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Book Summary: The Achievement Habit – Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life

Do you wish you could design your life the way that engineers design machines or city planners design roads? You can by using “design thought.” In this book summary of The Achievement Habit, you’ll learn the principles of design thought and how to apply them to your life, so you can stop making excuses and start achieving your goals.

Achievement is a muscle — flex yours!


  • Are a procrastinator
  • Want to learn how to ask better questions
  • Have trouble staying focused


This book is a pleasure. It offers helpful advice and engaging, illustrative anecdotes. Bernard Roth calls upon his design perspective – and lessons he learned as academic director at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University – to offer workable suggestions for building an active, successful approach to work and life. He provides ways to achieve goals you might not otherwise reach and shares the motivational secrets he’s been teaching his graduate design students for years. Most of his ideas are easy to implement – like to stop making excuses – and can make a big difference in your life. Roth also suggests deep breathing, meditative exercises and visualization to assist readers in overcoming a negative self-image. Overall, Roth provides worthy assistance for setting and achieving your goals. We recommend his insights to anyone seeking to free themselves from destructive habits and become more productive.

Book Summary: The Achievement Habit - Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life


  • Anyone can learn how to improve his or her life.
  • Be open to new perspectives. Your view of people and the world may not be accurate.
  • Ignore your first reactions. Review situations before taking action.
  • Excuses keep you from moving forward and accomplishing goals.
  • When faced with two equal options, choose the one that offers more positives.
  • Take responsibility for your choices. Don’t blame others for your lack of success.
  • The real problem isn’t always the obvious problem.
  • Effort is more rewarding than results.
  • Failure can be an amazing teacher if you are open to learning the lessons.
  • Every challenge offers new possibilities.


“Design thought” is not a fixed doctrine but a broad approach to solving problems. There are five important steps in the process of design thought:

  1. Empathize: Try to see the problem from the affected party’s point of view. If the affected party is you, try to see yourself from others’ perspectives.
  2. Define problems: Figure out exactly what it is that’s troubling you — be hon- est and ask yourself what it is you want.
  3. Ideate: Brainstorm as many solutions as you can — the more, the merrier.
  4. Prototype: Narrow down that list and create a plan that leads to action. But do this with the knowledge that your plan might not be perfect so be ready to tweak it and start again
  5. Test and get feedback: Stop thinking and do it.

When applied to your life, design thought will help you understand how excuses (even good ones) can hold you back, how you can change your self-image, how practicing good language habits can resolve personal dilemmas, and so much more.

Nothing Is What You Think it Is

Nothing has any meaning. Sounds kind of bleak, like something you might hear from an angsty teenager or a would-be philosopher. But it’s also a key insight of the The Achievement Habit, and it can be a tremendously uplifting one. The world and the things in it do not come to us full of meaning. Instead, we supply the meanings, and more importantly, we can change those meanings.

Try this: Focus your attention on various objects in the room you’re in. Each time your eyes land on an object, say out loud that it doesn’t have any meaning. So, “the chair has no meaning,” “the laptop has no meaning,” etc. Freeing, right? You can even apply it to people because, although your partner obviously means something to you, that meaning is not predetermined. That person is meaningful because you assigned them meaning.

Meanings change, and you can change them. But first, you must see the prob- lem from multiple perspectives, and then, you pick which one leads to positive ac- tion. When you accept this, you can start to redefine your problems and yourself.

Reasons Are Bullshit

If you pay attention, you’ll probably notice that you make an awful lot of excuses. After all, there are reasons for your behaviors. You’re late to work because the alarm clock didn’t go off. You miss the family get-together because you’re busy working on a report that’s due early Monday morning.

Reasons are simply excuses in pretty clothes, and excuses often prevent you from doing anything at all.

If you commute during rush hour traffic, you might be late to meetings or ap- pointments. You might curse the terrible traffic and blame it for your lateness. But is it really the traffic’s fault? You know the traffic is bad at certain times. Could you leave earlier? Or take a different route? Eventually, you’ll learn that traffic is just an excuse. You’re not late to the meeting because of traffic; you’re late because you haven’t prioritized the meeting.

