BY THE BOOK: Oltesh Thobias

TEDx speaker, coach and author Oltesh Thobias. PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • I have about 200 books in my home library and about 30 in electronic format.
  • You can gain years of experience from a book in just a matter of hours. Reading shapes our present and future.
  • Do you have feedback on this article? E-mail: [email protected]

Growing up, Oltesh Thobias did not have lofty dreams about his life. He believed that he would marry a Maasai girl, have children and lead a quiet pastoralist’s life in his small village in Tanzania just like many had done before him.

However, his commitment to pursue education changed the story of his life. Today, he is a TEDx speaker and coach and a published author of a self-development book titled From Campus to the Boardroom. He spoke to

What are the three most memorable books you have read so far and what makes them so?

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. From it I learnt that you need to give people what they want, for them to give you what you want. It does not have to be money; even a simple word of praise will do the trick. Dale says a drop of honey gathers more flies than a gallon of gold.

How To Stop Worrying And Start Living also by Dale Carnegie. I used to worry about everything, like: will I find a girl to marry me? I am not handsome, dark and tall enough; I am not a good public speaker; I was not born and raised in a rich family. What if I make a mistake at work and they fire me? And Dale said to me, “Use the law of averages to outlaw your worries. More than 90 per cent of the things we worry about will not happen.” This book restored my confidence.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. I read this book several times and the principles in the book have challenged me to do things, to achieve goals that I would not have imagined.

How many books on average do you read in a year?

On average, I read 10 books. In some cases, I read a book many times when I am using it as a reference material or when I am working on a project and need to draw some experience from the author.

What’s your ideal reading experience?

I enjoy reading a book that is written in a simple language, a book with stories, humour and real life experiences. I like reading a book that challenges me to take action at the end of every chapter.

Which is your favourite genre of books? Any reason?

I like books that talk to me about the real world and how to solve real problems by asking real questions and therefore my favourite genre would be nonfiction self-development books. John Maxwell, Brian Tracy, Pastor T.D Jakes are some of the authors whose books I enjoy reading.

What's the size of your book collection? Where do you shop for books?

I have about 200 books in my home library and about 30 in electronic format. My job involves travelling and I buy books from duty-free shops at airports. I also buy books from online stores like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and others.

Which are your two most treasured books and why? Would you lend them out?

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell. I have loaned them out, the only problem is that sometimes people do not return the books on time.

If you had the opportunity to meet three authors, dead or alive, who would they be and why?

Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill and John Maxwell. I would like to meet Dale because he had such a huge influence in my life and would like to thank him. As for Napoleon Hill, I would like to hear more stories from the 500 interviews he did with successful people when writing Think and Grow Rich. I doubt they all made it to the book. I have met John Maxwell and he is actually my mentor and I learnt many leadership skills from him. I wouldn’t pass on an opportunity to meet him because with every encounter, I always learn something from him.

Have you ever had a bad review for your work?

Not really, but I had critics who would tell me what I did well, what I could have done differently and what areas to improve.

If you had an opportunity to motivate someone to be an avid reader, what would be your pitch?

You can gain years of experience from a book in just a matter of hours. Reading shapes our present and future. It allows you to travel to different countries without boarding an aeroplane. Reading will open many doors for you and will unlock opportunities for you.

E-books versus hard copies, what is your preference and why?

I like hard copies because I can put comments on the book, I can underline and I can see it from time to time and use it as a reference. Hard copies inspire me. When I walk into my home library, seeing the books lined on the shelf gives me the pride that I am a well-read person and the motivation to keep reading the books.

If you were to choose three books as a gift, which ones would they be?

Becoming – Michelle Obama, A Long Walk To Freedom – the biography of Nelson Mandela and Leadershift by John C. Maxwell.

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