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Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice – Book 30 Review

Posted by Mrityunjay on November 27, 2018

A real life story that reads like a thriller and spy novel- that’s Red Notice for you. The book is about Bill Browder and his firm, Hermitage Capital that was one of the most sought-after western investment funds in Russia. In the chaos that ensued in the post-Soviet privatization of the early 1990s, Hermitage emerged as the front runner for making money in the deeply undervalued securities of the erstwhile USSR. But making money in the hugely flawed Russian capital market, which still had remnants of communist era bureaucratic corruption prevalent in almost every sphere was no easy task. On one hand, the world’s newest capitalist playground offered opportunities of a lifetime in oil & gas sector which was trading at a fraction of Exxons and BPs of the world, its serpentine labyrinth of red-tapism and oligarchy muscle power proved to be a tough nut to crack for even the most battle-hardened investors of Wall Street.

Bill Browder belonged to a pretty distinguished family. His grandfather ran for President as a Communist, his parents were real lefties and guess what, he became a capitalist in reaction to all that. Alumni of Stanford Business School, Browder started in Poland, as a consultant, on a bus deal. Gradually, he worked his way to Russia, after getting Edmond Safra to invest in his fund. What he managed to figure out before anyone else, that the Russian stock market was incredibly undervalued, and that shares distributed to the public were actually more valuable than preferred, voting shares.

The first half of the book feels like an adventure story, as in going to different places and having one.red Reading the first hand account of Browder’s incredible entrepreneurial journey as he keeps climbing the ladders of success with his ingenious methods and networking skills, gives you a heady rush. You will love the segment where Browder and his mate crash the World Economic Forum in Davos. Don’t they say, Success is all about chutzpah? Bill was a risk taker who against all common sense went to work in Eastern Europe just after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. It actually says a lot about his smartness how he sensed the business opportunities in Russia when most of other big investment bankers preferred to err on the side of caution. He built up his business, kept chasing investors and established Hermitage capital. All was going well for Browder, whose firm managed to turn the relatively modest $25million portfolio into a $1billion fund virtually overnight. This was, of course, until they came up against a ruthless oligarchy, determined to hold onto all of the spoils from their nefarious state-capture schemes.

The tales of corruption prevalent in Russian society is shocking, Or perhaps not so much, if you are an Indian citizen. In Russia, corruption means that you might have the most law-abiding business out there, but if you do something that the local political elite does not like, then things start to happen. Let’s try to figure out the modus operandi as explained in a website – “It all starts with several corrupt policemen raiding your offices, your lawyers’ offices, your business partners’ offices and taking away everything they find with them. It will be followed by a battery of corrupt lawyers and state officials forging documents that, to your utter surprise, show that you sold the company half a year ago to some convicted criminal, but just before the “sale” you applied for $230m tax rebate from the government, were given this money and then stole it before leaving the country. Experiencing WTF moment? Hold on. It goes further. Then, at the court (in absentia), corrupt judges refuse all documented proof that this is not true and she sentences you to 9-year of prison. In the meantime, your local lawyer who presented all the authentic documenting proof about your company being stolen from you and the alleged theft of tax money being actually conducted by corrupt state officials, gets arrested too and sent to prison cell with 10 inmates and 4 beds. If by any chance he develops some serious medical ailments because of poor treatment and lack of food in the prison, he is denied any medical attention by corrupt prison doctors and corrupt prison guards. Lastly, he is beaten to death with batons by corrupt “investigators”. That’s not all. All the corrupt officials who orchestrated the whole drama including the judge get awarded by the state. This is what corruption and well, life, is in modern Russia”.

The lawyer mentioned above, Sergei Magnitsky was the focal point of Hermitage’s resistance to the nexus of politicians, policemen, oligarchs loyal to Putin. That unfortunately, earned him the ire of Putin, finally culminating in his death. While the rest of the team was fighting the whole system headquartered in London, Magnitsky stayed put in Russia and remained proud throughout his ordeal. Bill Browder could never get rid of that guilt and relentlessly campaigned for the ‘Magnitsky Act’ — a targeted set of sanctions against those complicit in his death, backed by legislation. After years of struggle in the US congress and European Parliament he is successful by getting visa bans and asset freezes to all of 50 or so corrupt officials directly connected to the unjust arrest, judgement, torture and murder of Sergei Magnitsky. The second half of the book is totally dedicated to Magnitsky Act based on Bill’s lobbying and ability to garner political support for the same. That whole narration also gives you a glimpse into Bill Browder’s transformation from a highly-regarded international investment banker to his re-incarnation as an international human rights campaigner. The passing of the act was a huge milestone in the history of human rights movement considering it was against the wishes of a powerful world leader- Vladimir Putin.

The Red Notice is a great read but the real triumph is the book’s middle act, which reads like a classic thriller, weaving a tale of corruption, intrigue and murder in the mould of famous mystery writers. The writing style does manage to draw an emotional response from the reader and it’s hard to put down the book once you start reading it. The book successfully manages to articulate the anger, frustration and triumph of Bill Browder’s life. If you are into Russian history and are familiar with capital market, you will enjoy it even more. Red Notice also opens the door to understanding of Russian culture as in kind of pessimism and nihilism that has personified Russian literature throughout the ages. The cynicism and ruthlessness of many of the characters he encounters would fit well into the writings of Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov et al. A great read. Go for it.

Happy Reading folk. Cheers.

 

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Creativity, Inc. – Book 29 Review

Posted by Mrityunjay on November 13, 2018

What Apple is to mobiles, Pixar is perhaps the same or rather, more to art of film making. And guess, what is the common link between two? Steve Jobs. But “Creativity, Inc.,” by Ed Catmull is not a book about Apple or Jobs; rather it offers much more. Having been a huge fan of Pixar films like Toy Story, Up, Wall-E, Monsters Inc. and The Incredibles among others, I wanted to read this book as a way to see in and understand how films I like get made. What I discovered instead was an awe-inspiring glimpse into a creative business culture where a top-down management is eschewed in favour of openness and sharing. The book offers an amazing history of passion, animation, creativity process, insight into human emotions and the numerous struggles in order to achieve perfection.

edThe story of Pixar is not just about movies produced by the studio but also the people in it as well as the business culture of making films. Reason why I mentioned Steve Jobs in the beginning was, without his fierce drive and foresight, Pixar would have found it tough to attain the heights it has found for itself. Though, it’s not as straight forward as you think. There are many more layers to his rescuing Pixar and subsequent selling to Disney.

