Title: Redefining Success: Still Making Mistakes 
Author: W. Brett Wilson
Publisher: Penguin Books Canada Ltd.
Publish Date: November 6 2012
Hardcover: 256 pages
Cover Price: $32.00
eBook Versions Available: Yes
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We first saw saw the author talk at Profit by Design 2012  in Vancouver, and were impressed with his affability, honesty and willingness to share every aspect of his story, qualities which he has extended to the written version of his story. In Redefining Success: Still Making Mistakes, Brett Wilson bares it all, and owns the mistakes he made right alongside the decisions that lent to the success he has achieved. The style of this book is not a pure step-by-step instructional manual. It’s part autobiography, part inspirational and very easy to read.
As with most books I review, I checked to see what other reviewers had said about Brett’s book, to see if my impressions were “within market” or differ completely. I read other reviews by people who said they felt that while the book did offer some good advice, it was mostly name-dropping and the author’s recognizing others who are members of the rich and powerful club. What I took away from this book, and from my own experience, is that a large portion of business people today have forgotten the simple principles on which deals were once done.
A modern world that seems quick to invoke litigation and a society that seems to focus more on “what’s in it for me” and perceived wrongs than “what can I do to help” and a collaborative world, Brett’s book is a subtle call to action. I am well aware of my own shortcomings and areas for improvement – fear, discipline and time management being three of my greatest daily challenges. I’m not always successful at beating those challenges, but it will come, as will gaining a handle on things I need to follow through on to complete obligations long overdue.
I know that the ideals Brett writes about in his book – doing business solely with people who will seal a deal with a handshake, as a prime example – had an effect on me when I found myself getting angrier and angrier while processing statements and invoices for my day job. I work for my parents in what is now a 4th generation company, founded by my Grandparents on the principle of handshakes seal a deal and your word was your contract. Fairness and community involvement were a given. Going through the list of receivables for said company, I found myself taking note of how many companies wanted a service right now, but were not willing to pay promptly for that service, essentially breaking a good faith contract of payment for services rendered. Nor did some want to pay fair market value for the quality of the work done.
It has become apparent, as I mentioned here previously, that the state of our modern business acumen at times leaves much to be desired, and it is sad how far these simple, honourable principles seem to have fallen down the wayside. My thoughts while working through the pile of invoices led to my making mental notes on what I personally needed to do in trying to finally launch our project, so that we are no longer depending on my parents’ company for an income from an industry neither one of us has any passion for – and this, for me, was an important milestone of sorts.
While there are certainly other books I’ve read that may have carried similar messages, it was the way Brett drilled those principles home that, I think, finally made the fire ignite. I generally rate books on what I get as a takeaway from them – when I read a non-fiction book, I am generally looking to learn something, or to gain a different perspective from my own, and to that end, Redefining Success served the purpose.
I have not really revealed or addressed exactly what is contained in Brett’s book, because I am hoping that you will at least preview it online or thumb through it the next time you’re in the bookstore, because I honestly feel that it is worth the time it will take you to read it. Brett’s book is a looking glass into who he is as a businessman, a father, a philanthropist and a human being. While he does speak of the advantages his success has afforded him in the life experiences he has shared with his children or embarked upon himself, he recognizes how fragile those successes can be, and the importance or recognizing what is truly important in life, no matter your income level, along with the importance of paying opportunities forward. The important thing about Brett’s book is that it had an effect on me personally, which I think is every author’s goal – that their words will in some way impact the reader – and in that, Brett has succeeded.
I also drew from the book the characteristics and actions of the Dragon’s Den contestants he talks about in the book – what it is about the ventures that drew his interest and support, and what it was about the people behind the ventures that made said ventures viable (and in most cases, successful). These are all areas that we need to consider as we continue to build, rebuild, refine, test, rebuild again and inch our own project towards launch, overcoming equipment, time and financial challenges one step at a time. In one aspect, at least, I know we are succeeding – we do not use our friendships and social situations for the gleaning of rumours or secrets to be published on this site. People who know us know that they don’t need to worry that we will exploit a social moment or violate a confidence – the consequences of such actions simply do not equal the value of our friendships and the ways in which they enrich our lives – I refuse to sacrifice that for the sake of a story that will be forgotten by week’s end.
I think it’s quite evident by now that I recommend adding Redefining Success: Still Making Mistakes to your reading list. It is not a magical how-to book, it’s not a step-by-step to business success book, either. It is, in my opinion, one part of a foundation upon which to build a pattern of living that can lead to a successful and satisfying work-life existence that is more about enjoying the journey than punching a time clock. It is about being involved on every level of your life, and about making a difference in the lives of those around you. Idyllic? Perhaps, but I feel that this book has provided another piece of the key I need to open the door and move forward with less guilt about the traditional family business and more hope that I can achieve at least a few things on my big list of stuff I’d like to do with my life. One more thing that I got from Brett – it’s never too late to try.