Book Review by Dan Coughlin

MOJO: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back If You Lose It

(John Wiley & Sons, 2010, 199 pages) by Eric Herrenkohl



Value for the reader:

The reader will walk away with a set of highly refined tools for increasing their personal and professional MOJO, which Marshall Goldsmith defines as “that positive spirit toward what we are doing now that starts from the inside and radiates to the outside.”

Marshall Goldsmith is one of the most successful and experienced executive coaches in the world. He defines his purpose as “helping successful people achieve positive, lasting change in behavior.” In this book, he provides real-world advice embodied in simple processes for the reader to consider using that can improve his or her thinking, behavior and results. As I read it, I found myself writing notes in every available space and underlining at least a third of what Marshall wrote.

This is a very powerful, thought-provoking book that I have found led to some real changes in my actual day-to-day behavior. It is not a book on how to put on better presentations or organize a meeting or delegate tasks. It is a book written specifically for the individual reader on how to lead a happier, more purposeful, and more productive life.

Strengths of the Book:

The greatest strength of this book is the reasonableness of the ideas Marshall provides and the way in which he teaches them.

He could have very easily overwhelmed the reader with a lot of theory and complicated psychological/organizational behavior jargon. Instead he provides one simple idea at a time, explains it in a two-to-four-step process, and then reinforces the idea with stories from his executive coaching work or from his own life.

Just as a great athletic coach works with an individual player or a music teacher works with an individual student to learn one skill at a time, Goldsmith guides the reader through a series of ideas that build on one another. At the core of MOJO are four basic concepts: identity (who do you think you are?), achievement (what have you done?), reputation (who do other people think you are?), and acceptance (what can you change and what is beyond your control?). Goldsmith comes back to these four basic concepts in ever-increasing waves throughout the book. He shows the critical ways in which these four areas dramatically affect a person’s spirit toward what he or she is doing right now.

Dan’s Dozen Favorite Ideas in MOJO

To me, the value of a non-fiction business book is in the quality of the ideas that I walk with and can use right away. No matter how exciting the stories are or how impressive the research that has been done, the things I am looking for are ideas that can be used to improve performance and results. Fortunately for me, MOJO is an idea powerhouse. I couldn’t speed read this book. I had to put it down and think about what I had read over and over. The ideas were simple and easy to understand, but they caused me to pause and really reflect on what they meant for me in my life and my work.

Here are my 12 favorite ideas from MOJO:

  1. (Page 14) Marshall answers the question, “What is the one quality that differentiates truly successful people from everyone else?” by saying, “Truly successful people spend a large part of their lives engaging in activities that simultaneously provide meaning and happiness. And the only person who can define meaning and happiness for you is you!”)

    I like this answer for a number of reasons. I like “simultaneously?” because it conveys that we don’t have to compartmentalize our life into activities that make us happy and activities that provide meaning. We can actually spend the vast majority of our time doing activities that produce short-term happiness and long-term meaning at the same moment. This statement sets the stage for the rest of the book. I also like his emphasis on the reader deciding what “meaning” and “happiness” mean for himself or herself rather than being told what they should mean.

  2. (Page 22) Marshall defines the opposite of Mojo as Nojo, which means “that negative spirit toward what I am doing now that starts from the inside and radiates to the outside.” It helps to see the opposite of what we are striving for. Now every activity can be seen as a Mojo or Nojo builder. He uses that idea to build other ideas on top of later in the book.
  3. (Page 25) The Mojo Scorecard is a great tool for analyzing our activities on any given day. He breaks the scorecard into two parts: Personal Mojo and Professional Mojo. He then breaks each of those parts down into five words: (professional Mojo) motivation, knowledge, ability, confidence, and authenticity; (personal Mojo) happiness, reward, meaning, learning, and gratitude. Throughout the remainder of the book he shows how to use this Mojo Scorecard to understand and enhance our behaviors.
  4. (Page 37) Marshall provides two simple, powerful questions around understanding the short-term and long-term value we derive from any of our activities. I thought this was very, very helpful.
  5. (Page 45) Goldsmith explains the four sources of our identity as Remembered Identity, Reflected Identity, Programmed Identity, and Created Identity. While this could have been lofty, theoretical stuff, it actually was very down-to-earth and useful. I think you will like this and find it to be pragmatic.
  6. (Page 56) Marshall breaks down the idea of achievement into two parts: increasing other people’s awareness of what we’ve done and enhancing our opinion of ourselves. He emphasizes that both parts of achievement are important. They increase our Mojo because we become more excited about what we are capable of doing and other people get more excited because they realize what we are capable of doing.
  7. (Page 65) Goldsmith provides a stop-you-in-your-tracks question with, “Would you rather be smart or effective?” He develops this idea, reinforces it with a variety of stories, and then asks the reader in a point-blank fashion what he or she prefers. I really like this piece.
  8. (Page 76) Marshall explains the importance of staying “on message” in order to rebuild the reputation we want to have with other people. I particularly liked his point that people with great Mojo maintain the type of behavior they want to be known for consistently in all work situations, even the most informal ones.
  9. (Page 79) Goldsmith gives a great fill-in-the-blank exercise: “I’ll be happy when ____ .” He then goes on to explain in great detail the idea of accepting what we can control and what we cannot control. This reminds me so much of Dale Carnegie’s classic book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, which I loved.
  10. (Page 84) In Chapters 8 and 9, Marshall explains in great detail what kills our Mojo. He hits on ten areas that I thought were spot on. I really think these two chapters will help any reader move from Nojo to Mojo.
  11. (Page 109) This page starts a really insightful and simple idea: change you or change it. Throughout the remainder of this book, Goldsmith comes back to this idea over and over: do you need to change something about yourself or do you need to change the situation you are in?
  12. (Page 167) Goldsmith explains a really neat idea called, “Name It, Frame It, Claim It.” His point is to put a name on a negative situation that will help you frame in your mind what you are dealing with. For example, he talks about an executive who wasted a lot of time criticizing other people. He helped the executive call these situations a “Superiority Complex.” Then in the future when this person found himself criticizing others he would simply pull that name out and realize how he was hurting his Mojo.

There are several more ideas that are just as powerful as these dozen, but at least you get the idea that you are going to walk away with practical value after reading this book.

What would have made this book better?

I really only have one suggestion. Since this is the kind of book that you want to keep close by and refer back to over and over, I think it would help the reader to have each idea highlighted in a simple visual format that could be seen at a glance. For example, each chapter could have ended with a Mojo Reminder in a bold border. Each of these Mojo Reminders could have been explained in two to four steps. That way the reader could easily go back and pull out the tool or process that is needed at any given moment. Marshall does provide some very useful follow-up tools for his book at www.mojothebook.com.

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