These four books offer ways to reflect on society, relationships, and yourself, and have changed the way I think and act.
The 40 Laws of Power
Robert Greene argues that the better you are at handling your power, the better you’ll become at whatever you do—and this starts with seduction, charm, and deception. Most of the ‘laws’ I can’t identify with, but it’s a solid way to understand both the business world and humanity itself.
I started reading The 48 Laws of Power as a part of a book club. One of my friends that I had asked to join declined on the basis that his ‘ethics are questionable enough.’ In the wrong hands, some of these laws simply lack compassion and are rarely the best course of action. As a thought experiment in understanding how others may act? It might be a relatively good picture of the world, and how to navigate it. Only a few laws that stuck with me:
#8: Win through your actions, never through argument.
#45: Preach the need for change, but never reform too much at once.
#47: Don’t go past the mark you aimed for: In Victory, know when to stop.
The Social Animal
David Brooks uses the story of two humans to illustrate the many facets of human nature and decision-making—the conscious and subconscious mind. It showcases how so many of our choices are preconstructed and automatic, and is an interesting journey through empirical evidence on why and how people act the way they do. It’s not a book to read for the story, but for the history and science of psychology.
If you’re looking for answers as to why people act the way they do, The Social Animal is unlikely to have many answers besides that, more often than not, reactions are emotional first.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Margaret Atwood’s book is world renowned – especially with the latest tv series and its incoming sequel. The basis is a dystopian society, but it reflects a lot of human dynamics and psychology. When I read it in university, it occurred to me that all the women portrayed in the book, no matter their status in society, seemed to distrust each other—even when in the exact same position—similar to the dynamics I saw regularly. It touched on reality then, and even more so now.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of working with a number of women visiting Canada from Jamaica and I got a glimpse into their culture and sisterhood. It seemed that no matter the situation, they focused on building a community between them. A vast difference from what I experienced, and a community I keep on learning from.
Of course, this doesn’t even remotely unpack the incredible writing and lessons MA gives on human psychology and where society could go.
Ray Dalio gives us his business-building knowledge on a silver platter in this book, with a side of using truth to navigate life. As Bridgewater’s founder, his case studies are excellent examples of how he developed his principles and character in his business and outside of it. His radical transparency and truthfulness approach to management is the most interesting piece – encouraging feedback and constructive criticism across all levels of his business in order to make the best possible decisions.
Meritocracy, or ‘power’ held on the basis of ability, is the best way to encourage growth and loyalty within any team—if you’re all aligned in your values or principles, as Ray Dalio puts it, then you’ll be able to successfully build together. If you can replicate even a fraction of Ray Dalio’s style in building and teaching, you’ll feel empowered by your choices and you’ll learn from every step in the process, no matter where you end up.