Marshall Goldsmith: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Last updated: October 9, 2023

Our business book club read What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith.

Many of us “have no idea how our behavior is coming across to the people who matter.”

Book cover of "What Got You Here" along with a picture of Marshal Goldsmith
The book cover, with a picture of the author.

The author is an executive coach with lots of blue chip performance experience.

This book inspired a lot of self-reflection and follow-up discussion. We talked about our entrepreneurial triggers, our weaknesses, and things we can improve in our communication styles. We recommend this book.

Book Club Administrative Notes

  • We sat outside on a rooftop deck near Union Square. It was a chilly Sunday fall morning. Five of us in hoodies and sweaters.
  • Wayne was late, again.
  • We made it to three! This was our third book club meet-up. Some people said we would never get here. Most book clubs die after the first (only) or second meeting. We did it!
  • Our breakfast platter was delicious but again didn’t get eaten. We will re-prioritize caffeine and de-prioritize food (BYOBreakfast).
Table with markers and book and a can of sparkling water
Raw scene from our discussion meeting. Breakfast spread, markers, notecards, and my illustrated copy of the book.
  • This book club had more of a non-linear discussion, because it was about personal weaknesses and self-improvement. As compared to our discussion last time about Netflix, which followed the chronological timeline of their success.
  • I want to come up with a “Stop Doing” list.
  • We resisted certain parts, and we pushed back when challenged. We challenged each other in our discussion.

The Four Key Beliefs That Help Us Become Successful

  1. I have succeeded.
  2. I can succeed.
  3. I will succeed.
  4. I choose to succeed.
Back view male manager with briefcase walking on the road to success in the morning
We’re walking on the stock photo road to downtown success.

The Most Common Faults by Marshall Goldsmith

Goldsmith says that “these delusions are a direct result of success, not failure.”

  • Winning too much
  • Adding too much value
  • Passing judgment
  • Making destructive comments
  • Telling the world how smart you are
  • Speaking when angry
  • Withholding information
  • Negativity
  • Failing to give proper recognition
  • Claiming credit that we don’t deserve
  • Making excuses
  • Playing favorites
  • Clinging to the past
  • Refusing to express regret
  • Not listening
  • Failing to express gratitude
  • Punishing the messenger
  • Passing the buck
  • An excessive need to be “me”

It should be noted that these problems “are not life-threatening diseases (although ignored for too long they can destroy a career).”

Handsome men standing at attention, some with arms embracing
L to R: Derek, Wayne, Ramit, Steve, and me. We’re all smiling. But inside, we crying from acknowledging our common faults.

Interesting Points From “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There”

Nick’s note: These are some things I wrote down or copied from the book.

This book can “help us change what we want to change.” But only if we want to.

What I’m going to suggest repeatedly is the heretical notion that we can become more successful if we appreciate this “flaw” and work to suppress it in our interpersonal relations.

Adding too much value: You may have improved the concept of my idea by 5 percent, but you’ve reduced my commitment to executing it by 50 percent, because you’ve taken away my ownership of the idea. My idea is now your idea- and I walk out of your office less enthused about it. That’s the fallacy of adding value. Whatever we gain in the form of a better idea is lost many times over in our employees’ diminished commitment to the concept.

The higher up you go in the organization, the more you need to make other people the winners and not make it about winning yourself.

Destructive comments are an easy habit to fall into, especially among people who habitually rely on candor as an effective management tool. But candor can easily become a weapon. The fact that a destructive comment is true is irrelevant. The question is not, “Is it true?” But rather… Is it worth it?

Help more. Judge less.

Making excuses: I’m reminded that my friend Ramit in our book club is almost never late. “There simply is no excuse for making excuses.”

Destructive comments – especially if you use candor – can turn into a weapon.

Refusing to express regret: The best thing about apologizing is that it forces everyone to let go of the past. “I can’t change the past. All I can say is I’m sorry for what I did wrong. I’m sorry it hurt you. There’s no excuse for it and I will try to do better in the future.”


A lot of us “spend much of our time practicing what we’re already good at and little time on areas of our game that need work.”

This was the deepest, most raw conversation and discussion that we’ve had in our book club. The book “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There” by Marshall Goldsmith asked us to find behavioral patterns that have helped make us successful today, but are also holding us back from achieving even greater growth.

I recommend this book for anyone who manages a team, has employees, or regularly works in a position of power.


  • Tyler Vawser: Love this: “find behavioral patterns that have helped make us successful today, but are also holding us back from achieving even greater growth.”

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