Sunday, November 24, 2013

The book I did not want to … but did read

First, some background. I had attended a three day course, called Management Leadership Course (MLP), organized by the company (all internal faculty) last July. At the end of about 20 hours of listening to, playing games in about 10 distinct sessions, we, thirty of us, were rewarded with a book each. The reason for having “rewarded” in italics will be apparent by the time you come to the end of this post. One of three books was handed out to each with a request that the books be circulated amongst the participants.
I treated the book, Unlimited Power by one Anthony Robbins (ISBN 978 0 74340 939 1), with contempt at first glance because it looked not one bit different from all the other books one sees at airport bookstalls (as an aside, it is my allergy to these books that keeps me away from flying!), pandering to the lowest common denominator of business air travelers, written by some self-designated guru or the other. On top of that, the MD of the company told us that we should learn how to read such books. I was thinking, “Oh, you mean, with the covers closed?”
Yet, I must grant you that it came free of cost and I am not one to look the gift horse in the mouth without opening the mouth. But, I had a problem. I have the habit of scribbling my thoughts along the margins of anything I read, including any nasty piece of gossip about Deepika Padukone or Katrina Kaif. How can I do that when this book is supposed to be circulated? I started reading, setting my pen at a distance, out of my reach, till I reached page 161, in a 414 page tome. What is so sacrosanct about pages 1-161? By the time I reached page 162 I concluded that I will not torture my colleagues by circulating this book, and I was free to go back to my freewheeling ways!
I am sure some air travelers will claim that they go through such books over the flight duration, say 2 hours in all. I am not going to claim that. I finished the book in about three weeks, and how. I will come to this later.
My most generous evaluation of the book is it is one long commercial, for something called Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Do not go hunting for this on Google, because if you do, you will stop reading this post. I would not want that, obviously.
Robbins is into making money, every which way and the book is an invitation to you to fall for his con job. He is obviously rich, perhaps even filthy rich. So, he can easily dish out his advice that 10% of your income you should be given away. Oh no, he does not even come close to the infra-dig “charity” word. That is for pansies. His level of conning is truly astronomical; or is it astrological?
Why did I mention astrology? Take any number from 1 to ten (mathematicians use 0-9, but Anthony not being a mathematician I am giving some leeway) and you would find a list of things carrying that number. In this book alone I spotted two, three (doors to be opened), four (keys to handling stress), five (things from which springs belief; keys to wealth and happiness), seven (traits; number of beliefs), eight (ways to identify state change). Six, and nine must be hiding somewhere in here, I am sure; or, definitely in one of his other books. What about one, a list of one, you ask. Oh, that is easy. It pervades the book. “[I]t’s the real message of this book”, “That’s ultimately what this book is about”. It, or that, is always unitary. “It is the crux.”
By the way, there is a list of thirteen and also what appear to be open ended lists, “Checklist of Possible Submodalities” that run 18, 11, 11 and 8, each ending with a “?”
You read the following sentence, “In my seminars, I tell people there that I’m going to show them how to get whatever they want.” So far so good. But, later the author asks, “Why is my life such a joy that I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, wherever I want, with whomever I want, as much as I want?” The implied answer is, “I followed my own advice which I am ready to give you. If only you forked out a couple of thousand dollars …” Such a smooth salesman!
There are any number of statements that carry the tone, “If you do this, you will be rewarded thus.” Or alternately, “Values properly used have the greatest power changing our behavior.” If you are not rewarded as promised, you have obviously not done what was required. He is not promising that values will change you behavior. He claims only that it has the greatest power to change. You have no way of disputing this. I am sure his draft was vetted by a legal team. Or, he must have consulted his team of purohits or astrologers!
If you want to be rich, what should be doing? You should keep getting frustrated, the more number of times, the richer you will be – “If you handled more frustration, you would be rich”. Just imagine how many times Mukesh Ambani has been frustrated! “Why is the Prime Minister not listening to me?”, “Why is the government not letting me write the contract 100% for K-G basin gas; why is it poking its nose in the 1% that I did not get to write?”, “Why did I have to wait for six years before Mumbai Indian won the IPL Trophy?” So many frustrations. No wonder he is filthy rich.
Now, one last thing. There is a chapter titled “The Power of Precision”. This chapter is truly illuminating, in exactly the sense the author must not have not intended. In trying to explain precision, he becomes imprecise!

Look at the picture above. It shows your two hands with splayed fingers. Sure, from the figure and the words, “Right hand” and, “Left Hand” one can figure out that the palms are facing outward, in the text there is no mention of how the palms should be. Nowhere. This is supposed to be precise! And, this after strongly criticizing sentences like, “Mary looks depressed”, or, “Mary looks tired” in a general conversation. In the author’s way of thinking, the precise sentence is, “Mary is a thirty-two-year-old woman with blue eyes and brown hair who is sitting to my right. She’s leaning back in her chair, drinking a Diet Coke, with her eyes defocused and her breathing shallow.” Now you know why I criticized the image above.
As is my wont, I scribbled across the last page what I experienced reading the book, thought of the book etc. I am sharing this with you: “it has been a torture to read through and I persisted with it just to experience an attempt at a con job.” Perhaps that made sense to you. If not, take this: now I know why I hate airport bookshops and books by gurus, new- or old-age.
Raghuram Ekambaram


Aditi said...

hahaha Raghu, trust YOU to read a book distributed as part of the executive training/capacity building workshps. They are meant to provide royalty to the (con) writers who in turn have a deal with the consultants who organise such executive training workshops. The cardinal principle is never try to read any of the books received as part of any executive training workshop and be at peace.

mandakolathur said...

You got that exactly right Aditi, but as I kind of implied in the post, I took this book as proxy for all books by management gurus, self-help experts (oxymoron?), positive thinkers, new age gurus et al., rightly or wrongly. I just wanted to suffer through ONE such book and a free one is very hard to let go (yes, I am that cheap!). Once bitten twice shy, you must remember! Indeed, I MUST REMEMBER!