An Ode to Feeling Moody, Meh, and All That

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It has been a strenuous few weeks at work. At a point where I am just craving to take a break and go somewhere. Or just enjoy the weather and read. Even the usual weekend break is not cutting it.

But a vacation has to wait because of work deadlines.

I have realized something over the years—whenever I am stressed at work, I also tend to overthink a lot about my life in general and become unwelcomely crabby, subjecting myself to mind-numbing questions “Where am I heading? What am I doing? Why are people like this? Why is the world so bad?” And sulk about it even if I have no plans to shift out of the zone I am in because it is quite perfect for me otherwise, outside these moody phases. So I just sit with the feeling and wait for it to pass, like a hermit in search of worldly answers.

When work is more relaxed and I get a breather, life seems calm and harmonious. Professional life does affect your personal life, no matter how much you try to separate the two. I didn’t realize this behavioral pattern till I saw it repeat, time and again. Now, I know, and tell myself, “Yeah, it’s because you are mentally tired. You just want to take a few days off and do what you like best. You will be okay once you get that break.” This self-realization is cathartic in a way and a problem-solver because you know where the issue lies. But here’s the catch—it only comes when you choose to sit with your feelings and introspect, not run away.

So I am in that phase right now where I get moody seeing others’ travel posts on social media. I get moody when an ex’s update pops up somewhere on my social media feed because of a mutual friend. (Yup, social media is bad for your mental health, especially when you are stressed.) I even get moody when there are too many people around. The things that don’t usually affect you with much intensity, start gnawing at your brain and make you overthink.

As you grow up, you become more familiar with your emotions. You start to ask why you feel the way you do, so that the next time you face the emotion again, you know how to handle it better. Self-realization builds with experience. The more you encounter a feeling, the more you get to learn about its dynamic range and complexities. I feel the manner in which each person deals with their emotions is as unique as their fingerprints. All your experiences shape the way in which you handle or feel about things. What one person goes through in an emotion might be different from the next person as each one’s life story is exclusive and uncommon. So how can we say with finality that we should deal with an emotion only in one particular way? What if there are multiple okay ways to deal with things? And being moody is also an okay way contrary to popular belief.

Most people’s advice would be to snap out of being moody. Movies and tv series show loud friends whisking away their moody buddies to a party to dull down their emotions, hoping it would make them feel better. A person like me would have dissociated myself from such friends even if they meant good because the last thing I would need is a party.

Basically, the world wants you to do just about anything other than feeling your emotions. But I would say, just sit with it. Acknowledge its presence and understand it is only human to feel “nothing” or “moody” for a while. It is not a prison that you need to escape from. It is an intricate, delicate, and overlooked part of you that craves your embrace and attention.

An Ode to Sound Investing Advice from the Intelligent Investor – Part 2

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I feel a great part of your investing journey lies in being indifferent. Indifferent to how the market reacts, indifferent to external influences such as your family and friends. I am slowly learning not to check the market trends too often, not to get swayed by euphoria or unwarranted skepticism. Of course, this works for me because I am not in direct equity. Those who are invested in stocks might have to be more vigilant?

Anyway, in continuation with my previous post, here’s the second part of some of the best investing quotes from the Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham. I feel a lot of people missed out on Graham’s advice on being safe in investing. We often hear from investment gurus how we should invest more in equity when we are younger. But this book actually tells you to keep your own liabilities and responsibilities in mind before you invest more than you can chew. His whole book is about putting your safety, lifestyle, and goals first. A young investor can be conservative too if in debt or caught up with responsibilities. Life happens and there is no one-size-fits-all kind of investment. Keeping your risk profile in mind before investing is key and Graham actually digs deep into that.

Since the profits that companies can earn are finite, the price that investors should be willing to pay for stocks must also be finite. Think of it this way: Michael Jordan may well have been the greatest basketball player of all time, and he pulled fans into Chicago Stadium like a giant electromagnet. The Chicago Bulls got a bargain by paying Jordan up to $34 million a year to bounce a big leather ball around a wooden floor. But that does not mean the Bulls would have been justified paying him $340 million, or $3.4 billion, or $34 billion, per season.

The only indisputable truth that the past teaches us is that the future will always surprise us—always! And the corollary to that law of financial history is that the markets will most brutally surprise the very people who are most certain that their views about the future are right. Staying humble about your forecasting powers, as Graham did, will keep you from risking too much on a view of the future that may well turn out to be wrong.

A cynic once told G. K. Chesterton, the British novelist and essayist, “Blessed is he who expecteth nothing, for he shall not be disappointed.” Chesterton’s rejoinder? “Blessed is he who expecteth nothing, for he shall enjoy everything.”

The punches you miss are the ones that wear you out.

—Boxing trainer Angelo Dundee

For the aggressive as well as the defensive investor, what you don’t do is as important to your success as what you do.

Buying a bond only for its yield is like getting married only for lust. If the thing that attracted you in the first place dries up, you’ll find yourself asking, “What else is there?” When the answer is “Nothing,” spouses and bondholders alike end up with broken hearts.

The lesson is clear: Don’t just do something, stand there. It’s time for everyone to acknowledge that the term “long-term investor” is redundant. A long-term investor is the only kind of investor there is. Someone who can’t hold on to stocks for more than a few months at a time is doomed to end up not as a victor but as a victim.

