|burn||Burn any copy you find of this book, it is horrific.|
|mock||This book is awful. Don't read this book and mock anyone you see reading this book.|
|don't||Don't read this book.|
|desert||If you're on a desert island and are bored out of your mind, this book is okay to read.|
|fan||If you're a fan of this author / genre, this book is worth reading.|
|worth||This book is interesting, fun, entertaining, and thus worth reading. I would hand this book to a friend who asked for a _____ type book.|
|strongly||I strongly recommend this book|
|amazing||OMG, this book is amazing and/or life-changing, let me buy you a copy.|
This is book 11 in the Virgil Flowers series.
I really want to have some clever plot synopsis for this book, the town is dying, to put it on the map some of the residents decide to deceive a whole bunch of people with an image of the Virgin Mary. Along comes a lot of people, all trying to get a piece of the Mary, which means you have good people trying to debunk the visions, bad people trying to make money off the process, religious people trying to prove or disprove the miracle, and suspicious people wondering why they recognize said Mary.
And people start dying.
Enter Flowers, to figure out who is killing said dying people. Because that's what he does.
Unlike previous books, where Flowers knows the answer immediately, we have more than a few it's this guy, no wait, it's that guy, no wait, this other guy. Which is far more likely to be reality. Unlike reality, Flowers actually keeps an open mind when the facts don't fit instead of making the data fit the hypothesis. Yay fiction!
Again, if you're a Flowers fan, the book is worth reading, I'll read the next one. Starting at first book is strongly recommended, both to see the Flowers humour which is stronger in the earlier books and to know the characters.
When he was in college, years earlier, during the usual late-night weed-fired discussions of sex, politics, and religion, he’d decided that religions and political parties were quite alike, except that religions dealt with morality, primarily, while political parties dealt with economics. In other words, they were both dealing with people’s deepest feelings about how the world should work. Differences could escalate to physical clashes, as they might have even in the late-night weed-fired college discussions, except, of course, for the weed: “You’re so full of shit, dude. Pass the joint.” Now, lying in bed all these years later, he still wondered why religions, since they dealt with morality, shouldn’t shun any form of violence to others? Then again, he thought, maybe they did. Maybe the connection between religion and violence was Fake News.
Virgil didn’t expect to find anything meaningful, and they didn’t. The first floor was what you’d expect if somebody had just walked out, locked
the door, and then died. An unwashed coffee cup on a kitchen table, a slender glass vase with three bluebells next to the cup.
A tear trickled down Osborne’s cheek. “I can’t, either . . . Somehow, you think your mom is going to last forever, even if you know she won’t.
This is Book 8 The Expanse series. And yes, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, except the shit at the end. I swear the authors have decided to take a page from George R. R. Martin's playbook. That doesn't reduce the enjoyments of the book, but does add a bit of bittersweetness to the end.
This book continues where the previous book left off, with Holden a prisoner, and the Resistance against Duarte gaining steam.
The book has a couple "wait, no, that didn't just happen, did it, wait, what's going on" moments, which are explained in the Expanse novellas. I liked how a couple of the this-doesn't-make-any-sense plots of a couple of them fold in upon this storyline, and, yes, make sense (even with an "of course").
I really need to be better about writing down the plots as I read the book, so that these reviews can be complete and utter spoilers for everyone else and good reminders for me. Today is not that day, so I'm stunningly vague here.
If you're reading the series, keep reading. If you're not reading it yet, but enjoy the SyFy series, worth reading. If you're a science fiction fan, totally strongly recommended.
She taught us to use everything shameful in our lives as a weapon to humiliate people who would diminish us. That’s the secret, you know.” “What’s the secret?” Kajri smiled. “The people who have power over you are weak too. They shit and bleed and worry that their children don’t love them anymore. They’re embarrassed by the stupid things they did when they were young that everyone else has forgotten. And so they’re vulnerable. We all define ourselves by the people around us, because that’s the kind of monkey we are. We can’t transcend it. So when they watch you, they hand you the power to change what they are too.”
I’m too old to be good at taking orders.” “I agree,” Fayez said. “But here we are.”
When the king says, Come work for me, there aren’t many paths to No.
“She was a fighter, but she wasn’t a warrior. She was always leading the struggle, but she did it by finding other ways to get the work done. Alliances, political pressure, trade, logistics. Her strategy was always that violence came last.”
“No one’s arguing against leverage. No one’s saying that we shouldn’t be looking for political angles too. But pacifism only works when your enemy has a conscience.
The Occam’s razor argument to nearly all conspiracy theories was that people were really shitty at keeping secrets, and large groups of people were exponentially worse.
“She’s lost a lot,” Alex said. “She’s afraid of losing it all.” Bobbie grabbed Alex’s upper arm and gave it an affectionate squeeze. “And that’s the point I keep trying to make with her, my friend. In a fight like this, unless you’re willing to lose everything to win, you lose it all by losing.”
Teresa nodded, but slowly. Her head was thick, the way it got when she was thinking about something without quite being conscious of what it was. Usually something interesting came up shortly afterward. She liked the feeling.
“Everything’s important. All of it,” her father said. “And so every part of it needs to be able to fail without destroying the whole project.
It took a few seconds to really understand what he was saying. The huge moments in life seemed like they should have more ceremony and effects. The important words—the life-changing ones—should echo a little. But they didn’t. They sounded just like everything else.
People always claimed that waiting for the fight was the hardest part of fighting. Bobbie had said it herself, as a younger woman. When the fight is coming, when it’s inevitable, let’s just fucking get to it. Once the battle starts, things happen too fast to worry about. The fear is all instinctual, not intellectual. Somehow, that used to feel better. Age had changed that. Bobbie had learned to see the quiet moment before the fight as a blessing. A gift. Very few people who were headed toward death even knew it was happening, much less had time to sit and reflect on their life. What they’d done that mattered. Whether it would be a good death.
“This far, and no farther,” she whispered. Her litany to the tyrants and bullies and despots.
The other warrior’s litany. There are people I love. There are people who have loved me. I fought for what I believed, protected those I could, and stood my ground against the encroaching darkness. Good enough.
She slept to schedule too, dimming the lights for eight hours, no more and no less, never sleeping in. Never taking naps. Routine was what kept the darkness at bay, when anything did.
A few decades flying the same ship together had built little versions of her family in her head. Made some part of them a part of her, even when she didn’t particularly want them to be. Even when the little mirrors of them only told her that their conversation wasn’t finished.
That’s the thing about autocracy. It looks pretty decent while it still looks pretty decent. Survivable, anyway. And it keeps looking like that right up until it doesn’t. That’s how you find out it’s too late.
Growing older was a falling away of everything that didn’t matter. And a deepening appreciation of all the parts that were important enough to stay.
That’s the point of a dancing bear. It’s the least dangerous thing at the court, because everyone’s aware of it. The ones you trust are always the most dangerous. A lot more kings and princesses got poisoned by their friends than eaten by bears.”
Nothing died without becoming the foundation for what came after.
Maybe it was something that happened with every generation, this sense of displacement. It might be an artifact of the way human minds seemed to peg “normal” to whatever they’d experienced first and then bristled at everything afterward that failed to match it closely enough.
Age looked good on her. It looked right.
“I’m hearing you ask whether authoritarianism is necessarily bad,” she said. “Did I get that right? Because yeah, it is.”
“There’s no way,” Bobbie said. “There’s just pushing back with everything we’ve got and hoping we can outlast the bastards.”
Duarte and his people were smart. They kept things from getting bad too quickly. They made the right speeches about respect and autonomy. They let people believe that government by a king would never go wrong. And by the time it did, and things got bad enough to inspire a younger resistance, she and Alex and the old-school OPA would be off the board. Then who would be left to fight? Why would they think there was any hope in it?
“Humans arose inside nature. We’re natural. Everything we do is natural. The whole idea that we are different in category is either sentimental or religious. Irrelevant from a scientific perspective.”
“The only limits on us are what we can do. It’s perfectly natural to seek personal benefit. It’s perfectly natural to give advantages to your own offspring and withhold them from others. It’s perfectly natural to kill your enemies. That’s not even outlier behavior. That’s all in the middle of the bell curve all the time.”
Getting what you want fucks you up. Naomi pushed the thought aside as she had a dozen times before.
“I don’t know. I don’t like things that can only happen once. You can’t make sense of something when there’s no pattern. One data point is the same as none.”
“Worrying feels like you’re at least doing something,” Caspar said. “I get it. When I started flying for the union, I worried about my mom so that I wouldn’t feel guilty for leaving her behind.”
Anger roughened her voice. He wanted to pull back from her. Retreat, but he’d known her long enough to see it was the wrong way with her. Whatever she was thinking through, she needed someone to slam it up against. Placating her wasn’t going to make either of them happy. Or safe.
“Easy to make rules,” Emma said. “Easy to make systems with a perfect logic and rigor. All you need to do is leave out the mercy, yeah? Then when you put people into it and they get chewed to nothing, it’s the person’s fault. Not the rules. Everything we do that’s worth shit, we’ve done with people. Flawed, stupid, lying, rules-breaking people. Laconians making the same mistake as ever. Our rules are good, and they’d work perfectly if it were only a different species.” “You sound like someone I know,” Naomi said. “I’ll die for that,” Emma said. “I’ll die so that people can be fuckups and still find mercy. Not why you’re here?”
“Anyway, I spent too much time already with people telling me they’d shoot me if I didn’t do what they said. That tank’s empty for this lifetime.”
The fluid made it hard to laugh. Her husband might not have been a good match for anyone but her. But for her, he was perfect.
A voice in her memory said the words as clearly and distinctly as if they had been spoken: Distributed responsibility is the problem. One person gives the order, another carries it out. One can say they didn’t pull the trigger, the other that they were just doing what they were told, and everyone lets themselves off the hook. She let her breath out slowly from between her teeth.
Moments like these were opportunities. They could bring new alliances, new empathy, a new and broader sense of being together in a single human tribe. Or they could be the poison that ran through human minds for decades to come and welcomed ancient wars onto new and bloody battlefields.
“How can I help?” Elvi asked. It sounded better than What the fuck do you want me to do about this?
“I think I must have lived my life wrong somehow,” she said. “I know the feeling,” he said. “But then I see you, and I think something must have gone right. Even if everything else treats me like my previous incarnation killed a priest.”
“This may not help,” he said, “but part of what you’re feeling right now is normal. There’s a moment that everyone eventually experiences when they see that their parents are just people. That these mythic figures in their lives are also struggling and guessing. Doing their best without knowing for certain what their best is.”
“Are you trying to make me feel better?” “No,” Chava said. “We’re too old for that. I’m trying to make you feel like you aren’t alone in it. That’s all I’ve got.”
Governments exist on confidence. Not on liberty. Not on righteousness. Not on force. They exist because people believe that they do. Because they don’t ask questions. And
Nature was beautiful, wherever she found it. And it was cruel. She didn’t know why she kept expecting humanity to be different.
Red in tooth and claw, and at every level. In the Bible, even angels murdered humanity’s babies when God asked them to.
For all Naomi’s life, the problem had been knowing which information to believe. A few billion people with access to networks and as many newsfeeds as there were transmitters made it easy to find someone loudly declaiming every possible opinion in every corner and niche of the solar system.
She liked Chava, and it was a pleasant space to be in, but it wasn’t home. What she missed was the idea of a home of her own. People she knew for more than a few weeks at a time. It was worse, because she’d had a place once. And a family with it. She would never stop missing that.
There were so many last times that passed unrecognized. Knowing in the moment what was ending and wouldn’t come again was precious.
Wars never ended because one side was defeated. They ended because the enemies were reconciled. Anything else was just a postponement of the next round of violence.
All the families he’d had, and all the ways he’d lost them. It felt like too much to bear, but he bore it. And after a few minutes the worst would pass, and he could get back to work.
She felt herself falling into a rhythm she hadn’t known existed, and recognized perfectly. Normalcy. This was how life just was, and everything else she’d done, however comfortable she’d been with it, had been the aberration.
And about the goal at the end. That was the trick of grand strategy. Knowing where the journey was ending even when you were making up all the individual steps to get there.
want this war over with, and a real peace established. The kind where people can be angry with each other and hate each other and no one has to die over it.
It was, according to them, like knowing things without having to learn them first.
There would be a point when it was all too much.
When she’d break. It hadn’t come yet, though, so she didn’t have to deal with it. She was very aware that she was working on what Fayez called fuck-it-if-it’s-not-happening-right-now protocol.
That was the thing about hubris. It only became clear in retrospect.
If he could feel the effort of motion, maybe it would do something for his anxiety.
He felt his anxiety starting to shift, but he wasn’t sure yet what it was becoming. Maybe excitement. Maybe fear.
Every place had the dream of what it could become. Dreams were fragile things to build with. Titanium and ceramic lasted longer.
“No,” Holden said, “leave it be. We still have friends there. Elvi, for one.” “Oh,” Alex said. “Should we go get her?” “No,” Holden said. “She’s where she needs to be.”
Give the people enough information, and they’d be able to make the right decisions on their own.
She stroked her fingertips across his forehead and down his cheek. He turned his head, pressing into her hand like a cat that wanted petting.
He used to say that when you went too far too fast, your soul took some time catching up to you.”
When the world is breaking down, scientists might be the scapegoats.
Hooboy, and tragically yes.
Book two of Scalzi's Interdependency series, this book continues Cardenia Wu-Patrick's reign as Emperox, along with the scheming Houses and the deteriorating Flow. We have political intrigues, sure. We have stunningly intelligent and rational characters, sure. We have a complicated sociopolitical galactic infrastructure collapsing as the edges are cut off from the center, and the network disintegrates. And we have a love story of sorts.
I didn't like this book as much as I liked the first book. I love Scalzi's writing, and will continue to read near everything he publishes. I'll read the next (last?) book in the series. Strongly recommended if you're a Scalzi fan, worth reading if you're a sci-fi fan.
The early bishops were well aware that charismatic religions have a tendency to breed schisms and divisions, which is against the fundamental concept of interdependency.”
Lenson read all he could stand and found his interest draining away, slowly at first and more rapidly as time went on.
Lenson was also aware that the cynical could afford the luxury of their cynicism because of the stability of the system they mocked.
Nor were observers of the time blind to the machinations of the Wu family as it made its play for imperial power. It was the focus of many handwringing editorials, news shows and occasionally attempted legislative action. What the Wu family had over them was organization, and money, and allies in the form of the other now-noble families.
When a lie has negative consequences, people dislike it. But otherwise? They move on, and eventually the lie as a lie is forgotten,
Assan’s current outburst was, alas, standard operating procedure for him. He was one of those people who believed social graces were for the weak.
“And you’ve seen this in your visions,” Assan said, pushing. Grayland smiled at this. “One does not need visions when one has data. In both cases, however, one does need to be willing to see.
“You do understand that ‘no doctrinal way to argue’ does not mean ‘no argument,’” Attavio VI said. “A church is an institution separate from the religion it serves. It’s filled with people. And you know how people are.”
Right, but the problem with that was, for a rich person, Kiva was spectacularly unmotivated by money. She liked money, and she liked that she had money, and she was aware that a life lived without money would well and truly suck. But having had enough money all her life for literally anything she ever wanted to do—being the daughter of the head of a noble merchant family had its perks—she never thought about money, and her own material needs were fulfilled with a small percentage of the money she had available to her.
You should know we intend to ask for your removal anyway.” “Good luck with that.” “We don’t need luck, Lady Kiva. We have your incompetence.”
There were more than a few scientists who knew one little thing, and then thought that knowledge was universally applicable to every other problem, to the point of excluding or discounting information from people whose specialty was that other problem.
“I haven’t given it any thought,” Korbijn said. “I haven’t given it any thought because this is literally the first I’ve heard of such a thing. I’m not inclined to give snap judgments on hypotheticals.
But this latest bit makes me concerned that there is something else going on.” “It’s conspiracy mongering.” “I agree. But not all conspiracies crop up because someone forgot to adjust their tinfoil hat, ma’am. Sometimes they’re part of a disinformation campaign.
"I don’t know what else can be said about it.”
“That’s the point of rumors. They’re not based on anything, so nothing is very effective against them. Truth is no defense, and the people fielding these rumors know it.”
The one advantage we had, which is a thing I brought to the enterprise, was the understanding that the plan was not the goal. The goal was the goal, and we were going to get to it however we could. And if it meant changing our plans, sometimes in the middle of executing them, then we would.”
“That loose alliance of systems had fallen apart centuries earlier.” “And why was that?” “For the same reason many alliances fall apart—competing interests, lack of economic enthusiasm, stupid or venal rulers, and simple neglect, or some combination of each.”
This is book two of the Renée Ballard/Harry Bosch crossover, which is really the transition of one lead character that I like, Bosch, to another lead character, Ballard, that I am less fond of. I mean, in the Bosch books, you know there will be tunnels and the bad guy is a cop. With Ballard, you know that she has a messed up childhood, was the last person to see her dad go out surfing never to return, and doesn't really keep her dog well cared for, mostly.
That I took no notes from this book probably says something about my enthusiasm for the book. Or that I lost the notes. One of those things.
So, here we have Bosch trying to work an old case. I know, unsurprising there, quelle surprise, all that.
Ballard, also unsurprisingly, is still on the late shift, catches a murder, shows that it isn't a murder, but hey, two expensive paintings are gone.
The thread through all of the book is Bosch's death of Daisy Clayton, given that he helped her mother, Elizabeth, come clean. IDK, the death of a kid kinda sticks, so we know that even though Elizabeth is back, she won't be for long.
The book was an easy, fast read. If you're a Bosch fan, he's still working on things in in this book. Ballard is kinda super-human, which takes some of the intensity out of the books. We know she is going to live, Connelly isn't going all R.R. Martin on us. Worth reading if you're a Bosch fan or completionist. Not a series necessarily worth starting otherwise.
I did not like this book.
This book is a series of 2-3 page essays on, "Oh, you should do this in your company, it'll totally make you better and successful!" without actually providing how to do the things, or where to go get more information, or why said thing would be better.
"Stop and think, you'll need to understand this fully." "Run with the decision you need to move fast!" Argh, fuck off. This book is FULL of hindsight bias and survivor bias, blech.
This book was a slog to get through, taking me three months to actually finish it (and I've been concentrating on non-fiction books!) I put it down a half dozen times, and kept picking it back up because both I hoped something could would come of it and it was recommended by Marty of a sense, and I thought it would be worth reading.
You'll do better reading just about any Brené Brown book on leadership than reading this book. I strongly recommend Dare to Lead if you're looking for a business book to read.
Skip this one, save your money. Blech.
When a new CEO is brought into a company, and announces he's reading The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, you pick it up and read it. When you realize that said CEO's leadership style grates on you uncomfortably, you wonder what he can be doing better to be a better leader. Which is why, say, you'd pick up this book and read it.
Which is nominally what happened with me, but really, with a slight twist of also wanting to see what leading well looks like. I've had a number of good managers (four of them to be exact), people I want to work with and for. I was curious if their style of leading matched what Brené Brown suggested. I absolutely loved Daring Greatly and hoped this book would continue the lessons I started there.
I was not disappointed.
I wish I could have handed copies of this book to all the upper management where I was working. Alas, the opportunity did not present itself. However, this book is amazing. If its lessons are learned and practice, this book is life-changing. Let me buy you a copy.
I define a leader as anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.
Here are the ten behaviors and cultural issues that leaders identified as getting in our way in organizations across the world: We avoid tough conversations, including giving honest, productive feedback. Some leaders attributed this to a lack of courage, others to a lack of skills, and, shockingly, more than half talked about a cultural norm of “nice and polite” that’s leveraged as an excuse to avoid tough conversations. Whatever the reason, there was saturation across the data that the consequence is a lack of clarity, diminishing trust and engagement, and an increase in problematic behavior, including passive-aggressive behavior, talking behind people’s backs, pervasive back-channel communication (or “the meeting after the meeting”), gossip, and the “dirty yes” (when I say yes to your face and then no behind your back). Rather than spending a reasonable amount of time proactively acknowledging and addressing the fears and feelings that show up during change and upheaval, we spend an unreasonable amount of time managing problematic behaviors. Diminishing trust caused by a lack of connection and empathy. Not enough people are taking smart risks or creating and sharing bold ideas to meet changing demands and the insatiable need for innovation. When people are afraid of being put down or ridiculed for trying something and failing, or even for putting forward a radical new idea, the best you can expect is status quo and groupthink. We get stuck and defined by setbacks, disappointments, and failures, so instead of spending resources on clean-up to ensure that consumers, stakeholders, or internal processes are made whole, we are spending too much time and energy reassuring team members who are questioning their contribution and value. Too much shame and blame, not enough accountability and learning. People are opting out of vital conversations about diversity and inclusivity because they fear looking wrong, saying something wrong, or being wrong. Choosing our own comfort over hard conversations is the epitome of privilege, and it corrodes trust and moves us away from meaningful and lasting change. When something goes wrong, individuals and teams are rushing into ineffective or unsustainable solutions rather than staying with problem identification and solving. When we fix the wrong thing for the wrong reason, the same problems continue to surface. It’s costly and demoralizing. Organizational values are gauzy and assessed in terms of aspirations rather than actual behaviors that can be taught, measured, and evaluated. Perfectionism and fear are keeping people from learning and growing.
The Heart of Daring Leadership 1. You can’t get to courage without rumbling with vulnerability. Embrace the suck.
Courage and fear are not mutually exclusive. Most of us feel brave and afraid at the exact same time. We feel vulnerable. Sometimes all day long.
A rumble is a discussion, conversation, or meeting defined by a commitment to lean into vulnerability, to stay curious and generous, to stick with the messy middle of problem identification and solving, to take a break and circle back when necessary, to be fearless in owning our parts, and, as psychologist Harriet Lerner teaches, to listen with the same passion with which we want to be heard.
If we are brave enough often enough, we will fall. Daring is not saying “I’m willing to risk failure.” Daring is saying “I know I will eventually fail, and I’m still all in.” I’ve never met a brave person who hasn’t known disappointment, failure, even heartbreak.
Vulnerability is not winning or losing. It’s having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.
If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, I’m not interested in or open to your feedback. There are a million cheap seats in the world today filled with people who will never be brave with their lives but who will spend every ounce of energy they have hurling advice and judgment at those who dare greatly. Their only contributions are criticism, cynicism, and fearmongering. If you’re criticizing from a place where you’re not also putting yourself on the line, I’m not interested in what you have to say.
To love is to be vulnerable.
Get a one-inch by one-inch piece of paper and write down the names of the people whose opinions of you matter. It needs to be small because it forces you to edit. Fold it and put it in your wallet.
The people on your list should be the people who love you not despite your vulnerability and imperfections, but because of them.
They should be people who respect you enough to rumble with the vulnerability of saying “I think you were out of your integrity in that situation, and you need to clean it up and apologize. I’ll be here to support you through that.” Or “Yes, that was a huge setback, but you were brave and I’ll dust you off and cheer you on when you go back into the arena.”
I looked at these brave soldiers and said, “Vulnerability is the emotion that we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. Can you give me a single example of courage that you’ve witnessed in another soldier or experienced in your own life that did not require experiencing vulnerability?” Complete silence. Crickets. Finally, a young man spoke up. He said, “No, ma’am. Three tours. I can’t think of a single act of courage that doesn’t require managing massive vulnerability.”
Pretending that we don’t do vulnerability means letting fear drive our thinking and behavior without our input or even awareness, which almost always leads to acting out or shutting down.
In the absence of authentic connection, we suffer. And by authentic I mean the kind of connection that doesn’t require hustling for acceptance and changing who we are to fit in.
“There’s probably not a single act at work that requires more vulnerability than holding people responsible for ethics and values, especially when you’re alone in it or there’s a lot of money, power, or influence at stake. People will put you down, question your intentions, hate you, and sometimes try to discredit you in the process of protecting themselves.
We need to trust to be vulnerable, and we need to be vulnerable in order to build trust.
It turns out that trust is in fact earned in the smallest of moments. It is earned not through heroic deeds, or even highly visible actions, but through paying attention, listening, and gestures of genuine care and connection.
Trust is the stacking and layering of small moments and reciprocal vulnerability over time. Trust and vulnerability grow together, and to betray one is to destroy both.
In her book Teaming, she writes, Simply put, psychological safety makes it possible to give tough feedback and have difficult conversations without the need to tiptoe around the truth. In psychologically safe environments, people believe that if they make a mistake others will not penalize or think less of them for it. They also believe that others will not resent or humiliate them when they ask for help or information. This belief comes about when people both trust and respect each other, and it produces a sense of confidence that the group won’t embarrass, reject, or punish someone for speaking up. Thus psychological safety is a taken-for-granted belief about how others will respond when you ask a question, seek feedback, admit a mistake, or propose a possibly wacky idea.
Items that frequently show up as things that get in the way of psychological safety in teams and groups include judgment, unsolicited advice giving, interrupting, and sharing outside the team meeting. The behaviors that people need from their team or group almost always include listening, staying curious, being honest, and keeping confidence.
one of my favorite rumble tools: “What does support from me look like?” Not only does it offer the opportunity for clarity and set up the team for success, asking people for specific examples of what supportive behaviors look like—and what they do not look like—it also holds them accountable for asking for what they need.
We’re much more accustomed to not asking for exactly what we need and then being resentful or disappointed that we didn’t get it. Also, most of us can tell you what support does not look like more easily than we can come up with what it does look like.
Not only is fake vulnerability ineffective—but it breeds distrust. There’s no faster way to piss off people than to try to manipulate them with vulnerability.
