Monday, November 26, 2007

The Monk who sold his Ferrari Robin. S Sharma



I didn't like this best-selling personal development book at all when I first read it.

I thought  that the narrator character was flat and just too unenlightened and dumb. I didn't like the dialogue, which seemed rather corny and cliched. And I didn't think there was too much original in the book - a mixture of classics like Covey, Frankl, spirituality, Jeffers, CBT wrapped up in a somewhat silly and unbelievable story.

Then a few years passed and I liked it a lot better the second time I read it. The amazing this is, I still think all my comments above are correct.  But maybe we should give Sharma the benefit of the doubt and assume that all the "failings" are deliberate. The narrator is dumb, because we are all dumb in comparison with Julian, the monk of the title. Maybe the fact that it is an eclectic mix of wisdom is a great strength. And the story, though it isn't the greatest ever told,just make it   a book you may read for pleasure as well as spiritual enlightenment.

So if you want an easy read which is a more spiritual take on personal development, I'd recommend it - especially if you read it in the right spirit, looking for how it can help you, rather than as a literary critic.

The monk's 7 timeless virtues of enlightened living are:

1.Master Your mind

2.Follow your purpose

3. Practice Kaizen (constant and never-ending improvement)

4.Live with discipline

5.Respect your time

6.Selflessly serve others

7.Embrace the present

Book Review of The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Mr Holland's Opus

This 1995 film will be too sentimental for some tastes, but for me this was an enjoyable and interesting movie. It's a modern take on It's a Wonderful Life in that lives which appear unremarkable -even failed - may actually be the reverse.mrhollandsopus

The film takes in a span of over 30 years from the early 1960s to the mid 1990s, a time which sees Mr Holland transform from a young man with ambitions to be a composer to a husband, father and eventually retired music teacher.

Mr Holland never becomes rich or famous, and and at times neglects his family in favour of his "vocation" - teaching and music. A most poignant moment is when he is reconciled with his son - who, ironically, is deaf so cannot appreciate or share his father's music. He dedicates to hin John Lennon's Beautiful Boy - the lines

Life is just what happens to you,
While your busy making other plans

which seems to describe Mr. Holland's situation.

Yet at the end - and this is the movie's ultimate message - Mr Holland realises that by shaping the lives of his students he has done more for human happiness than his music was ever likely to do. Maybe meaning through fame and fortune is to be rejected and meaning through ordinary kindnesses and encouragements are more important.

Of course, teaching is one job where the benefits are sometimes - if not always - clear. Psychotherapy is another such job. But what about other jobs - like banking, IT work and being a lawyer. Do other people benefit from these jobs? Can one bring light into people's lives through any job? And does economics teach us that all these jobs are valuable, even if we don't see the benefits? I don't know the answer to these questions, but I do believe that one of the problems of modern society is that people don''t get to see the meaning they create. The James Stewart character in It's a Wonderful Life needed an angel to show him, and Mr. Holland requires a rather improbably grand finale which reunites those he has helped the most.

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