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.

Character Counts For Something, Right?

“Be more concerned with your character than with your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

John Wooden   as quoted in How to Be Like Coach Wooden: Life Lessons from Basketball’s Greatest Leader (2006) pg. 5

I hate getting wisdom from athletic coaches.

As  a boy, I was rather non-athletic and I lived in a rural area where most boys were “real” boys who enjoyed hunting and fishing, were rugged and strong, and enjoyed the heck out of team sports.

Since I was “none of the above”, I felt a little out of place.   A little time in the Army cured me of the delusion that I could not become stronger and more rugged and a long period of running 5Ks, 10Ks, and longer races did help me see myself as somewhat athletic.   

But that’s not the point of this post.

Wooden points out a great reality:   You control your character, but you do not control your reputation.

Reputation is in the mind, but not yours

Your reputation is in the minds of other people.  You can influence, you can manipulate, you can campaign, you can try to trick, but ultimately those other brains still function independently of you.

Good thing to keep in mind about a great many life issues.

Character is all in your head

Character is built on what you think, what you say, and what you do … all of which are in your span of control.

Character is visible to other people, at least in part, so your overt behaviors may influence how someone else regards you.  Just remember you cannot control that regard, only influence it.

Character ultimately has more to do with how you view yourself and your world.

   Character really is all in your head.

Trying hard to remember this one because it’s important in the Heartland ….


Three “Simple” Steps to Real Listening …

“Everyone hears what you have to say.  Friends listen to what you say.  Best friends listen to what you don’t say.”


Ever had  a relationship where the other person understood what you were not saying?

… A relationship where silence was okay, because you were linked enough to not have to use words to convey your mood or siutation?

If “Yes”,  lucky you:)

Really listening to someone as active listening asks us to do, is hard work.

1)  Empty your mind

In other words, forget about what you want to say.   Minimize or eliminate distraction.   Just listen.

Never underestimate the power of focused attention to another person.

2)  Hear the words and the meaning behind them

Once you have emptied your mind of things that get in the way, you can concentrate on the words chosen to convey some message and the images that come from those words.

Words are not generic … each has a specific meaning, based on the person’s background, culture, and emotional state.  Pay attention and analyze what words they choose and the tone in which they use those words.

3)  Hear the silence and the words not chosen

This is the most difficult, but is also the source of the greatest insight.

Think about what was said and look for the missing pieces.  Try this:  

If you were talking about the topic, what would you include?

What did you expect to hear that you did not?

How congruent is their tone with their word choices?

Well, this is actually the easy part … once you hear the unspoken words and feel the underlying emotion, then you have to respond accordingly.

…. Tomorrow.

Trying to listen beyond the sounds in the Heartland ….


This Is My Life …

“My life is my message.

Mahatma Gandhi    Mahatma : Life of Gandhi 1869-1948 (1968) Reel 13    Response to a journalist’s question about what his message to the world was.

Sigh … I am already tired just thinking about trying to compare my life to that of Gandhi.  He’s ahead in the running, if you did not already know.

I recently made a fairly obvious pain of myself in a meeting.  The reasons  included some valid stress from the illness of a loved one and some rather immature jealousy of another person.

Whatever the reasons, my behavior was poor.  I was testy and somewhat confrontational, with a touch of “miffed” thrown in.

Whatever my reasons, what others saw was how I acted and how I interacted.

In the world of psychology, the term “incongruence” seems to fit this best.  My behaviors did not fit the image I have of myself.

I sense a clear and simple message here from Gandhi:

1)  What you do matters

Your actions are important, since they are the outward manifestation of what you believe important and worth your energy and time.

2) Others are aware of what you do 

Other may not know what you think or how you feel, but they can see what you do.  Your choices and decisions which result in action are there for others to see and judge.

3)  You will be remembered for what you do

Images make strong impressions.  What actions are you taking every day that will stick in people’s memories?

So the real question is this:

What message are your actions sending to others?

Trying to act in a more admirable fashion in the Heartland ….


“In Heaven, There is no Beer … For Good Reason”

“In heaven all the interesting people are missing.”

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

For a stuffy old moralist and religious philosopher, Nietzsche had some wit about him.

What Nietzsche appears to be saying:

Bad people are more interesting than good people.

If current television and films are any indication, this is a resounding “Yes!”.   We are fascinated not so much by those who are good

At the very least, we want our characters conflicted.   The “too good to be true”  person is usually as one-dimensional or even as a sacrificial character, someone who will not make it to the end of the story.

Severus Snape is a good example.  We love to hate the guy, even though he turns out to be a hero in the end.   I’ll bet your favorite Snape scene is NOT when he is being good:).

It’s more fun to be bad than to be good.

Well, isn’t it:)?

Those who embrace their badness completely are envied sometimes, because they give in to their baser impulses so completely.   Most of us have some desire to do that, to give in, and just be bad.

We don’t, of course.  But sometimes we secretly resent doing the right thing.

Bad people go to hell (are punished).

Well, this may be true or not, depending on your theology.

Whether you believe in a physical, metaphorical, or emotional eternal place of damnation, the point is that we tend to want those who enjoy 1 and 2 above to be punished for it.

If being bad does not result in some unthinkable fate, like having to listen to Itsy Bitsy Yellow Polka Dot Bikini forever, then why be good?   We want justice.

So what do YOU think?   Is this what Nietzsche was implying or am I all wet?

Trying to decide whether to be bad or good in the Heartland ….


About that “Itsy Bitsy … Bikini” reference – In the film “One, Two, Three”  set in the Cold War, the evil East German Communists torture a captured “spy” by playing this song without stopping for hours and hours.  Well, it was really funny then.
About the title – “In Heaven There Is No Beer” is a well-known unofficial song of most US colleges and a bouncy little tune it is:)   Read the historical facts on Wikipedia.
The image is by Fra Angelico of “The Last Judgement, Hell” circa 1431