March 22, 2002

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects - Breaking the Pattern

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 9:54 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Breaking the Pattern: The 5 Principles You Need To Remodel Your Life; by Charles Stuart Platkin; Red Mill Press; 271 pages; $24.95; Hardcover, ISBN 0971150303
Nature vs Nurture: the age-old argument regarding the origins of human behavior, dysfunctions, and successes. Here, Platkin has researched this argument trying to find out if you can truly remodel your life, or if you are simply destined to repeat destructive or simply unproductive patterns. Platkin is an advocate of Nurture over Nature, well, maybe Knowledge over Nature, or Persistence over Nature. Yes, he agrees that nature plays some part of who we are, however, he believes people are able, with much reflection, awareness, planning and goal-setting, to defy nature and release ourselves from our patterns. What is refreshing about Platkins approach is that he is aware that some of his advice may be corny, but that to benefit from this book, we, as readers, need to embrace the Corniness Factor. I can appreciate such candor and liked the book all the more for its authors practicality.
Platkins first instruction for us is to identify our patterns, and learn to stop blaming others for our pitfalls and misfortune. In other words, take some responsibility. To do this, not only do you need to be wholeheartedly behind your change efforts, but you also need to be willing to reflect on some negative aspects of your life. One of the ideas I found wise was Morning Pages. Essentially, just take some time first thing in the morning to write your thoughts down. About 3 pages, and completely without structure, write about having forgotten to go to the grocery store, how much you are bugged by one of your coworkers, how you wished youd said something at the meeting yesterday but youd held your tongue, and how you wish spring would come soon. The benefit is that you get the worry out of your head, onto paper, and validated so that you are better able to go into the day with a clear view and more optimism. Good advice!
The book is separated into 5 progressive sections: Patterns; Failure; Responsibility; Goals; & Achievement. Platkin includes a discussion of each sections theme and facets, and then provides four or five exercises to elucidate our patterns and determine how we should break them. What makes this book so enjoyable is Platkins anecdotal approach. In the Failure section, he provides A Whos Who of Failure which includes juicy disasters about some of the most notable success stories in history: Abe Lincoln, who was pretty much beat down by life until his presidency; Dr. Seuss, who met a brick wall when trying to publish his first book; and even Michael Jordan, who (as we witness even now) has, despite his amazing successes, taken a lot of risks and weathered a number of failed attempts. Throughout the book, Platkin uses these brief stories about people who we would view as great successes to show us that persistence is really the key. One of my favorites is a story about James Earl Jones found in a section within Responsibility, subtitled Play the Cards Youre Dealt. Throughout his childhood, Jones had a serious stutter. (Yup, that James Earl Jones, that famous voice). One day, in school, he was accused of having plagiarized a poem and was challenged by his teacher to read the poem aloud. He was so angry about the accusation that he rose to the challenge and read the poem clearly, with no stutter, learning from this that he could recite the written word, and eventually he used this knowledge to overcome his stutter. Its these kinds of stories that lift Breaking the Pattern above the usual self-help dreck that, and the fact that Platkins exercises really are do-able (he is, after all, asking for a remodel, not a tear-down and rebuild) and applicable to all elements of your life at work and at home.