10 Must Reads for Ex-Defence People

There are some critical learnings which I felt the need for when I shed my Armed Forces uniform and entered the professional corporate world.

These wonderful books / resources helped me a lot to acquire these learnings.

  1. S.T.R.I.P.T.E.A.S.E. – by Mukul Deva – Applying principles learnt in the Service to a career in civil: I read this book whilst still fresh out of the Army. The book was an immense confidence booster.

Here was another Indian ex-fauji, telling us how he successfully adapted the basic principles learnt from the Armed Forces (Selection and Maintanance of Aim, Concentration, Economy, etc.) to ensure success in civil. One could easily relate to the examples. It’s a short book and a MUST read.


  1. Accounting Videos at Youtube – The Basics of Accounting: In the Army, without a formal education in accounting, I only vaguely understood accounts. Soon after starting a company, I felt the need to really understand accounting. Unlike lot of other material I went through, this brilliant 19 Part video series by Craig Pence actually taught me what accounting was. For the first time, I actually understood what assets (things) and liabilities (ownership of things), credits and debits actually were. I have since been able to not just to oversee accounts effectively but to even keep accounts myself.

Accounting Lecture 01 – Basic Concepts, by Craig Pence – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wu6bUFWaNZo

Accounting Lecture 02 Part 1 – Recording Transactions, by Craig Pence – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-OajEINdsc

… All 19 videos are available on Youtube.

  1. Learning to Read a Balance Sheet – Romancing the Balance Sheet – by Dr. Anil Lamba.


A balance sheet is not just easy to understand, but a fascinating story of the life of a company over a given  period. It tells you the Company’s strengths and problems, its current situation and future prospects. Understanding balance sheets can help you take good investing decisions and be a better business owner / self-employed professional. Prefereably read this  after going through the accounting videos, but go ahead and read this first if you so wish.

  1. Computers (IT – Information Technology): Knowing computers well is an absolute must in civil, irrespective of your job / profession. There is no single resource I could find which covered all of it. Further, I found that the type of level of IT understanding one needed varied from one industry to another.

I found that it was important to be a good ‘user’. Knowing Word, Power Point and Excel was not enough. What if you want to put up your own website, or use Google Analytics or Google Hangouts, Google Apps, Godaddy, Siteground, Amazon Web Services, etc.

There is just so much on computers and IT that it is difficult to classify something as the best. However, you could select from these resources, depending on your level and interest.

The Absolute Beginner: http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/connect/BBC_First_Click_Beginners_Guide.pdf

– Learning Pictorially – Access, Excel, Power Point, Word and Google Apps: http://inpics.net/

– Moving Beyond MS Office:  Learn Computer Basics Tutorial for Beginners – Part 1


– Getting Absolutely Technical: http://www.learnerstv.com/Free-Computer-Science-video-lecture-courses.htm

Look for courses at Udacity.org, coursera.org, stanfordonline.com ..

  1. The New Rules of Selling – http://www.slideshare.net/freshspot/the-new-rules-of-selling-38281832

In civil, everyone sells – you sell your or your company’s products & services, you sell yourself as a job applicant, you sell your ideas, and so on. Selling is a survival skill in civil.

The New Rules of Selling is an amazing Slideshare presentation, which is an eye opener on how social media drives marketing and sales today’s connected world.

Another great book is Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A Moore – a Book on how to sell High Tech Products to mainstream customers.


Whilst the book is particuarly relevant to technical sales – it also explains the underlying beliefs of buyers. Once you understand how a customer thinks, half the problem is solved. This book has actually helped my company sell software services better.


What Color is Your Parachute
  1. Marketing: I too went through “Marketing Management”, the standard volume on marketing by Philip Kotler and Kevin Lane Keller. The examples in this book heavily favor large enterprises but one has to apply this to micro / small enterprises, which is what a fahji usually starts with.

Since reading Keller and Kotler is quite task, here is a slideshare presentation on Marketing which covers the relevant points http://www.slideshare.net/nusantara99/marketing-mnagement  

  1. The $100 Startup – Micro-entrepreneurship – I strongly believe in doing work that I enjoy and this is what Chris Guillebeau talks of in this book. A most enjoyable and inspiring book, for anyone who wants to start a business with almost nothing!


  1. What Color is Your Parachute – How to conduct a successful job search. Almost everyone does a job initially in civil. I did a job too and found that this timeless classic, was very relevant. Job changes are inevitable in the corporate world. It pays to remain prepared when one needs to look for a new job.


  1. The 10 Day MBA: Jargon is very important to a profession – just as a person in defence would be ineffective if he does not use military terms, so also a person from defence is less effective, if he does not understand and use industry jargon. The 10 Day MBA covers this very well. If you are an MBA already, you may not need this.


  1. Un-learning to Re-Learn: This book, for faujis, does not exist yet :-). It is however required.

Why should ex-faujis continue to live in the past? Should we all not have achievements in the present to talk about?

We need to retain all good things from our great past, whilst remaining ready to re-learn:

– Fauj meant making the best within resources available. Asking for more was discouraged. In civil, doubling resources might be another good means of quadrupling output.

– In fauj, one learnt to make the best of the team one had – and that is an excellent quality, but in civil one can even choose the best team. So why not leverage this whilst also making the best.

In fauj we learnt to train our team – in civil we get frustrated if people do not appreciate our trying to train them. So why not learn to choose people who either trainable or already trained instead.

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