THE HABIT OF WINNING by PRAKASH IYER

“The Habit of Winning” is a self-help motivational book but with a distinct Indian masala twist, which will most definitely appeal to the Indian reader.

Prakash Iyer has written an easily readable, crisply written book, divided into handy bite-sized chapters.

He draws on his years in corporate management to pass on his own tips for success, for self-actualisation, for motivation, all done in a concise, snappy style.  He uses the technique of a story-teller, making each of his points about positivity, perserverance, confidence building via a story or an anecdote.  Each short chapter has its own piece of advice, which is then summarised in a one or two sentence conclusion, almost like a mantra you can memorise and carry with you.  There is a variety of stories, each one forming a chapter : inspirational anecdotes about the likes of Ratan Tata and Winston Churchill, Gandhi-ji and a newer icon, Michelle Obama, about NBA basketball players and even the legendary story of Dastur Neryosang Dhaval, who led the first group of Zoroastrians to India in AD 755.

With his cosmopolitan mix of stories, some Indian-themed, some are global stories, and some are personal anecdotes, Mr Iyer keeps reiterating his mantra that everyone can become a winner.

There is a nice story about the legendary Michale Phelps, who won eight gold medals for swimming in the Beijing Olympics.  After an injury in 2007, we learn how this determined, focused young man continued to practise in the pool, despite having his arm in plaster. Unable to swim using his arms, he worked especially hard on his leg muscles. Analysis of his 7th gold medal win, by the heart-stopping 1/100th of a second’s margin over his rival (poor fellow, by the way) would show that in the final 5 metres, Phelps’ super strong leg actions clinched the race and the gold medal.

The moral of this ultimate feel-good story is clear : “When you are down and in trouble keep fighting. Don’t give up.  Keep kicking.”  Literally.

A story like this is easy to relate to, and it’s also easy to extract Mr. Iyer’s message.

I particularly liked Mr. Iyer’s own personal story about flying kites as a 6 year old little boy in Jaipur.  He loses his kite because he doesn’t tie a knot around the tin of Cherry Blossom shoe polish which he uses to wrap his kite string around.  Rather endearingly, he tells us that he didn’t actually know how to tie a knot at that young age.  He uses this anecdote as an illustration of how to handle people in a team –  just as you (apparently –  I didn’t know this) make a kite fly higher by pulling it towards you, so you let people working for you soar, by pulling them towards you with care and interest.

If it doesn’t sound odd, one of the things that I like about the book is the fact that the chapter are short and to the point.  You can dip in and out of the book, read one or two chapters, and then take time to think them over.

I also love his chapter titles, some of which entice you to read them simply because they are so quirky sounding : “Who stole my cookies ?”  “Lessons in survival from frogs and Phelps.”  “Don’t change your rabbit.”  And my personal favourite : “Catching fish with strawberries and cream.”

A feel-good read.

Published by Penguin, “The Habit of Winning” costs Rs 299.

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