Category Archives: Randy’s blog entries

Entries by Randy Mayeux

Maybe it is Time to…Think Again: Rethinking as a Way to Move Forward – (With appreciation to Adam grant, and Daniel Kahneman)

Last week, I spoke at the Garland Scottish Rite Club, at their service to install their officers for 2023.  My former colleague, Karl Krayer, was installed as their President for this year.Think Again

Karl asked me to speak on Rethinking as the Way to Move Forward.  I took some highlights from my synopsis handout for the book Think Again by Adam Grant, mixed in a little Daniel Kahneman, and Tyler Cowen via David Brooks, and created this handout.  It might be worth reading through.

So, here it is.


Maybe it is Time to…Think Again: Rethinking as a Way to Move Forward

Presented by Randy Mayeux — For The Garland Scottish Rite Club — January,18, 2023

{There is so much we do not know… And we are all wrong about some things. Our inability or unwillingness to seek out ways we are wrong will keep us wrong. And that is a bad idea. Rethinking – thinking again – is the only path to getting more things right.}

• We laugh at people who still use Windows 95, yet we still cling to opinions that we formed in 1995. 

  • How many of us can even remember the last time we admitted being wrong and revised our opinions accordingly? 
  • A hallmark of wisdom is knowing when it’s time to abandon some of your most treasured tools—and some of the most cherished parts of your identity. 
  • If you’re a scientist by trade, rethinking is fundamental to your profession.
  • Being good at thinking can make you worse at rethinking.
  • “Arrogance is ignorance plus conviction.”
  • I found a Nobel Prize–winning scientist and two of the world’s top election forecasters. They aren’t just comfortable being wrong; they actually seem to be thrilled by it. …The goal is not to be wrong more often. It’s to recognize that we’re all wrong more often than we’d like to admit, and the more we deny it, the deeper the hole we dig for ourselves. 
  • As Bridgewater founder Ray Dalio told me, “If you don’t look back at yourself and think, ‘Wow, how stupid I was a year ago,’ then you must not have learned much in the last year.” 
  • When we’re trying to persuade people, we frequently take an adversarial approach. Instead of opening their minds, we effectively shut them down or rile them up. 
  • Intelligence is traditionally viewed as the ability to think and learn.
    Yet in a turbulent world, there’s another set of cognitive skills that might matter more: the ability to rethink and unlearn.
  • We should all be able to make a long list of areas where we’re ignorant. Mine include art, financial markets, fashion, chemistry, food, why British accents turn American in songs, and why it’s impossible to tickle yourself.
  • Preachers, Prosecutors, and Politicians: We go into preacher mode when our sacred beliefs are in jeopardy: we deliver sermons to protect and promote our ideals. We enter prosecutor mode when we recognize flaws in other people’s reasoning: we marshal arguments to prove them wrong and win our case. We shift into politician mode when we’re seeking to win over an audience: we campaign and lobby for the approval of our constituents. The risk is that we become so wrapped up in preaching that we’re right, prosecuting others who are wrong, and politicking for support that we don’t bother to rethink our own views.

Adam Grant:  Think Again, The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know

The economist Tyler Cowen suggests a thought experiment:

Take out a piece of paper. In one column, list all of the major problems this country faces—inequality, political polarization, social distrust, climate change, and so on. In another column, write seven words: “America has more talent than ever before.”

David Brooks:  Despite Everything You Think You Know, America Is on the Right Track (Yes, America is a wounded giant—but it always has been, and the case for optimism is surprisingly strong). – From The Atlantic, January 13, 2023

• Let’s think about thinking:

(From the synopsis handout of the book Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman; synopsis prepared by Dr. Karl Krayer):

System 1 vs. System 2 Thinking

System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control. — System 1 does fast thinking.

System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. — System 2 is slow thinking, and is effortful. 

Randy Mayeux’s lessons and takeaways from Think Again by Adam Grant:

#1 – Aim for more self-awareness.
#2 – Aim for more humility.
#3 – Seek to discover your own blindness – your own blind spots.

#4 – Stop and think; and then, often, stop and rethink.
#5 – Ask, always, what am I doing to keep learning.
#6 – And, because things are speeding up and the world is changing more rapidly than ever before, we all must learn to rethink, and learn, (and unlearn), faster than ever.


