BOOK REVIEW: CONSPIRACY: A true story of power, sex, and a billionaire’s secret plot to destroy a media empire

I just happened to be interested in Ryan Holiday’s book after reading Obstacle is The Way by the same author. So, when I found that he had written a book about conspiracies. I had to read it. CONSPIRACY: A true story of power, sex, and a billionaire’s secret plot to destroy a media empire was one of the books that I read very fast as it was so interesting and I couldn’t put it down. I had to reschedule my activities to read it. I read it in two days, luckily it was on a weekend and I started reading it on Friday evening and by Saturday midnight I was done with it. It was about a conspiracy by Peter Thiel, the founder of PayPal to destroy Gawker media. At the time Gawker Media was an online tabloid that focused on rumors and gossips of celebrities and famous persons. Gawker media ran a story about Peter Thiel being gay and this did not go down with Thiel who firmly believes in privacy. A conspiracy was hatched on how to bring down Gawker media and the owner of Gawker media Nick Denton. 

The book holds an argument that conspiracies are necessary and very important especially when it is necessary to take down insurmountable persons and entities that take advantage of other people’s weaknesses. To engage in conspiracies there must be conspirator who in this case was Peter Thiel, unknown person marked X, Hardy, a lawyer and Terry Bolea commonly known as Hulk Hogan. At first none were known to each other. Conspiracies must retain secrecy at the start to the end. If there are no secrets the conspiracy will fail. The following were the features of conspiracies as demonstrated by Ryan Holiday’s book:

  1. Inciting incident; something must occur that occasions the need for conspiracy. “The beginnings of all things are small.” Cicero.
  2. After the incident there must be a decision to act against the powers that be. “No one attacks me with impunity.” Plots of revenge and justice plots both begin, in their own way, with a transgression, against a person or the whole. And then someone deciding that they aren’t going to take it. The distinction between a conspiracy and a feud is as much in the time it takes. In a fight, one responds to punch with a punch. In a conspiracy one holds their punches and plots instead for the complete destruction of the antagonist, while often intending to escape with knuckles unbloodied and untraceable prints. “Fights breakout, Conspiracies brew” 
  3. Conspiracy are the weapons of the people. Only princes who have weapons to go for full-fledged wars. The only weapon that ordinary people have is conspiracy.
  4. Get a team. Conspiracy without coconspirators is not a conspiracy it is a crime.
  5. Conspiracy requires meticulous planning. To begin you must study the end. You don’t want to be the first to act. You want to be the last man standing.
  6. Tear your heart out. Conspiracies require something that everyone else does not have: hardness and viciousness; the unforgiving utilisation of power and violence against the opponent. You must not treat your opponents as human being. You must forego the impulse of kindness and forgiveness.
  7. The timeline of the conspiracy is usually radically altered by sudden events and happenings. You must have capacity to respond to sudden change of events.
  8. Prepare for setbacks as conspiracy is one long struggle in the dark.
  9. Know thy enemy; To know not yourself is dangerous, not to know your enemy is reckless or even worse. Because without this knowledge you are unaware of the opportunities the enemy is presenting to you and you are unaware of the opportunities you are presenting the enemy to do you harm.
  10. Secrets are crucial elements of conspiracies. It is very difficult to destroy an enemy when they know you are coming for them.   Secrecy is both power and pal.
  11. Sow confusion and disorder. A good strategy must be flanked by feints and disguises. Otherwise, the strategy would be too easy to deduce. It is the art of deception and confusion. Attack the enemy’s morale, economy and corrupt him.
  12. Ensure that there are ties that bind among the co-conspirators. What is the self-interest of the conspirators and what rewards would be given at the end of it? Make this clear to avoid conspirators giving up or giving secrets to the enemy.
  13. Be aware that conspiracies take longer than expected.
  14. Conspiracies succeed because the conspirators want it more. Victory goes to the one who wants it more
  15. Manage the aftermath.

On overall, the book is appropriate for anyone interested in conspiracy or any individual who has need to confront powers that be in an effective way even when they do not have resources to for direct confrontation. You can’t afford not to understand conspiracy especially if you are facing giants. It is a nice book for those who want to understand the nature of conspiracy. You can get this book from Amazon using this link:

Below are other book reviews you can read here:

Review of Ingenious: Crash Course On Creativity by Tina Seelig

Book Review: Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono

Book Review of The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future

How to Negotiate

One of major themes of this blog is to promote better decision making and making better choices in life. While life is a compulsory experience in that we did not chose to come to this world or where to be born or even when to be born. Going through life presents an individual with opportunities in life to make choices and make decisions. These decisions can make life better or even more difficult.

One of the major components of making choices is negotiation. Our choices affect other people while other people choices and decisions also impact us. Negotiation is making a balance in how our choices interact and influence others. One of the realizations that come about during adult life is that one has to engage in negotiation in concerning everything we do and is likely to affect other parties either positively or negatively. We have to negotiate with siblings, negotiate with parents, negotiate with spouses, negotiate with customers, or with employer.

