Best Kept Secret by Jeffrey Archer

A book well written however there are some loose ends. Elizabeth Barrington is one of my favorite characters from the book. I was quite impressed with the way Archer showcased her intelligence, especially when she sent across the newspaper cutting to the judge with a crossword puzzle solved on it just before she died, to prove that she was in her senses to have changed the will. Although, her role in this edition was limited but was instrumental in driving the story to a climax. The detestable character of Lady Virginia was portrayed well enough to be loathed by all readers. I also quite liked Sebastian Arthur Clifton who displayed maturity well above his age in family matters. Nevertheless Archer also was able to tell us how a teenager of Sebastian’s age can be vulnerable and agile to a lot of worldly matters.

The characters of Emma and Grace Barrington were also well written. Talking about the Martinez boys, I can’t seem to figure out how a criminal mind of such a stature miscalculate the consequences of almost abducting the son of a highly acclaimed author and member of a reputed family with strong political connections, to smuggle fake notes worth 8 million pounds from Buenos Aires to London. There’s another one that I felt was not apt, which is the title of the book. I kept wondering throughout my read as to what the secret was.After more than half the book was read there was this big revelation about Don Pedro’s criminal background. Then came the secret about him trying to send a lot of fake money to London by hiding them in a statue. This was a known to all secret and I wish this was kept more as a secret to readers as well, to justify the name.

Overall a good read. Now I can’t imagine one of my favorite characters dying in a car accident that was deliberately caused by Don Pedro Martinez. Though not revealed by Archer in the book but my feeling is that another series would talk about Sebastian having a narrow escape and I hope not to be wrong……………….

My favorite quotes – Manuscript found in Accra- By Paulo Coelho

This is one of the most fascinating books that talks about different hues of human emotions. Making every sentiment look unexceptional and handling each of one of the queries with absolute sophistication is truly laudable. This manuscript has answers to questions on life, death, defeat, victory, loyalty, miracle, fate, etc., delivered on the eve of a deadly invasion. It was unearthed after over 700 years.

The beautiful articulation of life’s spectacles wrapped in its simplicity with profound examples, catches its readers in awe.

I would like to share some of my favorite quotations from the book.

When talking about Defeat he refers to the cycle of death and resurrection. ‘And within that cycle there are neither winners nor losers, there are only stages that must be gone through. When the human heart understands this, it is free and able to accept difficult times and not be deceived by moments of glory. Both will pass. One will succeed the other. And the cycle will continue until we liberate ourselves from the flesh and find the Divine Energy’.

Then he says ‘Defeated are those who never fail. Defeat comes when we fail to get something we very much want. Failure does not allow us to dream. Its motto is : “Expect nothing and you won’t be disappointed”. Defeat ends when we launch into another battle. Failure has no end: it is a lifetime choice.’

‘For those who feel oppressed by solitude, it is important to remember that at life’s most significant moments we are always alone.’ Precision of this truth cannot be questioned.

He says: Don’t try to be useful. Try to be yourself: that is enough and that makes all the difference’. ‘Do one thing: Live the life you always wanted to live. Avoid criticizing others and concentrate on fulfilling your dreams. This may not seem very important to you, but God, who sees all, knows that the example you give is helping Him to improve the world. And each day, He will bestow more blessings upon it’. It magnificently opens one up to the idea of channeling the energy in being more constructive and making life more fruitful.

He then comes forth to address the fear of those who are afraid of change. ‘Difficulty is the name of an ancient tool that was created purely to help us define who we are’. ‘We will not fear what happens tomorrow as yesterday we had someone watching over us. And that same Presence will remain at our side. That Presence will shelter us from suffering or give us the strength to face it with dignity.’

Beauty, perfection and attraction are all our own perception of how we see ourselves. This could not have been portrayed in a better way. He elaborates ‘Outer beauty is inner beauty made visible, and it manifests itself in the light that flows from our eyes’. ‘So if a person looking into someone’s eyes has a dark soul, he will see only his own ugliness’. ‘We forget that the world is what we imagine it to be’.

