Reading Strategies: Business Journals

In the world of business, there are the movers and shakers and then there are the bystanders who study what happens and publishes it as Business Journals. In this symbiotic relationship, the bystanders happen to be researchers and professors at Business Schools who teach the future movers and shakers – and provide insight to the current movers and shakers to help them get out of their pinch. Reading business journals not only helps the corporate guys to stay abreast with the latest concerns in their industry, it also helps a thriving small business owner widen his/her perspective on current offerings that could help their business.

There are many types of journals specific to each industry such as Finance, HR, Automotive, but for this blog post I will concentrate on the reading strategy for business journals that is compiled and widely published as books – the Harvard Business Review.

The reason I chose to provide a reading strategy for such business journals is because Harvard Business Review is the most cited journal publication in the world. Its impact shows that the in-depth study that is done before the journal is accepted for publishing is indeed useful. Apart from that, a journal selected as part of a published Harvard Business Review does speak for itself. A lot of hard work had been put to churn out that seven to 12 page of journal. Make no mistake that the studies are NOT based on small samples; there are studies that have gone on for decades and passed on to younger researchers before the journal is sent for publication.

My personal take on Harvard Business Review is that I have yet to read any business books so heavy with information that is as relevant, yet easy to digest as Harvard Business Reviews. That said, having the reading strategies for business journals would give you an upper hand in making sure you are making the best investment for your time spent on the book and your money.

STEP 1: READING SAMPLES

There is a myriad of topics that is covered by Harvard Business Review such as Managing People, Managing Yourself and Organizational Culture. Besides that, there are publications for Entrepreneurship and also Leadership Lessons from Sports. It is an extensive list so the first step you need to do when choosing a Harvard Business Review to read is to choose one topic that you are interested in.

If you are currently looking at restructuring your company and many division will need to leverage, the most insightful Harvard Business Review for you would be HBR’s 10 Must Read: Collaboration. Never mind the need to manage a huge change as there exists an HBR’s 10 Must Read: Change Management ๐Ÿ™‚

If you can’t seem to decide which you should read, whether on Collaboration or Change Management; Step 2 will give you a better insight to invest your time and money on the best Harvard Business Review for you.

STEP 2: FINDING OUT YOUR OVERVIEW

Personally, I find the most beautiful trait about Harvard Business Review is their Index page. If there is something we are truly overwhelmed by on the Internet, it is information overload and HBR nails exactly that. Their Index page is so well and specific that you only get the information you really need. Let’s say I read a journal about blockchain on Harvard Business Review and want to find out more, I simply use the terms indexed under blockchain on its Index page so that I only get the relevant information I need. Doesn’t that save a lot of time?

So in order for you to find out which Harvard Business Review you would learn best for the situation you are in, head to the Index page at the back. Scan through the terms and decide which publication holds more relevant terms that speak out to you in its Index page. That’s how you decide whether your topic is Collaboration or Change Management.

I know, you may thank me later ๐Ÿ™‚

STEP 3: BREAKING DOWN THE BOOK (JOURNAL)

The main idea of reading a Harvard Business Review is to figure out something. It is not about evaluating the author’s writing skill, nor is it to question the validity of the information. Holding on to your main purpose of reading business journal, which is to figure out something – quickly skim through the Editor’s Notes to weigh the gist of each journal. Once you have identified your top priority journal, move to the Contents section to find out the page number of that journal.

Once you have landed on the right page, find the section Idea in Brief to get an overview of what the journal will cover. One great tip I can give is to move straight to the Case Studies included in the journal, this way you immediately identify if the problems you are facing is relatable to this journal. This would also subsequently arouse your desire to find out more and read the business journal thoroughly.

At this point, you could quickly skim through the main topics in the journal (usually in bold) and only read content that is relevant to you, without wasting to much time on the learning if you have already figured it out. Some people do read business journals just for inspiration on how to solve their current problem at work.

If you intend to read for learning, you might want to actively engage yourself with the content of the journal to get the best out of your investment of time and money on reading a Harvard Business Review. This can be done by following Step Four and Step Five below.

STEP 4: PLANTING QUESTIONS

The easiest way to start planting questions when reading a Harvard Business Review is to focus on any chart, figure or table that is included in the journal. Skim the figure and be critical with what you see as to question how the this figure would benefit to serve your problem. With the knowledge on the case studies and a summed of figure in your hand (and mind), you are ready to plant questions as you read through the journal.

Another tip to boost your question seeking activity is to read more on the author of the journal from the About the Contributor section on the final pages of the Harvard Business Review. Having background information about the author would give you an insight to the author’s bias and perspective to help you plant questions and actively engage yourself while reading.

