Tuesday, July 31, 2007

i-TFTD #41: Two Lives and Resistance

Your Unlived Life
Every day we wake up, and, whether we know or appreciate it, we wage an invisible war against an unquenchable foe. This unseen enemy stands between the life we live and the unlived life within us. Fall victim to it as most do and mediocrity is your course. Overcome it and your glory will be the success and accomplishment that can only come with living your Unlived Life.

by Steven Pressfield (This is an excerpt of the article at http://www.nightingaleconant.com/ae_article.aspx?a=achievingyourunlivedlife&i=180&page=3)

Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance. Have you ever brought home a treadmill and let it gather dust in the attic? Ever resolved on a diet, a course of yoga, and then quit on it? Are you a writer who doesn't write, a painter who doesn't paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is.

Resistance is the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease, and dysfunction. Resistance is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, harder to kick than crack cocaine. We're not alone if we've been mown down by Resistance; millions of good men and women have bitten the dust before us. And here's the biggest problem: We don't even know what hit us. I never did. From age 24 to 32, Resistance kicked my ass from East Coast to West and back again 13 times, and I never even knew it existed. I looked everywhere for the enemy and failed to see it right in front of my face.

Look into your own heart. Even though you've only read a few paragraphs into this article, unless I'm crazy, right now a still, small voice is piping up, telling you as it has 10 thousand times, the calling that is yours and yours alone. You know it. No one has to tell you. And unless I'm crazy, you're no closer to taking action on it than you were yesterday or will be tomorrow. You think Resistance isn't real? Resistance will bury you!

You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist. At 18 he took his inheritance, 700 kronen, and moved to Vienna to live and study. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the School of Architecture. Ever see one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it overstatement, but I'll say it anyway: It was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.

Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled. But it can be felt. It is experienced as a force field emanating from a work-in-potential. It's a repelling force. It's negative. Its intention is to shove the creator away, distract him, sap his energy, incapacitate him.

If Resistance wins, the venture doesn't get started.
Resistance seems to come from outside ourselves. We locate it in spouses, jobs, bosses, kids, distractions. "Peripheral opponents," as Pat Riley used to say when he coached the Los Angeles Lakers. Resistance is not a peripheral opponent. Resistance arises from within. It is self-generated and self-perpetuated. Resistance is the enemy within.

At some point in our maturity about life and the universe, we have to strike the right balance between aspiring for further progress and accepting our own limitations. Of course these limits can be transcended but only through our own actions. Small steps forward are much better than grand visions or vague yearnings.

Monday, July 30, 2007

i-TFTD #40

#40-1. People in any organization will tend to treat new concepts and ideas as follows: 5% will accept immediately, 25% will lean towards acceptance, 60% will wait and see if it seems okay, 10% will never accept anything.


#40-2. What gets measured gets done; what gets recognized gets done even better.

#40-3. There are two types of people who can tell you the truth about yourself: an enemy who has lost his temper and a friend who loves you dearly.


The 5% early adopters tend to get ignored but they along with the 25% "almost-adopters" must be nurtured as evangelizers, who can help in converting the cautious 60%. The 10% nay-sayers tend to get too much attention, they must be largely ignored, only their impact has to be contained.

More and more research is proving that managers and parents are being too stingy with praise and recognition.

I like the learning value implied in the third quote. We could train ourselves to glimpse the truth brought out by an angry enemy.

Friday, July 27, 2007

i-TFTD #39

#39-1. The only difference between where you are right now and where you'll be five years from now are the people you meet and the books you read.

-Charlie Jones

#39-2. Don't put the key to your happiness in someone else's pocket.
-Swami Chinmayananda

#39-3. Make mistakes faster than the competition, so you have more chances to learn and win.
-John W. Holt Jr.

Some say they have no time to read, or that books cannot teach; some are too busy to consciously try and meet new people. Not doing both of these makes us miss so many opportunities to learn interesting and useful aspects about life. And obviously impacts our career.

