Tag Archives: #businessbooks

Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire by Rebecca Henderson; and How I Built This by Guy Raz – Coming for the February 5 First Friday Book Synopsis (On Zoom)

Feb, 2021 FFBSFirst Friday Book Synopsis, Friday, February 5, 2020 — on Zoom
Time: 7:30 am (Central Time)

1) Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire by Rebecca Henderson. PublicAffairs. (April 28, 2020)

2) How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World’s Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs by Guy Raz. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (September 15, 2020)

Zoom link below
Please invite one and all to participate in this session.

During Pandemic Season, we have continued to average well over 100 people gathering each month on Zoom for the First Friday Book Synopsis..

On February 5, I will present my synopses of two very good books.  One of them, Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire by Rebecca Henderson, is a big, big-picture work by a renowned Harvard professor.

The other, How I Built This: The Unexpected Paths to Success from the World’s Most Inspiring Entrepreneurs by Guy Raz, is chock-full of insights and counsel from the best entrepreneurs of a generation.

If you are like many, you do not have time to read all of the books you would like to read.  The First Friday Book Synopsis is designed for you.

Of course, it would be better if you read the books on your own. But, my synopses are comprehensive, surprisingly thorough, and they will give you plenty of the key content.  You will learn, and be able to ponder the ideas in a useful way.  And, if you have read the book, my synopsis will help you remember more of what you read.

Come join us.

Mark the date, Feb. 5, in your calendar, and save the Zoom info.


Here’s that Zoom info:

Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Feb. 5, 2021 – First Friday Book Synopsis
Time: Feb 5, 2021 07:30 AM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 839 8438 6711
Passcode: 204724
One tap mobile
+13462487799,,83984386711#,,,,*204724# US (Houston)
+16699006833,,83984386711#,,,,*204724# US (San Jose)

Dial by your location
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
+1 929 205 6099 US (New York)
+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington D.C)
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
Meeting ID: 839 8438 6711
Passcode: 204724
Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kq5DZXWzy

Here is the New York Times list of Best-Selling Business Books for January, 2021 – Atomic Habits by James Clear again/still at Number One

The New York Times has published its list of best-selling business books for January, 2021.Atomic Habits

And, yet again, during this great pandemic, Atomic Habits is at the #1 spot.  This book has been on the top spot for many of the months of the pandemic.

Of the ten books on this month’s list, I have presented synopses of six of them at our monthly event in Dallas, the First Friday Book Synopsis.  And, my former colleague, Karl Krayer, presented one other.  So, we have featured seven of the ten books on this month’s list.

Of the ten books, there is only one written by a woman author; Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead.  It is common for women authors to be underrepresented on this list, but only one woman-authored book for the month is quite a low point.

Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic WorldOf the seven we have presented, I presented my synopses of:  #1, Atomic Habits; #3, Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World; #4, Dare to Lead; #6, Extreme Ownership; #8, Post Corona; and #9, Range.  I chose Range as my selection for the best business book of the year in 2019.  Please read my blog post: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein is my Business Book of the Year for 2019 – (Loonshots by Safi Bahcall is runner-up).

In addition, my former colleague Karl Krayer presented his synopsis of Thinking, Fast and Slow quite a few years ago.

Worth noting:  plenty of the books on this month’s list have been around quite a while. But both the Zakaria book and the Galloway book, dealing with the pandemic, are quite new.  I presented my synopsis of each of them pretty much right after they were published.

Here is the list of the ten best-selling business books on the New York Times list for January, 2021.  Click over to their site for links to NY Times’ reviews of three of the books.

#1 – Atomic Habits by James Clear
#2 – Pappyland by Wright Thompson
#3 – Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World by Fareed Zakaria
#4 – Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
#5 – Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
#6 – Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
#7 – Edison by Edmund Morris
#8 – Post Corona by Scott Galloway
#9 – Range by David Epstein
#10 – I Will Teach You to Be Rich, Second Edition by Ramit Sethi


We make our synopses available to purchase.  Each synopsis comes with the audio recording of our presentation, plus the comprehensive, multi-page synopsis handout.  Click on the buy synopses tab to search by title.  And click here for our newest additions.  (My synopsis of Post Corona will be uploaded in the site in a couple of week).

