Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Other Side of Things...

There is always the 'Other side' of events that happen in our life. With experience most of us become more prudent to realize this reality.

Our elders were not wrong when they said, "Its the youth in you that wants to take risks, experiment and experience." Till we are parents ourselves, we don't get to know what our parents thought when we sought our own way and defined our own priorities. Similarly, my bias to stick to what I held as an opinion at work was wrong, I failed to see the other side of things. Though, what I meant was not weighed by 'Others' from 'My side of things...'.

My elder daughter will be a teen in a year's time. And I better know the 'Other side..' of why a Facebook profile is important before turning 18, why looks matter more today and what independence is all about. I, as a teen must have gone through a similar phase but still chose to react in a way that replicates 'My Side..' approach followed by my parents. 

Optimists are ones who are confident and have a coherent story that validates their belief. However, there is an "Other side..' to this. Quoting from the book, "Thinking and Fast and Slow", "A CFO who informs his colleagues that 'there is a good chance that the S&P returns will be between -10% and +30%' can expect to be laughed out of the room. The wide confidence of interval is a confession of ignorance, which is socially not acceptable for someone who is paid to be knowledgeable in financial matters." 

Anyone who has a coherent story will be rewarded and the moment it is qualified with 'Other side..', it is subject to criticism. President Truman (of United States) famously asked for a "one-armed economist" who would take a clear stand; he was sick and tired of economists who kept saying, "On the other hand.."

Why is knowing the 'Other side...' important? First, nothing in life is certain. Striving for certainty and ending-up to have overconfidence may make us blind to risks associated with an uncertainty. Acknowledging the 'Other side..' will help us prepare better both for facing risks and accepting the failures. Second, it makes us more understanding and accommodating. It helps us connect and bond well with those we love and care for. Lastly, 'Other side..' is a personality trait that is defines ones leadership skills and formally defined as a 'Lateral Thinking'.

I failed to see so many things in my life from the 'Other side..'. However, I am beginning to realize this. 

My wife was not mistaken to have unwavering belief in my strengths, my capabilities. Atleast, I have started to take note of such an opinion. Whenever, I had an argument (lucky one to do so) with her, I lost it since she always had a more logical 'Other Side..' which was more convincing.

I grew to be more accommodating to my friends from different economic and cultural backgrounds. Today, I connect with a Sindhi, Brahmin, Bengali, Jaini, Gujarati, Christian and a Punjabi whether from India or Canada. 

For me praying was more about acknowledging the fear associated with almighty's powers till I realized that its all about igniting the source of energy within ourselves. 

Phone calls to parents staying away from me is about recognizing their efforts to make us what we are. And, its not a bad idea to have your parents staying away from you since that gives them a lot of free time in their lives that they longed for. 

Buying your kids things they demand is not the ONLY way to compensate for quality time that I fail to spend with them. 'not the ONLY' since I still believe its a good short-cut to ensure happiness and save time for oneself. 

Watching television is not a waste of time. Its also a source of entertainment as well. Elderly today are kept entertained and updated about developments in the world via television who otherwise cannot venture out anymore. 

Fitness is a way of life but this is not an universal reality. We have healthy humans on this earth who never exercised as much as I do. 

However, whenever I had 'Other side..' to express, I was called, "He is a person who can take any side, can argue both sides- for and against." "Don't be a thaali ka baigan (Brinjal)" or "You are a "Bin paende ka lota". (can take any side). May be the criticism is for the indecisiveness associated with my approach to take note of 'Other side..'

But I am not calculative and diplomatic for sure...

Monday, November 4, 2013

Learning to Exercise

Exercising does not come naturally to most of us. A very subjective estimate may go like this-
-          - 90% never exercised and believe they do not need to;
-          - 5% think only overweight needs to exercise;
-         -  of the remaining 5% less than 1% is actually able to exercise and sustain it over a long period of time.

Exercising is a lifestyle issue and not a stop-gap arrangement as if under some medication to get desired results. Empirical research has always proved that optimal level of exercising strengthens both internal and external organs of human body. But despite all what is written, read and understood very few of us are able to introduce exercise as a permanent change in their lifestyle.

