Duff McDonald is a New York-based journalist and the bestselling author of Last Man Standing: The Ascent of Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan Chase; The Firm: The Story of McKinsey and Its Secret Influence on American Business; The Golden Passport (Harper Business); and the coauthor of Frictionless with Christiane Lemieux (Harper Business); and The CEO, a satire. McDonald is the co-host of How to Tickle Yourself, a podcast about the joy of being a seeker and where self-help meets philosophy. In his new book, Tickled: A Commonsense Guide to the Present Moment (Harper), McDonald shares a vulnerable and honest look at our obsession with control and an impassioned exploration of how we can better inhabit our own existence—right here, and right now—by swapping the urge to measure or compare with the pursuit of joy, or tickles.
Drawing inspiration from an impressive range of sources—from Borges to the Buddha to Bob (Dylan) to Harry Potter—McDonald documents how he let go of his attachment to precision in favor of delving deeper into what it means to be present—in his work, his relationships, and what he calls the “science of experience.” Part self-help, part memoir, Tickled is a story of how to bring joy and love into your life right now. McDonald acknowledges that “tickle” is a funny, awkward word. In one context, it’s as innocent as can be. But it also runs deeper. When something tickles you, you are in the moment, experiencing reality itself—at the vortex of truth, consciousness, and bliss. “When something tickles, that’s your soul speaking to you in the language of love, thanking you for experience,” he says. As he lays out his own personal transformation, McDonald invites readers to begin their own journeys to find out what “tickles” them, too.
Through his presentations, McDonald’s vulnerability and accessibility offer audiences an opportunity to look within themselves and amongst the larger collective to find joy, be in the present, and strike a balance between our need for control and our desire for ease.
A former contributing editor at the New York Observer, New York, Portfolio, and Fortune, McDonald has also written for the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Esquire, Businessweek, GQ, Wired, TIME, Air Mail, and other publications. He lives in upstate New York, with his wife Joey, three cats, and 13 chickens.
Praise for Tickled:
“Given the choice, we’d presumably all do what we want all day every day forever. The problem is figuring out what that that is. Duff McDonald, one of the most acute chroniclers of this confusing time, has, in these pages, for the greater good, ditched habits that trap him in the slog, freeing himself to pursue, pursue, pursue, composing perhaps the most American book ever — what’s more American than a pursuit of happiness? — in the process. Tickled is a new kind of a travel diary, a cultural exploration into the preconceptions and inherited beliefs that prevent us from reaching our potential and being free. A lot of us think we know exactly who and where we are. Duff McDonald is still on the road, heading for another joint.”
--Rich Cohen, author of The Fish That Ate the Whale and Pee Wees
“With heart-centered honesty and an unflinching eye for the truth of his own failings, McDonald takes us on his journey from skeptical cynic to loving adult. Having set forth to critically explore our collective need for precise and correct outcomes, Duff comes to see that the only outcomes that matter are those that actually work. And, more often than not, those involve a magical notion: that which tickles us can lead us to the thing that matters most of all—love. Tickled may not have been the book he set out to write, but it's definitely the book we're meant to read.”
--Jerry Colonna, author of Reboot
“Goddamn! This book is so fu*king smart & wise & good. It’s brilliant & profound, yet somehow utterly relatable. Almost every sentence blew my mind. It actually changed the way I look at the world.”
--Kristen Johnston, Emmy Award-winning actress and author of Guts: The Endless Follies and Tiny Triumphs of a Giant Disaster
"An honest and heartfelt expression of one man's search inside himself. I appreciate Duff's difficult but joyous discovery of the sweet inner peace that comes from being fully present in the here and now."
--Chade-Meng Tan, bestselling author of Search Inside Yourself and Joy on Demand
“Duff does something astonishing here—he relinquishes the body armor that made him so successful as a business journalist and writes from the heart. It is brave and true.”
--Hugo Lindgren, former editor of The New York Times Magazine
Praise for The Golden Passport:
“[A] richly reported indictment of the school as a leading reason that corporate America is disdained by much of the country....in example after example, Mr. McDonald sets out his thesis that money and influence have distorted both the school’s curriculum and the worldview espoused by its professors.”