Excuses license our own destructive and counterproductive behaviors. They serve as little security blankets that make us content with far less than we’re capa- ble of achieving. “Well shucks, I sure would like to do x, y, or z, but there are so many reasons why I can’t.”

Excuses (disguised as reasons) prevent action. They induce us to think, rethink, and rethink again, when we really ought to be doing.

Getting Unstuck

Design thought emphasizes the importance of asking the right questions. Often, we get stuck because we ask the wrong questions, and we stubbornly think that we already know the answers.

Consider John. John commutes to work, but his car isn’t doing well: The tires are old, the engine is making weird noises, and the odometer is pushing 200,000 miles. So, even though John isn’t a mechanic, he goes out and buys a bunch of tools. He rotates the tires, opens the hood, and tries fixing things himself. Close to giving up, John changes direction. He goes to the dealership, buys a new car, and is soon on his way to work.

John was asking the wrong question. Faced with a problem, he asked, “How do I fix my car?” But it was a question that led to a frustratingly difficult and narrow solution: Get the materials and tools, take it apart, and put it back together. The question he should have asked was, “How can I get to work?” That question got to the heart of the problem and opened up a broader range of solutions: Rather than buying a new car, he could’ve taken a bus, a train, or even a Lyft.

The same thing happens all the time in our lives. We encounter common prob- lems, find a solution, and then treat that solution as though it were the question. Like John, you need to be honest with yourself about what the problem really is. Be open-minded about changing the question and avoid fixating on the first answer you think of.

How do you get unstuck from this habit of asking the wrong questions? Think like a designer and imagine what the problem truly is. Be honest about what you want and be creative about the solutions you propose.

Finding Assistance

Although we like the myth of the self-made person, it’s actually hard to make it without the help of others. But finding help is easier said than done. Here are a few tips.

You can learn a lot from others, but can you really learn from all others? What about the executive who mistreats junior staffers? What about the lazy technician who does shoddy work just to get by?

According to design thought, you should make it a point to learn something — anything — from everyone. Consider the condescending executive. Though you shouldn’t emulate how she treats her junior staffers, you might be able to learn something from how she treats her peers. And the lazy technician? Maybe taking shortcuts has led him to discover a more economical approach to solving a prob- lem.

Most people have something important to offer, and it pays to look for it. So, don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.

For all that you can learn from others, be honest about where you stand with them, and remember that using others for your own gain usually backfires.

Be honest but also be willing to use the information that’s out there. What’s con- sidered new is often made of old advice and ideas that are simply rearranged in new ways. Don’t let your pride keep you from looking for good ideas everywhere and from everyone.

Doing Is Everything

Whenever you are torn between thinking about doing something and actually doing it, just do it. The achievement habit revolves around the power of doing — no achievement has ever come without doing something. If you think about it, every- thing you do produces some kind of achievement, even if it’s small.

Consider this example. It’s an early fall day; the leaves are turning, and there is a chill in the air. You’re in your apartment, and suddenly, you have an idea: “I’ll take the dog for a walk.”

In one scenario, you think about the pros and cons. Walking in the crisp air would be refreshing, and you and your dog would both get exercise. But on the other hand, it’s cold, and there’s that rain cloud hovering on the horizon. What if it’s too cold, or it starts raining? You think about it and decide not to go. Instead, you spend a boring day inside, lazing around and wondering what you should do.

In the opposite scenario, you have the idea to take the dog for walk; you get your leash and jacket, and you go out and do it. You take an exhilarating walk around the park. On the way home, it does indeed start to rain — but when you duck inside a coffee shop for shelter, you find an old friend you haven’t seen in years.

Even if you don’t realize it, when you think about doing something instead of actually doing it, you’re making excuses. These are silent excuses, and they often come in the form of good advice. “Why have I not started to write the book? Be- cause I haven’t finished outlining the story, and one must have a good outline to start a book.” That’s fair, but you could just start writing and see what happens.