The stealth intention is a self-protection need that lurks beneath the surface and often drives behavior outside our values. Closely related is the stealth expectation—a desire or expectation that exists outside our awareness and typically includes a dangerous combination of fear and magical thinking.
if you come across an explanation of vulnerability that doesn’t include setting boundaries or being clear on intentions, proceed with caution.
there is nothing more uncertain than the creative process, and there is absolutely no innovation without failure.
As the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio reminds us, “We are not necessarily thinking machines. We are feeling machines that think.”
Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.
most of us avoid clarity because we tell ourselves that we’re being kind, when what we’re actually doing is being unkind and unfair.
I took a deep breath and leaned into the mother of all rumble tools—curiosity. “Tell me more about how this plays out for y’all. I want to understand.”
In my research and in my life, I’ve found absolutely no benefit to pushing through a hard conversation unless there’s an urgent, time-sensitive issue at hand.
People think it’s a long walk from “I’m not enough” to “I’m better than them,” but it’s actually just standing still. In the exact same place.
Stockdale told Collins, “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
As leaders I certainly believe we all want to do the right thing, but we don’t always have the bandwidth or experience to take care of someone the way they need to be taken care of.
In a sense I’m telling them: Let’s go there together. I am strong enough to hold this for the both of us.”
Leaders must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings, or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behavior.
Stop talking. Even if it’s awkward—which it will be the first fifteen times. And when they start talking (which they normally will), listen. Really listen. Don’t formulate your response while they’re talking. If you have a great insight—hold it. Don’t do that thing where the listener starts nodding faster and faster, not because they’re actively listening but because they’re trying to unconsciously signal the talker to wrap up so they can talk. Keep a lot of space in the conversation.
It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am brave, and worthy of love and belonging.”
The problem is that when we imprison the heart, we kill courage.
joy is the most vulnerable emotion we feel. And that’s saying something, given that I study fear and shame.
When we feel joy, it is a place of incredible vulnerability—it’s beauty and fragility and deep gratitude and impermanence all wrapped up in one experience.
Like most hurtful comments and passive-aggressiveness, cynicism and sarcasm are bad in person and even worse when they travel through email or text. And, in global teams, culture and language differences make them toxic.
Cynicism and sarcasm often mask anger, fear, feelings of inadequacy, and even despair. They’re a safe way for us to send out an emotional trial balloon, and if it doesn’t go over well, we make it a joke and make you feel stupid for thinking it was ever something different.
a cynic might argue that someone who clings to hope is a sucker, or ridiculously earnest,
As the theologian Rob Bell explains, “Despair is the belief that tomorrow will be just like today.”
People use history to criticize different thinking.
We can also use the invisible army: “We don’t want to change course,” or “We don’t like the direction you’re taking the project.” I hate the invisible army, and if you use it with me I will drill you down on exactly who makes up your we.
Voicing and owning our concern is brave. Pretending that we represent a lot of folks when we don’t is cheap-seat behavior.
At the end of the day, at the end of the week, at the end of my life, I want to say I contributed more than I criticized.
in Memphis, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., defined power as the ability to achieve purpose and effect change.
The phrase power over is typically enough to send chills down spines: When someone holds power over us, the human spirit’s instinct is to rise, resist, and rebel. As a construct it feels wrong; in the wider geopolitical context it can mean death and despotism.
sometimes we overlook our own strengths because we take them for granted and forget that they’re special.
The less people understand how their hard work adds value to bigger goals, the less engaged they are. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure and frustration.
When we operate from compliance and control, we also have a tendency to hold on to power and authority, and push only responsibility down. This leads to huge alignment issues for people. They’ve been asked to do something that they don’t actually have the authority to accomplish. They’re not set up for success, so they fail. This just reinforces our power and resentment loop: I knew I should have done it myself. I’ll be responsible for this, you just do these small tasks that you can handle versus Let’s dig into how we could have set you up for success. I know I have a part.
TASC approach: the Accountability and Success Checklist: T—Who owns the task? A—Do they have the authority to be held accountable? S—Do we agree that they are set up for success (time, resources, clarity)? C—Do we have a checklist of what needs to happen to accomplish the task?
Leaders who work from compliance constantly feel disappointed and resentful, and their teams feel scrutinized. Compliance leadership also kills trust, and, ironically, it can increase people’s tendency to test what they can get away with.
In the midst of uncertainty and fear, leaders have an ethical responsibility to hold their people in discomfort—to acknowledge the tumult but not fan it, to share information and not inflate or fake it.
People desperately want to be part of something, and they want to experience profound connection with others, but they don’t want to sacrifice their authenticity, freedom, or power to do it.
That means having the courage to acknowledge our own privilege, and staying open to learning about our biases and blind spots.
We also have to watch for favoritism—the development of cliques or in/ out groups.
Bill Gentry talks about the need to “flip the script” when we find ourselves in a new role as a leader. His book Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For: A Guide for New Leaders
We all know that it saves a tremendous amount of time and mental capacity to just turn around and face whatever is at our heels head-on. The other advantage of stepping into the discomfort? It’s actually much less scary and intimidating to appraise the situation from a face-first position, rather than looking back over our shoulder while running.
To put it in simple terms, we work our shit out on other people, and we can never get enough of what it is we’re after, because we’re not addressing the real problem.
Shame can only rise to a certain level before people have to armor up and sometimes disengage to stay safe.
SHAME 101 I always start with the Shame 1-2-3’ s: We all have it. Shame is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions that we experience. The only people who don’t experience shame are those who lack the capacity for empathy and human connection. Here’s your choice: ’Fess up to experiencing shame or admit that you’re a sociopath. Quick note: This is the only time that shame seems like a good option. We’re all afraid to talk about shame. Just the word is uncomfortable. The less we talk about shame, the more control it has over our lives.
First, shame is the fear of disconnection.
Shame is the fear of disconnection—it’s the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal that we’ve not lived up to, or a goal that we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection.
Shame is not a compass for moral behavior.
where shame exists, empathy is almost always absent. That’s what makes shame dangerous.
We feel guilty when we hold up something we’ve done or failed to do against our values and find they don’t match up.
The discomfort of cognitive dissonance is what drives meaningful change. Shame, however, corrodes the very part of us that believes we can change and do better.
When you’re delivering the news, be kind. Be clear. Be respectful. Be generous. Can you let the person resign rather than be fired? Can you provide severance pay? Ask the person how they want to let colleagues know about their departure and follow their lead on that if possible.
In those bad moments, it’s not our job to make things better. It’s just not. Our job is to connect. It’s to take the perspective of someone else.
Empathy is a choice. And it’s a vulnerable choice, because if I were to choose to connect with you through empathy, I would have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling.
But empathy isn’t about fixing, it’s the brave choice to be with someone in their darkness—not to race to turn on the light so we feel better.
Empathy Skill #1: To see the world as others see it, or perspective taking
Empathy Skill #2: To be nonjudgmental
We judge in areas where we’re most susceptible to shame, and we judge people who are doing worse than we are in those areas. So if you find yourself feeling incredibly judgmental about appearance, and you can’t figure out why, that’s a clue that it’s a hard issue for you.
Staying out of judgment means being aware of where we are the most vulnerable to our own shame, our own struggle.
Empathy Skill #3: To understand another person’s feelings
Empathy Skill #4: To communicate your understanding of that person’s feelings
The vast majority of us find it easier to be mad than hurt.
To review, empathy is first: I take the perspective of another person, meaning I become the listener and the student, not the knower. Second: I stay out of judgment. And third and fourth: I try to understand what emotion they’re articulating and communicate my understanding of that emotion.
Ruminating and getting stuck is as unhelpful as not noticing at all.
this also works if you’re practicing empathy with someone you don’t know that well. Engage, stay curious, stay connected. Let go of the fear of saying the wrong thing, the need to fix it, and the desire to offer the perfect response that cures everything (that’s not going to happen). You don’t have to do it perfectly. Just do it.
Dr. Kristin Neff of the University of Texas at Austin, mentioned earlier in this section, runs the Self-Compassion Research Lab and is the author of Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind.
Do not take responsibility and ownership for the words of other people—just own your part. So in practice, change “She was so irritated with me” to simply “She was so irritated.” Don’t fixate, don’t ruminate, don’t get stuck.
Now, don’t get me wrong—I’m a cusser from a long matriarchal line of cussers. I’m super comfortable with that; I just try to limit it in my writing. I think it has to do with my belief that in conversation, a well-placed cuss word or three seems really good, but in writing, it seems more intentional and less organic.
Self-kindness is self-empathy.
Common humanity recognizes, she writes, “that suffering and personal inadequacy is part of the shared human experience—something that we all go through rather than being something that happens to ‘me’ alone.”
strategies of disconnection: Moving away: Withdrawing, hiding, silencing ourselves, and keeping secrets. Moving toward: Seeking to appease and please. Moving against: Trying to gain power over others by being aggressive, and by using shame to fight shame.
Curiosity is an act of vulnerability and courage. Researchers are finding evidence that curiosity is correlated with creativity, intelligence, improved learning and memory, and problem solving.
Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It, Ian Leslie writes,
Here are some specific rumble starters and questions that we use: The story I make up…( This is by far one of the most powerful rumble tools in the free world. It’s changed every facet of my life. We’ll walk through it in the part “Learning to Rise.”) I’m curious about… Tell me more. That’s not my experience (instead of “You’re wrong about her, him, them, it, this…”). I’m wondering… Help me understand… Walk me through… We’re both dug in. Tell me about your passion around this. Tell me why this doesn’t fit/ work for you. I’m working from these assumptions—what about you? What problem are we trying to solve? Sometimes we’ll be an hour into a difficult rumble when someone will bravely say, “Wait. I’m confused. What problem are we trying to solve?”
“Walk me through all of the assumptions you are working off.
“Help me understand what you see as the benefit of this approach.”
1994 article “The Psychology of Curiosity,” George Loewenstein
We aren’t curious about something we are unaware of or know nothing about.
What was once an entrepreneurial, fast-moving, and empowering culture had over the course of several years of struggling performance become hierarchal, siloed, political, and filled with fear.
We would stop the shaming and blaming and the judging of outcomes as good or bad, and instead continuously ask ourselves, “What did we set out to do, what happened, what did we learn, and how fast can we improve on it?”
Sometimes my prayer is simply If I miss the boat, it wasn’t my boat.
In those hard moments, we know that we are going to pick what’s right, right now, over what is easy.
One of my courage behaviors is Don’t choose silence over what is right. It’s not my job to make others more comfortable or to be liked by everyone.
Show up for people in pain and don’t look away.
Value #1 ___________________________________ What are three behaviors that support your value? What are three slippery behaviors that are outside your value? What’s an example of a time when you were fully living into this value?
To opt out of conversations about privilege and oppression because they make you uncomfortable is the epitome of privilege.
Who is someone who knows your values and supports your efforts to live into them? What does support from this person look like? What can you do as an act of self-compassion to support yourself in the hard work of living into your values? What are the early warning indicators or signs that you’re living outside your values? What does it feel like when you’re living into your values? How does living into your two key values shape the way you give and receive feedback?
Often, in the midst of a feedback session, we forget that we’re supposed to be facilitating and fact finding from a place of curiosity, not lecturing.
If you are in such a state of anger that you cannot come up with a single positive quality that this person possesses, then you are not in the right headspace to give good feedback until you can be less emotionally reactive.
allow people to have feelings without taking responsibility for those feelings. If I’m sharing something that’s difficult, I need to make space for people to feel the way they feel—in contrast to either punishing them for having those feelings because I’m uncomfortable, or trying to caretake and rescue them from their feelings, because that’s not courageous, and that’s not my job.
When receiving feedback, we can identify a value-supporting behavior or a piece of self-talk to help in the moment.
“I’m brave enough to listen. I don’t have to take it all in or add it to my load, but I’m brave enough to listen.”
“There’s something valuable here, there’s something valuable here. Take what works and leave the rest.”
“This is the path to mastery, this is the path to mastery,”
“I always stay curious about what I’m hearing, because I know I can take this feedback and turn it into a learning, or use the knowledge I already have to improve or better understand.”
The ultimate goal in receiving feedback: a skillful blend of listening, integrating feedback, and reflecting it back with accountability. Being able to fully acknowledge and hold the discomfort gives us power in both the giving and receiving of feedback.
it’s okay to say: “You know what, I’m overloaded right now. If we can pick one of these and dig into it, and then make time to come back and talk through the other issues, I’m willing to do that, but I can only hear so much right now.” That is productive and respectful and brave.
What boundaries need to be in place for me to be in my integrity and generous with my assumptions about the intentions, words, and actions of others?
“Crap,” one man said. “If he’s really doing the best he can, I’m a total jerk, and I need to stop harassing him and start helping him.”
Assuming positive intent does not mean that we stop helping people set goals or that we stop expecting people to grow and change. It’s a commitment to stop respecting and evaluating people based solely on what we think they should accomplish, and start respecting them for who they are and holding them accountable for what they’re actually doing.
In The Thin Book of Trust, Feltman defines trust as “choosing to risk making something you value vulnerable to another person’s actions.” He describes distrust as deciding that “what is important to me is not safe with this person in this situation (or any situation).”
First, when we’re struggling with trust and don’t have the tools or skills to talk about it directly with the person involved, it leads us to talk about people instead of to them.
Second, trust is the glue that holds teams and organizations together. We ignore trust issues at the expense of our own performance, and the expense of our team’s and organization’s success.
The only way I know to get knowledge into our bones is to practice it, screw it up, learn more, repeat.
Boundaries: You respect my boundaries, and when you’re not clear about what’s okay and not okay, you ask. You’re willing to say no. Reliability: You do what you say you’ll do. At work, this means staying aware of your competencies and limitations so you don’t overpromise and are able to deliver on commitments and balance competing priorities. Accountability: You own your mistakes, apologize, and make amends. Vault: You don’t share information or experiences that are not yours to share. I need to know that my confidences are kept, and that you’re not sharing with me any information about other people that should be confidential. Integrity: You choose courage over comfort. You choose what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy. And you choose to practice your values rather than simply professing them. Nonjudgment: I can ask for what I need, and you can ask for what you need. We can talk about how we feel without judgment. We can ask each other for help without judgment. Generosity: You extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.
There are two variables that predict when we judge and whom we judge. Typically, we pick someone doing worse than we’re doing in an area where we’re the most susceptible to shame:
we’re afraid of being judged for a lack of knowledge or lack of understanding. We hate asking for help.
We asked a thousand leaders to list marble-earning behaviors—what do your team members do that earns your trust? The most common answer: asking for help. When it comes to people who do not habitually ask for help, the leaders we polled explained that they would not delegate important work to them because the leaders did not trust that they would raise their hands and ask for help.
Asking for help is a power move. It’s a sign of strength to ask and a sign of strength to fight off judgment when other people raise their hands. It reflects a self-awareness that is an essential element in braving trust.
recontextualize the elements for self-trust. Boundaries: Did I respect my own boundaries in the situation? Was I clear with myself and then others about what’s okay and what’s not okay? Reliability: Could I count on myself?
Accountability: Did I hold myself accountable or did I blame others? And did I hold others accountable when I should have? Vault: Did I honor the vault, and did I share, or not share, appropriately? Did I stop other people who were sharing inappropriately? Integrity: Did I choose courage over comfort? Did I practice my values? Did I do what I thought was right, or did I opt for fast and easy? Nonjudgment: Did I ask for help when I needed it? Was I judgmental about needing help? Did I practice nonjudgment with myself? Generosity: Was I generous toward myself? Did I have self-compassion? Did I talk to myself with kindness and respect and like someone I love? When I screwed up, did I turn to myself and say “You gave it the best shot you could. You did what you could do with the data you had at that time. Let’s clean it up, it’s going to be okay,” or did I skip the self-love and go straight into berating myself?
line: If we don’t have the skills to get back up, we may not risk falling. And if we’re brave enough often enough, we are definitely going to fall.
Learning to Rise. It has three parts: the reckoning, the rumble, and the revolution.
You make yourself the center of something that has nothing to do with you out of your own fear or scarcity, only to be reminded that you’re not the axis on which the world turns.
When we have the courage to walk into our story and own it, we get to write the ending.
the skill that the most resilient among us share: Slow down, take a deep breath, and get curious about what’s happening.
Pain is hard, and it’s easier to be angry or pissed off than to acknowledge hurt, so our ego intervenes and does the dirty work. The ego doesn’t own stories or want to write new endings; it denies emotion and hates curiosity.
It’s much easier to say “I don’t give a damn” than it is to say “I’m hurt.”
tactical breathing this way: Inhale deeply through your nose, expanding your stomach, for a count of four. Hold in that breath for a count of four. Slowly exhale all the air through your mouth, contracting your stomach, for a count of four. Hold the empty breath for a count of four.
The bad news is that anxiety is one of the most contagious emotions that we experience.
The good news? Calm is equally contagious.
They talked about taking deep breaths before responding to questions or asking them; slowing down the pace of a frantic conversation by modeling slow speech, breathing, and fact finding; and even intentionally taking a few breaths before asking themselves a version of these two questions: Do I have enough information to freak out about this situation? If I do have enough data, will freaking out help?
The rumble starts with this universal truth: In the absence of data, we will always make up stories. It’s how we are wired. Meaning making is in our biology, and when we’re in struggle, our default is often to come up with a story that makes sense of what’s happening and gives our brain information on how best to selfprotect.
Burton writes, “Because we are compelled to make stories, we are often compelled to take incomplete stories and run with them.”
The first story we make up is what we call the “shitty first draft,” or the SFD.
Anne Lamott’s exceptional book on writing, Bird by Bird.
She writes: The only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts. The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later.
In our SFDs, fear fills in the data gaps. What makes that scary is that stories based on limited real data and plentiful imagined data, blended into a coherent, emotionally satisfying version of reality, are called conspiracy theories.
Keep in mind: You can spend a reasonable amount of time attending to feelings and fears (and conspiracy theories), or you can squander an unreasonable time managing unproductive behaviors.
Confabulation has a really great and subtle definition: A confabulation is a lie told honestly. To confabulate is to replace missing information with something false that we believe to be true.
The Storytelling Animal, Jonathan Gottschall explains that there’s growing
write it out when I have the opportunity simply because 70 percent of the risers we interviewed write down their SFDs. Nothing elaborate, just some variation of: The story I’m making up: My emotions: My body: My thinking: My beliefs: My actions:
Writing down your SFD doesn’t give it power—it gives us power. It gives us the opportunity to say, “Does this even make sense? Does this look right?” Writing slows the winds and calms the seas.
these are the questions that risers need to rumble with: 1. What more do I need to learn and understand about the situation? What do I know objectively? What assumptions am I making? 2. What more do I need to learn and understand about the other people in the story? What additional information do I need? What questions or clarifications might help?
3. What more do I need to learn and understand about myself? What’s underneath my response? What am I really feeling? What part did I play?
Gottschall writes, “Conspiracy is not limited to the stupid, the ignorant, or the crazy. It is a reflex of the storytelling mind’s compulsive need for meaningful experience.”
love this line from Gottschall: “To the conspiratorial mind, shit never just happens.”
Because it’s human nature to turn on some level of self-protection when dealing with setbacks and receiving feedback, it’s important to circle back with employees to ensure that the intention of the message matched what was actually heard,
The reality check around our lovability: Just because someone isn’t willing or able to love us, it doesn’t mean that we are unlovable.
The reality check around our divinity: No person is ordained to judge our divinity or to write the story of our spiritual worthiness.
The reality check around our creativity: Just because we didn’t measure up to some standard of achievement doesn’t mean that we don’t possess gifts and talents that only we can bring to the world. And just because someone failed to see the value in what we can create or achieve doesn’t change its worth or ours.
When we own a story and the emotion that fuels it, we get to simultaneously acknowledge that something was hard while taking control of how that hard thing is going to end. We change the narrative. When we deny a story and when we pretend we don’t make up stories, the story owns us. It drives our behavior, and it drives our cognition, and then it drives even more emotions until it completely owns us.
Let’s set the intention for the rumble and make sure we are clear about why we’re rumbling. What does everyone need to engage in this process with an open heart and mind? Container-building is important, even if there’s established trust in the group. What will get in the way of you showing up? Here’s how we commit to showing up: from #2 and #3. Let’s each share one permission slip. More container-and trust-building. What emotions are people experiencing? Let’s put it out there, and let’s name emotions. What do we need to get curious about? Building more trust and grounded confidence by staying curious. What are your SFDs? The Turn & Learn is very helpful here. These are vulnerable rumbles, and having someone with more influence go first, versus having everyone write their thoughts down and put them up on the wall at the same time, can change the outcome for the worse. What do our SFDs tell us about our relationships? About our communication? About leadership? About the culture? About what’s working and what’s not working? Stay curious, learn to resist needing to know. Where do we need to rumble? What lines of inquiry do we need to open to better understand what’s really happening and to reality-check our conspiracy theories and confabulations? What’s the delta between those first SFDs and the new information we’re gathering in the rumble? What are the key learnings? How do we act on the key learnings? How do we integrate these key learnings into the culture and leverage them as we work on new strategies? What is one thing each of us will take responsibility for embedding? When is the circle-back? Let’s regroup so we can check back in and hold ourselves and one another accountable for learning and embedding.
Own the story and you get to write the ending. Deny the story and it owns you.
We fail the minute we let someone else define success for us.
I hadn't read this book before. I don't know that I would have found has insightful or as hysterical as I do now, had I read it when I was younger.
This was my first Jane Austen book, which is probably not something I should admit. The parts where, well, simple human misunderstanding causes all sorts of mayhem, had me laughing at the absurdity. Aren't we all like this, though?
Yes, at some time or another.
And yes, reading this book means I've given up on reading only non-fiction this year. 38 books in, I had a good run.
Elizabeth's courage did not fail her. She had heard nothing of Lady Catherine that spoke her awful from any extraordinary talents or miraculous virtue, and the mere stateliness of money or rank she thought she could witness without trepidation.
It was not in her nature, however, to increase her vexations by dwelling on them. She was confident of having performed her duty, and to fret over unavoidable evils, or augment them by anxiety, was no part of her disposition.
This is not the sort of happiness which a man would in general wish to owe to his wife; but where other powers of entertainment are wanting, the true philosopher will derive benefit from such as are given.
Upon the whole, therefore, she found, what has been sometimes found before, that an event to which she had been looking with impatient desire did not, in taking place, bring all the satisfaction she had promised herself.
As someone who is not 100% awkward in social situations, but is probably 95% awkward internally, only 30% awkward externally, I find reading books that teach about reducing that awkwardness to be very helpful. This book was, unsurprisingly, very helpful. Many of the lessons and techniques presented have, also unsurprisingly, worked for me since I started applying them.
Take, for instance, the realization that if you're at a meetup or conference, you already have something in common with everyone at the meetup and conference. Hello, smalltalk and ways to introduce yourself to everyone else. How wonderful is that realization? Answer: way wonderful!
The format of the book has summary of each chapter at the end of it, which I greatly appreciated.
This book is worth reading, even if you're not in sales. Having the confidence to approach people, and being able not to worry about what to do when you're in small and big groups, is great.
In my research for How to Create Your Own Luck, I learned that those who turn serendipity into success say yes when they want to say no. Because they do that, they are able to parlay possibilities and coincidence into opportunities they otherwise would not have had.
Tom Hanks turned to Ed Burns and said, “Please tell me that I was nice to you.” Burns replied, “Yes, you were very nice.” Tom Hanks looked relieved and said he was glad. Here is a man with great acclaim, celebrity, career success and wealth and his first concern was that he was nice to this young man who had brought him coffee.
We show our character not by how we treat people in a position to help us but in how we treat people who can’t—or so we think. Being nice in any room pays off.
If you are sitting in a meeting; attending a convention, a board retreat or a yearly conference; or are involved in a keynote presentation, you are already in a group with whom you have something in common. You just need some strategies; tips; opening and exit lines; and mostly, the permission to talk to those still unknown colleagues, cronies, contacts, clients, customers and potential friends.
At a presentation for a professional services firm, one of the partners wondered how he could possibly introduce a person he found boring to a client. His colleague provided the perfect response, “What’s boring for you may be fascinating for someone else who shares their interests.”
Good social skills positively impact one’s well-being and life expectancy.
Those who can mingle and make contacts and conversation will shine in any room.
Conversation is the cornerstone of team building and collaboration.
Face-to-face contact with bosses, colleagues and clients requires a personal touch.
When you’re in the same room, you already have something in common.
No one is boring when you discover their area of passion.
Life is too short, and time too precious, to spend an hour or two squandering opportunities and, in the process, having a bad time.
But at most events we can’t count on being introduced to anyone, let alone the people we most want to meet. We are on our own when it comes to circulating. We have to walk up to people and introduce ourselves, if we don’t want to be left standing in the middle of the room, staring at the ceiling or the floor.
There is an old adage, “Good things come to those who wait.” Au contraire. Gray hair comes to those who wait and sometimes even varicose veins, if the waiting is done standing up!
If you don’t have any skin in the game, you never win.
If you don’t take the risk and reach out to people, you never make new friends or new contacts.
Most of us are strong enough to withstand a temporarily chipped ego.
The person who appears to be disinterested may not be judging or rejecting us, but may be distracted with another worry.
But when we allow negative self-talk to prevail, we can become overwhelmed by the roadblocks and talk ourselves out of taking a risk. If we don’t seize the moment, it will be gone, along with the opportunity.
[A]lways pay tribute to that great old overused line, “Don’t I know you from someplace?”
One way to muster up the courage to take a risk and talk to strangers is to ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Surprisingly enough, your worst fear is usually not a matter of life and death. And the odds are that disaster will not occur—and that even if it does, you will survive.