The second is something we need to remind ourselves constantly. We often blame external entities or circumstances for our career, our mood, our happiness. Maybe because it is easy and lessens our guilt.

Dynamic people and organizations try many things boldly, knowing that some would fail but at least some would succeed. They progress faster than those who ponder and analyze too much in trying to avoid failure.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

i-TFTD #38

#38-1. Developing excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership. The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others. If a leader can't get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn't even matter.

-Gilbert Amelio

#38-2. The key that unlocks energy is desire. It's also the key to a long and interesting life. If we expect to create any drive, any real force within ourselves, we have to get excited.

-Earl Nightingale

#38-3. The sign of intelligent people is their ability to control emotions by the application of reason.
-Marya Mannes

In my view, the ancient debate about form versus substance has now settled somewhere in between -- both are important.

The second and third could appear to be contradictory to some. They are not. Desire, excitement, passion are pre-requisites for excellence. Intelligent people would channelize these "good" emotions for good purposes.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

i-TFTD #37

1. If things are not going well with you, begin your effort at correcting the situation by carefully examining the service you are rendering, and especially the spirit in which you are rendering it.

-Roger Babson

2. In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins -- not through strength but by perseverance.

-H. Jackson Brown

3. The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

-Alvin Toffler

The concept of "servant leadership" has been gaining prominence with books and blogs dedicated to the subject. I believe Mahatma Gandhi proved that a different kind of leadership is possible and effective. Service orientation can be applied at many levels usefully.

Persistence, perseverance, stubbornness (in a positive sense)... key qualities that most of us can work to acquire and benefit from.

The last quote from Toffler, one of the few truly prophetic futurists, is profound. His books are difficult to read but have time and again predicted future trends in business and society. Learnability is the ultimate skill today, that usually tends to reduce with experience.

Monday, July 23, 2007

i-TFTD #36: Put a Shark in Your Tank

i-TFTD #36: Put a Shark in Your Tank

*** Fresh Fish Challenge: Put a Shark in Your Tank ***
-Author unknown

The Japanese have always loved fresh fish. But the waters close to Japan have not held many fish for decades. So to feed the Japanese population, fishing boats got bigger and went farther than ever. The farther the fishermen went, the longer it took to bring in the fish. If the return trip took more than a few days, the fish were not fresh. The Japanese did not like the taste.

To solve this problem, fishing companies installed freezers on their boats. They would catch the fish and freeze them at sea. Freezers allowed the boats to go farther and stay longer. however, the Japanese could taste the difference between fresh and frozen and they did not like frozen fish. The frozen fish brought a lower rice.  So fishing companies installed fish tanks. They would catch the fish and stuff them in the tanks, fin to fin. After a little hashing around, the fish stopped moving. They were tired and dull, but alive.

Unfortunately, the Japanese could still taste the difference. Because the fish did not move for days, they lost their fresh-fish taste. The Japanese preferred the lively taste of fresh fish, not sluggish fish. So how did Japanese fishing companies solve this problem? How do they get fresh-tasting fish to Japan?  To keep the fish tasting fresh, the Japanese fishing companies still put the fish in the tanks. But now they add a small shark to each tank. The shark eats a few fish, but most of the fish arrive in a very lively state. The fish are challenged.

As soon as you reach your goals, such as finding a wonderful mate, starting a successful company, paying off your debts or whatever, you might lose your passion. You don't need to work so hard so you relax.  Like the Japanese fish problem, the best solution is simple. It was observed by L. Ron Hubbard in the early 1950's: "Man thrives, oddly enough, only in the presence of a challenging environment."

*** The Benefits of a Challenge ***
The more intelligent, persistent and competent you are, the more you enjoy a good problem. If your challenges are the correct size, and if you are steadily conquering those challenges, you are happy. You think of your challenges and get energized. You are excited to try new solutions. You have fun. You are alive!

