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What Youre Really Meant to Do: A Roadmap for Reaching Your Unique Potential Hardcover – 7 May 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (7 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422189902
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422189900
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 14.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 205,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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As seen on Fox Business, CNBC, Lou Dobbs, and MSNBC's Morning Joe. "This book opens the mind of the reader to a lot of self-exploratory questions rather than offering blind advice. It helps you understand yourself deeply and build a foundation based on this before starting a journey towards your dreams." -- Business World magazine "compelling and personal and contains individual exercises that provide interesting insights readers likely haven't considered before--whether how to manage your career or a complete career change. If you have ever asked yourself, in any work situation, at any stage of your career, "Why doesn't someone just tell me what to do?" this book is a worthwhile trip for you." -- CIO Digest ADVANCE PRAISE for What You're Really Meant to Do: Rosabeth Moss Kanter, professor, Harvard Business School; author, Confidence and SuperCorp-- " What You're Really Meant to Do is a wise, deeply personal, and always practical book by a leader of leaders. It is essential reading for all those who want to define success their own way." Paul Farmer, MD, PhD, professor, Harvard Medical School; co-founder, Partners In Health-- "As I have seen him do in classrooms in Haiti and at Harvard, Rob Kaplan provides a powerful and pragmatic prescription in What You're Really Meant to Do. Building on his widely praised work on leadership and efficacy, Kaplan offers compelling narratives of those he has coached and counseled--from executives to entrepreneurs to recent graduates--as a guide for anyone pursuing a purposeful professional life." Henry M. Paulson, Jr., seventy-fourth secretary of the US Department of the Treasury; Chairman and CEO, Goldman Sachs (1999--2006)-- "Rob Kaplan has spent years mentoring and coaching executives and young professionals, and there is no one any better. This book is a superb guide for helping people understand themselves and reach their unique potential." Bill George, professor, Harvard Business School; author, Authentic Leadership and True North-- "Rob Kaplan's brilliant new book inspires you to reach your full potential by taking responsibility for your development as a leader and as a human being. If you follow his thoughtful, pragmatic approach, you will live an even more satisfying life. Filled with real-world examples, Kaplan helps you build your road map to fulfillment." Vanessa Kirsch, founder and Managing Director, New Profit Inc.-- "Forging a fulfilling career can be one of the most difficult challenges we face. What You're Really Meant to Do provides a compelling road map for discovering your passions and unlocking your full potential. A must-read for anyone looking for professional growth and fulfillment."

About the Author

Robert Steven Kaplan is Senior Associate Dean and the Martin Marshall Professor of Management Practice in Business Administration at Harvard Business School. He is also co-chairman of the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, a global venture philanthropy firm, as well as chairman and a founding partner of Indaba Capital Management. Before joining Harvard in 2005, Kaplan was vice chairman of the Goldman Sachs Group.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris TOP 100 REVIEWER on 20 May 2013
Format: Hardcover
Self-improvement initiatives or, if you prefer, self-fulfillment or self-actualization initiatives, are best viewed as an on-going journey, not as an ultimate destination. Many authors of books about that process invoke the map or road map metaphor, and rightly so, because it implies and (yes) enables all manner of appropriate dimensions of internal as well as external exploration and discovery. This seems to be what Robert Steven Kaplan has in mind when observing, "I have come to believe that the key to achieving your aspirations lies not in `being a success' but rather in [begin italics] working to reach your unique potential [end italics]. This requires you to create your own definition of success rather than accept a definition created by others...This approach takes courage and hard work. It does not yield easy answers or get you to a final destination. It is, instead, a multistage, lifelong effort. It involves developing a different mind-set and a new set of work habits."

At this point in my brief commentary, I want to express appreciation of Kaplan's previous book, What to Ask the Person in the Mirror. Its title it refers to anyone who seeks both knowledge and wisdom that will improve quality of life as well as standard of living. What Kaplan offers in abundance is assistance with framing questions that can help to achieve those worthy objectives. Those who read the book will be much better prepared to ask them; better yet, they will be much better prepared to obtain the right answers to them. In this book, as its subtitle suggests, he offers "a road map for reaching your potential," one that is accompanied by a wealth of information, insights, and counsel as well as self-diagnostic exercises to help his readers determine what they are really meant to be and to do.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By evilgenius on 21 Jan. 2015
Format: Hardcover
As someone who was fortunate enough to have been taught by Robert Kaplan at Harvard, I can say this book comes close to one-on-one with Robert: it's by far the best book to define what you want out of life. Robert is a master of teaching self-reflection, getting people to zoom out and understand their motivations, situation and future possibilities. Many books of this kind are heavy on BS and generalistic advice, but not this one. Kaplan's approach is straightforward, candid and concrete.

