Posts Tagged ‘knowledge’

The Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth CenturyThe Long Shadow: The Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century by David Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although the author’s style is dense – by that I mean lots of information packed into a tight, but multilevel structure that requires a certain kind of deep, concentrated reading/comprehension ability that I believe has tragically been completely lost except to all but a few of us in this technology-driven (entangled) age when our attention/comprehension spans have been diminished to mere skimming, at best, and no-context, 5-second, twisted, spun, and completely made-up out of thin air sound bites, at worst – this is an incredible and comprehensive look at the global legacy of World War I on the 20th century and, in fact, here today in the 21st century. (more…)

The Age of American UnreasonThe Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although I find the author, at times, aggressively and assertively pushing the same extremist edges that this book exposes and denounces in American society today, in general, I agree with the basic premise and areas in which she exposes how Americans, in general, are consciously proud of abandoning intellect (both in educating themselves with facts and knowledge) and critical thinking (proving or disproving everything they see, hear, read, and encounter in life).

As a society, Americans in general have embraced dumbing down in every aspect of our lives. Because we choose to remain ignorant (educationally and otherwise), we have become slaves to our emotions, which makes us fair game for the ignorance that abounds in the society around us. We don’t know how to tell truth from untruth. We don’t know the difference between facts and opinions. We are so deficient in basic knowledge and the ability to think deeply about anything that we fall easily and compliantly for “junk” in everything that comes our way (we are also more biased and prejudiced against knowledge and intellect, in general, so we reject anything that sounds too intelligent because it’s just confusing us with the facts).

We don’t read, for the most part, preferring images (sound bites, videos, anything that can stimulate us visually), and because we don’t read, we don’t know anything (visual – and I would suggest that just audio falls in this category too – is quick in and quick out – I avoid video or listening to just audio anything because I need to see words in print to understand them, to process them, to think about them, to have a record to go back to when the words or images change – which they inevitably do every single time, but it’s easier to hide with video and audio than it is with print – to compare and contrast).

Therefore, when all this junk comes at us, we’re fair game because it’s couched in an “aw shucks, we’re just one of you folks” lure that engages the emotions, the biases, the prejudices, and, quite frankly, the deceitfulness of our own hearts and pulls us right into the unreason the pervades every part of American society, including all of our “sacred cows.”

The interesting thing is that even some of us who realize this refuse to admit it, because admitting it means admitting we’re wrong and we need to change. And change is the hardest thing for any of us to really do. Oh, we talk about it a lot, but the fruit of actually doing it is rare to non-existent.

And yet change we must.

Unreason exists because we allow it to exist.

We need to read – even authors like this with whom I found some of the same characteristics that she is exposing and with whom I disagree wholeheartedly on some things – and we need to know and understand with our own two eyes and our own brains fully engaged what is real and what isn’t, what is true and what isn’t, what is fact and what isn’t, and we need to be able, in our own words (not parroting someone else’s words), to explain what is real, what is true, and what is fact with depth and thought that shows we have actually done the mentally-challenging work ourselves and not abandoned out brains to the plethora of junk that’s out there ready – and, in many cases, has already to a great degree – to move in and fill up the increasing empty space we leave upon our abandonment.

There are no voids in the universe, so if we don’t use our brains, there is plenty of garbage out there that is more than happy to rent the space, at the highest cost imaginable.

For quintessential leaders, this supreme cost not only negatively affects us, but it also negatively affects our teams and our organizations.

When we stop reading, we stop learning. When we stop learning, we stop critically thinking. When we stop critically thinking, we stop understanding. When we stop understanding, we stop discerning.

When we stop discerning, we lose the ability to distinguish between truth and lies, facts and opinions, and reality and fiction.

Quintessential leaders can’t afford – nor can their teams and organizations – to allow this to happen.

How are we doing?

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The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing UsThe Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us by Nicholas Carr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As with The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr has brought the role of technology in our lives into focus with another aspect that I doubt many of us really understand in its pervasiveness in our everyday lives and what it is costing us, not just in obvious ways, but in ways that are fundamental to being human and be uniquely skilled to productively and expertly interact in and with the world of opportunity and possibilities we’ve been given.

The subtitle of this book is “Automation and Us,” and how automation has infiltrated every aspect of our lives and what we’re losing in the process is Carr’s subject in this book.

