Posts Tagged ‘psychology’

Non-fiction Books Every 20-something Should Read

From Shane Parrish on Quora with an answer to “What are some great non-fiction books a 20-year old should add to his library?

Here’s 10.

1. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
Psychologist  Robert Cialdini introduces the universal principles of influence:  Reciprocation, scarcity, authority, commitment, liking, and consensus.  Sure you can watch the short video,  but it’s not the same. Buy the book. Why do you need to learn these? To  paraphrase Publius Syrus, “He can best avoid a snare who knows how to  set one.” After you read this book, move on to Poor Charlie’s Almanack.

2. Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger
The  last time I mentioned this book, Farnam Street readers flooded my  inbox. I’ll try to address the two primary concerns that appeared.  First, if you can’t find it new, just purchase a used copy. Who cares?  Second: Yes, it’s an “expensive” book. Ignorance is more expensive. Just  buy it.

3. Letters from a Stoic
I  came to Seneca a few years after I turned 30. It’s clear from reading  Seneca that he’s full of wisdom. His letters deal with everything we  deal with today: Success, failure, wealth, poverty, and grief. His  philosophy is practical. Not only will reading this book help equip you  for what comes in life, but it’ll also help you communicate with others.

4. The Moral Sayings of Publius Syrus
A  Syrian slave, Syrus is a full of timeless wisdom. Want an example?  “From the errors of others, a wise man corrects his own.” Here is  another: “It is not every question that deserves an answer.” Ok, one  more? “To do two things at once is to do neither.” And he didn’t even  know of Facebook and Twitter. You can read this book in under an hour  but spend the rest of your life trying to learn and apply his wisdom.

5. The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America, Third Edition
I’d much rather recommend Berkshire Hathaway Letters to Shareholders (alsofreely available), however, I recognize that most people would be intimidated by its size. In the Essays,  Lawrence Cunningham thematically organizes Buffett’s own words. There  is more than enough here to get a clear picture of the principles and  logic of Buffett and Munger’s philosophy for business, life, and  investing.

6. Cyrus the Great — The Arts of Leadership and War
Amazing. Cyrus was pretty awesome. His insights about leadership have “inspired great men from Julius Caesar to Benjamin Franklin to Lawrence of Arabia.” Peter Drucker called this book — Xenophon’s biography of Cryus — “the best book on leadership.” You’ll learn about Cyrus’ various campaigns as he conquers Babylon. While the story is old, the leadership lessons are as relevant today as they were then. Among other things “Xenophon shows you how to conduct meetings, become an expert negotiator, deal efficiently with allies, communicate by appealing to the self-interest of your followers, encourage the highest standards of performance, ensure your organization has the benefit of specialists, and prove that your words will be backed by your deeds.”

7. Letters From a Self-Made Merchant to his Son
This book has been on my shelf for over a year. I have no idea why. While the letters are over a hundred years old, they are full of timeless wisdom and practical no-nonsense advice to parents and wisdom seekers alike. Something I’m sure to re-read over the years.

8. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers
This is the best business book I’ve read in a long time. Perhaps one of the best ever. Ben Horowitz has been to hell and back and he’s got the scars to prove it. He’s built billion dollar companies, mentored CEOs, been within weeks of bankruptcy, worked with some of the smartest people in the world, and started a tech company in the middle of the dot com crash. Through it all he’s found there are no easy answers. After reading it, I immediately bought several copies and shipped them to friends of mine.

9. The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives
A great book for me to read so soon after finishing Fooled By Randomness as they both approach the same subject from vastly different angles. Mlodinow’s book is a gentler, though not necessarily better, introduction than Taleb’s. After walking through some elementary lessons in statistics that even professionals get wrong, the book explores how our lives are more informed by chance and randomness than we think. Along the way he offers some tools to help us make better decisions.

10. Zen in the Art of Archery
The author, Eugen Herrigel, spent time in Japan after World War II and wanted to better understand Zen Buddhism. This is impossible to understand through books and requires an activity. He picked archery and found a Zen master who reluctantly accepted him as a student.  Herrigel, being a Westerner, sought rapid progress and linear improvement through technical mastery. This wasn’t enough and became self-defeating. To truly master an art it has to become an “artless art” where it grows out of unconsciousness. Thus archery became a path to greater understanding.

Of course, I’d also add The Prince and the Origin of Species; Two books people talk about all the time, yet few have read.

If you like reading you can see with What I’m Reading.


Have You Ever Seen a Duckrabbit?

From Wikipedia:

“Aspect seeing is the ability to see one thing in multiple ways.

