Review: From Strength to Strength

From Strength to Strength Book Cover
From Strength to Strength Book Cover

Nothing lasts forever, so does our glory in life. Life is like a wheel and it is a bitter pill of truth yet some high-achievers would find it hard to swallow.

In From Strength to Strength, Arthur C. Brooks, a social scientist in Harvard, convinces the reader that we don’t have to be terrified by the inevitability of life declining because other meaningful sparks might be waiting for us in our latter part of life that even could be brighter.

Unhappy is he who depends on success to be happy.

Alex Dias Ribeiro, a former Formula 1 race car driver.

A success addict under striver’s curse.

Success addicts are people who prefer being special to happy and never feel successful enough. “My work is my life” is their motto. They put their professional life as their identity. Once their successful career comes to an end, they lose their identity. Life is no longer meaningful. There will not be life after success.

Brooks introduced the reader with a term called striver’s curse. It refers to people who strive to be excellent at what they do often wind up finding their inevitable decline terrifying, their successes increasingly unsatisfying, and their relationship lacking.

Decline is unavoidable. But aging isn’t all bad news.

We get the hang of practice makes perfect, work hard then we’ll earn what we run for. Until suddenly, they don’t work out anymore. Progress is no longer a straight line upwards. Instead of embracing the declining phase of life, we think something is wrong with us. We close our eyes to see that another kind of triumph may exist. Even if we notice it, jumping to another strengths is dreaded. Courage and fortitude are needed to transform our life.

We have to seize a decline for anything that we have been worked so hard to attain as early as 30s, or as late as 50s. Brooks argues that it happens due to several reasons:

  • Intelligence decline with age
  • Our brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex, is changing its performance. It is responsible for working memory and help us to block out useless information so we can focus and develop our core skill. Declining of prefrontal cortex has several effects such as hard to do multitasking, we are no longer great at creative innovation, and hard to recall names and facts.

By the time it comes, we have to admit what we earn to this point won’t work to get into the future. Discovering new strength and skill is a must. Learning, understanding, improving, and practicing a new way of thinking to find a meaningful path and even might makes positive impact to surroundings.

Brooks offers some clues on what we’re good at as we age, such as:

  • vocabulary, even in multi languages
  • solving complicated problem by collaborating ideas.
  • good understanding in theory and how to present it to people

Going through liminality.

Liminality means an uncomfortable process in life transitions. It is indeed scary but no matter how hard it is, the good news of liminality is no matter how unwelcome transitions are usually seen differently in retrospect than they are in real time. Research shows that we tend to see significant past events—even undesirable ones at the time—as net positives over time. This is in part because unpleasant feelings fade more than pleasant feelings do, a phenomenon known as “fading affect bias.”

Any kind of steps that we would like to take to go under liminality, we will remember them as a memorable stage.

What to do to get through a good liminality?

  1. Identify what we want. Something that you’ll be glad to work, sacrifice, and even suffer for.
  2. The work has to be rewarded. Right goals lead you no only to your success but also the career itself is your reward.
  3. Find work that is a balance of enjoyable and meaningful. Ask yourself “Is this work deeply interesting to me?”
  4. Embrace that pivot career doesn’t have to be a linear progress.

The unhappiest people were consistently those paying the most attention to how they performed relative to other subjects.

Arthur C. Brooks, From Strength to Strength.


Brooks impressed me in the first half of the book then I set my expectation so high, I hope the last half of the book will be the roadmap to be success in the second part of our life. Sadly, the last chapters are a little bit hazy and he only provided brief explanation to secure purpose and meaningful life. Personally, I think another book titled Life Is In The Transition, a book that Brooks referenced, offers better direction on how to deal with unexpected change of life.

Author: Arthur C. Brooks

Genre: non-fiction

Publication date: 15 February 2022

Publisher: Portfolio

Number of pages: 272 pages


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