The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none, Thomas Carlyle, philosopher and historian, said.
As I was glancing through The Book of Mistakes, my attention was drawn to the section on The Law of Gratitude. It reminded me of my father’s first and last sermon to me, delivered near his death at the age of 92. He said that over his lifetime, he has found only two qualities worth cultivating. The first is humility and the other is gratitude. Not only we should develop these within ourselves but also cultivate friends who possess these qualities. This took me to the Mistake #4 Surround yourself with the wrong people.
Once I started reading the book from the beginning, I found that myself and many people I know have made some or all the mistakes which are defined in the book. We think that our educational accomplishments, rich experience and wide network is enough to take us to the top but remain unaware of our behavioural traits which pull us down. Our ego barriers come in the way of achieving our goals whatever our level or position. Mr. Richard Fuld displayed a singular lack of self-awareness in his rise to power and single-handedly brought down Lehman Brothers and started the avalanche of global banking crisis. He would have benefitted from a reading of The Book of Mistakes.
The Book of Mistakes is written in genre of Who Moved My Cheese and Fish! fictional characters underline the principles of self-improvement in a fable format. In this case, the protagonist is David who is stressed out and depressed. His life is not turning out as he had planned. He continues on his journey of failures, unmindful of the mistakes he is making. He meets nine characters and through his interactions recognise a key mistake and from each he learns one core truth.
We already have everything inside ourselves that we need to achieve our goals. For example, one important mistake we make is Living Someone Else’s Dreams. I knew a person who, in spite of his best efforts could not pass IAS examinations and it remained an unfulfilled dream. His son, who was studying at IIT was a brilliant student and while studying, was offered an attractive job with a multinational company. The father, forced him to appear for IAS. He could not pass in the first attempt and the failure induced father’s heart attack. The son did manage to pass in the second attempt and was selected. Today, after 20 years, he is a middle-ranking IAS officer. If he had pursued his dream, he could have reached CEO level of a top multinational firm as many Indians of his generation did.
In another case, a doctor couple running a successful nursing home called me to talk to their son and persuade him to study economics but become a doctor and join their nursing home. I told the couple to leave the boy alone as economics, in today’s uncertain world is becoming a very promising career. The son completed his graduation with honours and later was selected at IIM. He started his career with a top multinational consultancy with a very attractive financial package.
One mistake which I made early in life is Staying in Your Comfort Zone. In my second job, at the age of 27, I was already making plans for my retirement when I got the jolt of job loss. I had not planned for it and it took me some years to revert to the growth curve. I promised myself that the thought “What will I do if my job is lost today” will always be uppermost in my mind and I should regularly scan the future, look for opportunities and threats and prepare for it. This has enabled me to take several lateral shifts in my career and armed with new knowledge, I have managed to move forward.
The world's most accomplished people are successful because they overcame their hardships by avoiding or overcoming the nine pitfalls in life that the rest of us are not aware of. Self-awareness and mindfulness are two traits most of us lack. With humility and introspection, we can open the gates to a more satisfying and purposeful life, of which a successful career is an important part. The Book of Mistakes is packed with everyday wisdom to discover our inner strengths and push us beyond our perceived capabilities to achieve higher goals which earlier seemed impossible.
The book is written in a tantalizing and entertaining manner and as soon as a chapter is read, one is tempted to continue further.
This book should be in the library of all individuals and distributed to employees of all organizations. It should be read again and again to embed the wisdom which eludes us. I wish I had access to such a book when I was making first of my many mistakes.
First Published: IST