Book Review of No More Gold Stars by Carol Sanford

In “No More Gold Stars,” Carol Sanford challenges conventional notions of achievement and success. Carol is a renowned business consultant and educator and what struck me about this book about how it impacts the whole of life, extending beyond the corporate realm to dissect the deeply ingrained societal obsession with linear notions of achievement and success.

The book serves as a comprehensive critique of the prevalent culture of extrinsic motivation, where individuals are conditioned to seek validation through external markers of success. Sanford argues persuasively that this paradigm not only stifles creativity and personal growth but also undermines the intrinsic motivation essential for genuine fulfilment.

One of the book’s strengths lies in Sanford’s ability to offer practical alternatives to the gold star mentality. Drawing from her extensive research and hands-on experience, she advocates for a paradigm shift towards intrinsic motivation, emphasizing the cultivation of values, purpose, and meaningful relationships.  The case studies from her work in South Africa after the dismantling of the Apartheid regime show how potential can be cultivated and grown from within, although she does caveat with the observation that many black employees had not had the benefit/burden of a top-down education, but were instead resourceful and energised.

Furthermore, Sanford dismantles the dichotomy between success and failure, urging readers to embrace setbacks as invaluable opportunities for learning and growth. By reframing challenges as catalysts for development rather than impediments to success, she empowers individuals to transcend the limitations of external validation and chart their unique paths towards fulfilment.

“No More Gold Stars” is not merely a critique but a call to action — a call to reclaim agency over one’s journey and redefine success on one’s own terms. Sanford’s insightful narrative challenges readers to interrogate their own beliefs and assumptions, inviting them to embark on a transformative journey towards self-actualization and authenticity.

For me personally this has been a powerfully life-changing book:

  • I’ve shed all notion of feeling the need to do a MSc or PhD in order to feel confident in the regenerative field
  • I’ve gained confidence in my own unique journey to where I am now, recognising that it has given me a wide variety of experiences and abilities that won’t ever be recognised in the business-as-usual world.
  • I’ve felt blessed by the ‘terrible’ schooling I had – seeing that the strike days and unplanned lessons were often opportunities for me to pursue my own learning
  • I’ve been influenced by Carol’s suggestion to ‘never do things the same way twice’ – this has impacted the way I facilitate groups of leaders in particular
  • I understand the history around our conventional top-down approach to learning much better
  • I feel even better able to inspire everyone, everywhere to be part of the regenerative transformation
  • I feel more confident to challenge overt displays of ego and behaviour that raises external validation (or squashes internal personal development).
  • And I recognise even more deeply that all of the ‘I’ statements above are merely part of the bigger ‘we’ of people and planet. That my role is to create the soil for others to bring forward their own unique potential (and that’s the most important role in the world).

In conclusion, Carol Sanford’s “No More Gold Stars” is a groundbreaking book that dares to challenge the status quo, offering a compelling vision for a more meaningful and fulfilling existence. With its blend of profound insights and actionable guidance, this book is essential reading for anyone seeking to transcend the allure of external validation and cultivate a life of purpose and authenticity.

So it’s a 5 Gold Star Review Carol from me (only joking 😉

You can find more about Carol’s work here


Review by Sarah Spencer, founder of Think like a Tree/Think like a Forest and author of Think like a Tree: the natural principles guide to life.

To join Sarah in a regenerative business/organisation journey check out our programmes here.

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