STEP 5: MEETING YOUR CONCLUSIONS

Once you finished reading the journal, you need to have a check-and-balance to see if your comprehension is aligned to the points provided in the business journal. One way to do this is to re-read the Idea in Brief section and see if you had missed any important part in the journal. On the other hand, you could re-visit the chart, figure or table to see if you have a better grasp at understanding the point the author is trying to make.

When your new knowledge jives with the idea that is formed in your mind, you should start sketching a draft proposal to solve your problem. When you are able to formulate a solution from your reading, it is suffice to say that you met your conclusions and you have made a good investment of your time and money by reading a business journal!

So there you have it! My five steps for Reading Strategies: Business Journals to help you with a structure when reading such publication. Enjoy!

-Baini Mustafa

Reading Strategies: Crime Fiction

If there was a genre of books that can be honoured to relieving a lot of problems just by distracting readers with a greater set of problems that is beautifully written, Crime Fiction should win the prize. I can’t begin to tell you how much Crime Fiction I had been absorbed in while waiting for time to pass, to fill up boredom (there was no handheld gadgets while I was growing up), so much so that Crime Fiction could be the very reason I read at all.

The fascinating streak about Crime Fiction is that someone had done wrong and could get away with it. The fact that you are toying with the idea that the criminal could get away builds suspense and the mystery of the unknown is just another reason for you to keep reading the book. If there was a genre that could help you relax and distract yourself, I highly recommend Crime Fiction as a ‘bibliotherapy’.

Through my experience with reading, I have set up the strategies below on how to read Crime Fiction. Crime Fiction can be read passively, where you let the author unveil the mystery to you at the end. But you could also engage in active reading to let yourself be part of the book and this would allow you to finish the book much faster than usual. Imagine being able to make time to do other things AND still read enough books?

Check out below my READING STRATEGIES: CRIME FICTION.

STEP 1: READING SAMPLE

A little research on the book you are planning to buy would always pay off. The large selection of Crime Fiction makes it easy for you to make a bad purchase that doesn’t suit you. The best way to determine whether or not a book suits you is to find out the background of the novel. Where does the story take place? What does the main character do for a living? What type of crime is being done here?

If you are working in the Information Technology sector and planning for a trip to Sweden soon, maybe A Girl With A Dragon Tattoo would serve your interest and curiosity. If you are planning a winter trip to Scandinavia, Jo Nesbo’s Snowman is a chilling page turner for you.

Your selection should serve both your interest and curiosity. If you have no intention of ever cross-country traveling via train, the details in the Murder on The Orient Express by Agatha Christie would serve you no purpose. But on the other hand, just reading that book might make you want that experience!

STEP 2: FINDING OUT YOUR OVERVIEW

The thing about Crime Fiction is that it is read by a great number of people of different walks of life. My tip when trying to narrow down your selection is to simply go by the numbers. It is safe to pick up Crime Fiction that is wildly lauded by many.

Once you have cultivated your own liking for Crime Fiction, then it is safe for you to make your selection more personally.

STEP 3: BREAKING DOWN THE BOOK

Besides the plot and the mystery in a Crime Fiction, the characters should be unforgettable for the Crime Fiction to be an interesting read. You can see how Sherlock Holmes seem to have a life of his own, as created by Arthur Conan Doyle. Interesting main characters weaves the story line in a Crime Fiction. So based on the back of the Crime Fiction you are planning to purchase, read the synopsis and spend some good time there to learn about the main character.

Next, skim through the book to find the main character’s name and try to read a little whenever you see it. Do you like what you read? Do you like how the author writes about the main character? It is important to have a positive feeling about the main character to be able to read through the book. Do note that if you do not feel an instant attraction to the main character, it might not be worth your time to read the book.

STEP 4: PLANTING QUESTIONS

Once you have selected the Crime Fiction of your choice, make a conscious decision to read actively through the book. This will not only increase your momentum and interest, it serves as a check and balance between the characters. I said this because, when you read a Crime Fiction, you need to read as a witness – not as the main character of the book. As a witness, you need to question the motives of each character and that means you also question the motive of the author for what he/she unveils.

When planting questions in a Crime Fiction, you will find that the pace of the story line is aligned to the questions that pop in your mind. This is when reading becomes a two-way street and you are engaged to the author and his masterpiece.

STEP 5: MEETING YOUR CONCLUSIONS

Making assumptions throughout reading a Crime Fiction is the boon of this genre. Where else would you be given free reign to assume and will not stump if you were wrong? But if there is one advice I can about making conclusions when reading a good Crime Fiction is: don’t get too carried away with your conclusions ๐Ÿ™‚

Personally what I love about reading Crime Fiction is the contented feeling when my conclusions are met AND the pleasure of of discovering the alternative to my conclusions. Both are equally satisfying.

