Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review: Why I Failed: Lessons from Leaders by Shweta Punj

On the jacket:

Prominent personalities open up about failure and learning from it 

Failure that dreaded word. The fear of failure curtails growth and inhibits people from taking risks. Getting people to talk about failure, especially their own, is the singularly most difficult thing to do. In Why I Failed, Shweta Punj does just that by getting leaders to share experiences of when they did not succeed and how they turned it around to their advantage to emerge indomitable and stronger than before. This book shows that it is okay to fail as long as you treat failure as a stepping stone for greater things.


We've all read various success stories. If not read, heard. Derived inspiration for them. Thought about them much later. Wondered how the achiever did it. Told ourselves, if they can, so can we. I know I have, I am sure most of you have too.

But, rarely comes a book where achievers talk about the times when they failed. And, miserably. Abhinav Bindra, Anu Aga, Madhur Bhandarkar, Narayanan Vaghul, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Captain Gopinath, Sabysachi Mukherjee, Narayana Murthy, Dr Prathap C Reddy, Sunil Alagh, Subhash Ghai, Ajit Gulabchand, Sminu Jindal, William Bissekk, Sanjeev Goenka and Shankar Sharma - each an example in him(her)self in being an achiever on the global scene, yet they have failed miserably in what they do, at some point of their lives. Why did they fail? What happened? There is always a reason, and in Why I Failed: Lessons from Leaders, these people talk about the same.

India was ecstatic when Bindra won the Olympic medal. And equally bitter when he didn't. The same person who was showered with bouquets was now being thrown brickbats. What no one thought of was, why? Why did he drop out so soon? Bindra analyzes and tells us why - I was not desperate enough to win. Courageous!

When Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw was setting up Biocon from scratch, it wasn't easy. She didn't take the easy way out, but raised money for her entrepreneurial venture and trying to build credibility, when the first batch of enzymes failed. Shaw confesses that in the initial years, she failed to get the best talent for her venture.

Subhash Ghai, a FTII alumni, wanted to be an actor. But every film he auditioned for, went to his FTII batchmate, Rajesh Khanna. Thus began the five-year jinx. How Ghai never gave up his love for films, despite no success in the one thing he knew he was born to do - act. Reading about what Ghai has to say, about his failure and learning from it, one also realizes, how big a word love is and that there can be advantages even in disadvantageous situations.

All in all, and extremely good read; short and precise. Perfect, crisp editing makes the good a very good handbook to go back to, from time to time, to draw inspiration from.

Rating: ****/5

[This review is for Random House India. The opinions are strictly my own and not been written under any obligation.] 

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