"So the question isn't just: how do you contribute? The question is: how do you make a contribution that lasts?"

This 122 page essay, including a Glossary, Koans, References, and an Index, offers much information in a densely-packed book. It consists of nine chapters: I: Getting Started, II: Dealing with Complexity, III: Your Resources, IV: The Design of Action, V: Embody Your Goal, and VI: Empirical Problems. The final chapters include: VII: Theoretical Problems, VIII: Why, and IX: Contribution, with the focus on Aristotle's four causes. The initial chapter examines making a lasting contribution regarding material, efficient, formal, and final causes. At the end of the book, the author summarizes, "You can make a lasting contribution to the world if you pursue a worthy goal (final cause), master your resources (material cause), have a plan for maximizing your efficacy (formal cause), take sophisticated action (efficient cause), and coordinate the fours causes so they work together."

Chapter II examines efficient cause concerning taking action to get the results you want, results that are complex and ever-moving, gathering feedback, having foreknowledge, calculating comparative advantage, trading problems, and applying what you know. Chapter III focuses on your resources, including material assets as well as cultivating your own inner resources and utilizing others' expertise. Chapter IV, revolving around formal cause, examines the logos (word) and plans for how to use these resources. This includes developing goals, allocating resources, examining risk, and documenting the plans. Embodying your goal is the focus of Chapter V, which completes the four causes. Here we learn how to focus on the spirit, values, and motivation for success.

The ending of the book includes the final four chapters that examine exploring empirical problems using this theory, looking at how this theory works with other theories, and utilizing ethics and doubt to help you form a more meaningful life. The last chapter explores others who have made lasting contributions while also utilizing the four causes. Likewise, the writings on Koans, described as "puzzle(s) to ponder" and which can lead to further understanding, adds an interesting dimension to the book. Here we find questions regarding life processes, while the author asks us to answer these questions as a way of developing a meaningful life.

This is an award-winning book regarding how to manage your life and create meaning in this lifetime. Its focus is more a take on Confucianism than on Zen or Taoism. It is chock-full of steps to take to become one who leaves a positive mark on the world. For we all need to have a purpose in life; if not, our contributions are lacking in heart and soul.

Utilizing Aristotle's four causes helps the reader to develop a path in work and as a result, a path in life. The author utilizes the wisdom of many others such as Peter Drucker, Warren Buffett, Sun Tzu, psychologist Robert Glasser, Buddhist scholar D. T. Suzuki, and psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor, Viktor Frankl. The book contains valuable, practical information, although it reads as a step-by-step self-help book that is mostly intellectual and based on others' work, rather than a passionate plea to change your life. If you desire a quick, clinical read, you will find this helpful in your process of making a lasting contribution to the world. It can be an excellent companion to other books that have a more in-depth examination of personal reinvention.

This was a 2008 Eric Hoffer Book Award winner.

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