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Obliquity

Why our goals are best achieved indirectly
By: John Kay
Narrated by: Erik Synnestvedt
Length: 4 hrs and 49 mins
4 out of 5 stars (49 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A leading economist charts the indirect road to happiness and wealth.

Using dozens of practical examples from the worlds of business, politics, science, sports, literature, even parenting, esteemed economist John Kay proves a notion that feels at once paradoxical and deeply commonsensical: The best way to achieve any complex or broadly defined goal-from happiness to wealth to profit to preventing forest fires-is the indirect way. As Kay points out, we rarely know enough about the intricacies of important problems to tackle them head-on. And our unpredictable interactions with other people and the world at large mean that the path to our goals-and sometimes the goals themselves-will inevitably change. We can learn about our objectives and how to achieve them only through a gradual process of risk taking and discovery-what Kay calls obliquity. Kay traces this pathway to satisfaction as it manifests itself in nearly every aspect of life. The wealthiest people-from Andrew Carnegie to Bill Gates-achieved their riches through a passion for their work, not because they set materialistic goals. Research has shown that companies whose goal (as declared in mission statements) is excellent products or service are more profitable than companies whose stated goal is increasing profits.

In the personal realm, a large body of evidence shows that parenthood is on a daily basis far more frustrating than happy- making. Yet parents are statistically happier than nonparents. Though their short-term pleasure is often thwarted by the demands of childrearing, the subtle-oblique-rewards of parenthood ultimately make them happier. Once he establishes the ubiquity of obliquity, Kay offers a wealth of practical guidance for avoiding the traps laid by the direct approach to complex problems. Directness blinds us to new information that contradicts our presumptions, fools us into confusing logic with truth, cuts us off from our intuition (which is the subconscious expression of our experience), shunts us away from alternative solutions that may be better than the one we're set on, and more. Kay also shows us how to acknowledge our limitations, redefine our goals to fit our skills, open our minds to new data and solutions, and otherwise live life with obliquity. This bracing manifesto will convince listeners-or confirm their conviction-that the best route to satisfaction and success does not run through the bottom line.

©2011 John Kay (P)2011 Gildan Media Corp

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  • Overall
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Good Message Bad Delivery

Good message overall however the delivery lacked several things, excitement, sticking to the subject matter all come to mind

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great material. Terrible narrator

Much has been said about the content of the book - most of it positive, and I agree wholeheartedly. What I can't understand is how no one in the entire production process stopped this narrator from using his phony voice. Think Agent Smith from the Matrix but more annoying. The shame is that the man has a great voice. If he'd just, you know, read it instead of sounding like someone doing an over-the-top newscaster impression, it would be tolerable if not pleasurable to listen to.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Little additional insight

Certainly, none of the observations in the book are wrong per se. But there's also only little insight gained by reading it.

Essentially, this is what it boils down to:

- Good decision making is not achieved by trying to anticipate future developments and achieving goals directly, but rather by constantly adjusting decisions based on current developments and new knowledge gained.
- People / organizations who try to "be succesful" as their primary and only goal are likely to fail.
- People / organizations who genuinely pursue some "real" purpose or "valuable" objectives are likely to be succesful as a result.

And I think that's pretty much it. A bit thin overall.

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Excellent substance, narrator with accent.

Excellent substance, recommended reading before delving into Nassim Nicholas Taleb's books. Narrator had an accent I struggled with a bit.

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Brilliant and Underestimated

What did you like best about this story?

This is a brilliant piece of writing... John Kay is an underrated genius. This book effectively throws a monkey wrench into the gears of 99% of business / self-improvement / management philosophies out there. If you truly study the material, observe it and put it to use in your own life, you will be amazed by the results. However be forewarned; the material and subject matter is extremely intellectual and advanced... not for the lazy reader simply awaiting "the next joke." Agree with comments on the narrator, the book would have been better served if he was a bit more natural in his delivery. BUT DON'T LET THAT GET IN THE WAY OF BUYING THIS BOOK!

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Forget what you THINK you know...

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fresh perspective

very well done. the examples of great cities and successful businesses really drive the obliquity concept home.

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Great Principle, too long of a description

What did you like best about Obliquity? What did you like least?

I loved the principle and explanations on Obliquity. I didn't like how long the author dragged out the principle itself. This book could have been summed up in an article and been good enough.

What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

The paradigm shift on the pathways to achieving our goals

Was Obliquity worth the listening time?

Not really. Could have been 1/2 the time

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Steven
  • Columbus, Ohio, United States
  • 07-29-11

Behaviors are paradoxical. Reader is annoying.

Another book that points out that we may not be conscious of the motivation of our behaviors, especially when they do not align with our control and belief system. Stuff happens because of the meandering events of life more than the actual plan. Life is a serendipitous journey but we want to believe that we planned it that way.
May biggest complaint is the intonation of the readers voice. Maddening to hear the almost "uh" sound at the end of every sentence.
Gives words to what you may have already realized but not expressed.