Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – Robert Cialdini


(I recommend the book, but I would not read it a second time.)


We live in a world of trolls. Hopefully, books like this will make us a bit more conscious of the things people do to try and manipulate us. ‘Influence’ shows some of the psychological tricks and techniques that companies, salesman, politicians and governments use to nudge people in the direction they want.


Animals have ques that trigger specific sequences of actions and behaviors. People also have these automatic behaviors rooted deep into their subconscious brains. The difference is that we can become aware of those fixed-pattern behaviors and protect ourselves from people who might use them against us.

A few key points:

  1. If you want someone to do you a favour be sure to provide a good logical explanation.
  2. Contrast: Something bad first will make something average look amazing later.
  3. We are more likely to comply to people who we like.
  4. We are easily swayed by figures of authority.
  5. We easily fall into the trap of wanting something more if it appears to be scarce.
  6. Gifts, favours, nice gestures, induce a feeling of indebtedness.Guilt is an extremely effective way of persuading people to do what you want. Avoid falling in the trap in first place. If you do fall, realize what these ‘favors’ really are: a sales trick.

Choosing something and committing to it makes you like it more.  

Toy Companies advertise a flashy toy for Christmas. Kids see these advertisments and demand the toy from the parents. The parents agree, only to be unable to find the toy available when they go out to buy it. What the toy companies do, is to purposefully release the toy in short supply. The parents then have to settle with another toy for Christmas. After Christmas, however, the toy companies resume advertising the toy. Then parents buy that same toy in January or February as they have already made the commitment to buy it for their kids.

Social Proof

Advertising, laughing tracks, fake ques outside nightclubs, ‘95%of doctors recommend…’. If they convince you that everyone believes something to be 100% true, you are more likely to believe it yourself without even questioning it.

Social proof is so strong that if a personal gets a heart attack in the middle of a crowd people are more likely to ignore him than help him. They are uncertain if he actually needs help or if he is drunk, drugged a buffoon etc. so they look at each other to see how everyone else around them reacts. So if you ever need help, scream ‘Help’ and ask for it from a specific person in the crowd.

When everyone is looking up to you, how you react can infect the people who rely on you. If you are in a leadership position and something bad happens, you emotions will be contagious.

A few days after reading this book I bought 4 books which were supposed to cost 10 pounds, 2.50 each. The saleswoman charged me 9 pounds instead. My immediate reaction was the feeling that I had to reciprocate her kindness by buying more books from her. After all, she was so nice to give me one pound discount. I felt like I owed her something. It took me half an hour to realize the effect that her sales trick had on me. All that happened a few days after reading a book on how to not fall for sales tricks… I felt a bit embarassed and very much naive. Key point being that no amount of books or knowledge is useful. Reading this book will not help you defend yourself unless you are also extremely mindful of your emotions and what triggers them. Be mindful of your feelings and thoughts.

Key lesson to be drawn from this book: Think about why you feel the way you feel. Think about why you act the way you act. Become aware of what causes these feelings/actions. Do not react to every piece of news you read online, or every comment on Twitter. Realize that some people have an agenda and will try to get an emotional response from you.

Please suggest other books on the topic in the comments below.


Random cool quote I found in the book: The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost – Chesteron

Strangely enough, then, it seems that the rejection-then-retreat tactic spurs people not only to agree to a desired request but actually to carry out the request and, finally, to volunteer to perform further requests. What could there be about the technique that makes people who have been duped into compliance so bewilderingly likely to continue to comply? For an answer, we might look at the requester’s act of concession, which is the heart of the procedure. We have already seen that as long as it is not viewed to be a transparent trick, the concession will likely stimulate a return concession. But what we have not yet examined is a little-known pair of positive by-products of the act of concession: feelings of greater responsibility for, and satisfaction with, the arrangement. It is this set of sweet side effects that enables the technique to move its victims to fulfill their agreements and to engage in further such agreements.

There were three important findings in this experiment that help us to understand why the rejection-then-retreat technique is so effective.First, compared to the two other approaches, the strategy of starting with an extreme demand and then retreating to the more moderate one produced the most money for the person using it. But this result is not very surprising in light of the previous evidence we have seen of the power of larger-then-smaller-request tactics to bring about profitable agreements. It is the two additional findings of the study that are more striking

To understand why consistency is so powerful a motive, it is important to recognize that in most circumstances consistency is valued and adaptive. Inconsistency is commonly thought to be an undesirable personality trait. The person whose beliefs, words, and deeds don’t match may be seen as indecisive, confused, two-faced, or even mentally ill. On the other side, a high degree of consistency is normally associated with personal and intellectual strength. It is at the heart of logic, rationality, stability, and honesty. A quote attributed to the great British chemist Michael Faraday suggests the extent to which being consistent is approved—sometimes more than being right. When asked after a lecture if he meant to imply that a hated academic rival was always wrong, Faraday glowered at the questioner and replied, “He’s not that consistent. ”

