The Alchemist : Reading Experience

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Reading The Alchemist was like getting up at dawn and seeing the sun rise, while the whole world slept.

The Alchemist doesn’t teach you anything, but you can learn a million things from it.

“Lead will play its role until the world has no further need for the lead, and then the lead will have to turn itself into gold.”

My 6th book of the year was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. This was a rather famous book that I finally decided to read and was not at all disappointed.

The book narrates the journey of a boy and his quest for his treasure. On the way he meets the alchemist, who helps him find the treasures he didn’t even know existed.

The boy who was a shepherd, used to travel across lands with his sheep.

He remembered that because he had the jacket, he could withstand the cold night of the desert. He knew that we have to be prepared to withstand the change, and suddenly he was grateful for the weight and warmth of the jacket, even in the scorching day time heat.

The above quote perfectly captures the importance of embracing change and suffering now for the sake of later good.

The boy had a dream of finding treasure near pyramids of the Egypt. And he later finds that this was what his personal legend was.

After all, it is the possibility of dream come true that makes life interesting.

On his way, he meets an old king. The old king who teaches the boy what one’s personal legend is.

Personal legend is what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young knows what their personal legend is. At that point in their life, everything is clear and everything is possible.

The soul of the world is nourished by people’s happiness. And also by unhappiness, envy and jealousy. To realise one’s personal legend is a person’s only real obligation.

“And here I am between my flock and my treasure” – the boy thought.

And while following our personal legend, we have to choose between something we are accustomed to and something we wanted to have.

The secret to happiness is to see all the marvels of the world and never to forget the journey of your own personal legend.

But that journey is full of decisions and choices that one has to make.

Making a decision was only a beginning of things.

When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.

The Alchemist’s greatest discovery was not the elixir of life or the philosopher’s stone. But, they discovered that the purification of metal had led to a purification of themselves.

A purification that made them understand the ultimate truth of life. One’s personal legend.

Journey of one’s personal legend is full of omens. Omens that represent the resonance of energy with the soul of world. And the universe communicates the omens by using the universal language.

But how does one immerse himself in his personal legend?

“Listen to your heart, it came from the soul of the world and one day it’ll return to it”.

Power of silence is what allows us to hear the world speak the universal language. The book describes

The boy was sitting in desert in silence with only sound of the laventer (east wind) hitting his face. He was learning to understand the desert.

An average person speaks 10,000 words per day. May be cut that into half. or some times don’t speak at all.

It’s all about improving himself. That’s is the reason why one’s personal legend was carved by the soul of the world. It’s the journey that one follows in his personal legend. that is the real treasure. Everything else is secondary.

This is why the alchemy exists. So that everyone will search for their treasures, find it and then want to be better than their former life.

“Lead will play its role until the world has no further need for the lead, and then the lead will have to turn itself into gold.”

And finally, towards end of the book, the boy finds his treasure right where he started.. The place where first he had the dream. When he asked the soul of the world why it didn’t tell him that before, it said,

Because it was fun! This is what your personal legend was. You had to follow it.

Conclusion : 

The most prominent lesson I learned from The Alchemist  was that one has to find and follow his personal legend. Even if the goal is right in front of them. Because in the end, it is the one’s journey on his personal legend that reveals the true treasures of life to him.

A must read for everyone!

Skiffle : Android App To Discover, Search and Explore Music – The Making

This is just a log of contemplate on the challenges and learning I encountered while creating Skiffle : Discover tracks, albums and artists.

Skiffle on GitHub

Skiffle was designed with one simple motive , provide fastest way to search for music powered by the best source available. It uses Spotify API as backend.

How this log is structured?

The log is structured under headings. Each heading represents a certain facet of project or technology. Under each heading is the list of challenges or solution.

Overview : 

Skiffle is an app to provide the fastest way to search for music. Powered by Spotify API, it is a great little tool to keep track of your favourite artists and tracks.

While creating it I had some clear motives:

  1. Use RxJava
  2. Use dependency Injection
  3. Use Http Request Caching
  4. Follow Clean Architecture

Thus at some places it might seem as if the implementation is an overkill, but that was the main motivation behind creating  the app.

