A Quarter Million Steps
Dr. Anthony Paustian
Book Press Publishing (2017)
Reviewed by Josh Cramer for Reader Views (2/18)
In “A Quarter Million Steps: Creativity, Imagination, & Leading Transformative Change,” Dr. Anthony Paustian creates an immersive reading experience that leaves you wanting more as you follow the Apollo mission to the moon, and the techniques and mental models they used to get there. I found myself jotting notes down each time I read—creativity comes from finding a connection between disparate things and then using this connection to create something new; a good leader thinks in shades of gray, but speaks in black and white; creativity requires asking questions no one else has asked; allow yourself to daydream; and ultimately, success is achieved through daily decisions—don’t go on autopilot. These are ideas I’ve been able to incorporate into my daily work life that, though I’ve heard before, have clicked in a different way after reading Paustian’s narrative.
The most useful advice from the book comes from a method Paustian feels the Apollo Mission used to successfully make it to the moon: HARD Goals (rather than SMART Goals). As you know, SMART Goals emphasize goals that are specific, measurable attainable, relevant, and time-bound. HARD Goals, on the other hand, create goals that require transformative thinking (“in order to change organizational habits and entrenched beliefs”). HARD Goals are honest, actionable, radical, and detailed—one of Paustian’s arguments against SMART Goals is that forcing a goal to be achievable and realistic acts against being able think creatively about a problem or goal. Instead, if we want new solutions, we must allow this freedom in our goals.
Additionally, each chapter is full of stories that both setup and provide a thorough line of the main idea of the chapter. As I read, it reminded me of how Charles Duhigg writes his books—a couple of main stories that introduce a topic and builds as more about that topic is learned. However, Paustian’s chapters are much more concise, so resolutions are found much faster.
One very helpful feature that each chapter contains is the “Taking a Few More Steps” section (found at the end of each chapter). This section generally provides five actionable items to help you apply the concepts from the chapter. I found these activities to be incredibly helpful as I made my way through the book.
Overall, I enjoyed my time in “A Quarter Million Steps” and I was sad to see it end. I look forward to Dr. Paustian’s future books and writings. That said, I highly recommend this book to anyone who desires to find new strategies for thinking creatively. Actually, I recommend this book to anyone who has ever questioned whether SMART and stretch goals achieved what they needed to.
I leave you with one of Paustian’s main questions: “What if you knew exactly when your time was up? Would you live life any differently? Would you make different choices?” I hope one of those choices is reading this book.