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The Elephant and the Flea: Reflections of a Reluctant Capitalist by Charles Handy

June 23, 2020


Part I: The Foundations

Chapter 1

  • “The observation of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer that all truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” P. 5
  • “…as corporations got bigger in their reach, they would also need to get smaller in their parts. They had to be local, they were saying, in order to be effective globally.” P. 10

Chapter 2

  • “…as Ernest Hemingway once said, “…the seeds of our life are there from the beginning – if we bother to look.” P. 17
  • Beginnings always matter. We can fight them, build on them or just accept them, but we can’t ignore them or pretend that our lives began later than they really did.” P. 18
  • Money hoarded, doing nothing and not needed, is money wasted. Give it away or it will be taken from you, somehow.” P. 23
  • “Life has a way of rewinding itself. You just hope that it is doing so in a spiral, going upwards.” P. 24
  • “Our beginnings are the responsibility of our parents, but parents mostly have not lived long enough at the time to have understood how their own beginnings have shaped their ends.” P. 26
  • “Home is the first school for us all, a school with no fixed curriculum, no quality control, no examinations, and no teacher training.” P. 26
  • ‘What matters in life is not what happens to you, but what you remember and how you remember it.’ P. 26
  • “We all need somewhere to belong. There is a loneliness in going it alone that is the other side of freedom.” P. 30 
  • “…the world we are entering is increasingly the world of the individual, of choice and of risk. It won’t always be a comfortable world and the risks are high, but there is now more chance than ever to shape our own lives, to be fully ourselves.” P. 31

Chapter 3

  • “…what you learn through fear seldom sticks… We learn best and most when we want to learn.” P. 34
  • “What you enjoy you usually do well.” P. 36
  • “Life is long. We should keep our options open for as long as possible. An educational system that judges people on their demonstrated proficiency in a subject rather than their potential for future learning is unreasonable.” P. 37
  • “It is a vital ingredient in life to receive a ‘golden seed’ early on from someone you respect, a compliment or an expression of confidence in you that fortifies self-belief.” P. 41
  • Information out of context is only data and soon forgotten.” P. 46