Success and good decision making in any situation highly depends on the individual’s capability to negotiate. According to Tina Seelig’s book What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 negotiations is a major life skill. Knowing how to negotiate helps in having better outcomes. The following are key recommendations on how to effectively negotiate:

There are many points to be learnt about negotiation and the above pints are just a scratch on the surface when it comes to understanding effective negotiations. One of the books that can really help those who went to learn more about becoming effective negotiators is the book by David Oliver titled How to Negotiate Effectively.      

1. Do not make assumptions. Most people go into negotiation table with a lot of assumptions. They never make effort to know and understand the other party and its interest in the negotiation. This is a mistake and leads to poor outcomes and misunderstandings during the negotiation. When going to the negotiation table, it is good to make every effort to understand the other party. In many instances it difficult to know the other party before the negotiations. So instead of walking in the negotiation with a plan, go in with the intention of listening and understanding the other party.  David Oliver in his book; How to Negotiate Effectively indicates that asking questions is key. Question everything. Ask as many questions about the party and its interest.

2.Attempt to create a win-win situation for both parties. Ensure that deal presents a win-win situation for both parties. This ensures that none of the party loses.  Help the other party understand what it will gain from the deal. This is only possible if you understand the interest and the need of the party and how the deal you offer meets the needs of the other party.

3.Walk away from bad deals or from negotiations that create a losing situation. You should not agree to negotiations that make you lose. The other party must be willing to make compromises. Failure to compromise or to create win-win situation by the other party shows that they already have something more valuable than you do or they do not perceive value in what you are offering. Walk away and do better homework concerning the other party.  Never accept to be pressurized to accept a deal you are not very sure about. Take your time.

 4.Have a good alternative. Scholars refer to this as BATNA or Best Alternative To No Agreement.  Effective negotiators do have a good alternative to the negotiated agreement. This helps the negotiator to negotiate from a point of strength instead of negotiating from a point of weakness if you are making a purchase it means that you have an alternative product or solution which you can always fall back to. When making a sale it may imply having an alternative customer or alternative product of lower prices.  Having good alternatives helps to enhance the strength of the party negotiating and reduces the concessions made. If possible never enter into negotiations without having another good alternative as this weakens your capacity to negotiate.

5.Put things in writing. It is very essential to put the agreements and negotiation in writing. This is because writing helps to clarity ambiguous issues and makes a reference point that can be very useful in future. Put the agreement in writing. Write down all the key points encountered during the negotiation process. Send copies of the agreement to each party and ensure that they are filed properly in case issues arise later that may need clarification. Don’t assume this aspect especially in business negotiations because it can mean everything about your deal. Writing also proves to the other party that you are attentive to details and want to make the best out of the deal.

There are many points to be learnt about negotiation and the above pints are just a scratch on the surface when it comes to understanding effective negotiations. One of the books that can really help those who went to learn more about becoming effective negotiators is the book by David Oliver titled how to negotiate effectively.      

Here are additional articles you can read from this blog:

The highly productive person daily energy plan

The four thieves of productivity according to Gary Keller

How to succeed according to Sam Altman

How to manufacture luck according to Tina Seelig

Tina Seelig is a prominent author and TED speaker and has written three powerful books on creativity one of them being Ingenious which is short crash course on creativity.  In one of her books, What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20 she discusses about the concept of luck and argues that luck is usually manufactured. 

Luck is not something out of the ordinary or something that happens by chance as everyone believes. Instead, luck is something that happens to those who have manufactured and created it.  In the sixth chapter she describes the ways in which luck is manufactured by successful individuals who appear to be lucky. The following are the features of people who are lucky based on Tina Seelig:

  1. Lucky people pay attention to what is happening around them. Lucky people do not live on autopilot waiting to see where life takes them next. Instead they are always attentive and actively scanning the surroundings to see the opportunities around them. This enables them to extract great value and satisfaction from their surroundings. Lucky people tend to be very observant about their environment. They are the ones who usually identify a new person in their locality. They are the ones likely to see new businesses and trends in the community or even the first ones to identify new individuals in their environment who need assistance. 
  2. Lucky people are also open to new opportunities and are very willing to try things that are beyond their usual experience and knowledge. They are highly willing to learn something new. They can easily pick a book on an unfamiliar subject and carefully learn new things. They are willing to travel to new places. They are also willing to interact with strangers.   Individuals become lucky by exposing themselves to diverse experiences as these experiences equip them with new knowledge and understanding of the world.
  3. Lucky people are optimistic. If there is one outstanding feature of people which are considered lucky is that they have contagious optimism. Even when things don’t go their way or they fail, lucky people see it an opportunity to learn. They usually extract good lessons and experiences even from the bad happenstances.  In addition, the optimism and positivity attracts good attributes and perspective about life enabling them to overcome failure.  Therefore, manufacturing luck has something to do with turning bad experiences into good experiences.
  4. Lucky people tend to be extraverted. They are friendly to people and strive to make more eye contact with people. This enables them to meet wonderful people and to building networks with people who can be of much help and assistance to them. 
  5. Lucky people tend to recombine ideas and usually finds new and unusual ways in which they can recombine their knowledge and experiences. They are not just satisfied with the convectional knowledge they have. They try and find out new and novel ways in which they can try and apply their knowledge in new situations. Most individuals have a lot of resources but they never bother to use these resources. Lucky people on the other hand make most of all their resources. They recognize the value of their networks and deploy these resources effectively and efficiently whenever they are needed.
  6. Lucky people work hard. Lucky people don’t just sit down and wait for luck. Instead they have goals they work very hard towards the attainment of these goals.

