Chapter One is below.
Read the Author’s Preface by clicking here.
I reminded myself that we were in a well-lit office, not a dark alley. No need to get aggressive yet. I relaxed my jaw and tried to keep the fear out of my voice as I replied, “If you pull my people off your project, there’s no way you’ll meet the delivery date.”
My client looked at me blandly, as if he had delivered a weather forecast. In fact, he had devastated my sales forecast. Five fewer of my consultants billing their time to this client meant there was no way I would meet quota to earn my bonus. I needed him to engage with me. I forced a response with a direct question that was also a threat. “Did Juan approve this staffing cut?”
“Why would I check with Juan?” asked the Director of Information Systems Development (ISD) for Billing Systems. He ran his finger down a page of the MCI internal directory as he spoke, “Nobody (more…)
Crimes of Cunning
On Sale Now!
A comedy of personal and political transformation in the deteriorating American workplace.
Click here to see it on Amazon.com
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Fast-paced, funny, and smart. This novel puts you into the world of a young MBA striving to succeed at a famous high-tech company. Brash and confident yet comically inept, Tony clashes with colleagues, clients, and even his biggest supporters. He fires his most loyal employee, derails the career of his only friend, and nearly destroys his young marriage before transforming from chilly corporate collaborator to empathetic executive coach. Laugh and learn as his clients turn criminal, corporations collapse, and compassion triumphs.
It should be as much the aim of those who seek for social-betterment to rid the business world of crimes of cunning as to rid the entire body politic of crimes of violence.
–Theodore Roosevelt, 1901
A veteran executive coach draws on his years inside Arthur Andersen, Wall Street, and MCI to share a moving story that explains why your 401k shrank, your house is underwater, and your job stinks. The comedy and conflict illustrate management methods and personal practices that can improve your career and deepen your personal relationships.
Click here to read a free sample.
The Evolving Self: A Psychology for the Third Millennium
by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D.
This is a sequel to Flow.
See a summary of that book by clicking here.
Purchase this book on-line through Amazon.com
See other recommended books.
P. 5 This, in brief, is the project of this book. It will first explore the forces from the past that have shaped us and made us the kind of organisms we are; it will describe ways of being that help us free ourselves of the dead hand of the past; it will propose approaches to life that improve its quality and lead to joyful involvement; and it will reflect on ways to integrate the growth and liberation of the self with that of society as a whole.
P. 11 The thesis of this book is that becoming an active, conscious part of the evolutionary process is the best way to give meaning to our lives at the present moment in time, and to enjoy each moment along the way.
P. 11 Individuals who develop to the fullest their uniqueness, yet at the same time identify with the larger forces at work in the cosmos, escape the loneliness of the individual destinies.
P. 15 The idea of free will is a self-fulfilling prophecy; those who abide by it are liberated from the absolute determinism of external forces. This belief, in itself, is a “cause.”
P. 15 …consciousness enables those who use it to disengage themselves occasionally from the pressure of relentless drives so as to make their own decisions.
P. 18 What people all over the world mean by good and bad: bad is entropy — disorder, confusion, waste of energy, the inability to do work and achieve goals; good is negentropy — harmony, predictability, purposeful activity that leads to satisfying one’s desires.
Note that entropy is an accurate description of the typical modern workplace.
P. 28 For our ancestors, understanding themselves better was a pleasant luxury. But nowadays learning to control the mind may have become a greater priority for survival than seeking any further advantages the hard sciences could bring.
P. 29 Our brain is a great computing machine but it also places some dangerous obstacles in the way of apprehending reality truthfully.
P. 31 Melvin Koner, neurologist, reviewing studies of the human brain: “the organism’s chronic internal state will be a vague mixture of anxiety and desire — best described perhaps by the phrase ‘I want,’ spoken with or without an object for the verb.”
P. 33 The mind needs ordered information to keep itself ordered. As long as it has clear goals and receives feedback, consciousness keeps humming along. … Paradoxically it is when we are ostensibly most free, when we can do anything we want, that we are least able to act.