Personally, I've used Robert's teachings and the book a couple of times to re-align my goals and ambitions with great success. I've also recommended it almost a dozen times to friends who felt stuck or confused with their careers or lives and everyone who had the grit to work through it (the book is a short read, but requires some serious soul-searching, thinking and writing to do it properly), had incredible epiphanies which re-set their ambitions, priorities and helped them find the best place for them in work and life.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By shumit on 23 April 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Book arrived in excellent condition and without issues.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 56 reviews
60 of 67 people found the following review helpful
Might have been good advice 20-30 years ago; not for entrepreneurs 8 Jan. 2014
By careful buyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I saw Robert Kaplan on television, was greatly interested, and just finished the book. Unfortunately, this book is written only for those working within large corporations with lots of job security and many choices about career paths and ranges of compensation. I don't know if those people exist anymore. His talk about teams, coaches, bosses, and management reads like something out of Tom Peter's era, when America was rich, jobs weren't being slashed, and employees weren't required to do the work of 2-3 people. He even offers advice on how to choose the right job when you first graduate from Harvard Business School! "Finding your passion" to Kaplan simply means being mentored into a more rewarding job in your corporation or –– super radical idea –– moving to a different large corporation. The section on assessing your weaknesses and strengths is most valuable, however, it is structured largely within the context how of your boss and direct reports view you, and therefore has limited usefulness for those who are engaged in more entrepreneurial endeavors. Too bad.
51 of 61 people found the following review helpful
To paraphrase Walt Whitman, "We are large, we contain multitudes." 20 May 2013
By Robert Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Self-improvement initiatives or, if you prefer, self-fulfillment or self-actualization initiatives, are best viewed as an on-going journey, not as an ultimate destination. Many authors of books about that process invoke the map or road map metaphor, and rightly so, because it implies and (yes) enables all manner of appropriate dimensions of internal as well as external exploration and discovery. This seems to be what Robert Steven Kaplan has in mind when observing, "I have come to believe that the key to achieving your aspirations lies not in `being a success' but rather in [begin italics] working to reach your unique potential [end italics]. This requires you to create your own definition of success rather than accept a definition created by others...This approach takes courage and hard work. It does not yield easy answers or get you to a final destination. It is, instead, a multistage, lifelong effort. It involves developing a different mind-set and a new set of work habits."

At this point in my brief commentary, I want to express appreciation of Kaplan's previous book, What to Ask the Person in the Mirror. Its title refers to anyone who seeks both knowledge and wisdom that will improve quality of life as well as standard of living. What Kaplan offers in abundance is assistance with framing questions that can help to achieve those worthy objectives. Those who read the book will be much better prepared to ask them; better yet, they will be much better prepared to obtain the right answers to them. In this book, as its subtitle suggests, he offers "a road map for reaching your potential," one that is accompanied by a wealth of information, insights, and counsel as well as self-diagnostic exercises to help his readers determine what they are really meant to be and to do. As Oscar Wilde so wisely advised, "Be yourself. Every one else is taken." But as Darrell Royal once observed, "Potential" means "you ain't done it yet."

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye, also listed to indicate the scope of Kaplan's coverage.

o Who Defines Your Success? (Pages 18-22)
o Five Suggested Rules of the Road (24-30)
o Assessing Your Strengths and Weaknesses (31-37)
o You Don't Have to Be Good at Everything (56-57)
o The Pursuit of Passion, and, Understanding Your Passions (63-66)
o The Power of Narrative: Three Steps (85-97)
o Being at Your Best (102-105)
o Dealing with a Painful Setback, and, Dealing with Injustice (126-129)
o A Star Wants to Realize His Potential (138-142)
o The Power of an Ownership Mind-Set (149-150)
Note: Our lives tend to be the result of our decisions. There is also great power in taking personal ownership of accountability for those decisions.
o Values, Boundaries, and Your Philosophy, and, Character and Leadership (156-162)
o Try Building Your Relationship Muscles (173-175)
o Creating Supportive Relationships (181-182)
o This Book: It's About You (196-198)
o Next Steps (201-203)

While reading and then re-reading this book, I was again reminded of many of the observations shared by other authors in their books, notably Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Life, Bill George in True North, James O'Toole's Creating the Good Life, Randy Pausch in The Last Lecture, and Clayton Christensen in How Will You Measure Your Life? However different they and their works may be from Kaplan and his, all of them -- they and he -- stress the importance of continuous self-improvement to serve purposes and to achieve goals worthy of our very best efforts. For the title of this review, I chose a paraphrase of Whitman's line in "Song of Myself" because it correctly suggests almost unlimited potentialities for personal growth and professional development. Robert Steven Kaplan wrote this book to help each of us to fulfill as many of them as we can.

When concluding his book, he observes, "If you follow your own path, I don't know how much money you will accumulate, how much stature you will achieve, or how many titles you will garner. But if you're true to your convictions and principles, I know you're far more likely to feel like a big success. In the end, that feeling will make all the difference."
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Why you should read this book 30 Dec. 2013
By JP_Blat - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this book, Robert Kaplan puts forward a compelling case to move our attention away from conventional wisdom and to focus on using intrinsic metrics to write our own definition of success. Metrics that are based on our own potential, strengths, passions and beliefs as opposed to what society expects from us.

