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  • Writer's pictureMatt Symes

Live an Earned Life With May's Book Recommendation

Updated: Aug 22, 2023

Welcome to our monthly book review, where we'll introduce you to our favourite books and the lessons contained to instil new ideas and help you maintain a growth mindset.

This month we'll be diving into Marshall Goldsmith's book - The Earned Life

The Earned Life by Marshall Goldsmith

A Short Summary: The Earned Life makes only three demands:

1. Live your own life. Not someone else's version of it.

2. Commit to “earning” every day. Make it a habit.

3. Attach it all to something greater.

“The reward of living an earned life is being engaged in the process of constantly earning such a life.” And, that, is where life is.

Marshall Goldsmith is regularly recognized as the #1 coach in the world. If Alan Mullaly, Pau Gasol, and Hubert Joly are among just a few of the people who call him coach, his words must carry weight. His book, the Earned Life, remains the most important book I’ve read in 2023.

The book revolves around five core themes:

  1. Purpose - Start with why. Write it down

  2. Presence - To be present with the people in our lives rather than missing in action.

  3. Community - To do it with a community resonates more loudly.

  4. Impermanence - Buddha said “We are born, we get sick, we die.” That’s meant to inspire. Be present and find meaning every moment.

  5. Results - If you try your best, you have not failed, regardless of the result.

Starting with "why" is common and critical. Results are normally stated as outcomes, not as best efforts. Impermanence shows up in Buddhist and stoic writings. Presence is the single most difficult hill to climb in the modern world. And to find your community, the one that lifts you up, is perhaps one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make.


My Top Three Takeaways: 1. Forgive the past version of yourself I move at a fast pace. I’m hard on myself. I’ve made mistakes. I still fall into the trap of living there from time to time. Marshall framed it in such a way that it was time to let the past version of myself go.

"That was a previous me. The present me didn’t make that blunder. So why am I torturing myself for some past error the present version of me didn’t commit?” This follows the Buddhist philosophy of “Every breath we take is a new one.”

That sentence made all the difference in the world to me. It freed me from a few weights. And it also meant that I could not assume I knew others from our past interactions. What a freeing way to interact with the world. It also means you cannot rest on the laurels of the past version of yourself either.

2. The number #1 impediment to living an earned life is: Inertia

“Our default response in life is not to experience meaning or happiness. Our default response is to experience inertia.”

Wow! What am I living with? What is inertia holding me back from? There are six other core impediments to living an Earned Life. But inertia as a default state is a reflection tool I now use regularly. 3. The LPR - The Life Plan Review I had a quarterly reset process for my own personal aim. But Marshall challenged me to do the weekly review. And to ask the effort and input questions. Did I do my best to:

  1. Set clear goals?

  2. Make progress toward achieving my goals?

  3. Find meaning?

  4. Be happy?

  5. Maintain and build positive relationships?

  6. Be fully engaged?

  7. Express gratitude?


The Changes I’ve Implemented Because of This Book: 1. Embracing the challenge and meaning of being present. I’m trying to catch myself and stay in the moment. No phone in sessions. Phone away at night. No phone at dinner. One screen open on a zoom call. This is a mountain to climb. 2. Nothing is too silly to measure. For a period of time, Goldsmith measured the number of daily compliments he gave to his wife. He thought them, but didn’t say them. For me, I now measure the number of suppers I’m home for, the bedtime stories I read, and the nighttime routine my oldest daughter and I have. Personally, I measure the miles per week, pushups per day, and calf exercises per day. 3. Credibility must be earned twice. First you must do the work and then you must be recognized for having done it. “It is the new additional price you have to pay for success in a rapidly changing environment.” He sold me with the next line “It’s less discomfiting if you can reasonably argue that accepting the awkward duties of self-marketing serves the aspirational purpose of making a positive difference.” I share our successes online more and I have no problem asking for testimonials where we have co-created value.


Who Should Read This Book? Every leader looking to lead a more intentional life and show up for their teams, their families, and themselves. The Racki & Symes Podcast: Review of The Earned Life If you want to hear more of our top takeaways from the Earned Life, including how to effectively map your actions and intentions to your ambitions and aspirations, then check out this episode of the Racki & Symes Podcast.


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