Tag Archives: Milan Kundera

Journeying with words and books

I devoted much of the day by sorting and cleaning our books. Because we have lost many books  from Ondoy’s floods back in 2009, hubby and I are slowly but joyfully growing the collection again. :) Many of the books that I had collected when I was still single are still with me although some are in storage, left in boxes when I left the country back in 2007.

It always brings me so much joys just to see (and touch!) printed words on paper. I began to seriously take up the hobby of reading when I was in high school and, indeed, my life had been made richer and more meaningful because of the many journeys that I was able to take just by simply reading. My travels had also been more profound because of the companionship of authors like Milan Kundera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Amy Tan, Umberto Eco, Jose Rizal, and many other great weaver of stories. (I do enjoy light reading, too, so I am not ashamed to admit that I have many chick-lit titles as well!) ;D

Books that stay with me. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

Books that stay with me. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

I think that even with the event of eBooks and Kindle, I would always be buying hard-bound books and paperbacks. eBooks bring so much convenience especially when one is traveling but nothing compares with seeing rows and rows of books on one’s walls, shelves, and even floors! It is just so romantic, don’t you think so, too? While wiping the dust from our well-loved books, I thought about taking their pictures and here are some of them.

Some of our business books.

Some of our business books.

I am aware that many people  disagree with many of the ideas and opinions of Robert Kiyosaki but I would still recommend his Rich Dad, Poor Dad as a basic reading. There are certainly better books than this one but Kiyosaki’s simple style of narration makes reading on financial independence and wealth building more engaging. His other books like the Guide to Investing also offer practical tips but, still, one is advised to be very discerning when following any of his (and even other authors’) recommendations especially when it comes to money and business matters.

Here’s another peek at our titles…

Love books, learn new languages, appreciate history! (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

Love books, learn new languages, appreciate history! (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

I got lucky that I was born on June 19 and that means I share Rizal’s birthday. :) Perhaps, many of those who share his birthday would admit that they, too, enjoy reading, writing, traveling, and other forms of communicating. I guess we will always have this hunger for knowledge, experiences, travels, and to some extent, new languages. I took up a basic course in French language in Dhaka, Bangladesh many years ago and, this year, hubby and I decided to be conversant in the language. Luckily, Fully Booked in Bonifacio High Street had this complete volume in French (Living Language series). It contains 3 books and 9 CDs! It was indeed a more practical alternative to attending regular classes because with the e-files, you can easily rewind, forward, and repeat sessions for as long as you want, and for as many times as you want, minus the risk of irritating a teacher or classmates!

Back to Jose Rizal – I would really recommend that every Filipino read (or re-read, depending on the case) Noli Me Tangere. It is Rizal’s most popular book, possibly the book that profoundly influenced a lot of Filipinos who fought for our independence.

And to show more of our well-loved titles…

Food for the soul. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

Food for the soul. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

Not to sound preachy, but I am sure many hold the Holy Bible as a personal companion, a source of guidance, and a symbol of God’s love to humanity. Hubby and I found this beautiful copy (bound and protected by a nice blue leather) in National Book Store. I count myself lucky, too, to have found this 4-volume series on the Mangyan culture (special thanks go to the Mangyan Heritage Center for selling these books to me when I visited their office early this year). The Philippines is a culturally-diverse country so we must do our best to know more of our culture and history. For other readings that are sure to soothe your soul and give you positive feelings, we also recommend The Celestine Prophecy and The Tenth Insight by James Redfield.

These are JR's favorite books! (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

These are JR’s favorite books! (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

I have been blessed with a husband who patiently and lovingly cooks for me. Friends know that I lack talent in the kitchen so the following books are not actually in my ‘territory’ but they deserve a spot here because through this post, I want to thank my loving husband for having the talent, diligence, (and immense patient?) to prepare wonderful meals for me. (Thank you, my Papa Bear!) Indeed, it is true that when we pray, we should always be specific! I prayed for a husband who knows how to cook and he gave this person with culinary talent and much much more!

