Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture. The student expected Mead to talk about fishhooks or clay pots or grinding stones.
No, Mead said that the first sign of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur (thighbone) that had been broken and then healed. Mead explained that in the animal kingdom, if you break your leg, you die.
You cannot run from danger, get to the river for a drink or hunt for food. You are meat for prowling beasts. No animal survives a broken leg long enough for the bone to heal.
A broken femur that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery.
“Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts”, Mead said.
When I first heard about the Eco Park 7 Wonders of the World Night Tour, I was skeptical. I thought it was just a gimmick to attract visitors. But after actually experiencing it, I can confidently say that it was a truly unforgettable experience.
Seeing the scaled versions of the 7 wonders of the world at night was a different and more magical experience. The lighting and ambiance added to the grandeur of the structures, making it a sight to behold.
If you’re planning a trip to Kolkata, I highly recommend checking out the Eco Park 7 Wonders of the World Night Tour. And don’t forget to watch our video log of the experience on our KolkataDiaries YouTube channel. Trust me, you won’t regret it!
Resistance to change is a common phenomenon that affects individuals in our personal and professional lives. Despite the benefits that change can bring, we often find it challenging to embrace new ideas, habits, or practices.
This resistance to change can be attributed to a variety of factors, including fear of the unknown, a preference for the familiar, and a desire to maintain the status quo. As a result, as individuals we resist change in various aspects of our lives, from trying new foods to adopting new technologies or changing careers.
The following story of seat belts exemplifies how change, despite being a constant aspect of life, often takes a long time to integrate into our daily routines.
Thirty-seven thousand Americans died in car accidents in 1955, six times today’s rate adjusted for miles driven.
Ford began offering seat belts in every model that year. It was a $27 upgrade, equivalent to about $190 today. Research showed they reduced traffic fatalities by nearly 70%.
But only 2% of customers opted for the upgrade. Ninety-eight percent of buyers chose to remain at the mercy of inertia.
Things eventually changed, but it took decades. Seatbelt usage was still under 15% in the early 1980s. It didn’t exceed 80% until the early 2000s – almost half a century after Ford offered them in all cars.
It’s easy to underestimate how social norms stall change, even when the change is an obvious improvement. One of the strongest forces in the world is the urge to keep doing things as you’ve always done them, because people don’t like to be told they’ve been doing things wrong. Change eventually comes, but agonizingly slower than you might assume.
In “The Psychology of Money,” author Morgan Housel discusses the power of compounding and how it applies not just to money, but also to other areas of our lives such as careers and relationships. Compounding is the process of earning interest on your interest, which can lead to exponential growth over time. However, compounding requires time and patience, as it works best over years or decades.
When it comes to our finances, compounding is a powerful tool for building wealth. By starting to save and invest early and consistently, we can harness the power of compounding and watch our savings grow exponentially over time. However, this requires endurance and a long-term perspective. We must be willing to stick to our savings plan even when it may seem difficult or tempting to deviate from it.
But compounding is not just about money. It also applies to our careers and relationships. Just as a small amount of money can grow into a large sum over time, small actions taken consistently in our careers and relationships can lead to significant growth and progress.
Endurance is key in both our financial and personal lives. We must be willing to stick with our goals and plans even when it feels challenging or uncomfortable. This requires a long-term perspective and the willingness to delay gratification in the short term in order to achieve our long-term goals.
Another important aspect of endurance is balance. As Housel notes, we are constantly changing over time, and what we value and prioritize can shift. Therefore, it is important to maintain balance in our lives at every point in time. This means taking care of our physical, emotional, and mental health, as well as nurturing our relationships and pursuing our passions and interests. By maintaining balance, we can avoid future regret and encourage endurance in all areas of our lives.
Endurance and balance are key components in harnessing the power of compounding in all areas of our lives. By maintaining a long-term perspective and taking consistent, small actions, we can achieve significant growth and progress over time.
Compounding works best when you can give a plan years or decades to grow. This is true for not only savings but careers and relationships. Endurance is key. And when you consider our tendency to change who we are over time, balance at every point in your life becomes a strategy to avoid future regret and encourage endurance.
