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Self Renewal by John Gardner Book Review

Book Review of John Gardner’s “Self Renewal” – read it cover to cover. 

With all the books I buy, a complete reading is, candidly, unusual these days. Yet when it came to John Gardner’s Self Renewal, he had me at:

“Men who believe in nothing change nothing for the better. They renew nothing and heal no one, least themselves. Anyone who understands our situation at all knows that we are in little danger of failing through lack of material strength. If we falter, it will be a failure of heart and spirit”

Yes, you must know that the book was published in 1963 and when being read 57 years later, the reader has to actively edit in her mind for the more accurate gender language when it comes to leading a better life, a better organization, and ultimately contributing to a better world.

Yet, once you mentally delete the anachronistic pronouns, what remains is an inspiring and candid look at what one encounters to not only change, but renew. Gardner, a Stanford Professor, Cabinet member for President Johnson and the founder of Common Cause, connects the evolution of a life into reasons and ways we can make it more vital and creative.

He articulately (except for that “Man” wording) warns against the power of decay and then points to something I’ve realized throughout my career.

It is relatively easy to specify the things about an organization that need renewal; what is difficult is to cope with the habits and attitudes that permitted the organization to go to seed in the first place.”

And is that any different when talking about changing yourself? Knowing is seemingly never the issue; generating the persistence is where the grace lies.

Reading this book is well worth its moments of outdated language in order to constructively resist the inertia of” how things are” and to successfully battle against the entropy inherent in a life, an enterprise, and a society.