Click here to read my blog post on Think AgainThink Again by Adam Grant – Here are my six lessons and takeaways

And here is the handout in printable from.

Click pin image for full, printable view

Click pin image for full, printable view

My synopsis of Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation by Linda Villarosa  is Today, Thursday, January 19, 12:30 pm, over Zoom – Come Join Us – And, here is my synopsis handout

A special encouragement to attend today’s session, January 19, 2023, on Zoom.

Today’s book, Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation by Linda Villarosa .

Please join us. All details below.


Click on image to download synopsis handout.

Click on image to download synopsis handout.

If you have an open lunch time window Today, Thursday, January 19, 12:30 pm (CST), I am presenting my synopsis of:

Under the Skin: The Hidden Toll of Racism on American Lives and on the Health of Our Nation by Linda Villarosa .

Today, Thursday, January 19, 2023 at 12:30 (CST) for the Urban Engagement Book Club, sponsored by CitySquare, on Zoom.

I encourage you to download my synopsis handout, print it out, and follow along.

Come join us on Zoom.

Urban Engagement Book Club
Thursday, January 19, 2023 – 12:30 pm (CST)

Synopsis presented by Randy Mayeux
We conclude shortly after 1:30.
(This event is free).

Here is the complete lineup of books selected for 2022.  — We will have a lineup of books for at least the first half of 2023 soon.

And, here is the Zoom link to join our gathering. 

Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 838 6624 1986

Passcode: 663247

Under the Skin—————-

Here is the more complete Zoom info.

Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Urban Engagement Book Club, 2023

Time: Jan 19, 2023 12:30 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 838 6624 1986

Passcode: 663247

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Injustice Anywhere is a Treat to Justice Everywhere – The Words of Dr. King from a Jail Cell, for Martin Luther King Day

 (I thank Brad DeLong for the simple idea that on Martin Luther King Day, maybe we should simply share Dr. King’s most powerful words, with little added comment).


One note:  In Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63 by Taylor Branch, the story is told that in that meeting in 1963, while the leaders of the team were discussing plans for the protest in Birmingham, Dr. King disappeared down the hall, and came back to the meeting wearing dungarees and a work shirt.  The team members gasped; they had never seen Dr. King so attired. It was a signal that he was going to march with the protestors, and thus be arrested. (My apology; my copy is in storage, and I cannot give you the exact quote from the book about this).

While in jail, he wrote these words that became The Letter From Birmingham Jail.  It is a masterpiece!

For Martin Luther King Day, please read it slowly; carefully.

If you can’t find the time to read it all, at least scroll through and read the sections that I put in bold.  These are my choices of the most important passages.  You might make different choices.  And, I did not bold as many sentences or paragraphs as I wanted to.

Because “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” let’s remember Dr. King’s words, and examine our own views – and actions.

 ——————–Martin Luther King, Letter

16 April, 1963

My Dear Fellow Clergymen:

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statements in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should indicate why I am here In Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here I am here because I have organizational ties here.

But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I. compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.

You deplore the demonstrations taking place In Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self- purification; and direct action. We have gone through an these steps in Birmingham. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Negro .leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good-faith negotiation.

Then, last September, came the opportunity to talk with leaders of Birmingham’s economic community. In the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by the merchants — for example, to remove the stores humiliating racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred Shuttles worth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations. As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned; the others remained.

As in so many past experiences, our hopes bad been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self-purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves : “Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?” “Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?” We decided to schedule our direct-action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic with with-drawl program would be the by-product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.

Then it occurred to us that Birmingham’s mayoralty election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to postpone action until after election day. When we discovered that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene “Bull” Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run-oat we decided again to postpone action until the day after the run-off so that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues. Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having aided in this community need, we felt that our direct-action program could be delayed no longer.

You may well ask: “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” You are quite right in calling, for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our beloved South land been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.

One of the basic points in your statement is that the action that I and my associates have taken .in Birmingham is untimely. Some have asked: “Why didn’t you give the new city administration time to act?” The only answer that I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election of Albert Boutwell as mayor. will bring the millennium to Birmingham. While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor, they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation. But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant ‘Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”

We have waited .for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God- given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we stiff creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six- year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you no forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may won ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there fire two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the Brat to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal .law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distort the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I- it” relationship for an “I-thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and awful. Paul Tillich said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression ‘of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.

Let us consider a more concrete example of just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.