Automation, of and by itself, is not bad. It is the things we’ve automated and our relationship to automation (serving it instead of letting it serve us) that turns what could be a good thing into something that is destined to destroy us – our unique human abilities, skills, and talents – unless we take control and do something different.

One of the points that Carr makes in this book is that we have offloaded critical thinking skills, technical acumen, analysis, and creativity to technology. By doing this, we gradually lose the ability to operate successfully manually (without the technology) and use judgement, intuition, experience, and knowledge to navigate our lives and our professions.

Carr looks at the impact of automatic in the airline industry (specifically looking at how autopilot has degraded the skills of pilots to successfully deal with emergencies and crises when flying), in business (stock market, accounting, business decisions, human resources, hiring, etc., which have all been relegated to software to handle, with no human factors involved, resulting in the global financials messes we now deal with and with a loss of talent because there’s no human contact or intervention to recognize the talent), in medicine (with the advent of electronic medical records in most medical facilities, software is now making the decisions that doctors used to make and because the software adds procedures and tests, the costs, which were supposed to go lower, have actually increased exponentially) and in manufacturing.

He also looks at us and how we’ve turned over our brains to automation. We depend on social media to decide who and what we like (or don’t) and who we’re friends with (and who we’re not – anyone who chooses to limit this exposure disappears and becomes invisible because they simply don’t exist outside the virtual world) and we have chosen willing to live in this virtual world more than we actually interact with the real word.

We’ve given control of our lives to our electronic devices: to do lists, calendars, phone numbers, etc. We let our software do things we should be doing ourselves: spell-checking, grammar-checking, basic math functions, etc. We have fallen for the myth that automation gives us more power, when instead it erodes our power and our humanness.

People are much more extreme in their polarization of love and hate (nothing in between) in an automated world. It often seems that empathy, compassion, care, concern and love – all unique human abilities – is absent in the presence of a world that is automated. We lose our ability to relate to each other in any kind of real way and, as a result, we lose our humanness, and we become programmed to polarized points of view that we simply pick up and accept by what and who we choose to listen to, follow, and expouse in the landscape of technology (cable, streaming, internet, etc.).

We are losing our life blood – our hearts, our souls, and our minds, because we serve the god of automation that lacks emotional richness, deep understanding, and caring concern. I hope we reverse this trend, but I also am realistic enough to realize that we probably won’t and it will probably get much worse before it gets better.

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An example of ubiquity and mass appeal in Facebook's French flag app after the November 13, 2015 terrorist attacksAfter the terrorist attack in Paris on November 13, 2015, Facebook immediately came out with an app that let its users superimpose the French flag over their profile pictures to ostensibly show solidarity with France and Paris. (more…)

Quintessential leaders continue to learn and educate themselves all their livesThe day a human being – other than teenagers, who don’t know any better – decides they know it all and there is nothing else to learn or no reason to continue educating themselves is the day they die from the inside out.

When people in leadership positions do this, they become foolish, ignorant, and irrelevant, fit for nothing more than to go live as a hermit in a cave somewhere.

Because when people in leadership positions stop learning and stop educating themselves, they become useless.

We live in a world where ego breeds ignorance in people in leadership positions. Increasingly, this triumph of ego over knowledge (I’ve discussed this before) is applauded, embraced, and endorsed.

When this egotism and ignorance is in people in leadership positions, two things happen.

Ignorance starts when learning and education stopsFor the majority of people impacted by them, an increase in gullibility (engendered by each of these people’s failure to continue to learn and educate themselves, preferring instead to let media and technology appeal to their baser – and ignorant – natures and give them neatly-packaged, but erroneous, talking points they can parrot) leads the majority just to accept whatever they hear as being true. Ignorance, then, perpetuates itself throughout society.

For the minority of people who are continuing to learn and educate themselves, these people in leadership positions lose their respect and their trust. And they lose this minority of people who either internally, first, and physically, eventually, walk away from them for good.

I’ll give a real-life example of this kind of ignorance because I hear and have heard statements about this over and over.

Not long ago, a person in a leadership position was talking to a group of people, which I was among. The person told the group that President George W. Bush didn’t know anything about the threat of attacks on 9/11/01 just like President Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t know anything about the threat of attack on Pearl Harbor.

I sat there in disbelief because because both statements were totally false and if this person who is in a leadership position had continued learning and educating themselves, they would have never made those statements.

History has revealed that both presidents were well aware that the respective attacks were not only probable, but imminent. They chose to ignore that information because the attacks would give them the go-ahead to do what they would not be able to do any other way.

