Reading Maketh a Full Man
By Shanuka Kadupitiyage
It goes without saying that the habit of reading is one of the best qualities one can cultivate in life. Not only will it unlock a plethora of new stories and experiences, but it will also allow the reader to acquire valuable wisdom acquired by others and passed down to others in the form of the written word. Thilak Piyadigama understands the importance of reading through his own life experience. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at SDB Bank, he has had an illustrious career in the field of banking, both in Sri Lanka, working in executive positions in notable banks of the country and beyond these borders working overseas in the UAE and Singapore.
An avid reader with a passion in photography, he was invited as a guest speaker by Pick a Book Sri Lanka, a community of avid readers who hold regular programmes via their Facebook page, online. One such programme is their ‘Why I Read’ series, featuring notable bibliophiles of Sri Lanka, in the hopes of sparking interest in the hobby of reading and gaining a special insight on their lives.
A passion discovered later
A fan of a number of personalities who changed the world such as Steve Jobs and Nelson Mandela, Piyadigama is certainly an avid reader who actively engages in reading to enrich his life. But in his younger years, “I wouldn’t consider myself as a reader in my younger years. In fact one of the first books that I remember reading was from University, when I had to read,” he shared. “But when I started reading for knowledge, my interest sparked, and I started reading more often. I was employed at that time and would often purchase books to read. But the nature of my work had me moving from place to place often, and so I started using digital copies of books instead because of how convenient they are.”
“Context really matters in this one,” he said. “During my stay in Singapore, when I was able to experience for myself what the country was like, I became interested in the story of Lee Kuan Yew and what he did. So I went on ahead and started reading his book, From Third World to First as one of the best books that I have ever read,” he shared. “What he did in Singapore was truly miraculous, and miracles don’t happen simply because of luck. He was able to bring Singapore, a land with hardly any natural resources into a first-world economy, in the span of thirty years, within a single lifetime.” “Whenever I read his book, I’m always half-crying,” Piyadigama added. “Because I know Sri Lanka has the potential to achieve a similar feat. Sri Lanka can still make it. Singapore have made it, and they are now enjoying the benefits.”
Applying to life
Of course, reading is not complete if it doesn’t enrich our own lives in some way. Speaking of how Yew’s book influenced his life, Piyadigama shared how by adopting Yew’s philosophies of equality, meritocratic policy and having a strict moral code.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Speaking of some other favourites of Piyadigama, the discussion quickly turned towards his experience with this best-selling book. “I think Sri Lankans as a whole, don’t write a lot compared to the western world,” he opined. “I read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” for an assignment where I had to submit a book review for the course I was following,” he shared. “We were supposed to share how the teachings of the book can apply to us in the workplace and so on. It was probably here that I discovered a love for reading,” he said, as a matter of fact. “It was an experience where I was able to improve myself on things that I was good at, and affirm certain things that I was aware of,” he shared.
Human + technology
Piyadigama is one of the leading figures when it comes to pushing Sri Lanka and its financial industry into the digital era. It was under his guidance that Sri Lanka’s first fullfledged digital bank saw the light of day. A fan of how technology enriches the life of people, Piyadigama shared his thoughts on digitisation, pointing out that, “Humans have achieved these amazing feats we see in life through using technology, which develops at an exponential rate, while our own development is more gradual. I believe that as Sri Lanka becomes a more digital nation, we will be able to make massive leaps and bounds in developing this country thanks to the increased efficiency alone.”
Piyadigama attributes his experiences with reading books about successful management through the books which he has read which allowed him to grasp concepts he experienced in his professional life and become more proficient at them. “One thing I would recommend everyone to do is to read books related to your life and field,” he added. As for other recommendations, Piyadigama shared that he believes Yew’s From Third World to First as a must-read for everyone, especially for the younger generation, especially given the current situation.
Making a change
Although Piyadigama agrees the country is not in a good place, he shared that Sri Lanka can still make a turnaround for the better, with good policy making, being disciplined in spending and borrowing as well as creating an environment that is friendly for businesses to establish in the country. Of course, this is only a snippet of the entire discussion held online with Piyadigama, a great example to how reading to apply new concepts and strengthen existing ideas in life can lead to success and enrichment in life. He along with other guests at Pick a Book Sri Lanka’s many other programmes continue to spread awareness in the value of reading. If you are interested in following these discussions, all is available on Pick a Book Sri Lanka’s official page on Facebook.