Let me give another explanation. A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama which set up that state’s segregation laws was democratically elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered. Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically structured?

Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade. But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest.

I hope you are able to ace the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of civil disobedience.

We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers. If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fan in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with an its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn’t this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn’t this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn’t this like condemning Jesus because his unique God-consciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God’s will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.

I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes: “An Christians know that the colored people will receive equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.” Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely rational notion that there is something in the very flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God, and without this ‘hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to 6e solid rock of human dignity.

You speak of our activity in Birmingham as extreme. At fist I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I began thinking about the fact that stand in the middle of two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of long years of oppression, are so drained of self-respect and a sense of “somebodiness” that they have adjusted to segregation; and in part of a few middle class Negroes who, because of a degree of academic and economic security and because in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up across the nation, the largest and best- known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro’s frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination, this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man is an incorrigible “devil.”

I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do-nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist. For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest. I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our struggle.

If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as “rabble-rousers” and “outside agitators” those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security in black- nationalist ideologies a development that would inevitably lead to a frightening racial nightmare.

Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously or. unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the city hall; let him go on freedom rides-and try to understand why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said to my people: “Get rid of your discontent.” Rather, I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct action. And now this approach is being termed extremist.

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that an men are created equal …” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we viii be. We be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremist for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime—the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jeans Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.

I had hoped that the white moderate would see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They are still too few in quantity, but they are big in quality. Some-such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle—have written about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have languished in filthy, roach-infested jails, suffering the abuse and brutality of policemen who view them as “dirty nigger lovers.” Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes to combat the disease of segregation.

Let me take note of my other major disappointment. I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings, for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes to your worship service on a non segregated basis. I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.

But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church. I do not say this as one of those negative .critics who can always find. something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its bosom; who ‘has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and who will remain true to it as long as the cord of Rio shall lengthen.

When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church felt that the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leader era; an too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.

In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.

I have heard numerous southern religious leaders admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers declare: “Follow this decree because integration is morally right and because the Negro is your brother.” In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious. irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: “Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.” And I have watched many churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion which makes a strange, on Biblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular.

I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious-education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Walleye gave a clarion call for defiance and .hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?”

Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church. But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? l am in the rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the great- grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.

There was a time when the church was very powerful in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators”‘ But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were “a colony of heaven,” called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God intoxicated to be “astronomically intimidated.” By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide. and gladiatorial contests.

Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of the status quo. Par from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often even vocal sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it vi lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.

Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic. Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church, as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom, They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone to jai with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers. But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.

I hope the church as a whole will meet the challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham, ham and all over the nation, because the goal of America k freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and shameful humiliation-and yet out of a bottomless vitality they continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands.

Before closing I feel impelled to mention one other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly. You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping “order” and “preventing violence.” I doubt that you would have so warmly commended the police force if you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen if .you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.

It is true that the police have exercised a .degree of discipline in handing the demonstrators. In this sense they have conducted themselves rather “nonviolently” in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public, as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: “The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason.”

I wish you had commended the Negro sit-inners and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense of purpose that enables them to face Jeering, and hostile mobs, and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro women, symbolized in a seventy-two-year-old woman in Montgomery, Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness: “My fleets is tired, but my soul is at rest.” They viii be the young high school and college students, the young ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly going to jail for conscience’ sake. One day the South will know that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judaeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

Never before have I written so long a letter. I’m afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us. all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear-drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,

Martin Luther King, Jr.


Parting the WatersIf you have never read Parting the Waters, which won the Pulitzer Prize, please add it to your reading stack.

I have always used this site to read this letter.

What if Jack Welch intended Good? What if Jack Welch was not the last CEO to Get it Wrong?

Note:  This is a post where I am sort of just thinking out loud…


A thought about a pretty big issue – who is to blame?

There seems to be pretty big agreement that:  America sent so much work overseas (offshoring) that we lost our manufacturing base.  And, as we did so, we laid off so, so many workers.  And that is one of the catalysts behind the devastating opioid epidemic. And now, we are dependent on other countries for so much of what we need and what we buy, including practically all the computer chips that are absolutely essential in our modern world.  And so now we talk about, and make plans to, bring manufacturing back to the U.S. Especially, manufacturing computer chips…

I think there is widespread agreement on all of this.

