Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Steve Jobs

I have had wanted to read this book for long. I remember a person at our gym being morose and leave immediately after seeing the sad news of Jobs’ demise on TV in October 2011. Steve is a celebrity with many movies and books dedicated to him. He is part of the folklore. Something our grandchildren are going to read about in the annals of computer history. I remember buying three iPhone 4 phones for my friends and colleagues in India in 2012. And back in 2005, was amazed by seeing iPod for the first time. Apple products lure you to use them, and it’s no wonder the creator of the company warrants peoples awe.

Movies tend to be hyperbolic. I had not quite warm feelings towards Steve from the way he was shown on screen, in movies. But books have an advantage of going deeper and trying to have a coherent narrative. That's what Walter Issacson has done in Steve's biography. He has set high bar on how to research a person and do justice.

One thing I loved about Steve’s life is his focus. Focus that would make simplicity possible in all Apple products. That simplicity would have come at a cost. Cost of losing market share on the short term and cost of “displeasing” people who were not aligned to his vision. That needs courage. I can only imagine it doing at the scale of a million dollar company (at that time of course). Now Apple is the most valuable company in the world. No wonder Steve was whimsical most of the times. I think most of this quirkiness about minor things was to make sure that everyone is on their toes and important details are not missed. Something akin to Van Halen and the Brown M&Ms.

He wasn’t perfect. The author has taken care to share this insight and at the same time made us empathize with Steve. Now I think of him a soul who constantly hustles, never settles and takes all of us ahead. That’s a beautiful thing.

A book soon to be added to my collection. I enjoyed reading it.

Note - 8/7/2017 - Updated iPhone 4 I bought 5 years back last Thursday. The phone itself must be about 7 years old now and works perfectly for calls, music, text messages and WhatsApp. This long shelf life speaks a lot about the build quality and thought put in place to deliver a wonderful product. Steve created that thought. That's his legacy.
 
 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Anudini

Anudini is an account of the year 1997 in Tipre family's life. Every member of the family wrote diary for a year. Author Dilip Prabhavalkar wrote weekly column in Loksatta, a Marathi newspaper. These columns were compiled and published as Anudini. The book has an introduction by Ratnakar Matkari, renowned Marathi playwright.

The Tipre’s – Aba (grandfather), Shekhar (Aba’s son), Shamala (Aba’s daughter in law), Shirya (Aba’s grandson) and Shalaka (Aba’s granddaughter) stay together in Mumbai. Aba is retired, Shekhar is an accountant, Shamala is a housewife and the kids are out of college and starting work. Aba’s wife, Shekhar’s mom is no longer alive. Shekhar’s sister Shaila is married to an engineer and immigrated to the US. The Tipre’s are a perfect snapshot of the aspiring middle class of the 1990s.

Aba is the cornerstone of the family. He tries to handle every situation with a grain of smile, because he has been there and done that. Because he was born in pre-independence period; he has memories of the British Raj. He is a fitness freak and uses his free time after retirement for whimsies of exercise, discussion and Yoga. Shekhar is humble hardworking person looking to take care of the family and ensuring that the kids get good education and settle in life. He is keenly interested in kavya-shastra-vinod, but sulks because he doesn’t have the time to engage in literary activities. Shamala takes care of the family and is lost in the demands managing a household warrants. Shriya and Shalaka are busy with their studies, work and making sense in a soon to be globalized world. Shaila has raised two daughters in US and is worried about their marriage and getting settled in life. In all it’s a typical Marathi family, aspiring to do well. Upwardly mobile as marketers like to say.

The columns are reflections on day to day events in the life of the family and the nation. We can see arrival of US companies in India, investments in infrastructure building. We also see general apathy towards common good and the infamous Indian “chalta hain” attitude. Sadly nothing seems to have changed after 20 years, in 2017. Just to site an example there is a story about flooding in June after monsoons. Something which was happening at least since 1997 that went awry in 2005. So the authorities didn’t do anything to prevent it all along for 8 years. I could see the same pattern in Latur. Last year there was a shout about water scarcity in Marathwada. Sadly it’s something which likes of P. Sainath had been warning us at least last 15 years. We really don’t learn. These things sure make me mad, but there is a silver lining to know that Shriya and Shalaka get good jobs, Shalaka starts working and gets engaged and the entire family is there to care from Aba when he is sick and needs to be hospitalized. It’s also a realization that solving at micro level is important. All Marco begins at the micro anyways.

Read the book to Bela and we were done before we knew it. I am sure Bela picks up the qualities to persevere and good humor Aba and the entire Tipre family has. When I watch Shriyut Gangadhar Tipre series now, I wonder at Guru Thakur’s skill to create script from the column entries. Everyone including Ashok Patki for the title song, have done great job. It’s one of the Marmabandhatali Thevs of Marathi culture I would say.

