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Publisher's Summary

An illuminating look at the surprising upside of ambiguity - and how, properly harnessed, it can inspire learning, creativity, even empathy.
Life today feels more overwhelming and chaotic than ever. Whether it's a confounding work problem or a faltering relationship or an unclear medical diagnosis, we face constant uncertainty. And we're continually bombarded with information, much of it contradictory.
Managing ambiguity - in our jobs, our relationships, and daily lives - is quickly becoming an essential skill. Yet most of us don't know where to begin.
As Jamie Holmes shows in Nonsense, being confused is unpleasant, so we tend to shutter our minds as we grasp for meaning and stability, especially in stressful circumstances. We're hard-wired to resolve contradictions quickly and extinguish anomalies. This can be useful, of course. When a tiger is chasing you, you can't be indecisive. But as Nonsense reveals, our need for closure has its own dangers. It makes us stick to our first answer, which is not always the best, and it makes us search for meaning in the wrong places. When we latch on to fast and easy truths, we lose a vital opportunity to learn something new, solve a hard problem, or see the world from another perspective.
In other words confusion - that uncomfortable mental place - has a hidden upside. We just need to know how to use it. This lively and original audiobook points the way.
Over the last few years, new insights from social psychology and cognitive science have deepened our understanding of the role of ambiguity in our lives, and Holmes brings this research together for the first time, showing how we can use uncertainty to our advantage. Filled with illuminating stories - from spy games and doomsday cults to Absolut Vodka's ad campaign and the creation of Mad Libs - Nonsense promises to transform the way we conduct business, educate our children, and make decisions.
In an increasingly unpredictable, complex world, it turns out that what matters most isn't IQ, willpower, or confidence in what we know. It's how we deal with what we don't understand.
©2015 Jamie Holmes (P)2015 Random House Audio
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Critic Reviews

"Holmes...debuts with a provocative analysis of the roots of uncertainty.... The author's bright anecdotes and wide-ranging research stories are certain to please many readers." ( Kirkus Reviews)
"Uncomfortable with ambiguity? Maybe you shouldn't be. In this energetic, tale-filled, fascinating tour of a broad horizon, Jamie Holmes shows that people often prosper when and because they are uncertain. A persuasive argument, but one thing is clear: You'll learn a lot from this book." (Cass R. Sunstein, professor, Harvard University, and coauthor of Nudge)
"Jamie Holmes has written a refreshing, lively book sparkling with insights and entertaining stories that illustrate how the mind deals with ambiguity. And he makes the case well that how we manage ambiguity both as individuals and as a species is critical to our future success." (Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Douglas C. Bates on 10-06-16

Great Material - Weak Delivery

The material in "Nonsense" is great. It explores why the mind greatly desires certainty such that it will prefer certain-sounding nonsense over easily observed contradictions of that nonsense. It explores why the mind tends to shun ambiguity and uncertainty, yet engaging with ambiguity and uncertainty has great value, in creativity, performance, and mental tranquility. It also gives some techniques on how to get comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty and to use that comfort to achieve desired results.

The author narrates the book. He's one of the better author narrators, but presentation is slow and on the flat side. I almost never listen above 1x speed, but I had to do so with this book to make the pacing tolerable.

A further weakness is that the book could use tighter editing. It's not so bad that it's an article inflated into a book, but probably 20% of the words could be removed with no loss in meaning. One could say that the text wallows a bit too much in ambiguity and uncertainty. This, combined with the slow narration pace makes this book a somewhat annoying read despite the otherwise excellent quality of the material.

As with many books, it is most polished at the beginning and least polished towards the end. The book would be improved with a concluding summary that boils down the content to a few actionable ideas. My desire for this, is of course, is probably from my desire for certainty. But that's how we humans are.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Marcelo Henrique on 02-22-16

This book was a good surprise

There are a lot of books out there that are a huge success but doesn't have much to offer in terms of things you can use in your life. When you read them, the ideas make sense, but after you close you usually forget about what you read.

Other books start great with first or second chapters that are great but at the beginning of the third chapter everything goes downhill (I'm looking at you "The Power of Habit").

This is not the case with this book. Every chapter have something new and interesting to offer. After the first ten minutes the book started to change my perspective on why we think and act in a certain way and helped me to understand why sometimes we do things that doesn't make a lot of sense. Most of self help books can't do that. But I'm not sure if this book can be defined as "self-help" because it's so well researched that I think it would be offensive. There's no magic or mambo jambo, just a lot of research condensed in a simple way.

The only issue I have with this book is the last chapter. It's a good take on creativity but it goes on and on telling details of stories that doesn't add anything to the point the author is trying to make.

This book even got me to order some really old dusty books from the 60's on cognitive dissonance and I have allergy to dust, so you can imagine how impressed I was with everything I read and heard.

I'm not saying this book is a revolution but it's good enough to make a dent on the way you see things.

For audiobook listeners the narrator is the author and he's OK but this book it's too good to not have a professional narrator.

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3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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