Friday, July 15, 2016

No Fears, No Excuses: Larry Smith's practical career advice

No Fears, No Excuses: What You Need to Do to Have a Great Career / Larry Smith
Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, c2016.
255 p.

What do you want to be when you grow up? I mean really want to be? And how will you get there? If you're not sure about either of these things, I strongly suggest you pick up Professor Larry Smith's new book and figure it out.

Smith is an economics professor at the University of Waterloo, and wrote this book to expand on the points he first covered in his Tedx Talk "Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career", viewed over 5 million times so far. (see below)

I'm always a little suspicious of these kinds of career books - will they tell you how to follow a plan that the author is fond of and assumes will work for everyone no matter what their situation? Will they be full of platitudes about following your bliss, without any practical tips? Luckily, Smith avoids both of these flaws by combining both ideas. He talks about how important it is to love your work - for the reason that if you are working at something that you think you 'should' be doing, while you are surrounded by others who love that work, it is unlikely that you will be highly successful. But he doesn't leave it there. He provides pointers on how to figure out your passions (and how these differ from your interests) and most importantly, how to make a plan for success.

The book is divided into three parts: Finding your Passion, Creating your Career Plan, and Confronting Fears and Excuses. I think it is the most level-headed and useful book of this kind I've ever come across. Smith is basing his approach on his years of experience in counselling his students on their career ambitions. He is a natural teacher, and so draws the answers from the student - it is their goals, and their ambitions, that matter. He will just help to facilitate the planning to get there.

He does the same in this book. The reader can follow the same steps, and answer the questions at the end of each chapter to really formulate a career vision. The many examples in each chapter are both realistic and inspiring. And the structure of the book provides a useful process to examine what you might want, how you might achieve it, and what might block you from following through on your plan.

I felt that Smith recognizes that dreams, logic and fears all affect how we live our lives, and they must all be acknowledged. It is a complex and yet straightforward presentation of his ideas, which I can't imagine anyone would be the worse off for studying. I highly recommend this to all students who are just embarking upon their university journeys, so that they can learn how to find their 'edge' early on and learn to support their own goals in their education. I also recommend it to those who may be a little further on in their own careers and are wondering if they should make a change. The steps and questions apply just as well to those who may have a longer stretch of 'good' career to upgrade into 'great'.

And for those who like to have things nicely tied up, Smith also includes a quick & dirty cheat sheet at the end listing the steps and questions; using this as a regular benchmark checkup for yourself would be a great way to keep the momentum going once you've gone through his process. All in all, this book provides great value for the career minded reader.




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