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The Art of Insubordination summary

How to Dissent and Defy Effectively

4.2 (225 ratings)
27 mins

Brief summary

In "The Art of Insubordination" by Todd B. Kashdan, we explore how questioning the status quo and being bold in challenging norms can lead to personal growth and innovation. Kashdan highlights examples of successful insubordination and provides practical advice for those wanting to challenge the rules.

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    The Art of Insubordination
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    Two Ways to Shoot a Free Throw

    Did you know there are two ways of completing a free throw in basketball? One is the way you’re used to seeing the pros do it on TV. You raise the ball up to eye level, with one of your hands supporting the ball and the other keeping it steady. Then you flick your supporting hand up and push the ball toward the hoop while using the other hand to guide it in the right direction. For an optimal shot, the ball should arc upward between 45 to 52 degrees and spin backward to lessen its speed and energy.

    Shooting a free throw this way is kind of an overwhelming physics experiment. So maybe it’s no wonder that so many players –⁠ even otherwise amazing Hall of Famers –⁠ totally suck at it. For example, Wilt Chamberlain’s career free throw success rate was only 51.1 percent. Shaquille O’Neal’s was hardly better at 52.7 percent.

    The thing is, there’s actually a much more accurate way of shooting free throws. That’s the underhand method, and it works like this. You rock the basketball back and forth between your legs, grip it with both hands, and then arc it upward toward the hoop. It ain’t pretty. But it works. One Hall of Famer, Rick Barry, always shot his free throws underhanded. And guess what his success rate was? An incredible 90 percent over his entire career. 

    So why the heck, you might be asking, don’t more basketball players shoot underhand? Well, there’s a very simple –⁠ but kind of depressing –⁠ answer. Because in the basketball world, underhanded shooting is considered “girly” or “granny shooting.” Basically, players are too self-conscious to do it. In college basketball, only two players shot underhand in the entire league, and one of them was Rick Barry’s son. 

    It’s rare for a player to buck the norm and engage in an act of inspiring insubordination. But it isn’t just rare in basketball. In all areas of life, acts of nonconformity are scarce. That’s thanks to the powerful human tendency to conform, to which all of us –⁠ yes, you too! –⁠ are subject.

    We can already hear your objections. It’s other people who act like lemmings following each other off cliffs. You, on the other hand, are a thinker, a reader, a questioner. You analyze, challenge, and take risks.

    But do you, really? Countless studies confirm that, far from being purely rational beings, we judge people and situations using mental shortcuts called biases. 

    Take one study, conducted by Scott Eidelman of the University of Arkansas and Chris Crandall of the University of Kansas. They told different groups of participants that the practice of acupuncture had been around for either 250, 500, 1,000, or 2,000 years. When participants thought that acupuncture had existed for a longer period of time, they felt more confident that acupuncture was “a good technique” and “ought to be used to relieve pain and restore health.” Were they making a rational analysis of acupuncture’s potential benefits? No –⁠ they were just making a judgment based on how long they thought the practice had been around. Basically, people blindly assume that something is better if it’s been around longer. We humans have a natural inclination to prefer the status quo. 

    Our motivation to conform extends far beyond acupuncture. It also prompts us to accept systems that affect and oppress us. For example, a survey of 6,637 Americans found that 33 percent of Black people reported being treated no worse than white people by the US criminal justice system. However, according to 40 years of data from the US Department of Justice, Black adults are almost six times more likely to be imprisoned than whites. 

    What this indicates is that people tend to support systems that are already in place, even when they harm us. Why? Well, because rejecting a system means a kind of revolution. And revolutions imply new systems that can potentially hold even greater uncertainty and threat than the existing ones. Even when we’re treated unfairly under a particular system, we still feel comforted by the stability and security it provides. 

    This is an unfortunate psychological reality. And the upshot is that it’s really hard to think differently, dissent, and deviate from the status quo! As an aspiring insubordinate, it’s important to acknowledge that reality so you can ultimately overcome it. And that’s what we’re going to discuss next.

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    What is The Art of Insubordination about?

    The Art of Insubordination (2022) is a research-based, science-backed, anecdote-packed ode to all the rebels and revolutionaries out there. It highlights the importance of dissent in society and teaches aspiring nonconformists the skills they need to confidently challenge majority viewpoints, manage discomfort when rebelling, and avoid losing hold of their most cherished values in the process.

    The Art of Insubordination Review

    The Art of Insubordination (2022) is an insightful exploration of how challenging authority can lead to personal growth and innovation. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It offers a refreshing perspective on traditional notions of conformity and obedience, empowering readers to question and redefine societal norms.
    • Through compelling case studies and thought-provoking anecdotes, the book demonstrates how insubordination can be a catalyst for creativity and positive change.
    • The author's rigorous research and thoughtfully presented arguments make this book a captivating and intellectually stimulating read, ensuring that it's anything but boring.

    Who should read The Art of Insubordination?

    • Rebels, resistors, radicals, and revolutionaries 
    • People with minority viewpoints nervous about speaking up against the majority
    • People with majority viewpoints who want to unlock the power of dissent and debate

    About the Author

    Todd B. Kashdan is a professor of psychology at George Mason University. There, he also leads the Well-Being Laboratory, where he conducts research on how to sustain happiness and meaning in life. He received the Distinguished Scientific Early Career Award from the American Psychological Association in 2013, and his other books include The Upside of Your Dark Side and Curious?

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    The Art of Insubordination FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Art of Insubordination?

    The main message of The Art of Insubordination is to challenge conventional thinking and embrace creative and constructive rebellion.

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    The reading time for The Art of Insubordination varies based on individual reading speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Art of Insubordination a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Art of Insubordination offers fresh insights and practical strategies for navigating the modern workplace. It is a worthwhile read for anyone seeking to embrace autonomy and creativity.

    Who is the author of The Art of Insubordination?

    The author of The Art of Insubordination is Todd B. Kashdan.

    What to read after The Art of Insubordination?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Art of Insubordination, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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