Catalyst - How to Win at Work and in Life

Published on July 5, 2018

I didn’t like this book for the way it seems to teach everyone to climb the career ladder, and How to Win.

But, the book is enlightening in many ways. A great book to improve yourself individually in your work function, and knowing what true leadership is.

Experience is NOT Time

We often equate work experience as eg. “number of years doing software development”.

But what if that 10 years of doing xxx is like “10 years of experience in walking?”

There is no learning in 10 years of walking (unless you are a racewalking athlete).

Defining experience as time spent does not describe your learning model. It does not powerfully measure the learnings gained in that period.

Practise TMRR - Target Measure Review Reflect

End-to-end project a.k.a. learning cycle maximize your learning efficiency.

  • Learning algorithm
  • Increase productivity

Your work has 2 circles: circle of influence & circle of concerns (which you cannot do much about, so don’t waste time).

Building Foundation in 1st Half

Early stage is the only time you can learn the foundations. Don’t mind doing the “dirty work”. You won’t (or can’t) have such opportunity in late stage.

Most people made the mistake and avoided foundation building during the early stage, and climbed too fast too early.

If you see your career as 2 halves, scoring in 1st half (while expanding all your energy) does not ensure you will win in full time. Watch a World Cup to understand.

There are only 2 reasons to join/quit:

  1. Learning experience (growth)
  2. Culture and values (fit)

Generally you should have a long stint in a company as it has exponential learning experience (you built on your past learnings).

There is more impact of life on work than work on life. Usually work-life balance is about giving more hours from work to life, which ain’t impactful.

On the other hand, a striving passionate hobby (life) has profound impact on work.

Maslow’s pyramid for work (bottom to top):

  1. Achievement
  2. Mastery
  3. Purpose

Leaders, who have true leadership, have less opportunity for individual achievement. Therefore they have to divert their “achievement hunger” (1) towards a hobby eg. marathon, golf


Values is the catalyst in leadership.

Individual values define who you are, and how others see you. There are many, and the book quoted 2 H’s:

  1. Honesty/Integrity - Pristine honesty is what you think right, and others think wrong, and you try to make right. eg. meetings end late is a bad culture

  2. Humility - As you get promoted or achieved victory, don’t think you are a superman. Your success is built on many people, including your teachers and parents.

A leader with unselfish motivation to chasing a powerful vision will gain true followers.

While values are intrinsic, it can be improved. Make conscious effort to be better.