Category Archives: Personal Development

10 books you should read for personal development

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Books are very personal, with different tastes attracted to different subjects or topics. There are many great books out there that can help you grow and develop yourself. In no particular order of importance, I present 10 books out of very many that have had a profound impact on my outlook on life, business, work and relationships:

  1. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell – In this book, Gladwell explores what exactly makes people successful, famous or high-achievers (Hint: It is not what you probably think). He also speaks on the concept of the 10,000 Hour Rule, in which Gladwell claims that greatness requires enormous time put into your craft.
  2. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey – A classic when it was was first published in 1989 to date, this book continues to impact the way in which we approach our personal and professional effectiveness. Covey presents an approach to being effective in attaining goals by aligning oneself to what he calls “true north” principles based on a character ethic that he presents as universal and timeless.
  3. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl – Psychiatrist Victor Frankl’s memoir chronicles his time at the Auschwitz camp and other concentration camps during the Nazi era. His wife, father, mother and brother all died in Nazi concentration camps, only he and his sister survived, but he never lost the qualities of compassion, loyalty, undaunted spirit and thirst for life (earning his pilot’s licence aged 67). Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.
  4. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck – After decades of research, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., discovered a simple but groundbreaking idea: the power of mindset. In this book, she shows how success in school, work, sports, the arts, and almost every area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. People with a fixed mindset—those who believe that abilities are fixed—are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset—those who believe that abilities can be developed. Mindset reveals how great parents, teachers, managers, and athletes can put this idea to use to foster outstanding accomplishment.
  5. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth – Pioneering psychologist Angela Duckworth shows anyone striving to succeed—be it parents, students, educators, athletes, or business people—that the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls “grit.”
  6. Grit to Great: How Perseverance, Passion, and Pluck Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval – It is not native intelligence or natural talent that makes people excel, it’s old-fashioned hard work, sweat equity, and determination. In Grit to Great, Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval tackle a topic that is close to their hearts, one that they feel is the real secret to their own success in their careers–and in the careers of so many people they know and have met. And that is the incredible power of grit, perseverance, perspiration, determination, and sheer stick-to-it-tiveness. We are all dazzled by the notion that there are some people who get ahead, who reach the corner office because they are simply gifted, or well-connected, or both. But research shows that we far overvalue talent and intellectual ability in our culture. The fact is, so many people get ahead–even the gifted ones–because they worked incredibly hard, put in the thousands of hours of practice and extra sweat equity, and made their own luck.
  7. Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip Heath and Dan Heath – In Decisive, Chip Heath and Dan Heath tackle the thorny problem of how to overcome our natural biases and irrational thinking to make better decisions, about our work, lives, companies and careers. When it comes to decision making, our brains are flawed instruments. But given that we are biologically hard-wired to act foolishly and behave irrationally at times, how can we do better? The Heath brothers, drawing on extensive studies, stories and research, offer specific, practical tools that can help us to think more clearly about our options, and get out of our heads, to improve our decision making, at work and at home.
  8. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon SinekStart with Why analyses leaders like Martin Luther King Jr and Steve Jobs and discovers that they all think in the same way – they all started with why. Simon Sinek explains the framework needed for businesses to move past knowing what they do to how they do it, and then to ask the more important question-WHY? Why do we do what we do? Why do we exist? Learning to ask these questions can unlock the secret to inspirational business. Sinek explains what it truly takes to lead and inspire and how anyone can learn how to do it.
  9. Blue Ocean Strategy: How To Create Uncontested Market Space And Make The Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne – This international bestseller challenges everything you thought you knew about the requirements for strategic success. Since the dawn of the industrial age, companies have engaged in head-to-head competition in search of sustained, profitable growth. They have fought for competitive advantage, battled over market share, and struggled for differentiation. Yet, as this influential and immensely popular book shows, these hallmarks of competitive strategy are not the way to create profitable growth in the future. Authors W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne argue that cutthroat competition results in nothing but a bloody red ocean of rivals fighting over a shrinking profit pool. Based on a study of 150 strategic moves (spanning more than 100 years across 30 industries), the authors argue that lasting success comes not from battling competitors, but from creating “blue oceans” — untapped new market spaces ripe for growth. Such strategic moves, which the authors call “value innovation,” create powerful leaps in value that often render rivals obsolete for more than a decade. Blue Ocean Strategy presents a systematic approach to making the competition irrelevant and outlines principles and tools any company can use to create and capture their own blue oceans.
  10. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini – This is the unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, caught in the tragic sweep of history, The Kite Runner transports readers to Afghanistan at a tense and crucial moment of change and destruction. A powerful story of friendship, it is also about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons -their love, their sacrifices, and their lies.