There’s also a big difference between trying and doing. Trying means that you start a process without really intending to finish it. Maybe you will, but maybe you won’t. When you try something, it’s easy to lose sight of your goals, get distracted, and be discouraged by problems. Rarely does trying produce achievement.

When you do something, on the other hand, you approach the goal with the intention of finishing it. The point of doing is not merely to start a task but to com- plete it. You might achieve something when you try, but you will achieve something when you do.

Watch Your Language

Language influences how we perceive the world, but it’s a slippery thing. Adver- tisers understand this, as do politicians and con artists. Calling one thing by an- other name, omitting words, and using deliberately vague terms are all common tricks that persuade us to view products, platforms, and issues in certain ways.

You also do this to yourself. The language you use about what you want to do and what you must do tricks you into thinking that your options are much more limited than they actually are. Getting into the achievement habit requires that you get rid of some of these bad verbal habits.

Take as an example the words yes and no. These are simple words, but they’re hard to use. To start, many people have a hard time saying no, so they say yes in- stead. Monica was new at her job when her boss asked her to prepare a presen- tation. She was already swamped, but she didn’t want to say no, so she said yes. She got the presentation done, but it was a disaster. Her boss confronted her about it, and Monica said she didn’t have enough time to finish her work and the presentation. Her boss replied, “Then why didn’t you say ‘no’?”

One of the problems with yes and no is that you think it’s an either/or situation, but it’s not. Monica could have said “No, not this weekend, but I will have time next week.” Or, “Yes, I can do the presentation this weekend if I get an extension on my other project.”

Language habits also disguise excuses and reasons, and as mentioned earlier, reasons are bullshit. The word but is the biggest excuse maker. See if something like this sentence sounds familiar: “I would really love to go to the concert, but I have so much laundry to do.” But just made an excuse for not going to the concert.

It doesn’t have to be that way. In reality, you can go to the concert and get your chores done — it just requires some of that intentionality that comes with doing.

Keep track of your use of the word but. The next time you use it, restate the sen- tence in which it was used, but substitute the word and. “I would really love to go to the concert, and I have so much laundry to do.” Suddenly, it becomes clear that you can go to the concert and get your chores done.

Overall, when it comes to communicating effectively with others and with your- self, you must take charge of language. Go back to the basics of design thought: Figure out what the issue is, be honest with yourself about what you want and what you can do and use appropriate language.

Group Habits

Everyone has different strengths, and you can never be your best self without the input of others — so do everything you can to build relationships. The key concept governing healthy group habits is reciprocity, or give and take. Reciprocity requires mutual respect and the willingness to work constructively.

There are some good habits you can learn about working constructively. One is offering constructive criticism. When someone offers their work for critique, it’s a good idea to identify two features you like about the work. Then, identify one thing you wish he or she would’ve done differently. “I like this … I like that … I wish you would have done this.” You’ll get your point across without injuring feelings.

It’s also constructive to build on ideas rather than tearing them down. A brain- storming exercise can help. One person starts with an idea: “Let’s host a dinner.” Rather than criticizing that idea (“No, I don’t like cooking”), frame your idea con- structively with an “and” statement (“Yes, let’s host a dinner and let’s get it catered”). Again, you still get what you want, but you’ve done it constructively and without hurting feelings.

Self-Image by Design

The design thought process begins with empathy. Usually, empathy is applied out- ward, but it should also be channeled inward to better understand yourself and alter your self-image.

Being empathetic toward yourself means seeing yourself from someone else’s perspective. View yourself the way a designer views a project — as something to be understood from different angles or as something to be constructed.

A good place to start is by looking closer at the people who have been influential in your life, such as parents, friends, and partners. Be intentional about this and ask yourself what they believe about life, society, politics, values, etc. Now, ask yourself what you believe about these things. Write down the answers and then ask yourself how much of your beliefs have been influenced by these people. Under- standing how you’ve been influenced (sometimes without even knowing) can help you understand how you’ve come to think of yourself.

