Choice Or Chance by Stephen Nowicki (book review).

Looking at the title, ‘Choice Or Chance’, you would think Stephen Nowicki’s book was about gambling odds. More so as there is a ring of dice on the cover. However, the sub-title, ‘Understanding Your Locus Of Control And Why It Matters’ still didn’t leave me that much wiser. It’s easier if you read the book. Nowicki is a clinical psychologist and teacher who examines the process of how pro-active we are. He says over decision-making is never static and, depending on how you were brought up, will also change throughout your life. Basically, the book is an examination of what you are. Although he uses different words, it essentially works out whether you are leadership material or just followers.


Although he doesn’t say it, Nowicki’s description matches the typical bell curve. At one end, you have the Internals, those people who are natural achievers and the other, the Externals, who seem doomed to failure. I suspect most people are going to be in the centre somewhere, depending on how they see their lives than be at either extreme. A lot of it depends on how you control your life although I tend to think that also depends on how much other people let you and when. Nowicki points out the problems of parents giving their children too much freedom but, then, I tend to think that an understanding of social etiquette is better to start from when young. The fact that it is possible to switch between the two does suggest to me that there is a very fine edge to the switch and can often depend on the situation and personal knowledge. Without the latter, hopefully, you’d ask for someone or more people’s advice before coming to a decision. If you’re an Internal, you would at least make up your own mind.

Oddly, for such a large looking book, this is actually a very fast read. Nowicki clearly explains what he needs to do without getting you bogged down in technical language. He gives a test to see where you lie in this. You shouldn’t be surprised to discover that I’m an Internal as, based off the scoring system, I only had 6 out of 40. I have to confess when I did the test, there were eleven questions where I tended to answer ‘maybe’ because it could fall either way, although Nowicki doesn’t make any allowances if this happened. As they aren’t the way to be included in the tally. Although technically because they don’t equal the given answer, it just means I have very strong leadership ability. Maybe I’m just stubborn. Nowicki says such quizzes are available on-line and it would be interesting to hear how any of you get on with them. They look like they have fewer questions than the one I did here but check for other things as well.

Something that is gleaned from all of this is that if you’re selecting team leaders then Internals tend to be your better choice because they are capable of making up their own minds. Reading into this, from a British perspective, it seems more like the means for selection of leaders and followers. Something I wish Nowicki had concentrated on was the proportion of Internals to Externals in the population because I doubt if they are the same even if people will switch between the two or stay between. He also doesn’t account for those apparent Internals in control keeping new Internals down, seeming them as threats to their own jobs. Developing your initiative is all well and good but make sure you make the right decisions when you do.

It is interesting when Nowicki divides these two types into sexes and performance. Internal women will compete more with men then they will with women. He makes no distinction as to whether they can do the job as well as or better. Then again, this Internal rating isn’t sex-linked, solely on the ability of decision-making. I should point out that Internals are not necessarily great social animals and a little bit introverted. Hardly surprising, if we use me as the template, because we aren’t drawn to be part of the crowd. We’re just not followers.

Nowicki does offer some suggestions on how to change from an External to an Internal and the application of De Bono’s lateral thinking. When I read up on De Bono years ago, apart from realising I was always a lateral thinker, most of his aspects were explored better with Korzybski’s General Semantics, which I learnt from at an earlier age.

Although this book isn’t written as a self-help book, I do think there is a lot to learn from it for anyone wanting to know what type of person you are and whether you are capable of changing your leadership potential. I would add that you do need to have a certain amount of bloody-mindedness coupled with a lot of knowledge in making the right decisions to be successful and even that might not always help. As I’m reading this book as a strong Internal, then I would say that.

GF Willmetts

June 2016

(pub: Prometheus Books. 272 page indexed enlarged paperback. Price: $18.00 (US), $19.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-63388-070-2)

check out website: www.prometheusbooks.com



Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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