Creativity, Inc., can be termed as a management book or a creative book or an autobiography or all of these. It covers a wide spectrum including the obvious concepts like communicate better, foster trust, build a Kumbaya culture that will give rise to game-changing ideas, pay attention etc. Though what actually resonated with me was how Ed Catmull with the help of some smart people built something that profoundly changed the animation business and, along the way, popular culture. Just think of “Toy Story,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Ratatouille” and “Finding Nemo.” There is so much more to these stories than just dollops of cuteness.

Mr. Ed Catmull had studied computer graphics in graduate school in an era when nobody had heard of it.George Lucas recruited him in 1979 to help work special-effects images into live action footage. Thus began, his first monumental struggle when human beings resisted change. In this case, film editors at Lucasfilms had serious reservation about working with computers. Earlier they were snipping filmstrips with razor blades and gluing them together (yeah, that’s how primitive things were!) and they felt any other method wouldn’t work. That gave Catmull his first management lesson- a transformative idea, no matter how good, was useless unless the people who had to implement it fully embraced the concept.

What actually got Ed Catmull going with his visions was hiring of a talented young Disney animator named John Lasseter who was skilled at emphasizing the importance of storytelling. Usual trend was displaying the “wow” factor of computer animation whereas Mr. Lasseter knew that visual polish didn’t matter much if you don’t get the story right. He just improvised a bit by adding a simple idea—introducing a second character to interact with the main one—thus enabling much needed emotional tension that all of us can relate to. Though the creativity ball was set into motion but the actual magic started taking shape only years later when Steve Jobs, between stints at Apple, agreed to finance the purchase of the Pixar unit from Lucasfilm. Infusion of fresh capital was great news for struggling Pixar but then there was dominant presence of intense, intimidating Steve Jobs to deal with. This association had its ups and downs but eventually it helped Pixar in getting launched into stratosphere. Their first full-fledged movie was “Toy Story” (1995), which was a phenomenal success. That led to $140 million initial public offering for Pixar which was lapped up by investors. This was the beginning of Pixar Era.

Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar Animation Studios essentially describes the making of the creative Pixar-Characters-21culture in Creativity, Inc., As he says, “Unleashing creativity requires that we loosen the controls, accept risk, trust our colleagues, work to clear the path for them, and pay attention to anything that creates fear.” Developing a sustainable culture that allowed people to do their best work and removed impediments to creativity is no easy task. He kept asking himself questions like; where are we still deluded? How do we think about failures and fears? How to create stories that anyone can connect to? The last chapter titled “Thoughts for Managing a Creative Culture,” offers a master class in creative leadership. It offers 33 gems ranging from managing fear and failure in an organization to protecting new ideas and imposing productive limits. Don’t confuse process with the goals. He keeps insisting on linking ideas about creative work to behaviors (even ones that ultimately fail). All his ideas here are told through tales of their implementation, which makes it pretty fascinating read.

Small details are far more important than they appear. For instance, Toy Story taught him the value of bringing together product managers with artists and technicians. To prevent the risk-averse repackaging of what has worked well before—a common temptation that Mr. Catmull calls “craft without art”—he insisted that his team do new things with the help of Braintrust, an open internal platform for discussing ideas. What has worked well before may not work again. So have no complacency. Catmull demonstrated it in totality while making “Ratatouille” (2007), the film about the Parisian rat who wants to be a chef, he dispatched a group to Paris—not only to eat well but also to visit the kitchens, talk to the chefs and, yes, muck through the Paris sewer system, home to many rats. That’s the level of authenticity and precision Pixar stands for. Similarly, For “Monsters University” (2013), a dozen Pixar people visited campuses like Princeton, Harvard and MIT to check out the dorms, lecture halls, student hangouts and classrooms. “You’ll never stumble upon the unexpected if you stick only to the familiar,” Mr. Catmull says.

The narrative of Creativity, Inc.  is seasoned with lessons Ed Catmull learned in the course of building an American icon. Catmull separates his book into four parts: “Getting Started,” “Protecting the New,” “Building and Sustaining,” and “Testing What We Know.” This is a well-told tale, full of detail about an interesting, intricate business. For fans of Pixar films, it’s a must-read. For fans of management books, it belongs on the “value added” shelf. In my humble opinion, it’s one of the half-dozen best books that have been written about creative business and creative leadership. Ever. Go for it.

Happy Reading folk. Cheers.

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Book 28 Review

Posted by Mrityunjay on October 20, 2018

Its fun getting back to childhood books, especially when you haven’t read too many of them and now trying to catch up with all that you missed. Also the fact that, childhood literature consisted of Hindi giants like Premchand, Shivani, Renu, Nirala et al, western literature feels more like acquired taste but somehow more connectable. I have been reading witty quotes of Mark Twain since as long as I can remember, but his book is something else. Mark Twain always struck me as an open-minded gentleman with a strong sense of humor and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a fine demonstration of that. Tom Sawyer is one of the classic childhood adventure books, telling the story of Tom (a naughty youngster from the South of the US in the 19th century) and his many mischiefs.

Reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as an adult is still lots of fun. Mark Twain has a wonderful tomwriting style which keeps this book very interesting and flowing. The book also contains a good deal of social commentary which the author manages to convey with “boyish” way of thinking. It’s a quick read which keeps throwing you back to your childhood, recalling similar thoughts, wishes and behaviour. According to Mr. Twain, the book is “a history of a boy.” He further claims that the characters and plot are based on real people and events in his own boyhood. The resulting tale is as lively as you could imagine.