*** Recommendations ***
-Instead of avoiding challenges, jump into them. Beat the heck out of them.
-Enjoy the game.
-If your challenges are too large or too numerous, do not give up. Failing makes you tired. Instead, reorganize. Find more determination, more knowledge, more help.

-Don't create success and lie in it. You have resources, skills and abilities to make a difference.
-Put a shark in your tank and see how far you can really go!

Some of us vegetarians might not identify with this fish-y story but the lesson is valid. The "flow" state of optimal performance is also achieved only when people are engaged in slightly difficult goals and not when something is beyond their perceived ability nor when something is too easy.

Friday, July 20, 2007

i-TFTD #35: Mother's Day

i-TFTD #35: Mother's Day

A man stopped at a flower shop to order some flowers to be wired to his mother who lived two hundred miles away. As he got out of his car he noticed a young girl sitting on the curb sobbing.

He asked her what was wrong and she replied, "I wanted to buy a red rose for my mother. But I only have seventy-five cents, and a rose costs two dollars." The man smiled and said, "Come on in with me. I'll buy you a rose."

He bought the little girl her rose and ordered his own mother's flowers.

As they were leaving he offered the girl a ride home. She said, "Yes, please! You can take me to my mother."

She directed him to a cemetery, where she placed the rose on a freshly dug grave.

The man returned to the flower shop, canceled the wire order, picked up a bouquet and drove the two hundred miles to his mother's house.

While the touching aspect of this story is obvious, I find other interesting thought-triggers in it.

1. We often need a comparative reference in order to relook at something and realize its value. Could we consciously acquire the habit to periodically revisit existing situations, people, relationships and investments with a fresh perspective?

2. The man seems to be have an inherent sensitivity and willingness to open himself to an unplanned experience, which, in turn, led to something good. If he ignored the sobbing girl or even just gave her money and walked away, there would be no story. I have personally experienced that many interesting new things happened in activities that were not only unplanned but could-not-have-been planned.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

i-TFTD #34

i-TFTD #34

#34-1. It isn't the incompetent who destroy an organization -- it is those who have achieved something and want to rest upon their achievements who are forever clogging things up.

-Charles Sorenson

#34-2. There is nothing as useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.
-Peter Drucker

#34-3. Today's newest breed of employee is the self-manager. These workers are the ones who survived the recent waves of downsizing, both by seeking and capitalizing on new opportunities and by learning new skills. Because these employees increasingly possess the skills and technological tools to supervise themselves - individually or in teams - they are eliminating the need for layers of management. More executives will soon find their jobs redundant, while self-managing front-line workers become highly valued and virtually fire proof. Everyone should strive to become self-managed. It is clearly the direction business is taking.

-John Challenger

Recent studies from diverse sources have highlighted how successful people let that success itself become a barrier to the next phase of achievement. The Enrons and Andersons or even the various derivatives trading disasters at Barings and Sumitomo did not have stereotypical "villains" at the center of those stories. In fact, "heroes" and "champions", brilliant whiz-kids, management gurus and hallowed institutions were the protagonists. All those who have achieved a leadership position should re-examine themselves and their environment to renew their self-image, re-assess their competencies and reorient. I recently read a book by executive coach Marshall Goldsmith called, "What Got You Here Won't Get You There" touching upon this subject. Compulsory reading for senior managers.

Part of what leaders need to do is to ensure that the right things are done before embarking on doing things right. The other aspect to reflect on is your equation with subordinates, many of who belong to a different generation.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

i-TFTD #33

i-TFTD #33

1. The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.
-Walter Bagehot

2. Fly with the wind, you fly long. Fly against the wind, you fly high.

3. If everybody likes you, you are not doing it right.
-Bette Davis

Conformity is drilled into each of us from birth, at home and at school. This is an inevitable part of "growing up". But somewhere many of us fail to retain a part of our core self: creative, courageous, curious... So we need such inspiring reminders to dare to do something different. And the biggest reward is an inner satisfaction.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

i-TFTD #32

i-TFTD #32

#32-1. The ability to ask good questions is a skill which is often un-tapped. In our society it is more common to hear people talking about themselves than asking questions of others.

