Check out what some of our ACS coaches read over the holidays.

Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Stone & Heen

Reviewed by Jen Coleman

Feedback. It is everywhere, and we get it constantly. Good and bad, gentle and harsh, direct and vague. Feedback comes from bosses, spouses, clients, teachers, colleagues, social media, the driver behind you on your commute. Feedback comes from people you know intimately and people you don’t know at all. The point of this book is that you have little to no control over feedback itself. You often can’t determine how or when feedback is delivered, and you certainly can’t decide how another person delivers it. But you can control how you receive feedback and how you respond to it.

Thanks for the Feedback begins by looking at the three types of triggers that make feedback so challenging: truth triggers, relationship triggers, and identity triggers. The authors suggest that we often react poorly to constructive feedback because (1) we reject the feedback as false; (2) the feedback is clouded by the nature of our relationship to the giver; and/or (3) the feedback challenges our sense of who we are. The authors describe these triggers in detail with lots of examples, explaining why they matter and how to mitigate them. Fortunately, the book also provides a framework for managing feedback conversations — how to “ maximize the chances you will learn something valuable,” because ultimately, recognizing important feedback and learning from it is what “fuels insight and growth.”

I truly enjoyed this book. Stone and Heen present an easy, funny and relatable read that is useful for anyone that interacts with, well, anyone else. And that’s some feedback for them.


How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question by Michael Schur 

Reviewed by Evan Inra

I loved reading How to Be Perfect, which was a funny and insightful tour through 2,500+ years of moral philosophy (if you can believe that) with thoughtful questions and revealing takeaways. Schur, who created The Good Place, in addition to being a writer for SNL, The Office, Parks & Recreation and other shows, explores questions similar to those he raised in The Good Place: How can we be better people? How should we act? And what do we owe each other? Although the title is a tongue-in-cheek, it’s a comprehensive guide to improving oneself in whichever ways you need to in your life and career.

I learned about different philosophies throughout history, as well as the southern African concept of ubuntu, encapsulated by the proverb “A person is a person through other people.” This certainly gave me a new appreciation for the power and allure of networking. We are not alone here, and the decisions we make will impact those around us.

Schur summarizes the nearly impossible task of living a good life on earth using two simple ancient quotes from the walls of a temple in Delphi, Greece, inscribed thousands of years ago: “Know thyself” and “Nothing in excess.” So much of what we do in our careers, and how we can truly be happiest, depends on knowing thyself. To avoid following a familiar or safe path (especially if you feel unfulfilled), but to make good decisions, remember what you value, and live a life of integrity, you must truly know yourself. “Nothing in excess” reminds us that too much, or too little, of anything is usually detrimental in the long run.

How to be Perfect” is an excellent resource for those looking to improve their leadership skills and become better people. And if you haven’t seen The Good Place, add it to your 2023 queue as well.


From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life by Arthur C. Brooks

Reviewed by Marty Speight

Arthur C. Brooks, a senior fellow at HBS, first caught my attention with his 2020 Atlantic magazine series “How to Build a Life”. These articles are filled with pithy wisdom about everything from mindfulness to loneliness. So I was eager to dive into his new book on “the second half of life,” a.k.a. retirement. Immediately the reader is confronted with a challenging notion, what he calls the “strivers curse” — over time success becomes unsatisfying, he argues, and relationships lacking. We become terrified of the inevitable decline of aging. Even worse, according to Brooks, we discover that it happens to us earlier than we thought and that “the agony of decline is directly related to prestige achieved and the emotional attachment to that prestige.”

How do we cope? “Hold your success lightly,” he argues, and make the leap in from fluid intelligence (raw smarts) to crystallized intelligence (wisdom). Drawing on a vast store of academic studies, modern psychological theories as well as the insights of ancient philosophers and theologians, Brooks writes clearly and directly. There are three forces holding us back (addiction to work and success, attachment to rewards and fear of decline) and three prescribed solutions (develop relationships, start a spiritual journey, embrace your weakness).

Passionate, well researched and reasoned as the book is, however, From Strength to Strength leaves the reader with little in the way of practical advice. Its value is more as an argument for facing aging with a clear and critical mindset and finding what truly matters. To Brooks, that “means thinking more about what you really want now and less about what you wanted in the past; lowering your expectations about monetary compensation; and worrying less about whether it will look to someone else like a step down in prestige.”  Big thoughts apropos for those embarking on a transition into the later stages of career and life.

If you want to read more about careers in retirement, refer to the resources on the ACS website.