Part II: Capitalism Past, Present and Future

Chapter 4

  • “In a truly open market, you are forced to keep the costs below the prices, which are set by the competition. Everyone running a business must privately yearn for the first alternative and to be free from competition, but only unique or superior products can legitimately claim the freedom to set the price they like; and then only for a time, until the competition catches up.” P. 56
  • “State monopolies turned into private monopolies do no good to anyone except the new owners.” P. 57
  • “The Gods of Management. There were four gods, enough for my purposes: Zeus who represented the charismatic leader, Apollo representing logic and order, Athena the warrior Goddess who symbolized teamwork, and finally Dionysus, to me the God who represented the creative individualist.” P. 59
  • “Organizations are always a mix of all four. It is the type of mix that matters.” P. 59
  • “Apollonian organizations find it hard to live in a turbulent world… It is not that they are averse to change but they like the changes to be incremental, not radical. They like to build on the past, not ignore it. Apollonians talk of planned change and of managing change, concepts that others would think self-contradictory.” P. 61
  • “It is hard to think outside of the box when you are in it.” P. 61
  • “Apollo needs his place, although it will never again be the dominant one.” 62
  • “Organizations are no longer seen as machines with human parts, but as communities of individuals with very individual aspirations.” P. 62
  • “Shamrock-shaped organization (roughly one-third core staff, one-third subcontractors and one-third part-timers and professional advisors, the so-called contingent workforce), I borrowed a formula that I first heard from the head of a successful multinational: ‘½ x 2 x 3 = P, one half of my current core workforce in five years’ time, that’s my recipe for productivity and profit,’ he said, ‘as long as they are working twice as hard, and paid twice as much too, but producing three times the value.” P. 63
  • “You don’t have to do everything yourself if others can do it for you and do it better and cheaper because it is their specialty.” P. 64
  • “Although Nike is the world’s largest maker of athletic shoes, it owns no factories, machines, equipment, or real estate of any significance. What it does have is an information system that ties it all together.” P. 64
  • “Franchising, he claims, now accounts for more than 35 percent of all retail sales in the US.” P. 65
  • “Going virtual in one way or another is the new management strategy.” P. 66
  • “Unbundle the company. Leave yourself with a design team and an information system and not much else. Except, that is, for the growing problem of managing the new chain of activities and ‘partners’ – the one thing that is never costed, because we never realize how different and difficult it is going to be.” P. 66
  • “The more dispersed an organization becomes the more important the trust between some of those unique individuals becomes. It is, they say, the ‘R’ economy now, R standing for Relationships. The questions are: how many individuals can you know well enough to call them by name, then be confident that you can rely on them and trust them?” p. 67
  • “If today’s corporations are going to work effectively, they have to create operational units small enough for everyone to know everyone else by name. They will also need to establish face-to-face contact between the key players in the different parts of the airline map.” P. 67
  • “Now the customer, too, has a name, with individual needs and characteristics. There is money in a name. Increasingly, it seems that we will pay to be treated as a unique individual.” P. 68
  • “If you think about us as individuals we are, each of us, a potential eighty-year accumulation of cash. Businesses want a share of that. LTV is the new marketing slogan: Life-Time Value. If the business can bond us to itself, it obtains preferential access to that cash flow.” P. 68
  • The new elephants face four major challenges:
    1. How to grow bigger but remain small and personal.
    2. How to combine creativity with efficiency.
    3. How to be prosperous but also socially acceptable.
    4. How to reward both the owners of the ideas as well as the owners of the company.
  • “The big problem facing the new elephants in the decades ahead will be how to manage the long chain of partners of different types and sizes, that airline route map rather than the pyramid of boxes.” P. 70
  • “Where business leads, driven by the need to be competitive, nations and parts of nations will follow.” P. 71
  • “Federalism is, in fact, both centralist and decentralist at the same time, keeping to the centre those functions and decisions that can most usefully be done there but allowing everything else to be carried out by the parts.” P. 71