Download the two Synopses Handouts for tomorrow’s First Friday Book Synopsis, January 8, 2021 – Post Corona and The Obstacle is the Way

You are invited
First Friday Book Synopsis
Friday, January 8, 2021, 7:30 am (Central Time), 
on Zoom
I hope you can join us.





Post Corona, cover

Click on image to download synopses handouts for Jan. 8

A very appreciative thank you to all who participate financially in this event. 

The cost of this remote meeting is “free.”

But, if you would like to contribute to participate, Randy would welcome you to send $12.00 directly to him through PayPal. Click here for a direct link to “donate” through PayPal.




Well over 100 people have been joining us on our “Remote” First Friday Book Synopsis gatherings. We have had participants from all over the country. Please share this word far and wide — all are welcome!

Friday, January 8, 2021 – Zoom – (the second Friday of January)
Two Book Synopses: 
1) Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity by Scott Galloway. (2020)
2) The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday (2014).
Where: on ZOOM
When: This Friday, January 8, 7:30 am (Central Time)
The presentation will conclude shortly after 8:30 am
Speaker: Randy Mayeux will deliver both synopsis presentations.

Click here to join in on Zoom:


Meeting ID: 838 3344 5781
Passcode: 833454


We are all set for Friday’s Remote First Friday Book Synopsis.

#1 — Download, and print both synopses handouts by clicking here. If you have ever attended our event, you know that I am handout intensive. You really will be able to follow along better with physical copies of the handouts in front of you. So, if you have a printer, please print the handouts.

#2 — Come on in for conversation whenever you can. I have enabled the “enable join before host” button. You will arrive in the waiting room, and be let in quickly. So, you can come in, and talk to folks. I will plan to join the meeting around 7:00, and we will begin the program at 7:30. And, I will not “end the meeting” for a while after, if you want to continue conversations with others after we officially conclude.

#3 — Here is the info, with the link to join the gathering:

Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Jan. 8, 2021 First Friday Book Synopsis
Time: Jan 8, 2021 07:30 AM Central Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting


Meeting ID: 838 3344 5781

Passcode: 833454

One tap mobile
+13462487799,,83833445781#,,,,*833454# US (Houston)
+16699006833,,83833445781#,,,,*833454# US (San Jose)

Dial by your location
+1 346 248 7799 US (Houston)
+1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
+1 253 215 8782 US (Tacoma)
+1 301 715 8592 US (Washington D.C)
+1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)
+1 929 205 6099 US (New York)

Meeting ID: 838 3344 5781

Passcode: 833454

Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kb1gny5lFK


Reminder: The cost of this remote meeting is “free.”

But, if you would like to contribute to participate, Randy would welcome you to send $12.00 directly to him through PayPal. Click here for a direct link to “donate” through PayPal.

(Note: you can also send money through Zelle, at Randy’s e-mail address).
(Randy’s e-mail address for PayPal, and Zelle, is ).

Please help spread the word far and wide; help make this a success.


You might want to read this post. It has a printable one-sheet reminder on how to make the most of your remote learning experience.
Remote Learning 101 – Read this before attending your learning session.

The Essential Baker’s Dozen – 12 (OK – 13) Books to Read to set yourself up for more success in business and in life, in 2021; and beyond

Man's Search for MeaningI am frequently asked: “what is the best book you have ever read?”  After I make a silly joke about “The Illustrated History of Professional Wrestling,” I usually answer with either The Grapes of Wrath, or Man’’s Search for Meaning.

And, sometimes, the question is:  “what is the best business book you’ve ever read?”  And my answer to that is one reason for writing this post.  My answer goes something like this:

There is no one best business book.  I need a category:  the best book on management, or the best book on time management, or the best book on…  I can give some answers to some of those questions.

But, even for a couple of categories, I cannot give “one” answer.  For example, what is the best book I have ever read on leadership?  Impossible to answer!  There are many; and the books reinforce, and build upon, each other.

But, let’s say you asked: Randy, could you give me a reading list, to help set me up for more success in my business and in my life, in 2021, and beyond?  I think I might be able to help.

So, here is my essential baker’s dozen.  Thirteen books that might make a positive difference.

