Why we should read books?

bookfair

Book lovers in Mogadishu, Somalia

“There is, perhaps, one universal truth about all forms of human cognition: the ability to deal with knowledge is hugely exceeded by the potential knowledge contained in man’s environment. To cope with this diversity, man’s perception, his memory, and his thought processes early become governed by strategies for protecting his limited capacities from the confusion of overloading. We tend to perceive things schematically, for example, rather than in detail, or we represent a class of diverse things by some sort of averaged “typical instance.” -JEROME S. BRUNER, Art as a Mode of Knowing

I read a great article called “HOW ART CAN DEFEAT BOREDOM AND LONELINESS” by Eva Hoffman in the Literary Hub. I thought the article could have been better titled “why we should read books” Here are some excerpts from the article:

To understand our experience, we need to look inwards. But our mental and imaginative resources would soon be exhausted if they were not replenished by looking outwards, and engaging imaginatively with the external world. Our minds and selves need nourishment, as much as our bodies; and if leisure has sometimes been seen as the foundation of culture, it is because it allows for the cultivation not only of self-knowledge, but of what might be called non-instrumental knowledge and non-productive aspects of the self: a disinterested curiosity, the capacity for aesthetic appreciation, the need for wonder. If we are to remain internally and intellectually alive, we need to make time not only for introspection but for imaginative exploration—for following our intellectual predilections, say, or our aesthetic impulses, without keeping an eye on the outcome or the specific goal”

…Why should we take the time to sit down with a “long-form” text (as it is sometimes called, in distinction to those default digital forms) and give it the requisite number of hours?

…But the fundamental reason for taking the time to read is because books (good books, that is; books that matter) are the best aid to extended thought and imaginative reflection we have invented. In our own time, this is particularly important, as an antidote to the segmentation of thought encouraged by digital technologies. Cruising among the infinite quanta of data oered on the internet is ne for nding out information; but the disparate fragments we look at on our various screens rarely cohere into continuous thought, or a deepening of knowledge. For us, it is part of the value added by—and the importance of—books that they require us to focus our attention and to slow down our mental time; to follow the thread of thought or argument until new insight or knowledge is reached. Read the whole article

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Book recommendation of 2017

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  1. A Strangeness in My Mind: A novel by Nobel 

— Review by Rachel Kushner  “In July, after the coup in Turkey, during the escalating Trump campaign, I read Orhan Pamuk’s “A Strangeness in My Mind.” Despite being a six-hundred-and-twenty-four-page novel about a man who sells boza—a low-alcohol fermented wheat drink of waning popularity in the Balkans and the Middle East—this novel is of gripping relevance to anyone who wants to understand either the sociopolitical landscape of Turkey or sociopolitical landscapes more generally. Pamuk did six years of field research, talking to street venders, electricity-bill collectors, and the builders and residents of Istanbul’s many shantytowns—a population that has typically voted for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the increasingly authoritarian populist who has been the head of state since 2003—and then wove the information he collected into the individual experience of this one street vender, a dreamer type who suffers from a condition that he calls “a strangeness in his head.” The book pumped me up about the possibilities of the novel—the way that it can do a kind of work that social analysis and even history, with its limited access to private life and unspoken desires, can’t: namely, tracing the relationship between large-scale historical change and the thoughts and feelings that fill a given person’s head at any given moment. I found it as head-exploding as “War and Peace,” and more comforting. It gave me a window onto a part of human experience, and a part of Istanbul’s geography, that I thought I didn’t and couldn’t understand”

2.Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli  MK “Get confused by science fiction because you can’t separate what’s real versus what’s been made up? Italian theoretical physicist and writer Carlo Rovelli uses a conversational tone to untangle the most complicated yet most beautiful advances in science in modern history. Lesson topics range from Einstein’s theory of relativity to black holes, and you’ll feel a whole lot smarter for having read this elegant, straightforward little book”

3. Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday:  A great books in business and personal strategy. According to Ryan “Many of us insist the main impediment to a full, successful life is the outside world. In fact, the most common enemy lies within: our ego. Early in our careers, it impedes learning and the cultivation of talent. With success, it can blind us to our faults and sow future problems. In failure, it magnifies each blow and makes recovery more difficult. At every stage, ego holds us back.” In fact, if ego is not checked it can ruin not only the leader but can ruin an entire organization, nation or continent.

