Book Reviews

The Adult Years:  Mastering the Art of Self-Renewal                                           

Author               Frederick M. Hudson
Publisher         Jossey Bass, 1999
ISBN                  0-7879-4801-2
Reviewer          Basil P. Rouskas
                           CEO, NovAspire, Inc.
Stars                 4

Stars ratings:    
1=Don’t bother  
2=Limited value
3=You should read it     
4=You should read it, buy it, and revisit it often

What is this book about?

This is a well-researched book about adult development. It provides a great model to understand development and change from the twenty something to the ninety something stages in life and beyond.  Written in a readable style with case examples and theoretical framework, this book is the most thorough contribution in the field of personal development (and therefore career development) that I have read.

Who should read it?

Practically everybody.  Although it is more likely that readers who have passed the 30th  mark of their lives will be reading it. . To use the words of the author: “ The purpose of this book is to identify skills and competencies that can empower adults throughout the life cycle.  The book maps out the vast adult territory and provides a framework for how adults can proceed vitally from age twenty to age one hundred in the twenty-first century.  Through a careful reading of this material, readers should be able to locate where they are in the change process and which skills are critical for designing a fulfilling personal and social future.”

Why should he/she read it?

Because it offers great insights into what is evolving in the world of work, in life and on the planet Earth.  It gives a great foundation to understand the chaos of change we all live through every day as global citizens.  It defines two models: The Life Cycle and the Change Cycle.  It then blends the two models to explain why change is constant, what are its characteristics and, most importantly, how to recognize them and what to do about them.

This is a book one needs to revisit periodically and reflect on the current reality of one’s life, on and off the job.

What are the main points?

Life is not linear but cyclical.  For example the Linear model would suggest:  “ Adult life is a long period of stability in which personal strengths, intimacy bonds, career development and responsibility work toward personal fulfillment and social progress.  Transitions are not viewed favorably.”  But in the cyclical model, “Adult life is a process that moves from periods of stability to periods of instability and transition to new periods of stability and so on. Adults need to know how to build life structures and how to manage life transitions.”

The Renewal Cycle consists of Chapters and Transitions. Chapters are more defined, dealing more with the known or the definitive.  Transitions are more reflective, evaluative, and uncertain. The Life Chapters are marked by Phase 1 and Phase 2. Phase 1 consists of dreaming, planning and plateauing. Phase 2 consists of managing the doldrums.  Life Transitions also has two phases: Phase 3 and Phase 4.  Phase 3 consists of cocooning (coming to terms with yourself) and Phase 4, getting ready for the next chapter.

In the adult life cycle there are eight versions of human purpose:

  •  Twentysomething- Breaking Out and Staking Out
  • Thirtysomething-Making it
  • Fortysomething-Taking charge
  • Fiftysomething-Enjoying life
  • Sixtysomething-Starting over
  • Seventysometing-Living with integrity
  • Eightysomething-Leaving a legacy
  • Ninetysomething-Summing it all up

The core values that define human action throughout all stages of life are:

  • Sense of Self
  • Achievement
  • Intimacy
  • Creativity and Play
  • Search for Meaning
  • Compassion and Contribution

The values and all our actions take place inside “systems”. An understanding of the system allows us to know what actions are available to us to pursue what we want and what actions are required for change in the system or in ourselves.  These systems are:

  • Personal system
  • Couple system
  • Family system
  • Friendship system
  • Environmental system
  • Social system
  • Leisure system
  • Work and Career system

There is great value in transmitting wisdom of experience through coaching-mentoring.  According to the author:  “...conceptually, personal and organizational coaching is derived from the knowledge of developmental psychology, adult learning theories and human systems theories; it is applied to the practical issues facing persons within organizations throughout our culture.”  There are eight reasons that mentoring –coaching is important not only in corporate America but also throughout society.  These reasons are:

  • To Help Adults Manage Change Effectively
  • To Model Mastery
  • To Provide Ongoing Training In Technical Abilities
  • To Elicit Core Values And Commitments
  • To Renew Human Systems
  • To Sponsor Future Generations
  • To Model Collaboration And Consensus Building
  • To Tap The Genius Of Older Workers