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How to Shine: Insights into unlocking your potential from proven winners

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Title: How to Shine: Insights into unlocking your potential from proven winners

Author: Simon Hartley

Publisher: Capstone, 2012

Reviewer: Jenni Middleton is the editor of Nursing Times and has been a journalist for 17 years. Follow her on Twitter @Nursingtimesed

What was it like?

How to Shine comprises nine chapters, each of which tries to capture the essence of what separates those high achievers from mere mortals. It differs from the usual tribe of self-help books by not repeating “you can do it” and “go, get it” style mantras, but instead looking at a range of successful people from the world of sports, science and business and defining what makes them stand out.

Simon Hartley’s selection of people for this task is superb. Despite his sporting background, he chooses a world champion barista, a scientific pioneer, a US navy seal, a Michelin starred chef as well as an Olympic swimmer, squash player, ultra-marathon runner, explorer and mountaineer. This means the book speaks to everyone who would pick it up, although the inclusion of lots of sports people’s feats of endurance is used to demonstrate the need for tenacity and self-belief.

He takes a theme, such as “Focus on the next step” or “Don’t compromise” and shows with real-life quotes from athletes and huge talents how to stick to those principles. It examines in detail, exactly how athletes can focus on these principles, such as when double Olympian and Commonwealth swimming champion Chris Cook realised that he needed to swim two lengths of the pool as fast as he could, and how he had to focus only on things he did to achieve that. It also looks at how important it is not to compromise for the sake of the bigger picture, so twice Michelin-starred chef Kenny Atkinson talks about how he would throw away a dish if it was not quite right, rather than serve it, even if the ingredients he had used were expensive.


What were the highlights?

There was a lot of plain thinking demonstrated in the book, such as the section on goal setting. The author talks about the importance of focusing on something that will improve performance by 0.1% one day, and then another 0.1% the next.

They also say that world-class high achievers look for things to improve because they have a never satisfied mentality, and look for the details that they can improve.

This is made relevant to all of us, whatever our line of work.

There is also a big section on simplicity – about not making the tasks you do complex, but really boiling them down to their basic components. Simon Hartley says that complexity is often a lack of clarity.

He also says that you have to learn to make mistakes. He says it’s not true that world-class people don’t make mistakes, they just use them to learn from. He talks about how Olympic swimmer Chris Cook watched a race in which he finished eighth, and realised that all his focus should be on improving his start.

Strengths and weaknesses?

One of my favourite sections is where the author talks about pushing boundaries, and says that “the wall” can be passed and humans can stretch beyond it. He says all the achievements of these people are not because they are super-human but that everyone can achieve it if they have passion and interest and are prepared to make sacrifices.

There aren’t really any weaknesses – bar a couple of typos – it’s well produced and cleverly executed. The quotes are superbly used to break up the text and it’s easy and quick to read – it only took me about three hours to complete it.

Who should read it?

This book differs from the usual self-help tribe, that’s why it doesn’t tend to trot out clichés and the stuff you’ve heard before. Instead, it uses quotes and commentary from high achievers to inspire the reader and help them understand what will make them successful. It’s easy to relate the stories to your own circumstances – even though most of us will never have to make sure we clear up our teabags while 8,000m up a mountain or die, we understand the importance of attention to detail and ritual for us.

I think nurses will enjoy it for two reasons: the points about characters and their motivation is brilliantly observed and will help nurses improve their relationships with both patients and their team, and also because of the quotes, the points that are made are well evidenced.

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