There you have it, five steps to help you read Crime Fiction more effectively by actively reading and engaging your mind as part of the plot. I hope you enjoy the Reading Strategies series and I will see you in the next blog post on non-fiction reading strategies.

-Baini Mustafa

Reading Strategies: Legal Thriller

When browsing the fiction shelves at a bookstore, it is hard to miss the Legal Thriller section. Let alone walking into a bookstore without seeing any book with the name John Grisham across its cover. Legal Thriller certainly has its cult status following and that begs the question, have you tried reading a Legal Thriller?

A Legal Thriller is of the mystery genre but usually has a lawyer as its main character. Although a lawyer’s main task is to prove his/her client’s innocence in court, this is not without paying the dues of investigation, priming the witnesses and jurors, building up the case and last but not least presenting the argument in court. The dramatisation of the entire tasks, with the many characters of varying roles, intelligence, importance, and intentions, makes a Legal Thriller an interesting read and is high on my suggestion list whenever someone asks for a fiction recommendation as a break between reading non-fictions.

The beauty of reading a Legal Thriller is that your mind is aroused with the description of activities you are reading in the book and at the same time, your brain is high on alert to also do its part in solving the mystery. Although most people read fiction to relax, I discover that a Legal Thriller relaxes you by shifting your focus on a different problem and sharpens your problem solving skills. Ultimately, the fiction not only gives you the satisfaction of finishing a book, it refreshes your mind and believe it or not, you feel ready and excited to solve your own problem.

So ARE YOU READY TO PICK UP A LEGAL THRILLER NOW? Let’s armour our time investment, pick up the right book by applying the Reading Strategies: Legal Thriller.

STEP 1: READING SAMPLES

As I have repeatedly mentioned around my blog, it is important to pick up a book that serves your interest. Before purchasing a book, make sure you invest a little time by researching reviews to see if you could relate to the book. If you had lost a relative to lung cancer, then maybe The Runaway Jury by John Grisham will keep you interested throughout the book. If you love sports, especially baseball, maybe A Pitch for Justice by Harold Kasselman will keep hands glued to the book. It is all about finding the right match between you and the book that makes reading enjoyable.

STEP 2: FINDING OUT ‘YOUR’ OVERVIEW

Even though you think you have found a Legal Thriller that should excite you, hold on to your horses. Just an extra five more minutes of research should be able to make or break your decision. Find out a little about the people who likes the kind of Legal Thriller you are planning to buy. Do you feel you could relate to the people who gave a positive review about the book? Does the people who gave a positive review about the book, your kind of people? Do they impress you? If they are not YOUR kind of people or even simply you don’t feel inspired by the people – don’t waste any more time and just move on to finding the next Legal Thriller for you.

Do not underestimate the power of demography when selecting the best kind of reading to suit yourself. It might seem counter-productive to find a suitable book and then discover that it is not, but trust me that this five minute research might save you from a draggy five months of trying to finish one book. If there was a way to search via demography first, and then by book – you would need to follow avid readers that match your demography. For example, if you are here to follow my readings tips then most likely your demography matches mine and I can save you a lot of time and money simply by letting you know which books to read.

STEP 3: BREAKING DOWN THE BOOK

At this point, you need to get the feel of the entire book so that it keeps you coming back after you put it down. My personal tip when reading a Legal Thriller is to breakdown the book into 100 pages. For example if the book weights 423 pages, I will break it down into four parts and read a full page within each 100-page part.

This way, I get an idea of how fast the story line would progress and specific scenes, characters and my first hand exposure to the author’s writing style. Ask your self, do you like what you read in that broken down portions? If not then put it down and go back to the first step in the Step 1. Fret not, there are still millions of books out there just waiting to meet its right audience.

If a book doesn’t have the lure factor that appeals to you, it is not worth your investment of time and money.

STEP 4: PLANTING QUESTIONS

Now that you have found the perfect Legal Thriller suited for you, it is time to actively read the gem you picked. In order to actively read a Legal Thriller, it is not only important to be aware of the little details of the plot’s twists and turns – it is also important to notice the small quirks of each character in the story.

Plant questions that would inquire the behaviours of each character in the story. This keeps yourself interested in the psychology of the characters that you may build up in your mind. Does this lawyer have a blond paralegal who obediently brings his double espresso every morning? Is the prosecuted criminal a cat person or a dog person? Sometimes the questions you ask yourself has nothing to do with the story line, but planting questions regarding the psychology of each character in a Legal Thriller would build suspense and almost always satisfy your theories about people. And maybe who knows, you might crack the case before the lawyer does ๐Ÿ™‚

STEP 5: MEETING YOUR CONCLUSIONS

When reading a Legal Thriller, the story line is maneuvered with yourself as the main character. On the same note, you need to be aware and understand the roles and the limits of other characters in the story. Did you know the real roles of the jurors? Did you know the basics of a judge’s jurisdiction within a county? It is as simple as a quick Google search to find the answers and it will give you an insight that will help with your active reading. After all, if your conclusion is accurate wouldn’t that boost your confidence to read more Legal Thrillers?

