Mastery By Robert Greene : Reading Experience

Mastery_Cover

“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!

 

 

 

Advertisements

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”.

How to Win Friends and Influence People : Reading Experience and Summary

How to win friends and influence people is an all time classic book. I got to know about this book from the Goodreads recommendations and instantly decided to read this one. It starts stating that leadership is 15% technical skills and 85% skill to manage human relations. This sentence alone suffices the need of this book.

What you can get out of the book?

  • Gives you new ways to carry on meaningful conversations.
  • Make lasting connections with people by influencing them.
  • Win new clients, customers and team members.
  • Increase your confidence while approaching people.
  • Make you a better salesman, entrepreneur and leader.

This book is filled with historical examples that the author uses that just exemplifies the principles stated in the book. This is not a light read and taking notes is necessary to get the most out of this book.

Here is the summary  :

PART 1 : Fundamental techniques in handling people

Chapter 1: Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  • Don’t  criticize people or blame them for anything. It makes them go defensive.
  • Criticism hurts their pride and sense of importance.
  • “I’ll speak ill of no man and speak all the good I know” – Benjamin Franklin
  • Even Abraham Lincoln made it a point not to criticise anyone not even his commander who made a big blunder during war.
  • Principle 1 : Don’t criticize, complain or condemn. 

Chapter 2 :  The big secret of dealing with people

  • “The only way I can get you to do anything is by giving you what you want”
  • Biggest craving in humans is to be appreciated, to be complemented.
  • Fill people with encouragement and give them an incentive to work.
  • Sincere appreciation is one of the secrets of success of handling men.
  • Know the difference between flattery and sincere appreciation.
  • Flattery is selfish and counterfeit. Appreciation is from the heart.
  • Principle 2 : Give honest and sincere appreciation

Chapter 3: He who can do this holds the whole world with him. He who cannot walks a lonely way

  • Only way to influence people is to talk about what they want.
  • Try to see things from other person’s point of view.
  • Convince person how something that you want them to o can benefit them.
  • Arouse in other person an eager want.
  • Self expression is dominant necessity in human nature.
  • Always let the other person think that it is their idea.
  • Principle 3  : Arouse in other person an eager want

Part 2  : Ways To Make People Like You

Chapter 1 : Do this and you’ll be welcome anywhere

  • Try to be interested in people, not to make them interested in you.
  • Always be grateful and interested in customers in business.
  • Principle 1 : Become genuinely interested in other people.

Chapter 2 : A simple way to make a good impression

  • Show people by expression that you are happy to meet them.
  • Preserve the attitude of courage, frankness and good cheer.
  • Principle 2  : Smile

Chapter 3 : If you don’t do this, you are headed for trouble

  • People are more interested in their names than all the names put together.
  • Always make effort to call people by their name.
  • If you are executive then you have remember name.
  • Even Charles Schwab said that he tried to call his employees by their names.
  • Principle 3  : Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

Chapter 4 : An easy way to become good conversationalist

  • Be a good listener and encourage people to talk
  • Stop everything and listen whole heatedly to people
  • Listening gives people a feeling of importance
  • Principle 4 : Be  a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves. 

Chapter 5  : How to interest people

  • Talk about thing they treasure the most
  • Author gives as example how appreciating a clients office got him the deal.
  • Principle 5  : Talk in terms of other people’s interests. 

Chapter 6  : How to make people like you instantly

  • Talk to people about themselves.
  • Talk about things they admire the most. This will make them feel important.
  • Principle 6 : Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

Part 3  : How to win people to your way of thinking

Chapter 1 : You can’t win an argument

  • Avoid arguments like you avoid rattlesnakes.
  • Arguments are futile to change someone’s mind.
  • To avoid arguments : welcome disagreement, distrust first instinct to go defensive, control your temper, listen first, look for areas of agreement,  apologize for your mistakes, promise to think over your point, thank opponent for their interest, postpone action to think.
  • Principle 1 : Only way to get most of an argument is to avoid it.

Chapter 2  : A sure way of making enemies and how to avoid it

  • If you are going to prove anything, don’t let the other person know it.
  • “Be wiser that the other people if you can, but don’t let them know it”
  • Never tell a person straight away that they are wrong.
  • Principle 2  : Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say “You are wrong”

Chapter 3  : If you are wrong, admit it.

