From Strength to Strength Book Summary - From Strength to Strength Book explained in key points
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From Strength to Strength summary

Arthur C. Brooks

Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life

4.5 (790 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

'From Strength to Strength' by Arthur C. Brooks is a guidebook for achieving moral excellence. The author argues that by practicing virtues such as humility, gratitude, and compassion, we can strengthen our character and lead fulfilling lives.

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    From Strength to Strength
    Summary of 4 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 4

    Professional decline is inevitable – but that isn’t a bad thing.

    What do you think when you hear the name Charles Darwin? Successful scientist, or complete failure?

    Of course, most people would consider Darwin’s career to be a massive success. At 22, he boarded a royal ship and embarked on a now-famous scientific expedition – spending five years scouring the globe to collect the exotic plant and animal samples that would earn him an esteemed spot in history.

    At 27, he developed the theory of natural selection, which proposes that organisms best adapted to their environment are most likely to thrive through survival of the fittest. At 50, he published On the Origin of Species, his best-selling magnum opus that changed science forever.

    Today, Darwin is a household name. His theory of natural selection is taught in countless classrooms around the world. His writing has been read by billions. He’s hailed as the Father of Evolution and is buried in Westminster Abbey as a national hero. To say he made an impact on humankind would be an understatement.

    And yet, Darwin died considering himself a failure. Why?

    Like many successful professionals, Darwin couldn’t bear to see his career decline as he approached old age. Publishing On the Origin of Species at 50 was the peak of his career – and from there, he’d no place to go but down. From 50 to 73, Darwin found himself stuck in a period of creative stagnation.

    No more scientific breakthroughs. No more industry-defining books. And for Darwin, that meant no more purpose.

    “I have not the heart or strength at my age to begin any investigations lasting years, which is the only thing which I enjoy,” he lamented to a friend. “I have everything to make me happy and contented, but life has become very wearisome to me.”

    Fame and fortune meant nothing to Darwin in his later years. What he wanted was to achieve new scientific progress and success – and eventually, doing so was simply beyond his abilities.

    Charles Darwin was a brilliant scientist. But whether you’ve followed in his footsteps or taken a different path entirely, you and the Father of Evolution have a lot in common.

    You see, Darwin’s professional decline was completely normal and predictable. Whether dancer, doctor, painter, or pilot, one thing is sure: one day, you’ll face a similar decline in your career.

    The prefrontal cortex is to blame for that pesky phenomenon. It’s the part of the brain responsible for working memory, executive function, and the ability to focus. A strong prefrontal cortex enables you to improve upon your speciality, whether that’s writing sonnets or performing heart surgery. And it also happens to be the first part of the brain to decline in adulthood.

    Study after study shows that in almost every high-skill profession, decline sets in sometime between one’s late 30s and early 50s.

    Consider the research of Northwestern University professor Benjamin Jones, for instance. He’s spent years studying when people are most likely to make prizewinning scientific breakthroughs and key inventions. Drawing from over a century’s worth of data, Jones found that the most common age for great discovery is one’s late 30s. From there, the likelihood of having a Darwinian breakthrough declines dramatically through one’s 40s, 50s, and 60s. By 70, the probability of producing a major innovation is approximately zero.

    The same pattern plays out across many other industries. In aviation, air-traffic controllers are mandated to retire at 56 because the consequences of declining abilities are too dangerous. Only about 5 percent of startup founders are over 60. And in a recent study of Canadian anesthesiologists, researchers found that physicians over 65 are 50 percent more likely to be found at fault for malpractice than their younger peers.

    These statistics may sound disheartening. But here’s the good news: they don’t have to be a source of stress. In fact, they shouldn’t be.

    With the right mindset and tool kit, you can reframe a decline in professional abilities as an opportunity to pivot toward new types of success – and make the present even more fulfilling than the past.

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    What is From Strength to Strength about?

    From Strength to Strength (2022) is a roadmap for thriving in the second half of life. Packed with practical advice, it helps readers stop dwelling on past successes and find fulfillment in the present.

    From Strength to Strength Review

    From Strength to Strength (2022) by Arthur C. Brooks is an enlightening exploration of how to turn adversity into personal growth and triumph. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With insightful anecdotes and profound research, it offers practical advice for overcoming challenges and finding strength within.
    • The book inspires readers to embrace positivity and develop resilience, empowering them to navigate life's obstacles with grace.
    • Through its compelling stories and relatable examples, it captivates readers, making personal growth a fascinating and engaging journey.

    Who should read From Strength to Strength?

    • Anyone facing the decline of their professional abilities
    • Professionals preparing to pivot from one career to another
    • Everyone who wants to lead a life full of purpose

    About the Author

    Arthur C. Brooks is an American social scientist, Harvard professor, and columnist for the Atlantic. For over a decade, he served as ​​president of the American Enterprise Institute. His past titles include Love Your Enemies, The Conservative Heart, The Road to Freedom, Gross National Happiness, and Who Really Cares?

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    From Strength to Strength FAQs 

    What is the main message of From Strength to Strength?

    The main message of From Strength to Strength is that personal growth and success can be achieved by building on our strengths.

    How long does it take to read From Strength to Strength?

    The estimated reading time for From Strength to Strength is several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is From Strength to Strength a good book? Is it worth reading?

    From Strength to Strength is a worthwhile read as it provides insights into leveraging strengths for personal growth and success.

    Who is the author of From Strength to Strength?

    The author of From Strength to Strength is Arthur C. Brooks.

    What to read after From Strength to Strength?

    If you're wondering what to read next after From Strength to Strength, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Do Hard Things by Steve Magness
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    • Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Marilee Adams
    • Partnering by Jean Oelwang
    • Die with Zero by Bill Perkins
    • Read People Like a Book by Patrick King
    • Surrounded by Narcissists by Thomas Erikson
    • How Highly Effective People Speak by Peter Andrei