As a tip, I will let you in on my own conclusion that is always find accurate whenever I read a Legal Thriller – Lawyers have the ability to argue black as white AND lawyers would always prime their witnesses to believe what the witness testifies to be the truth.

There you have it! My Reading Strategies: Legal Thriller that will help you navigate through a fiction as an experience that is worthy of your time an money. Let me know if the strategies work!

-Baini Mustafa

Reading Strategies: An Introduction

Did somebody say strategy???

This week I will start another series of post called Reading Strategies. In the first of its posts, I have its Introduction so that readers have a basic idea how the Reading Strategies can help.

Contrary to popular belief, reading is not a passive activity where the author does all the job. Let me introduce you to a term “Active Reading” where readers seek in a book for its gold, rather than simply peeling page by page to be entertained.

I remember the time I read The New Earth by Eckhart Tolle that took me months to finish. It was my first non-fiction of that genre – it was new and exciting but terrible to digest. I was rereading paragraphs in one sitting and I kinda felt like I was at wit’s end. Just like that jar of jam that wouldn’t pop open!

But I still continued on and on because I really liked the book and what I wanted to know what the New Earth was about. Until I found a point where the sentences started to make sense without having to think too hard about it. That was when I realised that every book needs its own visor for the reader, so that the book can be read through a specific lens. And this specific lens comes from having an expected ‘theme’ for the book to fulfill, rather than having an empty slate that your mind can wander on and off the ‘theme’.

So that is where the Reading Strategies will help you and give you the moral support you need to read fifty books a year! YES, IT’S POSSIBLE!

Below are the seven parts of the Reading Strategies series to help you with improving your reading and making the best out of your investment of time and money on a book. No more mindless reading and deciding halfway that the book isn’t worth your time with these strategies.

  1. Reading Strategies: An Introduction
  2. Reading Strategies: Legal Thriller
  3. Reading Strategies: Crime Fiction
  4. Reading Strategies: Business Journals
  5. Reading Strategies: Self-Help
  6. Reading Strategies: Pop Sociology
  7. Reading Strategies: Business

I have included both fiction and non-fiction in the mix because I do believe that a lot of business aspects can be learnt by reading Crime Fiction and Legal Thriller, so I wouldn’t want my readers to miss out on its benefits. And these are great vacation books – light, exciting and a little bit of learning here and there – I promise!

In the Reading Strategies series, 5 key elements will be delivered in the following fashion. Where the first three elements is done prior to reading and the last two elements is actively done throughout the reading. This structure helps tremendously to build and keep your reading momentum.

  1. Reading sample
  2. Finding out an overview
  3. Breaking down the book
  4. Planting questions
  5. Meeting your conclusion

The 5 key elements above will help you get the most out of your reading in the interest of time and money invested on the book. Applying the elements above will also help you read actively because you feel more involved in the process of discovery instead of passively accepting whatever the author had written.

The strategies I expose are ones that I use to help me make the most out of my reading and I find that different types of books require different strategies. It is my wish to see somebody come up with a fool-proof formula that can be applied to all types of reading to aid comprehension.

MY CHALLENGE TO YOU IS: To apply the strategies as I post them throughout the week and let me know if it doesn’t work. I would be more than glad to refine these strategies.

-Baini Mustafa

 

 

How to Stay Awake When Reading

Someone told me that the easiest way to fall asleep is to read.

I agreed immediately with the person that reading should be a pleasant, relaxing experience and let’s you unwind. Falling asleep is a way your body telling you that you should read more books, not to avoid it. It is crucial to keep coming back at the book and to see yourself through with the book. Do not abandon the book simply because it puts you to sleep. Because chances are, you needed that sleep.

I do fall asleep when I read too and I do sometimes have to force myself to get through some pages before I put the book down and retire to sleep. This could happen to anybody. Fighting to stay awake when reading is normal, we just need to discipline ourselves and let the body know who’s boss. In this post, I will help with ways to stay awake while reading.

Let’s say you have advanced a bit further in your reading habit and would like to keep a goal to yourself, for example reading 10 pages before going to sleep. However you find that after the fifth page, the book keeps slipping off your hands and your head just made a deep dip towards the book (familiar, right? LOL), just try to sit up straight and stretch. If that doesn’t help much, here are my three tips on how to stay awake when reading.