Of course, the first problem facing the Chinese was how to get any collaboration at all from the Americans. These were men who were trained to provide nothing but name, rank, and serial number. Short of physical brutalization, how could the captors hope to get such men to give military information, turn in fellow prisoners, or publicly denounce their country? The Chinese answer was elementary: Start small and build. For instance, prisoners were frequently asked to make statements so mildly anti-American or pro-Communist as to seem inconsequential (“The United States is not perfect. ” “In a Communist country, unemployment is not a problem.”). But once these minor requests were complied with, the men found themselves pushed to submit to related yet more substantive requests. A man who had just agreed with his Chinese interrogator that the United States is not perfect might then be asked to indicate some of the ways in which he thought this was the case. Once he had so explained himself, he might be asked to make a list of these “problems with America” and to sign his name to it. Later he might be asked to read his list in a discussion group with other prisoners.“After all, it’s what you really believe, isn’t it?” Still later he might be asked to write an essay expanding on his list and discussing these problems in greater detail. The Chinese might then use his name and his essay in an antiAmerican radio broadcast beamed not only to the entire camp, but to other POW camps in North Korea, as well as to American forces in South Korea. Suddenly he would find himself a “collaborator,” having given aid to the enemy. Aware that he had written the essay without any strong threats or coercion, many times a man would change his image of himself to be consistent with the deed and with the new “collaborator” label, often resulting in even more extensive acts of collaboration.Thus, while “only a few men were able to avoid collaboration altogether,” according to Dr.Schein, “the majority collaborated at one time or another by doing things which seemed to them trivial but which the Chinese were able to turn to their own advantage…. This was particularly effective in eliciting confessions, self-criticism, and information during interrogation. ”

The prime reason for their startling compliance has to do with something that had happened to them about two weeks earlier: They had made a small commitment to driver safety. A different volunteer worker had come to their doors and asked them to accept and display a little three-inch-square sign that read BE A SAFE DRIVER. It was such a trifling request that nearly all of them had agreed to it. But the effects of that request were enormous. Because they had innocently complied with a trivial safe-driving request a couple of weeks before, these homeowners became remarkably willing to comply with another such request that was massive in size area, this particular group of people reacted quite favorably. A full 76 percent of them offered the use of their front yards. The prime reason for their startling compliance has to do with something that had happened to them about two weeks earlier: They had made a small commitment to driver safety. A different volunteer worker had come to their doors and asked them to accept and display a little three-inch-square sign that read BE A SAFE DRIVER. It was such a trifling request that nearly all of them had agreed to it. But the effects of that request were enormous. Because they had innocently complied with a trivial safe-driving request a couple of weeks before, these homeowners became remarkably willing to comply with another such request that was massive in size.

It scares me enough that I am rarely willing to sign a petition anymore, even for a position I support. Such an action has the potential to influence not only my future behavior but also my self-image in ways I may not want. And once a person’s self-image is altered, all sorts of subtle advantages become available to someone who wants to exploit that new image.

Our best evidence of what people truly feel and believe comes less from their words than from their deeds. Observers trying to decide what a man is like look closely at his actions. What the Chinese have discovered is that the man himself uses this same evidence to decide what he is like. His behavior tells him about himself; it is a primary source of information about his beliefs and values and attitudes. Understanding fully this important principle of self-perception, the Chinese set about arranging the prison-camp experience so that their captives would consistently act in desired ways. Before long, the Chinese knew, these actions would begin to take their toll, causing the men to change their views of themselves to align with what they had done.

Some scientific evidence that this is the case comes from a study by psychologists Edward Jones and James Harris, who showed people an essay that was favorable to Fidel Castro and asked them to guess the true feelings of its author. 8 Jones and Harris told some of these people that the author had chosen to write a pro-Castro essay; and they told the other people that the author had been required to write in favor of Castro. The strange thing was that even those people who knew that the author had been assigned to do a pro-Castro essay guessed that he liked Castro. It seems that a statement of belief produces a click, whirr response in those who view it. Unless there is strong evidence to the contrary, observers automatically assume that someone who makes such a statement means it.

Some scientific evidence that this is the case comes from a study by psychologists Edward Jones and James Harris, who showed people an essay that was favorable to Fidel Castro and asked them to guess the true feelings of its author. 8 Jones and Harris told some of these people that the author had chosen to write a pro-Castro essay; and they told the other people that the author had been required to write in favor of Castro. The strange thing was that even those people who knew that the author had been assigned to do a pro-Castro essay guessed that he liked Castro. It seems that a statement of belief produces a click, whirr response in those who view it. Unless there is strong evidence to the contrary, observers automatically assume that someone who makes such a statement means it. Think of the double-barreled effects on the self-image of a prisoner who wrote a pro-Chinese or anti-American statement. Not only was it a lasting personal reminder of his action, it was also likely to persuade those around him that the statement reflected his actual beliefs.And, as we will see in Chapter 4, what those around us think is true of us is enormously important in determining what we ourselves think is true. For example, one study found that after hearing that they were considered charitable people, New Haven, Connecticut, housewives gave much more money to a canvasser from the Multiple Sclerosis Association. 9 Apparently the mere knowledge that someone viewed them as charitable caused these women to make their actions consistent with another’s perception of them. Once an active commitment is made, then, self-image is squeezed from both sides by consistency pressures. From the inside, there is a pressure to bring self-image into line with action. From the outside, there is a sneakier pressure—a tendency to adjust this image according to the way others perceive us. And because others see us as believing what we have written (even when we’ve had little choice in the matter), we will once again experience a pull to bring self-image into line with the written statement.