So…who is to blame?the-man-who-broke-capitalism-9781982176440_hr

I thought of this last night, as I presented my review/synopsis of the book The Man Who Broke Capitalism:  How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America – and How to Undo His Legacy.  (I use the word “review,” because this presentation was for a book review club, so I adapted my normal straight-synopsis approach).

There is no doubt that decisions made and actions taken by Jack Welch were harmful.  But, as I thought through some questions, it hit me that maybe some of his decisions seemed logical, and acceptable, at the time.  I’ve read his book Winning.  I read his argument about why differentiation, which resulted in laying off the bottom 10% of the workers every year, was not cruel, but was actually the right way to treat workers.  I disagree with his thinking about that; but I at least understand it.

But, maybe, Jack Welch was not intentionally trying to cause harm.  Maybe his decisions about offshoring, and mergers and acquisitions, and the ultimate downsizing of the actual manufacturing base in the U.S., were all motivated by good intentions. But now, looking back, we see the danger and the lasting ripple effects.

Here is one thing I know for sure.  Jack Welch will not be the last business leader to make decisions and take actions that seem right at the time, but ultimately turn out to be not so right; even…dangerous. 

The issue is how to think about those ripple effects well enough and thoroughly enough, in the here and now, that we can head off such bad decisions and harmful actions.

Quite a challenge…


One footnote: Of course, there are some leaders who are simply evil; not motivated by good intentions.  That brings a different set of issues…  I am reluctant to be the one to make that judgement on specific leaders.  In such cases, ignore this blog post, and just label them as evil!


For further reading: 

My blog post on the book The Man Who Broke Capitalism: The Man Who Broke Capitalism: How Jack Welch Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America, and How to Undo His Legacy by David Gelles – Here are my five lessons and takeawaysUpstream

And also, check out my blog post on the excellent book Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before they Happen by Dan Heath: Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath – Here are my 7 lessons and takeaways 

Back to the Basics – An essential part of any business success – (With an announcement coming soon)

What are the basics?

Reading, writing, and arithmetic.  That’s the old summary of the basics:  the three “Rs: Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic.”Unknown

Sometimes, folks refer to the “fundamentals” instead of the “basics.”

But, here’s the thing. Get the basics, the fundamentals, right, and you’ve got a chance to successfully build on that foundation.  Get them wrong – ignore the basics, fail to learn the basics – and a lot, a whole lot, can go wrong.

Athletes especially know this. In an earlier life, I was a competitive tennis player.  You can only imagine how many times we did drills on the “basics” of tennis.  Over and over and over and over and over and over again…. and then again even more over and over again…

I have spent 25 years reading business books, and preparing and delivering synopses of hundreds of those books.

A number of books tackle familiar themes; familiar issues; the basics.

Issues like:

What makes for business success?

What makes a good leader?

How do you develop talent?  How do you spot talent? 

How do people work effectively on a team?

How do you get the next thing right? How do you innovate, with creativity and inventiveness, for the coming future?

And, as much as I hate to write this, I’ve got bad news.  You can get the basics right, and then slip up, or get lazy, or get complacent, and before you know it, you’re back to missing it on the basics.

I guess our attention to the basics needs… constant attention. (Remember those tennis drills).

In my 25 years of book reading and presenting, I have come up with a list of books that can help folks refocus on a basic.  And, I tend to put these into two key meta-categories:

the basics of time management may be the foundational basic!

the basics of time management may be the foundational basic!

Personal Productivity Basics.


Business Effectiveness Basics.

Now, one obvious “before anything else” basic is this:  a business has to bring in enough money that it pays for everything; everything; with a little left over.  In other words, it has to make a profit.  Making a profit is not a bad thing; it is a necessary thing.  Not making a profit can be deadly to – i.e. mean the death of – a business.

Greed may not be good, but making a profit is good.  But, if making a profit requires inhumane treatment of employees, or unethical practices, then that it is  too high a cost to pay.

I think that mastering the basics provides the path to such profitability.  And then, that profitable company can help create a better community, a better society.

So, here is my current list of the “Basics,” with a key book, and a few other books, for each one.

