Nicola Cairncross
Nicola Cairncross Courtesy

The book: Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices
Authors: Paul R. Lawrence and Nitin Nohria

Jossey-Bass, 2002

352 pages, $24.95 (paperback)

I just finished an amazing book called Driven: How Human Nature Shapes Our Choices, by Paul R. Lawrence and Nitin Nohria.

Described as Darwin with an MBA, the book explores (drawing on scientific proof from eminent scientists, philosophers and scholars through the ages) just what drives us as human beings and how that plays out in how we live, work and interact together.

Lawrence and Nohria propose that there are four main independent drives -- to acquire, bond, learn, and defend. The authors assert that each of the four drives named are completely independent of each other and that we all have of the drives, albeit in different amounts. They say that the way our brains have physically developed has contributed to the development of these drives and even more interestingly, that the drives, as they emerged, have actually shaped the way our brains further developed. All of which adds up to the totally unique way that humans think and act.

Towards the end of the book, the authors put forward a really fascinating theory, about how the choices in mates that the females of the species have made over the last few thousand years, have further shaped the development of our brains and these four core drives. But I won't spoil that one for you ...

Why This Book Has Had Such An Impact On Me

I'm always on the hunt for great books about personal and business success, leadership and greater self-discovery. And I'm totally fascinated with learning what made me how I am (a bit outside the norm, it has to be said!).

A difficult childhood with a loving but emotionally distant mother who suffered mental health issues meant that my siblings and I were brought up differently than many children, with different assumptions about how the world works. My brothers and sisters and I -- all highly intelligent -- exhibit many similar behaviors and characteristics because of that. We are all emotionally driven in similar and yet quite different ways, and we have all chosen superficially different (but actually quite alike) ways to deal with those drives and needs.

This book has given me many insights into my life, helping to explain some of the choices I have made in my personal life. And while I have had great Internet marketing success, Driven has highlighted how I can better execute my business model.

Why You Need To Read It Too

I'm assuming you are a business owner or leader (or an aspiring one) if you are reading this. I'm also assuming that you want to become more successful, and want to satisfy your drive to acquire (money, achievement, material possessions), your drive to bond (recognition, peer collaboration, romantic mates), your drive to learn (business owners need to learn and grow or their competition will prevail) or your drive to defend (retain market share, look after your family).

See? Once you read this book, you will never think the same again!

Because it stands to reason, if you know what the four most basic, independent human drives are, you can not only create a better life for yourself, but you can create better products, come up with offers that compel people to buy them, write better copy, and make your clients happier.

I highly recommend you read Driven for yourself, and while it's a fairly scientific, academic-style book, I found it gripping and an immensely readable (or listen-able to, if that's your thing!) book.

From it I got a lot of insights into my life, and into my past and current behaviors. Why, in fact, I have made certain choices and continue to make certain choices, even when those choices seem to be potentially harmful to me. That has got to be useful to everyone, surely?

I even realized why I have chosen my mates over the years, and why I fell in love with some who did not -- and were never going to -- become my mates!

I have also realized that my current business model is not fulfilling three of the four drives, and why, and what I need to do about it.

Now, who couldn't benefit from becoming aware of those kinds of things?

Nicola Cairncross runs The Business Success Factory, a 21st-century marketing department for businesses. This piece was originally posted on her blog, at

Cairncross, who lives in Brighton & Hove, East Sussex, England, is a speaker and author of The Money Gym and The Business Success Factory. Her life underwent a massive turnaround after a book fell off a shelf in the Oxford Street branch of Books Etc. in London.