The main protagonist Tom Sawyer is full of mischief and constantly in search of new adventures, new tricks to play, or new ways to break the rules without getting into trouble. Throughout the book, there is a strong undercurrent of moral, psychological and intellectual development of Tom. It combines the past with the present in a way that the reader will personally identify with. You will also get to witness life in the Mississippi River town where Twain himself spent his youth. For children reading the book, the adventures are quite exciting. Although this book is believed to be for young adults and adults, I remember reading the “whitewashing of the fence” in middle school in an English text book which also gives us a good clue about Tom’s nature. It’s about how Tom was ordered by Aunt Polly to whitewash the fence as a punishment resulting from one of his mischiefs. But being smart ass that he is, Tom manipulates other boys into completing the job for him and by the time fence is all whitewashed, Tom is also a wealthy boy with the treasures (marbles, bits of glass, firecrackers etc) of other kids. He actually played it so smart that other kids bought their turn at the fence. It’s a pretty famous scene with one underlying message- “that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.”

Similarly, Tom is also used to enacting age-old scheme of playing sick in order to get out of school. As is with kids, Tom loves to use melodrama to get his way. Though, it backfires on him every now and then. Then there is first brush of romance and subsequent heartbreak. It was fun reading Tom’s lovesick musings. Furthermore, heartbreak leads to disenchantment and decision of becoming a pirate with two friends, Joe and Huck in tow. In addition to all the pranks and rascally ways, Tom has a sentimental side to him. Tom also demonstrates a heroic side. After witnessing a murder, Tom decides to testify in court. He later saves the widow Douglas from attack and finds Injun Joe’s buried treasure–thereby becoming wealthy and famous. He gets into trouble on numerous occasions but it’s also a fact that, Tom is pretty honest and commands a certain degree of goodness and courage.

First published in 1876, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer offers you dollops of humor, innocence of childhood, slavery, nostalgia, revenge, murder and several little reminders of what was and what should have been. Being an adult, you can also sense typical Twain satire that runs through the story criticizing the eccentricities and hypocrisies of human nature. Classics like these are hard to come by!

Happy Reading folk. Cheers.

 

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The Stranger – Book 27 Review

Posted by Mrityunjay on October 10, 2018

He expects nothing from life or people, and cultivates nothing. Neither hopeful nor cynical, just flowing with the feeling of sameness all through day and night. Morality is not subjected to control and order but autonomy and liberty. One act is the same as another in the long run. There is neither hope nor a dint of cynicism. One act is the same as another in the long run. There is no sign of aspiration or quest. No materialistic ambitions. An anti-hero in the mould of Kafka’s Jospeh. Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s a pleasure to introduce you to Meursault- protagonist of existentialist drama called “The Stranger”. As indifferent as piercing rays of summer sun and motionless waves of sea, Meursault represents urban disintegration and a by-product of routinized work.

Though published in 1942 by famous French author Albert Camus, Meursault could very well be representing modern day apathy prevalent in our generation. The character feels so indifferent, unable to tune himself to how society expects him to behave and express certain emotions during the moments of tragedy. It feels so relatable when you find him moving on from humdrum of day to day dreadful existence. Call it existential crisis or merely a product of his circumstances, that’s how he is. Can’t float on the surface of ecstasy and can’t wail in the depths of despair with any iota of supposedly natural expressions. Throughout the story you get the distinct impression that he does not conform.  He does not follow the norms set out by society about how we should be. He is merely a soul without any moral compass. He is not a bad person; he is just unable to subscribe to moral code set out by society. I mean, how do you judge a person who does not weep at his mother’s funeral? An anti-social criminal who does not play the worldly games and hence eternally condemned? Or he is just plain ‘different’? That’s the crux of the book.

camusI had fallen in love with Albert Camus when I had read his “The Fall”. His short, crisp writing style with dollops of penetrating sentences was an instant connect. Born in Algeria, this writer who was also a philosopher, author, and journalist, won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. “The Stranger” is one of the most widely read French novels of the twentieth century. Originally written in French, it has been translated in many languages. The Stranger is an apt title as Meursault is a perfect stranger in every sense, whether he being a foreigner in Algeria, an outsider to society, and of course a bit of a stranger to those around him. If I dare a bit more, I will say, he is also a stranger to himself. Consider the opening of the book– “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know.”   You getting the drift?

The Stranger unfolds through Mersault’s perspective, and is divided into two main parts—before he committed the most senseless crime, and how society perceives him after his arrest. Throughout the book, he has a matter-of-fact tone. Whether you find him apathetic or sympathetic depends on your nature and inclination. His description about his mother’s death is in some way weird and at the same time revealing of how Mersault’s brain was wired. Check his emotions- “It occurred to me that anyway one more Sunday was over, that Maman was buried now, that I was going back to work, and that, really, nothing had changed.” First part of the book is about his day to day affairs and not for a moment you will find traces of passion or any strong emotions. When he commits the senseless murder, he had no motive except for intolerable heat.

Mersault’s trial feels like a circus; a complete farce uncovering the methods of society layer by layer. Everyone expects him to feel remorse for his crime but there is none. His atheist mindset does not help his cause as well. Merasault is not happy about the fact that his guilt is being established without his participation. Readers get a feeling that he is not exactly being punished for murder but for his behaviour after his mother’s death. Pronounced guilty in a hasty verdict, Mersault‘s trial was against the protagonist’s character more than it was about his crime. The novel concludes with a scintillating monologue when Merasault launches an impassioned tirade after a chaplain attempts to salvage his soul. To him, nothing mattered and he believed everyone was privileged to live and be carried by the tides of fate, and all of us are equally condemned to face an end—whatever that end may be. With that outburst he actually takes command of his fate, relegating death to merely a result of the choices he’s made. And these choices did not matter to him. It was simply the way his life unfolded.

To wind up, “The Stranger” shakes you and your existing notions about life, death, freedom and choices. Even though he is condemned to death, he still feels that he is free. And if you think you are more free than others because you don’t give a two hoot about societal norms and notions of convention, then do we have any right to consider you limited or condemned? Living on your own terms is worth more than what the world views as rational behaviour. Mersault also made me think about concept of remorse. Not having any interest in introspection or religion or worship or regrets is actually fascinating. Do these really matter in the end when death is certain? May be these notions are too bleak but I find them worth considering. After all it’s all about desire to be free. To be free is humane. Cold and detached it may sound but then you have got every right to live your life the way you deem fit. Go for it if you are interested in philosophy, existentialism and absurdist literature.

Happy Reading folk. Cheers.

