Gettin’ Better Every Day

You can do better. Yes, you! And “better” doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a high-flying mogul or millionaire deal-maker. Better just means…You, Only Better. And in the eponymous book, Nicholas Bate proposes to show you how to go about getting better.

Who Is This?

Nicholas Bate is an IT manager-turned-strategic consultant. He owns his own consulting firm, Strategic Edge.

What’s the Big Idea?

Bates starts with a simple mantra to improve your life.

  • Wake Up: Realize better things are possible.
  • Get Real: Take a hard look at what is realistic for you as well as what you love and find where those two areas intersect.
  • Take Action: Set manageable goals and then just do it!

He expands on the “Take Action” theme by describing a six-pronged Personal Compass. A Personal Compass is essentially a comprehensive set of goals that takes into account all aspects of your life (health, vocation, family, friends, etc.). “Compass” is a somewhat misleading metaphor here; I’d call it more of a set of coordinates, identifying your sweet spot along all relevant dimensions.

These long-term goals are then broken down into manageable actions which go onto your master list of tasks and to-do items. You consistently work from and update your master list, so you always know what you ought to do next, a sort of low-key GTD strategy.

Bates also discusses tactics for developing your creativity and following through, which he calls ‘creating massive momentum’ around your goals and plans.

My Take

You, Only Better is a great example that in self-help literature, reminder is often more important that instruction. In topic, this book is a fairly generic example of a “make your life better” classic self-help book. Many of the ideas will be familiar to those who have read other development books; the Pareto principle makes an appearance, as does ‘important vs. urgent’, the idea that it’s key to complete long term goal planning, and so forth.

However, I love this book and will probably revisit it again and again. There are a couple of reasons:

I am a stereotypical American (USian?) who is overly charmed by British language patterns and slang. The author is British and his Britishness clearly comes across in the writing, and it makes me smile every time I run across a ‘this is brilliant’ or ‘mum’. Shallow?  Without a doubt. But it ties into a bigger point, namely…

The easy, conversational tone of You, Only Better makes it a joy to read. Truthfully, I’d call this a motivational book in effect, rather than a strict how-to or personal development tome. The experience of reading this book has the same kind of vibe I’d imagine you’d feel in a small-group coaching session with a thoughtful and positive facilitator. (Fair warning: writing ‘conversationally’ means the prose is not always grammatically correct. If sentence fragments are a pet peeve of yours, this may not be the book for you.)

Finally, Bate doesn’t try to pretend that everything will be perfect. He acknowledges objections to the ideas he’s discussing, and he doesn’t propose a one-size-fits-all life or set of goals. These are small things, but much appreciated in the often relentlessly bright-side-facing personal development world.

Whenever I dip into You, Only Better, I find myself feeling happier, more positive, and excited to live my best life.

Meant For

Anyone who is just generally unsatisfied with their life but aren’t sure how to fix it. People who appreciate a warm and encouraging tone in their advice. Those looking for an overall advice book that’s a little quirky (did I mention the hand-drawn illustrations?). Anglophiles.

Bottom Line

Are you looking for a detailed structured plan on how to improve all aspects of your life? If so, this isn’t the book for you. But if you want a charming book that will put a smile on your face (and a broken-out-by-category goal planner on your wall) and which will sincerely make you feel like change is within your reach, I recommend this book.

You Only Better by Nicholas Bate – 192 pages – Published 2013 by Capstone


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