--Andrew Ross Sorkin, The New York Times
“This is serious history, broad in its sweep and meticulous in the detail.”
--The Wall Street Journal
“Duff McDonald’s The Golden Passport is the detailed story of Harvard Business School (HBS) that, willingly marinated in corporate money and influence, prepares each generation of “modern” corporate tycoons. HBS, while alert to shaping the latest management techniques, is largely indifferent to the ongoing corporate crime wave and other criminogenic behavior and externalities corrosive of fundamental civic values and economic equities. Readers can bury their noses in this prodigious tome and come away with a stench of affluent decadence.”
“The Golden Passport is a tour-de-force about one of our nation’s most important and enduring symbols of capitalism. Whether you aspire to attend Harvard Business School or you disdain it for its disproportionate influence on Wall Street and in the executive suites of our major corporations, McDonald’s investigative-reporting masterpiece is a must read.”
--William D. Cohan, New York Times bestselling author of House of Cards
“The Golden Passport isn’t the first (and won’t be the last) time that pointed criticism has been aimed at the Harvard Business School, but it is certainly the most thorough to date. The story McDonald tells isn’t a simplistic one. Rather, he argues that the analytical modus operandi of Harvard-trained MBAs has damaged not just particular companies, but the very fabric of society itself. It’s a convincing and important call for change.”
--Bethany McLean, co-author of The Smartest Guys in the Room
“Duff McDonald’s Golden Passport is a magisterial history of Harvard Business School and much more. It provides a powerful lens into the intellectual underpinnings and pragmatic failures of American business and American capitalism writ large.
--Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class
“Exploring how Harvard Business School became a ticket to the highest echelons of money, power, and influence, McDonald (The Firm) chronicles the school’s history in an irreverent, cynical, and frequently funny exposé of its pretensions...refreshingly substitutes skepticism for reverence, questioning the limits of business education and of capitalism in general.”
“A massively detailed history of Harvard Business School since its founding in 1908 and a searing critique of the school’s impact on American capitalism…. McDonald’s deep research into the 100-plus years of HBS-the faculty members, the courses offered, many of the students-is undoubtedly impressive.”
“McDonald’s reporting highlights the school’s influence, such as detailing how HBS helped the U.S. win WWII by marrying mathematics and statistics to war strategy, and also how HBS helped define and establish the foundations of managerial knowledge in the country and put American management at the forefront of global business.”
Praise for The Firm:
“A fascinating account of the rise of McKinsey. If you want to know what it is about the culture of the firm that sets it apart and has made it so successful, read this book.”
--Liaquat Ahamed, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lords of Finance
“In this highly readable history, Duff McDonald brings us deep inside one of the smartest and most important firms doing business today – a place where no other journalist has taken us before. With his straightforward storytelling and thoughtful analysis, McDonald demystifies the secrets behind McKinsey’s successes and offers concrete lessons on changing companies and practices for the better.”
-- Jamie Dimon
“In his superb examination of one of the most powerful, secretive, and least understood organizations on the planet, Duff McDonald finally solves the mystery, in elegant prose, of how McKinsey can be well known without anyone knowing anything about it. Thanks to McDonald, now we do.”
--William D. Cohan, bestselling author of The Last Tycoons, House of Cards, and Money and Power
"Duff McDonald’s new book about the people who built McKinsey, the consulting firm that has quietly influenced American business for decades, explains the firm’s tremendous accomplishments—and its equally stunning failures. As McDonald shows, the firm’s greatest success may well be itself. This is critical reading for anyone who wants to understand how the world of business really works.”
--Bethany McLean, coauthor of the New York Times bestseller All the Devils Are Here
“McDonald has written the definitive history of McKinsey, and through McKinsey of the entire multibillion-dollar industry that is management consulting. It’s a heartbreaking tale of wasted talent.”
--Felix Salmon, finance blogger, Reuters
“Timely.… A fast-paced account of a key business institution, its deeds and misdeeds.”
“Revealing… McDonald combines a lucid chronicle of McKinsey’s growth and boardroom melodramas.”