My Life Before 18
By Sandeep Gupta
Have you ever purchased something that you didn’t need? That you didn’t use later?
Well, you are not alone. My parents purchased many things for no logical reason, especially books; I would always wonder: “why should you buy something that you never use?”
If you had been with me in my drawing room when I was 8, you would have seen 3 gigantic bookshelves overflowing with books—big hardcover volumes from all parts of the globe. The titles were as wide-ranging as Russian Revolution, Capital Punishment Systems of the Last 1000 Years, World Wars, Occult Sciences, World Geography, Philosophy, Sciences, Religion, Economics, Law, Marketing, Brain Science, Anthropology, Value System, various Atlases, Dictionaries, Encyclopedias … the lot!
Nobody ever read a single word from even one book. The shelves were opened only for one purpose: cleaning. Whenever the shelves were opened, some books invariably fell down and landed ‘thud’ on the floor with a piercing smell of dust. My dad was very possessive about his books. He even had a label on each of the shelves: “Don’t touch without permission.” For me, the locked books had always been some kind of a forbidden fruit. One day, as our servant (Mahipal Singh Choudhary from Haryana) was cleaning the shelves, a particular volume of Grolier Encyclopedia just tumbled out and fell down (my parents were away at work). I picked up the book, and, the moment I opened the book, I got hooked to it. The title was Countries of the World. The pictures fascinated me no end. And Mahipal panicked.
“Bettaji kitaab vapas de do ... saabji meri khaal kheench lenge.” (Young Master, please keep the book back or else Master will skin me!)
I requested him to let me look at the book for some time, and somehow with great stress on his face, he allowed me to read the book.
“Saabji ke aane ke pahle vapas rakh dena.” (Please keep it back before Master arrives.)
I got so hooked that I put a stool and took out all the encyclopedia volumes one by one and just kept on looking at the pictures. By evening, I had turned over all the encyclopedia volumes. When my dad came back that evening, I just jumped to tell him the joy of having seen the encyclopedia.
“Dad, you should read. These books are very interesting.”
He saw all the books on the floor, AND, without thinking at all, slapped me hard.
Dad (fuming and screaming): “Mahipal, tune naukri karni hai ya nahi? Kisse pooch ke kitaab nikal kar di?” (Mahipal, seems like you don’t want this job! Whom did you ask before handing the books over?)
Mahipal: “Saabji bhale hi aap naukri se nikaal do par main ek baat zaroor kahoonga ... mere hisab se to bettaji ne koi galti nahi ki hai ... kitaaben to dhool kha rahi hain ... main to chahta hoon ki mera beta padhe ... par hamare paas aise saadhan kahan? Aapka beta padnha chahta hai ... uske paas poori kitaabon ki dukaan hai ... aur aap use padhne se rok rahe ho?” (Respected Master, even if you fire me after this, I will say: the Young Master has not done anything wrong. The books are gathering dust. It is so ironical, that I want my son to read, but have no means to provide him with such books; your son wants to read and has a whole store full of books, but you are stopping him from reading!)
Dad: “Mahipal, ab tu mujhe samjhayega ki mujhe apne bachche ki parwarish kaise karni chahiye?” (Am I going to learn how to take care of my child from you, a servant Mahipal?!)
In the meanwhile, my mother also reached home.
Mom (completely puzzled): “What happened?”
She remained shocked for some time. When the penny eventually dropped, she gave an almost menacing look to my dad.
Dad: “Now the servants of the house will tell me what I should do and how I should raise my child.”
Mom: “Mahipal is absolutely right. What kind of a dad are you? Other kids are beaten for not studying. You must be the only father in the world who is beating his child because he is interested in reading / studying. Rather you must be proud that at such a young age, he is being fascinated by books.”
This one line by my mother changed my father completely. It hit him hard; he just plonked on the sofa silently, hanging his head in utter bemusement. After about 10 minutes, he got up and said “sorry” to all three of us.
Later he said to mom: "I was angry not because he read the books but because my orders had been violated. And in the heat of the moment, I ended up slapping my son who wanted to read and study. Shame on me!”
This particular incident moved my father to such an extent that he granted me open access to all the books. He also hired a true polymath to be my full-time home-tutor. He was an unconventional tutor who didn’t believe much in conventional education imparted in schools and colleges. Rather, to give me a holistic education, he used to take me around to various places: libraries, museums, superstores, movies etc.