Taking the risk is almost always worth the discomfort. It’s a cliché, but “nothing ventured, nothing gained” makes sense. With technology moving the world at warp speed, embracing real-time opportunities for face-to-face connections makes sense.
- Be aware of negative self-talk and change it into positive self-talk.
- Extending yourself to people feels risky, but the benefits are well worth the discomfort.
- Remember, what you think is the worst thing that could happen most often won’t.
So what do you do when a newly incoming CEO recommends a book to the team? Well, duh, you read it.
What happens when the book he recommends has to do with dysfunctional teams? Well, duh, you read it.
What else happens? You are stunningly shocked (SHOCKED) at how relevant the book is, sadly unsurprised that you were unaware of all the problems with the team, and cautiously hopeful that things can be better. In other words, mine in fact, "Hoooboy, lots of it is relevant."
Okay, those five dysfunctions are:
1. Absence of trust
2. Fear of conflict
3. Lack of commitment
4. Avoidance of accountability
5. Inattention to results
Seems like not good things.
The book is told as a tale, of a new CEO coming in and working with the leadership of a company. Most tales that have morals are stunningly contrived. This one, however, has this reader nodding a lot with, "Yep... yes... uh huh, yeah."
“Trust is the foundation of real teamwork. And so the first dysfunction is a failure on the part of team members to understand and open up to one another. And if that sounds touchy-feely, let me explain, because there is nothing soft about it. It is an absolutely critical part of building a team. In fact, it's probably the most critical.”
“Great teams do not hold back with one another,” she said. “They are unafraid to air their dirty laundry. They admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and their concerns without fear of reprisal.”
The first dysfunction is an absence of trust among team members. Essentially, this stems from their unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group.
the second dysfunction: fear of conflict. Teams that lack trust are incapable of engaging in unfiltered and passionate debate of ideas.
the third dysfunction of a team: lack of commitment. Without having aired their opinions in the course of passionate and open debate, team members rarely, if ever, buy in and commit to decisions, though they may feign agreement during meetings.
avoidance of accountability, the fourth dysfunction. Without committing to a clear plan of action, even the most focused and driven people often hesitate to call their peers on actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team.
the fifth dysfunction can thrive. Inattention to results occurs when team members put their individual needs (such as ego, career development, or recognition) or even the needs of their divisions above the collective goals of the team.
They trust one another. They engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas. They commit to decisions and plans of action. They hold one another accountable for delivering against those plans. They focus on the achievement of collective results.
Members of Trusting Teams . . . Admit weaknesses and mistakes Ask for help Accept questions and input about their areas of responsibility Give one another the benefit of the doubt before arriving at a negative conclusion Take risks in offering feedback and assistance Appreciate and tap into one another's skills and experiences Focus time and energy on important issues, not politics Offer and accept apologies without hesitation Look forward to meetings and other opportunities to work as a group
This low-risk exercise requires nothing more than going around the table during a meeting and having team members answer a short list of questions about themselves. Questions need not be overly sensitive in nature and might include the following: number of siblings, hometown, unique challenges of childhood, favorite hobbies, first job, and worst job. Simply by describing these relatively innocuous attributes or experiences, team members begin to relate to one another on a more personal basis, and see one another as human beings with life stories and interesting backgrounds.
Team Effectiveness Exercise
It requires team members to identify the single most important contribution that each of their peers makes to the team, as well as the one area that they must either improve upon or eliminate for the good of the team. All members then report their responses, focusing on one person at a time, usually beginning with the team leader.
team leaders must create an environment that does not punish vulnerability. Even well-intentioned teams can subtly discourage trust by chastising one another for admissions of weakness or failure.
All great relationships, the ones that last over time, require productive conflict in order to grow. This is true in marriage, parenthood, friendship, and certainly business.
Ideological conflict is limited to concepts and ideas, and avoids personality-focused, mean-spirited attacks.
teams that engage in productive conflict know that the only purpose is to produce the best possible solution in the shortest period of time. They discuss and resolve issues more quickly and completely than others, and they emerge from heated debates with no residual feelings or collateral damage, but with an eagerness and readiness to take on the next important issue.
When team members do not openly debate and disagree about important ideas, they often turn to back-channel personal attacks, which are far nastier and more harmful than any heated argument over issues.
Mining Members of teams that tend to avoid conflict must occasionally assume the role of a “miner of conflict”—someone who extracts buried disagreements within the team and sheds the light of day on them. They must have the courage and confidence to call out sensitive issues and force team members to work through them. This requires a degree of objectivity during meetings and a commitment to staying with the conflict until it is resolved. Some teams may want to assign a member of the team to take on this responsibility during a given meeting or discussion.
Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, commonly referred to as the TKI.
One of the most difficult challenges that a leader faces in promoting healthy conflict is the desire to protect members from harm.
In the context of a team, commitment is a function of two things: clarity and buy-in. Great teams make clear and timely decisions and move forward with complete buy-in from every member of the team, even those who voted against the decision.
The two greatest causes of the lack of commitment are the desire for consensus and the need for certainty: Consensus. Great teams understand the danger of seeking consensus, and find ways to achieve buy-in even when complete agreement is impossible. They understand that reasonable human beings do not need to get their way in order to support a decision, but only need to know that their opinions have been heard and considered.
Certainty. Great teams also pride themselves on being able to unite behind decisions and commit to clear courses of action even when there is little assurance about whether the decision is correct.
they understand the old military axiom that a decision is better than no decision.
They also realize that it is better to make a decision boldly and be wrong—and then change direction with equal boldness—than it is to waffle.
It is important to remember that conflict underlies the willingness to commit without perfect information. In many cases, teams have all the information they need, but it resides within the hearts and minds of the team itself and must be extracted through unfiltered debate.
In order for teammates to call each other on their behaviors and actions, they must have a clear sense of what is expected. Even the most ardent believers in accountability usually balk at having to hold someone accountable for something that was never bought in to or made clear in the first place.
this dysfunction is the unwillingness of team members to tolerate the interpersonal discomfort that accompanies calling a peer on his or her behavior and the more general tendency to avoid difficult conversations.
team members who are particularly close to one another sometimes hesitate to hold one another accountable precisely because they fear jeopardizing a valuable personal relationship.
the most effective and efficient means of maintaining high standards of performance on a team is peer pressure.
A Team that Holds One Another Accountable . . . Ensures that poor performers feel pressure to improve Identifies potential problems quickly by questioning one another's approaches without hesitation Establishes respect among team members who are held to the same high standards Avoids excessive bureaucracy around performance management and corrective action
The enemy of accountability is ambiguity, and even when a team has initially committed to a plan or a set of behavioral standards, it is important to keep those agreements in the open so that no one can easily ignore them.
The ultimate dysfunction of a team is the tendency of members to care about something other than the collective goals of the group. An unrelenting focus on specific objectives and clearly defined outcomes is a requirement for any team that judges itself on performance.
A Team that Focuses on Collective Results . . . Retains achievement-oriented employees Minimizes individualistic behavior Enjoys success and suffers failure acutely Benefits from individuals who subjugate their own goals/ interests for the good of the team Avoids distractions
Ironically, teams succeed because they are exceedingly human.
Okay, so, lots of books on death or death-adjacent this year. Probably both really good for my health, and not so good for my health. Upside, not obsessed, merely realistically recognizing my own mortality.
This book of seven essays by Christopher Hitchens were written while he had esophageal cancer, diagnosed a bit over a year before his death. Hitchens had written before on death and his own mortality, reminding all of us that all of us die, and rejecting the idea that religion is a comfort at the end.
I took lots of notes about the book, then didn't keep them. I did, however, buy the book in hardback, as I do with all good books I read from the library and want to keep. I recommend this book, even if thinking about dying is a scary, frightening thing for you. Better to face it eyes open head up, than be caught by surprise.
I'm doing a poor job of participating in the Caltech Book Club. I am, however, doing a fantastic job of reading the book club books. When this book entered the list, I immediately checked it out from the library and devoured it. A book on paper? PAPER? Sign me up!
The blurb from the back of the book:
The book does that, gives a history of paper. I loved that part. It also gives a commentary on technology, how it develops, how it influences society, and why it happens. I enjoyed that part of it, too.
If you like paper, this book is worth reading. If you like history, also worth reading. I loved the book. YMMV
Throughout history the role of technology and people’s reactions to it have been remarkably consistent,
There are other important lessons to be learned from the history of technology—and other commonly held fallacies. One is that new technology eliminates old. This rarely happens.
[I]t is futile to denounce technology itself. Rather, you have to try to change the operation of the society for which the technology was created.
You cannot warn about what a new technology will do to a society because that society has already made the shift.
Society changes, and that change creates new needs. That is why the technology is brought in. The only way to stop the technology would be to reverse the changes in the society.
A technology that is intended to redirect society will usually fail. In fact, most technology companies do not introduce new technology but new ways to use ideas that already exist.
It says something about our world that we seldom remember the person who came up with an idea, but canonize the pragmatist who made it commercially viable. Already we have forgotten the people who created most of the important computer concepts and instead celebrate the people who became rich on them.
But there is one truly unique human trait: people record. They record their deeds, their emotions, their thoughts, and their ideas . . . they have an impulse to record almost everything that enters their minds and to save it for future generations. And it is this urge that led to the invention of paper.
Plato wrote, “And once a thing is put in writing, the composition, whatever it may be, drifts all over the place, getting not only in the hands of those who understand it, but equally of those who have no business with it. It doesn’t know how to address the right people and not address the wrong.” This may explain why he never wrote down what he considered his best ideas, his so-called unwritten doctrines,
Many felt as Plato did, that once something was written down, it no longer came from within a person, but was external and therefore was not sincere, not heartfelt, and thus in a sense was made less true.
Songs belong to oral culture. Everything about the way they are written is oral, which is why they are easy to memorize. When a song gets stuck in your head, this is not by chance. That is what they were built to do;
IQ tests are often criticized for not truly measuring intelligence. What, then, do they measure? They measure literacy, because we have grown to associate literacy with intelligence.
Writing was one of the few things the Chinese did not do first—though they do have the world’s oldest living written language.
People had extensive collections of books, some of which they took with them when they traveled.
The brushes would be dipped in an ink made from lampblack, the carbon from burned material—pine was best—mixed with a liquid.
It has never been clear to historians why Chinese tradition credits the invention of the brush to Meng Tian.
Modern-day historians have accused the short-lived Qin dynasty that he served of a tendency to obliterate earlier achievements and claim them for themselves.
Throughout the ancient world, the direction of writing varied tremendously—right to left, left to right, top to bottom, bottom to top, and from the middle outward. The Mayans and Aztecs wrote all over the page, with lines directing the reader where to go next. Some cultures, such as the Greeks, switched the direction of their writing over time.
In early Chinese history, valuables had been buried with the dead as offerings to the spirits, but the problem of grave robbing soon arose. During Han times, valuables were replaced with coins, but grave robbing persisted. Then the Chinese came up with the imaginative idea of making imitation valuables and imitation money out of paper; the gesture to the spirits was still there, but nothing was of use to the thieves.
All kinds of judgments could be made by looking at someone’s handwriting.
So, a few scholars have interpreted this passage as saying that a nation is formed on paper, by a written text.
This expansion was occurring despite a continuing widespread feeling, still lingering from the Middle Ages, that writing could not be trusted. During the Middle Ages, even a message, if it was considered truly important, was delivered orally.
Over the centuries, the monasteries had not changed much. From their inception in fifth-century Italy onward, they had always been places for reading. Monks, particularly in the Benedictine order, were expected to spend hours reading every day. Since reading was of necessity a daylight activity, monks were required to read only two hours a day in the winter, but three in the summer. They had to read an entire book during Lent, and smaller books were made so that a monk could fulfill his reading obligation when traveling.
In some countries such as France and Italy, paper workers attained a certain measure of power by banding into guilds. These workers were well paid and their meals were provided, so they saved most of what they earned, hoping to eventually buy their own mills. Whole families—mother, father, and children—would live and work in the mill and save toward this goal, which was attainable if they lived long enough because there was always room for a new paper mill.
We know that Gutenberg was a goldsmith, which is significant. Many early printers were goldsmiths, because it took skill with metal to make moveable type; there were numerous high-quality goldsmiths in Mainz.
Usually the person credited with an invention, the one who makes it work and makes it profitable, is a savvy businessman. This was probably true of Cai Lun, but it was not true of Gutenberg. He never became wealthy.
Of course, not everyone loved printing. As with every other new technology, there were those who were disdainful—some who thought it was barbarism, some who thought it was the end of civilization, and some who thought it was a threat to their jobs.
Many of the aristocrats who employed scribes and maintained libraries of handwritten books were contemptuous of what they saw as sleazy imitations, which in a sense the printed books were.
Books had been rare, and their power had been well appreciated. So these newfangled printers with their strange ability to produce books for sale by the hundreds were regarded in some quarters with great suspicion.
A certain human touch was missing in the way the letters and the words all had exactly the same spacing, they said. It was rigid and uncreative.
Leonardo da Vinci was notorious in his lifetime for his inability to complete projects. He would accept a commission for some grand undertaking and would never get beyond the start. As a government official in Florence said in 1506 about a mural the artist had only begun, “He made a very small beginning of a very large thing.”
Leonardo’s problem was well summed up by Pope Leo X, who once saw him engrossed in trying to create the perfect formula for varnish instead of painting: “This man will never do anything, for he begins by thinking about the end before the beginning of his work.”
Though he is usually thought of as a painter, only fifteen paintings, some unfinished, have been found, along with two damaged murals.
Five years later, he printed the fictional Hypnerotomachia by Francesco de Colonna, a book that garnered more attention. It was an erotic romance, not at all shocking for the time; pornography was a popular genre in the emerging printing trade.
These small, portable books, which Aldus called libelli portatiles, are credited with changing people’s reading habits. This, of course, is the technological fallacy at work once again. Aldus did not change reading habits. Rather, a change in reading habits prompted him to produce a different kind of book. He could see that books were too big for the way the new readers wanted to use them. Books were no longer read only by learned monks and scholars at stands in monasteries and castles but by a broad range of people, especially in Italy and France. People wanted to read while lounging in chairs or at a café; they wanted to take books to work to read on breaks or on trips.
She also wanted Spilman’s mill to succeed because she was troubled by the extent to which England relied on imports from France.
The French Crown that had tried so rigorously to stop their papermakers from working in England ended up driving them there.
The French war on Protestants also caused some French paper mills to shut down, reducing their output of the valuable export. Realizing their mistake, the French government attempted to win back some of their papermakers. Numerous French papermakers in England were taken into custody and legal action ensued; others were persuaded to return home, their travel expenses paid for.
During an attack of plague in 1536, paper mills in Middlesex were closed down, and when the government asked the public to help support the out-of-work papermakers, the locals complained that they had earned better salaries than most artisans and should have saved their money.
As the scribes of old were keenly aware, literacy is empowering and a threat to despotic rule. Saye’s great crime, according to Cade, was not losing Normandy but sending children to school.
Unlike broadsides, pamphlets had traditionally been aimed at the intelligentsia, but Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, clearly aimed at common citizens, changed that. In an age of flowery prose, his language was clear, direct, and unadorned.
THE HISTORY OF paper offers insight into why the colonists wanted independence from Britain. A coin, a paper mill, a newspaper—whatever it was that the colonists wanted, the Crown often prohibited it. And then the British tried to earn revenue by taxing the goods the colonists were forced to import from England because local production was stifled.
DETERMINED TO KEEP the paper mills open during the Revolution, the colonists exempted papermakers from military service.
paper plugs were needed to seal the black powder in the muskets’ firing chambers, to keep it separate from bullets, and paper cartridges were required to encase the powder and bullets. Sometimes, that paper was scarce. In 1776, according to historian William St. Clair, most of the 3,000-copy press run of Saur’s 1776 German Bible was used to fire American muskets.
The soldiers found 2,500 copies of the sermon and sent it off to Monmouth, where it was used to plug the muskets of the men fighting the British to a draw in a famously tough battle—later renowned as the one instance in which George Washington was said to have cursed.
A French paper mill on the eve of the French Revolution still involved women sorting rags, a pulper—usually old water-powered stampers—a vat, a vatman, a coucher, waterleaves pressed between felt by sturdy men, a presser with a big bar to compress the felt, women hanging paper to dry, a sizeman cooking up sizing, women examining sheets and removing the flawed ones, and a loftman wrapping the sheets into reams. These workers all had very specific skills, and there were strict rules about which jobs were for women and which for men.
In prerevolutionary France, paper workers had more power and were more assertive than most other workers because they were few in number and highly skilled. They were known to walk off the job and spend an afternoon in a nearby tavern, returning only at mealtime. They had a reputation for being independent and unruly, and they ignored government regulations.
the publisher did not have the expense of binding. He sold sewn pages, which the buyer, after carefully inspecting the quality of the paper used, took to a bookbinder.
It could even be argued, as Diderot did, that the spread of reading and its accompanying spread of knowledge led to rebellion against the old order. This was why that old order, the aristocracies and clergy of Europe, were tremendously fearful of this increasing popularity of books and newspapers and reading in general.
As with all changes, there was considerable discussion about their repercussions. Not everyone believed, as did Diderot, that reading was a positive and liberating experience. Some believed, as Cervantes had noted with irony, that too much reading could ruin a person. This fear of reading was connected with the desire to oppress, as is evident in the many arguments over time claiming that reading was not good for the working class or for women or for slaves.
On the eve of the French Revolution, Diderot had predicted that enormous changes were coming to society, that those changes would bring with them technology, and that technology, in turn, would make people freer. This is partly because he thought that technology would make information more readily available. But the dissemination of information alone does not set people free, and a new information technology creates a new ruling class. Technology by itself does not change the nature of society.
The local people were deeply offended by the scavengers, especially the ragmen, some of whom, they said, went as far as to dig up shallow graves.
The Glatfelter Company still makes paper on the site today.
The preferable wood for this trade was spruce. According to the company, it turned 7 million cords of pulpwood into paper in 1923. An acre of land grew an estimated five cords of pulpwood, so the company had consumed the wood of 140,000 acres, or 220 square miles, of forestland in a single year.
The Zai Yuan Tang Mill in Anhui Province, just north of Jinxian, was
ABOUT FORTY-FIVE MILES north of Tokyo, in the Dohira Mountains, is the town of Ogama-Machi, famous for making washi for the past 1,200 years. Before
Teizou is now seventy-eight and says of his craft, “I get easily sick of it.”
With remarkable frequency, the phrase is uttered, “The world is changing.” It is certainly true that the world is changing, but this sentence is often announced as though the world had never changed before. There has been no period in human history when the world was not changing.
Today’s ideas, facilitated by the inventions of the Industrial Revolution, are taking as long to lead to new inventions as did the ideas of the Industrial Revolution. One of the reasons why we believe otherwise, why we imagine our times to be moving so swiftly, is that we live in an age of marketing. Electronic devices are built with planned obsolescence; that is, they are deliberately built not to last, so that everyone will have to buy another one soon.
People like to write down quick notes and memos on paper even if they have a cell phone with a memo function.
Different people have different paper preferences and appear to enjoy having choices.
Computers were not developed to replace books or paper; they were developed to be a better way to store and access information.
And written language itself has been returning to its early development, to pictographs and hieroglyphics. There are the signs by the side of the road, the signs denoting women’s and men’s bathrooms, and the growth of the use of emoticons—
Why are these pictographs conveying feelings, such as ￼, meaning “happy,” increasingly becoming part of the digital vocabulary of the twenty-first century? It is because change and the resistance to change always work hand in hand.
I have had this book on my shelf for a long time, easily five years. I'm pretty sure I bought the book on Matthew's recommendation after Matthew and I had talked about a conference all about play (presumably bringing play back into tech, instead of the pursuit of the fast out that so many startups have these days and have had for the last decade or so).
Reading the book, I found myself nodding and thinking, "Yeah, I know this," but really, I didn't know much of it. Much of it is common sense, some of it is actionable, all of the book is needed. Without play, work is difficult, motivation is low. When things are fun (interesting, enjoyable), motivation is high. The tasks can be hard, they can be time-consuming, but if they're fun, if there's play involved, they can be enjoyable.
I recommend this book to every parent and teacher and leader and follower, definitely worth reading.
Life without play is a grinding, mechanical existence organized around doing the things necessary for survival. Play is the stick that stirs the drink. It is the basis of all art, games, books, sports, movies, fashion, fun, and wonder—in short, the basis of what we think of as civilization. Play is the vital essence of life. It is what makes life lively.
Engineers are professional skeptics. To them, good things and useful ideas last, like laws of nature. Engineers build on the bedrock of established fact. They usually regard emotional components of a system as too vague to be useful.
PROPERTIES OF PLAY Apparently purposeless (done for its own sake) Voluntary Inherent attraction Freedom from time Diminished consciousness of self Improvisational potential Continuation desire
the first quality of play that sets it off from other activities is its apparent purposelessness. Play activities don’t seem to have any survival value. They don’t help in getting money or food. They are not done for their practical value. Play is done for its own sake. That’s why some people think of it as a waste of time. It is also voluntary—it is not obligatory or required by duty. Play also has inherent attraction. It’s fun. It makes you feel good. It provides psychological arousal (that’s how behavioral scientists say that something is exciting). It is a cure for boredom. Play provides freedom from time. When we are fully engaged in play, we lose a sense of the passage of time. We also experience diminished consciousness of self. We stop worrying about whether we look good or awkward, smart or stupid. We stop thinking about the fact that we are thinking. In imaginative play, we can even be a different self. We are fully in the moment, in the zone.
Another hallmark of play is that it has improvisational potential. We aren’t locked into a rigid way of doing things. We are open to serendipity, to chance. We are willing to include seemingly irrelevant elements into our play. The
We see things in a different way and have fresh insights.
Last, play provides a continuation desire. We desire to keep doing it, and the pleasure of the experience drives that desire. We find ways to keep it going. If something threatens to stop the fun, we improvise new rules or conditions so that the play doesn’t have to end. And when it is over, we want to do it again.
The things that most tie you down or constrain you—the need to be practical, to follow established rules, to please others, to make good use of time, all wrapped up in a self-conscious guilt—are eliminated. Play is its own reward, its own reason for being.
When anyone smiles at another person, they are reaching out, engaging in a play invitation as clear as a dog’s play bow.
Cats and other social mammals such as rats will, if seriously missing out on play, have an inability to clearly delineate friend from foe, miscue on social signaling, and either act excessively aggressive or retreat and not engage in more normal social patterns. In the give-and-take of mock combat, the cats are learning what Daniel Goleman calls emotional intelligence—the ability to perceive others’ emotional state, and to adopt an appropriate response.
Our primary need is to survive from one day to the next. The strongest drives are for food and sleep. When we are in peril, play will disappear. But studies show that if they are well fed, safe, and rested, all mammals will play spontaneously.
We are rewarded for behavior that conforms to the dictates of the biological drives and punished for behavior that goes against them. We feel pain when we don’t eat, and great pleasure when we are finally able to chow down (as the saying goes, “Hunger is the best sauce”). A great night’s sleep, especially after a string of sleepless nights, is one of the most satisfying, free pleasures available.
In an individual who is well-adjusted and safe, play very likely continues to prompt continued neurogenesis throughout our long lives. For example, studies of early dementia suggest that physical play forestalls mental decline by stimulating neurogenesis.
Runner’s World magazine once divided runners into four types: the exerciser, the competitor, the enthusiast, and the socializer. The exerciser is someone who runs primarily to lose weight, to stay in shape, to improve cardiovascular fitness. The competitor runs to improve race time, to beat others, to make a PB (personal best). Enthusiasts run to experience the joy of the day, to feel their muscles working and the air on their face. For the socializer, running is primarily an activity to bring people together for talking, which is the real fun. All four types are certainly running, but the internal experience can be very different. The truth is that the enthusiast and the socializer are most likely to be engaged in pure play—pursuing the activity for the joy it brings (and you could say that for the socializer the source of joy is the talking, not the running itself). The other two may be running mostly in pursuit of goals—perhaps fast times or fitness—that can take away the joy from the experience and add stress to their lives. If exercisers or competitors feel lousy when they don’t meet certain expectations they have for themselves, what they are doing is not really play.
Sometimes running is play, and sometimes it is not.
Play is a state of mind, rather than an activity.
Watching sports, sitcoms, Oprah, or an excellent drama on TV is usually a type of play, as is reading a novel. Think about how you feel walking out of a really good movie, bringing your mind back again to the everyday world but retaining a changed perspective. One critic remembers walking out of Lawrence of Arabia and feeling that the sunlight looked different. This sense of coming back to the world shows that the movie was indeed play. So is reliving its scenes in your mind later. Hobbies like model airplane building, kite flying, or sewing are most often play.
When Roger took me through his laboratory he was like a kid as he described his experiments. Here was the biggest, most expensive sandbox he had ever played with, all set up to let him discover wonderful new things. I still remember his glee when he told me about his latest work:
When we stop playing, we start dying.
She said that I had convinced her that play is important, and said she worried about her kids, ten and twelve years old, getting enough time to play but still studying and working enough that they would be successful in life. We spoke about the nature of success, and she realized that what she was really talking about was teaching them how to become responsible adults who have a playful approach to life, who enjoy life, and have work that excites them.
Imagination is perhaps the most powerful human ability. It allows us to create simulated realities that we can explore without giving up access to the real world.
a close examination of adult stream of consciousness demonstrates that the pretend-real process is a lifelong aspect of human thought. We continually make up story lines in our heads to keep the past, present, and future in context.
