Redefine your goals to something you can control

Sales and sports are examples of two highly competitive fields. These are fields where no matter what you do, the rewards are based only on the results. Usually the winner takes all and the losers are left to rue. The winners are celebrated so much that they become glorified heroes. The losers are often fired from their jobs, benched for the next game or never get to play at the national level ever again.

In both fields, the results are not under anyone’s direct control. One salesman may remind a client of his son. So the client prefers that salesman even though another one had a better pitch. A figure skater’s score is at the mercy of 10 judges. Scores often differ by a tenth of a point between the winner and the runner-up.

Yet, so much is the disparity in rewards / punishments between closing a deal and not closing it, coming first and coming second, scoring a goal and not scoring, that the performers in these fields are stressed all the time. Eventually, they get obsessed with the results, become sore losers, no longer enjoying what they do. They become miserable with the fear of getting bad results and facing severe consequences engulfing them. All because their environment focuses too much on their output and not on their progress / effort / process. Continue reading Redefine your goals to something you can control

How to remember what you read?

We read that “Great Leaders are Great readers.” So we set up new year resolutions that say “I will read at least 10/20/50 books this year“.  Some of us even get to that number, but often we look back and can’t seem to remember any ideas from a book we really enjoyed reading and thought was great.

Most productivity Guru’s can’t list the ‘seven habits’ from the cult book, ‘Seven habits of highly effective people’ although they have read it several times and even train others on them. So how do we ensure that we not just read a book, but actually remember what is in it and make an impact in our life.

What to read?

The discussion here is relevant to non-fiction reading.

(1) Read with Purpose

Do not pick a book, because it has less pages, available in kindle or your library for free or even for the reason it is popular. Read it because you wanted to learn something from the book, that is relevant to you right now or in the immediate future. A book about what makes an ideal CEO is not relevant to you now, when you are a desk clerk. You can read that book when you are vying for that job. A book is a commitment for your time, several hours, make the investment worthwhile.

Read with a Purpose - Read to Learn
Read with a Purpose – Read to Learn

(2) References and Suggestions:

References from books that you have read and liked are great places to find books that you want to read to deepen your understanding on the topic at hand. People in relevant industries can also be a great source for suggestions. Have a list handy, and never run out of books to read.

(3) Read the book reviews/summaries to determine whether the book is relevant to you before buying them. If you haven’t learnt anything in th first 50 pages, discard the book.

What to Avoid:

(1) Information Overload:

If you are looking to start a business say export or media, read a handful of highly recommended books to get a overview of the business and get into action when you think you have a fair idea. You will never be sufficiently prepared and you will make mistakes and learn on the go. But if you try to read every single book in the market on the subject before you take any action, you are probably just using additional information as a crutch to postpone taking real action. Start with what you have and improvise.

(2) Distraction:

Unlike spending time in a chatroom or social media, reading a book requires a fair bit of focus. Allocate a dedicated time of the day, even if it is just 10-20 mins to read without distractions.

(3) Multitasking:

Research says multi-taskers perform worse than drunk people on cognitive tasks. We have all been the kid (at least I have been) who insisted on writing the homework in front of the TV and ultimately finished it under the school desk when teacher comes checking. If you are serious about the topic, avoid multi tasking. Listening to audio books while driving is still okay because of this.

The myth of Multi-tasking
The myth of Multi-tasking

How to Read:

(1) Skim the Book:

To start with, skim the book, look at the index, read the intro, see the info graphics, quotes and get a fair idea of what the book is about.

(2) Question:

Read the Headings, sub-heading and write down the questions that arise in your mind on reading that. For Ex: Rule 1 of Rich Dad, Poor Dad is that “Rich Dad don’t work for Money”. Here the question in my mind is, “So what is it that they work for?” List down your questions from the activity of skimming.

(3) Read to answer the questions you have noted down. Skip topics that you are familiar with already. For eg, case studies, research conclusion, stories that you have already read in greater detail earlier.

(4) Highlight and annotate with symbols ( $ for value, “” for quotable quotes etc) relevant points that you will want to come back for reference.

(5) After finishing every chapter, spend 30 sec to mentally review its contents in your head. You may also write a 2 line summary.

(6) If you are unable to recollect any of the points during review, go back and read the relevant portion only.

(7) Write a short summary at the end of the book after finishing it.