  • “Federalism allows independent units to collaborate without losing their own identity.” P. 72
  • “The federation, however, is likely to stay together only if the parts are interdependent so that they cannot act as well on their own as they can as part of the greater organization.” P. 72
  • “Subsidiarity requires that power reside as close to the action as possible.” P. 72
  • “There are also the principles of twin citizenship, the idea that you can belong to both the smaller and the bigger unit and feel committed to each; the principle of the separation of powers, so that no one group can be both legislator, executive and judge; and the principles of a basic law and of a common currency that hold the whole together.” P. 73
  • “Communities have to be led, influenced and persuaded, rather than commanded.” P. 73
  • “Understanding fosters tolerance.” P. 73
  • “After studying twenty-one failed civilizations, the historian Arnold Toynbee concluded that their downfall was the result of ‘concentrated ownership’ and ‘inflexibility in the light of changing conditions’” p. 74
  • “The alchemists, I observed with admiration, didn’t react to events, they wanted to shape them, to make a difference. They had three characteristics that made that possible.” P. 75
    • First they were passionate.” P. 75
    • “It needs a certain doggedness, perhaps even arrogance, to hold to a dream against the evidence. This the alchemists all had.” P. 75
    • “…the final attribute of the alchemists: a third eye. They looked at things differently.” P. 75
  • “A childhood in which experiments and small-scale entrepreneurship were encouraged by the parents also seemed to play a part.” P. 76
  • “Someone whom they respected, a teacher, a first boss, a priest or a godparent, had identified a particular talent and had told them that they were special in that respect.” P. 76
  • “Finally, we suspected that the alchemists drew strength from a surrounding climate of experimentation and creativity.” P. 76
  • “The federal structure does allow separate units to be innovative without affecting the whole organization, unless and until success has been demonstrated. A federal structure allows an organization to learn from within itself. Clusters of experiments can be cultivated, golden seeds can be sown wherever justified and young people encouraged to be inventive, all without upsetting the ordered progress of the mainstream organization.” P. 77
  • “Our own study of buzzy cities suggests that it is a combination of research universities with their new ideas, available finance, a thriving arts community, stimulating architecture, and a good communications infrastructure which underpins the creative clusters. Organizations cannot by themselves create these conditions, but they can feed into them. P. 77
  • “Social responsibility has to be redefined by the big corporations. It is not about giving a little of your profits to the poor. It is not about how much money you make and what you do with it. It is about how you run your business and how you balance the requirements of the different interest groups.” P. 82
  • “Companies can no longer buy respectability by a bit of philanthropy. Increasingly we want to know how they make their money as well as how much they make. They cannot turn over as much money as whole countries and not expect to be held accountable for the way they do it.” P. 83
  • “Intellectual property… We can no longer expect the owners of this property, the individual employees, to be so ready to concede all their rights of ownership to their company in return for a contract of employment.” P. 84
  • “…the originators of ideas are going to demand a share of the results. Why, they ask, should all the profits go to shareholders who only contribute their money, not their time or their skill? Why should a contract of employment necessarily mean that everything I come up with during the period of that contract belongs to the employer?” P. 85
  • “The very idea that a collection of people turning ideas into products is a piece of property that can be owned by someone else will come to seem absurd.” P. 86
  • “Employees are paid wages or salaries. Independents charge fees. The independent sells the result of his or her know-how, but not the know-how itself.” P. 87
  • Ricardo Semler gives the employees of his maverick company, Semco, in Brazil, the choice of eleven different ways to be paid, ranging from a fixed salary to a variety of royalty schemes, commissions, stock options, and targeted bonuses, any of which can be combined in a huge array of possibilities.” P. 87
  • “There will be individual contracts for individuals negotiated with their personal companies, no doubt through their agents or lawyers. What is already the norm for actors, and even for authors, will be commonplace” p. 87
  • “In a world where the fleas hold the property that matters, the elephants will have to adjust their ways if they want to keep the best.” P. 88

