December 12, 2016

What Happens When Loyalty and "Yes Sir" Culture Matters More than Merit and Performance?

What happens when loyalty and "yes sir" culture matters more than merit and performance ? Very simply, nothing!

It is quite common to observe that not many positive things happen in an organization where such negative things happen.

The most obvious indication that one is working in an orgnization where such a thing is happening frequently and blatantly is to come across what can be called as the presence of a "pack of jokers".

The jokers along with the chief clown form the coterie or the inner circle. The primary reasons for someone to be a joker are - blind loyalty to the chief clown and blind faith in the power of "yes sir".

The jokers have hare-brained ideas, ostrich-like view of vision and strategy and fox-type cunningness.

So what all funny stuff do the jokers do?
  • The jokers are good at writing negative emails.
  • The jokers along with the chief clown go for lunch together
  • The jokers are like stooges of the chief clown
  • The jokers carry an air of hollow exclusivity and a sick holier than thou attitude
  • The jokers are un-professionals to the core
  • The jokers carry a third-grade smirk on their dirty faces
  • The jokers indulge in manipulation and unethical conduct
Ignoring merit and performance implies that the organization's growth remains stunted and a distant dream at that.

The competency required for growing the business is, generally speaking, simply missing in the jokers and the chief clown.

So what happens in such an organization is very simply, nothing. Business growth remains stunted, margins remain under pressure and profits keep on going down.

However, and most worryingly, one thing keeps on going up in such an organization.

The jumbo-sized egos and incompetene levels of the chief clown and his pack of jokers. That keeps on inching upwards for all the wrong reasons!

November 28, 2016

The Power of Constant Realization of the Inevitability of Death and the Finiteness of Life

All of us know these two ultimate truths of our lives.

First, death is inevitable.

And second, life is finite.

Contant realization of these two ultimate truths bestows upon us some kind of a philosophical power, the power to live life with contentment and to embrace our death, when it comes, with deep humility.

Such a realization also has a profound philosophical value.

After one drops dead and is forever gone, nothing that happens in this world has any relevance for the departed. The trials and tribulations of living through life is relevant only till the time one is not dead.

Knowing it fully well that one would be gone is a powerful tool for living a life full of contentment.

In some sense, life's purpose is not really just to live a happy life but rather to constantly prepare oneself to eventually die a happy death.

Death serves a very useful purpose. It makes one adopt a philosophical outlook about life.

One may think why to try to do better tomorrow than what one did today because one would be dead, in any case, the day after if not tomorrow.

But that doesn't help.

Living as long as it is possible and as good a manner as is possible should be one's real motto in life.

Realization that death is inevitable and life is finite should give one a sense of philosophical nothingness.

One should keep on trying to do better and better and not let setbacks and bad experiences hold one from action habit. One should try to live one's life with passion and as if there is no tomorrow.

Death is a beautiful culmination of what one calls as life. Remember, life is finite and death is inevtable.

Let death come tomorrow, or when it has to, even if it happens all of a sudden.

So get ready to welcome death when it appears at the door!

November 27, 2016

When Relation With Your Wife Becomes Meaningless?

If you are a married man, it is quite important for a truly fulfilling life that you have a wife with whom your relation remains ever vibrant and ever meaningful, till the very end.

For such a relation to really be meaningful it must be strong not only on legal, social and economic aspects but also on physical, mental and spiritual aspects.

Here are some details on what these aspects mean (or should mean).

Legal - the marriage is formalized through legal procedures as specified in the marriage act governing the marriage. This has significance in respect of divorce proceedings, child custody, property matters, etc.

Social - the marriage is accepted by the others in the society as a valid contract for the husband and wife to live together. This has significance in respect of attending social gatherings and family functions.

Economic - the marriage is necessitated by the economic well-being of the married persons and their kids, if there are any. This has significance in respect of raising kids, paying bills and financial security.

Physical - the marriage provides physical support and way to meet sexual needs for both the husband and wife within their marriage. This has signficance in respect of sexual health, physical oneness, sickness care, food and physical well-being.

Mental - the marriage provides a sense of security and belongingness for both the husband and wife within their marriage.  This has signficance in respect of love and intimacy, mental oneness, care and concern.

Spiritual - the marriage becomes yet another source for achieving the greater purpose of life and the consciousness of the inevitabiliuty of death makes the physical and mental bonding of the husband and wife transcend to another plane. This has significance in respect of spiritual oneness, philosophical outlook towards life as well as death and the husband and wife seeing each other as inseprable partners in the journey of life towards its final destination of death.

Sadly, for many married man having such a wife is just a nice thing in dream but not in reality.

Many marriages remain simply a matter of legal, social and economic relation between the husband and wife. There is no physical, mental and spiritual relation in such marriages.

In a true sense, such marriages are dysfunctional and cease to be a marriage in the real sense.

In case you are trapped in such a marriage, it is important that you do not loose your sense of responsiility for your own well-being.

It is easy for your wife to make her marriage to you successful on legal, social and economic aspects.

However, if she makes no attempt to make her marriage to you successful on physical, mental and spiritual aspects or rather works to make matters worse then you must realize that you are in a failed marrage.

If you a person who expects your wife to understand the importance of physical, mental and spiritual aspects and find her response negative, you may get frustrated.

This frustration should be channelized in a positive manner and transformed into stregthening your outlook towards life.

Remember, you came into this world all alone and you will leave it as well all alone. Life is not forever. One day you will drop dead. So if you are in bad marriage just become positive and philosophical. 

November 20, 2016

Signs that Tell You that the Organization You are Working with has a Third Grade Culture

Culture is everything.

In the words of Lou Gerstner, the famus former chairman and CEO of IBM:

"The thing I have learned at IBM is that culture is everything."

So very true.

When culture is everything, working in an organization with a third grade culture can be as bad as it can ever get. Or probably even worse.

So what are the signs that tell you that the organization you are working with has a third grade culture?

Here are some such signs:
  • The organization is led by a pack of jokers who lack the essential leadership competences and are nothing but a close-knit coterie of loyalists
  • Competence. fairness and transparency are words that are simply irrelevant for the pack of jokers leading such an organiztion
  • The term "open culture" is a way used by the pack of jokers to keep unsettled the competent and professional people working down under
  • The pack of jokers (who are long-timers) as well as the other long timers (who are good for nothing) in such organizations carry a chip on their shoulders and are arrogant to the core. They believe and behave as if the organization is there only because of them.
  • The pack of jokers are thoroughly incompetent but survive and thrive since they are "yes sir" henchmen of the the top joker and seek their rent from the organization as result of their devotion to the top joker.
  • The top joker and the pack of jokers reporting into him use the resource of the organization for personal use. And sadly, this happens in quite a naked manner.
  • The pack of jokers are immature and unprofessional to the core. They keep on doing silly stuff constantly like hiding information, writing stupid emails.
  • More often that not, the pack of jokers also indugle in toxic behaviours at the workplace like writing negative emails, spreading negativity, playing dirty games, holding behind-the-back meetings.
  • Worst of all, in such organizations, the top joker and the pack of jokers not only perform third grade acts but also sponsor it blatantly by choosing to ignore it or supporting it actively.
Working in a organization with a third grade culture can be pretty challening.

It can stress test your wits and your ability to remain collected, positive and professional in the wake of negeativity created by the pack of jokers.

So how can you go about handling this situation?

You must look at the your job and you life with a bigger picture approach and not feel down due to the fact that you work in an organization with a third grade culture.

You should first quickly assess whether the pack of jokers are going to do anything about it and how bad the situation has become (naturally as a result of the damage brought in by the pack of jokers themselves).

If the situation is really bad you must decide to move on immediately. There is no point in wasting your energies on something that is hopeless.

Also it may soon turn dangerous causing serious harm to you mental and physical health.

Moving out, and that too fast, is the best thing you can do in most of such situations. Otherwise you can turn into a corporate martyr in no time.

Sadly, such an organization will gradually veer towards a stage where it will have to eventually "shut the shop" putting your career in grave jeopardy.

