This book has been the most embarrassing book for me to read ever, for it showed me the mirror. In effect it was deeply revealing, it gave me a perspective into how I had been looking at several things. Dr. Carol Dweck’s research has been the most revealing and explained many of my bizarre moments of life.
Personality Mindsets: Fixed Vs Growth
People with fixed mindsets believe that abilities are frozen in stone. Most of their efforts are spent in trying to prove themselves. People with Growth Mindsets believe that we can change and improve with practice.
Title: Atomic Habits Author: James Clear Publisher: Penguin Random House ISBN-10: 1847941834 ISBN-13: 978-1847941831 Buy from:Amazon.in | Amazon.com
There is a myth and an all-pervading belief that in order to transform your life, we need to transform our behaviour in a major way and need to do is fast. To lose weight, people go on crash diets overnight. Alcoholics and addicts go cold turkey. People with no previous experience with workouts join the gym and work out so hard on day 1 that they get sore muscles.
James Clear offers us a better solution in his book Atomic Habits. He argues that in order to transform our life and add new behaviour, it is necessary to take tiny steps and let the habits build and then change one thing at a time.
Title: Left Brain, Right Stuff Author: Phil Rosenzweig Publisher: Profile Books ISBN-10: 1781251363 ISBN-13: 978-1781251362 Buy on:Amazon.com | Amazon.in
Swiss author Phil Rosenzweig talks about two modes in which our brain operates: deliberation and implementation. The process of deliberation is for carefully considering options and their outcomes. Pros and cons are weighed, the best and worst outcomes are sized up and a decision is made. With a decision made, the process of implementation is when you stop deliberating, focus on the tasks and get them done. Rosenzweig offers that the two modes are divided into the two sides of the brain: left and right. Continue reading Book Summary: Left Brain, Right Stuff by Phil Rosenzweig
I had read this book a long time back and decided to re-read it now. It is surprising how many insights I received in the process. So I have decided to summarize this classic and follow it up with all the books in the series.
Only Rule For Getting Rich:
Know the difference between Assets and Liabilities. Buy Assets.
An Asset is something that puts money in my pocket.
A Liability is something that takes money out of my pocket.
As someone from an accounting background, for a long time I was resistant about the above definition. But now when I am training myself to think like an investor, this is the only definition that makes sense. The only practical way to evaluate opportunities.
Mind Your Business:
Your profession is not your business. While working your day job, work on a side hustle, a business that you can create an asset for you over the long term.
To Become Rich: Obtain Financial Intelligence
Financial IQ is made from four broad areas of expertise
Rich spend time understanding the above and use it to their advantage to retain the money earned by them.
Financial Literate but not Rich:
Five Reasons why a Financially Literate person is not Rich:
Personally I think, it is just Fear, which wears different masks. Like the Fox that called the grapes sour, we express our Fear in different ways such as cynic (disbelief, to avoid taking action), Laziness (Fear of rejection disguised as Laziness), Bad Habits (Not following through), arrogance (Ego+Ignorance)
Rich Invent Money
Rich take calculated risks, where they have a big probability of winning with limited loss (Stocks/Options), or a small probability of winning with massive gains (Eg: Venture Capital)
Work to Learn: Don’t work for money
Look at your Job as a place to learn and hone your skills, rather than a way to earn a living. Your focus will be how to make yourself a better version of you which would automatically make you a more valuable employee, if you are learning on the job skills.
Even if you have read the book before, I suggest you to read again. This is one of the books that grows on you and gives you new lessons as you step up your game.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
(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.
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.’
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.
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
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
Warning: This book is an advanced read even for finance professionals. You must have basic knowledge on capital markets to be able to understand and appreciate the book. Like high echelons of Carnatic music, this book is a God send for those obsessed with return on and of their investment, but most others may be unable to appreciate the finesse of the mentioned points.
