Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less - and Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined by Scott Sonenshein
In STRETCH, Professor Scott Sonenshein argues that we overvalue new resources, and undervalue the resources we have. Our instincts are to “follow a basic rule: Having More Resources = Getting Better Results.” Once we shift our mind-set to using resources better, we will realize that what we do with what we’ve got matters more than what we have at hand—making it much easier to just say no and expand the value of what’s already there.
The author calls those constantly trying to get more “Chasers.” We become a chaser because we think that’s the only good choice.
But stretching is more than just being clever—it’s “an outlook on life that influences not just how we solve problems but also how we regularly obtain success and live better.” It’s a fulfilling choice leading to satisfaction: “Stretchers find beauty and richness in places where others struggle to see anything of value.”
One starts down this road by rejectioning the notion that getting more stuff leads to better results. Instead, consider that a better use of resources gets better results.
Much of the book presents inspiring stories of successful people who decided (or were forced) to just make do with the resources they have. We hear of creative (but poor) business people who transformed their businesses without adding new resources. Perhaps the oddest story is of the “Van Man,” Daniel Norris, professional baseball player (and millionaire) who decided to live in the back of a Walmart.
STRETCH presents quite a few practical tips on becoming more creative. Chapter 4: “Get Outside” argues for learning skills outside your particular expertise. He notes that prize-winning scientists are actually fond of the arts—far more than the general public. “As intimidating as it might seem to pursue deep and diverse experiences, some experts naturally pursue both.”
In “Pick New Neighbors” the author suggests changing your environment. For example, find a “stretcher” you like and learn from that person.
If you read nothing else, be sure to read Chapter 9, “Workout: Exercises to Strengthen a Stretch.” In particular, the section, “Go Explore” is priceless. The author quotes Steve Jobs on the importance of varied experience: “The difference between you and your dumb friend is the bag of experiences you carry around with you.” So, make a new “bag of experiences. Try new things, go to conferences, read different books. Deliberately walk away from “comfortable territory.”
In Chapter 8, “Avoid Injuries How to Get the Right Stretch,” the author warns of falling into some traps. For example, don’t turn into a cheapskate, obsessed with never spending money. He gives the example of Edward Wedbush, the multimillionaire financier who insisted on living on a run-down house which he refuses to repair. (His wife lived across the street.)
The professor warns of another pitfall, which he calls, “Leaping without Learning.” One can be so headstrong in your own gut feeling that you refuse to learn from other experiences. He cites the example of Ron Johnson, the new CEO called to “rescue” JC Penney. Instead, Johnson just about destroyed the company: “Only seventeen months would go by before JC Penney was on the verge of financial collapse. During Johnson’s brief tenure, JC Penney lost about half of its market value and saw sales decline roughly 30 percent. It posted close to a billion dollars in losses.”
Perhaps the best example of “stretching” is the singular case of Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss.) In 1957, he wrote a brief book as a result of a bet with this editor. His editor bet $50 that “Geisel couldn’t write a book using only fifty unique words.” Of course, this resulted in the world famous book, “Green Eggs and Ham.”
So all in all, I found STRETCH” to be a fun, inspiring read. I especially like the professor’s tips on personal growth. And I absolutely love that Steve Jobs quote. The book is generally easy to follow, but I wish each chapter included bullet points summarizing the key points.
On a practical note on reading this book, I recommend you read the Conclusion of the book first. That’s right, start at the very end. The reason is, the Conclusion concisely sums up the theme of the book. Then, when you read the main body, you will more easily follow the author’s ideas. I thought this one phrase summed up the book nicely:
“Imagine how liberating it would be to stop worrying about what you don’t have and instead appreciate what you do have.”
If you like STRETCHING, I can recommend related books. For another great read on personal development, I recommend Cal Newport’s, “So Good They Can’t Ignore You.” One of the most creative books on career choices I have read. Innovative, fun read.
The whole idea of “Stretching” with your available resources reminds me of the classic book by Amy Dacyczyn, “The Tightwad Gazette.” Of course, Amy’s books centers on saving money, but it’s also filled with ideas on being creative with your resources. If you like the idea of being creative with your resources, I think you will love her book.
Advance Review Copy courtesy of the publisher.
Photos courtesy of Pexels.