Book Review: The 3 Gaps by Hyrum W. Smith

promo_02The 3 Gaps:  Are You Making a Difference? is a short book and far from the most detailed or comprehensive one I have come across lately.  However, it might just be the most personally useful book I have ever read ….

Many books engage me to some degree.  I find myself rating books based on a measurement I call the Head-Bob … the more my head bobs up and down in agreement, the better the book. 

It’s a crude method, but surprisingly accurate. 

I found my head moving quite a bit as I read this one, and felt very engaged, both in the content and in the possibilities for my own growth.

Hyrum W. Smith makes a bold promise to the reader wrapped around the basic intent of the book:

Inner peace comes from having serenity, balance, and harmony in our lives achieved through the disciplined closing of the Three Gaps.”  (pg. 7)

Inner peace is no small thing, especially these days.   This got my attention early on, mainly for what is missing:   no mention of business success, career skyrocketing, or even becoming a better manager or partner … not that those type of successes are not implied and most probably will derive from a careful application of Smith’s formulas.

The usual measures of success are not the end goal … Inner peace is the true measure of success here.

share_18The 3 Gaps includes three main sections and none of these areas of focus will be new to you:   Beliefs, Values, and Time.   What is different is how Smith addresses the relationships between each and the clear way in which he helps us understand what we need to do to close our gaps.

For example, here’s his straightforward description of the Beliefs Gap:

“ … the gap between what you believe to be true and what is actually true:  Your Beliefs Gap” (pg. 8)

Each section presents in a similar direct way and in some depth.   With a little work, each of these three main sections could be a small book in itself.

For example, Smith pulls no punches with this very powerful observation as he begins the discussion on how we might use our time more effectively:

“ … we all have the same daily allotment of twenty-four hours that our ancestors had.   What has changed is the amount of stuffy we’re trying to cram into those same hours.”  (pg. 64)

share_19Each section also includes a practical list of actions to bring our beliefs, values, or time choices into alignment.  Each list is clear, powerful, and useful … as an example, here’s the three steps for closing the Values Gap:

Identify your Governing Values (pg. 40):

In this step, Smith asks us to consider this question:  “What would I cross the I-beam for?”  You need to read the whole description of the “I-Beam Exercise” to get the full impact, but I would wager that when one takes this exercise seriously, it will affect the direction of your life.  Your response to the exercise begins the process of determining your Governing Values – those core things in your life that matter above all else, even your own life

Write a Clarifying Statement Describing Exactly What Your Governing Values Mean to You (pg. 42):

Once identified, we describe and clarify our Governing Values.  This important step in the process is often missing from other values exercises, where we name a general term, but do not do the harder work of clarifying what that term specifically and deeply means to us.

Prioritize Your Governing Values (pg. 43):

Another important step where we make some hard choices about which values are more important.  In my experience, this is the hardest step for most, because every decision to elevate a value means another value moves lower on the list.   Psychologically, we interpret a lower rating as devaluing, even when all the identified values are strongly held.


Smith writes clearly and simply.   Warning:  The book starts with a heartbreaking story of personal loss that is hard to read or imagine living through.   Throughout this book, you will find a higher percentage than usual of personal and gripping accounts from the author and others who have faced horrific challenges to their bodies and spirits.   The stories are often challenging, but give us clear illustrations of what is possible for the human spirit.

Smith does not flinch from the hurt in life, but offers us a solid plan to deal with and move past pain, suffering, and loss.


The 3 Gaps expands nicely on one important idea:  Your choices about your Beliefs, Values, and Time, when aligned individually and with each other, will result in more positive and more effective living.

You will find value in this book if …

…you help others engage in positive change.

…you help others learn how to help people grow and change.

…you face a personal or professional challenge.

