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Together is Better

I did my best while walking round Sainsbury’s on Saturday to glare at people who might be panic-buying, occasionally doing very bad Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army impressions, saying ‘don’t panic, don’t panic’ slightly louder than I needed to. But it was all a bit feeble and passive-aggressive, not helped when I bought a 16-pack of Andrex, with the defence that it was on my list anyway.

I have had an Amazon order sitting in my online basket for a couple of weeks while I waited to see how my bank balance was holding up, which turns out to be remarkably well as life inevitably becomes a bit narrower day by day.  I also had to decide whether I actually needed half of the things I thought I might need, which I hasten to add did not include rice, dried pasta or more toilet roll.

The order includes a DVD box set of the American medical drama ER, which was the programme where George Clooney made his name, and which may or may not contain an episode about a virus, but it will help to pass the time if we get locked down in the coming weeks.  We have Netflix and most of the other streaming services, but I have always found it reassuringly old-fashioned and comforting to collect CDs and DVDs. 

More importantly, there is a selection of good books in my order that would normally have to wait till the summer to be consumed, but which may get read sooner, not least if we end up like Italy.  I have mentioned before that I find it hard to read books during term time.  I manage to get through Private Eye and the BBC History Magazine, but anything more taxing is usually beyond me at the end of the working day because I tend to nod off after a page or two. 

However, I did manage to read Simon Sinek’s Stronger Together last week, mainly because it is a very quick read, but which I can nevertheless recommend highly.  Sinek is famous for one of the most-watched TED talks of all time, about why Apple is such a successful company, and author of several interesting books including Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last.  Having just looked up his biography, I notice he was born in Wimbledon, which is my own place of birth, so for no logical reason he has gone up even further in my estimation.

He may not be everyone’s cup of tea, not least for making comments like this: ‘The Me Generation, addicted to performance, dismantled the controls that protected us from corporate abuses and stock market crashes.  A distracted generation, living in a world of abstraction, thinks it has ADHD, but more likely has a dopamine-fuelled addiction to social media and mobile phones.’  However, he can hit the nail on the head when he says: ‘I know of no case study in history that describes an organisation that has been managed out of a crisis.  Every single one of them was led.’ 

The comedian Joe Lycett (now apparently known as 'Hugo Boss', but that's a whole different story) responded to Simon Sinek's views by saying, ‘I resent being told that I'm lazy, entitled and addicted to my phone by a man from a generation that enjoyed affordable housing, free further education, a reasonable job market and normal-shaped Toblerone,’ which seems like a reasonable riposte.

Together is Better is subtitled A Little Book of Inspiration, but don’t be put off by that.  It is a beautifully illustrated fable for our times, perhaps even more so in the light of coronavirus, that makes the point that we are all capable of achieving more and living lives of greater fulfilment, if only we can find the courage to do something about it and the right people with whom to work.  It finishes with the African proverb: ‘To go fast, go alone.  To go far, go together.’  On the back cover, it highlights one of the pieces of wisdom from the book: ‘Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress.  Working hard for something we love is called passion.’

Another book currently in my ‘pending’ pile was recommended by a parent who was in my office for a meeting and had the chance to look at some of the books on my shelves.  As I said to him, just because people read the same books, it does not mean that they take the same lessons from them, but I can test this theory further with the book that he recommended.

It is called Extreme Ownership and subtitled How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win, so something of a contrast to Simon Sinek’s gentle tome, I imagine, but my guess is that there will be many similarities in the conclusions.  The book also reminded me of the motto of the U.S. Navy Seals, which seems particularly apt at the moment: ‘The only easy day was yesterday.’

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