August 2016
‘Authentic Happiness’ by Martin Seligman
Martin Seligman is known for his work in the area of positive psychology, in fact, here’s his blurb from the book cover: Martin E. P Seligman is the Fox Leadership Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, the Director of the Positive Psychology Network and former president of the American Psychological Association. Among his twenty books are Learned Optimism and the Optimistic Child: all of which can either add credence to this book or turn you off completely.
In my opinion, this book is a tour de force and successfully straddles the two genres of personal development and psychology. Some of the conclusions reached by the author I found controversial to say the least, but my overall impression of the book was one of lasting value, especially if it is…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – July 2016
‘Leadership – Dubai Style – The Habits to Achieve Remarkable Success’ by Tommy Weir
Last time I looked, Amazon had the book at £7.07 for the Kindle version and £36.00 for the hardcover one – you can pay £36 for couple of drinks on a Saturday night these days so just buy the damned book and let me know what you think of it please.
Many of the recommendations in this book fly in the face of the received wisdom coming from traditional leadership and management theorists and, in my opinion, all the better for it. It’s one of the most provocative and exciting books I have ever read on leadership; do I agree with everything in it – not quite but it is very difficult to argue with the fact that Dubai has been a phenomenal success story.
Unlike companies and organisations that we are used to, the ruling family in Dubai has absolute authority to make decisions…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – June 2016
‘The Business Brain Book’ by Jan-Willem van den Brandhoff
This is an excellent book and as Myles Nicholson of BT said when he kindly gave it to me, there is some sections which are spookily – my word – like Winning Edge. However, where Mind Mapping is mentioned in passing on the Winning Edge, the author sees it as a major tool for learning, something with which I would agree.
The objective of the book is to enable the reader to make much of his/her brain by explaining practical, brain-friendly techniques help deal with the overload of information that inundates daily life.
- Make better use of your brain capacity
- Read and learn faster
- Process information more efficiently
- Improve your memory
- Create a brain-friendly environment
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – May 2016
‘The Unthinkable – Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why’, by Amanda Ripley
This is an absolutely fascinating book that, if you read it, as it says in one of the reviews, it could save your life one day.
Amanda Ripley, an award-winning journalist who writes for Time magazine, has studied the reactions of people in potentially life-threatening situations and found that there seems to be three stages of mind-set that humans go through at such times; they are Denial, Deliberation.click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – Apr 2016
‘The Untethered Soul’ by Michael J Singer
This book was recommended to me by one of my colleagues at Mancroft International and it’s slightly different from most of the books I have reviewed over the years. Naomi knew I would find it intriguing in that it is more spiritual than most of the books featured on our website and the reading list distributed to our Winning Edge attendees but it is also very down-to-earth and, in a sometimes subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle way, very hard hitting.
In common with Winning Edge, it leaves no room for blaming anyone else for the way we feel and we are urged to go inside our own head for solutions to our problems. Yes, we may need some external help to achieve peace of mind but we…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – Mar 2016
‘An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth’ by Chris Hadfield
What a wonderful book this is. It’s the story, written in his own words, of the astronaut Chris Hadfield, who you probably remember sang, somewhat poignantly in retrospect, ‘Space Oddity’ whilst he was on the International Space Station.
This is not a personal development book and yet it is one of the most inspiring books on personal development I have read.
Chapters with titles such ‘Have an Attitude’, ‘Sweat the Small Stuff’, ‘The Power of Negative Thinking’, ‘What’s the Next Thing That Could Kill Me’ are deliberately designed to mislead the reader, for instance the one on negative thinking is actually about preparing for the worst in order to survive for the best…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – Feb 2016
‘Run! – 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss’ by Dean Karnazes
If you have an interest in competitive marathon running, enjoy running for fun and keeping fit, or simply enjoy reading books written by people doing extraordinary things that inspire you, this one is for you.
Dean Karnazes has already written a book called ‘Ultramarathon Man’, which I have not read and there have been some reviews that say ‘Run’ is not as good and some others say this is better because it does not take the time to introduce readers to ultramarathon running, an activity about which they are largely ignorant.
Untramarathons involve running the equivalent of several marathons in one race; in fact he ran 350 miles for charity in Australia in six days, climbing, in total, the equivalent of 30,000…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – Jan 2015
‘The 4-Hour Work Week’ by Timothy Ferris
With a title like ‘The 4-Hour Work Week’, I defy anyone not to be a little intrigued. This is an excellent book, it’s extremely thought-provoking as it challenges many of our pre-conceived ideas about what is possible and what is not.
The thrust of the book is that you can become a member of the New Rich and live the life-style of a millionaire without actually having a million, and without working more than four hours a week.
My initial reaction was one of huge scepticism but bit by bit I began to realise that, if you accept some of the author’s premises – and he makes a very strong argument for them – it is possible to do what he suggests.
Ferris divides the book up into four sections based on the acronym ‘DEAL’ which stands for Definition which provides the overall lifestyle design recipeclick here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – Dec 2015
‘How to be a Complete and Utter Failure in Life, Work and Everything’ by Steve McDermott
Quite a provocative title this month and a really enjoyable read. The title tells you what to expect; it’s an anti-personal development book – it tells the reader what not to do in order to be a failure and of course there’s a whole bunch of ideas and concepts that can be used to have a great life.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book; there was the occasional time when I found the style slightly irritatingly patronising, as if the reader couldn’t cope with a book on ‘positive thinking’ – my perception I know – and sometimes the humour seemed a little twee.