November 2, 2016

How the Problem Subordinate in Your Team is Like that Bad Apple in the Fruit Basket?

Have you come across a problem subordinate in your team?

If you have done people management even for a while, you would have a strong "Yes" as your answer. And that's not really surprising.

A problem subordinate is like a bad apple in the fruit basket. They need to be confronted and corrected.

There would typically be one problem subordinate in your team (or at times more than one, if you are plain unlucky). That is sadly and mostly the case for most people managers.

The analogy to bad apple is a thought out analogy since like a bad apple would rot other apples in the fruit basket, a problem subordinate would influence others in the team in a negative way.

If you are a people manager who generally trusts those who report into you, in no time you will come in for a nasty surprise if you do not handle the problem employee in good time.

Once, you get the nasty surprise (or rather shock) it is important to not allow a problem subordinate to linger on with his tendency to create problems.

Looking at the problem subordinate as the bad apple is the first step and the most important one a people manage should take immediately.

How to know who is the bad apple in your team? Here are some tell-tale signs:
  • The problem subordinate is a work shirker. He will push his ownership and activities on to others, including to the person he reports into.
  • The problem subordinate pushes things he should be doing to the junior folks in the team, at times in a coercive manner.
  • The problem subordinate is a master of avoiding work by abusing "work from home". If he doesn't feel like working on a certain day, he will apply for "work from home".
  • The problem  subordinate will copy others left, right and center without bothering about why someone is being copied.
  • The problem subordinate will try to show that he is the only one who is working and that too very hard. It is, however, easy to see through these lies of a problem subordinate.
  • The problem subordinate will go and tell lies to others including those in the chain of reporting of the person he reports into. His main concern is to make sure his misdeeds and lack of work ethics do not get exposed.
  • The problem subordinate has no interest in work and is only focused on creating noise around the work he is doing. Rather than doing, showing that he is doing is what the problem subordinate spends his energies on.
It is not easy to handle a problem subordinate, especially the ones who display chameleon-like character (they tell you something and tell others something else about the same thing).

The problem gets compounded multiple times, in case the people manager reports into a problem  boss (someone who is incompetent but is in that position due to loyalty only).

In case you are surrounded by a problem subordinate and a problem boss, then you have had it.

Keeping the points in this post and an earlier post on Stuck in a Toxic Workplace and Reporting into an Unprofessional, Incompetent and Toxic Person might help to a certain extent.

And yes, good luck to you for the tough ride you are going to have!

October 18, 2016

How to Deal with Immature and Unprofessional People at Work, Especially if they Hapen to be in Senior Positions?

When an immature and unprofessional person is promoted to a senior position at work, then it speaks volumes about the kind of organization you are dealing with.

Such organizations are typically those where the people of the old brigade get promoted and get promoted due to just one factor - their loyalty to the clowns at the very top.

In such organizations, the management team is a close-knit coterie and is virtually like a gang of stooges of the top man.

Those in the management team are experts in the art of surviving (and in fact thriving) in their career using the abominable phrase - "yes sir".

The HR head in such companies is the key henchman of the top man. His only motive is to keep the boss happy. Let the employees go to hell.

In such companies there is huge attrition at lower levels. However, at the higher levels, people are basically stuck.

People at higher levels are essentially of two types.

One, those who are the incompetent loyalists, they do not try to get out because they will not get anything outside.

Two, those who are competent non-loyalists who are waiting for the right opportunity to fly away.

So how does one deal with immature and unprofessional people at work, especially those who happen to be in senior positions?

Well the sad answer is there is no way!

Because of the way such companies started, and where loyalty wins hands down over competence such companies are virtual hell holes.

How do you identify the immature and unprofessional people in such organizations? Here are some clues that are generally helpful:
  • There is a clear concept of inner circle and outsiders. And in fact, the top man activity promotes and protects this.
  • People are assigned to tasks they do now understand anything about due to loyalty and the top man's insistence on protecting the inner circle.
  • The stooges of the top man are one and the same. Challenging one of them brings the other stooges together like a pack of wolves.
  • The stooges go for lunch together along with the top man. This would remind you of a group of college friends rather than professional colleagues
  • The reporting structure is artificially erected to ensure the big egos of the stooges and the top man are protected and their incompetence doesn't get questioned.
  • The stooges play dirty politics, they engage in back-channel manipulations, hold meetings with the inner circle and find ways to trouble the competent outsiders.
 And how do you handle them?

As was mentioned earlier, you can't handle them. Such organizations are driven by the top man and his coterie and you stand no chance in bringing about any change.

The stooges are experts in scratching each others' back. They would go to any extent to protect each others' back.

They are more like friends than colleagues. Heck, they may even be staying in the same colony or nearby and meeting each other and their families may also be meeting each other over the weekends.

Who would be professional when dealing with family friends? Even if you work together?

Best advise to deal with such people is to not deal with them.

Move on, as early as you can. There is nothing better than that!

September 26, 2016

Working in a Lala Company

A lala company is basically an enterprise which is run by a family or a family-like coterie. The coterie is a close-knit group of persons who are generally incompetent, unfair, non-transparent and unprofessional.

They indulge in dirty politics in office like manipulative foxes, discuss "strategy" in secret meetings like pugnacious crows, go for lunch like a pack of wolves and when any one of them is cornered, come together in a huddle like venomous serpents.

Working in a lala company is the worst kind of experience one can possibly go through in their career. There are no rules in a lala company. Whatever the main lala and his chamchas decide becomes the rule.

The main lala may project an image of being fair, professional and open-minded but is only comfortable with his chamchas around.

In the bigger meetings he may come across as someone who is very progressive but in private discussions (especially with the family-like coterie) the veil wears off and the wily fox beneath is so clearly visible that the phrase "abominable lala" sounds like a nice phrase.

The chamchas are characters in their own rights. They are like the four stooges who think the world runs due to them. They think the lala company, the main lala and they (the irritable chamchas) are the only ones who matter in this world.

They create a small hell-hole of a company, meet each other in secret meetings, form immature impressions about others owing to their own incompetence and immaturity, share unbaked opinions and thoughts about others with each other.

Working in a lala company would make you realize what being in hell is going to be like. You can sense inequality, arrogance, unfairness, non-transparency, professional immaturity, childish communications, disparaging remarks, and general lack of trust all around you.

The inner circle of coterie of chamchas is all that matters to the lala. If any outsider challenges the lala he is shocked. And obviously the coterie would never challenge him.

Some of the chamchas are real characters. They pass their responsibilities to the others. They shirk their ownership. They take others for granted.

Working in a lala company can be very energy draining. It can cause lot of negativity in the mind and is generally very humiliating.

So are you working in a lala company? If you said yes, welcome to the coterie-infested hell-hole. And all the best!

Remember, you are not in a professional workplace. And surviving the main lala and his chamchas is not easy at all.

September 22, 2016

Why Some Subordinates are a Pain in the Ass?

It is true that in some organizations the general culture is pathetically bad.

The main reason is that the company is essentially run by a coterie of bad-asses.

The top man is the root of the evil since his strategy is to thoughtfully ignore the immaturity and incompetence of the clowns that report into him.

The top man, is some sense, is the chief clown. He projects himself as progressive, passionate and professional but is just the opposite.

The person you are forced to report into is basically a clown whose only qualification is his blind loyalty to the chief clown. And of course, there are other clowns as well.

The clowns form a close-knit coterie of inner circle which holds back-door discussions and takes decisions which are neither fair nor transparent.

In such an organization the clowns are busy in creating troubles for those who are professionals and no do not belong to the old brigade of chief clown, clowns and the sub-clowns.

The whole situation is further complicated and convoluted by subordinates who are a pain in the ass.

The clowns promote and protect such subordinates.

