Books

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Decisions: Practical Advice from 23 Men and Women Who Shaped the World’ by Robert L. Dilenschneider

c.2020, Citadel Press
$16.95
240 pages

Black or white?

Up or down? Doughnut or cake? Take a new job, or stay at the old one? Life is a series of picks and chooses, some of them frivolous and some of them unspeakably important. So how do you know the right one to make, even if it’s just between sundae or cone? In the new book “Decisions” by Robert L. Dilenschneider, you’ll see how dilemmas have historically been solved and how choices can affect you, too.

You may not realize it — surely, you’re not conscious of it — but you make dozens of decisions every day. Most of them are inconsequential (coffee or water?) but some of them may have a lasting impact on many aspects of life and business. So how do you make them with the confidence you need?

Dilenschneider says that the answer to that can come from looking at history, art, sports, religion and businesses in the past.

Take Harry Truman, for instance.

He’s where Dilenschneider starts this book, by pointing out that Truman had been in office for mere weeks before he was thrust into the president’s seat. He likely knew very little about the nuclear bomb until just days before he was sworn in. Five months later, he understood the implications of using it, and the outcome if he didn’t, and he knew what he had to do: he authorized its use, and never looked back.

Imagine a decision to leave a place of danger, only to step into a place of death. That’s what happened to Elie Wiesel. Or to decide that you will fight racism or suppression, as did Gandhi. Or to stick to your convictions, no matter what, as did Joan of Arc. Or to make up your mind to survive a financial disaster, as did banker A.P. Giannini. Or to go for an untested market, like restaurateur Howard Johnson …

Or, as you might wish, just read each story, and pick and choose which lesson fits. Author Robert L. Dilenschneider makes that an enjoyable endeavor, one that you’ll find hard to ignore or want to end.

The reasons are varied in the 23 short-but-full chapters but the overall appeal inside “Decisions” lies in the format of this book: it’s not just a business tome. Instead, readers will find a lot of history, a dash of psychology, 23 truly great tales, and a surprising amount of food for thought.

It’s this latter asset that’s particularly attractive.

Dilenschneider’s style seems chummy — maybe too much so, at first — but that’ll eventually grow on you, as his chapters guide you through stories of determination, adversity, and true pain. If that seems familiar, it’s because “Decisions” has a comfortable feel about it, like an adult version of the inspiring biographies you enjoyed reading as a grade-schooler. The difference is that here, the stories are absolutely all grown up.

Though this may seem like strictly a business book, it’s for anyone with a weight on their mind these days. With “Decisions,” the answer may be there, in black and white.

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