This book is one of Investment Classics vouched by none other than the most well-known investor of our times Mr. Warren Buffett. Most revelations in the field of investment lose relevance overtime and even prove dismal in succeeding cycles, as can be seen in some of the commentary by the supplementary author Jason Zweig (more on that later) but Graham’s principles have themselves have survived several market cycles. Infact these principles thrive on the market cyclicality. So let’s go about to explore the voluminous book.
Speculation Vs. Investment
A shareholder is a part owner of the company and has to study the business fundamentals thoroughly before deciding to put his money into it. The investor must be convinced that he is receiving more value of the company for the price he is paying. Purchasing shares with the hope that it would increase in price is speculation. A non-professional who is speculating on share prices is purely gambling. It is an exciting past time worth being pursued with only a small portion considered as fun money which you are okay to loose.
Investor’s Biggest Enemy- Inflation
A good investment must deliver an inflation beating return with an acceptable level of risk. Graham considers bonds (debt securities) as one of the most important vehicle to achieve the same. Since secure return of principal is of prime importance, Graham prefers Govt.bonds over corporate bonds as there is nil risk of default by the Government and a few additional points from corporate bonds do not justify the additional risk. However, Graham recommends buying bonds of corporates when available at a steep discount in the secondary market due to temporary adverse conditions faced by the company or market.
Two Types of Investor – Defensive and Enterprising
Myth in investing world is that you have to take higher risks to obtain higher returns. According to Graham higher returns go to the investor who actively pursues it, i.e an enterprising investor while the passive or defensive investors get average returns.
Between stocks and bonds, Graham recommends a minimum of 25% and a maximum of 75% allocation on each of them. Only investors who are prepared for a huge draw down(notional loss on quoted price) should allocate 75% on stocks at any point in time. Conservative investors may be better off with maximum allocation on bonds.
Rules for Common stock Component
There should be adequate but not excessive diversification. i.e a minimum of 10 and a maximum of 30 stocks.
Each of the selected company should be large, prominent and conservatively financed.
Each company should have a long record of continuous dividend payments of atleast 10 years.
Set a limit to max price one would pay for the stock. Suggested: Trailing 12 months PE of 20 or average of 25.
Graham in general advices against picking stocks individually as he considers an individual cannot do a better job at stock picking than the professionals who seem to do a pretty average job themselves. His preferred way of investment in equity is through index funds.
For an enterprising investor who is willing to put in more efforts into stock picking he advises following guidelines:
Financial Condition: (a) Current assets at least 1.5 times current liabilities and (b) debt not more than 110% of net current assets (for industrial companies)
Earnings Stability: No deficit in the last five years.
Dividend Record: some current dividend
Earnings growth: Last year’s earnings more than of prev years
Price: Less than 120% of net tangible assets.
Dollar(Rupee) Cost Averaging:
Such carefully selected stocks must be purchased through a monthly purchase plan of a fixed amount every month as long as the basis premise of selection holds good.
Portfolio Tracking and Updation:
The portfolio must be reviewed atleast once a year. But frequent urge to check the stock prices must be avoided.
Graham is extremely critical of companies that retain more earnings than required for growth. For the company managers to believe that they are more qualified in growing the retained earnings than the shareholders is incorrect, unproven and misaligned incentives.
My Critic on the book: The commentary of the book by Jason Zweig adds number of recent examples. However, the commentary is dated only till 2003. So the book completely skips the 2008 crash and the lessons from it. Jason Zweig has also recommends investing in junk funds as he says risk has been significantly reduced due to diversification. Diversification does not do away with systemic risks which while adequately addressed by Graham need to continue to be adhered too.
This book is a great read if you want to understand more on Asset Allocation in capital markets. For more in depth knowledge on picking stocks please read ‘Security Analysis‘ by Graham and Dodd.
Book title: Work clean – The life changing power of mise-en-place Author: Dan Charnas ISBN-10: 1623365929 ISBN-13: 978-1623365929
Buy on Amazon.in | Amazon.com
Mise-en-place is a French term that means that there is a place for everything and everything must be in its place. The use of French is because the term originated in culinary circles in France where chefs emphasise the importance of a clean and organised kitchen counter to do things efficiently and ensure high food quality. As a result, just like everything culinary, saute and hors d’ouvre, words from the romantic language stuck around in English too.