Basics Topic Book


Other Books/

Supplemental Books

The Basics of Time Management Getting Things Done Deep Work
The Basics of a Growth Mindset Mindset How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character
The Basics of Leadership Extreme Ownership Encouraging the Heart
The Basics of Teaming The Culture Code Team of Teams
The Basics of Meaning in Work Start with Why Man’s Search for Meaning
The Basics of Talent Range Outliers;


Talent is Overrated

The Basics of Execution The 4 Disciplines of Execution Execution
The Basics of Measurement Measure What Matters Blue Ocean Strategy
The Basics of Change Change Think Again
The Basics of the Future Digital Transformation The Second Machine Age
The Basics of…the Basics Build The E Myth
The Basics of Ethical Business Practices Willful Blindness True North
Also consider:

The Basics of Motivation, with Drive; The Basics of Creativity, with The Creative Habit

You might come up with a different list.  You might choose different books.  But, even if you do, going through such a process can’t help but be useful.

Get the basics right, and everything else has a much better chance of making it to that level of success all strive for.



Look for my plan to help folks refresh their knowledge about, to brush up on, these basics.  Coming very soon.

Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology by Chris Miller – Here are my Six Lessons and Takeaways

Chip WarMembers of Congress would no doubt have been furious had they learned that DARPA—ostensibly a defense agency—was wining and dining professors of computer science as they theorized about chip design. But it was efforts like these that shrank transistors, discovered new uses for semiconductors, drove new customers to buy them, and funded the subsequent generation of smaller transistors.

We rarely think about chips, yet they’ve created the modern world. The fate of nations has turned on their ability to harness computing power.  

This book contends that semiconductors have defined the world we live in, determining the shape of international politics, the structure of the world economy, and the balance of military power.

A next-generation chip emerged roughly once every two years, requiring new facilities and new machinery.

Strategists in Beijing and Washington now realize that all advanced tech—from machine learning to missile systems, from automated vehicles to armed drones—requires cutting-edge chips, known more formally as semiconductors or integrated circuits. A tiny number of companies control their production.

Globalization as we know it wouldn’t exist without the trade in semiconductors. 

Around a quarter of the chip industry’s revenue comes from phones; much of the price of a new phone pays for the semiconductors inside. For the past decade, each generation of iPhone has been powered by one of the world’s most advanced processor chips. In total, it takes over a dozen semiconductors to make a smartphone work, with different chips managing the battery, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, cellular network connections, audio, the camera, and more. …Apple makes precisely none of these chips. It buys most off-the-shelf: memory chips from Japan’s Kioxia, radio frequency chips from California’s Skyworks, audio chips from Cirrus Logic, based in Austin, Texas.

Kilby called his invention an “integrated circuit,” but it became known colloquially as a “chip,” because each integrated circuit was made from a piece of silicon “chipped” off a circular silicon wafer.   

At his parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary party in 1972, Bob Noyce interrupted the festivities, held up a silicon wafer, and declared to his family: “This is going to change the world.” Now general logic could be mass-produced. Computing was ready for its own industrial revolution and Intel had the world’s most advanced assembly lines. 

However, “globalization” of chip fabrication hadn’t occurred; “Taiwanization” had. Technology hadn’t diffused. It was monopolized by a handful of irreplaceable companies. American tech policy was held hostage to banalities about globalization that were easily seen to be false.

Chris Miller: Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology


I am generally reluctant to use the word “war” in a context that isn’t actually…war.  But, this book is not wrong to use the word war in its title.

The world runs on these tiny, ever-smaller little chips that we find inside practically…everything. Cars, TVs, Smartphones, computers, missiles, power plants…everything. Elon Musk even wants to implant them inside our human brains.

The book Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology by Chris Miller tells us about the history of these remarkable chips.  And, he tells us enough about how they are made, and where they are made, and how many countries are involved in their making, that it is easy to see why the word war is appropriate.

Let me state the obvious; if the world loses access to one specific company and its plant in Taiwan, we will be…sent back to the dark ages; to the time BC – Before Chips.

In my synopses, I ask What is the point?  Here is the point for this book:  The world – the entire world – is being run on those tiny computer chips.  The “war” we fight is for (the future of) those chips. 

And I ask Why is this book worth our time?  Here are my three reasons for this book:

#1 – This book provides a remarkable history of the computing world, and the shrinking of the transistors into ever-smaller, ever-tinier, chips.

#2 – This book helps us understand how global (sort of) this computer chip world is. 

