Spending time with people we agree with is a good way to avoid conflict. Watching news shows slanted towards our point of view is a good way to keep from getting too agitated. And reading books that explore the positions and opinions that mirror our own is a mighty fine way to reinforce our beliefs.
But they're not necessarily the best ways to broaden our horizons, understand different people's actions or expand our understanding of the world around us. And they're not the best way to plan for an increasingly uncertain future.
I kept reminding myself of this when I read Randy Gage's new book — Risky is the New Safe. Randy's a great guy — funny, handsome in a bald sort of a way, wildly successful, a great speaker, opinionated, passionate, and sometimes garrulous. He's also a raving libertarian who's eager to share his opinions with anyone who will listen to him speak, watch his videos, or read his blog posts.
You know what they say about great operas? You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll experience all human emotions? Well reading Gage's Risky is the New Safe is a lot like that. Randy builds his arguments about the impending future in such a cleverly Socratic way that time after time I found myself nodding along in merry agreement with his points, until he suddenly pulled a literary one eighty and came to a conclusion that made me want to pull my hair out.
But that's Gage's strategy from the get-go. He comforts you with the familiar and then yanks the rug out from under you just when you start to get comfortable. Take a look at the long list of comments in the front of the book. Victoria Labalme says reading Gage's book is like “sticking your finger in a light socket.” Rory Vanden starts his review with, “Whether you like (Randy Gage) or not…” Lou Heckler says that he “…almost ran out of aspirin reading Randy's new book…”
Sure you've heard some of his rant before. Gage fills his book with liberal sprinklings of Napoleon Hill and Ayn Rand. He also mixes in wisdom from Warren Buffett, Jimmy Buffett, and Seth Godin. And he's smart enough to recommend Joe Calloway's book Becoming a Category of One and my latest, Building Brand Value, as required reading (thanks, Randy!). But just like the watercolorist's sponge that picks up random colors from around the palette, when Gage mixes his varied inspirations, they create brilliant new hues that both delight and dismay.
Gage's voracious worldview bounces around from mobile technology to world currencies to religion to egoism to future opportunity like a handball game played in a broom closet. I'd say that Gage has figured out a way to capture his philosophical ADD on paper for us all to read, although the real truth is Gage has literary ADS — Attention Deficit… SHINY!! But it is Gage's fast-paced narrative and encompassing worldview that helped make his book so hard to put down.
Although I read much more non-fiction than fiction, I sometimes find the more serious books difficult to get through quickly. Unlike talented novelists who use suspense to create cliffhangers that force you to turn the page, writers of history, philosophy, and business books often present fascinating information but don't have the tools to keep me reading late into the night. Until recently, Malcolm Gladwell and Thomas Friedman were two of my exceptions to that rule. But now Randy Gage has done that too. And in the end, maybe what I liked the most about Risky is the New Safe is that Gage is such an engaging writer that I first read his book in one rather agitated sitting, but thought about it so much afterwards that I had to go back and read it again slowly.
You might, too.