NUMBER 1: HAVE A DRINK/SNACK WHEN READING

Chewing or drinking while reading really helps the body and mind to awaken, thus help the page turn faster. Notice how your munching becomes faster as the story line evolve with more suspense. Just be sure not to overeat or overdo the sugar in your snack. We don’t want to avoid reading just because we want to avoid snacking now, do we?

NUMBER 2: AVOID HEAVY READING MATERIALS BEFORE GOING TO SLEEP

Reading your office financial report before going to sleep surely would put a heavy load on your brain and cause even more drowsiness. If not that, it would certainly add more anxiety before you retire to bed. Avoid reading books that require analytical thinking if you can only make time to read before bed. It is best to read materials that allow your right brain to take centre stage – put your imagination at play and get your body to relax as you read. This way, your body would find reading enjoyable and you will find yourself looking forward to more reading.

NUMBER 3: KEEP A GOAL TO STAY MOTIVATED TO READ

Rewarding yourself after having achieved a reading goal is a great way to keep yourself motivated to read. Treat yourself to a body massage if you manage to read a book within a week. Better yet, allow yourself some time me-time at the library to see more books that you might like. Once you acquaint yourself with the idea of reading for pleasure, you will find yourself wanting more and more me-time with books. To indulge yourself in a world that only you know inside your head.

It is really important not to give up on your attempts to read. Nothing easy is worth doing.

-Baini Mustafa

 

How to Read One Book A Week

There is no accurate data on the average number of books Malaysians read in a year but maybe we can just agree that it is not enough. In general, people do not read because they find reading boring and burdensome in the sense that their free time should be spent doing things that don’t require thinking. Although I would pounce in disagreement when I hear people say that, I think it is time we address this problem.

I believe everyone has their own personal reason for not making the time to read, hence I would attempt to solve this problem by suggesting how you can try to read one book a week. In my other posts, I have explained the need to choose the right kind of reading materials as this is essential in keeping ourselves interested in the book. Apart from that, it is also essential to move on to the next book once you find that the book you’re reading doesn’t ‘launch’.

Although I always preach that we should read with the purpose of gaining knowledge, for this post I would skip the nitty gritty part of that as the purpose here is simply to read one book a week. So below I outlined three ways on how to read one book a week.

NUMBER 1: DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT ATTITUDE

Although the benefits of reading is lauded by many successful people, some people still believe that they are too busy to read or that reading does not solve their current problems. I would say that the only way to solve this is to change the attitude about reading or they can keep on trying to fix the symptoms of their problems instead of identifying its root cause. I’ve also encountered people who think that they don’t need books to help them with their life because their brains are better than that… so just imagine the amount of ideas that you can generate in that already brilliant mind once it is triggered by reading *rolls eyes*

NUMBER 2: GET THE THINNEST BOOK YOU CAN FIND

If at all possible, get the thinnest book in the biggest font you can find – I have an immediate suggestion to make: Who Moved My Cheese by Dr. Spencer Johnson is great if you are also in need of change in your life. The reason you need to choose the easiest book to read is so that your mind registers the feeling of having completed reading one book. It is important that your brain recognises this achievement and builds pride around such wins.

NUMBER 3: MAKE THE TIME FOR READING

We are not talking about blocking two hours from your daily schedule to read here, we are simply asking for five minutes here and there through out the day for you to glimpse through the book. Better yet, whenever you feel the urge to mindlessly browse through social media is the right time for you to pick up on your reading. Your future self will thank you for this habit because that’s when you realise that your life is not built by watching what other people are doing.

The benefits of reading one book a week far outweighs the relaxation benefit you think you are getting from watching TV or going through your News Feed in the long run. Being able to accomplish reading your first book is the only hard part, as I promise the journey would become much easier with time. Pick up your next book right after you have finished the first one, do NOT even bother to wait until the next Sunday has come if you have finished your first book earlier.

Wow, that was stern.

-Baini Mustafa

Three Ways Dale Carnegie Books Influence Technology

If you are familiar with the works of Dale Carnegie such as How to Win Friends and Influence People, you would know that his techniques touch on the quality of interpersonal relationships. In his books and teachings, he emphasises that humans are not creatures of logic but creatures of emotion – but how is it that millions of dollars are spent online, where only (logical) human to machine interaction is needed? Does this mean that Automation and Artificial Intelligence could well replace human niceties and personal interaction?

Take for example a food delivery service that you have been loyal with for more than three months because of its superior service. One day you had a chance to meet the founding members of the service and you were appalled as they brushed you away in their seemingly more important conversation. As a loyal paying customer, you would have taken it personally and vow to move on to a different service provider and wanting to kick yourself for having been a ‘fan’ for so long! How have you allowed their polite automated prompts and artificial intelligence bots to have swooned you into purchasing their service?

You didn’t think they ‘naturally’ knew you that well, did you?

