Book Review : Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite

13 Reasons Why

You SHOULD take wrong decisions!

On a sunny winter morning, I was going through my office library when I came across a book with the most interesting title – “Whatever you think, think the Opposite” by Paul Arden. My curiosity got the better of me as I skimmed through the chapters. Those who have read it, would know how short the stories and anecdotes are. Thus, initially I thought it’s not a serious business book. I only read couple of the stories before keeping it back. But on my drive back home, I started to ponder over the chapters I had read. And I realised, both the chapters were indicators. Indicators to something. But, what exactly?

There are times when a story, a book stays on your mind long after you have read it. (A great example being
And the mountains Echoed”). They expose us to things we thought weren’t possible. They make you question everything around you. This book, is one of those experiences. It is a reminder to think differently, to be open to the idea of looking at things from a different perspective. The book talks about

‘Why unreason is better than reason?’

Short chapters that brilliantly portray the importance of taking ‘wrong’ decisions. The best way to read this one is to take one chapter at a time. Each chapter requires reflection and introspection before you can move on. Instead of the usual self-help narrative, this book stands out with its daring quips and a change of perception. It can help re-define ‘common sense.’ The book leaves you feeling a certain way and the best way I can describe it would be in Javed Akhtar’s immortal words – 

क्‍यों डरें ज़िन्‍दगी में कल क्‍या होगा
कुछ ना होगा तो तज़रूबा होगा

While reading the book, I was also taking notes to select the best chapters and the most hard-hitting concepts. After arduous screening, I came up with 13 points which really challenged my intellect and thought process. In a funny way, it is safe to say this book is a collection of corporate memes. I’m hoping this blog can highlight the ideologies mentioned in the book and prove useful to you, the reader.

1. Photographic Flower

In today’s Insta crazy world, everyone is always taking the picture of something or the other. However, to take a good picture of a flower, we have to arrange it carefully and if possible, spray some dew on it. The lighting also has to be proper. No one ever clicks pictures of a dying plant. So, why is it only important to show all the things which are pretty? Why don’t we show the negative sides too?

Instead of talking about the positives and the dreamy propositions, it is a good practice to talk about the reality too. However harsh it might be. After all perfection, at its best, is an illusion. 

2. Trapped

We try to make sensible decision based on the facts in front of us – which is obviously the right thing to do! We should always take our decision based on tangible things like data and statistics. The only problem with taking sensible decision is that everyone is taking it, already!

Why not try to be spontaneous in our decision for a change? Take the chance, be the change! Yes, It may go wrong but, it will be your decision. You will have no data, no stats to blame but yourself. It will give you confidence to do better the next time. You will have more faith in yourself. 

3. Are you being ‘Reasonable?’

Most people are reasonable, that’s why they do reasonably well.

It is said that ‘old golfers seldom win.’ Why? Because their experience makes them paranoid. They take decisions very carefully based on their past games. What happens if something goes wrong? For them there are a lot of things at stake, including their eminence. It makes them extra cautious.

But, here’s the twist – why not to go play for the fun of it? No one knows what’s going to happen. At least have fun while at it. One of my most favourite lines from the book goes –

“Knowledge makes us play safe, the secret is to stay Childish.”

4. Ask for a ‘Slap On The Face!’

Better yet, get beaten up!

When looking to get your work reviewed, the usual question is -“How do you like it?”  But, a better way to go about it, would be “If this was made by you, what changes/addition/subtraction would you do to this to get it better?
It might feel like a proverbial slap on the face. But, don’t let that stop you, keep asking! Get beaten up. You will rise stronger. 

5. Work Backwards

Visualise your goal, and picture yourself having already achieved it. Then start working backwords, constantly analysing the repercussions of your work and what could go wrong. Earlier, whenever I took up a new task/project, I began by asking myself the same clichéd question – “Where should I start from?” Every new project feels like a maze. When you start, it seems like you have chosen the right way. However, halfway through you find yourself standing on crossroads where all the paths looked confusing. You get lost and then again you have to start from square one. Working backwards, however, can provide you with more clarity about the right path.

What do you think about this? 

6. No one but “I”

“Ego Trip – A journey to nowhere”
“Egotism is the anaesthetic which nature gives us to deaden the pain of being a fool.”
“The smaller the mind the greater the ego “

The list is endless! If you were to search on Google, there are innumerable quotes on Ego and the negative connotations attached to it. Paul Arden puts it across brilliantly –

It is fashionable statement for so-called people to try and lose their ego.”