I recently came across a wonderful story from the book “All I Want To Know Is Where I’m Going To Die So I’ll Never Go There: Buffett & Munger – A Study in Simplicity and Uncommon, Common Sense” by Peter Bevelin that really struck a chord with me.
The story is about a little boy in Texas who was asked a simple arithmetic question by his teacher. The question was, “If there are 9 sheep in the pen and one jumps out, how many are left?”
The other children in the class got the answer right, but the little boy had a different response. He said, “None of them are left.”
The teacher, thinking that the boy didn’t understand arithmetic, corrected him and said, “You don’t understand arithmetic.”
But the little boy replied, “No teacher. You don’t understand sheep.”
The little boy’s response was very insightful. Sheep are known to move in herds and follow each other blindly. If one sheep strays from the path, the others will follow, and none will be left behind. This is why shepherds carry sticks – to keep the sheep on the right track.
The little boy understood the nature of sheep and knew that if one sheep jumps out, all the others would follow. Therefore, none would be left in the pen.
We often think we know everything about a particular subject or situation, but sometimes we don’t. It’s important to step back and examine things from different angles and perspectives, like the little boy did with the sheep.
Author William Dawson wrote in his book The Quest for The Simple Life in 1905 that the hardest thing to understand about money is the thrill of the chase. According to Dawson, something you can easily afford brings less joy than something you must save and struggle for.
Dawson went on to say, “The man who can buy anything he covets values nothing that he buys.” This statement holds true even today, as we can see in our own lives and with our children.
If we attend to our children’s every whim and fancy without delay or consideration, we have seen that they value those things less. The same goes for us as adults – we could have bought the car we wanted a long time ago, but we know that if we had, we would not have enjoyed it as much as we do now. The delay and the time spent getting it has increased its value by many folds.
Many of us know someone who is constantly pampering their children in the name of love, but the children don’t seem to value the things they get. When questioned, the parents defend their actions by saying, “It’s just a matter of a few bucks,” or “Oh, he/she has reduced this habit now; it’s just some small thing.”
It’s appalling to see this behavior, but often we drop the case without taking any action.
Delayed gratification can make things more valuable and enjoyable. As parents, we should teach our children the value of hard work and delayed gratification, and as individuals, we should practice it ourselves.
Have you ever heard of a car that wouldn’t start after buying a particular flavor of ice cream? It sounds like a silly problem, but that was exactly what happened to one lucky Ford owner who had a family tradition of sending him to buy ice cream each night. Every time he bought vanilla ice cream, his Ford wouldn’t start, but if he got any other flavor, the car would start just fine. This led to a peculiar question – why was his car “allergic” to vanilla ice cream?
To uncover the truth, Ford asked the owner, Fred, to carefully document his next four nights of buying ice cream. The results were intriguing – when Fred chose vanilla, the car wouldn’t start, but with any other flavor, the car started promptly. So what was the cause of this strange phenomenon?
Ford sent an engineer to the store to investigate further, and the results were surprising. It turned out that vanilla was the most popular flavor, and it was kept in a separate case at the front of the store for quick pick-up. All the other flavors were kept in the back of the store, and it took considerably longer to get served. This key difference in time was the root cause of the problem – the extra time needed to get other flavors allowed the engine to cool down sufficiently to start, while the quicker purchase of vanilla kept the engine too hot, causing vapor lock.
The solution was simple – Fred just needed to wait a few extra minutes after shutting off the engine before restarting the car. This allowed the engine to cool down and the vapor lock to dissipate.
This story serves as a valuable lesson about problem-solving. Sometimes, our initial interpretation of the solution to a problem may not make logical sense, and it’s important to search for alternative solutions. In this case, refining and testing the hypothesis, digging deeper, and gathering data were the key to uncovering the truth and solving the problem.
The integration of AI, robotics, and quantum computing into our lives has been a topic of much discussion and speculation. However, rather than viewing these technological advancements as a threat, we should see them as a way to enhance and augment our capabilities.
History has shown us the power of man and machine working together, as exemplified by Wilbur Wright’s story of innovation in flight. Just as aviation is no longer considered “artificial” flight, we should view technological intelligence as an extension of human intelligence.
