Book Review: Truth Always Prevails: A Memoir (by Sadruddin Hashwani)

So I just finished reading this book, which is written by Sadruddin Haswani who is a prominent businessman in Pakistan. Reason I read this book was to learn from a successful businessman. Here is the summary of things I learned from the book:

  • His first business was to help his brother in law in one of his businesses. That was his first business and he worked really hard at it. Profit margins were low and there was a lot of inter-province travel involved. He was working on this relentlessly, even then he had this "growth" mindset as he wanted to grow even more and never settled whenever he reached a certain milestone. He setup goals and he wanted to achieve those no matter what. He always he had this desire to improve his performance. Unfortunately because of some personal issues he had to quit this business and leave everything he built. That was kind of sad. 
  • His next business was to sell bailing hoops. Very soon in this business he realized that he needed to do something unique to stand out from the rest. He improved the payment cycles and also focussed on quality. He, then, diversified into different other products. He always wanted to know more about this business. He also worked on accumulating cash. Then, a very big order came knocking his door to export cotton to Russia. Banks weren't willing to finance so in order to fulfill the order he partnered with a company. 

         Also, he realized that he needed to build his business on few foundations e.g. a)- low profit b)- fast delivery and c)- low expenses. For his customers his reputation and price were important to him. He worked very hard at this business e.g. he would start as early as a 8 am and stay till night. 

  • He became the number 1 exporter of cotton. There was a point when he needed to pay a big amount and he felt totally helpless but then a manager of a Bank of China helped him with the payment. Probably that is a true reflection of "where there is a will, there is a way". 
  • Then because of his reputation Louis Dreyfus Group started buying rice and it proved really profitable for his other businesses. Later, he ventured into building hotels all over Pakistan. He even bought a hotel in US at some point. Rest is history.

From what I can tell after reading this book, as a business man I find him hard working, intelligent, determined and a smart guy. He also faced a lot of political pressure but he stood his ground. He didn't have a degree in business administration yet he bootstrapped multiple businesses in multiple industries which I find really amazing. 

Book Review: Daily Rituals: How Artists Work

So after a long time I have finally been able to finish a book. I really want to read more books this year. So "Daily Rituals: How Artists Work" is a great book. I really enjoyed reading it. Highly recommended.

It contains some details on the daily routines of various famous writers, music composers, painters, scientists, poets, filmmakers, sculptors and etc. Here are the key takeaways from the book (off the top of my head):

  • Almost everyone famous had set aside a solid chunk of time in a day totally devoted to work. So much so that some people didn't like any interventions around that time. I recall, from the book, that many people used to work without any breaks from 7 am to 1 pm. For example, Francis Bacon woke up very early and worked continuously till noon and that was his daily routine. Some preferred to work at night, for example, Thomas Wolfe liked to work all night. Some wanted no interruptions at all it's written about Thomas Mann; "Then, at 9:00, Mann closed the door to his study, making himself unavailable for visitors, telephone calls, or family. The children were strictly forbidden to make any noise between 9:00 and noon, Mann's prime writing hours. "

         And another one is Gustav Mahler (and Alma was his wife):  "Then he shut himself inside to work. Meanwhile, Alma's job was to make sure that no sound carried to the hut during Mahler's working hours. She refrained from playing the piano, and promised the neighbors opera tickets if they would keep their dogs locked up. "

  • Some famous people even had a social life. I had this perception that probably they worked all the time, which isn't true. They focused and worked in a solid chunk of time without any interventions but some of them also left time for family and other social duties.
  • Some even carved out time daily for walk or nap (or even a swim). It sounds like a good idea to take break from work and let your work do some work in the background within your brain. Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard always did two things daily; walking and writing. He always had his best ideas on a long walk. Gustav Miller used to go for a swim daily. Richard Strauss would go on a long walk after having tea at 4 pm until 6 pm daily. Carl Jung would go on for long walks daily in the hills. 
  • I was relived to know that some of the great minds also fought procrastination. But I think most of them fought it with discipline. For example, Thomas Mann made a point to work from 9 am to noon on daily basis without any interruptions. Gustav Mahler worked from early morning to midday on daily basis. 
  • For some people external conditions were important too. Some people ate same lunch every single day. Beethoven wanted exactly sixty coffee beans per cup in the morning. Morton Feldman wanted the right pen, and a good chair. 
  • Almost all of them really liked working. They were passionate about their work. Gustave Flaubert noted (as given on pages 32 and 33 of the book) "Sometimes I don't understand why my arms don't drop from my body with fatigue, why my brain doesn't melt away. I am leading an austere life, stripped of all external pressure, and am sustained only by a kind of permanent frenzy, which sometimes makes me weep tears of impotence but never abates. I love my work with a love that is frantic and perverted, as an ascetic loves the hair shirt that scratches his belly. Sometimes, when I am empty, when words don't come, when I find I haven't written a single sentence after scribbling whole pages, I collapse on my couch and lie there dazed, bogged down in a swamp of despair, hating myself and blaming myself for this demented pride that makes me pant after a chimera. A quarter of an hour later, everything has changed; my heart is pounding with joy.

         He also wrote, "work is still the best way of escaping from life!"