How to Remember:

(1) Use Acronyms:

Dan and Chip Heath are great at using an acronym to put their ideas together. For their book ‘Made to Stick‘, they used the analogy, ‘SUCCESS’, for ‘Decisive’ they used ‘WRAP’. This makes it far easier to recollect the main points in the book.

In the movie, ‘Evan Almighty‘ the director even when all the way to make ‘random act of kindness’ into ‘Act of Random Kindness’ to fit the acronym of ARK. That’s how powerful an acronym is.

(2) Use Analogies:

We have studied the earth to be a sphere/ball, the electrons move around nucleus like planets revolving around sun etc. The analogies help us form a picture of what we don’t know through what we know and can be a great tool of understanding.

(3) Use Feynman technique:

Teach it to a 5 year old.  Remove all jargons and simplify the concept so much that you teach it to a 5 year old or even better babies 🙂

Feynman Technique
Feynman Technique – Teach it to the kids

(4) Think through and discuss:

When I thought of this or any topic to write, I usually find enough ammunition to write from just one article or a video. But when I refer multiple videos or articles  and combine them together into coherent post becomes a bigger task than transcribing one video. But this is the one way through which I am able to contribute to the post as well absorb the maximum about the topic at hand. So think through the topic after collecting various facts, opinions and discuss or write about it to imbibe understanding rather than just parrot what you heard.

(5) Implement:

Nothing makes you remember a topic, as much as when you implement the learning from it at the earliest. Since we have already picked a topic that is most relevant to us, it should not be too difficult. Is it a cook book, go try one recipe, Is it a book on Yoga, schedule your Yoga session, Is it a book on social conversations, ‘Say Hi to the stranger and try out some tips you just learnt.’

Conclusion:

It’s not what you get out of the book, its ultimately what the book gets out of you that matters. So read something that matters, think through it and get the ball rolling.

Inspired by John Spence, Proactive Thinker and Will Shroeder


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To Buy or To Rent? That is the Question !!

This could be a million rupee question based on what is it you intend to buy or rent? In this post I’ll try to cover various category of assets and both financial and non financial aspects of this question.

Rent Vs Buy
Rent Vs Buy

Immovable Assets :

For Most of us, the only immovable asset we will own is our home or utmost a piece of land. We have all been told stories of how somebodies grandfather bough a tiny piece of land several years ago for a tiny pittance, far away from the city and lo right now it is the heart of the expanded bustling city, fetching several crores.  We feel inspired by the story and go home hunting.

Pro’s of Buying/Con’s of Renting:

  1. EMI’s enable an automatic saving month on month. So if you are a spend thrift, this might just be the kind of commitment that you require.
  2. Appreciation of home prices is huge plus. We lock in on  the prices at time of booking and can enjoy the appreciation that comes with the property.  There are stories of people who pre-booked apartments in metros with a token amount of 1 Lakh, flipped it over during the time of possession and made several times their initial investment. Personally, I think times of such appreciation for real estate is long gone.
  3. Provides a sense of comfort to be able to choose the schools and offices/business nearby for long terms.
  4. Flexibility in decorating/modifying the house to exactly fit our needs.

Con’s of Buying/ Pro’s of Renting:

  1. The pressure of monthly EMI’s have killed many brilliant startups even before they started. So if you are planning on a change of career, starting up on your own, managing cash flows with huge EMI’s can be a big detriment.
  2. Land or property needs good maintenance over a period of time making it one of the most difficult assets to own remotely. Frequent Cleaning can cost as much as one time clean up cost of unmaintaned flats.
  3. Laws are fudgy and weak to implement. One can practically do little to evict delinquent renters from the property.
  4. Carry costs such as property maintenance, homeowners insurance, unexpected repairs are often ignored.
  5. Even though you may enjoy the appreciation in the property, interest paid is a huge opportunity cost. The increased square foot rate in the area may not translate into gains for older properties.
  6. Property appreciation is not guaranteed. New structures such as Flyover near the property or alternate highway cause the prices to fall down. Govt. acquisition for infrastructure or expansion projects can not be ruled out either.
Buy Vs Rent
Buy Vs Rent

Real Estate – My Opinion:

While increase in prices, may be a good plus for property, no non financial asset should be purchased solely for investment purpose. Would living in this house enhance the quality of your and your family members for the next foreseeable future(like till children finish school), if so go ahead and buy it. But moving out of the city, increasing the everyday commute time to work, increasing your financial burden solely to have your name board on a piece of property may not be a wise idea.