P. 36 Depression, anger, fear, and jealousy are simply different manifestations of psychic entropy.
P. 51 …”human nature” is a result of accidental adaptations to environmental conditions long since gone.
P. 55 The brain is a wonderful mechanism … it forces us to strive after forever receding foals. To keep us from settling for daydreams, it begins to project unpleasant information on the screen of consciousness as soon as we stop doing something purposeful.
P. 61 Reality is created as one tries to apprehend it. … Ilya Prigogine, a Nobel laureate in chemistry, “Whatever we call reality, it is revealed to us only through an active construction in which we participate.” And the physicist John Wheeler said: “Beyond particles, beyond fields of force, beyond geometry, beyond space and time themselves, is the ultimate constituent [of all there is], the still more ethereal act of observer-participation.”
P. 65 Each creates the world he or she lives in by investing attention in certain things, and by doing so according to certain patterns.
P. 76 Instinctual desires and cultural values work their way into consciousness from the outside [of consciousness]. The third distortion of reality begins in the mind and works itself out: it is the side effect of consciousness –the illusion of selfhood.
P. 82 People who lead a satisfying life, … are generally individuals who have lived their lives according to rules they themselves created. … They do what they do because they enjoy meeting the challenges of life, because they enjoy life itself.
P. 89 “Power” is the generic term to describe the ability of a person to have others expend their lives to satisfy his or her goals.
P. 105 the powerful lion turns out to be a living shelter for hundreds of different parasites … For every complex organism, survival is a constant battle against less complex life-forms that make a career of using its energy for their own ends.
At the psychological level, a parasite is someone who drains away another person’s psychic energy; not by direct control, but by exploiting a weakness or inattention.
P. 120 Dawkins “a meme is any permanent pattern of matter or information produced by an act of human intentionality”
P. 121 It is possible that one of the most dangerous illusions we must learn to see through is the belief that the thoughts we think of and the things we make are under our control, that we can manipulate then at will.
P. 135 Television is a dramatic example of a meme that invades the mind and reproduces there without concern for the well-being of its host.
P. 150 “organism” might be defined as any system of interrelated parts that needs inputs of energy to keep existing. … includes crystals and memes.
P. 151 (1) Every organism tends to keep its shape and to reproduce itself.
P. 151 (2) In order to survive and to reproduce, organisms require inputs of external energy.
P. 152 Entropy — or the dissolution of order into redundant randomness — is one of the most reliable features of the universe as we know it.
P. 152 (3) Each organism will try to take as much energy out of the environment as possible, limited only by threats to its own integrity.
P. 154 (4) Organisms that are successful in finding ways to extract more energy from the environment for their own use will tend to live longer and leave relatively more copies of themselves.
P. 154 (5) When organisms become too successful in extracting energy from their habitat, they may destroy it, and themselves in the process.
P. 155 (6) There are two opposite tendencies in evolution: changes that lead toward harmony and those that lead toward entropy.
P. 155 Harmony i.e., the ability to obtain energy through cooperation, and through the utilization of unused or wasted energy)
P. 155 Entropy i.e., ways of obtaining energy … causing conflict and disorder.
P. 156 (7) Harmony is usually achieved by evolutionary changes involving an increase in an organism’s complexity.
P. 156 Complexity, that is, an increase both in differentiation and integration.
P. 167 The world in which our children and their children will live is built, minute by minute, through the choices we endorse with our psychic energy.
A transformational leadership style, one that conveys a sense of trust, meaningfulness, and individually challenges employees, contributes to greater employee well-being*
- Leading by example,
- Contributing to a common goal,
- Intellectual stimulation,
- Positive feedback for good performance,
- Recognizing the needs of others, &
- Resolving conflict
–Christine Jacobs, University of Cologne
in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine
via Transformational Leadership
Has Positive Effects on Employee Well-Being.
