Five Similar Words of Wisdom

1. I have mentioned several times what Loren Berlin, a student at the University of North Carolina, told Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist: Stop writing about African failures, start writing about African successes.

2. At the recent New Yorker Conference, Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, NJ, told this story:

I moved into Newark around 1995. . . In my first month there I saw my first shooting ever. . . . I had my life threatened . . . That same month I met this woman who changed my life. She’s an ornery, tough as nails, just an amazing certifiably insane leader. She was the head of the Brick Tower Tenants Association. . . . I meet this woman . . . The first thing I say to her, in my Yale Law School arrogance, I say to her, “Ma’am, I’m Cory Booker, I live across the street, I’m here to help you.”

She looks at me and she says, “You want to help me, first tell me what you see around you.” . . .

“I see drug dealers.” Which I said in a very respectful tone, in case they overheard me. “I see a crack house.” I describe the neighborhood.

“Well, you could never ever help me.”

“What do you mean?”

“Boy, you need to understand something. The world you see outside of you is a reflection of what you have inside of you. If you only see problems and darkness and despair that’s all there’s ever going to be. But if you see hope and opportunity and even love, then you can be somebody that makes a change.”

3. As I mentioned earlier, in First, Break All the Rules, the authors summarize what they learned from thousands of interviews into one lesson for managers:

Don’t waste time trying to put in [your employees] what was left out. Try to draw out what was left in.

4. At the end of my long self-experimentation paper, I wrote:

[Jane] Jacobs (2000) argued that caste systems and other forms of discrimination retard economic development because they prevent certain jobs from becoming the seeds of new businesses. . . . Belief that something is bad makes it harder to learn what it is good for – including what it could become.

I was referring to the belief of many psychology professors that self-experimentation is bad.

5. In an interview with someone from Buffalo, NY, Jane Jacobs said how development of Buffalo should proceed:

You need to do something — I hate to keep repeating myself — that’s unique to Buffalo, that comes out of Buffalo itself. You don’t want to keep acting like a company town.

In other words, don’t try to make Buffalo more like other cities. Try to make it less like other cities.

Curious, huh?

Thanks to Tobian, who blogs about Ethiopia, for reminding me of the Loren Berlin letter.