Their is obviously a reason as to why ‘Ego’ exists. I feel that my ego gives me a push to be better every next day. Ego arouses a sense of competition. And that can’t be bad. Let’s put our ego for a good use rather than denying its existence, completely.

7. What is a ‘Meeting?’

“It is a myriad of people where everyone puts up an act or performance to convince other people of their own importance”

Take a pause here. Think.  How much do you actually agree to this point? I was little perplexed by this thought, till I reached the bottom of the page which read –

“If you must have meeting, lose the chairs.”

Real team players don’t talk, they roll up their sleeves get on with the job!

8. There’s no such thing as ‘First Love’

If a work is fresh and new, you’re rarely expected to like it straight away. All the people with “Red” (Emergenetics) preference, or extremely extroverted and social people, counter me on this. Were the first few months of lockdown not difficult? Did you not miss meeting your office friends, and those priceless water cooler moments? But eventually, we found new ways to adapt and like the new ‘normal.’ The effort that goes into coming to terms with the things you don’t like, can make them all the more valuable to you, when you finally start to understand them better. 

As an organisation (FocusU), earlier we only did physical workshops with little to no knowledge about virtual platforms. Now we continue to adapt to the changing needs of this new, virtual world and develop the required skills and expertise, as we move ahead!

9. Wish v/s Want

Wish is a strong urge or strong desire. It’s a feeling. It does not automatically represent that we can go to any distance to achieve something. ‘I wish’ means – ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if…?’  Where as ‘Want’ means ‘I’ll do anything to get it. I will go any distance to get it. I will work for it.’ 

You can “wish” for your life to be different or you can take an unsafe decision, because you “want to!”

10. It’s your Work/Life

Take charge to make sure things go your way. Be your own critic. Every time we fail, as humans we have a tendency to shift blame onto something else, someone else. Try not to give in to that urge. Accept failure and take responsibility. People will appreciate this and you will also realise your true potential and capability. 

11. Be Interested to be ‘Interesting’ 

As humans, we like being ‘liked.’ In order to do so, we usually start talking about ourselves and what opinions we have on anything. Why not start by staying quiet for a while and be interested in what the other person has to offer in the conversation? While in a meeting, instead of explaining your portfolio to a client, why not to listen to their issue? Try to isolate the problem. You will be in a better position to help them with an optimal solution. Along with it, you will build a relation which will last longer than the old 9 to 5. You would have made a friend by the end of every conversation.

12. What is a ‘Bad Idea?’

An idea can be defined as ‘a clear feasible solution to the problem.’ What may be a good idea to you, may not be appealing to other people. Ideas – good or bad, if not applied, are bound to go bad. Our organisation changed its path from physical training to virtual workshop. When people started to work remotely, spending their whole day in front of their computer screen – our biggest challenge was –

Why would they spend more time in front of the screen just for fun?

However, we took the chance and launched our virtual team building activities. To our pleasant surprise, the idea was very well received across the board! Within a short span of time, we had a lot of organisations coming onboard and requesting our services. A page in this very chapter also says that it is not good to have too many ideas. It’s too easy to move on to next one and next one. I happen to disagree with this. Every idea is a good idea. It just needs the right place to be implemented. So my suggestion would be to keep a note of it, and move along. It might surprise you.

13. We Are Humans

We make mistakes. We may get criticised or receive severe backlash. We may feel we have let down some people. We may get judged. And that’s okay. After all, they are also humans. 

Important thing is that we learn from it and work to become better version of ourselves. At FocusU, we strongly believe that

“Fun is no enemy to learning!”

So have fun while you are at it! Laugh at your mistakes while also learning from them. I myself have had some goof-ups in workshops, over the years. With openness at the heart of credo, it was brought to light each time. However, there were no negative consequences. We laughed at the goof-ups together. No one blamed or ridiculed me. I was laughing with them with a clear sense of what areas to work upon. There’s always room for improvement. In order to improve, we first have to find and accept our mistakes. And to do that, we have to make mistakes. And finally, to be able to make mistakes, we have to take some ‘unsafe’ decisions.

Read Also  Book Review : Disney U by Doug Lipp

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