Penguins Can’t Fly: +39 Other Rules that Don’t Exist

Summary Written by Ryan Long
"The purpose of this book isn’t to tell you how to live your life. It’s to make you more mindful of the choices you make and the story you’re living."

- Penguins Can’t Fly, page 200

The Big Idea

Do what you’ve always done, get what you’ve always gotten

"But the person who is wise, curious, and childlike knows there just might be a better way to sell books, rent movies, do business. Or live life. Be THAT person."- Penguins Can’t Fly, page 114

Throughout the book Kotecki encourages us to be curious. He begs us to look at things from a different angle. When our “adultitis” kicks in telling us not to do something, he tells us to ask “why not?” Kotecki wants readers to question the common knowledge we’ve come to know, and look for another way to do things.

In the section on common knowledge, Kotecki points out that there was a time when books only came in hard backs, we rented movies for one night from brick and mortar locations, and feature films weren’t animated. We shouldn’t continue to do what we have always done, just because we have always done it that way. At work, we do some things the way we do them because we have always done them that way. But there’s a better way! Rather than focus on things that are out of my hands (I’m looking at you, accounting department, with your paper trail), I will begin to focus on the things that I CAN change.

Things I can control: when I check my email. Is it most productive to check it first thing in the morning? (I’ll have to experiment.) Do I have to sit at a desk to do my best work? (The answer to that one is no. I work remote. I was on the couch, with my dog, for one of the best over-the-phone-brainstorming-sessions I’ve had with my manager.) What’s the right fun-to-structure ratio for our weekly staff meetings? (There was a time when I thought it should be zero fun, all structure.) I’ll be exploring these and other questions, with a focus on curious and childlike answers, in the coming months.

Insight #1

Keep knee jerk reactions at bay

"It’s easy to jump into automatic mode in our roles as…leaders and respond to situations in the same way we’ve seen other…leaders do it, without ever stopping for just a second to question if there might be another way. Stopping that knee-jerk reaction is the hard part."- Penguins Can’t Fly, page 78

If you’ve read many of my summaries, you know that part of my job is to oversee social media for a marketing company. Recently, we put out a press release about the philanthropic efforts of one of our managers. My social media specialist wanted to post it on Facebook. My knee jerk reaction was “NOOOOO!” because the philanthropy was affiliated with a religious organization. I’ve become sensitive to political correctness. I’ve seen so many leaders balk at posting anything that could be considered controversial. I wanted to veto that idea right out of the box. But I bit my tongue. We posted. At this writing, the post reached over 10,000 people. It has had many shares, likes, and extremely positive comments. No one called us out for anything negative. Only a handful of recent posts have performed better.

Kotecki’s section on knee jerk reactions talks about the first time his daughter blew milk bubbles with her straw. To fight the urge to tell her to stop, Kotecki says he “quickly analyzed the situation: What’s the big deal? What are my main concerns?” When those were answered (eat her dinner in a reasonable amount of time and don’t clean up milk bubble messes), the milk bubbles inadvertently turned into an amazing incentive to for Lucy to eat her dinner.

Stop the knee jerk. Analyze. Evaluate. Take new action. This is what I will strive to do. This will also allow me to have a genuine reaction to the situation. I think philanthropy is great! Why did I balk so much from the post? Because of what other people might think, but from a negative perspective. I hadn’t stopped to consider the POSTIIVE reactions we might get.

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Insight #2

Nothing to fear but fear itself

"If you want to be realistic, be realistic about your fears. After all, most of the things you worry about will never happen."- Penguins Can’t Fly, page 135

This quote comes from the section about being “realistic”, but it actually speaks to me from several places in the book. One of them is on being careful. I’ve found that when I’m most cautious, both in work and in my personal life, it’s because I fear something. Sometimes it’s a consequence. Sometimes it’s judgment from others. Sometimes it’s what the action, or inaction, could mean in my future. Kotecki talks about his daughter learning to walk. She falls, she bumps, she cries, she gets over it, she explores, she falls, she bumps, she cries. It is a seemingly endless cycle but she doesn’t give up and she doesn’t fear the next fall or bump. He points out that so many adults give up after just one bump or one failure. We lose our resiliency to keep trying until we see success.

I’m a very strategic person. I like to have information, weigh my options, and make my decision. I strive to make the “right” decision. In the times where I balk at something because I fear making the wrong decision, I hope I will look at the problem with childlike creativity and resilience. Realistically, what is the worst that can happen? And how would that actually affect me? Is there another angle to take to avoid the worst case scenario? If I fail, can I try again?

There were so many more things I wanted to write about and other “rules” that hit home for me in this book. Each section is short and Kotecki whimsically illustrated it himself. It has already been a great “go-to” for stories during staff meetings to get my team to think a little differently. Pick up a copy and tell me what rules you follow that don’t exist in the comments, even if they don’t appear in the book!

Read the book

Get Penguins Can’t Fly: +39 Other Rules that Don’t Exist on Amazon.

Jason Kotecki

Jason Kotecki is an artist, speaker and author of several books, including “Penguins Can’t Fly & 39 Other Rules That Don’t Exist.”

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