Ping Pong Leadership: 18 Principles to Succeed at Any Table in Business, Sports, and Life

Justin Bookey

Publisher: Amplify Publishing Pages: 293 Price: (paperback) $19.95 ISBN: 9798891383432 Reviewed: July, 2024 Author Website: Visit »

In his enthusiastic if niche leadership advice book, marketing strategist and table tennis champ Justin Bookey marries those two passions.

Bookey began playing table tennis at age six, when he “could barely see over the ratty old table in our basement.” Years later, he won medals at the US Open and the US National Championships. He has also seen business success in many areas, including web development and producing award-winning marketing campaigns.

The author argues that leadership is like ping pong, “easy to learn but hard to master,” and shares stories from his experiences in the sport and in business to illustrate lessons he learned through the lens of ping pong. In each chapter, he details one of 18 “Pong Principles,” introducing readers to each concept (labeled “In the game”), illustrating its real-world application with an interview with a successful person (including Neil deGrasse Tyson and Will Shortz) who has used that principle (“In leadership”), and offers prompts to connect the principle to the reader’s life (“Game points”).
The principles range from the concrete (“Be careful what you measure and why,” referring to data collection, which can be as misleading as often as it’s useful) to the more oblique (“Be an elegant learner,” meaning “having the humility to admit…limitation” and learn from others).

Bookey’s questions and prompts for self-exploration are helpful, but his eagerness to share his passion for his sport is less successful; although he writes that “ping pong is a uniquely universal sport,” most readers will know it primarily as a basement leisure activity, and the many descriptions of the excitement of ping pong and skills required for the sport fail to resonate. Meanwhile, the leadership lessons are too anodyne to compensate for these diversions.

Ultimately, the book reads like the transcript of a keynote speech, filled out with questions for self-discovery. While readers will find some nuggets of worthwhile advice, the framework of ping pong is more distracting than edifying.

Also available as an ebook.

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