If Aristotle Ran General Motors: The New Soul of Business by Tom Morris

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

  1. “I believe there are some basic truths, discernible by philosophical reflection, which undergird any sort of human excellence in flourishing, whether in a company like GM or in the country at large. In our families, friendships, neighborhoods, communities, civic organizations and business relationships, four profound but simple foundations – universally accessible, pervasively applicable and incredibly effective – underlie the attainment and sustaining of the very best results.”
Key Takeaways
  1. Ultimately, greatness is rooted in simplicity, if we make consistent use of the most fundamental, simple concepts and truths about excellence as foundations for everything we do
  2. Learn from the eminent dead!
  3. People are the only true foundation for lasting excellence and must get a significant degree of satisfaction at work, must sense that their work is a good thing and doing it must bring them some measure of intrinsic happiness
  4. Extrinsic rewards without intrinsic fulfillment are poor motivators
  5. Everyone in life is really after the same thing – happiness
    1. Happiness as pleasure, personal peace (tranquility of mind, participating in something which brings fulfillment
  6. External world will never lead us to nirvana
  7. Happiness is never passive, it is found in active pursuit of something worthwhile
  8. 4 dimensions of human experience which structure all of human life are timeless virtues for the soul of any productive endeavor with people and thus four foundations for sustainable human excellence – truth, beauty, goodness and unity
    1. The intellectual dimension which aims at truth
    2. The aesthetic dimension which aims at beauty
    3. The moral dimension which aims at goodness
    4. The spiritual dimension which aims at unity
  9. Truth
    1. Need ideas as much as food, air and water
    2. Truth is simply the mapping of reality that corresponds to how things truly are
    3. Asking someone’s advice is one of the most ennobling gestures
    4. Must have an environment which respects truth as this goes together with respecting people
      1. Truth is the foundation of trust and nothing is more important for any business endeavor than trust. Trust is an absolute necessity for truly effective interpersonal activity
    5. In business, as in every facet of life, relationships rule the world
    6. Truth must be consistent with beauty, goodness and unity
    7. Double power principle – To the extent that something has power for good, it has corresponding power for ill. Most of the time, it’s up to us how we use that power
    8. Sharing of knowledge yields more than shared power
      1. As knowledge is shared, it expands
    9. Truth is easily victimized by our desires – we can rationalize almost anything
    10. Lying changes us to lose our grip on truth and its importance
    11. No one ever really gets away with a lie
  10. Excellence
    1. Competitive, zero-sum, individualistic, adversarial mindset can have great results but it is not the best way to go about your life or business. This mindset ignores personal excellence which is not competitive with others and the aim is to be your best.
    2. Comparative growth mindset is very healthy – are you better than a previous version of yourself?
      1. Self-knowledge, strategy for improvement, scale of measurement are necessary to track progress over time
      2. Self-centeredness is self-defeating, self-giving is self-fulfilling. Simply put, by seeking to benefit others, you can end up benefiting yourself beyond any expectation
    3. Collaborative partnership – synergistic interaction, win/win, founded on truth and respect
    4. Excellence is functional and/or aesthetic and/or relational
    5. Shared, lofty vision is motivating in and of itself – the most beautiful situation
  11. Beauty
    1. Most satisfaction and renewal comes when in contact with beauty (nature, beautiful relationships, etc.)
    2. One of the most neglected human experiences in business is beauty
    3. Beauty and truth are almost always found together
    4. Beauty is both active and passive and can be different for everyone
    5. Is there meaning to life?
      1. Nihilism – no
      2. Relativism – yes, if you give it meaning (purposively structure life so it is a meaningful life)
      3. Absolutism – yes
      4. Morris’ answer – creative love. Loving creativity. A kind of performance beauty. Our creative performances are then to be thought of as reflections of the love that brought us into being
        1. What are you doing? What are you building? What is your art? What are you creating, day to day? Is your life guided by creative love? In doing your work, are you somehow involved in acts of loving creativity?
