Books to Consider Reading: Part Three

I’m back with a few more books from my supplemental reading list from ACCT 4154. Several of you have asked whether any of the students ever read any of these books. I can tell you that I’ve had several past students contact me to thank me for the suggestions and to tell me that they’d read this book or that one, so, yes, some of my former students took me up on my suggestions. Indeed, two of them even made suggestions of other books for me to consider, which I sincerely appreciated, as I always welcome a good book suggestion. I firmly believe that Austin Phelps was right when he said “Wear the old coat and buy the new book.” And I’ve got the library to prove it!

Here’s more of the book list:

“Change–real change–comes from the inside out. It doesn’t come from hacking at the leaves of attitude and behavior with quick fix personality ethic techniques. It comes from striking at the root–the fabric of our thought, the fundamental, essential paradigms, which give definition to our character and create the lens through which we see the world.” Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Simon & Schuster 1989),ISBN 0-671-66398-4.

Sir Francis Bacon once wrote “Some books are to be tasted, others are to be swallowed, and some are to be chewed and digested.” This book is an example of the last category. It made a huge impact on my life. It is a wonderful book that is very instructive and life-affirming. Dr. Covey died way too soon. The seven habits are worthy of consideration, aspiration and adoption. It’s about time for me to reread it.

I have always tried to produce a win-win situation in any negotiation, which often conflicted with the zero sum game win or else mentality of too many people out there in my opinion. I was often troubled by the attitudes of opposing lawyers in negotiating prenuptial agreements, where I tried to be very sensitive to the fact that the couple loves each other and have made promises to unite. I always tried mightily to use the prenuptial agreement process as a tool to enhance and elevate the communication between the couple. I detested it when opposing counsel went into these negotiations trying to make themselves look good and sharp instead of promoting a nascent union of two love-struck people, which is usually what the couple wanted us to do.  

“I really admire your ability to get paid for this.” Scott Adams, The Dilbert Principle (Harper Business 1996), ISBN 0-88730-787-6.

Those of you who know me know how much I love and live to laugh. My favorite subject of my laughter is myself because, frankly, I do some downright dumb things sometimes, so I give myself plenty of comedic material! This line from Dilbert really sums up how I feel sometimes about what I do. I often wonder whether I truly give any value to anyone, which troubles me to no end.

When I was in private law practice, I used to have a sign over my inner office door, that I could see from my desk every time that I looked up, which simply read “Give Value.” That’s always been my goal; I yearn to make a difference every day. The sad fact is that I fail more often than not, but it isn’t due to lack of effort or caring, but, rather, to my own humanity. We all need to be more self-deprecating, to, quoting the officer in Stripes, “lighten up, Francis.” I strive not to take myself too seriously.

“Unless communities have philosophers as kings, or the people who are currently called kings and rulers practise philosophy with enough integrity, there can be no end to political troubles or even human troubles in general.”Plato, Republic (Robin Waterfield translation) (Oxford University Press 1993), ISBN 9-780192-126047.

The Republic is a book that I’ve read several times and studied in a class from The Great Courses, a service that I highly recommend. Plato was brilliant and right about a lot of things, and the philosopher king was one of them.

What bothers me most about politics today is the rise and domination of the Machiavellian political class, who, in my opinion, are only concerned about themselves and maximizing and consolidating their own wealth and power, and this is true on both sides of the aisle. This political class is the antithesis of the philosopher king. In my opinion, politics shouldn’t be a profession at all; rather, it should be a temporary calling to true public service, followed by a return to private life.

Instead, the Congress has become an old folks home where members often die at their posts, sometimes wearing diapers. Or, if they do leave, they reemerge as powerful lobbyists who use their former positions to their personal advantage.

In my opinion, the public has done itself a major disservice by continuing to reelect the same bums who made the mess and who refuse to fix it. In my opinion, and if I ran things, there would be strict term limits for all elected officials, together with very strict anti-lobbying rules for former elected officials and few perks, but I digress…

“[I]t is always hard work to find the mean in anything, i.e., it is not everybody, but only a man of science, who can find the mean or centre of a circle. So too anybody can get angry–that is an easy matter–and anybody can give or spend money, but to give it to the right persons, to give the right amount of it and to give it at the right time and for the right cause and in the right way, this is not what anybody can do, nor is it easy. That is the reason why it is rare and laudable to do well. Accordingly, one who aims at the mean must begin by departing from that extreme which is the more contrary to the mean; he must act in the spirit of Calypso’s advice,

“Far from this smoke and swell keep thou thy bark,”

for of the two extremes one is more sinful than the other. As it is difficult then to hit the mean exactly, we must take the second best course, as the saying is, and choose the lesser of two evils, and this we shall best do in the way that we have described, i.e., by steering clear of the evil which is farther from the mean…But in all cases we must especially be on our guard against what is pleasant and what is against pleasure, as we are not impartial judges of pleasure.” Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics (J.E.C. Welldon translation) (Prometheus Books 1987), ISBN 0-87975-378-1.

One of my favorite toasts, which is an original of mine, is simply to wish the person being toasted balance between personal and work life, concluding with a wish that they attain Aristotle’s mean.

I used to do a lot of speaking on legal ethics, which I often regarded as an oxymoron, because the rules of legal ethics often diverge from true classical ethical behavior because the legal ethics rules are really there to protect the profession, not those harmed by members of it. Simply put, the legal ethics rules are merely rules that were promulgated by a trade association that have been blessed by another group from the same legal profession, i.e., judges. As for me, I prefer the classical ethics.

I used to use the part of the above quote about gifting in my estate planning practice for clients who were considering making significant gifts to loved ones. Again, who else but yours truly would incorporate Aristotle into modern estate planning? Why not, because this wisdom is timeless.

That’s enough for now. More to follow soon!

About lpaulhoodjr

I am an inactive lawyer who practiced almost 20 years as a tax and estate planning lawyer. Today, I am a speaker, author and consultant on tax and estate planning. In the recent past, I was the Director of Planned Giving for The University of Toledo Foundation. I am the co-author of six books, the sole author of another book and a frequent speaker and writer on estate planning, planned giving and business valuation.
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