We see here that Dale Carnegie lessons still stand the test of time and it is Automation/AI that are actively adapting to his lessons. So how do we use the lessons from Dale Carnegie in Automation and Artificial Intelligence? Read more below to find out the three ways lessons from Dale Carnegie are used in technology.

NUMBER 1: REMEMBER THAT A PERSON’S NAME IS TO THAT PERSON THE SWEETEST AND MOST IMPORTANT SOUND IN THAT LANGUAGE

Don’t you feel immediately flattered when somebody remembers your name? Do you notice how more drawn you are to a text you are reading when you see your name imprinted within it? A lot of online merchants capitalise on this rule by using data to include the user’s first name to build a personal rapport with the user. Although it is best if you had taken the effort to remember a person’s name and their habits on social media, it doesn’t hurt to use a little technology to accomplish this task wisely.

NUMBER 2: YOU CAN MAKE MORE FRIENDS IN A MONTH BY BECOMING INTERESTED IN OTHER PEOPLE

Ever wonder why Facebook suggests the best Pages that are totally in line with your current situation? That is because Facebook studies your usage on Facebook, by tracking the post you Like and take the time to read or share, also by tracking your the behaviours of those in your Friend List. All these data when used with Artificial Intelligence gives the best user experience for the consumer. Ever noticed that we rarely see posts from the official Facebook Page flying around in our timeline/wall? Certainly Dale Carnegie’s principle is in use here.

NUMBER 3: MAKE THE OTHER PERSON FEEL IMPORTANT

Don’t good vibes blossom in our hearts when we receive an email from an Online Shopping website saying that there is a special discount for you on your birthday? For all the wishes we receive on our holidays that make us feel that they have taken a time in their day to wish us well? Don’t we just feel good about ourselves and feel thankful for the TLC shown by these businesses? Making us feel important is their business to ensure customer loyalty and sense of belonging. Just by using automation, businesses may accomplish this important principle by Dale Carnegie.

In a nutshell, I would conclude that the advancement of technology could not replace human to human personal touch but it definitely plays a huge advantage when the correct principles, such as ones by Dale Carnegie is applied. Reading books by Dale Carnegie would open you up to a plethora of ways to improve your communication skills, interpersonal relationships and your satisfaction in life.

-Baini Mustafa

How to Choose Non-Fiction: Self-Help

As the final post in my How to Choose Non-Fiction series, I present to you the most cringed upon genre, Self-Help. It takes a lot of confidence to walk over the Self-Help aisle at the bookstore, because it just seemed that there is something not right about you, that you need some pyscho-talk to yourself. Allow me to brush off that impression. Self-Help is the genre that had helped millions by emulating the techniques and practicesย  from the books they read. How do you expect yourself to have a one-to-one session with a successful person, if not by reading the book he had written?

In addition to that, Self-Help books aren’t those type that promises that you can be a millionaire in 45 days, with all the pep-talk that you can do it, you can do it, you can do it – and confetti falling from out of nowhere. That’s propaganda BS from publishers trying to make money out of you naรฏvety. Self-Help are the books that let you become the best version of yourself. The people who dare enough to visit the Self-Help shelves, are the ones nearing this attainment. Because they identified a flaw in their selves (because everyone thinks themselves perfect!) and is looking for a way to address it.

In my personal experience with reading Self-Help, nothing much happens if you don’t put the theories into action. Self-Help books could merely be books about the things you already know but don’t do, and that’s a shame. In my heart of hearts, I do believe reading Self-Help books is the first step in acknowledging that your circumstances don’t change unless you do. In order to ease your selection in the Self-Help section, I would breakdown the entire genre to three main niches and I would also recommend the best reading in that niche.

NUMBER 1: TIME MANAGEMENT

Time is free and yet it is our most valuable asset. Everyone is given the exact amount everyday and yet its impact is not the same. Most successful people are the masters of their time or they have learnt the art of using their time effectively. Most successful people spend time on things that matter and sees time as an investment, rather than a hand that tells you your schedule. Ultimately, how you spend your time is how you spend you life!

The book I recommend to read about time management is the one by Brian Tracy because he breaks down time management into the 10 most important aspects of our lives – family, career, relaxation, income improvement and others. Effective how-tos and strategies are placed according to the aforementioned aspects, including the results of practicing your best time management skill in your life. I would definitely recommend this book to those who feel overwhelmed by tasks and responsibilities and need to take a step back to assess their priorities.

NUMBER 2: PRODUCTIVITY

This book by Stephen R. Covey is a classic and every household should own one copy. Although this book is about character building, and not about making more money – I believe this is the handbook to Productivity because without solid character to base upon, no business would last. For example, we see more and more people going up the ladder just by taking orders without questioning the value of the work they’re doing – please know that there is no such thing as a zero-sum game and the journey of life is bigger than just a temporary bump in your paycheck.