    6. Some of the greatest wisdom is simple but profound and practical
    7. Change most frightening if you don’t have a firm foundation on which to stand. That’s why the best leadership in times of change is clearly values-based leadership
      1. Change is the condition for creative growth and creative growth, in a positive direction, is the meaning of life
    8. Human beings develop to their fullest in structured activities. And that is what business is fundamentally all about: the art of creating, maintaining and refining structures of relationships and activities in which human beings can grow, prosper and live life to the fullest. This is the beauty of business
    9. The beauty of business is the artistry of life
  12. Goodness (moral dimension)
    1. Goodness is truth and beauty manifest in human behavior
    2. Morality is not about deprivation but ultimately living as well as possible
    3. Ethics is about spiritually healthy people with socially harmonious relationships
      1. Inner strength, outer fulfillment
    4. One of the great changes of the modern world is inappropriate compartmentalization of our lives
    5. Goodness is the only investment that never fails
    6. Beware boredom as it can’t be sustained and leads to bad actions
    7. Inability for short-term self-sacrifice is at the core of many of man’s problems – take the long-term, delayed gratification view!
    8. History of human ethical enlightenment is the history of increasing inclusivity
    9. Decision making
      1. Beliefs + Values >> Perceived Problem >> Decision #1 – Feasible Options we could take >> Decision #2 – option to put into action
      2. Almost all of our present problems are a result to some extent of our past decisions
      3. Whenever you make a decision, wherever you act, you are never just doing, you are always becoming
      4. Playing by the rules, by compliance is a poor way to think about ethics
    10. Imagination is the single greatest power in human life
    11. Wisdom and virtue are needed for ethical living
      1. Wisdom – simply deep insight about living. Good advice from the realm of experience. A keen perception of what is right
      2. Virtue – the habit or disposition of acting in accordance with wisdom. Doing the right thing
      3. 3 keys to cultivate wisdom and virtue – network with sages, take care of the little things, cultivate a perceptive imagination (an enhanced capacity for envisioning how our decisions and actions impinge on other people as well as our own process of personal becoming, in morally appropriate and inappropriate ways)
    12. Character is the sum total of all morally relevant habits that you have developed
    13. Integrity is a function of character
    14. Given the right context of intimate and sustained association, greatness gives rise to greatness
    15. Most human beings are masters of self-deception and rationalization
  13. Unity
    1. Unity is the culmination of goodness, beauty and truth
    2. Spirituality fundamentally about depth and connectedness (unity)
    3. Freeing ourselves of delusions is a difficult path but is the one true path to meaning and fulfillment
    4. Become a student of yourself and other people
    5. Not a virtue if it disconnects you from man in general
    6. Benefits never confer the level of satisfaction that contributions do
    7. Everyone has a deep spiritual need to feel useful
    8. I am but dust and ashes. However, for me, the world was created (humility and nobility)
    9. Truth is the most resilient and lasting tie for connecting people and organizations, if the truth is spoken in love
    10. When we connect our work with meanings and purposes attached to our deepest aspirations, we find the result to be beautiful in one of the deepest possible senses. Additionally, environments of beauty for life and work make it more likely that activities within those environments will inspire and bear fruit on a spiritual level
    11. 4 universal spiritual needs – uniqueness as individuals; union with something greater than the self; usefulness to others; understanding about our lives and work
    12. People have ceased asking “is it true?” and concern themselves only with “will it work?”
    13. Public opinion should always be secondary to our focus on the quality of what we contribute
    14. We have a tendency not to sink our roots deeply enough. We look around us at the best practices of other organizations that seem to work and we try to emulate them in our own endeavors. We don’t often analyze exactly why they work or investigate what it is in human nature that makes them work
What I got out of it
  1. Truth, beauty, goodness, unity are the 4 universal traits people, and therefore businesses, need to live a happy and fulfilling life