Chapter 5

  • “Changes that occur before we are five years old are taken as the norm; changes before the age of thirty-five are seen as exciting, opening up avenues to new possibilities, but changes after thirty-five can be upsetting and disturbing.” P. 90
  • Ten skills needed to manage the new businesses of the e-world:
    1. Speed. Everything happens faster. Bureaucracy stifles decisions.
    2. Good people. They need to be fewer but better.
    3. Openness. Transparency pays.
    4. Collaboration. Teams are the building blocks.
    5. Discipline. Protocols and standard procedures are the keys to efficiency.
    6. Good communications. People need to know everything that is going on.
    7. Content management. Eighty percent of information is unnecessary.
    8. Customer focus. Treat every customer as an individual.
    9. Knowledge management. Share what you know.
    10. Leadership by example. Practice what you preach, get online.
  • To a large extent, the new technology reinforces that which already happens. It doesn’t replace it.” P. 94
  • “…the richer we are the more we buy the pleasure of the experience as much as the goods. The experience economy, as it is called, the money that is spent on going to the theatre, on recreational travel, eating out or going to a football match, has long since overtaken the physical economy.” P. 95
  • “If technology makes our societies richer, we may paradoxically, end up with more people employed in personal relationships rather than fewer, doing much what servants have always done but now with more dignity because it is done as a business for profit and not a duty.” P. 96
  • “As societies grow richer, they often return to more organic products and environmentally friendly ways.” P. 96
  • “Some manufacturers have even concluded that the way to people’s pockets is more likely to be found by providing an all-inclusive service experience than through the straightforward marketing of their goods.” P. 96
  • “…behind every experience there has to be a nugget of something solid. Theatre would be an empty experience without a play, shopping a frustration if there was nothing to buy. Content is key, they say, and in the information age, where knowledge and ideas will provide most of the content, we shall need individuals to provide that content.” P. 97
  • “The whole wide world literally at one’s fingertips is a wondrous thought, liberating, mind-expanding, exhilarating; but once the initial thrill has passed will we really want the responsibility and the workload that goes with the opportunity?” p. 99
  • “Organizations don’t have to own everything anymore, they can be virtually integrated instead, connecting the different bits and pieces through this new medium. B2B, or business-to-business, is, they say, the real future of the Internet and it will transform our organizations.” P. 100
  • “Neither speed nor quantity is any guarantee of quality, or of truth.” P. 101
  • “Already we seem to trust brands more than individuals because we don’t get to know individuals well enough.” P. 102
  • “In this new world, ideas, information, and intelligence are the new sources of wealth.” P. 102
  • “It is going to be harder to own what we produce… access rather than ownership will be what matters.” P. 103
  • “Some hope that an almost-free world of information and knowledge will bring equality of opportunity to all and that we must not put that possibility at risk by charging for access.” P. 103
  • “Even if the new knowledge is free, only the rich organizations can afford to buy those portals which are the entry to the web.” P. 104
  • “Does this mean that democracy is moving out of parliaments and congresses and onto the internet and the streets? If so, it will make government even more difficult than it already is. Politicians will have to deal with networks of fleas rather than the unionized elephants of old who may have been obstinate but at least you knew who they were and where they were.” P. 105
  • “Creativity is born out of chaos, even if it is sometimes difficult to glimpse the possibilities in the midst of the confusion.” P. 106
  • Disintermediation, this phenomenon of disappearing middles in whole industries which allow newcomers to insert themselves into the gaps.” P. 107
  • “It is hard to abandon the habits of a lifetime when those habits have served you so well. Every business will have to re-examine its underlying business idea to see if it is still relevant and if they can still make money the way they used to.” P. 107
  • “…disintermediation is one of those unintended but inevitable consequences of the way the new technologies push everything to be more local as well as more global, losing the middle in the process.” P. 108
  • “The delivery organizations will be replaced by a variety of guides, interpreters, and teachers – individuals or small firms, mostly operating electronically, adapting the wealth of data to your needs.” P. 109
  • “Most of the current inhabitants of the traditional industries, however, are unlikely to respond quickly enough to the changes ahead, which will leave larger gaps for newcomers to move into.” P. 109
  • “…hindsight is only of use to the writers of the obituaries. Elephants need fleas scratching their skins to help them see the obvious before it is too late.” P. 110
  • “In the post-industrial societies work is hurriedly being reinvented. ‘Employability’ means ‘think like an independent’ and is understood as such by many of their staff. ‘Flexibility’ means that no one can guarantee anything for long. Loyalty these days is first to oneself and one’s future, secondly to one’s team or project and only lastly to the organization.” P. 112
  • “Proper jobs will end for most at fifty-five, when with luck they will have another thirty years left to live. No pension scheme, state or private, is currently able to provide a comfortable living for those extra years. The hard, or maybe the good, truth is that we shall have to go on working after the proper job ends, but it will be bits and pieces of work, collections or ‘portfolios’ of work rather than the continuation of any proper job.” P. 113
  • “Life will be more chunky in future. Intense and demanding projects will alternate with the equivalent of sabbaticals, some paid for by an organization, some self-funded.” P. 114
  • Bill Gates has predicted that, by the year 2050, 50 percent of the working population will be operating from home.” P. 114
  • “Where does this find us as we leave behind what has been the century of the employee? With a much more multi-hued canvas of work, with more choices for more people but also with more responsibility thrust upon us for making those choices.” P. 116
  • “The elephantine organizations of old are still around but they are much slimmer now, and they are surrounded by a multitude of fleas, smaller independent suppliers, sub-contractors, advisers, consultants, and new start-ups. Look inside the organization, too, and you find that individuals are encouraged to take responsibility for their own futures, to develop their special competencies, and sell themselves to project and team leaders. In this sort of world, it behooves one to think and act as an independent talent whether outside or inside the organization.” P. 116

