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Louise Batchelor


HR Business Partner

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Book Review: How to shine – Insights into unlocking your potential from proven winners


Review 1

The title of this book makes it seem very attractive – we would all like to know how to shine, or maybe shine brighter.

The work itself is premised on research that the author carried out in order to understand what makes people great.

The author, Simon Hartley, refutes the notion that individuals are born winners, achieve great things through some sort of natural talent or that they find success via some kind of accident. In doing so, he covers some pretty well-trodden ground.
Throughout the book’s nine chapters, he seeks to identify what it takes to be great at what you do by trying to uncover the secrets of “successful” people. They comprise the 12 personalities that he interviews while researching his book and they come from various fields, although the majority have sporting backgrounds.
The personalities include Kenny Atkinson ( Michelin starred chef), Chris Cook (an Olympic swimmer) and Alison Waters (an international squash player). In each chapter, using case studies and interviews, the author identifies the traits that have contributed to each individual’s success.
Reviewer’s rating
While the book is readable and easy to digest, I found it sadly predictable. Maybe I was hoping to discover some kind of magical secret to success, but the truth is that it was down to a combination of factors including motivation, passion, hard work and drive.
As most of the personalities interviewed were from the field of sport, the work would appear more relevant to sports coaches and trainers than to business people, although there were obviously some parallels and transferrable lessons.
Another issue, however, was that none of the individuals cited were quite famous enough – none of them were household names.
Therefore, even though the book’s sub-title is “Insights into unlocking your potential from proven winners”, in some instances, there appeared to be insufficient evidence of winning. The work would have had far more credibility if Hartley had interviewed more well-known success stories.
Towards the end of it, however, it felt like he had run out of “insights” – the last couple of chapters were entitled “Be Yourself” and “Be the best you can be” – hardly revolutionary and a little clichéd.
If you want to know how to be great, how to be personally effective, how to shine, there are definitely better books out there (Covey, Coyle, Syed to name but a few).

This book was reviewed for us by Louise Batchelor, HR business partner for the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service.

Review 2

Are you ready to go from good to great? This challenge, and the notion that we all have it in us to be exceptional instead of merely good, is the fundamental premise on which this book is based.
At a time when many people will have been influenced by the achievement of this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes, the book is certainly timely in its focus on what differentiates award-winners from also-rans.
Its author is an experienced sports psychologist and performance coach who helps athletes and business people ‘get their mental game right’. His approach here is to use interviews with ‘proven winners’, most of whom are sports people, to illustrate nine key steps to success.
A chapter is devoted to expanding and illustrating each step with the result that the contents page in itself provides a handy aide-memoire for what to do: Have a dream; Focus on the next step; Keep it simple; Don’t compromise; Push the envelope; Be mentally tough; Take responsibility; Take control; Be yourself, and Be the Best you can be. 
Within each chapter, alongside the case studies, the author also provides signposts to relevant academic research and psychological theory (referenced in a useful bibliography), which is effective in refocusing the content away from the purely anecdotal to something much more solid and reassuring.
Throughout, the book adopts a suitably gung-ho and encouraging tone, echoing what one feels must be the style required to be an effective sports performance coach. However, non-athletes may find that the final chapter, ‘Be the best you can be’, resonates more deeply in tone and content with how things are for most of us.
In fact, the author’s final sentence, in which he describes what he has learnt from the experiences of world-class people, is simply: “Do what you love, and love what you do”. For lesser achievers, this may be a better starting point than some of the earlier rhetoric about dreams and passion and aiming for the stars.
In fact, the milder tone of the final chapter, which explains how we all tend to perform really well if we manage to find the right balance of confidence, motivation and focus and don’t let ourselves be sabotaged by anger, fear and guilt, is arguably the most useful in the book.
It stresses that we need to know ourselves, to understand what success means and explore the value of self-worth – all of which are highly relevant to us all, regardless of our desired level of achievement.
Reviewer’s rating
If you’re looking for a book that will help you focus on how to become truly exceptional and ‘how to shine’ (how I hate that phrase), and you haven’t read any other books on the subject and you are inspired by/interested in sporting achievement, this could be a good one for you.
However, as I am not interested in sport, it didn’t do it for me – although I fully recognise that this is my problem and that I am in the minority.
I have also read a tremendous amount of self-development books, which means that I struggled to find anything particularly new here (while accepting that there is always room for ‘one more’ in an area of such perennial interest as this).
That said, the book causes one to ponder on the interesting question of whether being ‘truly exceptional’ and ‘the best you can be’ are compatible or mutually exclusive?
Surely, by definition, not everyone can be truly exceptional – so should the rest of us who are mere also-rans not bother to improve ourselves?
Isn’t being the best we can be, however humble, a valuable goal in its own right, despite the realisation that most of us will never gain us a place in the ‘exceptional’ club (even if we aspired to it, which many people don’t)?
While I feel that the author must believe we should all endeavour to unlock our own potential, I felt that, ultimately, not enough weight is given to encouraging people, who may not have a dream of greatness, to simply up their performance in line with their aspirations and what they can achieve.
In terms of the book’s usefulness in the HR arena, what was most valuable overall was the reminder that people’s performance is closely related to their confidence, motivation and focus. And that, ultimately, all of us are happiest and most successful if we can reach that state of nirvana where we are doing something that we love.
  • This book was reviewed for us by Dianne Bown-Wilson, an expert in age management and later life careers.
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Louise Batchelor

HR Business Partner

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