The Curious Case of Self-Help Books

Lately, I have been reading a lot of books -especially self-help books :) Its actually fun to read those ;). For example, the latest one that I read was by Prof. Clayton Christen of Harvard Business School titled How Will You Measure Your Life?

A Harvard Business Review article with the same title was introduced to me during one of MBA elective classes. The article was just amazing that I was eagerly waiting to read his book. While I agree that he has done justice to the book, it was no as powerful as the article! That brought a thought to mind about how the self-help books are written (at least those I have read…)

Often, I feel Calvin was completely right on target :)

Calvin and Hobbes on writing Self Help books

In any self-help book, the author tries to

  1. Convince you that there are problems and its better to tackle those
  1. Convince that you are not alone in facing those problems; its universal
  2. While the problems may not be due to your fault; there is wide scope to improve
  1. The book gives sure short answers on how to tackle them

Lately, I have even seen many authors out rightly suggesting #4 in the above list is not possible and the book will only help you to think :)

My inquisitive mind suggested to read some of the old books on this topic - like those which are decades or hundreds' of years old - like the ones written by Dale Carnegie or James Allen. In one of our MBA elective courses on career management, we even went as deep as discussing the thoughts of philosophers like Socrates and Epicurus. It was fun :)

I believe if we see the modern books on self-help and happiness, earlier authors' and philosophers' thoughts are camouflaged in one way or the other as if they are writing it for the first time. May be the most value add is these authors make it so simple while the early philosophers'' thoughts were very deep. Considering these, I would think the essence of all these books or rather the best thoughts are --

  1. Don't whine about your situation
  2. Decide on priorities and move on
  3. If the course of action you took is not delivering results; just try another one

I am sure your immediate question would be - what if we keep failing on the courses of action we take? Just keep trying :)

de doux souvenirs - Sweet memories from IIMB life

Some UN-forgettable Moments
  • When I met in person Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam
  • When I got 4/4 GPA in my elective course Elements of Management Consulting
  • When I sat along with the Director and a Chief Guest and participated in a short discussion on a company's international aspirations!
  • When I received scolding from the Director for something I was not directly responsible for (It was a Déjà vu from good old Engineering days :))
  • At 1 AM when the group had no idea what to present the next day; Perumal (a group member) suggests an idea and later it becomes the insight for the classes applauded by Professor :)
  • At 4 AM, the group fighting on formatting issues of a project report after daunting discussions and heated arguments :)
  • Creating a presentation while the Professor is teaching and presenting to the class after the lecture and getting appreciation from the Professor ;) ;)
  • When I became the Secretary of Students' Council

Some events I wish never happened!  
  • Burning few bridges and loosing a good mentor and friend over petty issues and ego clashes :(
  • Screwing up during an important public facing event
Some Lessons learn-t the hard way!
  1. There is no such thing as 'free lunch'
  2. It doesn't matter how much you deserve; all that matters is how much luck is with you
  3. Be assertive; need not be aggressive; most of the time no harm in being aggressive also!
  4. You can learn any number of leadership theories; it takes experience to become one!
  5. It's OK to be little selfish!; there is no such thing as utilitarian thought though they teach about it a lot event in B Schools...
Few things I missed during B School life
  • International Exchange Program
  • Hostel Life
  • I thought I will become fluent in Hindi at least here; but didn't happen :)
 Some Professors whose classes I enjoyed the most
Some courses that kept me on my toes everyday
 Some courses I wish I never took!
  • Telecom Strategy
  • Quantitative Methods II (Operations Research, LPP etc.)
  • Management Control Systems
  • Services Marketing

Some courses I wish I studied more seriously!
  • Corporate Finance
  • Quantitative Methods I

Book Review: The Wall Street MBA by Reuben Advani

 
I bought the first edition of The Wall Street MBA by Reuben Advani and this review is predominantly based on it. In the second edition few more chapters are added on Real Estate, Currency and Commodities. But I don't think there is any significant changes in the already existing content.

Overall a good read! a nice refresher for those in the field and a good introductory discussion for those new to the field. But don't get fooled by the title; it is NOT a crash course on corporate finance (well, I can see the author has changed that sub title in the latest edition). I felt this book to be more a refresher for financial accounting as half the book is written about FINAC. I must admit the first half is a thorough piece! When it came to the actuals of CORP FIN; its more a mere introduction on layman's vocabulary that we can get easily from the internet.

The coverage given on topics like Ratio Analysis, Cost of Capital and Financial Statements is exhaustive. I expected more on bonds, derivatives and some stuff on i-banking as the title suggests :P

Overall a good introductory and refresher type book!!

Book Review - Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson



I think its very hard to read classics let alone write reviews about them. First of all if you have not read a book that is there for decades - you missed big time (unless you are from the young breed reading books one by one :P). Secondly, you would have heard from friends, lectures and other books to the extend that you may think the book content is repetitive!

Having said that and taken a bail :) my honest opinion after reading the book was that it had no 'aha-aha' moment. All it says is that change is inevitable and learn to move on!

The beauty of the book I believe is how Dr. Spenser has put forth his thoughts. The book could be read in half an hour; however the content resonates once you start to reflect yourself. The book essentially talks about the fact that we should not get lazy and fall into a comfort zone once we find some success. As per the book success is not everlasting; we have to change according to the circumstances; there is no point in thinking an 'auto-switch' for recovery will be enacted!

A quick read especially when your are emotionally down that will help you to rejuvenate and move on. I really liked the simplicity with which he has written the book!. A good summary is available in wikipedia with the key take-aways.

When I read the book, some of the thoughts I read in S.U.M.O (Shut Up, Move On)by Paul McGee resonated well :)