Last year, I began exercising after a gap of some 15 years. In the interim, I had several failed attempts to introduce it permanently into my lifest with efforts lasting maximum 3-4 months. When I tried again in March 2012, I was not sure of being successful. I started off with a very light exercise regime so that I could still be full of energy to work for 12 hours every day. The schedule I followed was a self-developed one that gave me comfort and allowed my body to adjust to exercising. Coupled with some diet restrictions I was able to get desired results. My weight reduced by 15 kgs, waist shrunk by 3 inches, stamina increased to a level that from being out of breath ascending few stairs, I could run at 9km/hr for min of 45 minutes with ease.

Post 12 months of exercising for atleast 5 days a week, I was back to having a diet which was twice was what I ate in last two years. Once we attain the permanent change- which in my opinion is possible after exercising regularly for a min of 12 months- diet plays an important role to ensure that your body is not devoid of minerals and vitamins in requisite quantity. In other words, no such diet control from quantity perspective is applicable. It should find balance with the quantum of exercise we do.

My schedule was also put to test accidentally by my friend who was overweight (by 30 kgs) and was worried when Doctors he visited were threatening to put him on medication- 1 tablet for cholesterol, 1 for blood pressure control and a couple more for other associated problems. It is not less than a shock for anyone to hear from a Doctor that he/she is ill. Our whole approach to our bodies (that is usually least cared for) becomes very scientific. We immediately get concerned about what we eat, how much we work and the rest we get. Most of us usually end-up blaming polluted food we get to eat and not the choices we make to eat. Blame our work schedule for strain and inappropriate sleep. But that is not the case always. Fault lies with us and we are blame for the problem at hand.

In first month, my friend called me to say that he had followed my schedule and was able to reduce his weight by 7 kgs and as per Doctors he should continue to build on the new exercise regime. My friend was amongst those who had not exercised before and was settling down comfortably into the exercise regime developed. What he followed is presented below for the benefit of all others. I suggest consult your Doctor with the schedule below, if in case you intend to follow, and then go ahead only when he confirms it to you. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Indecisiveness is good?

All our actions in life are goaled towards ‘Certainty’. The more we have it the better we feel. However, indecisiveness is a personality trait that is common across most of us unless it is chronic. We are indecisive about which course of action to take. Our preferences swing like a pendulum between choices at hand. As per Behavioral scientists indecisiveness emanates from the need to achieve certainty. So for a layman ‘Certainty’ is root of indecisiveness.

Consider the indecisiveness that a teenager undergoes when she is not clear of what interests here. Symptoms of poor motivation, high peer pressure, low self-awareness etc. may be evident in her personality. Similarly, consider a professional who is to choose one job offer from the two options he has. Firstly, if she approaches it rationally, final call can be taken post listing out pros and cons for each option and then chose the one that has higher no. of pros. Alternatively, we may have a situation where the professional is impulsive and opts to accept the job offer that assures ‘Certainty’ to any of the priorities he has defined for himself. For instance, more salary, dream company, better job profile, better designation, proximity to residence etc. In most cases some or the other bias exists that impacts our decision-making.  

Indecisiveness despite several disadvantages has several benefits while preparing us better for ‘Certainty’ in our lives. If it’s not chronic, since that’s a psychological disorder, it is good to be indecisive at times. There are several reasons for this:

1.      Multiple factors impact any decision and most of them are unknown to us. Such hidden factors are revealed usually with time unless we have a researcher’s approach.

2.      We do not control all the factors that influence our decision.

3.      We will have to define a pecking order of the factors for their relative impact on the decision to be taken.

4.      It prepares us better to face the risk associated with a decision since we have run through all possible scenarios in our imagination.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Forgetting Fear and Winning Uncertainty

Uncertainty breeds fear. Despite all our strengths and preparation to face a situation in our lives, factors beyond our control exist as roots of uncertainty. Our perceptions, beliefs and past failures build upon such uncertainties to have a full fledged fear with deep roots inside us.
Significance of factors beyond our control vary and hence possible impact these factors have on the 'Desired' outcome. Please take note of 'Desired' here.
Fear has its roots, both, from uncertainty around factors beyond our control and from doubts on factors that are under our control, our strengths, in other words.
As individuals we all face situations in our lives- both expected and unexpected. Our ability to foresee/pre-empt these situations helps us prepare better but FEAR may still exist.
Law of attraction is a concept that teaches to fight fear and get a desired outcome. It educates us to practice sending out positive statements/desire statement to our brain. Constant positive re-enforcement impacts our thinking and finally, influences our actions. As a result, we forget about the uncertainty. We only remember what we desire and the strength that we posses to achieve the desired outcome.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Leverage and SMEs- Is capital structure of any relevance?

