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Break-even

Break-even point is something that a lot of us have used in lives. It is the revenue required in order to outweigh the costs during a particular period of time.

Considering our own lives, I have always considered the break-even point to be when I have zero debts. Hence my net value would be zero and it is all positive from there on.

  1. During the initial years of my working life, I still had to undertake additional investments – a life policy, a house and some essential liabilities such as a car.

Essentially, my break-even point was pushed by several years as a result of these actions.

  1. The last few years have been kind to me and I have been able to make serious inroads in my repayment schedules. I have now moved much closer to achieving zero debts. However, being a more mature person, and a family man, I now do not think my break-even point to be when I am at zero debt. It has got to factor in savings for my child’s education, my wife’s well-being as well as all our sustenance.

Although I have reached the break-even point of my twenties self, I am nowhere close to that figure for thirties self.

Hence my question. Is break-even a number or rather a state of mind? Are we just looking for new goals to stay the course with our lives rather than have the heart and mind to stop accumulating wealth and live with what we have?

 

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My ‘other’ pair of shoes

“Hey man, can you believe it has been five years already since this?” It was a message from Chirag. Yeah, we had kept in touch.

The picture was one of us five friends standing on a wall with Edinburgh beach at the background. Besides being a sweet pic, one realization struck me the most. The absence of colors in our dresses.

That got me thinking.

Kiran: My best friend for life. He was wearing a pink(ish) jacket, yet not looking gay. Always the giver & ringmaster. He isn’t in the pic because he was the one organizing us for the pose & taking the picture.

 

The rest of us, in order.

Kathir: He wore black. He always wore black. Super fun to be with. He is one of those that can make you cry, or cry out of laughter if he decides to make fun of anyone.

Chirag: Powerful eyes, he gave you the impression of a serious guy. But wasn’t. Don’t remember what color jacket he wore.

Sanket: Laddoo. A funny, plump guy. We did not keep in touch, no apparent reason why.

Me: I think I wore a grey jacket. Bought for 8 pounds. A wise purchase that lasted 4 years.

Mayuri: A sweet girl. Fun to be with, unassuming. I don’t remember what she wore as well.

 

The more I think back, I remember a lot of events and people that have been memorable. However, what they wore has never really stood out to me. They were all different. Sure, they had their own style which was unique. But then, they were all the same – I liked them for the person that they were, not what they wore that day.

 

Hence the question, “What do I do with this other pair of shoes that I have had for years but seldom wore?” Have I given it too much importance? Does it deserve the space in my rack? If not, does the shoe rack deserve as much space as it currently occupies?

Keen to know your thoughts!

 

 

PS: The reference to pair of shoes is a metaphysical one. It could be replaced by any item that you consider to be a ‘spare’ or ‘back up’

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The Joy of Less – A book review

As a reader of this blog, I am sure you already know that I am smitten by the minimalism bug. For those of you who do not know yet what minimalism is, it is the concept of owning less things through intentional living in a manner that we only indulge in those that add value to our lives.

Ever since my tryst with minimalism, I have taken some measures to simplify my life:

  1. I reduced the number of shirts I use, frankly because I hated ironing them. I now have a white shirt and a black one for formal occasions and one shirt that I use for more social occasions. I have switched to wearing T shirts to work. Trust me, they are far more comfortable.
  2. I am giving away some devices that have just been sitting at home, unused. Hope they find better use than they did at my place.
  3. I packed up unused items provided by my house owner and stored them away in a far away place. My kitchen now has a bit more space for the regularly used items to dock themselves.
  4. I have setup a blocker in my browser that limits my social networking time to 10 minutes during a work hours. Though my productivity has not improved, I am writing more often as my mind is less cluttered by news feeds of others’ activities.
  5. I have also spent considerable time unsubscribing from various emails, disabled pop-ups from various news/sports apps and even whatsapp. Though “phantom vibrations”  were felt from time to time, the withdrawal is now complete and I don’t feel the urge to check my mobile every 10 minutes.
  6. With the free time I got, I am now able to devote more attention to things I love – Solving those 1000 pieces puzzles and actually reading a few books

Now that I could see more benefits of living an intentional life, I wanted to take the next steps in minimalism. This was when I came across “The Joy of Less” by Francine Jay being mentioned quite often as one of the best books on living a minimalist life.

I found the tone of the book to be pretty light and breezy to read. It felt more like the author was talking to me rather than writing to me. This helps to make things fun and also keep my mind open to the ideas being suggested.

The book starts off with some philosophy about minimalism and why one should embrace it. For someone that was already sold on the concept, this served as positive reinforcement to the benefits of minimalism.

