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Every once in a while, a book comes along that changes the way I see the world. Some are major revelations, others are small shifts. All help me see how far the rabbit hole goes.

Sources of Power by Gary Klein.
Gary Klein was commissioned by the military to study how people make decisions in high pressure situations. He studied fire commanders in the field fighting large forest fires. What he discovered was that the traditional decision making methods were useless. Under high pressure situations, and it doesn't matter if the deadline is 5 minutes away or 5 months, experienced decision makers use their intuition.

He calls this model Recognition Primed Decision making (RPD) because with experience, we build a mental model of the way things are supposed to go. Any deviation from that model is picked up subconciously. It's this skill that allows a fire commander to pull his men out of a building that's about to collapse without ever knowing why.

Even now, writing this review, 5 years after reading this book for the first time, I had a revelation about how Learned Helplessness is a matter of having a mental model where a given situation normally leads to abuse.

Blink is subtitled "The Power to Think Without Thinking" and I'm positive it's a nod, or perhaps a subconcious link to this book. The sequal to Sources of Power is The Power of Intiution, though a bit dry, has some important insights into how intuition can be taught and how we can all learn to make better decisions.

Influence by Robert Cialdini.
If your neighbor loans you sugar, you're more likely to loan her your springform cake pan. These are the reactions that keep society working as a cohesive whole. But, once these mechanisms are uncovered, they can be used against us. If a Hare Krishna in the airport gives you a flower, you're more likely to give them money. And if a car dealer gives in a little and concedes a few points, then you'll also concede a few points. Fascinating exploration of how our knee-jerk reactions can be used against us.

Coercion: Why We Listen to What "They" Say by Douglas Rushkoff.
Douglas Rushkoff is the guy who makes the Frontline specials about how the corporations & government are studying us in order to figure out how to sell to us better. MTV swallows our culture and regurgitates it to us in a pre-packaged form, taking the coolest underground trend and selling it back to us. This book is filled with fascinating information on many of the ways corporations are trying to find our buy button to turn us into mindless shopping zombies (known as the Gruen Transfer). Ever wonder why no department store is near another in the mall? It's not because they don't like each other, it's because keeping important landmarks out of sight of each other disorients us. IKEA uses similar methods. While they promote empowerment through "do it yourself" furniture building, confusing labels & not enough sales people forces us into a child like role of confusion & asking for help from barely available parental figures.

John T. Molloy's New Dress for Success by John T. Molloy.
When I first joined corporate America, I knew I didn't have the wardrobe for the job. So I bought this book. Not only did this book tell me how to find the right wardrobe, but taught me how the ruling class prefers to hand over the reigns to other members of the ruling class, and looking, sounding, and acting the part is how they recognize you. Live for Success does for posture, speach patterns, walking, eating and everything else that Dress for Success does for your wardrobe.

Your Money Or Your Life by by Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin.
The single most important book on money I've ever read. And that includes books by Schwab, Lynch and Malkiel. All businesses operate on the premise of increasing income while reducing expenses. All of us will live off of our savings & interest income at one point in our lives. By reducing our expenses, not only are we saving more, but we're lowering the threshold of how much we have to have saved in order to retire. But, of course, having the money to retire doesn't mean retiring from life, all it means is having the freedom to do what you want. Getting a Life is the true story of a couple who lived the principles in Your Money Or Your Life and did retire early.

Don't Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor.
This book taught me more about behaviourism (Pavlov & Skinner) than a college textbook on the subject. It sets up a system of positive rewards for good behaviour used to train dolphins, and now dogs and horses, and it works on people too.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
"We have seen how people describe the common characteristics of optimal experience: a sense that one's skills are adequate to cope with the challenges at hand, in a goal-directed, rule-bound action system that provides clear cues as to how well one is performing. Concentration is so intense that there is no attention left over to think about anything irrelevant, or to worry about problems. Self-consciousness disappears, and the sense of time becomes distorted. An activity that produces such experiences is so gratifying that people are willing to do it for its own sake, with little concern for what they will get out of it, even when it is difficult, or dangerous." From Chapter 4 of Flow.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen.
When I'm organized, I resemble this book. When I'm disorganized, I don't. This is the best system for personal productivity bar none. Unlike 7 Habits, which requires I define my life values so I'm "acting not reacting" this system is practical, hands on, and keeps you so organized, nothing will ever slip your mind again. Projects will get done on time, and you'll become the most dependable person in your organization. Honest.