One thing that no other person could have taught me: the ability to connect the dots. Let me give you an example of how I was taught by this teacher (his initials were BD). During a Superstore visit, BD picked up a Nestlé chocolate and this is how the conversation went:
BD: “What is this?”
Me: “A chocolate.”
BD: “Tell me more.”
Me: “Nestlé is quite yummy. My favorite!”
Me: “I don’t know.”
BD: “Read the wrapper fully. What do you find?”
BD: “I asked you something.”
BD: “Which country is it from?”
Me: “I am not sure.”
BD: “It is given on the wrapper?”
Me: “Oh yes! Switzerland.”
BD: “What do you know about Switzerland?”
Me: “Ya! I think the movie Silsila was shot there.”
BD: “(almost pulling his hair) What else do you know about it?”
BD: “Where is Switzerland?”
Me: “I don’t know. But I don’t think it is in India.”
BD: “It is in Western Europe.”
BD: (fuming) “I expect a question.”
Me: “What question?”
BD: (shouting) “I said, ‘Western Europe.’”
BD: “If I say ‘Western Europe’, how is it possible that the question ‘Western! So there must be something called Eastern Europe, otherwise why give it the name ‘Western’? not come to your mind? Where is your focus?”
Me: “I never thought of it.”
BD: “There is a big division in the world these days because of this. You have to know this.”
BD: “This is not a physical division but an ideological division. The world is ideologically divided into two parts.”
Me: “What is ideological?”
BD: “Based on belief, thought, idea. Not based on borders. See! You live in the same house but you don’t like some things your parents say, right? So it is not a physical division, but an ideological one. Imagine you have a brother and a sister. If your sister supports your stand if your brother sides with your parents, it will not create any physical divide but an ideological one. The world calls it the Cold War.”
Me: “So who are the two sides here?”
BD gave me the most fascinating account of the entire world history of the 20th century: WW-I, The Russian Revolution, The League Of Nations, The Treaty of Versailles, Hitler’s rise to power, The Holocaust, WW-II, The Formation of UN, IMF, WB and GATT, The Cold War, The Bipolar World, The Division of Germany, The Berlin Wall, Communism, Capitalism, The Formation of China & Taiwan, The Formation of Israel, The Arab-Israeli conflict, The Iron Curtain, NATO, The Korean War, The Warsaw Pact, The Suez Crisis, The Cuban Missile Crisis, The Vietnam War, The Afghanistan Crisis, US versus USSR, The Arms Race, The Six-day War, The Yom-Kippur War, The Oil Shocks of 1973 and 1979, OPEC and its role … PLUS … at least a hundred more such stories.
Which other teacher in the world can connect a Nestlé wrapper to such a fascinating account of World History?
Just to give you one more example of what a great teacher can do to you:
Another day, he picked up a Coca Cola bottle, he asked me similar questions.
BD: “What is this?”
Me: “Coca Cola! Should I read the bottle fully?”
Me: “Atlanta, GA. What’s GA?”
BD: “It is Georgia.”
Me: “Oh! The place near Russia you told me about?”
BD: “No! This Georgia is different.”
Me: “You mean there are two Georgias?”
BD: “YES! This one is in the US.”
Me: “How can two places have the same name? If I say, I am going to Georgia, how will you know which one?”
BD: (big grin on his face) “You have a lot to learn. OK! What else do you know about Coca Cola?”
Me: “It is good but thoda teekha hota hai.”
BD: “I mean the Coca Cola Company.”
Me: “I wonder know what they put in this drink.”
BD: “It is the biggest brand in the world.”
Me: “What is a brand?”
BD: “OK! If I ask you about butter, what comes to your mind?”
Me: “Amul. I love paranthas with it.”
BD: “Exacly! So Amul is a brand. It is a big brand because it comes to your mind first when you think of butter.”
Me: “So, ‘brand’ means ‘famous’?”
BD: Not exacly! But, in a way, you can say so.”
Me: “So Coca Cola is so famous?”
BD: “Yes! It is sold in more than 100 countries around the world, and the symbol of ‘Coca Cola’ is the most recognized word in the English Language. Even when Russia and America are enemies, Coca Cola is sold inside the Russian Parliament. That’s why the Coca Cola logo is considered the symbol of “The Victory Of Capitalism” around the world.”