*Psychological well-being includes:
the establishment of quality ties to other
a sense of autonomy in thought and action
the ability to manage complex environments to suit personal needs and values
the pursuit of meaningful goals and a sense of purpose in life
continued growth and development as a person
Disputes are inevitable any time you are working with people to produce significant results. What is not inevitable is dreading or delaying the confrontation required to resolve the conflict. Here’s how to get it over with in one conversation.
My 3 Rs of dispute resolution are:
- Responsibility, and
RELATIONSHIP: Early in the conversation, state plainly the quality of the relationship you want to have with the person. Invite the other person to declare their intentions, too. A client once said to me, “I hope when we’re through negotiating this and we (more…)
The Psychological Cost of
Learning to Kill in War and Society
by Dave Grossman
I read this book and I review it here not because of any particular interest in sanctioned killing, rather because of my interest in institutional means of getting people to do difficult yet important tasks. I train salespeople and other business leaders.
I first heard the author, Dave Grossman, on a radio interview promoting this book. I heard him say that that in the history of combat from Alexander the Great through World War II only about 15% of soldiers in battle were trying to kill the enemy. He’s not talking about the long administrative and logistical tail of the army. Only 15-20% of the people with guns or swords in their hands, who were facing a threatening enemy, were willing to kill that enemy. I know this is (more…)
Here is a complete toolkit for implementing one of my most powerful and versatile techniques, The Conversation Contract™. Leading psychologist Thomas Harris, author of the bestselling I’m OK–You’re OK, developed the basic process to help people conduct the most important and stressful conversations in their lives. I have refined it over the past fifteen years in my work with sales people, managers, government officials, and CEOs to its present form. You can use it for better meetings, telephone calls, and family interactions.
Start with this video and reinforce your skills with the (more…)
Here is my 12 Step Program for conducting a difficult, stressful, or frightening conversation in a way that will create new possibilities for relationship and action.
- Get yourself centered.
- Make sure the other person is willing to talk. Use my Conversation Contract™.
- Help the other person feel safe. “We’re friends and colleagues now and we’ll still be friends and colleagues after this conversation.” Easy on the relationship, rigorous on the topic.
- Get a firm agreement on facts before delving into opinions. Be conscientious about distinguishing facts from opinions. “The client reported several misspellings in the report,” is a fact. “Your work is sloppy,” is an opinion.
- Remember, seek first to understand, then to be understood, is Covey’s fifth habit.
Listen before you speak. Encouraging the other person to talk first is also a way to get his or her concerns out of his or her head to make room in there for what you have to say.
Ask questions to clarify how it looks to him or her. Stop behaving as though you know what they think; be genuinely curious.
Repeat key points back to him or her to show that you are listening and to verify that you have heard correctly. You do not need to agree with the person’s point of view, but it is helpful to let him or her know you understand and you accept that he or she sees that way right now.
- Take responsibility for your own reactions.
It is not responsible to assert, “You are forcing me to double-check all of your reports.” It is more useful to explain, “When I hear a client complain I feel obligated to double-check all of your reports.” See the difference? The first is the voice of a victim making an accusation, one who has reached a firm conclusion about the location of the problem: it’s the other guy. The second is a person making a choice on limited information, one who is eager to consider alternatives.
The simple shortcut from victim to choice is to start sentences with “I” rather than “you.”
- Establish the level of trust: sincerity, capacity, competence, consistency, and care. “I know that you can see when a project is suffering from scope creep and that you will let me know about it.”
- Explicitly agree on the shared (more…)
The Killer Angels
by Michael Shaara
Fabulous insight into the military mind, the minds of men, the minds of people dedicated to actions and ideals greater than themselves.
Kurt Vonnegut is said to have revealed the secret of fiction as, “Create characters the reader cares about, then do something terrible to them.” Mr. Shaara gives us a dozen characters worth caring about–from both armies–and then plunges them into one of the most terrible things to happen on American soil: the cataclysmic Battle of Gettysburg. The book is a model of storytelling, and beautifully written. My brother, who earned a Masters in American History just for the fun of it, warned me to (more…)