Even in our society, grandparents are often the ones who have the time to really listen to children. Parents are often busy trying to mold a child into what they think he or she ought to be. Perhaps grandparents are the ones who see us for what we really are and help us grow into that.
All of the patterns that induce states of play are present and remain important for growth, flexibility, and learning. Unfortunately, we often forget this or choose not to focus on play’s necessity under intense pressure to succeed. No Child Left Behind is a perfect example. While it is an admirable (and even necessary) goal to make sure that all children attain a certain minimal level of education, the result has often been a system in which students are provided a rote, skills-and-drills approach to education and “nonessential” subjects like art and music are cut.
In a sense, they are being prepared for twentieth-century work, assembly-line work, in which workers don’t have to be creative or smart—they just have to be able to put their assigned bolt in the assigned hole.
Without play, Panksepp suggests, optimal learning, normal social functioning, self-control, and other executive functions may not mature properly.
This research has led him to propose a connection between a lack of rough-and-tumble play and ADHD. In fact, based on their findings that “abundant access to rough-and-tumble play” reduces the inappropriate hyperplayfulness and impulsivity of rats with frontal lobe damage, he and his colleagues propose that a regimen of social, boisterous play might be one way to help children with mild to moderate ADHD control impulsivity
Some may cheapen these methods by saying that these teachers are just entertaining students, but what is wrong with that? As long as the lessons are learned as well or better than they would be with other methods. Play isn’t the enemy of learning, it’s learning’s partner.
As we grow older, we are taught that learning should be serious, that subjects are complicated. These serious subjects take serious study, we are told, and play only trivializes them.
Sometimes the best way to get the feel of a complicated subject is to just play with it.
That’s why kids often learn computer systems faster than adults—they aren’t afraid to just try stuff out and see what works, whereas adults worry that they will do something wrong. Kids don’t fear doing something wrong. If they do, they learn from it and do it differently next time.
Authentic play comes from deep down inside us. It’s not formed or motivated solely by others. Real play interacts with and involves the outside world, but it fundamentally expresses the needs and desires of the player.
All evidence indicates that the greatest rewards of play come when it arises naturally from within.
It used to be that self-organized play was all kids did. Most adults over the age of forty-five will likely have memories of exploring on their own, through puddles and fields or on city streets.
Parents and educators, corporate leaders, and others need to become convinced by the evidence that long-term life skills and a rewarding sense of fulfillment—and yes, performance—are more the by-product of play-related activities than forced performance.
True mastery over a lifetime comes from one’s internal play compass. When parents and teachers push too hard to get kids to perform, children do not experience feelings of competence and do not create from within their own sense of mastery.
sports can be a potent training for a playful life during the teen years. Sports provide a ready peer group, united in a common goal. Sports teach how to struggle against adversity, even when the odds seem insurmountable. Adult-organized sports don’t have to be antiplay when they are done right.
Athletics provide feedback about one’s own physical talents, and what it feels like to participate, win, lose, and be fair.
William Bowen, a former president of Princeton University, once did a large statistical study to determine if the special preferences that athletes got on college admissions (lower SAT score cutoff, extra financial aid) were unfair. Bowen was surprised to find that, as a group, the athletes actually did better financially after college than other students, a fact he attributed to the drive and energy that sports cultivate.
the opposite of play is not work—the opposite of play is depression.
Our inherent need for variety and challenge can be buried by an overwhelming sense of responsibility. Over the long haul, when these spice-of-life elements are missing, what is left is a dulled soul.
We need newness of play, its sense of flow, and being in the moment. We need the sense of discovery and liveliness that it provides. We also need the purpose of work, the economic stability it offers, the sense that we are doing service for others, that we are needed and integrated into our world. And most of us need also to feel competent.
Play is nature’s greatest tool for creating new neural networks and for reconciling cognitive difficulties.
When we play, dilemmas and challenges will naturally filter through the unconscious mind and work themselves out.
As with many things in life, often the problem is not the problem, the problem is how you react to the problem.
The paradox is that a little distance from a problem, a sense of perspective, a realization that it really matters little in the end if people choose Huggies over Pampers for their kids, can be one of the most important factors in success.
The beauty of sports is that it embraces the paradox of seriousness and play.
Sometimes the play may be a friendly competition between teams. Or it can be a very private sort of play-game that the rest of us never see—a personal competition, for instance, to see how fast we can write a memo, or how many things we can check off our to-do list that day.
Work matters, but we often allow day-to-day events at work to give us more anxiety than they are worth.
Getting oneself into a play state, however, masks the urgent purposefulness and associated anxiety of work, increasing efficiency and productivity.
Creative people can be simultaneously hardworking and goof-offs. They can have a laser focus on a task, but keep the wide view that lets them see how something fits into the big picture.
Creative people can escape into the imagination, but also are firmly grounded in reality. Creative ideas are often those that bring together ideas from different domains or fields.
Creative people know the rules of the game, but they are open to improvisation and serendipity.
Much of play takes place in an imaginative world, but is also firmly grounded in reality. In fact, play promotes mixing fantasy and reality.
As Isaac Asimov said, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny . . .’ ”
We can get pretty far through sheer will-power, and some people have prodigious powers of perfectionism, self-denial, and suffering. Ultimately, though, people cannot succeed in rising to the highest levels of their field if they don’t enjoy what they are doing, if they don’t make time for play.
Without some sense of fun or play, people usually can’t make themselves stick to any discipline long enough to master it.
Every athlete I have ever met often feels that they just don’t want to start that workout. But when they do, the reason they love what they are doing comes back to them pretty quickly.
A crisis of some sort is not uncommon for successful people at midlife, but the age for this midlife meltdown has started coming earlier and earlier.
they too suffer the same crisis of the soul that comes from pouring every moment of your time and every ounce of your being into others’ expectations.
I have experienced too many cold and hostile reactions to play when people listen to a full rendition of its nature and importance, and they slowly realize that they have lived a life deprived of spontaneous play. They are struck by the fact that what love they’ve had in their lives was conditional and based on their performance. To fully realize this in one sitting as an adult can be overwhelming—too much to bear. The reaction is often an intense (but unconscious) defensiveness, a denial that the fullness of one’s life has been wasted. The resulting emotion is usually anger at the deliverer of the message.
Joy is our birthright, and is intrinsic to our essential design.
To really regain play in your life you will need to take a journey back into the past to help create avenues for play that work for you in the present. This can be done through a complete play history, or it can be done by simply sitting and remembering (and often visualizing) something you did in the past that gave you the sense of unfettered pleasure, of time suspended, of total involvement, of wanting to do this thing again and again.
Remember how that made you feel? Remember and feel that emotion and hold on to it, because that is what’s going to save you. The memory of that emotion is going to be the life raft that keeps you from drowning. It can be the rope that lifts you out of your play-deficient well.
Barbara loved her husband and naturally wanted to spend recreational time with him, but she realized that her husband’s heart play was never going to be hers.
Those who played together, stayed together. Those who didn’t either split or, worse yet, simply endured an unhappy and dysfunctional relationship.
Humans use play signals, too. When we greet each other, we smile and look at the other person with “soft” eyes—looking directly but not staring. We might also raise the eyebrows or lift the chin quickly in greeting.
These are an invitation to the other to mirror our expressions, to engage in a ritual bonding with the promise that we will progress to an emotional bonding. And the spirits of safety and trust are communicated nonverbally.
People trying not to look threatening will make no eye contact, will stare at a spot on the wall or some object, trying to look busy and inconspicuous.
If we lived in a world without play, all public adult interactions would model those of subway sitters and elevator riders. It would be a pretty grim world to live in. What play signals do is invite a safe, emotional connection, if even for an instant.
Really making emotional contact with people, inviting an emotional closeness either in a casual situation or long-term relationship, requires that we open ourselves to them. It requires that we not put up defensive walls and that we accept others for who they are. Then we can invite others to engage in play.
She has students pair off about two feet apart and look at each other for three solid minutes. A lot of people find this really uncomfortable.
It’s very personal. But the teacher urges people to get over themselves, to stop thinking about how they look and feel, and instead to think about the other person.
Teasing, as I’ve noted before, is a common way to probe the boundaries of a relationship and address power issues. In general, men engage in teasing more than women, and the teasing can seem rough to someone who is not used to it.
This reminds me of heckling in ultimate, the more heckling a team did, the closer the team members were. You can't heckle an outsider, it's just abuse and assholery if you do. Heckling a teammate, that's a sign of support, a message of, "Hey, yeah, you messed up, but we believe in you, so keep going."
I so miss the camaraderie of ultimate and Doyle's heckling.
The boundaries for such heckling are normally general cultural norms, but body language during the encounter usually primes the teaser to keep it up, or back off.
Jokes, when they contain unrealistic exaggeration, can allow us to safely address real fears without making them seem like accusations.
Without the various forms of social play we would find it very hard to live together. Society would either lock up like an overheated engine, or we would have to evolve a rigid, highly organized social structure like that of ants or bees. Play is the lubrication that allows human society to work and individuals to be close to each other.
Take play out of the mix and, like a climb in the oxygen-poor “death zone” of Mount Everest, the relationship becomes a survival endurance contest. Without play skills, the repertoire to deal with inevitable stresses is narrowed. Even if loyalty, responsibility, duty, and steadfastness remain, without playfulness there will be insufficient vitality left over to keep the relationship buoyant and satisfying.
Play also accentuates attraction.
The arts are indicators of emotional intelligence, but they also produce emotional intelligence. They help us grow and adapt.
A strong play drive is unspoken evidence of fitness to reproduce.
Romantic love, that is to say, the “deeply in love” form of love, is a super-strong force. The idealization and rapture of romantic love has addictive qualities that are similar to drug addiction.
Without play, romantic love naturally tends to drift into territoriality, possessiveness, dominance, or aggression. The emotion of romantic love is to feel totally in sync with the lover, but when lovers go out of sync the fall can be hard.
While being in love is intensely pleasurable, it can also be so intense that it is painful.
Studies have shown that being love-sick can cause actual physical sickness.
Stepping out of a normal routine, finding novelty, being open to serendipity, enjoying the unexpected, embracing a little risk, and finding pleasure in the heightened vividness of life. These are all qualities of a state of play.
In order to keep things hot, people have to keep growing, keep exploring new territory in themselves and each other. In short, they have to play.
Adult play is not much different. The competitive urge may make us want to dominate the competition in the short term, but if this happens all the time the game gets boring.
The natural urge to find balance in play is also the reason that people root for the underdog and against teams that win all the time.
When someone is domineering, aggressive, or violent, they are not engaged in true play, no matter what they are doing.
There is an agreement that participants be “good sports” who can shake hands and respect each other after the contest is decided. The desire for fair play probably runs very deep in our genes.
Adults who are healthy and psychologically well balanced will enjoy playing, but after a while they will grow tired of whatever game they are playing and do something else. People who are using the games to escape some other psychic pain, however, will not stop playing.
In life, it’s often not clear if you are “winning” or “losing.” Gaming offers a very controlled world in which victory and defeat can be clear and unambiguous.
On the whole, three-dimensional physical and social play is a “better” form of play, just as a balanced diet is better than one full of sugar hits.
incorporate play earlier and more consistently in my professional life, and to set clear boundaries about working too hard.
A “mean” girl who operates by psychological intimidation and exclusion is the equivalent of a boy bully, both of which interrupt the flow of play.
In both cases, I think that we adults are too quick to step in to stop such play. We see the potential for small hurts, hear the squeals and grunts that sound to us like loss of control, and we force the wrestlers to stop. We feel uncomfortable with the gossipy talk and we reflexively step in to make sure that kids are being fair. By doing so, we stop kids from learning on their own and from each other.
Teasing varies by culture and individual temperament, but some form exists everywhere, especially when people are emotionally close.
teasing allows people to go to the edge and just beyond, saying things that may or may not be hurtful if said straight out, offering all parties an escape if they have gone too far. Such teasing is a learned-through-play social skill, with culturally understood boundaries. If the intent is to enlighten or just have fun, teasing and joke-making are great elements of social bonding. If the underlying motive is to put down or humiliate the recipient, it’s not healthy.
Play, by its very nature, is a little anarchic. It is about stepping outside of normal life and breaking normal patterns. It is about bending rules of thought, action, and behavior.
Some people use this quality of play as cover for sadistic or cruel treatment of others. “Hey,” they might say if others object, “you can’t take a little playful hassling? What’s wrong with you?” This is not a dark side of play, because it is not play. It’s an attack under a false flag. It is an attempt to dominate, demean, or control while hiding behind the bulwark of our cultural assumptions about play being non-threatening.
Adults may joke about something that’s a little too personal. But when our interactions are based on a foundation of caring, these hurts are corrected and avoided in the future. Bending rules and pushing through limits should happen within the realm of play. They aren’t the dark side of play—they are the essence of play.
When sports and games are played as they should be played, organized for the fun of it, kids learn that cheating is wrong and that playing the game the best you can is the thing that matters
ONE OF THE HARDEST things to teach kids is how to make it past difficulty or perceived boredom to find the fun.
Here are some initial questions: When have you felt free to do and be what you choose? Is that a part of your life now? If not, why not? What do you feel stands in the way of your achieving some times of personal freedom? Are you now able to feel that what engages you most fully is almost effortless? If not, can you recall when you were able to experience such times? Describe. Imagine settings that allow that sort of engagement. Search your memory for those times in your life when you have been at your very best. (These are usually authentic play times, and give clues as to where to go for current play experiences.) What have been the impediments to play in your life? How and why did some kinds of play disappear from your repertoire? Have you discovered ways of reinitiating lost play that work for you now in your life? Are you able to imagine and feel that the things you most desire and enjoy are really the things that you ought to have? Why so, or why not? How free are you now as you play with your spouse or your family? Or do you treat them as an extension of a dutiful responsibility?
The world is full of humor, irony, joy, and objects available for aesthetic appreciation. The trick is allowing yourself to open up to those influences, to see humor in virtually all situations.
You have to give yourself permission to improvise, to mimic, to take on a long-hidden identity. Let your body respond to lessons learned from nature but long suppressed. You can’t be truly open to spontaneity if you don’t feel comfortable testing novel ways of expressing yourself, pushed along by the pleasure of the action. Play is exploration, which means that you will be going places where you haven’t been before.
“It sucks being a beginner again,” he told me. “But unless you are willing to do that, unless you can let yourself feel okay about going through the awkward stage, you can’t grow.
One of the quickest ways to jump-start play is to do something physical. Just move.
We are alive when we are physically moving.
Fear and play cannot go together. Take a look at your environment and look at where you are unsafe.
Recognize if your body is tight or tense in certain situations.
developmentally we all need “secret spaces” in which we can be safely alone and give ourselves over to needed fantasies if we are to adapt to a challenging world. Find your own secret space.
Practice play. Understand what type of player you are and find ways to engage in your play.
Okay, this is book twenty eight of the year that I've read. It is also, the 27th non-fiction book I've read, sticking with my January non-fiction month for much longer than anticipated.
The problemm with reading only non-fiction, however, is that often you stop having stories. Depending on the book, you can go hours and hours and hours with dry facts that, while true (hence, unlike the idiot in the power position believes, non-fiction and not "alternate"), lack an engaging story. Drawdown is a fascinating catalog of technologies we need to use and develop and encourage, yes, but the book was slow going in its lack of story.
Shadow Divers, however, didn't lack for a story. The book is a recount of the 1991 discovery of a previously unknown U-boat off the coast of New Jersey, and the divers' journey to positively identifying it. I enjoyed the book a lot, with a few very strong parts that pulled me out of the story.
About half way through the book, I started looking up the various protagonists on the Intarwebs™. Bill Nagle's Wikipedia page links off to the U-869 Wikipedia page, which references that PBS NOVA episode "Hitler's Lost Sub" which I started watching. And then became momentarily confused, as the story I was reading in Shadow Divers wasn't the story I was hearing on the NOVA episode.
Okay, what up?
Further along in the book, Robert Kurson starts telling the tale from the perspective of those who died on U-869, and that's when I was fully pulled out of the story.
The men spoke briefly before wishing each other a good night. “At least,” Guschewski thought as he closed his door, “this fellow seems bright, capable, and friendly. At least Horenburg seems like a gentleman.”
Guschewski lived, and was interviewed for the book, a fact we find out at the end of the book, but parts like:
They knew this man to be their commander—they could see a nobility in his posture, a certainty in the slowness of his breaths, a strength in his face’s Teutonic angles.
are still absurd. Non-fiction can't really tell you this with any accuracy when the "they" died sixty years before.
I still very much enjoyed this book. It was a great read, takes about eight hours or so to read, but reads like an adventure, so it doesn't feel that long.
There were a lot of impossible places to go when the world was as big as Chatterton and Nagle saw it, but for God’s sake you had to try. You were required to try. What were you doing alive, these men thought, if you didn’t go and try?
A good diver reveals himself in the way he gears up.
Inside is where the bridge equipment lies—the telegraph, helm, and binnacles that gave the ship direction.
A diver who spends time inside a wreck will screw the “viz”; it’s just a matter of how soon and how badly.
Yet a curious truth pertains to these perils: rarely does the problem itself kill the diver. Rather, the diver’s response to the problem—his panic—likely determines whether he lives or dies.
A great diver learns to stand down his emotions. At the moment he becomes lost or blinded or tangled or trapped, that instant when millions of years of evolution demand fight or flight and narcosis carves order from his brain, he dials down his fear and contracts into the moment until his breathing slows and his narcosis lightens and his reason returns. In this way he overcomes his humanness and becomes something else. In this way, liberated from instincts, he becomes a freak of nature.
An ordinary diver will sometimes rush to extricate himself from trouble so that no other diver will witness his predicament. A disciplined diver is willing to risk such embarrassment in exchange for his life.
On a deep-wreck dive, no one is ever truly safe until he is back on the deck of the dive boat.
A few days later, Chatterton decided to take a trip. Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry was the permanent home of U-505, a type IXC U-boat captured by the Allies off Africa in 1944. The submarine had been kept in pristine condition and was open to the public.
She told them that after the war, her father had hobbled on crutches across America to visit the families of every man who had perished under his command because it was the right thing to do, that he needed to tell them in person that he appreciated their sons.
Everyone had an opinion, and John listened to all of them. But the more John absorbed these viewpoints, the more he suspected that these people didn’t really know. It was not that he doubted their conviction; in fact, he admired their passion and felt invigorated by the era. But he asked himself about the lives of the people behind the opinions, and the more he asked, the more he became convinced that few of them had ever gone out and looked for themselves.
“One more thing,” Mouse said. “A lot of the stuff you do out there, you’re going to have to live with all the way down the line. You’ll have to make decisions out there. When that happens, you have to ask yourself, ‘Where do I want to be in ten years, twenty years? How will I want to feel about this decision when I’m an old man?’ That’s the question for making important decisions.”
With each moment, Chatterton’s vision narrowed and the jungle sounds compressed, until the only impressions in his world were his own heaving breaths and pounding heart.
He could not imagine turning away from the first thing in his life at which he had been special, the thing at which he might be great.
As he neared the end of his six-month field obligation, he had come to believe these things: —If an undertaking was easy, someone else already would have done it. —If you follow in another’s footsteps, you miss the problems really worth solving. —Excellence is born of preparation, dedication, focus, and tenacity; compromise on any of these and you become average. —Every so often, life presents a great moment of decision, an intersection at which a man must decide to stop or go; a person lives with these decisions forever. —Examine everything; not all is as it seems or as people tell you. —It is easiest to live with a decision if it is based on an earnest sense of right and wrong. —The guy who gets killed is often the guy who got nervous. The guy who doesn’t care anymore, who has said, “I’m already dead—the fact that I live or die is irrelevant and the only thing that matters is the accounting I give of myself,” is the most formidable force in the world. —The worst possible decision is to give up.
in the water, self-contained, a man could be what he was meant to be, and when that happened it was impossible to be lost.
At home, Kohler allowed Richie to assemble and disassemble his tank and regulator—he believed in making his three children feel comfortable with mechanical equipment, to make them unafraid to touch things.
It had been a year since he had seen the dead woman in the water, but Richie had never stopped wondering how people could be left in the water when they had loved ones at home who needed to know where they were.
Richie’s father was right: always swing while the other guy is telling you how he’s going to kick your ass.
“We sank two U-boats,” Weidenfeld said. “But we never got credit for either of them.” “I’ve read about those incidents,” Chatterton said. “You guys believe the navy didn’t want to credit civilians.” “That’s right,” Weidenfeld said. “The navy didn’t want to acknowledge it because it would have terrified the public to think that average civilians were needed to fight the U-boats, and that the U-boats were coming so close to our shores.
He could not tolerate the idea of this diver stealing the visibility in a gold mine of artifacts under the pretext of shooting video. A mystery U-boat full of china and the guy is shooting video!
Chatterton began to insist but stopped himself when he looked into Chris’s widened eyes. In them, he saw only fear and knowing—the kind of knowing that occurs when one’s fate is certain and moments away.
But the lesson was stark and by now familiar: written history was fallible. Sloppy and erroneous assessments had been rushed into the official record, only to be presumed accurate by historians, who then published elegant reference works echoing the mistakes.
Along the way, each marveled at how easy it was to get an incomplete picture of the world if one relied solely on experts, and how important it would be to further rely on oneself.
But it took no more than these words for even a U-boat veteran like Guschewski to think, “There is great courage and competence in this man. You do not go against this voice. You do not go against this man.”
Seated with Neuerburg were his first officer, twenty-one-year-old Siegfried Brandt, and his chief engineer, thirty-year-old Ludwig Kessler.
Guschewski was stunned. He admired commanders who followed strict military protocol. But he had also prayed that U-869 would be led by a man with a heart.
During visits, he told Friedhelm that he believed the Nazis to be authoring the downfall of Germany. Friedhelm recoiled at the public nature of his expression. “Are you crazy talking like that in the open?” he asked Helmuth whenever such conversations unfolded. “People are listening everywhere! What you are saying is very dangerous!”
In 1943, Neuerburg and others were offered a choice: they could remain with the naval air arm or join the U-boats. Those who stayed with the air force would go into combat immediately; those who transferred to submarines might spend a year or more in training before going to battle. Neuerburg was father to a two-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter. He chose the U-boats, though he harbored no illusions about their safety.
Zinten’s Nazi Party members continued to harass Otto and Elise over their church worship and their refusal to join the party,
One of them began crying, then another, then all of them. “What is wrong?” Gila asked, rushing to Nedel’s side and taking his hand. For a moment, the men could do nothing but cry. Nedel said nothing. Finally, one of the other men spoke. “None of us is coming back,” he said.
Time and again during their research, they had been astonished to discover that historians had been mistaken, books fallible, experts wrong.
The fantasy always felt good for a minute, but it always ended with Chatterton thinking, “When things are easy a person doesn’t really learn about himself. It’s what a person does at the moment of his greatest struggle that shows him who he really is. Some people never get that moment. The U-Who is my moment. What I do now is what I am.”
Then spring began to dab warmth into the air and Marks said it would be a shame if a man turned his back on his passion.
Whatever satisfaction he might derive from delivering an answer to the crewmen’s families and to history would be smothered by his helpless proximity to a drowning friend.
There might be, he thought, one scenario worse than watching his friend die in the wreck, and as Sunday drew near he knew that worst scenario to be allowing his friend to die while he stayed home and waited for the news.
“U-boats are my avocation,” he said. “Perhaps it would be boring if I were to earn money from it. It’s the detective’s way of treating these matters that moves me. Once you find out history is wrong, once you start investigating it and, with some luck, correcting it, that is satisfaction enough.”
I did not know what this book was about when I started reading it, which could have been why it was as powerful to me. I hope that commenting on it does not lessen its power when you read this book, because I STRONGLY recommend this book, and will buy you a copy if you'll read it.
Consider the U.S. Government and the Constitution which dictates how it interacts, grows, and is stopped. It has its checks and balances with its power, and, for the most part, can keep itself reined in (no, not really, but as far as governments go, its the worse we have expect for all others).
What the Founding Fathers did not anticipate in the Constitution was that the government would not be the most powerful entity in the country.
Lo and behold, our times.
The U.S. Government is not the most powerful organization in the country, and such status is causing problems.
The anti-trust (nee anti-monopoly) legislation of yore, the stuff that might have been covered in U.S. History class if you took a twentieth century history class, was the government's attempt to rein in the private power that was threatening to dethrone the U.S. Government. Said legislation works only if it is enforced, and since the Bush Jr Era (quelle surprise), it has not been.
This book is a history of the anti-trust work, its origins, its failings, and its hope.
I strongly recommend everyone to read it. Wu has done a great job of explaining the problem, providing solutions, and giving hope, in as much as one can have in a surveillance capitalistic world.
[I]n enacting and repeatedly fortifying the antitrust laws the United States made a critical, indeed Constitutional choice in industrial and national policy. After a period of intense national debate, including a presidential election in 1912 where economic policy was a central issue, the nation rejected a monopolized economy and chose repeatedly over the decades to preserve its tradition of an open and competitive market. The goal of antitrust law must be understood as respecting that choice.
Over the twentieth century, nations that failed to control private power and attend to the economic needs of their citizens faced the rise of strongmen who promised their citizens a more immediate deliverance from economic woes. The rise of a paramount leader of government who partners with monopolized industry has an indelible association with fascism and authoritarianism. It is true that antitrust alone will not cure the curse of bigness or eliminate the excesses of private power. But it strikes at the root, and getting the engines of the law restarted is an important part of dealing with a problem that has reached Constitutional dimensions.