  • Criticize yourself before some else does that.
  • This will make temper of the other person cool down
  • Principle 3 : If you are wrong admit if quickly and emphatically 

Chapter 4 : A drop of honey

  • “A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall”
  • Always begin in friendly way and appreciate the other person.
  • A renter wanted his rent reduced so he first praised the apartment in which he was living.
  • Principle 4  : Begin in a friendly way.

Chapter 5 :  Secret of Socrates

  • In talking to people don’t begin by discussing things that you differ on.
  • Ask questions that makes your opponent say yes yes!
  • Principle 5  : Get the other person saying yes yes immediately.

Chapter 6 : The safety valve in handling complaints

  • Let the other people talk themselves out.
  • Even if you disagree don’t interrupt.
  • Principle 6 : Let the other person do a great deal of talking

Chapter 7 : How to get cooperation

  • People want to be consulted about their wants.
  • People want to buy/accept something on their own accord, not to be sold.
  • Make people believe that the idea is theirs.
  • Principle 7 : Let the other person feel that the idea is his/hers.

Chapter 8 : A formula that will work wonders for you

  • Always try to understand why a person would say something like this.
  • Try to think with the person’s point of view.
  • Principle 8 : Try honestly to see things from other person’s point of view.

Chapter 9 : What everybody wants

  • People are thirsting for sympathy – give it to them.
  • When a person is debating with you remember to react differently than the others.
  • Principle 9 : Be sympathetic with other person’s ideas and desires.

Chapter 10 : An appeal that everyone likes

  • Show the person the motives that sound good.
  • Principle 10 : Appeal to the nobler motives.

Chapter 11 : The Movies Do it. TV Does it. Why Don’t You Do it?

  • Stating truth is not enough. You have to dramatize them.
  • Make it vivid, impressive and interesting.
  • Principle 11 : Dramatize your ideas.

Chapter 12 :  When nothing else works try this

  • Make the work exciting and challenging.
  • Schwab invoked a challenge among morning and night shift workers to increase the efficiency of the factory.
  • Principle 12 : Throw down a challenge.

Part 4 : Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

Chapter 1 : If you must find fault this is the way to begin

  • Say something pleasant before criticizing.
  • A barber always lathers a man before he shaves him.
  • Principle 1 : Begin with praise and honest appreciation.

Chapter 2  : How to criticize and not to be hated for it

  • Never use the word “but” after appreciation. It makes appreciation looks fake.
  • Use other words like “and”.
  • Principle 2 : Call attention to people’s mistake indirectly

Chapter 3 : Talk about your own mistakes first

  • Admit and talk about your own mistakes first before criticizing the other person.
  • Principle 3 : Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.

Chapter 4 : No one likes to take orders

  • Give suggestions instead if orders and you’ll hit the person’s pride less.
  • Involve people in the decision making by asking them questions.
  • Principle 4 : Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.

Chapter 5 : Let the other person save face

  • “I have no right to say or do anything that diminishes a man in his own eyes. “
  • Don’t belittle a person.
  • Principle 5 : Let the other person save face.

Chapter 6 : How to spur people to success

  • Praise every little improvement in the person.
  • Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.
  • Charles Dickens was once praised by a editor when he was poor little boy and it changed his life.
  • Principle 6  :  Praise the slightest improvement. Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.

Chapter 7 : Give a dog a good name

  • To change the person’s behavior give him a good reputation to live up to.
  • Example : “You are one if the best worker. Lately you’ve been slow. We know there is a reason. Let’s discuss it”
  • Principle  7 : Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.

Chapter 8 : Make the fault seem easy to correct

  • Praise the person’s good point and make them feel that their faults are very minor.
  • Other wise you’ll destroy their will to improve.
  • Principle 8 : Use encouragement. Make fault  seem easy.

Chapter 9 : Making people glad to do what you want

  • Make people happy and excited about their job.
  • Show the person the benefits of the job.
  • Ask yourself what the other person really wants.
  • Principle 9 : Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.

 

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.