June 20th, 2011

It All Begins With Self: A Review of the Late Hal Hendrick’s Last Book

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[Editor's Note: Volunteer translator Cesar Perez has translated this article into the Spanish, which can be downloaded in pdf format.]

I’m not a big fan of self-help books, which often consist of pop-psychology and overstated claims of ‘amazing’ and ‘miraculous’ life-changing results, so when I received a copy of world-renowned ergonomist Hal Hedrick’s new book, It All Begins With Self: How to Become a More Effective and Happier You!, I was almost dreading the read.

But Hal Hendrick didn’t strike me as one who would subscribe to such fluff, let alone write a book about it. Besides, Hal has been a huge inspiration for me and countless others in the ergonomics profession, and even if this seemed like an odd subject for him, I reasoned, it was still worth reading, at least as a favor, if nothing else. So, after letting it sit on my desk for a few weeks, I grudgingly opened the cover and began to read. In retrospect, I sure wish I’d read it immediately upon receipt, because Hal died before I had a chance to complete my review and interview him for this article.

Wow. It’s All About Self is definitely not pop-psychology. As he writes in the preface, Hal was inspired to write this book by former students from a college course he taught for 19 years, "psychological factors in management." By their own accounts, many of his students did in fact become better managers applying the material from the course, and they — and even some of their spouses — also reported that the class had improved their interpersonal relationship skills and made them happier because of it.

The behavioral models he presents in this book are research based, yet easily understood and read as Hal weaves in his own experiences and life lessons to illustrate the concepts. In fact, you can hear Hal’s gentle tone and sagely wisdom throughout the pages — he continues to mentor us even after his passing.

As the book’s title implies, he starts by focusing on evidence-based models surrounding the concept of "self."

If you have a truly accurate concept of your self, then you are truly free to realize your potential and to achieve what you wish.

Sure, that makes sense, but rather than delving straight into feel-good, self-discovery pop psychology, Hal states a critical follow-up question:

How do I recognize unrealistic notions of myself and separate them from the real?

This sets the tone for the book. In that first chapter, he presents various models of "self," including "The Looking Glass Self," "The Ideal Versus the Real Self," "Freud’s Id, Ego, and Super-Ego," and my favorite, "The Johari Window Model for Knowing Self," a model that will help you understand whether you have "bull in the china closet," "turtle" or "facade" tendencies (yicks! Seems like I have all of these tendencies at one time or another …).

Using Self as a foundation, he draws on numerous other research grounded models to build a knowledge base for improving one’s self, communicating better, and becoming an effective leader. (See below for a list of chapter headings). As Hal put it,

The remainder of this book will help you determine the "why" and provide guidance on what to do about it.

In essence, the book is not just about discovering who you are and living happier ever after; it’s about learning to understand who you are and set in motion a process of improvement. It’s also about understanding who others are, and learning to use that knowledge to influence them to improve, as good managers do. It All Begins With Self is not a step-by-step blue-print you can follow to suddenly become a better person, but instead provides an evidence based foundation for understanding who you and those around you are, and how to apply that knowledge to improve.

Hal Hendrick continues to inspire and challenge me. Ergoweb readers have already, unknowingly, experienced a taste of one of my early take-away lessons from my first read of this new book. In Volunteers Translate Ergoweb Articles into Farsi and Chinese — More Languages Sought, I blather on about ‘givers’ and ‘takers,’ a discussion inspired by the following statement from It All Begins With Self: 

Learning the skills of giving help is an important part of your interpersonal effectiveness. Learning the skills of receiving help is an equally important part of becoming interpersonally effective.

I wouldn’t expect you to be moved in the same way I was by this short, simple passage — I’m sure you’ll find your own insights and inspirations when you read the book. And I’m sure I will find more and more inspiration as I re-read the book. I rarely re-read a book, but this one keeps coming back to mind, and I not only feel the need to return to its pages, but look forward to doing so.

Leave it to a man who was facing his own mortality in a battle with cancer to write a book to help others be more effective and happier in their own lives. Hal Hendrick is the epitome of a ‘giver,’ and I encourage you to receive one of his final gifts: It All Begins With Self: How to Become a More Effective and Happier You! If you knew Hal, you’ll be able to hear his voice in these pages. If you never met Hal, you’ll get a good feel for his wisdom and integrity through this book. Either way, all readers will gain the knowledge to become a better person, and a better manager.

Hal self-published his final book, and Ergoweb and Ergobuyer have agreed to work with his family to assist in the distribution of remaining copies. Our proceeds will be donated to support the Ergonomists Without Borders initiative that Hal formulated through the Foundation for Professional Ergonomics (FPE). While supplies last, you may purchase the book from the Ergobuyer.com store for $22, plus shipping. You certainly won’t regret it, and it may even change your life … it all begins with you.

 

Chapter Headings from It’s All About Self: How to Become a More Effective and Happier You!

Chapter 1: Self Concept: Learning to Know Who Your Really Are

Chapter 2: Adaptive and Non-Adaptive Behavior

Chapter 3: Understanding and Improving Your Interpersonal Communication

Chapter 4: Influencing the Behavior of Others

Chapter 5: Understanding and Reducing Your Stress

Chapter 6: Understanding and Moving Towards Conceptual Maturity

Chapter 7: Becoming an Effective Leader



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