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Saturday, January 25, 2014

FOCUS: THE HIDDEN DRIVER of EXCELLENCE (audiobook) by Daniel Goleman

"Focus" lacks focus

Published in 2013 by HarperCollins.
Read by the author, Daniel Goleman.
Duration: 8 hours, 8 minutes.

Dr. Daniel Goleman is best known as the author of Emotional Intelligence. In many ways this book is less of a book about the importance of focus and more of a sequel to Emotional Intelligence. It is also a anti-global warming manifesto, an education reform book, a self-help book for business leaders who want to be the real leaders in their offices and there is a little bit about how people are able to focus their attentions a bit more and get better results.

That, of course, is the problem with the book called Focus. The primary topic should be the ability of people to focus and some hints to help you focus better. The book starts out with exactly this...well, focus. We learn how a store detective is able to focus on a crowded room full of bustling and sort out the normal shopping behaviors from the actions of a shoplifter. Goleman discusses how the give-it-to-me-now world of Tweets, Instagram, instant video makes our attention span short (I knew this already - I teach high school and my kids are on their phones all day long and I see the results).

But, then Goleman leaves this area of personal focus largely unexplored and veers into the focus of whole groups of people and uses global warming as his "focus" for this section. I listened to this as an audiobook on CDs and this lasted for more than a CD - well more than an hour of discussion about a topic that is basically off topic. He throws in a suggestion that schools adopt a global warming science project that probably would not hit most state's standards, goes on about carbon footprints, promotes websites that track your carbon footprint, tells how various companies have shrunk their carbon footprints. None of this, not one bit, not one iota, not one word is described in the blurb on the back of the audiobook. I got bored and started skipping whole chunks of text. To his credit, Goleman does point out that the concept of a zero-emission car is a misnomer since electric cars are charged up by an electric grid that is powered largely by coal and coal plants do have emissions (and if you get your electric car charged by a solar panel, there are emissions associated with the manufacture of those panels).  

Then we veer into the world of corporate leadership and the book becomes an extended discussion of what makes a good leader. Turn out it is mostly paying attention the the feelings and needs of those that are following you - this is where the book becomes a sequel to his book Emotional Intelligence with a special focus on CEOs. I felt like I was not the intended reader (or listener, in my case).

Speaking of being a listener, the audio portion of this experience needs to be discussed. The author, Daniel Goleman, read his own book. I am always leery of this because sometimes the author may have a perfectly fine speaking voice but just should not read an audiobook. It is more than a reading, it has to be a performance. Goleman does a lot of public speaking (his website has a place to contact his agent to schedule Dr. Goleman to speak to our corporate gig about leadership, emotional intelligence or maybe even global warming) but public speaking is not the same as reading an audiobook. I cannot hear gestures or hear the fact that the speaker moved across the stage or stood up to put more emphasis on a point in an audiobook. It all has to be done with your voice. Goleman's voice is okay, but not great. He does not quite drone, but it is not really lively either. It definitely took on a nagging tone during the extended global warming discussion. Even worse, there was a bass reverb echo while he spoke that I could not get rid of no matter how much I fiddled with the bass in my car. It sounded like that echo sound you hear when someone is speaking to you on the phone in a small, enclosed room. A professional audiobook should not have this problem. 

Note: This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I rate this audiobook 1 star out of 5. I was so relieved to finish this thing and it took me forever to listen to it.

If you want to give this audiobook a try for yourself you can find it on Amazon.com here: Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence.

Reviewed on January 25, 2014.

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