Book review: Transcend.

Transcend. The New Science of Self-Actualization
By: Scott Barry Kaufman


Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Author Scott Barry Kaufman has a deep affinity with the teachings of fellow psychologist and philosopher Abraham Maslow (1908-1970).

You are probably familiar with Maslow’s hierachy of needs. You know, that pyramid of lived building blocks. The things you need to make yourself a secure, balanced, self-actualised individual.

Interestingly Maslow never actually intended his theory to be represented as a pyramid. That was done later as Maslow’s ideas were integrated into corporate training programs in the late 60’s.
Corporations just love pyramids.

Maslow actually believed that his hierarchy was a more fluid and dynamic model that entwined each individual’s life in different ways.

Towards the end of his life Maslow added an additional ‘layer’ to his hierarchy: self-transcendence.

If you deliberately plan on being less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you’ll be deeply unhappy for the rest of your life. You will be evading your own capacities, your own possibilities.

Abraham Maslow The further reaches of human nature (1971)

This book looks at Maslow’s life as it related to the unfolding of his ideas. It also unpacks each section of the pyramid (which Kaufman re-badges with a sailboat metaphor) so you can better understand how they relate to your own life.
A series of short reflective exercises in each chapter facilitates this.

Kaufman (and Maslow) urges a life oriented towards growth (opening the sail in his sailboat metaphor), exploration and a love of humanity rather than one of seeking power, possessions, fame and even happiness per se.
Growth including steps such as:

  • seeing the sacredness in all things.
  • seeking out new experiences (especially with art and nature)
  • creating time for meditation
  • embracing both our past and our dark sides.
  • Grow secure relationships and high-quality connections.
  • cultivate gratitude and awe.
  • cultivate values.
  • cultivate states of flow and peak experience.
  • develop healthy assertiveness.
  • face our fears.
  • embrace our identities.
  • take risks.
  • let go of perfectionism.

Finally, as a healthy integration of the other needs is established…the progression from self-actualisation to self-transcendence shifts the whole deal from an inward facing orientation to a merging of self and world.

We may spend most of our waking hours advancing our own interests, but we all have the capacity to transcend self-interest and become simply a part of a whole. It’s not just a capacity; it’s the portal to many of life’s most cherished experiences.

Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind (2012).

I would not classify Transcend as a self-help book exactly. It is more of a reflectional catalyst. I highly recommend this book if you are looking to dig a little deeper into your own state of affairs, trying to clarify purpose and meaning amidst the overwhelming disruptors and difficulties we are all simmering in right now.

Transcend is a compass for a life well lived. 

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2 responses to “Book review: Transcend.”

  1. Good recommendation. Learning to improve healthy assertiveness is something I am taking away from your review. Thanks for posting


  2. Looking forward to reading this when I have finished Humankind. Thanks for the great reviews.


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