Winners in life allow others to win as well because they know human relationships is for the long run and it is more effective to live in agreement, rather than playing the win-lose game. Personally, I find this book a gem because it encourages you to act in harmony with your values rather than giving-in to external pressure. There is a lot to digest (a lot about values!) in this book, so make sure you are ready for change when you pick this up so that you make the most out of it.

NUMBER 3: FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT

Other than managing your time well and having solid values, managing your finances well is also key to living a beautiful life. The Richest Man in Babylon distills the best personal financial advice in the form of a fable, because personal finance advice is best narrated as a story. The book is less than 150 pages and does not contain complex financial terms to make you save and earn more money. Although a lot of investment theories have been formed since this book was written in the 1920s, the advice from this book still stands.

I would recommend this book to everyone too and to keep a copy at home so that it not only benefits you, it would benefit somebody else as well.

I hope my breaking down Self-Help into smaller niches helps you with making you book decisions. Remember, it is always about reading something that you are interested in, authored by good writers and sits well with your frame of mind. We have come to the last post of the How to Choose Non-Fiction series, do let me know if you would like more of this or something else – any feedback is welcome, either good or bad.

-Baini Mustafa

How to Choose Non-Fiction: Cognitive Science

Don’t let the term ‘Cognitive Science’ shun you away from this post. Hear me out, allow me to explain cognitive science and then you can decide if this is what you need. There is nothing intimidating in the word cognitive, it simply means ‘thinking behaviour’ and in today’s post I will provide the top three thinking behaviour books that are useful for you to read or just keep a copy at home and hope one day your kids might read it.

For reasons (yet) unbeknownst to me, I visit this section at the library quite often when I was younger because it made me realise that thinking is not an integral part of your self – thinking is an entity in itself and there are ways to monitor and control it. How many times in a day do you see people doing things without thinking? Driving and making a turn without signals? Liking a post on Facebook without reading its content? Buying something useless just because it was on sale? I rest my case.

So you see, thinking is NOT an integral part of your self and isn’t it worrisome? Let’s backtrack ourselves and make THINKING back in style by picking up a book on thinking behaviours. Or you may simply check out the three listed below on how to choose cognitive science non-fiction.

NUMBER 1: THE ART OF THINKING CLEARLY BY ROLF DOBELLI

In this book, Dobelli breaks cognitive theories using case studies which makes this book easy to relate to, hence easy to read. I would definitely recommend this book to those who are considering this genre of non-fiction because you would find that the case studies are interesting and the outcomes of the case study usually don’t match our expectation. Just the way anyone would read a mystery novel and your suspect isn’t the actual murderer. Aren’t those kind of reads the most satisfying ones? ๐Ÿ™‚

Dobelli shows how people apply biases in every decisions that they make and that anxiety amplifies the smallest matter. Although Dobelli’s book showcases many examples, he did not provide a solution to overcome the problems of our thinking behaviour. This is the kind of book that would introduce you to the world of cognitive science and make you aware of your own thinking behaviour. And I believe being aware and conscious of your thoughts is AN IMPORTANT FIRST STEP.

NUMBER 2: ORIGINALS BY ADAM GRANT

I super love this book! Unlike the Art of Thinking Clearly, this book is written by a professor in the study of psychology and I will always endorse quality reading of verified information from reputable writers. In the same vein, don’t let the writer’s credentials fool you into thinking this book as academic, because its writing style targets the general public with laymen terms and relatable examples and ideas. In this book, Adam Grant provides solutions to overcome degenerating cognitive practices by becoming an original.

He provides insights on what non-conformists can do to make themselves heard and understood in order to shatter groupthink – to champion change and challenge the status quo. He encourages thinking differently than we are used to, to create more opportunities for ourselves and not confine ourselves to the defaults. In my opinion, Originals is a fresh take on the normal everyday wisdom we are accustomed with, its insight on the limitations we set for our cognitive skill had hindered a lot of progress and freedom. One of the key takeaway I get from this book is to triple the amount of ideas you generate and to welcome criticism.

I would recommend this book to those who feel the need to fight when it comes to advocating their work and for those who find themselves making personal decisions (routinely)ย  by considering its outward impact as opposed to its inward impact on yourself. On that note, I welcome any questions you have about this book, as I really believe everyone should read or at least know about this book.

NUMBER 3: ANY BOOK BY EDWARD DE BONO

I would seriously recommend any book from the person who coined the term ‘lateral thinking’, Edward de Bono. He is best known for his widely-practiced 6 Thinking Hats and has a large collection of publication simply on the topic of cognitive science. I have read a few of his books throughout the years and I discover that we really don’t think as hard as we should, we don’t think as much as we think we do, we really don’t use much of our brain capacity – we let our brain rest too much! Edward de Bono does not only cover problem solving, his books are actually targeted to finding problems!

