A business insight from Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad is arguably the greatest author for whom English was a second language. His novels and short stories continue to be read and praised throughout the world.

Although it was not his intention, he often expressed thoughts that offer a valuable business insight, especially now. For example, in a letter to Edward Garnett dated September 16, 1899, Conrad observes:

“All is illusion — the words written, the mind at which they are aimed, the truth they are intended to express, the hands that hold the paper, the eyes that will glance at the lines. Every image floats vaguely in a sea of doubt — and the doubt itself is lost in an unexplored universe of incertitudes.”

There is indeed what I characterize as “the fog of business.” So much is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Change occurs faster and with greater frequency than at any prior time that I can remember.

This is what Richard Dawkins has in mind when suggesting, “Yesterday’s dangerous idea is today’s orthodoxy and tomorrow’s cliché.”

The writer’s challenge as expressed by Conrad is essentially the same for business leaders: To make sense of the world they survey and then respond to it as it is now or soon will be.

Assume nothing. Either create the future or be controlled by it. Reject what James O’Toole calls “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom.”

To learn more about Joseph Conrad and his work, please click here.

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  1. Royvia on September 13, 2019 at 8:40 am

    Great post.

  2. Fredro on September 20, 2019 at 4:14 am

    Nice post!

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