However, that’s nitpicking. The book is peppered with brilliant and appropriate quotes from an eclectic mix of people and many ideas that have a great deal of…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – November 2015
‘Irrationality’ by Stuart Sutherland
This book is a salutary read for anyone who thinks they think rationally most of the time. There is so much evidence to prove that for a great deal of the time we think in ways that do not necessarily serve us well, that you tend to wonder why we have brains at all.
In the introduction to the book there is a quote from Pascal that chimes with the fact that all decisions are made for emotional reasons which is: ‘The heart has its reasons that reason knows not of’. I think we can all relate to having made the odd – in both senses of the word – irrational decision in affairs of.click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – October 2015
‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ by Viktor E Frankl
Viktor Frankl was born in Vienna in 1905 and held the post of Professor of Neurology at the University of Vienna Medical School. His wife, father, mother and brother all died in Nazi concentration camps during the Second World War but he himself survived. He was moved from camp to camp finally ending up in Auschwitz where, as with all the other prisoners, he was treated brutally by the camp guards, suffering horrendous privation but surviving because he believed Nietzsche’s quote to be true: “he who has a ‘why’ to live can bear almost any how”.
Frankl said that even while the prisoners were…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – September 2015
‘The Golfer’s Mind’ by Bob Rotella
OK all you non-golfers, please bear with me on reviewing this book because if you’re prepared to replace the golfing terms and allusions with whatever is important to you in your life, whether it’s another game or sport, important relationship issues, parenting, business or career aspirations or simply wanting to manage your brain better to have a brilliant life, then give this book a chance.
Here’s an example of its universal application; each chapter starts with a quotation, usually from a golfer or other famous sportsperson and chapter two has this quote from the golfer, Ben Hogan…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – August 2015
‘The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night – Time’ by Mark Haddon
The author, Mark Haddon, writes with incredible empathy about a 15 year-old boy – Christopher Boone – who has Asperger syndrome; I have copied the following from The National Autistic Society website in case you don’t know what Asperger Syndrome is:
“Asperger syndrome is a form of autism, which is a lifelong disability that affects how a person makes sense of the world, processes information and relates to other people. Autism is often described as a ‘spectrum disorder’ because the condition affects people in many different ways and to varying degrees.
Asperger syndrome is mostly a ‘hidden disability’. This means that you can’t tell that someone has the…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – July 2015
‘Make the Most of Your Mind’ by Tony Buzan
Tony Buzan is probably best known as the originator of Mind Maps. His form of note taking and memorising information has been used successfully by thousands, probably millions of people over the last thirty-odd years. He has published numerous books on the brain and learning, and one on poetry.
Buzan has appeared on television many times in series such as, ‘Use Your Head’ on BBC and ‘The Open Mind’ series on ITV, as well as numerous talk shows and radio programmes.
One purpose of the book is to inform the reader with just how impressive our brains are. One statistic that I found fairly impressive is that the number of connections in the human brain…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – June 2015
‘The 80/20 Principle: The Secret of Achieving More with Less’ by Richard Koch
Many of you will have heard of the Pareto Principle which states that 80% of returns come from 20% of inputs. Richard Koch claims to have written the first book on this subject, although there have been numerous articles written about the Principle over the years.
The 80/20 principle was ‘discovered’ by Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923) in 1897 and has been variously called the Pareto Principle, the 80/20 Principle and the Principle of Least Effort and the Principle of Imbalance.
Pareto discovered the principle when he was looking at patterns of wealth and income in nineteenth-century England and he found that most income was in the possession of a minority of the…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – May 2015
‘Help! – How to become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done’ by Oliver Burkeman
Oliver Burkeman is a feature writer for the Guardian and has won the Press Association’s Young Journalist of the Year Award. He writes a weekly column on psychology called ‘This Column will Change Your Life’.
This book was recommended to me, by Jenny Eaton, a friend and associate, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
Burkeman is, like me, a positively healthy sceptic when it comes to the ‘self-help’ industry. He is by no means negative about the subject of personal development, but finds that there is a fair amount of material about which he feels less than enthusiastic, as does…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – April 2015
‘Touching The Void’ by Joe Simpson
This will be one of the shortest book reviews I have done so far. I am tempted to write – just go out and buy it – but that’s a bit of cop-out.
The book is about two men; Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, who climb a mountain in South America and, having conquered the peak, suffer a major disaster on the way down when Joe Simpson breaks a leg. Joe and Simon are pretty convinced that there is no way that they can both get down the mountain safely but decide to give it a go.
I really don’t want to spoil your enjoyment of the book by giving too much more away other than to say it is extremely tightly written – there are no spare words, no filler paragraphs…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – March 2015
‘Beautiful’ by Katie Piper
There can be very few people who have not heard of Katie Piper, even if it’s: ’I’ve heard the name, but who is she?’ As soon as a very few words have been used to describe what happened to Katie, people know who she is.
As you may be well aware, there have been documentaries about Katie Piper on Channel 4, so her story is very well known, but in case you haven’t heard, Katie was the young woman who had her beautiful face destroyed by having industrial-strength sulphuric acid thrown in her face by a friend of her boyfriend.
If you have attended a Winning Edge programme, you will know that there is no such thing as good or evil because…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – February 2015
‘The Reluctant Adult’ by Jill Hall
You might imagine that with a title that includes the words ‘an exploration of choice’, it’s a must-read for Mancroft.
The book is written in a style that may not suit everyone; if you like an ‘easy read’, this book is not for you. It is written by an academic who is not afraid to challenge the reader with sentences from which you feel you may never escape with your sanity intact, but this is one of the reasons why I found the book so compelling. Just as I was vehemently disagreeing with one of the author’s postulations, I found something very soon afterwards that gave a new insight into one of my favourite subjects, personal responsibility.
If you read this book you may well question some of your…click here to read more
Reviewed by Richard Jackson – January 2015