Remember most people, websites and experts that convince you that buying is unequivocally good are trying to sell you something.

Movable Property Aka Vehicles/Furniture:

In today’s era, it is very easy to rent a bike/car and even furniture and appliances. So if the supplier is making money by renting it out or we losing money by hiring it? In the long run, is it cheaper to buy or lease?

Pro’s of Buying/Con’s of Renting:

  1. Removal of dependency on some other service provider or person like a drop/travel in emergency.
  2. When Furniture/Car/Appliance is used for throughout its life time, it makes more economic sense to buy. For example, Fridge compressor come with a 10 year warranty, Teak Furniture like Beds, 20 year warranty mattress can last a very long time, even decades. To pay a fixed rent for such a long time makes  no sense. Classic limited edition cars even go up in value.
  3. While I can leave my car dented as long as I want to, I have to compulsorily pay a penalty for even cosmetic damages in a vehicle I have rented for a short while.

Con’s of Buying/ Pro’s of Renting:

  1. In Mumbai atleast, I have seen people change furniture every few years and want to be trendy, unlike south where most furniture only play a utilitarian role. So for the fashion conscious homes can consider renting rather than going through the hassle of buying and reselling furniture year on year. The same goes with the car too. It is easier to upgrade to higher end model when you are renting it.
  2. City commute is best in a hatchback, Sedan is useful on long trips and SUV’s are the go to for both family trips as well adventure trips. We do all of this in a year, and we can without having to compromise or own so many cars by renting all or buying the most frequently used and renting the others.
  3. Bike rentals have made commute possible in many places like Goa, Rishikesh,Manali and Leh in India. The bikes are well maintained and available with minimal documentation, allowing us the comfort of flying to our holiday destination as well as commuting on our own locally.
  4. In a temporary posting of two/three months, it is beneficial to rent all the furniture and appliances along with the house.
  5. Temporary needs like A/C or Air Cooler during peak summer may be more cost efficient than buying.
  6. Can be added quickly for temporary requirements like temporary live in guests for a few months.
Car - Buy Vs Rent
Car – Buy Vs Rent

Movable Assets – My Opinion:

In general, depreciable assets are best paid for on usage basis unless the pay as you go options are disproportionately costlier compared to their buy price or have heavy usage. With advent of numerous startups, everything is on hire at a reasonable price. We are lucky to live in era with so many options and we should make the best use of them.

Business Assets:

Any asset, or item that is bought with the view of making money from it or is central to the running of your business may be considered as a Business Asset. This could be a second home bought for rental income, a shop for own business, vehicles for the purpose  of renting out etc.

“An Asset is one that puts money in your pocket.” – Robert Kiyosaki

Does yours, even if not immediately, atleast soon enough.

Location dependent businesses like restaurant, salons where primarily your customers come to you because of proximity should either enter in long term leases or own their property to avoid sudden increase in costs. Elimination of fundamental risks to the existence of business warrants additional expenditure. However do not take this step in the initial days when your idea or business is still unproven.

Conclusion: Buy or Rent

The choice of buy vs rent depends on preferences and usage patterns. Buying is a high/medium impact decision, when compared to renting which is a low impact decision. The Startups that rent out these assets/services ensure optimum utilisation of the assets and is truly a Win/Win situation. Today’s thriving startups have filled our life with plenty of choices. Choose Well. Choose Wisely.

Escaping the seduction of social media

When it comes to using a smartphone, I am a vetaran. This is my 9th year with an Android phone. I started from the November of 2010 with a Samsung Galaxy S running Android 2.2 Eclair. My latest phone, Honor 7, runs Oreo 8.1. I have seen my usage patterns over nearly a decade and boy, I know what addiction to a smartphone, especially to social media means. The compulsions were many. Photos had to be shared on Instagram instantly. Wherever I was, I felt the urge to check in using Swarm. I repeatedly checked my Facebook timeline for the latest from everyone and I too constantly updated my latest status. WhatsApp was constantly buzzing on my phone. My addiction peaked between 2011 – 2014.

Since then, with the help of several habit-building podcasts and books, I have successfully set up habits to de-addict myself. These habits have been so successful that I don’t touch my phone for three hours after waking up. Nor do I touch my phone between 8:30 am to 5 pm on days when I am busy with my freelance work. Finally, I have a compulsory ‘turn off all electronic screens’ time after 10 pm. My laptop shuts down automatically if I don’t stop working.

