There are certain things that you can’t learn by simply reading about them – kindness, empathy, listening, trusting your gut, etc. And it is these very things that self-help books and autobiographies of business leaders espouse. People often pick up these books expecting ah-ha wisdom, but it boils down to completely banal and cliched life-lessons that we’re all aware of. These lessons are a rite of passage and can’t possibly be understood or acquired by reading about them. There’s also the fact that individual journeys are more about luck and circumstance than anything else, and thus, force-fitting a bunch of generic leadership traits into a story about a leader’s rise to the top is in no way representative of how most of these journeys progress. Continue reading
Talking to Strangers is a weird book. It’s a book about… Well, horses on farms (joke). As is Malcom Gladwell’s modus operandi, the book relies heavily on anecdotal evidence, slightly on obscure and vague studies, and draws fairly obvious conclusions from court cases and police work that feed into true crime TV shows. It even draws inspiration from Chamberlain’s meeting with Hitler to drive home the point that talking to strangers is hard. And as it meanders on for roughly 6 hours, one can’t help but wonder if this book could have been a blog post. Or even a tweet. Gladwell’s style is exhausting, to the point where the reader is forced to question its existence. Racism, police brutality, espionage, diplomacy, famous court cases, and dead poets? To drive home the following:
1. Talking to strangers is hard.
2. We default to truth when talking to strangers, i.e we assume that strangers are honest.
3. We distrust people who don’t conform to what we think truth should look like.
4. Understanding a stranger requires us to put their actions in a context.
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Having finally finished Bottle of Lies, an investigative narration of the rot that runs within the Indian pharmaceutical industry by Katherine Eban, I am appalled. The extent of the subterfuge detailed in this book – one that paints India in a poor light and repeatedly references ‘jugaad’ and ‘chalta hai’ as reasons for poor drug manufacturing practices – is mind boggling. Selling substandard drugs in markets with least regulation, falsifying and lying to regulators including the US FDA, criminal intimidation of plant inspectors… The list goes on… While the book focuses heavily on Ranbaxy and the whistleblower Dinesh Thakur, some of India’s biggest companies in this industry have been named and shamed. These are listed companies, where one would assume there would be enough scrutiny built in at multiple levels – exchanges, institutional investors, analysts, credit rating agencies, auditors, etc. forcing them to conduct themselves ethically. Continue reading
So I set myself a target of reading at least one book every month. Happy to announce that I’m ending January a little late by finishing two fantastic books: Bad Blood and Permanent Record.
The last few weeks have been tumultuous, from dealing with the loss of a loved one to the climbing pressure at work. And it’s taken a toll on me, to the point where it’s coming out on the people around me. And I realized this last night, after an episode involving a delivery executive for some ice-cream we’d ordered. I’m generally impatient when it comes to things like these, but I crossed a line with the way I spoke to him. I was annoyed that I had to repeat the same set of instructions multiple times, and I was extremely rude. When he turned up at my apartment, I realized he had a disability which prevented him from speaking properly. He was probably as old as my cousin, who was with me in the apartment. My heart broke, and I was extremely ashamed with the way I’d spoken to him. While I tipped him well, the entire episode was a much-needed reminder that everyone’s fighting a battle that I know nothing about, and it was important to be kind and polite. Whoever you are and wherever you are, I’m sorry.