The India Story and Clear Thinking @ BYOB Party in Sep 2018 (Part 7)

Image result for attitude is everything amazonNow for some non-fiction books. Subrit followed the tradition of book lovers who are inspired by self-help books. Attitude is Everything is a book by a motivational speaker called Jeff Keller. He prescribes three maxims to arrive at your true potential: Think, Speak and Act! Sounds simple enough.

Image result for india unbound amazonRohan talked about the second Gurucharan Das book of the day called India Unbound, the  story of post-independent India. “We were only taught the pre-independent India story and this book talks in-depth about social, cultural and economic aspects of contemporary India.” Rohan went on to read a passage from the book:

“Today India’s caste system is in a state of transition. A half century of democracy has raised the status and esteem of the lower castes. Periodic elections have created vote banks, the lower castes have used to politics to to rise socially, and there is a social revolution under way, especially in the backward northern states. Its biggest prize is that half the government jobs and places in colleges are now reserved for the lower castes.What democracy has done for the lower castes in the twentieth century, capitalism will do in the twenty-first. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and there is little to stop it from continuing to grow between 6 and 8 percent a year for the next couple of decades. At this rate there will be unprecedented new jobs, and this will create new opportunities for everyone. The better jobs, it is true, will go to the better educated. But as the lower castes begin to realize that the better jobs are in the private sector rather than in the government, they will turn, one hopes, to education rather than reservations.”

Abhaya clarified that in spite of this hope, in India there remains an overwhelming preference for government jobs imprinted in employee DNA.

Image result for the art of thinking clearly amazonThe Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli is a book that’s come up a couple of times before in the BYOB Party.  Varun opined that understanding cognitive neuroscience is a great start if you want to overcome biases. The book contains a series of snippets. He doesn’t see the book as self-help, rather he sees it as a book that helps build self-awareness, although it is arguable how far the distinction lies. So how do you know if you have biases? If you are not willing to change your mindset on any topic, it means you probably have biases in that area. And also, the general assumption that everyone has biases can not be ruled out.

This is an interesting website that helps you think about thinking better.

And with that, we come to the end of this BYOB Party.

Self-Help or Not? @ BYOB Party in July 2017 (Part 1)

The BYOB Party in July kickstarted with a discussion on self-help books. We’ve worked on a self-help book infographic which you may want to look at and also published a story on self-help vs helplessness on the blog. In one of our earlier BYOB Parties, Abhaya mentioned a book called Wrong: Why experts keep failing us–and how to know when not to trust them. So we are familiar with the quandaries of self-help literature.

Nadeem is a big fan of motivational books. The book he spoke about was The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. As the title implies, the one thing is what you need to focus on and that can lead to mastery. The book has helped him to achieve his own design-related goals. He also recommends books by Robert Greene including MasteryThe 48 Laws of PowerThe Art of Seduction, and The 33 Strategies of War.

Suprith followed in the self-help trail with a book called So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport. Cal was a grad student at MIT doing his Ph.D. in computer science when the economic crises hit. This compelled him to research on how to make a great career. His research led him to address a fundamental question. Is passion really the bedrock of a great professional life? He mentions Steve Job’s Stanford lecture where passion is mentioned as an essential requirement and this led to a tangential conversation about Steve Job’s own passions from calligraphy to entrepreneurship and Zen. Newport spoke to experts in their fields from organic farmers, venture capitalists, screenwriters, freelance computer programmers to musicians and went on to discover that passion was rare and not a prerequisite for success. The book is not just about debunking the passion hypothesis; it also talks about the craftsman mindset which usually involves a more output-centered approach, which jargon aside simply means that a skilled craftsman keeps working on the craft. It’s not pure passion but lots of hard work that gets you from point A to B. So where did the title come from? Turns out it’s a Steve Martin quote.

Pratibha spoke about the captivating book Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter. She mused on the problem that the middle-class people face; they are continuously in the rat race and remain middle class. Kiyosaki addresses problems like these by focusing on the importance of tax management and not getting into debt. On the flip side, Jaya warns that as compelling as this bestseller may be, the book is not reliable when it comes to setting your own finances in order. Some of the readers in the group were also concerned about the author himself having had to declare bankruptcy.

Another book that provides unconventional solutions is The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris where he writes about how one can leave a 9-5 job and earn the same amount of money and then there is the book Secret by Rhonda Byrne that talks about how we can use the law of attraction to attract good things into our lives.

While there was a hum of assent for Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, considering how you could go back to the book at varying points in your life and dig out fresh meaning, many readers spoke against the merits of self-help literature in general. After all,  was there any book after reading which you become rich? You may want to listen to the comedian George Carlin making a dig at self-help books. This is a debate that has no clear-cut answers.

Abhaya added that a self-help book that would be useful to readers was How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren. Some readers in the group were skeptical about whether a book could teach you how to read, but Abhaya went on to describe how this book offers a practical approach to reading difficulties that could crop up depending on genre, length and level of difficulty. For instance, gaining from reading history would require the reading of two or more history books based in the same place. In case of a play, unless it is a closet play that is meant to be read silently, the best way to read it would be aloud.

You may want to go through these book reviews at our Review and a Half segment where we featured this book:

How to Read a Book- Part 1

How to Read a Book- Part 2

More books in Part 2.

Article Recommendation: The Fallacy of Success by G. K. Chesterton

The reason I am recommending this excerpt from All Things Considered by G. K. Chesterton is not because it says something that nobody else is saying today. But because he said it over a hundred years ago.

There has appeared in our time a particular class of books and articles which I sincerely and solemnly think may be called the silliest ever known among men. They are much more wild than the wildest romances of chivalry and much more dull than the dullest religious tract. Moreover, the romances of chivalry were at least about chivalry; the religious tracts are about religion. But these things are about nothing; they are about what is called Success.

So it turns out that self-help books and their nothingness are not a malaise that has appeared only recently. And nor is the need to caution people against them particularly modern.

So if you are not convinced against self-help books in modern way and would rather partake some ancient wisdom, read The Fallacy of Success by G. K. Chesterton.