-Alice Fryling

#32-2. Opportunity's favorite disguise is trouble.
-Frank Tyger

#32-3. You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

-Buckminster Fuller

My thought: Is the purpose of a question always to obtain answers?

Monday, July 16, 2007

i-TFTD #31

i-TFTD #31

#31-1. In life, to handle yourself, use your head, but to handle others, use your heart.
-Swami Chinmayananda

#31-2. Snowflakes are one of nature’s most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together.
-Vista M. Kelly

#31-3. We are judged by what we finish, not by what we start.

It is easier to be rational and logical about other people's situations than our own but we should do the opposite.

Taking things to closure is a key ability.

Friday, July 13, 2007

i-TFTD #30: Bless You My Friends

i-TFTD #30: Bless You My Friends

Recent leadership literature and medicinal research reports promote having an "attitude of gratitude". We tend to take for granted whatever we have and crave after what we don't. Sometimes a dose of facts helps put things in perspective and have a better sense of proportion. The following helps in that.

 Bless You My Friends

 If you woke up this morning
 with more health than illness,
 you are more blessed than the
 million who won't survive the week.

 If you have never experienced
 the danger of battle,
 the loneliness of imprisonment,
 the agony of torture or
 the pangs of starvation,
 you are ahead of 20 million people
 around the world.

 If you attend a church meeting
 without fear of harassment,
 arrest, torture, or death,
 you are more blessed than almost
 three billion people in the world.

 If you have food in your refrigerator,
 clothes on your back, a roof over
 your head and a place to sleep,
 you are richer than 75% of this world.

 If you have money in the bank,
 in your wallet, and spare change
 in a dish someplace, you are among
 the top 8% of the world's wealthy.

 If your parents are still married and alive,
 you are very rare,
 especially in the United States.

 If you hold up your head with a smile
 on your face and are truly thankful,
 you are blessed because the majority can,
 but most do not.

 If you can hold someone's hand, hug them
 or even touch them on the shoulder,
 you are blessed because you can
 offer God's healing touch.

 If you can read this message,
 you are more blessed than over
 two billion people in the world
 that cannot read anything at all.

 You are so blessed in ways
 you may never even know.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

i-TFTD #29: Acres of Diamonds

i-TFTD #29: Acres of Diamonds

Every kind of work has enormous opportunity lurking within it. The opportunities are there now, clamoring to be noticed. But they cannot speak or print signs for us to read. Our part of the bargain is to look at our work with "intelligent objectivity". If we have the wisdom and patience to intelligently, effectively explore the work in which we're now engaged, to explore ourselves, we would most likely find the riches we seek.

by ? (I have heard this from many sources, including motivational authors Earl Nightingale and Shiv Khera)

The story a true one is told of an African farmer who heard tales about other farmers who had made millions by discovering diamond mines. These tales so excited the farmer that he could hardly wait to sell his farm and go prospecting for diamonds himself. He sold the farm and spent the rest of his life wandering the African continent searching unsuccessfully for the gleaming gems that brought such high prices on the markets of the world. Finally, worn out and in a fit of despondency, he threw himself into a river and drowned.

Meanwhile, the man who had bought his farm happened to be crossing the small stream on the property one day, when suddenly there was a bright flash of blue and red light from the stream bottom. He bent down and picked up a stone. It was a good-sized stone, and admiring it, he brought it home and put it on his fireplace mantel as an interesting curiosity.