While many of the actions and recommendations are not unique or new, Smith has collected a powerful set of messages in one concise book.   The brevity makes this an easy read, while the content makes it a powerful read.



promo_01Hyrum W. Smith, distinguished author, speaker, and businessman. was one of the original creators of the popular Franklin Day Planner. In 1983 he co-founded the Franklin Quest Company to produce the planner and train users in the time management principles the planner was based on. Hyrum stepped down as Chairman & CEO in 1999 and served as Vice-Chairman of the Board until 2004.

For four decades, he has been empowering people to effectively govern their personal and professional lives. Hyrum’s books and presentations have been acclaimed by audiences world-wide. He combines wit and enthusiasm with a gift for communicating compelling principles that inspire lasting personal change.

Hyrum is the author of several nationally-acclaimed books, including The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management, What Matters Most, The Modern Gladiator, and You Are What You Believe.

Status Symbols …

Sport Car“Status Symbol:  What your neighbor has two of and you don’t have one of.”

Author:  Unknown but astute

Well, most of us are familiar with the creeping sense of envy that comes from someone else having something we do not have.   Interesting that when we see someone else with something we do not have, we often then want that thing … regardless of other logic about whether we need that thing.

Entire industries depend on this very human foible … a notable example being the consumer electronics folks, who love to come up with something we did not know we wanted until we saw the ads and inhaled their heady promises of paradise reached.

This applies pretty much the same to work situations, life style choices, and all that stuff on the Wheel of Life.  It’s not just about way smarter and bendable smartphones or ever-lighter laptop/tablet/combos. 

You may be holding on to career and work-life goals simply because you see others who have attained those goals. You may engage in behaviors and have aspirations because you believe you are supposed to do or want them?  

Maybe you have trouble clearly delineating your authentic hopes and dreams, because you allow what others hope, dream, and do to sway your thinking.

So the questions to ponder today are simple:

What are you lusting after because someone else has it?

Why are you doing this to yourself?

What could you do instead?

Wondering how to get hold of the latest and greatest portable electronic communications device in the Heartland ….


Image:  From and in no way representative of the author’s dreams or desires … I’d want one in electric blue, for goodness’ sake.

Not Fitting Under the Christmas Tree …

I have had extra time to think, while unable to do my usual things this week.  One thing that I indulged myself over was thinking about Christmas presents I would like to receive that would not fit under the Christmas tree.

Yeah, I mentioned world peace, an end to exclusion, intolerance, hatred, hunger, and all the rest.  However, past those lofty desires, I am left with only one thing on the list, but I do expand on that one desire a bit:

Old HouseAn old farmhouse far enough back off the main road to feel alone, but not so far that you feel lonely …

White sides, with dark blue or dark green trim on everything.

Worn, but in a good way … like an old and familiar coat, that slips easily on, provides comfort and warmth, without sharp edges.

Two stories minimum, with three preferably … the taller, the better.

Lots of windows, in a climate that was friendly to light and did not promote leaking air.

A second floor with a patio and enough space for four or five to sit comfortably close and watch the world go by.

Sleeping space for up to 16 people at a time, for family, friends, and colleagues to visit the quietness.

Close to or overlooking a body of water, ideally salt water, with a view of rippling waves for eternal delight.

Near a large town or small city, but not so close that I am tempted to visit there every day … once a week would be suffiicent to resupply and enjoy the movement of the town.

Pipes that creak every now and then to remind you of their existence and make the house seem alive.

There would be cats …

Gables and other architectural oddities … no predominant style, just a jumble of different perspectives on solid and eye-catching architecture.

Trees … the type that look scary in winter, but lush when in bloom during the spring.

A porch … a very long porch, with ample seating for 10 to 12 people, with railings and a swing … at both ends.

Perched on a small hill or far enough up a mountain to maintain a  soul-soothing view of the previously-mentioned body of water.

A somewhat well-kept lawn, but not manicured or completely tamed, with a variety of greens, yellows, reds, and whatever other colors Nature provides.

Southern exposure, to take full advantage of all those windows and all those sitting places.

Solid and dependable Internet coverage to maintain contact with people, events, and the world (sorry, but this is like needing drinking water for me.)