Me: “REALLY! How did it become so big?”
BD: “The power of Positioning.”
Then BD gave me the entire history of Coca Cola’s success. How a small pharmaceutical brand that used to contain cocaine earlier (started about a hundred years ago—in 1886) went on to become a massive brand fascinated me no end. He told three things that amuse me even till date:
- The fact that there is nothing secret about the Coke formula but company has always publicized it so. It says that Coca Cola has a secret 7X magic formula that is closed in two parts of Trust Bank’s locker in the US. The two top executives of the company know only half the formula each. That’s why they don’t travel together on the same plane. (All this is a myth created by the company).
- The fact that the design of the Coca Cola bottle was inspired by a woman’s skirt. Its earlier campaign: “As you drink, it goes down.” was considered sheer genius.
- The fact that how Coca Cola was made the official free drink of all senior American soldiers during the Second World War, an action that resulted in making the company truly global. It had to open bottling plants wherever the American army went, especially all over Europe, automatically making the brand truly global. He also told me about how American soldiers (who were the winners of the war) got a celebrity status in the US in the 1940s. As they drank Coke (because they had been addicted to this “free” drink); and as the people in the US wanted to emulate their war heroes, they also started drinking Coca Cola as a symbol of victory. This is how sugared water was positioned to become the number one brand in the world.
BD used to tell me dozens of such stories every day. Going to school sounded so boring compared to all this fun-filled learning (in the form of extremely fascinating stories) that I practically stopped going to school. Fortunately, there was no major issue of attendance at school; it was all plain and smooth sailing.
All these incidents / stories made me very very curious as a child:
- At a wedding I asked: “Why should the groom always be taller in a marriage? Why can’t the girl be taller? Is there a law to this effect?”
- At a doctor’s clinic, I asked the doctor: “Doctor Uncle, my parents always keep on asking me to study hard and be the topper of my school. What percentage did you get? Were you the topper, too?”
- At a superstore I asked: “Why is milk sold in rectangular containers (tetra-packs) whereas soft-drinks and beverages are sold in round (cylindrical) containers?”
- Whenever I watched extreme sports, adventure sports, horror movies etc. on TV, I would invariably ask “why are such things (in which one could lose his/her life) so popular? Logically speaking, they must not be allowed.
- When I was told that even today, science doesn’t have all the answers, I invariably would ask: “which is the next science (beyond physics / chemistry / biology etc.) that has to be invented in order for us to get the answers to some of the hitherto most unanswered questions in the universe?”
BD always encouraged me to ask all sorts of questions. And he would give me all the answers, no matter how many questions I asked. In fact, he would get irritated if, during a discussion, I didn’t ask some really penetrating and curious questions. He always said, “Curiosity is the best thing to have happened to us. We could move from jungles to trees to caves to arable land to Space—only because we always asked the question: “WHAT NEXT? What is our next frontier? As humans, we have always challenged the status quo. Even in the modern context, if Galileo / Columbus / Copernicus hadn’t challenged the status quo, we would probably have still believed that the earth was the center of the universe or that the earth was flat or that there was only one way to reach India from Europe.”
Once BD showed me a painting by Paul Gauguin (created in 1897). Through his painting, Paul asked three quintessential questions:
- Who are we?
- Where have we come from?
- Where are we going?
You will find it impossible to believe it but I got a six-month long education as the answers to these three questions. The entire idea of the origin of the universe, the origin of species, evolution, brain-science, existentialism (philosophy), nihilism, technology, speculative intelligence, SETI, the fundamental nature of Man (humans), our place in the universe, speculations about death, afterlife, religion, spirituality—the list goes on. All this was laced with anecdotes, history, archaeology, paleontology, and research elaborating on some of the most seminal works of all times. Such is the power of asking the right questions.
In addition to this, BD developed in me the habit of reading to obsessional levels. Every evening he would tell me the book that I was supposed to read the next day, give me the summary of the book beforehand, and pique my curiosity to the level that I couldn’t wait to get started with the book. Each day, I would read the book that BD had asked me to, and, when he would arrive in the evening, he would give me more wisdom about the same book. He would fill all the learning gaps and suggest the next book.