Several weeks later a visitor picked up the stone, looked closely at it, hefted it in his hand, and nearly fainted. He asked the farmer if he knew what he'd found. When the farmer said, no, that he thought it was a piece of crystal, the visitor told him he had found one of the largest diamonds ever discovered. The farmer had trouble believing that. He told the man that his creek was full of such stones, not all as large as the one on the mantel, but sprinkled generously throughout the creek bottom.

The farm the first farmer had sold, so that he might find a diamond mine, turned out to be one of the most productive diamond mines on the entire African continent. The first farmer had owned, free and clear... acres of diamonds. But he had sold them for practically nothing, in order to look for them elsewhere. The moral is clear: If the first farmer had only taken the time to study and prepare himself to learn what diamonds looked like in their rough state, and to thoroughly explore the property he had before looking elsewhere, all of his wildest dreams would have come true.

The thing about this story that has so profoundly affected millions of people is the idea that each of us is, at this very moment, standing in the middle of our own acres of diamonds. If we had only had the wisdom and patience to intelligently and effectively explore the work in which we're now engaged, to explore ourselves, we would most likely find the riches we seek, whether they be financial or intangible or both.

Before you go running off to what you think are greener pastures, make sure that your own is not just as green or perhaps even greener. It has been said that if the other guy's pasture appears to be greener than ours, it's quite possible that it's getting better care. Besides, while you're looking at other pastures, other people are looking at yours.

Important point brought out in a simple story. Exploring and celebrating what we have, as opposed to things we do not seem to have, is a sensible attitude. Today's ultra-competitive environment seems to foster a behavior of silly comparison in everything. "Oh, did you buy that for $23? I paid $24 last month." In my daughter's school I have encountered parents who want to know the marks of other children before that of their own child.

Monday, July 9, 2007

i-TFTD #28

i-TFTD #28

#28-1. To increase fear - wait, put off, postpone. To fight fear, act.
-David J. Schwartz

#28-2. Winners are those people who make a habit of doing the things losers are uncomfortable doing.
-Ed Foreman

#28-3. What one does is what counts and not what one had the intention of doing.
-Pablo Picasso

Action orientation, especially aimed at completion of the boring, the unpleasant and the difficult, is a key characteristic of successful persons. We are told it can be cultivated as a habit.

How many times we end up explaining what we meant to do, what we thought, what we attempted, what assumptions drove our actions etc.? This is a typical mistake seen in a customer support environment. The customer or our managers are initially more interested in knowing what will be done, what needs to be done, how to resolve the issue. The time for analysis of the past circumstances is later, after resolving the issue at hand, when we want to identify preventive action for the future or assign accountability.

Friday, July 6, 2007

i-TFTD #27: Something Plus Acceptance

When someone is doing something or about to do something, in a way I don't want it to be done -- and I am not able to accept it -- I become angry.

When someone is doing something or about to do something, in a way I don't want it to be done -- and I am able to accept it -- I remain tolerant.

When someone is having something or someone is able to produce the results which I am not able to produce:
If I am not able to accept it, I become jealous;
If I am able to accept it, I get inspired.

When I am encountering uncertainty or is about to encounter uncertainty, which I am not sure how I am going to handle:
If I am not able to accept it, it causes fear in me;
If I am able to accept it, I feel adventurous about it.

When someone has done something that has emotionally hurt me:
If I am not able to accept it, it develops hatred in me;
If I am able to accept it, it helps me forgive them.

When someone is present in my thoughts, but is not physically present:
If I am not able to accept it, I say I am missing you;
If I am able to accept it, I say I am thinking of you.

Thus, Emotional Equation becomes:

Something + acceptance = positive emotion

Something + non-acceptance = negative emotion

So, it is not something or someone who is making me feel positive or negative, but it's my acceptance or non-acceptance of something or someone, which impacts things.

Basic fact needed for spiritual and even psychological maturity. We accept its logic when we read it but are we able to practise its lesson?

