Book Review: Perseverance. 9 Questions From Me To Me.

1) What drew me to this book?
I came across an article this month where Meg Wheatley was interviewed and she referenced the book.  The interview inspired me to write my posted titled: Sit down and be quiet. You are drunk, and this is the edge of the roof.  Secondly, I equate the relationship of self-help books to me as a magnet to steel.  The force cannot be resisted.

2) Magnet to steel?  Why?
I’m like the golfer looking for a new driver or pitching wedge.  Trying to find a cheaper, easier path to a better game.

3) Are you playing a better game because of it?
For me, it’s like dieting.  I make progress for some time and then revert back to the mean.  I do find, however, that morsels do stick and I am better because of it.

4) So, what did you think about this book?
It’s a short book at 168 pages consisting of ~70 vignettes – each opening with a quote followed by 1-2 page essay.  The book is centered on the daily struggle of “how to stay, not be dissuaded, not lose focus, not be overwhelmed, not succumb to exhaustion or despair…how to daily choose to keep persevering…how to devote your life to a cause and even in the midst of failures, betrayals, reversals, remain focused and dedicated to the cause…and sustain yourself over the long term.”  Essays cover a wide range of topics including Fear, Failure, Blame, Laziness, Grief, Death, Choice.    While it is “Short” – I did not find it to be a quick read.  It took me several days to finish.  I found the writing to be DEEP and highly introspective.  So, I needed to digest it in bite sized chunks.  This book is not what I expected.  It certainly is not a 7-step how-to guide for getting rich.  I was looking for a new pitching wedge – and she gives me a lobotomy.

5) What was frustrating?
I would find myself dismissing some of the recommendations out-of-hand one minute…mumbling to myself that this is fantasy land…impractical…not grounded in the real world…more meditation (which I believe in, but haven’t accomplished)…zen… where’s-the-sutra-ohm-type stuff.  Take this passage on URGENCY for example:

“(Urgency)…is the unavoidable companion of crisis…crises demand immediate attention and response…when we work from this place of urgency, we set ourselves up for failure.  We work very hard, push our agenda, get aggressive when we think we need to, and end up more exhausted than effective.  And we get angry.  Anyone who doesn’t respond immediately becomes our enemy.  They may actually be wise people who caution patience, who have a longer-term perspective.  But we can’t hear their wisdom or experience; we’re too anxiously engaged in our cause.  We hastily judge them as being in denial or just looking for an excuse not to get involved.  Those who advise proceeding more slowly are not the problem.  Our aggression is.  Captured by a sense of urgency, we create categories-those for and against us, those who get it , those who don’t.  Enemies proliferate.  As they increase in number, we respond with greater ferocity…Stop.  Urgency leads nowhere except into the wilderness of aggression and failure.  It doesn’t serve our cause.  It doesn’t serve anything.”

“Urgency leads us nowhere”…hmmmmmm.  Really? And then after putting the book down…I found myself saying…she might have a point.   And then later upon deeper reflection…how do I possibly move from my current place – from here to there.  I believe Meg Wheatley operates at a higher plane than me.  She’s far more evolved.

6) She’s more evolved.  How’s that?
As Margaret Wolf stated in her book review, “she (Meg Wheatley) is smart; sharp. She explains what trips us up and what paves our way, and offers elicit ways of looking at a situation, that in themselves, help lift us above the fray…She is deeply perceptive and compassionate. She sees to the heart of things and easily opens herself in service to the Greater Good. Meg wants to make the world a better place.”   As I said before, Wheatley plays on a higher plane, at a Mastery Level of being.  I found my pulse rate slowing while reading this book – she’s a calming, peaceful, soothing influence.

7) So, do you recommend this book?  What do you rate it?
This book is certainly not for everyone.  Yet, for $8.52, I received considerable value from it.  I’m confident that 10 or 15 years ago, I would have found this book to be full of zen-mumbo-jumbo.  Today, many passages in this book stop me in my tracks.  I found myself reflecting back on passages days later.  I believe that this introspective activity is a mark of a great self-help book.  However, you must be in the time of your life to be able to appreciate it.  I’m “almost” there – and therein lies the reason for my 4 out of 5 Amazon rating.

8) Is this book (Perseverance by Margaret Wheatley) Kindle or e-reader friendly?
Yes, very much so.  Save a tree and buy it on Kindle.  (I also need to buy a hard copy…put it next to the bed stand and let the wisdom drip and seep in slowly.)

9) Can you share some of your favorite passages?
There are far too many to list but here’s a few:

  • Perseverance: “In Chinese, the character for perseverance is often the same one used for patience.”
  • Dwelling in Uncertainty: “The challenge is to refuse to categorize ourselves.  We don’t have to take sides or define ourselves as either optimists or pessimists. Much better to dwell in uncertainty, hold the paradoxes, live in complexities and contradictions without needed them to resolve.
  • Lost:  When we are overwhelmed and confused…we reach for old maps, the routine responses, what worked in the past…To navigate life today, we need new maps.  Our old ones confuse us unendingly.  These new maps are waiting for us.  They’ll appear as soon as we quiet down and, with other lost companions, relax into the unfamiliarity of this new place, senses open, curious rather than afraid. The maps we need are in us, but not in only one of us. If we read the currents and signs together, we’ll find our way through.”
  • Everything Changes: Good times don’t last forever.  And neither do the bad ones.  Whatever is happening now, good or bad, is giving birth to the next state, which will be its opposite.
  • No Big Deal: We absolutely need to pay attention to crises and issues and we need to be fully engaged with them for the long-term.  But we don’t need to over-inflate the issue in a way that obscures clear seeing and right action.  We don’t need to fill the crisis with urgency, which only promotes confusion and aggression.
  • Destination: We could lighten up – we could go for direction, not destination.  We could invite in what the world seems to want for us, what it’s offering us right here, right now.
  • Choosing: Perseverance is a choice.  It’s not a simple, one-time choice, it’s a daily one.  There’s never a final decision…we make a conscious choice.  Every day.
  • Discipline: “We’ve been conditioned to follow our passion, to do what we love, to connect our work with our life’s purpose so that we’ll be highly motivated.  But life doesn’t work that way, and work doesn’t get done this way.  After the first rush of romance in discovering meaningful work, there’s the actual work to be done.  The work will, at times, be boring, repetitive, uninteresting, senseless…If our life lacks discipline, we wend up always looking for a substitute.  We seek new work, new causes, new relationships, something or somebody that will fire up our passion and make us feeling motivated and alive again.  Propelled by passion rather than by discipline, we end spent, exhausted, unhappy.  And we lose the capacity to persevere
  • Faith:  The journey of perseverance begins with fire, with passion for our cause, with hope to change things.  As the journey continues, passion dissolves into weariness.  The obstacles are larger than we expected.  The insanity is more than we can bear.  But we still travel on, one foot in front of the other.  And then there comes a point when we realize that we will not see our work bear fruit before we die.  And that’s OK…Perhaps holding true to the vision and not losing our way is enough for one lifetime.

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