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Almost everyone wants to be more successful. As evidence of that, look at the rows of shelves in book stores filled with self-help and success-related titles. But no one wants to be successful for the proverbial 15 minutes and then sink into ineffectiveness and obscurity.

Jerry Porras (coauthor of Build to Last), Stewart Emery (an important figure in the Human Potential Movement) and Mark Thompson (an unstoppable interviewer and executive coach) have combined their diverse talents to provide powerful insights into what has worked best for those who have sustained personal success for over 20 years. The book is one part methodology, one part great stories and one part keen insight.

Here was the process that led to the book. Interviews were held during 1996-2006 with over 200 high profile people who had enjoyed lasting success (CEOs, community leaders, professionals, politicians and small business people). For the most part, they avoided the geniuses in favor of people who built extraordinary results from more ordinary abilities and resources.

In early 2006, surveys were done on a worldwide basis with subscribers to Knowledge@Wharton to test the findings from the interviews.

Regression analyses were used to sort out the key influences. The results were used to structure the book's key conclusions.

What did they learn?

The key concept is that continually successful people combine meaning, thought and actions in mutually consistent ways that provide sustained performance.

Let me describe each area a little. Meaning is important because it ignites passion in you and others. Success requires persistence. Without continuing passion, it's hard to be persistent enough to be a lasting success. In addition, passions bring energy. It turns out that continually successful people have all kinds of passions. Ultimately, successful people respond to a calling to answer their passion in a way that seems right, comfortable and full of integrity.

Thought is important because successful people use their own gauges of success . . . rather than the applause of others. Many successful people lack charisma . . . but their cause has more than enough charisma to attract all of the support they will ever need. You also need to learn by choosing to try hard things where you can make new mistakes to direct you in the future. But turn pain into performance. Don't let wounds hold you back.

Action benefits from taking on Big Hairy Audacious Goals (a remnant of Built to Last's research), seeking out knowledge by using conversations to test and develop ideas, and establishing alignment within those who are helping you succeed.

What kind of a leader are they describing? Some frequently cited examples in the book include Charles Schwab, Sir Richard Branson, Jack Welch, Nelson Mandela, Jimmy Carter, Herb Kelleher, Elie Wiesel, Condoleeza Rice, and Marva Collins. There are also plenty of non-marquee names whose stories will often impress you more than those you have heard of before. Even in the familiar stories, I found that the details included material that I didn't know before.

Basically, Abraham Maslow would have recognized these Builders (as the authors call their successful people) as his self-actualized individuals.

Two things stand out about the book. First, the authors make it clear that these lasting successes had a hard time achieving. It was rarely easy. Second, without a comparison group, I found myself wondering if there's a substantial body of self-actualized people who work hard at the same things . . . but don't ever receive much notice from those they are trying to influence. That second question is very important. What are the odds of becoming a long-term success if you follow this advice? I don't know, but you'll certainly feel like you're pursuing a life worth living . . . no matter what the cost is.

If you would like to re-examine your life, Success Built to Last provides a good template for comparisons that will cause you to look for more meaning, thought and action.

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am 4. Januar 2007
From 1996 to 2006, Jerry Porras, Stewart Emery and Mark Thompson interviewed more than 200 "enduringly successful people," seeking their personal insights as a follow-up to Porras’ bestselling book Built to Last. The authors began each interview with an open-ended question designed to provoke an unstructured conversation about the meaning of success. The authors drew from these highly personalized revelations to extrapolate the qualities that high achievers share, particularly a driving desire to have meaningful impact. The authors vetted their perceptions by surveying business experts about their findings. While the book’s ideas aren’t new - follow your passion, be optimistic, build a great team - they are reliable, and the insight into business celebrities’ thoughts is instructive and valuable. If you share the drive to make a difference and lead a life of purpose, we recommend this book. It can help you pursue your goals with gusto.
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