Software Engineering Items : 

  1. Reading Software Engineering Stackexchange  : It is a goldmine of knowledge for SE related principles like architecture and coding styles.
  2. Start creating your app from the data layer : Model the data layer first. Build your app from the data layer and then upwards. It would have saved me a ton of extra work.
  3. Very important to keep the naming conventions and interface consistent :
    It can get confusing other wise. Keep the naming strategy of everything consistent.
    Ex. AlbumList module, getAlbumList() as getter.
  4. Making sure that the names follow a conceptual model :
    ex. A recycler view showing a list of AlbumItem s.
    It uses a callback for click named onAlbumItemClicked().
    Though this is a small thing but gives a great peace of mind when coding and you expect the interface methods to be likle this.
  5. Local Variables are a bliss :
    Use variables in the smallest scope possible.
    This will allow garbage collector to reclaim objects faster and will save your from debugging nightmares.
  6. Think about all the edge cases before you go coding :
    Once you start coding your brain tricks you into being lazy.
  7. Writing effective git commit message :
    Here you can find useful list of emojis for commit messages
    https://gist.github.com/jhermann/0206ed09b3bbcefdd691

RxJava Items : 

As they say,

With a hammer in hand, everything looks like a nail.

Same goes when you use RxJava. You want to use it for everything. It’s more fun that way! 😀

1. Using for background thread offloading : 

The most trivial use of RxJava is to have it manage threads for you. I have used it extensively to offload tasks to background threads.

2. Observable.fromCallable() for simple usages : 

I wanted to use RxJava to offload the database reading and writing to a separate thread. For this I have used Observable.fromCallable. According to the docs it said that .create() is for advanced usage. That’s why I went with this approach.

3. RxJava 2.xx doesn’t allow nulls to be stream elements : 

You can’t emit null elements in the stream. I used pseudo objects that represent null elements as a work around.

4. Never leave the onError() method empty :

Always put a log statement in the onError method to get the error message

OkHttp Caching Items :

1. Using interceptors : 

Logging interceptors are handy to monitor requests your app is making.

Caching interceptors allows adding request caching.

Dependency Injection Items :

1. Inject or not to inject, that is the question?

For instance I decided not to inject Picasso instance as it already manages a singleton internally.

2. Using Qualifiers to inject multiple instances of same type : 

I used @Qualifiers to inject multiple instances of same type. An use case I encountered was to inject two WebService clients.

3. Regarding Singleton Scope : 

I found somewhere that dont use the @Singleton scope. Instead of that create your own custom application scope. It gives the scoping more clarity.

MVP Items :

1. Be ready for a class explosion : 

One thing i noticed is that, when you try to implement MVP or clean architecture in general, what you get is a class explosion. This is necessarily not a bad thing. Heard this in a fragmented podcast clean architecture episode.

2. How to deal with MVP when using view pager?

I ended up using fragments as views. Activity interacts with the presenter and just updates the fragments as required. And also receives callbacks from fragment events and forwards them to presenter. 

Android Items :

1. Use of onAttach() in fragments : 

It is used to check the state of the container. Example when fragment is using the activity as the container then onAttach() can be used to set the communicator listener.

2. Preventing multiple button clicks when favourite button was clicked for a track :

I disabled it when clicked instantly, then on onNext() and onCompleted() enabled it.

3. Creating SearchView is real pain in some part of anatomy  :

I found that support search view and search view are having different behaviours. I ended up using support search view as it was more like it.
In future, and production apps, best approach i think would be to create your own custom search view that caters to all your needs.

4. Search suggestions using provider :

Use fully qualified name if using packages. Which you should be using, for search activity names that you specify in android manifest.

5. Issue with showing data in fragments when it arrives asynchronously : 

Some times fragment was not finished inflating the views and binding when data was finished with loading. To deal with this I used callbacks and loading data completely before I set view pager.
When fragments finished inflating, they give a callback to the activity to give them the data. And as we have already loaded the data, it should not be a problem.

6. Use StringBuilder instead of String when strings have to be altered  : 

String is immutable and each alteration creates new objects.

7. The monster called as state management :

Managing life cycle of fragments and activities is real pain in the ass. They are very non deterministic.
I, almost towards the completion of the development found crashes due to state issues.
To test apps, enable the don’t keep activities option in development options.

