A compelling how-to guide that also reads like a saucy celebrity exposé.

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SELLING YOU WITHOUT SELLING OUT

The man behind the iconic rhino logo weaves an interesting story employing alternating threads of entrepreneurial advice and autobiographical confession.

When he was younger, few could have dreamed that the chubby kid busily aping graffiti culture in the garage of his parents’ New Jersey home would one day rise to become one of the top purveyors of hip-hop cool in the country. But that’s exactly what Ecko managed to accomplish in just a few scant years. From slinging airbrushed T-shirts in high school to hobnobbing with the Tommy Hilfigers of the world, Ecko and his partners—sister Marci and buddy Seth—built a clothing empire that still remains a sartorial force on the streets, even if the core group has fractured. Though he’s taken more than a few wrong turns, the author doesn’t flinch when laying down his entrepreneurial expertise. In fact, his “guts to skin, skin to the world” philosophy about self-branding is more potent given all the mistakes. In his role as entrepreneurial guru, Ecko is a sort of anti-Trump, using human frailty instead of unattainable omnificence to educate the next generation of dreamers. The author delivers a sobering inventory of screw-ups, ill-advised team-ups, lots of overexposure and overextension, as well as generous dollops of hubris and flat-out boneheaded maneuvers. Still, he stubbornly adheres to his philosophy of authenticity while sticking it to the clueless “gatekeepers.” “My business plan for Ecko Airbrushing might have been technically naïve, but it did have this much going for it: my personal brand was massively authentic and relevant,” he writes. Ideas about authenticity run deep throughout the book. Criticized throughout much of his career for allegedly co-opting established cultural touchstones, Ecko argues that what he has been doing all along is something more akin to sampling—just like the best MCs have done on their way to creating something legitimate and pure.

A compelling how-to guide that also reads like a saucy celebrity exposé.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4516-8530-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2013

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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