Highlights for The Obelisk Gate

That’s when you no longer need an answer to the question. There is such a thing as too much loss. Too much has been taken from you both—taken and taken and taken, until there’s nothing left but hope, and you’ve given that up because it hurts too much. Until you would rather die, or kill, or avoid attachments altogether, than lose one more thing.

Not the thought. The thought was simple and predictable: Better to die than live a slave. But what you felt in that moment was a kind of cold, monstrous love. A determination to make sure your son’s life remained the beautiful, wholesome thing that it had been up to that day, even if it meant you had to end his life early.

The arguments that you have with the other advisors are more important: Your decisions affect more than a thousand people now. But they have the same silly, pedantic feel. Silly pedantry is a luxury that you’ve rarely been able to enjoy in your life.

A girl whose mother never loved her, only refined her, and whose father will only love her again if she can do the impossible and become something she is not.

Once, as you trained Nassun, you told yourself that it did not matter if she hated you by the end of it; she would know your love by her own survival.

The children complain that he’s not very good—none of your finesse, and while he goes easier on them, they’re not learning as much. (It’s nice to be appreciated, if after the fact.)

This is a terrible thing that she is saying. It is a terrible thing that she loves herself.

Now, she needs someone to blame for the loss of that perfect love. She knows her mother can bear it.

“Oh, uncaring Earth,” you whisper.

“This is a community. You will be unified. You will fight for each other. Or I will rusting kill every last one of you.”

Even if “hasn’t yet committed genocidal slaughter” is a low bar to hop, other communities haven’t even managed that much.

Highlights for The Fifth Season

Accepted members of a comm are those who have been accorded rights of cache-share and protection, and who in turn support the comm through taxes or other contributions.

And then you stop. Because, oh uncaring Earth. Look what you’ve done.

Obey the lore, make the hard choices, and maybe when the Season ends there will be people who remember how civilization should work.

Likewise, no one speaks of celestial objects, though the skies are as crowded and busy here as anywhere else in the universe. This is largely because so much of the people’s attention is directed toward the ground, not the sky.

“No, it won’t. And I don’t care how they feel. They don’t have to rusting like us. What matters is what they do.”

You’ll jigsaw them together however you can, caulk in the odd bits with willpower wherever they don’t quite fit, ignore the occasional sounds of grinding and cracking. As long as nothing important breaks, right? You’ll get by. You have no choice.

Nearly all affected comms were able to subsist on their own stores, thus proving the efficacy of Imperial reforms and Seasonal planning. In its aftermath, many comms of the Nomidlats and Somidlats voluntarily joined the Empire, beginning its Golden Age.

She cries because she has been inexpressibly lonely, and Schaffa… well. Schaffa loves her, in his tender and terrifying way.

The people who built those old things were weak, and died as the weak inevitably must. More damning is that they failed. The ones who built the obelisks just failed harder than most.

This is why she hates Alabaster: not because he is more powerful, not even because he is crazy, but because he refuses to allow her any of the polite fictions and unspoken truths that have kept her comfortable, and safe, for years.

“I make sure he’s taken care of.” And she does. Corundum is always clean and well fed. She never wanted a child, but now that she’s had it—him—and held him, and nursed him, and all that… she does feel a sense of accomplishment, maybe, and rueful acknowledgment, because she and Alabaster have managed to make one beautiful child between them. S

Who’s she kidding? It’s love. She loves her son. But that doesn’t mean she wants to spend every hour of every rusting day in his presence.

Highlights for Turn the Ship Around

Our world’s bright future will be built by people who have discovered that leadership is the enabling art. It is the art of releasing human talent and potential.

Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.

“You know, sure, maybe over time things would have improved, but who wants to gamble their career—no, their life energy—on the hope of a sea change at an established, ‘successful’ company. I went on to pursue my dreams, and I’ve done so.”

The leader-leader structure is fundamentally different from the leader-follower structure. At its core is the belief that we can all be leaders and, in fact, it’s best when we all are leaders.