How to Be Invisible: The Essential Guide to Protecting Your Personal Privacy, Your Assets, and Your Life by J.J. Luna.
What is privacy? Privacy is knowing that as you move about in this world, the traces you leave don't lead back to you. By following the measures laid out in this book, even just marginally, you can increase your privacy to the point where it will take a Private Investigator to find you.

Frogs into Princes: Neuro Linguistic Programming by Richard Bandler & John Grinder.
One of the corner stones of Neuro Linguistic Programming. A really smarmy field, but based on some fascinating ideas, and once you learn about submodalities, reframing, use of language, etc., you'll find these things all around you all the time.

Games People Play: The basic handbook of transactional analysis by Eric Berne.
Another influential psychology book. Eric Berne, founder of the Transactional Analysis school of pshchology, believes that by examining the way we interact with others, that recognizable patterns will emerge. These "games" are what we do when we talk to people. Ever have someone ask you for advice, but take none of it? There's a reason for that. You're both involved in a game, and you're both rewarded for playing it. Also recommended for writers looking to gain insight into interpersonal dynamics. What do you say after you say hello and Scripts People Live are, surprisingly, full of fresh information and insights.

Art Of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives  by Lajos Egri.
Aristotle laid out a path for literature for centuries to come. Egri takes those ideas and rips them to their bare bones. Each character on stage must have a compelling reason for being there - something they are willing to fight the other characters for, and each must balance the other in a unity of opposites.

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald Norman.
We all have an idea in our mind of how things work - radios, doors, coffee makers. So why are so many of them so complex? By learning about how we think of every day items like remote controls and telephones, we can make them simpler. We all know how to use a telephone, so why is it when you hand over your cell phone, you need to explain to the other person what to do? If you need to go through an endless series of menus to get what you want, it's just too complex.

After the Ecstasy, the Laundry: How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path by Jack Kornfield
I used to think spirituality meant holing yourself up in a monestary and communing with yourself until you reached some inner peace, truth, and tranquility. Now I know that spirituality is much more than that. Spirituality is simply facing honestly & openly the reality of life on Earth. All the pains and insults are a part of life and should be embraced.

What the Bleep Do We Know (Movie).
Inspirational video about how we create our world through our thoughts. A little soft on the science, but left me feeling inspired & wanting to change my world for the better. The stuff on how our emotions affect our body, and how we can become addicted to emotions was fascinating.

The Timeless Way of Building by Christopher Alexander.
The architectural book that influenced computer programming, The Timeless Way of Building introduces us to a way of defining something in a way that can be repeated, so if you like a Garden with Shady Tree, you can bring that concept to other people so their gardens can also have shady trees. It doesn't get straight to the point, but the kernels of knowledge that are in there are worth holding on to.

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn.
The single most important turning point in human history was the discovery of agriculture. It was when we ceased living in harmony with nature, and started to control nature that everything else began. Every single important achievement of mankind is based on that moment. And at the same time, the need for control leads us to believe we can decide who should live and who should die. "Children are starving in Africa" is a guilt trip laid on us while we're waging bloody wars. It's the height of arrogance for us to believe we should control the destiny of thousands of people, or even the entire planet, and it all started with agriculture.

Quiet Rage: The Stanford Prison Experiment (DVD)
We've all heard about the horrible things being done at Abu Grabe, but what would you think if I told you that a bunch of college students playing cops & robbers could commit similar atrocities?

