Posted in book review

Book Review: Elon Musk-Inventing the Future

“I think there are too many smart people pursuing Internet stuff, finance and law. That is part of the reason why we haven’t seen as much innovation.”  

It is the period of 1970s-1980s in South Africa. Apartheid is at its peak and a brilliant young kid has just started going to school. However, the school doesn’t interest him that much. Although he enjoys subjects like Maths and Physics, he is subjected to constant bullying at the hands of his classmates, and that torments him. And the situation at home is not too good either. His parents have divorced and he is mentally harassed by his father. If that is not enough, his country is practicing the policy of apartheid wherein he regularly sees the black people being discriminated against.

This was the sort of childhood that one of the greatest innovators of our times-Elon Musk-grew up in. Detailed in the book by Ashlee Vance, the author describes the events that helped shape the thinking of Musk into doing what he is known for today. Interested in computers and software, Musk taught himself coding and developed a video game at the age of 12 which was featured in a magazine and gave the world a first glimpse of the talent that was to be. Years later, not wanting to be drafted into the South African military, he used his mother’s Canadian ancestry and emigrated to Canada, with the hope of getting into the USA, which he believed was the place that was the solution to all his problems.

Musk always had the ability to see opportunities in places that other people do not, Vance writes. After graduation, he started Zip2 along with his brother and later founded X.com, which later merged with PayPal. Believing that man is not a one planet species, he founded SpaceX to establish a colony on Mars by making space travel cheap. Pioneering the concept of reusable rockets, SpaceX aims to bring the launch price to about a fifth of that of other companies (60 million USD v 350 million USD). The successful tests of Falcon rockets have brought that dream closer to reality.

He started Tesla motors (the name is a homage to Nikola Tesla-the developer of AC technology) to revolutionize car travel, the same as he did for space travel with SpaceX. He faced many detractors, with politicians and scientists he admired and respected openly saying that subsidies provided to electric and hydrogen cars were not worth it, apart from having no faith in these technologies. But the success of Tesla cars proved all that wrong.  

Musk faced many challenges-both personal and professional-while starting and running these companies. But he never gave up. Vance analyses some of the characteristic traits of Musk that resulted in him being so successful. Apart from having the innate desire to do some good in this world, Vance also points to the turbulent childhood that Musk had in South Africa that made him socially awkward and thus pushed him deeper to “nerdy” stuff. Also, these experiences made him tougher and less likely to give up, something which has been echoed by his brother and mother alike.

After reading this book, I watched some of Musk’s presentations and interviews on YouTube. A recurring question posed by many to him relates to what makes him do the things that he does, and if his failures ever make him think about giving up. Without displaying any emotion, Musk replies that he never gives up, and the only way he would not do something he liked is if he was “dead or completely incapacitated.”

While I think, Musk is a bit extreme in his work (working upwards of 16-18 hours a day), I still believe the most important lesson we can learn from this book and his life, in general, is to never give up. Vance beautifully explains the rise and rise of Elon Musk right from his childhood to the present scenario, talking the readers through the formation of Zip2 to the work at SpaceX and Tesla now. This is a must-read for everyone who admires the genius that is Elon Musk.    

 

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Posted in book review

Short Story: The Dream

One of the first short stories that I wrote. Read it when you have the time and please leave your feedback.

DayDreamer

Nikhil dreamed a dream.

Nikhil opened his eyes. He was sitting cross-legged in a corner of the room reserved for death row convicts.  This room, unlike the others in the jail, had a fan. It seemed like a cruel joke to Nikhil on the part of the jail authorities to give him such privileges just as he was to be executed in a few minutes time. His other cell, the one he had called “home” for the six months that he was in jail, did not even have a window. And in the heat of the capital, the stay was unbearable.

From the jail, he could not even make a petition for bail; he was a “threat to the society and the general public”: the words of the judge as she had given her judgment. And then had come the final crushing blow: he was told yesterday evening that the…

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Posted in book review, Europe travel

Book Review: Origin by Dan Brown

Dan Brown is one of the authors that I hold in high esteem. The Da Vinci Code was his first book that I had read, and it fascinated me. Never had I imagined that a subject as abstract as art symbols would make a compelling mystery, let alone a bestseller. But I was proven wrong. After the Da Vinci Code, I moved onto his lesser known work- Digital Fortress. Angels and Demons was next, and this book for me cemented his place as one of the best authors in the world currently. His handling of Christianity and its symbols, along with the setting of the novel in CERN and the Vatican made for a brilliant book.

The Lost Symbol is where it all began to go downhill. The infallible Dan Brown-one who could do no wrong-suddenly appeared to have a chink in his armour. Inferno was his second failed attempt. The novel failed to match the success of his previous works, and the movie did not work much either.

Origin-his latest book, released on the 3rd of October and I immediately picked it up for reading. The start was promising. I particularly liked the use of analogies made by Edmond Kirsch (the science-geek protagonist), when he goes to meet the religious heads on a mountain top (“Moses climbed a mountain and restored faith in people, and I am climbing one to destroy it”). Like all of his other novels, this one too takes place over the course of 24 hours. It is his fifth work featuring the famed Harvard Professor Robert Langdon and as usual, he finds himself in a spot of bother when Kirsch (One thing I found funny is that Kirsch is a denouncer of religion while his name Kirsch seems derived from Kirsche which means Church in German) makes a presentation in the Guggenheim Museum in Spain which could shatter the foundations of religions, but is killed midway. What follows next is the usual cat and mouse game, where Robert Langdon and Ambra Vidal-queen consort of Spain find themselves racing across Barcelona trying to broadcast Kirsch’s presentation to the world.

