By Dr. Marie Gould Harper
Program Director, Management at American Public University
There have been three business-oriented books that have left a lasting impression on me over the years. Each book came at a time when I could apply the information immediately.
What Are These Three Books?
Jack Stack’s “The Great Game of Business” is an excellent resource when you want individuals to become aware of why their work is important and essential. Business expert Stack explains how participation in an organization allows employees to experience how their work ties to (1) the overall mission of the organization; (2) the goals of their department and/or unit; and (3) the functions of other teams they interact with to get the final results or products.
Management expert Peter Senge’s “The Fifth Discipline” is a fine resource for resolving conflict, particularly when you want the parties involved to have an “aha” moment without spelling it out for them. I specifically like the chapter on the “ladders of inference.” The chapter provides an excellent exercise to teach people to check their assumptions before arriving at a conclusion.
Jim Collins’ “Good to Great” offers excellent advice on going through a transition. The book teaches people how to reflect so they can make the right decisions for their lives. In this book, business consultant Jim Collins compares a business to a bus and a business leader to a bus driver. My favorite section deals with (1) determining whether or not one should be on the bus and (2) ensuring that one is in the proper seat if they elect to stay on the bus.
Although the concepts in these three volumes have been around a while, I still draw information from them to assist me in resolving personal issues. However, I found another book to add to my collection of “lifelong” resources last week.
This book is Sarah Robb O’Hagan’s “Extreme You: Step Up. Stand Out. Kick Ass. Repeat.” Her book has become another reference source for me. The philosophy expressed in her TV sales pitch made me want to buy her book.
O’Hagan’s Philosophy: We Spend So Much Time Trying to Be Everything to Everyone
It is her philosophy that “You don’t always have answers” and “Perfectionism is overrated.” We spend so much time trying to be everything to everyone. As a result, we forget to take time to be our true selves. We spend a significant portion of our day attempting to find answers to questions no one has asked us in an effort to prove we are on top of a situation. We forget that it is okay to be vulnerable and failures will not destroy us.
I also appreciated her sense of humor. She describes herself as “a big, bold, over the top, laugh ‘til you snort, opinionated, doesn’t sit on the sidelines, enthusiastic type of girl with big feet.” My immediate thought was, “I could hang out with her.” I valued her authenticity as a down-to-earth, fun-loving, lover of life trying to make a different in the world by encouraging people to live life as it comes.
O’Hagan has the ability to tap into the inner self. She tells of speaking at a conference at Harvard. As she listened to the speaker introducing her, she thought that the introduction didn’t describe the “whole me.” In her book, she discusses how part of her learning process was failing. Without the failures – which were omitted in the introduction – she would not have become successful. I got it as soon as she made that statement.
We spend so much time promoting ourselves, but we only list the highlights and good points. We discuss our accomplishments, awards, pedigree and other attributes. That is not how we arrive at who we really are. Our failures are part of our success, too. Failures build character and show us how we can improve what we thought was the answer. If we don’t add them to our story, people don’t receive the whole truth.
Know the Truth about Yourself to Complete the Journey to Find Your True Self
If people don’t have the whole truth, they set out on a journey to reach a destination without the proper tools. They only hear the bright side of the story; therefore, they are unprepared when they hit the peaks and valleys. We all fall, but the good news is that we can get up and go on.
O’Hagan knows who she is and what she is supposed to do with her time on this Earth. Professionally, she is proficient at being a “re-inventor of brands.” She has worked for such companies as Nike and Equinox, assisting them in turning their businesses around.
Her advice is spot-on. She provides tips on how to tap into your potential so that you can be your true self. Like German psychologist Erik Erikson’s “eight stages of development,” some of us will come to a crossroad where we have to make decisions that can alter the course of our journey. O’Hagan believes there are two personal challenges we must address:
- Are you willing to “break yourself to make yourself?” As soon as someone gets to the point where he believes he has reached the top of his game, is he willing to explore something new to continue to grow?
- Can we ensure that we don’t “make ourselves obsolete?” Regardless of age, we still have something to contribute as long as we have breath in our bodies. Can we tap into our “what’s next?”
O’Hagan’s ‘Extremers’ Live More Fulfilled Lives
During her research, O’Hagan identified some fundamental characteristics of individuals whom she would consider to be “extremers.” She defines “extremers” as people who:
- Live up to their personal potential
- Have a sense of openness to experiences, especially new ones
- Know what they love
- Shine in their careers
Sarah O’Hagan now works for Flywheel Sports, a cycling company. She uses technology to produce a product that she believes will create “Fitness for Extremers.” Her goal is to integrate technology with stationary bicycles, so participants can measure their own fitness scores during spin classes.
The race is not given to the swift, but to those who endure to the end. What tools do you need in your bag to live the life you were meant to experience?
About the Author
Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Program Director of Management at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.
Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and strong leader, manifesting people skills, a methodical approach to problems, organizational vision and an ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.
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