The Art of Possible by Kate Tojeiro

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The Art of Possible by Kate Tojeiro

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Category: Business and Finance
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: A practical workbook to help you focus in on what you really want, and then train your brain to help you get it.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: April 2015
Publisher: Black Mustang Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0993236907

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As I recently wrote on Bookbag, I started reading management manuals and self-improvement books at a time when my life was not going so great. Since then, it seems that they have continued to drop into my life just as I need them. I'm sure there's something to the science of "serendipity", which basically means we notice stuff more when it's what we need.

And sometimes, other people notice that it might be what we need. So it gets sent our way.

From The Commando Entrepreneur which is basically about leadership, I have been swiftly diverted into The Art of Possible which is much more about self-management. My take on life generally is that you cannot hope to manage or lead or inspire other people, if you cannot manage, lead and inspire yourself. Sometimes we need a little help in doing this.

Sometimes it doesn't hurt to take a step outside current pressures and think about "me" for a change.

What Tojeiro does quite neatly in The Art of Possible is to recognise this: that what works on the personal level also works on the global business level: that ultimately the world is run by people making decisions. The essence of the book is no different from what all the other gurus have been saying for years: understand what it is you really want, believe you can get, and then figure out how. Accept that it will not be easy. Accept that there will be scary moments. Learn to work through the scary stuff and at some point you'll suddenly realise it has stopped being scary but, oh look, there's a new monster on the horizon.

Comfort zone to action to discomfort to new comfort to action… etc.

The twist is that she supports this with snippets of the latest evidence for the neuroscientists which underlines that the brain (as a physical thing) thrives on newness: it really does create new links, and the more you use those links the stronger they become. I've just read a review of another book which talks about how, because of this capability, the brain can be trained to find new pathways that will replace damaged ones, thus enabling stroke victims or Parkinson's sufferers (with some considerable effort to be fair) to find ways of diminishing or eliminating the effects.

I would, therefore, have liked more on the neuroscience behind what Tojeiro is saying.

Instead she retreats quickly from it to the safer territory of example and case study and example. If it works for her and its worked for other really successful people, why wouldn't it work for you?

Why not, indeed.

The text is also threaded with her personal experience of deciding to learn to ride a trial bike and go on a four-day jaunt over the Pyrenees to raise money for charity. It's a fabulous case study to use – though again I'd have liked more of it – particularly because she wasn't fabulously successful at it. On one measure, she failed. She bailed out at the end of day one. On another measure it was a surprising achievement: she was no-where near skilled enough to be doing it (good on her for having a go), she took the difficult decision not to put herself and other people in continued damage when it could be avoided. Too many of the positivity coaches omit the fact that actually sometimes it is ok to quit.

McKinney (the Commando Entrepreneur) might call it a tactical withdrawal.

Just in case you're wondering whether this is just another book that you might read and put on the shelf and take away very little from… well, possibly. Especially if you decide to just read it and put it on the shelf. That's not what it's for.

It is designed as a work-book. There are lots of blank boxes for you to scribble in. Questions to be answered in words or pictures. Throughout Tojeiro encourages you to stop and to think. Sometimes not to think too hard, but to access your gut reaction, which is probably your purest, but at other times to really think – what she wants you to think most about is your reactions to your hopes and dreams.

She asks you to think about what success looks like, but also what it smells like and tastes like and how you talk about it and who you meet and where you go… in doing so, she is challenging you to check that this actually is YOUR dream and not someone else's. Interestingly, she doesn't say that.

But it's true.

Then she challenges you to start thinking differently, to get curious again. Curious about the world around you and the people around you, but also about yourself. Are you procrastinating (which might be a good thing) or are you just being lazy? And in both cases what does that tell you and what are you going to do about it.

Once you know where you're trying to go it's a matter of attending to the detail, shaking off the doubters, learning resilience (yes, she says, it's a skill like any other, not something you're born with or without) and using fear.

She wraps up by talking about feeling alive, being happy, keeping the momentum – these are things that really speak to me – because these are the things that (when I feel them) remind me that I'm on the right track, that I am actually living the possible, because I know you don’t get it all at once and all things are relative.

If I have a niggle with this book, it is that it could have done with a tighter proof read. There are occasional ‘ey what?’ moments when the sentence stops short on a grammatical nonsense or a dropped word. It isn’t littered with them but more than enough have slipped the net.

For anyone who has read my recent reviews, and wonders how this scores on my personal criteria I can say: I am not about to lend it to anyone (because I still need it), I read it in two sittings, and have immediately turned back to the beginning to work it through. There are things in here that I am finding useful and helpful right now – so it has to be worth giving it a go. And I have turned no corners down at all.

Normally that last comment would indicate that I don't rate the book that highly. In this case, it's because I didn't need to. This is one that I'm going to be carrying around and working my way through for the next few weeks or so. Key quotes will get extracted during that time – and shared with colleagues – as I've found my own way to apply them. Some of the quotes are familiar, others aren't. Many echo things I say at work on a regular basis. But it isn't a "buzz-wordy" kind of a book. And that's a good thing.

It's an exercise book. It says: this seems to work for a lot of really successful people. Try it and see.

I'm doing just that. And if you’re wondering whether or that will be worth the effort, then maybe you should read What's Stopping You?: Why Smart People Don't Always Reach Their Potential and How You Can by Robert Kelsey.

Booklists.jpg The Art of Possible by Kate Tojeiro is in the Top Ten Self-Published Books 2015.

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Ed Mills said:

Just read a review by Lesley Mason. It was brilliant! Well written, informative, balanced and summarised the book sensibly. If I don't buy the book I'll buy something by Ms Mason...