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Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Review: The Four

The Four is the equivalent of getting your grizzled war veteran drunk, and then listening to him pontificate wildly about the state of the world. It's surprisingly entertaining and irreverent, but as with the above-mentioned drunk veteran, you will naturally take everything said with a giant sack of salt.

There are few better examples of what Pope Francis refers to as an unhealthy “idolatry of money” than our obsession with Steve Jobs. It is conventional wisdom that Steve Jobs put “a dent in the universe.” No, he didn’t. Steve Jobs, in my view, spat on the universe. People who get up every morning, get their kids dressed, get them to school, and have an irrational passion for their kids’ well-being, dent the universe. The world needs more homes with engaged parents, not a better fucking phone. (Kindle loc 1144)
 Everyone in the room speaks the same language (literally and figuratively), wears Herm├Ęs, Cartier, or Rolex, has kids at Ivy League schools, and vacations in a coastal town of Italy or France or St. Barts. Fill a room with middle-class people from around the world, and you have diversity. They eat different food, wear different clothes, and can’t understand each other’s languages. It’s anthropology on parade. The global elite, by contrast, is a rainbow of the same damn color. (Kindle loc 1210)
 A key component would be flipping the business model in education, eliminating tuition, and charging recruiters, as students are broke, and the firms recruiting them are flush. Harvard could foster the same disruption if they take their $37B endowment, cancel tuition, and quintuple the size of their class—they can afford to do this. However, they suffer from the same sickness all of us academics are infected with: the pursuit of prestige over social good. We at NYU brag how it’s become near impossible to gain admission to our school. This, in my view, is like a homeless shelter taking pride in how many people it turns away. (Kindle loc 1379)
Sprinkled around all this pontificating are pieces of advice, usually aimed at the  business school students he teaches:
Within your organization, figure out what the company is good at—its core functions—and if you want to excel there, have a bias toward one of those categories. Google is all about engineers: the salesmen don’t do as well (though it’s still a great place to work). Consumer packaged goods companies are brand managers: engineers rarely make it to the C-suite. If you’re in the discipline that drives the company, what it excels at, you will be working with the best people on the most challenging projects, and are more likely to be noticed by senior management. (Kindle loc 3509)
I enjoyed the book and the pontificating, but needed a palette cleanser afterwards. Mildly recommended.

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