Another common way for businesses to cash in on the “magic” of written declarations occurs through the use of an innocent-looking promotional device. Before I began to study weapons of social influence, I used to wonder why big companies such as Procter & Gamble and General Foods are always running those “25-, 50-, or 100 words or less” testimonial contests. They all seem to be alike. The contestant is to compose a short personal statement that begins with the words, “Why I like…” and goes on to laud the features of whatever cake mix or floor wax happens to be at issue. The company judges the entries and awards some stunningly large prizes to the winners. What had puzzled me was what the companies got out of the deal. Often the contest requires no purchase; anyone submitting an entry is eligible.Yet, the companies appear to be strangely willing to incur the huge costs of contest after contest. I am no longer puzzled. The purpose behind the testimonial contests is the same as the purpose behind the political essay contests of the Chinese Communists. In both instances, the aim is to get as many people as possible to go on record as liking the product.

My own view is that the answer appeared in 1959 in the results of a study little known outside of social psychology. A pair of young researchers, Elliot Aronson and Judson Mills, decided to test their observation that “persons who go through a great deal of trouble or pain to attain something tend to value it more highly than persons who attain the same thing with a minimum of effort. ”

Examination of such diverse activities as the indoctrination practices of the Chinese Communists and the initiation rituals of college fraternities has provided some valuable information about commitment. It appears that commitments are most effective in changing a person’s self-image and future behavior when they are active, public, and effortful. But there is another property of effective commitment that is more important than the other three combined. To understand what it is, we first need to solve a pair of puzzles in the actions of Communist interrogators and fraternity brothers.

To examine the second puzzle, we need to return to the Chinese prison camps of Korea and the regular political essay contests held for American captives. The Chinese wanted as many Americans as possible to enter these contests so that, in the process, they might write things favorable to the Communist view.If, however, the idea was to attract large numbers of entrants, why were the prizes so small? A few extra cigarettes or a little fresh fruit were often all that a contest winner could expect. In the setting, even these prizes were valuable, but still there were much larger rewards—warm clothing, special mail privileges, increased freedom of movement in camp—that the Chinese could have used to increase the number of essay writers. Yet they specifically chose to employ the smaller rather than the larger, more motivating rewards. Although the settings are quite different, the surveyed fraternities refused to allow civic activities into their initiation ceremonies for the same reason that the Chinese withheld large prizes in favor of less powerful inducements: They wanted the men to own what they had done. No excuses, no ways out were allowed. A man who suffered through an arduous hazing could not be given the chance to believe he did so for charitable purposes. A prisoner who salted his political essay with a few anti-American comments could not be permitted to shrug it off as motivated by a big reward.No, the fraternity chapters and Chinese Communists were playing for keeps. It was not enough to wring commitments out of their men; those men had to be made to take inner responsibility for their actions.

Adults facing the child-rearing experience can take a cue from the Freedman study. Suppose a couple wants to impress upon their daughter that lying is wrong. A strong, clear threat (“It’s bad to lie, honey; so if I catch you at it, I’ll cut your tongue out”) might well be effective when the parents are present or when the girl thinks she can be discovered. But it will not achieve the larger goal of convincing her that she does not want to lie because she thinks it’s wrong. To do that, a much subtler approach is required. A reason must be given that is just strong enough to get her to be truthful most of the time but is not so strong that she sees it as the obvious reason for her truthfulness. It’s a tricky business, because exactly what this barely sufficient reason will be changes from child to child. For one little girl, a simple appeal may be enough (“It’s bad to lie, honey; so I hope you won’t do it”); for another child, it may be necessary to add a somewhat stronger reason (“…because if you do, I’ll be disappointed in you”); for a third child, a mild form of warning may be required as well (“…and I’ll probably have to do something I don’t want to do”). Wise parents will know which kind of reason will work on their own children. The important thing is to use a reason that will initially produce the desired behavior and will, at the same time, allow a child to take personal responsibility for that behavior.Thus, the less detectable outside pressure such a reason contains, the better. Selecting just the right reason is not an easy task for parents. But the effort should pay off. It is likely to mean the difference between short-lived compliance and long-term commitment.

No more, though. I listen to my stomach these days. And I have discovered a way to handle people who try to use the consistency principle on me. I just tell them exactly what they are doing. It works beautifully. Most of the time, they don’t understand me; they just become sufficiently confused to want to leave me alone. I think they suspect lunacy in anyone who responds to their requests by explaining what Ralph Waldo Emerson meant in distinguishing between consistency and foolish consistency. Usually they have already begun edging away by the time I have mentioned “hobgoblins of the mind” and are gone long before I have described the click, whirr character of commitment and consistency.Occasionally, though, they realize that I am on to their game. I always know when that happens—it’s as clear as the egg on their faces. They invariably become flustered, bumble through a hasty exit line, and go for the door.

