CodeX Book Club, Chapter 15: Smarter Faster Better

Charles Duhigg‘s first book, The Power of Habit, literally changed my life. It is not a book about losing weight, but it starts off with an everyday example of a woman who changed some of her habits and lost weight. Duhigg proceeded to explore the neurology of habits and the dramatic results that happen when individuals and organizations change their behavior.

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Charles Duhigg


As Duhigg puts it, “Along the way we learn why some people and companies struggle to change, despite years of trying, while others seem to remake themselves overnight. We visit laboratories where neuroscientists explore how habits work and where, exactly, they reside in our brains. We discover how the right habits were crucial to the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. We go inside Procter & Gamble, Target superstores, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, NFL locker rooms, and the nation’s largest hospitals and see how implementing so-called keystone habits can earn billions and mean the difference between failure and success, life and death.”

CodeX Book Club, Chapter 15: Charles Duhigg: Smarter Faster Better


“At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work,” he writes on his website.

At the time of Duhigg’s first book, I was the editor-in-chief of Law Technology News. I read the book and was mesmerized—and I immediately suggested that our Legal Tech New York team try to get Duhigg for a keynote at Legal Tech New York in 2014. They and he said yes, and it was one of the very best keynotes ever. How did it change my life? As trite as this will sound, after I read the book, I told myself, “I can do this” and within six months I had lost 40 pounds. And I’ve kept it off.

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So when I heard last week that Duhigg’s second book was out, I immediately bought it. Not surprisingly, Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in LIfe and Business is terrific, and Duhigg follows the same engaging structure as his first book. In SFB, he explores the science of protectivity by telling stories about individuals and organizations—and they are as compelling as his first book. As the daughter of a United Airline pilot, I am always fascinated by plane crash stories, and early in the book Duhigg dramatically compares two incidents: one, where the plane crashed and all were killed; the other where, under dire circumstances, the plane landed with no fatalities. His explanation of the differences between how the pilot teams interacted before and during the incidents was compelling.

“Productivity, put simply, is the name we give our attempts to figure out the best uses of our energy, intellect, and time as we try to seize the most meaningful rewards with the least wasted effort. It’s a process of learning how to succeed with less stress and struggle,” explains Duhigg. “It’s about getting things done without sacrificing everything we care about along the way.”

Like the first book, his choice of examples is broad: how a woman left an academic career to play poker; how Google studies teams functions; how the FBI’s dramatic change to its tech protocols helped save a kidnapping victim; the unusual tactics that resulted in Saturday Night Live last for more than 40 years, and counting; how Disney’s movie Frozen avoided a catastrophe; how a Marine Corps general addressed low morale and how a low-level Chase debt collector developed  strategies that catapulted success. One of my favorites was the analysis of how West Side Story combined traditional and fresh tactics to create a wildly new Broadway experience.

Also like his first book, readers come away with new ideas and tools to rethink past assumptions and approaches.

On top of everything else, there’s a captivating open-the-kimono extra at the end of the book. Duhigg candidly explains his own issues with productivity while writing the book, which is fascinating.

Duhigg, btw, won a Pulitzer prize for explanatory reporting in 2013, for a series on Apple (“The iEconomy.“)

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So yes, Charles, it’s another grand slam, and you are the first to get 5 stars  ★★★★★  at the CodeX Book Club! : )

Read More
About Charles Duhigg
Charles Duhigg website
New York Times review by Paul Bloom
• Bloomberg Business Week: “Smarter Faster Better May Make You All of Those Things” by Joel Stein


Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
Penguin Random House
Hardcover, March 8, 2016400 Pages
ISBN 9780812993394

Monica Bay is a Fellow at CodeX and a freelance journalist and analyst. She is a member of the California bar. Email: Twitter: @MonicaBay. Ping me if you would like to review a book of interest to our community!

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