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#SundayReview: The Underachiever’s Manifesto by Ray Bennett

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There I go again, reading nonfiction.

My boss gave this book to my husband. At first, I’ll admit I was a little pissed. I mean, look at this book:

All I kept thinking was, great, here’s a good ol’ boy telling my husband how to get away with being a lazy ass, which he already is.


As it turns out, it’s not quite what it looks like. It is, but it isn’t.

This is a tidy little book you can read in 20-60 minutes, and it’s basically about not taking things too seriously.

The Ten Commandments of the Underachiever:

  1. Life’s too short
  2. Control is an illusion
  3. Expectations lead to misery
  4. Great expectations lead to great misery
  5. Achievement creates expectations
  6. The law of diminishing returns applies everywhere
  7. Perfect is the enemy of good
  8. The tallest blade of grass is the surest to be cut
  9. Accomplishment is in the eye of the beholder
  10. The 4% value added principle

It was an interesting little read. Much like with Crucial Conversations, though, I feel as if I know the principles, it’s just a matter of applying them. The basic principles of the book are these:

  • Don’t over-invest so much in achievements. Take the time away from your pursuit of achievement to enjoy life, spend time on your relationships, and pursue personal happiness. To ignore these things in the pursuit of accomplishments is to ruin one’s own life. In the scheme of things, our footprint on the world is a tiny thing and few people actually care what we do, whether we succeed or don’t, so don’t be miserable while you are here.
  • Being an overachiever makes people hate you and it only makes you crazy as you keep trying to achieve.
  • Being awesome in the work places only means people will try to take advantage of you and you’ll basically work yourself to death for attention.
  • Expend the proper amount of energy on the right things; that is, the things that will return the most personal reward and overall improve your life. Maybe don’t kill yourself over a deadline, but make sure you get enough sleep and do take the time to sit and have a beer with a friend, even if you’re late finishing a project on time.

I mean, in the overall scheme of the world…how great of an effect does each of us have on it?

How I Interpret This Book

I already feel as if I am doing a lot of this in my own life. My father started preaching some Alcoholics Anonymous tenets to me some years ago. “Expectations breed resentment.” Letting your happiness hinge on whether or not something goes right just sets you up for a ruined day. That statement rather changed my life. “God help me accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” In AA, this is known as the serenity prayer. It’s critically important to keep in mind as you walk about in the world. Can you change it? Can you control it? Because most things, we cannot. The one thing we are in control of is our attitude and our reaction to such adversity.

For example, I cannot change the terrible decisions my mom continues to make. She’s autonomous. She will have to fix this herself. What I can do is seek to control the pain it is causing in me. I can let go, and I’m working on that.

I have goals set for 2017 to dial back my work stress, learn to say no more, relax, and pour more into writing. Yeah, I want to achieve book completion, but really want I want out of that is the joy I get from creating. Writing balances me.

Furthermore, I think that Writer Sam holds true to all of the commandments in the Underachiever’s Manifesto. I know I’m not in the top 5%, and no amount of effort is going to put me there. Some people are just more gifted than me, more practiced than me. I’ll just keep doing my best and be happy that anyone is reading what I write.

I don’t have expectations about how my book is going to sell. It’s just there in case someone wants to read it, and occasionally I like to remind people of that. I have a job that pays me pretty well, so it’s not like I need the money that badly. I write for me, and I write for you. I don’t write for profit. Profit is just a nice little bonus once in a while. It is my true belief that most everyone that reads my books will enjoy them. That is why they exist. I believe by me NOT pushing them, my actions speak to that.

I think everybody should read this book. It takes almost no time at all and is briefly brilliant at providing a little dose of perspective.

S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in printand short fantasy A SHINY FOR TRICK (forever free for your entertainment!).

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