Book Review: Pearls from Sand
People in the software industry know that Karl Wiegers has a wealth of experience in software engineering, quality assurance, and SDLC in general. But they may not know that he is also a wise counselor with life lessons to share. In his recent book, Pearls from Sand, Karl parlays those lessons into an entertaining series of stories, each with a useful message.
Each story is a chapter, and each chapter is short, which makes for very convenient short segments of time required each time you pick up the book. A coffee break, for example, is a good time to read a chapter. Once you pick it up, however, you may not want to put it down.
Near the beginning, Karl launches into warnings about behaviors that reduce your credibility and people’s perception of your character. One simple example is cancelling a commitment because something came up that you’d rather attend. He quotes Oscar Wilde’s quip about cancelling for “a subsequent engagement,” which is funny in literature but not in real life.
Karl goes on to warn and encourage in areas such as “active listening” instead of converting someone’s story into my story (e.g., Oh yes, that happened to me, too, and my experience was even more amazing than yours, etc.).
Karl talks about perfectionists, expectations (managing), exercise, helping others, heroism, knowing your limits, negotiating, quality (“crap gap”), fortitude, sharing credit, leadership, knowledge-sharer vs. knowledge-conserver, teamwork, and many other important topics, each illustrated with a story or two from his personal experiences.
For example, on fortitude (“Keep Getting Up” chapter), Karl relates the story of his uncle who suffered an endless series of tragedies and defeats throughout his life. But he met each defeat with a new idea on “what to do next,” which consistently converted setbacks into triumphs. Despite a life plagued by crushing blows, the man kept up an unquenchable good humor, such that no one would ever guess the severe hardships he was enduring.
Every chapter is filled with great stories like the “Keep Getting Up” episode. One chapter is on commitment to lifelong learning (“For Whom the School Bell Tolls”), which serves to remind and inspire you, the reade, to pursue education in life, in your special talents, in whatever fulfills you, and keep pursuing it while you still draw breath. Like the other stories, it is a useful reminder of what’s important and an inspiration to go after what’s important.
Karl's stories give useful insights on how to do things better, in almost every area of life and career. I can’t summarize every chapter, but you get the idea. Each story pays back the reader amply for time spent reading. As in all Wiegers’ books, his lucid, compelling writing style helps keep the pages turning with pleasure.
This book in particular adds a rich life-experience plot line that makes every page very meaningful on a personal level. Karl’s Pearls from Sand is sort of like a cross between Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea and Lao Tsu’s Tao Te Ching, adapted for the twenty-first-century professional. Whether you’re familiar with those other books or not, you’ll gain a lot of valuable pearls of wisdom and entertaining stories from Karl Wiegers’ Pearls from Sand.