This blog is a series of brief reviews and summaries of books I read every month. This platform provides me with an opportunity to write what I have read. It gives me a chance to give something back to the writer - in form of reviews.
If you are coming to this series for the first time, please click below for more blogs:
I have kept a target of reading 52 books in 2021. So far - as of 30th Jun 2021 - I have finished 34 books.
In June, I got a chance to read a few life changing books. Books provide us knowledge. We all know that knowledge is power. However, knowledge is power only when it is applied in our lives. So far I have been fortunate enough to apply some of it.
1) How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber, Elaine Mazlish (5/5)
Everyone is a great parent, till they have kids of their own.
Elders tirelessly "coach" younger parents on how they raised their kids and how you should raise your kids. Everyone has tips, tricks, stories of sacrifices, painful and good episodes.
However, only a parent knows the real pain of parenting. Scientifically speaking, raising kids is a very painful and unhappy experience. Only our love for kids (and their cute smiles and talks) let us climb this mountain.
Raising kids is also a huge responsibility. We are shaping lives. The future adult is today's kids. It is up to parents to impart the right values to the kids so that they grow into happy, responsible and mature adults.
So how do we put aside our frustrations and raise kids in a more meaningful way? The answer is simple, treat kids like adults! That is the essence of this book. The book has been the bible of raising kids for the last 30 years. The book has illustrations, examples, exercises and practice material (yes practice material like maths!)
It highlights the following main principles.
Help kids to cope with their feelings
Listen to their feelings - listen genuinely, give them quality time, don't stereotype their feelings
Acknowledge their feelings - Don't downplay their feelings with sentences like, "ohh, its nothing, you are a big boy or boys don't cry"
Give a name to the feeling - Introduce kids to real-world feelings by giving names. "That is a lot of hard work gone wasted. It seems frustrating"
Grant their wish in fantasy - We cannot fulfil everything. So during a tantrum, grant their wish in fantasy. "I wish we had a room full of chocolates with all we can eat."
Describe the problem - for example, if a kid is wasting water. Tell them firmly that, "you are wasting water".
Provide Information - "and if you waste water, there are kids in Africa who will not get enough water to drink".
Describe in 1 word/phrase - rather than giving a long lecture. Use the same word/phrase every time that behaviour is seen.
Describe your feelings - Without being too melodramatic, it makes a lot of sense to describe how you feel to your kid. "Walking on the floor with dirty shoes will increase my work, and I don't like to work extra".
Write a note - Put your feelings (in small phrases) in a note and handover to the kid. Kids usually respect this. "Please put your toys in the box after playing. Mom does not like to do your work".
Use alternatives to punishment
Point out a way to be helpful - try to find out why they did something which is punishable and how you can help them.
Express strong disapproval - Use techniques above in point 2
State your expectations - Use techniques above in point 2
Show how to make amends - Provide solutions and how to correct what they have done.
Offer a choice - "Do you want to do your homework or go to bed early?" (But no TV)
Take action if necessary - Don't be physical but remove a privilege or access to something to make them understand the consequences of their actions.
Allow natural consequences - Within a controlled environment (and without a lot of harm), let them see what happens if they do something. E.g. not doing homework may lead to scolding and embarrassment in the class.
Problem Solve - Understand the underlying issue and try to rectify it. E.g. your kid is not doing homework due to an understanding issue or too much pressure. Try to make it fun.
Describe what you see - Avoid words like "Very Good, Smart boy". This does not sound genuine after a point. Instead, while praising a painting, you may say, "the colours have come out really well. You are imaginative".
Sum up the praise in one word/phrase - "Beautiful Painting"
Don't let kids play roles
Put them in a new light - Don't stereotype kids with words like stubborn, naughty, selfish, shy. Don't use these words in front of your kids to describe them to others.
Let them overhear their praise - Praise them genuinely to others and let them overhear this. This will increase their self-confidence.
Portray the desired behaviour - Walk the talk. If you read books, your kids will read. If you watch TV, your kids will watch TV.
State feelings & expectations clearly - Use techniques above in point 2
Let kids make choices - Present choices to them. Write down options with a mutual discussion.
Respect their struggles - Don't underplay their issues. Don't jump to help them. Lets them solve it, while you provide support if required. Let them find solutions.
Don't ask too many questions - Don't try to control their lives. Don't micromanage.
Promote outside sources - You won't have all the answers. Encourage them to get solutions from outside like teachers, friends, relatives, books.
Don't kill hope - Let them experiment. Guide and mentor them. But don't kill their hope with things like, "You will never make it to your school football team, you don't know how to dribble"
This book is a practical guidebook to help you become friends with your kids. I feel that the same principles can be applied to manage our relationships with adults as well.
A must-read book for every parent.
2) The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success by William N. Thorndike Jr. (3/5)
This book is focused on what a CEO should do. According to the book, a CEO should be evaluated only on "The compound annual return to its shareholders compared to the peer and overall market".
The book provides insights into the tenure of 7 CEOs who were unconventional but managed to achieve the above objective. These 7 CEOs are called "The Outsiders".
According to the book, the Outsiders focused on following to be successful than their peers. They beat the stock market multiple times over.
Capital Allocation: A CEO is like an investor. He/She has to devote maximum time to this activity. Capital allocation is identifying avenues to deploy cash/resources which generates the best ROI.
Per Share Value: Once a CEO masters the art of Capital Allocation, it ensures an increase in per-share value for the shareholders. The per-share value should be prioritised over company size or growth.
Cashflow: For a company, Cashflow is an important measure of a company's success than reported earnings. Valuation is vanity, Reported Earnings is sanity, and Cashflow is reality.