4. Bargaining for Advantage by Professor Richard Shell: Written by Director of Wharton Executive Negotiation Workshop. Reveals best practices from the world’s top dealmakers. Shows you how to avoid the perils and pitfalls of negotiations.

5. The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl: A series of grisly murders is rocking the streets of nineteenth-century Boston. But these are no ordinary killings. Each is inspired by the hellish visions of Dante’s Inferno. To end the bizarre and bloody spree, no ordinary detective will suffice. Enter the unlikely sleuths of the Dante Club: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, James Russell Lowell, and J. T. Fields — renowned scholars with the skills to decipher the devilish clues. But can this band of bookish gentlemen outwit a crafty killer? A terror-stricken city — and their own lives — depend on it.

6.The Lose Your Belly Diet: Change Your Gut, Change Your Life by Travis Stork: Based on exciting new research about the dramatic benefits of vibrant gut health and a diverse gut microbiome, Travis Stork’s plan nurtures your gut while helping you burn off excess weight and harmful belly fat.

 

How To Make Important Decisions

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“We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.” ― Malcolm X

When was the last time your asked an opinion of a friend, a coworker, a family member or even a stranger? Have you paid attention that we are surrounded by sound and noise all the time. We wake up to the sound of alarm clock, we have a music player in the bathroom, we are listening TV or looking mobile device when we are having breakfast. We are listening to music, talk-show, podcast, or radio when we are driving to work. We are talking to a coworkers, and attending meetings at work. We are listening music on the background when we are reading, writing or working. We are sleeping with mood relaxing music. All in all, we are drowning on sound, noise, chatter, signals, and colors.

All this noise and sounds wants our attention. It is saying pay attention and listen to me.

Have you wondered what happened to yourself and your sound? Where do you fit in this noise and sounds? When was the last time you listened to your own sound, your thoughts, your opinions, and your most inner thoughts? Are you important enough to give yourself a chance to be heard without the other voices?

I am not talking meditations, or religious prayers. When was the last time, you took 5 minutes of conscious thought to listen yourself in silence without other noises on an important decisions? I can bet you don’t remember! If we do it at all, it is always in a subconscious way but not deliberate and directed initiative.

The ability to keep silent and listen ourselves and contemplate upon important decisions without a music, a TV, people or any other sounds present is very powerful but seldom used tool. Here are few points that will help you listen to yourself when deciding an important decision.

  1. Ambiance: Find a place where another sound will not disturb you (away from people, electronics or other distractions)
  2. Focus on the important decision: don’t let your brain wander off from the issue and roam freely with other things. Initially, it will be very difficult because you have not practiced it. Try to bring it back anytime it goes wanders off and refocus to the decision subject. You are allowed to go to the branches of the focus decision subject but not unrelated objects or thoughts.
  3. Take out your body from the equation: This is not a meditation or breathing exercise. It is about looking the problem from different angles such as
    1. Why am I doing it? What is the purpose? What is the benefit? Is my ego involved?
    2. What is the end result?
    3. Thinking the pros and cons
    4. Taking into account your beliefs and principles
    5. Thinking about resources and partners you need
    6. What will happen if you don’t do anything about it
    7. Who else faced this situation or similar one and how it was handled?
    8. Am I doing out of fear or vanity?
  4. Think you are going to die after this important decision! What would you do differently?
  5. Think what are the most important pieces of information you have? What are the most important information you are missing? Who has the information I am missing?
  6. Think about what strategies you can use to reach decisions
    • Based on habits: I always eat sea food so I am going to decide seafood restaurant
    • Based on frequency: If this problem comes back X numbers, I will do such and such.
    • Based on history: Others have done this previously and I will do the same.
    • Based on outcome: If I don’t act now, I will be fined by X amount of dollars or miss out an opportunity.

