For the past 15 years, Tom Friedman has been writing books explaining the changes of our world to his generational cohort – the Baby Boomers. His latest installment, Thank You For Being Late is attracting all the expected approbation from the punditocracy. It was named one of the Wall Street Journal’s “10 books to read now” and Kirkus Reviews named it one of the best Nonfiction Books of 2016.
Weighing in at nearly 500 pages, Friedman’s tome is a sprawling, ambitious piece. It has some fine moments, but it suffers from being three books thrown into a blender set on coarse chop.
The first book is a reflection on the value of pausing in our amped up world. Friedman relates how, as a Washington DC journalist, he often had breakfast appointments showing up 15 minutes late and out of breath. After a litany of explanation about their hectic schedules, they invariably apologized for being late. One day, Friedman, answered: “No, thank you for being late.” He realized that he had just been given the gift of 15 minutes of free time to ponder, to think, to reflect. He came to realize that by thanking people for being late, he was giving them permission to slow down.
The second book is an explanation of the forces that Friedman sees are driving the world. He alliteratively summarizes them as Moore’s Law, Markets, and Mother Nature. By these three forces, he means “exponential technological development,” “global interconnectedness,” and “climate change and species loss.” Of course, Friedman includes his recommendations for how our society can adapt and thrive in the face of these forces.
The third book is a nostalgic look back at mid-century life in his hometown in Minnesota. Friedman makes the case that St. Louis Park, his beloved suburban paradise, was an idyllic community that birthed extraordinary children and a bevy of overachievers. (As an aside: I’m fascinated with the way that the generation that sang “You say you want a revolution” and waxed poetic about the dawning of the age of Aquarius now yearns for the simpler times of their childhood.)
You will benefit most from this book if you are:
1) Over 55 and befuddled by the changes taking place in the world
2) A legislator, decision maker, or pundit looking for some intellectual fodder
3) A Tom Friedman fan (and I confess, when he slips into storytelling mode, he is quite enjoyable).
Over the next couple of days on the blog, I’m going to share a few highlights from the book that I found interesting and edifying. Hope you can join us.
UPDATE: Index of Reflections on “Thank You For Being Late”
- The Value You Add Is in the Questions You Ask
- The Power of the Pause
- The Leverage of Lifelong Learning
- Is God in Cyberspace?
In the meantime, what are you reading? What’s challenging you? Comment below.