Although chapter four is explicitly called “Understand yourself”, I will argue that a good chunk of the book including chapter 2 (Assess your strengths and weaknesses), chapter 3 (Finding your passion) and chapter 6 (Good vs. great that deals with values and beliefs) is about knowing and understanding yourself. This is quite valuable to the reader as identifying what you’re meant to do is clearly a quest to know, to choose and to connect with our own purpose.

As you get to understand yourself better, Kaplan challenges the reader to look at what our job or desired job requires and to identify gaps that might exist so we can take actions to close them. I found it quite useful that the author explains his ideas in terms of very practical and real situations that we tend to face during our careers. He complements these ideas with key questions and exercises that help the reader reflect and gain clarity on this elusive matter. Clarity that is also helpful in other areas of our lives.

I was especially interested in his definition of leadership: “Leadership is the ability to figure out what you believe and then summon the courage to appropriately act on those beliefs”. Although Kaplan presents us with additional concepts that support our internal quest such as “The importance of relationships” (chapter 7) and keys to develop a plan “The road map” (chapter 8) I wish he would have developed more specific recommendations to help us translate the lessons learned into actions and results.

I enjoyed studying this book and I am looking forward to more books he might write providing insights on how to deal with the resistance we all face summoning the courage and wisdom necessary to act on our beliefs.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
great book 22 Dec. 2013
By Brenden - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very thoughtful in terms of being self-aware in pursuit of a career choice. Very simple models for determining how your presuppositions based off of others ideas and wishes for life in general cloud your honest and clear assessment of your specific strengths and desires.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
How to Reach Your Potential and Find What You Are Meant to Do 25 Aug. 2014
By L. M. Keefer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you read career books, many are written by folks in career counseling and advising. What is unique about this book is that the author's perspective has been shaped by business and academic experiences. The author, Robert Kaplan, ran global businesses for two decades, ultimately becoming the executive chairman of Goldman Sachs. These experiences in working with, and mentoring, individuals in business in various stages of their careers, prompted Kaplan to think deeply about human potential, development and leadership. He left Goldman Sachs to teach in the M.B.A. program at Harvard, teaching a course on Authentic Leadership based on Medtronics CEO'S book TRUE NORTH.

All of us yearn for success. The thesis of this book is that you won't feel satisfyingly successful without working to reach your unique potential. The good news about potential is that it is unlimited. Kaplan says you never get to the end of your potential as there are always ideas to explore, things to learn and skills to improve. Kaplan encounters a mix of folks in his executive MBA classes at Harvard and discovers many have great credentials and are achieving monetary success but are dissatisfied. What are they missing? Some older executives and professionals are feeling regret and bitterness concerning their career choice. He also encounters many individuals who are making less money, perhaps, but working in a field they are passionate about, using the skills they enjoy most using, and are happier than the folks who have pursued wealth or status at the cost of doing something in a field they loved. It's difficult to be truly successful in the long term if you don't have some sense of passion for what you do, Kaplan suggests.

This book offers exercises in self-discovery to understand yourself better and to identify what you want. Its eight chapters are grouped under umbrella topics: 1) what you're really meant to do 2) know thyself 3) make the most of opportunities and 4) the extra mile. At the end of each chapter are suggested follow-up steps regarding taking action.

There is a lot of wise advice in this book regarding attitudes and behaviors from someone who has been successful in business, mentored others and thought deeply about developing potential. For example, he discusses how to deal with setbacks in a career. Engaging examples of individuals he has encountered in his executive M.B.A. classes at Harvard who are sorting out career issues are integrated throughout the book and enrich the principles in the book.

Kaplan gives examples of folks who are thinking of leaving their job or career because of a current obstacle. By asking probing questions and coaching, Kaplan demonstrates that often these individuals still love their field and company, but just need to deal with the obstacle. To be successful, Kaplan suggests you ask yourself: what are the top three tasks you must do extremely well to succeed in your job? And then spend 70% of your time and focus on those three tasks. Another searching question Kaplan poses: What stands in the way of you spending time on the activities you enjoy? Is there an action you could take that would remove one or more of these impediments?

As to whether this book would be helpful to entrepreneurs, it could. Kaplan gives examples of some of the entrepreneurs, or folks who worked for entrepreneurs, whom he has encountered: a chef who owned three restaurants in Rhode Island and was thinking of adding more but was unhappy, a retailer who co-owned a successful business in California but was thinking of leaving it due to conflict with her business partner, a student who chose to work for a small philanthropy organization instead of going into the financial services field like her classmates, and an individual who started his own money management firm. The questions in this book will give aspiring entrepreneurs some self-assessments as to what they really want to do. (Also recommend the book: Startup Leadership: How Savvy Entrepreneurs Turn Their Ideas Into Successful Enterprises by Derek Lidow who started iSuppli Company and sold it for multi-millions. Lidow teaches Entrepreneurship at Princeton. If you want a look at entrepreneurship to see if you would enjoy its rigors, his book is helpful.)

Kaplan's central message is we should worry less about being a success and more about reaching - and developing - our potential as this is where happiness lies. He says there are many paths to accomplish this, and we should pick a path which suits us. This book has some ideas on how to do this.
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