As I had practically stopped going to school, I had enough time to just dig myself into books and read for hours on end. I relished every single book I read. I could read and understand these books because BD used to give me a complete backdrop and idea about the same before asking me to read any particular book.
The books / publications / works that left the biggest impression on me: The Scientific American (Magazine), The Harvard Business Review (Magazine), The Economist (Weekly), National Geographic (Magazine), Cosmos, The Dragons of Eden, The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged (and all the other works of Ayn Rand), Future Shock, Power Shift, Third Wave, 1984, Bertrand Russell’s Philosophy Collection (35 books), Pirates of the Valley, Positioning, Ogilvy on Advertising, Leaders who Changed the World, Biographies, The Wealth of Nations … plus the Works of Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Fredrick Nietzsche, Albert Camus, GWF Hegel, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, René Descartes, Karl Marx, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume, Francis Bacon, Voltaire, John Locke, Baruch Spinoza, Montesquieu, Edmund Burke, Thomas Hobbes, Thomas Paine, Carol Gilligan, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Lawrence Kohlberg, Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud, Jeremy Bentham, Arthur Schopenhauer, GE Moore etc.
As I read more and more complex stuff, I faced two problems: poor vocabulary and low reading speed through tough texts. I got so bugged by my poor vocabulary that I bought The Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary and, in the next six months, remembered it almost fully with the proper usage of each word. My problem of vocabulary was solved, once and for all.
To fix the problem of slow comprehension, I was required to have some basic idea about most of the basic human disciplines: business, economics, marketing, biology, history, evolution, paleontology, anthropology, philosophy, psychology, astronomy, literature, and science & technology. This was catch-22. To learn these disciplines, I had to comprehend tough texts fast. And to comprehend fast, I had to know these disciplines.
BD suggested a different approach. He enrolled me into a huge video library. It contained a huge collection of documentaries on almost every subject on this planet. As per BD’s suggestion, I would rent one documentary per day and watch it fully. Also, he suggested watching all the foreign programs on TV.
Watching British comedies on TV was an extraordinary investment. Apart from humor, I learnt about global politics, the roots of the European crisis, investment banking and a zillion other disciplines from ‘Yes Minister’, about the retail industry / customer service from ‘Are You Being Served / Fawlty Towers’, about WW-II and many other aspects of world history from ‘Allo Allo’, and about complete 360 degree shades of human psychology from ‘Porridge’. Also, the documentaries proved extremely useful. For Instance, imagine watching a three-hour documentary on The Kalahari Desert. No geography or science book can match that learning. I ended up watching more than 500 documentaries on almost every subject in the world. THE BEST INVESTMENT OF MY LIFE! Reading became a cakewalk after this investment. My overdrive with books was catapulted into the highest orbit. Between 9 and 18 years of age, I read more than 200 books per year on almost all disciplines.
I loved BD’s reason for making ‘reading’ the ultimate hobby: I can’t still forget what he once told me when I asked “WHY READING?”
BD’s answer: Someone who has written a good nonfiction book must have been a good reader himself / herself. Let’s say this person had read 100 good books before s/he planned to write one. Obviously s/he would have wanted to put his/her best learnings into the first book. So in effect, this person would have tried to give you the wisdom of at least a hundred great books in his / her book. So if you read one great book, you indirectly receive the wisdom of at least a hundred great books automatically. Since then, 'reading' has been my all-time-favorite hobby. It feels magical. Getting into the mind of someone who has radically different perspectives on the world is sheer adrenaline, kick-starting my brain to connect disparate dots of information to make a symphonic meaning. Reading the work of someone who is more knowledgeable, more skillful, and more accomplished gives me ecstatic exhilaration. I can spend countless hours with GREAT books.
BD also told this: Once you start reading more, you automatically start connecting the dots. This is precisely what he said: suppose an ordinary student who is not well-read starts reading about Albert Einstein in a Physics textbook, s/he will read about the theory of relativity and nothing else (that too just to pass the exam).
