Book Review #4:
Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being
There is a good book in here somewhere. There really is. Brian Little has delivered some great TED Talks that highlight the best of his ideas. However, Little as an author does not have a strong enough voice as a writer to get his point across in Me, Myself, and Us. The book tells us in the title we will learn about the ‘Science of Personality’ and the ‘Art of Well-Being.’ While there is ample presentation of today’s leading theories regarding the science of personality, there is essentially no content regarding the art of well-being. Now, that in itself wouldn’t make the book bad — but it sets up an expectation while reading which never comes to fruition. In fact, the theme of expectations never coming to fruition is an ongoing motif of this book. Chapters continue to set up great themes and great ideas. Excellent pointed questions regarding personality dynamics are lined up like bowling pins just waiting for the author to knock them down for us — and he never does.
The book largely dissects personality types and examines them under a lens which filters people though various personality scales and classifications. Most people have heard of the Myers-Briggs personality test. Little disregards this test and others as outdated and instead throws dozens of other ‘modern’ personality rating tests at the reader that inevitably become difficult to keep track of. The amount of acronyms and abbreviations in the book become a nuisance to keep track of after a certain point. An example of such an acronym is OCEAN:
1. openness to creativity
This, in and of itself, is completely acceptable and understandable; but there are quite seemingly dozens of these in the book. After a while you forget what HSM, LSM, WXYZ and all supposed to stand for.
Little will then delve into personal stories about himself, or people that he knows, whom embody each of these traits and what it says and/or means about them. I felt as if the personal stories greatly detracted from the quality of the book and their delivery inevitably left Little rambling on to the point where you forget what point he was trying to make. To take it a step further, Little himself often rambles so much that he talks himself out of his own arguments and often concludes by conceding that the counterpoint could be just as equally viable as the point he started out trying to demonstrate. With Little’s authoritative voice on such shaky ground, it invites the reader to take anything written on these pages with nothing more than a grain of salt. Continually he will create binary categorizations which inevitably clash – and when they do he has no resolution for this construct he has created. He is stuck. And so are we as the reader. There are seeds of ideas here, but nothing is fully developed or committed to.
Little tackles topics which attempt to analyze where certain ‘types’ of people fit in, or do not fit in, with the populace of society at large. He hopes that by understanding personality types we can better construct or find (Based on your personality you would attempt to construct or attempt to find) the ideal circumstances to thrive in the world.
Brian Little is obviously a very well accomplished and intelligent man. However, if you want to glean the most from his ideas; you are better off watching his TED Talks and other oratory presentations on YouTube, rather than reading his book. His speeches and lectures are much more pointed and digestible than this written text which seems to drag on and on with its feet in the mud, never really getting anywhere.
In fact — I’ve included a link to a TED Talk delivered by Little. Definitely the stronger of his two chosen delivery methods: