The Good Psychopath’s Guide To Success by Dr Kevin Dutton and Andy McNab, published February 2015 Corgi.
Read: April 2015
Get It Now: Wordery
Goodreads Synopsis: What is a good psychopath? And how can thinking like one help you to be the best that you can be?
Dr Kevin Dutton has spent a lifetime studying psychopaths. He first met former SAS hero Andy McNab during a research project. What he found surprised him. McNab is a diagnosed psychopath but he is a GOOD psychopath, able to dial up or down qualities such as ruthlessness, fearlessness, conscience and empathy to get the very best out of himself – and others. Drawing on the combination of McNab’s wild and various experiences and Dr Dutton’s expertise, together they have explored the ways in which a good psychopath thinks differently and what that could mean for you. What do you really want from life, and how can you develop and use qualities such as charm, coolness under pressure, self-confidence and courage to get it?
THIS BOOK. First of all, I’m a big advocate of reading non-fiction for personal development, and that’s what I like to call it – “personal development”, not “self-help”. Let’s start as we mean to go on with the psychology element here, for me “personal development” is choosing to read, study and explore ideas that can help you better deal with life, succeed in your career, achieve those objectives. Start calling it “self-help” and I think you’re beat before you’ve started, it just has far too many negative connotations, implying there’s something wrong that needs to be fixed. Now that’s out of the way, let’s get on to the review!
You can picture the scene – I was doing my weekly food shop in Tesco and stumbled into the book aisle, I say “stumble” but I find myself there regularly, when this book caught my eye. The title alone was enough to pull me in, but a quick flick through the book and I was sold.
Here’s a little context about me, and why this book caught my eye – I work in a heavily male dominated industry (engineering), and I’m quite young to be in a management position within that industry, I’m also not a trained engineer – though I don’t need to be to do my job and do it well. The organisation I work for has been going for 40+ years, and generally has an older workforce that have been retained for many years – while these are positive attributes for any organisation, they can also present problems when the company tries to modernise and implement change, as the company will have a certain culture that has been inherited over time. The two biggest problems the majority of organisations face is poor communication and a reluctance to change. My job happily requires hefty amounts of both. I write policy and procedure (yay!), I’m responsible for health and safety (exciting!) and I’m the poster-child for change – as you can imagine, my job makes me very popular *sarcasm*.
I’ve been in this position since I graduated, and over time, I’ve developed quite a bit already – I’ve learned how to approach individuals differently based on their needs and requirements to get the job done, I’ve learned when I need to compromise and when I need to play hardball, and I’ve learned that with some people you may as well bang your head off a brick wall repeatedly – it’s probably less painful. Although I’ve learned all of these things and more, there’s always room for improvement, there’s always a new technique to be learned, there’s always something new I can try in my approach to management.
The Good Psychopath’s Guide To Success has been an experience. The book has a conversational and informal tone that makes it quite entertaining to read (though this can sometimes make it drag in parts), while imparting the necessary facts and knowledge to back up the claims of the authors’ anecdotes. One personal point to note: McNab uses experiences from his actual SAS training and service throughout the book, and on more than one occasion references being stationed in my country. It was… odd to read about my country’s history from his viewpoint, and let’s just say it wasn’t very complementary, that definitely threw me a little and I’m not sure including those anecdotes was a smart move. This is a book written by UK authors, which will likely be widely read by a UK audience… I don’t feel those anecdotes will be well-received by many.
Back to the main review – anyone with an interest in psychology or human behaviour will benefit greatly from this read, but it is accessible to everyone. I like to think I have a high level of self-awareness – I like to learn more about me, my personality, about things I subconsciously react to rather than taking the time to consciously respond to – if that also describes you, you’re going to love this book. Please don’t be put off by the use of the word “psychopath”, I’ve seen reviews where people either shy away from this book in the first instance because of it, or even after reading it misinterpret what the word actually means. If you are a psychopath you are not automatically Hannibal Lecter! A psychopath is just an individual with a particular set of personality traits, not necessarily a serial killer!
One thing I appreciated about this book, is that it doesn’t just do a lot of telling and then leave it there – at the end of each chapter there tips on how to implement the advice in real life scenarios, and a multiple choice questionnaire you can use to rate your current performance or personal style, so you can identify areas for improvement (I’m a moderate psychopath FYI). As they say, “the proof is in the pudding”, right? I’m pleased to report that since reading this book, I’ve found myself actively using some of the things I’ve learned from it within my role – when faced with stressful or tricky scenarios (regular occurrences) I felt a massive difference in my internal monologue throughout. I wasn’t panicked or reacting, I was mindful and present, coaching myself through the situations using information I’d retained from reading this book. And best of all, it worked.
Are you interested in finding out if you’re a “good psychopath”? Have you read this book yet? Share your thoughts with me in the comments, and don’t forget any recommendations for personal development books you might have!