'Bo's Lasting Lessons' isn't an autobiography, nor it is about how to be a great football coach. Instead it reveals legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler's personal philosophies on how to be a good leader.
I reviewed the audio version of the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. Actor John H. Mayer's gravelly voice reminded me of Schembechler, not in so much that it's an exact impersonation, but it conveyed Schembechler's blunt persona so that you feel like you're listening to Bo himself. Mayer provides a stern and uncomprising voice to the book, something I'm sure the coach would have appreciated.
Schembechler's lessons aren't revolutionary nor complicated, but instead reinforce the age-old principles that made him successful. All those things your father to you about things like about integrity, honesty, and hard work were true, but the beauty of them coming from the coach is that he's got of gob of stories to go along with each lesson. Ideas like being a good listener, treating everyone equal, communicating your rules and then following up with enforcement can sometimes be hollow, but when they're coming from someone as experienced and successful as Schembechler they carry a lot of weight.
A few of the stories stick out - Schembechler talks about Jeff George's narcissistic, spoiled attitude without ever referring to him by name but by "the Golden Arm"; dealing with Chris Spielman during his recruiting process; a freshman showing up at a team meeting wearing a Notre Dame shirt annd Bo's reaction; and "discovering" all-time Michigan rushing leader Jamie Morris.
The lessons I found particularly interesting are his insight on how to deal with the different levels of players on a team, whether they be star athletes, middle-tier players or walk-ons. He emphasizes that you must make sure your middle and lower-tier members are contributing to the team, ideas that were obviously missing from last year's Husker team.
Some might be tempted to think that the lessons are from a different era and don't apply now. However, human nature hasn't changed since Schembechler walked the Wolverine sideline nor it is about to any time soon. His directive that you need to recruit for character first is just as relevant now as it was 30 years ago and will be in another 30 years.
The audio version contains an interview with author John Bacon who knew Schembechler personally, spending a great deal of time around him. Bacon provides some insight as to Bo's the characters and what he was like in private. Consider it a bonus.
Anyone in a leadership position can benefit from the lessons in this book. Whether you're a 'Michigan Man' or not is irrelevant. The lessons are relevant whether you're coaching youth in a paid or volunteer position or in a management position at work. If you're about to spend some money on the next "how to be a great manager" book or "Leadership for Dummies", save your money and get Bo's Lasting Lessons instead.
I find myself wondering why there aren't more audio versions available of college football books. Given as much time as we spend in our cars, or in using an ipod, you'd think that more would be available. It's understandable why books from such publishers as Nebraska's 'Bison Books' would not be on audio as they don't sell enough copies to justify the cost (although excellent books just the same). Still, you'd think that the production cost would be lower than in the past and open the book up to a much wider audience.
If you're an editor, publisher, or involved in audio producing, I'd appreciate hearing from you.