Conclusion :

Main motivation was to create something useful and learn in the process.

Best way to learn alchemy is to go and try – “The Alchemist”

In fact, follows for learning anything.

You can find the project on GitHub :

Skiffle on GitHub

Mastery By Robert Greene : Reading Experience

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“The problem with all students, he said, is that they inevitably stop somewhere. They hear an idea and they hold on to it until it becomes dead; they want to flatter themselves that they know the truth. But true Zen never stops, never congeals into such truths. That is why everyone must constantly be pushed to the abyss, starting over and feeling their utter worthlessness as a student. Without suffering and doubts, the mind will come to rest on clichés and stay there, until the spirit dies as well. Not even enlightenment is enough. You must continually start over and challenge yourself.”

Mastery is a book that takes a deep dive into the so-called “superpowers” of masters in various fields and connects it directly to the pillars of mastery like grit, dedication, patience, creativity and intuition.

It contains life studies of legends like Vinci, Darwin, Faraday etc to contemporary legends like Carlo Rodriguez, Santiago Calatrava, Paul Graham etc. And time, again and again, it stands upon elusive pillars like grit, creativity, patience, etc which drives one towards mastery, not just god gifted super powers.

The book condemns that people are not willing to do what it really takes to become masters in their fields and label it as something that can be only achieved by born geniuses.

It starts with covering the importance of the apprenticeship phase. The phase that constitutes the beginning of everyone’s career, even of true masters like Faraday, who did the apprenticeship  at a scientist’s lab for 7 years before going on his own to make history.

During the apprenticeship,  one should focus immensely on learning the vocabulary of the field in depth with patience. Then experiment with his/her own tastes.

Next, comes the creative active phase, where after learning the tools of the trade and becoming proficient in important skills, masters experiment. They mix and match things, blend various fields and concepts and bubble up ideas.

The book presents various strategies for the creative active phase like:

  1. The Authentic voice: Learn the vocabulary of the field first.
  2.  The Fact of Great Yield: Look for anomalies with profound ramifications.
  3. Mechanical Intelligence: Key to building anything right is repetition.
  4. Natural Powers: Enjoy the laborious process.
  5. The Open Field : Create space for yourself in crowded space.
  6. The Evolutionary Hijack: Creativity and adaptability are inseparable.
  7. The Dimensional Thinking: Feel the breathing element in your field.

My favorite quote from this segment of the book was:

Languages evolve in haphazard manner, influenced by the influx of new groups into a society and stages by passage of time. They are not mathematical formulas but living, evolving organism.

Next, the author puts the spotlight on the vitality of “the ultimate reality“. Life is interconnected and it all started with a single cell two billion years ago.

Mastering a field can not be done in isolation with other things. Any field that we are working on, it has been shaped by events, minds that have worked on it and time. It is simply not right to build artificial walls around subjects and study them in isolation.

Strategies suggested in the book to get the rational intuitive feel:

  1.  Connect to Your Environment: Become a consummate observer.
  2. Play to Your Strengths: Have a supreme focus on your strengths.
  3. Transform Yourself Through Practice: Get the fingertip feel.
  4. Internalize the Details: Have the patience to give attention to even the most minute details
  5. Widen Your Vision: Get the global perspective.
  6. Submit to the Other: Loose the sense of superiority when learning from someone.
  7. Synthesize all forms of knowledge

My favorite quote from this part was:

Things push and pull into each other and breathe together, and are one.

To conclude, Mastery is a great book to help people shape their mind in a way that knows what to expect and what it takes to travel on the path of mastery. And that mastery is not a destination but a lifelong journey. One should maintain a beginners mind as they grow old like zen masters.

When you read a great book at the right time, it can only go in the category of Supremely Fucking Awesome.

Thanks!

 

 

 

E-Summit ’17 IIT Bombay — Experience

E-Summit is the flagship entrepreneurship event organized by IITB. The two-day annual summit promises to be an amazing meeting ground for industry experts, business leaders, investors and entrepreneurs and of course, students, many of whom are aspiring entrepreneurs.

I attended this event in its 2017 edition and had mixed feelings on how the whole thing turned out holistically. There were some good parts and some not so good parts, but as a whole the event was worth attending.

