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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Review: The Dynamic Path

Disclosure: The copy of The Dynamic Path I read was a review copy provided by the author's publicist.

The Dynamic Path is properly categorized as a self-help book, much in the vein of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Jim Citrin is an executive search consultant (in other words, a CEO-only head-hunter). I don't know what his background is, but he definitely seems to worship sports and sports heroes to the degree typified in American culture.

The book attempts to provide a guiding road-map to life, from individual achiever to leadership to building an enduring legacy. The examples he provides are almost all drawn from athletes who've built a major legacy, from Joan Benoit, Billie Jean King (the person who instigated Title IX), Lance Armstrong, Tony Hawk, and Tiger Woods.

I'm not sure this book brings anything to the table that other self-help books haven't already: commitment, belief in yourself, focus, practice, and hard work. It is doubtful that if you don't already have those, reading this book will help you gain any. In fact, in one of his sections, he describes mental toughness as having the discipline to keep hitting shots and controlling the ball while allowing your opponent to screw up. His example here was Bjorn Borg. But later, you find out that Bjorn Borg retired right after being defeated by John McEnroe. This isn't uncommon in sports (Miguel Indurain retired right after his defeat by a doped up Bjarne Riis), but it does bring home that perhaps sports heroes aren't the best examples to use for inspirational leadership, even if there are a few exemplars that prove the exception.

As for leadership, I'm not sure leadership can be learned. I've attended lots of leadership seminars, but none of them really tell you how the best leaders do what they do effectively, and neither does this book (seriously: platitudes like "work hard", "focus on the success of others", and "deliver on your commitments" aren't all that useful --- in the complex universe we live in, making the right decision trumps all the others). So what we are left with are the interviews.

While the interviews are the parts of the book most worth reading, it is not clear to me that the interviews are terribly enlightening. The questions are too soft-balled, the replies too generic --- I feel like I've read these interviews all too often in sports magazines (not that I've read many).

All in all, this book could have been a lot shorter and still made its point. A casual airplane read, but seriously, if you want to read material like this, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is still the standard and you should read that first.

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