Here is the June, 2021 list of best-selling business books from the New York Times. For the umpteenth month in a row (yes, umpteenth is a precise number), Atomic Habits by James Clear is at the #1 spot. I don’t keep a record of how long it has been at the top spot, but this book has been at the top through most of the pandemic. I assume people are working on personal habits; or, at least, are wanting to work on their personal habits.
The only book that I can think of that seemed to be at the top for anything close to this length of time was Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg from quite a few years back. (Lean In was first published in 2013, so that was a while ago. I presented my synopsis of that book in April, 2013).
In this month’s list, there are two new books that I have already selected for our Dallas event, the First Friday Book Synopsis. I present synopses of two best-selling business books every month. We are in our 24thyear of monthly gatherings.
For our July 9 event (the second Friday of July), I will present my synopsis of the new Daniel Kahneman book, Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgement (co-authored with Olivier Sibony, and Cass R. Sunstein). Mr. Kahneman’s earlier book Thinking, Fast and Slow is also a perennial best-seller.
I will also present the new book by Brad Stone: AmazonUnbound: Jeff Bezos and the Invention of a Global Empire , at the July First Friday Book Synopsis. I presented my synopsis of his earlier book, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, back at the December, 2013 event.
After I present these two books, I will have presented synopses of five of the ten best-sellers from this month’s list: Atomic Habits, Noise, Dare to Lead, Extreme Ownership, and Amazon Unbound.
I’m a fan of reading good and useful books, and this list always provides plenty of good and useful choices.
#1 – Atomic Habits by James Clear
#2 – Noise by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, and Cass R. Sunstein
#3 – Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
#4 – Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe
#5 – Nomadland by Jessica Bruder
#6 – The Tyranny of Big Tech by Josh Hawley
#7 – Everything Will Be Okay by Dana Perino
#8 – Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
#9 – You’re Invited by Jon Levy
#10 – Amazon Unbound by Brad Stone
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.
We are in Year #24 of our monthly gatherings.
You are invited
First Friday Book Synopsis,
Friday, June 4, 2021, 7:30 am (Central Time), on Zoom.
I hope you can join us!
Well over 100 people have been joining us on our “Remote” First Friday Book Synopsis gatherings. We have had participants from all over the country. Please share this word far and wide — all are welcome!
You are invited!
This Friday, June 4, 2021 – Zoom
Two Book Synopses:
June 4, 2021 – Zoom
Two Book Synopses:
- The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis. W. W. Norton & Company (May 4, 2021)
- The Heart of Business: Leadership Principles for the Next Era of Capitalismby Hubert Joly, with Caroline Lambert. Harvard Business Review Press (May 4, 2021)
Randy Mayeux will present both synopses.
Where: on ZOOM
When: This Friday, June 4, 7:30 am (Central Time)
The presentation will conclude shortly after 8:30 am
Speaker: Randy Mayeux will deliver both synopsis presentations.
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 854 0844 1489
We are all set for Friday’s Remote First Friday Book Synopsis.
If you have ever attended our event, you know that I am handout intensive. You really will be able to follow along better with physical copies of the handouts in front of you. So, if you have a printer, please print the handouts.
#2 — Come on in for conversation whenever you can. I have enabled the “enable join before host” button. You will arrive in the waiting room, and be let in quickly. So, you can come in, and talk to folks. I will plan to join the meeting around 7:00, and we will begin the program right at 7:30. And, I will not “end the meeting” for a while after, if you want to continue conversations with others after we officially conclude.
#3 — Here is the info, with the link to join the gathering:
Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting
Topic: June 4, 2021 – First Friday Book Synopsis
Time: June 4, 2021 07:30 AM Central Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 854 0844 1489
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You might want to read this post. It has a printable one-sheet reminder on how to make the most of your remote learning experience.
I had a teacher in my undergraduate days who only gave us essay tests. He was a thinker; and he wanted to see how we thought. Actually, he wanted to see that we did think.
By the time I got to my much more demanding post-graduate work in Rhetoric, he was the teacher that had most prepared me. And I was always grateful.
I think of that teacher when I read a book that makes me think.
When I read books – which I do with great frequency – I love reading books that teach me something new. I especially like to read books that beckon me to take time to think about something in a different way.
But the books that I remember – the books that linger with me – are the books that act as a gigantic slap-in-the-face to my thinking. I can’t quite shake them. I can’t forget them. And I never quite fully learn all the insights and lessons that they have for me.
In my work, presenting and delivering synopses of good books, I basically read a book three times.
First, I fully read the book, highlighting way too many passages. (I always surpass the Kindle allowed limit – always).
Second, when I work through all of my highlights into the synopsis handout, it is like reading a book a second time.
And then, third, when I go over my final handout, and present the synopsis, it is like a third reading.
Sometimes, I’m sorry to confess, re-reading the highlights is something of a chore. I feel like “I’ve already read this.”