Another idea is to think of dying. Seriously, think of dying and ask yourself a se- ries of questions. What would you do if you had 10 days to live? What would you do if you had 10 months to live? What would you do if you had 10 years to live? What would you do if you had the rest of your life to live? Record your answers. Are there any differences in the answers? What do the answers say about your overar- ching goals? Now, how can you design your self-image to help you reach these goals?

The end might not be near, but it’s nearer than it was before, so start doing!

The Big Picture

Life moves in unexpected directions, and you might not be ready for the twists and turns. To stay grounded and focused, keep in mind these two tips.

First, when life gets rough, and you get off track, remember your big goals and know that there’s more than one route to the final destination.

Second, when in pursuit of the big goals, don’t lose track of the things you take for granted. The assumptions you make form the heart of your self-image, so if you lose sight of those assumptions, you’ll also start to drift from who you are. Bring the things you take for granted into the light by making a list of the small, trivial things you do day-to-day that you don’t really notice. These are the things that color perceptions of you and build self-image, so it’s important to be aware of them. And remember that both the achievements you seek and what you do to reach them are parts of who you are.

Make Achievement Your Habit

Now, it’s your turn to be the designer of your own life. Ask what it is you want. Redefine the meaning of the things in your life. Remember, problems are good for you because, if you didn’t have problems, you wouldn’t have achievements. And remember that failures are not final — they’re opportunities to try again with a clearer notion of what you need to do.

Ready to get into the achievement habit? Do it.


“Nothing Is What You Think It Is”

Mike’s professor saw him as “a slacker” because he failed to complete a project. Years after college, Mike created an amazingly innovative exhibit at the annual Burning Man festival. The professor who considered Mike a talentless failure and totally dismissed him made a mistake. You, too, may perceive things in ways that might not be accurate. Be open to changing your mind and to seeing people and events in a new way. The professor clearly was wrong about Mike.

“When something is a priority in your life, you have to be willing to walk away from anything that’s standing in its way.”

To escape your current perceptions, take these steps: Breathe deeply several times. Shut your eyes and sit quietly for two or three minutes. Open your eyes and scan the room slowly. Look around and say, out loud, that each thing you see “has no meaning.” For example, “The chair has no meaning,” and so on. Consider the people in your life and remove their meanings, one by one. After you are done, see how you feel. You can now relate to everything and to yourself in a fresh, new way. State that you have no meaning, and be open to discovering a new you. Don’t think of yourself as a loser because you failed at something. Your goal is to develop the skills to deal with life’s challenges. Make achievement into a habit. People tend to engage in “functional fixedness,” a cognitive bias that causes them to view things in only the most obvious ways. Consider a container of cereal. It holds food, and it also offers a source of “cardboard and wax paper” that you can use. Be open to new possibilities.

“Who Controls Your Brain?”

The amygdala part of the brain generates your initial reactions. Following your first reactions isn’t always the smartest course. Consider a speeding driver who cuts you off. The amygdala sends a message to stay with that car and fight, even when the safer decision is to take flight and run away. Your second thought is often more logical and fuels a better outcome. Take these four steps to move from a gut reaction to a thoughtful response: 1) Stand still and don’t do what your body pushes you to do. 2) Breathe deeply. 3) Observe how your body feels. 4) Access a pleasant memory to feel upbeat and content. Now that you’re calmer, consider healthier options.

“Your Turn”

To focus more intently on the “meaning of your life,” ask yourself the following questions, and say or write your answers. Ask each question over and over for at least five to ten minutes. Do this alone or with a partner. Ask: “Who am I?” “What do I want?” and “What is my purpose?” Be open to new ideas about yourself.

“Right and Wrong”

When you interact with others, forget about who’s right or who’s wrong. You are the one who infuses your life with meaning. When you worry about who is correct, you waste time and energy. You have the ability to alter how you think about every issue. If you hate cleaning the dishes, focus on the parts of washing that are pleasurable – the feel of your hands in water, how clean the dishes become and how much you enjoy having a tidy kitchen. Focus on the positive to feel the joy in any activity.