Just as we can see the “duckrabbit” as either a duck or a rabbit…One of the great dangers we face in making use of our minds is getting trapped in only being able to see the world in one way.”


h/t Digital Tonto – Stupid Strategy

3 Brain Rules for Presenters

Motivation in the Workplace

December 10, 2012 Leave a comment

If you want to motivate your employees, how do you do it? Do you focus on traditional incentives, like more money?

That’s one of the questions career analyst and author Daniel Pink (Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us) tackles in his TED Talk on workplace motivation. He says,

“There is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. And here is what science knows.

One: Those 20th century rewards, those motivators we think are a natural part of business, do work, but only in a surprisingly narrow band of circumstances.

Two: Those if-then rewards often destroy creativity.

Three: The secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive — the drive to do things for their own sake. The drive to do things cause they matter.”

So what’s the best way to help your employees to get the job done? Pink distills his research down to 3 areas:

  1. Autonomy – The urge to direct our own lives
  2. Mastery – The desire to get better and better at something that matters
  3. Purpose – The yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves

Watch the entire 18 min TED Talk in the video below.

If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, I would also suggest checking out the Deutsch LA report done in collaboration with the 4A’s that explored why people leave agencies. I think the findings are complementary to Pink’s research.


Book Summary: “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”

July 21, 2012 1 comment

DISCLOSURE: This post was originally published July 19th. See the original + follow up comments on the Casanova Pendrill blog.

Every discussion about top marketing books should include this classic by Dr. Robert B. Cialdini. “Influence” explains the psychology of why people say yes and how to apply these findings to others and your own life.

If you’re interested in the fields of behavioral economics, evolutionary psychology and game theory, you’ll probably like “Influence” too.

Here are the 6 main principles explored in this book:

  1. Reciprocation
  2. Commitment & Consistency
  3. Social Proof
  4. Authority
  5. Liking
  6. Scarcity


This rule states that “…we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us.”


  • If someone buys you lunch, you feel obligated to buy them lunch next time (I owe youMichelle!!)
  • At the supermarket, or a warehouse club like Costco, “free” samples encourage the reciprocity rule when they make you buy something you wouldn’t have otherwise.
  • For the ladies, if a guy takes you out to an expensive dinner, you feel obligated to go out with him again even though you weren’t that into him.


This principle is about our “…desire to be (and to appear) consistent with what we have already done. Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment. Those pressures will cause us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decision.”

Some examples:

  • Maintaining your religious affiliation, even though there isn’t a shred of evidence that confirms what you believe is in any way true (especially if your name is Tom Cruise).
  • You stay married, even though divorce may be the best option, because you’ve made a public commitment “til death do us part” (and your name is Katie Holmes).

  • You’ve made it public knowledge that you believe President Obama was born in Kenya and continue to bring up the issue, even though there is substantial evidence indicating he was in fact born in Hawaii (and your name is Donald Trump).
  • You tell everyone you’re running your 1st marathon in 3 months. The public announcement, or what I call “forced accountability,” will motivate you to be more consistent in your training so you hit your goal.


Social proof is what a lot of us would refer to as peer pressure, but I think it’s closer to herd behavior. This rule “…applies especially to the way we decide what constitutes correct behavior. We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.” Basically, everyone else is doing it, so I’ll do it too.

For example:

  • You’re at a bar and your 4 friends order margaritas, so you do the same.
  • You start wearing your jeans really low because all your friends are doing it.
  • You laugh at a joke because your friends are laughing, but you don’t even get it.
  • You see everyone else staring up at the sky, so you look up too (works every time).


Very simply, this just means we prefer to say yes to the requests of people we know and like.

But what are the factors that cause one person to like another person?

A) Physical Attractiveness

Want to know why Kim Kardashian has almost 10 Million ( ) ‘likes’ on Facebook, her own reality show and a clothing line at Sears?? Sorry, it’s not because she’s super smart or talented — it’s mostly because she’s super hot and dresses really well. And since she’s super hot and dresses really well, people like her and want to be associated with her.

B) Similarity

We like people who are similar to us, whether it’s sharing opinions, personality traits, background, lifestyle, etc.

  • A good example are the cliques that form in high school: athletes, nerds, band geeks, etc. – everyone found a group they associated with the most. And if you were a total social outcast, you probably associated with other outcasts.
  • We see the same dynamic within agencies: Planners hang out with Planners, Creatives hang out with Creatives, and so on.
  • This is also one reason why couples tend to look like one another (Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, etc.).

