Ep. 95: Robert Dilenschneider — How to Take Responsibility for Your Most Important Decisions


My guest this week is Robert Dilenschneider, author of the recent book Decisions: Practical Advice from 23 Men and Women Who Changed the World (affiliate link). Bob had some really important things to say about this moment we find ourselves in, with the many problems we’re facing. A global pandemic, economic turmoil, and now the pain and upheaval following the deaths of George Floyd and other Black men and women in the US at the hands of the police.

These events have compelled all of us to take a closer look at the inequality and racism we may have taken for granted. So what Bob says here is really important. He asserts that each of us needs to take responsibility for the good and the bad in society. And we need to take personal responsibility for addressing societal problems.

I realized I’d been sitting on the sidelines on issues of racism and inequality. I’d unconsciously assumed I was one of the good guys and was doing enough by silently opposing these things, and I’ve avoided really joining the conversation out of fear of saying the wrong thing and embarrassing myself. To be honest, I didn’t want to come across as an out-of-touch White guy.

But through recent conversations I’ve realized that my fear was getting in the way of taking responsibility for working toward equality and justice. And these conversations, while uncomfortable, have been incredibly humanizing and instructive. So I look forward to playing a more active role here and taking some risks in order to learn and grow and do what I can. I hope all of us can move from fear to love as we build a more just society, and repair our bonds with those who are different from us.

Topics that Bob and I discussed together included:

  • Why making good decisions now is more important than ever
  • The dramatic changes that are happening in our world
  • The limited opportunities that many find
  • Taking responsibility for the good and the bad in our society
  • Taking responsibility for addressing societal problems
  • The importance of focusing on the process of making a decision
  • How to make decisions related to the coronavirus pandemic
  • How to forgive ourselves when decisions turn out badly
  • Learning to make good decisions from the examples of others
  • What a no-choice decision is
  • The major decision that Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring (affiliate link), faced
  • The importance of being open to serendipity
  • Doing something that makes a positive difference in people’s lives
  • Working out of self-interest vs. for the benefit of others

Here’s the link to the Ross Gay article I mentioned in the introduction. I definitely encourage you to read it: Some Thoughts on Mercy. (Ross was a guest on the podcast.)

Robert Dilenschneider is the founder and principal of the Dilenschneider Group, which provides strategic advice and counsel to Fortune 500 companies and individuals around the world. Before that he was president and CEO of Hill and Knowlton, Inc., from 1986 to 1991.

Bob completed his BA at Notre Dame and earned an MA in journalism from The Ohio State University. He has counseled major corporations, professional groups, trade associations, and educational institutions, and has assisted clients in dealings with regulatory agencies, labor unions, and consumer groups, among others.

In 2012 the Dilenschneider Group established the Civility in America Lecture Series, which features many of the nation’s leading thinkers from a wide variety of professions and provides a perspective on what must be done to restore civility in our country.

Bob is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Economic Clubs of New York and Chicago, and he’s also served on numerous corporate boards. He’s the author of 14 books, including 50 Plus! and The Critical First Years of Your Professional Life (affiliate links).

He has lectured for scores of professional organizations and colleges, including Notre Dame, Ohio State, NYU, and the Harvard Business School.

Learn more about Bob at The Dilenschneider Group, Inc.

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