So why does a subordinate become a pain in the ass?
  • The concerned subordinate has a hot-line reporting to one the clowns (the favorite clown) whom his supervisor is unfortunately forced to report into
  • The concerned subordinate is a workplace shirker
  • The concerned subordinate is a master of abusing "working from home"
  • The concerned subordinate is a like a bad apple in the team who spreads negativity
  • The concerned subordinate is not competent and tries hard to dump and push his work to others in the team
  • The concerned subordinate and the clown share the same bad attributes
  • The concerned subordinate and the clown are experts in writing long emails full of drama and utter nonsense
  • The concerned subordinate and the clown meet outside the office also
  • The concerned subordinate is an expert in playing the game of double-speak. He would tell something to the supervisor and something to the clown
  • The concerned subordinate is deeply engaged in playing office politics along with the clown
  • The concerned subordinate is highly manipulative (and in fact fit to be one of the clowns)
  • The concerned subordinate thinks he is bigger than the system
  • The concerned subordinate spends more effort in trying to show to others especially his favorite clown as to what he has done rather than actually working
  • The concerned subordinate gets unnecessarily worked up and agitated without understanding the context
  • The concerned subordinate is basically full of anxiety and always looking at things from a narrow-minded and constrained perspective 
  • The concerned subordinate will needlessly copy irrelevant people and especially the favorite clown in several emails

September 12, 2016

Working in a Coterie Driven, Small Sized but Wannabe Big Company

Working in a coterie-driven company can make you easily realize why professionalism is so important not only for organizational success but also for true employee engagement.

And if a coterie-driven company is a small sized but wannabe big company then you have had it!

In such companies, the top people form a close-knit coterie and make sure they maintain their inner circle status.

Simple things like budget for a department and for any activity that comes up during the course of operations in the year are not dealt with needed transparency.

Since the top man and his coterie are not professional to the required degree, routine decisions like approval for training require special treatment.

In addition, since the members of coterie are neither professionally competent nor operationally empowered they need to get the top man's approval even for seemingly simple things like training, seminars, etc.

And yes, if you are not part of the coterie, every penny spent needs to be accounted for.

In certain cases, where an approval is needed by the members of the coterie for something they do not taken ownership of (though they should), they keep on passing the buck and play behind-the-scene games.

The members of coterie work like a cohort with the sole aim of protecting their turfs and the fiefdom of the top man.

The reporting structure in such organizations is laughably inefficient at the best and maliciously unprofessional  at the worst.

The only aim of reporting structure is to maintain the hegemony of the top man and his coterie.

The other dangerous aspect of such organizations is the fact that the coterie is the inner circle whereas others are outsiders.

So if you are dealing with the coterie and the top man, beware. You must recognize you are in an unequal fight.

Competency has no place in such companies. The earlier and faster you realize and understand this, the better for your mental balance and professional journey.

The best thing to do is of course to move on, fast and without loosing any time.

And in case you have to tolerate your precarious situation for more time, you need to have loads of patience and stay clam and quiet.

Remember the following:

"Stay calm and quiet. You are passing through coterie-infested zone".

Good luck to you for moving on. And better luck till you have to stay put.

September 8, 2016

The Four Musketeers and Their Boss

This is about four musketeers and their boss. This is about the four musketeers who are running the show along with their boss.

The musketeers come together in case someone challenges any one of the musketeers or their boss for whom the four musketeers have absolute, blind loyalty.

Though the musketeers and the boss look different, they share a common trait - they possess toxic and malicious characteristics.

Musketeer 1 - He is there only to pull your leg. His only objective in life is to find out what you did not do right and then pounce on you with full vengeance.

Musketeer 2 - He is the epitome of how to survive despite complete lack of ownership. He is the silent schemer who would come across as very polite and polished but would be indulging in harmful tactics behind your back.

Musketeer 3 - He is the epitome of bad-ass behavior. He thinks highly of himself, indulges in manipulations, comes across with a sick "holier than thou" attitude and leaves no chance to pull you down.

Musketeer 4 - He is the king of non-professionalism and melodrama. He is expert in writing fuming and funny emails. He is also a true chameleon and master of multi-game. He will tell different things to different people and say that he has good relations with everyone.

Boss - He is the main culprit who promotes and nurtures and protects the musketeers. His main attribute is his expertise in working through the coterie of his pet dogs (the musketeers). He doesn't like criticisms.

Such a model also reinforces a bad culture where there are lot of back-channel discussions among the 4 Ms and the 1 B. The 4 Ms and the 1 B are like a small family of non-professional bad-asses.

The biggest problem with the 4 M and 1 B organizational structure is that it creates a comfort zone for the 4 Ms and the 1 B.

And also since it is based only on one factor - loyalty - this model leads to weak leadership. The 4 Ms and 1 B can perhaps be viewed as a synonym of weak leadership.

September 3, 2016

Why We Must Never Forget that Our Life is So Very Fragile and We Can Disappear from the World in Just a Second?

The sad reality of our life is that we keep on struggling, all through our life, till the very last day.

However, we must never forget  that our life is so very fragile and we can disappear from the world in just a second.

We can disappear from the face of earth in so many ways, at times in just a second:
  • We can suddenly meet with an accident
  • We can get murdered just like that
  • We can become terminally ill and wait for the last moment to arrive
  • We can die suddenly of some sickness or disease
  • And if nothing else, we will become old and die in any case
We struggle to earn money, to accumulate stuff, to gather experiences and to keep ourselves alive just one more day, one day at a time.

Of course, we do know, that the "one day at a time" will not work on the day we finally die. After we die there is nothing more left.

Each human being is no more than a "stuff" itself. It is like any other "stuff" that the human body needs to travel the journey from life till death.

The "stuff" needed is the food that we eat, the clothes we wear, the houses where we dwell and everything else we want to acquire to enjoy higher level of material comfort.

When we are dead, we cease to exist.

The human body that we used to call with a certain name, that used to look like a certain person and that used be "that somebody" in the social and economic order of how we as humans operate the world ceases to exist.

Death makes a certain human body to disappear into the world of nothingness. Those who are alive may create ways and means to remember us after we are dead but for us, after we are dead, all of that is utterly meaningless.

What's the point if people erect a monument in our memory after we are dead?

And dead we will be one day.

So it is important that we must never forget  that our life is so very fragile and we can disappear from the world in just a second.

And hence we should live our life as if today is our last day. On the last day there will be nothing like this way of living life!

August 23, 2016

What Leads to the Formation of Coterie Clubs in Companies?

Coterie clubs are a sad reality of the corporate world. These are commonly found in small-sized organizations and especially those that are not growing at a reasonable clip.

They are found in large organizations too, especially in companies where a gang of senior folks at the local management level use the empowerment provided to them by the HQ in a wrong manner.

Some of the following factors may lead to the formation of coterie clubs in companies?
  • Lack of "true" professionalism in those who constitute the senior management. At times these folks would be no different than a pack of jokers. And this can be dangerous, very dangerous. Read this - Why It's Dangerous To Work For An Organization Led By A Pack Of Jokers?
  • The so called higher-ups and senior folks do not deal with matters in a fair and transparent manner. Their words and actions give a strong but unmistakable sign of manipulating and gaming the system using unethical means. They work more like a gang of manipulators than a group of leaders.
  • There are too many long-timers in the company whose only qualification is that they are loyal to the top man. Many of these long-timers are actually dead-woods but as they lick the ass of the top bad-ass, they continue to thrive in such companies. Their only motto is to put down those who are outsiders and continue to help maintain the dominance of the inner circle.
  • There are many people in the company who do not come across as professional colleagues but rather as pathetic college-mates. They meet often during office hours to have silly talks and to watch funny videos. Such people have no choice but to form coterie to simply survive.

August 12, 2016

Why a Corporate Mosquito Will Aways Bite You and Why You Can't Shoo It Away?

Mosquitoes in the corporate world are not that uncommon. Take any business organization and you will find them there.

These are the devils in the suits. Lurking in the cabins including the corner ones. Ready to pounce on hapless employees. Keen on putting others down. Maniacal about showing their supremacy.

And as it their true nature, mosquitoes will always bite you no matter what and there is no way you can shoo them away.



