Before I quit my job I read a bunch of books on entrepreneurism and they all went in one ear and out the other. Or in one eye and out the other, whateBefore I quit my job I read a bunch of books on entrepreneurism and they all went in one ear and out the other. Or in one eye and out the other, whatever it might be. In the last three years that I have owned my company, I’ve gone back to some of those books and suddenly they were packed with wisdom.
So I felt like a genuine member of the entrepreneurs’ club when I got to the first example in this book and recognized an old beginner habit of mine- putting the cart before the horse. The brand new entrepreneur has already sold his business and retired to a tropical beach… in his mind. Someone who has been in business a few months might have a detailed five year plan. Once you’ve owned a business for a year or so, you think you know what is going to happen this afternoon but you totally accept the fact that really you have no idea. Four years of philosophy training didn’t shake me of my belief in a predictable chain of causality, but a year of business ownership sure will.
This is the real world of entrepreneurship that the author is taking on. I’ve read a few book touting agility and it all sounds like great stuff, which inevitably opens the question, “Then why aren’t you doing it?” What sets this book apart from other books about agility is that it aims to help you resolve that question. What is it about you as a leader that is holding your company back from agility? What are your experiences, motivations and fears?
In reading the book, I discovered that the principle misconception I had about agility was it was all about how to be faster and bigger. Agility means the ability to change, therefore it can also be about being slower and smaller (duh). The author recommends a variety of ways to give you and your company the space to change- not to be faster and bigger, but to *change.* And change may well be slower and smaller, but you sure can’t do any of those things if you’ve built yourself into a corner with pointless commitments and rigid thinking.
The author recommends a singular house purge which, as has been noted by many others, isn't very realistic in a giant American house in a culture wherThe author recommends a singular house purge which, as has been noted by many others, isn't very realistic in a giant American house in a culture where everyone is essentially a hoarder. But her premise that everything in the house should make you happy, and then knocking down all the OTHER reasons people keep stuff around is very good I think. This of course requires knowing what makes you happy. The author recommends a Five Why's approach to figuring that out.
I am most susceptible to the financial excuse for hoarding: "I might need one of those one day so if I throw it away and have to buy it again I am wasting money." My cures have been within the financial premise: American houses are mainly for hoarding, having a smaller house and no storage shed saves more money than if I had to buy that thing again. However, as the author points out, staying inside that frame means you can never win because the right answer is still to have as much stuff as is financially viable.
The author demands that one break free of the financial premise entirely. Or whichever is holding you back- she explains a few common ones and how they play out.
Does it make you happy? Stick to that one question. And the author has no middle ground stand on what hoarding is- it is either something you should keep or you are hoarding. No "I just have clutter." In her framework, one has to break free of the entire mindset of hoarding to have, not just a clean house, but a good life.
Here is one example of something I got rid of because of that change in mindset: I have a shredder in the corner of my office, but I hate shredding. I collect papers in a box by my desk and have a shredding truck come by periodically. Under the financial model I should not throw away the shredder because nothing else is going to go in that corner (no marginal cost of storage) and I might use it some day. But does it make me happy? No. In fact, it makes me unhappy. So away it went.
It goes beyond that to the downright insane: I have the coasters my ex-husband bought 20 years ago before we were married and left behind. I hate those coasters. But I couldn't replace perfectly good coasters, so I've been living with coasters I hate for TWO DECADES. I've thrown away, recycled or delivered to Goodwill hundreds of pounds of stuff since seeing an article about this book in the New York Times and read the book as I was getting going.
I think some reviewers are mistaken to think that this means minimalism. It doesn't mean that at all. The author specifically discusses odd collections which nontheless are loved by their owners. It's a matter of getting rid of everything you hate so that you can love the things you love. For example, I went through my bathroom drawers and got rid of an entire garbage bag of stuff. I didn't get rid of it to have less stuff, I got rid of it because I loved absolutely none of it. In doing so, I found two things I love that I had forgotten I even owned. It isn't reducing just to reduce, it is reducing to get to the things you love.
