Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tribes - We Need You to Lead Us

Author: Seth Godin
Published: 2008
Publisher: Piatkus Books
Free Audio Download : Click Here

Of late I had been hearing quite a lot about the author Seth Godin but had not read his books. So when I saw this book in British Library, I just borrowed it. Little I realized that a big disappointment was in store for me. This book has just 130 pages of content, but the key points hardly amount to 20-30 pages. Rest is all fluff made of mere repetitions in typical evangelist fashion.

All that the author wants to say is this - there are thousands of tribes consisting of people sharing common interests ; modern technology has made it possible to connect people in a tribe; anyone can lead a tribe provided they have the willingness.
He then goes on to describe the characteristics of the Leader of such tribes and gives tips on how to lead them.

I did not find anything new or profound in this book when compared to other books. In fact I have come across better books on Leadership.

The organization of the content also leaves much to be desired. The whole book is a series of paragraphs . If it had been organized as chapters, it would have been easier to read.

A couple of positives about this book though. Its writing style is simple, conversational and easy to understand. If you need to deliver a talk on leadership, you can use some quotes and anecdotes from this book .

But all in all this is a book which you can easily skip reading if you have better things to do. It is highly overpriced - UK Pounds 10.99 - almost borders on looting. I am glad that I did not have to pay for it to read it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Like the Flowing River

Author: Paulo Coelho
Published: 2006
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers

Among all the other books of Paulo Coelho which I have read - The Alchemist, Veronika Decides to Die and The Witch of Portobello - I liked this one the best. This book is packed with over hundred odd short chapters describing the thoughts and reflections of the author. Each and every chapter in this book is like a pearl in a necklace, strung together by a golden thread. That golden thread is the underlying philosophy of Paulo Coelho. It is all about attaining and living your dreams by being in peace with the world. This is one book which left me craving for more when I finished reading it.
Margaret Jull Costa has done an excellent job in translating this book originally written in Portuguese. I never felt that I was reading a translated work.

Essence of some of my favorite chapters :
  • The Story of the Pencil : Five qualities of an ordinary pencil which a person seeking peace with the world needs to develop
  • Genghis Khan and his Falcon : Lessons Genghis Khan learnt from his pet falcon
  • The Manuel trilogy - Manuel is an Important and Necessary Man, Manuel is a Free Man, Manuel Goes to Paradise : Manuel keeps himself so busy with his work that he does not stop to think about the meaning of life. When he retires he realizes that he has passed through life but not lived it.
  • The Moment of Dawn : How do we know the exact moment when night (ignorance) ends and day (knowledge) begins ?
  • The Man who followed his Dreams : Going against what common sense tells and following one's dreams.
  • Travelling Differently: Treat any travel as a pilgrimage and get the most out of it
  • A Fairy Tale : Grow flowers of honesty
  • Brazil's Greatest Writer: Jorge Amado a writer with a great heart and sense of humility He was a source of great encouragement and help to Paulo Coelho in his early days as a author
  • Rome: Isabella Returns from Nepal: Bananas can teach you meaning of life
  • Norma and the Good Things: Life is always a reason to be happy
  • Jordan the Dead Sea : Peace is both necessary and possible. It is not the opposite of war
  • Meeting in the Dentsu Gallery : The most important things, those that shape our existence, are precisely the ones that never show their faces
  • Reflections on 11 September 2001: If the world is not going to be a safe place again, at least not for many years, then why not take advantage of that sudden change, and spend our days doing the things we have always wanted to do, but for which we always lacked courage ?
  • Alone on the Road: Life is like a great bicycle race, whose aim is to fulfill our personal legend. We all set off together , but as race progresses we face challenges like tiredness, boredom and doubts about our own abilities. Some of us get left behind and the rest come face to face with loneliness, unfamiliar bends in the road and mechanical problems with our bicycle. At a certain stage with no one to help we begin asking ourselves if it's really worth all effort. Yes it is. It's just a question of not giving up. In order to overcome these obstacles, we need four invisible forces: love, death, power and time.
  • The Funny Thing about Human Beings: Our contradictoriness. We think so much about the future that we neglect the present, and thus experience neither the present nor the future.
  • Who would like this Twenty-Dollar Bill ?: So often in our lives, we are crumpled, trampled, ill-treated, insulted, and yet, despite all that, we are still worth the same.
  • Self-Deception: It is part of human nature always to judge others very severely and, when the wind turns against us, always to find an excuse for our own misdeeds, or to blame someone else for our mistakes.
  • The Art of Trying: Given that we all live different lives, who decided what 'getting everything right' means ? Why do we have to follow any other model ? A model more often than not becomes a prison that makes us repeat what everyone else has always done. As long as it doesn't harm anyone, change your opinions now and then and be unashamedly contradictory. You have that right; it doesn't matter what other people think,because they are going to think something anyway.
  • The Catholic and the Muslim: It's a shame that people see only the differences that seperate them. If you were to look with more love, you would mainly see what we have in common, then half the world's problems would be solved.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Go Kiss the World

Author: Subroto Bagchi
Published: 2006
Publisher: Penguin Books India

It is an autobiography of Subroto Bagchi who is a well respected personality in Indian IT industry. He is one of the founders of MindTree.
"Go Kiss the World" is what his mother told him when she was on her deathbed. And that proved to be the inspiration for this book.