This was all a very long introduction to this one point: the one book that I strongly recommend that you read at this moment is The Premonition: A Pandemic Story by Michael Lewis. It will linger with you; it will make you think; it will disturb you; it will delight you with its insight. It is, without a doubt, the best book I’ve read this year; maybe longer. And I’ve read some very good books.
What book does this for you?
As I was reading this book, the nineteen year old daughter of Michael Lewis and his wife Tabitha Soren was killed in a car crash, along with her boyfriend. So tragic. Comfort and peace to their family…
I will present my synopsis of The Premonition this Friday, June 4, 2021, over Zoom, at the First Friday Book Synopsis. Join us. Click here for log-in info and details.
In 2018, (Joe) Biden — who favors biographies and volumes on comparative religion — became obsessed with two books: “How Democracies Die,” by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, and “White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America,” by Joan C. Williams. He carried both everywhere, scrawling notes on the pages and pulling out well-worn copies to share passages.
“He marks up books very profusely,” White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said. “He writes in the margins and highlights and underlines.”
Ashley Parker: Weightlifting, Gatorade, birthday calls: Inside Biden’s day, from the Washington Post
My own most fervent hope is to communicate one key message: if you care about climate change, or abortion rights, or immigrants, or mass incarceration, you’d better care, too, about good jobs and social dignity for Americans of all races without college degrees.
Instead, I focus on a simple message: when you leave the two-thirds of Americans without college degrees out of your vision of the good life, they notice. And when elites commit to equality for many different groups but arrogantly dismiss “the dark rigidity of fundamentalist rural America,” 6 this is a recipe for extreme alienation among working-class whites.
One of the goals of this book is to help broaden the conversation of identity to more deftly include class.
My strongest message is this: business-as-usual isn’t working.
Joan C. Williams, White Working Class
I recently presented my synopsis of White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America by Joan C.Williams at the Urban Engagement Book Club in Dallas. When I more recently read that President Biden had carefully read this book, I understood why he did so. This is a very good book.
Yes, it is about the white working class. But it is also about the way our world has changed, is changing, and will continue to change. And these changes have an impact on real people. And that impact presents real problems and challenges.
As I always do in my synopsis, I ask What is the point of this book? Here it is for this book: When progressive policymakers talk about guaranteeing things like paid sick leave or a higher minimum wage, they often frame them as issues that would help “working families.” But neither offers what my father-in-law had: a steady job that yielded his vision of a middle-class life. That’s what the working class still wants.
And I ask Why is this book worth our time? Here are my three reasons for this book:
#1 – This book identifies the very real class differences between groups in America.
#2 – This book especially helps the “educated” understand why they are so blind to these differences of class.
#3 – This book points to a very real problem: the financial (and overall) wellbeing of the 66% of the people who do not have a college degree (and, will not have a college degree).
I always include many Quotes and Excerpts from the book – the “best of” Randy’s highlighted Passages. Here are a few of the highlights I included in my synopsis:
From the Foreword by Mark Cuban:
Joan Williams’s book is truly enlightening. It describes the values I was raised with: self-reliance, hard work, stability, and straight talk.
But here’s the fact: not everyone is an entrepreneur, and not everyone has a direct path to a job that can pay their bills.
• Resistance to my message in the United States has been fed, too, by a narrative that posits a zero-sum game between race and class. Interestingly, there’s no sense that one can’t support both trans rights and racial justice, or both immigrant rights and gender justice.
• The challenge is to explain to the white working class that they have gotten screwed not because they are white but because they are working class. The sooner we start, the better.
• Soon 60 percent of jobs will be at least partially automated.
• If we were to commit to providing good jobs for noncollege grads, that would help communities of color as well as working-class whites.
• But the upshot is simply this: during an era when wealthy white Americans have learned to sympathetically imagine the lives of the poor, people of color, and LGBTQ people, the white working class has been insulted or ignored during precisely the period when their economic fortunes tanked.
• Empathy—something well-heeled and well-intentioned liberals often call for as a way to cross the class divide—often reads as condescension.
• Elites often pride ourselves on merit, and point out we work very hard. But so do hotel housekeepers. Let’s not forget that.
• A central way we make class disappear is to describe virtually everyone as “middle class.”
• A recent Bloomberg story quoted an amusement park worker earning $ 22,000 a year and a lawyer with an annual income of $ 200,000, both calling themselves middle class.
• The working class is wise to such people: to working-class minds, lawyers (and doctors and bankers) aren’t middle class. They are simply rich.
• Hard work for elites is associated with self-actualization; “disruption” means founding a successful start-up. Disruption, in working-class jobs, just gets you fired.
• Working-class African-Americans differ from whites in an important way: African-Americans understand the structural nature of inequality.
• Remember: class isn’t just about money. Everything we do is class-marked. Especially today. …• Today, the professional elite sends their kids to private schools, shops at Whole Foods, and reads Slate instead of watching Fox.
• You can’t provide child care for your grandchildren via Skype.