These are tools you need to think about while listening yourself and your inner voice without the other noises present. Look, there is nothing wrong listening to experts, friends, coworkers, family and even outsourcing the whole decision making but consider to include your own voice. It is there just give a chance.

Expand Your Business in the Middle East: The Challenges

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The Middle East GCC countries Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have all made an immense progress in areas of business reform. They are doing away with protectionist barriers and are liberalizing businesses and industries. The GCC Middle Class are growing fast and they are developing taste for global brands.

The GCC countries do not have strong local brands and competition and an international brand will find a ripe market for their products and services. Having said that, it does not mean that large global multinational corporations will not face challenges.

The international companies that do their homework and are prepared  will make billions of sales and profits. So what are the obvious challenges?

The first challenge for multinationals will face is justifying a significant investment in small pocket of consumers for example, a small country like Bahrain. The market is there but it is very small, so how would you justify spending millions of dollars in such a small market? The way to go about it is to identify similar consumers across GCC countries. For example, let us say your product is high-end Australian Steak. You look consumers across all six GCC countries. In this way you can scale fast and investment can be justified.

The second challenge that the global companies face is local knowledge, distribution and positioning. This is where international companies need to figure out reliable , knowledgeable local partners that can handle the distribution, logistics and product positioning. Companies need to approach their diplomatic mission in the country. Most advanced countries have business representatives that have decades of experience and they can help in introducing you to a reliable local partners. Another useful approach is to find a large established local partner with the Royal families. Most of the Royal families in the GCC own large conglomerates and business groups that span across industries. They are very reliable partners and they protect their reputations very strongly. Also associating with these group companies come with the added benefit of making the process of registration and doing business more more transparent.

The third challenge faced by multinational companies is one of culture. The way family, religion, time and business interact is a vexing problem for multinational companies. The GCC attitude towards time is relaxed and they value relationships more than schedules and punctuality. However, even when locals arrive late, foreigners are always expected to be on time. Business meetings without much notice may be get cancelled or rescheduled. In Saudi Arabia weekend is Friday and Saturday and in Oman weekend is Thursday and Friday.

The GCC countries are devout Muslim conservatives. Their value system, dress code, ways of speaking all reflect these conservative values. Foods and drinks such as alcohol, pork, and political and sexual in nature discussions are off-limits.

In the GCC countries they have very strong national identity. Therefore, their religion, leaders and national values must be acknowledged and respected by business people and visitors alike.

The family and tribe are highly influential and play a role in shaping a person’s values and behavior. Do not be surprised to find family members working for the same company and also for the supplier or distributor. It is a fact of life, the concept of conflict of interest in the familial relationships in companies will seem alien to multinationals. In fact, sometimes hiring decisions are made by the local companies by who can facilitate something with a government department or company and that is usually based on tribe or family affiliations.

One must be very cautious to engage a gossips with a national  regarding another national even when he initiates the gossip. It is very important to not disapprove or approve either way. Stay neutral because these relationships change from day to day.

People take extreme care to save face. Avoid  and never expose someone to situations that would threaten their dignity. Public criticism is highly condemned behavior so even if you have to do it, do it privately, or let a local do it for you or advise you how to do it. I have witnessed multi-million dollar contracts cancelled because someone at the international company due to lack of cultural knowledge made a local lose face.

The future of Technology 2017 and Beyond.

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Do we need a crystal ball in predicting the future of technology and the road-map ahead? May be, if you are not paying attention to the bigger global trends. So, what are these trends? There are five trends that are happening at the same time and they are:

  1. The population of the world is growing in a rapid rate
  2. Majority of the world population are in urban centers or moving to urban centers
  3. The world population is becoming more wealthier (The middle class is increasing in China, India, Brazil, Iran, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, South Africa and many others)
  4. The World is becoming more connected
  5. Civil wars and Climate change are displacing millions of people

These are the major global trends that will drive technology. What are the major technological needs of these five trends is open for debate but there are obvious and clear winners and they are:

Communication: The consumption of communications will be a major trend. As more people move in major urban centers communication applications, bandwidth, cloud content and information curation and big data, IoT will be a winning area to invest.

