Jason Kothari… well who on earth was he I wondered but the title was interesting, the mug shot on the cover page showed the face that resembled a senior I had a minor crush on.(I was all of eight years old and he was my pediatrician.) the title was quite intriguing but the synopsis assured me that it was not a college romance. As I was already looking for a change in my habitual reading books I thought it was a good option.
Though having to buy the book did not seem very reassuring. The passing thought was the guy is definitely ensuring a sale so he has some authority on business. Yes I know a medic’s point of view.
The book arrived and the cover page had a blurb by Karan Johar, my heart really sank. Then there was this whole list of former CEO of: housing.com, FreeCharge, Valiant Entertainment, Snapdeal. The epilogue contained a line about how someone told him he should write a book as it would help a lot of people she said it from the space where she had learnt a lot from Jason, the nasty-bit in me said, OMG the guy is definitely going to be full of himself.
In any case as I read the book, I realized I owed Mr. Kothari an apology. It’s good that the book is written, it is as much about life turnabout as it is about bringing about a business turnabout. To quote the author, “life and learning are interconnected.”
Jason’s parents must have definitely made him learn up “do re me,” for he begins with the first ever deal he made, at Agra a chess board for Rs.30/- I was amused, probably because I could connect to another kid who invested Rs.70/- for jaljeera and returned with 700/Rs.
Jason walks us through his life, it is a fairy tale, because he tells us demons do exist but they can be overcome. Over 11 chapters, he shares his life learning’s, though I observed it only in the 4th.
He talks about going on from nice boy in Hong Kong to someone who almost got wasted in USA. The journey through getting fit, that is body mind and soul.
He pegs the beginning of his reclaiming life to a conversation where his mother asks him, “does your girlfriend go to all the parties you go to?’ how the comic book heroes influenced him and his friend ship with his eventual business partner.
from his experience Jason talks about being
true to your roots, where you come from because that is where your values and strengths come from.
Mistakes can be a gift, because that is where your learning happens.
Limits are illusions and usually placed by others, here he discusses the importance of researching, particularly when starting a start up one cannot really afford to hire help, then knowing how to handle challenges becomes an asset. It’s interesting that he shares his dedication to getting fit by joining martial arts training, he talks about meeting world champions, he shares their learning but he does not go into the saga that drove him there. Just a fleeting mention that he was physically ill.
Captain a rowboat, before a ship a ship before a fleet, being tossed right into a massive challenge Jason discovers the power of meticulous research and planning.
Money isn’t the goal, it’s a by-product. When Jason discusses a reunion where his Wharton peers are working companies like Goldman Sacs he was just trying to revive Valiant Comics the feeling he expresses was something I could quite empathize with it happens to many of us, who have a quiet family practice while we meet with our peers who walked in universities or more glamorous hospitals. This where he actually begins to reflect on his core values and strengths when he says money isn’t a goal it is a by product, the goal is solving the problems, developing endurance, evolving and giving customer the service they want.
His introduction to Walter Black and understanding that being a CEO to people older and more experienced, he had to be collaborative and not authoritative.
As I went through the book, each of the experience that he shared reminded me of the hero’s cycle. In the business venture of reviving Valiant Entertainment the copyright and trademark or intellectual property patent whatever you may choose to call it, plays the villain. When it come to a hint of romance in the narrative, cancer plays the villain. But again Jason does not dwell too much on it he does move on quite fast.
He often reflects on Jainwas philosophy and Buddhist philosophy, this particular one that he shared appears in the Viveka Chudamani too, that is not getting attached to the product created, but enjoying the process the day you stop enjoying the process it is time to move on.
There is again very personal family moment when his father asks him, “if he is really willing to take on the responsibility of being a husband and father for it meant putting wife and kids before you.”
Then there are great some very practical thoughts, like:
I’m looking forward to the rush of freedom that falls when money hits the back account.
The deal is done only when the wire reaches your account.
When Jason talks about whether to take over housing.com or not he introduces us to Suvir Sujan, Masayoshi Son and this is a very interesting insight that he shares about the spark of joy in Masa’s face when he is talking business turnabouts. Jason here talks about the need to push ourselves harder than we push others because we need to understand the challenge and how to address it. He also discusses stock options and equity and the eye-candy it is.
As Jason discusses the power of hiring the right people, building a team and ensuring team work, he does not talk about soft sop HR workshops or training’s, he is talking about good old across the table talk with all sincerity. He does not talk 300 people board room talk he talks town-hall model with 30 people in a group. According to Jason, being a CEO is kind of being a politician of a small village.
There are also some unpleasant facts that he brings forth, that leadership is not winning a popularity contest, or nothing worthwhile comes easy. The most profound observation that he makes is
Everything in life goes in cycles. Balance is not about intensity, it is about commitment it about cutting out the irrelevant.
Like Jason’s teacher told him Do not pray for an easy life pray to endure a difficult one.
At the end of the day, if you ask me what is the story there is none in the traditional sense… its Jason sharing his journey is inner world reflects in his outer. The writing style is refreshingly direct and simple with no jargon or street language. Yes the language is elegant. I immensely enjoyed the book, and I’m glad I have two copies I plan to gift one to the library in my co-working space. What I disliked was the blurbs by Karan Johar and Amish Tripathi, but those are personal prejudices . Thankfully there is none from Chetan Bhagat
The book is an excellent read for people at crossroads in their lives just as much as it is for entrepreneur
I have already prescribed it to couple of my patients, and I’m donating a copy to my co-working space.
Author: Jason Kothari.
Publisher: Harper Business