None of the methods I suggest is radical. They are simple habits that make it hard for you to get to your social media apps. If you are an addict, then this post will attempt to cure you of social media addiction too. Please let me know if they work for you. Continue reading Escaping the seduction of social media

How well does Fundamental Analysis Work?

We have reviewed atleast three books on Fundamental analysis: One Upon Wall Street – Peter Lynch, Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham and How to Avoid Loss and Earn Consistently in Stock Market by Prasanjit Paul . Hence I wanted to give you a neutral perspective and show you the other side of Fundamental Analysis. Continue reading How well does Fundamental Analysis Work?

Nail your hands-off tasks to get more hands-on

If you are making a vegetable pulav, do you boil the rice first or chop the vegetables? If you want to learn Android, do you download the software first or start reading the tutorials? If you answered the first choice in both cases, then you are on the right track. You have the ability to spot invisible, trivial, but important tasks that need to be kick-started and performed in the background, while you move onto focus-requiring important tasks.

Life is full of tasks where you pay active attention to what you are doing. You can only do one, or at most two, such activities at a time. Let’s call them hands-on tasks. However, some other tasks chug along merrily in the background not seeking your undivided attention. But they need you to kick-start them before you walk away. Ideally, you want the results of such tasks to be ready by the time you are done with your hands-on tasks. These tasks are called hands-off tasks.

Often, the most productive days in your life are when you remember to start the hands-off tasks, with their results waiting for you when you need them. You sail smoothly from one activity to another in a seamless fashion.

Continue reading Nail your hands-off tasks to get more hands-on

Choices and Impact

Choice: This or That

When I was a child, No one just asked us “Who is your favourite actor?”. They always asked Do you like Rajinikanth or Kamalhassan? Our prime time debates with panels were of topics like: What is good: Nuclear Family or Joint Family? Or Who is the better warrior – Arjuna or Karna? We were expected to pick a stand and argue our best. We spent considerable time arguing over these topics without ever having one person to our side from the other.

In ancient times, the question was like – Who is the more powerful God – Shiva or Vishnu? Today the questions have just been modified and become – Who is a better cricketer – Dhoni or Kohli ? or Who is a bigger star – Sharukh or Salman? Continue reading Choices and Impact

Book Summary: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith

Title: What got you here won’t get you there
Author: Marshall Goldsmith
Publisher: Hachette books
ISBN-10: 1781251568
ISBN-13: 978-1781251560
Buy here: Amazon.in | Amazon.com

Introduction

Marshall Goldsmith is a behaviour coach in leading companies. His day-to-day life involves working with CEOs of top companies, entrepreneurs, top lawyers and dignitaries. Goldsmith takes these already successful people and makes them more successful. How can he do that? Is he an engineer? A businessman? A mystic?

None of these. Goldman has discovered that for the people who are already in the top 2 percentile in their field, further growth is not limited by skill or lack of magic. Instead it is limited by their own behaviour. The way they behave with themselves, their colleagues, their families and their support group influences their success. Goldsmith describes 20 habits that act as a hindrance to further growth of these already highly successful people. With these habits, people stand in their own way. Some of them hit a plateau, while a few of them self-destruct, throwing away their careers and relationships. Continue reading Book Summary: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith


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The myth of Garbage in, Garbage out

Recently, I read the post Avoiding the GIGO trap, by author and marketing guru Seth Godin. It mentions how several systems punish the user by rejecting inputs not suited for those systems. A seasoned or a highly qualified user usually learns how to use such a system properly through experience or through a high level of aptitude for that system, but the rest of the world continues to struggle to even gain entry. Usually the users come to know about these limitations ONLY after their input is rejected after a lot of hard work or when a sub-standard input causes the system to come crashing down on them.

Seth Godin points out that these systems try to obsess with ‘Garbage In, Garbage Out’ principle. He argues that is not a good thing. Examples of such systems include computer programming languages, some top-rated schools in India and Formula race cars. We’ll see why in the sections that follow. Continue reading The myth of Garbage in, Garbage out

Be your own guest

India is a country with several thousands of communities based on language, religion and native region. In the modern Indian workplace, it is difficult to tell one community from another. However, pick a few sample individuals and visit their homes. The lifestyle they live at home says a lot about the community they hail from. Given the same level of household income, some communities treat themselves like royalty, while others intentionally deprive themselves, calling it frugality. They only loosen up when guests visit them. Continue reading Be your own guest