#3 – This books shows us the vast, gigantic challenge facing any country which wants to do all of its needed chip building within its own country.  It may not be possible!

I include a few pages of Quotes and Excerpts from the book—the “best of” Randy’s highlighted Passages.  Here are a number of the best of the best from this book: 

China now spends more money each year importing chips than it spends on oil.   

China is devoting its best minds and billions of dollars to developing its own semiconductor technology in a bid to free itself from America’s chip choke. If Beijing succeeds, it will remake the global economy and reset the balance of military power. World War II was decided by steel and aluminum, and followed shortly thereafter by the Cold War, which was defined by atomic weapons. The rivalry between the United States and China may well be determined by computing power. 

At the core of computing is the need for many millions of 1s and 0s. …these numbers don’t actually exist. They’re expressions of electrical currents, which are either on (1) or off (0). 

Last year, the chip industry produced more transistors than the combined quantity of all goods produced by all other companies, in all other industries, in all human history. Nothing else comes close.   

Looking forward from 1965, Moore predicted a decade of exponential growth—but this staggering rate of progress has continued for over half a century. In 1970, the second company Moore founded, Intel, unveiled a memory chip that could remember 1,024 pieces of information (“bits”). It cost around $20, roughly two cents per bit. Today, $20 can buy a thumb drive that can remember well over a billion bits. 

Chips from Taiwan provide 37 percent of the world’s new computing power each year. Two Korean companies produce 44 percent of the world’s memory chips. The Dutch company ASML builds 100 percent of the world’s extreme ultraviolet lithography machines, without which cutting-edge chips are simply impossible to make. OPEC’s 40 percent share of world oil production looks unimpressive by comparison. 

A state-of-the-art computer called ENIAC, built for the U.S. Army at the University of Pennsylvania in 1945 to calculate artillery trajectories, had eighteen thousand vacuum tubes. On average, one tube malfunctioned every two days, bringing the entire machine to a halt and sending technicians scrambling to find and replace the broken part.

Like Chang, Noyce and Moore saw no limits to the growth of the chip industry so long as they could figure out mass production.   

The Nobel Prize for inventing the transistor went to Shockley, Bardeen, and Brattain. Jack Kilby later won a Nobel for creating the first integrated circuit; had Bob Noyce not died at the age of sixty-two, he’d have shared the prize with Kilby. 

In 1965, Moore was asked by Electronics magazine to write a short article on the future of integrated circuits. He predicted that every year for at least the next decade, Fairchild would double the number of components that could fit on a silicon chip. If so, by 1975, integrated circuits would have sixty-five thousand tiny transistors carved into them, creating not only more computing power but also lower prices per transistor. As costs fell, the number of users would grow. This forecast of exponential growth in computing power soon came to be known as Moore’s Law. It was the greatest technological prediction of the century. 

Alongside new scientific discoveries and new manufacturing processes, this ability to make a financial killing was the fundamental force driving forward Moore’s Law. As one of Fairchild’s employees put it in the exit questionnaire he filled out when leaving the company: “I… WANT… TO… GET… RICH.”

Simply stealing a chip didn’t explain how it was made, just as stealing a cake can’t explain how it was baked. The recipe for chips was already extraordinarily complicated.   

But letting Japan build an electronics industry was part of U.S. Cold War strategy, so, during the 1960s, Washington never put much pressure on Tokyo over the issue.   

Handheld calculators were the iPhones of the 1970s. 

“In the past 200 years we have improved our ability to manufacture goods and move people by a factor of 100,” Mead calculated. “But in the last 20 years there has been an increase of 1,000,000 to 10,000,000 in the rate at which we process and retrieve information.” A revolutionary explosion of data processing was coming. “We have computer power coming out of our ears.” 

The U.S. military lost the war in Vietnam, but the chip industry won the peace that followed, binding the rest of Asia, from Singapore to Taiwan to Japan, more closely to the U.S. via rapidly expanding investment links and supply chains.  

Sony’s research director, the famed physicist Makoto Kikuchi, told an American journalist that Japan had fewer geniuses than America, a country with “outstanding elites.” But America also had “a long tail” of people “with less than normal intelligence,” Kikuchi argued, explaining why Japan was better at mass manufacturing. 

“Disruptive innovation” sounded attractive in Clayton Christensen’s theory, but it was gut-wrenching in practice, a time of “gnashing of teeth,” Grove remembered, and “bickering and arguments.