And, yes, I realize that 13 books is a bunch of books for some; especially for non-book readers.  So, set an easy pace.  Just over one book a month.  Think about it:  about a book a month for a year.  And then, at the end of the year, you will know more, and likely accomplish more.

This post will come close to just listing the books, with only a comment or two.  But, I have written blog posts on most of these, and presented synopses of each of them  So, at the bottom of the post, I will provide ways for you to access those more comprehensive posts on each book, and a way to purchase my even more thorough synopses.

Here they are: The Essential Baker’s Dozen of books to read.

Category:  Life!

#1 – Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
Viktor Frankl survived the death camps, and wrote this masterpiece in short order.  Countless numbers of people call this the best, most important book they have ever read.
I read this as a college student, but re-read it carefully just a few years ago, and presented my synopsis of the book.  It is truly a masterpiece.  Read this book first.

Atomic HabitsCategory:  Personal Productivity

#2 – Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear.
There is ancient wisdom that says that you build a successful life one habit at a time.  Who am I to argue against ancient wisdom?  This book has been an especially popular best-seller during the pandemic.  It is practical, and will help you build good, effective, productive habits (and, get rid of a few bad ones).  Worth reading!

#3 – Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen.  This is the bible of time management.  When I follow its teachings, I do in fact get more done.  Much more.  I actually re-read my synopsis handout for this book at the beginning of each year, because… I need to.

Category:  Leadership; and Management.

This is a tough category.  There are so many really good books. But, if you read these that I have listed, it will help you build a solid foundation of leadership understanding and leadership skills.  Remember:  a leader’s job is to help get the very best out of the men and women he or she leads.

#4 — Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.
These former SEALs have become well known, and sought after, for their leadership principles.  This is their first book, and it is still a best-seller.  The massage is simple:  the leader owns the outcome.  Extreme Ownership; that’s the idea.

#5 — The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julie Zhuo.
This is the practical book on managing others.  It says: do this, and then do this, to get the best out of the people you manage.  It is worth reading especially carefully, so that you get the instructions down well.

Radical Candor#6 — Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott.
This is one of the many “don’t beat around the bush, have those essential, to-the-point conversations” books.  I think it is a really, really good book.  Her formula is:  “Care Personally, then Challenge Directly.”  It is a compliment to those books like: Crucial Conversations, and Fierce Leadership, and Fierce Conversations, and others.  Radical Candor is an essential leadership book for this era.

#7 – Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brené Brown.
Brené Brown is something of a force of nature.  This book shows the critical need for leaders with exceptional soft skills.  And, it demonstrates that soft skills are not all that soft.

Category:  Get Your Business Done

There are a few books I could recommend, but the one I will suggest here is:

#8 — Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs by John Doerr.
“OKRs: Objectives, Key Results.”  People have to know what they are expected to get accomplished.  The more people are clear about this, the more they will get accomplished.  This is another one to read carefully; so that you can learn the steps to follow and implement.

Category:  Get Ready for the Coming Future 

The world IS changing. Even more rapidly during the pandemic.  So, we need to think about how to get ready for the next changes, and then the next.  Here are two of many good books that can help you.

#9 — Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations by Thomas L. Friedman.
Mr. Friedman is especially famous for his book The World is Flat, but he has continued to write important books.  This is his latest, and very much worth reading.

#10 — Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction by Thomas M. Siebel.
Mr. Siebel, of Siebel Systems, has provided a clear description of why everything that possibly can be digital will be digital.  An essential book!

Category:  Be EthicalWillful Blindness

#11 — Willful Blindness:  Why We Ignore the Obvious at our Peril by Margaret Heffernan.
There is a long list of companies that have allowed their ethics, if they had any, to be cast aside.  Shame on such companies!  This book is a very thorough warning to all. It is a warning worth reading, and heeding.

Category:  Prepare for the Next Crisis, In Advance

#12 — Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath.
This is the book we should have read, and heeded, before March of 2020.  Actually, well before March of 2020. This book tells us simply:  the next crisis is coming.  Identify it early; prepare for it early; and solve it early.

Category: Success Overview

Since this is a baker’s dozen list of books, I throw in this 13th selection. It is kind of a “big picture, do all this” book.

