The Gift of Wisdom | Book Review

“Decide who and what you want to be,
and then do it – live the life you want.”

Good advice (page 135)  from Chuck Soukup, a former Naval Engineer, and one of many golden nuggets from Neal Whitten’s thoughtful compendium of lessons learned from a diverse set of twenty-five mature adults (at least 67 years old).

Whitten is both an engineer and a Project Management Professional (PMP), looking for more – a sense of purpose – and has shared his findings with us. The Gift of Wisdom is an uplifting reference when we need a time out. Time out to ask big questions, or perhaps to ask

“Where is my Personal Leadership Philosophy leading me?”

At least four Academy Leadership Workshops align well with The Gift: Managing a Leader’s Style and Energy (E2L), Aligning and Accomplishing Goals, Your Personal Leader’s Compass and Setting Leadership Priorities. Whitten’s work may be imagined a distillation of lifetime Steven Covey’s Quadrant II (Important Not Urgent) best practices.

At a personal level, several of the contributor findings aligned with our Emerick Family Contract tenets, providing validation, an energy boost, and a gentle reminder to live our values.

Recommended Approach

Meet Mr. Whitten’s contributors first, on pages 439-462. They are like you and me, and our neighbors. After that, read the preface, and then scan the chapters. Patterns emerge such as time (Time Management, Hobbies and Leisure Time) and goals (Dreams, Goals, Doing It All Over).

Selected Golden Nuggets

Chapter Five, Spirituality, is the heart of the book. Ann El-Moslimany (page 132):

We each have a purpose in life, even multiple purposes, as we evolve over a lifetime. We must seek out that life’s purpose through thoughtful contemplation, an openness to inspiration, and a willingness to give and serve others...

Common sentiments in chapter five include deep humility and connecting with others in a deep and meaningful way, leading to integrity and purpose.

Learning to focus energy is another common theme. Hilda Byrd (page 31) advises If you harbor envy, transform that negative energy into taking positive action… El-Moslimany (page 48) advises Create an Exciting Start to Your Day and Sandra Harrsen similarly (page 348) notes People who stay physically fit and active in their retirement tend to be not only the healthiest, but also the happiest.

Establishing life priorities (think Personal Leadership Philosophy) and a positive attitude, and demonstrating them are dominant themes. Rod Randall tells a fine story (work/life balance) on page 102 about living family priorities. Harrsen (page 49) instructs us to Focus On The Things That Count, and Royce Breedlove reminds us how to Stay Upbeat and Hopeful, even during his wife’s (pages 310-311) three-year bout with ovarian cancer. Paul Zeiss admonishes (page 268) us Turn Your Dreams into Action by moving from the dreaming to the planning stage, and Randall tells us (page 431) Believe in Yourself through a high school story. Finally, Chuck Soukup bluntly reminds us, regarding retirement (page 348), that Boredom Is a Choice.

Service repeatedly surfaces. Many of Whitten’s contributors have served (military and other forms) in some capacity, and in Chapter 24, Other Thoughts Royce Breedlove (page 437) describes that a national service program would allow us (especially when young) to give to a cause greater than ourselves.

Buy this book and keep it near your Personal Leadership Philosophy. When and if you feel your philosophy needs a rewrite or something is missing, Mr. Whitten and his twenty-five contributors are a fine support team. A gift indeed.

JE | April 2015