• In the past three decades, college graduates’ earnings have climbed to 60% higher than those of high school graduates, but the proportion of Americans who completed four-year degrees has not risen substantially. A slight increase in the percentage of women who graduate was offset by a decrease in the percentage of men.
• The American higher education system operates as a “caste system: it takes Americans who grew up in different social strata and it widens the divisions between them,” concludes public policy expert Suzanne Mettler.
• Wage inequality has increased among college graduates. Today, a top-earning male college graduate earns 90% more than a low-earning one; in 1979, that figure was 60% for women and 70% for men.
• An increasing number of male college grads end up in low- or medium-skilled jobs.
• Elite kids’ Taylorized… …leisure time helps them develop the skills required for white-collar jobs: how to “set priorities, manage an itinerary, shake hands with strangers, and work on a team,” “work smoothly with acquaintances…
• Nonelite women got more callbacks than the elite women. Class privilege helps men at work; it seems to hold women back. Why? Because elite women are seen as a “flight risk,” people who will opt out of work to engage in the all-or-nothing elite battle to get their kids into a top college.
• LET’S STATE RIGHT UP FRONT that racism is an issue in the white working class, and it goes back a long way.
• “[O]ne marker of having progressive politics is displaying oneself as antiracist, and this can, at times, unfortunately manifest as a demeaning of and distancing from white working-class people, who are constructed as stupid and racist.”
• The Workplace Experiences Survey shows that not only people of color but also women and individuals with disabilities report they have to prove themselves over and over again, much more so than majority men. Addressing prove-it-again bias through structural reforms will level the playing field for everyone.
• Many working-class women have the same kinds of pink-collar jobs their mothers did, but their husbands don’t have the blue-collar jobs their fathers did.
• “We laugh about how white perpetrators of mass murders manage to be captured alive time and time again,” wrote a friend describing her reading group of 12 black women, while African-Americans meet death at the hands of the police for selling cigarettes.
• At the same time, police have a stressful and dangerous job, and most work hard to do a tough job well. We need to change destructive organizational cultures in both the military and the police, but at the same time we must respect the women and men who do the difficult and dangerous jobs that keep the rest of us safe.
Here are a few key points I highlighted from the book:
- This book is about one thing: the white working class.
- And, helping us think about the white working class.
- the white-working class has felt betrayed and abandoned.
- Maybe the dominant concern in the book – what about the lesser-educated? (And, the lesser-educated you will always have with you)
- two-thirds of Americans don’t have college degrees).
- The “plight” of the white working class:
- The typical white working-class household income doubled in the three decades after World War II but has not risen appreciably since.
- The death rate for white working-class men—and women—aged 45-54 increased substantially between 1993 and 2013.
- Front and center with these concerns:
- There are two reasons I think we have to try to replace it with a healthier one. The first is ethical: I am committed to social equality, not for some groups but for all groups. The second is strategic: the hidden injuries of class now have become visible in politics so polarized that our democracy is threatened.
- Why Does the Working Class Resent the Poor?
- the poor got health insurance, while some Americans just a tiny bit better off saw their premiums rise.
- subsidies are largely nonexistent for the middle class. — 30% of poor families get subsidies; very few working-class families do (about 3%).
- For working-class Americans, maintaining two full-time jobs and a settled life is a significant achievement, one that takes unrelenting drive and rigorous self-discipline.
- A word about Religion differences:
- “set in cement” vs. find your own “mixture” (on pursuit of “self-actualization”)
- Looking down on religion is a commonplace form of modern snobbery.
- Why do elites seek out novelty while the working class seeks out stability? For one thing, elites can afford it—
- “What do you do?” – the question not to ask the working-class person…
- “What do you do?” question to a classmate. The classmate’s face got very red as he came right up into Jim’s face and hissed, “I sell toilets.” — This helps explain why, in working-class communities, attention often shifts from what one does to who one is—to character.
- Order Givers vs. Order Takers
- The professional-class values of sophistication, boundary breaking, and creativity are all useful for getting and keeping a job if you’re an order giver who has to signal initiative.
- Working-class whites value stability and dependability—dispositions useful for getting and keeping a job if you’re an order taker.
And, I always end my synopses with my lessons and takeaways for the book. Here are my five lessons and takeaways from this book:
#1 – There are deep and abiding class differences between groups in the United States. We need to learn what these are, and how to recognize them.
#2 – Two thirds of the people in the United States do not have a college degree; and that number will most likely never change. We have to think about the needs of, the fears of, and the realities facing, the lesser-educated.
#3 – Yes, there is racism; and sexism; among the white working class. We have to learn how to communicate in the midst of this reality.
#4 – We all need to engage in a little more consciousness-raising and empathy building. Exposure to books like this can help.
#5 – We must beware of any kind of rejection of a whole class of people. This includes being aware of the dangers of ridicule; condescension; and condemnation.
I think our country is undergoing some changes, and something of a reckoning. This is one of quite a few books I would recommend that you read to understand what we are facing at thise moment in our country.