 

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The Magician’s Nephew (The Chronicles of Narnia)- Book 26 Review

Posted by Mrityunjay on October 1, 2018

Those even slightly interested in fantasy genre, must have heard of “Chronicles of Narnia” series. As most of us believe Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan were the first children of our world who traveled to Narnia and met Aslan. But the truth is, two kids named, Digory and Polly were the first to be actually there when Narnia was created. The Narnia series is better known for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe but The Magician’s Nephew is recognised as first book in the Chronicles of Narnia because it’s about the earliest events in Narnia’s history. However in certain records, it is sometimes listed as Book 6 because it was the sixth book in the series to be published. Six more books followed this one and together they became known as The Chronicles of Narnia. Written by C.S. Lewis, this prequel is a child’s delight.

My adult version would like to be critical but the inner child thoroughly relished this fantasy. Having watched the movie version when it was first released here, it was never as engrossing as The Lord of the Rings series but it was always decent fun along with likes of Harry Potters and Golden Compass of the world. As for the plot, the magician’s nephew in question is a boy named Digory who along with his friend, Polly, found his uncle performing secret experiments — and they soon become his guinea pigs. They get transported to a strange in-between place that houses portals to many mysterious worlds. In their relentless journey, they find themselves housed in enigmatic land called Narnia.narnia

But no make mistake. Story is not as simple and smooth as it sounds. Which good story have you ever found simple? In their rollercoaster journey, Polly and Digory had the misfortune to meet megalomaniac and murderous Queen Jadis who wishes to conquer all the dimensions through sheer brute force. The Magician’s Nephew is all about how two young fellows discover their courage and stop Jadis from conquering our own planet? Also, it’s an exhilarating tale of how the duo makes their way to Narnia and their encounter with Aslan.

The book has got a different feel in terms of literature. More like old-fashioned in a fable like structure with decent language proficiency. This is an introduction to the world of Narnia and it can’t get more detailed than that. In fact, many Narnia fans will be delighted to come across details that they’ll recognize from the later stories. For example, did you ever wonder why there’s a lamp-post in Narnia? Or where the hell the Witch came from? You’ll find the explanation in The Magician’s Nephew! C.S.Lewis has an engaging writing style that is more about beautiful descriptions rather than nonstop action. There is so much attention to detail to the way a different world was built from the scratch. Book feels of decent length and size for a young child.

The strength of ‘The Magician’s Nephew’ lies in all–adventure, lovable protagonists, a remarkably strong villain, an interesting plot, and even the occasional well-placed comedic relief. London of 1900s is depicted with vivid details. The writing style is such that you can visualize the novel’s individual scenes perfectly. From the isolated and downright eerie mood at Charn (the world Jadis massacred), to the warm, pure simplicity of the earthy scent of sun-baked grass in Narnia. All feeding your imagination while keeping the rest of the story at a suitably speedy pace. My favourite bit is story of Jadis and destruction of Charn and the actual creation of Narnia. It makes for an extremely powerful moment, along with the unique reactions each character has to what they are seeing before them. I have got the entire series in one volume and I will be devouring them in slow fashion. Go, feed your inner dormant child.

Happy Reading folk. Cheers.

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Siddhartha – Book 25 Review

Posted by Mrityunjay on September 23, 2018

The book “Siddhartha” has got quite a cult status among the literature aficionados.  And rightfully so. This book makes sense on so many levels. Though not all answers are given and perhaps you are meant to find your own direction but it does give you a sneak view of what Hindu dharma philosophizes. For an Indian and a Hindu, there might be nothing new in stages leading up to Siddhartha’s quest for self-actualization but for a western reader, it is a great introduction to the concept of Hinduism. I remember reading “Autobiography of a Yogi” for the first time back in college and I was most taken in by the early chapters – the parts where the title character is running away from home and seeking Truth with a bunch of crazy half-starved monks. College kid inside me was obsessed with esoteric. There was this unquenchable thirst for meaning of life, who am I, what am I, what am I destined to etc etc though the answers of these still evade me. But unlike the teen years, I have made my peace with not knowing answers of great many questions. They just reveal themselves when they have to.

Herman Hesse’s mysterious novelette about Eastern religion rings true to the unsolved mystery of desire and calling. When you read a spiritual book in your mid-thirties, your broken ideals and consolidated cynicism either gets a boost or you try to see things in a totally new perspective. So many of us can somewhere identify with middle aged Siddhartha making his way in the outside world, finding a woman and attaining a measure of material success and the same time, a hidden part of us remains tethered to the spiritual musings. Don’t we all get an occasional urge of throwing away all our worldly goods and become a hermit meditating in some caves in Himalayas or turn into a ferryman on some remote river like Siddhartha did? But then a cliché of family, kids, world, responsibility and what not prevents us from going to the same extremes or ever approach a state of Nirvana, but the basic arch of a human life is there for each of us to follow. Somewhere Herman Hesse’s treatise will resonate with you. The pattern of our childhood when every word uttered by our parents is a holy hymn, in our youth we break away looking for independence and self-understanding then process of settling down in adulthood, trying to make a living while fulfilling our responsibilities and finally if we are lucky, our last couple of decades on earth will give us enough spare time to once again reflect on life’s eternal questions.

Siddhartha-Hermann-HesseHermann Hesse was a German-Swiss poet, novelist, and painter who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946. Siddhartha is his masterpiece, a “continually rising trajectory of an idea, the fundamentally religious idea of how to ‘live more abundantly’. His basic question pertains to ‘what should we do with our lives?’ As Siddhartha says- I have always thirsted for knowledge, I have always been full of questions. As you dig deeper into the book you will get acquainted with philosophical understanding and spiritual insight dripping effortlessly from each of its pages. It makes you desire a more natural and direct engagement with life. The book possess no adorned style and though there is linguistic and conceptual density but with an almost fable like air. Simpler a thing, greater the sense it imparts. As the author says, ““Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else … Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.”

Have you ever heard of a saying that “if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!” now don’t take it literally. It simply exhorts you to value your own experiential understanding prioritizing it above formerly conceived philosophies or institutions of organised religion when it comes to the search for spiritual liberation and enlightenment. This is the central tenet of Buddhism and was exemplified by the Buddha himself from initial renunciation of his princely life and his subsequent experimentation with, and ultimate rejection of, all the doctrines popular in India at the time. He developed his own understanding and subsequently knew himself to have attained Nirvana. However, Siddhartha is not about the Buddha himself though everything inside it will suggest you otherwise. It is primarily a fictional representation of Siddhartha Gautama, the historical founder of Buddhism. There are many parallels between the Buddha and Siddhartha our protagonist in the book and at best, it can be termed as a metaphor of what all you need to think and realize in order to attain self-fulfilment.

