“I learned that everyone makes mistakes, and has weaknesses and that one of the most important things that differentiates people is their approach to handling them. I learned that there is an incredible beauty to mistakes, because embedded in each mistake is a puzzle, a gem that I could get if I solved it, i.e., a principle that I could use to reduce my mistakes in the future. I learned that each mistake was probably a reflection of something that I was (or others were) doing wrong, so I could figure out what that was, I could learn how to be more effective. I learned that wrestling with my problems, mistakes, and weaknesses was the training that strengthened me. Also, I learned that it was the pain of this wrestling that made me and those around me appreciate our successes.”
– Ray Dalio (1949 – )
The above quote is from Dalio’s “Principles,” a manifesto/sociological guide into power dynamics and systems thinking. If you’re looking for deep psychological and societal insight, don’t go to the self-help section. Go to the business section. Great business books offer an economic view of the world, exposing the bare bones of the system we’re all encapsulated in. The common self-help drivel is bogged down by an Inception-level of frameworks, dully scraping the surface of how social interactions work, but not nearly hitting the core of it.
Business is driven by profit. This material drive is what allows the businessman to see the network from an outside perspective. The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge is a fantastic read for those who have never even heard of systems thinking. Using business models, Senge shows how everything is not a linear series of cause and effect – it is an entire web of cause and effect. Events do not just occur without a catalyst. And they cannot occur without affecting something else in the web.
He points out the main reason we find it difficult to see the system is due to blame-shifting. Post hoc ergo propter hoc. After the fact, therefore because of the fact. The government shut down. The President is the head of the government. Go to Hell, Obama. We think everything has a simple one-step cause. No! The government is more than just the President… (and I will not go down that spiral that is politics at the moment).
Another book you’ll often find in the business section is The 48 Laws of Power, an “instructive book” summarizing the “philosophies of Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, and Carl Von Clausewitz with the historical legacies of statesmen, warriors, seducers, and con men throughout the ages.” It’s used in business management and as a practical guide to gaining the upper hand in day to day life. It’s ruthless and amoral – again, the detached, third-person perspective that shows us how power and social interactions really work.
All in all, stay away from self-help. And check out those books. My summaries hardly do the books justice. Guaranteed to be fascinating to anyone interested in how power, society, and sociological forces work.