The book is in three parts.
Part I talks about his birth, childhood days , his first job as a clerk in Orissa government and then his first corporate job in DCM.
Part II is about his career with many IT companies culminating with a 10 year stint in Wipro
Part III deals with founding of MindTree and shares his views on leadership, management and life in general.
The book is subtitled "Life Lessons for the Young Professional" Sure enough it has a vast array of nuggets of author's experiences interspersed throughout the book.

Highly readable account . I recommend it not only for young professionals but for all the professionals and entrepreneurs.

Some inspiring excerpts from the book :

1. It's all in the mind. Everything we achieve begins in our mind.

2. The power to receive is far more important than the power to give. What matters is the capability to catalyze what you have received.

3. To get, you must first give. We need to believe that there is more in it for everyone if everyone is involved and benefits. Leaders must develop a mindset of abundance, not scarcity, as they build their organizational vision.

4. Connect with people. When a leader connects at the level of feelings, he can get his people to aspire to dizzying heights and create in them the will and ability to scale them.

5. Life is constant negotiation. Such is the dynamic nature of the world that we need to face an emergent situation with an even temperament and look for the most beneficial outcome for all concerned, given the new set of cirumstances. Leaders must look at things as they are, not as we wish they should have been. While a leader's job is to alter the reality, he cannot begin by looking at life with an altered reality.

6. Overachievement comes with a price tag. If not handled well, there is a danger that things will spin out of control at the very height of your professional career for reasons that often beat common sense. Many overachievers create their own perception of reality and develop resultant problems in dealing with other people. Sometimes one has to blessed to be ordinary. The capacity to overachieve needs to be seen as a gift from above, something we simply hold in trust, a capacity that has been given to us to create larger benefit for others; it is something that can be taken away at a moment's notice. Viewing it in this sense creates humility, which is essential when fighting the sense of altered reality most overachievers create for themselves.
One frequent theme for high achievers is frustration. Frustration without the capability to change things is like a radioactive material burning inside you. Your frustration is the difference between your ambition and your capability. Either improve your capability or lower your ambition. Do not just sit there with the radioactivity turned inward.
Not everything around you can be changed by you. The world's job is not to follow you just because you have figured things out before others. You should only be pained to change things that you can take charge of and create a sustainable impact.

7. The marginal person is important. Trying to please your boss is not beneficial in the long run. If you are consiserate towards your juniors you will be remembered for a lifetime.

8. Passion is what passion does. Too many people know what is wrong with the world. Their knowledge and intensity do not matter. What matters is making a small but real difference. That is why the Mahatma said, "Be the change you want to see".

9. Sometimes it is not inherent competence but one's resilience that decides who the winner is, particularly in the long run. Success is about your capability to withstand pain, longer.

10. The key to happiness is not money. You can acquire any amount of material success you want, but do not expect that to be the source of your happiness. This does not mean you should give up the desire to earn, but in doing so, keep low expectations on its ability to give you happiness. Money is important in life but not the source of any lasting happiness.

11. Look beyond yourself. Your pain is only as large as your inability to see pain elsewhere.

12. Real men say sorry. Great leaders are people who can quickly and genuinely say that they are sorry. By saying sorry, you do not become weak. You shorten the path from the head to the heart.

13. In life, one must learn to forgive others and, sometimes oneself.

14. Self-doubt is positive. Periodically we are all entitled to sef-doubt. There will be moments when you feel you are at a crossroads; times when you question the very meaning of life and the existence of god. You are not the only one to feel this way. It is rite of passage. People who create great impact suffer from moments of great soul-searching. In itself, it is a good sign because from the depth of our self-doubt we learn to let go; from that emerges a conviction and with it comes the capability to go kiss the world.

Friday, May 8, 2009

You Can Win

Author: Shiv Khera
Published: 1998
Publisher: Macmillan India Ltd.

This book lay idle in my bookshelf for 9 long years, when I finally picked it up to read it. A typical self-help book, written in a very simple and easy to understand language. It consists of eight chapters laying out a step by step approach for
a) building a positive attitude
b) developing winning strategies for success
c) motivating yourself and others
d) building positive positive self-esteem and image
e) building a pleasing personality
f) forming positive habits and character
g) setting and achieving your goals
h) developing values and vision
The book is liberally peppered with inspiring quotes and anecdotes. Layout of the book is also quite pleasing and it is very easy to locate a topic, a quote or an anecdote.
In spite of all the above good points, I am not very impressed with this book. I find it too prescriptive. But it may appeal to readers who prefer this approach.
In fact a reader has been greatly inspired by this book to type it out fully and make it available on the web free. Visit I think this is a violation of the copyright, but I am not sure.