“I have had to experience so much stupidity, so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow, just in order to become a child again and begin anew. I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths, to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.” Path of true enlightenment is paved with quiet determination and rigorous personal honesty. There is no shortcut. The path is always lonesome but such is the method that enlightenment can only be achieved by an individual’s own understanding and that this personal road is littered with the bodies of the many Buddhas it is necessary to “kill”. Written in the third person perspective, Siddhartha has a meditative and poetic style. Compressed in 120 odd pages, the book packs a heavy punch. It sings to you provided you are willing to listen to it. Like Siddhartha, we can search wherever we want but ultimately we need to remain our own pupil.  While the questions will keep coming to me, I will continue listening with an open mind to the rants of any Shaman. Do read it.

Happy Reading folk. Cheers.

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A Feast of Vultures: The Hidden Business of Democracy in India – Book 24 Review

Posted by Mrityunjay on September 17, 2018

A mud hut. Melancholic inside and Backdrop of Mumbai’s skyscrapers merging into smog. That’s how A Feast of Vultures pulls you in with its cover photo. In a way, it perfectly sets the tone and your expectations from the book. Written by Josy Joseph, it’s a hard hitting book revealing layers of corruption in most basic units of Indian society to the drawing rooms of high and mighty. Drawing upon his two decades of investigating journalism career, the author ruffles several feathers here. If you are interested about the shadowy men who run the nation’s politics, business rivalries that threaten the economic well being of country, of corporate honchos practically owning the country etc then this is the book for you.

How often have you heard or read, “India is the fastest growing economy”? If that was the case, what feastwould explain the dreadful poverty that plagues the nation? I mean, the entire purpose of economic growth leads to better standards of living for citizens, doesn’t it? At the same time, wherever I have resided, whichever business I have tried; I have always ended up realizing something is deeply wrong with this country. Corruption is a part of our DNA. In fact, coming across an honest officer feels like 9th wonder of the world. This book is everything that won’t give you one reason to feel proud of your country, its leaders and bureaucrats. In a way, Josy Joseph portrays a bleak and sinister picture of the Indian system. It’s a miracle that despite the prevalent chaos, we are still standing as a nation. Not because of them but despite them.

Josy Joseph is an award-winning investigative journalist based in New Delhi. He has worked with The Hindu, The Times of India, DNA, Rediff.com, the Asian Age, Delhi Mid Day, and the Blitz among others. He has also been awarded several times including ‘Journalist of the Year’ in print media by the Ramnath Goenka Foundation run by the Indian Express group. This book is a culmination of his breakthrough reportage covering all the hierarchies of Indian society. A Feast of Vultures opens in an ordinary village and winds up outside the palatial residence of one of the richest Indians. In the pages in between, he introduces us to flourishing phenomenon of middlemen in modern India who facilitate access to decision makers, and manipulate government decisions. These middlemen are the ones that sustain the stunning level of corruption in everyday life in India. They are ubiquitous, all pervasive from the grams panchayats to 7, Racecourse road and Raisina Hill, these middlemen are instrumental in deciding the destiny of our great(!) nation.

A Feast of Vultures is an old and sordid tale written crisply, maintaining a taut narration as the author reveals stories of infamous politician-businessman nexus. The early chapters touch on RK Dhawan, who started as Indira Gandhi’s typist and miraculously became one of the most powerful men in the land. Same with Vincent George. These men, who possessed no other virtue except loyalty, decided our fates. A trustworthy aid can soon turn into a confidant and then into a co-conspirator, as trust is the most important thing when there is something to hide. As the author writes,

“The youth-turned aviation entrepreneur, the old man who lives in a mansion and the typist with many properties are all mere glimpses of the influence wielded by the fortunate aides in the Indian system. If you want the Indian system to work for you, it is critical that you understand the power of the personal assistant. Even in this touch-screen era.”

They were instrumental in methodical deconstruction of Indian Institutions and systems. The most entertaining chapter of the book covers the story of ‘Taki’ – East West’s late Thakiyuddin Wahid. I wonder how many of us know this name? He comes across a visionary who started India’s first private airline in many decades, but who was finally gunned down in the 90’s because he grew too big too fast. Mr. Joseph hints about politician-underworld nexus in this case. After reading the text, you will also have a fair idea about the role played by Naresh Goyal (founder of Jet Airways) in this gruesome saga.

Joseph details the effects of these entrenched systems of influence and corruption on the corporate sector. The story of Jet Airways is a textbook example of how literally anyone with enough political connections can start from nothing and become a billionaire. There are open revelations of nexus between politicians-businessmen with terrorists like Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Rajan which only emphasizes how deep the rot is. The narrative is unflinching and unfolds sometimes with the pace of a whodunit, but always retains a faithful journalistic eye. It names names and touches the highest echelons of power.

Then there is this disturbing story that paints the former Governor of Punjab (2005-10), Gen. S F Rodrigueoes in less-than-favourable light. That certainly is a bit of a shock. Army persons were always considered sacrosanct but then don’t be misguided with such lofty ideals and hopes.  Mr. Jospeh also hits hard at the likes of Jindal, Mallya and Ambanis who have bent rules as per their will. Naveen Jindal destroyed the environment of Chattisgarh using all the foul means. Ambani raged an orphanage to build his matchbox residence. Mallya did whatever he wanted to and now leads a luxurious life in London. To hell with warrants, notices and extradition treaties. Then the likes of BJP’s Arun Jaitley and the Congress’s Abhishek Manu Singhvi who play both ways. Happy to appear in court for corporate interests in the day and castigate the governments of the day for selling out to corporate interests that same night as spokesmen of their parties. Even the likes of CBI and Judiciary are full of moles. Top leaders get bail and hearing as per their convenience. Law only applies to common citizens. CBI, the agency created to nab the corrupts is toothless. A former director, Ranjit Sinha had compromised the telecom investigation using all the means available to him and what happened to him? Oh nothing! He must be residing somewhere luxuriously sipping Chivas with the crooked he was supposed to prosecute.

