A fresh perspective on the pursuit and meaning of success.

Why quitting is sometimes a good move.

Business consultant and former professional poker player Duke mounts a persuasive argument that quitting is a “decision skill worth developing.” Although grit and perseverance are much praised and useful in many situations, sometimes, “persistence is not always the best decision, certainly not absent context. And context changes.” The author draws on many examples of individuals at crossroads in their lives or careers, confronting the decision to continue or walk away. She faced just such a decision when she was a graduate student in cognitive psychology, aspiring to a career in research and academia. A serious health issue derailed her progress, and she lost her fellowship. Needing to support herself until she could resume her studies, she took up poker and found she loved the game. “A poker table, it turns out, is a very good place to learn about the upside of quitting,” she discovered. “Optimal quitting might be the most important skill separating great players from amateurs.” Quitting, though, can be impeded by negative assumptions: that quitting is synonymous with losing; others will view us badly; the time and effort already spent were wasted; giving up some project will mean giving up one’s identity. Duke sets out some practical guidelines for overcoming those internal forces. “When you enter into a course of action,” for example, she suggests that you “create a set of kill criteria. This is a list of signals you might see in the future that would tell you it’s time to quit.” Continuing to pursue a goal, she reminds readers, means that other opportunities—more fulfilling and perhaps more exciting—will be neglected. “You simply don’t see them because you’re not looking for them,” writes Duke. When working toward any goal, “don’t just measure whether you hit the goal, ask what you have achieved and learned along the way.”

A fresh perspective on the pursuit and meaning of success.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-42299-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022



Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.

Want to get ahead in business? Consult a dictionary.

By Wharton School professor Berger’s account, much of the art of persuasion lies in the art of choosing the right word. Want to jump ahead of others waiting in line to use a photocopy machine, even if they’re grizzled New Yorkers? Throw a because into the equation (“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”), and you’re likely to get your way. Want someone to do your copying for you? Then change your verbs to nouns: not “Can you help me?” but “Can you be a helper?” As Berger notes, there’s a subtle psychological shift at play when a person becomes not a mere instrument in helping but instead acquires an identity as a helper. It’s the little things, one supposes, and the author offers some interesting strategies that eager readers will want to try out. Instead of alienating a listener with the omniscient should, as in “You should do this,” try could instead: “Well, you could…” induces all concerned “to recognize that there might be other possibilities.” Berger’s counsel that one should use abstractions contradicts his admonition to use concrete language, and it doesn’t help matters to say that each is appropriate to a particular situation, while grammarians will wince at his suggestion that a nerve-calming exercise to “try talking to yourself in the third person (‘You can do it!’)” in fact invokes the second person. Still, there are plenty of useful insights, particularly for students of advertising and public speaking. It’s intriguing to note that appeals to God are less effective in securing a loan than a simple affirmative such as “I pay all bills…on time”), and it’s helpful to keep in mind that “the right words used at the right time can have immense power.”

Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780063204935

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper Business

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023


Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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