Boundless Potential: A book review by Bob Morris

Boundless Potential: Transform Your Brain, Unleash Your Talents, Reinvent Your Wortk in Midlife and Beyond
Mark S. Walton
McGraw-Hill (2012)

“Potential” means “you ain’t done it yet.”  Darrell Royal

Few of us of us ever fully develop the potentialities that we possess at birth and I agree with Mark Walton that most (not all) human limits are self-imposed. This is what Henry Ford had in mind years ago when observing, “Whether you think you can or think you can‘t, you’re probably right.” So, the challenge is to develop a mindset that recognizes what is possible and a faith in what can be done with possibilities.

As Walton explains, “This book’s pages contain the real life experiences and pragmatic wisdom of uncommon men and women – people who have led the second half of their lives in an extraordinary way.” Each preferred to raise the bar rather than lower their expectations. Such people Walton “came to describe as reinventive, and, by extension, to label the nature of their pursuits reinventive work.”

Some of the most valuable material in the book is provided by five extraordinarily [begin italics] reinventive [end italics] people, their comments brilliantly framed by Walton, who generously share their thoughts and feelings about the rollercoaster life each seems to have lived. Sherwin B. (“Shep”) Nuland, Horace Deets, Marion Rosen, Gil Garcetti, and Rita K. Spina are kindred spirits with the seniors that Warren Bennis and Bob Thomas discuss in their book, Geeks & Geezers. “We believe that we have identified the process that allows an individual to undergo testing and to emerge, not just stronger, but better equipped with the tools he or she needs both to lead and to learn. It is a model that explains how individuals make meaning out of difficult events — we call them crucibles — and how that process of ‘meaning making’ both galvanizes individuals and gives them their distinctive voice.”

Walton recommends a similar process by which to “transform your brain, unleash your talents, [and] reinvent your work in midlife and beyond.” Make no mistake about how immensely complicated and frequently perilous this process is. That is why he provides a wealth of information, insights, and wisdom that, she fervently hopes, will help leaders and those aspiring to leaders to complete a transition from being limited by what James Collins
characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom” to the fulfillment of what Walton views as “boundless potential.”

Here are a few of the dozens of passages that caught my eye:

o  “The years of midlife and beyond are simply a new developmental period. The key word here is ‘developmental.'”  Sherwin (“Shep”) B. Nuland was a prominent surgeon and faculty member at Yale University Medical School and 64 when he wrote his first bestselling book, Pages 19-33 and 175-177
o  “The Design of Reinvention,” Figure 3-1, Page 40
o  “We divide life into: you learn, you work, you do leisure. No overlap, please. Well, that’s crap!” Horace Deets, Pages 66-70 and 92-94
o  “Home Run in the Desert,” Pages 90-92
o  Marian Rosen’s “Magic Touch,” The Rosen Institute and the Rosen Method (pain reduction and management), Pages 97-112
o  “New Powers Emerge,” Pages 107-110
o  “The Trilogy of Wisdom,” 127-128
o  “I was forced [at age 70] to reinvent myself.”  Gil Garcetti, former D.A. in Los Angeles (e.g. Simpson trial) who became a world-renowned photographer, Pages 146-156
o  “The Eugeria Paradigm,” Pages 168-170 [Note: The word eugeria means “a normal and happy old age.”]
o  “For me, at any rate, I will just go on doing. Because I cannot imagine giving up on what’s still in my heart and in my mind.” Rita K. Spina, age 80. She earned BA, MA, and PhD degrees and retired from teaching (at age 77) to become a community activist to oppose uncontrolled growth., Pages 189-201

Walton concludes his book with several specific suggestions for his reader to consider. They are provided as “Lessons” and “Discoveries,” and best revealed within the narrative, in context. With regard to the title for this commentary, I selected it because it supports Thomas Edison’s observation, “Vision without execution is hallucination” and, more to the point, it also supports the values that Mark Walton and his senior collaborators affirm and exemplify throughout this book.

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