The Power of the Other: A book review by Bob Morris

Posted on: June 7th, 2016 by bobmorris

Power of the OtherThe Power of the Other: The startling effect other people have on you, from the boardroom to the bedroom and beyond — and what to do about it
Henry Cloud
HarperBusiness/An Imprint of HarperCollins (June 2016)

“Champions get up when they can’t.” Jack Dempsey,

Very few have competed in a heavyweight boxing championship bout but almost everyone understands what Dempsey means. There are times when many of us are convinced that we cannot keep going. We lack the energy and/or the will to continue. Then somehow, perhaps for reasons we will never fully understand, we hang in there and stay the course, whatever it may be. The title of this book refers to a specific situation in which Henry Cloud’s brother Mark, a Marine who was later killed in Iraq, stood on the shore cheering on a SEAL candidate — Bryce — who was struggling to complete the final test of endurance.

“He could see his dreams sinking with him, about to be over. What must it have felt like, to have gone through everything he had gone through to make it up to the very end? I am sure that the lights were going out in his heart, as his body would go no further. Until….” Then he saw Mark Cloud give him a huge fist pump and a yell, signaling to Bryce that ‘he could do it.’ Their eyes locked for a few seconds….” What happened next enabled him to make it. He finished the course. He passed the final test. He would be a SEAL. “That is ‘the power of the other.’”

Cloud’s thesis is that there is a “neglected truth” about a relationship: “the invisible attributes of relationship, the connection between people, have real, tangible, and measurable power.” And the need for connection begins even before birth. “It goes literally from the womb to the tomb. Relationship affects our physical and mental functioning throughout life. This invisible power, the power of other, builds both the hardware and the software that leads to healthy functioning and better performance.”

Cloud explains what I have suspected for many years: Much (if not most) of what we achieve would not have been possible if other people had not been involved in one way or another. In this context, Cloud observes, “The undeniable reality is that how well you do in life and in business depends not only on what you do but also on who is doing it with or to you.”

I really do not want to say more about the material in this book because I assume that reading it will be for most others, as it was for me, a journey of personal journey from much of what had become a forgotten past through a carelessly examined or ignored present to an increased understanding and — yes — appreciation of the potential power of others in my life but also the potential power I could have in others’ lives.

Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out The Path: What Chinese Philosophers Can Teach Us About the Good Life, co-authored by Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh and published by Simon & Schuster (2016).

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