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!

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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!

 

 

 

Marketing Your Retail Store in the Internet Age by Bob Negen : Reading Experience

This was the book that I knew prior to reading it that it won’t be too interesting and might even feel too slow. I searched it on the internet and picked it to read to get a perspective of a retail seller. As me and my team are trying to start a company that will work very closely with retail stores and their owners I thought this book will provide some value.

What I liked about this book how it delivers simple and effective tactics that a store owner can use to create customer loyalty, make lasting seller-customer relationships and compete against online retail giants.

It compares getting customers to getting a girlfriend. They are demanding and they want to feel special or else they’ll move on.

It brings focus on few very effective retail techniques like bag stuffers and doughnut marketing. It also covers basics of copywriting and its importance.

What I didn’t like about the book was that it was too slow and dumb at times. As a young person who is aware of technology world you’ll feel few things too stupid to be covered in that detail in the book. May be that’s a better fit for old shop owners.

Overall it was a good read. Not as per my expectations but still can give you an image of a mind of a retailer.

I’ll definitely use the concepts of this book in my company as me and my team too believe that the best shopping experience for a customer can be provided at a local retail store. All they need  is a power up and better tools now.

My next book is “How to win friends and influence people”. Will share my experience about that too when’ll be done.

Thanks.

 

The Lean Startup : Reading Experience

 

My 3rd book of the year was The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. I first got to know about the existence of this book during a keynote video of Gary Vaynerchuk where it was up for display. Finally got the time to read it.

The book focuses on how the lean manufacturing using in Toyota can be used in startups as well. And it makes sense! The case studies to new terms defined all help you shape your mind to run your startup in a lean manner.

Part One : Vision

Start

Traditional management taught in business schools is just not what an entrepreneurial manager need. The uncertain market, the uncertain product requirements all needs to be taken care of. This can’t be done with classic managerial metrics. A startup needs new metrics to track itself.

Define

A startup is human institution designed to create new product or service under extreme uncertainty.

 

Validated Learning

Failure is over hyped in startup world. People are happy to fail and then masquerade it as learning. But are we actually learning in the process?

Validated learning is the metric that startup needs to track its progress that it is making by learning from failures. Validated learning focuses on making use of learning to make tangible progress.

Experiment 

Get into the market as quickly as possible. Bootstrap the product and hit the market. Get the feedback of the customer. Nobody wants to end up building something that nobody wants. Find it as soon as possible.

Part Two : Steer

Build-Measure-Learn Loops

Eric suggests that startup should continuously run Build-Measure-Learn loops within the organization. Use metrics like innovation accounting and learning milestones to track actionable metrics and not to dwell on vanity metrics.

Leap of Faiths

Leap of faiths are the assumptions you make as an entrepreneur that your business depends upon. Entrepreneurs should have foresight, ability and tools to discover which of their leap of faiths are working and which are not.

There are two major hypothesis a startup depends upon :

  1. Value Creation Hypothesis : How you are looking to give value to customers?
  2. Growth Hypothesis : How you think that your product will grow?

Minimum Viable Product : Test It Out

Only way to test your hypothesis and leap of faiths is to hit the market.

Best way to do so is to create an MVP, that consists of your core business features. Make sure that customer actually wants what you are building.

A very good example is Dropbox : Their MVP was a video showing how it will work. It was enough to let them know that there is need for there product in the market.

Concierge MVP  : It is testing MVP with selected customers that you take feedback from in exchange of VIP treatment and support.

Measure 

How do you know that your product is improving? Innovation Accounting is again a metric that allows you to do so. It involves 3 steps.

  1. MVP
  2. Learn – Lean towards working business model
  3. Pivot or Persevere

Cohort Analysis and Split Testing

How do you know which change in product is steering the change in customer behavior? Cohort analysis and split testing is used to test different versions of products with different customers at the same time. This allows us to test features and do innovation accounting properly.

Kanban or Capacity Constraints 

Kanban is an agile development methodology that doesn’t allow new features to be added in backlog until implemented features are validated.

Pivot or Persevere 

The most important decision for a startup is to persevere current approach or pivot.  Pivot is special kind of change designed to test new business hypothesis about the product.

Eric states 10 types of pivots in the book :

  1. Zoom in Pivot
  2. Zoom out Pivot
  3. Customer Segment Pivot
  4. Customer Need Pivot
  5. Platform Pivot
  6. Business Architecture Pivot
  7. Value Capture Pivot
  8. Engine of Growth Pivot
  9. Channel Pivot
  10. Technology Pivot

PART THREE : ACCELERATE

Batch

Eric focuses on the point that startups should now follow large batch production systems but instead work on small batches. This means shortest possible release cycles and always keeping customer involved.

Grow

Startups should focus on sustainable growth. A sustainable growth is when new customers are drive towards the product by the actions of previous customers.

Engine Of Growths

There are three engine of growths that can exist in a startup :

  1. Sticky Engine of Growth : Customers stick with the product for long term.
  2. Viral Engine if Growth : Customers spreading the name of the product as side effect of using the product.
  3. Paid Engine Of Growth : Promotions and stuff.

Paid engine of growth is only profitable when customer lifetime value is greater than cost per acquisition.

Building an Adaptive Organization

Startups should focus on building an adaptive organization. Don’t go too fast nor too slow, don’t get too structures neither lack any structure at all.

The 5 Whys

As used in Toyota. 5 Whys is asking 5 level of whys on every problem. This helps you to get to the root of the problem.

Beware this should not become game of 5 Blames where each team keeps blaming other.

Innovate

Startups should provide platform for their employees to innovate. Best way to do so is to create an innovation sandbox. New features are added within this sandbox and are tested on early adopters segment of customers. Take validated learning out of it and move forward.

