Hidden away in a forty year old (mainstream) fiction novel—a potboiler, a seemingly shallow tale, prime facie—lies the secret formula for life’s success. I almost couldn’t believe it when I read it. It was so simple, so perfect. See, I’ve perused business books and self-help guides, written by CEOs, millionaires and pastors; all these people with too much time on their hands, penning “how to succeed in life.” And I’ve read them, too, because that’s what leaders do. We read books and make mantras and talk about them on our blogs. But the lessons learned in business books often dissipate faster than tweets, and we’re again left with just ourselves, curious and conspiring.
But these two sentences said everything—articulated in a cold, simple language, a language that only Michael Crichton, the master of logical and academic science fiction, could accomplish.
You went out and you hunted, armed with your maps and your instruments, but in the end your preparations did not matter, or even your intuition. You needed your luck, and whatever benefits accrued to the diligent, through sheer, grinding hard work.
Take a second, and read it again. For me? And take it slow, because these are two damn-good, well-constructed sentences. Drink them like you would an overpriced glass of wine, and when you’re done, close your eyes to impress your friends.
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Right? The quote appears in Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain (p. 197), a novel first published in 1969. The book follows a team of scientists looking to prevent an outer-space bacteria strain from wiping out the entire human race. You know, typical motivation source-material for aspiring young professionals.
According to the cover, Andromeda was on the NY Times Bestseller List for 30 weeks. For me, it was not Crichton’s best. Too heavy handed and dry on the exposition, his signature short sequences of action and tension were few to be found. I was desperately looking for a way out at page 197.
And that’s when Crichton subtly implanted his thought nugget. His inception egg. Two pages later, it hatched. I returned to the passage and reread the lines, underlining, pausing, thinking.
“That’s it,” I said. “I found it!” (more…)