Readings that Resonate: The Fifth Discipline on goals and values

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The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge is one of the most important books ever written. This is not hyperbole. First published in 1990, it becomes more relevant and profound with each year. The principle topic is “Systems Theory,” but it’s really a manual for how to understand the world. Again, not hyperbole.

The reason TFD is not more widely known (though it has sold over 400k copies), is because it’s not easy stuff. How could it be? Do Chicken Soup for the Soul or Tuesday’s With Morrie really illuminate anything? Not that there is anything wrong with these books and their ilk, necessarily. It’s just that, given their sensibility, they seem to me to be more about helping you feel good, rather than helping you come to deeper understandings. Therefore, they can be presented in a manner that is decidedly more populist.

The Fifth Discipline, on the other hand forces you to struggle through concepts.

Rather than enforcing easily understandable axioms, TFD makes you question everything. Once done, you can begin to rebuild a new set of axioms (archetypes) that are deeper, and more useful.

Let’s just say it ain’t beach reading.

It’s taken me several years to get to a place where I’m beginning to understand and reap the benefits. I’ve got a long way to go.

However, interspersed within all of the challenging profundity, are manageable, easily-digested pieces of crucial information. To wit:

Just setting goals without a genuine vision will likely lead to backsliding when the goals prove difficult to realize.

Embedded within this seemingly simple statement is the idea that:

    a. you have to have vision
    b. your vision must be genuine
    c. you have to have goals
    d. your vision must have a deep connection to your goals
    e. achieving goals is difficult
    f. only a genuine vision will allow you to work through the difficulties to achieve your goals
    g. failure occurs when you don’t have a genuine vision

You can, perhaps, see why it takes a while to work through TFD; one sentence, such as above, leads to a host of revelations.

I urge you to get started with this book. Put it down when you’re not able to deal with it, but keep it close by. Come back to it when you’re ready.

You’ll know when.

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