Absolute Vs Relative Happiness

There are two type of people, the one who want to define happiness and then there are the ones who measure it.

A. The ones who define happiness do it this way : I have a Volvo X60, my dream car and that makes me happy

B. The ones who measure relative happiness : I have a Volvo X60, most of my colleagues don’t own this car and that very fact makes me very happy

Type A seek absolute happiness, they don’t measure it. A safe and big car like Volvo X60 makes them happy

Type B always measure happiness, their level of happiness will always depend on the average happiness of others around them

Type A seek internal validation and type B seek external validation. Who is better A or B?

Who is better? All the happiness gurus would tell us to be like A and there are very few people like A. But majority of us are like B because it is easy to measure anything relatively. For instance how full I am after eating the breakfast? I am fuller than yesterday! so I am good!

But in case of happiness we try to measure intangible (happiness) with the tangible, Volvo X60 in this case. Anyway, the point us we seek relative happiness because we don’t have a good indicator to validate that we are really happy. And the beauty is the fact that the whole economy is designed around it. It lets you compare happiness through social media and ads and what not. Strange is it not?

You have an awesome money making idea? There is a 99.99% chance it will die in your head!

Have you ever thought about writing a book on an exciting topic? perhaps a time travel novella? or have you mulled over the possibility of becoming an online entrepreneur to get financial freedom? And then what happened? what happened to that idea?

We all get awesome ideas everyday. But we are not taught to nurture those ideas. For instance, a dream of becoming financially free is a simple innocent dream. The dream of not living the dream of others and being your own master. That dream manifests into ideas or possibilities to imagine a life without constraints. But all those possibilities have a life span of few minutes or hours. They die as soon as they are born; tragic. However, boosting the life-span of those ideas is completely in our control. I don’t want to sound like an innovation Guru here but with some commonsense and simple steps we could make our ideas fly, you only need one idea to give you that freedom.

I have been closely following some online businesses and self-employed people who are doing really well and here is what I gathered from them.

Step 0 : One day while sipping coffee you just have an epiphany of what you need to do in your life

Step A : Share your idea

  1. Share your ideas with your loved ones. Sharing ideas give them a tangible shape. Let others know that your idea is born.
  2. Share your idea with people whom you don’t know. Write and blog about it on social media. Let people give you all the negative and positive feedback.

Repetition doesn’t ruin the prayer!

Step B : Promote your idea

This step needs some money. You need some investment so that your idea reaches the maximum audience. Remember that any idea is result of critical and creative thinking. There are billions of people on this planet and there are millions who think just like you, the only difference is that millions of people don’t “promote” what they think.

Find forums where you can go and talk, spend on online ads build quality content around your idea.

Step C : Sell

This is where monetization happen. Once you have a minimum threshold of people who might want try what you have to offer, you can try selling your concept. The step B is like sales funnel, or a busy street you get access to people.

Step D : Up-sell and Cross Sell

This is where you scale and sell your allied products along with your core products. Apple started of with computing and today it is selling music and phones.

Step E : Promote, Promote, Promote

I am trying to make it sound easy but it is not. But look at the possibilities, many people don’t go past step 0. Every step has its own rewards. Every step needs different behaviors.

Step 0 : Needs you to be creative and have a possibility mindset. At-least you dream.

Step A : Needs you to be vulnerable and open for feedback. You have to be resilient here.

Step B: You have to be risk-taking. Good articulation and communication skills to build quality content.

Step C : Commercial skills, networking, building long term relationships with potential clients is what matters at this stage

Step D : Think big, use all the skills that you have learnt at Step 0, A, B and C

Step E : This is just repeating what you are best at.

To conclude, we are not taught to nurture and grow our ideas. Everything has a method and a path only that we have to take that first step and commit to follow it.

Why there are so many tire repair shops in my locality?