Sometimes one wonders what is the difference between passive non-confrontation (out of fear) and positive acceptance and tolerance. I guess the difference is how it makes me feel in the long term. If I am uncomfortable or resentful for a long time, I probably avoided something in the guise of acceptance. If I am able to dispassionately look back and analyze the situation, and feel satisfied that I made a mature choice, then it could be an indicator of true acceptance.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

i-TFTD #26: You are staring at your blindspots

I don't know who discovered water, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't a fish.
-Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980), media critic & writer

Something to consider:

Just like a fish can't see the water it's swimming in, you can't see the world immediately in front of you. It takes someone with a different perspective to point it out. These people can see opportunities that you can't see. They can see pitfalls that you can' t see. They can see them, ironically, because they aren't staring at them every day.

Something to try:

1. Sit down with a sharp person from another industry (or department or role).
2. Describe the details of a project you're working on (include your challenges).
3. Ask them to point out opportunities you might be missing.
4. Switch it up and do the same thing for them.
5. Recognize that someone else can often see the opportunities/challenges in front of you a lot easier than you can.

(Excerpted from the You are staring at your blind spots post by Doug Sundheim found in the Fastcompany blog archive.)

A similar thought is expressed by the quote: The expert misses the obvious. I have often found that an "innocent" question from someone who is a novice in an area could throw up interesting new perspectives to explore.

Talking of novices, I also believe that our expertise in a subject is measured by whether we can successfully explain the basics of that subject to an absolute layperson. A favourite example I like to imagine is my explaining, say, user interface design as a career to my (late) grandmother.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

i-TFTD #25: When Not Hearing is a Virtue

A group of frogs were travelling through the woods, and two of them fell into a deep pit. All the other frogs gathered around the pit. When they saw how deep the pit was, they told the two frogs that they were as good as dead.

The two frogs ignored the comments and tried to jump up out of the pit with all of their might. The other frogs kept telling them to stop, that they were as good as dead. Finally, one of the frogs took heed to what the other frogs were saying and gave up. He fell down and died.

The other frog continued to jump as hard as he could. Once again, the crowd of frogs yelled at him to stop the pain and just die. He jumped even harder and finally made it out.

When he got out, the other frogs said, "Did you not hear us?"

The frog explained to them that he was deaf. He thought they were encouraging him the entire time.

This story teaches two lessons:

1. There is power of life and death in the tongue. An encouraging word to someone who is down can lift them up and help them make it through the day.

2. A destructive word to someone who is down can be what it takes to kill them. Be careful of what you say. Speak life to those who cross your path.

The power of words... it is sometimes hard to understand that an encouraging word can go such a long way. Anyone can speak words that tend to rob another of the spirit to continue in difficult times.

Special is the individual who will take the time to encourage another.

Be Special to others.

I think it also teaches us that we can be happier and achieve much more by choosing to tune out the negativities around us.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

i-TFTD #24: Instinctive Behavior

i-TFTD #24: Instinctive Behavior

If you put a buzzard in a pen that is 6 feet by 8 feet and is entirely open at the top, the bird, in spite of its ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner. The reason is that a buzzard always begins a flight from the ground with a run of 10 to 12 feet. Without space to run, as is its habit, it will not even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in a small jail with no top.

The ordinary bat that flies around at night, a remarkably nimble creature in the air, cannot take off from a level place. If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and, no doubt, painfully, until it reaches some slight elevation from which it can throw itself into the air. Then, at once, it takes off like a flash.

A bumblebee, if dropped into an open tumbler, will be there until it dies, unless it is taken out. It never sees the means of escape at the top, but persists in trying to find some way out through the sides near the bottom. It will seek a way where none exists, until it completely destroys itself.

In many ways, we are like the buzzard, the bat, and the bumblebee. We struggle about with all our problems and frustrations, never realizing that all we have to do is look up or outside the boundaries created by our problems to find the right solution.

I do not the know the scientific authenticity of the facts above but it sounded thought-provoking enough to include in i-TFTD.