 

Next was a framework to minimize your stuff. This laid some basis on how to go about decluttering things from your house and also ensuring that things stay the same way post the process. I liked the way Francine brought to our attention, some of the methods through which stuff accumulates without our knowledge.

The concept of having circles to describe the placement of things around oneself makes a lot of sense. The inner circle would be those that one uses daily, the second circle would be those that we use often but not on a daily basis and the outer circle would be those that can be kept away for longer periods of time but still cannot be completely removed.

And the rest, you have permission to let go!

But wait, Francine gives you suggestions about what to do with these excess. There are many ways to dispose off them which can ensure that they find better homes or owners and also do not damage the environment with our excessive dumping.

Overall I feel that this book is a good read for those who want exposure to minimalism and are looking for ways to declutter their homes. Though the book speaks about issues we face, going from room, once can choose to pick the sections that concern them.

One aspect that I feel was completely neglected was applying minimalism to people’s digital exploits. The book was very focused on decluttering physical  objects that there was, pardon the irony, less room to discuss meta-physical decluttering.

To follow Francine Jay please visit – http://www.missminimalist.com/

Feel free to comment 🙂

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Hairy-Fairy

He was thinking to himself that this could be one of those moments in life where he experiences ultimate peace. He was lying on his back, in his bed, snack-bang in the middle of the day on a weekday and slowly drifting into sleep. He had been reading a novel, a damn good one at that, and yet the habit he had developed during college had returned and lulled him into sleep. The sweet, cold air from the aircon surely did its part to aid the process.

Wasn’t it great to take an off on a Wednesday, relax at home, and take pleasure about knowing that the rest of the world was slogging away at work and would give anything to be in your position?

Maybe it was the act of reading books that a strange thought occurred to him. Maybe Ellesworth Toohey from “Fountain head” had called it right when he had remarked that the act of holding one another’s hands to show that you are a couple was rather impractical. Your palms would begin to sweat soon enough and you would want to remove your hands. No matter when you did this, you are sure to disappoint your partner.

Now why was he thinking of Toohey? Oh yeah, it was because of the strand of hair that kept tickling his nostrils, making it really difficult for him to be enjoying the moment to its fullest. Surely, asking his wife to move a bit would solve the problem, however was he willing to take such a risk and disappoint her? Would she feel hurt that he pushed her away from him, (meta)physically? Three years of being married had made him wise enough to think of consequences before acting. One could be forgiven for greater crimes but pushing your wife even a square inch away during a moment of such great peace and intimacy such as this one could have disastrous consequences.

He tried to huff and puff the hair out but that only elevated the tickling. He could take it no longer. Picking up all his courage, he said in the faintest of voices, “Honey, could you move your head just a little bit, more towards my shoulder than my face?”

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

…………………………………………………no response………………………………….

……………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Suddenly the door opened, startling him back to awakening. His wife peeped through and asked him, “Did you say something coz I could not hear from over the kitchen?”

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

And he muttered, “Err, no. I just said I need to get a haircut soon” as he parted his really long hair away from his face!

 

 

 

 

 

#Truestory : Scroll further for action taken!

 

 

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Book review – Doing good better – William MacAskill

Hailing from a conservative Indian family where we are taught to extract maximum value out of every penny or item, I found “Doing good better” to be extremely appealing. I have had reservations against donating money, the greatest one being that I did not have much to spare and hence would not give it for those causes with minimal impact. So I had to educate myself which program was the best and this book helped me gain clarity.

It has been five years since I graduated from my Masters program and I have missed graphs and statistics. I have always had a fascination towards topics where popular assumptions are broken down through logic, reasoning and most importantly, numbers. For those of you who love reading such a genre of articles, this book will appeal to your intellect.

The book provides a great starting point to evaluate various organizations and causes to gauge their effectiveness and impact. But that expectation is a given considering the title is “Doing good better”. Having said that, I am now aware of a few causes that do real good; capable of asking valid questions & qualifiers before parting with my money for any causes. Moreover, I am well aware of how much I can be influenced and drawn towards certain causes and well publicized events where the impact of my donation would not really make much difference in the overall scheme of things. My latest blog on “Why I won’t donate to the Manchester bombing” is based on some of the concepts outlined in this book. So, in essence, this book has more than “met expectations” and delivered to promise of educating me of how to do good, better.

I also found some sections of the book irrelevant for me and would happily skip those if I reread the book. For example, I am already too deep into my career to consider a path more aligned with effective altruism. Also, I do not for one bit find it practical for me to evaluate between a PHD or a computer science degree, keeping altruism as the end goal. As the saying goes, we Indians become engineers first before figuring out what we want to become in our lives.