There are just too many tire repair and air shops around my locality. When I say “Too many” I mean if you walk 200 meters in any direction you will find one. These shops are typically tin sheet huts with gloomy interiors and a quintessential yellow painted tire tube tied outside indicating the service offered. You can safely extrapolate this to any other urban/semi-urban Indian locality. There are just too many tire shops; period.

These shops offer two services : air filling and tire repairing. There are two core assets, a compressor, and a semi-skilled man who has no clue where his life is headed. But kudos to the huge risk he has taken to open such business. At-least he can call himself an entrepreneur.

Anyway, sometimes I wonder what so many tire shops are doing in one tiny locality. Are they getting enough business? how many customers do they service every day? There is no way to do micro-math here. There are just too many variables.

But we certainly can do the macro math. There are around 200 million registered vehicles in India. Now let us calculate the revenue of only tire filling operation. I will conveniently discount tubeless tires here for ease of calculation.

Every filling operation charges Rs 10 on an average.

200*10 =  Rs 2000 million ie. 200 crores, assuming every vehicle owner does 20 transactions around the year that equals to Rs 40000 million.

But hold on to your horses! We are not even considering tire repair revenue. Assuming every vehicle undergoing at-least 1 puncture:

So we have Rs 300 ( average charge per puncture)* 200 million vehicles.That is Rs 60000 million

  1. Air filling operations Rs 40000 million
  2. Tube repairing service Rs 60000 million

Total = Rs 100000 Million

To convert into dollar = 100000/76 = 1.3 Billion Dollars

Area of India is 3.2 million sq km

Let us assume that 95% of area is inaccessible, there are no roads, forests, low human density, rural etc. Only 2.7% of worlds land is urbanized. source: how much of the world is covered by cities

Since India is so densely populated, we can assume 5% of India is urbanized/ semi urbanized.That leaves us with 0.16 million sq km (5% of 3.2 million sq km)

So potential revenue per square km = 1300/0.16 = $8000 dollars per sq km

I googled per capita income of India and that came out to be $ 7680  PPP for 2018. Let us assume it to be $8000 in 2020 for ease of calculation.

So how many tire repair shops should 1sq km of land support in India?

The answer is Revenue per sq km/ per capita income

= $8000/$8000 = 1 shop

Clearly there are more tire shops in my locality. Even if my estimations are 50% wrong, that gives us 2 shops per sq km, even then we might have 3 or 4 extra tire shops in a typical Indian locality.

Phew*

Why there are so many sales jobs?

Few days back I was going through the annual reports of Salesforce.com , an organization known for its cloud CRM software , wondering how this organization made it to the Forbes list for 3 years in a row. I found something interesting , I found that it is increasing its revenue like no other company in the world, 31% YoY growth! that’s maddening.Being on aggressive growth trajectory, salesforce.com was also consistent in making losses for last three years , the highlight being, sales and marketing expenditure as a portion of cost of revenue was humongous( a whopping 67% !). Needless to say Salesforce.com was a sales organization more than a cloud software solutions organization.

Come to think of the new businesses of the 21st century and they have a similar story to tell. They need a huge sales-force. Have a look at the placement data of any top tier B-schools and you will find that almost everyone is selling Insurance policies,  loans, software and online advertisement space. The obvious part is these positions are being created because there is a high attrition rate in these domains .You cant last long if you cant take the pressure , add to it unrealistic targets and abusive managers. But in addition to that reason, a subtle underlying cause is at play.

Here is how some traditional functions in typical organizations got redundant in past century (the traditional functions as mentioned in porters value chain) :

In the 19th and 20th century industrialization happened through manufacturing. There were organizations which manufactured and “also” did little marketing and selling. Towards the late 20th century there was a flip, now you had organizations which marketed and sold and “also” manufactured. This was simply because everyone had developed competence to manufacture most things needed my most people. Manufacturing was commoditized ,towards the end of 20th century manufacturing got concentrated in one place on earth called as “China” . So to differentiate and impact the bottom line and beat China’s scale of economies, manufacturing in other countries had to focus on streamlining itself by lay-offs. Automation led to further efficiency. Six Sigma programs and the Toyota way was preached like religion. Production folks started religiously following these disciplines to make the management feel that they are still worthy of doing something. Go to any automotive manufacturing facility today and you will see these approaches and progress printed on A3 sheets  put on proud display on factory floors.