In its American form, the Trust Movement envisioned an economy with every sector run by a single, almighty monopoly, fashioned out of hundreds of smaller firms, unfettered by competitors or government restraint. In short: pure economic autocracy.
For the American tradition had, to that point, been defined by resistance to centralized power and monopoly. The American Revolution itself was in large part sparked by the abuses of Crown monopolies. The original Boston Tea Party was, after all, really an anti-monopoly protest.
As Hofstadter writes: “From its colonial beginnings through most of the nineteenth century, [America] was overwhelmingly a nation of farmers and small-town entrepreneurs—ambitious, mobile, optimistic, speculative, anti-authoritarian, egalitarian, and competitive. As time went on, Americans came to take it for granted that property would be widely diffused, that economic and political power would be decentralized.”
As such, the movement posed a new challenge for a Constitution that was committed to limited and separate powers, and never contemplated the rise of private power as great as any of the branches of government, and able to corrupt governmental operations to suit its ends.
Louis Brandeis, the advocate, reformer, and Supreme Court Justice, has been done a particular kind of disservice. He is still known as a great jurist; his writings on the First Amendment and privacy are exalted. But what Brandeis really cared about was the economic conditions under which life is lived, and the effects of the economy on one’s character and on the nation’s soul.
Brandeisian economic vision. It envisions a vigorous, healthy economy, a skepticism of the self-serving rhetoric projecting the romance of big business or the inevitability of monopoly, and, above all, a sensitivity to human ends. Brandeis took matters like bigness and concentration as inseparable from the very nature of democracy, and the conditions under which its citizens would live. They determined what kind of country we would live in and what kind of environment that country would provide for its citizens.
As the Commission wrote, the consolidation campaign had “meant the reckless and scandalous expenditure of money; it meant the attempt to control public opinion; corruption of government; the attempt to pervert the political and economic instincts of the people in insolent defiance of law.” The
That view had important implications for what the nation and its laws should look like. A worthy nation was one that served as cauldron for character and self-development, one that “compels us to strive for the development of the individual.” Importantly, Brandeis didn’t think that such personal growth was something that just happened: He believed that it required the right conditions. As he said: “The ‘right to life’ guaranteed by our Constitution” should be understood as “the right to live, and not merely to exist. In order to live men must have the opportunity of developing their faculties; and they must live under conditions in which their faculties may develop naturally and healthily.”
A good country and a good economy, therefore, would be one that provided to everybody sufficient liberties and adequate support to live meaningful, fulfilling lives. He thought the American founders had understood this, that “[ t] hey valued liberty both as an end, and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness, and courage to be the secret of liberty.” Hence a worthy nation should protect men and women from any forces, public or private, that might stifle the opportunities for thriving and life.
But it also meant freedom from industrial domination, exploitation, or so much economic insecurity that one could not really live without fear of unemployment and poverty. “Men are not free,” he wrote, “if dependent industrially on the arbitrary will of another.” Economic security was a foundation on which one could really be free in a meaningful sense—hence the importance of steady but not oppressive work, of education, time and space for leisure, parks, libraries, and other institutions.
We like to speak of freedoms in the abstract, but for most people, a sense of autonomy is more influenced by private forces and economic structure than by government. For many if not most people, the conditions of work determine how much of life is lived—such basic matters as the length of hours worked, the threat of being fired, harassment or mistreatment by a boss, and for some jobs, questions as fundamental as personal safety or access to a bathroom. Beyond work, our daily lives are shaped profoundly by economic matters like rent, access to transportation or groceries, and health insurance, even more so than any abstract freedoms. That is why Brandeis saw real freedom as freedom from both public and private coercion.*
He grew to detest the growing American culture of overwork, whether self-inflicted, as in the private lawyer’s case, or more menacingly, in the growing class of large firms who worked their employees past the limits of human endurance.
Instead what Brandeis really believed was that business could be a high calling and that a good career was one that created the conditions for human thriving. He thought for most people, a truly successful career consisted in developing a skill or a craft, or building a good business, and practicing as best one could, while aspiring to live by high principles in both personal and business affairs.
If he had a unifying principle, politically and economically, it is what we have said: that concentrated power in any form is dangerous, that institutions should be built to human scale, and society should pursue human ends. Every institution, public and private, runs the risks of taking on a life of its own, putting its own interests above those of the humans it was supposedly created to serve.
To Roosevelt, economic policy did not form an exception to popular rule, and he viewed the seizure of economic policy by Wall Street and trust management as a serious corruption of the democratic system. He also understood, as we should today, that ignoring economic misery and refusing to give the public what they wanted would drive a demand for more extreme solutions, like Marxist or anarchist revolution.
He added that the “trusts are the creatures of the State, and the State not only has the right to control them, but it is in duty bound to control them wherever need of such control is shown.”
Harlan read the Sherman Act as a literal ban on trusts, which, as he would later say, presented the danger of a “slavery that would result from aggregations of capital in the hands of a few individuals and corporations.”
As Roosevelt later reflected, “it was imperative to teach the masters of the biggest corporations in the land that they were not, and would not be permitted to regard themselves as, above the law.”
As Justice William Douglas would later put it, “power that controls the economy should be in the hands of elected representatives of the people, not in the hands of an industrial oligarchy.”
Hence, antitrust law was serving as a new kind of limit: a check on private power, by preventing the growth of monopoly corporations into something that might transcend the power of elected government to control. His pursuit of this goal makes it fair to call Roosevelt the pioneer of political antitrust.
But the broad tenor of antitrust enforcement—the broader goals of enforcement—should be animated by a concern that too much concentrated economic power will translate into too much political power, and thereby threaten the Constitutional structure.
At some level the point is obvious: Private economic power is a rival to the power of elected governments, and firms may also seek to control politics for their own purposes.
In a representative democracy, lawmaking is supposed to roughly match what the majority wants. If that is unclear or disputed, then we might expect or hope they’d reflect the interests of the “swing” voter—that is, the middle-of-the-road man or woman. But research shows that, for the vast majority of policy matters, that isn’t how things work at all.
large majorities don’t get what they want on many issues. Instead, they consistently lose out to small, closely-knit groups with discrete interests around which they organize—of which the “industry association” is the best example.
Olson’s memorable conclusion is that the small and organized will dominate the large and disorganized.
In 2003, the industry invested $ 116 million in convincing Congress to ban America’s largest federal-run insurance program, Medicare, from negotiating for lower drug prices. That $ 116 million was, to be sure, a major investment. However, the enactment of the negotiation ban has benefited the industry (and cost consumers) an estimated $ 90 billion per year. As an investment, it returns some 77,500 percent, and is a gift that keeps on giving.
A Princeton and Northwestern group in 2014 tested various theories of politics and concluded that a theory of “biased pluralism” best explained outcomes—that the public policies “tend to tilt toward the wishes of corporations and business and professional associations.”
The more concentrated the industry, the more corrupted we can expect the political process to be. Here, by corrupted, we mean a political system that does not serve its stated goals—service of the public’s interests—but instead favors a few groups at the expense of the general public.
Roosevelt’s point: Concentrated private power can serve as a threat to the Constitutional design, and the enforcement of the antitrust law can provide a final check on private power.
For example, as a firm adds more and more employees, it needs to add more managers, and ever-more complex systems of internal control, which tend, at some point, to begin making the firm less efficient. Managers in larger firms may start to yield to the temptations of seeking their own personal enrichment and power as opposed to the interests of the firm.
It was during the postwar years, over the 1950s and 1960s, that strong antitrust laws became most clearly identified as part of a functional democracy, and in that sense reached the fullest extent of their power, influence, and political support. Reflecting
Hitler’s rise and exercise of power were facilitated by the German Republic’s tolerance of monopolies in key industries, including the Krupp armaments company, Siemens railroad and infrastructure, and, most of all, the I.G. Farben chemical cartel.
That conclusion came from the observation that the main German monopolists, over the 1930s, threw their weight behind the Nazi regime when it lacked support among other key groups, and that each ultimately became deeply allied with and enmeshed in the German war effort.
As Senator Estes Kefauver put it: I think we must decide very quickly what sort of country we want to live in. The present trend of great corporations to increase their economic power is the antithesis of meritorious competitive development … Through monopolistic mergers the people are losing power to direct their own economic welfare. When they lose the power to direct their economic welfare they also lose the means to direct their political future.
He then turned to antitrust’s relationship to democracy. I am not an alarmist, but the history of what has taken place in other nations where mergers and concentrations have placed economic control in the hands of a very few people is too clear to pass over easily. A point is eventually reached, and we are rapidly reaching that point in this country, where the public steps in to take over when concentration and monopoly gain too much power. The taking over by the public through its government always follows one or two methods and has one or two political results. It either results in a Fascist state or the nationalization of industries and thereafter a Socialist or Communist state.
Like Thurman Arnold, Estes Kefauver, and other Americans, the Ordoliberals believed that the true origins of Nazi totalitarianism were the concentrations of economic power that began under Bismarck. In this sense, the European competition law was entwined, from the beginning, to the commitment to democracy and human freedom.
Since at least Adam Smith’s day, economists have favored competition and condemned monopoly.
Sherman had much broader concerns as well. He wanted antitrust law to fight “inequality of condition, of wealth, and opportunity” and feared that the trusts created “a kingly prerogative, inconsistent with our form of government.”
antitrust represented a democratic choice of economic structure and a check on the political and economic power of the monopolies.
As Learned Hand had written, “It is possible, because of its indirect social or moral effect, to prefer a system of small producers, each dependent for his success upon his own skill and character, to one in which the great mass of those engaged must accept the direction of a few. These considerations … prove to have been in fact [the law’s] purposes.”
In Alcoa, Hand articulated a better repudiation of monopoly than Brandeis himself had ever managed, writing that a “possession of unchallenged economic power deadens initiative, discourages thrift, and depresses energy; that immunity from competition is a narcotic, and rivalry is a stimulant, to industrial progress; that the spur of constant stress is necessary to counteract an inevitable disposition to let well enough alone.” Congress, said Hand, had chosen to “prefer a system of small producers, each dependent for his success upon his own skill and character, to one in which the great mass of those engaged must accept the direction of a few.”
One of the real triggers for the Justice Department, however, was signs that AT& T was also resistant even to government control.
But Bell managed to subvert or undermine many of these policies, thwarting the introduction of competition, running roughshod over the FCC. As in Theodore Roosevelt’s time, the idea of a monopolist that considered itself above government control compelled the Justice Department to action.
Robbing banks is economically irrational, given security guards and meager returns; ergo bank robbing does not happen; ergo there is no need for the criminal law. Exaggerated only slightly, this premise has been at the core of Bork-Chicago antitrust for more than thirty years.
First and most importantly, IBM dropped its practice of bundling (or tying) its software with hardware. That is broadly understood, even by IBM’s own people, to have kickstarted the birth of an independent software industry.
If the effect of the litigation was to prevent IBM from killing its main emergent challengers, the IBM case was not expensive, but incredibly cheap.
AT& T, for example, ruled its industry for decades, destroying myriad would-be challengers, with the tacit or sometimes active assistance of government. Having waited for several decades, are society and the economy supposed to wait for several more? This line of argument ignores the idea that deliberate investments in building barriers to entry can be effective, and it is often utterly rational for the monopolist to make such investments.
We can see that it is to the George W. Bush era that we owe our present economic state, as the administration dismantled most of the checks on industry concentration.
Cable was also freed to charge monopoly prices, and happily raised monthly prices at some eight times the rate of inflation. During a period of historically low inflation, it managed to raise its prices by an impressive 8 percent per year. Bills that were once in the $ 30–40 range rose over $ 100, and as much as $ 200 per month.
When a dominant firm buys its a nascent challenger, alarm bells are supposed to ring. Yet both American and European regulators found themselves unable to find anything wrong with the takeover.
It takes many years of training to reach conclusions this absurd. A teenager could have told you that Facebook and Instagram were competitors—after all, teenagers were the ones who were switching platforms.
When Facebook spies on competitors, or summons a firm to a meeting just to figure out how to copy it more accurately, or discourages funding of competitors, a line is crossed.
Anti-Merger Act of 1950,
As the Supreme Court put it, the law sought to erect “a barrier to what Congress saw was the rising tide of economic concentration” and therefore provided “authority for arresting mergers at a time when the trend to a lessening of competition in a line of commerce was still in its incipiency.” For “Congress saw the process of concentration in American business as a dynamic force” and it wanted to give the government and courts “the power to brake this force at its outset and before it gathered momentum.”
Breakups and the blocking of mergers (also known as “structural relief”) are at the historic core of the antitrust program, and should not be shied away from unduly. Breakups, done right, have clear effects. They can completely realign an industry’s incentives, and can, at their best, transform a stagnant industry into a dynamic one.
There is an unfortunate tendency within enforcement agencies to portray breakups and dissolutions as off the table or only for extremely rare cases. There is no legal reason for that presumption: Indeed, the original practice favored dissolution as the default remedy—implied in the very word “antitrust.”
Too much of the resistance to dissolution comes from taking too seriously the legal fiction of corporate personhood.
But reintroducing competition into the social media space, perhaps even quality competition, measured by matters like greater protection of privacy, could mean a lot to the public.
The simplest way to break the power of Facebook is breaking up Facebook.
The prerequisite would be persistent dominance of at least ten years or longer, suggesting that a market remedy is not forthcoming, and proof that the existing industry structure lacked convincing competitive or public justifications, and that market forces would be unlikely to remedy the situation by themselves. In
The “protection of competition” test is focused on protection of a process, as opposed to the maximization of a value. It is based on the premise that the legal system often does better trying to protect a process than the far more ambitious goal of maximizing an abstract value like welfare or wealth.
Here, as just one typical example, is Representative Dick Thompson Morgan in 1914: “the one thing we wish to maintain, and retain and sustain, is competition. We want to destroy monopoly and restore and maintain competition.”
Or as it said in the 1950s, “The heart of our national economic policy long has been faith in the value of competition.… ‘Congress was dealing with competition, which it sought to protect, and monopoly, which it sought to prevent.’”
The English Magna Carta, the Constitution of the United States, and other foundational laws of democracies around the world were all created with the idea that power should be limited—that it should be distributed, decentralized, checked, and balanced, so that no person or institution could enjoy unaccountable influence. Yet this vision has always had a major loophole. Written as a reaction to government tyranny, it did not contemplate the possibility of a concentrated private power that might come to rival the public’s, of businesspeople with more influence than government officials, and of an artificial creature of law, the corporation, that would grow to have political protection exceeding that of actual humans.
Okay, this is one of those books you wish did not need to exist.
Sadly, it does exist, it does need to exist. Happily, it is funny, in a "I'm not crying, you're crying!" sort of way.
The book is satire on women and their role in the workplace. It touches on many of the stereotypes of men and women in the workplace, and their interactions, and human nature, and the absurdity of all of our biases.
The mocking tone of the book could be off-putting, but it's funny for the most part, except for the parts where the humor is TOO REAL, and you cry instead.
It's a fun read, if you're in the right mindset. If you're a guy, yeaaaaaaaaah, this is really how things are for the rest of us.
When describing your accomplishments, you need to strike a balance between tooting your own horn and hiding your horn behind the shed. This is difficult because if you don’t take enough credit you won’t seem qualified, but if you take too much credit you’ll seem arrogant. Good luck with that.
However, sometimes when women say the exact same thing a man says it’s interpreted in a completely different way. It’s enough to make you want to cry (which as a man means you’re sensitive and as a woman means you’re hysterical).
Tone policing is an insidious way for people to disregard what you are saying by adjusting the focus to how you’re saying it.
Authenticity is less about being the real you and more about finding someone successful to look up to and being that person instead.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious offense and will not be tolerated, except in cases where the harasser was clearly joking and you need to relax.
You may go through different stages of being more successful than likeable or more likeable than successful or neither likeable nor successful. But one day you’ll wake up and you won’t care about being either and that’s the day you’ll be the most successful and most likeable person, at least to yourself.
Make sure your product is something your potential investors could personally see themselves using, or else they won’t be able to see any value in it whatsoever. Even though women are half of the population, remember, anything targeting them is considered a niche market.
DAILY APOLOGY ￼ checklist ￼ I’M SORRY FOR . . . ￼ Responding too late ￼ Responding too early ￼ Having my headphones on ￼ Being interrupted ￼ Staring at the bagels ￼ Speaking too softly ￼ Speaking at all ￼ Tripping on a rock (to the rock) ￼ Sharing too much ￼ Not sharing enough ￼ Enjoying food too much ￼ Asking a question ￼ Being misled ￼ Not liking my food ￼ Wanting something different ￼ Someone taking my seat ￼ Saying I’m sorry ￼ Asking to be paid ￼ Being bumped into ￼ Sitting in this chair ￼ Taking up space ￼ Needing help ￼ Offering to help ￼ My shoes being loud ￼ Going too fast ￼ Going too slow ￼ Swallowing too loudly ￼ Knowing what I’m doing ￼ Someone else’s mistake ￼ Being proud of myself ￼ Sharing my thoughts ￼ Being successful
So how do you be successful without hurting men’s feelings? You don’t. You be successful whether men’s feelings are hurt or not, because really that’s up to them, not you.
I have no idea who recommended this book to me, though if I had to guess, it was likely something referenced in one of Ryan Holiday's book reading newsletters. That's a guess, might have been the XOXO slack, too, instead.
When one is lost, a guide can help one find one's way again. Sometimes, one doesn't know one is lost, until a guide shows up and points the way. This book was rather like the latter. A guide, a kick in the pants, a sign point, a direction, to start moving, keep moving, and arrive at a destination.
I enjoyed Pressfield's description of his journey from aimlessness to discovery to success. It is inspirational, and also educational - one can see oneself in the younger version, and perhaps move along one's journey with Pressfield as a guide.
Which is also to say, I wrote this review long enough after I read it that I don't remember the details, but I do remember being inspired enough to start writing again. I dusted off the notes, filled in the plot, and started writing. That's something, being able to coax a dream back to life.
The stages of the artist's journey share one fundamental quality. They are all battles against Resistance. Resistance meaning fear. Resistance meaning distraction. Resistance meaning temptation. Resistance meaning the aggressive self-perpetuation of the ego. Resistance meaning the terror the psyche experiences at the prospect of encountering the Self, i.e. the soul, the unconscious, the superconscious.
We are fortifying ourselves, training ourselves against fear, boredom, laziness, arrogance, self-inflation, complacency.
David Mamet from Three Uses of the Knife. In his analysis of world myth, Joseph Campbell calls this period in the belly of the beast—the time which is not the beginning and not the end, the time in which the artist and the protagonist doubt themselves and wish the journey had never begun.
Her need for third-party validation attenuates. She may still ask you of her work, "What do you think?" But she evaluates your response within the framework of her own self-grounded assessment of her gifts and aspirations—and of how well or poorly she herself believes she has used the one in the service of the other.
Iinterviewed a test pilot once. He told me that over the course of his career he had put more than two hundred and fifty airplanes into deliberate tailspins to test the crafts' physical limits. "Of course you are scared," he said. "But you understand what causes a tailspin. And you know how to pull out of it."
The artist hears the guns. She feels the battle lines inside her and she senses which quarter of the field terrifies her most. She goes there. She runs there.
She acquires humility and she gains self-belief. She learns to self-motivate. To self-validate. To self-reinforce. And to self-evaluate.
The Unconscious (to use the term as Freud originally defined it) is unconscious only to us. We are unconscious of its contents. But the Unconscious mind is not unconscious to itself or of itself. The Unconscious is wide awake.
The superconscious is the part of our mind that speaks in our true voice, knows our true subject, and makes decisions from our true point of view.
What's on the far side of the Stargate? We are.
The legends of the ancient world are packed with monsters—Medusa, Cerberus, the Minotaur. Even the human characters—Medea, Agamemnon, Ajax, Clytemnestra—often embody the monstrous.
Your daimon shields you, protects you, counsels you. It kicks your ass. It will drive you crazy if you ignore it, and yet it is inseparable from you. Nothing in your life is as loyal. It will never leave you, never betray you, never abandon you.
Flesh-and-blood individuals will enter your life at precisely the time and place you need them. These persons will play the role of archetypes—mentors and lovers, boon companions, even animal spirits, tricksters—as will corresponding foes and antagonists, tempters and temptresses, enemies, shape-shifters.
This is one of the books that I wish I had read when I was 18 years old and full of energy, enthusiasm, and ignorance. I don't mean "ignorance" in a bad way at all. I mean it completely in a "you don't know what you can't do," "you don't know the world doesn't work this way," "you believe rewards are given for merit and effort," and "you don't know what's coming, so go ahead and charge ahead" positive sort of way. Pretty sure that doesn't convey my enthusiasm for this book.
Let's say you want to start a company, not a side project that is a feature for some other company's product, not some shit influencer bullcrap advertising fuckery, but a company that produces an actual product, physical or digital. Having a guide on how to proceed, even if you don't actually have an idea, is a great. I like the blueprint guide for helping people like this (quelle surprise, I like lists? I know, I know). This book, along with books like How to Transform Your Ideas into Software Products, can help inexperienced people start, and I LOVE this.
What the book rather leaves out is how much effort the process takes. One thinks, "Oh, only $100? I can do this!" but that $100 doesn't include the time and effort. Those are valuable, too.
The book is worth reading for anyone who wants to stop exchanging time for money, and create a product (or service, tbh). The journey is hard, but can be worth it. I'll likely read it again when I'm not so soul tired.
These are the bare bones of any project; there’s no need to overcomplicate things. But to look at it more closely, it helps to have an offer: a combination of product or service plus the messaging that makes a case to potential buyers. The initial work can be a challenge, but after the typical business gets going, you can usually take a number of steps to ramp up sales and income—if you want to. It helps to have a strategy of building interest and attracting attention, described here as hustling. Instead of just popping up one day with an offer, it helps to craft a launch event to get buyers excited ahead of time.
Build something that people want and give it to them.
When brainstorming and evaluating different projects, money isn’t the sole consideration—but it’s an important one. Ask three questions for every idea: a. How would I get paid with this idea? b. How much would I get paid from this idea? c. Is there a way I could get paid more than once?
Follow these two basic rules: 1. Pick something specific as opposed to something general. Don’t be a “business consultant” or a “life coach”—get specific about what you can really do for someone. 2. No one values a $ 15-an-hour consultant, so do not underprice your service. Since you probably won’t have forty hours of billable work every week, charge at least $ 100 an hour or a comparable fixed rate for the benefit you provide. OPENING FOR BUSINESS* I will help clients __________. After hiring me, they will receive [core benefit + secondary benefit]. I will charge $ xxx per hour or a flat rate of _____ per service. This rate is fair to the client and to me. My basic website will contain these elements: a. The core benefit that I provide for clients and what qualifies me to provide it (remember that qualifications may have nothing to do with education or certifications; Gary is qualified to book vacations with miles because he’s done it for himself many times) b. At least two stories of how others have been helped by the service (if you don’t have paying clients yet, do the work for free with someone you know) c. Pricing details (always be up front about fees; never make potential clients write or call to find out how much something costs) d. How to hire me immediately (this should be very easy) I will find clients through [word-of-mouth, Google, blogging, standing on the street corner, etc.]. I will have my first client on or before ___•[ short deadline]. Welcome to consulting! You’re now in business. *You can create, customize, and
You must focus continually on how your project can help other people, and why they’ll care about what you’re offering in the first place.
The missing piece is that you usually don’t get paid for your hobby itself; you get paid for helping other people pursue the hobby or for something indirectly related to it.
You may just not want to combine your hobby with your work. If the hobby or passion serves as an important stress reliever from your day job or other commitments, are you sure you want to assume full-time responsibility for your hobby?
Benjamin Franklin, an old-school entrepreneur, put it this way: “If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.”
Reality Check Checklist Questions for You
• Instead of just during your free time, would you enjoy pursuing your hobby at least twenty hours a week?
• Do you enjoy teaching others to practice the same hobby?
• Do you like the ins and outs (all the details) of your hobby?
• If you had to do a fair amount of administrative work related to your hobby, would you still enjoy it? Questions for the Marketplace
• Have other people asked for your help? • Are enough other people willing to pay to gain or otherwise benefit from your expertise?
• Are there other businesses serving this market (usually a good thing) but not in the same way you would?
Only when passion merges with a skill that other people value can you truly follow your passion to the bank.
Compared with working just to make a living, it’s much easier to do what you love and get paid for it. You just have to find the right passion, the right audience, and the right business model.
1. Find a topic that people will pay to learn about. It helps if you are an expert in the topic, but if not, that’s what research is for.
2. Capture the information in one of three ways: a. Write it down. b. Record audio or video. c. Produce some combination of a and b.
3. Combine your materials into a product: an e-book or digital package that can be downloaded by buyers.
4. Create an offer. What exactly are you selling, and why should people take action on it? Learn more about offers in Chapter 7.
5. Decide on a fair, value-based price for your offer. For pricing guidelines, see Chapters 10 and 11.
6. Find a way to get paid. PayPal.com is the most ubiquitous method, with the ability to accept payment from users in more than 180 countries. Other options are available if you want more flexibility.*
7. Publish the offer and get the word out. For an overview of hustling, see Chapter 9.
8. Cash in and head to the beach! (This step may require further effort.)
Partly as a result of the allure of working from anywhere, many aspiring entrepreneurs focus much more on the “anywhere” part than they do the “work” part.
Strategy 1: Latch on to a Popular Hobby, Passion, or Craze
Strategy 2: Sell What People Buy (and Ask Them If You’re Not Sure)
Questions like these are good starting points:
• What is your biggest problem with ______?
• What is the number one question you have about _______?