Weaving together the daily struggles of its poorest with the shenanigans of its rich, A Feast of Vultures clinically examines and irrefutably documents the crisis gripping the world’s largest democracy. For anyone interested in understanding modern India, this is a must read. I would recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in understanding how our nation functions [or doesn’t].

Happy Reading folk. Cheers.

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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life- Book 23 Review

Posted by Mrityunjay on September 10, 2018

There is an old anecdote about Pablo Picasso in which he sits in a café sipping coffee and doodling on a napkin. When he rises to leave, the woman at the next table offers to buy the napkin and asks if he will sell it.

“’Sure,’ Picasso replied. ‘Twenty thousand dollars.’

“The woman’s head jolted back as if he had just flung a brick at her. ‘What? It took you like two minutes to draw that.’

“’No, ma’am,’ Picasso said. ‘It took me over sixty years to draw this.’ He stuffed the napkin in his pocket and walked out of the café.”

There are quite a few anecdotes like that in this interesting book. At first glance, the title of the book looked like a desperate attempt to garner eyeballs. Being different by appearing different instead of actually being one. Mark Manson, Author of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck,” has involved lots of swearing in this book but then you don’t really give much f*uck about it, do you?! One endearing part about this book is Mark doesn’t play around the bush but tells you the harsh truth, ( Disappointing Panda, he calls it). Not much sugarcoating, just an attempt to cut through all the bullshi*s and concentrate on the important things in your life. “Not giving a f**k does not mean been indifferent; it means being comfortable with being different”, Manson writes.

subtleThe Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck goes away from the positive psychology craze and rather provides you with a Stoic, no bullshit approach to living a life. A life that’s more about being meaningful and less about trying to be happy and successful all the time. Mark Manson emphasizes that it’s actually liberating when life doesn’t have to ooze happy vibes all the time. There is something weird about positive psychology and what’s that? Sometimes it just doesn’t work. Days and weeks pass by leaving you wondering what the hell did all the toiling and grinding result into? Ideally, you should have felt satisfied and happy but then you are far from ecstatic moods that your perceived success is supposed to bring to you. And what does Mark have to say about such questions; well, don’t give a fu*k about it.

To demonstrate what exactly his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck: A Counter-intuitive Approach to Living a Good Life is all about, Mark Manson starts with an anecdote about the eccentric poet and novelist Charles Bukowski.

“Charles Bukowski was an alcoholic, a womanizer, a chronic gambler, a lout, a cheapskate, a deadbeat, and on his worst days, a poet. He’s probably the last person on earth you would ever look to for life advice or expect to see in any sort of self-help book.

“Which is why he’s the perfect place to start.

“Bukowski wanted to be a writer. But for decades his work was rejected by almost every magazine, newspaper, journal, agent, and publisher he submitted to. His work was horrible, they said. Crude. Disgusting. Depraved. And as the stacks of rejection slips piled up, the weight of his failures pushed him deep into an alcohol-fueled depression that would follow him for most of his life.

“Bukowski had a day job as a letter-filer at a post office. He got paid shit money and spent most of it on booze. He gambled away the rest at the racetrack. At night, he would drink alone and sometimes hammer out poetry on his beat-up old typewriter. Often, he’d wake up on the floor, having passed out the night before.

“Then, when Bukowski was fifty, after a lifetime of failure and self-loathing, an editor at a small independent publishing house took a strange interest in him. The editor couldn’t offer Bukowski much money or much promise of sales. But he had a weird affection for the drunk loser, so he decided to take a chance on him.

“Upon signing the contract, Bukowski wrote his first novel in three weeks. It was called simply Post Office. In the dedication, he wrote, ‘Dedicated to nobody.’ Bukowski would make it as a novelist and poet. He would go on and publish six novels and hundreds of poems, selling over two million copies of his books .

“Stories like Bukowski’s are the bread and butter of our cultural narrative. Bukowski’s life embodies the American Dream: a man fights for what he want, never gives up, and eventually achieves his wildest dreams. It’s practically a movie waiting to happen. We all look at stories like Bukowski’s and say, ‘See? He never gave up. He never stopped trying. He always believed in himself. He persisted against all the odds and made something of himself.’

“It is then strange that on Bukowski’s tombstone, the epitaph reads: ‘Don’t try.’”

About Bukowski, our author continues: “The genius in Bukowski’s work was not in overcoming unbelievable odds or developing himself into a shining literary light. It was the opposite. It was his simple ability to be completely, unflinchingly honest with himself—especially the worst parts of himself—and to share his failings without hesitation or doubt.

“This is the real story of Bukowski’s success: his comfort with himself as a failure. Bukowski didn’t give a fuck about success.” Thus the reason for emulation: Bukowski’s almost Buddhist ability to want nothing by way of having not a single fuck to give about the thing in life about which most of us have entirely too many fu*ks to give.

According to the author, “The problem is that giving too many fu*ks is bad for your mental health. It causes you to become overly attached to the superficial and fake, to dedicate your life to chasing a mirage of happiness and satisfaction. The key to a good life is not giving a f*ck about more; it’s giving a fu*k about less, giving a fu*k about only what is true and immediate and important.”

The real deal about The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fu*k is that the book makes a surprising amount of sense. It’s a swift read presented in an easy manner. In a way, it’s just another self-help book but with slight twist and with loads of relevant examples dressed in millennial mumbo-jumbo. It’s entertaining though. He does talk about usual stuffs like accepting self, overcoming adversity, releasing fear, finding values et al, but all of them in a more stoicism oriented approach. What he has succeeded in is reinventing ancient Greek concepts in a new way using some pretty creative examples. He talks about authenticity, failure, rewards of not accomplishing your goals and mostly, uncertainty.

I loved this quote about uncertainty- “Uncertainty is the root of all progress and all growth. As an old adage goes, the man who believes he knows everything learns nothing. We cannot learn anything without first not knowing something. The more we admit we do not know, the more opportunities we gain to learn.”

