Reboot by Jerry Colonna [Book Summary]

As a leader, you will unavoidably get to a point where you’ll ask yourself, “Am I doing the right thing?” Tormented with uncertainty and nervousness, you’ll check around at a hard-headed business world and think if you can maintain the pretense of being completely in control.

Reboot assures to assist you to find your feet again, through the process of radical self-inquiry. Instead of the fast guidelines and management tactics that a lot of leadership books offer, Reboot demonstrates how to check deeply into yourself and ask the basic questions. What has shaped you as a human being? Why do you act unreasonably sometimes? How do you behave during times of crisis? 

It’s just by handling these vital questions that you can develop as a human being and as a leader. Also, it’s just in this manner that we can rethink and redefine our tactic to leadership, and form a less toxic, more forgiving workplace.

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Chapter 1 – To confront our issue as business leaders, we have to first learn radical self-inquiry.

At the leadership workshops that author Jerry Colonna directs across the United States, a CEO will occasionally disturb him and ask for a fast solution to her issues.

As a high-powered executive, she basically can’t understand the reason why her world looks to be crumbling. She wished to understand the “One Quick Trick” to fix this feeling of professional worry or helplessness. However, Jerry says to her, kindly but firmly, that there is no instant solution, no “One Quick Trick” that will fix it.

What he suggests instead is known as radical self-inquiry.

This process is usually hard for CEOs as well as business leaders. To ascent to the actual top of an organization, or to be a successful entrepreneur, needs a specific amount of mental toughness. This signifies concealing extreme feelings, confining vulnerability –concentrating just on the practical how of directing an organization and not remembering the more essential reason. 

What can occur, is that basic psychological issues start to pile up and make themselves known in the place of work. This might show in overbearing professional mistakes, a lack of relationship with the team, or unreasonable, emotive choices.

In order to understand these issues, leaders have to go right back to the origins of who they are. They have to move past the illusory tales they tell about themselves and see the hard truths that have shaped them.

As the author has discovered in his workshops, the cause why a high-powered executive may be worried frequently isn’t as a result of something particular in directing an organization; however, it was due to unresolved trauma from childhood. A bullying father. Complete year at school being bullied. Poverty. Loneliness.

In 2002, when the author did his own radical self-inquiry after a personal crisis, he discovered that his feelings of professional anxiety were related to his poverty when he was a child growing up in Queens. Although he’d become successful, he was still worried by the hidden memory of having small to eat or the vicious arguments he saw his parents having over money. What was motivating him; however, also fuelling awful worry, was this former fear of being left with nothing.

Therefore, instead of digging greatly through management books to fix apparently difficult issues, we have to pause, take a deep breath – then look further into who we truly are.

Chapter 2 – The manner we handle a crisis defines us as both leaders and human beings.

At times, in the middle of a successful career, something happens and changes everything upside down. Our company stumbles. We get sacked by the board. The investors withdraw the funding. However, in the core of such a crisis, real leadership skills can be born.

Think of the example of a good friend of the author, the previous CEO of the e-commerce website Etsy, Chad Dickerson. When Etsy was sacked by the board, instead of falling into depression and inactivity, he kept working till late at night during his remaining weeks left at the company, checking on his colleagues and ensuring that company data was accurate. He stayed as firmly reliable as he had been all the time.

Such instants of crisis are the great trials of leadership – if we can arise from them with grace and commitment, then regardless of the seriousness of the setback, we’ll turn out to better leaders, and better people. This is what Warren Bennis a leadership expert refers to as the crucible moment. It’s only under severe stress that we discover that we can confront the worst with bravery, humility, and inspiration. We emerge on the other side with new confidence.

It’s usually best to confront the crisis face-to-face. Consider the story of Milarepa who was the tenth-century Buddhist saint, and teacher. One a particular day he left where he was meditating to collect firewood, then got back only to discover that it was full of demons. He waved his arms at them, attempting to drive them away. However, they remained put and basically increased. Therefore, he taught them Buddhism. And the demons sat down quietly. 

However, they didn’t leave. Therefore, Milarepa questioned  them, “What do you want to teach me?” Confused, the demons started to vanish, aside from one huge demon with huge fangs. Frustrated, Milarepa put his head in the demon’s mouth and said to the demon, “Eat me if you want to.” With that, the demon disappeared.