(Source: http://cliparts.co/clipart/1311160)

So how to know you are dealing with a mosquito?

Here are some tell-tale signs the person you are dealing with is a corporate mosquito:
  • They are either a part of the pack of jokers called the management team or a close confidante of the bad-asses in the management.
  • They piss off others by making buzzing or whining sound around their ears. For the asses, however, they are useful since they bring the latest gossip and news from the grapevine.
  • They think they have bigger wings than the Boeing 747! Yes, that's right. They think the company is running because of them. And they very openly carry a bad-ass attitude.
  • They gang up with the other mosquitoes in the organization. Even the top man in some of the organizations may be more of a corporate mosquito than a professional.
  • They see everything with a pair of glasses dipped in the syrup of negativity. When they speak, they speak ill. When they write, they write venom.
  • They react to everything with distrust and cynicism. And also, they speak to others in a condescending and pugnacious manner.
Corporate mosquitoes will always bite you. So if you dealing with one, remember to take care of yourself. Their only motto is to harass and demean others.

M for mosquitoes are bad-asses. Their nature is such. They will bite. They will sting. Don't expect anything else from them.

You can't even shoo away a M for mosquito. Why?

The reason is obvious as stated above -  "They are either a part of the pack of jokers called the management team or a close confidante of the bad-asses in the management."

If the above is the case there is no one to take the mosquito to task. And you can't even complain about them to anybody else. Why?

Again the reason is obvious as stated above - "They gang up with the other mosquitoes in the organization. Even the top man in some of the organizations may be more of a corporate mosquito than a professional."

Remember, a mosquito will not bite another mosquito!

So what chance do you stand in such an organization which is infested with mosquitoes? Close to zero? It's actually zero. Such organizations basically have no mosquito repellents (which means they have a bad-ass culture).

And hence they are ideal breeding grounds for M for mosquitoes to prosper, get promoted and most dangerously breed more M for mosquitoes.

July 11, 2016

Working With the Coterie of the Top Man Is Tough, Really Tough

In many organizations the top man operates through his coterie.

First and foremost, how do you know you are in a coterie managed organization?

Well, in such an organization the top man and the coterie (the cozy club) go for lunch together.

That's how you know you have got yourself into a very bad deal as far your current place of work goes.

It's a fact that working with the coterie of the top man is as bad as it can get. The coterie is like a bunch of monkeys who love scratching the bloody backs of each other.

They meet with the top man behind the back of others whom they treat as lowly outsiders.

The also develop a closed network of people who help them with certain aspects of their business and the words of people from the closed network is taken as the Bible by the top man and his coterie.

And they loose any sense of professionalism they may be faking all the while by blaming and harassing the outsiders.

The top man doesn't do anything on his own, obviously. He has his henchman whom he promotes in a shameless and ludicrous manner.

The top man would say things like, "as needed escalate the matter to my henchman immediately".

The irony is that the henchman is a person who doesn't even know how to spell matter!

But being a stooge of the top man he is put on a pedestal made up only of loyalty.

Let merit go to hell.

As you should expect it, the coterie has people who are not really that competent as compared to people one would find at similar level in a professional organization.

In fact, there may be situations where the coterie behaves in as comical a manner as one can imagine.

They would call for unnecessary meetings, follow the words from the top man like a gospel, and don't make even a slight use of small-sized brains.

Working with coterie is tough, really tough. And that is so because you won't know what they talk about behind your back.

You know what they talk would be nothing other than utter non-sense but you also know such non-sense may be dangerous for you.

You should never trust the coterie.

They would tell something to you in one meeting in front of one person, tell something else to you in another meeting in front of another person and then something totally different behind your back.

People who are a part of the coterie are like stooges, they act like henchmen of the top man and are examples of tail wagging dogs. Such people are not easy to work with.

The fact is working with the coterie of the top man is tough, really tough. If you are working with the coterie you need to be saluted and also wished best of luck!

June 22, 2016

Why Looking at P/E Ratio to Buy a Stock is Not a Good Idea?

The P/E ratio is highly revered by investors.

It has acquired almost a cult-like status among the pantheon of financial metrics and ratios that are commonly used.

However, looking at P/E ratio to buy a stock may not be a very good idea.

The P in the P/E ratio refers to the stock price.

And as we know stock price fluctuates throughout the trading hours and across the trading days, at times showing extreme volatility.

So which price should ideally be taken as P?

Using value of P based on any consideration is not appropriate. P/E ratio can be made to swing wildly depending on what value of P is chosen!

The E in the P/E ratio refers to EPS (Earning Per Share).

Again EPS can be calculated in various ways.

EPS can be based on latest quarter, latest year, average of last "n" quarters, average of last "n" years or some arbitrarily chosen time period.

The above is not very helpful.

An alternative approach would be to take quarter-wise EPS for the last 3 years (basically last 12 quarters) and calculate exponentially weighted average EPS.

Let is call this EW-12Qtr-Avg-EPS.

In case EPS for any quarter is less than zero, it should ring the alarm bell very noisily. In such a case buying a stock may not be a very good idea. Even  EPS should not be computed.

Assuming non-zero EPS in the last 12 quarters, the EW-12Qtr-Avg-EPS can be calculated.

To be on the safer side the minimum of EPS in the last 12 quarters can be taken.

Let us call this Min-12Qtr-EPS.

Now, suppose the goal is to earn a certain percentage return, say R%.

In that case, the stock price which will allow R% returns to be made can be calculated as:

P <= (EW-12Qtr-Avg-EPS) / R

or P <= (Min-12Qtr-EPS) / R

The second equation is more conservative and hence will provide higher margin of safety.

The side effect will be that many more stocks will fall outside the "buy-able" zone as compared to the case when first equation is applied!

P in the above two equations is the maximum price that can be paid to purchase the stock so that returns are >=R%

Let us take an example.

Suppose EW-12Qtr-Avg-EPS for company A is USD 10. Also suppose the investor wants to earn 10% return (over the long-term horizon).

In such a case, the stock purchase price should be less than USD 100.

The higher the price above the above amount, the lower the returns will be.

Note - Inverse of P/E is also called as Earnings Yield (E/P). A simple look at E/P ratio can easily show that as P goes up earnings yield goes down!

Why Its Important to Reach that Stage in Life Fast Where You Can Bluntly Tell "F**k You" When Someone Says "You are Fired" or Pisses You Off?

You and your current standard of living is loosely connected together by a very uncertain, thin and fragile thread.

Can you guess what this thread is?

It's called a job.

This would be true if you are like most of the people. People who lack the f**k you money!

Why its important to reach that stage in life fast where you can bluntly tell "F**k You" when someone says "You are Fired" or pisses you off.

The answer is simple and pretty obvious.

No one should tolerate non-sense.

But you have to if you have no choice but to tolerate it. And why you need to tolerate?

You will need to tolerate non-sense because you haven't built the fortress of f**k you money. If you have one, you can tell any assh**e to f**k you!

As simple as that.

Building your own fortress of f**k you money should be your number one priority in life till you have it.

A fortress that is solid, secure and stuffed with cash is what gives you enough strength to fight the battle of life, and to easily dismiss non-sense people who come into your life.

A fortress that is solid, secure and stuffed with cash also allows you the luxury to do only those things you want to.

It gives you the choice to work because you want to not because you need to!

Imagine how confident you would be knowing fully well that you own a fortress that is solid, secure and stuffed with cash

So have you got started on your journey to reach that stage in life fast where you can bluntly tell "F**k You" when someone says "You are Fired" or pisses you off?

If not, don't wait to get started. Start now. Start immediately.

Start right now.

June 20, 2016

Why Attain Financial Freedom? How Can Minimalism Help Attain Financial Freedom?

What is the meaning of attaining financial freedom?

Attaining financial freedom means you have reached a state in your life where you have earned enough money so that you can stop working if you wish to.

It can help you gain a new-found confidence about yourself.

It can help you live a life full of candor.

You can do things to your liking.