There were many small talks spread on a 2 day course. Obviously, you can not attend all the talks, you have to select few of them according to the schedule and feasibility.

I personally realized that choose a topic that you are not familiar with as talks are pretty basic and don’t go to great depths.

Following are the talks and keynotes that I attended.

Day 1 :

  1. Keynote by Raj Jaswa :

First event of day 1 was keynote by Raj Jaswa. Most prominent thing he said in a nutshell was areas in which one should look for business opportunities.

Some being,

  1. Cloning and localisation
  2. Long tail business
  3. Adapt an existing business model to a new sector.

2. Digital Marketing :

This talk was presented by founder of E2M, a digital media company. I found this talk too basic aa I had already taken a course online on digital marketing.

Some topics discussed were,

  1. SEO
  2. PPC
  3. Social Media
  4. Emergence of mobile platforms

3. Brembo Company Presentation :

Brembo is a breaking technology company and a dominant force in the market. A manager from Italy presented the company’s operations in India.

He quoted a quote from the founder of Brembo that I found very captivating,

“Anyone can do simple things, but only few can handle difficult ones. We have to do difficult ones”.

4. Chat with Rahul Yadav :

Next session I attended was a Q&A session with Rahul Yadav, the founder of Housing.com.

It was nice to see him talking about his mistakes and telling people not to repeat them.

5. Wealth creating through financial planning :

This was conducted by Reliance Mutual Funds. In a nutshell it was all about SIP.

6. Keynote by Rajat Sharma :

The day ended by keynote by Rajat Sharma. He discussed his journey and his humility and wisdom was notable and inspiring.

7. Stand up comedy by Vipul Goyal and Sapan Verma

Nice performances by both of them always.

Day 2 :

Day 2 of the event was more power packed. I found the speakers and the talk topics, both to of higher level.

  1. Building a brand that indians love :

This was presented by an ISB professor. Basic point conveyed in the talk was that business customers have two currencies that they spend : time and money.

Thus, trigger point of all the businesses must be how customers are spending these two.

2. Protecting your brand : Trademarks, Copyrights and Patents :

I had no prior knowledge of patents and thus decided to attend this talk.

It nicely packed info on what, when and where to file the patent.

3. Startup Scaling : Overcoming key operational challenges :

Pressing issue of this talk was the resource visibility issues that startups face.

The speaker was from a company called OutThink LLC. They advocated that such challenges can be overcame by businesses collaborating and providing services to each other instead of doing things completely by themselves in isolation.

Here is where OutThink helps its customers by what they call at SRM : Strategic Resource Mapping.

4. Most Common Startup Budget Mistakes:

This talk was presented by a startup investor and mentor from Ireland.

The talk revolved around funding sources, funding advice and bootstrapping.

5. Final Keynote : By Bibop Gresta : COO Hyperlopp TT

The most exciting event of the summit was final keynote by COO of Hyperloop. He presented us with the overview of Hyperloop and how it is planning to carry its operations in India.

It was notable how fit and fun he was at the age of 40. Something that we can all learn from.

Conclusion :

To conclude, the summit was a thumbs up. It was not entirely the standard that I was expecting it to be, but still was Ok.

It was great if you have networking as the primary goal in your mind, not so good if you wanted hand on knowledge on topics.

Finally, it was nice to see other aspiring and existing entrepreneur facing the problems that you are also facing. Makes you feel that you are not alone and if that can pull it off, you can too.

The Blue Ocean Strategy : How To Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant

When Henry Ford made cheap, reliable cars people said, ‘Nah, what’s wrong with a horse?’ That was a huge bet he made, and it worked.
The whole idea of The Blue Ocean Strategy is to create uncontested market spaces that creates new demands and make the competition irrelevant.

The book describes Red Oceans as known market places that have bloody competition among businesses trying to win customers. Here there is a fixed existing demand of which every company wants a share.

The Blue Ocean on the other hand is an uncontested market place that creates demand for itself, which is not known to others. This makes competition irrelevant. Focus is on creating, not competing.

Value Innovation :

Value innovation occurs when company align innovation with utility, price and cost positions. Instead of using competition as the benchmark companies focus on taking leaps ion value for customers.

Idea behind value innovation if to break out of Value-Cost trade off.