There are surely other organizing professionals saying the same things about getting rid of things you don't love. But there are also many who are NOT: if the problem is "organizing" rather than hoarding, then one can neatly sidestep the problem as well as sell you more organizing things. I thought the book just happened to strike me at the right moment and wasn't THAT special, but as I have been tidying other people struck by my example have read the book and been similarly affected....more
My opinion is that every single person needs the skills discussed in this book, not just marketers. In the Brand You era, these are the skills you need to promote yourself and also perhaps your employer, if they're going to be paying you to do that. When I graduated from college, I got Franklin Covey Style Guide for Business and Technical Communication. Ann Handley's book covers the 21st century version of essential writing skills like that book did for the 20th century....more
This book is enough to make you fall in love with philosophy all over again- rigorous, well-written (what!) and the only original thing in philosophyThis book is enough to make you fall in love with philosophy all over again- rigorous, well-written (what!) and the only original thing in philosophy I have read in a very long time. Bravo!
The author is passionate about the topic and the very beginning of the book matches the frothing-at-the-mouth feel of the title. He chills out as he gets into the stride of his argument, until the surprise ending where he, ta-da… well, it wouldn’t be a surprise ending if I spoiled it. A philosophy book with spoiler potential?! Yes, that is how good this book is.
I am not the author’s ideal reader. Indeed, he pegs my ambivalence fairly well (even if I wouldn’t go so far as to put myself in the historicist camp- what is ambivalence good for if not camp-avoidance): “Historicists are for the most part content to mask whatever logical uneasiness they might feel with a visceral sense of still being somehow on the right track, despite the infelicities from which they must avert their eyes. Regardless of the good intentions that might thereby seem to be preserved, such an attitude lacks philosophical conscientiousness.”
Okay, fine. Guilty. However, I do have a few issues of my own to bring up about the book. Specifically, yet another book that regards the limitation of free will as an intolerable crime without given a conscientious argument for the truth of free will! If a primary reason to reject what we are heartily told we must reject is because it offends the concept of free will, we had better have a good reason to see free will as worth defending.
And, in general, the author of this book is fine with the nose of the historicist camel poking around under the edge of the tent because that is a good thing and makes us more self-aware just so long as we understand that we are not, ever, to accept the entire camel. This never ends well.
The author believes he has delineated a particular kind of historicism you can agree with. A goat, let’s say. The goat can come in and you can throw the camel out. The writing is good enough both intellectually and artistically that I am lulled into believing him totally. I may come to my senses when I wake up with a goat in my tent and an angry camel still circling outside. ...more
The book is very short, focused to the topic, and crisply written. It starts with a brief overview of the ancients, the Marx, then various perspectiveThe book is very short, focused to the topic, and crisply written. It starts with a brief overview of the ancients, the Marx, then various perspectives from the Frankfurt School all while staying tightly on the topic. A couple of slight counterpoints are provided, but in general the arguments are summarized and left on their own.
Of course there is a much wider debate on the topic, this book is really just an introduction to the Frankfurt School. While on the one hand I wish that had been clear in the title, on the other hand would I have ended up reading it if it were? So I cannot complain about this....more
In this book the author sets out to explain what philosophy is good for (asking and framing questions) and then provides in each chapter a common issuIn this book the author sets out to explain what philosophy is good for (asking and framing questions) and then provides in each chapter a common issue where philosophers are asked to comment and a philosophical frame for asking questions about the issue.
The chapters are very clearly and crisply written and this book would serve as an excellent introduction to philosophy for anyone. I would think it would be especially excellent for high school students, but the chapter on religion may make it impossible for most schools to use, here in the USA at least.
As a little bit of an insider with a degree in philosophy as well as a degree and career history in medical research, I take particular joy in the author's rescue of philosophy from the industrial chimera that has arisen in the USA as so-called "bioethics."...more
The book was written to be accessible and is thus infused with an optimism and engagement which is refreshing after spending time recently on more acaThe book was written to be accessible and is thus infused with an optimism and engagement which is refreshing after spending time recently on more academic books. The book is also another example of how one can write about philosophy and ethics with seriousness--no one could possibly accuse Russell of not being serious--and also with kindness and good manners....more
There is nothing wrong with the book in terms of being counter-factual, I'm just not able to imagine who would benefit from reading it.
