Book Review: Three Masquerades by Rachel Ingalls

“And perhaps the girl had also meant exactly what she’d said about love–that it was from heaven, freely given and necessary, but rich people never had to feel necessity; if a friendship broke down, or a marriage, or a blood relationship, they somehow always managed to buy another one. Life could be made very agreeable that way. But love was what the goddess has said it was–not pure: poor.”

–Rachel Ingalls, “I See A Long Journey” in Three Masquerades. (Berkeley, CA: Pharos Editions, 2017), 76.

Recommended. Comprised of three novellas: I See a Long Journey, Friends in the Country, and On Ice. In these three tales, Rachel Ingalls starts with a female character and situating her in a domestic relationship. The first part conveys a sense of the protagonist — her hopes, dreams and fears. And then, in each of these stories, everything goes sideways in a strange, possibly even supernatural way. Reading each was like watching a magician doing something unanticipated, like opening a coffin and having a swarm of locusts emerge that devour the audience. Lovely and weird.

Book Review & Summary: Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink

Review: Recommended. There is a lot of sound advice for life and business in this book. While the war stories do help to illustrate the points being conveyed, I thought that they distracted from the principles being discussed. Overall, worth your time.

Summary: The central idea is to own everything that happens to you, i.e., extreme ownership. Human tendency is to try to blame someone else, and the best way to short-circuit that is by holding only ourselves to blame. 

By extension, there are no bad groups, only bad leadership. If the person leading your group is bad, you need to find ways to help them. If you are having trouble with “others”, from suppliers to internal departments, then you need to take responsibility and build relationships with those groups or individuals, finding ways to help them help you. 

Providing so much help to other people requires keeping our ego in check. Believe that the larger goal you are trying to accomplish is bigger than your personal success. Know what you are trying to achieve, and know how what you are currently doing helps you to achieve it. Believe in what you are doing.

As a way of operating in the world, get help and then do what needs to be done. Keep your plans simple. Prioritize, focusing on the most important thing first and working your way down the list. One approach is to use the Ivy Lee Method of picking the most important six things you need to do at the start of every day and start at the top of the list each morning. If you can get someone else to do the job at 80% as well as you can do it, then delegate down. Delegating tasks frees up your perspective to look for problems you might otherwise miss.

To keep your edge, plan and create flexible standards. Lead from above and below. Act decisively with imperfect information. The more discipline you have and the more discipline you instill in your team, the more freedom you will have to deal with strategic goals and outlier problems, rather than spending most of your time reacting to situations with tactics.