“Reasons Are Simply Excuses”

In reality, most reasons are simply excuses you offer because you didn’t rank a task high enough on your to-do list. Release yourself. You don’t have to “justify your behavior.” Steering clear of excuses frees you to discover fresh methods and ideas. You don’t have to share your reasons for what you do. “Trust yourself and act.”


People tend to see themselves in others. When you assign a particular emotion to someone else, you may feel that way about yourself. A “genuinely naïve, truthful person” assumes that everyone he or she meets speaks honestly. If you are deceitful, you often mistrust others. Consider the behaviors that push your buttons. For example, do you hate it when people are tardy? Perhaps you struggle with lateness. Write down co-workers’ behaviors that bother you, and consider how these issues manifest in your own actions.

“Decision and Indecision”

If you have difficulty making decisions, consider the “Buridan’s ass paradox,” a 14th-century story attributed to philosopher Jean Buridan (c. 1295-1363). A donkey can’t choose between two mangers – one offers hay, the other water. Paralyzed by options, the mule dies of both hunger and thirst. When multiple choices are all worthwhile, choose the one with fewer downsides. List the positives and negatives. Then use the “gun test.” Transform your hand into a toy gun and point it at your head. Give yourself “15 seconds to decide or…pull the trigger.”

“Achievement can be learned. It is a muscle and once you learn to flex it, there’s no end to what you can accomplish in life.”

Try the “life’s journey method” of decision making. Describe one of your options and consider its effect on your current reality. For example, you are considering whether to get an advanced degree. Ask, “Then what happens?” You complete your coursework and begin to teach. “Then what happens?” You might meet the love of your life, marry and start a family. “Then what happens?” and on and on, until you “get old and die.” This exercise shows that you can’t predict where a choice will take you. Few decisions are matters of living or dying, so relax.

“Who’s Really Stopping You?”

Don’t play the blame game. Your loved ones, boss or other people don’t prevent you from achieving. Only you are in charge of your decisions. Some people say they don’t have adequate time. That’s just an excuse. Your days are as long as those of the people who achieve great things. If something is important to you, you will find the time. Jot down the activities you do for a week and note the amount of time you spend on each. Consider whether your time is well spent.

“Getting Unstuck”

If you feel stuck, make sure you’re asking the correct question and solving the appropriate problem. For example, if you are stuck on how to find a spouse, write your concern as a “what would it do for me?” question, such as, “What would it do for me if I found a spouse?” Generate new questions from the answers you reach about what solving your original problem would do for you. So if you are stuck on how to “find a spouse,” you would replace that question with, “How might I get companionship?” or “How might I get my parents to stop nagging me?” Even if getting married could answer these problems, it might not be the best resolution. When you search for better questions and better responses, you start solving your real problems.

“If you stop labeling the world, your job and your life, you may find that an amazing trajectory is there for the taking.”

To move forward, “reframe” or “change your point of view.” A group of students went to Nepal to help hospitals deal with baby incubators that kept breaking down. Initially, they focused on ways to fix the incubators. Then, they changed their focus to ways mothers could keep their babies warm. That led them to discover better options. Try other ways of generating solutions. You could brainstorm, make lists, create “idea logs” (like Leonardo da Vinci’s journals), joke around until fresh thoughts come to mind, speak to others, wonder “what if?” or “work backward” by pretending you fixed a problem and then working in reverse from that point. Search for coaches or mentors who can help you achieve your goals. Use other people’s ideas as a springboard.

“Many reasons are simply excuses to hide the fact that we are not willing to give something a high enough priority in our lives.”

Make a “mind map” by jotting a word or two in the center of a page and then writing an idea the word brings to mind. “Connect the two words with a line.” Return to the original word, think of another related idea and add it to the sheet. Place a line between that word and the first word. Add words and lines until you can’t think of anything else. Review how you connect words and ideas. What does your map tell you about your problem? How can you make better, more appropriate associations?

“Doing Is Everything”

Attempting something and accomplishing it aren’t the same. When you are determined to get something done, nothing can stop you. Too often people believe the negative thoughts they have about themselves and dismiss positive thoughts. Focus your self-affirming comments on the work you do, not on your accomplishments. Praise how hard you try, not your outcomes.