Mark stresses on certain points like; Values you can’t control are bad values to follow. As author is a known stoic and common idea in stoicism is to focus only on the things you can control. For instance, popularity is totally out of your control. Sure, you can be nice and friendly to everyone, but you can’t control other peoples’ opinions. Some will always hate you, no matter what you do. So stop giving a fu*k about what others think of you or trying to be popular. Similarly, don’t believe you know anything with certainty, for it keeps you from improving. If you allow yourself to have a little doubt, you can then disprove this limiting belief you hold about yourself. One more important thing was trying to leave a legacy might ruin your life. Find ways to bring yourself, your loved ones and the people you meet joy in the now and let the legacy part take care of itself.

The trick of not giving a fu*k about most things is that you’ll be able to give one about what really matters to you. Let’s see how we can get a bit closer to that!

Author finishes off with this quote by Bukowski- “We’re all going to die, all of us. What a circus! That alone should make us love each other, but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by life’s trivialities; we are eaten up by nothing.” Think. Ponder.

Happy Reading, folks. Cheers.

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Into the Wild-Book 22 Review

Posted by Mrityunjay on September 6, 2018

Two years he walks the earth. No gadgets, no cards, no cigarettes, no known association with family. All he craved was Ultimate freedom. Thou shalt not return, ‘cause ‘The West Is The Best’. An extremist to the core. Home was the road. An aesthetic voyager. Two years gone. Flash in the pan. But something is still left. The final and greatest adventure. Culmination of spiritual pilgrimage. The climatic battle to kill the false being within. Abound the freight trains. Hitchhiking to the great white north. Unwilling to be poisoned by civilization. Fly and flee… to become lost in the wild all in the styles of his heroes, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy and Jack London.

It was April 1992 when a young man named Christopher Johnson McCandless from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. He had abandoned his beloved car, donated $25,000 in savings to charity, left behind all of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself in search of a radical re-engagement with nature, unsullied by rat race or money. Not more than four months later, a moose hunter found the decomposed body of the vagabond. Into the Wild is the unforgettable story of how this bright, charming young man came to die.

Into the Wild, is a heart-wrenching, appealing, nonfiction book about adventure and survival. Authored by wildJon Krakauer, this story of Chris McCandless first appeared as an article in for Outside magazine in 1993 which eventually turned into this book. Jon Krakauer is also famous for Into Thin Air and Under the Banner of Heave, and a biography titled Where Men Win Glory.

Into the wild is a richly, spaciously rendered account of landscape and moodscape. As you go through the pages you can visualize the shades of rich browns, ochres and sunset yellows through the journey of McCandless. The book was reconstructed from his journals with an almost obsessive detailing. The protagonist always comes across as intelligent and candid young fellow whose anger at the world has been allowed to uncoil now that he has finally left home and hit the road, leaving behind bewildered, grieving parents with whom McCandless stayed out of contact until the very end. He encounters several hippies who shower him with lift, meals, and love and all of them seem to almost understand him, but not quite before he fatefully disappears upcountry.

The story of Chris McCandless generated extreme reactions from American public when it first came into light. He comes across as an idealist and a romantic, but he is also stubborn, driven and selfish. His need to immerse himself in nature, to throw material possessions overboard, stems at least partly from a need to punish his parents for the lies and cruelties he remembers being inflicted on him and his sister as a child. There is something regressive and dysfunctional in McCandless, a fear of human interaction. His unaffected charm entrances the people he meets on the highway but he breaks their hearts too, by insisting on an enigmatic leave-taking. As he says, “You’re wrong if you think the joy of life comes from human relationships,” to one of his acquaintances on the road.

All credit to Jon_Krakauer for the way he takes the reader deep into the psyche of Chris McCandless through his diary entries, letters to friends and highlighted passages in the books he carried, mainly from authors such as Henry David Thoreau>, Boris Pasternak and Jack London, all of whom create an idealistic vision of the wilderness as a place of beauty and truth where one can escape reality, which it would seem MacCandless naively embraced as fact. Author sporadically uses personal writings of McCandless to provide the skeletal frame for this book, the flesh and blood being created through a mixture of Krakauer’s own interpretation of what happened to Chris, based on his intensive research, police reports and an admitted personal connection to the tale of McCandless. The words are so emphatic and readers just can’t run away from the infectious writing. It almost feels poetic the way Krakauer includes his own similar yet unique Alaskan struggle along with few other “lost-in-nature” obsession of famous adventurers. The only difference was some of them got away and Chris didn’t. Perhaps it was just a tale of youthful self-discovery, determination, naivety and romanticism with no happy ending. There was this nagging sense that Chris was beginning to grow up towards the end of his Alaskan adventure and he was getting ready to come back to society but the tragedy struck and he couldn’t get out of the wild.

Some of you might find McCandless an arrogant, pompous prick who was un-prepared with a lack of knowledge of his surroundings and insufficient equipment. It tantamounts to disrespecting the wilderness when you don’t even have a map or a compass while planning to roam through Alaska. Add to that no contact with his grieving parents for two years and it indeed seems callous. But perhaps he was just trying to prove something to himself as well as his parents. His anger and discontentment arising out of his troubled relationship with his parents led him to wanting to live a harsh and isolating life in the wilderness. Perhaps it was his way of punishing his parents and to assert his control over his own life. But then it’s all a matter of conjecture. Towards the end of the book readers will find interviews with members of Chris’s immediately family, telling how they experienced the ordeal and loss for themselves. Some of it feels haunting. Though the book is light on facts and heavy on speculation so that makes it hard to classify but it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the story. Into the Wild constantly engages you with its gripping narration and contrasting tones of romantic writings interspersed with cold, matter of fact tone.

Personally, I loved what he did. Is he right? I don’t know. It might appear selfish but then he just wanted to be away from trappings of the straight world of materialism. Like some people would die for the love for extreme sports and extreme danger, McCandless was obsessed with extreme nature. That explains his refusal to have any hiking equipment and training. He wanted to re-enact the early men heading out into the wild with almost literally nothing on his back. Imagine a person making a bonfire of his few remaining 10-dollar bills! That was his contempt for the materialistic world he did not want to be a part of.

Our society doesn’t really appreciate the true nature of a solitary character. Someone, who can often be perceived as a loser, a loner, a creep or a serial killer. But may be its just as simple as a desire to be alone. Solitude is the peace. Detachment is the nirvana. McCandless was by no means a suicidal character. If I try to oversimplify then perhaps this is a book that just talks about what it is to be human, and what happens when we admire nature more than humanity: does it make us less than human, or do we fulfil and even transcend our humanity?