In summary, read this book if you :

  1. Are remotely interested in doing good to the world
  2. Like the use of logical & data driven arguments to overcome popular assumptions
  3. Are convinced the one individual cannot make a significant difference to the world
  4. Want to choose between eating chicken/beef or ham, keeping in mind the environment/animals themselves

 

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Why I won’t donate to the Manchester bombing

The bombing at Manchester is indeed a very sad event. 22 families have lost loved ones and surely their lives have been shattered beyond wildest dreams. The news has been well published on paper and has garnered a lot of sympathies from across the globe. There is no doubt that this is a tragedy.

NGOs have been setup for relief work for the families and pleas have been voiced for donations for the affected families.

However here are the reasons why I would not donate for this tragedy.

  1. Global Press: With so much coverage on the event, and a lot of celebrities voicing their sorry to the families, I am sure there would be enough funds collected already for the families. Moreover, I am also sure there would be one or two extremely rich persons wanting to make a real difference with a significant donation. Assuming a conservative estimate of 100,000 donations of $100 each, the impact of my donation to the overall figure is just 0.1%.
  2. Impact: Though the impact of the event has been devastating for the families, the scale of these impacts is restricted only to a section of Manchester. To put things in perspective, natural disasters wipe out entire towns and cities.
  3. 22: 429000 deaths happened in the world due to malaria in 2015. Road injuries (rank 10 in causes of death in the world) kill 43 people every day in Tamil Nadu. The Manchester bombing killed 22.
  4. Impact of one dollar donated: If I donated a dollar to the families in UK, I would probably be able to buy a bar of candy or chips with it. If I donated $100, I would probably have bought the families a new bed. Whereas $100 would be able to buy 40 mosquito nets that can potentially save 80 people from Malaria(Source: https://www.againstmalaria.com/WhyNets.aspx) . Using the concept of The 100x multiplier, which states that the value of a dollar given to a poor country could do 100x more good than when given to a rich one.  (Source :

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/06/what-is-the-greatest-good/395768/ ) it just makes less sense to donate to UK which is one of the richest countries in the world and can easily afford to take care of its people.

I don’t have any prejudice against Manchester or against the affected families. I have been a Manchester United fan for over 15 years and have experienced the city first hand. Judge me if you want, but I believe that once we have decided to donate money, we need to take a step back and look at where we can make a higher impact with the money we donated.

 

PS: If you want a quick recommendation of where to donate, here is a great place to start – http://www.givewell.org/

 

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Altruism

I have been toying with the idea of making donations to funds that help the world….. Noble thought indeed.

However, I have been struck with a realization – I am happy to do the act but very reluctant to write about it. I would appreciate your opinions on whether my thoughts are justified.

Do we help ourselves?
I believe it is more of our ‘savings’ mentality that people expect us to build and save wealth. This might be for our future, followed by buffer for contingencies and if that is achieved, continue building for the future generations to come.

I do get the logic about why we should adhere to these principles. According to me, these guidelines are exactly what they are meant to be – guidelines. Once they take up a shape bigger than being just guidelines and becoming a norm or even worse, a fixation, there is little or no room to live life.

Economic freedom is a great feeling to have. Achieving this should enable one to explore options. This could be in the form of indulgences, following an alternate career path or passion, venturing out into a new business or risky deals or even altruism.

As per our ‘savings’ mentality, every penny out must fetch an ROI. Anything else is a wasted opportunity or a loss. All indulgences are frowned upon and we are branded as a show-off. Business ventures that carry risk are tolerated at best as there is an outside chance of returns.

Altruism scores the least as there is no personal gain. Any wealth that goes down the route of altruism is considered equivalent to wealth down the drains.

Is it just me that feels that our thinking is flawed or is it the norm? How many of you have embraced altruism and what was the reaction you faced when you discussed about this topic?

Keen to know your thoughts.

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Open offices

What is your opinion about open offices?

We have recently included music in the office. N Sync and Backstreet boys have taken over the work space. I found myself having mixed thoughts about this. On the one hand, it is nice to listen to songs of old. It takes you to that time and gives you a kind of energy that you had during that age.

On the other hand, the constant noise obstructs work. Writing official mails require you to ‘think’ in English language and english words from songs at the background mess up your trail of thought.

No one wants to have open disagreements. So it is my belief that open offices do not allow for purposeful ideas to blossom. Already introverts find it hard to voice their opinions and the open design forces them to overcome huge, stressful barriers just to get heard. With constant music in the background, people are naturally content to listen rather than overcome and converse.

In my opinion, I don’t see many advantages of open offices. I believe more work gets done in conference rooms where I can work in silo and with a higher degree of conversation.

Keen to know your thoughts as comments.

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