Chapter 6

  • “Wealth creation, depended on investment, on a motivated and skilled workforce and on government expenditure on infrastructure, including higher education.” P. 121
  • “Capitalism falters if demand diminishes, when we move beyond our needs and can’t be persuaded to want more than we have.” P. 122
  • “…one other problem with successful capitalism: you have to swim twice as hard to stay in the same place. Two incomes and longer working days are needed to live as well, relatively, as one’s parents did on one income.” P. 123
  • “Singapore is run much as one would run one of the corporate elephants, the assumption being that what is good for the corporation is good for all its inhabitants, the very reverse of the individualist tradition. Instead of the state being the servant of the individual, the individual is expected to be prepared to make some compromises for the good of the state.” P. 125
  • “…any business, has multiple objectives which include providing good value for its customers, offering a worthwhile job and opportunities for personal growth for its workers, investing in its future stream of products, respecting the needs of the local communities in which it operates, and the environment in general, and, of course, making sure of a proper return for its financers. It is naive to believe that these often-conflicting objectives will all come together in one number called shareholder value. It is the peculiarly difficult job of top management to balance these objectives. Give too much priority to one of them and you risk defaulting on the others.” P. 128
  • “Research, however, consistently shows that some two-thirds of mergers and acquisitions don’t add value. The only people who benefit financially are those who owned shares in the company being purchased.” P. 129
  • “The pursuit of personal riches is still the engine that drives the American capitalist machine. Those riches give enterprising individuals the freedom to live life as they want, to buy the choices that the market offers.” P. 131
  • “Eighty-six percent of the stock market gains of the nineties went to only 10 percent of the population, leaving most of the rest unaffected. The federal reserve found that although the median family net worth rose by 17.6 percent between 1995 and 1998, family wealth was still ‘substantially below’ 1989 levels for all income groups under the age of fifty-five.” p. 132
  • “Statistically, America is now the most unequal society in the world, after Nigeria. America seems to be proof of the theory that the faster an economy grows, the greater is the gap between rich and poor, because the poor get left behind in a race where knowledge and skills count so much more than mere muscle.” P. 132
  • “The idea that the future can and should be better than the past is one of the most invigorating aspects of American culture, so unlike the often-weary European feeling that things can only decline from the golden days of the past. Add to this the immigrant culture with its tradition of building a new life in a new land and one can begin to understand why so many think that they, too, can one day share in the prosperity that they see around them. The envy that can be corrosive in other capitalist societies seems in America to fuel ambition and hope.” P. 133
  • “Americans, it has always seemed to me, put their faith in the market, rather than in politicians, as their best chance to improve their lot.” P. 134
  • “Political scientist Robert Putnam’s evocatively titled book Bowling Alone argues that Americans have seen a collapse in honesty and trust, that the system of social capitalism, where citizens benefit from shared networks and reliance on one another, is in crisis because of the rise of a crude individualism and the go-it-alone society.” P. 135
  • “Another distinguished American, Nobel prizewinner Robert Fogel, is worried by what he sees as a spiritual deprivation in America, largely as a result of capitalism’s material success.” P. 135
  • “Economic historian David Landes, in his magisterial work The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, goes further. He believes that the spirit of optimism no longer rings true. To many, the future looks worse than the past.” P. 135
  • “Money buys many things in a capitalist system, but it does not, in the end, provide most of us with an adequate reason for our lives, once our material needs have been satisfied.” P. 136
  • “Americans, however, have always emphasized liberty more than equality, taking equality to mean equality of opportunity not equality of outcome.” P. 137
  • “Europe, battered by two horrific wars in forty years, has traditionally been more concerned to emphasize a fair distribution and social cohesion than to go flat out for the generation of wealth.” P. 138
  • “France is not alone in Europe in wanting to shield its people from the brutalities of American capitalism, even at the expense of a degree of growth.” P. 138
  • “Low-grade tourism cheapens a country even while it enriches some. It carries drugs, litter, and commercial sex in its train, degrading both hosts and guests. This, I reflected, is one aspect of globalization that often isn’t emphasized – the new mobility of the young… often bringing with them the worst aspects of their home countries.” P. 141
  • “Hernando de Soto may provide one explanation. His book The Mystery of Capital is subtitled ‘Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else’ The Third World is not short of entrepreneurs” p. 143
  • “His argument is that the world’s poor have all that is necessary for successful capitalism – except capital.” P. 143
  • “The assets of at least 80 percent of the people of the developing world – their houses, shops, and businesses – are not legal and so remain what he calls ‘dead capital’” p. 143
  • “Because these assets exist in the informal economy and are not registered in any legal property rights system, their owners cannot borrow against them or sell them, they cannot grow their assets and so remain locked in their own status quo. The world is now divided between those countries where property rights are widespread and those where the classes are divided between those who can fix property rights and produce capital and those who cannot.” P. 143
  • “To lift them from the bottom of the pyramid the poor need income earning potential and access to credit.” P. 145
  • “…education sets you free, but erodes your commitment to a place, a country, or even an organization. Wealth made from beauty can destroy beauty. What is good for the individual may be bad for society. Progress at best is two steps forward one step back.” P. 146
  • “…we need a new ideology, a new politics of generosity and openness, a creed that insists on our common human tradition and a willingness to build a society for us all, not just for a few.” P. 149
  • “It should concern us that the benefits of capitalism are concentrated on the elites of the world’s middle classes.” P. 150
  • “Migration is set to be the major issue of this century unless we can make it more attractive for everyone to stay in their own Keralas.” P. 150
  • “The best way to predict the future,” said the management guru Peter Drucker, is to invent it. Don’t compete: do something different, redefine what winning means.” P. 150
  • “…the real challenge for capitalism is to achieve the right balance between ends and means.” P. 151
  • “Maximizing wealth creation as a priority can mean that we forget the reasons why we wanted it.” P. 151
  • “Capitalism knows all about the means of wealth creation but is unclear about the ends, who or what the wealth should be for.” P. 152