Milarepa submitted to his demon and was compensated with this freedom. As a leader, you as well can decide to confront your demons face-face. For example, if you’re in a business partnership that has turned toxic, the key thing to do is put your head in the demon’s mouth, so to speak, by facing your partner. You’ll either fix the relationship, or it will crumble. However, both are preferable to tripping on in toxicity.

Chapter 3 – Instead of regularly rushing to the next thing, we need to learn to stand still.

We frequently feel uncomfortable if we’re not succeeding in something –replying to the next email, creating a new project, searching for promotion. We continue like this, continually, in a blur of activity. However, then we can lose focus of who we are, and the reason we’re doing what we do.

Frequently we rush fast, from one thing to the other, to avoid something. 

The author talks of a client he had – a young CEO directing a new start-up – who’d meet him because he was experiencing a general agitation in his professional life. Upon more inquiry, it turned out that he hardly got to meet his partner, a woman he loved a lot. He’d basically buried himself in work. 

When the client was asked by the author the reason he didn’t create time to see her, he said to Colonna that he was attempting to beat the past. He said that “I’m scared that if I don’t work hard, I’ll eventually end back there.” What he meant by back there was his childhood, in a distant country wracked by war, where he’d also been unable to leave his bed for several years as a result of cancer.

Although this is an intense illustration, it’s descriptive of a feeling a lot of professionals experience. You need to keep going, keep doing – or else, you’ll fall back to some dark place. 

However, this ceaseless movement causes a toxic work environment.

If you’re constantly rushing fast, it can give others the impression that they’re not moving fast enough. The quicker you look to be moving – burning through meetings, conferences, interviews, and so on. – the slower every other person feels. And the slower they feel, the more they think that they have to meet up.

The outcome is a work culture where no one takes a minute to understand the reason they’re doing what they’re doing. Everyone is caught up in the rush –just like a terrified herd of wildebeest, they run over their colleagues.

Though it is motivating to continue reaching, to have actual ambition – to aim for the “moon-shot,” in a corporate term it’s less motivating if, in reaching, you lose your balance and bring every other person down with you.

Rather, you need to have the courage to be still. Therefore, for a minute every day, try mindfulness and only listen to yourself. Where are you going to in such a rush?

Chapter 4 – As a leader, you’ll discover that the truth is constantly your friend.

Remember those times when a lie – either a white one or worse – has caught up with you and made you desire the earth would open up and swallow you at that moment. What you discover is that sometime – frequently when we’re not expecting it– the lie will find its way back to you. You learn the difficult way that it is good to be truthful.

As a leader, you need to be comfortable with the truth all the time. Consider the tales of corporate malfeasances –such as VW’s infamous plot of diesel emissions, where the company deceived emissions regulators about their vehicles. Consider those instances corporate leadership told workers, investors, and government a difficult series of lies. 

Then visualize the repercussion of that lie: an oil spill from a tanker choking fish and seabirds, because regulatory rules had been disobeyed, or the bankruptcy that signifies hundreds of workers are unexpectedly left without a source of living. People, entire communities and the world suffer because someone well-known hasn’t been able to confront the truth.

This culture of dishonesty starts at the top; therefore, the change has to start from the top. And that change has to be personal before it is any other thing. It starts with confronting reality and having the bravery to leave the delusionary dreams that have made things going slowly, such as Titanic, toward disaster.

Therefore, a new culture of honesty has to infiltrate our workplaces. The author refers to this as broken-open-hearted warriorship, where leadership figures are not scared to be susceptible, truthful and strong simultaneously.

A perfect example of this can be seen in one of the author’s leadership workshops. In the workshops, a young woman opened up that she’d just been diagnosed with rare blood cancer. She was scared of mentioning it to her company’s investors in case they pull out their backing. Just a few people, as well as her husband and few close friends, were aware of her disease, until this instant at the leadership workshop. 

In the next months, motivated by the author’s call to honesty, she told her colleagues about her condition and, ultimately, her investors. Instead of them freaking out and withdrawing, the investors gathered ‘round and encouraged her.

Crucially, she’d damaged the spell of dishonesty. She’d taken the first step toward a culture of broken-open-hearted warriorship. And she was compensated for it.

