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Archive for April, 2018

Barking Up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong- Book 14 Review

Posted by Mrityunjay on April 29, 2018

You can’t help but love the way Eric Barker writes. Throughout the “Barking Up The Wrong Trees: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong”, he keeps grabbing your attention with thought provoking theories explained in an interesting way. This book is about…err…How to be successful. Did you just yawn? Then, don’t.

Barking up the wrong tree is anything but boring. Yes, it dispenses conventional wisdom but backed up by downloadloads of anecdotes and research data to support his theories. With plenty of chutzpah, I must add. Considering the fact that the author waited until 2017, eight years, to publish his first book, he presents a distilled collection of his biggest and most surprising lessons.

He embellishes his narrative by drawing out-of-the-box lessons on leadership from an improbable cast of characters: pirates, serial killers, Navy SEALs, hostage negotiators, Albert Einstein and even Genghis Khan. Over six chapters, Barker’s book covers the following ground:

  • Should we play it safe and do what we’re told if we want to succeed?

  • Do nice guys finish last?

  • Do quitters never win and winners never quit?

  • It’s not what you know, it’s who you know (unless it really is what you know)

  • Believe in yourself… sometimes

  • Work, work, work… or work-life balance?

I will highlight some of the important pointers/myth busters mentioned in the book.

      • Good grades often lead to mediocrity.

      • Extroverts make more money, but introverts are better experts.

      • The amount of hours you work matters, it’s an undeniable fact.

      • When you choose your pond wisely, you can best leverage your type, your signature strengths, and your context to create tremendous value. This is what makes for a great career, but such self-knowledge can create value wherever you choose to apply it.

      • Often intensifiers masquerade as positives because we give successful people the benefit of the doubt. It’s the old joke that poor people are crazy and rich people are “eccentric.”

      • The same genes that lead to bad stuff can actually lead to great stuff in a different situation.

      • The same traits that make people a nightmare to deal with can also make them the people who change the world.

      • In his study “The Mad-Genius Paradox,” Dean Keith Simonton found that mildly creative people are mentally healthier than average — but extremely creative people have a far higher incidence of mental disorders.

      • It’s just human nature that when people do too much and don’t ever push back, they get taken for granted. So if you’re not a total saint, it’s okay; being a saint is actually a very poor strategy for getting ahead.

      • When you take a job take a long look at the people you’re going to be working with — because the odds are you’re going to become like them; they are not going to become like you. You can’t change them. If it doesn’t fit who you are, it’s not going to work.

      • Spending 5 percent of your time trying new things, knowing you will quit most of them, can lead to great opportunities.

      • Criminals are more aware of the value of trust and cooperation than you and I. (Yup, you got that right).

      • Vonnegut’s moral is that “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

      • The Stoics used an idea called premeditatio malorum (“premeditation of evils”) to prepare. It’s asking yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?”

      • David Foster Wallace once said, “If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish.”

      • Zero failure means zero fun. And there’s so much busy work that offers no challenge at all. How is that engaging?

      • Drucker thought that time was the most precious resource. And the first line of defense he recommended to people wasn’t better scheduling; it was getting rid of everything that wasn’t moving the needle when it came to achieving their goals.

      • When you dream, that grey matter feels you already have what you want and so it doesn’t marshal the resources you need to motivate yourself and achieve. Instead, it relaxes. And you do less, you accomplish less, and those dreams stay mere dreams. Positive thinking, by itself, doesn’t work.

      • Analyzing eight million phone calls between two million people, researchers at Notre Dame found that what makes close friendships endure is simply staying in touch every two weeks.

      • How good your grades are only predicts one of your abilities, and it’s not one that matters in the real world.

      • We need optimism and confidence to keep going and convince others to join our cause, but negativity and pessimism help us see problems so we can make them better.

      • In a University of Lausanne study, researchers found people’s capacity for good leadership didn’t just level off, but actually declined as their IQ went beyond 120 points.

      • Mentoring a young person is four times more predictive of happiness than your health or how much money you make.

      • In the words of the great philosopher Tyler Durden, “We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

      • Our education system turns people into excellent sheep, not excellent thinkers.

      • Most schools reward conformity over genius, allowing people with top grades to easily rise to middle management, but rarely above.

      • It all comes down to the question What do I want? If you don’t decide, the world will decide for you.

        The book offers advice from a multitude of diverse talents like Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman, an Israeli-American psychologist notable for his work on the psychology of judgement and decision making; literary figures like David Foster Wallace, Management guru Peter Drucker, behavioural economist Dan Ariely; and icons like Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein. If you look at the highlighted points mentioned above, most of them feels like plain common sense and has been done to death but what differentiates Barker here is his choice of extraordinary cast of characters presenting alternating theories on happiness and productivity with survival stories. As someone who enjoys counter-intuitive approaches to get desired results, I felt totally in sync with the points Barker makes in the book. Primarily, a collection of stories and studies that bring to life the factors behind success, the book offers pertinent points. Barking up the wrong tree is a refreshing take on success. It weighs pros and cons, offers you both side of the coin and pushes you to make your own choices.

        Happy Reading, folks. Cheers.

