The Learning Curve | Book Review – Skill It, Kill It: Up Your Game by Ronnie Screwvala

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July 25, 2021 3:30 AM

A guide to acquiring necessary soft skills to mould one’s career, peppered with advice from successful leaders.

Skill It, Kill ItScrewvala admits quite frankly that he was not a great success in academics, but was determined to succeed and never took reverses negatively.

Skill It, Kill It, as the title suggests, is a book that tells you how to use your skills to further your career and do well in life. But Screwvala has a twist here, as he talks of soft skills that are needed to mould your career. This is an interesting take because rarely do we think seriously about this issue. Often, we like to be known as being the best in running a business or starting a new venture or being a wiz in trading. But are we good in these finer skills, which actually give us an edge?

This is what Screwvala explores based on his experiences. The book is a good read, and you must ask yourself the questions that he poses in every chapter. Do you follow the rules or are you like others? This matters, as we can differentiate ourselves following these soft skills tips. Like when he tells us that you should never interrupt a person who is talking—which we often do as we think we know what the person wants to say—as we could be missing out on a lot.

Another intuitive example given is of an interview, where the interviewer asks at the end if one has any questions. We tend to go prepared with the queries, but the ones who stand out are those who question the content of the interview, which shows their involvement.

It is these skills that he puts in this book which make it interesting. Being from the media, he evidently has panache in putting across ideas. He quotes several leaders in the book, including Sanjeev Mehta, Harsh Goenka, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Amitabh Kant, etc. They have their own takes on these skills and give several examples of their lives.

One skill that stands out is communication. This is very important in business life, and both written and verbal skills need to be honed. Being to the point and not pushing it too much while speaking is important, given that the other person needs to know what we are driving at. Some leaders are very good when executing, but are not able to communicate with their teams and, hence, are not successes with people, which finally matters the most. He guides as to how we should communicate in groups, whether it is a small team or a townhall. Telling stories is important to keep people engaged as everyone likes to hear a good relevant tale. Personal experiences help a lot here to drive home the point.

Screwvala admits quite frankly that he was not a great success in academics, but was determined to succeed and never took reverses negatively. Losing money when he held his first rock concert actually egged him on to take on more ventures, and his experiences with TV channels, which we are all familiar with, are resounding success stories. He has little tales to tell us why successful people do not whine all the time and uses Shah Rukh Khan’s example. While shooting for Swades, he went through a lot of physical discomfort shooting in a village. Ask yourself how often do we keep cribbing in our offices, instead of focusing on our careers. That’s how we miss several opportunities with negativity.

He uses Vijay Shekhar Sharma’s example of a non-metro person who has achieved as much as his urbane counterparts just through hard work and dedication to one’s life goal. The message is that we don’t have to be English-speaking and convent- or public school-educated to excel. Often, employers prefer a non-urban candidate with all other things being equal as it is believed that a person who has struggled with disadvantages will turn out to be a more effective worker.

Another interesting issue he tackles is work-life balance. This is something which comes up regularly when we do a self-assessment. Here, his take is that you need to ask yourself if doing what you do charges you or drains you. The answer is there then for one to pick. If work really excites you, one will never feel that there is something amiss, while if it sucks, then it will. This makes a lot of sense, and one should ideally not be counting hours on what one is doing as long as one enjoys it.

Yes, life is changing and unless one is in a public-sector job, one can’t be sure of certainty. In this world, one has to continuously reskill and adapt to the changes and, hence, learning is a continuous process. This is what we have to do, and it is really up to us. Those who get left out are the ones who have not been able to learn. We can look for mentors to guide us, but have to ensure that they do not become crutches.

This is a very readable book that you can identify with. It is based on first-hand experiences and there are no references, which at times can get odious. This is straight from the heart and should be read to identify self-weaknesses and correct them. You don’t find this in any course in school or college, and this book guides you well.

Madan Sabnavis is chief economist, CARE Ratings

Skill It, Kill It: Up Your Game
Ronnie Screwvala
Penguin Random House
Pp 165, Rs 299

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