One popular Soviet joke from the 1980s recounted a Kremlin official who declared proudly, “Comrade, we have built the world’s biggest microprocessor!” 

In 2001, Apple released the iPod, a visionary product showing how digital technology could transform any consumer device.

Every PC maker, from IBM to Compaq, had to use an Intel or an AMD chip for their main processor, because these two firms had a de facto monopoly on the x86 instruction set that PCs required. There was a lot more competition in the market for chips that rendered images on screens.  

GPUs, by contrast, are designed to run multiple iterations of the same calculation at once. This type of “parallel processing,” it soon became clear, had uses beyond controlling pixels of images in computer games. It could also train AI systems efficiently.  

The U.S. government in general buys a smaller share of the world’s chips than ever before. The U.S. government bought almost all the early integrated circuits that Fairchild and Texas Instruments produced in the early 1960s. By the 1970s, that number had fallen to 10−15 percent. Now it’s around 2 percent of the U.S. chip market.

Big tech firms—Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Alibaba, and others—are now pouring money into designing their own chips. There’s clearly no deficit of innovation.

It’s undeniable that the microprocessor, the workhorse of modern computing, is being partially displaced by chips made for specific purposes.

What’s surprising though, is how easy it is for almost anyone to access the fast lane by buying an Nvidia chip or by renting access to an AI-optimized cloud.

And in my synopses, I share key insights and principles, and some stories, from the books that I present.  Here are a few from this book. (Sentences in italics are excerpts directly from the book):

