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Book Review: Success Built to Last

October 4, 2006

In 1994, Jerry Porras and Jim Collins wrote Built to Last, an instant classic that captured “Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” using significant research about corporations that had remained industry leaders over the long haul. A couple years later, Porras got together with authors Stewart Emery and Mark Thompson to begin doing similar research into people that were successful–and had maintained their success for long periods. Ten years later their research has produced Success Built to Last, an attempt to scientifically pinpoint the building blocks to success.

Their research included over 200 interviews with highly-successful people, from well-known leaders in business, politics and the arts to scientists, schoolteachers and doctors who’ve lead more quietly in their areas of expertise.

The list of people they managed to track down–and sit down with–is amazing. Included among their interview subjects: Maya Angelou, Bono, Richard Branson, Warren Buffett, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, The Dalai Lama, Michael Dell, Peter Drucker, Rudy Giuliani, Bill Gates, Andy Grove, Steve Jobs, Quincy Jones, Yo-Yo Ma, Nelson Mandela, Condoleeza Rice and Jack Welch. (And those are just the ones who made it into the book. Interviewed but left out of direct reference: Madeleine Albright, Lance Armstrong, Bob Dole, Wayne Dyer, Larry Ellison, Newt Gingrich, Peter Jennings, Guy Kawasaki, Phil Knight, Joe Lieberman, George Soros, Gloria Steinem, Desmond Tutu, Barbara Walters, many others.)

In the end, Success Built to Last distills down the words of these successful people into a host of commonalities. Taken together, those commonalities produce a theme that goes something like this:

Long-term successful people find their passions and stick with them.

That’s the formula. Everything else is just the “how to”–how to find your passion, how to stay focused on your passion, how to turn your passion into concrete action that produces successful results.

I won’t spoil the book by getting into the nitty gritty of those “how to’s”, because I coudn’t do them justice. After all, you’ve got 200 of the great minds of our time between those pages, and it’s best to hear it straight from them.

Success Built to Last is a fascinating book in every respect. But I’ve got one bone to pick.

Because the authors are building a thesis on the nature of success, they necessarily include plenty of exposition about the things successful people have in common. But, with the book clocking in at just over 200 pages, I did not get to hear nearly enough of the voices of these praiseworthy people.

Porras, Emery and Thompson have come up with a great book–but they’re holding out on us. With over 200 hard-to-come-by interviews conducted over a ten-year period, there are obviously reams of quality interview material that have not seen the light of day. So, I demand a sequel–Success Built to Last: The Interviews. Edit each interview down to two or three pages and let us read more about these amazing people’s outlooks on life and success, straight from their own mouths.

But I’m nitpicking. Success Built to Last should be required reading for anyone that is, well, alive. The book’s subtitle is “Creating A Life That Matters”. Who doesn’t want to do that? Get a copy.

e-mail me: adam@bessed.com

Adam Jusko is founder and CEO of Bessed, a Web site promising “search without spam”, thanks to human-edited search results and ongoing visitor feedback. Do a search, offer your comments, submit your site–help create the “bessed” search site in the world. 

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