Obedience to Authority by Stanley Milgram
Okay, I haven't read this book, but I have seen the video (which isn't available on Amazon, I got it from eBay). This is the famous experiment where ordinary men are told to give electric shocks to someone if they get a question wrong as an aid to learning. A surprising number of people went all the way into the danger zone, even though the person who recieved the electric shocks complained that he had a heart condition and stopped answering.

Class War: The Attack On Working People by Noam Chomsky (a lecture on CD).
Whenever I read Noam Chomsky, he rocks my world right down to the foundation. This lecture has influenced my view of the corporate & political landscape more than any other. Corporations are their own nation states and if you don't play by the rules, you get kicked out (fired). They are a law unto themselves, and if you think the Government exists to protect us from the corporations, think again. The government talks to the corporations FAR more than they talk to us (think special interest groups). No, they're there to protect the corporations from us.

The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
Aristotle's Poetics. Lajos Egri. The Hero With a Thousand Faces. These are probably the three greatest works on the art of writing in the world. Joseph Campbell is a Jungian professor & mythologist who's made his life work the studying the myths around the world, and has found the common threads that run through all of them. Hugely influential on George Lucas in the making of the original Star Wars movies.

Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth (DVD)
The famous Bill Moyers interview with Joseph Campbell on George Lucas' Skywalker Ranch. Joseph Campbell talks about the beauty of the myths of all traditions, and how we can learn from them to live lives that are more fulfilling. He coves everything from the meaning of "Ohhhmmmm" to St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.

A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton G. Malkiel
A major proponent of the Efficient Markets Theory that says that all knowable information about a stock's value is already reflected in its share price, you can't predict them at all. So the best thing to do is pick a no-load index fund and keep investing. It also gets into the standard lifecycle investing - riskier when you're younger because you can recover from a drop in the market, and any gains you make will make up for it, and much less risky later in life so you can protect your slowly growing nest egg.

The Millionaire Next Door : The Surprising Secrets of America's Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley & William D. Danko
What do you get when you interview a hundred millionaires? It turns out you get a bunch of businessmen who are uncomfortable in expensive hotels and feel funny eating caviar. America's millionaires are people who work hard and live frugally.

The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self by Alice Miller
I don't think I can say it much better than the book jacket without giving away too much of the contents. "As charming performers who skillfully reflect their parents expectations, far too many children grow into adults driven to greater and greater achievements by an underlying sense of worthlessness. Never allowed to express their true feelings, and having lost touch with their true selves, they act out their repressed feelings with episodes of depression and compulsive behavior. They in turn inflict the same legacy of repression on their own children." Utterly fascinating and highly recommended.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
A celebrated author, and reporter for Time and Harper's Magazine, decided to try and just get by in a number of low wage jobs. Setting out with $500 in hand, she worked in Wal Mart, as a maid, waitress, nursing home aide, and more, and just barely got by in each of these jobs. This book explores the vicious cycle of low wage work and how the people in this life are truly trapped by circumstance.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money--That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert T. Kiyosaki, Sharon L. Lechter
90% fluff and wildly popular, the Rich Dad series taught me some very important lessons about the differences between working for yourself and working for someone else, and how to categorize my posessions into things that accrue value and bring income, and things that don't.

When you're indoctrinated into a cult, they change your vocabulary. They do this so that if you see any of your old friends & family, they'll seem odd to you. You'll talk to them and they just won't "get" what you're talking about.

When the Hero returns home from his journey, he often becomes bigger than the small town he grew up in. His concerns are greater, his thoughts on not just his village, but the world.

Whenever I read a good book, I often feel the same way. As if the insights I've gained are too difficult to pass on to other people. The way I see the world, the way I organize information is influenced by the books I've read, and these are some of the most influential.

These books are presented in no particular order. If I read several books by the same author (or in one case, a sequel by another author), I only listed the one you should read first. You can decide where you should go from there.

page first created on Monday, July 18, 2005

© Mark Wieczorek