The hardest choices are also the most consequential. So why do we know so little about how to get them right?
In his latest book, Steven Johnson breaks down the decision-making process for us to better understand where we are now, how we got to this point, and what we can do to move forward in the right direction — all using stories, mostly from real-life but sometimes using familiar fictional worlds. Read what our First Look Club reviewers Jean, Jed, and Palo have taken away from this insightful journey into the art of decision-making.
The Unexamined Art
Jean says: We tend to think of [decision-making] as a character attribute (such as a decisive leader), rather than a skill that must be continuously honed. […] We focus on the results of good decisions, without considering the long, complex process that lead to it.
Jed says: [Decision-making] is a discipline, but it is also a chore. […] It’s also something that very few people actually study in a systemic, academic manner. Steven Johnson’s Farsighted seeks to be a step towards remedying this, offering a logical look at how people make decisions, and more importantly, how people can make better decisions.
Palo says: Decision-making is an art. […] Art, though, involves a process: steps that one has taken over and over again to improve, sharpen one’s skills, and shorten the time it takes to create something.
The Process in Stories
Jean says: Johnson explores the art and the science of the decision-making process, by analyzing several high-impact decisions throughout history. […] Perhaps the best example of this is how the Obama administration successfully pulled off the May 2011 raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden, [which is] tackled in fascinating detail throughout the book.
Jed says: The author begins with an engaging tale of New York City history, and goes on to discuss the circumstances around several key decisions in history. […] These stories are spread out and explored over the course of several chapters, weaving in and out as necessary to support each chapter’s central idea. […] Taken without the greater context of the book, they would still be entertaining reads.
Palo says: The process he proposes is simple: mapping, predicting, deciding. […] He dedicates a chapter to each step, patiently reconstructing and fleshing out famous and infamous decisions, the impacts of which still rippling across the lives of millions of people throughout generations.
Jean says: Wonderfully crafted and singularly insightful, Farsighted doesn’t just show you how to make better, more informed decisions. It also helps you appreciate the wisdom of crucial choices that have shaped the history of humanity.
Jed says: Farsighted is an optimistic book. […] Read Farsighted for the science and the theory, but expect a rough and uneven ride with many unexpected tangents.
Palo says: If there’s anything I will take away from this book years from now, it’s that no one is immune from making bad decisions. […] To read this book as someone like me—with a history of mildly bad decisions but with infinite potential to make devastatingly bad ones—is, indeed, a good decision.
Farsighted by Steven Johnson will be available soon at Fully Booked stores. To reserve a copy in advance, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jean has, at different points in her life, worked in government, interviewed international celebrities, and been the social media manager for several brands. Read her full review here.
Jed has worked as an animator, web designer, and college instructor, but he continues to dream of writing for a living. Read his full review here.
Palo is a writer by trade and a book hoarder at heart. She hopes to one day conquer the behemoth that is her to-be-read pile. Read her full review here.
[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]