People might think finding problems is easier than solving one until it had to be done. By finding problems, we intentionally build something before the problem it causes becomes expensive and difficult to manage. For this to be done, a makeover on our thinking behaviour is needed – we need to harp on creativity instead of analytical skills. Edward de Bono’s books provide guides to induce creativity, case studies of where his methods have been tested and proven positive. I would say that Edward de Bono’s books are like textbooks to creativity, but then that’s an oxymoron – where oxymoron is also a branch of creativity ๐Ÿ™‚

I hope my post provides an insight on how to chose non-fiction in the cognitive science section. These are wonderful books to read if you allow yourself to bask in the light of our thinking behaviour.

-Baini Mustafa

 

How to Choose Non-Fiction: Lifestyle

It is a little known niche at the Non-Fiction shelves, a section for Self-Help that is dedicated for Lifestyle. I personally love lifestyle non-fictions as far as books go, because it gives you an insight to a way of living that you have not experienced before. While not every stranger would willingly open up to you about what they do the first hour of their day, lifestyle non-fiction elaborates in breadth and depth on the habits of people who are happy, enjoy long life, minimalism and many other positive traits.

Furthermore, lifestyle non-fictions are a breeze to read with no heavy theories to comprehend and is best read while on vacation, in a relaxed setting. Below are my tips on how to choose Non-Fiction: Lifestyle, depending on your aim and the lifestyle you are seeking for. Do note that the books I recommend below are ones with the clearest ‘how-to’ guides to change the way you live.

NUMBER 1 – THE LITTLE BOOK OF HYGGE, DANISH WAY TO LIVE WELL

If you are one of those who just want to slump into bed right after a long day of work, here is a recommended reading for you. It is important to notice that this book is about living well as opposed to being happy. That’s really because happiness is a by-product, and living well IS a means to happiness.

Hygge is a Danish word that implies coziness, the way the word ‘istirahat’ in Malay would imply because it creates the feeling of stillness, relaxation, gratitude. By ‘istirahat’, I don’t mean sleeping in all day but more to enjoying the FEELING while doing the small things like reading newspaper with hot tea and piping hot ‘cekodok’ at your grandma’s patio – stuff like that. In this book, the writer emphasised on the importance of creating vs. consuming to create the sense of hygge. For example, instead of hitting the mall with your kids to enjoy some pastries after a movie, why not stay in and let the pastries you bake (with your kids) fill the house with its aroma while you watch a movie at home?

I would recommend those who want more quality in life to read this book as it not only lets you in on how to do that, it also gives tips on how to turn your house into your own hygge haven. I would also remark here that the book contains a lot of hygge images, even flipping through the book created hygge ๐Ÿ™‚

NUMBER 2 – IKIGAI: THE JAPANESE SECRET TO A LONG AND HAPPY LIFE

The term ikigai means ‘life effect’ which is believed to be the essence of being and purpose that lead people to happiness. In this book, the lifestyle of Okinawan is studied as it boasts the largest population of those over the age of 100 years old. The most astonishing fact is their community of centenarian do not suffer from dementia and are fit. Surely there must be something about their diet, daily habit and mental state that we could learn from.

What I take away from this book is that in order to enjoy life, we must SERVE. Life is best enjoyed creating, being outdoors, having intimate relationships. If we want to live strong with vitality, the only way is to be out there and live it. Nobody gets stronger in life by sprawling on the sofa, thinking you are conserving energy. Energy needs to be used to be created.

Getting yourself out there, creating, gives your life purpose and the happiness you seek. And that would make life worth living 100 years more.

NUMBER 3 – THE LIFE CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP

I would definitely command this book for changing my life. I did a total ‘konmari’ (Marie Kondo is the name of the author) on my clothes, handbags and shoes last year and found that I have not missed any of my stuff. Liberating myself from the little items that are kept for years without use, gave me a lot of clarity to the things that actually matter. Not only does this book provide the how-to, it provides insight on the emotional up and downs on parting with physical things.

I find Marie’s thoughts are expressed from an expert’s view who not only weighs the visual impact of tidiness but also the psychological effects of living simply. I would recommend this book for people who tend to cling to dusty memorabilia, loves shopping for the sake of shopping and people who would want to dip their toes into minimalism.

The three books I’ve listed here on how to choose a lifestyle non-fiction are easy reads, almost like reading lifestyle magazines in fact – only that the writing is by industry experts and backed by data and studies. As always, I highly recommend reading verified quality materials if you decide to invest your time in reading.

-Baini Mustafa