Optimal mix of debt vs equity helps define the hurdle rate while taking capital expenditure decisions. Choice of capital structure; its optimal level compared to equity and how and when companies churn their capital structure has been researched widely in academic research.
While reviewing the relevance of capital structure for Indian companies due consideration to constraints to finance is important. Large and 'A' rated companies have a wide array to chose from while SMEs are highly constrained in terms of choices. Further, most of the SMEs in Indian are family-owned businesses who have a strong aversion to debt.
For SMEs, pecking order of financing (when internal accruals are not enough) are:
1) Unsecured loans from promoters/group companies;
2) Equity from promoter;
3) Secured borrowings from banks;
4) Equity/quasi-equity from non-promoters.
Working capital gap is funded by stretched trade credit and borrowings from non-market sources, as well. The quantum of borrowing usually depends on the nature of business and reputation the promoter enjoys in the business circle.
Traditionally, world over, family-owned businesses are known to re-deploy the retained profits to reduce debt and/or grow their business. Cost of capital is not a very important criteria for two reasons:
1) Promoters have reasonable return expectations and hence unlike an ROI of 20% and above for a PE, promoter is happy with a return of 10-12% spread for over a longer time horizon;
2) More than the cost of debt, control dilution is a far bigger reason for aversion to debt from banks.
 In recent years- with what is observed by me in case of Indian firms- over-leveraging has become quite evident in the balance sheets of Indian companies, especially more alarming in case of SMEs. Increased competition and shrinking profit-margins have forced firms to resort to debt, to ensure enough liquidity to tide over trough phase of business cycle.
Hence, any attempt to comment on the relevance of capital structure for SMEs, we should look at them in a financing-need induced framework. Byoun (2007) has suggested to review capital structure changes under 4 scenarios:
1) Financial SURPLUS with MORE than optimal level of debt
2) Financial SURPLUS with LESS than optimal level of debt
3) Financial DEFICIT with MORE than optimal level of debt
4) Financial DEFICIT with LESS than optimal level of debt
* Byoun, Soku, How and When Do Firms Adjust Their Capital Structures Toward Targets?. Journal of Finance, Forthcoming.  

Sunday, July 28, 2013

CHANGE IN MY LIFESTYLE- Exercising my way to a new life

Going for a preventive health check-up was an impulsive decision last year in March-2012. I was sensing some discomfort in my overall fitness and well-being. Finally, the trend to go for a preventive health check-up caught on me.

I was never so unfit in my life. I have a past of a sportsman. I did some rigorous cycling during my college days. My fitness levels were- weighed 65 Kg (for a 5ft 10 inch height); heart beat in resting stage was 60 beats per minute (indicative of the stamina); cycled some 3000 km in a month.
Today, 15 years hence, I had enrolled myself (unknowingly, just like others) in the rate-race club. While getting my love was my decision, rest all events in my life unfolded, as if they were freebies with that one decision of mine. However, no excuses on my laziness and negligence. I WAS RESPONSIBLE and I AM RESPONSIBLE  for my health and fitness.
My test reports were out in a day's time and was shocked to note that atleast five readings across lipid profile, liver function and kidney function test were out of the normal range. Nothing alarming medically though, but shocking to me personally since my body was expected to work for some 40 years more to take care of seven dependents. Outliers in my medical tests may be acceptable to a statistician and a doctor but no way acceptable to me personally.
Finally, I had that one reason to stretch myself to come out of self-created web of reasons of not having enough time to exercise. Since that day, I am awake before alarm goes-off on my mobile phone- Good Morning- at 5:30 am.
I started initially with 2-3 km runs and then exercising at home. I exercised a min of 4 times in a week. First one month was an acclimatizing phase when my metabolism was increased to a level that demanded I ate more and rested post workouts. But resting was not possible. I had to be at work by 10:00 am six days of week.
I was entering a phase where I needed some motivation to continue my new routine. I tried hard to restrict my diet to multiple but short bites during office hours. I kept narrating my workouts with my colleagues to ensure their encouragement kept me to go-on.
Then my dream of being back to cycling once again turned out to be a reality. One Sunday evening despite having fever my wife accompanied me to buy a racing bike.
That night, I could not sleep. I lived through my past life 15 years back, when I cycled. I could not wait for the morning alarm to go-off. First day, I cycled on my new Canondale cadd 8 series was Jun 29 2012. I covered some 32 km at 20.5 km/hr i.e. I took some 1:33:51 hrs to cover the distance. Compared to that, today, I average around 27 km/hr for same distance and same route of cycling.
Since my first day of cycling, after a chasm of 15 years, I have covered some 3,776 km at an average speed of 26.1 km/hr. I have burnt some 128,132 kcal in total. So after such an effort and with a balanced lifestyle, I do not have the urge to redo my medical tests. I have lost some 12 kg of fat and reduced waist size from 38 inches to 33 inches.
June 29 2013 was the first day of my workout recorded on the sports-tracker app. Today, I covered 48 km on same Gurgaon-Faridabad road and despite being a humid and hot day was averaging 26 km/hr.
I aim for competitive cycling now in my age group. I am assured that I have managed to change my lifestyle permanently but will not take it for granted. Today, I can cycle for some 40 km in morning and still me active through out the day. I have the luxuries to break rules of a controlled dieting over weekends. I sleep deep and sound. I am happy and less stressed. I have been impressing people around me with my new hobby and fitness levels. My wife is the first one to adopt the new regime in her life as well, easy for her since she has been a great swimmer through out her life. Since then, I have impressed upon my father and my chacha ji to buy a bicycle.
I intend to impress upon others as well- known or strangers- take-up fitness route to life.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Why you should not look for a new job?

