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The Answer to How Is Yes: Acting on What Matters

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  551 ratings  ·  53 reviews
Modern culture's worship of "how-to" pragmatism has turned us into instruments of efficiency and commerce--but we're doing more and more about things that mean less and less. We constantly ask "how? and still struggle to find purpose and act on what matters. Instead of acting on what we know to be of importance, we wait for bosses to change, we seek the latest fad, we inve ...more
Paperback, 216 pages
Published January 1st 2003 by Berrett-Koehler Publishers (first published January 1st 2001)
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Feb 14, 2013 rated it it was ok

This book really taught me something.

1. Pages total: The Answer to How is Yes: Acting on What Matters is 206 pages long--6 pages of which are index; 1 is bibliography; 2 are acknowledgements; 1 is author bio; another 2 of author's business profile and workshops; 1 about the publisher; 3 more of the publisher's books; and 15 repeat photos Bill Dan's wonderful rock sculpture (14 times too many). Total: 176 pages of material.

2. Repetition of material: By the second chapte
"If we could agree that for six months we would not ask How? , something in our lives, our institutions, and our culture might shift for the better. It would force us to engage in conversations about why we do what we do, as individuals and as institutions. It would create the space for longer discussions about purpose, about what is worth doing. It would refocus our attention on deciding what is the right question, rather than what is the right answer.” — Peter Block

Peter Block has a way of bri
Nov 19, 2017 rated it liked it
I never would have read this book if a consultant who worked with our school last year had not recommended it. This is a book that begs to be read with others, discussing each chapter along the way. At times I had to stop, ponder, reread sections, and think about how to apply this to my life and work.

Full of many relevant points, I must be honest that this book made me regret not reading it sooner so I could have applied some of these ideas when we began our competencies' work last year. Howeve
Oct 13, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
I wanted to find a practical way to determine what the right things to do are, and then how to do them. Ends up this is the anti-how to book. Block argues that we give too much attention to questions of how to do things, especially when we start a new project. Asking how can be a cop-out. Instead, he suggests we try to figure out why we want to do things. He offers six questions he says are typical of folks using “how thinking” and then provides six counter questions that try to determine if you ...more
Cameron Roxburgh
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
OK. So what makes an excellent book? I must be honest, I have enjoyed and resonated with other books perhaps more, but rarely have I been challenged as much or been in awe as much as I was with this book.

I am amazed. I have read a few of Peter Block's books. His style isn't my style. He is a very deep thinker, and I have to work at even getting half of what is in the book... but I found myself so grateful that even in what is not explicitly a Christian book, there are challenges in the book that
Apr 01, 2011 rated it did not like it
I was not a fan of this book but I enjoyed the discussions it sparked among my coworkers. We enjoyed many soul-searching sessions and I feel I've grown closer to my immediate work group and I'm grateful for that.

The style of writing was too wishy-washy and a bit contradictory of itself at times. Block shows a clear preference for one way of being in the world and I tend to be more inclusive of different personality styles (though I identified greatly with the Engineer Archetype he describes.)

Sarah Toney
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great insights into living and working in meaningful ways to create a rich life and to change the world for the better. At times difficult to grasp what he's really saying. This book would be best supported with deep conversation, but there were times that I felt I needed to highlight pages at a time. Important work. ...more
Kate Arms
May 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Taking time to do what matters IS what matters

A lovely antidote to the current cultural moment where we have devalued meaningful goals for tactics and strategy to get the next thing done.

A clarion call for bringing the reality of the human condition to bear on the practicalities of life.
Game.Changer. Become a citizen of your own life.
Jonathan Malone
Jul 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Note: This is more of a reflection than a review

We can’t do it alone.
I have been listening to a podcast about comic books and comic book culture. It is my way of retaining my adult responsibilities, eschewing the commitment of actually purchasing and reading comic books, and still holding onto a semblance of my adolescent desire to escape the painful waking reality in which I dwell and run to the fantasy land of heroes and monsters. In listening to this particular podcast I have come to embrace
Boone Bolinder
Mar 08, 2018 rated it liked it
A very different type of business book. I quite enjoyed most of it. The struggle within me is, and always has been, is this really what I should be doing? Will I be happy that I'm doing this 1 year, 5 years, 10 years from now?

I think Peter Block does a fantastic job laying out the struggle, but recognizes that there really is no answer.

When we resort directly to “how?” questions when we have an idea or are thinking about acting on what matters what we are often expressing is our lack of
Núria Aloy
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book has truly inspired me. The perspective shared here will delight idealists.