But if you were to use the multidisciplinary approach, while reading about Einstein, you will end up reading about the Evolution of Species, the Photoelectric Effect, the Great Depression (which can take you to Capitalism, Communism, Socialism, Hyperinflation, and a bunch of economics and finance related topics), the Holocaust, Music (which can take you to Mozart and Beethoven), Consciousness, the History of Jews, the Third Reich (Nazi German), Hitler, World War II, the Manhattan Project, the Atomic Bomb, the formation of Israel (funnily, Einstein was offered to become Israel’s President), Global Geopolitical Chessboard, US-Europe Relations, the Marshall Plan, the Red Scare, the Arab-Israeli Conflict, the Oil Shocks, the Suez Crisis, the Cold War, various Nobel Prize winners, the Laws of Motion, Newton (and how his theory of gravitation was challenged by Einstein), Quantum Physics, Einstein’s dream expressing the entire universe in a single Mathematical Equation, Special Theory of Relativity, General Theory of Relativity, Time Dilation, the concept of Spacetime, etc. etc. etc. It can go into 5000+ disciplines.
The lesson: You are successful in a true sense when you can think of “Universe, Geology, Energy, Science, Technology, Philosophy, Mathematics, Art, Music, History, Geopolitics, Wars, Evolution, Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, Mind, Brain, Psychology, Neuroscience, Design Thinking, Creativity, Consciousness, Cosmos, Biomechatronics, Biorobotics, Artificial Intelligence, Business, Entrepreneurship, Marketing … etc. etc. etc.” not as individual silos but as one, single intermeshed reality … as ONE interconnected discipline!
I must say this has been the biggest gift I have received in my life. All my life, I have spread the fruits of this gift to all my students; needless to say, they have achieved absolutely sensational successes.
When I was 17, a friend of mine (Sarang) once called me over to his place. While we were chatting, I heard a huge debate going on in the other room. I got really fascinated and just walked into the other room. Sarang’s father and one of his friends were discussing the issue of oil prices. Both of them were professors at two of the best business-schools in India.
While they were blaming liberalization for the high cost of oil, I unwittingly said a legendary line:
BLAME HITLER FOR THE HIGH PRICE OF OIL.
Turning to me, both of them reacted as if I was eating spiders. Sarang’s dad (Prof. RM) said, “Sandeep, do you realize what you just said? Tumhari tabeeyat to theek hai? [Are you all right?] How is Hitler related to this mess that the Indian Government has created?”
And I explained the entire thing:
Hitler → Concentration Camps → Genocide → persecution of Jews → Jews fleeing to Jerusalem in millions → formation of the UN in 1945 → formation of Israel in 1948 → raw deal to the Palestinian Arabs → US / UN favor to Israel →Israel, the fighting nation → simultaneous fighting on four borders and winning → US direct support to Israel in the Yom Kippur War of 1973 → Arabs angry → Oil Embargo to the Western world by OPEC (predominantly Arabs) → Oil Crisis → Oil Shock of 1973 → prices increased to 4 times the base price within one year → no rollback on prices since then → the base changed from X to 4X → all of humanity is still paying a huge price for Hitler’s atrocities.
These 2 gentlemen were completely engrossed, hanging on my each word with absolutely rapt attention. Once I finished, after a long silence, RM spoke: “Sandeep, I am amazed. Where did you learn all this? I am a professor at the best business school in India and keep interacting with the smartest people in this country, but I haven’t ever heard anything as fascinating, not even remotely as fascinating, as this.” (Hinting to the other professor) “What do you think?”
The other professor said, “RM can be possibly excused because he is a professor of Marketing. But I teach Economics. And I must confess: I am feeling as if I know nothing about the subject. You should come to the B-School and share this with our students. I am serious. In 18 years of my teaching career, I am yet to hear a more interesting insight.”
Both of them wanted to know more about me. I told them about the books, documentaries, and my extreme interest in at least a dozen disciplines. I must say that I was lucky to have a six-hour long discussion with two of the sharpest people in the city. I spoke about almost all the disciplines I had been exposed to.
Prof. RM called me over the next day and asked me to address the students at the B-school. And I accepted the offer.
The stage was set. He had publicized me so much that everyone was looking forward to some gems of wisdom from this genius child-prodigy. The audience was about 250 people. I was the youngest person in the room. I was supposed to speak for 15-20 minutes. As I was introduced, I heard a deafening applause. As I had been trained by RM, I started: “Imagine if the book Das Kapital had not been written, what would have the world been like?” And, you won’t believe, just to encourage me, some professors responded: X, Y, Z would have happened. But the perspective I gave shook the students completely. I received applause after applause.
