Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Keep it simple!

I have been reading about a lot about Warren Buffet. At first when I started reading about him, was purely to learn about value investing but some articles about his life have taught me something far more enriching.

Thoughts, work, lifestyle and everything around really doesn't have to be complicated. There is a lot of charm in “keeping it simple”.

These words echo every day in my job (which is to simplify complex technology and explain the benefits to a common man in English) and am aiming towards them reflecting in my life and thoughts as well.

My husband told me about a man in his neighborhood in India who is extremely well to do, but still walks to the temple, wears the same white shirt, eats sitting cross legged and prefers Khichdi for meals. His lifestyle has been the same in the last 50 years. His dad always talks about how if you have Rs 100 or Rs 10,000, your lifestyle should be the same. 

When I used to hear these things, I always wondered how is it possible?

Following are some very interesting aspects of Warren Buffet’s life, which he talked about in an interview: (Taken verbatim from an article on his interview)

# He bought his first share at age 11 and he now regrets that he started too late!
o Things were very cheap that time.
o Encourage your child to invest.

# He bought a small farm at age 14 with savings from delivering newspapers.
* One could have bought many things with little savings.
* Encourage your children to start some kind of business.

# He still lives in the same small 3-bedroom house in mid-town Omaha that he bought after he got married 50 years ago. He says that he has everything he needs in that house. His house does not have a fence/wall.
* Don't buy more than what you "really need" and encourage your children to do and think the same.

# He drives his own car everywhere and does not have a driver or security people around him.
* You are what you are.

# He never travels by private jet although he owns the world's largest private jet company.
* Always think of how you can accomplish things economically.

# His company, Berkshire Hathaway owns 63 companies. He writes only one letter each year to the CEOs of this companies giving them goals for the year. He never holds meetings or calls them on a regular basis.
* Assign the right people to do the right jobs.

# He has given his CEOs only two rules:
1. Do not lose any of your shareholder's money.
2. Do not forget Rule #1.
* Set goals and make sure people focus on them.

# He does not socialize with the high society crowd, His past time after he gets home is to make himself some popcorn and watch TV.
* Don't try to show off. Just be yourself and do what you enjoy doing.

# Warren Buffet does not carry a cellphone nor does he have a computer on his desk.

# Bill Gates, the word's richest man met him for the first time only 5 years ago. Bill Gates did not think he had anything in common with Warren Buffet so he scheduled the meeting for only half an hour. But when Gates met him, the meeting lasted for ten hours and Bill Gates became a devotee of Warren Buffet.
His advice to young people:
* Stay away from credit cards (bank loans) and invest in yourself. Remember:
o Money doesn't create man but it is the man who creates money.
o Live your life as simply as you are.
o Don't do what others say. Just listen to them but do what you feel is good.

# Don't go for brand names. Just wear those things in which you feel comfortable.

# Don't waste your money on unnecessary things. Spend it on who is really in need rather.

# After all, it's your life. Why give other's the chance to rule our life.
The HAPPIEST people DO NOT necessarily have the BEST of all.
They simply APPRECIATE what they find on their way.

I found these extremely fascinating.

I have placed hold in the library for his biography “The Snowball: Warren Buffet and the Business of Life”………..can’t wait to read it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chasing what matters

This weekend I saw 127 hrs and if you have seen the movie, when Aron realizes he might die soon, suddenly his whole life flashes over his eyes. All events, relationships, regrets and fond memories. He realizes that this might be it and his whole life was being drawn to this very moment.

Also a couple weeks back, I read the book “Tuesdays with Morrie”, about a professor who meets his student every Tuesday and takes lessons. A really nice read and equally eye opening.

After watching 127hrs and reading that book, I realized that its so easy to get caught up in day to day life, work, worrying for small things, all the “should haves” , “could haves”, "if only's" ....
but how much of all that we chase every single day, really matter?

I realize that I have read these things and talked about it like a zillion times, but still how much of this do I really remember and put in practice?

Was talking to a friend a couple weeks back, when he said, he got a call from his father and his father wanted to talk with him. He was busy completing his project and didn't feel like talking. The next day, he gets a call that his father is sick and very soon after that his father passed away.

So back to my question,  what is it that really matters?

Is it worth: Getting upset over a lost/misplaced belonging, getting tensed about something at work, stressing that the house is not clean, not getting enough vacation days, breaking relationships because someone hurt us at some point,  weather is horrible,  etc etc etc?

That day, I immediately called up my childhood friend and spoke with her at length about what’s happening in her life. Something I had been putting off for a really long time.

There are some things I guess which cannot be put off until “some other time”. Its all about making a choice every single min and chasing what matters.

And the good news is that WE CAN MAKE THAT CHOICE!