The Oasis Within by Tom Morris

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.

  1. A tale of an uncle and his nephew who are journeying across the desert and through dialogue and events, the uncle passes down timeless wisdom on how to approach and handle life successfuly.
Key Takeaways
  1. Life is meant to be a series of adventures. Enjoy the good along with the bad
  2. The real secret of life is to carry in your heart an oasis every day, a place of rest and refreshment within you. 
    1. Create an oasis through our thoughts. All the power we have starts with our thoughts
  3. Think of your inner telescope – are you making problems out to be bigger than they are?
    1. “Here’s the ultimate secret, my boy. Once you’ve mastered this trick with your mind and understand the power of perspective, once you’ve grown enough in wisdom and knowledge of the world, you can put your inner telescope down and simply look at things as they are. And you’ll know. Most things in reality are no bigger than we can handle. And that’s important to remember.”
  4. Wisdom in life is almost always about perspective. You can see problems as they truly are, think clearly and act well, even in challenging times
  5. Stay in the present – the past is gone and future is not yet come. Can think of future or past but only to the point it helps, not obsessively
  6. The purpose of any oasis is to assist in a journey. It is not the final destination
  7. Balance is very important. However, it is not a steady, static thing. It is ever changing
  8. Real balance simply means changing and redirecting our energy when the time is right. While you’re doing something that’s worth your time, you should do it with all your heart. Then, when the moment for change comes, you can go do something else.
  9. When it comes to important things, only our deepest feelings, our strongest intuitions, linked together with our highest values, can guide us well
  10. Plans help us accomplish worthwhile and important things
  11. We can’t control the day, only what we make of it. We can learn from anything the world gives us
  12. You don’t have to feel brave to be brave. It’s about how you act and what you do
  13. When you pay attention to life, truly pay attention, many good lessons come your way. The most tempestuous things in life often carry with them the deepest and most useful lessons about our actions, our abilities
  14. Many things that have power for good have corresponding power for ill
  15. “Discipline your thoughts and feelings. Pay attention. Be alert to your surroundings and mindful of your emotions. Cultivate a keen sensitivity of what’s real. Don’t allow illusions about things outside you, and false feelings inside you, to blind the truth. Make sure you value the right things. Be aware of both what you know and how much you don’t know.”
  16. We are all here for a reason. We each have a mission in the world. At some point, your personal mission will present itself to you. You’ll still retain the freedom to accept or reject it. It will never force itself on you.
  17. There are two kinds of opportunities – one for particular action and one for directions of growth
  18. People sometimes resist their own best future because of, primarily, some form of fear – fear of the unknown, failure, what other swill think or say or even success that they’re not sure they can handle
  19. Trust the process of living and learning. Keep your eyes open. And be sensitive to the tug of your heart when a path that’s right for you may appear.
  20. What do you aim to do in your life – “I’ll live with as much excellence as I’m able. I’ll act with kindness, compassion and love. I’ll seek wisdom in all things. I’ll be open and understanding. I’ll honor what’s in my heart. And I’ll try to respect the best in others.”
  21. There’s no need to worry about your entire life. Just take care of your life as well as you can in the moment you’re living it and the rest of your life will take care of itself.
  22. Stay in a job you love as long as you love what you’re doing and think you have something distinctive to contribute
  23. Nobility and humility together form the path of true greatness
  24. Far too many people fear their own inner power and turn away from it
  25. Must have your “bucket” ready for when the sky opens and deep insights come to you. Must be open to new ideas, people, experiences at all times. Make sure you are not too busy to be open to inspiration
    1. “The best way to avoid a leaky bucket is to love wisdom in your heart, seek it everywhere, meditate on what you learn, use it all that you can, and be ready at any time to share it freely.”
  26. Wisdom is for everyone and the greatest joy comes in giving it away
  27. Our deepest desires come to us as signs of who we are and what we can do
  28. Wisdom is unique in that the more we seek it the more we find but the more we give away the more expansive it gets. It is not just about words, but actions. An embodied art, a skilled behavior, a way of living – percolates down into habits, dispositions and inclinations of thinking, feeling and doing that will guide your path in life
  29. Triple Double wisdom tool kit – Prepare, perceive; anticipate, avoid; concentrate, control
  30. “There is a war in this world between goodness and corruption, between genuine love and untethered lust. Corruption, greed and blind desire can win a battle now and then, and can even seem to crush their adversaries. But eventually, the good and the true and the wisely guided, will prevail. Love is the greatest power of all. Only it can endure.”
  31. Worry accomplishes nothing. Consider all likelihoods and be prepared for whatever comes
  32. Worry pulls us out of the present to a badly imagined scenario that’s almost always wrong
  33. Destiny – what happens to us and what happens because of us
  34. 7 elements for “true success”
    1. A clear conception of what we want, a goal vividly imagined
    2. A strong confidence that we can attain this goal
    3. A focused concentration on what it will take to reach this achievement
    4. A stubborn consistency in pursuing our vision
    5. An emotional commitment to the importance of what we’re doing
    6. A good character to guide us and keep us on a proper course
    7. A capacity to enjoy the process along the way
  35. Wisdom is a matter of insights and actions. Never words alone
  36. Embrace uncertainty as it allows you to do and become all that you most admire
  37. Most people don’t know what they truly need because they don’t know who they really are
  38. Appendix provides a good overview of the key lessons
What I got out of it
  1. A really good and insightful book on how to learn, approach life and get the most out of yourself and others

True Success by Tom Morris

The Rabbit Hole is written by Blas Moros. To support, sign up for the newsletter, become a patron, and/or join The Latticework. Original Design by Thilo Konzok.