#13 — Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.  This remarkable book, by the very good writer Charles Duhigg, will introduce you to psychological safety, successful team practices, and plenty of other concepts worth learning and putting into practice.

Well, that’s my baker’s dozen list.  Since it is actually 13, you’ll have to squeeze in slightly more than one book a month.  I make this promise:  if you read these thirteen books, you will know more than you did before you read them.  And, if you are diligent about putting what you learn into practice, you will be more successful, in your work life, and in your life overall.


I’ve written posts on this blog on most of these books.  Type this in the search box on the blog: TITLE OF BOOK plus lessons and takeaways.  Usually, that will pull up my most important post on the book.

And, you can purchase my synopses of all these books.  Go to the buy synopses tab at the top of this page, and then use the search by title box to search.  Each synopsis comes with my comprehensive, multi-page synopsis handout, plus the audio recording of my presentations.  These presentations are recorded at the First Friday Book Synopsis gatherings, our monthly sessions in Dallas. — Click here for our newest additions.
(Now available: In December, I presented my synopsis of Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World by Fareed Zakaria).

Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath is my Business Book of the Year for 2020

It has been a strange, and truly challenging year.

Each year in recent years, I have made my selection for the business book of the year.

First, my constraints:  I select my book of the year from the books I have presented during the year at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas (now in our 22nd Year).  This year, I presented synopses of 22 business books. (We had a guest presenter for one book this year, and in April, our first month on Zoom, I made only one book synopsis presentation, which gave us our total of 23 book synopses presented – 2 books a month, every month, for the other months.  By the way, we are in our 23rd year of our monthly First Friday Book Synopsis gatherings.

(Scroll down to see all the books I presented in 2020).

Next, when I choose my selection for book of the year, I normally ask myself:  which book really did break new ground; ground that I do not remember being covered in earlier books?  In this great pandemic year of 2020, I think the need is slightly different.  Let’s try this: Which book do we wish we had read, and heeded, before the pandemic hit?  And for that, there is a clear choice.

A brief but connected aside:  I teach Speech, and did my graduate work in rhetoric.  There is a famous academic journal article in the field called The Rhetorical Situation by Lloyd Bitzer, written in 1968. Springboarding from that article, I created a list of six elements of a successful communication encounter (like a presentation; or a book):

The right speaker
Speaks the right message
To the right audience
In the right way
At the right time (the right circumstance)
With the right result/outcome.

This year, more than ever, the right time/right circumstance element stands out as most important.

UpstreamSo, my selection for the best business book of the year is Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath. (Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster. March 3, 2020).

This is the first book that Dan Heath has written alone. But I have presented a number of other books by him with his co-author, his brother, Chip Heath.  Those books are: Switch; Decisive; Made to Stick; The Power of Moments. 

It’s not that this book is better than the others.  It is just more timely.  It is a good book.  But it has a great message; a critically important message.

The message is this:  the next BIG problem is coming.  It is better to head it off – upstream – than wait until it overwhelms you when it is overflowing the banks downstream.

In my synopsis handout, I included these thoughts:

From the book:

Downstream actions react to problems once they’ve occurred. Upstream efforts aim to prevent those problems from happening.
That’s one of the main reasons I wrote this book. Because, while we have a wide spectrum of available options to address the world’s problems, we’ve mostly confined ourselves to one tiny stretch of the landscape: the zone of response. React, react, react.
My goal in this book is to convince you that we should shift more of our energies upstream: personally, organizationally, nationally, and globally.

What is “Upstream?”
• In this book, I’m defining upstream efforts as those intended to prevent problems before they happen or, alternatively, to systematically reduce the harm caused by those problems. — I prefer the word upstream to preventive or proactive because I like the way the stream metaphor prods us to expand our thinking about solutions.

  • The problem(s)
    • we are so very busy fixing the problems in front of us; we’re too busy to do the upstream work. 

We now know that THE story of the year, and longer, is the pandemic.  It has impacted every single element of life, including all aspects of our business life.

