Books on How to Achieve Greatness Sell Well



Since the post-1982 business book boom, one category—one business book niche—has continued to sell very well in good times and bad: books that purport to tell people how to be turn themselves from ordinary to extraordinary. 

In 1986, Charles Garfield, who worked on the Apollo 11 mission that put the first man on the moon, published Peak Performers: The New Heroes of American Business. It was a Time Magazine bestseller (when Time kept track of these things) and made a big splash in the marketplace.

In 2003 Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz published The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, is the Key To High Performance and Personal Renewal. That book, which focuses on the physical and energy portion of one’s life, also sold hundreds of thousand of copies (although I do take exception with the subtitle: who thought time was the key to high performance)?

The two best books on the topic, however, were published in the last few months. One, published by Portfolio and released in October 2008, was written by Fortune Magazine’s brilliant Geoffrey Colvin, entitled: Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers From Everybody Else .  It conjures up some great examples—like former football great Jerry Rice—to show how ten years of “deliberate” and grueling practice can turn people with little natural born talent into world class performers.

Then, the following month, bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell of Tipping Point  fame published Outliers: The Story of Success. By coincidence, it hits on many of the identical themes of Talent is Overrated. Gladwell has some surprising and interesting examples as well, including Bill Gates and The Beatles.

The strong sales of these books prove that people are constantly looking for ways to boost their own performance, always searching for that magic pill. However, we now know that there is no magic pill. You must have the stamina to practice for hours, days, weeks, and years. And you have to be willing to make a commitment, and stick with it — to choose something that you are truly passionate about, and put up with disappointing results for a very long time.  That’s how one transforms themselves from the ordinary to the extraordinary.          




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