I have begun using the same device myself whenever I even suspect I might be acting in a foolishly consistent manner. One time, for instance, I had stopped at the self-service pump of a filling station advertising a price per gallon a couple of cents below the rate of other stations in the area. But with pump nozzle in hand, I noticed that the price listed on the pump was two cents higher than the display sign price. When I mentioned the difference to a passing attendant, who I later learned was the owner, he mumbled uncon-vincingly that the rates had changed a few days ago but there hadn’t been time to correct the display. I tried to decide what to do. Some reasons for staying came to mind—“I really do need gasoline badly. ” “This pump is available, and I am in sort of a hurry. ” “I think I remember that my car runs better on this brand of gas.

”So I asked myself the crucial question, “Knowing what I know about the real price of this gasoline, if I could go back in time, would I make the same choice again?” Concentrating on the first burst of impression I sensed, the answer was clear and unqualified. I would have driven right past. I wouldn’t even have slowed down. I knew then that without the price advantage, those other reasons would not have brought me there. They hadn’t created the decision; the decision had created them.

At the height of the disco craze, certain discotheque owners manufactured a brand of visible social proof for their clubs’ quality by creating long waiting lines outside when there was plenty of room inside. Salesmen are taught to spice their pitches with numerous accounts of individuals who have purchased the product. Sales and motivation consultant Cavett Robert captures the principle nicely in his advice to sales trainees: “Since 95 percent of the people are imitators and only 5 percent initiators, people are persuaded more by the actions of others than by any proof we can offer. ”

The powerful influence of filmed examples in changing the behavior of children can be used as therapy for various problems. Some striking evidence is available in the research of psychologist Robert O’Connor on socially withdrawn preschool children. We have all seen children of this sort, terribly shy, standing alone at the fringes of the games and groupings of their peers. O’Connor worried that a long-term pattern of isolation was forming, even at an early age, that would create persistent difficulties in social comfort and adjustment through adulthood. In an attempt to reverse the pattern, O’Connor made a film containing eleven different scenes in a nursery-school setting. Each scene began by showing a different solitary child watching some ongoing social activity and then actively joining the activity, to everyone’s enjoyment. O’Connor selected a group of the most severely withdrawn children from four preschools and showed them his film. The impact was impressive. The isolates immediately began to interact with their peers at a level equal to that of the normal children in the schools. Even more astonishing was what O’Connor found when he returned to observe six weeks later. While the withdrawn children who had not seen O’Connor’s film remained as isolated as ever, those who had viewed it were now leading their schools in amount of social activity. It seems that this twenty-three-minute movie, viewed just once, was enough to reverse a potential pattern of lifelong maladaptive behavior. Such is the potency of the principle of social proof.

All the weapons of influence discussed in this book work better under some conditions than under others. If we are to defend ourselves adequately against any such weapon, it is vital that we know its optimal operating conditions in order to recognize when we are most vulnerable to its influence. In the case of the principle of social proof, we have already had a hint of one time when it works best. Among the Chicago believers, it was a sense of shaken confidence that triggered their craving for converts. In general, when we are unsure of ourselves, when the situation is unclear or ambiguous, when uncertainty reigns, we are most likely to look to and accept the actions of others as correct.

What is easy to forget, though, is that everybody else observing the event is likely to be looking for social evidence, too. And because we all prefer to appear poised and unflustered among others, we are likely to search for that evidence placidly, with brief, camouflaged glances at those around us. Therefore everyone is likely to see everyone else looking unruffled and failing to act. As a result, and by the principle of social proof, the event will be roundly interpreted as a nonemergency.This, according to Latané and Darley, is the state of pluralistic ignorance “in which each person decides that since nobody is concerned, nothing is wrong.Meanwhile, the danger may be mounting to the point where a single individual, uninfluenced by the seeming calm of others, would react. ”

The story of the Werther effect is both chilling and intriguing. More than two centuries ago, the great man of German literature, Johann von Goethe, published a novel entitled Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (The Sorrows of Young Werther). The book, in which the hero, named Werther, commits suicide, had a remarkable impact. Not only did it provide Goethe with immediate fame, but it also sparked a wave of emulative suicides across Europe. So powerful was this effect that authorities in several countries banned the novel.

The Sorrows of Young Werther – Goethe

No leader can hope to persuade, regularly and singlehandedly, all the members of the group. A forceful leader can reasonably expect, however, to persuade some sizable proportion of group members. Then the raw information that a substantial number of group members has been convinced can, by itself, convince the rest. Thus the most influential leaders are those who know how to arrange group conditions to allow the principle of social proof to work maximally in their favor.

The patrolman’s account provides certain insights into the way we respond to social proof.First, we seem to assume that if a lot of people are doing the same thing, they must know something we don’t. Especially when we are uncertain, we are willing to place an enormous amount of trust in the collective knowledge of the crowd.Second, quite frequently the crowd is mistaken because they are not acting on the basis of any superior information but are reacting, themselves, to the principle of social proof

First, we seem to assume that if a lot of people are doing the same thing, they must know something we don’t. Especially when we are uncertain, we are willing to place an enormous amount of trust in the collective knowledge of the crowd.Second, quite frequently the crowd is mistaken because they are not acting on the basis of any superior information but are reacting, themselves, to the principle of social proof.