Having worked with leading chefs in the United States, the author Dan Charnas talks about how to plan, organise and clean up so that you get the best out of your activities. Throughout the book he illustrates stories and scenes from the America’s top restaurants that exhibit thorough planning, organisation, cleanliness, minimalism and maximum utilisation. Charnas extends the knowledge gained from cooking into his personal and professional lives. In this book, he teaches us how to do so. Continue reading Book summary: Work clean by Dan Charnas
Peter Lynch, one of the greatest investors of our time has given ample time tested techniques in this book.
How retail investors can win in the stock market
-> Take advantage of what you already know. i.e invest in familiar sectors.
-> Invest in a house before you invest in a stock market
-> Ignore short term fluctations
-> Predicting economy or stock market direction is futile
-> 6/10 wins is a stellar record
Types of Stocks
Slow Growers – 4 – 6% growth. Stable Business like Power and other Utilities. Buy when you can’t find anything else.
Stalwarts – Medium Growth. 10- 12% growth. Established companies like HUL, CocaCola, P&G etc that grow year on year and make standard profit. Take profits at 30 – 50% and repeat with other stalwarts.
Fast Growers – Medium to small size companies that grow at 20 – 25%. Assess growth phase and sustainability.
Cyclical – Expands and contracts over time. Eg: Auto, Airlines, Tyres, steel, Chemicals.
Turnarounds – Stay with bad news for a possible good turnaround. But stay away from tragedies where outcome is unmeasurable. Lynch considers companies moving into unrelated fields as ‘diworsification‘
Asset Plays – Properties i.e land and other assets held by a company is more valuable than the quoted price.
Categorise the stocks you purchase into the above buckets and arrive at target price based on the category it falls.
What is a Perfect Stock?
Dull or simple business with a boring name
It does something dull Eg: Packaged Foods like biscuits, soap etc
It does something disagreeable Eg: Harpic
It’s a spinoff from a well known holding company Eg: Bajaj Finance
Institutions don’t own and analysts don’t follow.
Rumours abound like toxicity, mafia Eg: Casino
There’s something depressing about the business Eg: Funeral homes
It’s a no growth industry. Steady business, reliable customer base.
It’s got a niche
People have to keep buying it. Eg: Razor blades, cigarrets
It’s a user of technology which results in massive cost savings.
The insiders are buying
Company is buying back shares
Which stocks to Avoid ?
-> Hottest stock in the hottest sector
-> The next something
-> Avoid ‘Diworsification’ i.e companies that expand into unrelated business
-> Avoid acquisitions that lack synergy
-> Avoid whisper stocks i.e great stories with no substance and no earnings
-> Too dependent on a handful of clients
-> Beware of stock with an exciting name
When to Buy ?
Buy when Price line is below Earnings line and Sell when Price line goes way above the earnings line.
P/ E guideline – check historic P/E levels to know average.
Check if companies have a plan on how to increase future earnings – reduce costs, raise prices, expand into new markets, sell more to same market, close down loss making operations etc.
What to look for before you buy
(1) Does this new trending product have an impact on co’s prospect. If yes consider, else no.
(2) PE Ratio & Growth = long term growth rate + dividend yield / P/E Ratio – ratio < 1 poor, 1.5 – 2 – Ok , 3 and above – Excellent. This is not same as PEG ratio.
(3) Cash Position – Cash, Cash equivalents and marketable securities over long term debt. Revised P/E = Market Price (less) Cash Per Share/ Earnings
(4) Debt Factor esp for companies in trouble. Can they survive the crisis?
(5) Dividends – Regualr dividends payouts acts as floor for drop in price.
(6) Book Value (BV) – Before buying for Book Value examine the assets that form part of BV and ensure it is worthy. BV could also be Asset plays due to nderstaed value of real estate,land, securities, tax write offs etc
(7) Cash flow – Free cash flow to be checked for heavy capex industries
Signs to look out for – Piling up of (obsolete) inventory , pension plans and future obligations including contingencies. Eg: litigations.