People end-up searching for a new job for varied reasons. While they have a convincing rationale to explain others, they fail to realize the exact reasons within and evaluate them thoroughly. Money is one of the key factors they often get carried away. Forget evaluating reasons for change, most of them fail to decode the new company's CTC structure which may be hiring them under pretext of higher increase ultimately paying far less. 

Before identifying the reasons for NOT changing a job, what situation(s) or reasoning prompts to upload their resume on Naukri should be listed:

Boss Related:
  1. Hate his personality and behavior. 
  2. Takes credit for my work.
  3. Preaches transparency but practices conflicting task allocation amongst colleagues.
  4. He knows nothing. I am better not report to a person who knows less than me. I wonder how is he my boss.
  5. He is using me to meet his task and will render me useless in company the day he has a back-up for me.

Job Related:
  1. I have a monotonous job. Sick of coming to work at same place with same frowning faces around.
  2. I have an ugly workstation and no one cares or respects me. Only select seniors in the company are respected. 
  3. I have a new role before I have settled well into the existing one. 
  4. I actually do not like my current job. I landed up doing it accidentally. 
  5. My father earns enough so why should I slog for someone else.
  6. My current profile is name sake. Actually I have no job that could land me a new job easily. So lets move before its too late.
  7. I have mastered my current job and equivalent to a Doctorate. Lets explore out I am sure I will be able to perform.
  8. I will not be paid enough in my current company for this role.
  9. The role may not last in my current company and I will have to change job since I am not ready to accept anything other than the current one.
  10. My colleague wins "Best Employee" reward while I fail to get one.
Money Reasons:
  1. My friends are earning more
  2. I am yet to buy a house.
  3. I need to own a car or a bike. 
  4. Salaries are delayed as if my employer does not feel like paying me. 
  5. I performed very well but then annual appraisal will average 10%
  6. I already have an offer paying me 40% more.

Despite the easy way out, taking up a new job has its own challenges and at times and with some adjustments and thinking style you are better to continue in current job:

  1. Start thinking like a businessman- just like your employer. Keep asking yourself- Why should I continue to be paid? Answer to this is easier to find with existing employer.
  2. In case of Boss related issues, you are better off dealing a 'Known Devil' than an 'Unknown One'
  3. You already know your boss's strengths and weaknesses; leverage them to your and your employer's advantage.
  4. Be proactive at work this is possible only if you know what to do and enjoy the support of colleagues. In new company you will not be able to get this comfort with ease. 
  5. Proving and establishing your credentials takes time. Better stick to current job them re-start it somewhere else. Remember- time not only heals old wounds but also create favorable biases.
  6. Stability of a job is letting you plan for other things in life better- more time with kids; comfort of taking leaves; personal favors from colleagues; family connection etc.
  7. Accepting change in a well-known set-up is far easier than in a new environment.
  8. Better-off spending energy getting more efficient in current job than finding a new one.