Foundational Thinking

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Arthur C. Brooks, the New York Times bestselling author of The Conservative Heart, has written a new book titled Love Your Enemies—How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt. It is clear that America is rapidly developing a culture of contempt. We see it wherever we turn in politics and in every facet of modern culture. It is not enough to disagree anymore; now it is important to demonize people we disagree with. It isn’t enough to state one’s case; anyone who questions the validity of the proponent’s arguments must be destroyed. People are shouted down or threatened with violence by people with opposing points of view.

Love Your Enemies shows us how contempt is spawned and festers and how it destroys empathy and compassion, leading to dehumanization. Every tyrant understands this formula—think Hitler and Stalin and all the others. Our country has moved a long way down this path, and we face a critical inflection point in our future. This has resulted in substantially more mistrust of our government, our news media and our education system than ever in our country’s history. Brooks cites a study of hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world done by Jonathan Haidt. It revealed that virtually every human being has two basic values: fairness and caring for others. Think about it. If you ever wanted proof of the existence of God, look no further. I believe the only way this could happen is for God to have imprinted them on our souls.

Brooks shows us the road back from contempt based on these values. We need to start every discussion by searching for what we have in common. We have to listen to understand rather than to refute. Brooks points out many examples that reveal the painful irony of our current state—we have far more in common than we disagree on. The United States is the most generous, benevolent superpower this world has ever seen. The world needs us now more than ever. This book is a seminal work that could not be more timely or necessary. Read it, internalize it and share it with your friends so you can help lead our country back to a brighter future.

The world lost Clayton Christensen, one of the most brilliant business thinkers of our time, in 2020. He is famous for his theories on disruption and innovation described in his book, The Innovator’s Dilemma. He published another book in 2012 titled How Will You Measure Your Life? He doesn’t tell you what to think in this book; he tells you how to think. He shows how basic business principles are just that—basic. They are just as valuable in determining how to live your life as they are in business.

Christensen believed that every person must have a purpose in life, just as every business must have a purpose. For example, at Johnsonville, we don’t make sausage; we make people who make sausage. This book asks you what your purpose in life is. Christensen used the last day of class for his graduating MBA students to have them write down their purpose in life. He promised them that this would be the most valuable thing they learned at business school. He shares his own purpose in the epilogue, but only as an example of how to develop your own purpose—because the exercise will only have value to you if you create it yourself.

I read this book and immediately ordered one for each of my children and their spouses. I also ordered a number of them for our key executives, because they will read it and then have all the leaders in our company read it. Our book club just discussed it three nights ago, and most of our members said that they bought the book for each of their children immediately after reading it. They also said, as I did, that they wished they had read it 50 years ago. It is a book for all ages. I am giving it to my grandchildren who are finishing high school and in college. Read this book in tandem with the Brooks book, because together they build a strong foundation for living a joyful and productive life.

 

RALPH STAYER, an avid reader and former CEO of Johnsonville Sausage, leads a book club in Naples with about a dozen other high-power friends. The group only reads non-fiction as a way to keep learning and sharpening the mind. Every month, Stayer shares the latest page-turners earning a permanent spot on his ever-expanding bookshelves.

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