I may have made a mistake.

Book: Mistakes Were Made (but not by me)

Author: Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson


Cognitive dissonance is a state of tension that occurs whenever a person holds two ideas that are psychologically inconsistent. It produces mental discomfort so our brain finds ways to reduce it.

The more we commit to something (especially things we deem important or irreversible), the more mental gymnastics we’ll do to avoid admitting we were wrong.

Once a decision has been made we’ll do what we need to bolster it, including evangelising it to others. Often, the best time to get good information on a topic is to ask someone researching a decision before they have committed to it.

Violent or aggressive acts aren’t a good form of venting, they set the stage for justifying more violence or aggression.

If we do a good deed for someone we don’t like, we can use our CD behavior to get into the mental state of “If they were such a jerk, I wouldn’t have done this for them, therefore they must be ok.”

You can use this in reverse to ask favors of people who don’t like you.

Experts in fields often have no better than a 50/50 chance of prediction, and CD can be extreme for them because of this.

People with low self esteem also suffer from CD interpreting actions of other people or results of their efforts to show why they don’t have value.

The Pyramid of Choice

Once we’ve made a choice we go down the path of justifying it, often ending up very far away mentally from someone who made the opposite choice.

We all have prejudice blind spots of which we’re not aware.

Often we start making small choices that lead to larger ones and get further away from our initial belief leading us to eventually do something we never would have done initially. Example: Lunch with lobbyist, local golf game with lobbyist, trip to St. Andrews for golf game with lobbyist.

Scientists used to be funded with public money and most research didn’t have patients associated with it (Polio vaccine) but little by little we’ve evolved into a world where most scientific research is privately funded. Results in very minor and questionable improvements.

Lots of privately funded research yields results that are not consistent with unbiased research in terms of safety or effectiveness of products.

Big Pharma spends lots of money on small gifts to doctors offices because it’s been shown to work. Even these small gifts cause doctors to recommend their medications more often.

We invoke stereotypes to justify behavior that would otherwise make us feel bad about the kind of person we are or the kind of country we live in.

Being stressed, frustrated, or tired makes people more likely to express their prejudices.

It’s important to have people in our lives that are willing to puncture our bubbles of self-justification and point out our blind spots.

We rewrite over our own memories to self justify actions or events that happened in the past to make ourselves more favorable

Memory is not like pulling files from a hard drive it is like reconstructing a movie from several still frames and your brain fills in the details at the time of reconstruction. Often it will fill in details that fit your current model of the world and who you are.

We hear stories of people saved by Dolphins nudging them to safety. But we never hear stories of Dolphins nudging people out to sea, because those people die and the story is never hear. So much data we use suffers from this problem.

The criminal justice system is full of CD and many aspects of it reinforce self justification. Cops plant evidence because they’re sure someone is guilty and don’t want them to get off because they couldn’t find evidence. Prosecutors spend an enormous amount of time and energy creating a case against someone and then can’t imagine a world where the person is innocent, even if DNA evidence proves otherwise.

Interrogations use techniques to extract guilt even from innocent people, relying on methods such as lying to innocent people to trigger their own CD.

Americans who live in the North learn about the Civil War as a matter of ancient history in which our brave Union troops forced the South to abandon the ugly institution of slavery and defeated the traitorous Confederates. But most white Southerners tell a different story where the brave Confederate troops were victims of greedy crude Northerners, destroyed our cities and traditions, and are still trying to destroy our state’s rights.

People long to hear “I screwed up. I will do my best to ensure it will not happen again”

Try to look at your own actions critically and dispassionately as if you were observing someone else.

When a friend makes a mistake, the friend remains a friend and the mistake remains a mistake.

Americans tend to think that mistakes mean stupidity.But we need to treat them as a natural part of learning. The more we identify as having “natural ability” at something, the more we are terrified of making mistakes in it.

When I, a decent smart person, make a mistake, I remain a decent smart person and the mistake remains a mistake. I made a mistake, I need to understand what went wrong. I don’t want to make the same mistake again.

How to Make Friends and Fire People?

Book: Powerful – Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility

By: Patty McCord


Build the team you need 6 months from now and don’t let yourself be dragged down by the team from 6 months ago.

Retention isn’t a good metric for management.

Think of your business as a team not a family. Expect people to leave as things change.

Be as good at hiring talent as knowing when to part ways with current employees.


This was a quick read and I found it more interesting than a lot of other management books. It’s worth reading again in a few months. I don’t know if I agree with some of the methods of cutting employees loose, I tend to feel like good management can help people transition to new phases and improve their performance without some of the challenges that a high level of turnover causes. But there’s a lot of really good ideas in here that I agree with.

Page 18 – People need to see the view from the C suite to feel connected to the problem solving that must be done.

Page 24 – At most companies, investors on profit sharing calls know more about the company than people working there.

Page 27 – Any employee should be able to name the top five priorities of the company for next six months.

Page 37  – Good employee feedback should be about behavior and be actionable.

Page 57  – Data should not be an end point for decision making but a starting point for understanding and interpretation

Page 62  – Make arguments for the good of the company not for ego or pet projects. Actively seek information that might prove you wrong because you’ll learn from it and make a better decision.

Page 66 – On important issues, Netflix has debates between executives attended by lots of people. Sometimes the executives have to debate from the other person’s point of view. The audience is also empowered to participate and ask questions.

Page 81 – Companies give people half a job they need done because they can’t handle the full job and management isn’t willing to part ways with the person.

Page 94 – Happiness comes from being deeply engaged in problem solving with other deeply engaged people. Not perks.

Page 97 – After their round of layoffs they had really high talent density. It was the best performers who were still around and this made the whole company better.

Page 102 – The entire culture of hiring section was great.

Page 104  – So was the entire HR must be business people section.

Page 114 – And the Account value of people working for you section.

Supplemental: For people who don’t have time to read, theres a YouTube video from Recode’s 2018 Code Conference where she talks about many of the themes from the book. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80bymIwYrlI