Part III: The Independent Life

Chapter 7

  • “We were made, it seems, to hunt in packs and to live in tribes, and having left the nest of the organization I need to find somewhere else to belong, some others to hunt with. I would have to invent my own ways of belonging – to something. What was true for me is true for every flea, young or old. The tension between wanting to belong and needing to be free never goes away.” P. 156
  • “Just as I had not expected to miss the community, nor had I anticipated the next tension, this one more philosophical than social. Now that I was free to shape my own future, to set my own goals, I had to give some serious thought to what my life was all about.” P. 157
  • “…passion was what drove them, a passionate belief in what they were doing, a passion that sustained them through the tough times, that seemed to justify their life. Passion is a much stronger word than mission or purpose, and I realize as I speak that I am also talking to myself. Passionate people move mountains where missionaries can only preach.” P. 158
  • “It is easier to see the passion in others than to find it in oneself.” P. 159
  • “If the lack of a community and the need for a passion were the first two unexpected tensions in my new life as a flea, the third should have been easy to anticipate, given my background. That was the need to keep learning, growing, and developing. Whatever you do as an independent you are only as good as your last job or project or creation.” P. 160
  • “…to be different rather than better I would need to step outside my area of expertise if I was going to glean new insights and new ideas… The real innovations usually come from outside the industry or the firm; those that come from inside are typically developments of the familiar, not the truly new.” P. 162
  • “…most of the big breakthroughs in science, relativity, for instance, had come from borrowing a concept from one area of life and applying it as a metaphor to another. Do this and you can often see familiar objects in a new way or find a way of linking data that open new doors.” P. 162
  • “The British believe that you have to grow to survive, but many of these Italian firms believe you can get better without getting bigger.” P. 164
  • “…unused knowledge evaporates, often in weeks if not days.” P. 164
  • “If you can get your customers to pay for your learning everyone benefits.” P. 164
  • “Walk in other worlds, look, listen, inquire, then go back and turn it into a new way of looking at your world, fix the new concept into your consciousness by using it. If it fails to make a difference, discard it quickly, go look somewhere else.” P. 165
  • “Learning by voyeuring” p. 165
  • “Belonging, dreaming and learning, these were all new dilemmas for my new independent life, new only because they didn’t come packaged and assumed in the organizational job. There were also the very practical dilemmas of independence – how to organize my work and earn enough money while still balancing my life between work and home” p. 165
  • “self-confident doubt, decent doubt, keeps one honest.” P. 166
  • …you have to speak and live the truth as you see it. Doubt or no doubt, it’s unsatisfactory to live a lie.” P. 166
  • “I am more comfortable thinking of the hidden possibility within me, rather than the parental God of my childhood, but the message is the same: you can’t duck the obligations to yourself to live up to the untested possibilities within you. Getting by, surviving, is not enough.” P. 167

