I had heard about the famous Ted Talk by Susan Cain sometime back but did not get around to reading this book. “Quiet …” is a book that made me relate to it very closely. There have been so many books that I have read over the years that tell introverts how to overcome introvert behavior by following some method or the other as though being introvert was some kind of handicap to survive in this world. For the first time “Quiet” tells you to celebrate introvert behavior and does not give you reason or means to change it.
The idea that today’s world recognizes culture of personality as opposed to culture of character resonates with me and I am sure with many people who have always felt world was more biased towards extroversion. In the last few years there is a recognition that there are introvert and extrovert people and they will behave differently in similar situations. But the emphasis has always been on telling introvert people that they need to change to survive with dominant extrovert culture. In this book the author says that this leads to colossal waste of energy and potential that remains untapped and I agree with her. The extroversion dominated environment gives preference to style and loudness of the arguments rather than substance and good ideas.
I see all around me this bias for extroversion. Group discussions, large meetings, seminars, team meetings, public speaking are all encouraged and rewarded. People who speak up are rewarded and encouraged. But there are the quiet ones who may have great ideas but the whole crowd situation makes it difficult for them to open up and speak. In the beginning, social networking brought out the best of introvert people. They could share their ideas with a large group of people without being in a group situation. But this has changed in recent times. Social networks have also become playground for extrovert people.
Even though the author celebrated introversion, she ended up giving advice to people how to manage in extroversion-dominated culture. What is required is a change in cultural behavior of society that goes back to recognizing culture of character.
I read this book few years ago and I had written about it during my earlier days of blogging. But I wanted to go back and read “Eat, pray, love” once again. Somehow I felt that this book had helped me in making some decisions about my life back then and I was again at crossroads and reading this book helped me once again. I have found a definite connection between myself and author Elizabeth Gilbert and that is a source of great inspiration for me. The way she handled her life and came out as winner after all the trials is amazing as well as motivating.
I also found incidents that I had not noticed during my first reading or not written about them during my earlier blog post. She manages to be funny even while writing most difficult phases of her life. The idea of writing a letter to God and getting it signed by all her well wishers in imagination is great. The way she is able to make friends everywhere in the world while travelling gives me something to think about. I have never been able to do anything like that. She celebrates thanksgiving dinner with her friends in Italy and it gets emotional for everybody present even though many of them are strangers.
I can go on writing about each chapter and how it made me think. It requires guts for somebody to give up everything and go on such a journey and then make millions of dollars and fans by writing about it. I wonder whether I will be able to take up this kind of journey in my life. You really need to be passionate about things and willing to give up pleasures of life and seek pleasure in simple and different things. I have to also make those butter fried potatoes some day that she made one night to satisfy her physical hunger but in the end she had to think about her Brazilian friend in the bed to satisfy herself.
Another of self-help books by Richard Carlson. I got hooked to his more famous book “Don’t sweat the small stuff…” and I have recommended that to many of my friends. “Shortcut through therapy” is little different. He talks about 10 principles of growth-oriented contended living. Main idea in the book is about people who seek therapy do not understand that the way psychological therapy is practiced by most of the professionals can do more harm than providing any relief.
Most of the time when people seek out a shrink to deal with their mental health problems, they are made to go over their issues and the root cause behind those issues again and again. This actually causes them to get into a downward spiral. They are now reliving their horrors again and again without getting any idea from shrink about how they can leave the past behind and move forward in life. This book provides those ideas that people can use to move forward. You cannot change the past but the future is in your hands and it is shaped by what you are thinking today.
Most of the suggested principles are similar to what he had suggested in “Don’t sweat the small stuff…” and are actually similar to what is suggested by most of the self-help books but still reading this book was fun for me. “Make yourself happy”, “Count your blessings”, “Now is the time to live”, “It’s okay not to be perfect”, “Look for the silver lining”, are such universal common sense themes that you find in all self-help books. At the same time, it is so difficult for people to practice these and we find ourselves doing things that are exactly opposite to these words of wisdom.
In a way it is good to keep reading same things in different books. Some of it will always rub on you and will help in long run.
I remember that I was attending a technical seminar few years ago where one of the IBM executive mentioned that it is an open secret that now IBM earns most of its profit from services and not from products as has traditionally been the case earlier. That particular statement left me thinking as I had always regarded IBM at the forefront of computer technology and responsible for so many innovations that have taken place in last 50 years. And then I came across this book “Who says elephants can’t dance”, by CEO of IBM Louis V. Gerstner who is credited with this turnaround of the company.
When he came on board from a non-technical domain of American Express, IBM was facing a tough challenge from PC makers, Microsoft, Apple and the technology trend from mainframes to desktop PCs. But it was a monolith, steeped in bureaucracy and very difficult to make any changes. At such time, Gerstner took tough decisions, laid out employees but did not break up the company into “Baby-blues” like AT&T and focussed on IT services and solutions instead of Hardware that it was selling till that time. He managed to turn around the fortunes of the whole company in few years and even though it is not doing the same things that it used to do earlier, IBM has adapted to market transition and has been financially successful.
His writing style is good and easy to read. But the book focusses a lot on the Gerstner himself and what he did to save the company. Since it is his autobiography, he has liberty to look at things from his perspective but sometimes I felt that he was over the top. Several of his emails to all employees of the company find prominent mention in the book that I found a bit too much. There is also a famous incident where he switched off a projector in middle of presentation by top executives so that they could do some real “work”.
Another gem of a book by author Dan Ariely. I had read his earlier book “Predictably Irrational” sometime back and now he has come up with “The upside of irrationality; The unexpected benefits of defying logic at work and at home”. In this book, once again he explores various irrational forces that are defining our decisions but here he talks about how this irrationality is beneficial for all of us at work and at home. If we were completely rational human beings, working on old economic theory of cost versus benefit, nobody in this world would want to work or help others. But he goes on to prove through short simple experiments that we human beings (as well as animals) want to earn our living. We take pride in what we do. We value our work more than other’s work and we empathise with people when we see them needing our help.
The book also explores the idea of adaptability in mating game played by humans. He shows how people adapt to their own physical limitations and adapt very quickly in selection of their mates that is most likely to give them results. He has gone a bit tangential talking about online dating and how that does not work as an industry and what all needs to be done for that.
His idea that we are able to empathise with single person but fail to understand the misery of millions is thoughtful. This is something that I have also seen in recent past. When “prince” fell down in well, the whole of country was praying for him. But when thousands of people die of malnutrition we fail to rise up to the occasion.
The book is very thought-provoking. Individual examples in the book may or may not apply to all of us but you end up thinking about lot of decisions that we take in our daily life. It is not necessary for all our decisions to be rational but it is important for us to question them and understand the hidden forces that shape our decisions.