Mike Kueber's Blog

May 11, 2015

The Sunday Book Review #158 – Do Over by Jon Acuff and In Defense of a Liberal Education by Fareed Zakaria

Filed under: Book reviews — Mike Kueber @ 12:12 am
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Do Over by Jon Acuff proposes a formula for producing career success.  It begins with a building a Career Savings Account (CSA), which is similar to a 401k.  CSA = (Relationships + Skills + Character) x Hustle.

  • Relationships are represented by the old adage – It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.  Networking, in other words.  Over several chapters, the author explains why relationships are important and how to maximize the quality of your relationships.
  • Skills are what you do.  Although relationships may get you your first gig, skills get you the second.  You must be able to produce.  Again, several chapters illustrate skills that are not obvious, such as personal skills, plus the need to continually maintain your skills lest they become outdated.
  • Character is what you are.  Certain characteristics need to be nourished, like empathy and being in the present, while others need to be pulled out as weeds, like narcissism, apathy, and pessimism.
  • Hustle or hard work serve to multiply the collective sum of your relationships, skills, and character.  As with the other attributes, however, the author makes hustle a nuanced thing.  Hustle does not justify “the rallying cry of the most aggressive, annoying, self-promoting people we know. There is a thin line between hustle and hassle. It can also mutate into raging workaholism….  Hustle needs the other components of the CSA as much as they need hit.”

Each of the CSA components has a critical role to play on one of the four common career transitions that people invariably encounter:

  1. Career ceiling (no obvious promotion path) is smashed by your skills.
  2. Career jump (doing something new) is achieved by your character.
  3. Career opportunity (windfall) is taken advantage of by hustle.
  4. Career bump (losing a job) is minimized by relationships.

Although the lessons of this book are common sense, it always helps understanding to have them clearly articulated and placed in a framework instead of being vague beliefs lurking in the background.  I’ve previously talked to my sons about the components of a good job (i.e., autonomy, worthwhile product, and mental challenge) and a good life (developing your mind, body, soul, and heart).  Acuff’s formula for a successful career may be a bit more prosaic than the others, but I think I will share it with my sons, also.

I’ve recently browsed a couple of books by Fared Zakaria that I found disappointing – The Future of Freedom and The Post-American World.  Zakaria is an immigrant from India and, like CNN colleague Christiane Amanpour, seems to have too much international flavor for my taste.  But Zakaria’s newest book, In Defense of a Liberal Education, strikes my fancy even though it is just as international as the others.  I guess I like reading Zakaria when he expounds on positions that I agree with

In his book, Zakaria provides a brief history of a liberal education before shifting to its key attribute – i.e., learning to think.  Indeed, Zakaria takes that concept one level deeper to “learning to write and writing makes you think….  In what is probably an apocryphal story, when the columnist Walter Lippmann was once asked his views of a particular topic, he is said to have replied, ‘I don’t know what I think on that one.  I haven’t written about it yet.’”  I find that so often true in connection with something I consider posting to my blog.  Without writing, so many of our positions are probably half-baked.

Zakaria concludes by describing a natural aristocracy that will develop in a society that values the ability to think.  And, of course, the ability to think is critical not only to professional success, but also to personal success.  Hear, hear.