Sunday, April 4, 2021

The Archer by Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist, is a master of metaphor through story. In this book, The Archer, he uses the life of a legendary, successful, but now retired archer to convey the ideas of hard work, devotion towards a purpose, thoughtfulness, being open to failure, and the want to make a difference.

Everything in life is connected and you cannot just do without feeling nor understanding.  One should understand the effects that his or her actions have on others. One should lay foundations and build on top of them. One should be willing to risk to succeed. One should live life without fear and learn from experience. 

While the book is not a complete story but a collection of maxims and adages bookended by a short story, the messages are clear, and the connections are evident. There's plenty to learn from The Archer. 


Check it out on GoodReads.

Buy it on Amazon.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Although, it's known to be widely read and a classic in it's own right, I don't believe I ever read this book in my youth. Strangely, I think it would have been easier to comprehend back then than it is as an adult. But why? Maybe my imagination has diminished over time, or maybe fiction is something I struggle to grasp (I don't read a lot of fiction - can you tell?). Or maybe it's because I'm too stuck in reality and am adulting too hard. But more likely, my comprehension of the simple things is poor because I over-complicate them or just plain don't see the light of day.

The story is of a young prince who travels to different planets, including Earth, and learns by the experience of others about loneliness, friendship, love, and loss. His understanding of these things comes through discussion and asking questions, and his experiences throughout planet-hopping. The Little Prince makes observations about life, nature, and the fickleness of humanity. 

After reading the book and consulting Wikipedia to actually understand what the book is about, it dawned on me - I am one of the characters that the Little Prince met on some far off planet. Which one am I? Read the book to find out...



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Sunday, February 21, 2021

A Reflection On My Life Through A Busy Season: When The Thick Gets Thin

I've learned a lot about myself over the past few weeks. It has been a very challenging time for me. I'd say that it's primarily work-related, but it's spilled over into my personal life. At this point in the pandemic, what hasn't, right? 

My cognitive abilities diminish at a certain point when stress / busyness / tiredness are paramount. 

I am easily agitated by people who don't care, don't respond, are slow to communicate, or have no consideration for the pressures I may be under. Granted, not everyone will know my situation, but those who do should have more empathy. 

I get into my feelings when I can't let my frustrations out. That's probably why I'm writing this blog post. I have no real outlet. I don't have a therapist. I don't want to inundate my wife with my issues. And I am not finding enough time to take walks or workout the stress. 

But why? Is it because I care too much about what I do? Maybe.

Part of my frustration is that I know I'm capable of doing things, understanding difficult concepts, breaking things down, creating examples for myself, and working through issues. But with little time to be spent, I'm finding that I don't feel intelligent. I feel like I'm slow or not comprehending. I even act like I don't know what to do, work-wise. That's not me under less stressful circumstances. But to others whom I interact with when I'm at this point, I will seem incapable, slow, and they may even question why I'm in the role I'm in. 

As I've gotten older, the impact has become more pronounced. I can feel it hit harder. When I was in my early 20s and working in public accounting, I could suck it up and plow right through whatever came my way. Whatever obstacle there was, however late I had to work, regardless of how much toll it was taking on my body - I just carried on and let it become normal. As young professionals, you're "paying your dues" but at what expense? Mind? Body? It's tough, but it's "normal" for this career path. 

I sometimes question if my actions and reactions are valid or acceptable. And other times, I don't care what anyone else thinks because it's healthy to get these thoughts and feelings out of our systems, right?

There are some who would say that it's just a job and that your health and mindfulness should be at the forefront. I agree with that... up until I get really busy. Then all bets are off. And that's not a good thing. I've had a hard time holding myself accountable for sticking to plans and enforcing my own hardlines. Guess they're not that hard, huh? 

I often second guess myself when I get to this point of stress and frustration. I am no longer confident in the things that I do. 

I become mechanical instead of dynamic and conscious. I do just to do rather think about what the impacts are. In some ways, there's nothing else you can do. Your learning and abilities to comprehend are stunted by inundation. In accounting and tax, this happens often, especially in client service roles. This is why people stop learning. It's why people give up. When you become overly concerned with timeline and due dates, functioning becomes a matter of just doing and not thinking. 

Everyone is different. I can tolerate a lot of stress, but even I reach a breaking point. Others may have less of a threshold and may collapse upon the pressures sooner. That doesn't mean they are not intelligent or have other star qualities. 

I have learned my limits once again at a different time in age. I am no longer capable of grinding it out because I feel all the adverse effects quicker. My mind and body fail me sooner. And my overall well-being is just significantly deteriorated. I am sad, tired, stressed, and need a break for the quiet, calm, and serenity - maybe in the mountains somewhere...

Paro Taktsang (aka Tiger's Nest) - Paro Valley, Paro District, Bhutan - circa April 2017


Thursday, January 21, 2021

Sam Walton: Made In America by Sam Walton, John Huey

Humble beginnings. Sam Walton's Made in America is the epitome of that phrase. This was a great story about an all-American, hard working, considerate, and passionate man. It's proof that drive, perseverance, and the ability to learn from your mistake and adapt are keys to being successful. 

I learned so much about Walmart from reading this. And I don't think I'm alone in saying that my perception of Walmart was that of a budget type organization with low standards. But after reading this book, I have a new appreciation for the type of business the family runs. And my thoughts about the quality and standards of the company are certainly now different. I admit, it was ignorant of me to have thought anything negative of Walmart without knowing any better. And for that I apologize. 

What I learned is a principal business practice that makes so much sense. And the scale at which it is accomplished by Walmart is a feat that should be admired, and is evidently admired by the economy and the patrons of this Superstore - and now me as well. That practice is sacrificing the huge markups on retail goods to sell more quantity and of passing on the savings to your customer. It's so simple but so powerful. 

If Walmart can buy an item for a $1 and sell it for $1.25 and sell 100 units, then their gross receipts are $125 with a cost of $100 and profit of $25. If a competitor sells the same product with a markup of 30% instead of 25%, and can only sell 90 units - the gross revenue is $117 making profit only $17. But I bet the competitor who sells for just a 5% greater markup loses more than just 10 units to Walmart, making their profits significantly less than Walmart's. 

While the business appeals mostly to those looking to save money, that doesn't mean the quality of the products they sell or the relationships they have with their vendors and others is any different or less valuable / important than another chain's quality / relationships. In fact, they might even be better in some ways. 

I have plenty more respect for Walmart, the organization, the employees, and the consumers of their products than I did before - not that I was ever disrespectful, but I just looked at it differently. 

I think the most important lesson I learned from this is, again, that you can't judge a book by it's cover. You've got to read between the covers to unearth the truth, the realities, and the things you wouldn't have known otherwise. 


Check it out on GoodReads

Buy it on Amazon.

Monday, January 18, 2021

I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai, Christina Lamb

Why would a terrorist group target such a young girl? This autobiography reveals the reasons. For such a young person, Malala Yousafzai is extremely intelligent and diligent. Her thoughts and dreams are those of a typical concerned adolescent, but her actions are those of a thoughtful and powerful young activist. Malala's perspective on life and education are ever so simple, but the execution of the goals are daunting and full of challenges. It's clear how impactful she has been to the youth and girls specifically. Her story is interesting to say the least, and her legacy can only evolve as she grows, learns how to tackle current issues, and empowers others to take action. Education is important, there is no doubt. There should be more people in the world like her. 


Check it out on GoodReads.

Buy it on Amazon.