• What can I do to help you with _________?
any single customer does not always know what’s best for your whole business. These customers may not be the right ones for your business, and there’s nothing wrong with saying farewell to them so you can focus on serving other people.
the most basic questions of any successful microbusiness: • Does the project produce an obvious product or service? • Do you know people who will want to buy it? (Or do you know where to find them?) • Do you have a way to get paid? Those questions form a simple baseline evaluation.
Score your ideas according to these criteria: Impact: Overall, how much of an impact will this project make on your business and customers? Effort: How much time and work will it take to create the project? (In this case, a lower score indicates more effort, so choose 1 for a project that requires a ton of work and 5 for a project that requires almost no work.) Profitability: Relative to the other ideas, how much money will the project bring in? Vision: How close of a fit is this project with your overall mission and vision? Rank each item on a scale of 1 to 5 and then add them up in the right-hand column.
“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”
Get started quickly and see what happens. There’s nothing wrong with planning, but you can spend a lifetime making a plan that never turns into action. In the battle between planning and action, action wins.
Don’t think innovation; think usefulness.*
Seven Steps to Instant Market Testing*
1. You need to care about the problem you are going to solve, and there has to be a sizable number of other people who also care. Always remember the lesson of convergence: the way your idea intersects with what other people value.
2. Make sure the market is big enough. Test the size by checking the number and relevancy of Google keywords—the same keywords you would use if you were trying to find your product. Think about keywords that people would use to find a solution to a problem. If you were looking for your own product online but didn’t know it existed, what keywords would you search for? Pay attention to the top and right sides of the results pages, where the ads are displayed.
3. Focus on eliminating “blatant admitted pain.” The product needs to solve a problem that causes pain that the market knows it has. It’s easier to sell to someone who knows they have a problem and are convinced they need a solution than it is to persuade someone that they have a problem that needs solving.
4. Almost everything that is being sold is for either a deep pain or a deep desire.
Having something that removes pain may be more effective than realizing a desire. You need to show people how you can help remove or reduce pain. 5. Always think in terms of solutions. Make sure your solution is different and better. (Note
Being different isn’t enough; differentiation that makes you better is what’s required. There’s no point in introducing
Ask others about the idea but make sure the people you ask are your potential target market. Others may provide insignificant data and are therefore biased and uninformed. Therefore, create a persona: the one person who would benefit the most from your idea.
Create an outline for what you are doing and show it to a subgroup of your community. Ask them to test it for free in return for feedback and confidentiality. As a bonus, the subgroup feels involved and will act as evangelists. Giving builds trust and value and also gives you an opportunity to offer the whole solution. Use a blog to build authority and expertise on a subject. Leave comments on blogs where your target audience hangs out. * Parts of this section are based
KEEP COSTS LOW. By investing sweat equity instead of money in your project, you’ll avoid going into debt and minimize the impact of failure if it doesn’t work out.
As you think through the questions of freedom and value, the most important one is, “How will this business help people?”
It may help to think of the first two characteristics of any business: a product or service and the group of people who pay for it. Put the two together and you’ve got a mission statement: We provide [product or service] for [customers].
it’s usually better to highlight a core benefit of your business instead of a descriptive feature. Accordingly, you can revise the statement a bit to read like this: We help [customers] do/ achieve/ other verb [primary benefit].
A good offer has to be what people actually want and are willing to pay for.
An offer you can’t refuse may apply subtle pressure, but nobody likes a hard sell. Instead, compelling offers often create an illusion that a purchase is an invitation, not a pitch.
Offer Construction Project
MAGIC FORMULA: THE RIGHT AUDIENCE, THE RIGHT PROMISE, THE RIGHT TIME = OFFER YOU CAN’T REFUSE BASICS
What are you selling? _______
How much does it cost? _______
Who will take immediate action on this offer? _______
The primary benefit is _______
An important secondary benefit is _______
What are the main objections to the offer? 1. 2. 3.
How will you counter these objections? 1. 2. 3.
Why should someone buy this now?
What can I add to make this offer even more compelling?
The very best offers create a “You must have this right now!” feeling among consumers, but many other offers can succeed by creating a less immediate sense of urgency.
The additional purpose of a FAQ is to provide reassurance to potential buyers and overcome objections. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to identify the main objections your buyers will have when considering your offer and carefully respond to them in advance. Wondering what the objections to your offer will be? They fall into two categories: general and specific. The specific objections relate to an individual product or service, so it’s hard to predict what they might be without looking at a particular offer. General objections, however, come up with almost any purchase, so that’s what we’ll look at here. These objections usually relate to very basic human desires, needs, concerns, and fears.
Here are a few common ones:
• How do I know this really works?
• I don’t know if this is a good investment (and/ or I’m not sure I have the money to spare).
• I’m not sure I can trust you with my money.
• What do other people think about this offer?
• I wonder if I can find this information/ get this product or service without paying.
• I worry about sharing my information online (or another privacy concern).
The core concern for each of these objections relates to trust and authority. You must create consumer confidence in order to overcome the objections.
As you craft the offer, think about the objections… and then flip them around in your favor. You want to send messages like these:
• This really works because…
• This is a great investment because…
• You can trust us with your money because…( alternatively, You don’t have to trust us with your money, because we work with an established, trusted third party…)
• Other people think this is great, and here’s what they say…
• You have to pay to get this product or service (alternatively, The free versions aren’t as good, it takes a lot of work to get it on your own, etc.)
• Your information and privacy are 100 percent secure because…
See how it works? The point is not to be defensive (you want to avoid that) but rather to be proactive in responding to concerns. One model you can use when describing your offer is outlined below in what we’ll call a “rough awesome format.” It works like this:
Point 1: This thing is so awesome! [primary benefit]
Point 2: Seriously, it’s really awesome. [secondary benefit]
Point 3: By the way, you don’t need to worry about anything. [response to concerns]
Point 4: See, it’s really awesome. What are you waiting for? [take action] In the rough awesome format, point 1 is the main benefit, point 2 is a reinforcement of the main benefit or an important side benefit, point 3 is where you deal with the objections, and point 4 is where you bring it all together and nudge buyers toward a call to action.
KEY POINTS • As much as possible, connect your offer to the direct benefits customers will receive. Like the Alaska coupon books, a compelling offer pays for itself by making a clear value proposition. • What people want and what they say they want are not always the same thing; your job is to figure out the difference. • When developing an offer, think carefully about the objections and then respond to them in advance. • Provide a nudge to customers by getting them to make a decision. The difference between a good offer and a great offer is urgency (also known as timeliness): Why should people act now? • Offer reassurance and acknowledgment immediately after someone buys something or hires you. Then find a small but meaningful way to go above and beyond their expectations.
If you’re just getting started with your own launch planning, check out the Thirty-Nine-Step Product Launch Checklist below. This checklist has two uses: as a template for a new business planning its first launch and as an idea generator for an existing business. Thirty-Nine-Step Product Launch Checklist Note: Every product launch is different. Use these steps as a guideline to your own. Often by adding one or two steps you would otherwise leave out, you’ll get a significant increase in sales. THE BIG PICTURE 1. Ensure that your product or service has a clear value proposition.* 1 What do customers receive when exchanging money for your offer? 2. Decide on bonuses, incentives, or rewards for early buyers. How will they be rewarded for taking action? 3. Have you made the launch fun somehow? (Remember to think about non-buyers as well as buyers. If people don’t want to buy, will they still enjoy hearing or reading about the launch?) 4. If your launch is online, have you recorded a video or audio message to complement the written copy? 5. Have you built anticipation into the launch? Are prospects excited? 6. Have you built urgency—not the false kind but a real reason for timeliness—into the launch? 7. Publish the time and date of the launch in advance (if it’s online, some people will be camped out on the site an hour before, hitting the refresh button every few minutes). 8. Proofread all sales materials multiple times… and get someone else to review them as well. 9. Check all Web links in your shopping cart or payment processor, and then double-check them from a different computer with a different browser. NEXT STEPS 10. If this is an online product, is it properly set up in your shopping cart or with PayPal? 11. Test every step of the order process repeatedly. Whenever you change any variable (price, order components, text, etc.), test it again. 12. Have you registered all the domains associated with your product? (Domains are cheap; you might as well get the .com, .net, .org, and any very similar name if available.) 13. Are all files uploaded and in the right place? 14. Review the order page carefully for errors or easy-to-make improvements. Print it out and share it with several friends for review, including a couple of people who don’t know anything about your business. 15. Read important communications (launch message, order page, sales page) out loud. You’ll probably notice a mistake or a poorly phrased sentence you missed while reading it in your head. 16. Have you or your designer created any custom graphics for the offer, including any needed ads for affiliates or partners? MONEY MATTERS 17. Set a clear monetary goal for the launch. How many sales do you want to see, and how much net income? (In other words, what will success look like?) 18. Advise the merchant account or bank of incoming funds.* 2 19. Create a backup plan for incoming funds if necessary (get an additional merchant account, plan to switch all payments to PayPal, etc.). 20. Can you add another payment option for anyone who has trouble placing an order? 21. For a high-priced product, can you offer a payment plan? (Note: It’s common to offer a slight discount for customers paying in full. This serves as an incentive for customers who prefer to pay all at once while providing an alternative for those who need to pay over time.) THE NIGHT BEFORE 22. Clear as much email as possible in addition to any other online tasks so you can focus on the big day tomorrow. 23. Write a strong launch message to your lists of readers, customers, and/ or affiliates. 24. Prepare a blog post and any needed social media posts (if applicable). 25. Set two alarm clocks to ensure that you’re wide awake and available at least one hour before the scheduled launch. THE BIG MORNING 26. Schedule your launch time to suit your audience, not you. All things being equal, it’s usually best to launch early in the morning, East Coast time. 27. Soft launch at least ten minutes early to make sure everything is working. It’s better for you to find the problems than to have your customers find them! 28. Write the first three to five buyers to say thanks and ask, “Did everything go OK in the order process?” (Side benefit: These buyers are probably your biggest fans anyway, so they’ll appreciate the personal check-in.) 29. As long as it’s possible, send a quick personal note to every buyer in addition to the automated thank-you that goes out. (If it’s not possible every time, do it as often as you can.) PROMOTION (CAN BE DONE ON THE DAY OF LAUNCH OR BEFORE) 30. Most important: Ask for help spreading the word. Many readers, prospects, and acquaintances will help by telling their friends and followers, but you have to ask them. 31. Write to affiliates with a reminder about the new offering. 32. Write to journalists or media contacts, if appropriate. 33. Post on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and any other social networks you already participate in. (It’s not usually a good idea to join a new network just to promote something.) FOLLOW-UP (DO THIS IN ADVANCE) 34. Write the general thank-you message that all buyers will receive when purchasing. 35. If applicable, write the first message for your email follow-up series that buyers will receive. 36. Outline additional content for future communication and plan to schedule it after you recover from the launch. GOING ABOVE AND BEYOND 37. How can you overdeliver and surprise your customers with this product? Can you include additional deliverables or some kind of unadvertised benefit? 38. Is there anything special you can do to thank your customers? (For a high-price launch, send postcards to each buyer; for something extra, call a few of your customers on the phone.) THE SECOND TO LAST STEP 39. Don’t forget to celebrate. It’s a big day that you’ve worked up to for a long time. Go out to your favorite restaurant, have a glass of wine, buy something you’ve had your eye on for a while, or otherwise do something as a personal reward. You’ve earned it. THE VERY LAST STEP 40. Start thinking about the next launch. What can you build on from this one? What did you learn that can help you create something even better next time? Remember, many customers will support you for life as long as you keep providing them with great value. It’s much easier to sell to an existing customer than to a new one, so work hard to overdeliver and plan ahead for the next project. (For example, when promising a thirty-nine-step checklist, throw in an extra step.) *1 This is super important! USP means “unique selling proposition” and refers to the one thing that distinguishes your offering from all others. Why should people pay attention to what you are selling? You must answer this question well. *2 Merchant accounts are paranoid about large sums of money arriving in a short period of time. If you don’t give them a heads-up, you might run into problems. Post-Launch: It’s Not Over
A charlatan is all talk, with nothing to back up their claims. A martyr is all action with plenty of good work to talk about, but remains unable or unwilling to do the talking. A hustler represents the ideal combination: work and talk fused together.
As soon as the project is good to go, at least in beta form, touch base by sending them a quick note. Here’s a sample message: Hi [name], I wanted to quickly let you know about a new project I’m working on. It’s called [name of business or project], and the goal is to [main benefit]. We hope to [big goal, improvement, or idea]. Don’t worry, I haven’t added you to any lists and I won’t be spamming you, but if you like the idea and would like to help out, here’s what you can do: [Action Point 1] [Action Point 2] Thanks again for your time.
Note that you’re not sending mass messages or sharing anyone’s private info with the world; each message is personal, although the content is largely the same. You’re also not “selling” anyone on the project; you’re just letting people know what you’re up to and inviting them to participate further if they’d like to.
Freely give, freely receive: It works. The more you focus your business on providing a valuable service and helping people, the more your business will grow.
The One-Page Promotion Plan Goal: To actively and effectively recruit new prospects to your business without getting overwhelmed. DAILY • Maintain a regular social media presence without getting sidetracked or overwhelmed. Post one to three helpful items, respond to questions, and touch base with anyone who needs help. • Monitor one or two key metrics (no more!). Read more about this in Chapter 13. WEEKLY • Ask for help or joint promotions from colleagues and make sure you are being helpful to them as well. • Maintain regular communication with prospects and customers. AT LEAST MONTHLY • Connect with existing customers to make sure they are happy. (Ask: “Is there anything else I can do for you?”) • Prepare for an upcoming event, contest, or product launch (see Chapter 8). ONCE IN A WHILE • Perform your own business audit (see Chapter 12) to find missing opportunities that can be turned into active projects. • Ensure that you are regularly working toward building something significant, not just reacting to things as they appear.
Get up in the morning and get to work. Make something worth talking about and then talk about it. Who do you know? How can they help? And of course, the answer lies in being incredibly helpful yourself.
KEY POINTS • If you’re not sure where to spend your business development time, spend 50 percent on creating and 50 percent on connecting. The most powerful channel for getting the word out usually starts with people you already know. • If you build it, they might come… but you’ll probably need to let them know what you’ve built and how to get there. • When you’re first getting started, say yes to every reasonable request. Become more selective (consider the “hell yeah” test) as you become more established. • Use the One-Page Promotion Plan to maintain a regular schedule of connecting with people as you also spend time building other parts of your business.
Just as you should usually place more emphasis on the benefits of your offering than on the features, you should think about basing the price of your offer on the benefit—not the actual cost or the amount of time it takes to create, manufacture, or fulfill what you are selling. In fact, the wrong way to decide on pricing is to think about how much time it took to make it or how much your time is “worth.”
When you base your pricing on the benefits you provide, be prepared to stand your ground, because some people will always complain about the price being too high no matter what it is.
Also, having a high-end version creates an “anchor price.” When we see a superhigh price, we tend to consider the lower price as much more reasonable… thus creating a fair bargain in our minds.
There’s no point pursuing growth for growth’s sake; you should scale a business only if you really want to.
The Business Audit However it is structured, a good business needs nurturing and continuous improvement. As your project grows, take some time to look at each aspect of it, especially any public communication that customers review while making a purchasing decision. Answer these questions and think about how you can improve. The goal is to (1) fix little problems and (2) identify small actions you can take that will create significant results over time. “WHERE DO YOU MAKE MONEY?” Once a business gets up and running, it’s very easy to get trapped in all kinds of things that have nothing to do with making money. The solution is simple: Focus on the money. In the audit, you’ll want to look at where the money comes from and determine what you can do to keep it coming. Sometimes new opportunities present themselves; sometimes there’s an easy fix you can make to turn on another tap. If you have a range of projects, products, or activities, it’s almost always better to devote your efforts to the strong performers than to try and pull up the weak ones. Most people do the opposite, but if your goal is for everything to be average, that’s the best you’ll ever get. “HOW GOOD IS YOUR MESSAGING?” The marketing materials you use, whether online or offline, probably involve some use of words, known as copy. Go back to the beginning and read the copy carefully. Review each page of the sales material slowly and then read it out loud. Does it still present the message that you want? What information should be culled or revised? “ARE YOUR PRICES WHAT THEY SHOULD BE?” When was the last time you raised your prices? You can have a sale or give out discount codes from time to time, but like all businesses, you should also plan on raising your prices on a regular basis as well. Always remember that trying to price for “everyone” is a business death trap. Since business owners live or die by the free market system, the way you decide whether your pricing is fair is by asking another question: Are people buying what you sell? If the answer is yes, you’re on the right track. If it is no, you have a problem. “HOW ARE YOU MARKETING TO EXISTING CUSTOMERS?” One of the best things you can do is reach out to existing customers and find a way to meet more of their needs. As part of this examination, you should check your postpurchase process carefully. What happens after someone buys? Do things get sent to the right place? Does everything arrive in the buyer’s in-box or physical mailbox as it should? If you sell consulting, do clients know exactly how to set up a time in your schedule after making a payment? The easier you can make all of these things, the better. “ARE YOU TRACKING, MONITORING, OR TESTING ENOUGH?” The thing about testing is that you just don’t know what’s going to happen until you do it. That’s why you test! Once I installed an upsell offer in which customers could get a $ 50 gift certificate for only $ 25 after making a purchase. I thought it was a killer offer, but my customers didn’t think so; it was accepted only one out of twenty times (5 percent). A good upsell can convert much better than that, so out went the gift certificate offer. “WHERE ARE THE BIG MISSING OPPORTUNITIES?” Having a big opportunity doesn’t mean you should pursue it. I pass up a lot of things because they aren’t a good fit for my overall strategy. However, it’s good to know what you’re missing even if you’re missing it deliberately. Keep your “possibilities list” updated so you can follow up when you have more time or if you need more money.
Every morning, set aside forty-five minutes without Internet access. Devote this time exclusively to activities that improve your business—nothing that merely maintains the business. Think forward motion… What can you do to keep things moving ahead? Consider these areas: BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT. This is work that grows the business. What new products or services are in the works? Are there any partnerships or joint ventures you’re pursuing? OFFER DEVELOPMENT. This kind of work involves using existing resources in a new way. Can you create a sale, launch event, or new offer to generate attention and income? FIXING LONG-STANDING PROBLEMS. In every business, there are problems that creep up that you learn to work around instead of addressing directly. Instead of perpetually ignoring these issues, use your non-firefighting time to deal with the root of the problem.
Step 1: Select one or two metrics and be aware of them at any given time, focusing on sales, cash flow, or incoming leads. Step 2: Leave everything else for a biweekly or monthly review where you delve into the overall business more carefully.
The metrics you want to track will vary with the kind of business. Here are a few of the most common examples. Sales per day: How much money is coming in? Visitors or leads per day: How many people are stopping by to take a look or signing up for more information? Average order price: How much are people spending when they order? Sales conversion rate: What percentage of visitors or leads become customers? Net promoter score: What percentage of customers would refer your business to someone else?
Much of this book contains various forms of advice, but don’t confuse advice for permission. You don’t need anyone to give you permission to pursue a dream. If you’ve been waiting to begin your own $ 100 startup (or anything else), stop waiting and begin.
The $ 100 Recap Before we close it out, let’s look back at the key lessons of this book. First and most important, the quest for personal freedom lies in the pursuit of value for others. Get this right from the beginning and the rest will be much easier. Always ask, “How can I help people more?” Borrowing money to start a business, or going into debt at all, is now completely optional. Like many of the people you met in this book, you can start your own microbusiness for $ 100 or less. Focus relentlessly on the point of convergence between what you love to do and what other people are willing to pay for. Remember that most core needs are emotional: We want to be loved and affirmed. Relate your product or service to attractive benefits, not boring features. If you’re good at one thing, you’re probably good at something else. Use the process of skill transformation to think about all the things you’re good at, not just the obvious ones. Find out what people want, and find a way to give it to them. Give them the fish! There is no consulting school. You can set up shop and charge for specialized help immediately. (Just remember to offer something specific and provide an easy way to get paid.) Some business models are easier than others to start on a budget. Unless you have a compelling reason to do something different, think about how you can participate in the knowledge economy. Action beats planning. Use the One-Page Business Plan and other quick-start guides to get under way without waiting. Crafting an offer, hustling, and producing a launch event will generate much greater results than simply releasing your product or service to the world with no fanfare. The first $ 1.26 is the hardest, so find a way to get your first sale as quickly as possible. Then work on improving the things that are working, while ignoring the things that aren’t. By “franchising yourself” through partnerships, outsourcing, or creating a different business, you can be in more than one place at the same time. Decide for yourself what kind of business you’d like to build. There’s nothing wrong with deliberately staying small (many of the subjects of our stories did exactly that) or scaling up in the right way. It only gets better as you go along.
Okay, this book took me a while to finish. I started it, read about 40%, then put it down and read Originals, Lying, and Coping Skills, before being able to pick this one back up and finish it. Not that the book is a bad book, it's a very, very good book, one that should be required reading for every American citizen, especially the climate change deniers.
Drawdown is a catalog of 100 technologies that would significantly behoove us as a society to encourage, implement, and embrace. If we were to embrace all of the technologies listed, 99% of them would result in profits, and 1% wouldn't. We could do all of them.
But we won't.
Because we don't care, until we do. And often when we do, it's because we are in crisis mode, not because we were forward-thinking.
I think the best way to read this book is with a group of friends, going through a chapter or two a week, sitting around discussing each one, and then implementing a few. Or as a student, reading a chapter / technology a (school) day, and discussing with the class. The latter has the students done within a school year, and they know enough maybe to be inspired to implement some of the strategies. Or as a work group reading and discussing a couple technologies a week, including how encourage or engineer the use, done in a year with two a week.
Reading solo isn't really the way.
When I listen to Sagan's friends talk about all the doom and gloom with climate change, and the sense of hopelessness coming from some of them, I want to hand them this book, suggest they pick 3, and get to work. Change doesn't just happen, people make change happen. That means all of us.
The solutions about farms, soil, restoring lands and forests, women, wind, and water turbines were the most interesting to me.
I strongly recommend this book for its information. I don't recommend trying to read it all in one go.
I didn't go through these quotes, so many are formatted poorly or not at all.
We can never survive in the long-term by despoiling nature; we have literally reached the ends of the earth.
The buildup of greenhouse gases we experience today occurred in the absence of human understanding; our ancestors were innocent of the damage they were doing. That can tempt us to believe that global warming is something that is happening to us—that we are victims of a fate that was determined by actions that precede us. If we change the preposition, and consider that global warming is happening for us—an atmospheric transformation that inspires us to change and reimagine everything we make and do—we begin to live in a different world.
Confucius wrote that calling things by their proper name is the beginning of wisdom.
I remember my economics professor asking for a definition of Gresham’s law and how I rattled off the answer mechanically. He looked at me—none too pleased, though the answer was correct—and said, now explain it to your grandmother. That was much more difficult. The answer I gave the professor would have made no sense to her. It was lingo.
In November 2016, the White House released its strategy for achieving deep decarbonization by mid-century. From our perspective, decarbonization is a word that describes the problem, not the goal: we decarbonized the earth by removing carbon in the form of combusted coal, gas, and oil, as well as through deforestation and poor farming practices, and releasing it into the atmosphere.
Another impediment to wind power is inequitable government subsidies. The International Monetary Fund estimates that the fossil fuel industry received more than $ 5.3 trillion in direct and indirect subsidies in 2015; that is $ 10 million a minute, or about 6.5 percent of global GDP. Indirect fossil fuel subsidies include health costs due to air pollution, environmental damage, congestion, and global warming—none of which are factors with wind turbines.
Outsize subsidies make fossil fuels look less expensive, obscuring wind power’s cost competitiveness, and they give fossil fuels an incumbent advantage, making investment more attractive.
Critics in Congress disparage wind power because it is subsidized, implying that the federal government is pouring money down a hole. Coal is a freeloader when it comes to the costs borne by society for environmental impacts.
Wind power uses 98 to 99 percent less water than fossil fuel–generated electricity. Coal, gas, and nuclear power require massive amounts of water for cooling, withdrawing more water than agriculture—22 trillion to 62 trillion gallons per year.
Who else besides the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries can take trillions of gallons of water in the United States and not pay for it?
The soft costs of financing, acquisition, permitting, and installation can be half the cost of a rooftop system and have not seen the same dip as panels themselves. That is part of the reason rooftop solar is more expensive than its utility-scale kin.
With producer and user as one, energy gets democratized.
Unlike PV panels and wind turbines, CSP makes heat before it makes electricity, and the former is much easier and more efficient to store. Indeed, heat can be stored twenty to one hundred times more cheaply than electricity.
Human beings have long used mirrors to start fires. The Chinese, Greeks, and Romans all developed “burning mirrors”—curved mirrors that could concentrate the sun’s rays onto an object, causing it to combust. Three thousand years ago, solar igniters were mass-produced in Bronze Age China. They’re how the ancient Greeks lit the Olympic flame. In the sixteenth century, Leonardo da Vinci designed a giant parabolic mirror to boil water for industry and to warm swimming pools. Like so many technologies, using mirrors to harness the sun’s energy has been lost and found repeatedly, enchanting experimentalists and tinkerers through the ages—and once again today. •
In the United States, a majority of the more than 115 biomass electricity generation plants under construction or in the permitting process plan on burning wood as fuel. Proponents state that these plants will be powered by branches and treetops left over from commercial logging operations, but these claims do not stand up to scrutiny. In the states of Washington, Vermont, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, and New York, the amount of slash generated by logging operations falls far short of the amount needed to feed the proposed biomass burners. In Ohio and North Carolina, utilities have been more forthright and admit that biomass electricity generation means cutting and burning trees. The trees will grow back, but over decades—a lengthy and uncertain lag time to achieve carbon neutrality. When biomass energy relies on trees, it is not a true solution.
