Friday, November 14, 2008

Can't wait to get to heaven

I think books are great "pick-me-ups". And I am glad I stumbled upon "Can't wait to get to heaven" by Fannie Flag. What did God tell Elner, an elderly lovable character in this book, when she reached heaven? (Oh, she was sent back, much to the delight of her family and neighbourhood). But she did learn somethings from God:

              • You can''t force people to love you, or each other for that matter;
              • We thought we gave them everything we thought they would need to help: logic, reason, compassion, a great sense of humor, but...whether or not they use it is up to them.

              Warmth and hilarity all rolled into one, is what this book is all about. And aren't these the wisest words ever? Guess, it is entirely up to us to use the gifts given to us.

              This book taught me, that perhaps there is a need to slow down and sniff the roses, or if not the roses, at least the fresh morning air.

              Monday, October 27, 2008

              The Last Lecture

              I hope this review gets published in the BCAS Journal as well. But, I could not wait for that to happen. So here it is:

              The Last Lecture
              Author: Randy Pausch, Professor, Carnegie Mellon with Jeffrey Zaslow
              Price: Rs. 295
              Publisher: Hachette, UK (Distributed by Hachette, India)

              Brick walls are there for a reason!

              Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University professor, gave his ‘Last Lecture’ – titled “Really achieving your childhood dreams”, a last lecture in many more ways than one.

              This lecture become an Internet sensation, with You Tube reaching his message of “Celebrating the dreams we all strive to make realities”, across the world in nano-seconds. His book – “The Last Lecture”, a New York Times bestseller, has likewise touched many hearts, including mine.

              He delivered this lecture, on September 18, 2007, knowing fully well that he was dying of cancer and had just three-six months of good health ahead of him. Unfortunately, while Randy succumbed to pancreatic cancer a few months later on July 25, 2008, at a young age of 47, he through his Last Lecture has left behind a precious legacy, not just for his young children who will one day understand the video (as this lecture was taped for them) but for all of us.

              The Last Lecture is a common title for talks on college campuses, such as Stanford or for that matter, Carnegie Mellon. The crème de la crème from the academia are invited to talk about what matters to them most and impart wisdom during their “Last Lecture”. For Randy, it was really his last chance to let the world know: How to Live!

              He began his power point presentation by showing his CT scans, revealing ten malignant tumours – this slide was titled – The Elephant in the Room, but after that he talked about living. His took the 400 plus audience through his dreams – his childhood, his experiences with colleagues and superiors and students. He taught them all – how to live!

              Flashing his rejection letters on the screen, he talked about setbacks in his life and career, repeating: "Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things." Since then, these words have emboldened many to face obstacles head on.

              In today’s economy which is facing a slow-down, this book is worth a read, especially for us chartered accountants who have to deal with clients who are facing a downturn and grappling to find a foothold in a fluid and every changing global market.

              Here are some gems (rather ‘panch ratna’):
              o Don’t complain, just work harder: Don’t waste your energy in complaining about your problem. Rather, use it to solve the problem. Citing examples, Randy says that – “Complaining does not work as a strategy. We all have finite time and energy. Any time we spend whining is unlikely to help us achieve our goals. And it won’t make us happier.” You’d be surprised how well things turn out, even if you utilise 1/10th the energy you would otherwise use in complaining.
              o Dare to take a risk: In a virtual-reality course, which Randy taught he encouraged students to just try and not worry about failure. At the end of the semester, he presented a stuffed penguin—“The First Penguin Award”—to the team that took the biggest gamble while not meeting its goals. The award came from the idea that when penguins jump in water that might have predators. But well, one of them’s got to be the first penguin. In essence, it was a prize for “glorious failure.”Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you wanted. And it can be the most valuable thing you have to offer.
              o Don’t Obsess over what people think: If nobody ever worried about what was in other people’s heads we’d all be 33 per cent more effective in our lives and on our jobs. Randy told his team: If I haven’t said anything, you have nothing to worry about. Of course, if he wasn’t’ happy about something, this was directly mentioned, sometimes not so tactfully. The bottom line here is: be upfront with your team. Let them know what you are thinking of them – whether good or bad. Do reassure them not to be obsessive about what you may be thinking or for that matter anyone else – else there is just a loss of productivity!
              o Look for the Best In Everybody: Randy got this advice from Jon Snoddy, his hero at Disney Imagineering, an animation company. “If you wait long enough,” he had told Randy said, “people will surprise and impress you.” When you’re frustrated with people, when you’re angry, it may be because you haven’t given them enough time. Be Patient. In the end, people will show you their good side. Just keep waiting. It will come out.
              o Never give up: Randy says, “Until I got on stage at my last lecture, I had never told students or colleagues at Carnegie Mellon that I had been rejected when I had applied there initially (it was to do his PhD). He indicated that perhaps he was unsure of what people would think. But added that, he should have been telling this story for years, because the moral is: If you want something bad enough, never give up (and take a boost, when offered). Brick walls are there for a reason. And once you get over them – even if someone has practically had to throw you over – it can be helpful to others to tell them how you did it.
              For finding other gems which include Dreaming Big, Having Fun, Tapping into your inner child, Making time for what truly matters and yes, saying Thank you, do pick up this book.