My friends in Seattle have taught me two words "Maaf Hai", meaning "don't worry, it doesn't matter", and these mean so much to me because they help me make my choice every time.

My parents are calling and I need to pick up my phone.

Bye till then…

Friday, April 1, 2011

A letter from father to his son

This article appeared in the "Speaking Tree" section of Times of India a couple years back. My father in law specially cut that article, laminated it and gave it to us.


Dear Pranav,

It's been 20 months since you set foot in the world. When I held you for the first time in my arms at the hospital, your tiny hands were twitching and your eyes were shut tight. Your clenched fist reminded me of a science lesson that said to get an idea about the size of your heart, you should clench your fist. I could imagine the little heart throbbing inside you. The eternal miracle of birth. When it was my turn to witness it, I cried. 

Before I married your mother, I used to debate one question endlessly with my friends. Which is, "Is it really worth bringing another life in this world?" Especially when terror has become an ugly leitmotif in the canvas of our lives? 

When I swicthed on the TV that wednesday night, the question of whether I was right in bringing you into this world haunted me again.

This is my attempt at an answer: call it catharsis.

I feel there are two ways to raise you. One is to wean you on cynicism. Where you'll erect a sky-high wall in your mind and live your life pouring scorn on everything you see. Which is one way of insulating yourself from fear. A kind of indifferent machismo.

 The other way is to prepare you to live in this world. I can't imagine the world for you, son. But I can certainly show you the way to live in a uncertain world. Make a pact with yourself. Understand the following early on.

Life is precious. And equally fragile. So every day is a gift. Get up early once in a while just to watch the sun rise. Stare at it intently and burn it in your memory. Be aware of every passing second. Look around you. There's a thin stalk of plant finding its place under the sun in a crevice on the wall of our apartment.

Appreciate mother's cooking. Praise it to heavens. Make it a habit to eat together as a family. No, make it a rule. Fall in love with books. Words will transport you to worlds far away. It will also keep you informed and prepared.

Follow your heart. The mind can waver but the heart seldom does. Respect your conscience. It's like a post-it note from God.

When you grow up, seek a job you love. As you enter the world of careers and cocktails, you'll get sucked into vortex called rat race. Don'e be overwhelmed. We're all humans. But have the courage to step out of it. Nothing will be lost. Some illusions will shatter. Good riddance.

Money. It's important. But it has its place. Dont make the mistake of putting it right on top.
Find your love. Hold it dearly. Be a good husband. A patient father. Give your children space to make their mistakes. But hold them when they fall.
Speak up when you have to. Like this occassion. Whether we like it or not, we're living in a democracy. Sure it has its pitfalls. But don't forget the positives too. The real fight in a democracy is between remembering and forgetting. Go and vote. It's your chance to give shape to the kind of society you want to live in.
Be alert. But try not to live in a state of fear.

If you were to get caught in a situation similar to what happened and should we lose you, then you will have left us with enough lovely mempries for the remaining years. That will only happen if you start living every day like it is the last day of your life. Though it can never compensate your loss, at least we'll find strength in your love for life.
Don't have regrets. They defeat the very purpose of life.

Immersed as I am in work most of the time, this letter is also a wake-up call for me.
Love, Dad

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Faith each day

You call it God, give it a name, follow a religion, or believe that he doesn't exist. I don't know, who he is or if he exists. Neither do I wish to ever debate that or try to prove it. Nor do I believe that everything is predestined and, something will happen only if its written in our destiny.

For me, my ultimate truth, my god, is my faith in a power that is superior than all of us. And that faith keeps me going every single day. My faith helps me make choices, and gives me power to shape my life how I wish. It stands with me when something goes wrong and gives energy to let go and move on.

When I look at him, he smiles at me and I feel a rare sense of peace. I confide in him, share my thoughts and confusions with him. When I am depressed, I cry to him. In difficult times, saying “ Shri Krishna Sharnam Mamah” (meaning I am devoting myself to your blessed feet) gives me strength. He  motivates me to be a better person each day. He teaches me to be self less and happy each day.

My morning starts with waking him, dressing/accessorizing, offering food & milk, lighting candle and incense. Followed by a silent prayer of “Thanks”. These 10 min take me far away from everything that's happening around me and undoubtedly, that is the best time of my day. A true bliss each day.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Facing my fear of water

If you ask my husband, he will list atleast 50 things that I am scared of, at any instant. Certainly not something to be proud of!

I have always loved being in water, but the thought of suffocation has always prevented me from learning how to swim. Have avoided water sports and tried to stay away from vacation places where they were the highlight. The thought of the boat flipping and I being suffocated, have always overcome my urge for being in water. Every year, I would tell myself to register for a swim class, but never actually took the step.

One day I had a sudden realization that my fear of water might always be there, but am I going to let it come in the way of enjoying something that most of the world enjoys? Probably not. Once I had this realization that I am going to move ahead, in spite of my fear, it was then about taking that first step.