Nuclear is a regrets solution, and regrets have already occurred at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Rocky Flats, Kyshtym, Browns Ferry, Idaho Falls, Mihama, Lucens, Fukushima Daiichi, Tokaimura, Marcoule, Windscale, Bohunice, and Church Rock. Regrets
U.S. coal-fired or nuclear power plants are about 34 percent efficient in terms of producing electricity, which means two-thirds of the energy goes up the flue and heats the sky. All told, the U.S. power-generation sector throws away an amount of heat equivalent to the entire energy budget of Japan.
Since that time, policies have compelled local authorities to identify opportunities for energy-efficient heat production, helped to move power generation from centralized plants to a decentralized network, and incentivized the use of cogeneration generally, and renewable-based systems particularly, through tax policy.
The United States has long lagged behind Europe on cogeneration, in part because of pushback from utilities—notoriously so twenty years ago, when CHP plans at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology were challenged by the local utility.
There are four methods used by industry to convert waste to energy: incineration, gasification, pyrolysis, and plasma.
One study conducted in the 1980s of a New Jersey incinerator showed the following results: If 2,250 tons of trash were incinerated daily, the annual emissions would be 5 tons of lead, 17 tons of mercury, 580 pounds of cadmium, 2,248 tons of nitrous oxide, 853 tons of sulfur dioxide, 777 tons of hydrogen chloride, 87 tons of sulfuric acid, 18 tons of fluorides, and 98 tons of particulate matter small enough to lodge permanently in the lungs.
Waste-to-energy continues to evoke strong feelings. Its champions point to the land spared from dumps and to a cleaner-burning source of power. One ton of waste can generate as much electricity as one-third of a ton of coal. But opponents continue to decry pollution, however trace, as well as high capital costs and potential for perverse effects on recycling or composting. Because incineration is often cheaper than those alternatives, it can win out with municipalities when it comes to cost. Data shows high recycling rates tend to go hand in hand with high rates of waste-to-energy use, but some argue recycling could be higher in the absence of burning trash. These are among the reasons that construction of new plants in the United States has been at a near standstill for many years, despite evolution in incineration technology.
Truly renewable resources, like solar and wind, cannot be depleted.
Waste is certainly a repeatable resource at this point, but that is only because we generate so very much.
Zero waste is a growing movement that wants to go upstream, not down, in order to change the nature of waste and the ways in which society recaptures its value. It is saying, in essence, that material flows in society can imitate what we see in forests and grasslands where there truly is no waste that is not feedstock for some other form of life.
Plant-based diets have had no shortage of notable champions, long before omnivore Michael Pollan famously simplified the conundrum of eating: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
The case for a plant-rich diet is robust. That said, bringing about profound dietary change is not simple because eating is profoundly personal and cultural.
In 2013, $ 53 billion went to livestock subsidies in the thirty-five countries affiliated with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development alone.
Financial disincentives, government targets for reducing the amount of beef consumed, and campaigns that liken meat eating to tobacco use—in tandem with shifting social norms around meat consumption and healthy diets—may effectively conspire to make meat less desirable.
Plant-based diets also open opportunities to preserve land that might otherwise go into livestock production and to engage current agricultural land in other, carbon-sequestering uses.
Around the world, farmers are walking away from lands that were once cultivated or grazed because those lands have been “farmed out.” Agricultural practices depleted fertility, eroded soil, caused compaction, drained groundwater, or created salinity by over-irrigation. Because the lands no longer generate sufficient income, they are abandoned.
These abandoned lands are not lying fallow; they are forgotten.
Bringing abandoned lands back into productive use can also turn them into carbon sinks.
Restoration can mean the return of native vegetation, the establishment of tree plantations, or the introduction of regenerative farming methods.
One of the great miracles of life on this planet is the creation of food. The alchemy human beings do with seed, sun, soil, and water produces figs and fava beans, pearl onions and okra. It can include raising animals for their flesh or yield and transforming raw ingredients into chutney or cake or capellini. For more than a third of the world’s labor force, the production of food is the source of their livelihoods, and all people are sustained by consuming it.
Yet a third of the food raised or prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork.
In too many places, kitchen efficiency has become a lost art.
Basic laws of supply and demand also play a role. If a crop is unprofitable to harvest, it will be left in the field. And if a product is too expensive for consumers to purchase, it will idle in the storeroom. As ever, economics matter. Regardless of the reason, the outcome is much the same. Producing uneaten food squanders a whole host of resources—seeds, water, energy, land, fertilizer, hours of labor, financial capital—and generates greenhouse gases at every stage—including methane when organic matter lands in the global rubbish bin.
National goals and policies can encourage widespread change. In 2015, the United States set a food-waste target, aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals. The same year, France passed a law forbidding supermarkets from trashing unsold food and requiring that they pass it on to charities or animal feed or composting companies instead.
Of course, from an emissions perspective, the most effective efforts are those that avert waste, rather than finding better uses for it after the fact.
IMPACT: After taking into account the adoption of plant-rich diets, if 50 percent of food waste is reduced by 2050, avoided emissions could be equal to 26.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide. Reducing waste also avoids the deforestation for additional farmland, preventing 44.4 gigatons of additional emissions. We used forecasts of regional waste estimates from farm to household. This data shows that up to 35 percent food in high-income economies is thrown out by consumers; in low-income economies, however, relatively little is wasted at the household level.
Though cookstoves may seem simple, taking them from concept to reality is as much an art as cooking itself. Family dynamics, from finances to education to gender roles, affect decisions about stoves, which must meet a suite of needs.
Locally attuned, human-centered designs are most likely to win hearts and minds and shift prevailing habits—and, most important, majority share of cooking time.
The two oldest Sanskrit epic poems, The Ramayana and The Mahabharata, contain illustrations of a precursor to the home garden called Ashok Vatika.
Because they generate food security, nourishment, and income, on top of ecological benefits, home gardens have been dubbed “the epitome of sustainability” by agroforestry expert P. K. Nair.
Whether the crop being grown is coffee, cacao, fruit, vegetables, herbs, fuel, or plant remedies, the benefits of multistrata agroforestry are clear. It is well suited to steep slopes and degraded croplands, places where other cultivation might struggle.
Moreover, because the livestock yield on a silvopasture plot is higher (as explored below), it may curtail the need for additional pasture space and thus help avoid deforestation and subsequent carbon emissions. Some studies show that ruminants can better digest silvopastoral forage, emitting lower amounts of methane in the process.
From a financial and risk perspective, silvopasture is useful for its diversification. Livestock, trees, and any additional forestry products, such as nuts, fruit, mushrooms, and maple syrup, all come of age and generate income on different time horizons—some more regularly and short-term, some at much longer intervals. Because the land is diversely productive, farmers are better insulated from financial risk due to weather events.
The integrated, symbiotic system of silvopasture proves to be more resilient for both animals and trees. In a typical treeless pasture, livestock may suffer from extreme heat, cutting winds, and mediocre forage. But silvopasture provides distributed shade and wind protection, as well as rich food.
factors. These systems are more expensive to establish, requiring higher up-front costs in addition to the necessary technical expertise.
Fellow farmers are often more trusted than technical or scientific experts, while a successful test plot—perhaps on a rancher’s own land—is the most convincing case of all.
Therein lies the climatic win-win of silvopasture: As it averts further greenhouse emissions from one of the world’s most polluting sectors, it also protects against changes that are now inevitable. •
Tell me: How did it come to pass that virtue—a quality that for most of history has generally been deemed, well, a virtue—became a mark of liberal softheadedness? How peculiar, that doing the right thing by the environment—buying the hybrid, eating like a locavore—should now set you up for the Ed Begley Jr. treatment.
The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world. • Excerpted and adapted with permission from Michael Pollan’s essay “Why Bother?” in the New York Times, April 20, 2008.
Regenerative agricultural practices restore degraded land. They include no tillage, diverse cover crops, on-farm fertility (no external nutrient sources required), no or minimal pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, and multiple crop rotations, all of which can be augmented by managed grazing. The purpose of regenerative agriculture is to continually improve and regenerate the health of the soil by restoring its carbon content, which in turn improves plant health, nutrition, and productivity.
When converted to sugars with help from the sun, carbon produces plants and food. It feeds humankind, and, through the use of regenerative agriculture, it feeds the life of the soil.
Increasing carbon means increasing the life of the soil. When carbon is stored in soil organic matter, microbial life proliferates, soil texture improves, roots go deeper, worms drag organic matter down their holes and make rich castings of nitrogen, nutrient uptake is enhanced, water retention increases several fold (creating drought tolerance or flood insurance), nourished plants are more pest resistant, and fertility compounds to the point where little or no fertilizers are necessary. This ability to become independent of fertilizers relies upon cover crops. Each additional percent of carbon in the soil is considered equivalent to $ 300 to $ 600 of fertilizer stored beneath.
A normal cover crop might be vetch, white clover, or rye, or a combination of them at one time.
The possibilities include legumes such as spring peas, clover, vetch, cowpeas, alfalfa, mung beans, lentils, fava beans, sainfoin, and sunn hemp; and brassicas such as kale, mustard, radish, turnips, and collards. Then there are broadleaves such as sunflower, sesame, and chicory; and grasses such as black oats, rye, fescue, teff, brome, and sorghum. Each plant brings distinct additions to the soil, from shading out weeds to fixing nitrogen and making phosphorus, zinc, or calcium bioavailable.
Regenerative farmers are creating crop insurance through diversification, which prevents pockets of infestation by pests and fungi. Along with rotation, there is intercropping, in which leguminous companion crops of alfalfa or beans are grown with corn to provide fertility.
Evidence points to a new wisdom: The world cannot be fed unless the soil is fed.
Regenerative agriculture is not the absence of chemicals. It is the presence of observable science—a practice that aligns agriculture with natural principles. It restores, revitalizes, and reinstates healthy agricultural ecosystems.
Most nitrogen fertilizers are “hot,” chemically destroying organic matter in the soil.
Nitrous oxide, created from nitrate fertilizers by soil bacteria, is 298 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in its atmospheric warming effect.
Effective nutrient management is summarized by the four Rs: right source, right time, right place, and right rate.
Research into how producers make decisions has found that farmers are likely to apply more fertilizer than necessary and prioritize information they receive from fertilizer dealers—even with the knowledge that reducing their rate could lower emissions.
Since nitrogen-fertilizer pollution of water bodies is usually considered nonpoint source pollution (i.e., it cannot be easily linked to a single source), regulations are difficult to create and enforce.
That being said, continual application of chemical fertilizers results in loss of fertility, water infiltration, and loss of productivity over time. These impacts can cause farmers to increase fertilization in hopes it will compensate for the overall loss of soil health, which is in actuality a downward spiral.
There are two ways to farm. Industrial agriculture sows a single crop over large areas. Regenerative practices such as tree intercropping use diversity to improve soil health and productivity and align with biological principles. Lower inputs, healthier crops, and higher yields are the outcome.
To top it off, tree intercropping is beautiful—chili peppers and coffee, coconut and marigolds, walnuts and corn, citrus and eggplant, olives and barley, teak and taro, oak and lavender, wild cherry and sunflower, hazel and roses. Triple-cropping is common in tropical areas, with coconut, banana, and ginger grown together. The possible combinations are endless.
Though land is “lost” to trees in the alley-cropping system, the increased yield—without chemical inputs—more than makes up for the loss.
Other variations of intercropping include strip cropping, boundary systems, shade systems, forest farming, forest gardening, mycoforestry, silvopasture, and pasture cropping. Tree intercropping reinforces the idea that human well-being does not depend on an agricultural system that is extractive and hostile to living organisms.
When farmers till their fields to destroy weeds and fold in fertilizer, water in the freshly turned soil evaporates. Soil itself can be blown or washed away and carbon held within it released into the atmosphere. Though intended to prepare a field to be productive, tilling can actually make it nutrient poor and less life giving.
In part, conservation agriculture is already widespread because farmers can adopt it with relative ease and speed and realize a range of benefits. Water retention makes fields more drought resistant or reduces the need for irrigation. Nutrient retention leads to increased fertility and can lower fertilizer inputs.
The oldest surviving work of Latin prose, De Agricultura, by Cato the Elder, includes guidance on compost—deemed a must for farmers.
Nearly half of the solid waste produced around the world is organic or biodegradable, meaning it can be decomposed over a few weeks or months.
Composting processes avert methane emissions with proper aeration. Without it, the emissions benefits of composting shrink.
In ancient Amazonian society, virtually all waste was organic. The disposal method of choice for kitchen crumbs, fish bones, livestock manure, broken pottery, and the like was to bury and burn. Wastes were baked without exposure to air beneath a layer of soil. This process, known as pyrolysis, produced a charcoal soil amendment rich in carbon. The result was terra preta, literally “black earth” in Portuguese.
The pyrolysis process for producing biochar is from the Greek pyro for “fire” and lysis for “separating.” It is the slow baking of biomass in the near or total absence of oxygen. The preferred method is gasification, a higher-temperature pyrolysis that results in more completely carbonized biomass. Biochar is commonly made from waste material ranging from peanut shells to rice straw to wood scraps. As it is heated, gas and oil separate from carbon-rich solids. The output is twofold: fuels that can be used for energy (perhaps for fueling pyrolysis itself) and biochar for soil amendment. Depending on the speed of baking, the ratio of fuel to char can shift. The slower the burn, the more biochar. Pyrolysis is unusual in its versatility. Large, polished industrial systems can produce it, and it can be made in small makeshift kilns.
Theoretically, experts argue, biochar could sequester billions of tons of carbon dioxide every year, in addition to averting emissions from organic waste.
Africa abounds with staple tree crops: baobab, mafura, argan, mongongo, marula, dika, monkey orange, moringa, safou, and more.
Today, 89 percent of cultivated land, about 3 billion acres, is devoted to annuals. Of the remaining land in perennial crops, 116 million acres are used for perennial staple crops.
Called “flood” or “basin” irrigation, they rely on submerging fields and remain the most common approaches in many parts of the world.
Surface and groundwater resources are better protected by lowering demand for water use.
The agricultural industry has long argued that the only way we can feed humanity is through the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and, more recently, genetically modified seeds. The conventional wisdom is that biological or organic agricultural methods are incapable of feeding the world—mere specialty practices for smaller farmers that are impractical given the world’s food needs.
As Montgomery and Biklé show, the science was incomplete because the role of soil life was unknown at that time. Agronomists and soil scientists of the nineteenth and most of the twentieth century had no inkling of what microbial populations were doing in the soil. In the absence of this knowledge, the chemical fertilizer theory of agricultural productivity was untouchable because it did sustain and increase yields, particularly on degraded soils.
Herbivores cluster to protect themselves and their young from predators; they munch perennial and annual grasses to the crown; they disturb the soil with their hooves, intermixing their urine and feces; and they move on and do not return for a full year. Herbivores such as cattle, sheep, goats, elk, moose, and deer are ruminants, mammals that ferment cellulose in their digestive systems and break it down with methane-emitting microbes. Ruminants cocreated the world’s great grasslands, from the pampas in Argentina to the mammoth steppe in Siberia. Put those animals inside a fence, and it is a whole different story.
involves a transitional period from one regime to another. It requires weaning farms off pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers. All of these are conclusions agricultural corporations are unlikely to study and fund. The empirical results achieved by long-term adherents describe a two-to three-year period for the transition—about the same length of time as most of the studies that question the results shown by proponents.
Farmers who use managed grazing report that perennial streams that once went dry have returned. On farms with intensive one-to two-day rotations, the capacity to stock cattle on the land increased by 200 to 300 percent. Native grasses reestablished themselves, crowding out weeds. Not having to sow pastures saved time and diesel fuel. Tillage of pastureland stopped as well, conserving fuel and equipment expenses. The behavior of cattle changed. Rather than lollygagging around a stubbly, overgrazed pasture, they moved quickly and in the process ate weeds (which farmers are discovering are protein rich), thus reducing or eliminating the need for weed control.
The results seem to improve when grazing is rapid and intense and rest periods are longer. The protein and sugars of the grasses improve, and the more carbon sugars that are fed to the microbes in the soil, the greater the growth in mycorrhizal fungi, which secrete a sticky substance called glomalin. The organic rich soils are clumped together in small granules by the glomalin, which creates crumbly soil with empty spaces in which water can flow. Practitioners report that their soils can soak up eight, ten, and fourteen inches of rain per hour, whereas before the hardened soils would pond and erode with a mere inch of rain.
He describes the change in his agricultural practices best: “When I was farming conventionally, I’d wake up and decide what I was going to kill today. Now I wake up and decide what I am going to help live.” And he is equally clear where change will come from: “You’re not going to change Washington [D.C.]. Consumers are the driving force.” •
Even though they farm as capably and efficiently as men, inequality in assets, inputs, and support means women produce less on the same amount of land.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), if all women smallholders receive equal access to productive resources, their farm yields will rise by 20 to 30 percent, total agricultural output in low-income countries will increase by 2.5 to 4 percent, and the number of undernourished people in the world will drop by 12 to 17 percent. One hundred million to 150 million people will no longer be hungry.
Just 10 to 20 percent of landholders are women, and within that group, insecure land rights are a persistent challenge.
Bina Agarwal, a professor at the University of Manchester and the author of A Field of One’s Own, captures the range of measures needed: Recognize and affirm women as farmers rather than farm helpers—a perception that undermines them from the start. Increase women’s access to land and secure clear, independent tenure—not mediated through and controlled by men. Improve women’s access to the training and resources they lack, provided with their specific needs in mind—microcredit in particular. Focus research and development on crops women cultivate and farming systems they use. Foster institutional innovation and collective approaches designed for women smallholders, such as group farming efforts. Agarwal’s last tenet is powerful. When women take part in cooperatives
As with all smallholder farmers, diversity in cultivation helps annual yields to be more resilient and successful over time.
Countries that have higher levels of gender equality have higher average cereal yields; high levels of inequality correlate with the opposite outcome.
When women earn more, they reinvest 90 percent of the money they make into education, health, and nutrition for their families and communities, compared to 30 to 40 percent for men.
Girls’ education, it turns out, has a dramatic bearing on global warming. Women with more years of education have fewer, healthier children and actively manage their reproductive health.
Education also equips women to face the most dramatic climatic changes. A 2013 study found that educating girls “is the single most important social and economic factor associated with a reduction in vulnerability to natural disasters.” The single most important. It is a conclusion drawn from examining the experiences of 125 countries since 1980 and echoes other analyses. Educated girls and women have a better capacity to cope with shocks from natural disasters and extreme weather events and are therefore less likely to be injured, displaced, or killed when one strikes. This decreased vulnerability also extends to their children, families, and the elderly.
The encyclopedic book What Works in Girls’ Education maps out seven areas of interconnected interventions: Make school affordable. For example, provide family stipends for keeping girls in school. Help girls overcome health barriers. For example, offer deworming treatments. Reduce the time and distance to get to school. For example, provide girls with bikes. Make schools more girl-friendly. For example, offer child-care programs for young mothers. Improve school quality. For example, invest in more and better teachers. Increase community engagement. For example, train community education activists. Sustain girls’ education during emergencies. For example, establish schools in refugee camps.
According to the Urban Land Institute, in more compact developments ripe for walking, people drive 20 to 40 percent less. Urban planner and author Jeff Speck writes, “The pedestrian is an extremely fragile species, the canary in the coal mine of urban livability. Under the right conditions, this creature thrives and multiplies.” Speck’s “general theory of walkability” outlines four criteria that must be met for people to opt to walk. A journey on foot must be useful, helping an individual meet some need in daily life. It must feel safe, including protection from cars and other hazards. It must be comfortable, attracting walkers to what Speck calls “outdoor living rooms.” And it must be interesting, with beauty, liveliness, and variety all around. In other words, walkable trips are not simply those with a manageable distance from point A to point B, perhaps a ten-to fifteen-minute journey on foot. They have “walk appeal,” thanks to a density of fellow walkers, a mix of land and real estate uses, and key design elements that create compelling environments for people on foot.
What does that look like? It is the opposite of sprawl. Homes, cafés, parks, shops, and offices are intermingled at a density that makes them reachable by foot. Sidewalks are wide and protected from motorized traffic whizzing by. Walkways are well lit at night, tree-lined and shaded during the day (vital in hot, humid climates). They connect effectively to one another and perhaps lead to entirely car-free areas. Points of interest across the road, tracks, or waterway are accessible by way of safe and direct pedestrian crossings constructed at regular intervals. At street level, buildings feel abuzz with life, fostering a sense of safety. Beauty invites people outside. Perambulation can easily be combined with cycling or mass transit, with good connectivity between these different modes of mobility. Many such improvements can be achieved at a fraction of the cost of other transportation infrastructure. Walkability also enhances the use, and thus cost-effectiveness, of public transit systems.
Similarly, Copenhagen’s infrastructure investments have made cycling easy and fast. They include innovations such as the “green wave”—traffic lights along main roads synchronized to the pace of bike commuters, so they can maintain their cruising speed for long stretches. Currently, the city is investing in a responsive traffic light system that aims to cut travel time by 10 percent for bicycles and 5 to 20 percent for buses, making both modes more appealing. At the same time, infrastructure for cars is becoming less accommodating, as with the gradual removal of parking spaces.
As Dutch history reminds us, all cities were once bike cities, before we began shaping and reshaping them for the almighty automobile.
Cycling also raises concerns about safety, reasonably so, but a clear correlation exists between high cycling rates, more cycling infrastructure, and reduced risk of fatalities.
Not only do cool roofs reduce heat taken on by buildings, driving down energy use for cooling, they also reduce the temperature in cities. Recent studies have shown that the capacity of cool roofs to relieve the urban heat island effect is more pronounced during heat waves, when heat islands are particularly intense, sometimes deadly. The growth of cities continues, so making them cleaner, more livable, and better for well-being is essential.
Glass windows were a Roman invention, placed in public baths, important buildings, and homes of great wealth. Although quite opaque, Roman glass was a big step forward from animal hides, cloth, or wood for shutting out the elements.
Density is a defining characteristic of cities. Compact urban spaces allow us to move about on foot and by bicycle, intermingle people and ideas, and create rich cultural mosaics. That density can also enable efficient heating and cooling of a city’s buildings.
Copenhagen’s ongoing shift in fuel sources highlights a major advantage of DHC: Once a distribution network is in place, what powers it can morph and evolve. Coal can give way to geothermal, solar water heating, or sustainable biomass. A city’s wasted heat—from industrial facilities to data centers to in-household wastewater—can be captured and repurposed.
Landfill methane can be tapped for capture and use as a fairly clean energy source for generating electricity or heat, rather than leaking into the air or being dispersed as waste. The climate benefit is twofold: prevent landfill emissions and displace coal, oil, or natural gas that might otherwise be used.
Most landfill content is organic matter: food scraps, yard trimmings, junk wood, wastepaper. At first, aerobic bacteria decompose those materials, but as layers of garbage get compacted and covered—and ultimately sealed beneath a landfill cap—oxygen is depleted. In its absence, anaerobic bacteria take over, and decomposition produces biogas, a roughly equal blend of carbon dioxide and methane accompanied by a smattering of other gases. Carbon dioxide would be part of nature’s cycles, but the methane is anthropogenic, created because we dump organic waste into sanitary landfills.
The amount of methane produced varies from landfill to landfill, as does the amount that can be captured. The more contained the site, the easier and more effective capture can be.
The power of insulation is taken to the extreme with Passivhaus, or Passive House in English, a rigorous building method and standard created in Germany in the early 1990s and intensely focused on saving energy—by as much as 90 percent over conventional comparisons. This approach zealously focuses on creating an airtight envelope for a building, to separate inside from outside below, above, and around all sides. The result is a structure so hermetically sealed that warm air cannot leak out when snow is on the ground and cool air cannot escape when the dog days arrive.
To realize the massive financial and emissions savings that are possible, a building-by-building approach to the world’s 1.6 trillion square feet of building stock (99 percent of which is not green) is probably not the way to go. The Rocky Mountain Institute is piloting a more industrialized strategy in Chicago: Limit the scope of retrofitting to a set of highly effective, broadly applicable measures; pursue additional measures on the basis of impeccable analysis; and undertake multiple buildings simultaneously to gain economies of scale.
Water is heavy. Pumping it from source to treatment plant to storage and distribution requires enormous amounts of energy. In fact, electricity is the major cost driver of processing and distributing water within cities, underlying the sums on water bills.
Utilities use the phrase “non-revenue water” to describe the gap between what goes in and what ultimately comes out the tap.
To borrow a description from the New York Times: “A steady, moderately low level of pressure is best—just as [with blood flow] in the human body.” Too much pressure and water looks for ways to escape; too little and water lines can suck in liquids and contaminants that surround them. Water utilities face a quest for pressure that is “just right.”
Even under conditions of first-rate pressure management, leaks can and will happen. The torrential bursts that cut off service and submerge streets are not actually the worst from a waste perspective: They demand attention and immediate remediation. The bigger problem is with smaller, long-running leaks that are less detectable.
The issue of water loss exists around the world. In the United States, an estimated one-sixth of distributed water escapes the system.
Buildings are complex systems in the guise of static structures.
Energy courses through them—in heating and air-conditioning systems, electrical wiring, water heating, lighting, information and communications systems, security and access systems, fire alarms, elevators, appliances, and indirectly through plumbing.