Maintenance department was populated by un-ambitious mechanical engineers. No one cared to leave for better opportunities and everyone was happy doing a thankless job. Since nobody left the organization, nobody was recruited. They sometimes complained  that production department took all the credit for their hard work.

HR department drank more coffee than the maintenance department, but the CEO who had subscription to HBR magazine, thought that HR is the change agent. CFO thought otherwise. So far they had gained expertise in booking meetings at awesome locations and coordinating training programs. HR was always an operational support function. IT  department? read Outsourcing , mass recruiting, herd mentality. Likewise administrative functions (Legal , accounting, finance and procurement) also got streamlined due to advent of computers. Now fewer people could handle multiple tasks.

Bottom-line is that the core of an organization which was to manage human resources, manufacturing, and maintenance was shrinking. It became so efficient that processes were set in place and any human being of an average intelligence could handle those processes. Non-core processes were outsourced. And then there was the rise of KPOs. Anyone who could read, speak , google and fill excel sheets ended up there.

It was found that every penny invested in manufacturing and other operations resulted in diminishing returns. And organizations left the task of innovating to the ilk of Apple. Innovating was hard, Six Sigma and Toyota way was easy (at-least to follow). Fall of Motorola (the organization which gave us six sigma) was caused because it couldn’t innovate. So if you can’t innovate and manufacturing is commoditized how you create a difference? You simply did aggressive push “sales”.

Every penny invested in “sales department” made some sense. You could recruit , trim, shave and do other stuff to your sales team which comprised of highly enthusiastic and materialistic individuals with generic skill sets. There was an “Undo” button here which was not available in other domains. Capital expenditure in a manufacturing facility to optimize cost was a risk but recruitment in sales department was always low risk tactic .Nobody cared how big your sales team gets as long as they bring in sales. Rest of the organization was allergic to people, fewer the better ! nobody ever said bring in more guys to improve operations.

The law of diminishing returns didn’t quite apply here, and nobody ever thought of automating sales beyond fancy CRM softwares. You always needed people to sell your products to other people. Put a proper incentivization plan in place and you could always see some results through endless human suffering , frustration and unrealistic targets . A machine could never replicate that human suffering and greed to achieve excellence. Even the organizations on the frontiers of technology needed people to sell its products and services. Thus sales became the ultimate panacea of this world. So why so many sales jobs? because that is where most humans can still add value.

Direction and Impact is all you need

Usually, people struggle with two aspects when it comes to having a purposeful, #happy and #successful life

1. Finding a direction
2. Creating an impact: making it big in that direction

Direction: Knowing that you just love to play cricket and you are going to make a living out of it

Impact: Playing for your country

Direction gives you a sense of purpose

The magnitude of your impact gives you a feeling of accomplishment and happiness

Without a direction, the possibility to make it big is almost 0

Unless you are just lucky

To achieve their wild dreams, people without a direction often seek shortcuts and random approaches (it is their strength or risk-taking aptitude)

Very few succeed out of sheer luck; right time, right place and big dreams

People with direction strive to create that impact all their lives; some are able to create modest success stories and some definitely make it big

You will hear more popular stories about people without a clear direction who make it big (rags to riches, lost causes, serendipity).

Those stories are really interesting, everyone wants to believe that anything can happen.

