8. Book that changed my life.
I took a challenge of reading a book every week this year. So far so good. I am almost keeping up. I love reading, and I have been reading as long as I can remember. If the house used to be full of people, I’d hide under the bed and read so no one would disturb me. And I’d read so many Hindi novels by the time I was in high school, I was bored of the language taught in school, and I took up Sanskrit(another long lost love of mine). There have been very few books that have left their mark on me. And if I look back, most have been ones who had some or other historical context, because I love recreating the lives of people living centuries ago in my head.
Kadambari is one book, that I loved as a kid. It was written in Sanskrit back in 7th Century A.D. by Banabhatta. It has a complicated Indian story with multiple plots one inside other. And it captivated my mind like no other book could. Apart from that, I’ve read many books on the life of Karna and he is my hero in Indian mythology. Rashmirathi by Dinkar is one of the best pieces of poetry I have ever read.
Recently, I picked up biography of Benjamin Franklin. All I knew about him was that he was the inventor of electricity with his famous kite and key experiment, and he is the face on the US Dollar. I picked it up thinking it’d give me an overview of life in the 18th century. Little did I know the book was full of gems of wisdom. In the book, Benjamin Franklin talks about how he built his life, his career and what are the methodologies he followed.
One thing that I first noticed was his love for reading. He read whatever he could lay his hands on. He worked and whatever money he saved, he used them to buy books. He talks about the way he improved his writing skills by writing best books of his time again out of memory. He formed Junto, a group he formed with his friends to share their learning. This increased their learning many folds, as each member enlightened others about their learnings. He tells how he built his career as an 18 years old runaway. And the way he improved on his conversations by using methods of Plato. He tells a great deal about how he started a printer and made it the best in the city, with preserving, hard work and vision of the future. He talks about maintaining relations with other people and forming friendships with foes over books.
The take away for me in the book was, when he decided to become a perfect person, and used what I call excels of his time, to become one. He pointed out few of his vices that he vowed to overcome. He took 13 such vices and practised them for a week each. If he succeeded in doing those the given week, he would mark as successful, else he’d mark the weeks as red in his journal. Thus he was able to go through each habit 4 times a year. And after a while, it got easier to follow for him and the new habits stayed with him through his life.
I have tried to use this method, and I can say it is not that easy to follow. You keep slipping. But it is a great way to work on your shortcomings one after other, slowly and steadily. I am still working on those vices and trying to follow the steps and get rid of habits I don’t want to cultivate.
The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is a book I feel every one should read, for I feel it has some form of wisdom for everyone in one form or other. Especially for entrepreneurs, because it has the story of a boy who ran away from home, and with nothing in his hands, became one of the greatest men in America, with nothing but his industry.