Sunday, September 13, 2015
Management Skills in Literature
Best Lessons to Learn From 'The Old Man and the Sea'
Summary of the book
The Old Man and the Sea is a long story. The main character, Santiago, is a Spanish fisherman in Cuba. He is so unlucky that he could not find a single fish for 84 days.. His only friend is a young boy, Manolin, who has faith in him despite the disapproval of his family.
One day, after a dream about his youth, Santiago takes his boat out farther than any of the other fisherman. He hooks a marlin, but it takes him two nights and two days to battle the fish to the point of exhaustion. When the fish is finally defeated, Santiago is exhausted and
wounded he sails to the shore with the massive fish carcass
Santiago starts sailing home, but the bleeding fish carcass, which he has roped to the side of the boat, attracts sharks. Santiago battles the sharks unsuccessfully. There are too many of them and they eat the flesh
off the fish. When Santiago finally makes it back home
with the skeleton, he leaves the skeleton by the boat and carries the mast of
the boat back to his home. Once home, he collapses in bed and falls asleep.
Meanwhile, the villagers see the skeleton and are impressed by its length.
Manolin, relieved that Santiago is
safe again, makes plans with him to go fishing together. Santiago falls back
asleep and dreams the same dream that prompted him to go fishing in the first
Ernest Hemingway Author of 'The Old Man and the Sea
The Old Man and The Sea is the best book to learn management skills.
This small story (27000 words) teaches some of the best lessons any book of Literature can teach:
Since all lessons are important, we will not prioritize them, we will learn as we read the story.
1. Facial Expression:
Face is the index of mind, and it definitely is. Whatever goes in mind is reflected on the face. Hiding emotions is not treachery, but a much required skill. You have to suffer your own grief, nobody would share it.
Author describes Santiago
"Everything about him was old, except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated."
If the face is the index of
mind, the eyes are an index of the soul. You can only be cheerful if you are
2. Stay with Good Luck
All successful people are superstitious. So do not mind being superstitious. Read more here.
The Old man had taught the boy to fish and the boy loved him. He offers to accompany The old man. The old man says
"You're with a
boat. Stay with them."
The old man would have loved the company of the boy. He is not selfish. He asked him to stay with lucky boat. When you find luck is in your
favour chase it.
3. Treat Young as Equals
There is a gap in the age of the old man and the boy. They are the two persons who have worked together to achieve the same objective. The boy offers the old man beer, the old man says
"Why not"? "Between Fishermen".
This is how you boost the morale of apprentice young man. Treat them equally.
4. Catch them Young
When the apprentice becomes senior they like to share reminiscences of the old days. The boy asked what was his age when he first went for the fishing expedition with him. The old man says
Five and you nearly
were killed when I brought the fish in too green and he nearly tore the boat to
This develops a bonding. If you are young find your mentor, if old, find your disciple.
5. Humility is best quality
Wisdom comes with old age. The old man shares his wisdom which
are the crux of his experiences. He says
"He was too simple to wonder when he had attained humility. But he knew he had attained it and he knew it was not disgraceful and it carried no loss of true pride."
Humility is not something you are born with. It is a quality you have to attain. So attain it.
6. Be Hopeful
Hope is not an isolated quality. It is
outcome of many qualities that determine your mindset. The old
"Tomorrow is going to be a good day with this current".
In his hopefulness is
his experience. He understands current. His words are words of an authority.
Use your wisdom for evoking optimism.
7. Take precautions
"No one would steal from the old
man but it was better to take the sail and the heavy lines home as the
dew was bad for them...".
When you take all due precautions you have a peace of mind. That is more valuable than the
8. Law of attraction
Few lines of conversation between the old man and the boy.
'I may eat the rice cold' -the old man
'May I take the cast net?' -the boy
"There was no cast net and the boy remembered when they had sold it. But they went through this fiction every day. There was no pot of yellow rice and the fish and boy knew this too."
They are working on
Attraction to fulfill their wishes.
9. Do not borrow
The old man did not like the idea of borrowing. As an
individual one must avoid to borrow the money. Instead,
manage within your financial limit. The old man says
"I try not to borrow. First you borrow. Then you beg."
Try not to borrow, but if it is inevitable borrow. Take care that you don't end up begging.