By loving someone, we think that the other person is obliged to love us back the same way as we do. Look at how he counters this belief with this excerpt ‘Love is an act of faith, not an exchange. Contradictions are what make love grow. Conflicts are what allow love to remain by our side’.

He then crafts out his words to warn and caution us about the kind of people one should be friends with. ‘Avoid at all costs those who are only by your side in moments of sadness to offer consoling words. What they are actually saying to themselves is : “I am stronger. I am wiser. I would not have taken that step”. Stay close to those who are by your side in happy times, because they do not harbor jealousy or envy in their hearts, only joy to see you happy’.

“Elegance is accepted and admired because it makes no effort to be elegant”. This is so simple yet so eloquent and expressive.

To indulge in self-pity in difficult times and blame the wheel of fortune being unfair is very common in human beings. He addresses this emotion too with poise as he says ‘Fate is never unfair to anyone. We are all free to love or hate what we do. When we love we find the same joy in our daily activity as do those who one day set off in search of their dreams’.

Someone asked him that why are some luckier than the others. One of the extraordinary excerpts on this subject where he calls success as a consequence and not an end, ‘Success comes to those who do not waste time comparing what they are doing with what others are doing; it enters the house of the person who says “I will do my best’ everyday”’.

Miracle as he says is most commonly understood as an unexpected but pleasant surprise that goes against the laws of nature. He takes the definition further, by saying ‘They allow us to escape unharmed from the valley of the shadow of death, but do not tell us which road led us to the mountains of joy and light’. He then prays very humbly by saying that ‘Therefore, Lord give us this day our daily miracle. And forgive us if we are not always capable of recognizing it’.

Referring to anxiety as being natural and a part of every man’s life he concludes ‘It will never disappear, but the great wisdom lies of life is to realize that we can be the masters of the things that try to enslave us’.

On being asked about what the future holds in it for us, he vivaciously explains the phenomenon of love and faith that leads us to the road of success. One of the citation from this is ‘Our dream, the desire that is in our soul, did not come out of nowhere. Someone placed it there. And that Someone, who is pure Love and wants only our happiness,did so only because he also gave  us the tools to realize our dreams and our desires’.

Loyalty, love and respect perhaps have never been expounded with such agility like this one ‘Loyalty has its roots in respect and respect is the fruit of Love, and Love drives out the demons of the imagination – which distrust everything and everyone – and, instead, returns purity to our gaze’. He cites that ‘Loyalty can never be imposed by force, fear, insecurity or intimidation’. ‘And because it is a choice, it will never tolerate betrayal, but will always be generous with mistakes’.    

On being being quizzed about who our enemies are, he elucidates an entirely different concept about friends and enemies, much against the conventional definitions. A fragment of that is ‘The world does not divide up into enemies and friends, but into the weak and strong. The strong are generous in victory. The weak gang up on the loser, unaware that defeat is only a transitory thing. From among the loser, they choose those who seem most vulnerable’. He winds up by saying ‘Therefore, your enemies are not the adversaries who were put there to test your courage. They are the cowards who were put there to test your weakness’.

Is it really difficult to be a Leader?

To me, the hubbub around the need to be and the way to be a leader is unfathomable. There are literatures and novels written by authors to teach the parameters and techniques to be a good leader. Not underplaying the efforts one puts in to teach and to learn leadership techniques, I would like to put forth my approach to be exemplary in every role that one takes up. Being the leader of your own life is the mantra and the rest follows.

Without much ado let’s talk about the need for you to be a leader. What do you mean by the word ‘leader” and why do you want to be one? The answers to these questions should cause you to peep inside and draw an introspection analysis report.

Being in a management role for sometime in a couple of companies, I always wondered if it was required of me to be a perfect human being to be a good leader? I also wondered how the leaders of top-notch companies lead their teams to achieve one single goal !

Then, I started observing people around me and what they did to motivate others. These were people I would look up to and would go that extra mile trying to get their appreciation. My assessment is not from the biographies of classic leaders like Mahatma Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln. This computation is out of my own experience with some quintessential leaders who I had the privilege to be with, in my life.