Recently read this in the book “hit refresh” by Satya Nadella
AI, robotics, and even quantum computing will simply be the latest examples of machines that can work in concert with people to achieve something greater.
Historian David McCullough has told the story of Wilbur Wright, the bike mechanic and innovator of heavier-than-air flight at the turn of the last century. McCullough describes how Wilbur used everything he could humanly muster—his mind, body, and soul—to coax his gliding machine into flight. The grainy old film, shot from a distance, fails to capture his grit and determination. But if we could zoom in, we’d see his muscles tense, his mind focus, and the very spirit of innovation flow as man and machine soared into the air for the first time, together.
When history was made at Kitty Hawk, it was man with machine—not man against machine.
Today we don’t think of aviation as “artificial flight”—it’s simply flight. In the same way, we shouldn’t think of technological intelligence as artificial, but rather as intelligence that serves to augment human capabilities and capacities
Despite a year of mixed feelings, I managed to find time to delve into some fascinating reads. Due to the pandemic, my usual reading habits were disrupted, as most of my reading would typically take place during my daily commute. However, in 2022 the addition of new distractions at home caused me to read even fewer books. At one point during the year, I was reading just one book a month.
However, a bright spot in the year was a long-awaited train journey, which allowed me to read a few fiction novels and reignite my love for reading fiction.
Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan: This book explores the transformative power of cooking and its impact on both our culture and our biology.
The CEO Factory: Management Lessons from Hindustan Unilever by Sudhir Sitapati: This book examines the management strategies and principles used by Hindustan Unilever, one of India’s largest consumer goods companies, and outlines the key lessons that can be learned from their success.
Elemental by Tim James: This book delves into the elemental forces of nature and the impact they have on our lives, offering a unique perspective on the world around us.
Influence by Robert B. Cialdini: This book provides insights into the psychology of influence, exploring the tactics and strategies used by people to persuade others and how these can be applied in business, marketing, and everyday life.
Money Wise: Timeless Lessons for Building Wealth by Deepak Cheney: This book offers practical advice on how to grow and manage wealth, using timeless lessons from history and the experiences of successful investors.
You Look Like a Thing and I Love You by Janelle Shane: This book explores the cutting-edge world of AI and machine learning, showcasing how these technologies are transforming the way we live, work, and think.
The Secret History of Food: Strange but True Stories About the Origins of Everything We Eat by Matt Siegel: This book takes a fascinating look at the history of food, uncovering the surprising origins of many of our favorite dishes and exploring the cultural and economic forces that shape our food choices.
Bulls, Bears and Other Beasts by Santosh Nair: This book provides a humorous and insightful look at the world of stock trading and investment, exploring the often-bizarre behaviors of traders and the underlying reasons for their success or failure.
Space Case by Stuart Gibbs: This is a science fiction novel set in the future, exploring the adventures of a group of astronauts on a mission to explore a distant planet.
Idiot Brain by Dean Burnett: This book provides a humorous and insightful look at the science of the human brain, exploring the reasons why we make the decisions we do and how we can use this understanding to improve our lives.
Subscribed: Why the Subscription Model Will Be Your Company’s Future – and What to Do About It by Tien Tzuo and Gabe Weisert: This book explores the rise of the subscription business model and its impact on the future of commerce, offering insights and strategies for companies looking to embrace this new way of doing business.
Maths on the Back of an Envelope: Clever Ways to (Roughly) Calculate Anything by Rob Eastaway: This book provides a practical and entertaining guide to using math to solve everyday problems, using simple and intuitive methods to make quick and accurate calculations.
Evolution gone wrong: the curious reasons why our bodies work or don’t by Alex Bezzerides: This book provides a humorous and insightful look at the science of human evolution, exploring the ways in which our bodies have adapted to our environment and the surprising ways in which they sometimes go wrong.
Making Numbers Count by Chip Heath and Karla Starr: This book provides a practical guide to using data and statistics to drive business decisions, offering tips and insights for improving data analysis and interpretation.
How Innovation Works by Matt Ridley: This book provides a comprehensive overview of the science and economics of innovation, exploring the history and future of technological progress and its impact on society.