And we know we had warnings. From George W. Bush reading the book The Great Influenza by John Barry, and issuing orders about how to get ready, to Hans Rosling’s warning in Factfulness, to TED Talks and other communications from Bill Gates, we knew something like this pandemic was coming.  And we did not get ready. Not ready enough. We did not go upstream. In fact, we kind of took steps backwards in our preparedness. And now, downstream, it has been a true disaster..

And the costs have been immense, in lives lost, and in economic woes across the country, and across the world.

In my seven lessons and takeaways in my synopsis, note especially these three:

#1 – There will be more problems to face; big problems.
#3 – But…if we could stop the bad from happening, we could save money, and lives. It really is a challenge to keep the bad from happening before it happens.
#7 – And, always be on the lookout for the next upstream challenge.

So, Upsteam is the book to read again and again.  Because, if we ever get past this pandemic challenge, there will be another whopper coming our way.  We really should – we really must – get ready.  We must learn to deal with these upstream, before they happen.

I consider Upstream by Dan Heath the Business Book of the Year for 2020.


You can purchase my synopses for all of my synopsis presentations from the “buy synopses” tab at the top of this page.  Each synopsis comes with my multi-page, comprehensive handout, along with the audio recording of my presentation recorded live at the First Friday Book Synopsis event in Dallas. Click here for our newest additions.

Apology:  because we were just starting out on Zoom when I presented Upstream, somehow, due to my incompetence, I did not record the presentation of the Upstream synopsis. I am so very sorry.  But, click here to download the synopsis handout at no cost.

And, if you use the search box on this page, you can find my blog post, with my lessons and takeaways, on just about all of these books I presented in 2020, and many more from earlier years.

Note:  you will notice that there are four books dealing with race relations.  I presented these because of the needs that arose this year related to such issues.
My synopses of all of these are available to purchase.

(And, sorry about the poor alignment of this section).

January, 2020

  1. Trailblazer: The Power of Business as the Greatest Platform for Change– October 15, 2019 by Marc Benioff and Monica Langley. Currency (October 15, 2019).

2. Stillness Is the Key by Ryan Holiday. Portfolio (October 1, 2019).

February, 2020

      1. Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Manual by Jocko Willink. St. Martin’s Press (January 14, 2020).
      2. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About Itby Michael E. Gerber. Harper Business; Updated, Subsequent edition (October 14, 2004).

March, 2020

1. The Future Is Faster Than You Think: How Converging Technologies Are Transforming Business, Industries, and Our Lives (Exponential Technology Series) by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. Simon & Schuster (January 28, 2020)

2. Comeback Careers: Rethink, Refresh, Reinvent Your Success–At 40, 50, and Beyond by Mika Brzezinski and Ginny Brzezinski Hachette Books (January 14, 2020)

April, 2020 – Note; Remote/Zoom meetings this month, and the rest of the year.

1. Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath. Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster (March 3, 2020)

May, 2020 –

1. The Innovation Stack: Building an Unbeatable Business one Crazy Idea at a Time by Jim McKelvey.New York: Portfolio; Penguin Publishing Group. 2020.

2. The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone’s Mind by Jonah Berger. Simon & Schuster (March 10, 2020)

June, 2020

1. Think Like a Rocket Scientist: Simple Strategies You Can Use to Make Giant Leaps in Work and Life by Ozan Varol.  PublicAffairs (April 14, 2020).

2. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz. Harper Business (March 4, 2014).

July, 2020

1. The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger. Random House (September 23, 2019).

2. Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (National Book Award Winner) by Ibram X. Kendi. Bold Type Books; Reprint edition (August 15, 2017).

August, 2020

      1. The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economyby Stephanie Kelton. PublicAffairs (June 9, 2020).

2. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo, Foreword by Michael Eric Dyson. Beacon Press. 2018.

September, 2020

      1. Humanocracy: Creating Organizations as Amazing as the People Inside Them by Gary Hamel, Michele Zanini. Harvard Business Review Press (August 18, 2020).

2. The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein.  Liveright. 2017.

October, 2020

1. Doesn’t Hurt to Ask: Using the Power of Questions to Communicate, Connect, and Persuade by Trey Gowdy. Crown Forum (August 18, 2020).