              Looking at characters from the famous children’s book – “Winnie-the Pooh”, Randy decided early on that he would be the fun loving Tigger and not the sad Eeyore. This book teaches us to be like Tigger even in the face of adversities.

              PS: This review got published in the January 2009 edition of The Bombay Chartered Accountants Journal.

              Saturday, June 14, 2008

              Go Kiss the World

              I read so many books, that blogging about all of them is impossible. I gave up on sites that share reading experiences, owing to lack of time. But when a book truly touches my soul, I blog and share the experience.

              So here it is, a review on: “Go Kiss the World – Life Lessons for the Young Professional” by MindTree’s Subroto Bagchi, (the official Gardener).

              I first fell in love with Subroto’s writings thanks to his erstwhile columns in The Times of India. In these columns, he spoke about the values that were instilled in him since childhood. Values that are important to lead a meaningful life in society. Subsequently I did get to meet him for the first time, at a packed seminar. What struck me the most was that he had time for everyone. Not many people have this ability to reach out to all and sundry.

              The last chapter, which has the book title, sums up the entire ethos of the book. Listed are seventeen important lessons that Subroto learnt in his life. I can entirely identify with a few of them, a few others; I have yet to learn about.

              While you must read the book, to read all of them, my favourites which I could identify with and found most meaningful are:
              The power to receive: "The second lesson life has taught me is that the power to receive is far more important than the power to give." He illustrates a family with four children. The inputs from the partners were the same, yet they grew up to be very different people. “The power is then not in the giving; it is in the extended hand that receives What matters is the capability to catalyse what you have received.”
              Connect with people: Like Subroto, I have been fortunate to get some really excellent bosses – some of whom continue to mentor me till this date. They come from diverse professions, such as journalism, law and chartered accountancy. But they had and continue to have this amazing ability to connect. Working with them, I delivered my best. “It is our empathy that helps us connect with the world. 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.” This should be read with the other lesson – The marginal person is important – In other words, the lesson is – Be nice to your juniors and other subordinates and they will walk to the end of the world for you. Yes, the bosses I spoke about do have my loyalty till this date.
              The slippery slope of overachievement: Sigh, I could so relate to this. The lesson for me: “You should only be pained to change things that you can take charge of and create a sustainable impact.” Once again, this relates to another lesson – Passion is what passion does“What matters is making a small but real difference.”
              I always knew that Real men say sorry and I am glad that Subroto also thinks so.

              Also I learnt that the forties is a dangerous age. “…There is a confusion about who they are and where they are going. The most common outcome of this actue period of transition is a job change…” Hmmmmm, I wonder what I will be up to, very soon. Maybe I need to ask the Gardener to spare some time and help me out on this one.

              PS: I thought I knew how the MindTree logo was created, but then there is an interesting story behind it, in full detail in this book.
              Subroto also has an interesting blog, click here.