Cracking the Code: My Journey in Bollywood by Ayushmann Khurrana and Tahira Kashyap is a memoir about the journey of the Bollywood actor, Ayushmann Khurrana, and his rise to fame. The book offers a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges and obstacles he faced along the way, as well as the strategies he used to overcome them.
Around the Corner to Around the World by Robert Rosenberg is a book about key lessons from Dunkin’ Donuts former CEO Robert Rosenberg that offer critical insights and a unique, 360-degree perspective to business leaders and managers on building one of the world’s most recognized brands.
The Physics of Everyday Things by James Kakalios is a science book that explores the underlying principles of physics that govern the objects and events we encounter in our daily lives. The author provides an accessible and engaging look at topics such as motion, energy, and forces.
Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a book that explores the concept of antifragility, which refers to the ability of some systems to thrive in the face of chaos and uncertainty. The author argues that antifragility is a key factor in creating resilience and success in life and business.
Tick Tock by Simon Mayo is an Exciting and urgently contemporary novel, which tells the story of a global catastrophe through the eyes of the three people at the heart of the storm.
Lost in Time by A.G. Riddle is a thrilling science fiction novel that takes you on a journey 200 million years into the past. The protagonist, a scientist, embarks on this journey to save his daughter who has been wrongly accused of murder. However, as he delves deeper into the past, he realizes that there are secrets that are waiting for him. With more than just his daughter’s life at stake, this book will leave you on the edge of your seat as you witness the scientist’s quest to save his loved one and uncover the truth behind these secrets.
The Loop by Ben Oliver is a science fiction novel that depicts life inside a futuristic death row for minors under the age of 18 as a never-ending cycle of purgatory. However, when the inmates become aware of the unrest and turmoil in the outside world and disorder begins to unfold, their confinement in the prison becomes the least of their concerns.
The Strategic Dividend Investor by Daniel Peris is a book about investing in dividend-paying stocks. The author provides practical advice on how to identify and select high-quality dividend stocks, and how to construct a diversified portfolio that can generate consistent income and long-term growth.
My search for a fiction writer to replace Michael Crichton continues, specifically in the genre of science fiction. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.
I am an optimist. It’s used to feel uncomfortable if friends taunted me over this. They gave looks that said, “naïve fool”. But I had always a different view on optimism and was glad to read someone verbalizing the exact feeling I feel about optimism
Physicist David Deutsch says “optimism is a way of explaining failure, not prophesying success.” My interpretation of that is: Saying you are optimistic does not mean you think everything will be flawless and great. It means you know there are going to be failures and problems and setbacks, but those are what motivates people to find a new solution or remove an error – and that is what you should be optimistic about.
Part of the reason commercial air travel is relatively safe is because after every accident comes an intense learn-and-fix process that reduces the odds of future accidents. The same is generally true for businesses, economies, governments, pandemics, etc. The reason things tend to get better is that there are so many blunders, screw-ups, and disasters to learn from. You can’t separate one from the other. Evolution doesn’t teach by showing you what works, but by destroying what doesn’t.
Here’s a story that started my year. Hoping I remember this for the entirety of this year and beyond.
A group of highly established alumni gathered to visit their former university professor. The conversation between them soon turned into complaints about their stressful life and work.
The teacher went to his kitchen and returned with a large with many large cups of coffee and a selection of mugs including porcelain, plastic, glass crystal, some ordinary, some expensive and some exquisite. The teacher asked them to pour themselves coffee
After all the students had the cup of coffee in their hands the teacher said, “Have you noticed that all the beautiful cups are taken and only the cheapest one are left? Although it is normal for everyone to want the best for themselves it is the source of problems and stress in their life. The cup itself does not escalate the test of coffee. In most cases it is more expensive and hides what we drink”
The teacher continued. “What everyone desired was coffee not the cup but everyone consciously picked nice expensive cups and then started looking at each other’s cup.”
Recently was looking at my book notes and found this from the Book Antifragile by Nassim Taleb.
Note a subtlety in the way we are built: the cow and other herbivores are subjected to much less randomness than the lion in their food intake; they eat steadily but need to work extremely hard in order to metabolize all these nutrients, spending several hours a day just eating. Not to count the boredom of standing there eating salads.
