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A Voice in the Wilderness

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness. -- William O. Douglas

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Three Feet from Gold; by Lechter & Reid - my review

Sharon Lechter and Greg Reid put together this allegory injecting it with advice for success. After interviewing a variety of high achievers, they created a story about a struggling, marketing wannabe. The young man's initial motivations and offensive actions metamorphose into a way of thinking, based in morality and shored up with exhortations from the elites that bring about significant changes in his life.

"Three Feet from Gold," is a feel-good remake of the book, "Think and Grow Rich" originally conceived by Napoleon Hill back at the turn of the century. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the book's initial publication in 1908, the Napoleon Hill Foundation commissioned, "Three Feet from Gold" in an effort to resurrect some old ideas using contemporary personalities. Like Hill, Lechter & Reid collected sage advice from high achieving contemporaries which they used as the basis for their pared-down rendition of "Think and Grow Rich."

Aside from its schmaltzy tone, it did offer some decent recommendations for success. Unfortunately, the story seems disingenuous and therefore, the advice loses impact. The problem has to do with a selfish young man whose personal attributes and bad behavior do little to create a sympathetic character. He is so seriously flawed that his capacity for change is dubious.

The storyline recounted how this selfish marketing executive's baneful life
was turned around after he has a chance encounter with an affable, wise entrepreneur.

The story became even more unbelievable when it suggested that successful business people might inclined to show up-and-comers the keys to success. Like Napolean Hill who received his imprimatur from the business magnate, Andrew Carnegie, Greg received his pass from the wealthy entrepreneur whose jacket he returned.
Greg's misperceived act of kindness is rewarded and he receives the old man's authorization to tap into the collective wisdom of his successful cronies.

It seems doubtful that any of the business tycoon would ever just allow someone so ethically compromised as the protagonist in this story to ever get close to them - especially considering that their core values are rooted in morality. To my recollection, one of their jewels of wisdom was the admonition to avoid any prolonged contact with negative personalities because because such people tend to be a drain on energy not to mention they present a negative contagion which promotes failure.

As an aside, the 'star chamber' scene about midway through the story was way over-the-top - and thus unconvincing if not just plain bulls@%t.

I evaluated this book on two levels; content and delivery.

The content was decent but, there wasn't anything revolutionary in the book. Compared to other guidebooks on success, this one followed the same pattern of the genre. This story's shortcoming was in its delivery - again, I believe it is because - the main character was unlikeable.

For me, the guy represented everything wrong with business today. The protagonist embodied all the negative stereotypical characteristics of the fools who recently plunged the entire world's economy into a recession. They may be brilliant and but they abused their talent.

I failed to see the value in promoting self-serving 'me-first' types as the kind of people deserving a hand-up from America's business elites. It may have had more appeal if the rich, old man had reached out to a working stiff who had personal integrity and a solid work ethic but simply lacked the connections and opportunity to move forward - a Horatio Alger type.

This book only glanced upon the value of contributing back to society.

My impression is there are a whole bunch of bull-shi##ers in business who are making a pile of cash simply doing nothing and it dismays me to witness such mentality tacitly accepted in this book. My observations from the news and in reading this book confirm my belief that we are living in a charlatan's guilded age where one actual piece of advice is "fake it 'til you make it' speaks volumes about the flawed personalities who take it upon themselves to be the mouthpiece for success in America these days.

It is no wonder we have obsessive personalities whose drive for success at all costs encourages pathological ambitions that serves personal interests at such a great cost to the worlds in which they move. Moreover, I remain convinced this book is reflective or a greater malaise in America today. It is rooted in the entire selection process and the criteria we - as a society - use to determine what kind of person is likely to succeed.

I do not claim to have any answers however, lots of zeroes in the bank account or having a title such as MBA or MD or JD is just part of the formula of success. The obsession with acquisitiveness has become the focal point for determining success. Until that changes, we are going to see pillaging by way of million-dollar bonuses as occurred in AIG, Lehman Brothers and Bank of America, or shysters like Bernie Madoff. It is all connected and it reflects something seriously wrong in the way we select for people to fill positions of prestige and responsibility.

Something is really wrong when deception is part of the prescribed paradigm. Ostensibly, the underlying rationalization is that it calls forth some cosmic power from the universe. I am willing to concede that there is a phenomenon in the universe which defies rational explanation - and maybe that makes me nuts but, I think that we still have not figured out a way to explain it rationally - my difficulty with this book is that it may well offer some practical advice but it fails in cultivating any sense of social responsibility. Philanthropy is mentioned at many points throughout the book but it echoes hollow since it really doesn't describe what motivates such powerful people to be philanthropic or how doing so can have any pay-off considering that their hoarding behavior is the number one goal in life.

"Three Feet from Gold" was a commendable effort for Lechter & Reid but, it didn't work for me. The requisite ethical component as a necessary determinant for success in life was barely touched upon and lacked any meaningful depth.


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