Attaining financial freedom can help in following ways as well:
  • You can avoid people who piss you off
  • You can choose whether to work or not
  • You can choose whom to work for
  • You can live a comfortable life
  • You can buy the stuff you need
Combining financial freedom with minimalism is a very powerful way to live life.

Minimalism can help you attain financial freedom much faster.

Minimalism removes you away from buying needless stuff which directly goes to augment your pool of money and hence it can grow much faster than otherwise.

Minimalism also sharpens the focus on living simple life, eating simple food and enjoying life experiences over accumulating more and more stuff.

The above can help you spend less on stuff and also be more healthy. All this helps grow the pool of money faster.

Most importantly, combining financial freedom and minimalism can increase your happiness manifold. It can make you feel better and lighter about yourself.

The Inner Circle and the Outsiders

Small-sized, non-professional, coterie-managed organizations can get on to the nerves of any professional who commits the grave mistake of joining them (even by mistake).

The top man in such organizations forms and cunningly nurtures an inner circle (coterie) of stooges around him which can be an amusing sight but can cause a lot of professional pain to the outsiders.

They would belittle you, play dirty games behind your back, do secret talks behind closed doors, and would come across as idiots with "holier than thou" attitude.

The top man will meet his stooges and issue them commands which are taken by the stooges as a decree. The stooges will not loose a moment and lie all prostrate at the feet of their master!

Once in a while the master will throw bones at the stooges and the stooges will be more than happy to grab it and then lick the bone all over. And they will lick the feet of their master too.

Some of the stooges are hard-core assh***s. For them their master is supreme and they have no brain of their own. They are thoroughly incompetent to the core but fiercely loyal to the master.

The master does love his stooges. And distributes goodies to them to keep them loyal and keep on licking his feet whenever he commands them to.

And what about the Outsiders?

Well they are treated by the inner circle with an approach that is grossly immature and unprofessional. The poor outsiders are put into messy situations by the stooges.

The outsiders should not stay in such an organization and should try to leave at the earliest possible. The outsiders should be prepared to be in for a rough time.

For the outsiders the experience of working in such an organization can be a harrowing experience.

They should not die fighting and must prepare to move on!

It is a wise idea not to loose your life while fighting with the inner circle. The top man and his stooges are all powerful in such an organization and fighting them is foolish.

So if you and outsider, tighten your belt and run for dear life. Run away from the inner circle as soon as possible and as far as possible.

Run!

June 19, 2016

Key Financial Terms and Ratios that are Useful for Evaluating Stocks - Part 2

Read Part 1 here:
Key Financial Terms and Ratios that are Useful for Evaluating Stocks - Part 1

Here are some more financial terms and ratios that can be further analyzed to determine the long-term prospects of the stock:
  • ROS (Return On Sales) - is the earnings of the company as against the sales/revenues done by the company.
  • ATO (Asset Turn Over) - is the sales/revenue generated by the company as against the assets it has. Higher ATO means an efficient business model where assets are effectively utilized to generate higher sales/revenues.
  • OCF (Operating Cash Flow) - is the cash generated from the operations. It is important that the company's cash comes from operations and not "other sources".
  • CAPEX (Capital Expenditure) - is the cash invested to create new assets or replace old and obsolete assets. Assets are utilized by the company to conduct its business operations that generate revenues and profits.
  • FCF (Free Cash Flow) - is the hard cash that is generated by the company. This is derived from the Cash Flow Statement and is calculated as OCF minus CAPEX.
  • TDB (Total Debt Burden) - is a measure of the total debt on the company and includes both interest and principal component. Too much of debt is a risky proposition for any company. In bad times, too much debt can result in bankruptcy and the company eventually going out of business. 
  • TIB (Total Interest Burden) - is a measure of the total interest on debt on the company. Not being in a position to pay even the interest on debt is a serious issue for any company and indicates that the company is on its way to bankruptcy.
  • DBR (Debt Burden Ratio) - is a measure of whether the company is earning enough to repay its loans. It is calculated as the ratio of  TDB to the FCF. This number indicates whether enough hard cash is being generated for repaying the interest and principal component that are due for payment.
  • DSCR (Debt Service Coverage Ratio) - is a measure of whether the company is generating enough profit to be in a position to take care of its debt liabilities. Debt here means both interest and principal component. It is calculated as the ratio of TDB and NPM.
  • ISCR (Interest Service Coverage Ratio) - is a measure of whether the company is generating enough profit to be in a position to take care of its interest on debt liabilities. It is calculated as the ratio of TIB and NPM.

How Would You Look Back at Your Life When You are Just One Week or Two Away from Your Death?

Suppose you are just one week or two away from your death. Now, think about this question - how would you look back at your life?

Would you be in a good mood and willing to die happily because you have no regrets as you lived all through in a way you always wanted to?

Or would you be sad and in a sulky mood and like to be given some more time (weeks, or rather years!) so that you can now live it the way you always wanted to but somehow never did?

Think hard.

This is not just a million dollar question, it is actually an infinite dollar question. In fact, this is the only question that really matters.

For you as an individual, what you did after you were born and till you are not dead is really what really matters at the end of it all.

Nothing else in this world truly matters.

Now suppose, you talk to someone who has seen many deaths, not tens and hundreds but 12000.

Following article culled out the learning of one man who saw 12000 (yes, that's 12000 only) deaths.

http://projectfuel.in/blog/2016/05/15/12-life-lessons-from-a-man-who-has-seen-12000-deaths/

And what did he think of the key life lessons? The above article lists down 12 of them all of which are so very important.

Here are three messages, from the above article, which though very counter-intuitive can be (and perhaps should be) put into practice almost immediately for a "purposeful" life:

Message 1 - Simplicity is the truth of life - A simple life, as he explains, can be attained by spending less. We spend more to accumulate more and thus create more need. To find contentment in less is the secret to having more.

This is really talking about minimalism and couldn't have been said any better.

If you look around, however, you have been told just the exact opposite all this while - you have been told the purpose of life is to get a good job, buy a bigger house, a nicer car and expensive clothes.

This also provides yet another reason for adopting minimalism as explained in an earlier post on this blog on minimalism: What Makes Minimalism a Powerful Way to Live Life?.

Simple, minimalist life will take you away from the tendency to accumulate more and more stuff and consequently increase your happiness. It is useful to become aware of the fact that stuff doesn't make you happy.

You should buy and use only those "stuff" that are essential and bring joy and happiness to your life. In addition, by doing this you will help the environment as well immensely.

Message 2 - Acceptance is liberation - Indifference, avoidance, and denial of a certain truth, Shukla believes, cause anxiety; they develop a fear of that thing in the person. Instead, accept the situation so you are free to think what you want to do about it and how. Acceptance will liberate you and empower you.

Stretching and reaching out is fine but only till a certain extent.

If you look around, however, you have been told just the exact opposite all this while - you have been told nothing is impossible, you should have it here and now and that you should never, ever give up.

This is another powerful message. It is important to always remember this - Don't Try Too Hard. You shouldn't keep on trying for the greed of the outcome and should focus only on taking the actions that are possible without killing yourself.

As Oliver Goldsmith, the famous Irish novelist, playwright and poet, so rightly said:

“He who fights and runs away, May live to fight another day;
But he who is battle slain, Can never rise to fight again”

One way to avoid falling into the outcome trap is to dilute your outcome orientation by being aware of the message from Bhagvad Geeta: Karmanya Vadhikaraste Maa Phaleshu Kadachan.

Focus on actions and forget about the outcome.

Message 3 - If/When you find your purpose, do something about it - To have awareness about one’s calling is great, but only if you do something about it. A lot of people, Shukla says, know their purpose but don’t do anything about realising it, making it come to life.

You should live your life in a way you really want to so that if you have to die today you will embrace your death happily.

If you look around, however, you have been told just the exact opposite all this while - you have been told to live your life as per the standard template that means go to school, get a job, buy lot of stuff to have a comfortable life.

