Jonathan Wutawunashe is a hugely successful musician, songwriter, and record producer and so is well qualified to write a book about fulfilling your potential and achieving more. However, he uses his own experiences in a very low-key way and there’s no brashness or hype in this common sense book. He gives gentle yet persuasive advice throughout and it is well sitting up and taking notice of it.
The formula is easy to follow. There is discussion of a particular idea or point of view, often illustrated by a story of an incident from his own life or that of someone he knows, and then comes a punchy summary in bold type of what we should learn from this lesson.
There are 14 chapters in the book. In the first the author presents his thesis which is that “success is the outcome of a simple process based on deciding, doing and learning”. It sounds so simple. But is it? Wutawunashe’s view is that failure stems from a lack of common sense. He sets out to threaten us in this book, to “cajole, annoy and shock” us into getting off our butts and acting and achieving. The boxing gloves on the cover are a good reflection of this attitude. While I don’t think the book is as aggressive as this might suggest, it is undeniably forceful.
Chapter 2 looks at how the first step is always the hardest. Sometimes it’s easier to turn and run from a problem or a challenge, but that’s what we have to resist. Instead we should seize the opportunity and tackle the challenge to test our skills. We all have courage. We should use it. We have to adjust our perspective to see something as normal and achievable, not impossible. We must take that first step.
Risk is considered in chapter 3. The author looks at real risks and uses these to give us perspective on the perceived risks we conjure up for ourselves. Like farmers, we need to sow in order to reap. Our fear is usually inappropriate and we need to recognise it as such, overcome it and take the plunge.
In chapter 4 we are told to stop talking and start doing, but the following chapter warns us to make sure we know what we’re going to do before we get too over-confidently enthusiastic. Zeal without knowledge is dangerous. We need to have the necessary information at our fingertips before making important decisions. Personal experience counts for a lot here too.
The sixth chapter, Mortgage your Reputation, deals with keeping going, even when times are tough. Sincere effort and development are rarely noticed or praised, but the odd setback has everyone looking and commenting. We have to learn to ignore it and soldier on. If we believe in ourselves and what we’re doing, then that will keep us on track. Grow a thick skin and learn not to be embarrassed over mistakes. Money management is touched on too. Look at the big picture, we’re advised. We might have to give up a few luxuries in order to invest all our energy and money into what is important to us. We can always downscale in certain areas and that will help us in the long term.
Can You Manage opens with the crucial reminder that when we pay money, we must pay attention. Auto-pilot doesn’t work when we’re building an enterprise. We have to focus and concentrate all the time, and be prepared to organise and interfere in every detail. As well as organising how the business is run, it’s important to organise our time. The next chapter suggests how to structure a successful day. Whilst I don’t entirely agree that all goals should be acheived within the first three hours of daily working, I can appreciate the point that is being made – don’t put things off and tackle the big issues when you’re at your best. Spending time purposefully gives us the impetus and energy to keep working at that tempo all day.
Chapter 9, It’s a Goal, is about building up a good working team. This isn’t relevant to everyone of course, and I imagine a lot of sole traders and lone entrepreneurs will read this book, but there is sound advice there. Hire people for their skills and for no other reason.
Money comes back into play in the next chapter with the theme that money matters, whatever we are trying to do. Be careful with it and don’t waste it. Every penny counts. Don’t leave it lying around too conveniently in case it tempts you to spend more than you should. Bank it and budget carefully.
Chapter 11, Less is More, builds on this book’s premise that we, its readers, are not satisfied with what we’ve accomplished in our lives so far. We want to do more. But we must be patient and do the groundwork first. It may not seem that we’re doing much, but we’ll get the better results in the long run. It’s better to “plod steadily” on than rush over the cliff edge.
The next section of the books teaches us how to overcome a fear of falling or failing. The more we start to achieve, the more we can lose, but that shouldn’t stop us. Fear of failure is often “an indication of a willingness to fail”. Trade can be tricky, we should soldier on and confront things, accept new challenges. Test yourself and feel liberated by it.
Be Known for Something exhorts us to recognise and define what we can give and who we are. This will help us build our brand and our business or success. Look for the niche that only we can fill and find something that only we can say to the world. Be different and stand out.
The final chapter is about not feeling along and not seeing it as weakness to ask for help and advice from our peers. We’re never really alone. Other people are always contributing to what we do, however indirectly. We need our customers too and should treat them honestly and with respect, and welcome competitors since they will spur us on to better things.
The epilogue talks of how we all want to leave graffiti – our mark – behind us and the author hopes this book will show us how. He says the principles hold true whether we’re a grocer or a Sunday school teacher. If he can make us move another inch towards achieving a goal then he feels he has fulfilled his threat. It’s up to us now to fulfil ours.
Fulfill Your Threats is well worth a read if you feel that you’re not achieving quite as much as you should be, whether in your professtional or personal life. You can buy it here.
Jonathan’s website is here