Life. Love. Career: Learning the Hard Way … with Pramuk Manchanyake

Nandasiri Jasentuliyana,**  reviewing Lessons Learnt The Hard Way: A Conversation About Life Love And Career, by Pramuk Manchanayake

Love, heartache, and euphoria wrapped in a treasure trove of the author’s life experiences narrated within these pages depict the lonely abyss and the dizzy heights of glory that people experience.

In Lessons Learnt, Pramuk Manchanayaka has brought forth a brilliant publication interweaving the rich and varied experiences of his life and times. It is a well written, captivating publication that affirms the depth of humanity’s relationships.

The author introduces himself as a son of three continents, a Sri Lankan, born and raised in Australia, and now living in the United States. He readily admits that he has no special credentials to write on a highly psychology-oriented subject but points out that he experienced and lived through the subject matter covered in the book.

It is written by an Engineer who is a qualified Business major and shares his life’s experience with the reader.

In outlining his motivations for writing the book, he points out how he has felt the highest of highs in life and has lived the lowest life has to offer, from which he has learned valuable lessons. His basic idea is to share these lessons with the reader and enrich their lives with the experiences narrated in the book. In his detailed Preface, he outlines the style and structure of the book, his motivations for writing it, and who should read it.

The author has written the book in a manner for it to serve as an instructive book for the reader’s guidance. I thought that when I first read the title, much of it would be his personal story but having read it, I feel that the author has used his experiences to explain to the reader what they need to

understand about human relationships. It’s impossible to write without being influenced in some way by your life experiences, whether intentionally or not.

But the writer has mined value from his experiences rather than blindly led by them. It is more analytical than descriptive. Most of the evidence he gives us is

anecdotal, which is my favourite kind to read. I can’t speak to how scientifically valid it is, but it sure makes for fascinating reading.

New direction

This is a broad-based book for those seeking change in life. Maybe you’re at a place where you know a new direction is needed, and you just don’t know how to go about starting.

Seeking knowledge and understanding things you never understood is the most exciting thing in the world he says. He provides pointers through experience to help the reader learn to achieve a state of happiness and illustrates that it’s out there waiting for you.

This book which encompasses mental growth, physical growth, and emotional growth is the right place to begin. In this book you will learn about: mindfulness, anger management, getting rid of fear, learning to forgive, Love, relationships, and parenthood, career building and escaping the rat race.

Some of these are easy to follow and only if we are conscious of them, and others are not easy or come naturally to us. In life, we keep making the same mistake over and over again. We condition our hearts and minds to react the same way regardless of the consequences, and often we consider it the proper reaction even though it repeatedly brings undesired results.

But some of the mistakes can be avoided only if we are aware of them, and that is the purpose of the author’s pointers. Others more challenging require training our minds to reprogram the reactions that we are used to in a given situation in life. This book was written in the hope of helping each reader. The more you read, the more curious you become.

The writer relates the ups and downs in his life that he believes were the life experiences he had to cope with, which made him find answers that brought him to the point where he could share them with the reader.

What are these ups and downs he has experienced? He says his life has been a rollercoaster and goes on to say that from being one of the most popular students to being an introvert from being one of the star sportsmen to not being able to walk with braces on both legs due to a misdiagnosis of rickets and later not being able to walk due to three slip disks, torn ligaments, and broken bones. Much later, from getting paid a minimal wage to being one of the youngest directors at a 100-year-old multinational global company and then experiencing a bout of depression.

He points out how and when his world collapsed around him, he went on to find solace in gaining the one thing he wanted most, a meaningful and strong relationship with his son Seth. These he notes are things that experts in human relations write about, yet he feels he can pass on valuable guidance from those experiences regarding how to deal with some of life’s challenges.

Ownership of decisions

As an example of such guidance, he points out to the reader the importance of “taking full ownership of your decisions and life in general.” He gives the example of someone being driven and at the driver’s mercy regarding the destination and how he reaches it. Any shortcomings can be blamed on the driver, an easy way out. We are constantly blaming others for our own mistakes. Instead, he advocates moving from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat and taking charge of your life.

This is easier said than done because, as he points out, it needs a real effort from you. One has to rid yourself of the fear of failure, and he notes that one must learn to respond to failure and accept that one took the risk yourself in your life. The simple formula he gives is to take control of what you can control and let go of what you cannot. He convinces us not to control what we have no control of, and instead move forward.

As an illustration, here is some of what the author says on anger management and forgiveness. He notes that it has been said that holding onto the past is metaphorically similar to carrying around a bag of rocks with you. It serves no purpose he says, and it only affects the person carrying the bag.

Your reasons for holding onto the past may be legitimate but in reality, it only slows you down. In most such cases, the person whom you have not forgiven, has most likely moved on from their own situation and responsibilities, and it is only you who keeps the burden of carrying around this extra weight.

To move forward, we have to forgive the past. Forgiveness does not mean to forget, but there is no need to carry around painful past memories without coming to terms with them he notes. They do not serve any purpose and their only guarantee is that the carrier is burdened with the anger. Truly being the bigger person in the situation could be a life changing moment for both you and the other person.

Having expressed his understanding that all this is easier said than done, to make it easier for the reader, the writer shares a personal and difficult story about pain from his childhood which resulted in anger.

After realising this, he had to engage with a professional to correct this issue. He took part in a PTSD recovery process and the results were really beneficial. After relating the story, he says that he had not even realised how heavy the weight was since he had been used to it for so long. Addressing this issue and dropping the unnecessary load was so refreshing and life changing. Even after realising the truth about forgiveness, he says he found prasticing forgiveness to be difficult.


Therefore, he needed to find practical ways for approaching forgiveness. Among the things he recommends are to take responsibility for your own role in the event. He notes that it is easy to blame others, but one needs to be truthful about one’s own actions, realise that the past has already happened and what happened then cannot be undone now, and try to be kind instead of right.

You do not have to be right all the time. Being kind to someone rather than proving them wrong even when you know they are wrong, can actually help you more than it can help them with this act of forgiveness.

These are the gist of two examples among a plethora of indispensable traits. He suggests that you must inculcate in yourself to succeed in life.

This book offers hope, help, and direction to interested readers. Many people are just stuck wondering, “What the heck am I even doing? Am I existing or living”? Written with depth, purpose, and authenticity, this book is an essential read for anyone who is lost, struggling, or in need of inspiration and truth.

It’s incredible how one book can change your perspective on life. Millions of people worldwide have – and continue to – improve their lives based on the teachings of Dale Carnegie. In “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” Carnegie offers practical advice and techniques, in his exuberant and conversational style, for how to get out of a mental rut and make life more rewarding.

His advice has stood the test of time.

The message behind Pramuk’s book, he says, is to “help others to not only believe in yourself but also to keep your hopes and dreams alive. But also, just more than that, I want to be an encouragement to any person out there who has struggled with depression, suicidal thoughts as well as lost hope. I hope my book inspires you and motivates you to never give up.”

Pramuk has given us a delightful book of considerable importance, a carefully crafted in conversational style, much-needed study introducing a well-presented set of new, even if debatable, ideas on human relationships. While some may disagree, I am confident it will be an enriching read for anyone interested in the interpersonal fellowships

**  Nandi Jasentuliyana was at one point a Deputy Director-General, United Nations.

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One response to “Life. Love. Career: Learning the Hard Way … with Pramuk Manchanyake

  1. Sanath Jayatilaka

    At past 82 I do not think I will have the time to read the book but my batch mate Nande’s presentation likens my life although mostly spent within this lovely island. Living, anger, realizing, forgiving, suicide all thrown in. If not we fail, by ourselves and the world we owe so much to.

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