Catalyst – Book Review

Catalyst – Book Review

What makes a great career? Are the different jobs that you do in quick succession over a period of years? Or a series of jobs out of which a couple could give you disproportionate success? Well, I do not have the answers. I believe a great career happens when talent, opportunity, and luck come at the right time. However, all of these would be futile without your own sweat. Of all the variables mentioned above, the only thing in your hands is your talent and your ability to sweat it out.

Chandramouli’s book “Catalyst” will give you insights on how to win at work and in life. Also how one can exercise career growth in real terms.

I have fascinated with some of the one-liners presented in this books, which in reality have very deep meaning.

  • Career Growth in real terms is when you have Real Individual Growth
  • Time spent at work is not equal to experience.
  • The impact of work on life is lower than the impact of life on work.
  • One of the greatest success factors at work is our ability to covert time and activity into an experience.
  • Be at your best. Broaden the Lens and be the thought leader.

With this blog, I am sharing a few things that resonated deeply with me.

Target Measure Review Reflect (TMRR) Model:

Mouli shares a very simple thought on what constitutes “experience” and how do you build it within your job so as to make it a saleable skill. The only way to broaden the scope of your learning is to be proactive, ask for more projects beyond your scope of work. It also speaks about building the ability to reflect as a habit. Reflection is a habit that will make you ask, “What could I have done better? “ In addition, it is important to build this habit as a part of your muscle memory.

Learning Cycles:

At some point in your career, it is important to be a part of a big learning cycle within your organization. That can scale up your experience and your skills disproportionately. It will also prepare you for your next higher role within your current role itself. If you do not get this organically, be pro-active and let the organization know that you WANT to be a part of it. Successful people seemed to have participated in more major learning cycles than those who are less successful and have extracted more experience and real individual growth out of learning cycles.

Circle of Influence:

Most of us, irrespective of levels, want to do everything ourselves. Mouli (taking reference to Stephan Covey’s concept), in this part, shares how important it is to identify things within your circle of influence and spend a large amount of time on things that you can control, influence, and whose output you are directly responsible for. It is important to build a team, empower it and let them do their job. It will free your mind to focus on your essentials and your strategic initiatives.

Rocks First Method:

Deal with the important issues first. He explains it beautifully with a “Rocks and Sand in a jar “story. The net takeaway is that 80-85% of your time needs to be devoted to key issues (Rocks). Plan for it in a structured manner and prioritize execution. The 15-20% of irrelevant (but still important to do – Sand) still need to be done but they need to be done last.

Win where it matters:

This thought says that a career is like a game with two halves. The FIRST half is the “less at stake” stage where even if you do the basics, one will succeed most of the time. Most people will win in this half. It is the SECOND half of the career that matters the most. This half is categorized by higher involvement by seniors, more accountability at an organization level, high level of decision-making that can impact the fortunes of the organization. It is hence we need to win the second half.

A decision to Quit and Join:

When to quit the current organization and what to join next are not simple decisions to make. Both these decisions need to be taken independently of each other. In my opinion, these are key decisions, especially in the second half of your career, and ones that could determine a win or lose outcome for you.


Mouli ends “Catalyst” with a few thoughts devoted to identifying what are “values” and how important they are in determining if you will eventually be successful. Different people grow up with different value systems and it is important to work in an organization, which is in harmony with your values. Values help us to find our purpose. I personally resonate with the values of Integrity & Humility.

Two critical aspects of life:

(1) Developing a hobby, you are passionate about and which will help you to meet achievement needs.

(2) Deepening your value system and developing lodestar values.

The above are my personal takeaways from the “Catalyst” and hopefully, some of them might resonate with you. Maybe you will have your own unique experiences. Happy and enriching reading.

PS: The said book is written by author Chandramouli Venkatesan who has a 27-year track record in the Indian industry across sectors.

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