I was first introduced to Thomas L. Friedman by my international law professor during my undergraduate business degree. Not in person. Not even explicitly. My professor had us get the New York Times each morning and read it before class. That’s how I was introduced to the opinion columns of Friedman. I became an avid consumer of Friedman, Nicholas Kristof, and David Brooks. This was also 2001-2002, where the NYT’s coverage of the Sept 11 attacks and subsequent Portraits of those who died made a lasting impact. I recall sitting in coffee shops before class, crying as I was reading the NYT Portraits of those who were killed on 9/11.
As an International Business major at The University of Georgia, this was also the time in my life where I was becoming very interested in international affairs and history. Friedman was a columnist whose job was to travel the world and write about it. My interests and his topics became very connected. When I found out he had also written books, I started reading them. Here are how each of his other books impacted me:
The Lexus and the Olive Tree showed me how geopolitics were playing out after the Cold War.
From Beirut to Jerusalem introduced me to the source of a lot of the turmoil in the Middle East.
The World is Flat was the single most important reason I decided to go to grad school. His description of where we were headed and how that was going to require lifelong learning set me on a path that is also a main reason I started The Books of Titans project.
Longitudes and Attitudes was a collection of his columns after September 11. It helped me put the tragedy in context.
Now onto this book – Thank You for Being Late. As I mentioned above, a main driver in my decision to go to grad school and study for a Master of International Business degree was because of Friedman’s 2005 book The World is Flat. I was in grad school from 2006 – 2008. Thank You for Being Late takes 2007 as a starting point for the technology and apps (including the iPhone) that have come to define our lives now in the late 2010s.
As in his other books, Friedman does a superb job of tying these accelerating technological advances together and making sense of them. Of showing how certain technologies led to others and what that may continue to mean going forward.
The final few chapters of the book took us back to Friedman’s hometown of St. Louis Park, Minnesota. He wrote about what it was like growing up there and how it has changed when he visits now. I also grew up in Minnesota and spent the first 14 years of my life there. I loved that he has such nostalgia for his hometown. My nostalgia for Minnesota grows the older I get.
I have always appreciated Friedman’s approach to business, politics, and thriving amidst change. He presents views that infuriate conservatives and those that enrage liberals. He’s seeking a balance in his solutions and one that may lead to an entirely different label of Republican or Democrat. In fact, he says new parties may rise that lead the R & D back closer to their roots.
There was a neat tie-in to book 32 of this year’s reading list, The Black Swan. Friedman writes about the Black Elephant which is the cross between theses two things:
- Black Swan – “a rare, low-probability, unanticipated event with enormous ramifications”
- Elephant in the Room – “problem widely visible to everyone, yet that no one wants to address, even though we absolutely know that one day it will have vast, black-swan-like consequences”
I listened to this book on Audible.com, mostly during my runs, mowing the yard, and doing other chores. I’m glad I did. This book worked very well as an audiobook and it made my runs go by very fast. I was also able to get through it much faster than if I had sat down to read the book (the benefit of listening while doing other tasks and listening at 2.5 speed).
If you’re feeling a little lost with the rapid rate of change, this will be a good book for you. If you’re from Minnesota and feel some nostalgia, you’ll really enjoy the last two chapters. And if you are a Friedman fan, well then, you probably read this 2 years ago when it came out.
This is book 35 of 52 of Erik’s 2018 Books of Titans reading list.