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LEADERSHIP LIBRARY

 

May 2015

 

Is This Seat Taken?: It’s Never Too Late to Find the Right Seat

 

by Kristin S. Kaufman (Greenleaf, 2015)

 

What are the big take-aways?

 

My friend and classmate from Georgetown University’s Leadership Coaching Program, Kristin Kaufman, offers in her second book a collection of fifteen profiles of Americans whose greatest achievements came later in life.  They include the painter Grandma Moses, McDonalds Restaurant co-founder Ray Kroc, Alcoholics Anonymous co-founder Bill Wilson, and long-distance swimmer Diana Nyad.  The overarching message is “it is never too late” to find your purpose and follow a dream.  Most of the men and women, alive and dead, who Kristin profiles in this book made their major “legacy” contributions after age 50, and some in their 70s and 80s.

 

Why do I like it?

 

The message of this book is appealing (and – I believe – true), and many of the narratives are complex and empowering.  I like Kristin’s straightforward writing style, her appreciation for all kinds of people from all walks of life, and her facility for story-telling.

 

Kristin chose a fascinating mix of individuals to profile.  There are several common themes among their stories, such as overcoming great hardships, defining success in their own terms, and demonstrating the powers of choice and purpose and alignment.  However, there is another common theme that hearkens back to the subject of Kristin’s first book – the idea that “incidental encounters are not incidental” (p. 151):

 

The same is true for us.  Our lives are peppered with thousands of incidental interactions.  These serendipitous exchanges can and do make imprints on our minds and hearts; and they can change our lives.  We never know who, what, when, where or how a person will cross our path and the potential cascade of events that meeting may initiate.  We have to stay open, curious and awake.

 

This is probably my favorite theme, perhaps because it might be Kristin’s, as well: she certainly writes about it particularly beautifully.

 

In what situations would this be useful?

 

If you’re in your 30s or older and you have a creeping feeling that your biggest achievements are behind you, or that your purpose is unclear or destined to remain unfulfilled, or that any life goal of yours is “too late” to pursue, Is This Seat Taken?: It’s Never Too Late to Find the Right Seat will provide you with unvarnished examples of real-life role models whose lives say otherwise.

 

If you’re looking for a blueprint for personal or business success, you won’t find it here; the practical advice is in the very broad commonalities Kristin insightfully draws between the fifteen narratives, not in the details of their subjects’ non-linear and deeply idiosyncratic pathways to making their mark on the world.

 

I also really like the bibliography provided at the back of the book: “Suggested Reading for Re-Alignment.”  It offers a wide range of resources in the disciplines of career coaching, psychology, mindfulness and spirituality from both Eastern and Western philosophical perspectives.

 

What other resources might “pair” well with it?

 

As Kristin herself recommends in the bibliography, I think Marilee Adams’s book Change Your Questions, Change Your Life (previously reviewed here in the Leadership Library) would be an especially good choice.  Of course, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken?: Random Encounters That Change Your Life (also previously reviewed here in the Leadership Library), is a great pairing.

 

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