Now I know that initially they applauded just to encourage a 17 year old. But I am sure that after 15 minutes, their applauses turned genuine; they genuinely loved the content. For them, the content was completely unheard of—breathtakingly fresh perspectives on world history, current global economic, political and military scenario, positioning, branding, psychology, triune model of the human brain, entrepreneurship and almost all that I had learnt in so many years. I was unstoppable. It was as if someone had opened the floodgates of an overflowing dam. I left the audience completely mesmerized by my content. My delivery was extremely raw but the content alone had the power to completely spellbind them. The 20-minute session went on for more than 200 minutes. They were lapping it up. And I was completely unstoppable. As the speech came to a close, RM asked the audience, “Should this boy come for more such sessions?” Everyone said, “YEEESSSSSS!!!” This was my moment of reckoning.
This speech became possible only because I read all the books that BD had suggested. I BELIEVE THAT if I had not read five life-impacting books before the age of 14, I would have been one of the millions of average, mediocre, and faceless commoners that dot almost every big city of this country and would have obscured into oblivion long ago. Here are the five books:
BOOK 1 that changed me completely: Pirates of the Valley was a book about the Silicon Valley. I was absolutely enamored of the “maverick” culture and of the fact that wealth could be created on one’s own terms with just one’s brainpower. “You don’t need capital or degrees to start any business” was the best education one could get in one’s formative years.
Here is an excerpt from the book: “How do you go about building a tech city? One thing you've got to have is the proper ’tude (attitude). Silicon Valley's most valuable asset is its mind-set, a powerful merging of two behavioral strains: the macho, riverboat-gambler swagger of the original chipmakers who thought nothing of betting the company on a risky new idea, and the gently subversive high-tech idealism of early computer hackers. The resulting intellectual alloy counts you as a sellout if you don't try to make yourself a billionaire. This attitude is where a lot of Valley wannabes, particularly those outside the United States, fall short. But it's hard to overcome centuries of tradition that honor the very qualities that Silicon Valley loathes: aversion to risk, lifelong fealty to an employer, willingness to work within a strict hierarchy.”
This has been one of the most impactful ideologies to have guided my existence so far.
My lifelong learnings from this book:
- Courage and Risk-taking are quintessential to big successes. Dare to dream, take that plunge. Risk all you have!
- Follow your heart: No matter what happens, never do what you don’t love doing. Just do what you love and in turn just keep loving what you do. FIND your love; you won’t have to “work” (UGH!!!) if you do what you are truly, insanely, and madly in love with.
- Swim upstream. Breed and feed iconoclasm – the single most crucial attribute that separates us from the rest of the faceless commoners in the world. The best asset – slaying all your sacred cows.
- BOOK 2 – the book that has had the maximum impact on me in my entire life and career: I was gifted the book Fountainhead when I was 12. This has been the most powerful book I have ever read. I have read it more than a dozen times. All the other books by Ayn Rand (Anthem, The Night of January 16th, We the Living, Atlas Shrugged, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, The Virtue of Selfishness, For the New Intellectual, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology etc.) and her Objectivist / Capitalist / Rationalist / Individualist philosophies were etched in my mind, soul, heart, and overall persona. It took me a while to understand all of it, but the impact that it had on me was indelible.
My lifelong learnings from this book (and Ayn Rand’s other works):
- Have very strong convictions (obviously extremely unconventional) about what you do. Never compromise your belief / value system.
- One can live life absolutely on one’s own terms. One person can take on the whole world.
- Excellence (being the “best in the world” at what one does). You must belong to the top 1% talent in the world at whatever you choose to do. Or else, your existence is absolutely ‘third-rate’.
- Money will follow you if you follow your love, convictions, excellence, integrity, and courage.
- Free-market capitalism is absolutely necessary to unleash the entrepreneur in you. The animal spirits needed to create something insanely great could never flourish in Socialism / Communism.
BOOK 3 that changed me: “Cosmos” and “The Dragons of Eden” by Dr. Carl Sagan: Brilliant books! These books that will awe, entertain, educate, and transform. All the perspectives about Natural Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Biological Sciences will become clear to you. The wealth of knowledge, mature perspectives, multi-disciplinary approach and the idea about the Universe we live in will be engraved in your mind forever. The Triune model of the human brain (as discussed in the book “The Dragons of Eden”) is the single most powerful concept that I have known in life.