- For further reading:
This article from the Harvard Business Review went viral, and provided the foundation for this book: What So Many People Don’t Get About the U.S. Working Class by Joan C. Williams.
The Urban Engagement Book Club meets every third Thursday. We are currently meeting over Zoom, at 12:30pm, for these sessions. Click here to see the line-up of books for the remainder of 2021.
• In scout mindset, there’s no such thing as a “threat” to your beliefs. If you find out you were wrong about something, great—you’ve improved your map, and that can only help you.
• Let’s recap. In soldier mindset, our thinking is guided by the question “Can I believe it?” about things we want to accept, and “Must I believe it?” about things we want to reject.
• In scout mindset, our thinking is guided by the question “Is it true?”
• Scout mindset: the motivation to see things as they are, not as you wish they were.
• Scout mindset is what allows you to recognize when you are wrong, to seek out your blind spots, to test your assumptions and change course. It’s what prompts you to honestly ask yourself questions like “Was I at fault in that argument?” or “Is this risk worth it?” As the late physicist Richard Feynman once said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.”
• This book is about the less explored side of that coin, the times we succeed in not fooling ourselves, and what we can learn from those successes.
• Knowing that you should test your assumptions doesn’t automatically improve your judgment, any more than knowing you should exercise automatically improves your health. — • Being able to rattle off a list of biases and fallacies doesn’t help you unless you’re willing to acknowledge those biases and fallacies in your own thinking.
• Being in scout mindset means wanting your “map”—your perception of yourself and the world—to be as accurate as possible.
• And it means always being open to changing your mind in response to new information.
• They’re more conscious of the possibility that their map of reality could be wrong, and more open to changing their mind. …This book is about what those people are doing right, and what we can learn from them to help us move from soldier to scout ourselves.
• It’s as if you’re hanging a sign around your neck: “Under New Management.”
• Sometimes we choose soldier mindset, furthering our emotional or social goals at the expense of accuracy. Sometimes we choose scout mindset, seeking out the truth even if it turns out not to be what we were hoping for.
Julia Galef: The Scout Mindset
We are in something of a “re-think stuff” moment.
We got a lot wrong when the pandemic hit. Starting with: we did not heed the warnings, that really were sounded loud and clear, that a pandemic was going to come at us. And, when it arrived, we did not heed the warnings that it was going to be bad. Some got it really wrong: a Stanford professor named John Ioannidis predicted, in the Spring of 2020, that the virus would kill no more than 10,000 in the U.S. The death toll in the U.S. is over 600,000 as I type this.
So, if we are paying attention– and, for some, that is a big if – we should know by now that we can get some pretty big stuff wrong. Badly wrong. Dangerously wrong.
Now, about this re-think moment. A couple of months ago at the First Friday Book Synopsis, I presented my synopsis of Think Again: The Power of Knowing What you Don’t Know by Adam Grant. (Click here for my blog post: Think Again by Adam Grant – Here are my Six Lessons and Takeaways).
This month at our monthly event, I presented my synopsis of The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t by Julia Galef. This book could practically be a companion volume to Think Again. If you have time to read only one, I would probably go with Think Again. But if you were to take time to read both, you would learn more, and you might more fully realize that you – yes, you – probably need to go back and re-visit some things; you need to think things through all over again; many times; many things. (And, yes; I need to do the same).
I divide my synopses into different parts, all with the intention of letting the content of the book itself speak to us.
I begin by asking “What is the point of the book?” Here is how I worded the point of this book: You could be wrong. (OK – You are wrong). And, you could be your own worst enemy in staying wrong. You need a new mindset; the scout mindset; scouting for the “truth.”
And I ask “Why is this book worth our time?” Her are my four answers for this book:
#1 – This book describes the reality of our divided country; where seemingly few minds ever change.
#2 – This book describes the way we fool ourselves about our own “rightness.”
#3 – This book beckons us to be much more honest, with ourselves; and to become perpetual, seekers of the better if not the truth).
#4 – This book provides practical steps to follow to become a person with more of a scout mindset.
I always include Quotes and Excerpts from the book – the “best of” Randy’s highlighted Passages. Here are quite a few of the ones I included in this synopsis from this book:
• The best description of motivated reasoning I’ve ever seen comes from psychologist Tom Gilovich. When we want something to be true, he said, we ask ourselves, “Can I believe this?,” searching for an excuse to accept it. When we don’t want something to be true, we instead ask ourselves, “Must I believe this?,” searching for an excuse to reject it.
• Denial, wishful thinking, confirmation bias, rationalization, tribalism, self-justification, overconfidence, delusion. Motivated reasoning is so fundamental to the way our minds work that it’s almost strange to have a special name for it; perhaps it should just be called reasoning.
• When considering a claim, we implicitly ask ourselves, “What kind of person would believe a claim like this, and is that how I want other people to see me?”
• The nihilist isn’t trying to get other people to believe in nihilism. He’s trying to get them to believe that he believes in nihilism.