Reducing Costs :

Reduced costs for the products are achieved by eliminating and reducing the factors that the conventional industry competes on.

Best example to illustrate this is the case study of Ford Model T.

Ford eliminated all factors like multiple colors and design variants and focused only on creating better cars for the masses.

Identifying Blue Oceans :

Identifying blue oceans needs managers and strategists of the company to brain storm on the strategy canvas. Where each manager holds his/her department accountable.

The strategy canvas’ focus must be shifted from competition to alternatives and from customers to non-customers.

Reconstruct Market Boundaries :

The author proposed a 6 step framework for identifying blue oceans in new market places :

  1. Look across alternative industries
  2. Look across strategic groups within industries
  3. Look across complementaries
  4. Look across the chain of buyers
  5. Look across functional and emotional appear to buyers
  6. Look across time

Reaching Beyond Existing Demands

To reach the customers in new markets, think of non-customers before customer differentiations.

There are 3 tiers of non-customers :

  1. Jump Ship : These can switch to competitors on any moment.
  2. Refusing : These are using competitors products.
  3. Distant : Product doesn’t appeal to these customers.

Examples of Blue Ocean Strategies Implemented by Famous Companies :

  1. Ford :

Ford standardized the car and made the options limited. This increase the quality of the car and brought the price point down.

2. GM :

General Motors found their blue ocean in making the cars fun, fashionable and comfortable.

3. Watson :

Watson computers introduced tabulators for businesses for the first time. They also introduced leasing pricing models which made it easy for businesses to own a tabulator.

4. Apple :

Apple created Apple II and tapped the new market for ready-made, easy to use personal computers.

5. Dell :

Dell on the other hand, found its blue ocean by changing the purchasing and delivery experience of the buyer. It allowed customization of the machines according to the needs of the buyer.

It is evident from the above examples that blue oceans are not unleashed by technology innovation per se but by linking technology to elements valued by buyers.

Strategy for Blue Ocean Implementation :

Two views on industry structure are related to strategic actions.

  1. Structuralist View :

Based on market structure to conduct and performance. This view on strategy deals with making sure that the company is making money in the red oceans.

2. Reconstructionist View :

This view is based on endogenous growth. It focuses on creativity not systematic approaches.

This view is responsible to find blue oceans for the company.

Both the views towards strategy are necessary to assert the company is making money is also exploring new markets to remain competent in future too.

Learning How To Learn : Course Experience

The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10 thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.

What is learning? Well basically, forming and consolidation neural patterns.

Recently I took the course “Learning How to Learn” on Coursera. I really wanted to figure out the best way to enhance my learning. And this course has been really helpful. It provides you with the right tools and tips to construct your own learning schedule. Methods shown in the course are scientifically proven and helps you understand your brain better.

Here is a quick summary of what I learned in the course :

WEEK 1 :

There are two modes of thinking :

  1. Focused Mode
  2. Diffused Mode

Focused Mode is where our mind is concentrating on following neural patterns that it is already familiar with and Diffused Mode where our mind is sort of relaxed and is ready to find new neural patterns.

Why we procrastinate?

Studies have shown that we procrastinate because when we are about to start a task that we are uncomfortable with our brain activates the parts that correspond to pain and thus wants to stay away with it.

Solution? Well, just get started. With practice this feeling will go away.

Don’t think too much and just “eat that frog”.

WEEK 2 :

Chunking : A chunk is a small interconnectable piece of information that you can learn at a time.

Basic idea behind chunking is to get a bigger idea of the topic that you are going to study and divide it into meaningful chunk. These chunks then get interconnected to to help brain learn effectively.

Mastery is just the art of increasing the number of chunks that you can interconnect.

Personally, I feel chunking is a great way to tackle procrastination too.

Illusion of competence :

When you are done with learning a topic. Force yourself to recall it.

What motivates you? Having a feeling of motivation and excitement towards learning helps the brain learn more effectively as feeling motivated releases dopamine which causes happiness.

Overlearning and Einstellung :

One should be beware of overlearning i.e repeating several times topics you already know. This causes the brain to go into Einstellung, which means that brain refuses to explore new neural patterns and becomes rigid to ones we already know very well.

