05 Feb 2015

Back to Basics

By Lama Makarem –

Thousands of new business books are published every year. While I truly appreciate the contribution of so many authors, and this article is by no means to underestimate the good books and literature out there…The interesting part is that you read on the cover of most of these newly published books “An International Best Seller”. With all due respect to all their authors, I wonder how innovative the majority of these books is and how original the ideas they preach are? Are they “best sellers” because of their content or is it because of effective marketing and promotional strategies?
For a number of these books, as you read the first few pages, you feel the rest is almost the same. The rest of the pages is making an effort to recycle the same idea over and over again to perhaps make the book thicker. I believe the main reason for all this is commercialism, making more money, or seeking fame.
If people can only write for the sake of writing; without a major concern of how much money he or she will make from publishing a book, I’m sure the quality of what’s out there to read would be much higher.
I strongly believe that the greatest wisdom in life is found in the oldest books. And actually, if you come to think of it, most of the new business clichés, mantras, modern theories, are somehow a repackaging of an over thousand year old truth.
Aren’t Emotional Intelligence theories and books nothing but Socrates (469 BC – 399 BC) “Know Thy Self”?
Isn’t one of the oldest Chinese sayings “You can’t manage what you can’t measure the basis of many of the KPI management books of today?
Isn’t Sun Tzu (554 BC, 496 BC) and his Art of War, the basic of SWOT analysis?
Isn’t the old saying “A Happy worker is a productive worker” a summary of dozens of motivation theories?
And the list goes on…

These examples are thousands of years old. The main difference may have been that when their authors wrote them, their main purpose was to spread wisdom; it was literature for the sake of literature. Socrates didn’t need nor cared about how much money he will make out of it or if his writings will be on the “Best Seller” list.

Speaking of Socrates’ timeless wisdom, one of my all favorite stories about him which if more people adopt its basics, the world will absolutely be a much better place and relationships will be much purer.

The story goes…”In ancient Greece, Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem. One day an acquaintance met the great philosopher and said, “Do you know what I just heard about your friend?”

“Hold on a minute,” Socrates replied. “Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be good idea to take a moment and filter what you’re going to say. That’s why I call it the triple filter test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”

“Well, no,” the man said, “actually I just heard about it and…”

“All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now, let’s try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?”

“Umm, no, on the contrary…”

“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about my friend, but you’re not certain it’s true. You may still pass the test though, because there’s one filter left—the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?”

“No, not really.”

“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true, nor good, nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”

As a final note, the key to success is starting with the basics. The beauty of basics is that they’re simple, timeless, and never go obsolete.

Lama Makarem


  1. By Lama Makarem

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