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Book 358 - A Year of Magical Learning

Reflection Title: The Silver Rule!

Book – Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Everyday Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Book Description:

The phrase "skin in the game" is one we have often heard but have rarely stopped to truly dissect. It is the backbone of risk management, but it's also an astonishingly rich worldview that, as Taleb shows in this book, applies to all aspects of our lives. As Taleb says, "The symmetry of skin in the game is a simple rule that's necessary for fairness and justice and the ultimate BS-buster," and "Never trust anyone who doesn't have skin in the game. Without it, fools and crooks will benefit, and their mistakes will never come back to haunt them."


You know we couldn’t finish out this epic adventure without completing the fifth, and currently final, installment of one of our favorite author’s collection of writings he calls his Incerto series called Skin in the Game. While this was probably my least favorite of the series, I still enjoyed every minute of this one and gained a few new insights that I’m happy to take forward with me on this journey we call life.

The big prize from Skin in the Game was learning about the 3rd Metallic Rule for human interaction on this journey.

Quick recap about our other 2 Metallic Rules for we’ve discussed so far:

1. The Golden Rule – We all know this one, but here is a quick recap in case you forgot. The Golden Rule suggests that we do unto others what youwould want done to yourself. This is your everyday rule for human interaction. Treat others the way you would want to be treated and we’ll all get along for the most part.

2. The Platinum Rule – In Option B by Sheryl Sandberg, we were introduced to a new concept called The Platinum Rule. The Platinum rule suggests that we do unto others what they’d like done unto them. This particular rule comes in handy when dealing situations surrounding tragedy, pain, and suffering where we need to really dig deep and show up for people we love with ways that they personally need to experience that love in those lost moments.

Now, in Skin in the Game, we’ve been introduced to our newest edition to the metallic rules for human interaction club called The Silver Rule.

The Silver Rule is the inverse of the Golden Rule in which we are encouraged to NOT do unto others what we would NOT want done to ourselves.

The Golden Rule is all about rules for doing, The Silver Rule is all about not doing. Or as Nassim Taleb would say, via negativa, or the study of what not to do. In his mind, doing no harm is the always the best recourse of action, and I can’t argue much with that sentiment because when we do stuff it usually ends up with unintended consequences.

So, the silver rule got me thinking about one of the most blatant unintended negative consequences I see every day in my work life of the misuse and exploitation of values and purpose in the corporate world.

As we all know by now, values brought to life around a particular purpose and mission can generate explosive results. This is no secret, and businesses have embraced this ideology heavily over the past 30+ years and have used this concept to build powerful cultures that have re-shaped the world (think Apple, Facebook, and Google). They did this explicitly by adopting core values and driving coordinated action around them throughout an organization. With the best of intentions in mind, they dictated to the masses in their employment what was deemed good and bad behavior based off shared values that came from the “collective”.

Shocker…it worked, produced explosive results, and has become common practice in the corporate world today. It also has produced the unintended consequence of causing people to HATE THE WORK THEY DO!

After finishing this book and learning about the silver rule, it made me question why we all accept someone else shoving their values and purpose down our throats each day? Would I ever want someone else to dictate to me what I value and what my purpose in life should be?

The answer to that is HELL NO!

Values and Purpose are deeply personal topics and can’t just be plucked out of the air, forced upon someone without their consent, and then policed with annual performance reviews for compliance. That is so messed up to even think about. How can a business in good conscious force feed purpose and values down people’s throats and call that okay? Going further, these same businesses that give you purpose and values also reserve the right to strip you of those same values and purpose at any moment in order to ensure “shareholder value”. I feel icky just typing that last sentence. To be clear, I don’t think this practice was done on purpose, but it has become the standard now and people just accept it, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is wrong.

We can do better, and we should. How might we leverage the Silver Rule to inform our actions, or lack thereof, in order to find a path forward that can satisfy all parties in the above scenario?

Idea 1 – Stop force feeding your values unto others!

Idea 2 – Maybe ask your employees what they care about? If they can’t answer what they care about, help them to discover that or agree to part ways before you go any deeper together.

Idea 3 – Maybe help them to do more of what they love in their work and eliminate all the other crap?

Idea 4 – Get out of the way and let them bring their unique art into this world!

All of these ideas take into account what I would not want done to me. I do not want someone to tell me what is important to me, I do not want someone to make me perform meaningless work, and I do not want someone to put artificial roadblocks in my path to prevent me from bringing my values to life.

If we focus on not doing to people what you wouldn’t want done to yourself, then I can ensure that situations like the modern corporate world would never exist in the first place. Ironically, they’d probably would make a lot more money than they currently do if they adopted this mentality in the first place.

Just a thought!

Question: Are you imposing your values onto others against their will?



What is The Year of Magical Learning? - An Introduction

YOML Podcast Discussion - Coming Soon

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