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July 2, 2012

Leadership and Self-Deception

Book Review-Leadership and Self-Deception

Self-Esteem is something we’re pushing into our children. Dr. Spock’s guidance to parents in the 1950s led parents to work on a child’s self-esteem to the exclusion of proper discipline. Here’s what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says in Finding Flow:

“Dr. Benjamin Spock, whose advice about child rearing was so immensely influential among at least two generations of parents, in the twilight of his life doubts that the stress placed earlier on training children to be unfettered individualists was such a good idea. He now feels that it is at least as essential for them to learn to work for a common good, and to appreciate religion, art, and the other ineffable aspects of life.”

However, as a society we’re often focused on self-esteem – mostly ours – but self-esteem none the less. The book Leadership and Self-Deception is written in the form of a story but is designed to teach an important lesson about our feelings, our perception of reality, and how others may not be the only ones who are wrong.

Let me seek to summarize quickly. We betray ourselves – we all do it. It’s as simple as having a thought and failing to follow up on it. The book makes a point of explaining that we can’t do everything that we might like or might be possible for every person – but rather we should seek to betray ourselves less. The problem isn’t self-betrayal itself as much as it puts you “in the box.” Inside the box you seek to justify your own self-betrayal. In order to justify your own self-betrayal you must vilify the other party and take upon yourself the position of the victim. Victims have a sense of helplessness which reduces the ability to break free.

Once we’re “in the box” we’ll distort reality and lash out and invite others to be hurt and enter their own box and thereby we collude with each other to keep ourselves in the box – and away from being open and honest with each other.

The problem is that we have delusional self-images. The book Switch pointed out “A full 25 percent of people believe they’re in the top 1 percent in their ability to get along with others.” Clearly 24% of people are wrong about the way that they see themselves – but which 24% remains a question.

So self-betrayal leads to being “in the box.” The act of being in the box leads to seeing others as the only ones having the problem. That isn’t to say that others don’t have problems – but we do too.

One important point is that when we’re in the box the pull to defend our position, to cover our self-betrayal is like the event horizon of a black hole – it’s an almost inescapable proposition. Certainly we’re not going to wiggle our way out by trying a technique or skill to manipulate the other person or to suppress our self-betrayal. We can’t cover up the self-betrayal – it will leak through and will be seen by others. Instead, we have to gain power through acknowledging and — in so much as it can be done – addressing the self-betrayal.

The solution to getting out of the box is to be open and honest with one another, to acknowledge that no matter what the flaws in the other person we have our own role in the drama that’s unfolding between us.

Leadership and Self-Deception is an easy read, is deceptively simple and deliciously subtle. It’s worth picking it up and reading it. I’ll close with two direct pulls from the book, a summary of Self-Betrayal and What Doesn’t Work “in the box”


  • An act contrary to what I feel I should do for another is called an act of “self-betrayal.”
  • When I betray myself, I begin to see the world in a way that justifies my self-betrayal.
  • When I see the world in a self-justifying way, my view of reality becomes distorted.
  • So—when I betray myself, I enter the box.
  • Over time, certain boxes become characteristic of me, and I carry them with me.
  • By being in the box, I provoke others to be in the box.
  • In the box, we invite mutual mistreatment and obtain mutual justification. We collude in giving each other reason to stay in the box.

What Doesn’t Work “in the box”

  • Trying to change others
  • Doing my best to “cope” with others
  • Leaving
  • Communicating
  • Implementing new skills or techniques
  • Changing my behavior
Psychology of Success

Book Review-Introducing: Psychology of Success

While my last book review was my longest, this review will definitely be in the category of the shortest. Why? Well, Introducing Psychology of Success is a broad but not terribly deep book. There are important concepts that are revealed but they are concepts that I consider to be relatively obvious. To be fair, however, having read a great deal of psychology, self-help, and philosophy books what I believe are obvious at this point are probably not obvious to everyone. However, there’s another story with this book that I want to cover quickly before diving into details.

The story is that I found the book based on the fact that David or Allison Price (the authors) left a comment on my blog about this book. The book review they commented on was Mindset – The New Psychology of Success. The comment there was enough for me to pickup Introducing Psychology of Success. So while the content of the book may not have been the most applicable to my situation, I admire the tenacity for marketing their book.

