Sunday, February 17, 2019

What Do You Mean By "Success"?

During the first-half of this spring semester, I’m teaching an MBA-level Business Ethics/Legal Studies course.  On Tuesday, we’ll discuss one of my absolute favorite books: Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success by Wharton School Professor Richard Shell.  Making this book required reading reinforces the course’s emphasis on ethics and values, and is designed to help students articulate long-term core values around meaningful work.  Given that a Gallup 2017 State of the Global Workplace survey reports that “85% of employees worldwide are not engaged or are actively disengaged in their job,” this objective strikes me as a meaningful task.

In the Introduction, Shell chronicles generally what he terms his “odyssey years,” which included a variety of short-lived jobs, self-help research and seminars, travels across the globe, and collapsing in the mud with hepatitis in Afghanistan one Christmas Eve (for more, read the book!).  Ultimately, the experiences and lessons learned during these years led Shell to his first academic position at Wharton at age 37, and to a life-long interest in the study of success.  He recalls: “If you had told me that night [that Christmas Eve] that I would one day graduate from law school near the top of my class, clerk for a federal appeals court in Boston, and become a professor of law, ethics, and management at the Wharton School, I would have questioned your sanity.” (p.5)

Springboard is based on Shell’s highly-popular course at the Wharton School: The Literature of Success: Ethical and Historical Perspectives.  Its ultimate purpose is to help the reader answer two big questions everyone would benefit from personal reflection upon: 1) What is success?, and 2) How will I achieve it?  Shell explains that, “By investigating the meaning of success, you begin the lifelong process of deciding what is worth doing.” (p.11)  The first-half of Springboard (Chapters 1-4) addresses Question #1, and the second-half, Question #2 (Chapters 5-9). 

Chapters 1-4 encourage readers to “Choose Your Life,” by focused reflection on one’s ideas about happiness, the sources of such ideas (family, community, culture, etc.), the various aspects of happiness, and the relationship between success and meaningful work, including its seven foundations.  Intrigued?  The Six Lives Exercise can help begin your quest.  Want more about Part II?  Come back next Sunday!      

As many readers know, Shell is a phenomenally successful, world-class academic who has authored several books, including Bargaining for Advantage, a standard text in many Negotiation courses.  And as some readers know, Shell was my dissertation advisor.  I’ll always be immensely grateful to Richard and the additional members of my committee (Kenneth Shropshire, David Skeel, and Franklin Allen) for their time, invaluable guidance, continued mentorship, and enabling the success of my dissertation on the regulation of the OTC derivative markets.

While working on my dissertation, I was also working on my 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training Certification.  It’s been a while since I’ve taught yoga.  Recently, I decided that for me, a successful 2019 includes a return to occasional yoga teaching.  Co-blogger Joan Heminway’s enthusiasm and dedication in this area has inspired me (thanks, Joan!).  I’m excited we’ll be encouraging each other and sharing with readers about this topic that is meaningful for both of us.  In “The Lottery Exercise” (p.80), Shell asks the reader to reflect upon what they’d do with their life if they won $1 million dollars (after taking care of family and investing prudently).  I’m working on a complete answer to that question.  However, I know that I’d want it to include teaching.  Stay tuned for more!   



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Glad you're teaching this course. I haven't read the book but I used to interview people using a version of the lottery exercise. I asked job candidates, if money was no object and you could not be a lawyer, what would you do instead. That question yields great answers. I've downloaded the book.

Posted by: Marcia Narine Weldon | Feb 18, 2019 5:31:27 AM

I am so tickled to be an inspiration to you, Colleen! And I love the entirety of this post. Sounds like I may have to get Shell's books . . . .

Posted by: joanheminway | Feb 18, 2019 9:27:15 PM

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