Get Smart!: A book review by Bob Morris

Get Smart!Get Smart!: How to Think and Act Like the Most Successful and Highest-Paid People in Every Field
Brian Tracy
Bibliomotion (March 2016)

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” T.S. Eliot

In the Introduction, Brian Tracy points out that – on average – people use only 2% of their mental ability. I am among those who question that estimate as being too low but, whatever the percentage is, human mental ability tends to be underdeveloped and thus underutilized. “The natural tendency for most people is to slip into a comfort zone of easy thinking and decision-making based on old, false or incomplete thinking. Many people use far less of their mental potential because they become lazy in their thinking, jump to simple conclusions, assume causation when two events occur close together, and do what they’ve always done rather than to challenge the ideas [especially assumptions] or consider entirely different approaches. Years of television watching, failure to read, learn, and grow, non-stop electronic interruptions (email, social media, messaging and phone calls) make a person incapable of functioning fast and efficiently.”

Tracy then adds, “Your mind is like a muscle. To develop it so that it functions at a higher level, you must place demands on it, the same as lifting weights for muscle building. Get Smart shows the reader a series of simple, practical, powerful ways of questioning and examining a situation to assure the best choices and decisions. By challenging the reader to think with greater clarity, the reader challenges his/her mind and makes it stronger and more resilient — like a muscle subject to vigorous physical exercise.”

These are among the several dozen passages of greatest interest and value to me, also listed to suggest the scope of Tracy’s coverage in Chapters 1-4 of the ten:

o 10 Percent of Potential (Pages xiii and xiv)
o Action is Everything (3)
o The Common Denominator (7-8)
o Back from the Future (12-17)
o Slow Thinking, and, Two Thinking Styles (23-24)
o Practice Solitude (29)
o Use the GOSPA Thinking Model (32-33)
o Use the Scientific Method (39-40)
o Be Willing to Fail (40-41)
o Become a Master of the Game (43-45)
o The Strategy of the Rich (45-46)
o Earn and Acquire Ten Times as Much (51-52)
o The Impact of Change: Information Explosion, The Expansion of Technology, and Aggressive Competition (54-56)
o Goal Setting Brings Out the Best (57-62)
o Goal-Setting Process (62-65)
o Goal-Setting Exercise (66-68)

It is noteworthy that each of the ten chapters’ titles focuses on a juxtaposition of two mindsets that, at first glance, seem to be mutually exclusive. For example, there are three:

2. “Slow Thinking Versus Fast Thinking”
6. “Positive Thinking Versus Negative Thinking”
9. “Entrepreneurial Thinking Versus Corporate Thinking”

In fact, one of Tracy’s key points seems to me to be, as I now perhaps channel The Gambler, that smart thinkers

“Got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run.”

Moreover, I selected the quotation from Eliot’s Little Gidding V in his poem, Four Quartets, because it correctly stresses the importance of allowing extensive and intensive personal experience to enable us to see where we began our journey of discovery in entirely new ways, recognizing meaning and significance to an extent that could not have been possible then.

As Tracy explains in Chapter 2, he favors the GOSPA Thinking Model, one that enables people to slow down and think with great precision. The acronym refers to Goals, Objectives, Strategies, Priorities, and Actions. He explains each component, suggesting that this method of thinking, “and carefully considering each action you must take, dramatically improves your decision-making abilities. It forces you to use both long-term thinking and slow thinking together.”

I presume to add this simple but often under appreciated reality: More often than not, people struggle to obtain the right answers to what prove to be the wrong rather than the right questions; they also struggle to determine the right solutions to what prove to be the wrong rather than the right problems. This is what Peter Drucker had in mind (in 1963) when observing, “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”

With all due respect to the importance of becoming rich to so many people, the value of this book to me is to be found in the mental fitness program Tracy recommends. The brain is indeed a muscle that really can be strengthened substantially over time, especially when that process is in combination with sufficient rest (at least eight of the 24 hours each day), rigorous physical exercise, and proper nutrition. We also know that most human limits are self-imposed and many people are hostage to what James O’Toole so aptly characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.”

I commend Brian Tracy on this latest contribution to our understanding of how to accelerate personal growth and professional development. He has explained what’s involved. It remains for those who embark on that perilous but promising journey to stay the course. To them I offer a heartfelt Bon voyage!

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