      1. How to Be an Antiracist– August 13, 2019 by Ibram X. Kendi. One World; First Edition (August 13, 2019).

November, 2020

      1. Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez. Harry N. Abrams; First Printing Edition (March 12, 2019)
      2. Uncharted: How to Navigate the Futureby Margaret Heffernan. Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster (September 8, 2020)

December, 2020

1. Your Next Five Moves: Master the Art of Business Strategy by Patrick Bet-David Gallery Books (2020) – (Delivered by Karl Krayer)

    1. Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World by Fareed Zakaria. W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (October 6, 2020).

Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World by Fareed Zakaria – My six lessons and takeaways

Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World• This is a book not about the pandemic, but rather about the world that is coming into being as a result of the pandemic and—more importantly—our responses to it.
• In the case of the novel coronavirus, the impact is being shaped by the reality that the world is deeply interconnected, that most countries were unprepared for the pandemic, and that in its wake, many of them—including the world’s richest nations—shut down their societies and economies in a manner unprecedented in human history.
• This book is about a “post-pandemic world” not because the coronavirus is behind us, but because we have crossed a crucial threshold.
• The Covid-19 pandemic could persist, but even if it is eradicated, new outbreaks of other diseases are almost certain to occur in the future. With this knowledge and experience, we now live in a new era: post-pandemic. 
• The social and psychological consequences—fear, isolation, purposelessness—might endure even longer. Covid-19 is having deep and lasting effects on each of us, repercussions we cannot yet fully grasp.
• Deadly pathogens, either man-made or natural, could trigger a global health crisis, and the United States is wholly unprepared to deal with it…  Pathogens, viruses, and diseases are equal-opportunity killers. When the crisis comes, we will wish we had more funding and more global cooperation. But then, it will be too late.
• We have to adjust to the reality of ever-increasing instability—now.
• This book has described the world that is being ushered in as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic.  But it is really describing forces that are gathering steam.
• This ugly pandemic has created the possibility for change and reform.  It’s ours to take that opportunity or squander it. Nothing is written.
Fareed Zakaria, Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World


I believe there are three major types of business books.

#1 — there are motivational books.  These are primarily books to motivate us to work hard, to keep going… These can be good books, but they are not intended to teach us much that is new.
#2 – there are practical books.  These are more: do this, and then do that, and then do this, and then this will be the likely outcome.  I think of Getting Things Done by David Allen, on time management, as an exemplar of this type of book.
#3 – there are “big picture” books.  These books place issues in a big context; often sweeping in their scope, frequently teaching us a great deal.  They help us think differently.

Of the three types, I feel especially drawn to #3, the “big picture” books.

At the December First Friday Book Synopsis, I presented my synopsis of such a book:  the exceptional book Ten Lesson for Post-Pandemic World by the always worthwhile Fareed Zakaria.  (This is the third book by Mr. Zakaria that I have read, and presented).

This book helps us think about the world that awaits when we leave this pandemic pretty much behind us.

In my synopses, I always ask: What is the point? Here’s my answer for this book: 
The world has changed, and is changing, due to the pandemic of 2020.  This is a moment for good and needed change in a number of ways. Embrace it, and keep it going.

And I always ask Why is this book worth our time?  Here are my three answers for this book:

#1 – This book is a short history of pandemics and crises through the decades and centuries.  The history will remind us that we are not the first, and won’t be the last, to face such a challenge.
#2 – This book is a good reminder of the consequences of countries’ acting alone on the world stage; especially in a moment of crisis.
#3 —  This book is a good primer on the value of, and limitations of, expertise; including scientific expertise.

I include Quotes and Excerpts from the book – the “best of” Randy’s highlighted Passages, in my synopses.  Here are a number that I included in this synopsis:

