2020 Readings // The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

After changing so many topics and crossing some more days in the calendar during my holiday at home, I am happy to have used my time with a purpose and finished a new book – The Midnight Library. This was quite unexpected, as I was not looking for this type of topics and this author in particular.

I am happy to have run into his book and have let myself get captivated by his imaginary universe. Matt Haig places Nora into a depressive episode of her life, when nothing made sense for her anymore and she didn’t feel like succeeding in anything of her life – private and professionally. Her cat died, she feels lost and unsuccessful, lives on anti-depressives and has no energy to carry on or fight for something better.

Overwhelmed with regrets and ready to give up to everything, she finds a midnight library on the street where the time is stuck. Together with the help of the librarian, Mrs. Elm, she gets a glimpse of all the lives she is living in parallel and the different outcomes her decisions had. By opening a new book, she immediately got into her new life, happening somewhere in the universe, having a different job, partner, siblings, pet and being either famous or solitary.

She tries all the options she has in the library, thus discovering that her actual regrets do not make sense, as it depends on every other person how things develop further and not solely on ourself and our own choices. At the end of this night when she understood that there is no perfect life and only compromises and our inner approach on what is happening, the library burns in flames and she manages to rescue herself by writing down during the fire I AM ALIVE.

This is how she came back to her actual life, with a more open heart and willing to fight for what is left there and be present. She is happy her brother is alive (as she saw him dead in other lives already) and manages to recover after the overdose she took before stopping into the Midnight Library. An interesting book, with different possibilities and unexpected outcomes, as well as a nice and open dialogue Nora has with herself and the others around her. Matt Haig is a great Connaisseur of human psychology and touches every small detail in dealing with life crises and life lessons.

2020 Readings // Arianna Huffington – Media Visionary and Wellness Evanghelist

My stay in Romania gave me the opportunity to switch from German books to English ones and thus be able to understand more of the content I was reading. Just before Christmas I arrived in a huge library in Bucharest and let myself inspired from the English books I found there. As I was already familiarized with Arianna‘s path and this time a sort of biography was available on the shelf I took the chance the bought the book.

As 2020 has been a year of intensive readings for me and it keeps being so for the last days left, I was happy to add a new book on my collection and see if I can learn something while siting on the sofa and drinking coffee in Romania.

I can recommend the book for the people who are curious to find out more of Arianna‘s background, her parents, her family and the dreams that pushed her for the decisions she made. She inherited her father‘s passion for journalism and debate, learned from her mother to be persistent and find solutions and her sister Agapi was always there for her supporting with her love and creative style. Her two daughters came very late in her life, as she was 38, respectively 40 and even now in her 70s she keeps working 10 hours per day.

While there are many rumors about what she did right and wrong, there are also visible achievements she made in the media industry, not to forget that she coming from Greece, had a very strong accent and built her media empire Huffington Post thanks to her wit and persistence, social contacts and hard work.

I was particularly impressed by how her mother made it possible for her to be accepted at Cambridge, despite she didn’t even speak English at the time she (Arianna) told her mom about her dreams. Another particular interesting point in her life is her decision to abandon her boyfriend and put the Atlantic Ocean between them – then 20 years older than her, Levin – because she wanted to have kids and marry for the rest of her life and he wasn’t mature enough for it, only to be able to accomplish her dream 10 years later with oil mogul Michael Huffington and still go through a divorce later on.

Arianna wrote 15 books, reinvented herself throughout her careers, starting with the debates in Cambridge she loved to coordinate, writing autobiographies of Maria Callas and Pablo Picasso, getting involved in politics and fighting on such topics, creating an online platform for bloggers worldwide and asking them to write for free and then selling it. Although she would have never given up to Huffington Post, as it was her third child, she eventually sold it and focused on Thrive – another platform focused on well being and spirituality.

Her life is an interesting example of hard work, determination, perseverance and strong persuasion skills and emotional intelligence in general. While she had to go through a burnout episode, she used the episode to later on create Thrive Global, write a book on the importance of sleep and create her new business.

2020 Readings // The Rosie Result

The 10 days of mandatory quarantine upon my entry in Romania gave me a reason to sit down and count the days until I can finally go out. An entertaining book was a good idea to kill the hours and see what Graeme Simsion has been working on in the 400 pages he wrote.