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To join a startup or not?

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I’ve been asked severally what my thoughts are on working for/with a startup. In the course of my (relatively) short professional career, I have worked more for startups than the so-called established institutions. Both types of institutions provide their merits: startups offer an environment where innovation is key for success in every aspect of the operation, partly due to limited resources. You have an opportunity for making substantial impact, and greater appreciation all round. The work environment tends to be more relaxed. The learning curve is steep. Flexibility. Stock options. The list goes on. Established institutions work better and more smoothly due to structures having been put in place. The pay tends to be better. There is more job security. Time to productivity is usually less rigid compared to a startup. There are more perks offered.

That being said, if you are considering a job in a startup, I believe the following are some pertinent questions to ask before making the leap:

  1. Start with why: According to Simon Sinek, Your Why is the purpose, cause, or belief that inspires you to do What you do.  If your reasons do not align with the opportunity, it is likely that you will not be happy. Check your motivation also against your personal values. Your core values will determine whether joining a startup, or a particular startup, would be a great move.
  2. Who are the founders and what is their story? Learning more about the founder(s) of a startup can go a long way in cluing you on the motivation behind the company. Check for past work history, successes and failures, education background, awards won, check out their web presence, follow them on social media, learn more about the history of the startup itself and any other strategy you may employ to learn more about the startup. All these will be very helpful when you need to make a decision on whether to take the leap or not.
  3. Where is the money coming from and how long can it sustain the business? What business model is in play? Are they donor-funded? If there is funding in place, what type is it? How much runway does the organization have before it runs out of money? What is the plan for that? What is the current monthly revenue?
  4. Do they offer stock options and what is their vesting schedule? Many startups are using stock options as a way to attract, retain and motivate employees. Many individuals have become millionaires through stock options in companies like Facebook, Google, and Whatsapp. The concept of stock options is that it is attractive, not just for the perceived monetary value, but also for the sense of ownership it gives an employee. Of course for this to make sense, you must believe that the company will succeed.
  5. What is my role in this startup? Due to the nature of startups being an all-hands-on-deck kind of place, your exact role can blur with time. It is very important to establish what you are expected to deliver on early enough. A startup, as I mentioned earlier, is a place that allows for great impact and great appreciation. The downside of this is that you not delivering on your mandate (whether you even know your mandate or not) is glaring.

At the end of the day, no amount of due diligence will guarantee a startup’s success or failure. I believe a startup is an incredible place to learn, grow and diversify your experiences in ways that an established company may not allow, and present you with opportunities down the line.

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I change, I grow, I change

So after indulging myself reading this fantastic blog, A Day in a Dog’s Life, I started really thinking about life. Michael’s post, “How to Pray for Dummies” got me contemplating about life, love, God and everything else in between.

Someone significant to me got me thinking about where I am today in every aspect. A lot has changed in my life. Change – I now look at it as a building block as opposed to positive or negative. For once, change to me is just that – change. It has affected profoundly who I am and what I am becoming, but I no longer beat myself up and try to measure myself against the impossible standards that exist in my mind.

I am still changing. I am still growing. I try to understand more. I try to feel more. And everyday is a gift that I appreciate. Living for the moment allows me to savor and taste every morsel of pleasure life has to offer. Enjoy every moment of bliss without regret. It was once said, never regret that which makes you smile. Wise words to live by.

And before I go to bed I ask myself, “What made you smile today? What made you laugh out loud, genuine delight shining on your face?” And I scribble something in my diary for me to later reminisce upon.