• Lenin is supposed to have once said, “There are decades when nothing happens, and then there are weeks when decades happen.”
• The post-pandemic world is going to be, in many aspects, a sped-up version of the world we knew.
• A world on steroids can suffer unpredictable side effects.
• Athens was democratic, Sparta a more rigidly run warrior society. Sparta eventually prevailed, and it’s not a stretch to say that, had there been no plague, Athens might have won, and the course of Western history would have been different—with a vibrant democracy becoming a successful role model rather than a flame that burned brightly, but then flickered out. Plagues have consequences.
• Deadly pathogens, either man-made or natural, could trigger a global health crisis, and the United States is wholly unprepared to deal with it.
• Pathogens, viruses, and diseases are equal-opportunity killers. When the crisis comes, we will wish we had more funding and more global cooperation. But then, it will be too late.
• This emergency has highlighted one of the oldest truths about international life—that ultimately, countries are on their own. There is no supreme authority, no world government, no Leviathan that maintains order. …In fact, history is filled with periods of war and peace. …But in the end, in extremis, they walk alone.
• The pandemic, for its part, can be thought of as nature’s revenge. The way we live now is practically an invitation for animal viruses to infect humans.  …The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that three-quarters of new human diseases originate in animals. That was the case for AIDS, Ebola, SARS, MERS, bird flu, swine flu, and, most likely, the novel coronavirus. Because in many parts of the world, people are living closer to wild animals.
• Developing countries are modernizing so quickly that they effectively inhabit several different centuries at the same time. In the shadows of the skyscrapers are wildlife markets full of exotic animals, a perfect cauldron for animal-to-human viral transfer.
• “We are doing things every day that make pandemics more likely,” said Peter Daszak, an eminent disease ecologist.
• “Outbreaks are inevitable but pandemics are optional,” says Larry Brilliant, the American physician who helped eradicate smallpox forty-five years ago. What he means is that we may not be able to change the natural occurrences that produce disease in the first place, but through preparation, early action, and intelligent responses, we can quickly flatten its trajectory.
You cannot defeat a global disease with local responses.
• For the twentieth century, the great political debate was about the size and role of government in the economy—the quantity of government. But what seems to have mattered most in this crisis was the quality of government.  In other words, some of the countries that beat the virus had big governments, while others had small ones. What was the common element? A competent, well-functioning, trusted state—the quality of government.
• As a result, at the heart of American government, there is a ceaseless series of quid pro quos—money raised for favors bestowed.
• For four decades, America has largely been run by people who openly pledge to destroy the very government they lead. Is it any wonder that they have succeeded?
• The creation of a national strategy for the pandemic, for example, was complicated by the existence of 2,684 state, local, and tribal health departments, each jealously guarding its independence. This patchwork of authority is a nightmare when tackling a disease that knows no borders.
• If there is an iconic idea at the heart of the country, it is that America is a place where anyone can make it, where children grow up expecting to do better than their parents, where a person from any background can become president, or even better, a billionaire.  …from Barack Obama to Steve Jobs. But they turn out to be brilliant exceptions, not representative of the fate of most Americans.
• Now that the world has experienced a global pandemic, it should have become painfully clear that people need to listen to experts.
• Marc Andreessen, the inventor of Mosaic, the first major web browser, published an essay in the Wall Street Journal under a perplexing headline: “Why Software Is Eating the World.” …Even the most seemingly traditional companies are taking advantage of software.
• In other words, by almost all measures since the 1990s, globalization has galloped forward and in the last few years it has taken one or two steps back. That’s not deglobalization – that’s a pause.

What are the ten lessons for our post-pandemic world?  Here is the table of contents from the book, with my wording of the ten lessons:

#1 – The (next) dangerous moment is coming; practice caution – (LESSON ONE — Buckle Up)
#2 – Good Government is required to meet the need – (LESSON TWO — What Matters Is Not the Quantity of Government but the Quality)
#3 — Sometimes, markets cannot solve the problem – (LESSON THREE — Markets Are Not Enough)
#4 – We must respect expertise – (LESSON FOUR — People Should Listen to the Experts—and Experts Should Listen to the People)
#5 – Everything that can be digital will be digital — (LESSON FIVE — Life Is Digital)
#6 – People need, and will find a way to make and maintain, a human connection — (LESSON SIX — Aristotle Was Right—We Are Social Animals)
#7 – Inequality is real, and is a serious problem – (LESSON SEVEN — Inequality Will Get Worse)
#8 – We will be global – (LESSON EIGHT — Globalization Is Not Dead)
#9 – We are in fact divided; and this is quite a problem — (LESSON NINE — The World Is Becoming Bipolar)
#10 – We need the dreamers — (LESSON TEN — Sometimes the Greatest Realists Are the Idealists)
{And, #11 – It’s never over – (CONCLUSION — Nothing Is Written)}