• ARE WE RATIONALLY IRRATIONAL? …Are we any good at it? Are we good at intuitively weighing the costs and benefits of knowing the truth, in a given situation, against the costs and benefits of believing a lie?
• As Francis Bacon said, “Hope is a good breakfast, but a bad supper.”
• We underestimate the cumulative harm of false beliefs, and the cumulative benefit of practicing scout habits. We overestimate how much other people judge us, and how much impact their judgments have on our lives. As a result of all these tendencies, we end up being far too willing to sacrifice our ability to see clearly in exchange for short-term emotional and social rewards.
• Living in the modern world also means we have many more opportunities to fix things we don’t like about our lives.
• If you’re bad at something, you can take classes, read a For Dummies book, watch a YouTube tutorial, get a tutor, or hire someone to do it for you.
• If your family is abusive, you can cut ties with them.
• Deciding which solutions are worth trying is a matter of judgment. Deciding which problems in your life are worth trying to solve at all, versus simply learning to live with, is a matter of judgment, too.
• After all, what’s the point of admitting your problems exist if you can’t fix them? What’s the point of noticing your disagreements with your community if you can’t leave?
• “I’m an objective person, so my views on gun control must be correct, unlike the views of all those irrational people who disagree with me,” we think.
• Do you tell other people when you realize they were right? …I now wish to make the personal acknowledgment that you were right and I was wrong.
• Do you ever prove yourself wrong?
• “If we got kicked out and the board brought in a new CEO, what do you think he would do?” Gordon answered without hesitation, “He would get us out of memories.” I stared at him, numb, then said, “Why shouldn’t you and I walk out the door, come back and do it ourselves?”
• Putting a belief into the “70% sure” bucket is like saying, “This is the kind of thing I expect to get right roughly 70 percent of the time.”
• Your answer will be more honest if you switch from thinking in terms of “What can I get away with claiming to myself?” to “How would I bet, if there was something at stake?” (Note from RM – cf. Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb).
• One of the most fundamental human needs is to feel like things are basically okay: that we’re not failures, that the world isn’t a horrible place, and that whatever life throws at us, we’ll be able to handle it. …That’s why most people in an emergency resort to various forms of motivated reasoning, like denial, wishful thinking, and rationalizing. The cruel irony is that an emergency is when you most need to be clear-eyed.
• But scouts aren’t motivated by the thought, “This is going to succeed.” They’re motivated by the thought, “This is a bet worth taking.”
• Yet in practice, things often seem to work the other way around—accepting the possibility of failure in advance is liberating. It makes you bold, not timid.
Musk admitted that he actually feels fear very strongly. He’s just learned to manage that fear by coming to terms with the probability of failure.
• So in starting SpaceX, I thought the odds of success were less than 10 percent, and I just accepted that probably I would lose everything.”
• “You want to get into a mental state where if the bad outcome comes to pass, you will only nod your head and say ‘I knew this card was in the deck, and I knew the odds, and I would make the same bets again, given the same opportunities.’”
• The math is brutal; a study by the Federal Trade Commission calculated that over 99 percent of people who sign up for an MLM end up with less money than they started with (in addition to losing all the time they put into it).
Here are a number of the key points I included in my synopsis. (Note: the statements below that are in italics are directly from the book):
- THE issue is self-awareness.
- THE issue is self-deception.
- A key factor preventing us from being in scout mindset more frequently is our conviction that we’re already in it.
- When you start from the premise that you’re an objective thinker, you lend your conclusions an air of unimpeachability they usually don’t deserve.
- Your ability to see clearly is precious, and you should be reluctant to sacrifice it in exchange for emotional comfort.
- You might fail:
- some of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs expected their companies to fail. Jeff Bezos put Amazon’s probability of success at about 30 percent.
- You could be wrong:
- For example, how can you tell when your own reasoning is biased? …the outsider test, the selective skeptic test, and the conformity test to examine your reasoning about what you believe and what you want.
- “I’m fair and objective – you, are not!”
- The tricky thing about motivated reasoning is that even though it’s easy to spot in other people, it doesn’t feel like motivated reasoning from the inside. When we reason, it feels like we’re being objective. Fair-minded.
- So we look for evidence to support, bolster, or buttress our position.
- And if we do change our minds? That’s surrender.
- The types of questions to ask:
- At work, those tough questions might include: Do I really have to fire that employee? How much do I need to prepare for that presentation tomorrow? Is it best for my company to raise a lot of funding now or am I just tempted by the instant validation that raising funds would give me? Do I really need to keep improving this product before releasing it or am I just looking for reasons to put off taking the plunge?
- Chesterton’s fence:
- I try to abide by the rule that when you advocate changing something, you should make sure you understand why it is the way it is in the first place. This rule is known as Chesterton’s fence,
- You don’t want to change…you work against change
- Comfort, self-esteem, and morale are emotional benefits, meaning that the ultimate target of our deception is ourselves. — Persuasion, image, and belonging are social benefits—in these cases, the ultimate target of our deception is other people, by way of ourselves.