Chapter 8

  • “We see what we want to see in the world around us. We read the newspapers that support our views and prejudices, we work and socialize with people like ourselves.” P. 170
  • “Work, I believed, was a fundamental part of life. No one should live without it. As I was discovering in my new existence, life without work was a life without a point. The mistake, my mistake, was to think that there was only one form of work, namely paid work – the job. That ignores and demeans all the other sorts of work and the people who do it.” P. 171
  • “The language of work was distorting society, I believed. I had wanted to correct that by emphasizing the other three types of work, familiar to all of us but either taken for granted or dismissed as unimportant by most.” P. 171
  • “…home work… all the work that goes on in the home – cooking, cleaning, caring, rearing, repairing, fixing, gardening, driving.” P. 171
  • “…gift work, the work that we also do for free, but this time outside the home, in the community or the world at large.” P. 172
  • “Most of the time the work I do for free is the most satisfying.” P. 172
  • “I had to dump the bits of gift work where I was contributing nothing useful, using the organizations more for what they could give me than for what I could give them. I had been seduced by the lure of status.” P. 173
  • “Too many people use voluntary organizations as a chance to do what no one in their senses would ever pay them to do, such as chairing committees or managing the finances.” P. 173
  • “We do not, however, have to let our stage in life determine our mix of work. We can create our own mix of work, our own balance of the four types.” P. 175
  • “Portfolio people have to remember that their income is now gross, not net. You are never as rich as you think you are.” P. 179
  • “People need to know what you stand for, and what they are paying for when they ask you to speak or teach. I can only sell you if I am proud of what you do.” P. 180
  • “Portfolio people should not and cannot be all things to all people. They have to be special in some way if they are going to stand out in a crowded marketplace without huge expenditures in advertising or PR.” p. 181
  • “Publishers don’t often invite you to write books; you have to write them first, even publish them yourself if need be.” P. 181
  • “Portfolio people are seldom in a position to run any sizable organization. We do trade power for influence.” p. 183
  • “The hard fact is that those who live by their own swords lay themselves open to wounds as well as flattery. An independent life, the life of the so-called ‘freelance’ (originally a freelance in wars), has to be an exposed one. It does require self-belief, a willingness to learn from feedback even when it comes in the form of criticism or even abuse, and the acceptance of the sensitivity necessary to understand the clients’ needs probably also means a thin skin, easily bruised and slow to heal.” P. 185
  • “For portfolio people, there is no finite cut-off date when work stops, only subtle changes in the mix of the portfolio, less paid work, of the other varieties.” P. 186


Chapter 9

  • One should never be too proud or too sensitive to accept advice, even criticism, particularly from those who are on your side. We are seldom the best judges of our own work.” P. 189
  • “…the secret of a continuing relationship is to be able to change patterns as life cycles move on. Many friends and colleagues, I was noticing, had not been able to adjust when the need for a traditional marriage pattern had ended with the departure of the children.” P. 194
  • “Sometimes they struggled on together, in a version of the segregated pattern, for the sake of the children, they said, or out of habit. Often, however, one or other found a new partner in order to start a new pattern.” P. 194
  • Togetherness requires a tolerance for difference.” P. 197
  • “The old chunks of work and non-work don’t function anymore. We have to invent new chunks. What will be new in the years ahead, I believe, is that portfolio thinking will enter the world inside the organization.” P. 200
  • “In order to retain and to entice the next generation of talent, organizations will find themselves allowing their key people to build their own mixed portfolios, which may include guaranteed time for home work at particular points in the family life cycle, periods of study work of one sort or another, opportunities for gift work in the local community and even a mix of different bits of paid work within the organization.” P. 200