“It’s Like Riding a Bike”

A 30-year-old woman wanted to “learn to ride a bike.” She had never learned because she had difficulty with balance. What issue did she think she could solve by learning to ride a bike? Was she focused on the real issue? When asked, she said her child recently mastered bike riding, and she worried she couldn’t share that experience. She could run next to her daughter, but when her daughter rode more proficiently, the mother felt she would be unable to jog along. Her real dilemma was to find a way to “keep up with her daughter.” To ride, she first had to solve her balance issue. How? Take a special exercise class? Take medication? Or, even better, maybe buy an adult-sized tricycle? That common-sense choice enabled her to ride with her daughter.

“Your Turn”

Don’t let the odds shake your confidence. If your likelihood of success is low, you can still be one of the few to succeed. Getting fired isn’t the end of your career. Oprah Winfrey’s boss asked her to leave her first broadcasting position. When circus clowns mess up their routines, they break into big smiles, stick their arms in the air and yell, “Ta-da!” They embrace, rather than hide, their mistakes. How would you approach projects if you no longer worried about your mistakes?

“Watch Your Language”

Choose your words carefully. Convey your stories clearly. What you say affects how you feel and what you do. Try to say yes when you would normally say no. Transform actions you must do into those you wish to perform. Replace the term “I need” with “I want”; instead of saying “I’m afraid to,” say, “I’d like to.” When you interact with others, share your emotions and experiences. Try not to interrupt them; they may say something of value. If someone shares a personal story, don’t tell a personal tale of your own in response. That may come across as you “playing…one-upmanship” or trying to diminish the value of the other person’s story.

“Our hatred of others is really the hatred of our own unwanted or feared capabilities, projected onto them.”

To improve your conversations, use first-person language. Say, “I feel,” not “Everyone feels.” Don’t judge others or offer unsolicited guidance. Let people know that you paid attention to them, and ask questions if you don’t understand what someone says. Don’t shy away from tough interactions. Dodging a sensitive subject only creates more issues.

“Self-Image by Design”

How you see yourself affects what you can accomplish. If you believe you are a “risk taker and a doer,” you will probably take chances. Giving into fear or excess care undermines your potential choices. Many perceptions start in childhood. Your self-image develops as you interact with others, receive feedback from friends and family, and respond to life events.

“The problem with reasons is that they’re just excuses prettied up.”

Describe yourself as you are today using five adjectives. Invite five pals or relatives to list five adjectives about you. How does your list differ from theirs? Don’t confuse who you are with what you own or with what you do or have done. You can alter your self-image. Consider what steps you would take if you only had “ten minutes to live.” How about if you had that many days, months or years? As you respond, use the personal details that come to mind to consider how you might change the way you view yourself. “Start designing and changing!” You are the author of your personal story. You assign meaning to yourself and to everyone else in your saga.

“The Big Picture”

Know your main objectives, and don’t be inflexible about the road you take to achieve them. Don’t shut out other people or ideas. You don’t have to take or succeed at every opportunity. Accept that you may fail. Next time you tackle a problem, jump in with both feet. Don’t spend excess time reflecting. Act.


You can solve problems using design thought by following five simple guidelines:

  1. Empathize: Try to see the problem from the affected party’s point of view. If the affected party is you, try to see yourself from others’ perspectives.
  2. Define problems: Figure out exactly what it is that’s troubling you — be hon- est and ask yourself what it is you want.
  3. Ideate: Brainstorm as many solutions as you can — the more, the merrier.
  4. Prototype: Narrow down that list and create a plan that leads to action. But do this with the knowledge that your plan might not be perfect so be ready to tweak it and start again
  5. Test and get feedback: Stop thinking and do it.

About the author

Bernard Roth is the Rodney H. Adams Professor of Engineering at Stanford University and the academic director of the Hasso Plattner School of Design (commonly known as the Professor Roth is a pioneer in the field or robotics and author of the seminal text on kinematics, Theoretical Kinematics (1979).