Also key is to hold the internals of the startup accountable for their actions. This will increase sense of belonging-ness among the employees.

 

It was a great read. All stuff you read about makes perfect sense. All the problems the book states are real world problem and if you are in touch with startups are not new for you.

 

My next book is Founders At Work : Story of Startups’ Early Days. Excited to read this one.

 

 

 

Business in Boxers : 1 Month Into Running a StartUp

Why the Series? 

(Inspired by book : Business In Blue Jeans)

Hi! This is Priyank. This series is about me pen downing my start-up ride. Don’t know if it’s fast or slow, all I really know is I’m gonna enjoy the ride.

Why the name?

Boxers is what you’ll find me almost every time in and business is what’s always in my mind and thus the name “Business In Boxers”.

The Beginning

Last month on 15th Feb, me and my friend sat down seriously deciding on which business to start. The interesting thing was I did this with 3 friends. 3 awesome business ideas that are practical and scalable. Next, we 4 formed a team. A team with a vision to launch multiple businesses in a very short period of time.

Our first startup what we call as Pebbles Media deals with creating engaging applications for local business owners that can help them discover new customers in their locality. Cool idea that we all thought will get us many clients.

We approached 5 clients in different domains from food business to education to mechanical work. Two of them showed interest and we started working on their products.

15 days later one of our clients refused to pay the advance thus we dropped him. Other client wanted a custom product built for them at a very unreasonable price, again dropped him.

The Pivot

Witnessing all this, we all after 1 hour long discussion decided that it is the time for an early pivot. We never wanted to enter service based B2B sector.

The pivot that will need us to make products that will be used by multiple small businesses and their customers making us a product based company.

A pivot at this early stage raised doubts in our minds but I guess it was the red flag that we all managed to see and decided to pivot and not to run for quick money.

In Love With Business Books

lately I have been reading a lets of business books. Getting ideas and knowing how various aspects of a startup works. My favorite is The Lean Startup. A must read for everyone.

The Speed Breakers

No surprise here, first month has been filled with speed breakers. I was not expecting any smooth ride either. This month we have seen from clients saying no to all saying yes at the same time. Client giving us advance and then we turning him down because we wanted to pivot.

Wrap Up!

This month we dealt with real clients. Realized that we don’t want to go into service based sector.

For next month we are planning to get our MVP out in the market and test our leap of faiths. Too much action for next month. Let’s see what’s in the store next.

See you next time.

 

PS : It is fun to write blog when you are pretty certain that no one will read it 😀

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contagious : Why Things Catch On : Reading Experience

We all have heard of the hilarious Panda Cheese commercial in which a panda screws everyone who says no to panda products. People loved the ad so much that the brand enjoyed world wide recognition. On the other hand commercials by GoldenPalace.com was a complete miss, it just failed to persist their brand name in customer’s mind by Fool in the pool marketing stunt.

So, what makes things popular? Why do people talk about certain products and ideas more than others? Why are some stories and rumors more infectious? And what makes online content go viral?

In the age of social media where everyday we get to see viral trends, what makes them viral?

My 2nd book of the year was, Contagious : Why things catch on.

I picked this book when I saw the author if this book Jonah Berger in a documentary The YouTube Revolution. As I am trying to set up a company, understanding the science behind virality will only help.

Contagious gives nice representation of the science behind viral things in the form of a framework he calls STEPPS.

S : Social Currency

T : Triggers

E : Emotion

P : Public

P : Practical Value

S : Stories

Each of the element of this framework represents on its own a very powerful factor of making things viral.

Book explains case studies of many products and businesses, and how the elements of STEPPS helped their brand go viral.

Be it 100$ cheese-steak that was a perfect example of social currency making a local restaurant popular or “Will It Blend?” video series on youtube making Belndtec’s blenders popular worldwide.  STEPPS can be found in every viral marketing campaign.

The thought that was intriguing was, How will STEPPS combine with traditional marketing strategies like SWOT and PEST frameworks . In my opinion it will only increase the chances of the campaign going viral.

Contagious explains very effectively, how STEPPS play major role in making people to share, to remember and to talk about something. Each element is described a great marketing campaign story that just cements the concepts in your mind.

Overall, it was a great read for everyone. Not very technical that you’ll need google to seek the meaning of marketing jargon, but still technical enough to give you knowledge you want.

My 3rd book of the year is, The Lean StartUp by Eric Ries. A nice book on how startups that are successful perform with their business models and operations.

 

 

Losing My Virginity By Richard Branson – Reading Experience

Oh, screw it, let’s do it.

That’s the philosophy of Richard Branson that has allowed him to start ventures in markets that no one dared to enter and even considered ludicrous to try.

Losing my virginity is the most unusual biography you will ever get to read. It looks like you are reading a biography of not a global entrepreneur but an adventurist.

This is the story of how Richard Branson started his entrepreneur journey by starting the Student magazine and strolled his way to opening more than 400 companies under the Virgin brand.

The book starts with him in a hot air balloon and soon dives into his early life and childhood days. How his sporting career came to an end, which planted the seeds of an entrepreneur in him.

Soon you will find him writing about opening Virgin Music and not very late Virgin Megastores. His fight with British Airways for Virgin Atlantic and how his airline prevails and continues to thrive.

Richard Branson shows a so much fun way living his life. You can find him crash landing his balloon in desert to buying islands to signing The Rolling Stones for his record label.

Later on his life he started businesses which looked altruistic to some, but for him was a great sustainable business model. For example Virgin Fuels and Virgin Unite.

Losing My Virginity is the ultimate tale of personal and business survival from a man who combines the business prowess of Bill Gates and the promotional instincts of P. T. Barnum.

This year I have challenged myself to read 15 books. This is my first of 2016. Next book I have picked is Contagious : How Things Catch on. Will blog about it too when done.