Book Review – “The Hero Within” by Carol S. Pearson

 

Caution: You might not recognise these heroes

 

If ever there was a case of “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover (or by it’s title)”, this was it.

When I was browsing Goodreads a few weeks ago, I stumbled across this interesting title and thought here was something that appealed to me. I should’ve researched better.

Dr. Pearson is a therapist who draws upon the works of Carl Jung and says that there are archetypes that our subconscious minds know of, and if we call on these, they can be a source of unleashing our potential.

Unfortunately, the book draws largely upon Christian and Greek mythologies to drive home the point. Most of the examples are from stories which people in a Euro-centric world would be familiar with. As an Indian, these had very little impact for me. This made me think how different cultures around the world might be at a loss to connect with it. What of people from countries in Asia and Africa who have a treasure load of mythologies from their own cultures? This idea of “hero by templates” wouldn’t stand for them.

Another shortcoming, although not a fault per se, was the fact that the book is old. Examples seem dated, and the realities mentioned seem from a lifetime away (which, in this case, is the 1990s). The book hasn’t aged well, and I constantly felt like the author was speaking in generalisations.

I have to say that there were some portions which did make a lot of sense, as is evidenced by the highlights and notes I made while reading this book. Yet, these were too far and few in between to make me want to continue struggling. I usually don’t give up on a book till I’m at least 20-25% done with it, and in this instance, I read up to 40% of it. Sadly, no more.

I’d much rather go back to reading about achieving my potential with the hope that I can get better at anything and hard work.

Read more about “The Hero Within” on Goodreads.

Title: The Hero Within

Author: Dr. Carol Pearson

First Published: 1986

No. Of Pages: 338

Price: Paperback – Rs. 1271 / Kindle – Rs. 293.42

(Disclosure: If you buy the book by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)

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Book Review – “Mindset” by Dr. Carol Dweck

 

It’s official: Nothing is impossible

If you have always felt that there are some things that you could never be good at (mathematics, science, drawing, dancing, chess…) because you’re “wired” a certain way, then this book is here to challenge that notion.

“Mindset” makes the claim that *anybody* can get good at *anything* they put their mind to. The author does not claim that you will definitely become the world’s best at your chosen activity or skill, but if you work diligently and scientifically, there’s almost nothing that you can’t become better at. This “growth mindset” is in contrast to the “fixed mindset” where one believes that we are born with a set of skills and that there is no way we can become better at other things.

A couple of caveats, though. The author points out that there are always going to be the 1-2% people who do have skills which would make us label them as geniuses. Then there might be the 1-2% folks at the other end of the spectrum, who might have learning disabilities and hence find it more difficult and take longer to pick up a certain skill. However, for the remaining 96-98% of the population, there is tremendous scope for improvement.

The other thing one needs to watch out for is that people who have a “growth mindset” in one area of life might have a “fixed mindset” in another. This was akn interesting wake up call for me.

I identify myself as someone who largely believes in the growth mindset, although I was barely knowledgeable of the term before I picked up this book. However, even I was surprised to learn that a skill like negotiation could be learned. This jolted me a bit and now I find myself questioning everything that I thought I couldn’t learn or be good at.

The book also touches on thei issues of sexism and racism. Negative labels can limit women and communities to feel that they canonot achieve excellence in certain disciplines; STEM or financial management, for example. I was glad the author mentioned this because it tied in directly to the essay “We Should All Be Feminists” that I read just last week.

The one criticism that I do have of this book is that the examples are mainly American. While I do understand that the book was largely aimed at an American audience, the success of it’s subject matter surely deserved an international comparison.

This book made me go back to “Grit” and made me realise how well that book was structured. In it, the author listed four reasons how grit could be cultivated: interest, passion, purpose and hope. This book addresses that last factor, hope. If people realise that they can get good at anything provided they put in systematic effort, they will tend to apply themselves to a job or a task for a longer period of time.

I cannot recommend this book enough, especially to parents and teachers. The book shows how vulnerable young kids are to labels and fixed mindsets and how making them believe from an early age that they could achieve almost whatever they put their mind to is much more empowering than feeling helpless and trapped.

Snippets:

  • “It’s ironic: The top is where the fixed-mindset people hunger to be, but it’s where many growth-minded people arrive as a by-product of their enthusiasm for what they do.”
  • “Just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training.”
  • “Later, at a meeting of Hewlett-Packard engineers, Packard gave the young man a medal “for extraordinary contempt and defiance beyond the normal call of engineering duty.” ~grins~

Read more about “Mindset” on Goodreads. Buy the book here.

Title: Mindset

Author: Dr. Carol S. Dweck

First Published: 2006

Number of Pages: 301

Price: Paperback – Rs. 330 / Kindle – Rs. 215.60 (Amazon.in)

My Rating: 8 out of 10

(Disclosure: If you buy the book by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)

Book Review – “Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance” by Angela Duckworth

Title: Grit – The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Author: Angela Duckworth

First Published: 2016

Number of Pages: 352

Price: Paperback – Rs. 400/ Kindle – Rs. 274.86 (Amazon.in)

My rating: 5 out of 5

Remember the fable about the hare and the tortoise, and how the lazy hare lost the race to the slow but persevering tortoise? Well, they weren’t kidding.

Dr. Angela Duckworth starts this book with the premise that socially and culturally, we attribute a lot of success to talent whereas a larger proportion of that credit should go to perseverance. She goes on to show how various longitudinal research studies show that grit and constantly striving to become better is a far greater contributor to success than raw talent. Examples of this range from success stories at National Spelling Bee to military schools and from sportsmen to regular office goers.

Sure, everyone who reads this is bound to feel motivated. But Dr. Duckworth cautions us that the route to such success is mostly daunting and might appear to be boring and full of struggle. In a sense, she is saying that although not fashionable, good old hard work trounces talent which hasn’t worked hard enough.

The book tells us practical ways in which grit can be cultivated. And this has big implications not only for leaders at multi-million dollar companies and sports teams, but also for parents trying to get their kids to succeed at school. She outlines how we should approach the “10,000 hour” rule, not only quantitatively but also qualitatively.

I must add that I couldn’t help but think of marathon training. Almost all the skills and attributes that the author spoke of are present in people who train for endurance sports, even at the amateur level. And I’m speaking not only about traits like not giving up when one is mentally and physically exhausted but also a sense of camaraderie towards your fellow runner by motivating them to push harder and putting another step forward.

In summary, this is a book which would give a lot of people hope in the belief that with hard work and perseverance, they *can* change their life story.

Read more about “Grit” on Goodreads. Buy the book here.

(Disclosure: If you buy the book by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)