Leaders of teams could use this analogy to understand members of their teams: some might need a proper platform to fly, some need to be encouraged to look at the source of light, some need to see a clear "runway" before taking off...

i-TFTD #23: A Book List

i-TFTD #23: A Book List

As promised, here is a list of books that made an impact on me. It was a tough task as there are many books I have found useful, fascinating or enjoyable. This is just a top-of-the-mind, partial, unordered list of books of different categories that left a lasting impression, and, in some cases, changed me as a person. For those interested, brief notes on the books are given at the end.

-The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck
-Illusions by Richard Bach
-The Mystic Path to Cosmic Power by Vernon Howard
-Don't Say Yes When You Want to Say No by Herbert Fensterheim and Jean Baer
-The Psychology of Winning by Denis Waitley
-Bertrand Russell's Best selected by Robert E. Egner
-Working Smart by Michael LeBouef
-Serious Creativity by Edward de Bono
-The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan by Robert Kanigel
-Debugging the Development Process by Steve Maguire
-Essential COM by Don Box
-Electronic Life by Michael Crichton
-Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi
-The Universe Within: A New Science Explores the Human Mind by Morton Hunt
-The Rational Manager by Charles H. Kepner and Benjamin B. Tregoe
-The Prayer of the Frog by Anthony D'Mello
-The Laughter Prescription by Laurence J Peter and Bill Dana
-Manwatching by Desmond Morris
-Murphy's Law Complete by Arthur Bloch
-The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White

There are some authors whose writing style is so engaging that most of their books or essays are highly readable. For me, such authors include: Isaac Asimov, Bertrand Russell, Richard Bach, J Krishnamurthi, Ayn Rand, Michael Crichton, Dave Barry, Bill Cosby, Arun Shourie, Vivekananda, Kahlil Gibran and Anant Pai (Amar Chitra Katha!).

Some recently discovered (by me) are: Simon Singh, Marcus Buckingham, Marshall Goldsmith, Chinmayananda (!).

Brief about each book (based on memory)

The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck
Psychiatrist who has written about effective coping of life situations. His themes like discipline and delayed gratification are now widely accepted due to the popularity of Emotional Intelligence. This book will not appeal to those who do not like to read psychology.

Illusions by Richard Bach
Most people love his first book, "Jonathan Livingston Seagull", but Illusions appealed to me more. It has killer statements like, "Members of a family are rarely born under the same roof" and "Argue for your limitations, and, sure enough, they are yours."

The Mystic Path to Cosmic Power by Vernon Howard
One of the first secular spiritual books I read that synthesizes ideas from all religions in a practical, personal manner. Light style but deep content. It was also not trying to hard-sell anything, not even the "best approach".

Don't Say Yes When You Want to Say No by Herbert Fensterheim and Jean Baer
A best-selling assertiveness book for a long time, with exercises suggested to overcome that vague hesitation.

The Psychology of Winning by Denis Waitley
Practical and sober advice from a psychologist and motivational writer on being a true winner regardless of the sphere of activity and one's position. Not heavy psychology stuff. Ranks equal for me with "Psychocybernetics" by Max Maltz.

Bertrand Russell's Best selected by Robert E. Egner
A distillation from the writings of a prolific author-philosopher. The most humbling experience of my life to see so many aspects of society, relationships, science, religion, politics and happiness analyzed in a razor-sharp manner and comprehensively treated in a satirical language. I was almost depressed thinking everything has been covered for good! Every time I dip into it and read a para I get inspired. Anyone who feels their clarity of thought and arguing skill is high should read Russell.

Working Smart by Michael LeBouef
Extremely useful snippets on communication, time management, getting organized, collaborating and stress management.

Serious Creativity by Edward de Bono
Most of de Bono's books are creative variations of his first book, "Lateral Thinking", a term he coined to avoid the value judgement attached to the phrase "creative thinking". This one is a good compendium of techniques to use different types of thinking in different situations and how to develop the habit.