Self Help, Nonfiction, Productivity, Personal Development, Psychology, Business, Design, Education, Entrepreneurship, Business Motivation & Self-Improvement, Motivational Management & Leadership, Success Self-Help

Table of Contents

Introduction: Yellow-Eyed Cats 1

1 Nothing Is What You Think It Is 15

2 Reasons Are Bullshit 39

3 Getting Unstuck 63

4 Finding Assistance 95

5 Doing Is Everything 105

6 Watch Your Language 127

7 Group Habits 149

8 Self-Image by Design 191

9 The Big Picture 219

10 Make Achievement Your Habit 241

Acknowledgments 259

Notes 265

Bibliography 271


The co-founder of the Stanford d.School introduces the power of design thinking to help you achieve goals you never thought possible.

Achievement can be learned. It’s a muscle, and once you learn how to flex it, you’ll be able to meet life’s challenges and fulfill your goals, Bernard Roth, Academic Director at the Stanford contends.

In The Achievement Habit, Roth applies the remarkable insights that stem from design thinking—previously used to solve large scale projects—to help us realize the power for positive change we all have within us. Roth leads us through a series of discussions, stories, recommendations, and exercises designed to help us create a different experience in our lives. He shares invaluable insights we can use to gain confidence to do what we’ve always wanted and overcome obstacles that hamper us from reaching our potential, including:

  • Don’t try—DO;
  • Excuses are self-defeating;
  • Believe you are a doer and achiever and you’ll become one;
  • Build resiliency by reinforcing what you do rather than what you accomplish;
  • Learn to ignore distractions that prevent you from achieving your goals;
  • Become open to learning from your own experience and from those around you;
  • And more.

The brain is complex and is always working with our egos to sabotage our best intentions. But we can be mindful; we can create habits that make our lives better. Thoughtful and powerful The Achievement Habit shows you how.

* * * * *

Cofounder of the Stanford Bernie Roth shows you how the power of design thinking can help you achieve goals you never thought possible.

Did you know that achievement can be learned? As Bernie Roth explains, achievement is a muscle. And once you learn how to flex it, you’ll be able to meet life’s challenges and reach your goals.

Based on a legendary course Roth has taught at Stanford University for several decades, The Achievement Habit employs the remarkable insights that stem from design thinking to help us realize the power we all have within to change our lives for the better. By ridding ourselves of issues that stand in the way of reaching our full potential, we gain the confidence finally to do things we’ve always wanted to do. Combining design thinking, problem-solving, creativity, communication skills, and life adjustments, readers will learn:

  • Why trying and doing are two different things
  • Why using reasons (excuses), even legitimate ones, to explain one’s behavior is self-defeating
  • How to change your self-image into one of a doer and achiever
  • How subtle language changes can resolve existential dilemmas and barriers to action
  • How to build resiliency by reinforcing what you do rather than what you accomplish
  • How to be open to learning from your own experience and from those around you

Our behavior and relationships can be transformed—if we choose to, we can be mindful and control our intentions to create habits that make our lives better. And with this thoughtful book as your guide, you can.


“Bernie Roth is the central pillar and the conscience of the at Stanford and one of its real gems. It’s exciting that he now puts his best ideas into this book for many more of us to benefit.” — David M. Kelley, Founder of the at Stanford University, Founder and Chairman of IDEO

” The Achievement Habit is a masterpiece in describing how to think creatively and fulfill your life’s ambitions. Everyone who reads this book will clearly see why Bernie is considered one of the most creative and liberated thinkers today.” — Paul Hait, Entrepreneur/Olympic Gold Medalist

“Bernie Roth is a master teacher who unlocks his students’ minds and hearts allowing them to create the lives they dream to live. Finally, his wisdom is available to the entire world.” — Tina Seelig, Professor of the Practice, Stanford School of Engineering, Author, Insight Out

“Before unleashing design thinking on others, unleash it on yourself. You, and the world, will be far better for it. The Achievement Habit reveals a host of invaluable approaches to this most personal of design projects.” — Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO and author of Change By Design

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