Having read dozens of books on personal development and written and spoken extensively on the subject, it was perhaps natural that Aurora would ask me to do a review of This Book is About You. “I’d love to”, I replied. After all, it promises that you will find the “best version of yourself.”
Nabeel Qadeer, the author, “is among the pioneers of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Pakistan”, as mentioned in the book’s jacket. He has “interacted with students from more than 80 universities and over 1,500 startup founders across the country,” and this is what gives him a unique insight into the trials and tribulations of many hopefuls, battling external and internal challenges to get ahead.
Before turning to the book, I checked out his TEDx Talk Sifar ka Safar (Journey from 0 to 1) on YouTube. It sets up the format of the book quite nicely as the journey of the chapters takes you from 0 to 1.0, one decimal point at a time.
The Foreword is presented by Dr. Peter McInnes, a professor at the University of Strathclyde and a mentor to Qadeer. In speaking of the timeliness of the book, he says: “(It) has as much to do with the need for each and every one of us to closely consider the qualities we embody in our daily lives. Why so? Because I honestly believe that the biggest obstacle we face as we consider a change of direction lies in coming to terms with and transforming the selves we have become”.
Who would disagree these are challenging times that call for us to reinvent ourselves? However, how do we approach a subject – ourselves – that has been marinated and baked in conventional wisdom, conditioning and mental chains? Voila! Qadeer to the rescue.
The 11 chapters that make up the book follow a logical sequence with a build up to the key question: “What is the one thing that is still keeping you from creating your impact?” Having said this, I found the formatting to be a bit difficult to navigate. At first glance, I felt like this was a scientific treatise (perhaps Qadeer is a scientist?) with diagrams and highlights. However, as I waded in further, the subject matter took over and here we are.
The format of the book has three major segments, broken down as Reflection, Focus and Execute. We will look over each chapter to give you a better (simplistic) idea of what you are in for:
Ch. 0 – You Don’t Exist: Qadeer explains that human nature is like water; it will take up any shape or form it is put in and the form is to be built up in your mind. How tall and strong this form can stand depends on the stability of the foundation on which you make it. He qualifies that the basic unit of any structure as Comparison, Intent and Effort. Then adding Context to these three, will give you perspective.
Ch. 0.1 – Back to Basics: Here the author presents a Classification of Self through a variety of segments: Values & Beliefs; Experiences & Choices; Feelings & Emotions and Perceptions & Thoughts. Most of these lie well below the waterline of our consciousness, which means we are usually unaware of their influence over everything we do. “Thoughts manifest into realities. If you are giving space to a destructive thought in your mind, it is affecting the way you feel towards a situation.”
Ch. 0.2 More than Looking in the Mirror: This chapter takes you through the stages of Reflection: Recall – Realise – Regret – Rectify – Repeat. A detailed explanation of each stage follows, helping you with introspection and awareness.
Ch. 0.3 Exposing Yourself: A diagram explains how one can move from Comfort zone to Growth zone by way of Fear and Learning zones. This is a famous illustration used by many in the learning trade. It goes on to explain how the ego gets in the way of everything.
Ch. 0.4 It’s a Complex Situation: The Insecurities and Fears (complexes) that surround our ego end up as displays of Superiority and Inferiority. Our complexes manifest themselves in our outlook, attitude to money, power and even fame. Are we going forward or holding ourselves back?
Ch. 0.5 Drawing the Arrow: “Decision is a conscious choice. Decision-making is a capability not all of us have nurtured. When our practice to make controlled choice is weak, you are seldom able to make an informed decision.” Again, our conditioning (below the waterline) manifests itself through our values and choices.
Ch. 0.6 Missing the Point: This chapter focuses on optimising your use of time, including spending time on your own. An illustration to highlight a higher purpose for our lives is depicted as: “Who you were sent to be”; “Who you could have become” and “Who you became.” “Our wrong choices take us away from that state and make us play below our potential.”
Ch. 0.7 Effective Immediately: We are now in the Execution stage of the book, practically putting the preceding concepts into practice. A useful tool offered that can be used in professional and personal settings are the 4E’s of Effectiveness. The balance you strike between your Ego, Esteem, Empathy and Execution are what will steer you towards an effective life.
Ch. 0.8 Walking the Talk: Creating a culture for your organisation is easier when you model the behaviors yourself. Examples from Qadeer’s own ventures and the Toyota Motor Corporation illustrate the value of Respect as a key enabler of success.
Ch. 0.9 The Last Few Miles: “Mindfulness” is the sign of leadership and great leaders always display this quality. A mindful person is aware of Time, Thoughts, Words, Actions and Perceptions at all times. In addition, the traits exhibited are: Focus, Sharpness, Bravery, Composure and Unpredictability.
Ch. 1.0 The Missing Link: The journey into the self is complete when we deploy faith in whatever we do. However, even at other times, faith is a great source of comfort and motivation that is, unfortunately, ignored by most of us.
Although this book was a difficult one to navigate, it is filled with useful tools and motivational examples, many of which local readers can relate to. It takes less that one second to make a decision to change an aspect of your life; pulling the trigger to do so takes courage. This is how we move from the zones of Comfort to Fear to Learning to Growth.
Leon Menezes is a professor-of-practice at IBA Karachi.