Chapter 5 – We need to learn to cope with irrationality within ourselves as well as other people.

Do you recall those arguments where you’re yelling at your partner, parent or sibling, and then, amidst it, both of you just start laughing? You both understand how silly and irrational the whole issue is. 

Though, irrationality doesn’t end there. 

There are parts of us, bits of residue, residual psychology, taken with us since childhood. These old behaviors, fears, and complexes were shaped in us when we were still young. This reflects what software developers (taking from the writer Arthur Koestler) refer to as “ghosts in the machine,” denoting bits of old-fashioned code latent in the recent version of a program. Although it used to be beneficial in the program’s development, this outdated coding can hinder with present operations.

The author’s bit of outdated coding can be linked back to his childhood in Queens. When he was just a boy, he’d witness his father sit at the table and obsessively fix the whole errors in the newspaper, as a means to control something in a life marked by the weakness that accompanies poverty. 

While the author grew up, he saw how, a lot like his father, he would thoroughly correct colleagues, tormenting them for the least things. It was a kind of hypervigilance that sometimes helped him a lot; however, also caused professional pressures.

Well, every one of us has these ghosts in the machine. This irrationality, with its irritating behaviors, complexes, and fears, is all over the place. We’re basically messy, asymmetrical beings. And to endure in our professional lives, we need to embrace this reality about ourselves, and about the other people, we work with.

For example, the author trained a business partnership, a man and woman who couldn’t withstand one another; however, they required each other professionally. During his interview with them, he discovered that, deeply, the man reminded the woman of her father, and the woman reminded the man of his mother. They’d been brought together as business students, several years ago, and were now making each other crazy now. They’d both unintentionally replicated patterns and old complexes.

Now, to endure as a business partnership, they had to embrace this bit of old coding. Instead of leaving the meetings and yelling at each other, they learned mindfulness. They learned how both of them were complicit in this dynamic. Guess what happened? They conquered it.

Chapter 6 – Instead of considering our lives as a linear progression, we need to accept the pathless path.

At times life is all set out: success, a family, a nice house. However, –crumble– we discover that this isn’t enough. The life we’ve thoroughly created, with its norms and beliefs, has suffocated us.

Therefore, how can we find ourselves once again? We have to accept not-knowing.

Consider the story of the author. He was formerly a journalist before he became a magazine editor and then to venture capitalist, he’d changed from one thing to another, constantly needing to know his next phase professionally. Without resting, he ensured that his days were filled with plans and tactics, which made him have professional respect and material riches. 

But, during early 2002, he saw himself balanced on the rim of the still-smoking pit of Ground Zero in Manhattan, thinking of suicide. His life had become too organized and controlled, it didn’t have something of importance. For various years, it had rushed before him, from one board meeting to the other, without having the sense that it belonged to him.

However, instead of committing suicide that day, he embarked on a personal trip. He took a trip and traveled: he passed through the ice caps, rafted across Chilean rivers and learned how to meditate. Significantly, he accepted not-knowing. Instead of living for a ceaselessly scheduled future, he learned to take things one step at a time and accept the endless potential of the moment. 

An aspect of this huge transformation entailed moving on from mistakes and guilt, and just moving on – just like during his childhood games of stickball on a Brooklyn street, where, after a moment of severe debate over if something was a foul or a hit, his friend would scream, “Do-over!”  Meaning it was time to move on and begin all over again.

Therefore, the reasoning of the “do-over,” where we forgive, forget and move on, is something that he uses in life presently. Instead of getting anxious about something, he offers himself one of these do-overs – he hits refresh. This is a vital part of the pathless path, the one we use when we move forward refreshed, open to change, focused to the moment. It entails being mobile, prepared to accept an unexpected incident.

Assuming you are an investment banker and your life appears to be planned out in neat, predictable sections. Everything feels awfully choking. According to the poet Rilke, You need to change your life. You, just like the author, can accept the pathless path.

Chapter 7 – We need to accept our personal Crow and Loyal Soldier.

All of us experience life plagued by doubt. We may regularly assume that we don’t have our colleagues’ admiration or believe we’re underachieving. However, what can be done about this?

Firstly, we need to learn how to accept our personal Crow.

