The Book in Three Sentences

Behavioral problems, not technical skills, are what separate the great from the near great. Incredible results can come from practicing basic behaviors like saying thank you, listening well, thinking before you speak, and apologizing for your mistakes. The first step to change is wanting to change.

What Got You Here Won't Get You There summary

This is my book summary of What Got You Here Won't Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith. My notes are informal and often contain quotes from the book as well as my own thoughts. This summary also includes key lessons and important passages from the book.

  • The higher you go in an organization, the more your suggestions become interpreted as orders.
  • Getting praise can be dangerous because it becomes easy to delude yourself when all you hear are positive things.
  • Delusional self-confidence causes you to resist change.
  • You can't control the outcome, but why wouldn't you want to try to control what you can? Even if the cards are stacked against you in life your best bet is to try your hardest.
  • Successful people believe they are in control. They don't see themselves as victims of the world.
  • Lottery ticket players: serious lottery players think success is random. Successful people think success is within their control and thus don't play the lottery. Both mindsets are delusional in their own way, but the successful approach seems to work better overall.
  • People will only do something and change when it is in their own best interest and aligns with our values.
  • The four drivers of self-interest: money, power, status, popularity.
  • Smart people know what to do. They need to know what to stop.
  • Create a To-Stop list rather than a To-Do list.
  • Not all behavior is good or bad. Some behaviors are simply neutral.
  • The fallacy of adding too much value is that by adding value you kill the ownership of other peoples ideas. When you add to the idea it no longer feels like it is their idea.
  • When getting feedback of any type, positive or negative, accept it from a neutral place and say, “Thank you.” If you don't reply with a judgmental comment, you can't get into an argument.
  • The question to ask yourself when making a destructive or critical comment about someone is not, “Is it true?” But, “Is it worth it?”
  • Don't tell people how smart you are. Nobody gives a damn.
  • Withholding information is a problem for me when I don't communicate well. If you don't communicate what is going on it feels like you're keeping people in the dark. That annoys people.
  • Create a list of people you should give recognition to and then review that list each week to see if you should send someone praise.
  • Give away ALL the credit.
  • Clinging to the past: “Many people enjoy living in the past, especially if going back there lets them blame someone else for anything that's gone wrong in their lives. That's when clinging to the past becomes an interpersonal problem… When we make excuses, we are blaming someone or something beyond our control as the reason for our failure. Anyone but ourselves.” When we talk about the past it is NOT about change. It is about understanding. And often about blaming others.
  • Just say “Thank You” to more comments rather than making a bigger fuss about things. We often have issues with accepting compliments.
  • Hearing people out does not make you dumber. So listen and say thank you.
  • Gratitude is not a limited resource. Express your thanks more often.
  • People who think they can do no wrong usually can't admit they are ever wrong. Which, paradoxically, makes you more wrong. Owning up to your mistakes is essential.
  • Your personality is not fixed and improvement does not require you to become a radically different person. You don't have to change your whole life, just improve one tiny trait.
  • Goal obsession is the blindness of goal pursuit at the expense of more important things.
  • You should feel no shame if your pursuit of a difficult goal fails.
  • Goal obsession is not a flaw, it is a creator of flaws.
  • Princeton theology students research study and the story of the Good Samaritan. Goal obessions: we are so focus on shortsighted goals and the task in front of us that we miss the bigger point. Use this as a jumping off point for talking about goals in life. Is working really the point?
  • Main lesson: you can do a lot worse than questioning your flaws. We often get so defensive about these things, but what do we really have to lose? Usually, very little.
  • Forgiveness means letting go of the hope for a better past.
  • The higher you go the more your problems are behavioral. Interpersonal behavior is the difference between being great and near great.
  • Knowing the answer to, “How do you feel about me?” does not matter when it comes to getting better. What matters is, “How can I get better?”
  • Apologize, apologize, apologize. Just step up and make the apologies you need to make.
  • When you make an apology say, “I'm sorry. I'll try to do better.” And then shut up. Don't try to justify it.
  • Frances Hesselbein, CEO of the Girl Scouts. Claimed to be greatest executive by Peter Drucker.
  • When you listen to someone make them feel like they are the only person in the room. Devote your attention to them.
  • We can't change for the long-run without following up. Follow up shows your colleagues that you care about getting better and that you're taking the process seriously.

What Got You Here Won't Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith

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