Finally thanks to my friend Prathamesh for getting the book to us from Mumbai in 2015.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Total Money Makeover

I have listened to this audio book at least three times now. Gauri and I like to watch Dave's video's on Youtube. To us Dave is a tough yet gentle grandfather, someone who doesn't shy to shout fraud when he sees it. 

Dave's baby steps are awesome habit forming tools, offering appropriate cue, routine and reward. Dave makes saving money sexy with his imaginative story telling. He lets you see proudly retire and being a useful member of the society. Many times we are reminded that being in control of our finances is a journey to be endured and enjoyed. Why it's a moral duty to take care of money and how enjoy, invest and give are the only three uses of money.

I don't agree with all of Dave's methods but I can see the reason behind them. Most of the times, razor sharp focus can make us do things which we don't think are possible. I have seen it happen while getting back in shape. And that's one of the reasons why many people with average intelligence, do great things in life. Compounding is the eight wonder of the world. Compounded knowledge and money become a huge pile over a period of time. Compounded bullshit does too, unfortunately.

As I think more about it, investing in retirement account, saving for kids college tuition, getting a term insurance and paying cash for all transactions except for mortgage are forms of delayed gratification. It's akin to working six days a week so that you are fit for life. Saying "NO" to things we can't afford, seems easy but takes courage and lots of thinking on our part. It's simple, but not easy. And Dave celebrates the hustle.

I am sure, I am going to listen to this book more soon. It's a good recommended read for someone starting career. Especially for the compounding part.


 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

1 Mile Challenge


I won the 1 Mile Challenge at our gym this spring. It was a six weeks challenge starting April 1st. We were challenged to do the following

1)Climb 25 floors of stairs - Had to go up and down 5 times in our 5 floored office building.
2)Bike 1 mile on stationary bike
3)Rowing
4)Treadmill 1 Mile Run
5)Jump Role - 2000
6)100 Burpees 

We were given 5 points for completing each activity. It was required to be done three times a week. Best among each category got 5 extra points. Climbing 25 floors looked overwhelming me to when I saw the challenge and thought this isn't for me. After a casual chat with our gym instructor Zack, I thought that its wise to give it a shot. I could do it and didn't think it was too hard. That helped me to take the challenge. I am glad that I did. At the last attempt in stair climbing, I was listening to Power of Habit. That's a beautiful coincidence.

Hardest part of the challenge was jumping rope for 2000 count. Not continuous of course, but it got really hard after first 500. Last 500 were brutal. Calves burn and mind tells to stop. That might be the reason, no one did it more than once. Burpees were fun too.

This is the first time that I won anything athletic. I am thankful to Zack for being an awesome gym instructor. Gauri and Bela are  always cooperative especially I when am tired after a hard workout.
They are amazing. Looking forward to more fun years to come. Thank God.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Grit - The Power of Passion and Perseverance

Power of Habit has references to Grit. I had read articles by Atul Gawande and few more posts on the internet mention Grit. Finally got an opportunity to read the book.

Grit provides many success stories of how people achieved excellence by pursuing a difficult subject over a period of many years. The author explains how having a growth mindset is crucial for success. IQ is nice to have but what we do with the IQ is crucial.

The book teaches importance of passion and finding something that we love to do. By definition it go to be a lifelong pursuit. The proverbial "enjoy the journey" kind of stuff. A good manual to keep motivated to keep learning and hopeful for better outcomes at work and play too.

PS - this book is read by the author Angela Duckworth herself. Good example of someone learning a new trade and getting good at it. I watched her Talks at Google last year and loved it.

Also - the mindset that IQ is the answer to everything is an excuse for not working hard enough. It's pessimistic thinking too.
 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Power of Habit

Charles Duhigg explains at length what makes habit stick in The Power of Habit.

How habits are formed?

Loop of - a cue, a routine, and a reward.

Example - want to develop an exercise habit?

Cue - Pack gym cloths/socks/water bottle the previous night.
Routine - Go to the gym once you get up in the morning/Running the first thing you come home from work.
Reward - Improved appetite that helps enjoy a sweet treat like a fruit/Increased energy to play with kids/The kick I get by logging my workouts/Sleep like a baby for 9 hours straight.

What I loved about the book is the idea - how we can control a whole lot of things we are genetically destined to. Things like the propensity to procrastinate, gamble, drink or overeat. Once we recognize the bad habit loops we can take concentrate steps to break the habits. It's work, but it's doable. And that's an awesome thing, because it sets us on the growth mindset. Making a habit of thinking "I am Not Yet there" and then taking deliberate steps towards mastery.

Monday, March 20, 2017

When Breath Becomes Air

Read "When Breath Becomes Air" last weekend and didn't want to write how I felt for at least a week. Wanted to let it sink and make sense of it. Probably one of the books which will grow on you with time.

The book ended abruptly, like the way Paul's life ended.

Read it to know what it means to be great at something, what it means to struggle. I think it's about man's search for meaning.