When Colonna was in college, he took writing courses with the poet Marie Ponsot. She’d speak about a Crow that stands on our shoulder, cawing things such as, “That’s nonsense,” and “How could you write that?” Also, she would say to her student ardently: “Shoot. The. Damned. Crow.”

According to the author’s perspective, the Crow is an insignificant voice at the back of our minds. The voice that mentions things like we’re undeserving of success or love and are not worthy to belong anywhere. 

But, the author chooses not to shoot his Crow. He thought that the Crow means the persistent self-criticism that arises from caring about our deeds in the world –since we’re invested in what we do. Thus, we should learn to accommodate and live with our Crow, because it’s a part of our flawed, though basically good, humanity.

Secondly, we need to learn to accept our Loyal Soldier.

The figure of the Loyal Soldier is another representation the author uses to explain the manner in which our minds function. It makes use of the picture of a soldier, removed from his team, shielding an isolated rock just off an island, armed with just an old rifle. 

Certain that war is still going on back on the mainland, the soldier keeps his watch on the rock, oiling his rifle, maintaining his routines, training himself in the guidelines of survival. These guidelines are: Stay small, don’t stand out and don’t make mistakes.

The Loyal Soldier represents our survival tactics. We might consider him as the voice that makes us really careful or reluctant to stand out. But, just like the Crow, which is the voice of self-criticism, the Loyal Soldier – the instinct for self-preservation – is a normal part of every one of us. Instead of attempting to dismiss him, we need to learn to welcome him in a spirit of acceptance. We have to bear in mind that he’s just like a parent that is protective saying, “Don’t hurt yourself.” 

Therefore, by accepting our Crows and Loyal Soldiers, and not blaming ourselves if we have a negative thought or a moment of uncertainty, we can be more at peace with ourselves and challenge the world with courage and openness.

Chapter 8 – The best leaders make space for other people on their team to really become themselves.

Consider the CEO whose terrifying presence makes workers shrink in their chairs, stop chewing gum, take their feet off the desks. These might be the heroes of Hollywood movies; however, what if we’ve abandoned this leadership manner?

Let’s take a look at a substitute. What if, instead of inspiring fear, leaders formed a room where other people on their team could open up and develop? 

Consider the family home, where loving parents make a space where their children can fully become themselves – where they can attempt silly looks, make stupid mistakes and ask ceaseless questions without fear of being cut down and reduced.

Or think of the relationship that occurs between partners. We let room for both darkness and light and believe that our whole unreasonable, messy selves will be embraced and loved. Definitely, it takes a special type of bravery to form this space in the business world. However, by living in this accepting, unsheltered manner, we form fulfilling, authentic workplaces. 

In addition to permitting every member to open up and prosper, the best leaders will also permit the group to function as an organic whole. This signifies corporate leaders who can understand their teams naturally and with empathy. 

We see this type of leader within a herd of horses in the animal kingdom. With their particularly accustomed nervous systems, horses have a nearly supernatural ability to recognize things. It looks like they can tell the feelings of other horses and their riders – or foresee a coming storm. 

This sensitivity is shown in the kind of leader they select. They never choose the horse that looks to be the smartest, or the strongest, the one that could defend them from wolves, or the one with the attractive mane. Rather, they select the horse – almost a mare all the time – that seems like the group best. It’s the horse that can calm the herd intuitively, that understands the needs of every horse and can lead them as a group.

According to humans, this kind of leadership is an actual retreat from the competitive, individualistic culture that pervades the business world. However, maybe it provides a guideline by which we can move past the toxicity of a lot of workplaces. Maybe that is where the future lies.

Reboot: Leadership and the Art of Growing Up by Jerry Colonna Book Review

For us to grow as leaders, we have to be really careful of human beings who pay rapt attention to the things that have shaped our current actions. This will enhance and deepen the manner we relate with colleagues and how we direct the whole team. In particular, it is worth it to become more humane, courageous people, since that is the route to less-toxic workplaces and companies that behave responsibly concerning their workers, communities and the environment. 

Create time for yourself outside of work.

Don’t be scared to enjoy a box of candy, a foot massage or a crime thriller. It is not a thing of shame in nourishing the aspects of yourself that can’t be satisfied with a huge promotion or a pat on the back from the boss. We’re human beings with different desires: don’t disregard the aspects of you that work shut down. You could even go to the bakery this moment!

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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile:

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