Odds at a racetrack are based on where the money is being bet. The more money on a horse, the lower (better) the odds. Many people who play the horses have surprisingly little knowledge of racing or betting strategy.Thus, especially when they don’t know much about the horses in a particular race, a lot of times they’ll simply bet the favorite. Because tote boards are displayed with up-to-the-minute odds, the public can always tell who the current favorite is. The system that a high roller can use to alter the odds is actually quite simple. The guy has in mind a horse he feels has a good chance of winning. Next he chooses a horse that has long odds (say, 15 to 1) and doesn’t have a realistic chance to win. The minute the mutual windows open, the guy puts down a hundred dollars on the inferior horse, creating an instant favorite whose odds on the board drop to about 2 to 1.“Now the elements of social proof begin to work. People who are uncertain of how to bet the race look to the tote board to see which horse the early bettors have decided is a favorite, and they follow. A snowballing effect now occurs as other people continue to bet the favorite. At this point, the high roller can go back to the window and bet heavily on his true favorite, which will have better odds now because the ‘new favorite’ has pushed down the board. If the guy wins, the initial hundred-dollar investment will have been worth it many times over.

Once again we can see that social proof is most powerful for those who feel unfamiliar or unsure in a specific situation and who, consequently, must look outside of themselves for evidence of how best to behave there.

Since that encounter with the scarcity principle—that opportunities seem more valuable to us when their availability is limited—I have begun to notice its influence over a whole range of my actions. For instance, I routinely will interrupt an interesting face-to-face conversation to answer the ring of an unknown caller. In such a situation, the caller has a compelling feature that my face-to-face partner does not: potential unavailability. If I don’t take the call, I might miss it (and the information it carries) for good. Never mind that the ongoing conversation may be highly engaging or important—much more than I could reasonably expect an average phone call to be. With each unanswered ring, the phone interaction becomes less retrievable.




Willpower – Roy Baumeister


(Do not recommend)

  • Make sure your brain has enough glucose to function.
  • Willpower has a capacity that can be depleted.
  • Through constantly using your willpower, you can increase that capacity.
  • Create habits and systems that will avoid putting you in positions where you have to use your limited supply of will power.

Research Paper – This research paper says the opposite.

Much recent research suggests that willpower—the capacity to exert self-control—is a limited resource that is depleted after exertion. We propose that whether depletion takes place or not depends on a person’s belief about whether willpower is a limited resource. Study 1 found that individual differences in lay theories about willpower moderate ego-depletion effects: People who viewed the capacity for self-control as not limited did not show diminished self-control after a depleting experience. Study 2 replicated the effect, manipulating lay theories about willpower. Study 3 addressed questions about the mechanism underlying the effect. Study 4, a longitudinal field study, found that theories about willpower predict change in eating behavior, procrastination, and self-regulated goal striving in depleting circumstances. Taken together, the findings suggest that reduced self-control after a depleting task or during demanding periods may reflect people’s beliefs about the availability of willpower rather than true resource depletion.


Ego depletion thus creates a double whammy: Your willpower is diminished and your cravings feel stronger than ever.They were also more grumpy, irritable, and prone to anger or despair. They may have blamed their outbursts on the stress of exam period, because there’s a common misperception that stress causes those kinds of emotions. What stress really does, though, is deplete willpower, which diminishes your ability to control those emotions.






When people have to make a big change in their lives, their efforts are undermined if they are trying to make other changes as well. People who are trying to quit smoking, for example, will have their best shot at succeeding if they aren’t changing other behaviors at the same time. Those who try to quit smoking while also restricting their eating or cutting back on alcohol tend to fail at all three—probably because they have too many simultaneous demands on their willpower. Research has likewise found that people who seek to control their drinking tend to fail on days when they have other demands on their self-control, as compared with days when they can devote all their willpower to limiting the booze.


Yet just by looking at the response to the glucose test, the researchers were able to predict with greater than 80 percent accuracy which convicts would go on to commit violent crimes. These men apparently had less self-control because of their impaired glucose tolerance, a condition in which the body has trouble converting food into usable energy. The food gets converted into glucose, but the glucose in the bloodstream doesn’t get absorbed as it circulates. The result is often a surplus of glucose in the bloodstream, which might sound beneficial, but it’s like having plenty of firewood and no matches. The glucose remains there uselessly, rather than being converted into brain and muscle activity. If the excess glucose reaches a sufficiently high level, the condition is labeled diabetes.


Their willpower gradually got stronger, so it was less readily depleted. Focusing on one specific form of self-control could yield much larger benefits, just as self-experimenters from Ben Franklin to David Blaine had maintained. The experiments showed that you didn’t have to start off with the exceptional self-control of a Franklin or a Blaine to benefit: As long as you were motivated to do some kind of exercise, your overall willpower could improve, at least over the course of the experiment.