Grab a book and weave your own stories. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

Grab a book and weave your own stories. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

Of course, I admire Asian* writers! One of my favorites is Ms. Amy Tan. I remember the time when I was reading her The Joy Luck Club, I knew instantly that it deserved a film adaptation (which eventually happened) because her characters are so real, they speak to you like a friend or an old relative. I can go on and on about her and her works but I’d rather that you discover her on your own. I also have full admiration to the writing style of Arundhati Roy. I also like discovering authors myself (minus the influence of reviews or bestsellers’ lists) because that is the only way we can find new treasures.

And so my and hubby’s journey continues. Along the way, we will discover new places, meet new friends, and become conversant in French and other languages. We’re excited every day day because we know that in each step, in every new encounter, in every new book that we will buy and read, there will always be beautiful lessons and stories, intertwined with our own.

I will end this by sharing with you a habit, which I would always do every time I bring home a book. In every copy of book that I own, I would usually write the date when and place where I bought it. This way, every book also shares some kind of link with my own ‘herstory.’

A book bought in Bangladesh. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

A book bought in Bangladesh. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

A book bought in Cambodia. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

A book bought in Cambodia. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

A book bought in Singapore. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

A book bought in Singapore. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

A book bought in Thailand. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

A book bought in Thailand. (Photo taken by Mary Anne Velas-Suarin)

What are you waiting for? Grab a book now and be happily brought to magical places! Soar high and reach your dreams!

Mei_Watermark-4

 

 

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*As much as possible, I do avoid categorizing writers (and people) according to their nationalities. (After all, our talents are part of who we are, regardless of our race.) However, I am simply awed by such great talents, who, incidentally, have Asian roots and heritage, and so I ask for your kind indulgence.

This is not a paid blog. (I do not ask for any donation but I hope you can plant a tree on your birthday/s.)

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A peek into my book list: “Winning” by Jack Welch

One of the best things in life is having the luxury of sitting (or lying down) in one corner with a good book and nice cup of tea or coffee. I cannot remember when my love affair with books actually began. As far as I can recall, I was a big fan of “Sweet Dreams” series back when I was still in high school. I was one of my school’s pocketbook “libraries”. My classmates would often borrow the latest Sweet Dreams books from me and I was just too eager to share my “goodies” with them. For me, books are meant to be enjoyed by as many people as possible because they seem to become more meaningful if their pages had been touched by countless fingers and ‘yellowed’ slowly by the passage of time.

Looking back, I think that my love for writing also developed from my love of reading. When young people ask me the question, “How can I become a writer like you?”, my initial reply would often be, “Just enjoy reading and experiencing more of life.” There is really no magic formula, I guess. However, I can say that reading helped me tremendously in my writing and analytical skills. Reading not only helped me understand the world and people around me, it also allowed me to explore my imagination and enhance my creative thinking.

Books bring us to places beyond our imagination. (Photo credits: http://www.signatureillustration.org)

As I grew older (and hopefully, wiser!), my taste on books also evolved. I began reading the classics such as those written by Jane Austen (author of Emma and Pride and Prejudice, among others), Fyodor Dostoyevski (author of Crime and Punishment), and Charles Dickens (of A Tale of Two Cities). And then, I began ‘falling in love’ with works using the magical realism approach such as those by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (of  One Hundred Years of Solitude), Isabel Allende (of The House of the Spirits), and Laura Esquivel (of Like Water for Chocolate). I hungered for more and began enjoying the philosophical-literary (if there is such a term?) approaches of Milan Kundera (of Unbearable Lightness of Being) and Marcel Proust (in Search of Lost Time). I also began reading works of Asian/Asian-American writers such as Arundhati Roy (of The God of Small Things), Amy Tan (of the Joy Luck Club), and Sun Tzu (of The Art of War).

It also became a necessity that I began reading books tackling management and leadership. One of my favorite reads in this department is Winning by Jack Welch (with his wife, Suzy Welch). It is actually a gift from a very good friend of mine so if she gets to read this post, she’d know that the book did not go to waste. :) Anyway, Winning is a good read because it gave a lot of real-life examples to   stress important points. Mr. Welch used to be the chairman and CEO of General electric (GE)–where he stayed for forty years–so you can be assured that he knows what he is talking about.

