Books and Me: Stephen Hawking: My Brief History, A Memoir

Book Title: Stephen Hawking: My Brief History, A Memoir

Author: Stephen HawkingHawking_My_Brief_History Book Cover

A short but scintillating memoir! I must confess that a lot of the book is written for a physicist by a celebrated one from their fraternity. He has made the book pretty much a quick two hour run through for even a moderately paced reader. If you are the quick reading type, you will finish it in less time than that.

Highly recommended for a person who is involved in Physics, Cosmology, Astronomy, etc and for all others read the book more for the story. You can easily skip / scan large portions of the book even if you don’t understand them and may be finish faster too. But here are few things that I took away even though I didn’t understand much of the physics related portions:

  • The book is brutally honest
  • Prioritization: Facing the possibility of an early Death and that too when you are 21 years old is not something that many want to even hear about. But the author’s life changed on this discovery. It is yet another inspiring tale of one who faced death in the face and lived a full life. Should we not learn from others experiences? A lesson that the author clearly wants the reader to take away.
  • Meaningful Life: The thirst to do something meaningful with life, especially knowing that you are going to live for a limited time is an important learning. A meaningful life is not created if we don’t figure out what will give us meaning in our lives – a very personal thing. The author’s story tells us how he wanted to take on the big questions that would contribute something to the field, a clear lesson to figure the big challenge that you want to handle in life, which will eventually give life some meaning.
  • Focus: The author’s ability to focus on theoretical physics and make an effort to remain in the area even when lots of options were available for experimental physics is, one huge learning for all of us. In the author’s case he also made the choice considering his inherent strengths and weakness. This awareness of your SWOT makes gaining focus; easier said than done!
  • Narrowing the opportunity window: This is something that I have been talking about to almost everyone I meet, especially in entrepreneurship and small business. The author’s identification of the area of work, by identifying the space of physics that was available to make a significant contribution; which did not have too much work done, provided him the chance to meet fresh findings and contribute to the development of the subject. Finding your area of work is an important task which one must not cut short to start the journey.

While everyone is bound to find inspiring lessons from the little book, two groups are sure to find great value:

(a)    The Physicists – The memoir of one of the most celebrated scientists in their field sharing how he went about finding his area of work, how he connected with the right people and how he kept his focus on his goal, is truly inspirational material.

(b)   The Differently-abled – While the author does make a case for everyone with a limitation to overcome it, I believe no one must think they have less or more abilities. Everyone is born with some clear strength. Why see them through a lens of the societal-average / others? This story is a clear example that if a human being intentions, he / she can achieve any goal and overcome any handicap, irrespective of depth of the challenge.

Overall a short but truly inspiring, highly recommended book for all who feel they are not adequately endowed for a meaningful life.


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