Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Willpower Doesn't Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success by Benjamin Hardy

Willpower Doesn't Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to SuccessWillpower Doesn't Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success by Benjamin Hardy
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This random selection started out 5-star strong, and after the first few chapters I was taking notes and dreaming up opportunities to practice environmental design in my life. Unfortunately, that experience was short lived.

Subsequent chapters in this anti-willpower book described scenarios that sounded good, but still had their roots in willpower. For example, if I decide to do 10 pushups when I feel the pull to go back to an old habit I'm trying to get rid of, what is the force that makes me stick to that decision? Oh, right. Willpower. Only he just undermined the idea of willpower in a very compelling way. Strike 1.

Then the small-time local entrepreneur stories and cultural references started popping up. I'm a Utah resident, and there is a distinct culture here, and I started hearing that culture in the examples he gave. Even Stevens sandwiches? Really? The willpower-is-not-the-answer platform that he defended so well at the beginning devolved into the storyline of risky entrepreneurship. Sometimes it pays off, but what does that have to do with the thesis? And to top it off, the culminating example was the publishing of this book. So the book was about publishing the book. Ouch.

To be fair, I think there are a lot of good ideas in here. Gems, if you will. At the same time, the concepts do not have the seasoning of time and experience. While I like hearing the author's story, and he sounds like he has made some good changes in his life, I wasn't here to read his memoir. He needed an editor that would focus him on his core message around why willpower isn't the answer to making life changes, and how designing your environment can fill those gaps. He gave some great examples of how to do that, but he diluted his good ideas with not-so-good, off topic tidbits. I hope he continues to develop his ideas around environmental design and that he writes a better book about it later in life when he has more experience. I equally hope he doesn't buy into the popular strategy of selling flimsy ideas with over-the-top marketing rather than delivering real value.