- Rather than boosting your self-esteem by denying your flaws, you could instead boost your self-esteem by noticing and fixing those flaws.
- It’s easy to think, “Of course I change my mind in response to evidence,” or “Of course I apply my principles consistently,” or “Of course I’m fair-minded,” whether or not those things are true. …It’s whether you can point to concrete cases in which you did, in fact, do these things. …The only real sign of a scout is whether you act like one.
- Still, a willingness to say “I was wrong” to someone else is a strong sign of a person who prizes the truth over their own ego.
- First we persuade ourselves; Maybe, at times, we should question ourselves in the process…
- When we need to persuade other people of something, we become motivated to believe it ourselves, and seek out arguments and evidence we could use in its defense.
- Belonging matters…
- all social groups have some beliefs and values that members are implicitly expected to share.
- Fitting in isn’t only about conforming to the group consensus. It also means demonstrating your loyalty to the group by rejecting any evidence that threatens its figurative honor.
- We make unconscious tradeoffs:
- We trade off between judgment and belonging.
- We trade off between judgment and persuasion.
- We trade off between judgment and morale.
- We make these trade-offs, and many more, all the time, usually without even realizing we’re doing so. After all, the whole point of self-deception is that it’s occurring beneath our conscious awareness.
- Check your facts!
- Every time you say, “Oh, that’s a good point, I hadn’t thought of that,” it gets a little bit easier for you to acknowledge good points in general. Every time you opt to check a fact before citing it, you become a little bit more likely to remember to check your facts in general.
- Every time you’re willing to say, “I was wrong,” it gets a little bit easier to be wrong in general.
- Don’t kid yourself; don’t deceive yourself!
- WE UNDERESTIMATE THE RIPPLE EFFECTS OF SELF-DECEPTION — “deception begets more deception.”
- Just simply “update”
- if you at least start to think in terms of “updating” instead of “admitting you were wrong,” you may find that it takes a lot of friction out of the process. An update is routine. Low-key.
- All too often, we assume the only two possibilities are “I’m right” or “The other guy is right”—and since the latter seems absurd, we default to the former. …But in many cases, there’s an unknown unknown, a hidden “option C,” that enriches our picture of the world in a way we wouldn’t have been able to anticipate.
- Hold your identity lightly
- Holding an identity lightly means treating that identity as contingent, saying to yourself, “I’m a liberal, for as long as it continues to seem to me that liberalism is just.”
And, as I do at the end of all of my synopses, I end with my own lessons and takeaways. Here are my Five Lessons and Takeaways from this book:
#1 – Do begin to admit that you are wrong about some things. Because…you are.
#2 – Learn to learn from more diverse sources. – Read more widely; watch and listen more widely.
#3 – Get much better at self-awareness. This is critical.
#4 – Become more aware of, and more honest about, your own biases.
#5 – Learn to place good bets. Because, true certainty is pretty much unattainable.
I have no idea what you are wrong about. But, I have no doubt that you are wrong about something… something important.
I am working on identifying where I am wrong about some things. But, I confess, it is hard work, and sometimes it is slow going.
But this book, and Think Again by Adam Grant, have helped me realize anew my own unintentional, and at times, intentional blindness. So, I have my own work to do.
What about you? Are you never, ever wrong; about anything? Or, are you willing to admit that you could be wrong about some things? Are you willing to work on this yourself; actually, to work on yourself?
You can purchase my 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. My synopsis of Think Again is still near the top on this page. The Scout Mindset will be added soon.
Each synopsis comes with my comprehensive, multi-page synopsis handout, plus the audio recording of my presentation made at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.
Kim Scott does not hold back. She gets in your face; and tells it like she thinks it is. She is direct; self-revealing; she does not beat around the bush.
At the First Friday Book Synopsis, I presented my synopsis of her first book, Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity, shortly after it was published. Her formula, “Care Personally-Challenge Directly,” is one that I have repeated to many audiences.
This month at the May First Friday Book Synopsis, I presented my synopsis of her newest book: Just Work: Get Sh*t Done, Fast & Fair. It is not a sequel. This book covers new ground; ground that needed to be covered.
I said in my synopsis that this book starts with this assumption: Kim Scott assumes that the people in the organization have the “hard skills” to do the job they were hired to do. They know how to do the work at hand.
What then messes things up is that too many of the leaders, and workers, are not “fair; just.” And this unfairness, and lack of justice, is seemingly everywhere present: against women, against Black people, and against other “underrepresented” groups within the organization; especially within the leadership of the organization.
Therefore, let me just say this up-front. If you are a business owner; a leader; or an HR director; this book is practically must-reading.
In my synopses, I always ask; What is the point of this book. Here is it for this book: Too many workplaces are places of injustice. We need to create workplaces that treat people in just ways. This book will help us do that.