I registered for the class.

First day of class: I drove to the Bellevue Aquatic center, on a Sat, at 9am (half in sleep),  signed in,  changed and got into the pool. Instructor came, introductions happened and then, it was time!

I found telling myself  “its okay if I don’t learn much today, because I am scared and also because I am an adult. I would have picked it up if I had learnt it as a kid.”  Somewhere I knew that I was probably using that as a reason for not giving in my best.

Then I looked on the other side of the pool where kids class was going on. 2 to 4 yr old children were learning how to swim, enjoying themselves in water, diving without any fear, splashing water on each other, practicing hand strokes etc.. There was so much excitement around that part of the pool.

I thought “What must be on their minds right now? what are they thinking?” They probably have no idea about the dangers of drowning, no fear of water, or pre conceived notions about how it would feel when thrown in water. Their minds must be completely blank and empty. Simply observing, completely in the present, trying to have fun and learn everything taught to them without questioning it.

And that's it. I decided that that was going to be my attitude too. "Clear my mind, not focus on fear, remove all inhibitions, start from absolute zero and create a possibility of learning something I have never learnt before."

I successfully completed one hour of class. While walking towards my car, the feeling I got was unmatched. Free, confident and happy!

I am by no means an expert swimmer yet, but I am confident I will get there! :-)

Am a strong believer of “ Courage is not lack of fear, but rather it is taking action in the face of, and despite, fear - Feel the fear and do it anyway!”

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

1 - 50: Everything and anything about me that I laugh about, enjoy and which makes my each day Awesome!

50. Talking on mute in a meeting...

49. Having hot sauce and/or Ketchup with almost every non Indian meal

48. After getting what I ordered at a restaurant, getting very tempted to order what the person on the next table is eating instead

47. Finally spotting my car in the parking lot after having forgotten where I had parked

46. Sitting for 2 min in front of a fan at the gym doing 'nothing' after a good workout or a hot yoga class

45. If I am really liking a book, reading it slowly because I don't want it to finish soon.

44. Bargaining.. not to save money, just for fun..

43. Extra hour of sunlight after daylight savings...

42. Hot cup of tea in the morning...

41. Predicting which lane will move faster at the airport security screening. Then joining that line and noticing who joined the other line at the same time. Then competing with them to ensure I complete my screening faster than them

40. Winning in the game of UNO against Jatin...

39. Laughing on Jatin's jokes especially when I don't find them funny... (Sorry Jatin :-))

38. Passing through the mail box, knowing I need to pick up the mail because its full...and not picking it up anyway

37. Running to the restroom when the plane is about to take off or land (And the seat belt sign is on)

36. Taking 30 minute afternoon naps

35. Dialing in the meeting just when the clock ticks on the exact time. (10am for eg)

34. Grocery shopping at mid night...

33. Watching Mahabharat on Sunday mornings...

32. Thinking when will I sleep again just when i wake up

31. Not waking up before 1pm on weekends...

30. Food on flights to India...

29. Watching little bit of every movie on flights

28. When someone lands at my destination and gives rent in 'monopoly'

27. Looking at 2-3 recipes of the same dish and taking a little bit of all to make my own

26. Calling my sister multiple times especially when she is with her friends to irritate her

25. Watering my plant, noticing it and trying to find changes since the last time I watered

24. Deleting and organizing work emails in folders only after getting a mail jail warning

23. Watching every new hindi movie..

22. Pleasure when my roti is an exact circle...

21. Preaching and giving my advice to my sister ,when i know she will not listen..

20. Asking Jatin to fnd my cell phone...

19. Getting one new item every time I go grocery shopping

18. Fighting and arguing with my sister for no reason

17. Harassing Jatin on flights and being a pain in his ass...

16. Deciding what will be cooked but still asking Jatin "what do you want to eat"

15. Taking a longer route to reach somewhere so that I can listen to my favorite song

14. Cursing for no reason

13. Talking to Brinda for hours on everything from servants, to school crushes, to husbands, to recipes...

12. Paranoid about being stranded if my gas tank goes below 1/4th of its capacity

11. Talking to mom dad n slype and watching my house in India almost every evening

10. Moving furniture just for change

9.  Getting overwhelmed at an Indian buffet in a restaurant and taking everything on my plate

8.  Looking forward to home cooked dal rice after a trip

7.  Thinking about what Ill have for dinner in the morning

6.  Talking with DD about everyone and everything from our DJ days..

5.  When someone comments on my photo on Facebook..

4.  Printing an old picture and framing it

3.  Calling Jatin and asking "When will you come home?" with a puppy face and voice

2.  Taking a bite from everything on Jatin's plate

1.  Opening 7-8 tabs on a browser and not reading anything