Rather than telling everyone what we needed to do, I would ask questions about how they thought we should approach a problem. Rather than being the central hub coordinating maintenance between two divisions, I told the division chiefs to talk to each other directly.

The twelve chiefs are the senior enlisted men. They are middle management. At our submarine schools, the instructors tell us that officers make sure we do the right things and chiefs make sure we do things right.

My unfamiliarity with the sub’s technical details was having an interesting side effect: since I couldn’t get involved with the specifics of the gear, I opened up space to focus on the people and their interactions instead, and to rely on the crew more than I normally would have.

What are the things you are hoping I don’t change?

What are the things you secretly hope I do change?

What are the good things about Santa Fe we should build on?

If you were me what would you do first?

Why isn’t the ship doing better?

What are your personal goals for your tour here on Santa Fe?

What impediments do you have to doing your job?

What will be our biggest challenge to getting Santa Fe ready for deployment?

What are your biggest frustrations about how Santa Fe is currently run?

What is the best thing I can do for you?


Although I cursed my lack of technical knowledge, it prevented me from falling back on bad habits. In the past when I would interview a crew member about how something worked, I only acted curious because, in reality, I knew how it worked. Now, when I talked to the men on the ship, I actually was curious.

You can’t “direct” empowerment programs. Directed empowerment programs are flawed because they are predicated on this assumption: I have the authority and ability to empower you (and you don’t). Fundamentally, that’s disempowering.

We discovered that distributing control by itself wasn’t enough. As that happened, it put requirements on the new decision makers to have a higher level of technical knowledge and clearer sense of organizational purpose than ever before.

The crew was still focusing too much on complying with regulations rather than working to make our submarine the most operationally capable warship possible. It was the same problem as focusing on avoiding mistakes instead of trying to achieve something great.

SHORT, EARLY CONVERSATIONS is a mechanism for CONTROL. It is a mechanism for control because the conversations did not consist of me telling them what to do. They were opportunities for the crew to get early feedback on how they were tackling problems. This allowed them to retain control of the solution. These early, quick discussions also provided clarity to the crew about what we wanted to accomplish. Many lasted only thirty seconds, but they saved hours of time.

Inefficiencies in my time were highly visible, especially to me. Less visible, however, were the inefficiencies of all the people throughout the organization.

What happens in a top-down culture when the leader is wrong? Everyone goes over the cliff.

In effect, by articulating their intentions, the officers and crew were acting their way into the next higher level of command. We had no need of leadership development programs; the way we ran the ship was the leadership development program.

You want more, you give more orders, and you become more controlling. It has a seductive pull on the leaders, but it is debilitating and energy sapping for the followers.

There were no shortcuts. As the level of control is divested, it becomes more and more important that the team be aligned with the goal of the organization.

This had a big effect on me. It showed me how efforts to improve the process made the organization more efficient, while efforts to monitor the process made the organization less efficient.

We worked hard on this issue of communication. It was for everyone. I would think out loud when I’d say, in general, here’s where we need to be, and here’s why. They would think out loud with worries, concerns, and thoughts. It’s not what we picture when we think of the movie image of the charismatic and confident leader, but it creates a much more resilient system.

Thinking out loud is essential for making the leap from leader-follower to leader-leader.

We had been taking actions that pushed authority down the chain of command, that empowered the officers, chiefs, and crew, but the insight that came to me was that as authority is delegated, technical knowledge at all levels takes on a greater importance. There is an extra burden for technical competence.

The personal liberty, well-being, and economic prosperity we enjoy in the United States are unique throughout the history of mankind.

The result of increased technical competence is the ability to delegate increased decision making to the employees.

The change from passive briefs to active certification changed the crew’s behavior. We found that when people know they will be asked questions they study their responsibilities ahead of time.

They hear and think they know what you mean, but they don’t. They’ve never had a picture of what you are talking about. They can’t see in their imagination how it works. They are not being intentionally deceitful; they just are not picturing what you are picturing.


Have you seen evidence of “gamification” in your workplace? Perhaps it’s worth reading one of Gabe Zichermann’s blog posts and discussing it with your management team.

Since we were in a combat zone, the bonuses we awarded sailors when they reenlisted were tax-free.