This is yet another powerful message. Consider this - Your Life is Lucky If You are Getting to Live It as You Would Want to Live It. So are you lucky?

Knowing your true calling in life is a great revelation. Knowing what you would want to do in life and then trying to do that is such a wonderful thing.

You never know, but it is possible that you fail to live your life the way you would want to but that's alright. Even trying in that direction is wonderful.

It is better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all.

As Mark Twain, the famous American author and humorist, so rightly said:

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

So in summary, here are the three messages explained above:
  • Live a simple, minimalist life
  • Focus on action, not outcome
  • Find your true calling in life and go after it!

June 18, 2016

How to Retire Really Quick? And How Quick is Really Quick?

Retiring really quick is worth it, whichever way one looks at it. So how quick is really quick?

Assuming you start earning at the age of 22, in that case how fast can you manage to retire? By age 50? Or 40? Or 30? Or still better, 27?

There are many people who have managed to attain financial freedom which means they have accumulated enough capital to last more than a life-time and that has essentially given them the golden choice to retire should they want to.

They now live life from the level of f**k you!

One of the inspirational stories for anyone wanting to become financially independent is the story of Jacob.

Here's what the "About me" page on his blog (http://earlyretirementextreme.com/about) says:

"Current networth (2016) : 117 years worth of annual expenses.

My name is Jacob. My greatest claim to fame and overall impact on the world is probably this blog and the concept of ERE.


Before that I used to be a nuclear astrophysicist, but in reality I’ve done many other different and (to me) interesting things and my aim is to continue this way of life for the rest of my life. Never getting bored.

ERE is much much more than just “retiring extremely early” by “sacrificing travel and expensive restaurants”. It is effectively a philosophy of life." 


Read the above again, more carefully this time - this guy has managed to accumulate 117 years worth of annual expenses.

That's phenomenal, especially given most of the working folks are barely able to survive and are living paycheck to paycheck to paycheck.

Living paycheck to paycheck to paycheck is like playing musical chairs where you are in trouble when the music stops and you don't get to sit on one of the chairs.

You are out.

Elsewhere in the blog, Jacob also talks about how he manged to become financially independent in 5 years. That's nothing short of pure magic. 5 years is unimaginable.

Lot of people who have worked for 10-15 years are still not in a position to  become financially independent in next 5 years. They need another 10-15 years or maybe more.

This story is truly inspirational.

For understanding how this was done and learning from this real experience, read this amazing story at: http://earlyretirementextreme.com/how-i-became-financially-independent-in-5-years-part-i.html.

Here's what the above blog post says:

"My journey towards financial independence was not always with financial independence in mind per se.

Had that been my sole goal all a long I would have done things differently and probably faster e.g. 3-4 years instead of 5.

If I had a six figure income, which I never had, I would be able to do it in 2 or 3 years."

Read that again, it says it is possible to attain financial freedom in 2 or 3 years.

That means if you start working when you are 22, you are done when you become 25.

That's seemingly crazy but certainly possible as it looks like, provided you understand and follow the ERE principles.

June 17, 2016

How Handling an Assh*** Can Make You a Better Person?

When you handle an assh***, be it at your workplace (where they are most commonly found and in large numbers at that), in your neighborhood, in a public place like a bus stop or in your family it should be seen as a blessing in disguise.

An assh*** can make you into one yourself if you let it. Or it can make you a better person if you strive for that.

Assh***s at workplace are extremely hard to tackle. Their toxicity is so hard to avoid.

How do you recognize an assh*** when you meet one at your workplace?
  • They would write needless emails with deliberate and malicious agenda
  • They are part of the coterie and a stooge of the top man
  • They would meet people on the sly to collect information to discredit and demean you
  • They go on lunch with other ass***s (so now you know when it's easy to count them all)
  • They would suck the toes, lick the boots and lie prostrate in front of the king of the stooges
  • They would cut others down so that they can grow
  • They carry an artificial and fake smile like a Cheshire cat
  • They ooze toxicity and negativity in their emails
  • They would create more assh***s in their own teams
So how can handling an assh*** at workplace make you a better person? In several ways in fact and here are some of those:
  • You develop a lot of patience. The irrational tantrums and the toxicity of an assh*** slowly starts amusing you rather than causing you any concern
  • You realize that the world is a nasty place full of poisonous snakes (read assh***s) and accept the world as it is rather than as it should be
  • You start analyzing life in a much wider sense and with a deeper appreciation and understand fully well how small things make the big things
  • You become increasingly positive to fight the negativity caused by the assh*** and maintain complete balance in your mind
  • You don't say anything at all when you know you would say something nasty to the assh*** and rightly so (it is better to say nothing when you would want to say something bad only)
  • You acquire philosophical outlook in life and look at things from an altogether different but very positive perspective
  • You never reply to bullshit emails from an assh***s in kind and make sure you retain positivism and professionalism come what may
Remember an assh*** is an assh*** is an assh*** and will remain that way forever. You should never be one or become one. Life is too short for you to live it as an asshole.

There are better ways to spend the 80-100 odd years you have been gifted by God. Don't live it like an assh*** would. Live it in a nice an positive way. That's the only way that's worth it.

Why Educating Kids in India is Economically a Bad Idea and How is it Ruining their Parent's Retirement Plan?

India is a poor country.

The GNI (Gross National Income) per capita using Atlas method (used by the World Bank to estimate the size of economies) in terms of current US$ in 2014 for India was USD 1570.

(Source: http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD/countries/IN-8S-XN?display=graph)

That roughly translates to INR 102050 (assuming 1 USD = 65 INR at current rates).

Note - the above numbers haven't been adjusted for the same time period and for this post that is not really that relevant.

So an average Indian family of 4 members will be having an annual income of INR 408200. Ignoring the taxes altogether, this would mean the monthly income comes to around INR 34017.

Is that good enough to educate your kids and then be in a position where you will still have enough left to spend money on the essential stuff?

Looking at the abnormal school fees, the above would be a herculean task.

How much money is needed to educate a kid in a school in India in a city like Delhi and Gurgaon?

Assuming an average monthly fee of INR 10000 (which includes fees, annual charges, books, stationary, uniform, charges for events like annual day, school bus) for two kids the yearly expenses will come to be INR 240000. Or around 59% of yearly income!

Which mean for the 15 years of school education (Play Group, LKG, UKG and then from class I to class XII) the total cost for one kid would come to an astounding amount of  INR 18 lacs.

So how will the family eat? how will they pay home rent or home loan EMI or both, in some cases? how will they pay water and electricity bills? how will they pay for doctor's fees and medicine? how will they pay bus and auto fares?

The list of even the essential stuff is really too long. And the costs would be much higher than what a comfortable number should like.

This shows something is clearly wrong. When 59% of an average Indian family's income is needed for kid's education it has a drastically adverse on their overall standard of living.

The other problem is as severe as the one above. This has a direct, negative impact on the parent's retirement plan also.

Given the lack of social security in India, the problem gets compounded many times for  an average Indian parent. They find life tough now and will find it perhaps even tougher in the future!

Where is the money to save and invest for retirement?

Saving and investing for retirement is slowly becoming a dream that may alas remain a dream for many of the parents in India.

There was a song in movie which had the following lines:

Where is the time to hate, when there is so little time to love
Come on let' s sing sing sing

Come on let' s dance dance dance
Come on have fun fun fun 

(Source - http://www.hindilyrics.net/lyrics/of-Where%20Is%20The%20Time%20To%20Hate.html)

For parents in India this could be written as:

Where is the money for retirement, when there is so little money for living now
Come on let' s cry cry cry (what else is there to do?)

Come on let' s pray pray pray (to God, who else?)
Come on have fun fun fun (this part shouldn't change!)

May the force be with the parents in India. May they get more money. May they be in a position to save some for retirement as well.

It is Very Crude to Flaunt that You are a Part of the Coterie

Have you come across an ass blatantly flaunting that he belongs to an exclusive group?

It is rude. It is crude too. And it is abominable and highly obnoxious as well.