Meanwhile I developed interest in other disciplines as well: I have been an avid reader of History, Economics, Psychology, and Philosophy (apart from the already developed interests such as Astronomy and Evolution, courtesy Dr. Carl Sagan).
History: I feel one must read HISTORY. Very enriching experience indeed! Today I can comfortably talk about the history of almost any place in the world. The lessons drawn are much more important than the knowledge of facts. Imagine if you find that the reason you pay a much higher price for your petrol / diesel consumption on an almost daily basis is deeply entrenched in Pre-World-War-II Germany, World-War-II, the formation of the UN, the formation of Israel, and the run-up to the formation of the European Union (the EEC etc.), your interest in history will really double. If you find the reasons for the missing entrepreneurship in Indians but inherently present in the Europeans and Americans are deeply entrenched in history, you may be enamored. Also, the study of history makes you automatically good at Geography – another of my favorite subjects!
Economics: What to say about this discipline! Economics is central to our existence. I have had an extraordinary interest in this subject: Free-market Capitalism, Markets, Money-markets, Stock-markets, Capital-markets, Laissez-faire, and Macro-economic Policy have always fascinated me. For the last 25 years, I have not missed even one issue of The Economist.
Psychology: I am inherently interested in psychology. Your understanding of the ‘human mind’ gives you an extraordinary edge in business. For example, I attribute more than 90% of the success of Apple to its extraordinary understanding of ‘how to rule the mind of the customer’. According to me, there is not even one discipline in practical life that can detach itself from psychology. Everything about Marketing, Branding, Advertising, Media, and PR thrives on capitalizing on the vulnerable human psyche. Even the most mathematical / technical disciplines in the world (hard-core finance, software, cell-phones, tablets, laptops, for example) don’t thrive at all if they don’t understand how to rule the mind of the consumer. Psychology is everywhere. You just need to keep your eyes and ears open.
Philosophy: To me philosophy is not abstract, boring idea. Philosophy is a ‘living’ thing. It is what you fundamentally believe in. I have read the entire works (more than 35 books) of the most influential philosopher and thinker of the twentieth century – Bertrand Russell, also touted as the biggest polymath of the twentieth century. To me, Russell’s work touches upon all disciplines of life. Philosophy is not a separate science. Philosophy is life. Philosophy is wisdom. Philosophy is about perspectives. Without a guiding philosophy, life has no meaning. Think of this in business: every company worth its salt puts its vision, mission, purpose, and core values – the guiding philosophy - at the forefront. But possibly no company puts its ‘strategy’ on the plaque. This is not a PR gimmick to have a philosophy for your own life. Without it, we are more like animals.
Book 4: the best business book I have ever read: Positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout. I have imbibed the lessons from this book and have applied them to each of my life’s interactions with anybody. There has not been even a single day in my life when I have not lived Positioning.
My lifelong learnings from this book:
- The battleground in business is the mind of the customer. If you can live there, there is no marketing, selling, or branding required.
- Anything can be sold with conviction and right Positioning. What more proof do you want than Coca Cola being the number 1 brand in the world for 70 years? It is one of the most useless products (containing only water, sugar, CO2, and color ... Nothing else). For 70 years, Coca Cola was the number 1 brand in the world despite being one of the most worthless products. This is the magic of Positioning. Imagine when positioning is applied for a good cause, what kind of wonders it can do!
- Positioning can create customer evangelists, not just loyal customers.
Book 5: Alvin Toffler Trilogy (Future Shock, The Third Wave, and Power Shift) was one of the most impactful series of books that I have ever read. This series opened my mind to the idea of things to come (not the science fiction way, though). Imagine someone predicting the impact of the Internet in 1970 the way it is actually felt today. He predicted the “Digital Revolution” when nothing of that kind existed. Absolutely Brilliant!
My lifelong learnings from this series:
- One needs to learn / unlearn / relearn very fast in today’s era. Adaptation is the name of the game.
- Technology will define the businesses of tomorrow.
- Leaders who can anticipate / foresee the shape of things to come can surely win in the marketplace.
This was a glimpse into my childhood.
The UN Award Mail
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Sanjeev Dutta <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sat, May 17, 2014 at 5:13 PM
Subject: Mr Sandeep Gupta - You are chosen for our Rex Karmaveer Global Fellowship & Karmaveer Chakra award instituted with the UN...