I continued to see benefits of deliberate action. DELIBERATE first of all reduced errors by operators and was also a mechanism for TEAMWORK. Finally, it was a mechanism for SIGNALING INTENT.

This is the power of the leader-leader structure. Only with this model can you achieve top performance and enduring excellence and development of additional leaders.

Highlights for Journey to the End of the Night

Maybe our colonel knew why they were shooting, maybe the Germans knew, but I, so help me, hadn’t the vaguest idea. As far back as I could search my memory, I hadn’t done a thing to the Germans, I’d always treated them friendly and polite.

All that tangled meat was bleeding profusely.

The one thing any of us really cared about was living for one more hour, one more hour is a big deal in a world where everything has reduced itself to murder.

Which proves that if you want people to think you’re normal there’s nothing like having an all-fired nerve. If you’ve got plenty of nerve, you’re all set, because then you’re entitled to do practically anything at all, you’ve got the majority on your side, and it’s the majority who decide what’s crazy and what isn’t.

In bed, though, she was superb, we came back again and again, and the pleasure she purveyed was real. She may have been a slut, but at least she was a real one. To give royal pleasure they’ve got to be. In the kitchens of love, after all, vice is like the pepper in a good sauce; it brings out the flavor, it’s indispensable.

I hadn’t found out yet that mankind consists of two very different races, the rich and the poor. It took me … and plenty of other people … twenty years and the war to learn to stick to my class and ask the price of things before touching them, let alone setting my heart on them.

A few poetic regrets, if adroitly placed, are as becoming to a woman as gossamer hair in the moonlight.

When men can hate without risk, their stupidity is easily convinced, the motives supply themselves.

The Alaskan dog teams are invaluable. Since they are always needed, they are well cared for. Whereas nobody gives a damn about immigrants, of whom there are always too many.

In that state of undress, belching and worse, gesticulating like lunatics, they settled down in the fecal grotto.

Then and there, perhaps, you’d throw off the exhausting habit of dreaming about successful people and enormous fortunes, because then you’d be able to put your hands on all that. The life of people without resources is nothing but one long rebuff and one long frenzy of desire, and a man can truly know, truly deliver himself only from what he possesses.

Lola was pacing the floor without many clothes on, and in spite of everything her body still struck me as very desirable. Where there’s a luxurious body there’s always a possibility of rape, of a direct, violent breaking and entering into the heart of wealth and luxury, with no fear of having to return the loot.

But it was too late to start being young again. I didn’t believe in it anymore. We grow old so quickly and, what’s more, irremediably. You can tell by the way you start loving your misery in spite of yourself. Nature is stronger than we are, no two ways about it. She tries us in one particular mold, and we’re never able to throw it off. I had started out as the restless type. Little by little, without realizing it, you begin to take your role and fate seriously, and before you know it, it’s too late to change. You’re a hundred-percent restless, and it’s set that way for good.

People avenge themselves for the favors done them.

We were all in the same boat now. The priest would have to learn to walk in the dark like the rest of us. He was still unsteady on his pins. He asked me what he should do to keep from falling. He didn’t have to come if he was afraid. We’d get to the end together, and then we’d know what we’d been looking for in our adventure. That’s what life is, a bit of light that ends in darkness.

No good hoping to drop off your misery somewhere on the way. Misery is like some horrible woman you’ve married. Maybe it’s better to end up loving her a little than to knock yourself out beating her all your life. Since obviously you won’t be able to bump her off.

A day that’s nothing more than a lapse of twenty-four hours is intolerable. Like it or not, a day should be one long, almost unbearable pleasure, one long coitus.

Did Jesus Christ go to the toilet in front of everybody? It seems to me his racket wouldn’t have lasted very long if he’d taken a shit in public.

I can’t deny that I felt sad as I started back to Vigny at the thought that all those people, those houses, those dirty, dingy, dismal things no longer spoke to me at all, no longer spoke straight to my heart as they had in the old days, and that, chipper as I might seem, I quite possibly didn’t have the strength to go on much further like that alone.