When a book written by one of India’s youngest women CEOs in finance lands up on your desk and is titled Limitless: The Power of Unlocking your True Potentialyou brace for a laborious read, with the shades of Anthony Robbins’ Awaken the Giant Within, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull thrown in.
But Radhika Gupta’s book is, in fact, a down-to-earth and easily digestible read. The book does not profess to unlock hidden secrets of your brain or advice women on how to crack the code on work-life balance. Instead, the author, the MD and CEO of Edelweiss Mutual Fund, a former hedge fund manager and a McKinsey and Wharton alumna, draws on her personal experiences to offer pragmatic life lessons and insights to build one’s career.
Compared to usual biographies of corporate honchos, a refreshing aspect of this book is Gupta’s willingness to let us in on the career mis-steps and insecurities she’s navigated, to get this far. The book kicks off with an exhortation to young folks to learn to take a ‘no’ gracefully. Gupta talks about how rejections shaped her – whether it was brutal feedback from her first boss on her lacking emotional maturity or the fact that not even a single candidate turned up for her first set of recruitment interviews at Edelweiss, then a young brand.
She gives a brutally unvarnished account of how her disjointed neck (she shares the story of how this came about in her viral video The Girl with the Broken Neck), weight issues and thick Indian accent made her the butt of jokes at school and contributed to a very shy and introverted personality in her initial years. The story of how she overcame these imperfections by embracing them, is both moving and inspirational.
Grounded in Indian realities, the book has a lot of genuinely useful career advice. Gupta tells newly-minted MBAs that they should not expect to ‘fall in love’ with their jobs or to discover a ‘grand passion’ for it. She notes that career success for most people comes from surviving “extended periods of hell” at a mundane job. It is the willingness to persist with grunt work and not slick PPTs that hold the key to one’s ascent.
The book has pertinent advice for social media-conscious young graduates. The author warns against the dangers of taking up job offers mainly to impress one’s peers at college and to obsess over how every new employer or work title would look on one’s CV. Both habits prevent you from taking up unconventional career opportunities that ultimately lead to success.
Gupta recounts the initial turmoil and doubts that assailed her when she gave up a highly paid stint at Wall Street, to move back to Mumbai to start a boutique fund of her own. Every Indian kid can relate to her parents’ horror at her uprooting a ‘well-settled’ US career to make this risky move.
Interactions with icons
Given her relative youth, the author does not rely solely on her own experiences to dole out insights. She draws on her interactions with the icons of the Indian industry too. So, you get to read the story of the stoic and ever-smiling Anu Aga, who had to take over the reins of Thermax and turn it around amid debilitating personal tragedy. Or the anecdote about how Kalpen Parekh, the CEO of DSP Mutual Fund, was not shy of attending a course at Flame University to equip himself to lead the investment side of the business.
While the book is engaging and can be read from cover to cover in a couple of sittings, two aspects to it felt somewhat forced. One was its effort to draw parallels between life lessons and investing lessons.
For instance, it was a bit jarring to have the chapter on resilience segueing suddenly from the profound story of Anu Aga, to the importance of continuing one’s SIPs in a choppy market. Ditto the analogy between not making your career decisions to win the approval of peers and the difficulty of generating alpha while benchmark-hugging.
Given that the author has been at pains to take a non-preachy tone, one felt the bombastic chapter headings in the book (“Kick the s ** t out of rejection, Choose your sky learn to fly”) were too typical of the self-help genre and could have been toned down.
But this is nit-picking. By the time I was down to the last chapter, I was wishing that I could get my 22-year-old son, who’s all set for campus placements this year, to read this book before he embarks on his career.
Check it out on Amazon
Limitless: The Power of Unlocking your True Potential
Price: 30 330
Publisher: Hachette India
May 22, 2022