President RooseveltIn President Roosevelt’s case, the only way the United States could get into World War II officially (it had already been unofficially involved since the late 1930’s) with the support of the American people was if America was attacked. Therefore, the attack on Pearl Harbor was his (and his advisors’) ticket into the global conflict.

In President Bush’s case, one of his objectives was to finish the job in Iraq – killing Saddam Hussein – that had been unfinished when the Gulf War (August 1990 – February 1991) ended.

President BushHe couldn’t just go attack, so he had to find a way to be in the Middle East. Al Qaeda’s uptick in activity and increased direct threats to the United States gave President Bush (and his advisors) the promise of an open door to complete his ultimate objective. When the attack came, the door opened.

Perhaps it’s hard to believe that a country would let its own people die in order the meet other objectives.

However, anyone who is continuing to learn and continuing their education – which includes history – will know that’s been the story of humanity.

Ignorance of the truth of our story as a species leads to more ignorance about our story in all its organizational contexts and ignorance about our story as individuals. The net effect is that we have no clue about the big picture and we believe lies and perpetuate them.

Because quintessential leaders keep the big picture in mind all the time, they know they don’t know everything about everything, and they know that ignorance breeds lies (quintessential leaders value and ensure, to the best of their abilities, truth in everything), quintessential leaders never stop learning and they never stop educating themselves. 


As anybody whose been through both the K-12 and higher educational systems in the United States knows very little learning and education happens in the process.

Much of what is taught are the propagated lies and sheer memorization of them (there are exceptions to this and I was fortunate enough to have a handful of educators along the way who were exceptions, just as I was fortunate enough to have parents who put a high premium on lifelong learning and education).

We come out of these systems with necessary pieces of paper, but, in most cases, very little real education and knowledge.

And that is when quintessential leaders embark on their lifelong quest for learning and education.

Quintessential leaders read widely. They read the classics (quality fiction), but mostly they read non-fiction on a wide variety of topics of substance.

Quintessential leaders know how to test and prove or disprove what they read. The more a person reads (and I’m talking about spending quiet and focused hours, not skimming something on Reading widely and substantively leads to a lifetime of learning and educationthe internet and saying you read it) the better they become at discernment and at being able to determine what is true and what is not.

Quintessential leaders know how to think about and apply what they read because what they’ve learned stays with them and becomes a part of their collective reserve of information and their behavior.

Because quintessential leaders are well-read, they are very attuned to verbal inconsistencies and outright verbal ignorance.

Without that learning and educational process continuing, quintessential leaders would be susceptible to believing everything they hear (or read), because discernment, understanding, and knowledge is absent.

As always, we must, as quintessential leaders, look at our own lives to see whether we are on a journey of lifelong learning and education.

Therefore, we need to ask ourselves some questions:

  • Do we read?
  • If we’re not reading, why not?
  • If we read, do we read widely and substantively, or do we read “easy reads” and “fluff?”
  • If we read, can we compare what we’re reading with other things we’ve heard or read and know which is true or whether some or none is true?
  • If we read, does it change our lives because we learn something we didn’t know or we gain a different understanding of something we thought we knew?

If we are not committed to and actively pursuing a lifelong commitment to learning and educating ourselves, then we are not quintessential leaders.

How are we doing?



This is the 2nd part of the review of Michael Harris’ “The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection.”

As quintessential leaders, this not only affects us but the teams we lead. One of our roles as leaders is to model and coach our teams. If we’re constantly connected to technology, then that is the example we are setting for our teams.

And it’s devastatingly detrimental to us and to them.

Going Gentle Into That Good Night

information superhighway going gentle into that good nightThis is the second of a three-part series of reviews that I am writing on The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection written by Michael Harris in 2014.

The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We've Lost in a World of Constant Connection by Michael HarrisIn “Part 1 – ‘The End of Absence’ (Michael Harris) Book Review,” we looked at the definition of absence and how it relates to our quality of life.

We discussed how absence gives rise to critical thinking, problem-solving, short-term and long-term planning, concentrated focus, and creativity.

We also discussed the physical, emotional, and mental benefits of absence.

And, finally, we discussed how absence has been eroded by our constant connection to technology to the point that it is virtually extinct in our current society.

We discussed how this has dumbed down society as a whole and how susceptible that makes us to being controlled, manipulated, and deceived by technology.

And, finally, we looked at how much…

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