C) Compliments

We generally love getting compliments, even if they’re not true. Of course, YOU wouldn’t fall for it. I mean, you’re incredibly smart and fun to be around. Did I mention the fact that you’re insanely good-looking? Yes, YOU!!

D) Contact

We like things that are familiar to us. On the other hand, we often fear what we don’t know.

Some examples:

  • Contact is one reason Pavel eats at the same restaurants over and over and over again (and why I make fun of him), instead of trying a new place.
  • Contact is also why African-American voters overwhelmingly voted for Obama in the last presidential election and why presidential candidates are most likely to win in their home states. Because they’re familiar and “closer to home.”
  • It’s also why I’m going a little crazy as I type this post on a PC after using a Mac for almost 2 years. I’m used to my old computer.
  • You find out the new girl at work was in the same sorority. And loves Adele! And Glee!! And cupcakes!! Guess what? You just became BFFs!!

E) Cooperation works a little differently. We also like people who work with us, instead of against us. Working together towards a common goal and being “on the same side” are very powerful.


  • It helps us understand why “Yes We Can” worked so well as a unifying slogan for the 2008 Obama campaign.
  • You work together on a new business pitch
  • Sports teams
  • We see this all the time in reality shows, like the tribes or alliances formed in “Survivor” or the “Real Word/Road Rules Challenge.” On a smaller scale, we see it in “The Real Housewives of Orange County” and “Jersey Shore” when Gretchen pairs up with Tamra or Jwoww pairs up with Snooki and Deena, respectively. Not that I watch those shows :)

F) Conditioning & Association

“All things being equal, you root for your own sex, your own culture, your own locality…and what you want to prove is that YOU are better than the other person. Whomever you root for represents YOU; and when he wins, YOU win.” – Isaac Asimov

The principle of Association “…is a general one, governing both negative and positive connections. An innocent association with either bad things or good things will influence how people feel about us.”

Everyone wants to be part of a winning team because it raises your social standing. People will therefore try to link themselves to positive events and distance themselves from negative events.


  • Ever notice how people says “WE won!!” when their team wins, but they say “THEY lost!!” when their team loses??

  • Of course, it’s the same idea with brands: Starbucks, Apple, Coach, etc. We buy these brands largely because of the Association rule.

  • The same rule applies to name droppers, who want you to know who they know (did I mention my neighbors in high school were Das EFX? I didn’t? Oh, ok. No big deal.).


Very simply, people tend to follow authority figures. We are taught from a very young age that obedience to authority is right and disobedience is wrong.


  • Policemen, firemen, clergy, office managers, etc.
  • Titles (PhD, Esq, MBA, etc.)
  • The way people are dressed (Ex: 3-piece suit vs. tank top and board shorts). Con artists exploit this rule all the time, like Leonardo DiCaprio in “Catch Me If You Can.”
  • In Advertising, we see this principle at play in celebrity endorsements.


The scarcity principle states that “…opportunities seem more valuable to us when their availability is limited.” Fans of behavioral economists may see how this ties into the concept ofLoss Aversion – the fear of loss is always greater than the desire for gain.


  • Limited time offers – A certain product is in short supply that cannot be guaranteed to last long (like Missoni at Target several months ago or Tickle Me Elmo several years ago).
  • Deadlines – An official time limit is placed on the customer’s opportunity to get the offer. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are great examples.
  • Another variant of the deadline tactic is when you’re told that you have to buy NOW or the price will go up very soon (Ex: health club memberships, buying a car, etc.).

Why does the Scarcity principle work so effectively?

“…we know that the things that are difficult to possess are typically better than those that are easy to possess, we can often use an item’s availability to help us quickly and correctly decide on its quality.” Rather than weighing all the pros and cons, we use scarcity as a mental shortcut to make decisions.

  • Scarcity is why you get more interested in someone when they don’t return your calls, emails or texts. The other person is “making themselves scarce.”
  • Scarcity is also one of the main drivers with collectibles (like baseball cards, artwork, coins) and rare items, like caviar. People don’t eat caviar because it’s particularly good. They eat it because it’s expensive and it’s expensive because it’s rare (scarce).
  • Luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Burberry are having a much more difficult time justifying their high prices. These brands used to be exclusive – only the wealthy could afford them, but with the rise of outlet stores and cheap knock-offs, now anyone can get their hands on a tartan plaid Burberry scarf and the scarcity advantage disappears with it.


This post is only an overview meant to highlight the main principles of influence with real-world examples.

If you want to understand more of the science and psychology behind our choices, I highly recommend you check out “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.”

What do YOU think are the best books for marketers trying to understand the human mind? Add them in the comments!!

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