This happens in organizations that are run by a coterie. Not all, but some of those who are a part of the coterie seem to take things too seriously. That is funny at the best and toxic at the worst.

And for all you know, this group of coterie is given a nice name - management committee!

Howsoever crass and absurd it may be, the others generally have no choice but to tolerate and bear the stupid antics, superior but loathsome attitude and toxic actions of the coterie.

The real problem may actually be with the head of the coterie. She is the one who forms and nurtures the coterie, creates an unprofessional set-up where loyalty is everything and merit has no place.

She is also the one who creates artificial reporting structures to ensure the comfort zone around her remains unchallenged and unchanged.

Others may not have respect for the coterie but then have no choice. And the mantra they ought to follow is very simple - lick the coterie's boots or run away in their own boots.

If you have self-respect and you are professional, you should run away in your own boots. And if you are good for nothing and a loyalist then you must lick the coterie's boots so that they don't fire you and you get to keep your boots!

However, if you don't like it but are not able to move out then you are seriously stuck.

You may hate every time you have to interact with the coterie and their head but unless you have an option in hand you will remain a wage slave.

It is undoubtedly very hard to survive when you are stuck in a toxic workplace infested with coterie culture. It is very hard but then you must wait it out till you have an option.

That's a smart choice but yes the going till then is going to be a tough one!

And yes, it's true: it is very crude to flaunt that you are a part of the coterie. That makes others loose respect for you and makes them leave as well.

June 16, 2016

9 Nuggets from the Ted Talk by Nigel Marsh on Work Life Balance

The human civilization is currently passing through an age which is dominated by huge business corporations that create wealth majorly for the capitalists and a little bit for the "workers".

The idea behind paying decent wages to the workers is to sustain and augment the middle class which is the pivot on which consumerism runs.

In addition, the current education system has perhaps been designed to serve as an assembly line for continuously producing "corporate rats" to keep the huge business corporations running.

Work life balance is perhaps the biggest dilemma the corporate rats have to always contend with. In this context, there is this Ted Talk by Nigel Marsh on work life balance which is an excellent take on this subject.

The term "work life" seems to give an impression that work and life are disjoint sets. However, it is more appropriate to view work as a sub-set of life!

Here are 9 nuggets from Ted Talk by Nigel Marsh:
  • I'd like all of you to pause for a moment, you wretched weaklings, and take stock of your miserable existence. Now that was the advice that St. Benedict gave his rather startled followers in the fifth century. It was the advice that I decided to follow myself when I turned 40.
  • So I stepped back from the workforce, and I spent a year at home with my wife and four young children. But all I learned about work-life balance from that year was that I found it quite easy to balance work and life when I didn't have any work.
  • And the reality of the society that we're in is there are thousands and thousands of people out there leading lives of quiet, screaming desperation, where they work long, hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don't need to impress people they don't like.
  • We should stop looking outside. It's up to us as individuals to take control and responsibility for the type of lives that we want to lead. If you don't design your life, someone else will design it for you, and you may just not like their idea of balance.
  • We need to elongate the time frame upon which we judge the balance in our life, but we need to elongate it without falling into the trap of the "I'll have a life when I retire, when my kids have left home, when my wife has divorced me, my health is failing, I've got no mates or interests left." A day is too short; "after I retire" is too long. There's got to be a middle way.
  • Now I don't mean to mock, but being a fit 10-hour-a-day office rat isn't more balanced; it's more fit. Lovely though physical exercise may be, there are other parts to life - there's the intellectual side; there's the emotional side; there's the spiritual side.
  • As I was walking out of his bedroom, he said, "Dad?" I went, "Yes, mate?" He went, "Dad, this has been the best day of my life, ever." I hadn't done anything, hadn't taken him to Disney World or bought him a Playstation. 
  • Now my point is the small things matter. Being more balanced doesn't mean dramatic upheaval in your life. With the smallest investment in the right places, you can radically transform the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life.
  • Because if enough people do it, we can change society's definition of success away from the moronically simplistic notion that the person with the most money when he dies wins, to a more thoughtful and balanced definition of what a life well lived looks like.

June 13, 2016

Science On Sphere (SOS) Show at National Science Museum, New Delhi



The Science On Sphere (SOS) Show at National Science Museum, New Delhi was inaugurated in June month of year 2016.

It shows various facets of earth and the solar system. It also beautifully explains what makes life possible on earth and helps sustain it.

It also provides a grim reminder that unless human beings conserve planet earth it is slowly hurtling towards extinction like what happened to Dinosaurs ages ago!





June 12, 2016

How to Start Worrying Less or Better Stop Worrying At All?



This is a very important question: why do we worry in general?

And here's another equally important question: why do we worry so much on certain occasions?

The real reason is the fear of loss.

It could be the fear of loss of one or more of the following:
  • Loss of your job which may be lousy but which you desperately need to cling on to so as to be able to pay for your living expenses (this pertains to the money you need to buy food, pay home rent/EMI and sundry bills like water, electricity, gas).
  • Loss of someone you like and love temporarily or even worse permanently maybe because of death (the someone can include your family, friends and other social connects).
  • Loss of time that you could have spent in a better way (the time here pertains to time spent waiting in a queue, meeting someone you hate at the core but can't avoid, time working at a job with ass-like colleagues you can't stand even for a second).
  • Loss of stuff that you bought to make your life better (washing machine, refrigerator, some gadget to connect to Internet but no TV).
  • Loss of health leading to not only unnecessary expenses but also physical and mental discomfort (this pertains to being in a position to lead life independently both in a physical and mental sense which means you are not either in and out of a hospital or a mental asylum).
  • Loss of spiritual, emotional, physical and sexual relation with your life partner (it is painful to be in a relation with your life-partner which is merely social, economic and legal in nature).
  • Loss of ability to pay for the big expenses in life (this would include the big ticket items that cost a truck-load of cash like retirement pool, kid's education, kid's marriage, medical emergencies, accidents, legal cases slapped on you).
  • Loss of social and economic status owing to macro-economic forces, major goof-ups made by you, unethical practices you or someone else indulged in, or plain bad luck.
It is essentially your assessment of one of more of the above losses having high likelihood that causes fear and hence makes you worry.

So how to start worrying less or better stop worrying at all?

One of the ways to do that is to understand what types of losses are in your control and what are not.

And then focus on the losses where you have some level of control on and forget about the rest.

Wherever you have control you should take the right action but leave the final outcome to itself.

Remember there's really nothing that is under your full control!

Outcome is determined by your action, factors beyond your control and some kind of an "X factor" that you may not even know is there in the first place.

A very helpful approach to use is Karmanya Vadhikaraste Maa Phaleshu Kadachan.

The essence of this approach is not to lust after a favorable outcome but to focus on the right action, come what may.

Just think of it, only your action is in your control. The final outcome is never!

June 4, 2016

Merit of Fairness to Everyone and Demerit of Coterie Culture



Tulsidas was a Hindu poet-saint, reformer and philosopher.

Here are two famous couplets (doha - दोहा) from him that dwell beautifully on the merit of fairness to everyone and demerit of coterie culture.

Merit of Fairness to Everyone

मुखिया मुख सों चाहिये, खान पान को एक |
पाले पोसे सकल अंग, तुलसी सहित विवेक | |

अर्थ : तुलसीदास जी कहते हैं कि मुखिया मुख के समान होना चाहिए जो खाता-पिता तो अकेला है, लेकिन सब अंगों का पालन-पोषण विवेकपूर्वक करता है |

Meaning :

The head of a family or an organization should be like the mouth. Though the mouth indulges in drinking and feeding only by itself it takes cares of the other parts of the body in a fair and judicious manner so that the body as a whole functions properly.

The idea is that the head of a family or an organization should know fully well that every member or employee needs to be taken care of in a fair and judicious manner for the whole system to function effectively.