And I ask; Why is this book worth our time? I gave three reasons for this book:
#1 – This book is a thorough and compelling look at workplace injustice.
#2 – This book provides a blueprint, a carefully designed approach to create places of just work; work where people are treated in just ways.
#3 – This book tells us clearly that places of just work will not happen on their own. They must…they must…be created, built, and protected.
I always included Quotes and Excerpts from the book – the “best of” Randy’s highlighted Passages. Here are quite a few (I included many others in my synopsis):
• It took me 30 years to come up with a theory that united my intellectual questions about how to build just working environments with my personal experiences of being mistreated at work. This book is the result of that effort.
• Workplace injustice is actually six different problems: bias, prejudice, bullying, discrimination, verbal harassment, and physical violations. This book will go deep on each of these attitudes and behaviors to identify how leaders, observers, people harmed, and even people who cause harm can respond in a way that moves us toward Just Work—an environment in which everyone can collaborate and respect one another’s individuality.
• I will offer strategies for people harmed by injustice. I will also offer strategies for people who observe workplace injustice; for people who cause harm to learn to recognize how their behaviors poison a team’s ability to collaborate; and for leaders, so they can learn not only to react effectively when such issues arise but also to prevent injustice from occurring in the first place.
• This book is about the things we can do, now, to create just, effective work environments.
• The goal is to give everyone the opportunity to do work they love and to enjoy collaborating with their colleagues, free from the inefficiency and resentment that unjust treatment breeds.
• The fundamental premise of this book is that there are things each of us can do to eliminate injustice from the workplace. My goal is that you will finish it with an ability to parse problems you are confronting and with several strategies for how to address them so that you and the people around you can Just Work. Today.
• The shared goal is to create an environment in which everyone can do better work and be happier while they are doing it.
• I assume that if you bought this book and have read this far, you want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
• I marched through my career ignoring the unfair disadvantages and advantages I had,
• It’s hard for the author of Radical Candor to admit, but I was in denial.
But wherever you go, there you are.
• I was always a woman and there was always gender injustice, everywhere. …usually in ways I didn’t like to think about.
• I was always white, and there was always racial injustice, everywhere.
• I was never poor, and there is always economic injustice, everywhere.
• I was always straight, and there is always homophobia, everywhere.
• Just Work is more urgent than ever. …creating more just workplaces at a time when jobs are scarce is especially important, because employees are especially vulnerable.
• Just Work is fair and effective. Injustice is both immoral and inefficient.
• A key goal of this book is to build compassion for ourselves in all the roles and to develop strategies for responding more effectively to workplace injustice, no matter what role we find ourselves in.
• At some level, Just Work is so very simple. It’s about respecting each person’s individuality so you can collaborate and get sh*t done. Who doesn’t want that?
• Radical Candor worked. But it didn’t work equally well for everyone. When a woman is radically candid, she often gets called bitchy, abrasive, bossy, and so on. Furthermore, the competence/ likability bias is real.
• But for women there is a rub: the more competent she is, the less people, including her boss, like her. And when the boss doesn’t like you, it’s hard to get promoted.
• Bias is “not meaning it.” Bias, often called unconscious bias, comes from the part of our mind that jumps to conclusions, usually without our even being aware of it. These conclusions and assumptions aren’t always wrong, but they often are, especially when they reflect stereotypes. We do not have to be the helpless victims of our brains. We can learn to slow down and question our biases. Prejudice is “meaning it.” Unfortunately, when we stop to think, we don’t always come up with the best answer, either. Sometimes we rationalize our biases and they harden into prejudices. In other words, we justify our biases rather than challenging their flawed assumptions and stereotypes.
• The Black Lives Matter protests have highlighted what mainstream white America has long refused to notice: how frequently what we call bias is not unconscious bias, but rather conscious prejudice; and how both bias and prejudice turn violent in the blink of an eye. …Treating racism as though it were simply unconscious bias puts people in harm’s way.
• It’s an old and persistent myth that women should not only remain subordinate to men but also be responsible for managing their behavior.
• Toni Morrison explained how racial bias, prejudice, and bullying can get in the way of Just Work: “The very serious function of racism … is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work.
• Remember: Bullying doesn’t always look like a big kid on a playground pushing around a smaller one. Sometimes a bully can just be a person who’s in an overwhelming majority making assumptions about someone who is underrepresented.
• No training can possibly change deeply ingrained patterns of thought. Practice is key.
• Moneyball illustrates three important points. One, bias creeps into everyone’s decision-making, often unconsciously. Two, decision makers habitually make bad calls based on these flawed observations, and all too often nobody challenges the bias. Three, bias results in suboptimal decision-making that is usually bad for everyone, even the “beneficiaries.”
• As Ibram X. Kendi wrote in How to Be an Antiracist, “Denial is the heartbeat of racism, beating across ideologies, races, and nations. It is beating within us.”