  1. One of the most common maladies of our time is a misunderstanding of success. In this book Morris lays out the simple truth about success, what it is and how to have it
Key Takeaways
  1. Socrates determined that most people spend the most attention on the least important things and the least attention on the most important things
  2. There are 7 C’s of Success, 7 components of a successful mindset, 7 means to a successful life
    1. Conception – you need a clear and precise conception of what you want, a vivid vision, a goal or set of goals powerfully imagined
    2. Confidence – you need a strong confidence that you can attain your goals
    3. Concentration – you need a focused concentration on what it takes to reach your goal
    4. Consistency – you need a stubborn consistency in pursuing our vision, a determined persistence in thought and action
    5. Commitment – you need an emotional commitment to the importance of what you’re doing and to the people with whom you are doing it
    6. Character – you need a good character to guide you and keep you on a proper course
    7. Capacity – you need a capacity to enjoy the process along the way
  3. If you’re after power, understand power for what purpose
  4. The happiest people in the world are people who love what they are doing, regardless of whether wealth, fame, power and elevated social status ever come their way. The happiest people in the world realize that true success is up to them – using their talents and following their heart to bring about important change in their lives and lives of others
  5. Self-knowledge is the greatest source of personal power on this earth
  6. We need to put aside time to simply sit and think – to understand ourselves, what we want, what we love and value
  7. Goals must be clear and specific
  8. Satisfaction Audit – asking yourself what you like and dislike in your life and how to go about changing what you dislike
  9. Self-knowledge, self-discovery and self-definition
  10. Our values give rise to our goals
  11. Goals and desires are subtly but very different – you can’t have a goal that you don’t intend to act on
  12. Imagination is more important than knowledge
  13. Losers visualize the penalties of failure where winners visualize the rewards of success
  14. Good to ask yourself what the worst case scenario is – it is often not nearly as bad as we initially make it out to be
  15. Do everything to the best of your ability – that way you can look back on your life with no/few regrets
  16. Celebrate, no matter how small, whenever you reach a goal
  17. Whenever you achieve your goals, you must set yourself new goals immediately
  18. We all need support when we confront something difficult – need cheerleaders (Stutman)
  19. It’s easy to underestimate the power of negative thinking
  20. Precursive faith – faith that runs ahead of evidence
  21. You can’t please everybody. Don’t even try and don’t let it bother you
  22. Nothing worth doing is easy
  23. By learning how not to do something, you put yourself in a position so that you’ll be able to do it. Failure = learning
  24. Aim to be a realistic optimist
  25. Important to communicate confidence to yourself with self-talk and to others through how you carry yourself, what you do, how you speak/dress, etc.
  26. One of the most elusive traits today is self-esteem, aim to be moderately high in this arena
  27. Third party compliments do amazing things (Stutman)
  28. Nothing builds your own confidence like the hard work of good preparation
  29. The most consistently lucky people happen to be those who are best prepared
  30. “Everything we do can be, in one way or another, preparation for what we can contribute in this life. The good we do, and even the mistakes we make, can prepare us for greater good. But I cannot stress too much the importance of deliberate, thoughtful and specific creative preparation for any success we hope to attain.”
  31. Most people underestimate their limits and underestimate their strengths
  32. Intelligent preparation can make hard work much easier – knowledge itself is leverage
  33. Little things mean a lot and can make all the difference
  34. Expect the unexpected – even the best plans are made with incomplete knowledge
  35. What seems very bad at the time can turn out to be very good in the end
  36. Fail soon, fail often, fail forward
  37. No matter what, always learn from your failures
  38. Do not think that a successful plan, thought process, goal, etc. will translate into a different context
  39. Always look for the sages – the guys who have been around forever and have seen a lot
  40. Most successful people love to magnify their success through younger people
  41. Must know when to be stubborn and consistent in your goal but also when to be flexible in your approach
  42. Small inconsistencies should never be ignored
  43. The 5-I Framework for Positive Change – Ignorance, Indifference, Inertia, Information, Imagination
  44. Enthusiasm – theos (God) en (infused)
  45. Energy, enthusiasm, emotional commitment is the ultimate aphrodisiac. People are attracted to people who care
  46. “By the work one knows the workman” – Jean de la Fontaine
  47. Successful living and successful working is a process of self-discovery, self-invention, self-discipline and self-indulgence
  48. Make everything sacred. Aim to only have beautiful things around you
  49. Have to work in renewal and relaxation – learn when to take a break, stretch out, gain perspective and slow down. Better to sprint and rest than slowly trot along (The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working)
  50. Selfishness is self-destructive
  51. Elevate characteristics and not people
  52. Arete = excellence, virtue (human excellence and ethics are one in the same)
  53. “I believe I have an ethical obligation to be the best I can be in everything I do, across a broad range of activities, compatible with the realities of my situation.”
  54. Avoid compartmentalization – integrate all parts of your life
  55. “True success is best thought of not as a far off destination, or an end state of any kind, but as a process, a dynamic process of successful living…Enjoyment should not be the end goal but interwoven through the way.”
  56. Enjoyment must come from within
  57. Nothing is as good or as bad as it seems
  58. Be people’s biggest fan – celebrate with them, appreciate them, acknowledge them (Stutman)
  59. We tend to enjoy whatever we are doing the most when we are most immersed in it
  60. We are happy when we are growing
  61. Everyone needs a sense of uniqueness, a sense of union with something larger than the self, a sense of usefulness and a sense of understanding
What I got out of it
  1. One of my favorite books of the year – success needs to be interwoven into your daily routine/journey, 7 C’s of Success