Electronics: Smart and connected electronics with aesthetic design will be a growth area.

Education: Education will be very vital as more people become able to afford education and more people become connected. Online education, language schools, quality primary and secondary schools will continue to be a growth area specially in the growing population centers. Software and education platforms will see an immense growth.

Renewable Energy: As the population grows there will be many resources that are not replaceable such as clean air, and precious metals. The current linear production and consumption based economy is not sustainable and we will move to more circular and sustainable economy. There will be a huge opportunity for green industry and sustainable regenerative technologies and industries. Technologies that foster renewable energy and restorative consumption will flourish. For example IoT products that will enable the preservation of energy will see an increase in demand.

Defense: Terrorism will remain major problem as more hopeless youth displaced by war roam refugee camps with no education and certain future. These directionless youth will unfortunately fell in the hands of unsavory terror groups that will find them useful. Therefore defense industry such as intelligence gathering, border fencing technologies, drones,  predictive software, and traditional defense hardware will continue to sell.

Humanitarian: There will be an entire industry geared towards assisting refugees such as providing food, shelter, medicine and logistics. The refugee population will be also significant and there will be opportunities for technologies that will enable them to survive such as Money Transfer applications, Money wallets, communications apps that will connect long distance relationships etc.

Reading World Literature

 

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There are books called World Literature. These books go beyond their time, place, culture, and language. They carry a message. Their plot and principle characters are unique. They are written by visionaries and carry a great deal of background and historic context. There is beauty, art, and possibility in them. They are relevance in every age and season. When you read and understand them, you learn new things each time you go back and read them.  They inspire and jolt our imagination.

World Literature books are usually not easy to read. They are even more difficult to read, when the original language written is not your native language. Here are some of my favorite World Literature books and tips of how to read them.

Before you read these great books, I would like to suggest that you first read the bellow three books. It will really make a huge difference.

To make the reading even more beneficial and understanding, add this to your toolkit:

  • Read the autobiography of the Author in Wikipedia
  • Understand what was happening when the author wrote the book (Wars, famine etc.)
  • Understand the characters, and geography of the author
  • Who is the audience of the author? Aristocrats, common folks, colonialists, enemies.
  • What was the intention of the author to have an effect on? Social change, love, spirituality, human nature, etc

Take notes: It is very important to take notes, write down what you understand, highlight profound quotes and paragraphs, underline what is unknown or foreign words. When you finish the book, write down one page containing summary of what you think you understood from the book.

Re-Read: Read second time, and third time.

Watch YouTube lectures: Watch lectures about the books and the authors by classicists: It is important you do this last. Because you want to understand the book and learn without someone influencing your thoughts and take-away.

Make a time for them: Make a daily habit of taking specific chunk of time to read it. It is very important that there is no big time gap in the reading of the book. You want to read daily so you remember what presided the chapter you are on.

Reading List for Entrepreneurs

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ReWork by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson:  It is hard to describe this book but I believe, it is one of the most important books ever written for would be entrepreneurs. The book will guide you through what are the most important things in starting up a business. In a nutshell “you need to stop talking, wasting time and start working!).

Bargaining for Advantage by Professor Richard Shell: Written by Director of Wharton Executive Negotiation Workshop. Reveals best practices from the world’s top dealmakers. Shows you how to avoid the perils and pitfalls of negotiations.

Linchpin Are You Indispensable? By Seth Godin: What to do when there is no rule book? This book shows you how to unlock your potential to make a difference in whatever field you choose.

The Cheat Code by Brian Wong: This a resource, toolbox, tips and tricks that an entrepreneur will find very useful. It is full of ideas of how to get attention for yourself, your ideas and product.

Mindfulness A Practical Guide by Tessa Watt: Do you rush through your day on autopilot, not fully aware of what you’re doing? Forgetting stuff, missing appointment…Do you get stuck in your head, ruminating on things you wish you had or hadn’t said? If any of this sounds familiar, mindfulness practice can help you.