The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan by Robert Kanigel
Better than any book written earlier by Indians and Britishers, this one by an American captured the ethos of Srinivasa Ramanujan's times and his unbelievable life story. The flavour of mathematics and his relationship with G.H. Hardy are covered well to cater to all levels of readers. The tragedy and the beauty of the story are balanced as is the greatness and human weaknesses of the main figures. Inspiring to know such men existed (I mean both Ramanujan and Hardy).

Debugging the Development Process by Steve Maguire
Highly recommended book for software leads and managers with unconventional common sense tips along with insider stories from Microsoft.

Essential COM by Don Box
More than any of the OO books by famous authors like Grady Booch, James Rumbaugh and Ivar Jacobson, this book explained the component approach that truly made reuse and encapsulation a reality in the software industry. This was the definitive technical book of the early 90s and though it is Microsoft platform-centric, I believe all software professionals need to understand the evolution from procedural to object-orientation to components to interfaces and now services. Not for non-techies.

Electronic Life by Michael Crichton
Crichton is a medical doctor who wrote this small pocket book about computers (!) around 1987. His interesting style was evident then itself though fame came in the 90s after he wrote Jurassic Park and many blockbusters after that. The book is of no interest now but it was one of many gems I picked up cheap (maybe Rs. 11 or 19 or something like that) at King's Circle in Mumbai where piles of assorted books are sold on the street. Reinforced my interest in computers.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi
In 1990 when I carried this book in the New York subway travelling from Queens to Wall Street, one colleague asked me what it is about. Before I answered, another chipped in, "After you read it you will know how to pronounce the author's name!" In fact, you won't. It is pronounced "Me-high Chick-sent-me-high" but the book talks about his research on the flow experience when we are fully immersed in an activity without feeling the passage of time, hunger or boredom. Brilliant research and fascinating insights. His work is being quoted widely in recent years and has relevance for happiness, stress management, motivation, creativity and goal-setting. Slightly dry style.

The Universe Within: A New Science Explores the Human Mind by Morton Hunt
One of the early books that explained the brain structure and functioning based on all the research up to that time. Many such books are now available as the past decade has seen the coming together of electrochemical research, psychology and sociology.

The Rational Manager by Charles H. Kepner and Benjamin B. Tregoe
Another very old gem (published in the 1960s) I picked up from the street at King's Circle. "Deviation Analysis" is a systematic problem-solving method explained with industry examples in the book. As part of the quality management focus starting in the late 80s, this has become quite famous as KT or Kepner-Tregoe method for debugging any tricky problem.

The Prayer of the Frog by Anthony D'Mello
One of many similar books by the author, containing small jokes and anecdotes intended to provoke laughter, thought and insights. Spirituality is not available in an easier package.

The Laughter Prescription by Laurence J Peter and Bill Dana
Peter is famous for stating the Peter Principle and other humorous management thoughts. This book talks about the importance of a sense of humour for good health in, well, a humourous manner.

Manwatching by Desmond Morris
The man who made anthropology famous with many interesting books and controversial theories. This is a large format book with many pictures and mind-blogging facts about humans and other animals. An antidote to the typical belief that humans are special and different from other lower animals.

Murphy's Law Complete by Arthur Bloch
A compilation of many witty observations about people, things, day-to-day problems and organizations presented in the form of laws and corollaries to Murphy's law ("If anything can go wrong, it will"). My favourites include, "If you wash your car it will rain" followed by, "If you wash your car intending it to rain, it won't" followed by "If Murphy's law can go wrong, it will!"

The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White
An old classic (first written in 1918) -- a short reference manual for any kind of writing. Other than rules of grammar, it contains advice on concise, vigorous writing. The strongly opinionated American professor from a century ago still influences English. If you google on the title you will see hundreds of thousands of results. Taught me to re-read (and rewrite) any important matter. Always becomes shorter. And better.