The Alchemist : Reading Experience

918fZ1wVZgL.jpg

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!

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!

 

 

 

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.

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.