We’ve said that willpower is humans’ greatest strength, but the best strategy is not to rely on it in all situations. Save it for emergencies. As Stanley discovered, there are mental tricks that enable you to conserve willpower for those moments when it’s indispensable. Paradoxically, these techniques require willpower to implement, but in the long run they leave you less depleted for those moments when it takes a strong core to survive.

The behaviors they had coded as automatic tended to be linked to habits, whereas the more controlled sorts of behaviors tended to be unusual or one-time-only actions. Self-control turned out to be most effective when people used it to establish good habits and break bad ones. People with self-control were more likely to regularly use condoms, and to avoid habits like smoking, frequent snacking, and heavy drinking. It took willpower to establish patterns of healthy behavior—which was why the people with more willpower were better able to do it—but once the habits were established, life could proceed smoothly, particularly some aspects of life.


When Boice followed up on the group some years later, he found that their paths had diverged sharply. The page-a-day folks had done well and generally gotten tenure. The so-called “binge writers” fared far less well, and many had had their careers cut short. The clear implication was that the best advice for young writers and aspiring professors is: Write every day. Use your self-control to form a daily habit, and you’ll produce more with less effort in the long run.




Stanley realized, self-control is not selfish. Willpower enables us to get along with others and override impulses that are based on personal short-term interests. It’s the same lesson that Navy SEAL commandos learn during a modern version of Stanley’s ordeals: the famous Hell Week test of continual running, swimming, crawling, and shivering that they must endure on less than five hours’ sleep. At least three-quarters of the men in each SEAL class typically fail to complete training, and the survivors aren’t necessarily the ones with the most muscles, according to Eric Greitens, a SEAL officer. In recalling the fellow survivors of his Hell Week, he points out their one common quality: “They had the ability to step outside of their own pain, put aside their own fear, and ask: How can I help the guy next to me? They had more than the ‘fist’ of courage and physical strength. They also had a heart large enough to think about others.”

…people exert less self-control after seeing a messy desk than after seeing a clean desk, or when using a sloppy rather than a neat and wellorganized Web site. You may not care about whether your bed is made and your desk is clean, but these environmental cues subtly influence your brain and your behavior, making it ultimately less of a strain to maintain self-discipline. Order seems to be contagious.


Chandler had his own system for turning out The Big Sleep and other classic detective stories. “Me, I wait for inspiration,” he said, but he did it methodically every morning. He believed that a professional writer needed to set aside at least four hours a day for his job: “He doesn’t have to write, and if he doesn’t feel like it, he shouldn’t try. He can look out of the window or stand on his head or writhe on the floor, but he is not to do any other positive thing, not read, write letters, glance at magazines, or write checks.”

On Becoming A Leader – Warren Bennis


On Becoming a Leader


Usually I don’t expect much from this type of books. On this occasion, however, I was pleasantly surprised.

  • Have a purpose, passion, integrity, negative capability 
  • Shape yourself, rather than be shaped
  • Actively seek out new and uncomfortable experiences
  • View fear as a motivator that pushes you in the direction where growth lies
  • Be aware of the lenses you see the world through and change them if you don’t like what you see
  • Travel extensively, read a lot of books (How do I travel when I work all the time? Does a week on Palma even count as travelling?)



So let’s see if I cover the checklist:

What is my purpose? To become a strong person, to be well educated, able to understand the world and eventually to shape it for the better.

Do I actively seek out new and uncomfortable experiences? I would say no. A lot of the times it is sheer apathy that prevents me from getting new experiences. ” Can I really be bothered to do that? What is the point? ”

My greatest problem with fear is not what follows, it is the effect that fear has on my body and mind that scares me. It prevents me from being myself and think clearlyt. I am getting better at handling it, though… Meditation… Also, focusing on the emotions of the people around you until you forget about yourself and your fears seems to do the trick.

Am I mindful of how I perceive the world around me? Not really… I satisfy myself with the fist explanation that my brain / social conditioning provides. It is another area that needs improvement. Reframe, reframe, reframe…


1817, poet John Keats wrote in a letter to his brothers that the basis for real achievement was “negative capability … when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason. ” There’s probably no better definition of a contemporary leader than that.  (True Detective, anyone?)

I think getting up in the morning is more exciting when you’re nervous. If you’re not nervous, you’re dead…. It’s time to change your life or your work the moment you stop having butterflies in your stomach.

The first basic ingredient of leadership is a guiding vision. The leader has a clear idea of what he or she wants to do—professionally and personally—and the strength to persist in the face of setbacks, even failures.

The second basic ingredient of leadership is passion—the underlying passion for the promises of life, combined with a very particular passion for a vocation, a profession, a course of action. The leader loves what he or she does and loves doing it. Tolstoy said that hopes are the dreams of the waking man. Without hope, we cannot survive, much less progress. The leader who communicates passion gives hope and inspiration to other people.

