Five Sentence Abstract:
To solve a problem you mustn't focus on the problem, the more narrow you see the less solutions you get. Incentives and hard work don't produce better results and focusing too hard might stress you out and make you perform worse! Trust yourself, others will, when you ask for their advice, always find fault in your ideas leaving you both unsure, and with yet another, contrived, problem to contend with. The other side to this is group think, where, without a red-man (someone designated to take the opposite view), people, you included are much more willing to go with the flow rather than make waves, even when you have a better idea. Finally, you should try to look at your problem from opposite direction since those who classify the world in opposites rather than similarities proved more creative, maybe the problem is a actually a boon.
This is basically a bunch of 1-2 page stories, some interesting, some
not-so-much, but all of them, to varying degrees, describe a problem that is
overcome, sometimes ingeniously.
It was an absolute breeze to read, interesting enough to keep my attention, and
was a nice break from heavier reading. While not terribly insightful, it wasn't
totally worthless either.
Given that you could easily pick it up and put it down at a moments notice
without depriving yourself of anything, the book itself could be useful for
helping you put down your problems for a little bit. Read this and let your
mind take a break from whatever it is your ciphering and, after an hour, who
knows, maybe you'll have a epiphany.
Table of Contents
01: Imaginary Philip and the Problem of Problems
02: Humans, Swamp People, and the Survival Problem
03: Power and the Farb Problem
04: Don't Come Home for Christmas and Other Lessons on Trying Harder and Making It Worse
05: Would You Get on the Bus to Abilene?
06: Four Points and the Wrongness of Always Being Right
07: Miss Iceland, the Gangster, and the Cat: What Happens When You Burn the First Draft
08: The Knowledge Is Like a Toothache: The Value of Taking the Long Way
09: Dark, Soft, Smooth, and Slow: The Power of Opposites
10: What Are These Bells For? The Art of Listening to Yourself
Conclusion: What Do You Do with Water?
- // Pages numbers from the pdf.
- If we look to our problems first, if we let a problem define the entirety of
what we do next, more likely than not we will fail. If we set our problems
aside and seek solutions, we can succeed beyond all limitations.
Good things, ultimately, are secondary to bad things. Good breaks down over
time. We get used to good things, and it raises our expectations. If you spend
your lottery winnings on a giant house, at some point it stops being a
shockingly large and nice house, and it just becomes your house. And good makes
other things seem boring. After you win the lottery, how excited will you be
about reading an interesting magazine article or buying a nice pair of pants?
Bad things, on the other hand, are always compelling to us. Bad is so
compelling to us that even when we have every incentive to value good over bad,
we value bad over good.
This classic experiment is considered a warning about obedience to authority
// Milgram shock experiment, where most of the people
(teachers) shocked the learners to death, or so they would have if it were
// And it wasn't a "warning"...
Milgram’s conclusion: “[O]rdinary people, simply doing their jobs, and
without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible
Researchers have found that abstract art inspires unease, uncertainty, and a
reaction not unlike fright.
// Which is why the oligarchy patronized it, to sow the
seeds of uncertainty in our culture. The CIA is "well known" to have had agents
in most major artistic movements. See: The Devil's Chessboard.
Sharon keeps a journal that she fills with great writing advice. One page
she’s highlighted and underlined and put stars next to contains a quote from
Slaughterhouse- Five author Kurt Vonnegut.
Vonnegut warned: “Good Taste will put you out of business.”
Sharon knows that Vonnegut went on to advise prospective writers to drop out
of school before they could be filled with all that good taste and taught
conclusively that they were incapable of demonstrating it. Vonnegut himself
considered it a stroke of luck that he studied science
and anthropology in college—since he hadn’t studied writing, no one had
a chance to teach him that he wasn’t capable of doing it.
- Deci concluded that there is a giant hole in the equation Incentive + Harder
Work = Better Outcome. That is, incentives don’t
produce harder work, and harder work doesn’t produce better outcomes. An
engaged mind beats the best incentive and the hardest worker every time.
Engagement is sustaining, he said, while incentives and pure effort are
We are twice as likely to stick to a challenge
without an incentive.
Maximizing effort is a fool’s comfort. We burn out, we make illogical
A group of reasonable people can make a senseless,
unreasonable decision. A group can unanimously support a decision that no
individual member of the group would have supported alone. A group is
not just the addition of all its members’ capabilities; sometimes it represents
a division into something less than what a single member could accomplish.
We believe bigger is better. We have been taught that
bigger is better. No one ever told us that the way to solve something is to put
fewer people on the case.
- // Study where participants pick lines based on length. All
but one is an actor. The actors pick the wrong line and the one person being
studied goes along with the obviously wrong answer 75% of the time.
- You don’t need an echo when you ask a question. Instead, talk to someone who
sees everything differently.
- First drafts are unimaginative, built on the narrow categories provided by
our problem. They are the first thing we can grab. As Thomas Ward found, we are
twice as creative when the first impulse doesn’t work.
- Linus Pauling’s advice to anyone trying to do something big amounted to three
words: Put it down.
“Learn to play the violin” was business guru Peter Drucker’s memorable and
surprising advice on how to best prepare to run a company.
Start learning something today that is totally unrelated to your work and
family life, and it will teach you something vital about the things that are
most important to you.
- // Story of Paul Wellstone running for Senate with very
little money. He made commercials that were funny and portrayed him as a real
person and his opponent as a 'one of those Washington types'. Focus on what
everyone else avoids. He talked about how he had to talk fast in the commercial
because he didn't have much money.
- With the formation of the 23rd Headquarters Special
Troops, the army assembled a battalion of warriors who fought with their
imaginations. Recruited from art schools and ad agencies, architecture firms
and movie studios, their job was to conjure a fictional army battalion wherever
it might be needed.