Book Review: The Little Red Book of Wisdom by Mark DeMoss

The Little Red Book of Wisdom by Mark DeMoss

This is a great resource for any leader, and we’re all leaders, right? Whether serving as a parent, coach, Sunday school teacher, community organizer, or corporate CEO, the advice in this book offers a great refresher on how to succeed through a life served wisely.

DeMoss shares great quotes from seminal leaders such as Billy Graham’s, “Knowledge is horizontal, but wisdom is vertical—it comes down from above.” DeMoss admits upfront he doesn’t know it all, and he humbly relates to all readers who can understand, “Wisdom does not favor intelligence or education, affluence or sophistication; it calls to everyone, everywhere. We need only respond.”

Examples of the wisdom you’ll find in this book include:

  •  Work less, think more. Better Still, Work on Thinking.
  • Good thinking isn’t one more task of a multitasker; it needs its own time.
  • People have an easier time serving a leader who is interested in serving them.
  • A leader does well to think less about being great and brilliant than being good and appreciative.
  • Personal decisions ultimately have no price.

The wisdom about personal experiences having no price really hit home with me because I made an early career change from a surface warfare engineer in the Navy to a public affairs officer because I felt a calling to share our Navy through effective communication. Recently I wrote a letter to the Navy selection board members requesting they not consider me for promotion. I proactively declined the opportunity for advancement (and a pay increase) in order to provide stability for our two daughters. My wife and I felt they’d sacrificed enough during our 20-year Navy career, and allowing them to finish high school in the same location would mean more for their lives than the opportunity for promotion (and another military move) would mean for us as a family.

One of the most helpful parts of the book was the practical advice for business leaders such as offering a sabbatical every five years for employees. This was a calculated risk that’s paid off for DeMoss’s organization and should be emulated by other organizations.

In addition to practical advice for leaders, DeMoss reveals personal lessons he’s learned through his own life experiences. Through the tragic loss of his Father and Brother, DeMoss learned how precious life is because none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. These experiences make his words of wisdom even more poignant. Losses can also fine tune our internal compass that keeps a person on track with our gifts, our goals and our purpose.

DeMoss also shares his experiences as a public relations advisor. For example, as a media advisor to Promise Keepers he refused to predict the number of men expected for the stand in the gap gathering in Washington, DC. This turned out to be a very wise decision, and I can relate based on my own media experiences where managing expectations is often key to success. This reminds me of when we advised against video-taping the detainee trials at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for suspected terrorists. Some inside the Pentagon argued that the tribunals should be recorded for historic reasons, but many press officers and military lawyers argued that taping the trials (even for internal military sake) would violate longstanding laws against cameras in federal courtrooms. In order to best accommodate the media, and more-importantly members of the public who had a right to have information about the military tribunals, we hired a courtroom sketch artist instead and provided press conferences at the end of each day of the military tribunals.

Reading this book, I felt like I could really relate to the wisdom DeMoss shared. For example, he describes how busyness can become its own end. I served with a fellow Pentagon Press Officer who often said, “beware the barrenness of a busy day.” I’m not sure if this was an original quote, but it certainly describes what many of us succumb to in high-pressure jobs.

On a personal level, I also felt I could relate to DeMoss’s advice of observing the Sabbath, “Sundays would have been a convenient time to work on this book; yet I didn’t write or edit one word of it on a Sunday.” I made a similar commitment when I started work on my PhD. It would have been easy to use that day to catch up (especially during the challenging dissertation phase), but the Lord was faithful in helping me keep my promise not to “labor on the Sabbath.” I successfully defended my dissertation and completed my PhD last spring, and I’ve carried the Sabbath honoring life-lesson into my time serving as an adjunct professor.

I find it hard to find fault in such a great book, but I offer these points for consideration. Some of the life-lessons appeared to be a little self-serving, but taken in context I believe DeMoss’s reflections on his experiences can be valuable to any leader. I also found there was a little too much information about DeMoss’ successful public relations business, which appeared to border on bragging. I would have like to have read more “objective wisdom,” especially from the ULTIMATE source of wisdom.  Some more practical experiences related to the Proverbs, for example.

DeMoss quotes Joey Reiman as distinguishing great thinkers from others this way: “Great thinkers think inductively, that is, they create the solution and seek out the problems that the solution might solve; most companies think deductively, that is, defining a problem and then investigating different solutions.” I was left wondering how this would work? For example, how would a leader know if their “solution” had any value. It seems to me that a person could find themselves failing because they exerted effort on a solution in search of a problem, or developing work in search of a mission. If DeMoss could have included a practical example, it may have been easier to apply this principle.

DeMoss saved his best words of wisdom until the last chapter by asking “and then what?” He answers the question through the words of a French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher from 350 years ago. Blaise Pascal wrote, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator.” He then proposed the following: “Let us weigh the gain and loss in wagering that God is. Let us consider the two possibilities. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Hesitate not, then, to wager that He is.”

As DeMoss concludes his book of wisdom he wrote, “the power of each of these thoughts far exceeds the space I’ve devoted to their discussion here.” Is this a hint of a future, similar book of wisdom? If so, sign me up because I’m ready for more!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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