The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effekt and The Rosie Result is a funny trilogy which relates about one nerd with slight autistic problems, trying to find a girlfriend which he eventually found (Rosie), living with her and finally raising their child which has as well some deficiencies.

I happened to have the third book at hand, which I bought randomly before flying once and which I found now once again back at home. The Rosie Result is about Don and Rosie, married since 12 years, freshly returned to Australia, together with their 11 year old child, which struggles to adapt to the society, doesn’t have too many friends and has difficulties in accepting changes.

Their attempts to help him cope with his (already supposed) autistic syndrome before the school officially puts him this label and sends him to special help, as well as the dialog and the surprises Hudson makes for them, transforms the book into a journey about love, care, family and cooperation.

Don, the main character, decided to take some time off from work and dedicate it to the Hudson-Projekt. He puts all his knowledge, personal experience and advice from his friends to enable his son to slightly open up to the society and overcome the dificulties that Don himself had to while being a child, due to the different perception over the world, caused by the syndrome.

In the end, Hudson made a lot of progress and decided not to adapt to the society but rather to help the society accept people like him. It’s a good example of how much love two parents can have for their children and how intelligently they deal with the situation in order to help their kid grow and overcome his status.

2020 Readings // The Big Five for Life

Another book that fell on my shelf this year is the bestseller The Big Five for Live, by John P. Strelecky, written as a short story and filled with words of wisdom. It is quite popular and the author himself has written some other books already – The Why Café and Life Safari.

Apart from being a best-selling American author, John P. Strelecky is as well an inspirational speaker. While trying to answer himself the question How do I win the game of life, for me?, he wrote this short story.

I also found John Strelecky speaking in a summit and he seems to be quite a special character:

Before becoming a famous writer, Strelecky worked as a consultant until 2002 and went backpacking and travelling around the world for one year. As he came back, he went back to work and realized that his interest disappeared. His moment of inspiration came as he was in a plane, returning from a business trip and trying to figure out What would I tell someone right now is the meaning of life?

He went home and started writing for 21 days book initially called The Why Are You Here Cafe – now known as ‘The Big Five For Life’, helping people figure out and live their life’s purpose.

The main idea behind the book is to imagine that at the end of your life you could fill in all your memories into a museum. How would that museum look like? Depending on your choices and overall focus on joy, happiness and productivity, the museum will have a positive or a negative vibe.

The big five for life represent the 5 things that drive you and define your purpose in life. These are the things you want to do, see or experience before you die. The book is written as a story where Thomas Derale, an old businessman, reaches the greatest leadership secret: he has wealthy companies, he is loved and appreciated by people, his customers love making business together. However, at 55 he is dying and at this point he reveals the secrets about his life, business and his impact over the people around him. His disciple Joe narrates the whole story, in a series of conversations between him and Thomas, before he dies. Thomas talks about finding both a personal and corporate “Purpose for Existing” (PFE), the best mix for productivity and fulfillment.

In this year of isolation and time spent in silence the book is a relaxing and mind-challenging activity that might help defining the new bucket list for 2021.

2020 Readings // The Ride of a Lifetime – Disney CEO Robert Iger

It all started with an interview I watched, where Oprah Winfrey had Robert Iger talking about his recently published memoirs, with the purpose of fundraising for some scholarships.

The interview is available here and it’s a good overview regarding the topics that Oprah and Iger tackled and the most relevant points in his career:  

This interview really left me curious about the former Disney CEO and what type of legacy he left behind. Starting in 2005, Robert Iger took over the function of the CEO of The Walt Disney Company and ever since had to cope with a series of challenges, hard decisions and major acquisitions. Currently, the very powerful media company owns Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox.

What really impressed about the book was Iger´s openness to talk about the hardest time in his life and career – the death of child eaten by an alligator into one of the Disney Amusement Parks in USA, while the whole Disney team was about to inaugurate a new amusement Park in Shanghai. While trying to handle the both events, Iger mentioned that this was the most important moment in his career, where none of the moments had to be eclipsed by the other but both of them had to be publicly approached with the necessary attitude of sorrow and joy respectively. Over the past 15 years, Iger speaks about handling the deterioration of the morale, dealing with competition and keeping up with the latest developments in technology. As he explains, there were 3 pillars he refered to while knowing that arguing over the past will not bring any value. Thus, he focused on bringing the highest quality content ever, making friends with technology and thinking bigger and global. While leading 200,000 employees, staying curious about what drives progress and putting decency over the dollar, he finally agrees that You can’t fake leadership.

