Book Review
Title: "Up, Down, or Sideways: How to Succeed When Times Are Good, Bad or In Between"
Author: Mark Sanborn
Publisher: Tyndale, 2011; 192 pages; $15.99

In much of my work life, I work at the intersection of the real estate industry and the tech industry. Some days, it feels like I live in a bizarre nether-universe wedged between these two very different worlds and economic sectors. Real estate, obviously, is in the deep, deep midst of a very long market correction, to put it euphemistically.

And I see and know and hear about and experience that on a human level, as I receive emails from people losing their jobs who struggle to keep their homes (some successfully, others not), and see class-act professionals leaving the business.

Against this backdrop of economic upset, though, the tech industry has bloomed. I know many companies flush with cash from recent IPOs desperate to hire engineers. Downtown San Francisco, where I work, is bustling with new companies and new ideas.

On a personal level, living and working between these worlds has fostered a core sense that success and thriving are possible no matter what’s going on in the larger economy.

There is a personal economy that I believe we can individually foster and thrive in. Not by ignoring the outer world and events, but by being flexible, optimizing our responses to those circumstances, and staying focused on how we can individually contribute to the larger world and economy to achieve the financial and career results we desire.

So, against the backdrop of these beliefs, I was intrigued to crack open Mark Sanborn’s new book, "Up, Down, or Sideways: How to Succeed When Times Are Good, Bad, or In Between."

Image courtesy Tyndale
House Publishers

About eight years ago, Sanborn wrote the best-selling business classic, "The Fred Factor," and had been hot on the speaking circuit for years. But he, like the rest of us, took a hard hit during the recession in several areas. As he recounts in the book’s introduction, Sanborn locked in his stock market losses just before the market rebounded, saw his speaking business decline, and was diagnosed with prostate cancer — all in the same year.

From his cancer recovery bed, Sanborn distilled his insights into about a dozen of what he deems the "good shoulds" — the "non-negotiables of life" — which, if we enact them, empower us to maintain prosperity and thrive in any circumstances. Sanborn broke down these "good shoulds" into a three-part system, which he now presents in "Up, Down, or Sideways":

Part 1: See. This section of the book, in the author’s own words, "cover[s] some foundational things you need to see — the challenges and realities you need to understand whether you are up, down or sideways," as part of Sanborn’s strategy to use awareness to drive clarity on what our barriers to success actually are — i.e., Do we lack information? Do we lack belief? Do we fail to act or do we fail to act consistently on what we know we need to do?

Here, Sanborn offers a series of profiles in inertia or stuckness, and challenges readers to identify their own patterns and where they fall amongst these profiles.

Part 2: Think. The "Think" section of the book largely focuses on mindsets Sanborn believes are essential to thrive no matter what’s going on in the outside world. In these chapters, he helps readers clarify and commit to their own personal definitions of success, shift obstacles into opportunities, and undertake a continual process of learning and increasing the flexibility of their thought and behavior patterns.

Part 3: Act. In this last section, Sanborn sparks readers into action, guides them to which things they should take care to always act on in order to have thriving careers and businesses in a constantly changing economy, and the daily practices to incorporate to have a life that flourishes even in negative circumstances.

The book reads like a fleshed-out, slightly more substantial version of those small gift books filled with inspirational quotes you find at the bookstore checkout line, with a business, career and financial angle; indeed, Sanborn even alludes to them as his inspiration, while committing to provide education and movement to action than those tiny books do.

Readers who feel stuck or exhausted from the economy of the last few years but are not quite yet ready for a deep program for change or to take on a serious skill-building endeavor will find this lightning-quick read to be a good refresh and recharge for the next, ever-evolving era of our world and our economy.

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