Book Review: The School of Greatness

superheroyou Book Review- The School of Greatness

Disclaimer: All views expressed in this review are the personal opinion of the writer.

In January 2013, lifestyle entrepreneur Lewis Howes began a podcast called The School of Greatness. Howes wanted to know the secrets to achieving the “greatness of exploring, reaching and sustaining your potential – that is, the kind of individual and unique greatness that we are all capable of.” So he started interviewing famous names – and learned 8 crucial lessons that he describes in his latest book: The School of Greatness.

In his introduction, Howes states, “The lessons in this book are not my lessons; they are my lecture notes from a unique and wonderful school. I’m simply lucky enough to be the messenger.”

The above statement details my biggest issue with this book. The School of Greatness is an excellent introduction to common tenets of self-improvement. However, because of the way it’s structured, it contains a lot of information that I had already heard before. Howes kept my attention through many of his lessons (AKA chapters) via the stories of the greats he talks to. But I didn’t have as many AHA moments in this book as I wished I did.

That said, there were parts of The School of Greatness that even I, who spends all day immersed in the self-help genre, loved. One was the fact that Howes included the exercises right in the book, complete with worksheets. Many self-improvement books make us do this on our own, and it was nice to have the option right in the book instead of having to find another notebook or hunt it down on the website.

Nearly every business book says it’s crucial to practice Lesson 7: Build A Winning Team. But Howes is a rarity in extending that philosophy to your personal life AND showing you how to get there. I also loved Lesson 8: Live A Life of Service. So many self-improvement books get caught in a “me me me” mentality, and with a title like The School of Greatness this book ran the risk greater than most. But Howes deftly maneuvered out of this abyss with his final lesson, an effort which I applaud.

Unfortunately, those are the final two lessons of the book. And while I understand why Build A Winning Team comes after Create A Vision, I wish I’d had those “aha” moments earlier. Also, there is a massive revelation in the Conclusion that changed my entire understanding of The School of Greatness: namely, that Howes is a survivor of sexual abuse.

Here’s the thing – Howes’ big struggle in the beginning of the book is that an injury ruined his chances at pro football and he was depressed and living on his couch until he founded a million-dollar business that lifted him out of his funk. In some ways, it’s a story that’s compelling because it’s so relatable. Most of us can’t relate to barely being able to afford $5 shoes in New York; but we’re probably familiar with losing something we wanted and feeling depressed about it.

Unfortunately, at least for me, it just wasn’t that compelling of a life-changing moment. Yes, writing a story that started with Howes’ sexual abuse would have made for a very different book. But that’s somebody I want to root for. A guy whose biggest problem in life is that he made All-American and got injured and now has to figure out what to do with his life? Not so much. It doesn’t help that Howes’ big dream was to become an All-American, which he achieved, and which would have ended with college no matter what.

I still enjoyed The School of Greatness, but at times I felt like I did so in spite of Howes’ story and the impression I had of him, not because of them….until the conclusion. Maybe that makes me a terribly judgmental person. But the point is this: I shouldn’t have my entire understanding of a book transformed by the conclusion, a section that a lot of people don’t even read.

This issue was also evident in the rest of the stories that Howes told. It says something that in a book that includes shoe billionaire Angel Martinez, Olympian Shawn Johnson and Kyle Maynard, an athlete who’s accomplished incredible things basically without arms and legs, the most powerful story I remember from The School of Greatness was that of Angel Martinez’s son: a kid who finished several miles of a race while running on a broken leg.

Naturally, Howes’ lessons were limited to the actual teachers he had. But I wonder if he picked the right ones.

Bottom line? The School of Greatness is an excellent introduction to self-improvement that’s interesting and good but falls just shy of being great. And if you’re already pretty familiar with self-improvement, start at the later chapters.

Liked this? Check out 10 Millennial Authors to Follow!

Written by Sasha Graffagna

Disclaimer: All views expressed in this review are the personal opinion of the writer.

In January 2013, lifestyle entrepreneur Lewis Howes began a podcast called The School of Greatness. Howes wanted to know the secrets to achieving the “greatness of exploring, reaching and sustaining your potential – that is, the kind of individual and unique greatness that we are all capable of.” So he started interviewing famous names – and learned 8 crucial lessons that he describes in his latest book: The School of Greatness.

In his introduction, Howes states, “The lessons in this book are not my lessons; they are my lecture notes from a unique and wonderful school. I’m simply lucky enough to be the messenger.”

The above statement details my biggest issue with this book. The School of Greatness is an excellent introduction to common tenets of self-improvement. However, because of the way it’s structured, it contains a lot of information that I had already heard before. Howes kept my attention through many of his lessons (AKA chapters) via the stories of the greats he talks to. But I didn’t have as many AHA moments in this book as I wished I did.

That said, there were parts of The School of Greatness that even I, who spends all day immersed in the self-help genre, loved. One was the fact that Howes included the exercises right in the book, complete with worksheets. Many self-improvement books make us do this on our own, and it was nice to have the option right in the book instead of having to find another notebook or hunt it down on the website.

Nearly every business book says it’s crucial to practice Lesson 7: Build A Winning Team. But Howes is a rarity in extending that philosophy to your personal life AND showing you how to get there. I also loved Lesson 8: Live A Life of Service. So many self-improvement books get caught in a “me me me” mentality, and with a title like The School of Greatness this book ran the risk greater than most. But Howes deftly maneuvered out of this abyss with his final lesson, an effort which I applaud.

Unfortunately, those are the final two lessons of the book. And while I understand why Build A Winning Team comes after Create A Vision, I wish I’d had those “aha” moments earlier. Also, there is a massive revelation in the Conclusion that changed my entire understanding of The School of Greatness: namely, that Howes is a survivor of sexual abuse.

Here’s the thing – Howes’ big struggle in the beginning of the book is that an injury ruined his chances at pro football and he was depressed and living on his couch until he founded a million-dollar business that lifted him out of his funk. In some ways, it’s a story that’s compelling because it’s so relatable. Most of us can’t relate to barely being able to afford $5 shoes in New York; but we’re probably familiar with losing something we wanted and feeling depressed about it.

Unfortunately, at least for me, it just wasn’t that compelling of a life-changing moment. Yes, writing a story that started with Howes’ sexual abuse would have made for a very different book. But that’s somebody I want to root for. A guy whose biggest problem in life is that he made All-American and got injured and now has to figure out what to do with his life? Not so much. It doesn’t help that Howes’ big dream was to become an All-American, which he achieved, and which would have ended with college no matter what.

I still enjoyed The School of Greatness, but at times I felt like I did so in spite of Howes’ story and the impression I had of him, not because of them….until the conclusion. Maybe that makes me a terribly judgmental person. But the point is this: I shouldn’t have my entire understanding of a book transformed by the conclusion, a section that a lot of people don’t even read.

This issue was also evident in the rest of the stories that Howes told. It says something that in a book that includes shoe billionaire Angel Martinez, Olympian Shawn Johnson and Kyle Maynard, an athlete who’s accomplished incredible things basically without arms and legs, the most powerful story I remember from The School of Greatness was that of Angel Martinez’s son: a kid who finished several miles of a race while running on a broken leg.

Naturally, Howes’ lessons were limited to the actual teachers he had. But I wonder if he picked the right ones.

Bottom line? The School of Greatness is an excellent introduction to self-improvement that’s interesting and good but falls just shy of being great. And if you’re already pretty familiar with self-improvement, start at the later chapters.

Liked this? Check out 10 Millennial Authors to Follow!

Written by Sasha Graffagna

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