2020 Readings // No Rules Rules or the story behind NETFLIX’ success.

During the second lockdown in Austria I had enough time to go through one of the books that I bought for myself and whose purpose was to improve my German language skills. Getting to understand the job market nowadays is and will always be a topic worth investing hours into. Things are chaning very fast and the mindsets and demands are different from one corner of the world to another.

While trying to look for various topics to entertain me and enable my fast, correct and fluent German, I saw Reed Hastings’ book on what makes Netflix successful. I bought it, curious to see if I can stay focused and go through the hundreds of pages put together by Reed and Erin Meyer, the author of the famous book “The Culture Map”.

While bringing a revolution in the entertainment industries and trying to reinvent itself with every new trend, Netflix managed to become one of the most used streaming network and combined original series with external ones.

It all started in 1998 when Reed started the online DVD rental service, because once he forgot to return a DVD on time and had to pay a very big fine. Over the time, the industry has changed again and again and as Reed is saying, what really helped the business survive was the overall culture of freedom and responsibility. this is a result of the 9 connecting dots he refers to in the book and are also graphically illustrated in the picture below.

While presenting small case studies, Reed explains why he decided to go for an approach or another, which benefits it brought to the business and how he decided to enable a competitive culture in his company by always firing the weakest employees – The Keepers Test. By keeping standards high and very talented people inside and increasing transparency and candor via feedback sessions, Reed aimed to reduce controls.

He lied a strong emphasis on innovation and enabled his employees to work through context, rather than controls. Also, whoever wanted to take more days off while finishing with the workload before the deadline was free to do so.

The culture candid feedback is what makes Netflix a bit different versus other companies. While keeping people stressed about the next feedback round, it also pushes the employees to speak up in a nice way about their colleagues and show them where they are wrong.

The book is full with interviews with current and past Netflix employees, written in a double perspective by Reed and Erin, together with Reed’s failures and the attitude of his colleagues in assuming that he was always doing the right thing. I can recommend the book, it has fresh insights and shows the entertainment industry from an inside perspective.

The Advent Challenge // Mönchsberg Lauf

Reprezentativ

As Christmas is slowly approaching and this year has been for almost everyone a pure waste of time and opportunities, while also a long time to rest, wait, self-reflect and keep calm, we have thought together with my dear neighbour Nada Vasic to use the long time to rest and wait that we were offered by the authorities in order to create some morning routines, refresh our spirit, start the day with the right mindset and collect some money for a good cause.

Therefore, as of 1st of December until 24th of December, at 6.30 in the morning, Nada, myself and some of her friends have committed to keep the habit and go on a small mountain next to our building called Mönchsberg for a run/walk/call it visit if you want. We tried to cover Mönchsberg from different sides and enjoyed some very beautiful sunrises under the Salzburg Sky. Until 24th the invitation is open to anyone would like to join – please text me and I will put you in touch with Nada.

During this decade of days, we’ve managed to hold this habit and stay consistent in what we have aligned. I tried to join every day, except for 2 occasions when I had to rest. With this daily effort and Nada’s energy and determination, we have already achieved together 50% of the challenge and in parallel have collected some money. Nada will continue running while I will be flying home for holidays. The invitation to join her and help her collect money for this cause is still open and if you need more info please do not hesitate to contact me. If you would just want to donate money I will provide you with her bank account. I will also provide you with a proof of your contribution, as Nada will publicly release a list with the names of all the participants upon the donation.

Location: Mönchsberg

Time 6.30 a.m.

Duration: 1h

Activities: Running/Walking/Jogging/Talking

Every participant that joined Nada at least once had to pay 10€. The collected sum will be on the 25th of December donated to a charity in Salzburg that aims to help kids with skin problems.

On this occasion, I would like to thank Nada for her determination and consistency, great spirit and proven commitment to keep up with her goals. It is hard to meet such serious people who dare to have initiatives and stay consistent until the very last step.

More information about the charity where the money will arrive, here:

https://www.eb-haus.org/ueber-uns/eb-haus-news/2020/was-ist-ein-schmetterlingskind-anschaulich-erklaert/