Chapter 10

  • “If the other side of freedoms coin is aloneness, then the obverse of independence is selfishness, for living up to the possibilities within yourself can mean ignoring the possibilities in anyone else.” P. 202
  • James Madison, one of the founders of American democracy, once said that the frailties of mankind are the best basis for good government. Government is there to mitigate our failures, our failures to look after both ourselves and our neighbors.” P. 203
  • “Lifetime employment is neither offered nor desired. Both parties want to keep their options open.” P. 203
  • “Life without belonging properly to anything, life without commitment, means life without responsibility to others or for others. The independent life is an invitation to selfishness and a recipe for a very privatized society. But where there is no responsibility for others there is no need for concepts of right or wrong. A world of independent fleas and small enterprises can become an amoral world. Do whatever you want, as long as it’s within the law or, more realistically, as long as you don’t get caught. Maximize your own advantage. Why not? What else could be more important?” p. 205
  • “…competitive individualism” p. 205
  • “We would define ourselves more by what we buy and how we chose to live, by our lifestyle than by where we work or have our home. The stereotype of the American attitude – the harder I work the more I can buy – would trump the European idea that work is only a part of life.” P. 206
  • “Instead of competitive individualism, it could be a time of varied individualism. We may decide to be different from, rather than better than, our fellows. It could be a case of all-get-to-win rather than one-winner-gets-all.” P. 207
  • “With ambition spent by my middle years – been there, done that, or more truthfully tried that and failed that – I found that I wanted to change my priorities in life, moving to a slower, gentler pace with more time for contemplation, friendships, and reflective work, with fewer deadlines and demands. It wasn’t retirement that I wanted, but a rechunking of my life to leave more space for other things.” P. 207
  • “The prediction is that they will increasingly buy time and service, not things. Health, tourism, education, and personal services are tipped as growth areas of the future. These are high touch rather than high tech businesses, even though technology will play a supportive role, and might herald a more personal more friendly world of commerce.” P. 208
  • “There will also be more opportunity for individuals to make a difference in organizations, should they want to. This is because the unit of operation everywhere will get smaller and more accessible, even while the combinations get bigger. Government, for a start, will inevitably federalize, even though the British will not call it that, because of their visceral distrust of that world. More decisions will have to be taken locally and more finance raised locally, in recognition of the diversity of regions.” P. 208
  • “Volunteering is predicted to grow, offering more opportunities for part-time participation in the local community.” P. 209
  • “I used to think that as societies got richer, they would quieten down. Instead, they seem to have gotten more frenetic. I used to think that wealth would make people nicer and more tolerant. Instead, they become more competitive and more protective of what they had. I had hoped that instead of some having too much work and too little leisure, while others had the reverse, it would all get evened out.” P. 209
  • “Economic progress seems only to have raised the stakes in life’s horse race, not leveled the handicaps.” P. 210
  • “I had hoped, back then, that the emerging technologies would allow many more people to work from home, thus recreating communities of place, the kind of inclusive communities of the agricultural age.” P. 210
  • “This is changing slowly, but the new homeworkers use the technology not to enable themselves to be local but, instead, to interact globally, locking themselves in their homes rather than bonding with neighbors.” P. 210
  • “Finally, I had hoped that the increasing interest in the spiritual life would lead to a more caring society, one that reached out to those on the margins. Instead, the new spirituality seems to be more inwardly focused, looking for personal salvation or renewal, withdrawing from engagement with outsiders instead of seeking it.” P. 211
  • “…can a society survive, we wondered, without such a set of stories, a common framework of understood morality and a shared understanding of what it means to be human, without a religion and without a god” P. 211
  • “Religion has become an affair of sects, many of them verging on idolatry. They have their enthusiastic followers but, as Carlos Efferson declares, they are each worshipping just one god amongst many, they can no longer dictate to society. Instead, governments begin to move into the empty space, trying to spell out what a good life is, what makes a family, what to eat or not to eat, to smoke or not to smoke, and what age to have sex, even how to behave to our fellow humans of a different race, religion or gender. We reject the emerging nanny state but have nothing to put in its place, no other way of arriving at a set of norms and standards.” P. 212
  • “The Christian concepts of new life after death, of redemption and forgiveness, of the crucial importance of unconditional love, all resonate today.” P. 213
  • “I see life as a continuing search for the truth in myself, by which I mean living with my own conscience, being what I could be rather than what I can get away with.” P. 214
  • “To balance the morality of self-interest, however enlightened that self-interest may be, there needs to be another morality of concern for our fellows, the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.” P. 214
  • “…ambition fades and life acquires new and gentler tones.” P. 215
  • “Meanwhile, there is an old Chinese saying that ‘Happiness is having something to do, something to hope for, and someone to love,’ I plan to be happy.” P. 215