• Lisa Allen

The first step is admitting you have a habit

Updated: May 11, 2020

For some reason, I was given a review copy of “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business,” by Charles Duhigg. He’s a NYT reporter, so of course I readily accepted his emailed offer to send me a copy of his book.

Still mystified as to why I received a copy of the book, I began reading. The prologue begins, “She was the scientists’ favorite participant. Lisa Allen, according to her file,…..” I’ve seen my name in print hundreds of times, even on the cover of a couple of books I edited, but wow, there it is in a book written by a New York Times reporter. I don’t know if that’s how I appeared on his radar, but if so, it was a brilliant

marketing move.

Most of the book is right on, but it reaches a little too far when it comes to the civil rights movement.

However that book landed at my doorstep, I’m glad it did.

It’s an intriguing romp through Mr. Duhigg’s research and the many twists and turns his growing database took. That’s what I love about journalism. One starts in one spot and you never know there the information will take you. Unfortunately, he follow

ed one path in the book he shouldn’t have. One large tangent doesn’t belong and undermines some of the overall value of the book. He pushed too hard to argue that the civil rights movement occurred because long-standing habits finally snapped. He also argues that fundamental sociological responses derived over generations and founded on the necessity of human interactions stem from habits. I don’t buy it. I cannot categorize the culmination of 100 years of American history, social pressures and basic human needs into something as a simple as subconscious reactions to cues, routines and rewards.

The civil rights movement was too complex, too political and too orchestrated  to stem from subconscious behavior. That’s my caveat to recommending this book. I loved everything about it, but. That segue doesn’t ruin the book, but it doesn’t fit within it. It was too much of a stretch.

With that exception, the book is definitely worth reading. You’ll talk about it, think about it and keep picking it up to reread sections.

My favorite parts were reading about the success of Alcoa under the safety-obsessed Paul O’Neill, marketing Pepsodent, unwinding to the source of infant mortality and recognition of William James’ brilliance.

I loved the business applications of habits and their use for good (Alcoa) and evil (Target).

The price of admission is worth Mr. Duhigg’s notes alone. I enjoyed knowing immediately what reaction his reporting evoked from his sources, including the terse replies from Target, and the shut down from the compulsive gambler. From his notes and sources, I have another large reading list to explore the portions that interested me, including the civil rights movement but along other premises.

Thanks to Mr. Duhigg’s book and the treasure trove of resources, he has made learning, about habits and other topics, well, a habit.

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