Book Review: The Underachiever’s Manifesto

How could a book with a subtitle of The Guide to Accomplishing Little and Feeling Great not be awesome?1? Seriously, this little 90 page book is at once hilarious and convicting.

Who said we all needed to excel, anyway?

Dr. Ray Bennett wrote this book almost a decade ago but it fell into my hands by chance recently…or was it my destiny?

It never topped a best-seller list. I think that’s just how the author would’ve wanted it. I mean, on the dedication page he simply wrote two words:

“Good enough.”

Kinda sums the whole book up, really.

Though it’s hard sometimes to tell what Bennett is joking about and not joking about, this little pocket guide to a balanced life really speaks deeply about modern man’s (and woman’s) obsession with greatness.

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(Photo Credit)

I mean, let’s face it — not many of us go pro. Few of us are super models. Not that many folks win the Nobel Prize. We’re way beyond keeping up with the Joneses — we’re all running ourselves ragged just trying to keep up with ourselves. Our self-imposed standards are crushing us, and they’re standards we rarely achieve.

Ask yourself — in what kind of society should a product like 5 Hour Energy even be necessary? What is it we’re aiming for? The author asks sincerely: If we’re unlikely to achieve it, why make ourselves sick trying?

Listen, I laughed as many times reading this barely-thick-enough-to-need-a-spine-instead-of-a staple book as I have reading anything lately. But it also made me think. I found myself nodding along. I felt hearty agreement. I think you will too. And it doesn’t hurt that you can read it in half an hour. (After all, should a book about mediocrity take much longer than that to read?) Here are some profound musings to which I mumbled a sincere “Amen!”

  • “In our overachieving society, a little underachieving is the necessary corrective.”
  • “Let us all join hands and do less together. Then maybe let’s all take a nap.”
  • “Perfect is the enemy of good.”
  • “Remember: underachieving isn’t about doing absolutely nothing. It’s about the right effort at the right time in the right place. And not one bit more.”

Save a quotation from Ecclesiastes there is absolutely nothing biblical or Christian about this book — but that doesn’t mean the author is wrong. Principles of rest, balance, living purposefully, and not neglecting family emerge as truthful applications to the principles espoused. Sure, he’s a little irreverent and potty mouthed a few times, but he doesn’t use any words the King James Version of the Bible doesn’t employ.

For anyone looking to be emancipated from the bondage of business and unrealistic expectation, The Underachiever’s Manifesto proves a humorous and heartfelt justification.

So be free to do less. You don’t have anyone to impress, surpass, or out-do.

In your new-found leisure time, pick up a copy of this book and read it. It’s not the best book you’ll ever read. It’s not great.

But it is good enough.

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