A couple of months ago, I was invited to review “What would you do? If this was your last day on earth?” a book by Robertson Sy Tan. There are many self-help-slash-autobiographical books out there, and not many have captured my interest as much as this one did.
What the Book Is About
What started as a farewell email to colleagues turned out to be the beginning of an idea for a book for Mr. Tan. As he was turning 50, he decided to set out to write about everything that he has learned as an entrepreneur. With the goal of inspiring others, Mr. Tan outlined the seven lessons life has taught him.
Mr. Tan’s philosophy revolves around a single idea: if today was your last day on earth, what would you do? This idea has empowered many philosophers, artists, and other thought leaders in history. By contemplating his mortality every day, Mr. Tan has managed to keep a nothing-to-lose mindset that emboldened him to reach for his dreams.
“Do Not Seek Praise. Seek Criticism”
While the rest of the book was insightful, one chapter resonated with me. “Sometimes, the most expensive advice you may receive is free advice,” Mr. Tan wrote in the sixth chapter (the fifth lesson). I read this at a time when I was struggling with a personal issue with a colleague, and it was just what that I needed to hear.
“If there’s anything you need to know about success is that it isn’t always easy,” he wrote. “There will always be people who’ll make life difficult. There will always be people whose goal is to make your life miserable. But these people are almost always the reason why we succeed. If it weren’t for their constant belittling of us, we won’t develop the mental toughness which is key to overcoming so many hurdles in life.”
As long as there are people, there will always be talk. We don’t have to listen to every piece of advice or every piece of nasty criticism. We only need to discern which types of feedback should be acknowledged, and which are not helpful. Take criticism gracefully, and learn from it so you would improve.
This book was nothing like the autobiographies I’ve read in the past. The author chose to publish photos of his family and his colleagues, which made the book all the more endearing. It was less of a book and more of an invitation to his life: I felt like I was talking to an uncle or a family friend about life and business.
After reading the book, Mr. Tan has earned my respect for his positive outlook and unrelenting optimism. In particular, I admire him for his advice on how to treat staff members: “We treat everyone with respect and try our best to help everyone reach their full potential. If you treat your team well, they will be motivated and will develop a sense of commitment to the team.”
A Final Note
If you’re thinking of putting up your own business and are still hesitating to take the first step, read this book. In this review, I’ve only covered some of the ideas that I found relevant to my current situation, but I’m sure that you’d pick up something from it as well. It’s an informative and refreshing read.
On a personal note, I must say that reading this book increased my confidence in my decision to persevere in my own business. I hope that it will inspire you to do the same. (If you’re thinking of starting a business but not sure where to start, send me a message or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
For more recommendations, read my other book reviews.