Well, that’s my big wish for the Christmas season …

No chance I will actually get this one, but I did learn a few things about what is in my heart, as I engaged in this little whimsy, while recovering from several physical issues.

When you let yourself dream, you are not always just fiddling away time.  As I continued to let thoughts pour out of me, I noticed some things popping out, which I need to consider more seriously for the future.

1)  I apparently desire to “return to the land”, not as a farmer, but I bet I could write up a storm in the environment above.

2)  I like the variety of nature and the changing seasons.

3)  I do not need the hustle and bustle of the city. 

4)  I have room for visitors, which means I do not wish a solitary life.

5)  Being away from the finer things of civilization (Internet excepted) is attractive to me.

I am still pondering, so additional insights might be forthcoming.  In the meanwhile, I have a question for you to consider:

“What’s your Christmas present?  You know, the one that won’t fit under the tree.”

Letting myself dream a little more during the hurry, scurry, and blurry of the season in the Heartland ….


On This Veteran’s Day …

Veteran's Day 2014 posterVeteran’s Day has been part of my life  …

As a boy, I watched as what seemed like every adult male in our community, including my father, crammed themselves into their old uniforms and paraded around the square as the high school band gayly played.

Some made speeches, some offered prayers, and we always ended with “Taps”, as mournful and evocative a song as you can play on a bugle.

Then we went to the small cemetery near our farm and placed little American flags on selected graves to honor those no longer with us, followed by brief and quiet reflection and remembrance of each person.

Veteran’s Day was up close and personal to me …

During and after my military service, I sort of lost track of Veteran’s Day. The city folks celebrate differently than the way I grew up with.  The day seemed to become more about having a holiday, a day off from work, and sales in the big box stores.  Patriotic speeches which were like snack food (temporarily feeding our hunger, but soon gone) fill the air and much hoopla occurs.

On a more positive note, I enjoy the many personal stories that show up around this date about fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, and others close to someone who stops to remember their service … up close and personal.

Today, I have only one wish for our annual celebration of those who have served and those who continue to serve …

Let’s dump the day …

Instead, let’s truly honor our men and women who have taken the oath, worn the uniform, and done what their country has asked of them,  every single day of the year.

Let go of the politics associated with whether you agree with every decision made by the country past or present.  Let go of whether you personally served or even know anyone who has.   Let go of the temporary pride that comes and goes with the appointed day.

Consider thoughtfully and carefully how our elected officials and laws affect active and retired military personnel and their families.  Take time to learn about how benefits and treatment are administered and dispensed.  Just ask yourself one simple question and honestly answer it to the best of your compassionate ability:

Are we truly honoring their service every day in how we care for them?

As stories of substandard and sometimes unforgivable treatment of those who have served continue to come forward, only one thought should be in our minds: 

We can and should do better with our financial, medical, psychological, educational, and economic support of military personnel and their families.  

Hold our elected officials and ourselves accountable for meeting this sacred trust to do what is fair, just, and right.

I am choosing intentionally not to beat the drum for any specific law or action that falls in this category.  My plea is not about supporting or defeating any legislation or candidate … it’s about all of us seriously treating our veterans in a humane and just fashion.

Trying to truly honor those who serve and have served in the Heartland ….


For context and history of Veteran’s Day, go here:  Veteran’s Day History

About the Gift of Do-Overs …

Count the Days - SartreNow he tells me …

Just so I am clear on this, according to Sartre:

We only get one day at a time.

The day is renewable but time-limited.

Every one of our one day’s is a new day.

Our day starts when we rise and ends when we sleep.

What happens today (our one day) is not bound by what has gone before.

Nothing can bring back the day just past or hurry the day to come.

Only one day … one single day at a time, but each one brand new. 

Well, then, hadn’t we better get crackin’? . . .

This all reminds me of another fairly useful quotation by my favorite Republican:

“Whatever you are, be a good one.”

Abraham Lincoln

Intending to fully use my one and only day I have in the Heartland ….