The next basic ingredient of leadership is integrity. I think there are three essential parts of integrity: self-knowledge, candor, and maturity.“Know thyself,” was the inscription over the Oracle at Delphi. And it is still the most difficult task any of us faces. But until you truly know yourself, strengths and weaknesses, know what you want to do and why you want to do it, you cannot succeed in any but the most superficial sense of the word. Leaders never lie to themselves, especially about themselves, know their faults as well as their assets, and deal with them directly. You are your own raw material.

When you know what you consist of and what you want to make of it, then you can invent yourself. Candor is the key to self-knowledge. Candor is based in honesty of thought and action, a steadfast devotion to principle, and a fundamental soundness and wholeness.

As presidents, Johnson, Nixon, and Carter were all more driven than driving, and each seemed trapped in his own shadows. They were haunted men, shaped more by their early deprivations than by their later successes. They did not, then, invent themselves. They were made—and unmade—by their own histories.

When Henry Kissinger was asked what he had learned from the presidents he had worked with—a list that started with Kennedy, through whom he met Truman—Kissinger replied, “Presidents don’t do great things by dwelling on their limitations, but by focusing on their possibilities. ” They leave the past behind them and turn toward the future.


Former Lucky Stores CEO Don Ritchey said, on the need for being oneself, “I believe people spot phonies in very short order, whether that be on an individual basis or a company basis. As Emerson says, ‘What you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say’.

…have often thought that the best way to define a man’s character would be to seek out the particular mental or moral attitude in which, when it came upon him, he felt himself most deeply and intensively active and alive. At such moments, there is a voice inside which speaks and says, “This is the real me”.

…managers’ descriptions were “surprisingly congruous…. Learning is experienced as a personal transformation. A person does not gather learnings as possessions but rather becomes a new person…. To learn is not to have, it is to be. – some powerful stuff right there

In our discussion, I suggested that this kind of learning has to do with reflecting on experience. Kaplan said, “I would add a component to that, which is the appetite to have experience, because people can be experience averse and therefore not learn. Unless you have the appetite to absorb new and potentially unsettling things, you don’t learn…. Part of it is temperament. It’s a kind of fearlessness and optimism and confidence, and you’re not afraid of failure.

Clearly, to become a true leader, one must know the world as well as one knows one’s self. A variety of studies, as well as the lives of the leaders I talked with, demonstrates that certain kinds of experiences are especially significant for learning. These experiences include broad and continuing education, idiosyncratic families, extensive travel and/or exile, a rich private life, and key associations with mentors and groups.

Now a professor of constitutional law at American University, Jamie Raskin was an assistant attorney general in Boston when he warned against letting your ambition get in the way of your intellectual growth: “‘Ambition is the death of thought,’ as Wittgenstein said. A number of my friends are as ambitious as I am, but they suppress any thoughts that might be subversive or dangerous to their ambitions. Your intellectual life is really the ability to see how things can be different, and big institutions in society, whether public or private, often ask people to toe the line in any number of ways—personal, political, ideological. And clearly one can get ahead by doing that. I guess the only way to prevent ambition from killing your intellectual life is not to be afraid of losing, or to say something people might think is wrong, or crazy, something the institution isn’t ready to hear yet…. If you want a concrete tip, learn how to speed read. People say they don’t have time to read. My feeling is, ‘When in doubt, read it. ’ I can read a book in a couple of hours. ” – I am very much against speed reading good books. It just does not have the same impact on you.

The stranger in a strange land sees more and sees fresh. Being on the road not only requires the full deployment of one’s self, it redeploys one, tests one’s strengths and weaknesses, and exposes new strengths and weaknesses. Our two most sophisticated Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, were inveterate travelers, and both spent much time in Europe. Those who travel farther from home learn even more.

Life has never been simple and is growing more complex all the time, yet we persist in attempting to reduce it to bumpersticker dimensions. The advocates of simplicity see reality as mechanical, static, segmented, and rational, when it is, in fact, organic, dynamic, whole, and ambiguous. They see relationships as linear, sequential and serial, discrete, singular and independent, when they are, in fact, parallel and simultaneous, connected, murky, multiple and interdependent. They are determinists, believers in cause-and-effect, when, in fact, probability is the rule and the inevitable hardly ever happens. They wear square hats, when they should try sombreros.

No leader sets out to be a leader. People set out to live their lives, expressing themselves fully. When that expression is of value, they become leaders. So the point is not to become a leader. The point is to become yourself, to use yourself completely—all your skills, gifts, and energies—in order to make your vision manifest. You must withhold nothing. You must, in sum, become the person you started out to be, and to enjoy the process of becoming.

Whatever it is you want to do, you shouldn’t let fear get in your way. Fear, for most leaders, is less a crippler than a motivator. As Brooke Knapp said, “I started flying because I was afraid of it. If you give not 90 percent or 95 percent but 100 percent, you can make anything happen. The greatest opportunity for growth lies in overcoming things you’re afraid of. ” She went on to become one of America’s leading flyers.

The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse. ” Unless you are willing to take risks, you will suffer paralyzing inhibitions, and you will never do what you are capable of doing.Mistakes—missteps—are necessary for actualizing your vision, and necessary steps toward success.

