Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Mar 12, 2006


I've found that you can pick up a lot of applied philosophy by reading books on business success, and the title of this one showed some promise, so I decided to pick it up.

Dr. Cloud talks a lot about the importance of integrating the various aspects of your character into a working whole, unfortunately the book itself is not very integrated, so it's not always easy to understand what he's trying to explain.

From a literary standpoint I think the worst part of this book is the style; it is awful. Dr. Cloud segues violently between the jargon-laden, obfuscated speech of his profession (he is a psychologist) and cheerfully banal colloquialisms that leave you wondering whether his mind is organized enough to handle this subject. He uses examples to approximate what he means rather than taking the time to come up with an accurate depiction that leaves no room for misunderstanding. The book is also salted with altruistic conventions that contradict the message in the rest of the book.

Like many people, he has failed to draw a distinction between small-minded whim-driven people and those who have actually taken the time to discover what is really in their interests, long-term. He is especially adamant that you can't earn trust or transcend the "little" things in your life until you learn how to focus more on the "other". According to him, you must be more focussed on other people's interests than they are themselves.

This is, of course, ridiculous simply because you can't ever know what's really in someone else's best interest better than they do. All you can do is succeed in convincing them to replace their idea of their interests with your own. Given, if they're unfocussed and disinterested, they may thank you for it. However, I think it's erroneous to confuse passivity of spirit with trust.

When he returns to the issue of building your own character, however, Dr. Cloud makes quite a few interesting and valid points. He is very good at presenting you with ideas that you may never have thought of before.

One of my favorite points is that really successful people are not only good at letting go of things that are bad for them (most people can do this), but they will also let go of things that are good but are not the best things. How difficult is it to realize that 80% of the things that you do, things that are making money for you, are not the best things and need to go so that you can focus on what will really make you successful in the long run?

The cost of taking any given path is not the pain you may incur from taking it, but the other options and opportunities that you forgo. A mature individual doesn't act like a kid in a candy store, unable to pick one candy because they are all so enticing. Doing this scatters your effort uselessly.

If I used a five-star rating system (and I may want to consider some kind of rating system), I'd say this book hovers at around a 2 or a 2.5. Its good points balance out its bad points, making it thoroughly mediocre.


softwareNerd said...

Any other business-related books you'd give a higher rating? I'm curious, because business-related books and biographies form the bulk of my reading.

Right now, I'm reading an interesting one. "Hedge Hogging" by Barton Bigs. Funnily enough, it has me really interested even though it has no theme. Mr. Biggs -- a famous investor -- takes one on a tour of the various characters in the Hedge fund business. Not an investment guide by any stretch; interesting nevertheless.

Jennifer Snow said...

The Millionaire Mind was actually fairly interesting, not about nuts and bolts, but about character traits. I think it was around a 3.5-4.0 rating, really.

I don't have a whole lot yet, I'm just getting started, which is why I don't have a formal rating system yet; I'm still gathering data for one.

EdMcGon said...

When you talk about realizing what is really in other people's best interests, I am reminded of the old saying about no one ever went broke underestimating the stupidity of the American public.

Jennifer Snow said...

And like many old cynical sayings, it's completely false.

Lots of people go broke overestimating people's stupidity: they're called con men and drug dealers.

Felix said...

I liked the seven habits very much and in fact I still do. It was once my favourite book. His focus is on living in reality and exercising your free will. Despite his intuition-based ethics, Covey has a lot of intelligent things to say. In case you haven't read it, give it a try.