Saturday, January 31, 2009

Book Review: January 2009

I figured I have a lot of trouble recollecting how I felt about a book when I try to review it almost a year later…so the idea of an Annual Book Review is defeated for that reason and I have decided to post monthly reviews. Also coz I’d like people to know earlier than year-end if I really like a book : ) . I hope they help.

The books being reviewed this month are:
1. Critical Chain by Eliyahu Goldratt
2. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin S. Sharma

Critical Chain
Eliyahu Goldratt

Those who have read The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt will not be surprised by this book or think its phenomenal. He takes the concepts of Identifying Bottlenecks, Tuning Processes as per the bottleneck, Optimizing Inventory etc. from Operations Management and extends them by applying them to Project Management. Having said that, it is a book that can be used for effective Project Management if the concepts are taken seriously and used. Looked at as a stand-alone, the book is definitely an eye-opener in terms of Project Management and those who have witnessed/are witnessing project management failures or catastrophes will relate very well to it.

The book reads easy for most part as the story in which the concepts have been weaved is quite endearing. It’s a story of a B-school Professor struggling for tenure. So the book does not load you up with concepts and desert you at the end. It is easy to absorb and read.

I would recommend all those who are remotely associated with Project Management (in any field and as either the managers or the resources) to read this book. If we can do even one thing differently that can make lives at work easier for all of us, this book will have achieved its purpose.

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari
Robin S. Sharma

Ok, don’t go, “You hadn’t read it earlier???”. I picked it up late, ok?

The reason I started reading this book is that I like Robin Sharma’s books. Many accuse him of being to trite, stating what’s obvious a tad too often and bringing nothing new to the table. Well, if that’s really the truth, why is everyone’s life in some sort of mess or another? Why do most people get their priorities wrong and have their personal lives going haywire? They reach the mountain peaks of success at record speeds while their personal lives are wallowing in their own Mariana Trenches. And don’t tell me that there is always a price to be paid. I think that’s the worst excuse I have ever heard. Its only the most obvious things that we miss all the time. It’s the simplest of things that we always miss doing. And it is these small and simple things that fill the crevices and emptiness of life like glue and keep it all together. And yeah I think it needs a Robin Sharma to come and tell you what you are doing wrong in your life even though it is so obvious, trite and oft-repeated. So sue me!

I have read Megaliving, Who Will Cry When You Die and The Greatness Guide already and since all my to-be-read books were in Slovakia, I was bookless in the Czech Republic and forced to read this e-book (I HATE e-books).

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari is disappointing. I have found most of Robin Sharma’s blog-posts to be more inspiring and original. The book starts off well and grabs the reader’s attention. It then leads the reader into the story of one Julian Mantle, a hot-shot lawyer with his personal life in shambles. He suffers a massive heart-attack in the court one day and that proves to be his moment of truth. He quits the firm and leaves for India in search of lasting happiness. The narrator of the story John does not see him for another few years. Upon his return and metamorphosis, Julian starts telling John about all that he learnt.

The book then goes on to elucidate on ten principles that can change everyone’s life and bring lasting happiness, youth, contentment and peace. It runs well even halfway through and actually the whole book makes sense and has pointers that all of us can use. But the second half of the book is truly full of clichés in terms of the writing…it is as if Robin just ran out of original words and certain narratives are just a string of quotations. I continued to read despite the apparent degradation of narrative but the straw that broke the camel’s back was this part – ‘Yogi Raman said that when we are born, we are crying while the world rejoices. He suggested that we should live our lives in such a way that when we die, the world cries while we are rejoicing’. I just lost it after this point and just wanted to finish the book (thankfully this part comes in the last 20 pages!).

So yes, full of clichés and disappointing in the second half but try extracting the juice and leave the outer covering aside if you are reading it for the first time. If you have read his other books, you probably already know the message and might want to give this one a miss.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Two Sleepy People

I heard this perfect-for-snuggling-in-bed-with-coffee-and-listening song yesterday. Its called Two Sleepy People by Silje Nergaard. I had never heard of her before and what I also discovered in addition to her today is the fact that for every bit we know there is so much more that we don’t. It is a simple song but the way it has been sung with so much affection and the way it gets the bottomline of love right, it touched my heart.
You can listen to the song online here:

Here is how the song goes…I am in love with the picture that the lyrics paint : )

Here we are,
Out of cigarettes
Holding hands and yawning
Look how late it gets.

Two Sleepy People
By dawn's early light,
And too much in love
To say, "Good night."

Here we are,
In the cozy chair
Pickin' on a wishbone
From the Frigidaire,

Two Sleepy People
With nothing to say,
And too much in love
To break away.

