Work Smarter (And Simpler) Not Harder

Do you take “smartcuts” – efficient and effective patterns of behaviors that will move you towards success? In Simple is the New Smart: 26 Success Strategies to Build Confidence, Inspire Yourself, and Reach Your Ultimate Potential, Rob Fazio sets out a series of common challenges. For each problem, he proposes a simple solutions to overcome and improve in that area.

Who Is This?

Rob Fazio has a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. He’s also an executive advisor, sport psychology, crisis consultant, and speaker. He’s a managing parter of OnPoint Advising and the president of the non-profit organization Hold the Door for Others.

What’s the Big Idea?

The primary focus on this book is emotional intelligence: how to use it to help yourself, as well as understand and manage others. Simple is the New Smart is divided into four sections, each of which has several chapters which each address one of Fazio’s 26 “success strategies”:

Psychological Swagger: As you can probably guess from the name, the beginning of the book is all about personal self-confidence and managing your thinking, emotions, and reactions.

Reading: Get what you need from others! Topics here include getting the right advice and critical feedback, using your intuition, and navigating the culture and politics of your organization.

Leading: Not strictly focused on traditional leadership per se, this part of the book focuses on effectively influencing others. Fazio discusses confident decision-making, persuasion, motivation, and communication.

Accelerating: The theme of this section is resilience and success in the face of challenges. Fazio touches on goal-setting and prioritization, change management, and handling stress.

My Take

I don’t think I’ve ever simultaneously found a book’s content so useful and my experience reading it so painful.

There is quite a lot of good advice to be found! I’m often dubious of general “do things better” type books, but there’s a helpful level of specificity to the suggestions provided. I ended up taking notes on more than a few chapters, writing quotes or sketching graphs or outlining processes in my planner. If I was reviewing purely based on content, I’d recommend Simple is the New Smart wholeheartedly.

Unfortunately, books are judged on style as well as substance. And stylistically, this book is is frustrating. While the chapters are grouped into vaguely thematic sections, there’s little connective tissue or flow from one chapter and idea to the next. The effect is similar to reading a series of blog posts.  Actually, that’s unfair; I’ve read blog-post series that flow MUCH more naturally from one entry to the next than the chapters of this book do. There’s almost no attempt at tying together the ideas into a conceptual framework.

Early in the book, Fazio writes that his goal is to make his ideas easy to understand, apply, and recall. His primary strategy to make the concepts memorable is creating slogans for each idea. Fazio clearly has a real weakness for alliteration, acronyms, and rhyming. (A sentence from the Acknowledgements, thanking his sister, actually says “Thank you for balancing my love for rhymes and acronyms with your love for detail and accuracy.”)  In theory, these clever catchphrases make the associated strategies easier to recall and apply.

The problem is, wordplay is not a substitute for linking ideas together into core concepts when you’re presenting a book’s worth of suggestions. 26 chapters of advice equals way too many disparate tips. Putting them in the form of cute rhyming slogans doesn’t make them memorable when they’re fighting for mental space with dozens of others. In fact, I found myself struggling to remember any of the ideas clearly. It makes the book exhausting to read.

In fairness, this is somewhat by design. Fazio writes in his first chapter, “this book is a choose-your-own adventure. By my own admission, I am a chapter and book jumper. Find what interests you or what you need to develop or strengthen and go for it.” It’s not a book meant to be read cover-to-cover, necessarily. On the other hand, I’m of the opinion that something published as a book should be readable as a book, i.e. from start to finish.

Meant For

People who need a variety of helpful, straightforward strategies in areas related to emotional intelligence. Those who prefer to skip around into a book to absorb specific chapters, rather than reading cover-to-cover.

Bottom Line

I recommend it, but hesitantly. Don’t plan to read this in one setting; you won’t retain much (and that would be a shame; like I said, a lot of the advice is genuinely useful). If you can pick it up from the library and read no more than one or two chapters per night, you’ll probably get the most out of it. And take notes on the sections that you find most valuable! Otherwise you’ll lose those tips in a sea of clever alliterative phrases and initialisms.

Simple is the New Smart: 26 Success Strategies to Build Confidence, Inspire Yourself, and Reach Your Ultimate Potential by Rob Fazio – 256 pages – published 2016 by Career Press Inc

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