I'm the other guy

From World War II, to Shakespeare to Undercover Boss. I'm finally figuring this out. Also: 7 other things worth a click

My dad reads Understandably.

We talked this week about my new favorite phrase: “single source of truth.”

He’s been reading a book called The Secret War, by Max Hastings, about intelligence and espionage during World War II.

Common thread between the book and this newsletter: how hard it is for leaders to learn the legitimate, ground truth about their own organizations.

For example, Hastings writes about how Joseph Stalin failed to predict Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union.

He suggests that the Soviet generals spun the intelligence to fit what they thought Stalin wanted or expected to hear, instead of the unvarnished facts.

Another example. I’ll cite Shakespeare for this one, so my dad knows I actually paid attention in some of those college classes he paid for. (Thanks Dad!)

One of my favorite scenes is from Henry V. The night before the Battle of Agincourt, King Henry is looking for that legitimate, ground truth we’re talking about.

So, he disguises himself in a rough cloak and goes out among his soldiers to learn how they truly feel about the looming fight.

Imagine Undercover Boss, only it’s in the 15th century and you eventually get the "band of brothers" speech.

I’ve never run a big organization. But I think if I did, I think I’d want to try something like this.

There’s a phrase quite a few writers have used, in one variation or another:

“I write what I’ve learned, so I can learn what I think.”

That’s where I’m at with Understandably. I’m making progress.

I don’t want to be grandiose about it. But between “source of truth,” and this whole issue of finding what’s really going on when all kinds of competing interests might work against your inquiry—well, there’s something in there.

Today’s edition of Understandably is the 76th overall. Fun fact: there are at least 1,400 subscribers who have opened every single email since last November 1.

I love every subscriber, but if I had to pick 1,400 favorites…

Anyway, I think I can see the light. I hope you’ll stick with me as I figure this out.

Finally, I stopped by the very impressive offices of Inc. Magazine at 7 World Trade Center in New York yesterday.

You guys know I still write for them, right?

If you’re among the group that followed me to Understandably from Inc. This Morning, I thought you might get a kick out of this.

It’s the only known photo of both me and my colleague who replaced me at ITM: Cameron Albert-Deitch.

He's the tall young man with the beard. I'm the other guy.

7 other things worth a click

  1. Jeff Bezos bought a house, and paid almost as much as he paid for The Washington Post. (The Verge)

  2. China admits it now has more than 14,840 new cases of the coronavirus. (CNBC)

  3. Meanwhile, some not-funny pranksters pretended to spill a big vat of “coronavirus” on a New York City subway. (New York Post)

  4. One third of U.S. workers (including those making $100k+) say they run out of money before payday. (CNBC)

  5. The head of the Democratic party in Iowa resigned after the voting debacle. (CNN)

  6. Mark Zuckerberg used to keep all of his plans for Facebook in a series of paper notebooks. A reporter found part of one of them from 2006. (Wired)

  7. People with regional accents make less money. (The Telegraph)

Remember: Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. I like to think maybe I just saved someone’s marriage with that reminder.

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