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A Book About Leadership, Self-Empowerment, and Personal Growth

The Nibble Theory is about growth and self-empowerment compares a person to a circle that has the unique ability to keep expanding.

At FedEx, we have a goal of putting people first, and this book has given us the language and frameworks to do just that. The Nibble Theory is an excellent resource for leaders, managers, and anyone who wants to improve their interactions with others.
— Laurie Tucker, Senior Vice President, FedEx Global Marketing

Read an excerpt from The Nibble Theory below, or click here to purchase the book.

The Theory

This book is about growth—yours, mine, children's, co-workers', everybody's. 

It is about how all of us can grow to be the very best and most powerful persons we can imagine, as we were meant to be.

The idea is called "the nibble theory," but that name describes what not to do.

The technique for growth is simple, but it is not easy.

This is not a book about control. It's a book about self-empowerment. And growth. And celebration of self and the joy of contributing to the growth of others.

Some call this theory generous; some call it productive. I call it a way of living. 


This way of living works like a candle. Then you give away some of the light from the candle, by lighting another person's candle, there isn't less light because you've given some away, there's more. That works with love too. And that works with this growth theory.

When everybody grows, there isn't less of anybody; there's more of—and for—everybody. 


Since what we're talking about is personal growth for so many kinds of people, in so many ways, it might simplify matters to talk about growth by using a symbol.

So let's agree, shall we, that we'll let a circle stand for a person. And we will be able to diagram growth, and relative position and other things we want to talk about more easily. 


We all live in groups, all kinds or groups: families, schools, offices, factories, clubs, and social circles. Within all of these groups we each occupy a position and have influence in relation to the other members of the group.


Some are big circles—leaders, movers, shakers, initiators, independent thinkers.

Some are smaller circles—second-in-command, responders, reactors, a little less powerful.

Some are small circles indeed—followers, hesitators, even shy noncontributors.

Everybody could be big, theoretically. But some choose to be small. Some would like to be bigger but don't know how. Some never think of themselves as able to be bigger. 


Some would like to be bigger but get themselves all bent out of shape trying and never get bigger, just all out of shape.

But everybody wants to grow. It's a drive from the time we are born. And even when we are, as we say, "grown," physically, we still want to grow, in knowledge, and power, and importance in the human groups we belong to.

It's not always true that bigger is better, but in this case growing bigger is better.

There's nothing wrong with this wish to grow. The human organism is designed to grow toward health. It's healthy to want to grow - just as the physical drive to grow is healthy and irresistable.


How we grow is the thing. Many people go about it all wrong.

When two circles meet, or when they have a chance to sit down and look at each other, they size each other up. They come to know very soon who is big and who is small.


And then the relationship begins.

Two things can happen: The small circle can begin to get bigger—react as the independent, competent, contributing being she or he is.

Or, nibbling can begin.


Nibbling is a common occurance. Most people do nibble, unless they have learned to do something else. There is a better way to grow. We'll talk about that later.


Nibbles are easy to recognize, once you've seen a few:

  • You ask too many questions.
  • You always give your ideas first.
  • You're too direct.
  • You're too nice.
  • You're too concerned about people.
  • You work too hard.
  • You use too many big words.
  • You're too frank.
  • You're too friendly.
  • You're too helpful.
  • You're too emoional.
  • You're too sensitive.
  • You're too serious...
...An inspiring and helpful book on human development.
— Warren Bennis, Ph.D., School of Business Administration, USC
[The book’s] strengths are simplicity and the author’s conviction and ethusiasm.
— Richard Beckhand, Sloan School of Management, MIT
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