The lion, on the other hand, needs to rely on more luck; it succeeds in a small percentage of the kills, less than 20 percent, but when it eats, it gets in a quick and easy way all these nutrients produced thanks to very hard and boring work by the prey.
So take the following principles derived from the random structure of the environment: when we are herbivores, we eat steadily; but when we are predators we eat more randomly. Hence our proteins need to be consumed randomly for statistical reasons.
So if you agree that we need “balanced” nutrition of a certain combination, it is wrong to immediately assume that we need such balance at every meal rather than serially so. Assuming that we need on average certain quantities of the various nutrients that have been identified, say a certain quantity of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
There is a big difference between getting them together, at every meal, with the classical steak, salad, followed by fresh fruits, or having them separately, serially. Why? Because deprivation is a stressor—and we know what stressors do when allowed adequate recovery. Convexity effects at work here again: getting three times the daily dose of protein in one day and nothing the next two is certainly not biologically equivalent to “steady” moderate consumption if our metabolic reactions are nonlinear.
It should have some benefits—at least this is how we are designed to be.
My cousin is good at stick picking. He has the right temperament. I had seen him pick up a lot of positions in march-jun 2020 when the world was closing down due to Covid. He was shrewd and fearless and got some good stocks.
But one thing that I fail and don’t understand is his regular and hourly checks of his portfolio or the stock market.
I pointed this out to him, but he was least bothered. By profession, he is a businessman and this is how he spends most of his free time.
Here’s a passage from the book Antifragile by Nassim Taleb that I keep sending him to.
The more frequently you look at data, the more noise you are disproportionally likely to get (rather than the valuable part, called the signal); hence the higher the noise-to-signal ratio.
And there is a confusion which is not psychological at all, but inherent in the data itself. Say you look at the information on a yearly basis, for stock prices, or the fertilizer sales of your father-in-law’s factory, or inflation numbers in Vladivostok.
Assume further that for what you are observing, at a yearly frequency, the ratio of signal to noise is about one to one (half noise, half signal)— this means that about half the changes are real improvements or degradations, the other half come from randomness.
This ratio is what you get from yearly observations. But if you look at the very same data on a daily basis, the composition would change to 95 percent noise, 5 percent signal.
And if you observe data on an hourly basis, as people immersed in the news and market price variations do, the split becomes 99.5 percent noise to 0.5 percent signal.
That is two hundred times more noise than signal—which is why anyone who listens to news (except when very, very significant events take place) is one step below sucker.
Here’s something that showed up on my Twitter timeline on India’s 75th Independence day.
THE POWER OF FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE
Your savings, believe it or not, affect the way you stand, the way you walk, the tone of your voice. In short, your physical well-being and self-confidence.
A person without savings is always running. You must. You must take the first job offered, or nearly so. You sit nervously on life’s chairs because any small emergency throws you into the hands of others. Without savings, a person must be too grateful. Gratitude is a fine thing in its place. But a constant state of gratitude is a horrible place to live in.
A person with savings can walk tall. You may appraise opportunities in a relaxed way, have time for judicious estimates and not be rushed by economic necessity.
A person with savings can afford to resign from a job, if your principles so dictate. And for this reason you’ll never need to do so. A person who can afford to quit is much more useful to the company, and therefore more promotable. You can afford to give your company the benefits of your most candid judgments.
A person always concerned about necessities, such as food and rent, can’t afford to think in long-range career terms. You must dart to the most immediate opportunity for ready cash. Without savings, you will spend a lifetime of darting, dodging.
A person with savings can afford the wonderful privilege of being generous in family or neighborhood emergencies. You can take a level stare into the eyes of any one, a friend, a stranger or an enemy. It shapes your personality and character.
The ability to save has nothing to do with the size of income. Many high-income people, who spend it all, are on a treadmill, darting through life like minnows.
The dean of American bankers, J.P. Morgan, once advised a young broker, “Take waste out of your spending: you’ll drive the haste out of your life.”
Will Rogers put it this way, “I’d rather have the company of a janitor, living on what he earned last year… than an actor spending what he’ll earn next year.”
If you don’t need money for college, a home or retirement then save for self-confidence. The state of your savings does have a lot to do with how tall you walk.
(From an advertisement in the 60s, edited to make it gender neutral)