"Genius is in-born, may it never be still-born."

"Oysters, irritated by grains of sand, give birth to pearls. Brains, irritated by curiosity, give birth to ideas."

"Brainpower is the bridge to the future; it is what transports you from wishful thinking to willful doing."

"Unless you keep learning & growing, the status quo has no status."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: 'THE ADULT YEARS: Mastering the Art of Self Renewal', by Frederic Hudson

Together with Richard Leider's books (particularly, 'Life Skills', 'The Power of Purpose' & 'The Inventurers') & Richard Bolles' 'What Colour is Your Parachute?', this wonderful book, 'The Adult Years', by Frederic Hudson has been most pivotal in helping me to navigate my mid-life transition during the early 90's.

In fact, I seriously consider it to be one of the most compelling books ever written on continual self-renewal & personal transformation.

It has been beautifully crafted with warmth, passion, clarity & mastery of content. It provides a refreshingly optimistic perspective on reinventing your life.

Best of all, it is solidly backed by several decades of research & consulting work at the Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara, California.

I remember vividly when I first encountered this book in the early 90's, it was actually the back page of the book which attracted my attention:

"Designing a rich adult life for a world in transition."

followed by a quotation:

"The Adult Years will help you to think about your life - & to stay vital all your life."

At that point in time, I was pondering about what I wanted to do with the second half of my life. I was 43 years old & a hard-working corporate rat then - but working in quiet desperation.

Frankly, I was looking damned good . . . but deep down in my heart, I was actually going nowhere! So, I started a frantic search for all kinds of seminars, workshops, books, magazines & resources to fuel my mind.

I was very glad to bump into this book by chance. I particularly liked what the author has said in the book:

". . . adulthood is a cyclical experience that can be a ripening of our strengths rather than dull repetition or a dizzying merry-go-round . . . it is possible in a culture that glamourises youth more than it values maturity, to design a coherent, mature life that is resilient enough not only to survive but to be visionary & regenerating . . . by unleashing our own personal forces of self renewal, we can bring forth ideas & leadership for social renewal."

". . . a personal transition is a time to hold on to what is working in your life, let go of what is not working, take on new learning & exploration of options, & move on to new commitments."

The author has masterfully portrayed the cycles of self-renewal through the various chapters of the book, as follows:

Part I: The Emerging Adult

1 The Adult Dilemma
2 Finding Possibilities in Cyclical Lives

Part II: The Cycle of Change - Life Structures & Transitions

3 The Patterns of Change
4 From Dreaming to Restructuring
5 from Disengaging to Cocooning
6 From Self renewal to New Beginnings

Part III: The Life Cycle

7 Meaning & Mission Across the Life Cycle
8 The Twenties & Thirties
9 The Forties & Fifties
10 The Sixties & seventies
11 Getting from Here to There: Six Principles of Life Cycle Change

Part IV: Adults & Global Change

12 Valuing the Global Context
13 The Self Renewing Adult, the Self Renewing Society

The author, using his own rich experience as well as stories of his clients, shows the power in each of us to make life course changes, to become unstuck, to develop new skills, & to achieve a life of continuous potential.

First he poses five basic questions to start you thinking, in a world that is always changing & sometimes disappointing:

1) How has change affected the way you think & feel about your future? How has it affected your motivation & sense of purpose? As you experience more change in your daily experience, are you more optimistic or pessimistic about your life prospects today than you were ten years ago?

2) Have the forces of change increased or decreased your opportunities for living & working & reaching your goals?

3) Have the forces of change increased or decreased your financial security over the past ten years?

4) Have the forces of change increased or decreased your confidence in the country's future? in your own future?

5) Has change freed you from the artificial constraints of the past, allowing you to find many new ways to find fulfilment? Or are you swamped by change - unable to maintain constancy & the quality of life you want?

He then recommends ten basic skills for self-renewal & empowerment:

1) Create your dream, & a plan of action for it;

2) Launch your dream, & put your plan of action to work. Be committed;

3) Stay on top of your realised dream & keep enriching your dream for as long as it makes sense to do so;

4) You conduct a thorough inventory of your life, asking only one question of each assumption, possession, relationship, activity & structure: "Does this add meaning to my life?" If it does, you keep it; if it doesn't, you make corrections;

5) Sort things out, results in a personal plan: what to keep, what to eliminate or change, what to add, & how to proceed into a revitalised life structure;

6) Ending a life structure with dignity & care requires an ability to say "farewell" with gratitude & clarity, leaving you free to consider your next options. There are two possibilities at this point, restructuring or a life transition;

7) Restructuring is like minor surgery, with a strategic plan to make the life structure work better - a new location, a new job, a new home, or a new partner. The same basic values & goals prevail, but the action steps, setting &/or players in the drama are altered;

8) Cocooning is the first activity of a life transition - turning inward to take stock, to find your own basic values, & to disengage emotionally & mentally from the life structure;

9) Self-renewal follows successful cocooning. It is a time when you feel the surge of life return as a pure gift. Some call it rebirth, a miracle, an act of God. In truth, it doesn't matter what you call it: acceptance is all that matters. When you accept with gratitude the new life that you feel, you are able to "hope" again; the future is a new possibility;

10) Experimenting - engage in creating, learning, risk-taking, & networking. Creativity is the playful exploration of new ideas & possibilities. Experimentation is trying out new ideas & projects without making them permanent. It is risking discovery & risking failure. Networking links you to new resources: exploring friendships, finding new ways to do things, gathering information, & pursuing new learning;

Over the many years since my first encounter with the book, I have often gone back to read some of the passages to seek further insights about empowerment throughout my adult years.

For me, the book is intelligently crafted & extremely helpful in providing a sensible framework for understanding & appreciating mid-life transition & personal change.

In concluding this review, I enthusiastically recommend this wonderful book, 'The Adult Years', to all who are interested in the quality of life & peak performance in life's remaining years!

Every busy professional would benefit from this marvellous book when coming of age.

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