If you were totThere is nothing wrong with the book in terms of being counter-factual, I'm just not able to imagine who would benefit from reading it.
If you were totally ignorant of the sociology of the internet, the book not only wouldn't be helpful in a how-to way, but I'm also not sure it would make any sense. A person who is familiar should be familiar with all the concepts covered in the book. *shrug*...more
The author has a brilliant concept of society, this I will not argue. In life one is offered many solutions to modern life with little analysis or bacThe author has a brilliant concept of society, this I will not argue. In life one is offered many solutions to modern life with little analysis or background, such as the solution of spending more time in nature. And I have heard a counter-argument to that solution which suggests that because nature is amoral it decreases the moral good of those exposed to it rather than increases it. Without directly addressing that argument, the author makes an exceptionally good argument in this book for why connections with nature are a good counterpoint to the difficulties of modernity. Essentially, modernity turns everything inward such that it is only self-referential. Nature, in its inability to be controlled, cannot be pulled into those reflexive structures. Consequently exposure to nature can present a non-reflexive reality to a person who has been trained to only exist reflexively. And there’s more where that came from.
So that’s the good. It is considerable and you would be better off for having read the book. I took 25 pages of notes. Now for the bad: The author is known for churning out book after book and if this book is any example of the self-indulgence involved then one need not wonder how he does it. The shortcomings in scholarship are particularly irksome in the present environment where publishers claim to have a purpose as quality control. If this is all they can do, Stanford University Press has no purpose in being. By far the most egregious example of poor scholarship is a citation of Kafka which is a secondary citation. This is an author who surely can assign a grad student to go find the proper citation for him but he just doesn’t even bother, and the publisher let him get away with it.
But wait, there’s more. The author cites hardly any other works or facts. It’s simply him and his wisdom having a little solipsistic party. Two entire chapters of the book are written as analysis of other books which were picked just because. One chapter is on the genre of self-actualization self-help books, written as an analysis of a randomly selected book. Again, given the availability of unlimited grad students one would expect the author to select some particular book for some particular reason. Raffle off a Twinkie for the best reason. Having some reason is just not that hard.
Leaving that behind, I do have a couple of quibbles with his arguments. The main one is that at the end of the book he gives humanity an assignment which he believes will lead out of the impossible morass of modernity, but the author has not answered two fundamental questions: Why would humanity come together to respond to his assignment? (This is making me laugh a lot- really, why? Have you ever tried to tell a group of people to do something? Let alone every last person on the planet. LMAO.) And, does free will (agency, if you must) exist such that the assignment has any meaning?
The book reminds me quite a bit of The Technological Society, where Ellul also explains an impossible-to-counter direction of society and after explaining all the possibilities at considerable length provides an unsatisfactory way out. But Ellul at least has a reason, even if it is not a very good one, for making the argument in the context of free will. This author is silent on the matter.
And a last matter of irksomeness is that the author uses the term “morality” without any particular meaning. Near the end of the book the author presents a chart attempting to show an analysis of moral questions as they emerge from existential realities, but it is as haphazard as the books the author selected to respond to and therefore does not answer the question of what he means by morality. In fact, if what the author means is direct existential questions, then how the author uses the term in the book as a solution is problematic.
Misc review footnote: The issues discussed in this book map very well to the novels of Thomas Hardy....more
The first three-quarters of this book are five stars. It ways mind-blowing and anyone who is concerned about authority, especially if you are in a posThe first three-quarters of this book are five stars. It ways mind-blowing and anyone who is concerned about authority, especially if you are in a position of authority in a business, civic organization or family should absolutely read this book. I would dream of it being required reading at MBA school.
It does break down a bit toward the end. There is the always tricky issue of personal responsibility and I think he aims a little high: rejecting the concept of authority doesn't really help if the person in authority can kill you. Let's say he fails to adequately problematize the issue.
And then the final chapter devolves into a level of lyricism until the final paragraph of the book is simply poetry. Which is fine for poetry, but the format of the book calls for something more direct. It seems he throws up his hands, declares he cannot reach a resolution, and walks away from the dialectic mess.
As, really, we all wish we could do, but I *expected* him to offer a conclusion even if it wasn't true....more