To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Cc: Jeroninio Almeida <email@example.com>
Dear Mr Sandeep
I am writing to you to present to you the United Nations’ Award Karmaveer Chakra, which has been instituted by the United Nations in association with iCONGO (International Confederation of NGOs). You are one such person who is our CHOSEN hero and champion of change and have been chosen in approval with all our erstwhile fellows and board members.
People who are chosen for this award are champions of change in their own right and are either doing something to bring about social change with their noble work or are walking the path less trodden by choosing innovative vocations that helps create a mindset change in society for the greater good with their noble thoughts and actions. You are one such person in whom we have seen immense potential as our fellow for all the great work you are doing to lead change for the better. To this effect, you shall be bestowed with the Karmaveer Chakra Award (Instituted in partnership with the United Nations to encourage proactive citizenship). This award is not given to people who SELF-APPLY through social media or over the internet and only given to people whom we have chosen through our research and network.
You shall be bestowed with the United Nations’ Karmaveer Chakra Award and Rex Karmaveer Global Fellowship at the REX CONCLiVE 2015 scheduled to be held in Delhi from 21st to 23rd March, 2015. REX CONCLiVE is the first and foremost wisdom forums in the world that focuses on social good and impact for the betterment of society with simple ideas for Action.
You as our esteemed fellow shall be able to attend this forum with one companion of your choice (our fellows last year requested for being able to bring in one companion) absolutely free and shall have the opportunity to network for long lasting partnerships and share wisdom and learning with like-minded champions of change from across the globe. Here is what some people had to say about the wisdom they acquired at the Rex CONCLiVE.
The most simple, dignified and austere learning forum and awards program I ever attended. The wisdom from all the people who are doing great work at the grassroots was very humbling. – Ms. Anu Aga (Captain of Industry and now a RajyaSabha member)
Serving as the Indian Ambassador to several countries, Kavita and I have attended several learning forums at Harvard in the US, British Columbia in Canada and University of Peace in Costa Rica. However we are both simply enlightened with the learning we have acquired in the past 2 Right every Wrong Conclaves. This is the real wisdom and learning which the topmost Universities do not offer. To paraphrase Socrates “The Right every Wrong conclave bring truths out of others for the betterment of self & society.” – Ambassador Mr. J. C Sharma (Ministry of External Affairs) said this after he attended the first 2 Conclaves of 2006 and 2007 with his wife Ms. Kavita Sharma who was the Principal of Hindu College at that time.
When Jerry presents his stories and thoughts, one gets insights from thousands of books, places, people and villages -Dr. Amartya Sen - Nobel Laureate, Economist and Author.
Congratulations on being chosen for the UN Award and the fellowship.
Col (Retd) Sanjeev Dutta
REX Convener & Just Another Volunteer | International Confederation of NGOs | www.iCONGO.in | M - + 91 9818139473| Together as ONE we can RIGHT every WRONG |
iCONGO believes that it is not mindless & arrogant charity but humble & involved social justice that is wanting in our world . We passionately work with PEOPLE across the globe, for encouraging social justice through citizen action with a vision of creating a just, humane, egalitarian and responsible society. On the other end, we work with the PEOPLE SECTOR (i.e. the NGOs which are rapidly losing out on credibility today), to reclaim and preserve public trust for the people sector. We have constantly endeavored and taken the less trodden path, to encourage more involvement of citizens with social issues and created movements like The Joy of Giving, RIGHT every WRONG, Karmayuga and Karmaveer movement and inspired other socially relevant ideas with our thought leadership. This TV story by CNBC on iCONGO shall tell you about our mission in just 9 minutes. Watch Video
UN Award Certificate
Speaking at Big Events
TED Talk Poster
Delivering the TED Talk
Addressing 1000+ Professional Speakers at London’s Public Speakers University
Receiving the award for the best speech of the year at London’s Public Speakers University
Addressing 10,000 people at the Entrepreneurs’ Bootcamp at London’s O2 Arena
My Book's Launch Ceremony
Print Media coverage of my book
Amazon India’s page for my book with 150 five star reviews
My book becomes the best business book on Amazon India
Internet media coverage for my book
Feedback for the program Know The World in 77 Hours
This is the most insanely awesome feedback video in the world ... do watch