Do you remember
The nights we used to linger in the hall?
Father didn't like you at all.

Do you remember
The reason why we married in the fall?
To get a little rest, to get this little nest.

Here we are
Just about the same
Foggy little fella,
Drowsy little dame.

Two Sleepy People
With nothing to say
And too much in love
To break away.

I share a special bond with the person who sent me this song. She is my senior from college and after she graduated I might have met her less than 5 times. Yet, she is special. She was the one I was terrified of the most in my first few weeks at the University…so much that I used to break into cold sweat at the sight of her. And for some reason she would pick me of all the people for those funny things our seniors would make us poor freshers do – singing the Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thhi anthem, playing pretend Badminton, singing in all languages that anyone in our families was conversant with, singing Yeh Dosti from Sholay THE WAY JAY AND VEERU SANG IT (my knees got locked for a while after I pretended to be sitting in the side-car like Veeru)…all sorts of embarrassing and fun stuff.

I never quite got over my fear of her for a year more. But when we did start talking I realized what a sweet person she is. I have scattered memories of my interactions with her, which were at best limited…playing Basketball with her and my sister on our University court…just the three of us on a golden evening…talking more than we were playing, visiting her home to deliver my study notes and having a nice chat, a few mails we exchanged after she graduated, running into her at the Kingfisher Octoberfest in Bangalore and remembering the senior-junior relationship when she raised an eyebrow to me being there (I remember hastily clarifying that I don’t drink Beer and was just with some friends forgetting that we were out of college and just friends then), catching up in Forum and having a conversation that I never thought I would have with her…it warmed my heart.

I haven’t met her since that evening we spent in Forum. But we exchange mails off and on. And I realize that she, with our limited interaction and the distance between us, gets me more than some people who have known me forever do.

People are like that. You never know when you find that piece that makes the puzzle of your life more complete, the colour that adds what was missing in the painting of your life even if it is just one brush stroke…like an occasional Hello, a warm message which somehow ALWAYS comes when you need it most, pouring their heart out in just four sentences when you were wondering about the same thing but didn’t know if you were feeling right…we are connected to some people on the planet like that…our instincts are bound together…our wavelengths are the same…it is our web…our safety net.

Wherever she is she should know that she is special. She brings a smile to my face even through 3 lines of a mail…coz those 3 are the lines I need to read when they come. I wish I could meet her more often and get to know her better. And I wish for nothing but the very best to be in store for her in life. And a big thanks for Two Sleepy People : )

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

King Of Fools

To the world you might be one person, but to one person you might be the world.Some people underestimate how much they mean. And surely the other extreme must exist too…the ones who think they mean too much.

And there are the in-betweens…who hope they mean something, that their being around makes a difference while in reality they are one among the six billion humans on this third rock from the sun…sometimes even God forgets they exist.

And you thought you would make a difference. How pompous!

Yet, can you give up because it makes no difference? What is the set of conditions that dictates when is the right time to give up? Do you give up on people at all? What else is there in life…

You can't give up, looking for a diamond in the rough…You never know, when it shows up, make sure you're holding on…Coz it could be the one,The one you're waiting on...

I had read somewhere - ‘Most of us are so scared of dying that we never start to live’. It is true of love too. Most of us are so scared or scarred from love that we never start to love fully again…we calculate our moves, we evaluate our positions, we judge intentions. We close our hearts and open our minds…and rationale wins.

But I also read in Tuesdays With Morrie – Love Wins…Love Always Wins. I must have read wrongly…Prof. Morrie must have been a sentimental fool. And by believing in something he said, I become one too.

But how do you change who you are? Why should you change who you are? So you lose in life…big deal! At least you were in it with all your heart. What is a half-hearted win? A possession not cherished with all you have…undervalued…taken for granted…doing that to another human is sacrilege…it is sin. If I have to lose anyway, I’d much rather love and lose. But that is never enough…how you measure your worth and how your worth is measured by others are two different things. The question is would you bend to their dictat and lose yourself or stay true to yourself?

I would stay true to myself…I might not win but I would lose with my own respect and honour for myself.

I worry that I can't give you what you need…That you'll find nothing underneath the peel…That I can't undo the times we disagreed…That I can't ignore the way I feel…Coz what I feel is the only truth I know…And I get by on this naivete of youthIf what I feel is the only truth…And what I give out will make up what I'll receive…Can I still leave behind my naivete of youth?…Will I be crucified for wanting to believe?I believe…

So you still hope. You still love. You still believe that you can make a difference. And by the virtue or vice of that you are hereby crowned the King Of Fools.

You don’t know any better than to indulge in such acts of folly…