Reviewing "The Noticer" by Andy Andrews

Michael Hyatt is the CEO of Thomas Nelson, a giant Christian publishing house. He’s been tweeting about a soon-to-be released book called <a href="The Noticer. I’ve never done this before, but Hyatt’s enthusiasm lead me to request a reviewer’s copy of the book in exchange for my promise to post a review on my blog. Here goes.

The Noticer tells the story of the ageless Jones (not Mr. Jones, just Jones) who helps people in crisis find perspective and meaning in life. The Noticer is a quick read and felt familiar… like a Patrick Lencioni leadership/business fable, but focused on inspiration and encouragement rather than business principles. There are also traces of Carnegie’s How to Win Friends & Influence People and Chapman’s Five Love Languages. Jones helps people save marriages and families, brings hope to the hopeless and offer meaning for those who find none in life. Brief interactions lead to transformed lives.

Jones reminds me of Papa from The Shack. Jones isn’t God, but he does have a hard-to-pin-down spiritual character. Where Papa is “especially fond” of each person, Jones is their “best friend”. Like Papa, Jones appears differently to each person — Latinos know him as Garcia, and Asians know him as Chen.

Jones is a sage and encourager. He teaches his friends to ask what others would change about them if they could? “[I]f you want to be a person of influence — if you want people to believe the things you believe or buy what you are selling — then others must at least be comfortable with you (p15)”. Another favorite quote comes from a time when he encourages an aging widow about her purpose in life: “Sorry, but I’ve never known a single person who made a tiny difference. I am not even convinced it is possible. So, you will have to settle for making a huge difference” (p 85-86).

Many personal development books teach techniques that lead to or feed greed. While Jones’ advice is definitely practical, it aims towards higher purposes, for affecting change, reconciliation, love and making big differences in our world. This is the best kind of inspiration.

Like so many books that use narrative to teach truth (think A McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian, Lencioni’s books, or even The Shack), the plot of The Noticer can be forced and thin at times, but it doesn’t detract much from the book. To fully flesh out the wide ranging themes would have required a book that was four times as long and would have moved the short and readable text out of the reach of many. Even if this book doesn’t affect “change in an instant”, it may be a jumping off point into deeper topics pushing you to find wise friends who will speak truth and offer the same Jones-like “perspective”. Looking for motivation and inspiration? Pickup a copy of The Noticer.

PMBA: Economics in One Lesson

Economics in One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics
The PMBA program includes Economics in One Lesson as a primer on basic economics. Its not your standard econ textbook. Hazlitt teaches through concrete examples and dismantling common economic fallacies.

Here’s the main point, according to the author:

The central lesson is that we should try to see all the main consequences of any economic policy or development – the immediate effects of special groups, and the long-run effects on all groups (p 55).

Hazlitt argues against artificial price controls, minimum wages, subsidies, government-issued credit, high taxes, price-fixing and inflation because these policies benefit special interests to the detriment of society as a whole.

As I read this book and found myself trying to apply Hazlitt’s reasoning to everyday buying decisions. Here’s an example.

My wife and I like Noble Fir Christmas trees. These trees can be expensive. A large tree can cost $90 at a private tree lot. This year we found a great tree at our local Target store for only $40. In an efficient market, everyone would buy their tree at Target and the private sellers would go out of business. Is society better off because we can buy trees for $40 instead of $90? Hazlitt would argue yes.

I have an extra $50 to spend on a jacket if I buy a $40 tree. The private tree sellers might lose their jobs, but new jobs would be created when I spend my $50 savings (or even if I save it, but that’s another matter). There is no net job loss, but I have acquired a tree and a jacket. My standard of living is higher and I am wealthier. If I had purchased a $90 tree, I would not have a jacket. I would have a lower standard of living and would be poorer. The lower prices and higher per-person productivity created by efficient free markets leads to wealthier societies with higher standards of living.

Hazlitt’s arguments make sense on a large scale. But are they overly simplistic? What if markets aren’t completely free? What if jobs don’t transfer easily from a dying industry to a new one? Can anyone recommend further reading in this area?

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PMBA: Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion

Here’s the first in what I hope will be a long series of mini-book-reviews I’m reading from the Personal MBA list.

Influence: The Psychology of PersuasionMany “persuasion” books teach manipulation – here’s how to make people do what you want them to do. Cialdini takes the opposite approach. As a self-described gullible consumer (in spite of being a psych professor), Cialdini explores how “compliance practioners” use the “weapons of influence” against people like him. After identifying each major tool, he teaches defensive techniques. Cialdini doesn’t pontificate. He’s one of us and falls for the same things we do.

This book was a quick and entertaining read. Here are a few of the topics covered:

  • Reciprocation – why fundraisers give gifts, like address labels with your name on them, because accepting them will predispose you to return the favor with a gift
  • Commitment and Consistency – why fraternities haze, why we’ll do anything to reinforce a decision we’ve already made
  • Social Proof – why so much of what we do is influenced by those around us. The suicide trends data reminds me of a similar chapter in Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point
  • Liking – how we’re more likely to be influenced by people we like
  • Authority – why we do things authorities tell us to do
  • Scarcity – how your gym gets you to sign up today by making great offers that expire if you don’t sign on the spot

I’d recommend this book to just about anyone, not just people interested in the PMBA program. It will definitely remind you of times that you’ve fallen for the tricks of master persuaders. I bought my first suit this year (not bad, I made it to 32 before buying a suit). Now I know why it was so easy for the salesman to sell me shoes, a shirt, a tie, a belt, etc after I’d already committed to buy the suit. By contrast, the accessories seemed like little purchases next to the high-priced suit.

If you like this topic, here are a few related books on my shelf that I’d also recommend:

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