A 20 PE at 20% growth rate will make more than 10 PE stock at 10% growth rate
Recheck your story every few months to see if they are still relevant.
How to avoid the ‘dotcom’ crash scenarios yet participate in the upside of new technology
Pick and Shovels Strategy : Investing in Denims rather than the gold rush. More money is to be made by the suppliers or direct beneficiaries of a much hyped industry Eg: Microsoft Vs Dell
Through Holding Company: When a holding company has a subsidiary in the much hyped sector which might later be spun off. Holding co. business is a downside protection.
Through ‘Brick and Mortars’ that benefit from the efficiency by use of this new technology.
Personal preferences can be a reason to add companies to list of stocks to research . But never invest without doing the homework i.e knowing
(1) Company’s earning Prospects
(2) Financial Condition
(3) Competitive Position
(4) Plans for Expansion
(5) At what stage of Expansion phase is the company currently in
Invest for the the long term so that you will not be forced to liquidate for need of cash in a bear market. Only Invest what you can afford to lose without the loss having any effect in your foreseeable future.
The Final Checklist:
P/E ratio – High or Low – Compare with similar co’s in same industry.
% of institutional ownership – Lower the better
Are insiders (Promoters/Directors) buying ? Company buyback?
Are earnings growing consistently
Strong or Weak Balance sheets i.e Debt/Equity Ratio
For Slow growers – Dividend consistency and Dividend/Earnings ratio
For Stalwarts – Check P/E, for possible ‘diworsificcations’, growth rate, momentum and for long holding periods chk performance over prev. recessions and downturns.
Cyclicals – Watch out for new entrants. Anticipate shrinking P/E. auto up and down cycles last for 4-5 years each. Deeper down cause higher ups.
Fast Growers – Is PE almost equal to growth rate in earnings. Is Expansion speeding up or slowing down? Does it have room to grow ? Proven ability to expand ?
Turnaround – Will business survive ? Liquidation Value of company. How will turnaround happen? Is Business coming back or costs being cut ?
Asset Plays – Is there any hidden value in the assets? Is company taking on new debts ? Beware of Provisions and contingencies.
Points to note:
(1) Understand the nature of the company and specific reason for holding the stock.
(2) Categorise your stocks for right expectations
(3) Big companies small moves in prices, small companies make big moves.
(4) If consideration is based on specific product, consider impact on company
(5) Consider small proven and profitable companies
(6) Avoid hot stocks in hot industries
(7) Be suspicious of 50% growth rates
(8) Moderately fast growers in non growth industries is an ideal investment
(9) Insiders buying the stock
(10) Don’t buy only on stated Book Value. Consider Real Value.
Realistic Expectations – six of 10 ideas and 12- 15% return.
A small portfolio of 3 – 10 stocks would be a managable size. The composition of the portfolio should be
Growth – 30 – 40% – Slow -Low Risk low gain /Fast – High risk high gain Stalwarts – 10 – 20% – low risk moderate gains Cyclicals – 10 – 20% – low risk high gains or high risk low gains based on entry level Turnarounds – Rest – high Risk High Gain
Consider risk portfolio and age factor while allocation.
When to Sell
If company has gone up well to factor in all good news, it may be sold. But if original story is intact stay invested.
Slow Growth – On 30 – 50% appreciation or when fundamentals have deteriorated. Stalwarts – Price strays too far from earnings, and/or industry P/E. Slowing growth or vulnerability of a major division. Cyclical – 100% of capacity is used, Inventory build up, product slowdown, union demands, high capital requirement for expansion. Fast Growers – too much media attention, no where to expand business, high P/E of 30 + when growth is below 20, high institutional holding, exit of key executives to join rival. Turnaround – After the turnaround, High dependency on one customer, growing debt , rising inventory , High P/E. Asset Plays– Once hidden value is unlocked and is fairly priced. Increased institutional ownership, lower sales, increase in debt , dilution of share value.
Do not buy a mediocre company because it is cheap.