Tag Archives: career

2019: Looking back at the year that went by

Tis the Season of Reflection.

As the year draws to an end it is the perfect time to reflect on the learnings and share them. Here are my key learnings turned guiding principles from the year that went by

Guiding Principles of 2019

  • Live in the present
  • Become Better Everyday
  • Make Concentrated Bets
  • Increase Optionality

Live in the Present

A friend once told me “Unhappiness comes from Conflict“, simply put, when you desire X but are stuck with Y. While we all want multiple things to happen/get better simultaneously, the only way to stay peaceful is to accept your present situation and adjust your life around it.

Our lives are made up of multiple phases across dimensions of family & friends, career and personal life that are ever changing. Each phase would have a few key events that would lead to highs/lows across different dimensions.

All phases of life give you an opportunity to focus on some aspect/dimension of your life and it’s best if we use that time to do just that, focus on what’s right in front of us (and not fret too much about the rest).

A good question to often ask yourself, “What should I be optimizing for?”

I cut down on reading, movies, travel, socializing etc and 2019 for me was about mostly focusing on the new baby and the new job.

Become Better Everyday

Successfully Implemented by Dave Brailsford & popularized by James Clear, the idea that tiny changes sustained over a period of time compound massively.

The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together – Dave Brailsford

The power of compounding married with the fact that there’s as much (if not more) life ahead of us as is behind builds a really strong case to become a much better version of yourself. Bonus, being better improves lives of others around you.

I tried to follow this rule and ensure that I make almost every day count by exercising (Cult, Ahoy!) / writing / learning something new.

Make Concentrated Bets

While conventional wisdom says that diversification is the key to investing success, some of the best investors, like Warren Buffett & George Soros have spoken about the virtues of making concentrated bets.

Wide diversification is only required when investors do not understand what they are doing – Charlie Munger

Be it investing, career or relationships, most gains are to be made by focusing on few things and giving them all the effort (think Power Law). I’ve seen quite a few people trying to spread out too thin and not achieving anything substantial. I feel it makes sense to focus your energies on limited ideas & people and double down on them

Caveat: Avoid Ruin

PS: It’s quite likely that investing more time/effort on your career/startup will yield bigger returns than stocks/mutual funds etc.

Increase Optionality

Optionality in investments refers to the right to do something, but not necessarily the obligation to do so. Just like in investing you can build optionality into your life and exercise them for better outcomes. Collecting high-quality options is the equivalent of unlocking doors that open up to new possibilities.

While on the surface this might look conflicting to the above mentioned point of being concentrated, in reality they work best together. Optionality in asymmetric bets (limited downside, high potential upside) across domains can be built with just small % of resources (time/money etc).

Naval Ravikant on building Asymmetry

Few things I did to increase optionality

  • Meet New People & reconnect with old acquaintances – Increases Serendipity that opens up opportunities
  • Take up chances to expose myself to new ideas & experiences – Gives you new perspectives that might have a big impact
  • Watch my Spends & Avoid Debt – Better personal financial management enables risk taking/bigger bets
  • Being conscious about & working on my health/fitness – Better health allows you more freedom of choices in certain areas of life.

Wishing you all a wonderful and enriching 2020 ūüôā

Skills and Street Smarts

I’ve often tried to think what makes certain people tick while others struggle to get even basic professional standing or success.

I think a lens to look at various folks is in terms of ‘Skills and Street Smarts’. Skills can be further divided into two types (Shallow & Deep) and by Street Smarts, I mean the basic sense/temperament of business, people handling, ability to optimise money decisions and leverage ‘arbitrage opportunities’.

Skills and Street Smarts

There’s another dimension relevant to this discussion, that dimension is of ‘Opportunities’. Opportunities are those super forces that can help one in changing their life/career trajectory.

Needless to say, one has to latch on to the right opportunities and you’ll find for most successful people (in business or elsewhere) that they found great opportunities somewhere in their journey and capitalised well on them.

In contrast with Opportunities, Skills are something which are much more in people’s control. One can decide which skills to develop and how deep to go in them. Street Smarts, I believe is a way of dealing with day-to-day life situations and people and becomes a part of ones nature during their teens or early 20’s. In most cases, people continue to operate within their circle of street-smartness with small changes for remainder of their lives.

Empirically speaking, I think people who struggle to scrap by in life (not able to settle professionally, earn a reasonable salary etc) are more often than not in the ‘Shallow Skills’ and ‘Low Street Smarts’ quadrant. Highly successful entrepreneurs (with massive outcomes/impact) tend to lie in ‘Deep Skills’ and ‘High Street Smart’s quadrant.

Your neighbourhood slacker (Jugaadu as we call them sometimes), the one who doesn’t really have any professionally important skill but knows enough people and/or has enough business sense to find small arbitrage or similar opportunities to make a reasonable living.

¬†How Skills and ‘Street Smarts’ Stack Up

With different combinations of Deep/Shallow Skills and Street Smarts, various outcomes happen. The folks who concern me the most, the ones who are not able to stand on their feet and get about growing in their lives invariably happen in the ‘Shallow Skills’ and ‘Low Street Smarts’ quadrant.¬†

An easy way for them to come out of that quicksand is to pick up some skills and if possible team up with someone who has more street smarts than them (and can be trusted with).

Also, I believe a good majority lies in the low deep skills and low-to-mid ‘Street Smarts’ range. While, the prevalent tendency is to optimise for becoming more street smart (penny negotiations etc) I believe most people would be much better off if they instead try to optimise for going deep in their skills of choice.