10. Time management
It is one of the basic requirements to manage your affairs.
'Age is my alarm clock,'the old man said. 'Why
do old men wake so early? Is it to have one longer day?'
If you wake up early you have earned a long day. You can
utilise those extra few hours to accomplish your
target to clear pending list.
See what The old man did when he sailed in the sea for fishing.
"Before it was really light, he had his baits out and was drifting with the current. One bait was down forty fathoms. The second was at seventy-five, and
the the third and
fourth were down in the blue water at one hundred and one hundred and twenty
The old man has thrown baits at different depths. He wants to explore the sea fully. He is reducing the risk of failure.
Don't depend on one client or one project or one company. Go for diversification.
12. Be precise
Precision improves your confidence. The old man says
"But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready."
Mere precision may not be
guarantee of your success. But when time is favourable it would help.
13.Keep Yourself Fit
Your ambitions, hard work and all efforts will go waste if you are not fit to enjoy the fruits of your success. Or, if you collapse when success was imminent.
See, what the old man did to keep himself fit.
white egg to
give himself strength."
"He also drank a cup of Shark liver oil each day."
The old man has a conviction
"It was considered a
virtue not to talk unnecessarily at sea and the old man had always considered
it so and respected it."
In a meeting you are at sea. Avoid talking unnecessarily.
15. Distraction is bad
The old man thinks
"Now is no time to think of baseball. Now is the time to think of only one thing."
Stay focused. The mind has a tendency to distract.
With strong will power and auto suggestion it can be
trained to focus.
16. Understand Conditioned Mind
Your colleague and clients have a conditioned mind, even if you are open
mind. Your client had a bitter
experience with another agency so he is very cautious, let him take his time, do
"May be he has been hooked before and he remembers something
Give this chance to everybody.
17. Keep Plan B ready
When a big fish was hooked the old man was full of anxiety.
"What I will do if he decides to go down I will do something
. There are plenty of things I can
There is always a chance of unexpected failure. So be prepared with your action plan.
18. Know the strength of your enemies
The old man thinks
"I wish I could see him only once to know what I have against me".
Never underestimate your enemies. Mobilize your resources and collect all possible information about your enemies.
19. Don't do anything stupid
Temptations are human weakness. Never, never fall for them. You can ruin your entire career and may be life just by falling for a temptation.
"Then he thought, think of it always. Think of what you are doing. You must do nothing stupid."
No risk, no gain. Take your chances. Leap in the blind. Be courageous.
"Take a good rest, small bird
,he said.' Then go in and take your chance like any man or bird or
21. Be Practical
Sermons do not help when it comes to brass tacks. The old man says
"There is no sense in being anything but practical though".
22. Do not admit suffering
Kings, Leaders, Mangers and Saints never admit
their suffering. Neither did the old man.
suffering, although he did not admit the suffering at all."
23. Each time is New time
"Each time was a new time and he never thought about the past when he was doing it."
That's our old man. Despite the old
age he has a sharp clarity of thought.
24 Heal your damages
"There is much slave work to be done now that the fight is over."
Once you have accomplished your mission, evaluate your damages and repair them.
25. Fooled by randomness
Never think that you won because you were more intelligent than your enemies.
"But I was more intelligent than he was. Perhaps not, he thought. Perhaps I was only better armed."
"Perhaps it was a sin to kill the fish. I suppose it
was even though I did it to keep me alive and feed
many people. But then everything is a sin."
Someone has to die when the lion feeds. So do not worry about sins committed for
broader welfare of the humanity.
27. Do not frequent Danger Zone
The old man realizes that he crossed his limits of learning zone and entered into a danger zone. He had a hallucination of his comfort zone when he was exhausted. He also remembered his learning zone, but he regrets having entered the danger zone.
"I shouldn't have gone out so far, fish. He said' neither for you nor for me. I am sorry, fish."
28. Next Expedition
Be prepared for next expedition as soon as first is over. The book begins and ends with the dreaming old man. He dreams about lions.
"The old man was dreaming about lions".
is the last line of the story that suggest the old
man is ready for next expedition.
© Vipin Behari Goyal
Advocate, Rajasthan High Court, Jodhpur, India