Acting on what matters means postponing the How? questions - the insecurities they express, the perceived need for predictability, the seek for certainty via expert answers - to focus on the questions that tap into our deepest values. "Our freedom begins with knowing our intentions, knowing what matters to us, knowing which values will guide our actions." How? questions are analyzed and contrasted with wh
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book would be best read with others to discuss a few chapters at a time. There is a lot of good information. I would have liked to read it with colleagues so it could be put in context with our work.
There are many good insights and the best are in the chapter about archetypes of leaders.
I recommend this book.
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
He's trying to convince teams to stop rushing toward solutions and look at the bigger picture. He has a strong social conscience and I applaud his efforts and intentions! I love his writing and overall ambitions to bring what I consider a deeper, more ethical - let's call it spiritual - accountability to the workplace in all his books. ...more
Alina Yahyaie
Dec 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
At first when I saw this book, I thought with my self that I am not going to read this book. But suddenly one day I decided to read some few pages of this book cause I am addicted of reading books, and then I became a fan of this author,... just awesome, I leaned many things♥️ thank you
Chris Downey
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Most of the book really resonated with me and gave a timely reminder of questioning what is important. I liked the passages on idealism and being accountable to what matters. A few sections didn't resonate so much, but overall, worth a read. ...more
Mendon Library
Mar 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: heidi
By reading this book I learned you need to first say yes I can do this rather than how. We need to stay in tune with our heart and let our passions carry us through life. Live life it to the fullest. Be intune with our emotions rather than pushing them aside.
Jun 07, 2017 rated it liked it
First half of the book was helpful. The second half was a critique of culture. The correction offered wasn't bad but not anything surprising or new. ...more
Ann Douglas
Dec 28, 2018 rated it liked it
A guide to "pursuing what most matters to us and living with the adventure and anxiety that this requires." A bit abstract and philosophical for my taste, but still a worthwhile read. ...more
Julie Legault
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book made me rethink all my business relationships in a fundamental way.
Feb 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
So hard to read. It is both repetitive and meandering. I wanted to like it, but at the end, I am not even sure what it was about.
Sep 26, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
Like many of the self-help books out there, there is one central thought repeated ad nauseum. Not a bad concept - that one should consider if something is worth doing before becoming enmeshed in the practical details, but I didn't find it life-changing so much as common sense. But I did skip around and skim a great deal because of the repetition. ...more
Amy Moritz
Sep 30, 2011 rated it liked it
In all honesty, I picked up this book because of the title. I absolutely loved the sentiment and wanted to know more. After all, I have lots of projects that I've started or would like to start and always seem to run into the question (whether from others or in my own head) exactly how are you going to do this?

In this book, Block looks at how we are caught up in a results-oriented culture that looks for the right answers when perhaps we should be looking for the right questions. We want to know
Sep 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
I think that for some of us--namely, me, once upon a time--who feel caught in a corporate culture that doesn't quite fit, it would be all too easy to dismiss Peter Block's book as a nice idea that "won't work here." Fortunately, Block doesn't let us off the hook so conveniently. The title of the book speaks to our rush to move to process instead of staying with more fundamental questions that ask us first to consider what matters. Otherwise, we find ourselves doing more and more about things tha ...more
Nov 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: coaching
The main concept behind the book is that we have been conditioned to ask the wrong types of questions when making decisions. We often ask "How do I get X?" when we should first be asking "Why do I want this?" or "Is this Right?" If we base our decisions more on whether we're doing the right thing for the right reason (if we answer yes) then we can move to the how's of getting it done.

Organizations often place too much emphasis on the how versus why and that can lead to a stunted and ineffective
Mar 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I read Block in graduate school. Bought this because the title intregued me. His responses to How - literally changed the way I think about my life and decdisions I have made. He sees "How" as the way to avoid the deeper questions. Block is unusual in the field of business writers. All of his books look, without fail, at what how we work determines the depth of our soul. This one leaves me with the question "what matters?"

Below is the publisher's review.

...morePeople keep asking "How?" as a de
Michelle  Foggett-Parker
Jan 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
I discovered Peter Block's writing quite by accident. When I realized that he has written several books on community, stewardship, and work, I immediately checked all of his books out of the library.

This is the first book by Block that I have read and I'm going to keep reading his books.
He offers a new way of thinking about our actions that help free us from being controlled by the bombardment of messages about how we should live and act.

There are so many takeaways from this book. Taking them a
Feb 15, 2017 rated it liked it
The title gives it away :)
ReImagine Science
Feb 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is perfect for those inquiring with us about the future of science and technology. As the author states, "the question of intent and purpose precede the question of methodology." I especially like the section on self-agency in our work-places. Peter suggests that rather than 'blaming up' while also looking to our bosses and mentors (a parental role), we give over our own responsibility. He in fact states that most people are afraid of their bosses - not a good dynamic for effective wor ...more
Jun 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: leadership
Every once and a while I need to read a book that reminds me of the value of ideals and principles for living. Management consultant and author Peter Block does just that in this book. In the same vein as Deep Change (Robert Quinn), Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey), and Hidden Wholeness (Parker Palmer), this book calls for people to fight the tendency of our culture (especially in organizational life) to let cost analyses, efficiencies and what seems "realistic" to rule th ...more
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