Why “things work, until they don’t” and what to do about it.
In this brisk book, two “entrepreneurial analysts” examine those times when you plateau (get stuck) in life and stop growing. “Plateaus are a sign—a tangible warning—that your life, your relationships, or your business is clogged,” write NBC News journalist Sullivan (Stop Getting Ripped Off: Why Consumers Get Screwed, and How You Can Always Get a Fair Deal, 2009, etc.) and mathematician and IT security expert Thompson, who draw on research and their own experiences to discuss how people reach a point of numbing sameness in their lives and work, no matter how much they keep trying harder. Plateaus are laws of nature and occur regularly, write the authors, but they can be overcome. Examining behavior in diverse settings—e.g., students trying to memorize material for a test, professional baseball player Derek Jeter in training sessions, diners who quickly fail to notice the dominant odor in a stinky garlic restaurant—they show how plateaus can frustrate dieters, stymie businesses and lead to exasperation, even desperation. Many readers will be fascinated by their descriptions of such underlying matters as acclimation, flow and distortion mechanisms. The importance of timing, for example, is illustrated by the work of cognitive psychologist Piotr Wozniak, who has shown that learning occurs in between the times you are trying to learn. For all their recounting of the science behind the ruts we fall into in life, the authors wind up offering utterly common-sense solutions: If things are stuck, shake it up, they write. Try new things. Take a break now and then. Breathe. Avoid distractions. Avoid perfectionism.
Overblown but well-written and entertaining.