Thursday, February 9, 2012

Speaking of Take the Stairs - A Book Review

A couple of weeks ago my friend Rory Vaden sent me a review copy of his latest book, Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success (amazon affiliate link). I haven't read his prior offerings, but I've heard him onstage, in both Toastmasters and professional settings, and followed his career with interest. He's an amazing young man, though growing a bit long in the tooth by now - I think he's actually 30 - and has worked harder to get where he's gotten than most people I know. The only question I had left was about to be answered: could he translate his speaking, his philosophies, his life, into a book worth reading?

He keeps the book simple in structure - 7 Steps, 7 chapters: Sacrifice, Commitment, Focus, Integrity, Schedule, Faith, and Action. At just under 300 pages, it's still a fast read (I read it in about 5 semi-interrupted hours - but I knew some of the stories he tells, so your mileage may vary). The layout is easy to look at, with large quotes from the copy every other page or so embedded into the page itself (no wasted pages, but plenty of white space), and each chapter contains a real-life case study from a professional using the chapters concept in their life and business, concluding with links to online content, both a helpful and smart marketing strategy.

Rory's basic premise is that the world is more prone to take the escalator than the stairs. Who can argue? I hate the stairs, myself, though I have better reasons than many. His book delves into each of his concepts from a point of view of someone who believes success is an action, not just an attitude. He includes stories from his childhood (which isn't as rosy as his cover photo might indicate), his college years as a door to door children's books salesman, his journey to the World Championship of Public Speaking, and his eventual success as co-founder of Southwestern Consulting.

He never sounds too self-congratulatory, despite his long list of successes. He gives credit where credit is due, and uses the lessons he's learned to inspire and instruct the reader, as opposed to building himself up. He lets us in on both his emotions and his motions as he's experienced life - making his struggles feel real and his successes seem realistic and achievable by anyone willing to "do what we don't feel like doing".

In his Preface - "Waking up in a ProcrastiNation", Rory lays the groundwork for the rest of the book - helping us find our pain and frustration with life, and offering the promise of solutions in the forthcoming pages. His concepts are not new, but he acknowledges this from the start. If you've read Zig Ziglar (who Rory counts as a mentor), this book will feel familiar, but always through his own lens of living.

Rory updates time-honored concepts for the 21st century, showing us what can be done today, not 50 years ago when Zig was selling pots and pans. He walks us through success in today's world, overcoming a world that is entirely different from the days of Brian Tracy, Jim Rohn, and even Tony Robbins. 2000 World Champion of Public Speaking Ed Tate suggested Rory might be the next Zig Ziglar - and this book seems to aspire to such greatness.

It's not a perfect book. There's a bit of repetition in the stories told, and occasionally his youth shows through in his choice of examples - "Nocturnal Emissions" as a section header is certainly a risque, and risky, proposition, though it stays within the realm of today's standards. Other than the case studies, the book uses his life as an example almost exclusively, which is a shame because he has a wide network of people whose stories would serve well in the book.

Despite its imperfections, some of which might be considered a bit nit-picky on my part, I can recommend this book both to people looking for inspiration and life tools, as well as to speakers who want an example of how to write a mainstream self-help tome. It's not as hard as it looked back in the old days, and Rory makes it look easy compared to the classics such as Ziglar's "See You at the Top".

Some may look at Rory and say he's too young to have these opinions, to tell us how to live life, and will take his thoughts as condescending - but those people need to take a closer look at the man behind the shiny image. He's walked the walk - and taken more steps to success than most people are willing to admit it takes. There's no 'Easy Button' in his approach, just good old fashioned discipline.

To answer my own question - Yes, Rory has created a book worth reading. The next question? What's next for this rising star?

Disclaimer: Rory and I competed together at the 2006 World Championship of Public Speaking in Washington DC, and briefly worked together in 2007 at his company Southwestern Consulting. He did not ask me to review this book.


  1. Nice review. I am confused by your final note, "He did not ask me to review this book" when coupled with your opening line, "A couple of weeks ago my friend Rory Vaden sent me a review copy of his latest book..."

    Did you simply mean he didn't explicitly ask for a review on your blog? I think you did an awesome job with it either way, and of course, now I'm jealous since he didn't send me an advance copy. :)

  2. Rob, you hit the nail on the head. Technically he sent me an 'uncorrected proof' - a paperback edition. But he in no way indicated he wanted me to review it. I'm glad I got to read and review it though :)

  3. I just received my "uncorrected proof" at his event in Wichita. It was great to see him. Are you going to his even in Denver tomorrow?

  4. Rory is a good speaker. He could be a better speaker if he took the advice of World Champion Speaker Craig Valentine and use the "you" in his speeches. Instead of repeatedly saying "we" he could instead say "you"...this would make his speeches a LOT more personal and impactful.



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