The first part of the book, under the heading, “Underneath it All,” discussed important corporate issues such as on mission and values (with emphasis on the values of candor and differentiation). I think these two values are controversial and tricky issues particularly that they require gut-level honesty and integrity. Mr. Welch, in his straightforward style of writing and speaking, said this:

Jack Welch believes in candor and differentiation. (Photo credits: Harper Collins Publisher)

“…I have come to realize that I underestimated its rarity. In fact, I would call lack of candor the biggest dirty little secret in business. What a huge problem it is. Lack of candor basically blocks smart ideas, fast action, and good people contributing all the stuff they’ve got…When you’ve got candor–and you’ll never completely get it, mind you–everything just operates faster and better.” (Winning, page 25)

While I do not agree in everything that he discussed in the book, this is an analysis that I had readily accepted as true in most cases. I think that people, managers, and companies should really encourage and embrace this trait or value. In the Philippine (and even Asian perhaps?) setting, I think that this is easier said than done. I do not mean this in a derogatory way but more on a situational and cultural analysis. I think many Filipino (and even Asian) managers will agree that it is simply difficult to be straightforward and candid with co-workers and colleagues. “Hiya” or the feeling of shame is just an important aspect of relationships here that it is always a consideration when making decisions in the workplace. I think many will agree that it is simply difficult to tell your subordinate that he is not doing well. It is fairly easy to praise someone’s work and outputs but telling him he messed up on his latest project is like going to the guillotine. No one looks forward to moments like that.

However, Mr. Welch is right in saying that “candor gets more people in the conversation”, generates speed, and saves the company significant resources. “Think of how candor replaces fancy PowerPoint slides and mind-numbing presentations and boring off-site conclaves with real conversations, whether they’re about company strategy, a new product introduction, or someone’s performance,” he emphasized.

These words are sources of wisdom. While it is indeed challenging to be affront and candid, I think that businesses and companies can achieve more if there is more openness and frankness in the workplace. And this openness should be practiced in both levels–in the management and rank-and-file levels–because it is not fair to to allow management to give a candid (honest) evaluation of their subordinate’s performance but not allow subordinates to enjoy the same openness when evaluating the performance of their superiors.

This culture should be practiced in all aspects of management including human resources management, such as when evaluating and closing the files of employees who decided to move on to other companies or pursuits. For example, there is an industry practice of doing background check on prospective employees before they are hired. This procedure should be critically evaluated because it summarily (and unfairly?) puts the prospective employee in a “no-win” situation because it often leads to a one-sided judgement. An employee who had been candid enough to his bosses and may have good and valid reasons for leaving a company can still be misconstrued as a “bad” employee simply because the HR personnel or manager who answered the phone call from the prospective employer had an axe to grind against him (who, for example, had been candid enough to express that there was something wrong with their department’s strategy). Who gets to validate such judgements? Oftentimes, prospective employees are not even given the chance to explain their side. Their CVs automatically go to the trash bin. This, I think, reeks of too much injustice. If I am an HR Manager, the more should I call this type of prospective employee to an interview because I would definitely be curious as to what really happened in the company that he left and more importantly, how he learned from his experiences, which may sound negative at first (particularly if heard from the former HR Manager’s perspective). I am sure that I would also learn insights from his experiences and maybe, motivate me to avoid the same errors in judgement or pitfalls.

Mr. Welch may have not really expounded so much on other HR concerns but the book covers many other facets of the corporate life and even offers advice on career and time management. For instance, he devoted a whole chapter on work-life balance (Chapter 19). There is a lot of honesty in this chapter because he himself admitted that he had oftentimes relegated the tasks associated with family life to his wife. Such candid approach makes him more credible. He offered these bite-sized knowledge and counsel:

  • Work-life balance is a swap–a deal you’ve made with yourself about what you keep and what you give up.
  • It is not that bosses want you to give up your family or your hobbies. They’re just driven by the desire to capture all of your energy and harness it for the company.
  • If you want real work-life balance, find a company that accommodates it as part of its everyday business.

(Direct quotes from the book, pages 318, 321,and 328.)

In one of his parting words, he said that “…leadership is helping other people grow and succeed. To repeat myself, leadership is not just about you. It’s about them.”

I think this is indeed a reminder that a true leader does not prioritize his achievement but is fired up by the passion to motivate people to grow, succeed, and also become genuine leaders for the sake of people whom he serves. I enjoin you to lead with both the heart and the mind!

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(For more details about the book, you may want to visit this link. This is not a paid blog.)

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