Unfortunately, for every IPO like Microsoft that turns out to be a big winner, there are thousands of losers. The psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky have shown when humans estimate the likelihood or frequency of an event, we make that judgment based not on how often the event has actually occurred, but on how vivid the past examples are. We all want to buy “the next Microsoft”—precisely because we know we missed buying the first Microsoft. But we conveniently overlook the fact that most other IPOs were terrible investments.

The large companies thus have a double advantage over the others. First, they have the resources in capital and brain power to carry them through adversity and back to a satisfactory earnings base. Second, the market is likely to respond with reasonable speed to any improvement shown.

Actually, the typical middle-sized listed company is a large one when compared with the average privately owned business. There is no sound reason why such companies should not continue indefinitely in operation, undergoing the vicissitudes characteristic of our economy but earning on the whole a fair return on their invested capital.

It requires a great deal of boldness and a great deal of caution to make a great fortune; and when you have got it, it requires ten times as much wit to keep it.

Nathan Mayer Rothschild

So how many of the Forbes 400 fortunes from 1982 remained on the list 20 years later? Only 64 of the original members—a measly 16%—were still on the list in 2002. By keeping all their eggs in the one basket that had gotten them onto the list in the first place—once booming industries like oil and gas, or computer hardware, or basic manufacturing—all the other original members fell away. When hard times hit, none of these people—despite all the huge advantages that great wealth can bring—were properly prepared. They could only stand by and wince at the sickening crunch as the constantly changing economy crushed their only basket and all their eggs.

An Ode to People Who Are Not CEOs

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Another day, another Indian CEO. This time the star is from Twitter.

Though I take pride in the fact that an Indian is receiving global fame and accolades, I have not yet tweeted or reposted the news anywhere. It is not because I am salty. It is not because I am a spoilsport. It is not due to envy.

It might be because it all feels a bit… unfair?

Parag Agrawal is from IIT Bombay. He must have reached where he is with much hard work. But hard work alone isn’t the key to success. Is hard work of much use without intellect, without a “beautiful” mind that can come up with path-breaking solutions? You can do all the hard work you like, but if you aren’t smart enough, you are not going to reach the top.

And the truth is – not all of us are blessed with the same level of intellect. It might not even be naturally possible.

“It is thought that around 50 to 80 percent of the variation in general intelligence between people is down to genetics.”

New Scientist

The people who are naturally smart will obviously thrive.

No matter how hard others with lesser intellectual capabilities work, they might never be able to achieve the level of success earned by someone with a higher IQ.

In every phase of our life, appreciation and accolades are for those who are intellectually skilled.

Teachers applaud children who learn the fastest.

Colleges hold tests to admit the smartest.

Companies recruit people who can answer the quickest.

Professional networking sites celebrate those who rise the swiftest.

How often have we seen star students struggle with a math problem, receive terrible grades, not able to understand concepts? They have it easy intellectually compared to others who are not as gifted. Combine brains with hard work – you have got a lethal combo. The CEO material.

Where does that leave the weak? All through life, they might get reprimanded, insulted, mocked for being “below average.” By teachers, colleagues, friends, family. They might never get appreciation. They might never feel valued.

The ones who try so hard to learn tough theories but even after several tries might not master them.

The ones who hope their hard work would compensate for their lack of groundbreaking ideas, innovations, and solutions, in every phase of life. Only to realize, it is not enough.

Here’s to you for trying. And for surviving in this world that only acknowledges and appreciates the rank holders, the quick thinkers, and the naturally gifted.

Here’s to you—the ones who are not CEOs.

An Ode to Wanting to Work After Retirement… But Also Win a Retirement Lottery

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I love work. I want to continue working even after retirement.

But I also want to win a lottery so I can retire.

Not making sense? Hear me out.

I love doing the kind of work I do but I am not exactly a fan of the corporate culture. If you read my ode to freelancing, you would understand why.

Let me add something extra to what I wrote previously. I want to win a retirement lottery.. so I can retire and do my kind of work till the end of time. I do not have to worry about bills or putting food on the plate. I can concentrate on what I like, even if it might mean making less money. Yes, what I like, might not necessarily make me rich. It’s the hard fact of life. Not every interest pays well.

There are times I have wished wealth was distributed equally with everyone. So that each and every person living on this planet can do what they like, and not just the wealthy. I do not mean going on expensive holidays or owning luxurious homes. Just the basic freedom to do what one likes. That in itself can make anyone happy. But, that’s not how the world works, and it might never work that way. The top 1% own 43% of the world’s wealth. Society thrives on income discrimination. The fact is no one is self-made. It takes many people to make one man’s business successful, but all the monetary benefits go only to a select few.

What would happen if I win a retirement lottery:

  • I would quit work.
  • I can finally avoid annual performance reviews. My last few didn’t go too well.
  • Start freelancing again.
  • Face less pressure.
  • Better mental health.
  • Choose the type of work I want to do.
  • Work from anywhere in the world. No location constrictions.

It is everyone’s secret dream. To win a lottery. It is the easiest way out to escape the rat race.

I haven’t bought a lottery ticket ever in my life. But the dream of winning one persists.