Doug's latest Four-Minute Leadership Advisory


I’m not a science guy. And I’m certainly not a math guy. I took geology instead of chemistry in high school to avoid math. It caught up to me in college, but, ah, I won’t bore you with that story.

I was, however, reconnoitering a Barnes in Noble recently and came across this book:  Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by a really smart Italian guy named Carlo Rovelli. It’s a tiny little book, all of 81 pages. And I thought, well this could be good.

I mean it was short. The inside flap said it was an “entertaining introduction to modern physics.” It said it was “surprisingly easy to grasp.”

I thought perfect. Time for me to expand my mind or, as the inside flap author wrote, “bend” my mind. I bought it and tore into it with enthusiasm.

The result?

I still understand almost nothing of physics. What was “easy to grasp” was mostly out of my grasp. My mind got twisted not bent. About the third word I was in quicksand.

Sigh. How un-sciency must I be?

Still, there are two wonderful little nuggets I got out of this 81 pages, this sea of ungraspable stuff.  (Well, ungraspable for me.)

First, Rovelli wrote this delightful and simple definition of freedom:

“When we say that we are free, and it’s true we can be, this means that how we behave is determined by what happens within us, within the brain, and not by external factors.” 

Indeed, when the inside dictates rather than the outside then we are free. Muse on that for a minute. To me, it’s almost poetic in its straightforward simplicity. Unruffled with decorative words, it’s definition in its most unpretentious form.

And then there’s this…

I’ve always been apprehensive about how much stock some businesses put into personality tests.

Often they are used in the hiring process to see if the potential employee is a fit for the job and the culture. If they are used as simply another layer of information, then I’m fine with it. Why not? But to rely too heavily on them is to give them too much power.

They are also many times used in teambuilding. The idea is to gain insights into another’s personality so you better understand how to interact with them. 

To me, if they are used simply as a tool to begin a conversation, then that’s fine. But for anyone to think that personality tests will bring some profound breakthrough to understanding and relationship building is giving the tests way too much credit.

I see people take personality tests and compare them like they are comparing horoscopes. “Hey, what box did you end up in? I knew you’d end up there! Ahahahaha!!!”


Life is more complicated than where we land on a graph. Or how high we score. Or what box we end up in. Or what label we’re given. As a matter of fact, most people are parts of every label.

One simply cannot anticipate every shade of human personality and need. Relationship building itself is an experiential exercise not an intellectual one.

Knowing where you land on a graph and knowing you are two different things. Knowing where you land on a graph takes minutes. Knowing you, how to work with you, what your idiosyncrasies are, how to communicate with you, what motivates you, how you think, how you respond, takes time, patience and effort.

There simply are no shortcuts. Human life cannot be fit into a box.

Which leads me to the second nugget from Rovelli’s book:

“When we say that human behavior is unpredictable, we are right because it is too complex to be predicted by ourselves…the ideas we have of ourselves are much cruder and sketchier than the detailed complexity of what is happening within is. We are the source of amazement in our own eyes.

“We have a hundred billion neurons in our brains, as many as there are stars in a galaxy, with an even more astronomical number of links and potential combinations through which they can interact. We are not conscious of this. ‘We’ are the process formed by this entire intricacy, not just by the little of it of which we are conscious.”

Fit that on a graph.

Because of the holiday weekend upcoming there will not be an Advisory next week. See you in two!

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