In short, luck is not a happenstance caused by chance or improbable events. Instead, it is something that can be made by simply adopting practices that improve the individual’s chances of succeeding in an endeavor You can read more about Tina Seelig here and you and purse her book What I Wish I knew When I Was 20 here.     

Tina Seelig

Tina Seelig, Source:

Tina Seelig is a renowned author and educator who specialises in publishing books and advancing knowledge related to creativity and innovation. She was born in 1957. She completed her PHD in NeuroScience in 1985 from Stanford University. After completion of her PHD she joined Booz and Allen and then later moved to Compaq Computer as multimedia producer. She later founded her own company Book Browser.  In the year 1999, Tina Seelig joined Stanford University. She currently teaches courses that are focused on innovation and creativity in the school of engineering. She is also the director of Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP). She has published several books among them being:

Tina Seelig is also a renowned speaker and consultant on issues relating to creativity in organisations. She is also a recipient of the Gordon Prize in 2009 and the Silicon Valley Visionary Award in 2014.   

Review of Ingenious: Crash Course On Creativity by Tina Seelig

This is a book about creativity. I read it after it was highlighted by Olivia Fox’s book: The Net and The Butterfly. Lately, I have been interested by books on creativity, innovation and how people innovate. I have been interested in understanding what makes the difference between the innovators and those who do not.

Tina Seelig’s book

This book, Ingenious: Crash Course on Creativity by Tina Seelig acted as a crash course on creativity by highlighting the major ingredients that lead to breakthroughs and innovations. It shows what makes some people geniuses and others not to be.  The following were the key lessons from the book:

  1. Ideas are free. Knowing that ideas are free makes creativity easy. To demonstrate this, the author recommended the reader craft a two-page essay using any word they could think of. Creativity is an endless renewable resource that one can tap into at will. Creativity is a necessity because there are problems to be solved, improvements to be made and breakthroughs to be invented.
  2. Master the ability to reframe problems.
  3. Be able to recombine crazy ideas. For example, the cartoon contest where students were presented with cartoons without captions and asked to make captions that best describe what is going on.
  4. Make effort to move beyond the first and second wave of ideas to third wave of ideas. When looking for solutions do not look for obvious solutions generate second wave and third wave solutions to problems. This is especially during brainstorming.  
  5. Pay attention. Be extremely observant. Observation takes energy but with time one can become incredibly capable of making excellent observations.  
  6. Create environments and spaces that foster creativity.  
  7. Create deadlines and constraints to enhance creativity. For example, create a greeting card in 30minutes.  
  8. Create a system that gives instant or quick feedback on your creative endeavors. Quick feedback helps in determining if the product or idea is viable before you invest too much time on it, it also helps to make improvements.   
  9. Learn how to work in teams. Be a good team player.  
  10. Fail fast. Learn by experimentation. Learn how to iterate that is; to do small scale experiments which you can fail and learn from. Failure is a companion and success is an occasional visitor.
  11. Have the right attitude. The attitude is: if anything goes wrong fix it.   
  12. The engine of creativity has three cogs which are imagination, knowledge and attitude. Attitude sparks curiosity which makes one to acquire related knowledge. Knowledge fuels your imagination which creates relevant imaginations and inventions. Imagination catalyses changes in the habitat and in utilisation of available resources. The changes in habitat and attitude influence the culture in the community.

Once you are done width book, your mind is never the same. It activities and fans the fire of creativity in one’s mind. You easily become a problem solver because you can recombine ideas and knowledge from different fields and create new ideas and perspectives. Once you have read Olivia’s suggestion and perspective on failure and its role in fanning creativity, you never become afraid of failing. Instead, you incorporate failure in your creativity strategy and move on from failure very fast. It empowers the reader with the right attitude on life and transforms the reader form being a victim into being a problem solver because you can obviously see way out of problems compared to the average person. This book is perfect for entrepreneurs, business people, marketers and students.  You can’t miss out on the knowledge disseminated by Tina Seelig.  You can get this book from Amazon by clicking on the link below.


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