Primary forests contain 300 billion tons of carbon yet they are still being logged, sometimes under the guise of harvest being “sustainable.” Research shows that once an intact primary forest begins to be cut, even under sustainable forest-management systems, it leads to biological degradation.
A 2015 estimate of the world’s tree population: three trillion. That count is substantially higher than previously thought, but more than 15 billion trees are cut down each year. Since humans began farming, the number of trees on earth has fallen by 46 percent. (Today, forests cover 15.4 million square miles of the earth’s surface—or roughly 30 percent of its land area.)
The benefits of forest conservation are many and various: nontimber products (bush meat, wild food, forage and fodder); erosion control; free pollination and pest and mosquito control provided by birds, bats, and bees; and other ecosystem services.
An effective agenda to save the forests requires a collective understanding of ecology, the danger posed by global warming, political will, local buy-in, and noncorrupt governance.
Without question, the Amazon is the greatest single natural resource in the world. Rainforests are being cut down at a rate that will eliminate them in forty years.
It is difficult to estimate what it would “cost” to save it all, but estimates place it at about 4 percent of the $ 1.2 trillion the world spends on weapons every year.
As awareness grows about the role blue carbon plays in curbing (or contributing to) climate change, it is also becoming apparent that wetlands are critical to coping with its impacts. Sea level rise due to melting ice and thermal expansion and increased storm activity threaten coastal communities, and shoreline ecosystems are vital protection from battering waves and rushing waters. That is especially true as man-made barriers—levees, dams, embankments—prove increasingly inadequate. The shielding and buffering function of wetlands makes it even more crucial to ensure that they are healthy today and resilient for the future.
The optimal scenario, of course, is to safeguard coastal wetlands before they can be damaged and keep a lid on the carbon they contain.
Bamboo is not a plant that needs encouragement.
You can sit by timber bamboo in the spring and watch it grow more than one inch an hour. Bamboo reaches its full height in one growing season, at which time it can be harvested for pulp or allowed to grow to maturity over four to eight years. After being cut, bamboo re-sprouts and grows again.
The Western aid and development model for addressing poverty has been dismantled by both Africans and many studies, yet it persists. In Mark’s work, people are growing three things: trees, crops, and wisdom. Foreign aid, sacks of genetically modified corn, and handouts come and go, but if we are to successfully address global warming, we should learn to trust the capacity of people everywhere to understand the consequences and imagine place-based solutions on a collaborative basis, and not force solutions upon them, however well intentioned.
“The great thing about agro-forestry is that it’s free. They stop seeing trees as weeds and start seeing them as assets.” But only if they’re not penalized for doing so.
Peat is a thick, mucky, waterlogged substance made up of dead and decomposing plant matter. It develops over hundreds, even thousands of years, as a soupy mix of wetland moss, grass, and other vegetation slowly decays beneath a living layer of flora in the near absence of oxygen. That acidic, anaerobic environment has preserved human remains, so-called “bog bodies” from the Iron Age and earlier. Given enough time, pressure, and heat, peat would become coal.
Today, though these unique ecosystems cover just 3 percent of the earth’s land area, they are second only to oceans in the amount of carbon they store—twice that held by the world’s forests, at an estimated five hundred to six hundred gigatons.
It can take thousands of years to build up peat, but a matter of only a few to release its greenhouse cache once it is degraded.
Indigenous communities are among those most dramatically impacted by climate change, despite contributing the least to its causes. They are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of environmental change because of their land-based livelihoods, histories of colonization, and social marginalization.
Preventing loss of forest is always better than trying to bring forest back and cure razed land. Because a restored forest never fully recovers its original biodiversity, structure, and complexity, and because it takes decades to sequester the amount of carbon lost in one fell swoop of deforestation, restoration is no replacement for protection. •
The Miyawaki method calls for dozens of native tree species and other indigenous flora to be planted close together, often on degraded land devoid of organic matter. As these saplings grow, natural selection plays out and a richly biodiverse, resilient forest results. Miyawaki’s forests are completely self-sustaining after the first two years, when weeding and watering are required, and mature in just ten to twenty years—rather than the centuries nature requires to regrow a forest.
Shubhendu Sharma’s company Afforestt is developing an open-source methodology to enable anyone to create forest ecosystems on any patch of land. In an area the size of six parking spaces, a three-hundred-tree forest can come to life—for the cost of an iPhone.
Because afforestation is a multidecade endeavor, what properly enables it are provisions for up-front costs, developing markets for forest products, and ensuring clear land rights in order to maintain continuity between planting and eventual harvest.
Mass transit is one manifestation of the public square, in which people of many stripes encounter and share space with one another. As Adam Gopnik put it in The New Yorker, “A train is a small society, headed somewhere more or less on time, more or less together, more or less sharing the same window, with a common view and a singular destination”—a unique civic experience, as well as a means of conveyance.
The appeal of cars is strong and culturally entrenched in many places (less so among younger generations), and shifting habits is difficult, especially if behavior change requires more effort, more time, or more money.
Public transportation is most successful where it is not just viable but efficient and attractive. One key piece is making the use of multiple modes more seamless, such as a single card to pay for metro, bus, bike share, and rideshare, or a single smartphone app to plan trips that use more than one.
Roman concrete was used in creating the magnificent Pantheon temple in Rome. Completed in 128 AD, it is famed for its five-thousand-ton, 142-foot dome made of unreinforced concrete—still the world’s largest almost two thousand years later. If it had been built with today’s concrete, the Pantheon would have crumbled before the fall of Rome, three hundred years after its dedication. Roman concrete contained an aggregate of sand and rock just like its modern kin, but it was bound together with lime, salt water, and ash called pozzolana, from a particular volcano. Blending volcanic dust into the mixture of opus caementicium even enabled underwater construction.
Today, concrete dominates the world’s construction materials and can be found in almost all infrastructure. Its basic recipe is simple: sand, crushed rock, water, and cement, all combined and hardened. Cement—a gray powder of lime, silica, aluminum, and iron—acts as the binder, coating and gluing the sand and rock together and enabling the remarkable stonelike material that results after curing. Cement is also employed in mortar and in building products such as pavers and roof tiles. Its use continues to grow—significantly faster than population—making cement one of the most used substances in the world by mass, second only to water.
bio-based plastics may or may not be biodegradable. Polyethylene (PE) shopping bags made from sugarcane or corn are not. But bioplastics such as polylactic acid (PLA), like you might find in a disposable cup, and polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA), which can be used for sutures, are both bio based and biodegradable under the right conditions. (PLA degrades only at high temperatures, not in the ocean or home compost bins.)
If current trends continue, plastic will outweigh fish in the world’s oceans by 2050.
Perhaps the biggest problem facing bioplastics is that they are not conventional plastic. Bioplastics cannot be composted unless separated from other plastics, and few will compost in the garden bin. They require high heat to be broken down or special chemical recycling. If bioplastics are intermixed with conventional plastics, conventional recycled plastic is contaminated, rendering it unstable, brittle, and unusable.
Using water at home—to shower, do laundry, soak plants—consumes energy. It takes energy to clean and transport water, to heat it if need be, and to handle wastewater after use. Hot water is responsible for a quarter of residential energy use worldwide.
Reducing average shower time to five minutes, washing only full loads of clothes, and flushing three times less per household per day can each reduce water use by 7 to 8 percent.
The impacts of climate change are compounding population pressures. During droughts, for example, demand for irrigation goes up, while quality and quantity of supply declines.
Nuclear and fossil fuel plants use enormous quantities of water for cooling—nearly half of all withdrawals in the United States. A single kilowatt-hour of electricity can have twenty-five invisible gallons associated with it.
The industry calls this a renewable fuel, but that stretches the meaning of the concept. The process is heavily dependent on diesel, oil, gasoline, electricity, and subsidies. When fully calculated, corn-based ethanol produces slightly more energy than was required to produce it. If you add emissions from land use, groundwater depletion, loss of biodiversity, and the impacts of nitrogen fertilizers, the benefit to the atmosphere is debatable. Corn’s highest and best use is as staple food for people who are hungry, not as ethanol powering an SUV.
How cars are owned and utilized today could not be any less efficient. About 96 percent are privately owned; Americans spend $ 2 trillion per year on car ownership; and cars are used 4 percent of the time. The contemporary car is not a driving machine but a parking machine for which 700 million parking spaces have been built—
The greatest impediment may be how powerfully embedded the desire to possess one’s own car is. Privately owned, traditional automobiles are likely the most meaningful competitors for AVs, both culturally and functionally. They are symbols of personal freedom—not just in the United States—and displacing them will be no small task for the four-wheeled robots of tomorrow.
It may require a generational shift in attitude. People without a car at home may feel marooned or trapped.
On the other side, a time could come when people are banned from driving because in a world of self-directed, connected vehicles, individual drivers are a danger to everyone else.
Drivers not wanted: taxi, Uber, UPS, FedEx, bus, truck, and town car. Also eliminated: insurance agents, auto salesmen, credit managers, insurance claims adjusters, bank lending, and traffic reporters on the news. What goes the way of the cassette tape: steering wheels, odometers, gas pedals, gas stations, AAA, and the many outlets for individuals to service their own cars, from body shops to car washes. Good riddance to: road rage, crashes, 90 percent or more of all injuries and auto-related deaths, driving tests, getting lost, car dealers, tickets, traffic cops, and traffic jams.
Actual miles traveled could go up, not down. The reason is simple: When the cost of a service or object goes down, consumption invariably increases. Automated bookable cars at one’s door could see individuals moving farther away from the city, especially if they can work within the car rather than drive.
The urban landscape could morph into people-oriented areas, with broader sidewalks, narrower streets, more trees and plants, voluminous bike lanes, and parking lots converted to parks. The emphasis will shift from transport to community.
Fundamentally, LBC is not about leading, but about living. Buildings can function more like a forest, generating a net surplus of positives in function and form and exhaling value into the world. Buildings, in other words, can do more than simply be less bad.
The Imperatives Limits to growth. Only build on a previously developed site, not on or adjacent to virgin land. Urban agriculture. A living building must have the capacity to grow and store food, based on its floor area ratio. Habitat exchange. For each acre of development, an acre of habitat must be set aside in perpetuity. Human-powered living. A living building must contribute to a walkable, bikeable, pedestrian-friendly community. Net positive water. Rainwater capture and recycling must exceed usage. Net positive energy. At least 105 percent of energy used must come from on-site renewables. Civilized environment. A living building must have operable windows for fresh air, daylight, and views. Healthy interior environment. A living building must have impeccably clean and refreshed air. Biophilic environment. Design must include elements that nurture the human and nature connection. Red List. A living building must contain no toxic materials or chemicals, per the LBC Red List. Embodied carbon footprint. Carbon embodied in construction must be offset. Responsible industry. All timber must be Forest Stewardship Council certified or come from salvage or the building site itself. Living economy sourcing. Acquisition of materials and services must support local economies. Net positive waste. Construction must divert 90 to 100 percent of waste by weight. Human scale and humane places. The project must meet special specifications to orient toward humans rather than cars. Universal access to nature and place. Infrastructure must be equally accessible to all, and fresh air, sunlight, and natural waterways must be available. Equitable investment. A half percent of investment dollars must be donated to charity. JUST organization. At least one entity involved must be a certified JUST organization, indicating transparent and socially just business operations. Beauty and spirit. Public art and design features must be incorporated to elevate and delight the spirit. Inspiration and education. A project must engage in educating children and citizens. •
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For example, how and why do Amazonian rainforests create clouds even in the dry season? It turns out that ten percent of the Amazon’s annual rainfall is absorbed by the shallow roots of certain scattered shrubs, then pushed downward through taproots deep into the soil bank. When the rainless months come, the taproots lift up the water and pump it out into the shallow roots, distributing it to the whole of the forest. Many species of plants throughout the world perform this hydraulic “lift,” watering a multitude of plants under the forest canopy.
The more stressful the environment, the more likely you are to see plants working together to ensure mutual survival.
Simard’s work was among the first to prove that fungi branch out from the roots of a single tree to connect dozens of trees and shrubs and herbs—not only to their relatives but also to entirely different species. The “Wood Wide Web,” as Simard calls it, is an underground Internet through which water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and defense compounds are exchanged. When a pest troubles one tree, its alarm chemicals travel via fungi to the other members of the network, giving them time to beef up their defenses.
However, placing too high an emphasis on the individual can lead to people feeling so personally responsible that they become overwhelmed by the enormity of the task at hand. Norwegian psychologist and economist Per Espen Stoknes has described how individuals respond to being besieged with science that describes climate change in the language of threat and doom. Fear arises and becomes intertwined with guilt, resulting in passivity, apathy, and denial. To be effective, we require and deserve a conversation that includes possibility and opportunity, not repetitive emphasis on our undoing.
Individuals cannot prevent the torching of Indonesia rainforests by corrupt palm oil corporations or put an end to the bleaching and coral die-off of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Individuals cannot stave off the acidification of the world’s oceans or foil the onslaught of commercials dedicated to fomenting desire and materialism. Individuals cannot halt the lucrative subsidies granted to fossil fuel companies. Individuals cannot prevent the deliberate suppression and demonization of climate science and scientists by anonymous wealthy donors.
What individuals can do is become a movement. As McKibben writes: “Movements are what take five or ten percent of people and make them decisive—because in a world where apathy rules, five or ten percent is an enormous number.”
The economic data we have collected shows clearly that the expense of the problems in the world now exceeds the cost of the solutions. To put it another way, the profit that can be achieved by instituting regenerative solutions is greater than the monetary gains generated by causing the problem or conducting business-as-usual. For instance, the most profitable and productive method of farming is regenerative agriculture. In the electric power generation industry, more people in the U.S. as of 2016 are employed by the solar industry than by gas, coal, and oil combined. Restoration creates more jobs than despoliation. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future rather than stealing it.
This book was recommended as a Kickstarter project on a XOXO channel, and was delivered much earlier than general availability. I read it in one sitting, then immediately handed it to Jonathan, and said, "You should read this book."
I am so glad this book exists.
I don't believe I have anxieties at the level that people who self-describe themselves as anxious have anxiety. I would argue that I am decidedly not anxious about most things and about much of life. With that said, I had recently read The Anxiety Toolkit, and this book, so clearly something is triggering me to pick up these books and read them. And I am glad I did, because while I have coping skills, there's no reason not to continue to improve them, work on them, and (the best part) add new ones.
I suspect that when I meet Harper, she and I are going to bond over the Sailor Mouth™ style of speaking, as this book is full of f---s and f---ing and damns and many more in your face cussing. While it might have been intended as "Real Talk," it is a little overwhelming sometimes in the book. If you can read through the f--ks and the rest of it, and get to the coping skills, hooboy, yes, this book is gooooooood.
If you have anxiety, get this book. If you don't consider your coping skills to be ninja-esque, buy this book. If you can't afford a copy, let me buy you a copy, this book is that good. I am glad this book exists.
Needing coping skills is not a sign of weakness or mental illness. It means you are a normal human being navigation a truly abnormal culture.
- There are no such things as wrong responses, only adaptive ones.
- What you have survived as wired your body to proceed with extreme caution, on a unconscious level at all times. This is called staying fucking alive and safe.
- ... You are not crazy; you have adapted to the environment around you with the only information you had at the time... your previous circumstances.
You are absolutely accountable for your actions, no matter what bullshit has been foisted upon you. You may not have been the one who bought the ticket, but it now officially both your circus and your monkey.
Psychologically, triggers are events, sensations, images, memories, etc., that facilitate the re-experiencing of any event that overwhelmed our ability to cope. (For those of you playing the home game, yes, that is a quick and dirty definition of trauma.)
Being triggered means you are literally reliving a traumatic event in your body and mind and are not functioning in the present moment or dealing with your present experience.
Despite the Navy's expertise in selecting candidates that are physically up to the task, the dropout rate for individuals attending SEAL school is really damn high (like 75% high). After years of this, the Navy commissioned psychologists to figure out what was different about the 25% that succeeded. And they found, unsurprising, that it was a form of mental ability, not physical ability. There were four essential abilities that were later termed "The Four Pillars of Mental Toughness..."
Pillar One: Very Short Term and Very Specific Goal Setting
Navy SEALS who focused on getting through the training activity at hand rather than the course overall were far more successful in finishing the entire program.
Pillar Two: Positive Mental Visualization
This means mentally watching yourself successfully complete the task you set out to accomplish or endure the bullshit you need to endure.
Pillar Three: Positive Self-Talk
Remind yourself this ain't no than comparied to everything else you 've been through. And hell, your suvival rate thus far is 100% so the odds are in your favor, rock star.
Pillar Four: Managing Self Arousal
Managing our cortisol and adrenaline production is a huge part of coping in general.... Breathing techniques are a big part of that, ...
Are you bumped up against an unsolvable problem? Maybe it's the problem itself, not your inability to find a solution.
Anyone who has laid down on the floor from the sheer weight of the awfulness of life can tell you that grief and loss are very real, physical things... and the reason we can't measure them is because they're far too large for any scale.
We have a mechanism of communication about everything we think, feel, say, and do. Creation is hte sharing of that voice. You can paint a canvas, knit a scarf, play a song, plat a tree, or bake a cake. You can write and write and write. On your website, your Facebook, or the back of a napkin at a coffee shop. Creation in the face of destruction doesn't mitigate the loss, but it does help us take back power when we feel completely out of control. e=You are alowed your voice in the world..
My mom used to make gentle fun of my brother. "Bless his heart, he still thinks he can change the world." My response? "Well, those are the people who usually do." Nothing ever go changed by sitting around, hoping that people come to their senses and make better choices. Nobody has gained rights by sitting around patiently waiting for someone to notice that they were getting fucked over.
Things change when we change them. Or, at the very least, we empower ourselves to fucking try. I don't know about your, but I'm not about to sit by and do nothing when the world is on fire. I'll find a bucket of water. Or spit on it if that's all I got.
This book came onto my radar from one of the books I've read in the last month or so, referenced in some way, I don't recall how. It was available at the library, so I borrowed it, and read it.
This book is a short, intense, and powerful read. Half of the book is the essay, the second half is an interview with Harris and his influencer professor, Ron Howard and a question-answer format exploration and reader challenges about not lying.
Again, a short, intense, and powerful read. It is amazing, it could change your life if you listen. Maybe not as much as Harris' life was changed by his professor, but maybe as much.
I finished reading it, set it down, and felt a huge release. Did I really need someone far away to tell me to tell the truth, even down to stop telling the small white lies? I want to shrug and say, "I don't know, maybe," but the answer is yes, very clearly yes. Am I embarrassed by that? Yep, sure am! Am I finally listening to myself, too? Yep, sure am!
The book is a quick read, an essay book that I wouldn't have counted as a "book" last year in my book count. This year, if it's a book, it's a book, even if it's not what I historically have called "a real book." I bought myself a hardback copy of the book when I found the opportunity at a local bookstore, the book is that good and worth having. It is amazing, let me buy you a copy.
To lie is to intentionally mislead others when they expect honest communication.
People lie so that others will form beliefs that are not true. The more consequential the beliefs—that is, the more a person’s well-being demands a correct understanding of the world or of other people’s opinions—the more consequential the lie.
To speak truthfully is to accurately represent one’s beliefs. But candor offers no assurance that one’s beliefs about the world are true.
[T]ruthfulness require that one speak the whole truth, because communicating every fact on a given topic is almost never useful or even possible.
Honesty is a gift we can give to others. It is also a source of power and an engine of simplicity.
You can be honest and kind, because your purpose in telling the truth is not to offend people. You simply want them to have the information you have and would want to have if you were in their shoes.
Holding one’s tongue, or steering a conversation toward topics of relative safety, is not the same as lying (nor does it require that one deny the truth in the future).
Honesty can force any dysfunction in your life to the surface.
Lying is the lifeblood of addiction. If we have no recourse to lies, our lives can unravel only so far without others’ noticing.
Telling the truth can also reveal ways in which we want to grow but haven’t.
Doing something requires energy, and most morally salient actions are associated with conscious intent. Failing to do something can arise purely by circumstance and requires energy to rectify.
And although we imagine that we tell certain lies out of compassion for others, it is rarely difficult to spot the damage we do in the process.
A white lie is simply a denial of these realities. It is a refusal to offer honest guidance in a storm. Even on so touchy a subject, lying seems a clear failure of friendship.
In many circumstances in life, false encouragement can be very costly to another person.
False encouragement is a kind of theft: It steals time, energy, and motivation that a person could put toward some other purpose.
This is not to say that we are always correct in our judgments of other people. And honesty demands that we communicate any uncertainty we may feel about the relevance of our own opinions.
If the truth itself is painful to tell, often background truths are not—and these can be communicated as well, deepening the friendship.
[W]hen asked for an honest opinion, we do our friends no favors by pretending not to notice flaws in their work, especially when those who are not their friends are bound to notice the same flaws. Sparing others disappointment and embarrassment is a great kindness.
A commitment to honesty does not necessarily require that we disclose facts about ourselves that we would prefer to keep private.
The truth could well be “I’d rather not say.”
To agree to keep a secret is to assume a burden. At a minimum, one must remember what one is not supposed to talk about.
In those circumstances where we deem it obviously necessary to lie, we have generally determined that the person to be deceived is both dangerous and unreachable by any recourse to the truth. In other words, we have judged the prospects of establishing a genuine relationship with him to be nonexistent.
This is among the many corrosive effects of unjust laws: They tempt peaceful and (otherwise) honest people to lie so as to avoid being punished for behavior that is ethically blameless.
When you tell the truth, you have nothing to keep track of. The world itself becomes your memory, and if questions arise, you can always point others back to it.
Integrity consists of many things, but it generally requires us to avoid behavior that readily leads to shame or remorse.
To lie is to erect a boundary between the truth we are living and the perception others have of us. The temptation to do this is often born of an understanding that others will disapprove of our behavior. Often,
Big lies have led many people to reflexively distrust those in positions of authority.
We seem to be predisposed to remember statements as true even after they have been disconfirmed.
Familiarity breeds credence.
Justified government deception is a kind of ethical mirage: Just when you think you’re reaching it, the facts usually suggest otherwise.
The ethics of war and espionage are the ethics of emergency—and are, therefore, necessarily limited in scope.
Lying is, almost by definition, a refusal to cooperate with others. It condenses a lack of trust and trustworthiness into a single act. It is both a failure of understanding and an unwillingness to be understood. To lie is to recoil from relationship.
It seems that there are situations in which one must admit at the outset that one is not in the presence of an ethical intelligence that can be reasoned with.
If someone is trying to kill me, I’m going to use the minimum effective force necessary to stop him.
This one, I'm not so sure, and is a place of cognitive dissonance and moral dilemma for me. If someone is trying to kill me, and I do not use all effective force to stop him, he has the opportunity to try to kill me again. Surviving isn't a guaranteed better place to be. There's a scene in The Fall that sticks with me. In it, the murderer is raping a woman and her brother attempt to save her, but without an intention to kill the murderer, only to disable. As a result, the murderer recovers and kills them both. The circumstance is fictional. And yet, human nature.
But let’s face it, there are people who are up to no good in all kinds of ways. I’m not going to abet them in violating other people’s right to be left alone, and I’ll do whatever is necessary to avoid that.
That’s life. It doesn’t all have a Hollywood ending. There are lots of pluses and minuses. Ultimately, we all die, and the only question is, what have you done between the time you’re born and the time you die?
But we have to put a frame around the relevant facts of the present, and if a person hasn’t been perfectly ethical up until yesterday, he has to figure out how to live with the legacy of his misbehavior.
He could say, “We’ve never talked about this. Is this something you really want to talk about today?” This may be the time, whatever their beliefs about what happens after death. Or he could say, “Look, we’ve got a very short time together, and whatever we’ve done in the past, if it doesn’t bring us joy now, let’s leave it behind.”
Howard: I look at it another way: No matter how much time I’ve got left, I want to live a life that I have no regrets about.
Do you view your life in terms of relationships or transactions? If you’re bidding on eBay, truth isn’t an issue. That is a completely transactional situation. If I’m dealing with my mechanic on an ongoing basis, it’s not a transaction. It’s a relationship, and he will make judgments about me and about my reliability as a person. And I will make judgments about him, and these judgments will have long-term effects for both of us. This alters the prisoner’s dilemma: If you have a relationship with a person, you’re going to have different beliefs about the prospect of his selling you out than you would if he were just some guy the experimenters grabbed and put in the situation with you.
When your model of yourself in the world is at odds with how you actually are in the world, you are going to keep bumping into things.
That’s why I want a very strong system to deter maxim-breakers based on restitution. In other words, some of these things you do are imposing costs on everyone else. I’ve never been burglarized, but I’m paying the price for people who commit burglary, through insurance and other costs. If you engage in that sort of behavior, you ought to pay the overhead for it.
Insofar as it is possible, our justice system should oblige criminals to repay their debts to society rather than pointlessly suffer on account of them.
Children have fantasy lives so rich and combustible that rigging them with lies is like putting a propeller on a rocket.
[I]s the last child in class who still believes in Santa really grateful to have his first lesson in epistemology meted out by his fellow six-year-olds?
There is a tension between avoiding danger and resisting evil—and how we resolve it will depend on many factors.
A prison is perhaps the easiest place to see the power of bad incentives.
As someone who has sat for many print interviews, I can attest to the insidious way that one’s vanity and trust may work to one’s disadvantage.
Nevertheless, one must begin being truthful from wherever one happens to be in life.
given a sufficiently hostile environment, lying will be the least of one’s problems. If a person is likely to be killed for his beliefs, misrepresenting them would be an ethical means of self-defense.