Book Review: The Three Success Secrets of Shamgar

“The Three Success Secrets of Shamgar” by Pat Williams, Jay Strack, and Jim Denney.  Faith Communications, publisher.  208 pages.

  • Critical read
  • Must read
  • Good read
  • Read if you want
  • Read something else

Why read this book:  Far too many people are stuck in their planning, stuck before they get to executing their plans, or stuck when they get to the first obstacle.  Many people are just stuck at a certain point in life.  The value in this book, even if you are not currently stuck, is that it gives a simple and effective perspective on how to get moving and keep moving.  While the perspective and framework is (surprisingly) simple, because of its simplicity it is easy to remember and easy to make operational.  In short, it works.

The point: The simple framework that serves as a useful perspective on problems as well as opportunities is just three-points.  Start where you are.  Use what you have.  Do what you can.  These three simple, profound points echo the words of Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”  Arthur Ashe is also quoted as stating the same words as the title of the book.

To some this may seem simplistic, but simplicity is a virtue when faced with difficulty or with opportunity.  Grand plans and elaborate schemes do not make for rapid, meaningful progress, especially when the stakes are high or the time is short.  To over-plan is invite paralysis, or as Arthur Ashe put it, “paralysis by analysis.”  Those who get stuff done, especially when time or outcomes are critical factors, will resonate with this simple three-point framework.

So who is this Shamgar?  He is a figure from the history of ancient Israel, a man tapped to be a “judge,” a ruler under the Hebrew system prior to the first kingdom.  His only references in history are from the historical books of the Old Testament, where he gets a scant two verses, roughly 42 words.  What we know of his story is that in a time of oppression by neighboring raiders, Shamgar took an ox-goad, a long, heavy pole with a bronze point, and killed roughly 600 of these raiders.  How he did it or what his battle plan was is not recorded.  Yet what is recorded is that the unsecure, unsafe frontier was secured, and the raiders did not return for many years.

The specifics of how he did it is not important, for the more critical strategic information is implied in this short story.  Shamgar started where he was, on the frontier and subject to raids that were threatening his family and neighbors.  Action was needed if things were to change.  Shamgar used what he had, which was a pole with a bronze tip.  Shamgar did what he could with it, which was to employ the ox-goad as a make-shift weapon – a darn effective one, apparently – to terrorize the terrorists.  When 600 of them had been killed, the remaining went home and stayed home.

The impact: The simple three-point framework might seem a little too simplistic for some, perhaps.  I suspect that might be because they haven’t tried it yet. The perspective of the authors is based upon faith in the God of the Bible, and the writing reflects that perspective clearly.  If that is not your perspective, the three-step framework and the examples in the book will still be relevant and useful to you.  They work because they are objectively effective.

This framework has been highly effective numerous times in my life in a wide variety of situations.  This is the framework I used in choosing a graduate degree and school. It was useful in choosing a career level employment when I relocated 11 years ago, and again 18 months ago when I started my own business.  I cannot count the times this has guided my thinking in the wilderness when facing an unexpected obstacle, setback or even possible disaster.  More than once, when the chips were down, the three points came to mind and got me moving toward safety immediately.  It then kept me moving to self-extrication regardless of subsequent obstacles. Likewise, it has been useful in making numerous financial and business decisions.  It even provides the framework for my physical fitness activities.  And how about planning my supper?  Yep.  Works well there, better than my actual cooking.

In short, this three-point framework for moving forward both strategically and tactically is seemingly universal in it application.  It is the antidote to paralysis and uncertainty, and the key to rapid analysis of a situation and the options available.  It provides an easy reminder to choose now, get moving, keep moving, and create success out of what you have.

Quotes: “Do you think John Grisham, Bill Gates, or Mother Theresa had extra-capacity wristwatches that hold more hours than yours?  Fact is, every human being on the planet gets exactly sixty minutes per hour, twenty-four hours per day, same as every other human being.  So if you’re waiting until you get more time, you have a long wait ahead of you.  If you want to get anything accomplished before you die, then you must start here and now.  Don’t “find time” – make time.  That means you have to prioritize.  You have to quit doing what doesn’t count and start doing the very thing that is most important to you.  And you must do it now.”

“You don’t need to be rich or powerful or famous to make a positive impact on your world.  You just need to bloom where you’re planted.  You just need to start where you are.  That’s all anyone can do.  And it’s always enough.”

Disclaimer: The third author is my brother.  Try to not hold that against him.

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