Saturday, November 21, 2009

Obstacles welcome by Ralph De la vega

The book offers little in terms of ground that hasn't been covered before. Work hard. Persevere. Empower employees. Set measurable goals. Get feedback. Hold others accountable. Be approachable. Be resilient. Dream big. Apart from a lack of new information, I'm just not sure how Biblically accurate this book is. (I mention this because the book is put out by a Christian publishing house.) For example:

Book: "Each of us is in control of our own journey. Deciding what we want and how to get there." - p. 98

Apart from not exactly squaring with the Bible, there is an overall level of self-determinism in here that books such as "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell make a compelling argument against. Just how much are we in control over what happens to us? A scripture in the book of Ecclesiastes puts it this way, "The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all." There is something to be said for being in the right place at the right time. This book leans toward the side that a person can make anything happen if they work hard enough. This sounds nice, but try telling that to someone who was born a midget but really wants to play in the NBA.

The book does offer some helpful tips and words of inspiration. There are continual challenges to not get stuck in old mindsets. There are charges to break free from self-imposed limitations. There is encouragement to go for it all. This is good and commendable. Sometimes, though, it blurs into the message "get more and you will be happy". On the contrary, it is better to have one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil (Ecclesiastes 4:6). Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6).

Another thing that bugged me about this book was how the author rarely goes into any personal flaws or shortcomings. Maybe he focused a little too much on his career at the expense of his family. Maybe he has had to deal with a lot of pride as a result of all of his accomplishments. I'm sure there is something he currently struggles with. Letting us in on this would help us to see him as less of a success machine and more of a human being. I would have an easier time relating. When he does reveal any personal struggles, he quickly discusses how he remedied the situation.

Here is another example of how he comes off looking like a model of perfection:

"On some days I've shaken as many as one thousand hands (and yes, my hand hurt that night). Long ago I lost count of how many people told me, "No executive has ever come down here and shaken my hand." Just as important, I always leave time for dialogue after I speak." (p. 147)

I know that he is wanting to share his advice in order to help others achieve a greater measure of success. Still, sections like the one above came off as self-congratulatory.

Other chapters felt like they could have been titled, "How to manipulate your employees as much as possible for personal gain." I am no advocate for employees slacking off, but it is possible for things to go to the opposite extreme. In fairness to AT&T, I have no idea how well or poorly they treat their employees.

Though I have been piling on, there were many things I liked about this book. The focus on character and integrity was great. The book was clear and easy to read. The summaries at the end of each chapter were helpful. I also enjoyed the parts where de la Vega went into strategy (e.g. how he handled the merger, how he delegates authority and what changes were put in place for more effective marketing). My favorite part of the book was in the initial chapter where de la Vega describes his immigration experience. This part was fascinating and I was left wanting for more.

I have no doubt that de la Vega excels at what he does. He clearly cares very much about his company and takes great pride in its success. In the process of describing how he overcome so many obstacles, the author shares concepts in order to benefit the reader. I just didn't encounter as many new concepts as I would have liked. Nevertheless, sometimes it is good to be reminded.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Children Ask Kalam

This is the Publishers' Note in the book

Dear Children

Our President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, widely loved and admired by people of all age groups, is very popular with children. His humility, easy accessibility, simplicity, warmth and affection for children make them connect with him.

Everyday, hundreds of children from every nook and corner of the country write to Dr. Kalam asking him questions on a variety of topics. Sharing their concerns President Kalam takes time out to respond to these queries. Children Ask Kalam is unique collection of the communication between Dr Kalam and children.

This book brings Dr Kalam's view on a variety of topics to a wider audience. The president's answers bring to the fore his multifaceted personality. Though he writes in simple language, you will find that his answers do not shy away from addressing the most complex of issues. The letters have been selected carefully after much thought. For the purpose of clarity, the book is divided into six themes - education, science, children's issues, nation, spirituality and general. This book brings to fore the concerns of the children of this country and our President's initiatives to alleviate them.

We are confident that the book will help you develop an intimate understanding of our President's world view. We expect that the book with its unique and valuable information will assist you in developing a better understanding of our President and keep you well informed about various aspects you know little of but are curious about. We would appreciate your suggestions for further improvement

The former president of India Loves children and he compiles all the letters he received from children across India into a book
There are many questions based on
(1) Children's Issues
(2) Nation
(3) Education
(4) General
(5) Science and
(6) Spirituality

The most powerful question from this book (i think) is
How would you define a leader ?
A leader has the courage to face failures and take respunsibility for the failure and pass the credit to his team when they succeed. He always asks "What can I do for you? "