Book review: Take the Stairs

Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success

by Rory Vaden.

Short review. Although I made it to the end of this book I thought it was only Ok. It had a few sections scattered about that were particullary meaningful but otherwise the book felt cliche and too ‘rah rah, you can do it’ for my tastes.  I don’t doubt any part of Vaden’s experiences, of them he had many challenging moments in his life, but most of the learning moments he draws from them felt worn out as I read it.


Long review: Vaden outlines 7 principles for success that through regular work – “success is never owned, it is rented and the rent is due every day” – that anyone can follow to be successful.

  1. Sacrifice. Throughout the book the theme of sacrifice comes up as something Vaden believes people are unable to do.  That taking the escalator instead of the stairs is a frequent and poor choice many people make each day.  The solution then, is to do the hard things.  Whatever those are.  If it’s taking on extra projects at work or exercising – literally taking the stairs.  
  2. Commitment. Success takes time and needs to be pursued   In one of my favorite stories of the book, two guys are standing in front of the urinal and the first accidentally drops a $5 bill in it.  As the two men stand there and think about what to do, the first guy takes out his wallet and then proceeds to throw a $50 bill in with the$5.  The second guy, exasperatedly asks why he did that and the first guy,  as he’s retrieving his money says “You didn’t think I’d stick my hand in there for only $5, did you?” Vaden’s point is that when we choose to pursue something we should do it without hesitation.
  3. Focus. This section is about visualizing what you want, your happy ending.  Vaden makes this point by relating his own happy ending story, how his high school basketball coach told the boys that visualizing their success on the basketball court was just as effective as their visualizing dream which led to nocturnal emissions.  I’ve never bought in to this idea very much but it certainly seems like people who do it think it works – Vaden among them.
  4. Integrity. Don’t break your promises, don’t gossip, and don’t be dishonest.  The lightest chapter of the book in terms of content it focuses on things you can do to improve your integrity.
  5. Schedule. This chapter took a nice perspective on thinking about when is the right time to do things.  Vaden begins with a farming example, when it’s time to harvest crops farmers need to work until that job is done, 12 to 18 hours each day.  In the same way, our own lives have harvest seasons when we can focus our efforts to get great results.  Vaden also shares the five areas he suggests we fill our lives with (Faith, Family, Fitness, Faculty, and Finances) and make our schedule fit these areas.
  6. Faith.  Faith in the future instead of faith in some one thing.  Vaden suggests that we take the long view on our lives, viewing them not through the barrel of a pen but as a landscape.
  7. Action. “If you want to to know what a person believes in, just look at their calendar and their checkbook.”  The first six areas of this book focused on finding areas in your life to be improved and this final section is resolving to make solutions for those that need them.  Will you use your calendar and checkbook to solved these problems?

Following these seven areas will lead you to success. “Success isn’t easy. Success isn’t overnight. Success isn’t ordinary. And so becoming successful requires us to do things at aren’t easy and things that people don’t ordinarily do.”

The book was Ok.  The themes were good but Vaden’s explanations didn’t apply to me as well as they might to others.


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