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The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and BusinessThe Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

My Rating★★★☆☆

Nothing Succeeds Like Success: A Case Study

Hey. Have you heard of Thomas Baker? How about Carol Wright? Chris Cameron? Vineet Shaw? Let us discuss Baker.

Thomas Baker was an average joe, but not without ambitions. A few years ago, acting on a tip, Tom, a competitive enough guy, decided to take his life into his own hands. What’s more, he decided to pick up one more Self-help book and this time follow up thoroughly on it. No holds barred. He asked around, looked in that wonderful site and finally decided on what seemed to him like the best out there right now. The ratings seemed to be out of the world too. The author, in the intro, even tries to reassure him against feeling overwhelmed by the excess of research in the book. This is exactly the sort of help that Tom needed.

Tom read the book with great diligence. He made notes and he made placards and he even bought magnets for his fridge and special sticky tapes for his mirrors. He knew this could work. He only had to believe.

He changed his routines, identified and included habit-forming cues. He created them, he played around with them, he even had some fun. He was very inventive and imaginative. The author would have commended the effort if he knew. Tom decide that he would write to Duhigg about his success once it pays off.

A month passed. Tom had made slight improvements but no major pay-off seemed to be in the offing. He chided himself for expecting windfalls. He reminded himself that these things take time. He kept at it.

6 months now. Even the minor gains he had made originally have fallen by the wayside now. He had read he book three times in this time, truing to reaffirm his faith. He was discouraged now but he kept at it.

2 years. The book is long forgotten. But Tom had taken the trouble to document his experiences and had sent a detailed case study to the author. He had requested that it be included in the next edition of the book. He wanted the author to include a chapter on failures – on how it might not work for everyone. He wanted a caveat, a mild statement of warning that just because a book worth of case studies of success is presented, there is no reason to expect that any approach (no matter how good) might work for everyone. Humans would be fulfilling Asimovesque dreams if that were the case. He thought this would add depth and realism to an otherwise fine book.

He did not even get an auto-generated acknowledgment slip. But that was ok, he had discovered a new Gladwell book on another airport aisle. Apparently, it is not just habits that doesn’t stick, lessons don’t either.

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Posted by on November 9, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books

 

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India Since Independence by Bipin Chandra

India Since IndependenceIndia Since Independence by Bipin Chandra

My Rating★★★★☆

The book is supposed to be one of the most authoritative histories of the period, presented by a set of celebrated authors who were instrumental in authoring most of the text books of the academic curriculum (India). It is disappointing then to see that ideology colors even such a work. If you can stay away from the strong biases that run through most of the interpretative chapters, this is actually quite a good book read.

It provides a good contrast (counterpoint?) to Guha‘s history. It is quite stunning how history changes so radically from one book to the next. The two books tell of the same period but with such marked divergence. As a reader one can accept this transition with surprising ease since the story is not in the telling but in the leaving out, in the focusing of the searchlight on select incidents and in leaving the rest in the darkness. This strengthens my growing obsession with historiography and its many wonders. Has any fully illumined history of any period yet been written? I am yet to find one.

The next book in my romance with historiography might have some answers – History at the Limit of World-History. I am thoroughly excited to have stumbled on this one and am hoping to continue this review over there.

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Posted by on July 22, 2013 in Book Reviews, Books, Philosophy, Thoughts

 

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Extended

The stark stripes
of
her black and white T-shirt,
so
extended by the dark
and
lustrous strands
of
overflowing hair
across
her pearly white arms.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2012 in Creative, Poetry, Thoughts

 

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The Unbelievable Lightness of The Novel

The Unbearable Lightness of BeingThe Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Unbelievable Lightness of The Novel:

I had started reading this in 2008 and had gotten along quite a bit before I stopped reading the book for some reason and then it was forgotten. Recently, I saw the book in a bookstore and realized that I hadn’t finished it. I picked it up and started it all over again since I was not entirely sure where I had left off last time. I was sure however that I had not read more than, say, 30 pages or so.

I definitely could not remember reading it for a long period of time. I only remembered starting it and bits and pieces about infidelities and the russian occupation of the Czech. And so, I started reading it, sure that soon a page will come from where the story will be fresh and unread.

I was soon into the fiftieth page and was amazed that as I read each page, I could distinctly remember every scene, every philosophical argument, even the exact quotes and the sequence of events that was to come immediately after the scene I was reading- But I could never remember, try as I might, what was coming two pages further into the novel.

“This is what comes from reading serious books lightly and not giving them the attention they deserve,” I chastised myself, angry at the thought that my habit of reading multiple books in parallel must have been the cause of this. I must, at the risk of appearing boastful, say that the reason this bothered so much was that I always used to take pride in being able to remember the books that I read almost verbatim and this experience of reading a book that I had read before with this sense of knowing and forgetting at the same time, the two sensations running circles around each other and teasing me was completely disorienting. I felt like I was on some surreal world where all that is to come was already known to me but was still being revealed one step out of tune with my time.

In any case, this continued, to my bewilderment well into the two hundredth page. Even now, I could not shake the constant expectation that the story was going to go into unread new territories just 2 or 3 pages ahead of where I was. Every line I read I could remember having read before and in spite of making this mistake through so many pages, I still could not but tell myself that this time, surely, I have reached the part where I must have last closed the book three years ago.

Thus I have now reached the last few pages of the book and am still trying to come to terms with what it was about this novel that made me forget it, even though I identified with the views of the author and was never bored with the plot. Was this an intentional effect or just an aberration? Will I have the same feeling if I picked up the book again a few years from today?

I also feel a slight anger towards the author for playing this trick on me, for leading me on into reading the entire book again, without giving me anything new which I had not received from the book on my first reading. Usually when I decide to read a book again, I do it with the knowledge that I will gain something new with this reading, but Kundera gave me none of that.

What I do appreciate about this reading experience is this: as is stated in the novel, anything that happens only once might as well have not happened at all – does it then apply that any novel that can be read only once, might as well have not been read at all?

To conclude, I will recount an argument from the book that in retrospect helps me explain the experience:

Kundera talks (yes, the book is full of Kundera ripping apart the ‘Fourth Wall‘ and talking to the reader, to the characters and even to himself) about an anecdote on how Beethoven came to compose one of his best quartets due to inspiration from a silly joke he had shared with a friend.

So Beethoven turned a frivolous inspiration into a serious quartet, a joke into metaphysical truth. Yet oddly enough, the transformation fails to surprise us. We would have been shocked, on the other hand, if Beethoven had transformed the seriousness of his quartet into the trifling joke. First (as an unfinished sketch) would have come the great metaphysical truth and last (as a finished masterpiece)—the most frivolous of jokes!

I would like to think that Kundera achieved this reverse proposition with this novel and that explains how I felt about it. And, yes I finished reading the second last line of the book with the full awareness of what the last line of the novel was going to be.

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Posted by on October 18, 2011 in Book Reviews, Books, Philosophy, Uncategorized

 

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Old laundry

I am that old collector
who collects every bauble,
every shining little verse
every idea worth its words,
to put them together
turn them over,
left and right
tweak that a bit?
To see what comes;
to see what births.
And I lay’em out
clean new laundry
washed and afresh
drying in the sun.
Are they mine?
Are they yours?

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2011 in Creative, Poetry, Thoughts

 

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