Friday, January 25, 2013

Book Review: You're Not That Great

*In the interest of full disclosure, I will preface this review with the fact that I know the author of this book personally. To the extent possible, I have not let this influence my review of the book. Of course, based on the information provided in this book, it is unlikely that I have fully succeeded in remaining unbiased.

Call him the anti-hero of self-help. Dr. Daniel Crosby is here to rip you a new one—a new self-image, that is. With a proverbial wink and smile, Dr. Crosby is going to tear all of the protective bandages off of your many blemishes and imperfections. It’s going to smart. It’s going to sting. You might even cry a little. But, as Dr. Crosby himself reminds us, he is doing this because he loves you. Not that you’re anything special, mind you.

Humorous title notwithstanding, You’re Not That Great: A Motivational Book is less tongue-in-cheek and more of a swift-kick-to-the-nads of overinflated egos everywhere. And by everywhere, I mean everywhere. Not a single one of us is immune to thinking much more highly of ourselves than we really should. In fact, this is the central thesis of Dr. Crosby’s book. Yes, you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you—but nowhere near to the extent that you suppose. Welcome to Reality 101.

With an abundance of empirical data to support his claims, Dr. Crosby provides readers with a guided tour through the unconscious megalomania, biases, and other influences that inevitably skew our interpretations of (and interactions with) the world around us. Think you’re good at making sensible decisions? Odds are your “rational” choices will spin a complete 180 if the same factual information is presented to you in slightly different terms. For those who aspire to be level-headed, this is bad news. The good news is that Dr. Crosby is here to point out and encourage you to check (and recheck) your mental blind spots as you cruise through this crash course called life. And how does he achieve this? Each of Dr. Crosby’s chapters is centered on a theme that sounds like something out of a cynical fortune cookie: “You’re Kind of Crazy,” “You’re Not as Safe as You Think,” “You’re Chasing the Wrong Dream,” etc. Psychological research is presented to convince the reader of the truthfulness of these claims, but readers aren’t left to despair. Instead, each chapter concludes with a pair of valuable sections in which Dr. Crosby assists the reader in putting this information to good use. In the section titled “The Path Forward,” Dr. Crosby offers some general advice and principles for living a life that avoids the pitfalls just discussed. In the section titled “Learned Living,” Dr. Crosby challenges the reader with specific exercises that will put these principles into immediate effect.

While the statistical data provided by Dr. Crosby’s tome has been put forward in several other works of recent years, I am aware of none that approach the data from the angle of generalized self-help. As the subtitle of the book makes clear, Dr. Crosby’s aim is to motivate. Because his writing is so personal and engaging—he shares almost as many embarrassing anecdotes from his own life as he does data from scientific research—the result is as rousing as one could hope for. Indeed, Dr. Crosby’s writing style is so conversational, easy-going, and upbeat that it nearly undermines the book’s authority. That may not sound like a compliment, but it is. You’re Not That Great is a mere stone’s throw away from reading like a personal letter from a friend. Dr. Crosby’s professional credentials feel secondary to his genuine concern for the reader. The result is, in my opinion, all the more inspiring because of it. Rather than speaking to us from atop a high horse, Dr. Crosby sits beside us, pats us on the knee, and tells us like a true friend that we need to pull our heads out. Who couldn’t use a friend like that?

One thing stood in my way of enjoying Dr. Crosby’s book as much as I could have. The copy I received had numerous typos in it, sometimes surprisingly many to a page. I have been assured by the author that such typos have been remedied and are no longer an issue. I feel it would be unfair of me not to mention the errors, as they were a part of my reading experience. Fortunately, they will not be a part of yours.


  1. It sounds delightful. And first off, the typos are nothing to worry about. I've received several from EarlyReviewers that are not the final edited product. The typos and grammar mistakes can be annoying if you start worrying about getting them fixed.

    Your friends book sound very interesting, like it's just what some of us need. And now is a good time to get a copy and start thinking. Is it published yet ??

  2. Yes, it's published. And I think you would enjoy it quite a bit. I'm doubtful that you can easily find it in a physical bookstore, but you can pick up a copy through Amazon easily enough. Here's a link you can click to get directly to it:

    You're Not That Great

  3. Thanks Ben. It sounds good. I'm behind reading about 10 kidding. I t makes me wonder if I've given it up and just haven't told myself so yet. ???? Lots of things in my life can apply to that question right now.