This book is about the rest of your life. You are not here to do what’s already been done and your time is precious because it’s finite. The past is gone but an extraordinary future awaits – provided you have the essential guidance and are willing to choose the path that fulfills your enormous potential.

Dr. Jim Murray, a distinguished adult educator, has been recognized at the university level for “excellence in the design and delivery of lifelong education.” In fulfilling his quest to liberate genius and change lives, he shares his time-tested discoveries and practical insights with those seeking to find their life’s purpose. While anyone, regardless of age, would find immense value in his straightforward advice, his intended audience consists largely of those at mid-life, mid-career or in the midst of a search for new meaning and direction.



Dr. Jim’s fourth book… and best yet.

Early readers summed up their feelings about the book this way:

“… brilliantly combines neurology, psychology and philosophy.” 

“… the principles and practicalities of becoming extraordinary.” 

“… a road map to changing your life … if you believe you can.”

“… for those at mid-life, mid-career or searching for direction.”

“… identifies the innumerable opportunities inherent in life’s richness.”


Excerpt from the PROLOGUE

This book is about the rest of your life.

I believe we only live once and that we’re not here to do what’s already been done. With no opportunity for rehearsal or reprise, a notion worthy of serious reflection, we are often ill-prepared for the richness of living. Many stride forward haunted by versions of themselves they chose not to become. Permitting life to just happen, or to live according to the dictates of how others think you should, borders on negligence if not stupidity.

Life is often called a journey and that presumes a destination. The compelling question is whether that place or the next plateau will be of your choosing, will be decided by circumstances you think are beyond your control or, worse, will be determined by others. No one knows the ultimate time or location of the journey’s end. The past is gone but the possibility of an extraordinary future awaits, provided we are willing to choose the path that fulfills our purpose. We all have the capacity for endless reinvention and there is no expiration date on our ability to grow.

We live in troubling, complex, uncertain and cynical times. Life is not fair, talent doesn’t always count, dedication doesn’t necessarily guarantee accomplishment and there are countless unknowns. Failure and disappointment are part of the road we travel. If we choose to dwell on the obstacles, we can get frustrated, angry or distracted. Becoming fearful, insecure and bitter only wastes precious time – time that can be spent doing much more important things. Like making a difference.

Belief dictates behaviour. We can change our lives if we genuinely want to and if we believe we can. Notwithstanding uncontrollable events and occasional self-doubts, we are the sole architects of our fate. Each of us possesses a transformative and regenerative power that can determine our destiny.

Our legacy is defined by what we do with what we’ve got in the time we have with those who matter. Life isn’t forever. So our purpose ought to be a life of meaning. How we choose to react to our circumstances is entirely a consequence of our skills, insights, resolve, demeanour and character. Simply put: What we become is up to us.

I have dedicated my professional career to reminding people, without reservation, that it is within their power to determine their purpose and to demonstrating how incremental improvements can enable them to realize their innate potential. Your potential is the absolute best you are capable of becoming and that’s the only standard you should ever measure yourself against.

The counsel I offer has nothing to do with becoming what you are “meant” to be. That implies a higher order of design. I believe we become what we want to be, that the ability to do so lies within us and is not dispensed by some divine authority. Our destiny is not in the “hands of the gods”. It’s in our heads. If you truly believe your god has a plan for you, it follows that you don’t have a plan for yourself. Hence, you will just keep waiting for things to happen and hope for the best.

While anyone, regardless of age, may find value in the thoughtful contemplation of their aspirations, my intended audience consists largely of those at mid-life, mid-career or in the midst of a search for identity. The ones whom John Gardner so insightfully describes as “accomplished fugitives from themselves.” These are the people I sometimes find in my classrooms.

Understandably, younger people may have less interest in the concept of “becoming” as they tend to think they will live a long time, that they know more than others and believe what will be will be. They may be right. For them, a vision is just corporate speak and, as they so often ask, “What’s the rush anyway?” Hence, for these readers, my advice may not be instructive at this particular juncture of their journey. Fair enough.