Demerit of Coterie Culture

मंत्री गुरु अरु वैद जो, प्रिय बोलहिं भय आस |
राज  धरम तन तीनि कर होहिं वेगि हो नास ||

अर्थ : गोस्वामीजी कहते हैं कि मंत्री, गुरु और वैद्य यदि भय या लाभ की आशा से हित की बात न कहकर प्रिय बोलते हैं तो क्रमशः राज्य, धर्म एवं शरीर का शीघ्र ही नाश हो जाता है |

Meaning :

If a king's advisor, a spiritual guru or a medical doctor suggests something nice (but not really right and appropriate) due to either fear or greed then it leads to decline of the state, religion and body respectively.

Everyone should use their expertise in an unbiased manner and based on the facts and not indulge in flattery due to either fear or freed.

The idea is that in an organization where the top man promotes coterie culture and his stooges indulge in flattery due to either fear or freed then the organization will stop growing and stagnate, gradually decline and eventually close down.

June 3, 2016

It's All in the Family - Do You Feel So About Your Place of Work?

Well, if you do so, welcome to the real world.

A world where some people at your place of work literally get on to your nerves.

A world where you find asses having a great time.

A world where you see Cheshire cats showing their smartness.

And a world where some people get something which they don't really deserve.

The "All in the Family" kind of culture at your place of work will throw following strange situations at you:
  •     Some people are more like college friends than colleagues
  •     Some people do just one thing - scratch each others' back
  •     Some people are no more than a a bloody club of mutual admirers
  •     Some people are like stooges of the top dog
  •     Some people operate as a close-knit coterie
It's all in the family means:
  • The coterie of the top man and his stooges are more like a family of asses than professional colleagues
  • The coterie gets a royal treatment
  • The coterie is a like an extended family on the weekends
  • The coterie protects each others' backs
  • The coterie stays quiet when one of the members is found wanting
  • The coterie spews venom against an outsider when they sense an opportunity and if they don't get an opportunity they create one
  • The coterie goes for lunch together like a family does!
  • The coterie maintains secrecy and holds lot of information close to their chest
  • The coterie talks behind the back of outsiders and creates wrong impressions and perceptions
  • The coterie is disconnected from the ground reality
  • The coterie takes decisions with utmost secrecy and with a hidden, evil agenda

May 30, 2016

Key Financial Terms and Ratios that are Useful for Evaluating Stocks - Part 1

For analyzing the stocks that look promising and then selecting the ones in which you can invest your hard-earned money it is helpful to be aware of and clearly understand some of the key financial terms and ratios.

Here are some such key financial terms and ratios that are useful for evaluating stocks:
  • CMP or P (Current Market Price) - as the name also suggests, is the price at which the stock is currently trading. P keeps on fluctuating from one second to another (when the stock market is open, of course!).
  • BV or B (Book Value) - is the value of the assets held by the company and indicates the cash that will get freed up in case the company goes bankrupt and its assets are liquidated.
  • EPS or E (Earning Per Share) - is the net income post-tax the company has earned and indicates the cash generating power of the stock.
  • DPS or D (Dividend Per Share) - is the dividend earned by the shareholder for every share held and can be viewed as regular cash inflow from stock investment.
  • P/E (Price to Earnings ratio) - indicates the premium or discount at which the stock is trading. P/E should be less than 20 (which implies a 5% rate of return on capital invested by you to buy the stock).
  • P/B (Price to Book ratio) - indicates how much you are paying for the stock as against the value of its assets in the books. P/B should be less than 5 (which implies if you buy a stock at Rs. 100/- and the company goes bankrupt you can expect to get Rs. 20/- back). 
  • ROCE (Return On Capital Employed) - is the cash generating ability of the capital employed by the company in the form of both equity and debt. ROCE should be more than 10%.
  • ROE / RONW (Return On Equity or Return On Net Worth) - is the cash generating ability of company for its owners or shareholders. It indicates  the return that can be expected by the owners for assuming the investment risk. ROE should be more than 15%.
  • D/E (Debt to Equity ratio) - is the composition of the capital employed by the company and indicates its financial leverage position. Higher leverage would generally translate into higher risk for the business. D/E ratio should be less than 2 (which implies if the capital of a company is Rs. 100/-, debt should not be more than Rs. 66.67)
  • DY (Dividend Yield) - is the dividend paid by the stock as against its market price. It indicates the return from the stock in the form of dividends. It indicates how much "hard" cash is shared by the company with its shareholders. DY should be more than 2%.
  • DPR (Dividend Payout Ratio) -  indicates the ratio of earnings the company distributes to its shareholders as dividend (or DPS/EPS). DPR should be within 20% to 40%.
  • NPM (Net Profit Margin) - is the profit post-tax or the net earnings generated by the company. Annualized growth in NPM during the last 5 years should be more than 10%.
  • OPM (Operating Profit Margin) - is the NPM from business operations. It is the net earnings from operations and not from the management of the company's finances. Average OPM during the last 5 years should not be negative.
Read Part 2 here:
Key Financial Terms and Ratios that are Useful for Evaluating Stocks - Part 2

May 29, 2016

Why Investing is an Extremely Hard Game to Play?

Think about any game.

In most of the games following aspects will generally hold good:
  • Past records are known and are a good predictor of future performance.
  • Rules of game are well defined.
  • Skill is more important than luck (other than in some cases like chance-based card games).
  • Rules of game do not change all of a sudden due to any unexpected event occurring suddenly.
  • Every player knows how many players and who all are playing the game.
  • Duration for which a game is played is known.
  • Played in open so what any player does is visible immediately or after a short time lag to all the other players.
  • Kind of homework and preparation that needs to be done is known to all players.
  • Involves use of both physical and mental faculties (degree of usage varies).
  • Uncertainty about future does not have a large bearing on the final outcome of the game.
  • Risks that may materialize are limited in number and mostly known to all players.
Investing can also be viewed as a game!

So what does the game of investing involve? Here are some key aspects:
  • Past records are known but are not a good predictor of future performance and can only be used to make hypothesized projection of the future performance.
  • Rules of game are well defined only in terms of the transactions that need to be made and not the strategy that gets deployed (there are legal considerations as well which need to be adhered to otherwise the penalty incurred may wipe out the entire gains).
  • Skill is more important than luck but role of luck is also huge in terms of the uncertainty about the future. Skill is used to analyze past performance and hypothesized projection of the future performance to arrive at an investment decision but a "black swan" event in the future can tilt the final outcome in either direction. Luck or the lack of it can play the role of an angel or a devil respectively.
  • Rules of game do not change all of a sudden due to any unexpected event occurring suddenly but since they do not apply to the strategy part of the investing process, the way many of these rules get applied by a player can have a significant material impact on the other players.
  • The choice of investment portfolios and the investments within each any player can hold is infinite. The players playing the game of investing would not know how many and who all are playing the game. Not only that, players may be independently playing a game of their own individual choice with multiple intersections though with games being played by the other players simultaneously.
  • The duration and the time to enter and exit an investment is not specified and, in fact, forms a crucial part of the strategy to improve the final investment outcome (a player can actually enter and exit multiple number of times).
  • Played mostly privately (the first few critical moves are always private) so what any player does is either not visible at all or only after a long time lag to all the other players.
  • Kind of homework and preparation that needs to be done is known to all players but is very wide ranging from subjects such as Economic History, Macro Economics, Micro Economics, Behavioral Economics, World History, Politics, Finance & Accounting, Capital Markets, Human Psychology, Mathematics, Statistics. With such a wide range of subjects a player ought to understand, the homework and preparation required is indeed a tough one and since things are ever evolving it always remains in a work in progress state.
  • Involves use of mental faculties primarily (analysis and due deliberation performed at times are very comprehensive and highly complex).
  • Uncertainty about future has a large bearing on the final outcome of the game (both on the negative as well as the positive side).
  • Risks that may materialize are large in number (including geo-political and macro-economic factors across the world) and not known to all players in equal measure and at the same time.
So it is evident that investing is like any other game.

However, investing, is unlike other games in many ways. The nature, scope and complexity of the game of investing makes it extremely hard.

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