This is the sixth newsletter of Book Lovers sent on September 13, 2015, asking how to change when change is hard. And highlighting that to initiate change, you first need to be open to change and to stay flexible. This edition features the Heath brothers (Switch), JD Salinger (The Catcher in the Rye) & Claude Lévi-Strauss.
Don't miss the following letters:
"Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."
-- George Bernard Shaw
Last week, we talked about the permanent war between Old and New. We were talking about resistance, the need of understanding and the unstoppable wave of change.
My key takeaway: we should try to acknowledge change and protect what is dear to our heart. And the best way to do it, might be to understand the new wave and to find a way to integrate some of the old parts in the new reality.
And this week I witness something slightly different: if the outer world is a world of chaos, your inner world always try to find equilibrium, which serious people call homeostasis, the property of a system in which variables are regulated so that internal conditions remain stable.
So how can we fight homeostasis?
How can we to change things when change is hard? This is exactly what Dan & Chip Heath, two brothers, tried to figure out in their book Switch (Dan previously worked as a researcher and case writer for Harvard Business School, Chip is still working as researcher and professor at Stanford School of Business).
First of all, let’s borrow an image from the Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt, psychologist at University of Virginia. Haidt says that our emotional side is an Elephant and our rational side is its Rider. Perched atop the Elephant, the Rider holds the reins and seems to be the leader.
But the Heath brothers, using this image remind us that “the Rider’s control is precarious because the Rider is so small relative to the Elephant. Anytime the six-ton Elephant and the Rider disagree about which direction to go, the Rider is going to lose. [..] The weakness of the Elephant, our emotional and instinctive side is clear: It’s lazy and skittish, often looking for the quick payoff (ice cream cone) over the long-term payoff (being thin). [...] The Rider’s strength is the opposite: its ability to think long-term, to plan, to think beyond the moment”.
Interesting image, but nothing really new, right?
But here comes the interesting part: “the Elephant also has enormous strengths and the Rider crippling weakness. Emotion is the Elephant’s turf -- love and compassion and sympathy and loyalty. That fierce instinct you have to protect your kids against harm -- that’s the Elephant. That spine-stiffening you feel when you need to stand up for yourself -- that’s the Elephant.
And even more important: the Elephant is the one who gets things done. This energy and drive is the mirror image of the Rider’s great weakness: The Rider overanalyze and overthink things (agonizing for twenty minutes about what to eat, brainstorming for hours but never making a decision or a things done).”
They say: if you want to change things you’ve got to appeal to both.
So how can we appeal to both?
In the book, they share a very interesting framework, full of studies, stories and actionable tips.
They show us that
what looks like resistance is often lack of clarity and show us how to direct The Rider (follow the bright spots, script the critical moves, point to destination)
it's exhausting trying to keep an elephant in line and show us how to motivate The Elephant (find the feeling, shrink the change, grow your people)
what looks like a people problem is often a situation problem and how to shape The Path (tweak the environment, build habits, rally the herd).
I cannot but invite you to buy this wonderful books that will have a meaningful impact on your life. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back (or at least a free coffee to talk about it ;)).
And before going to my curation of the weekly best articles, let me share with you something that I discovered BEYOND this wonderful book.
This week, I’ve bought a book that I wouldn’t have done without the suggestion of someone I value. I’ve bought the book The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, which is the story of Holden Caulfield, a sixteen-year-old boy just expelled from prep school.
Why wouldn’t have bought it?
- the language is very familiar, full of slangs & spoken pauses
- the narrator is very cynical
- the main themes are angst, alienation and teenage rebellion
Three things I don’t enjoy that much.
But in culture you sometimes have to follow someone else advice to expand your horizon.
And I’m really glad I did it, because this is a truly wonderful book (you should buy it as well - FR version). We are following his exact thought process that sounds legit. And the character makes very witty observations such as:
- “If a girl looks swell when she meets you, who gives a damn if she's late?”
- “People always clap for the wrong reasons.”
- “It's funny. All you have to do is say something nobody understands and they'll do practically anything you want them to.”
- “I am always saying "Glad to've met you" to somebody I'm not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though.”
and asks wonderful questions such as:
- "You know those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South? That little lake? By any chance, do you happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over? Do you happen to know, by any chance?"
Why do I tell you all of that? Because it made me realize that we need to be flexible enough to allow changes in our system of preferences even if we are totally satisfied with it.
André Comte Sponville, in his latest book “C’est chose tendre que la vie“ (don’t ask me to translate it, I just can’t!), shares an anecdote that I loved. As he was visiting Claude Lévi-Strauss, he asked him how he was doing. Lévi-Strauss answered “I have more and more tastes and less and less talent”.
What if we need not to have that much established tastes?
2. Weekly #MustRead articles
1. In How Making Time for Books Made Me Feel Less Busy (HBR), Hugh McGuire explains us why we don’t find time to read (hints: a. social media = new information = dopamine > food & sex! >> reading / b. jumping from one thing to the next makes us too tired to read) & gives us his tips that make him read again.
2. Chris Holmberg in The Most Dangerous Leadership Traps — and the 15-Minute Daily Practice That Will Save You (Firstround Review) invites us to spend 15 minutes a day in reflection to review candidly the events of the previous day and make plans for the one coming up. Because we can’t afford to have low learning efficiency.
3. In The Research Is Clear: Long Hours Backfire for People and for Companies(HBR), Sarah Green Carmichael shows with considerable evidence that overwork is not just neutral: it hurts us and the companies we work for.
If you enjoyed this week's newsletter, please forward it to someone you like.And start the conversation by replying to this email or by sending my a quick tweet:@willybraun
Looking forward to having your feedbacks and your impressions after the readings.