Decentralisation: Decentralise and give more power to the local heads/CEOs. That will ensure more entrepreneurial value is released in the organization. This will eliminate bureaucracy in the organizations.
CEO Charisma is overrated: A CEO should focus more time on thinking, executing and managing. Interactions with media, investor relationships etc are distractions.
Stock Buybacks: Treat your stock as an investment opportunity. Buy when cheap and sell when expensive.
This is a good management book - which is well written and insightful. However, I did not agree with a few things in the book.
A shareholder is a king: When CEOs focus only on shareholder wealth, they ignore other stakeholders i.e. employees, customers, vendors and society at large. Working only for shareholders is a very myopic and dangerous objective. All the CEOs in this book are praised for saving costs (by firing employees - apart from other things!).
Focus on saving taxes: Throughout the book, the CEOs are praised for their ability to save taxes. This is a very selfish approach for any organisation.
USA focus: The book focuses on all the companies which are in the US. Many great companies outside the US could have been covered as well.
Old economy focus: The book may not be relevant for today's startups in its entirety.
Luck: When we do a postmortem analysis of a business phenomenon, we always ignore a very important component - LUCK! The companies mentioned in this book were also the beneficiaries of unprecedented 70 years of growth seen by the US in these times.
This is a one time read with what to do and what not to do as a CEO.
3) Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek (4/5)
This book highlights a very powerful concept called - "why". Organizations and individuals always talk about "what" they are doing and "how" they are doing what they are doing. But no one ever talks about "why" they are doing what they are doing.
"Why" is the sole purpose of any entity - organization or individuals. If we talk about individuals, we always talk about what we are doing in this world. During a mid-life crisis (or any crisis), we wonder what went wrong, where we screwed up, why the world is unfair to us, only if we had such and such opportunity etc. However, we seldom ask the basic question of life. "Why am I put in this life?" In other words, what is the purpose of my life? If this is answered correctly, other things will start falling in line.
The same applies to organizations. Companies always talk about features or their products or services (which is "what") or about their best practices (which is "how"). A very limited number of companies talk about why they exist. A clearly defined why makes competition irrelevant - as the company starts competing with itself.
This book provides scientific evidence on how nature uses "why" methodology - golden ratio, how the brain is designed and other evolutionary concepts. It also provides examples from the Wright Brothers, Apple, Southwest Airlines and a lot of other companies which either embraced the "why" philosophy or lost as they did not embrace it.
A must-read book for personal development and for leaders trying to build great organizations.
Simon Sinek's 2009 Ted talk on the same topic.
4) Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (5/5)
This is a life-changing book. The book was written in 1937 when the USA and the world were just recovering from the great depression.
This book is not about becoming rich - unlike the title suggests. This book is about achieving success in one's desired area. Success is a very tricky subject. The author acknowledges that success can mean different things to different individuals and an entire book is required to define it.
Some of the ideas given in this book may sound obvious. We must have heard them multiple times from our parents, teachers and elders. However, these ideas if put into practice can definitely help in leading a successful life. You can define the success you want. It can be money, fame, power, respect or happiness.
Desire + Ideas + Plans + Massive Action = Success
The book highlights the 13 principles which are at the core of a successful life.
Desire - Desire or motivation is a powerful tool to get yourself into action. Visualise the desire and the outcome clearly and practice every day.
Faith - Have strong faith in yourself and the world around you to give you what you desire.
Auto-suggestion - Auto suggestions are thoughts, ideas, a mindset that is pushed into your head by your subconscious mind. Desire something strongly and your mind will push solutions continuously to you in form of auto-suggestions.
Specialised Knowledge - There is a difference between General Knowledge and Specialised Knowledge. Knowledge is power only when it helps in personal, professional or societal benefit.
Imagination - A strong desire will lead to relevant auto-suggestions which will lead to imaginative solutions.
Organised Planning - Detailed planning, checklists are the recipe for success. Plans provide details on how you will achieve something. A prior experience in a similar problem may enhance your planning.
Decision - Indecisive person or leader is a liability on himself and others. A loser reach decisions slowly and change their mind very fast. Successful people decide fast and change their mind very slow. Finalise what you want and stick to it. Angela Duckworth in her book - Grit - highlights this concept.
Persistence - Stick to what you believe in and has decided. Changing too many plans and directions too often will lead to failure.
Power of the mastermind - Surround yourself with smart and knowledgeable people. In your core group, you should have people who can teach you. The best guides and mentors are authors of the books.
Transmutation of sex - Sex is a powerful desire. Use sexual energy to enhance creativity and productivity. (Honestly, I did not understand this point a lot). However, according to me, it is about harnessing the power of this emotion.
Subconscious mind - Feed your subconscious mind with desire, hope, love, faith, enthusiasm and romance. The more positive you are, the healthier your subconscious mind and hence powerful your auto-suggestions.
The brain - Prepare your brain to generate better ideas, thoughts, emotions required for your success.
The Sixth Sense - A strong brain, relevant auto-suggestions, superior brain activity, meditation will lead to an early warning system that will help you achieve success.
My biggest learning from the book is: Define your success and continuously work towards it. If you desperately need something, you will definitely get it. Remember, success is not a milestone, it is now.
Below is a beautiful and yet powerful poem which we used to recite in our school. The author also quotes this in this book.
If you think you are beaten, you are; If you think you dare not, you don't. If you'd like to win, but you think you can't, It is almost a certain you won't.
If you think you'll lose, you've lost; For out in this world we find Success begins with a fellow's will It's all in the state of mind.
If you think you're outclassed, you are; You've got to think high to rise. You've got to be sure of yourself before You can ever win the prize.
Life's battles don't always go To the stronger or faster man; But sooner or later the person who wins Is the one who thinks he can!