January 01, 2005

The Power of Losing Control: Finding Strength, Meaning and Happiness in an Out-Of-Control World/ Joe Caruso

This book shifted my perspectives about "Control". It’s one of those books that I come across once in a while that makes an impact on how I work, think and live.

There's a story behind how I discovered the book: At a monthly manager's meeting, held in a library, my boss announced that I'd be taking over yet another library to manage (btw, in case you were wondering, that came with no extra pay). I was stressed me out, to say the least (not the pay but the fact that I was responsible for another branch). Then during break time, while walking back to the meeting room from the washroom, I chanced upon the book on the shelf -- the spine was facing out. I certainly was losing control, so naturally I picked it out.
The title itself was interesting – the power of losing control. Sounds oxymoronic, right? How could anyone gain power by losing control? What I understand now is that there wasn’t any power to exercise in the first place. As Caruso wrote, what we really have is an “Illusion of Control”.

Which reminds me of this song I learnt when I was about nine. I think it’s an old British marching song, which goes like this:
Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag
And smile, smile, smile
If in your world you come across a snag,
Smile boys that’s the style
What’s the use of worrying?
It never was worthwhile, so—
Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag
And smile, smile, smile
The book made a lot of sense to me. I could relate to it from my personal experiences. Also, the author should know a thing or two about what he is writing. After all, he is a cancer survivor and he has applied what he espouses. Plus the book has a label that says “As Seen on PUBLIC TELEVISION” so I knew this was something. The heck with “never judge a book by its cover”.

It's true that "The more you try to control, the less you actually do". I highly recommend this book.

Excerpts from the book (in bold) - Words in [ ] parenthesis are my own:

p. 75: The Four Rules of Engagement
  1. Everyone is always right
  2. Everyone’s greatest desire is to be right
  3. You can’t change another person’s mind
  4. You can help people shift their perspectives
[It’s very true, in my experience so far. I’ve not been a manager as long as some people have, but in whatever I’ve experienced, I know that very rarely was I able to change a person’s mind or personality. Almost impossible. I could not undo, in 2 hours or 2 months time, the opinions of that person that took perhaps 20, 30 or 40 years to form.

We prefer to stick with a circle of friends or colleagues because ultimately, they make us feel good. Not necessarily flattery of course. It could be that they validate what makes us think are important, that they share a common view – therefore validating our own perspectives and sense of self.]

p. 87: Leadership, because it is determined by those in our secondary world, is an out-of-control experience.

p. 88: “It’s not important that people like you” – “People like you because when they’re with you they like themselves better. They like you because being with you elevates their own meaning”.
[I need to think hard about this, in relation to how to promote reading and the use of libraries.]

Quote from the book:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.”
~ Scottish writer W.H. Murray (The Scottish Himalayan Expedition)

p. 207: “… practice being more passionate about the solution and less passionate about the problems.”

p. 214: We must be more like parachute jumpers. The moment they jump off the plane, they knew they were never “on course”. While falling, they constantly adjusted and responded to the surroundings. What they had was an objective in mind (the spot to land) that never wavered.

The Power of Losing Control: Finding Strength, Meaning and Happiness in an Out-Of-Control World/ Joe Caruso
- Call No. 158.1 CAR (Non-fiction, General section)

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