Week 3 :

Habits are energy saver mode of our brains. When a habit has been formed our brain doesn’t overload itself with information and zombie mode kicks in.

Habit can be described with following parts :

  1. The Cue : Triggers that launches the zombie mode.
  2. The Routine : Habitual response in reaction to the cue.
  3. The Reward : Habits exist because we get reward.
  4. The Belief : To change habits we need to believe that we can change them.

Understanding how habits are formed and work can help us develop new good habits and get rid of the bad ones. 10 years from now everyone is going to know about your bad habits, your success is going to represent you. Now is the time to get rid of them.

Avoid Procrastination? Focus on process not the product.

Also, make your to-do list for the next day the night before. This will allow your diffuse mode to work on it while you will be sleeping.

WEEK 4 :

There is a difference in smartness of people. Smartness equals having a larger working memory.

But people with smaller working memory are scientifically proven to be more creative.

Deliberate Practice, practicing hard stuff again and again, can lift the normal brain to the realm of naturally gifted. Practicing certain neural patterns deepens the mind.

How to become a better learner?

Exercise : Exercising created new neurons in brain.

Life experiences : Gaining varying life experiences also enhances the brain.

Analogies and Metaphors : Can be used to learn and memorize effectively.

And finally ,

Virtue of less brilliant is perseverance and grit.

This course has been great for understanding how our brain works in nutshell. At least know you know how it works, you can make it work for you.

I am trying to become good at things that are way complex than what I have worked on till now. This was the reason why I took the course.

My takeaways were to practice, persevere and have patience.

I have started next course “Introduction to Algorithms by MIT”. This is a course that I always wanted to finish completely. Hopefully this time I can do that.

See you next time!

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : Reading Experience

The Japanese motorcycle maintenance guide says “ Assembly of Japanese bicycle requires great piece of mind”. There is a thing about everything you build, including bikes. If you build it with non-serene mind, then you build your problems into it.

The book takes you on a cross country bike journey that will teach you mind opening lessons that leave lasting impressions on your mind. Your mind will simple refuse to contract itself to older stage.

One of the most important lesson that book teaches you is to enjoy the common little things that life has for you. There is as much Buddha in cogs of bike, as there is at the top of the mountain.

Towards the beginning of the book the author says, “If you want to set out for the most amazing bike journey, you have learn the art of motorcycle maintenance.” The quote has so many meanings at different levels that your mind can explore the words in infinite ways.

As the bike journey progresses, author makes the point that the key to be doing great work is to be completely involved in it. Not like mechanics who listen music while working on the bike with no intention to make it great, the noise of the tools should be music.

How we see the world affects how we think about it. There are two ways to see the world, the classical way where everything is logical and the other is the romantic way.

Classical way of thinking runs the knife on views, something is cut. And when the logic in the logic is found, the beauty of the unknown is lost.

Romantic way of thinking is all about enjoying the continuum of things.

Quality is the thing that author says that you know what it is, but still you can not define it. Like you know what makes a tomato soup good, but yet you can not define what makes up its quality, both materialistic and spiritual.

World consists of three things : Mind, Matter and Quality.

The author was a student of University of California at one point, before his nervous breakdown. Studying there he made some amazing point on the thinking of Plato and Aristotle. How dialectic way of thinking is different from rhetoric way of thinking, but at the same time one doesn’t proves the other wrong.

My two the favorite quotes from the book are :

  1. “The only zen you’ll find at the top of the mountain, is the zen you take with you”.
  2. “The test of the machine is the satisfaction it gives you. There isn’t any other test. If the machine produces tranquillity it’s right. If it disturbs you it’s wrong until either the machine or your mind is changed.”

This is the best book that I have ever read. No matter what you are doing in your life and how old are you, this books touches your mind at levels so deep that you didn’t even think it was possible. But you’ll have to keep the beginner’s mind to learn.

As the author states, “sometimes it is better to travel than to arrive”. I was carried away with the philosophical ideas presented in the book and the serenity that the country side description provides.

Knowing that Chris, the son of the author, with whom he set out for this bike journey is dead was a little sad. But again in snap that increases the importance of all the lesson and the author was expounding throughout the book about life and zen.

A recommended read for everyone.

The next book that I have picked is “The Blue Ocean Strategy”.