However, unlike the Da Vinci Code, this seems like a work that has not been thought about much. The plot never picks up (never even thickens for that matter) and you begin to wonder midway through the text whether Dan Brown has lost his art. Entire paragraphs on the description of places seem to be copied from Wikipedia and every new place that Langdon visits is either “awesome”  or “breathtaking”. The allusion to the mickey mouse watch of Langdon still continues and climax ends too easily for my liking and I believe also for those who have read the book.

But the book is not without its moments. The presentation by Edmond Kirsch where he tries to answer the two fundamental questions of life (Where do we come from?; Where are we going?) is nothing short of a masterpiece. The novel has questions about faith at its heart when technology becomes more intelligent and starts taking over our lives.

Although Dan Brown’s storytelling ability is not much to speak about in this work, trying to answer the questions about faith and technology is no mean task- one that he has done reasonably well.

Posted in blog, book review, life

Book Review: The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma

I am not a big fan of self-help books, but after hearing a lot about Robin Sharma and his work, I decided to give his best known book-The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari- a try.

Written in an easy to understand prose, the book is all about following simple guidelines that can help you transform your life towards the positive. The author tells the story of a workaholic lawyer, who although achieves great heights in his career, neglects his health which leads him to have a heart attack. The protagonist then travels to India where the mystical saints in the Himalayas teach him some simple rules to live a meaningful life.

The rules are told in the form of a story where in a green field consisting of a lighthouse, a giant sumo wrestler with a pink wire rope around his waist stumbles and falls on a gold stopwatch. His hand touches some flowers and he sees a path of diamonds ahead. Each element of this story represents a part of life that has to be modified to make it more meaningful. The garden represents the mind which needs to be full of positive thoughts in order to be nurtured. Enter one negative thought (or weed), and the corruption of the mind begins.

The lighthouse represents that life should have a purpose. The author suggests to write down the things that make us happy and to act on them. Lots of people have dreams, but somewhere along the line, those dreams are forgotten. Once you set a deadline to your dreams, they become a goal and that is what the author tries to convey through the analogy of a lighthouse.

The sumo wrestler represents the process of self-improvement or kaizen. After determining your life’s purpose and trying to work towards it, it is essential to continuously monitor and improve the performance so that we get better with each passing day. This is achieved through sheer willpower and perseverance and that is the essence of the pink wire string attached to the wrestler’s waist. Each strand of the string represents some work that has gone into reaching the goal that will fulfil the life’s purpose.

The gold watch on which the wrestler stumbles conveys the message that time waits for no one. So rather than focussing on the future or reminiscing about the past, it is always better to divert all attention to the present and make the most of it. The flowers in the field ask us to do good to the society and be kind to others because a part of our deeds rubs off on us. The path of diamonds at the end tells us that if we follow these principles, we would lead a life that will help us reach our goal.

Robin Sharma teaches us the recipe to lead a meaningful life in the form of a simple story-one that will resonate with us for times to come. This book is an essential read for all those who are struggling to find meaning in their lives or need to find a purpose. I would urge everyone to read the book and practice what has been written down. I already started today. Have you?

Posted in life

My First 1000 Visitors

This week I completed 1000 visitors on my blog, taking me exactly two years to reach the mark. When I started the blog back in 2015, I sought it as a means to escape the monotony of office life. I was doing a 9 to 5 job, and after coming back from work, I used to feel a bit empty, like something was amiss. I had to do something which could break the monotony. Having always been fond of books since my childhood, I decided to take up blogging. In a way, this was a means to escape the dreariness of office life, and also a means to do something that was really close to my heart.

Since I was not a big poetry writer, I decided to write reviews of books that I had read. At the time, I was reading a lot of spy novels- particularly those of John le Carre-with the effect that you will see quite a lot of his books under my book review section. After writing a couple of blogs about reviews, I decided to take up writing original short stories. Among the couple of those that I have written, ‘The Operation’ remains the closest to my heart. I have always been a fan of some melancholic stories where the protagonist finds success just around the corner but feels unable to reach it. That is what I have tried to portray through my short stories.

Now, 95 blog posts and around a 1000 visitors later, I know that blogging is not as easy as it sounds. The phrase ‘Content is King’ has never ringed truer than now. It is ultimately your content that matters, apart from the timing of your blog posts. Always review the insight section of your blog to find out which tags and categories have received the maximum number of hits and also the time when the readers read your blog posts the most. In my case, most of my readers are from the USA, so I tend to post the blogs in the afternoon during the weekends (I live in the Netherlands currently) so that my readers find my post at the top when they log in first thing in the morning.  So the advice would be to post quality content and to post it regularly.

Apart from content and timing, what is required is patience. If you start blogging thinking that you will reach a thousand followers in a week or a month, then that is highly unlikely. People will only stick around if the content is good. My advice would be to never give up and continue churning out one good blog post after another. Once you write them, send them around to your friends and publicize it on social media. Because the more feedback you receive, the better the motivation to continue writing.

This was my story about the first thousand visitors to my blog. What’s yours?