Good Reading -- September 2019
"All Americans need to recognize that our democracy is an experiment—and one that can be reversed. We all know that we’re better than our current politics. Tribalism must not be allowed to destroy our experiment." -- Jim Mattis
"Nations with allies thrive, and those without them wither. Alone, America cannot protect our people and our economy. At this time, we can see storm clouds gathering. A polemicist’s role is not sufficient for a leader. A leader must display strategic acumen that incorporates respect for those nations that have stood with us when trouble loomed."
"Woe to the unimaginative one who, in after-action reviews, takes refuge in doctrine. The critiques in the field, in the classroom or at happy hour are blunt for good reasons. Personal sensitivities are irrelevant. No effort is made to ease you through your midlife crisis when peers, seniors or subordinates offer more cunning or historically proven options, even when out of step with doctrine."
Facts and Figures
139,000 -- the number of people who signed up for a Costco membership on the opening day for the new Shanghai store
Also 139,000 -- the entire (approximate) population of Charleston, South Carolina or Waco, Texas or Dayton, Ohio
The Sports Gene -- When the author's new book (see below) was released I read several reviews and interviews and realized I should start with his first book. It is meticulous in its research, and while I can't vouch for every detail or conclusion I thought it was thought-provoking and well worth the time. Highly recommended.
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World -- Epstein's new book has been getting a lot of attention, and rightly so. It's one of the best books I've read in the past few years. "Early specialization is the exception, not the rule," as he writes, among "athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters, and scientists." In fields that are "complex and unpredictable...generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel." There is even a chapter titled, "Learning, Fast and Slow" in case I needed any more reason to buy the book.
All Quiet on the Western Front -- Wow. The subtitle "The greatest war novel of time" doesn't do it justice.
"By the Book" is an excellent weekly column, and this edition with Adm. McRaven reminded me that I had never read "All Quiet on the Western Front." I also highly recommend McRaven's first book and his various talks and essays.
Duty, Democracy, and the Threat of Tribalism -- An exceptional, must-read essay by former Secretary of Defense and Marines Corps general Jim Mattis. This is an excerpt of his forthcoming book, which I plan to read.
What Really Brought Down the Boeing 737 MAX -- World-class writer William Langewiesche takes on the biggest story in aviation in recent years/decades. This is a can't-miss article.
I think the author is a thoughtful, knowledgeable, careful writer, but that's not to say that he is -- or that it's even possible to be -- perfect in every aspect of covering such a nuanced topic. Two dissenting views are here and here, although I dislike more about these dissents (which revert mostly to ad hominem arguments) than the flaws in the original.
What Really Happened to Malaysia's Missing Airplane -- A slightly earlier article from William Langewiesche covering the disappearance of Malaysia 370, in case you missed it.
"He's Full of Sh*t: How Elon Musk Fooled Investors, Bilked Taxpayers, and Gambled Tesla to Save SolarCity -- The latest from Bethany McLean is worthy of its awesome title.
The near crash of Air Canada flight 759 -- An excellent, short essay/blog post that reminds us about the importance of "parallel history." Five or 10 feet of separation late one night on a taxiway in San Francisco made the difference between this -- a near-miss that most passengers didn't even know had happened -- and the worst aviation disaster in history.
This little-known inventor has probably saved your life -- The guy who invented the cockpit voice recorder got his idea from a pocket dictation device that he wanted to use to make bootleg jazz recordings. His boss initially killed his idea for a super-strong cockpit recording device -- "It's nothing to do with chemistry of fuels. You're a chemist." -- and the pilots' union was furious, but thankfully for us all logic eventually prevailed. We owe Dr. Warren and his "black box" a debt of gratitude. A great tale of insight and attitude.
A reexamination of ownership in the age of the public corporation -- A thoughtful essay by Roger Lowenstein about the Business Roundtable's new stakeholder-centered mission as compared to his preferred "Buffett model."
How CEOs Can Forge a New Kind of Shareholder Value -- Another good article on the Business Roundtable/stakeholder argument. I also highly recommend all of Al Rappaport's other work.
What Statistics Can and Can't Tell Us About Ourselves -- The title says it all.
Novel advice for incoming STEM freshmen -- Good ideas for all of us.
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