OK, let’s use the conclusion from the book to give you the list of chapters (they’re lettered A-Z rather than numbered) and from there I’ll make a few additional comments:

  • A – Get activated to step back from your life, work out what you want from it and take action to achieve it. Why wait for a wake-up call? Seize the moment now!
  • B – Begin with the end in mind, deliberately working towards what you want, rather than drifting through life until you reach a place where you are stuck.
  • C – Find lasting fulfillment in your life through striving to enjoy both the current time and the future. Always aim to enjoy the journey and the destination.
  • D – Dare to dream. Teach yourself to believe that you can do things that you really don’t think that you can do.
  • E – Put in the effort needed to achieve your dreams, it’s worth it, especially if you can enjoy that effort!
  • F – Overcome fear that holds you back.
  • G – Set specific and challenging goals to work towards, as they help you to achieve more.
  • H – Don’t be afraid to aim high. Even if you don’t quite make your goal, you’ll achieve far more than if you just aim for average.
  • I – Break your seemingly impossible goals down into achievable interim steps, to help you to psychologically and practically progress.
  • J – Just have a go. Don’t worry about failure, worry about the chances you miss if you don’t even try.
  • K – Keep going. If things don’t go well to start with, remember that it is worth the effort. Hold your head high and try again.
  • L – Learn. By taking action you have an opportunity to work out what works and what doesn’t. You haven’t failed by taking action – even if you don’t reach what you were aiming for, you have succeeded in understanding more.
  • M – Modeling enables you to shortcut the amount of time and effort it takes to learn how to succeed, by copying the winning strategies and beliefs of others.
  • N – Numbers are useful things to keep track of when striving for your goal. As well as measuring your progress towards your goal, measure and monitor what effort you put in and how this impacts goal achievement.
  • O – There are opportunities all around you that will help you to reach your goal. Keeping your goal at the forefront of your mind helps your brain’s power of selective attention to register those opportunities.
  • P – Before you can achieve your goal, there may be a lot of practical, logistical and mental preparation that you need to do. This preparation can be essential to long-term success and eventually you will see your hard work pay off.
  • Q – To keep yourself motivated, set yourself mini-targets, quick wins, which you can regularly achieve. This will ensure that you get a regular dose of the powerful chemical dopamine in your brain to keep you motivated.
  • R – The Rosenthal Effect demonstrates just how much impact the labels that other people put on us can have. Associate with people who support you and this will assist you to succeed.
  • S – Even if you have been told that you can’t do something, remember that with some self-belief you can prove them wrong. Just because others say you can’t doesn’t mean they are right.
  • T – There are a whole host of people out there who can help you to succeed. Who would be a useful part of your winning team?
  • U – When striving to achieve, you may find yourself under pressure. Work out if pressure is your friend or foe and learn how to cope with it when it gets too much.
  • V – Visualize success. Picture your route to success and it can have very powerful results.
  • W – Remember that there is a very powerful winning ingredient when it comes to success and that is happiness. Focus on being happy and this will also help you to succeed.
  • X – What do you need to do to go the eXtra-mile towards achieving your goal? Always ask yourself, ‘Will it make the boat go faster?’
  • Y – Strive to have a mind-set of ‘yes, I can do this’, not ‘no I can’t’ and you will be more likely to succeed.
  • Z – Live your life with zeal. Have great energy

I think that the one thing that just doesn’t surface in the above is the idea that life is a journey and that you should enjoy the journey. It’s not about the destination – it’s about the trip you take on your way to get there. Several years ago, a friend of mine, my brother, and I took a flying trip to Mount Rushmore. There were numerous issues during the trip but we managed through some mutual encouragement to stay focused on the journey. It was one of the best trips. We found there’s a Journey museum in Rapid City, SD. We heard a disproportionate number of Journey songs. I learned on that trip that the destination doesn’t matter as much as the journey.

Said another way, with the apology for the relative morbid nature… Everyone is going to end up in the same place. We’re going to die. It’s not the end point that’s in question; it’s what we do in the meantime.

If you’re looking for a push in the rear to get going on better enjoying this journey we call life, you may want to pick up Introducing Psychology of Success.

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