Run With the Bulls, by Tim Irwin is a no-nonsense look at how to succeed in the workplace and in life. It’s a complete guide on how to prepare yourself for the chaotic, competitive world of business in America without getting lost in the dust.

Irwin kept my attention by intertwining anecdotes from his love of adventure travel with life lessons. As the title suggests, Tim has been on many great adventures including running with the bulls in Pamplona, mountain climbing in Oregon, and exploring Inca Ruins in Peru (to name a few). He has a knack for relating these adventures to the workplace.

As an adventure lover myself, I could really relate to his anecdotes about the always-unexpected world of travel. My favorite was a little story about a family trip to Portugal. Tim’s wife and kids squeezed it in ahead of a business trip and got stuck in the most expensive hotel in town. At first, Tim was furious, but they compromised by packing in their own food to save money; living on cereal, cheese & crackers, and tuna for three days.

Every day, they longingly looked on to the happy guests eating breakfast in the elegant hotel restaurant while they starved themselves. By the last day they were miserable, and upon checkout they learned that those extravagant breakfasts were complimentary!

I had to laugh, because it reminded me that you really have to be on your toes when you travel to a strange place. The lesson he took away was to never let your emotions take control and make rash decisions. If his head were cooler at the time, he would have seen what was right in front of him.

Run With the Bulls is packed with little gems. As a leadership consultant for twenty years, Tim has been on every retreat, conference, and focus group one can imagine. His experience shines through with a wide variety of wisdom for all levels and aspects of an organization.

Irwin divides his book into three major sections: Commitment, Character, Competence.

Commitment

Irwin points out that many of us just “go through the motions” at work. To really succeed, one needs to make a committed leap of faith into something that they are really passionate about.

This section discusses a wide variety of topics, including thinking for yourself, preparation, and courage.

Character

The section on character was my favorite of the book. Irwin points out the irony of Enron’s value-filled mission statement in contrast to the real culture that eventually brought down the company.

In today’s world, it takes a lot of courage to do the right thing. It has become so acceptable to cheat, deceive, or cut corners; but in the long run, your character will shine through.

Competence

The final part of the book was about the essential skills needed to function well at your work; and more importantly, the ability to change. Why is it so difficult for most people to lose weight, drop a bad habit, or get ahead in life? It’s as if people keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

The ability to recognize a fault and change for the better is a rare, but an extremely important quality. It’s the only way you’ll be able to learn how to run with the bulls.

Bottom Line

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone. Even though it focuses on succeeding in an organizational setting, and I work for myself, I found the lessons to be relevant to work in general.

Run With the Bulls, by Tim Irwin