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Seabiscuit: An American Legend- Book 13 Review

Posted by Mrityunjay on April 14, 2018

As long as you are holding this book in your hand, you are in for a great ride with Seabiscuit. Having read earlier, “Unbroken”, Seabiscuit was my second book from the author Laura Hillenbrand. And tell you what, she is simply amazing. Her narrative skill along with painstaking research ability just makes you marvel at her skills. This is a lovingly recounted tale of a scrappy little horse with mesmerizing speed, flashes of brilliance and a big heart to capture the wild adulation of a nation hopelessly mired in the worst depression it had ever known. Seabiscuit is a story of hope and courage that not many gave a chance.

110737I am not a fan of horse racing but reading this gem of a book, I am more than eager to understand the dynamics of this fascinating game. So who was Seabiscuit? In the words of the author, “He had a sad little tail, barely long enough to brush his hocks. His stubby legs were a study in unsound construction, with squarish, asymmetrical ‘baseball glove’ knees that didn’t quite straighten all the way, leaving him in a permanent semicrouch… His gallop was so disorganized that he had a maddening tendency to whack himself in the front ankle with his own hind hoof.”  Not exactly flattering description, eh? But then he was also arguably the greatest thoroughbred to set foot on a racetrack since the incomparable Man O’ War.

To many, Depression era is just a forgotten part of dusty shelves of history and somehow they may find it hard to correlate horse-racing with the purely economic events of the 1930s. But when you read the Cinderella story of Seabiscuit, you will get a good glimpse of historical perspective into the social and economic forces that shaped the sport of kings in the mid-twentieth century. All credit to Hillenbrand for offering us a view of how an entire nation pinned its hopes onto a small little horse amidst the quagmire of doom and gloom. And don’t we all love stories of underdogs rising through the ranks flattening the more fancied names?

Seabiscuit is the story of an unfancied horse and the men who knew and loved him the best — his owner Charles Howard, his trainer Tom Smith, and jockey Red Pollard. It also tells the tale of people who touched and were touched by this horse. Laura Hillenbrand gives us an informative inside look into the often wretched conditions of the brave athletes; men and horses alike, who offered their sweat, blood and often lives for their success and failures. This book has several sporting lessons to offer. It is also a kind of rags to riches story which is nearly impossible not to relate to. The author just lets the story of this remarkable horse tell itself, needing only her evocative prose to guide it along.

We are living in the era of Roger Federer, Usain Bolt, Messi etc and for most of us sports lovers, it is not difficult to imagine the kind of crazy fan following, 24/7 media coverage these sports icons command. Seabiscuit had the same aura and cult following along with attendant merchandising that transcended the borders of time, sport and species. This short, cow-pony framed horse with laid back attitude, teasing nature and sleeping habits of a fat cow displayed a kind of magical excellence that we all strive and wish for. It’s so relatable and desirable to emerge as a beacon of hope when nobody gives a shit about your existence.

This book is a fascinating read for those new to thoroughbred racing (me including). Somehow, Seabiscuit made me want to go watch horse-racing. Sneak away in the night to stroke horses’ long velvet noses, hear the galloping thunder of hooves, tend to their knees and if possible, ride one. Ms. Hillenbrand has a gift for writing real life like fiction. Infused with passion, you just can’t help falling in love with her characters because she did. Those interested in big screen adoption, there is an Oscar-nominated movie with same name and it has Tobey Maguire as Red Pollard and Chris Cooper as Tom Smith. But then the book is so much better. Isn’t it always that way?

And by the way, it doesn’t matter what you look like; you are only what you believe yourself to be. Happy reading, folks. Cheers.

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Business: The Emami Way- Book 12 Review

Posted by Mrityunjay on April 4, 2018

I am finding it hard to write a review about the book, ‘Business-The Emami Way‘ written by the Founders of Emami- R.S. Agarwal & R.S. Goenka. I couldn’t shrug away the feeling that I am back to my MBA days, devouring texts of Marketing & Organizational Behaviour. There is not much explained about the Emami business or its success etc. I found it preachy. Too preachy rather.

In the entire book, there was too much of “WE did it. WE do that.” Annoying to my reading senses. There is 41cLTySylML._SY445_QL70_something real tragic about Indian biographies and their authors. Whether it’s Haldiram, Emami, Sreedharan etc, all I could see was diabetic doses of eulogizing. Dollops of praise in utterly butterly sugary syrups. Only the “Z factor (Subhash Chandra)” was to some extent honest, mixing up good, bad and ugly. And then you read something like, Shoe Dog, Titan or Ray Croc and man, that’s when you realize what fun it is to read an honest biography/autobiography. Somehow, those westerners don’t idolize these business tycoons in a godly manner like Indian do. Perhaps we are scared of criticizing (though, that’s our second nature) or may be the thought that, if they have achieved so much, how can they be wrong or history is only supposed to be goody

goody coochie-coo stuff. Meh!

I may not have a strong sample size to present my case but counting on my recent experience I am no longer inclined to read Apollo/Crisil stories that I had tagged in my reading list. All in all, Business- the Emami way was a tiresome read. You can avoid safely.

Oh, there were some vernacular proverbs quoted by the author in the book which I would like to mention.

Kharcha Kam, Amdanee Ghanaa

Kaam Kam, Time Ghanaa

(Less expense, more Income

Less work, more time at your disposal)


Bhagya re Bhagya teen janaa, Poonjee kum vyapaar ghanaa

Zor kum gussa ghanaa, Amdanee kum, kharcha ghanaa

(3 kinds of people have to run away from the world of business; one who has more business in hand than capital at his disposal, one who has passion but lacks the drive, and one whose income is less than his expenses.)

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