Firstly, stop calling yourself a leader if you really want to be one. Please let the others decide, if you really are one.

The second step is to be a human being. You cannot be perfect as you are not God. So please don’t set out to do extraordinary things just to prove a point.

Next, please help the people around you to stand up by giving them the confidence to do so, instead of standing up for them all the time. Please don’t spoon feed them.

Then there is this well known phrase “Appreciate in public and reprimand in private”. Use the coaching approach and do away with  feedback sessions, for team development.

Be extremely approachable and try to be a good friend, not because you want to be their leader but because you want to give them a shoulder when they need it and to pat on their back when they won the battle for you.

Please do not backbite or make fun of someone because you think they are different from the others. This would break their trust on you. Respect every individual and make everyone feel good for what they are.

Be open to ideas whether they are new or cliched. It’s important to get people thinking. If during their opening up with you about their perspective, you feel they are straying from the objective or goals, then lead them by asking small contextual questions. When you ask these questions, people tend to assess their ideas themselves and don’t get overwhelmed or discouraged by it being shot down. They would think more innovative.

Goal orientation is the most important part of the leadership role in any business. When you talk about why it is important to achieve the set goals and targets , in your briefings and meetings, feel it yourself. Do not tell, but ask the ‘hows’ and the ‘whys’. Please don’t compel one to answer your questions. Get them to talk by asking friendly work related questions like “Would you please share with everyone, how you got Mr. X to meet his FCR last month? That was really impressive”.

Connect with your people and that’s the way you would sound genuine. Personalize your greetings and be sensitive to their needs. Nobody wants to follow a fake leader. Please do not underestimate other’s ability to read your moves and gestures.

There will also be times when you may have to take a tough decision to discard the rotten apple from your basket, as that one was irreparable. Remember it’s okay to take action against the incorrigible ones, else all your time and effort would be wasted in vain.

The above are not only tips to be a good leader but will also make one a good human being. Try to imbibe them into your culture, else so many changes in your personality may seem like a herculean task. This may be a little difficult but is achievable.

Bear in mind that leadership is not just a role but a complete transformation of the way you look at life. Lead yourself into being a better human being and it will pass over to the others in your vicinity. All the best !!!

Why travel ?!?!?!

Travelling will lead to you discovering things about yourself and your surroundings that you probably never did before. It’s completely addictive. The word beauty would personify itself and you would feel the urge to touch, to converse and to be with it throughout. The true meaning of love would unfold. It’s kind of spiritual and will imperatively invigorate your senses.

Be it the highs of a mountain or the depths of an ocean you will feel the fragrance and bask in the company of nature. You may want to relax on a sunny day at a Cuban or Colombian beach or let yourself get carried away by the gambling hub of the Vegas. There are numerous options, if you want to party hard around the world with the enticing clubs in Ibiza, Thailand,Brazil, etc. Then, there are options for one to go on a pilgrimage tour to the holy land of Israel and Palestine or to the multi- hued land of all religions, called India. Oh yes ! How can we miss out on the relaxation and the rejuvenating camps, meant to stimulate your body and soul, located all across the globe with India being the hub for it. There are several other travelling motivators and in this age of custom  made packages there is no need to worry about a thing, you just need to set your mind and get going. Trust me this is one of the best investments that you would ever make.

To me travelling means being with yourself and doing what you want to do. “Unwind” is the word. It really does not necessarily mean for you to go discovering new places every time you want to travel. It could be returning to the same place again and again as this makes you happy. To me more important is to give yourself time to spend with your inner self and break the monotony of everyday life. Although discovering new places has it’s own beauty. The feeling of being in a new place with unknown people from different cultural and historical background, is ecstatic and may really overpower the adventurous string in you and this emotion cannot be compromised with.

If you did make up your mind to travel across the length and breadth of India or want to travel across the globe in the luxury of world class cruise liners or want some mind blowing international packages, please leave your details in the form below and I promise to personally help you design a tour package that exactly fits your needs.