Dane Holmes: My April Book List

24 APR 2019

Dane Holmes, Head of Human Capital Management of Goldman Sachs, shares some of his top reads on everything from positive intelligence to civil rights.

By Dane Holmes

I love getting immersed into a good book and all that comes along with it – the emotions, the lessons learned, the a-ha moments. It’s “World Book Day”, so it’s a good excuse for me to share some of my recent favorites.

Positive Intelligence – Shirzad Chamine
Neuroscientist Shirzad Chamine helps define your “Positive Intelligence Quotient” (PQ) and why it matters. Put simply, PQ means “the percentage of time your mind acts as your friend rather than as your enemy.” Shirzad provides several practices on how to overcome the inner “Saboteurs” that can often mire us with negative thoughts. “Saboteurs” come in many forms – the avoider, the perfectionist, the controller, the stickler, the victim – and, if we let them, they can completely take over our thoughts and actions. That’s where your “Sage” comes into play. With your Sage, you “choose a path that best aligns with your deeper underlying values and mission.” If you strengthen your sage, you have the power to unleash positive emotions like empathy, innovation, navigation and decisive action.

My biggest takeaway: Your mind is your best friend but it also can be your worst enemy. Make it work for you versus you working for it. Applying PQ to life and work can yield incredible benefits – a more focused and clear mind, higher productivity and innovation. After reading this book – and convincing my wife to read it as well – I’ve been making a more conscious effort to find and activate my inner “Sage”, slow down and appreciate the people and things around me. By just putting my phone away and truly being present in meetings and with my family, I’m able to listen, focus and cherish the moment.

Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America – Gilbert King
In this book set in Florida in 1949, Gilbert King brings to light how Thurgood Marshall aka “Mr. Civil Rights” took on an impossible case when Willis V. McCall, both sheriff and Klansmen, set out to lynch the Groveland boys – four young black boys accused of rape. The Klan burned down homes in the black community, killed one of the four defendants, and threatened Mr. Marshall after murdering one of his associates. Despite the threat to his life, Thurgood Marshall was determined to fight for these boys. He refused to back down against the injustices and racist practices promulgated by sheriff McCall and the white supremacist state that kept him in power.

My biggest takeaway: I had the honor of interviewing Gilbert King as part of our Talks at GS program and he said “we’ve never really acknowledged these atrocities that were happening.” We often think about civil rights issues as something of the long lost past, and about racism as an individual affliction, but King uncovers that many of the institutions we look to for peace and safety actually have a long history of perpetuating racism. This reality took place just 70 years ago – some of our parents and grandparents were alive to experience this kind of treatment. It’s important not to minimize how recent these atrocities are in our history and recognize how they still permeate some of our lives today.

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think – Hans Rosling
Around the world – from policy experts to the average person at the bus stop – many people believe the world is more threatening and miserable than the statistics reveal it to be. It’s human instinct to take notice of bad events, but the reality is the world isn’t binary and trends rarely move in a straight line – it’s not either good or bad, it’s often somewhere in between and constantly improving, even if we don’t always see it. By paying attention to the facts we can quiet our innate “dramatic instincts” to recognize how far we’ve come and how things are continuing to develop.

My biggest takeaway: The world is far from perfect, and there is a long list of tragedies to explain this, but Rosling presses you to focus on how it’s becoming a better place. Believing false generalizations about the world ignores the progress we have made. If we fall victim to some of these generalizations, we have the potential to miss opportunities in business and in life – like tapping into new markets or traveling to a new place. 


Read more articles by Dane Holmes on LinkedIn.