I ordered this book as I thought I would like it, however I really did not care for it particularly. I am just not convinced it contributes signficantly to the psychology of self help. I was impressed with his background including his class being the most popular at Harvard, however his book is not popular with this reviewer. Moreover, perhaps courses on happiness are going to be more popular than other courses (See also my review on "Pursuing the Good Life," on Amazon.com in which another professors course on happiness was very popular at Unversity of Michigan).
The author states, that he hopes this book..will contribute to leading us toward a much needed renaisssance in our companies and schools, akin to the Renaissance in Europe..." These are high hopes. I cannot be sure, however I do not think that a generation or two from now, his research will be considered significant. I of course do not know that for sure, and I wish him luck.
The author makes six recommendations to unlease the potential of your "teams, companies, families and communities." 1. Using social influence by strength of the message, immediacy of the message, and number delivering it. 2. Find simple, emototional and positive patterns you can replicate, 3. Use the power lead (be the first person to set direction of social script), 4. Smile, three extra smiles a day, 5. Use humor, and 6. Create a narrative, e.g. sharing a time your team overcame an obstacle or challenge. The book discusses his research and details on the above. I would say you would have to read the book to see how much you buy into his insights and research. I find his points to be so-so, though I realize this is very subjective as are reviews in general, however especially on self help type books. Using humor, eg. can be overdone and get one into trouble, especially at work and it depends on the culture of the institutions. There are considerable subtleties to his suggestions that require more discussion in my view. Also, speaking first is not always wise, especially if one takes that role too often.
I am not impressed that his iconoclastic thinking is useful, e.g. on page 198 he says when he was a teaching at Harvard, one his favorite assignments was to send students out to break a social rule, such "lie down in an elevator....eat off other people's plates, tip their professors after class for a good lecture, ask someone on a date while they were on a date with someone else...." Perhaps this author thinks those are amusing or useful exercises, I am not convinced, in fact they sound sort of bizarre.
His section, Recognizing the Signal is a part of the book that is somewhat confusing; the author describes people who have predicted events correctly and incorrectly (stock market crash, real estate crash, Pearl Harbor, etc), and how to better sift through information. His advice is unconvincing, at least to this reviewer that the tools he gives the reader will help enough to avoid these so called mistakes. Moreover, those who got it right, may have been lucky and the author may wish to read "Fooled by Randomness," by Taleb available at amazon.com.
I am not persauded that the author's suggestions to reduce noise consumption by 5 percent will be beneficial, at least not per his specific ideas, e.g. leave the radio off for the first five minutes in the car. One does not know for sure when an important story or piece of information will hit the airwaves. On that same page, page 168, he has 6 additional suggestions including number six which is "Do not read articles on tragedies that you cannot or will not affect with your behavior." Really? Does he actually mean not to have concern for humanity? I doubt it means what he says and the syntax of the statement seems odd to me in addition.
The book encourages people to be more optimistic, however a more complete discussion would entail discriminating optimism from pesssimism from prudence which does not take place in this book.
Moreover, the part (page 94-95) on the importance of social support and altrusim in the work place conveniently does not discuss or acknowledge that some people are simply in toxic work environments and either need to quit or hunker down to a coping mode.
I found some good and interesting points, none that I found particularly original in context or presentation. Creating a positive reality (page 10) is certainly an important tool, ability, and mindset that can help overcome obstacles. I also found the discussion on altruism to be a nice reminder of its benefits, though I think perspective on how it exactly fits into the wide range of a person's professional and personal life would have been helpful. After all, we cannot all be, nor should we all be the next Mother Theresa. Bill Gates (who by the way attended the same Harvard University as the author) would have never built Microsoft if he had spent his life volunteering in soup kitchen.
I want to conclude with some important statements. First when I read his biography on Amazon, I expected that I was going to love this book. Clearly, this author is very accomplished and popular. I would encourage you to sample some of the pages, can be done on amazon and while I did not care for this book, you might. Second, I have not read his other book and am not an expert on his research and it may be that his insights would resonate with me more if I were more familiar with his work. His background is impressive including Masters Degrees from Harvard Divinity School in Christian and Buddhist Ethics. Third, I have noticed that my "negative" one star reviews receive more "unhelpful" votes than when I give a book four or five stars. Perhaps people who like the book are more likely to vote on the reviews.