Book Review: How To Begin – Start Doing Something That Matters

Book: How To Begin – Start Doing Something That Matters

By: Michael Bungay Stanier

Reviewed by: Leah Parkhill-Reilly

The Premise:  This book has rather provocative opener: if you knew how many years you had left on Earth how would you make sure you did something that matters? Yikes. It’s a tremendous wake-up call against the hours spent wasted down rabbit holes of distraction (ahem, TikTok) that prevent us from creating and doing something of impact. Using that premise as a launch pad Michael Bungay Stanier (MBS) walks the reader through a series of thinking tools to enable them to move from ambition to action.

The Bottomline: I know so many people who struggle with “wants and shoulds.” You know, the statement of “I want to do (fill in the blank) but I should do (fill in the blank).” If that is the case for you, then this is a worthwhile book to pick up. MBS carefully peels back the layers to move the reader beyond the surface level of the “want” to really unpack what that goal means, what comforts and costs are associated with the journey and small steps and practices to move forward. As a coach I’ve read a fair number of books on setting goals and forming habits, but what stood out for me in this book was the way MBS made himself a player in this journey alongside the reader. He understands that this is hard stuff because he’s doing it at the same time. I find it rare in a “business” book to see this degree of humility and authenticity. It added depth and made the book eminently readable.

Maybe this book resonates with me because I’ve been feeling that ambition of “what’s next/what’s new.” Or perhaps it’s because in my own middle age I am sandwiched between seeing the first act playing out with my children and the final act playing out with my parents and it’s caused me to think about our collective impact. Whatever the reason, this book is destined to become dog-eared and wilted from the number of times I turn back to the various chapters for the wit, warm insight, and creative yet practical and simple tools. It is a must-read for anyone who has any type of ambition in the broadest sense, not limited to career ambition.

Recommendation: This book is incredibly accessible for everyone. MBS has done a brilliant job in being precise with his words to convey thought-provoking concepts in a simple format (cute little cartoons also help). At the same time, it is a deeply personal book, and you have to appreciate the passion that went into its creation.

No resting on one’s laurels. Go read this book and DO SOMETHING THAT MATTERS.



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