Broken to Better: A book review by Bob Morris

Broken to Better: 13 Ways Not to Fail at Life and Leadership
Michael Kurland
Houndstooth Press (July 2022)

How to focus firmly on vision, purpose, and core values to “BE BETTER”

Whatever their size and nature may be, all organizations can achieve and then sustain continuous improvement if — and only if —  their people focus on vision, purpose, and core values to BE BETTER each day, every day.

As Michael Kurland explains, “This book contains 13 principles that will inform and inspire you to Be Better in all aspects of your life — to be better CEO, manager, employee, friend, coworker, or whatever shoes you fill. Some of the tips and best practices may seem like common sense. You may be tempted to gloss over them, but I recommend that you take it all in, as there’s always something new to learn. I also hope you will check out the podcast recommendations at the end of each chapter. The guests on these shows are both informative and inspiring.” (Page12)

Years ago (1970, in fact, in his classic work Future Shock) Alvin Toffler observes, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” How true. The world today is more volatile, more uncertain, more complex, and more ambiguous than at any prior time that can recall.

The title of one of Marshall Goldsmith’s recent books reminds us that what got organizations as well as individuals here won’t get them there. In fact, what got them here won’t even allow them to remain here, however and wherever “here” and “there” are defined. Kurland devotes a separate chapter to each of the 13 principles to which he refers. His mission and purpose are to help as many people as possible to avoid or overcome failure in any domain within and beyond their workplace.

Whatever their size and nature may be, all organizations can sustain continuous improvement only in ways and to the extent their people can. Kurland wrote this book to help as many people as possible to become more connected as well as more teachable, fearless, people-centric, future-driven, purposeful, engaging, profitable, service-oriented, efficient, generous, and inspiring. How much better a person can become in each of these ways will, of course, depend on a  combination of factors.

Here’s some excellent advice. From Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never, never give up!” Jack Dempsey: “Champions get up when they can’t.” Thomas Edison: “Vision without execution is hallucination.” And from Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.”

Michael Kurland has much of value to say about “how not to fail at life and leadership.” In fact, the greatest leaders throughout history have failed and not all of them had a formal title. They attracted followers in a common cause, driven by a compelling vision they shared.

Presumably he agrees with me (a) that an initiative is a failure only if nothing of value is learned from it, and (b) that leadership fails when those entrusted with the responsibility for others lack their respect and trust.

Here is my favorite passage in Lao-tse’s Tao Te Ching:

“Learn from the people
Plan with the people
Begin with what they have
Build on what they know
Of the best leaders
When the task is accomplished
The people will remark
We have done it ourselves.”

With all due respect to Michael Kurland and the successes he and his associates achieved at Branded Group, your challenge is to learn as much as you can from them and then adopt and adapt it to your own situation.

Last point: If you don’t have much confidence in what you can accomplish, no one else will either.



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