The problem is no one wants to talk about direction and #purpose yet everyone wants to make it big

Bollywood: La Familia

Why is the family business model so prevalent in #Bollywood? If we thoroughly answer this question, we might get some cues on why #nepotism is so rampant in Bollywood

Bollywood is small. Yes very tiny for the disproportionate influence it has on us. The estimated size of Bollywood is $3B per year. Just to give you a perspective, Avengers End Game collected $3B worldwide.

Small and fragmented industries are not able to pull capital from big investors or production companies. Why risk your capital on something tiny and uncertain?

Then who has the risk appetite to invest in risky and fragile concepts of Bollywood? You are right! family businesses

Standard practices/decision making/hiring in any business depends on what kind of capital the business uses. Study how venture capitalists manage their investments, you will get an idea.

The moment it is a #familybusiness, it is up to their discretion to decide how they manage their business and how they hire, retain, or fire talent.

To conclude, here is a definition of Nepotism pasted from Google
Nepotism (noun): The practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs

Connect the dots 🙂

Death of a Star : Depression and more

India was shaken by the untimely death of Shushant Singh Rajput(SSR) and so was I. Not that I was fan of SSR but because someone so young but successful just took his dear life. SSR was a small town boy, an outsider who had been successful in Bollywood, that in itself is a big win. As the news came out, within minutes several theories surfaced as to why SSR committed suicide. Media did its part, bombarding people with hypothesis and the depression the actor was going through. Media did what it did best; generated cacophony.

In the meanwhile I started doing my own research, reading selective articles about Shushant as well as consuming the crass news that surfaced in the days that followed his death. Depression became a hot topic, people who were no authority in the field of depression (psychological sciences) began to give lose opinions. About a week after the star’s death, people drew causalities as to why he was depressed and his death was attributed to the Bollywood Mafia.

After we get access to enough information, it is usually easy to connect the dots because we fall for confirmation bias. All the conclusions we draw are conveniently supported by attributing to selective data that we find appropriate. Unfortunately, all VIP deaths are subjected to such analysis. In hindsight everything is 20/20. But as I was slowly progressing towards finding out more, I happened to watch SSRs old interviews. Obviously due to confirmation bias my lens of seeing those interviews was muddied. But here is what I gathered, SSR was no doubt intelligent, a deep thinker and passionate about science, especially astronomy. He liked to explain complex things and one might think what he was doing among the Bollywood populace of mediocre intellect at best. This inference was easy to arrive at, you could simply read the comments and understand.

But what is difficult to identify is a person who is extremely passionate about something beyond the common life and disconnected with his/her surroundings. SSR was somewhat disconnected from the reality. Philosophy, astronomy, spirituality are some of disciplines that have immense potential to disconnect you from the current normal reality. Alternate reality is what you seek. The harder you seek that alternative reality the more detached you become from the present world. It is just like developing alternate consciousness through drugs. People who are not comfortable in their present reality, reticent and recluse often fall prey to this. Maybe those who become successful at chasing such disciplines become great scientists and philosophers. Those who don’t give-up and accept their reality. That leads to the next question, why SSR was so detached from his successful reality? And that question would be always left unanswered.

Some thoughts about depression: Again, I am no authority on this subject but would like to jot some observations. I know friends who are/were depressed. One common thread was they struggled at accepting the reality and were never comfortable with the thought of nothing could be done about the present reality or past events. They are immensely talented and have their own ways of exploring alternate realities. Now the challenge is was depression a reason that one may strive to seek alternate realities and chase arcane subjects or is depression a result of inability to make peace with the current reality and smoothly transcend into alternate reality.

Inbetweeners : How to define funny?

If there is one show that tickles my funny bone to the core, it has to be the Inbetweeners. And I reflected on why things are so funny in this show. Inbetweeners is a coming of age dark/absurd/sex comedy that revolves around 4 blokes. Now there are umpteen shows in this genre that I don’t care to recall.

But here is what Inbetweeners so funny

  1. Element that slaps general morality and assumptions: For example, a joke on a person with a disability. It is morally wrong to make joke on a disabled person. But have you wondered how that person would react to a joke on him/her? What if a disabled person turns out to be an asshole? or a perv?