Part of the trick is not creating situations where you’re inviting contests of egos. And oddly enough, the more willing you seem to be to let people participate, the less need they have to force participation. It’s the threat of being left out that exacerbates their ego problems and creates clashes.

Jacob Bronowski wrote, in The Ascent of Man, “We have to understand that the world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation…. The most powerful drive in the ascent of man is his pleasure in his own skill. He loves to do what he does well and, having done it well, he loves to do it better

Korn/Ferry International co-founder Richard Ferry belongs to what might be called the throw-them-into-the-water-andthey’ll-learn-to-swim school: “You can’t really create leaders. How do you teach people to make decisions, for example? All you can do is develop the talents people have. I’m a great believer in trial by fire, on-the-job experience. Put them out there in the plants, put them in the markets, send them to Japan and Europe. Train them on the job. ” Jim Burke and Horace Deets were succinct. Burke said, “The more experience and the more tests you survive, the more apt you are to be a good leader. ” Deets, speaking of his job as executive director of the American Association of Retired Persons, said, “It’s a tough job and, I would wager, can only be learned by experience. You can’t learn it by reading up on it, you’ve got to do it. The only real laboratory is the laboratory of leadership itself.

Everywhere you trip is where the treasure lies. ” Everywhere you trip is where the treasure lies. That’s learning from surprise, as well as adversity. Virtually every leader I talked with would agree

Ernest Hemingway said that the world breaks all of us, and we grow stronger in the broken places

This brings me to what I think of as the Wallenda Factor, a concept I described in detail in Leaders and so will recap only briefly here. Shortly after the great aerialist Karl Wallenda fell to his death in 1978 while doing his most dangerous walk, his wife, also an aerialist, said, “All Karl thought about for months before was falling. It was the first time he’d ever thought about that, and it seemed to me that he put all his energies into not falling rather than walking the tightrope. ” If we think more about failing at what we’re doing than about doing it, we will not succeed

Empathy isn’t simply the province of artists. Former Lucky Stores CEO Don Ritchey said, “I think one of the biggest turn-ons is for people to know that their peers and particularly their bosses not only know they’re there but know pretty intimately what they’re doing and are involved with them on almost a daily basis, that it’s a partnership, that you’re really trying to run this thing well together, that if something goes wrong our goal is to fix it…

I always took a little more time, told people more than they needed to know…. You have to be absolutely straight with people, not clever or cute, and you can’t think that you can manipulate them. That doesn’t mean you have to think they’re all stars or that you have to agree with everything they do, but the relationship, I think, ought to be for real.

What does it mean to go from an industrial age to an information age? Beyond the ways we have to change as leaders and managers within the context of our enterprise, the world itself is changing, becoming more idea-intensive, more information-intensive, so the people who’re going to surface, to rise to the top, are going to be people who are comfortable with and excited by ideas and information.

I think the first thing one has to do [in setting out to change a culture] is get people on one’s side and show them where you want to take the company. Trust is vital. People trust you when you don’t play games with them, when you put everything on the table and speak honestly to them. Even if you aren’t very articulate, your intellectual honesty comes through, and people recognize that and respond positively.

These leaders have dealt with and continue to deal with this mercurial world by anticipating, looking not just down the road, but around the corner; by seeing change as an opportunity, rather than an obstacle; and by accepting it, rather than resisting it. One of the hardest lessons any novice skier has to learn is to lean away from the hill and not into it. The natural inclination is to stay as close to the slope as possible, because it feels safer and more secure. But only when the skier leans out can he or she begin to move and gain control, rather than being controlled by the slope. The organizational novice does the same thing: leans close to the company’s slope, submerging his or her own identity in that of the corporation. The leader stands tall and leans out, taking charge of his or her own course, with a clear view of where the course is going—at least until the snow starts to fall. Resisting change is as futile as resisting weather, and change—relentless change—is our weather now. It is that constant and that unpredictable. Leaders live in it, and so do organizations. And there is much organizations can do to make the process easier.

Common Cause founder John Gardner once said that leaders are people who understand the prevailing culture, even though much of the culture is latent, existing only in people’s minds and dreams, or in their unconscious. But understanding is only the first step. The leaders of the future will be those who take the next step— to change the culture. To reprise Kurt Lewin, it is through changing something that one truly comes to understand.

Max De Pree, in Leadership Is an Art, wrote, “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.

What managers expect of their subordinates and the way they treat them largely determine their performance and career progress. A unique characteristic of superior managers is the ability to create high performance expectations that subordinates fulfill. • Less effective managers fail to develop similar expectations, and as a consequence, the productivity of their subordinates suffers.

Subordinates, more often than not, appear to do what they believe they are expected to do. Leaders expect the best of the people around them. Leaders know that the people around them change and grow. If you expect great things, your associates will give them to you. Jaime Escalante believed that students in a Los Angeles inner-city high school could learn calculus. And they did. At the same time, leaders are realistic about expectations. Their motto is: stretch, don’t strain. Pretend you’re training for the Olympics, where easy does it. If you pull a muscle in today’s game, you sit on the bench for tomorrow’s.