I like a good story. In this case I found both entertainment as well as food for thought in a set of thrillers that have been getting published over the last few years.

Colter Shaw

Jeffery Deaver’s Colter Shaw novels – The Never Game, The Goodbye Man, The Final Twist as well as the related short stories make for fast-paced, fun reading. Colter, the protagonist of the stories is a reward seeker, generally helping families reunite with missing loved ones.

Two traits of his stayed with me. When conducting his work or navigating dangerous situations, he is methodical about calculating the odds. And he has a list of nevers.

Never assume you’re safe. Never leave yourself vulnerable. Never assume someone is coming to your aid. […] Never approach a task, or assess a threat, without calculating the odds.

Deaver, Jeffery. Captivated

I think we probably all do this in some sense, it is just that he is pretty explicit about it. Those nevers and the methodical thinking about odds help him be successful, when on a case.

It makes for entertaining storytelling. It also got me wondering about those nevers myself.


If you wanted to make a list for yourself, you will likely want it to be relevant for your own profession, your own life, for your own specific contexts. Your nevers depend on your environment(s) and they depend on you.

Something like this:

  • Never share the first draft.
  • Never leave the wet laundry in the washer over night.
  • Never forget her birthday.
  • Never smoke.
  • Never [ . . . ]

Your list may be useful for others, but it should fundamentally be yours. It is an invitation to make strong statements that reflect your own beliefs.

Declarative and pithy, they are an attempt to set rules and bring structure to improve your odds. You can recall them to feel a sense of unease or alarm when you are in a situation that pushes you against a never. You can use the never to help you decide on a path.


Clayton Christensen, of the theory of disruptive innovation fame wrote in How will you measure your life about the marginal costs mistake:

[…] it’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time. If you give in to “just this once,” based on a marginal cost analysis, as some of my former classmates have done, you’ll regret where you end up. You’ve got to define for yourself what you stand for and draw the line in a safe place.

So, some things not at all.


The fourth volume in the series, Hunting Time, is due November 2022. Come for the entertainment, the escape. Think about never.


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