General morality and assumption: You shouldn’t make fun of people with disabilities

Scope for comedy : A twisted disabled person is uncommon and hence it is OK to laugh at an absurd joke

2. Elements that you find very embarrassing under certain circumstances surroundings: Eg: Shitting in your pants in an examination hall will naturally qualify as one of the most embarrassing event for an adult or a teen for that matter.

Very embarrassing : Shitting in pants

Add a situation: Examination hall

Scope for comedy: Shitting in pants+Examination hall

3. Shock! : eg: Your friend has crush on your mom (Here crush is an euphemism for derogatory words). I won’t elaborate this more. One more example of shock is showing a middle finger to a geriatric for no reason.

4. Anticipation of a tragedy: Once you understand the pattern of the comedy, you find the joy in predicting the punchline . You laugh hysterically when the plot exactly turns out to be like you guessed it to be.

How one should value money?

 

What if I say the quality of your life depends on how you perceive money. Much like the quality of your life is affected by how you might perceive relations.

Money is nothing but a record of value you create. When someone offers you Rs 100  for some task, that amount is nothing but a record  of value created. You can spend that money on soda or buying a lottery ticket. You can also choose to store that money under your pillow or keep in the bank to earn some interest on it. 

That is a simple definition of money. But depending on how you earn it, you might give it your own meaning. If you win some money on the lottery ticket you bought that is easy money. You will spend it likewise. If it is hard earned money you might spend it so. Poor spend it for instant gratification, the rich invest it, shopaholics spend it impulsively. Nothing is wrong with that, but the various ways people spend money makes it even difficult to understand what money really means. 

Hence often money is not seen from an objective lens. Its meaning remains vague.

But here is one way to look at money. Whether you keep money under your pillow or in your bank, money is nothing but the value you created by working hard or winning a lottery, doesn’t matter. Money you have is the “inventory” of value you create. This value can be exchanged for value you need to make your life easy. That air travel ticket, that movie ticket, rent, buy burger etc. How much inventory of is enough? Only so much that you don’t have to make those difficult decisions or compromise in your life. 

Moral lessons from “The Wire”: Good and bad doesn’t matter for the top dogs

I have been hooked to “The Wire” a popular TV series of the early 2000s. The show is about drug mafias in Baltimore and the police force that tries to keep up with their tactics to push drugs on the street corners. Here is one such learning from the show.

2224ecb81c9ebbec8f96baf51a05a82554-10-the-wire-ranking.2x.h600.w512.jpgLet us imagine that there are two worlds: the good and the bad in the Narco universe.

In the bad world, there are incentives for doing bad; violence, shooting members of rival gangs, theft, and selling drugs of-course. When a recruit enters this world he commits that he will do whatever it takes to push the product and maintain the integrity of the narcotic supply chain. If down the line the recruit changes his mind, he is simply clipped/killed. There is huge negative incentivization to enter the good world from the bad world.

Education, living righteously and honestly becomes tough. Entering the good world thus becomes prohibitive as one is trapped in the deep maze of drug peddling. The bosses of this world, however, try to enter the good world by developing operations that convert their dirty money into good money. The bad world bosses don’t want to catch heat or any loose ends.

In the good world, there are incentives in place to do good. Needless to say, bad deeds are punished with the same efficacy as good deeds are punished in the bad world. In the show, the bosses of the good world are most of the time involved in the operations that deal with enabling the bad bosses to launder their money.

At the very top, everyone is in cahoots with each other. The meaning of values, morals good and bad just collapses. Lesser mortals react to rewards and punishment. They do good and bad deeds to survive. All this chaos settles down at the top. I think all that the rich and powerful want is to diminish the boundaries between good and bad deeds. At their levels, they are only “deeds” or actions that they take to be happy and enjoy life.