The essays that follow represent a distillation of some of my work over the course of five decades, the consumption of a veritable library of books, insightful discussions with tens of thousands of learners from all walks of life and valued engagements with leaders seeking novel ways to realize the enormous but unfulfilled potential of their organizations. The views espoused do not reflect all I know about achieving success (I have written other books germane to that topic) but they come reasonably close.

On my own journey, I had some advantages over others. Orphaned early, I grew up with the priceless competitive edge of having to do it on my own. The absence of parental authority created a will to survive, the strength to challenge and, ultimately, my independence. I worked hard for what I achieved, though never considered it work. Effort scares off the lazy and the timid, leaving greater opportunity for those willing to plan and take action.

Circumstances and a curious penchant for the “path less travelled” led me down a winding road of unique obstacles, great relationships and unexpected opportunities. I made mistakes and dealt with my disappointments. Regrets were never a residue of the decisions made. I may have more successes than most but that’s because I’ve fallen down many times and got up again and again. During this process of enlightenment, I discovered my compass and my purpose.

If you find value in the pages that follow, make the discoveries your own. It’s not who said something that makes it worthwhile; it’s whether it adds to your life. I have provided spaces throughout the book for you to scribble personal notes and questions worthy of contemplation. (You may choose to read my last essay, on the importance of writing, first.) Hopefully my thoughts will strike a responsive chord. If you disagree with them, I will be pleased – it means you’re thinking for yourself about the future to which you aspire.


  1. ryan

    I came across Dr. Jim Murray at a time of significant change in my life. After 9 years with a company in progressively senior roles, the last one a VP position, I decided I wasn’t learning enough and it was time for a change and new challenge… and I left my company. It was a monumental leap – for the first time ever in my life, I had no job. It was a courageous, exciting and very scary decision. Shortly after I left my job, I took Dr. Murray’s course “Becoming… what you really want to be”; Jim’s insights and no-nonsense way of delivering his message really connected with me. So I bought his book of the same name… and I love it!

    The book is inspirational, informative and an excellent reminder of the things that are truly important in life – personally and professionally. The comprehensive topics are covered succinctly in short (3-4 page) chapters and have become ‘go to’ readings for me when the need (often) arises. The chapters on leadership and risk are personally very relevant and helpful for me – I often re-read them when I think about why I left my company, what I am looking for and what is important to me.

    I think this book should be in everyone’s hip pocket: leaders, people looking to drive change whether in their careers or personal lives and quite frankly – everyone. As a testament to how good I think this book is, I bought it for the President/CEO of my former company and bought an extra copy for when I come across someone dear to me who is looking to make a change in their lives. I hope the book will be as helpful for them, in valuing themselves and finding a path forward, as it has been for me.

    – Elizabeth Mitchell, Toronto

  2. ryan

    Each week or when needed, depending on what I was dealing with (professionally and/or personally), I would find a suitable theme in Dr. Jim’s book and make notes to guide my future actions. His advice is always relevant and resonates. It’s like a crack of light shining into a dark room and provides wise counsel and immediate comfort, especially in times of utter despair. I’ve kept his book near me for important meetings or critical conversations at work. It’s my rudder for continued growth – definitely one of those books you can really never put down. I’ve haven’t encountered anything like it before.

    – Tyler Nahorny, Winnipeg

  3. ryan

    A compelling call to action. Jim Murray’s “Becoming…what you really want to be” grabs your attention and won’t let go. No BS here – I was captivated. Once I sat down to read it, I didn’t put it down. From Prologue to Epilogue, every page has advice and wisdom that really hits home.

    Jim Murray’s Becoming … inspires us because he shows that we are all a “work in progress” and have the choice to drive our lives along the path of our choosing. Whether we are beginning, ending or just “fighting the good fight” in the middle, Jim provides crisply written contemplations to help us identify and seize opportunities, make sense of our current challenges and begin the journey to becoming what we truly want to be.

