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Autobiography of a Restless Mind: Reflections on the Human Condition Volume 1


     Dee Hock, through his decades of early morning writing and study, shares a glimpse of his thinking, thoughts, and process. Set in a format similar to Marcus Aurelius' meditations 

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Key Takeaways

  1. As a young child born in a tiny cottage in a small farming village in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, I discovered three principal loves of my life: nature, reading, and unstructured learning.
  2. As partial recompense for dislike of business, I continued to read and study voraciously. It led to three questions that soon dominated my life. Time and time again I asked:   •   Why are individuals, everywhere, increasingly in conflict with and alienated from the organizations of which they are part? •   Why are organizations, everywhere, increasingly unable to manage their affairs? •   Why are society and the biosphere increasing in disarray?
  3. Rising at five thirty to write a thousand or more words before beginning the day’s labor became an entrenched habit, unbroken to this day. Each day’s writing ended with four or five short reflections on subjects then occupying my mind. By the late ’90s, my writing had grown to five thousand pages containing several thousand of the short reflections.
  4. In the soil of every satisfaction sprout the seeds of discontent.
  5. Humility and generosity have no enemies.
  6. The pleasures of youth are the pains of old age, just as the pleasures of old age are the pains of youth.
  7. That which is growing looks only ahead; that which is declining looks only behind.
  8. The essential reward of anything well done is to have done it. Everything else is surfeit.
  9. What becomes known is worthless until it is shared.
  10. Constructive, humane behavior cannot be achieved by external force. It arises from within. It can be educed, but cannot be compelled. It is a rare leader who understands this simple fact, let alone puts it into practice.
  11. The formative principles of the universe distinguish everything, yet separate nothing. They sustain nothing in perpetuity, yet perpetually generate everything.
  12. What is my life made of? Love of nature, love of literature, love of solitude, love of thought, and love of another. One could do much worse.
  13. When there is failure, grab all the blame you can get. There may not be enough to go around.
  14. The universe does not exert force in any meaningful sense. The sun does not “force” the planets into orbit or “command” them to do anything. It merely places an attraction in their path to which they respond in accordance with their nature. It would be a blessing if people who aspire to be great could understand this principle and behave in accordance with it.
  15. Society blundered into the twenty-first century bursting with how, enamored of what, and barren of why.
  16. The universe seeks perfection by patient attention to small things. A marvelous life is no different. Why enter the mindless marathon for possessions and grandeur?
  17. Anyone who can be impressed is not worth impressing.
  18. It is a great mistake to confuse physical strength, dominance, violence, vulgarity, or brutality with masculinity. Masculinity is emotional stability, undaunted integrity, quiet courage, humility, generosity, and capacity for enduring love, or it is nothing.
  19. Idealistically, all that matters is intent; realistically, all that matters is effort.
  20. The businessman wants to make the world behave in accordance with his desires, the academic in accordance with his theories, the theologian in accordance with his beliefs, and the politician in accordance with his ambitions. What the world wants is to be left alone.
  21. Habits are never in a hurry.
  22. If you can’t be precise, be concise; if you can’t be concise, be silent.
  23. The one who professes the best motives is the most likely to act from the worst.
  24. The ferocity with which a dog defends its bone tells a great deal more about the nature of the dog than the quality of the bone.
  25. Open your clenched fist and the universe will gladly lie down in the palm of your hand.
  26. Wait patiently and listen carefully until something whispers to your soul–then quietly follow the sound.
  27. Religion claims we must obey the mandates of God and clergy can tell us what they are. Science claims we must obey the laws of nature and scientists can tell us what they are. Both claims are absurdly pretentious.
  28. Love of self has no rival.
  29. When we believe we are everything, we are on our way to nothing. When we believe we are nothing, we are on the way to everything. Why choose nullity over infinity?
  30. Never entrust the solving of a problem to those who may benefit from the solution.
  31. Growth for the sake of growth without concern for the host is the philosophy of a cell gone mad. It’s called cancer. People have become a cancer of the earth for which there is no cure unless by some miracle of understanding we become capable of self-remission.
  32. It is not more answers we need, but better questions. It is not more action we need, but deeper reflection. It is not more knowledge we need, but profounder wisdom. It is not more technology we need, but greater aspirations.
  33. Wisdom is complex; knowledge is simple. Wisdom is rare; knowledge is abundant. Wisdom is difficult; knowledge is easy. We are much better off to deeply understand what little we know, than to know much more than we understand, for understanding, not knowledge, is the path to wisdom.
  34. Tyranny shouts, “You must!” Leadership whispers, “Perhaps we should.”
  35. Do not deal with other people. Do not manage them. Become them. Realize that the universe contains no boundaries. Erase from your mind the fiction of boundary between self and other. Realize that you contain the universe and all therein as surely as it contains you. Simply go before and show the way.
  36. Academic education makes an informed man; Experiential education makes an able one.
  37. Anything wrapped in a tale slips easily into the mind and adheres tenaciously.
  38. The person who has the least respect for others will inevitably demand the most respect from them.
  39. The wise make known their gratitude for the smallest favor they receive and expect none for the greatest benefit they bestow.
  40. Envy is admission of inferiority.
  41. The greatest achievement in life is to become your own best self. Nothing external can help with that.
  42. Old minds should be like ripe, falling fruit, rich with seeds of wisdom for the evolution of the species.

What I got out of it

  1. Fun glimpse into the mind of a great thinker

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