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Archive for December, 2020

2020 Pandemic’s Silver Lining

For most of us, year 2020 would be remembered well into the future just as we all can never forget year 2001 for 9/11 attacks or year 2008 for global financial crisis. There are lot of bad news around these events which are mostly true and should be taken into account. But there are also some heart warming and good news (silver lining) around these event as well, that do not get as much attention as their bad news counterparts.

I am focusing my post on the current, COVID-19 Pandemic situation. Here I have put together a short list of businesses that are doing good by their governments and towards their employees during this life altering year on Earth. I know there will be many more stories like that out there and I hope you share them when you get a chance. These types of positive stories provide hope which is much needed. In all of the animal kingdom, humans are the only one who need hope as a survival tool among many other tools.

Airbnb CEO, Brian Chesky, sent a very open and honest letter on May 20th, 2020. While he was giving the sad news of letting go of 25% of employees due to current Pandemic and also insecurity about the future business, yet he was able to be transparent and empathetic at the same time. Read the letter and tell me if your eyes did not get wet.

Some business in UK, such as IKEA and Primark, have voluntarily repaid more than 215 million pounds to the Government for its help with furloughed employees. So far more than 80,000 businesses have repaid the money back. The total CJRS package is 3.5 billion pounds and repaid money is a tiny fraction of it. But it is still encouraging that some companies are honest and not thinking about filling their pockets in times of this human tragedy.

Comcast CEO, Brian Roberts, and other top executive announced on April 1st, 2020, that they will donate 100% of their salaries to charities who are helping COVID-19 relief effort. Furthermore, company earmarked $500 millions to support its employees continued wellbeing. This is certainly a very inspiring news.

Microsoft, my employer, has shut down all its physical stores early on. But all the hourly employees were kept on payroll and within a month most of them were retrained. These employees now offered the same valuable support to our customers from home, virtually. This became a great opportunity for many employees to become part of the tech teams which they may have never dreamed of before. Based on the success of this model, Microsoft decided in June 2020 to close all its stores permanently, except the 4. Microsoft has also worked with schools and other not for profit organizations by donating software such as Teams and technical talents resources. These organizations otherwise would not have survived this Pandemic on their own.

What is the one common thing among these companies that I mentioned here (and other similar companies)?

They all are businesses to make profit but when situation affects human beings at this level of suffering, they don’t sit quite, they come forward and do the right thing.


My Best Books list of 2020

I am a voracious reader. Many of you will find this information surprising because I don’t think I have shared this detail anywhere else before. I read both fiction and non-fiction books. I mostly listen to audio books. In this blog post I will reveal my 10 best books reading of 2020. 5 of them fiction and 5 of them non-fiction. I will share my thoughts on why I like them. I hope you leave comments after reading this blog. I would love to hear from you. 🙂

I discovered in 2016 GoodReads, a very good site for keeping track of all the books that I read. Here is the screenshot that shows that in the beginning of this year I set the goal to read 75 books and as of today I have read 86 books. Kudos to me for over achieving :). But really, COVID19 situation this year has helped this goal. It looks like I will be able finish 3 more book by the end of this year. I know there is nothing good about COVID19 situation. But we are humans and we are resilient and we find hope and good in every situation.

I want you to know that it is very hard to pick and choose best books because, I look at ratings and reviews of a book from various sources before choosing to read it. Of course the description of the book must interest me first. I save them in Goodreads “Want to Read” list. I do have subscription to Audible. But most of the books I borrow from the local library.

Top 5 Non-Fiction Books of 2020:

  • The Choice: Embrace the Possible by Edith Eger
    • In this book author Edith Eger, uses her own personal trial and tribulations through Nazi’s death camp and ended up becoming therapist in her 50s. She specializes in treating PSTD in soldiers returning from war. She also overcame another personal setback in her later life after Auschwitz. She shares her deepest feelings and what helped her make the choices that she did.
    • I found this book very inspiring. It strengthens my belief in human race’s resiliency in face of no matter what. This brings to my mind “Where there is will there is way”. Also people or their loved ones who are suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) can learn and grow from the insight she shared in this book. According to author there is always a choice that we make at a critical junction that determines our future. Even under extreme circumstances such as under Nazi’s captivity, when you think you have lost all your humanity, you still have a choice. There is that little voice inside you that tells you to live or die, to give up or to fight. In her situation, I think some luck has also played a role but it was author’s tenaciousness that allowed her to take advantage of those lucky breaks.
  • Dare to Lead by Berne Brown
    • The author is a rock star when it comes to train and inspire leadership team of any company. Her main lessons in this book is to lead with Empathy. She unpacks many new terms of leadership such as lead from heart or how to be your authentic self or have rumble meeting. There is a wealth of many new ideas based on her research.
    • I like this book because it is motivating and calls you too take action right away. It gives you strategies that you can use at work and at home. Whether you are a people’s manager, a parent or a friend, this book is for you. She gives many of her own life examples of the events she faced herself and in doing so she relate to her audience and inspire them to take action too.
  • The Gift of Forgiveness by Katherine Schwarzeneggar Pratt
    • Author has interviewed many survivals who decided to forgive their perpetrator. I recognized many of the events because they made main news media such as TV and newspapers. Although each person interviewed for this book forgave their villian for a different reason, yet each one teaches us a great lesson in forgiveness.
    • I like this book because author starts with her own life story of breakup of a great friendship and how the process of writing this book has encouraged her to overcome her despondency and how she made up with her childhood friend later in her life. If you have to choose only one book from my blog, then I would recommend choose this one.
  • The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger
    • This book is written by Disney’s current CEO Robert Iger. There are many lessons to be learned from his long career track. The tone and language used in this book makes you feel he is your friend telling you his life story. There were setbacks, there were family problems and there were lucky breaks. But above all Robert was good at maintaining relationships. There is mention of Apple and Disney deal and friendship between author and Steve Jobs. It is cool to hear from CEO himself about various deals Disney made with its partners and various acquisitions Disney made over the years.
    • I like this book because of author’s down to earth attitude. He has revealed many mistakes he made in his career and does not shy away from being accountable for them. But good part is that he always used the lesson learned from past mistakes in his new endeavors. This book gave me firsthand insight into how too much stress at work can have negative consequences on our health.
  • Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell
    • The main idea of this book is that we don’t know about strangers and if need arises to talk to them, we need to be prepared how to talk to them. This is basically an insightful book on clever communication techniques. When I say clever, I don’t mean dirty tricks. All his ideas are based on science and research and makes total sense. Most of us will never have to do hostage negotiations but the principles learned from this book will be similarly effective at work when we have a new team member or we have a new manager or we are working with a new client.
    • Since I had the audio version of this book, I was able to listen to the actual scientists and psychologists explaining ideas in their own words when author was talking to them. Author is an engaging story teller and I advise you to listen to this book instead of reading it to get an interesting experience.

Top 5 Fiction Books of 2020:

  • The Garden of Evening Mist by Tan Twan Eng
    • This is a historical fiction book. The main character is Nakamura Aritomo a Japanese artist who was once Emperor’s gardener. The book setting is in Malaysia in 1940 under British rule. Yun Ling is the one who is narrating the story. The very exotic and delicate details in this book is what makes it most memorable. It left me with a feeling of melancholy for the characters in the end and I felt I knew them personally.
    • I like this book because of its historical component. I was never introduced to the history of Malaysia and British rule. I am very familiar of British ruling history of Indian subcontinent. So it was interesting to see the similarities and differences of Malayan occupation. Another main touching point to me was the depiction of characters in such a way that they seemed real life although they all were fictional characters but it felt like they were part of the history.
  • When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin
    • This is a very heart warming and unforgettable story of sacrifice. There are many one liners to remember such as ” All hearts stop, Annie. What matters most is what you do with it when its pumping”. Reese could not save his wife Emma from heart failure, even though he was a heart surgeon. He blamed himself for 5 years before he met Annie, a 7-year old girl.
    • I like this book because between the moments of despair there were little moments of pleasures and they were so beautiful that it teared the eyes and involuntarily I started to pray for the characters in the book.
  • 10 Minutes and 38 seconds by Elif Shafak
    • The setting of this book is Istanbul, Turkey in 1990. The story revolves around the problems of sex works in Istanbul. The story begins with few street kids finding the body of a prostitute in a dumpster. Her name was Leila and story of her life passes before her eyes before her brain dies in 10 minutes and 38 seconds after her death.
    • I like this story because it depicts what true friendship means and after reading it, you may wish for friends like Liela’s who were there for her both in good and bad times. It saddened me to see that her family did not supported her when she needed them. It has sensitive material so if you are weak of heart, please do not read it.
  • The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
    • This is another book of historical fiction. I do prefer this genre of fiction. This is the story of Henry Whittaker, a richest man in Philadelphia in 1800s and his daughter Alma and adopted daughter Prudence. The story takes you around the globe; from Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam and to London. This is a book club material with solid arguments to be made on both sides.
    • I like this book because of the portrayal of strong women in Henry’s life. Another important point in the book is there is no age limit when you can set out for adventure; you only need a strong purpose. Or on the other hand taking extreme adventure (going out of your comfort zone) can bring purpose to your life. You will never know it till you give it a try.
  • Dear Edward by Ann Napoltano
    • How would you feel if you were the sole survivor of the plane crash that was flying 184 people? Guilty? This is what happened to Edward, a twelve-year-old boy. His whole family died in the flight crash. A true friendship saved him. This book also goes into the back stories of some of the other passengers of that unlucky flight. This is a true story but fictionalized for this book.
    • I like this book because the author was not only able to bring out the pain Edward was feeling but also made us feel the real pain. Very cleverly crafted book and the sensitive emotions are handled very carefully. This is the story about coming to terms with your grief which never goes away but how you can still move on with your life.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog. Please share the books you have read and if you have read any of the books I have mentioned here, I like to hear what you think about them.