UACES Facebook 2023 Leadership Lunch and Learn Book Review Series—The Four Agreements
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2023 Leadership Lunch and Learn Book Review Series—The Four Agreements

by Lisa Davis - July 26, 2023

Pictures of book cover and presenters-Karl Bradley and emily Gratopp

A memorable takeaway — “It’s never personal.”

The July 2023 Leadership Lunch and Learn (LLL) book review series featured The Four Agreements written by Don Miguel Ruiz and reviewed by Karl Bradley, leadership development specialist, Extension Foundation, and Emily Gratopp, extension educator, University of Nebraska-Lancaster.

Watch the recording.

This book draws on the long tradition of the Toltecs, an ancient, indigenous people of Mexico, to show us how our childhood internal guiding rules hurt us and what we can do to break and replace them with a new set of agreements with ourselves. Bradley said it is a short but impactful book.

Here is the list of the four agreements presented.

THE FIRST AGREEMENT – Be Impeccable with Your Word

In the book Ruiz talks about you being honest with your words and having integrity. Our word is the most powerful tool at our disposal for creating things. But it’s a double-edged sword. With our word we can create the most beautiful dream, or our word can destroy everything around us. As such, we must be careful how we use our power.

Bradley shared this question to ask ourselves: “Did my words uplift or depress people?”

THE SECOND AGREEMENT – Don’t Take Anything Personally

Most of the things we experience in the world aren’t specifically directed toward us. It’s like most of us are collateral victims of things that happen in the world, and we should take it as that.

We need to realize that most comments and thoughts and opinions of others say a lot more about them than they do about us. If your boss lashes out and says your work isn’t up to par, maybe s/he has just been having a rough week at home. If the server at the restaurant doesn’t greet you, maybe s/he just got verbally abused by an irate customer and hasn’t fully recovered yet. In any scenario like this, we need to recognize that these aren’t personal – the things that happen to us aren’t always a true reflection of us and our abilities.

Bradley shared this statement: “It’s never personal.”

THE THIRD AGREEMENT – Don’t Make Assumptions

Don’t assume. Making assumptions is really asking for problems. We take a tiny piece of information then extrapolate it to paint a full picture. If we believe that this picture, we’ve painted gives us a firm grasp of the situation, then we’re asking for trouble.

The biggest assumption we all make is that everybody sees the world the same way that we do. All of us view the world differently based on our background, our experiences, and our current positions. We need to realize that everybody is looking at the world through their own lens – while the outlines will generally look similar, the finer details will look completely different from person to person.

The way to overcome this is to have the courage to admit that you don’t know, then ask questions. If we get more information, we can truly know something rather than just assuming.

Bradley shared this insight: “If you have an ounce of doubt, get clarity.”


It seems obvious, of course we should always do our best, but if we think back, we can pick out something we did where we didn’t do our best. If we don’t do our best, there is a gap between how we perform and how we know that we could perform if we tried our best. We often fill this gap with guilt or regret for not doing the best we possibly could have. If every moment in your life you do your best, then there is no room for regret in our life.

What if we don’t do our best? Don’t stress about it, don’t worry about it, don’t replay the moment over in your head. Put a full stop at the end of that day. Tomorrow is another opportunity to do our best.

Bradley shared this question: “Are you fully engaged, enjoying the process and growing?”

Real World Application

Gratopp shared how she used the wisdom of the book to merge two teams together. Initially the two teams were distant, disagreed, and in conflict. She organized team meetings and incorporated discussions and excerpts from the book. The book was available but not required reading for the group. During the discussions, she asked probing questions to get input from team members and listened to what they had to say.

She said she took things one step further, and that team members collectively made commitments as individuals and as a team to the four agreements. She said the process was transformational in building trust and collaboration. The team now has a common language, level of commitment, and holds each other accountable.

Both presenters highly recommend this book.


The Four Agreements Official Website


The LLL Book Review series features leadership experts from across the south. Each presenter reviews a leadership development book. The series gives you the opportunity to hear the cliff notes version of many popular leadership development books. Join us for future LLL book reviews.

Next Webinar

August 30, 2023 – Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek, review by Dr. Hunter Goodman, assistant professor, community, workforce, and economic development at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. Register here.