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Book Review: Johnny Bunko by Daniel H. Pink and Rob Ten Pas

This is a great book written by Daniel Pink as a Manga comic strip with art by Rob Ten Pas. The book provides great career advice as summarized into the six points below:

1. There is no plan.

2. Think strengths, not weaknesses.

3. It’s not about you.

4. Persistence trumps talent.

5. Make excellent mistakes.

6. Leave an imprint.

There is no plan:

Contrary to popular belief and misconception, you really cannot plan your career to the finest detail. Trying to figure out what you will be three or five years into the future just doesn’t work. You have no clue what your manager, company has in store for you so don’t even bother planning so far ahead. Most well thought out plans don’t work as per plan. This however doesn’t mean you go about things willy nilly with no idea of what you want to accomplish or not having a goal, but try not bury yourself in the planning exercise to the detriment of having fun doing what you are passionate about. The difference is between doing things for instrumental reasons rather than for fundamental reasons. Instrumental is doing something because you think it will lead to something beneficial even though you don’t enjoy doing it whereas fundamental is doing something because you fundamentally like doing it and are really passionate about it – independent of whether it will lead to success or not. Most successful people make most decisions for fundamental reasons – they are enlightened pragmatists.

Think strengths, not weaknesses:

The traditional thinking has been to focus on addressing your weakness – somehow hoping that if you worked long enough on the problem, you can convert your weaknesses to your strengths. Nothing can be further than the truth!! Rather than waste your time trying to improve your weakness, you are better off focusing on your strengths. If what you are working on is not leveraging your strengths, take quick action and figure out a way to move to an assignment that can leverage your strengths. Research by Martin Seligman, Marcus Buckingham and the “Now, Discover your strengths” book by Tom Rath based on research by Donald O. Clifton all point to why focusing on our strengths rather than weakness is more fruitful. It helps to understand the concept of flow as introduced by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Csíkszentmihályi described flow as "being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost."

It’s not about you:

Again counter to popular belief, it is not about you but about the customer, the client, the group or the company. Everything you do at your job needs to somehow result in benefiting others – make your manager look good, help your team succeed, improve the experience of a customer, give your client something even they didn’t know they needed, save expenses of your company, improve the profits and the rewards follow. The less you make it about you, the more the benefits. Try it and you will be surprised at the results.

Persistence trumps talent:

All things being equal, the more persistent person wins out over someone who is very smart but unwilling to grind it out. Your smartness and intelligence can only take you that far. What separates a winner from an also-ran is the ability to spend hours on a not so interesting piece of work just because it needs to get done. Persistence is like compound interest – it builds on itself. A little bit improves performance, which encourages greater persistence, which improves performance even more – on and on it goes. The world is littered with talented people who didn’t persist, who didn’t put in the hours, who gave up too early, who thought they could ride on talent alone. Meanwhile, people who might have less talent pass them by. Having intrinsic motivation is very important. Doing things not to get an external reward like money or promotion, but because you simply love doing it. The more intrinsic motivation you have, the more likely you are to persist. The more you persist, the more likely you are to succeed.

Make excellent mistakes:

Some people are so afraid to make mistakes and being wrong that they don’t take on any responsibility and try anything. The result is they lead a very safe life and achieve nothing proportionate to what they are capable of or what their talent should have let them to. If you are afraid to commit mistakes, you will never learn from those mistakes to eventually succeed in your career to accomplish something larger than yourself. The sooner you make excellent mistakes, the better you will be. Note the emphasis on “excellent” because making random, stupid, thoughtless mistakes doesn’t give you the same experience as making excellent mistakes that are rooted in your belief that you are taking on a huge responsibility and with good intentions. Most successful people make spectacular mistakes – huge, honking screw-ups! They are trying to do something big. Each time they make a mistake, they learn from it, get a little better and move a little closer to excellence.

Leave an imprint:

At the end of your career when you look back at your life you will ask yourself “Did I make a difference?”, “Did I contribute something?”, “Did my being here matter?” and “Did I do something that left an imprint?” The trouble is many people get towards the end of their lives and don’t like their answers. By then it is almost too late to take any corrective action to change the answer. Ask yourself those questions now and figure out a way to change your actions so you have very positive responses. Think about your purpose in life and recognize that your life isn’t infinite – you should use your limited time here to do something that matters. While other five lessons are crucial, but truly successful people deploy them in the service of something larger than themselves. They leave their companies, their communities, their families a little better than before.

Pick up this book for a quick read and apply the principles in your job. Best of luck!!

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One thought on “Book Review: Johnny Bunko by Daniel H. Pink and Rob Ten Pas

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