Happy Reading, folks. Cheers.

 

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So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love: Book 21 Review

Posted by Mrityunjay on August 26, 2018

Once comedian Steve Martin was asked for an advice he would like to give to up and coming comedians and he said, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” That precisely is the main theme of the book “Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You” written by Georgetown University professor Cal Newport. The book offers his insights on how people can achieve their goals and use their skills to create a fulfilling and passionate career. Whether you’re at the beginning of your career or trying to move up the ladder in your professional journey, the aim should be to master your craft to the point where people can’t help but notice.

Cal Newport uses a simple, useful framework to emphasize his points. He has been a popular blogger and this transition to writing a book seems effortless. While reading, you clearly realize he has been thinking very deeply about this topic using his own as well as several other case studies. He offers several steps to becoming so good others will have to pay attention.

Don’t follow your passion.

Really?? But then that’s what entire world was preaching about! What will happen to bestseller self-help books telling you to always always follow your passion and the whole wide universe will conspire in your favour to achieve your dreams? Hold your horses. I don’t know whether you should follow your passion or not but Cal Newport does present some convincing arguments against chasing your dreams. You must be passionate about your work but “following your passion” is not going to get you there because it has inherent fundamental problems.

so goodFirst is that most people don’t have a shit bit idea of what they want to do. Most often than not we tend to assume that people have a pre-existing passion they can identify and use to make career decisions. Sorry. I rarely see such people. “Follow your passion” is flawed, and can be harmful. It often leads to frequent job/career changes and anxiety/angst when people fail to find their dream jobs. So throw out the passion hypothesis. Let’s put it this way, the better you get at something, the more it becomes a “passion”. There is another assumption that if you really like something, then you’ll really like doing it for a job. “We don’t have much evidence that’s true,” says Newport. He gives an example of amateur photographers or bakers who open up businesses but end up facing extreme financial difficulty that leads to unhappiness. “That’s because having work that you love is a lot more complicated than, ‘Hey, I like this thing! If I do it for work, I’ll like my work!'” explains Newport. The better strategy is to “let your passion follow you, in your quest to become so good you can’t be ignored”.

Build Rare And Valuable Skills.

Quoting the author, “She surveyed the assistants to figure out why they saw their work so differently, and discovered that the strongest predictor of an assistant seeing her work as a calling was the number of years spent on the job. In other words, the more experience an assistant had, the more likely she was to love her work.

It took Martin, by his own estimation, ten years for his new act to cohere, but when it did, he became a monster success. It’s clear in his telling that there was no real shortcut to his eventual fame. “[Eventually] you are so experienced [that] there’s a confidence that comes out,” Martin explained. “I think it’s something the audience smells.” The author suggests to try something that’s interesting to you. The only criteria you should have for your career is that it fits your values and rewards skill with more options and flexibility. He uses a very interesting term here-Career Capital which is basically marketable skill. You need to build something deep inside you to allow you to master over your chosen profession. Fundamentally, you need to have something that’s valuable and rare, if you want a career that’s valuable and rare. Career Capital. That explains why doesn’t everyone have a job they love and a career they’re passionate about? Because they’re hard to get. As your skills grow, you start becoming more valuable. Later on, you can capitalize this skill acquired over hundreds of hours of practice into better opportunities.

Mastering skill through deliberate practice.

You need to spend decades in school/college and work crazy hours to become a top doctor. You need to pour over hundreds of pages of balance sheets to understand a business and become a value investor. To gain mastery over your chosen subject, you need to have insane work ethic, talent, and the willingness to say No to a lot of stuff. To illustrate this point, Newport gives you lots of examples. He further adds, settling into a career path is only the first step. Thereafter, you need to get a hold over the skills you need to become irreplaceable. Once you manage to do that, you’ll gain career capital that you can offer in return for a great job. “Until you become good, you don’t have leverage”.

However, you need to watch out for a common mistake; Hitting the performance plateau. Quite often, people build their basic skills quickly at first, but once they’re comfortable, they stop getting better because they’re not stretching themselves,” says Newport. So try to become a craftsman. Use deliberate practice. You need to identify a clear, specific stretch goal based on your skill and then push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Aim for ambitious projects, don’t hesitate in asking for honest feedback, experiment with new ways to develop your skills. Train like an athlete, musician, or chess player. The more mastery you acquire, more control and satisfaction you will garner.

Newport also introduces this idea of “the law of financial viability.” He explains, “People will only give you money if they’re getting value for it. You know you’re getting better at something if more money is being offered to you.” According to him, money offered to you is a neutral indicator of the value of your skill. Money is not the goal, but rather a great source of honest feedback.

Gaining more control.

In author’s words- “Once you’re really good at something, that by itself isn’t enough,” says Newport. “You have to use your skills as leverage to take control of your working life, whether through your work hours, vacation time, or projects.” Acquiring skills should lead to more control of your career to gain benefits that resonate with you. But you can only get control if you have worked on previous steps;- building career capital and required skills. Then you have a choice. You become valuable and rare, which means you have leverage. And once you have leverage, you can decide what you want. Find your own matrix and go after it.

Find your mission.

Cal Newport says, “One way to find great meaning and satisfaction in your work is to end up with a mission that organizes your goals and working life“. You can still manage to love your work without a mission but having a mission helps a great deal in attaining job satisfaction. However, finding your mission should not be your first step. It should be rather your last step. First, you need to get really good in your field. And why is that? Because, having a career mission is similar to a scientific breakthrough – it’s an innovation at the very cutting edge of your field, so you can’t know about it until you get there. Only when you establish strong expertise can you really identify a real, sustainable, impactful mission. Big things start to happen when you get really good at something. Plain and simple.

To sum up, Cal Newport says, passion is a side effect of mastery. He shares various examples of the people who have pursued the path of Career capital-mastery-craftsman mindset in real-life and have made it extra large. He offers anecdotes of his own research and interviews in addition to career profile summaries of key people. Following these steps, one can have the ultimate blend of autonomy, mastery and purpose that makes work truly fulfilling and enjoyable. Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoy Cal’s book!

Happy Reading, folks. Cheers.

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