    These short engaging topics are laid out alphabetically to help you find the exact bit of advice and tuition required in quick and digestible chapters. Jim treats the reader to big ideas that encourage us to grow and continue to improve no matter where we find ourselves. The only actions that will change us are those that we plan and begin in the current moment.

    This should be mandatory reading for everyone in your life whom you care for – full of gems and ideally suited to any stage of life or career. I wish Jim had written it sooner so that I could have got started sooner.

    – Kevin Irvine, Vancouver

  4. ryan

    Dr. Murray’s latest book is an absolute gem. It is not a book to be devoured in one sitting; but to be sipped like a fine wine. Give the content time to breath; sip, swirl and enjoy slowly.

    “Becoming … what you really want to be” is a book of essays that covers just about every important area of personal and professional growth. Topics range from Advisors to Awareness, Confidence to Conflict to Compass, Failure to Friendships, Leadership to Luck, and Power to Purpose. Each presents an excellent summary, not only of why the topic is germane; but, more importantly, how to develop and harness its potential.

    Jim is at his absolute best synthesizing the most up-to-date research, in addition to his own thinking on each topic and providing us with insightful and easy-to-understand steps to help us become the person we really want to be. As he suggests, “It is easy to find people who are willing to give you advice. It’s harder to find those whose advice is worth listening to”. His advice is not only worth listening to; it is worth acting upon.

    I highly recommend Dr. Murray’s book to all: young, old and those in-between. It provides great direction on how to be successful. I guarantee it will become a well-worn companion on your journey to reaching your full potential, as a person and as a professional.

    – Dr. Don MacRae, CEO, London

  5. ryan

    Someone once said five years from now we will be the same person, except for the people we meet and the books we read. Add Becoming … to your library.

    This book is different from the mainstream non-fiction, there is just no nonsense to charm you. It’s direct and to the point. It will not tell you everything will be great as long as you just wish it hard enough. Instead, Jim’s essays are hard truths about the endeavours and joys we experience in life combined with practical down-to-earth advice. Getting advice on key life issues can be hard, yet Becoming… succeeds because of Jim’s decades of personal research and eclectic experiences.

    Expect to read this book many times. The essays are compact and guarantee that every “next pass” will elevate new knowledge into the spotlight. His expert advice and insights on human nature assures Becoming… will be your go-to reference guide for everyday use. While no book can be a substitute for an in-person course with Jim, Becoming … is a companion for the times when you need some straight talk about the rest of your life. I highly recommend this book.

    – Volodya Gusak, CFO, Vancouver

  6. ryan

    I have had the privilege to learn from Jim Murray for the past several years. I have hundreds of emails and pages in my notebook filled with his thoughts and advice. Now with Becoming…, his wisdom is organized in concise chapters covering a wide range of topics. At first, I thought the book was too small but, after reading it, I realized it is a pocket guide to life and I carry it in my purse every day. In spare moments instead of looking at my phone, I take out the book and read a chapter. I have shared this book with colleagues, friends and family of all ages as it spans generations and is applicable to all aspects of life.

    – Ellen Bensky, CEO, Toronto

  7. ryan

    Dr. Murray’s latest book is a remarkably simple yet profoundly powerful tool. While reading the different essays, I was quickly engaged in deep reflection, the counsel and lessons encouraging me to review my life choices with renewed introspection. I found myself reassessing both my personal and professional goals, making thoughtful decisions and choices about the future. The learnings from Jim’s book, whether you follow all or only some, will impact anything and everything you will do during the rest of your life. Read this book – it may well change you. It’s your choice.

    – John Chow, Principal, Toronto

  8. Jim Murray

    This outstanding book contains lessons that are applicable in life and in business – lessons which are relevant to readers of all ages. As I read it, I found myself thinking, “I wish I had known this when I was 18!”. There is wisdom in these pages. Becoming… what you really want to be should not be on everybody’s “Must Read” list; it should be on everybody’s “Have Read” list.

    – Gary Pittard, CEO, Sydney Australia

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