• I would like to imagine that nobody really believes that white people are superior to all others. But one of the most painful reckonings of 2016 to 2020 was the extent to which attitudes that too many of us had dismissed as unconscious bias were revealed to be conscious prejudices that were being used to justify discriminatory policies.
I included many key points from the book. Here are a few:
- “Unequal” does not work…
- Inequities in corporations and institutions are not only unfair; they are ineffective. According to a McKinsey study, “companies in the bottom quartile for both gender and ethnic/cultural diversity were 29% less likely to achieve above-average profitability than were all other companies in our data set. In short, not only were they not leading, they were lagging.” Homogeneous teams underperform.
- Doing nothing does not work…
- If we don’t intervene, we reinforce vicious cycles in which injustice compounds over time.
- Six Elements of Un-Just Work
- PART ONE: THE ROOT CAUSES OF WORKPLACE INJUSTICE Bias, Prejudice, and Bullying
- Bias, often called unconscious bias, comes from the part of our mind that jumps to conclusions… Prejudice is “meaning it.”Prejudice, however, is a conscious and ingrained belief.
- Bullying is “being mean.”
- What’s important is to draw a clear boundary between people’s right to believe whatever they want and their freedom to impose their prejudices on others.
- Once positional power enters the equation, bullying becomes harassment. When someone is bullying you, the person’s goal is to harm you.
- the first and perhaps most difficult part of your job is to become aware of your biases.
- ANGER + BEING IN THE IN-GROUP = HIGH POTENTIAL FOR BULLYING
- The four “roles”
- In any instance of injustice you encounter at work, you will play at least one of four different roles: person harmed, upstander, person who caused harm, or leader.
- ROLE: PERSON HARMED — CHOOSE YOUR RESPONSE
- ROLE: OBSERVER UPSTANDER — INTERVENE. DON’T JUST WATCH
- ROLE: PERSON CAUSING HARM — LISTEN AND ADDRESS
- ROLE: LEADER — PREVENT AND REPAIR
- you need to be an upstander who proactively finds a way to support people harmed, not a passive bystander who simply watches harm being done, perhaps feeling bad about it but not doing anything about it.
- Feedback can help you learn to be more considerate, to avoid harming other people, and (at minimum) to correct your behavior before it escalates and causes greater harm and/ or gets you into serious trouble.
- Creating a just working environment is about eliminating bad behavior and reinforcing collaborative, respectful behavior.
- CREATING CONSEQUENCES FOR BULLYING: CONVERSATION, COMPENSATION, CAREER
- PART TWO: DISCRIMINATION, HARASSMENT, AND PHYSICAL VIOLATIONS
- Discrimination happens when you add power to bias or prejudice.
- Beware of:
- SYSTEM ONE: BRUTAL INEFFECTIVENESS — Brutal Ineffectiveness is what you get when the Coercion Dynamic and the Conformity Dynamic are happening at the same time and reinforcing each other.
- SYSTEM TWO: SELF-RIGHTEOUS SHAMING — Yes, it may be possible to intimidate people into hiding their prejudiced beliefs, but that doesn’t change what they think; it just makes it more likely it will come out in destructive, insidious ways.
- TECHNIQUES THAT WORK BETTER THAN SHAMING TO CONFRONT INJUSTICE AT WORK: COLLABORATE, DON’T COERCE
- WHAT WORKS BETTER THAN ZERO TOLERANCE FOR LEADERS? CREATE A CULTURE OF COLLABORATION: TEACH FOLKS TO “INVITE IN,” NOT “CALL OUT”
- ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE
- RESPECT INDIVIDUALITY, DON’T DEMAND CONFORMITY
- Write a code of conduct!
- Divide the work:
- in hiring, in promoting – so that no one person has too much power…
- Create a culture of consent.
- We need more women – and people of color – in positions of responsibility and leadership.
- Research backs up these anecdotal observations. Much more gains are made when two or more women are on the board/senior levels.
And here are my five lessons and takeaways:
#1 – Pay attention to what Kim Scott does. She reads – a lot. Books, articles, studies. She reads a lot! (The book is filled with notes from and references to books and articles). – And, she really reads widely! Go and do likewise.
#2 – Acknowledge your mistakes. First to yourself; then to others. — I believe the only way to do better is to acknowledge mistakes.
#3 – You have areas of unconscious bias. Examine yourself, and find your biases, and rid yourself of such biases.
#4 – Resolve to never be silent in the midst of bias, discrimination, or bullying. Become an upstander.
#5 – Pay special attention to the underrepresented. And work to have fewer overrepresented people; especially in positions of leadership. Balance out the teams!
Kim Scott has now written two books that are worth reading slowly, carefully…every word.
And, then, more importantly, they are worth heeding, and putting into practice.
How just is your workplace?
You can purchase my synopses of her two books, and many other books that I have presented. Each synopsis comes with the pdf of my comprehensive, multi-page handout, along with the audio recording of my presentation. (Just Work will be available soon. Click here to purchase my synopsis of Radical Candor).