In my synopses, I include many key points from the book.  Here are few that I included in my synopsis:

  • There are crises; there will be more crises
  • Nassim Nicholas Taleb suggests that we create systems that are “antifragile,” which are even better than resilient ones. They actually gain strength through chaos and crises.
  • COVID-19 is not the first global, deadly pandemic; and it will not be the last…
  • We really did “know” it was coming…
  • the Book The Hot Zone, 1994
  • the movie Contagion, 2011
  • Bill Gates 2015 TED Talk
  • “if anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus.” In 2017, he sounded the alarm louder, predicting in a speech at the Munich Security Conference that there was a reasonable chance that such a pandemic would erupt in the next ten to fifteen years. —  {and, in 2005, George W. Bush read The Great Influenza by John Barry, and demanded a plan be developed for a great pandemic}
  • A “cascading failure”
  • Ever since 1990, sudden, massive seizures have gripped the world—about one every ten years—with cascading effects. We will have more.   
  • We are speeding up in so many ways… – Digital is here; here comes digital!
  • We have created a world that is always in overdrive.
  • From 2005 to 2016, Cisco calculates, the use of cross-border bandwidth grew ninetyfold, and it is expected to grow an additional thirteenfold by 2023. 
  • You can only have two of the three: open; fast; stable…
  • It turns out that in any system, of these three characteristics—open, fast, stable—you can have only two.
  • Everyone is connected, but no one is in control. In other words, the world we live in is open, fast — and thus, almost by definition, unstable.
  • A fast and stable one will tend to be closed, like China.
  • About threats…
  • Advances in biology and technology mean that today, it would take only a few trained scientists and a small investment to produce deadly pathogens. …But nuclear weapons are hard to build and relatively easy to detect.
  • There must be global cooperation
  • In fact, the eradication of smallpox is a story that is only partly about science and mostly about extraordinary cooperation between rival superpowers and impressive execution across the globe.
  • Most urgently, countries need strong public health systems and those systems need to communicate, learn from, and cooperate with one another.
  • President Bill Clinton explained: “We cannot repeal the international economic competition that is everywhere. We can only harness the energy to our benefit.” 
  • America, the “Vetocracy”
  • America has become what Francis Fukuyama calls a “vetocracy.” The system of checks and balances, replicated at every level of government, ensures that someone, somewhere can always block any positive action. The United States has become a nation of naysayers.
  • In each effort, it turns out one group or interest found a way to derail the project. “In a dynamic where so many players can exercise a veto, it’s nearly impossible to move a project forward,” he writes. “No one today has the leverage to do what seems to be best for New York as a whole. And ultimately, government is rendered incompetent.” …One version of the vetocracy, NIMBYism — named for the rallying cry of those opposed to local construction, “not in my backyard” — hobbles worthwhile projects across the country.
  • America, the “Zero to One” economy…
  • As Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist, has admitted, every company’s goal is to be a monopoly. It then follows that successful companies will try to use their resources to eliminate the competition.
  • Market-centric thinking has invaded every area of human life, leaving little space for other values like fairness, equality, or intrinsic value.

And here are my six lessons and takeaways:

#1 – We really are slow to learn.
#2 – We really are bad at asking this: “what could the bad, unintended consequences be?”
#3 – The U.S. is still the clear leader in global in GDP, but…Competition with China will become more intense; with great potential danger over the long haul.
#4 – The present, and especially the future, lies in the digital arena.
#5 – Maybe it is time to understand, and act as though, there are no “little people.” — Attitudes toward people previously ignored or overlooked are shifting, as can be seen in the newly adopted phrase “essential workers.”
#6 – We – we all together – we can all create a better future. And…we must.

Should you read this book?  My answer is yes.  I think we all need to read some of the “big picture” books.  This one is especially good; and quite timely.

——————Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World, Cover

My synopsis, which includes my comprehensive, multi-page handout, plus the audio recording of my presentation, will be available soon on this website.  Click on buy synopses above to browse by title.  And click here for our newest additions.