Being a part of LoveReading means that a love of everything bookish and reading is pretty much a given. We get to talk books with other bookish types - from publishers to authors in our Industry Insights and Author Talk pieces. We get to celebrate new books, series and more in our Book Chat and Book Club features and live happily in a bookworm bubble.
Not everyone lives in the completely bookcentric world that we do, yet many still have a long-lasting and lingering love of books and the wisdom they provide. Today we invite a friend of LoveReading to talk books. Their main experience lies outside of the publishing world yet they absolutely, well and truly share our love of books and believe in the transformative power of reading.
Introducing Fraser Duncumb, CEO & Co-Founder of tech company Wotter.
Whilst practising as a violin-maker, Fraser’s solitary experience in this craft drove his growing fascination with what environments make other people tick, and how harnessing them can improve their work, and, in turn, their life. Fraser believes that every person can become the most exuberant, talented, and productive version of themselves if they are only given the right conditions. Empowering companies to learn and replicate these conditions is the next step of a lifelong journey.
So Fraser and his business partner set up Wotter, a platform that gives companies the live insight they need to improve their business for everyone’s benefit.
My life as a CEO involves a lot of talking to a lot of different people. In recent years, I’ve been increasingly fascinated by the practical applications of human psychology. From my personal relationships to my dealings throughout the world of business, I’ve found that a deeper understanding of what drives human intuition has given me greater confidence and greater outcomes in my everyday life.
I believe almost everything can be learned, with varying degrees of difficulty maybe, however, one of the first things I noticed about other people is how resistant many can be to learning. Learning itself is a fascinating process, and whilst learning skills in my work life, I’ve observed the different states of learning.
Before long, I noticed that before you get really good at something, you have to go through a disheartening process I call the Pit of Despair – the point where you realise you know very little about the subject, and this triggers a doubt in your ability to do it at all. Thankfully, powering through this stage is how you truly master a subject, and I now actively seek out this lost feeling, enjoying the challenge.
By delving further into everyday psychology, I have found that this Pit of Despair is usually referred to as the Conscious Incompetence stage of the Four Stages of Competence, as illustrated below.
By understanding these elements of psychology, I’ve become a better manager of people. I push them into learning things, and I can support them through their period of conscious incompetence until they emerge, more confident and more learned than before.
That’s just one example of how everyday psychology has helped me to understand human nature – in myself and those around me. Most of my knowledge in this area has come from reading and reflecting on books.
The first book here is a must-read, as is evident from its place on almost every list of this nature: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. This delightfully written and incredibly insightful book sheds light on both the self, our actions and our interactions with others. I have at times in my life bought multiple copies of this book, simply to give away to people whom I come across. Please do pick up your own copy if you haven’t already.
The second book is another favourite of mine to give away, so much so that I must confess that I still haven’t read the last chapter! Despite that, it has probably had more of an effect on my life and my happiness than any other book. Solve For Happy by Mo Gawdat is a triumph arising from Mo’s greatest sadness: losing his son. Addressing our minds logically and rationally, Mo led me to a new realisation with every chapter, unleashing me from worries I used to hold.
Principles by Ray Dalio was another game changer. Ray’s part autobiography, part self-help guide details his life as a hedge fund manager, focusing on his way of thinking. By assessing events in his life in terms of their root cause, Ray forms larger principles that guide his future actions. For example, rather than focusing on the details of a falling out with a friend, he notices this is an instance of a trusted friend lying to him. Through this, Ray creates principles to determine how he deals with situations such as these, and before long he can see events as “another one of those”, giving him clarity in how he responds.
Like most people, at times I’ve found myself thinking: “Why can’t this person just do XYZ more like me?” This feeling is of course both frustrating and naive, but I’m sure we’ve all felt it to lesser or greater degrees. The first time I truly understood that people are different was when I read The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin. Gretchen uses a simple model to assess people on their ability to uphold other people’s expectations of them, and their ability to uphold their expectations of themselves. Gretchen neatly slices off a small part of the human experience in an intuitive manner, which sheds light on how the people around us operate.
Thinking Fast And Slow by Daniel Kahneman builds upon the studies for which the author, and his colleague Amos Tversky, won a Nobel Prize. Through many studies into human intuition, Kahneman and Tversky noticed many foibles universal to all human intuition (or System 1 thinking, as they would refer to it). Understanding human over-reliance on intuition has changed my interactions with others hugely.
Ironically, the raison d'etre of the next book is that not everything can be learned in a book. What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School by Mark McCormack is as much a diary of fascinating stories as it is a business book. Relevant to everyone from first-time job holders to established CEOs, Mark’s sharp mind recalls astute insights into his well-storied career at the forefront of sports management. While some of Mark’s stories may show their age, his insights are universal and timeless.
Before wrapping up, I wanted to go off-piste and shine a light on Mary Schmich’s excellent 1997 Chicago Tribune Column titled ‘Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young’. Since immortalised by Baz Luhrmann in the famous spoken word song ‘Wear Sunscreen’, Mary Schmich’s advice reverberates around my mind regularly, so much so that I printed the words and put them on my wall. Perhaps the part that resonates most is:
“Don't waste your time on jealousy
Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind
The race is long and in the end, it's only with yourself”
Finally, perhaps oddly, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned came not from a business or psychology book, but from a fiction novel my father gave me in my youth. As a surfer, the coming-of-age story about a rural Australian teenager searching for greater adrenaline in an attempt to find himself captivated me. I read Breath by Tim Winton cover to cover, and then immediately read it again. One single line has stuck with me ever since:
“People are fools, not monsters”
Of course, there are obvious exceptions, but generally, the reasons people do bad things come down to mistakes, laziness, selfishness or ignorance, not intentional malice. And it can pay to remember this of the people we come into contact with.
Thanks to Fraser for his contribution to this blog, shop his recommendations below with the confidence that you're making a difference to UK schools with every purchase.
To find out more about Wotter: https://wotter.ai/