Review of the book “Catalyst” by Chandramouli Venkatesan and why it has the Potential to TRANSFORM your Career Journey.
I have long pondered on this, what makes a great career? Is it a series of jobs that you do in quick sequential succession over a period of years? Or a series of jobs out of which a couple could give you disproportionate success? Well, I don’t have the answers. I believe a great career is a coming together of talent, opportunity and luck and at the right time. But all of these would be futile without a “tadka” of your own sweat. Of all the variables mentioned afore, the only thing in your hands is your talent and your ability to sweat it out. My own two cents on this, coming from my passion for Cricket, is that a fruitful career is like a test match. It’s a battle that has to be fought session by session. When the going is good, a purple patch, it’s important to play on the front foot and unleash those glorious drives. When the opposition is on top, it’s important to dig your heels in, defend well and play each ball on its merit. Sometimes like I like to say, well left is well played. The most important thing is to stay on the wicket. Chandramouli’s book “Catalyst” will give you insights on how to stay on the wicket and create more purple patches in your innings than ever before.
It is very hard to write a dissertation on a great book you read and one which belongs to a “learning” category. Do you remember the famous ad that played out on DD years back about the elephant and several blind men trying to figure out what it was, basis what part of the elephant they touched? A book like “Catalyst” is like that. Basis your career journey so far and your stage in life, you might take different things out of it, probably far different than what I learned from it. But one thing I guarantee is that it will make you reflect. It will give you simple hacks into how you could build a great career. Do read the book to form your own summary of learning, but sharing a few things that resonated deeply with me. Read on…
- Target Measure Review Reflect (TMRR) Mouli shares a very simple thought on what constitutes “experience” and how do you build it within your job so as to make it a sellable skill. The only way to broaden the scope of your learning is to be proactive, ask for more projects beyond your scope of work. Do you remember the famous Johnny Walker tagline “Think CEO before you become one…”? Well TMRR is about that. It also speaks about building the ability to reflect as a habit. There is a reason why a Sachin Tendulkar practices a stroke a thousand times even though he is a master of the game, it is because he is building his muscle memory. Every sportsman at the top of his game does that to be able to play their strokes in a crunch situation in a match when there is no time to think. Reflection is a habit that will make you ask “What could I have done better? “and it’s important to build this habit as a part of your muscle memory.
- Learning Cycles At some point in your career, it’s important to be a part of a big learning cycle within your organisation. That can scale up your experience and your skills disproportionately. It will also prepare you for your next higher role within your current role itself. If you don’t get this organically, be pro-active and let the organisation know that you WANT to be a part of it.
- Circle of Influence Most of us, irrespective of levels, want to do everything ourselves. Mouli, in this part, shares how important it is to identify things within your circle of influence and spend a large amount of time on things that you can control, influence and whose output you are directly responsible for. It’s important to build a team, empower it and let them do their job. It will free your mind to focus on your essentials and your strategic initiatives.
- Rocks First Method Deal with the important issues first. He explains it beautifully with a “Rocks and Sand in a jar “story. The net takeaway is that 80-85% of your time needs to be devoted to key issues (Rocks). Plan for it in a structured manner and prioritize execution. The 15-20% of irrelevant (but still important to do – Sand) still need to be done but they need to be done last.
- Win where it matters This is an entirely new thought (at least for me) that Mouli proposes. It says that a career is like a game with two halves. The first half is categorized as “less at stake “stage where even if you do the basics, one will succeed most of the times. Most people will win in this half. It is the SECOND half of the career that matters the most. This half is categorized by higher involvement by seniors, more accountability at an organisation level, high level of decision making that can impact fortunes of the organisation and where stakes are really high. It is hence the second half that needs to be won and again Mouli shares a few simple hacks to crack it.
- A decision to Quit and Join This for me was a very critical part of the book and I relished the simplicity in which Mouli guides his readers on this very critical part of a career. When to quit the current organisation and what to join next are not simple decisions to make. He emphasizes that both these decisions need to be taken independently of each other. In my opinion, these are key decisions, especially in the second half of your career, and ones which could determine a win or lose outcome for you.
- Values Mouli ends “Catalyst” with a few thoughts devoted to identifying what are “values” and how important they are in determining if you will eventually be successful OR be a spectacular success. Different people grow up with different value systems and it’s important to work in an organisation which is in sync with your values. There should ideally be no dissonance there. Values help us to find our purpose. I personally resonate with values of Integrity & Humility and Mouli really sets the bar here on explaining what they really mean. I quite enjoyed reading this part and especially the tongue in cheek humour that is characteristic of the author.
Like I said earlier, the above are my personal takeaways from the “Catalyst” and hopefully, some of them might resonate with you. Maybe you will have a few, unique to your own experiences & will share them too. I do recommend this book as a “MUST” read and can assure you that it will stand up to its name when it comes to your career.