  • That time when a bridge was destroyed in Vietnam…
  • The Sparrow III anti-aircraft missiles that U.S. fighters used in the skies over Vietnam relied on vacuum tubes that were hand-soldered. …The Sparrow missile’s radar system broke on average once every five to ten hours of use. …This time, American bombs scored direct hits. Dozens of other bridges, rail junctions, and other strategic points were hit with new precision bombs. A simple laser sensor and a couple of transistors had turned a weapon with a zero-for-638 hit ratio into a tool of precision destruction.
  • Let’s remember – we ain’t seen nothing yet!
  • Yesterday’s chips are so, so far behind today’s chips.
  • Tomorrow’s chips will make today’s chips seem ancient and quaint…
  • Let’s also remember
  • it takes big money, thus…government has been crucial; and may be less crucial; and may be more crucial, in chip development
  • What are we talking about?
  • Computer Chips (a phrase that encompasses the different kinds of chips) are in…everything.From cars, to Smartphones, to climate control systems, to TVs, to missile guidance systems, to power plants and building energy systems, to all computers, to…everything.
  • And, it is not “A” computer chip,” but “chips,” in most everything.
  • The chips are primarily made in only a handful of countries, especially – the United States, and South Korea, and Japan, and TAIWAN.
  • And the most important chips are made in one place: Taiwan.
  • After over two decades with Texas Instruments, Morris Chang had left the company in the early 1980s after being passed over for the CEO job and “put out to pasture,” he’d later say.
  • Why “copying” and stealing does not really work.
  • it is not possible to “copy” all the details of how to actually mass produce these chips
  • by the time you successfully copy, it is almost out of date…
  • Moreover, the cutting edge was constantly changing, per the rate set out in Moore’s Law.  …No other technology moved so quickly—so there was no other sector in which stealing last year’s design was such a hopeless strategy. 
  • It is really, really, really expensive to produce the modern chips. And the next ones may cost even more; much, much more…
  • Taiwan:
  • Today, Apple’s most advanced processors—which are arguably the world’s most advanced semiconductors—can only be produced by a single company in a single building, the most expensive factory in human history, which on the morning of August 18, 2020, was only a couple dozen miles off the USS Mustin’s port bow.
  • Fabricating and miniaturizing semiconductors has been the greatest engineering challenge of our time. Today, no firm fabricates chips with more precision than the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, better known as TSMC.
  • Apple sold over 100 million iPhone 12s, each powered by an A14 processor chip with 11.8 billion tiny transistors carved into its silicon.
  • Moore’s Law at work
  • Fairchild cofounder Gordon Moore noticed in 1965 that the number of components that could be fit on each chip was doubling annually as engineers learned to fabricate ever smaller transistors. This prediction—that the computing power of chips would grow exponentially—came to be called “Moore’s Law”
  • It was only sixty years ago that the number of transistors on a cutting-edge chip wasn’t 11.8 billion, but 4.
  • The making of Moore’s Law is as much a story of manufacturing experts, supply chain specialists, and marketing managers as it is about physicists or electrical engineers. 
  • From Silicon Valley, to the rest of the world…
  • Today’s semiconductor supply chain requires components from many cities and countries, but almost every chip made still has a Silicon Valley connection or is produced with tools designed and built in California.
  • A typical chip might be designed with blueprints from the Japanese-owned, UK-based company called Arm, by a team of engineers in California and Israel, using design software from the United States.
  • The design is carved into silicon using some of the world’s most precise machinery, which can etch, deposit, and measure layers of materials a few atoms thick. These tools are produced primarily by five companies, one Dutch, one Japanese, and three Californian, without which advanced chips are basically impossible to make. Then the chip is packaged and tested, often in Southeast Asia, before being sent to China for assembly into a phone or computer.
  • Today, thanks to Moore’s Law, semiconductors are embedded in every device that requires computing power—and in the age of the Internet of Things, this means pretty much every device. Even hundred-year-old products like automobiles now often include a thousand dollars worth of chips. Most of the world’s GDP is produced with devices that rely on semiconductors. For a product that didn’t exist seventy-five years ago, this is an extraordinary ascent.
  • It takes government money; lots and lots of government money…
  • Three days after Noyce and Moore founded Fairchild Semiconductor, at 8: 55 p.m., the answer to the question of who would pay for integrated circuits hurtled over their heads through California’s nighttime sky. Sputnik, the world’s first satellite, launched by the Soviet Union, orbited the earth from west to east at a speed of eighteen thousand miles per hour. …The U.S. thought it was the world’s science superpower, but now it seemed to have fallen behind. …Bob Noyce suddenly had a market for his integrated circuits: rockets.
  • America’s vast reserve of scientific expertise, nurtured by government research funding and strengthened by the ability to poach the best scientists from other countries, has provided the core knowledge driving technological advances forward.
  • AND… Asian governments, in Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan, have elbowed their way into the chip industry by subsidizing firms, funding training programs, keeping their exchange rates undervalued, and imposing tariffs on imported chips.
  • AND YET… – the balancing act:  we want government money; we want little to no government regulation… 
  • How vulnerable are we? Too vulnerable!
  • The global network of companies that annually produces a trillion chips at nanometer scale is a triumph of efficiency. It’s also a staggering vulnerability. 
  • A tale of two decisions…
  • By the mid-2000s, just as cloud computing was emerging, Intel had won a near monopoly over data center chips, competing only with AMD. Today, nearly every major data center uses x86 chips from either Intel or AMD. The cloud can’t function without their processors.


  • Despite eventually pouring billions of dollars into products for smartphones, Intel never had much to show for it.  …Just a handful of years after Intel turned down the iPhone contract, Apple was making more money in smartphones than Intel was selling PC processors. Intel tried several times to scale the walls of Apple’s castle but had already lost first-mover advantage. …So Intel never found a way to win a foothold in mobile devices, which today consume nearly a third of chips sold. It still hasn’t. 
  • The formula
  • innovation in all aspects (product design + tool/machine development + manufacturing excellence) + hard work + usefulness
  • The danger
  • Taiwan’s chip factory and China’s military…

And here are my six lessons and takeaways:

#1 — It might really help to know our history better.

#2 – The chips will keep getting smaller/bigger/smaller.

#3 – The greater the chip capability, the greater the products.

#4 – The greater the chip capability, the more capable the weapons.

#5 – Are we possibly going to see a huge new breakthrough with multi-talented chips?

#6 – If you fall behind, you will be left behind.  In business. In war/conflict. In… 

There are a lot of good reasons to read Chip War.  It fills in gaps in your history knowledge.  It gives you a sense of the critical role played by these tiny chips in so much of modern life.

And, it gives you reason to worry.

It is a book worth reading!  I am very glad I read it.


My synopsis of Chip War will be available soon on our web site.  You can purchase our synopses presentations from the buy synopses tab at the top of this page.  On that page, you can search by book title. And click here for our newest additions.

Each synopsis comes with my comprehensive, multi-page synopsis handout, plus the audio recording of my presentation delivered at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.