Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Meritline.com - good e-retailer for electronic gadgets. Can find some good deals from time here. I recently found a free (after mail-in rebate) pen drive here. Found the deal from www.deals2buy.com. 1 GB Fugitsu pen drive for $13 (free after mail in rebate). They processed the order promptly. The drive worked fine. I filled mail-in rebate and received the promised rebate after around 10 weeks. I am glad about having received the rebate. E-mail customer service quality is questionable. I did not receive replies to 2-3 e-mail inquiries I sent regarding mail-in rebate. No toll free number. When I called to inquire about the mail-in rebate, got a person who promptly provided the status on the mail-in rebate. Mail-in rebate arrived within the time he said it would arrive. That was good. Meritline.com has my vote based on this experience. I hope they can be more prompt with e-mail inquiries.


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Sunday, October 28, 2007


"Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality." - Clifton Fadiman

Good one!


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Verbal contract

"A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on." - Samuel Goldwyn

Let alone serious matters that require written contract, most of the stuff is better written down. Always have it that way. How do you like? Written down.

First when you write down anything, it gives more clarity. It opens up several unanswered questions which may require additional discussion.

One best advice I got was to reserve 30 mins prior and after a meeting. First 30 mins is to think and jot down your ideas for the meeting. Second 30 mins is to write down all that happened in the meeting. This is especially important for the meetings that you have called. If there is not a 30 mins time slot before or after the meeting due to your calendar being full, immediately allocate 30 mins in that day itself at the earliest.

You may be better off jotting down notes in your note book and expand it on your computer. Computer and keyboard do not lend themselves very well for quick writing with all sort of short hands and symbols. Divide the sheet in to 3 parts. Left one part serves as margin, right two parts for note. Write down in short phrases and sentences. Put marks for action items, decisions, follow ups etc. Expand on your computer using the notations.

This has proved to be one of the best  things to make most of discussions and meetings.


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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Truly important things

There is a simple litmus test to find out what is really important to us in our lives. This simple test and the data it generates can really pinpoint to our priorities even if our conscious mind fails to identify them.

Test is simple. Just track where and how you spend your wealth, health and time. Those are your priorities in life and they are what really matter to you. This realization may come as a rude shock. Once the shock subsides, if you are someone who can reflect on the data from this test, you also know how to go after what you really want.

Take time. What do you spend time on? Mostly on work? So, whether you like or not, work has taken hold of your life. It is a different matter if you are proportionately successful at work or not. There is no direct correlation between effort and success. Right effort applied in right way will produce success.

Take money. Where is your money going? If most your money is going to maintain your day to day life, then no point in worrying why you are not able to build wealth. For your subconscious, building wealth is not a priority although externally it may seem so.

How do we change our priorities? Just change how you spend your health, wealth and time. Want to get ahead in your profession? Devote health, wealth, time on those pursuits. Shell out money to get advanced education. Spend week ends taking courses. At least by channeling your resources on priorities that matter you, you will have the satisfaction of having done your best. Despite this you do not succeed, your priority was not right in the grand scheme of things although you may find it wrong. We always find things we do not understand utterly wrong. Grand scheme of things are beyond our understanding for a long time to come.

If family is your priority then health, wealth and time go there. If this results in less than expected progress in professional life, so be it.

Bottom line is not knowing our priorities correctly, we grope in the dark. We keep doing things which have no relation to our "so called' priorities and wonder why we are not achieving what we want. In reality, we are not spending resources on them at all.

Borrowed insight from one of Brian Tracy's books, I think.


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Thank you

"If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is "thank you," that would suffice." - Meister Eckhart

Absolutely correct. However, "thank you" has become so routine that many times even when we really mean it, people may not care much. So, in order to get most out of saying 'thank you', always make it a habit to specify precisely what you are saying 'thank you' for. That will go a long way in making the receiver very happy and appreciate your thoughtfulness. Otherwise, it is going to sound like another bland 'thank you' or 'how you doing?'

If you seriously examine, our daily courtesies all have become too routine to have any real value. Most of them seem to be asked or said out of some requirement or conversation starters. But, we can become little creative and bring back some meaning into such conversation openers. If you know a person, remember to ask about something that matters to them. Of course, you have to open with 'How you doing?'. But, do not have to stop there. For example, a coworker had told something about a sick relative a while back. So, I chose to ask about the relative after the routine 'how you doing?'. What a difference it made?

In today's world of mad rushing, we sometimes feel that we may be wasting other's time by enraging in such talk. Far from the truth. Like it or not, everybody is interested in them and in things that matter to them. Even if they are killing themselves at work, it is a means to some end for which they are killing themselves in much bigger way. Find out what that end is and try to ask a little about that and you would make his or her day. There need not be any ulterior motives behind your questions. It may be just as simple as strengthening relationship. Ultimately relationships and the capital you have invested in them is what going to be of any use. Rest all as they say 'extra'.


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The End of Sorrow: The Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living, Volume I (The Bhagavad Gita for Living, Vol. 1) by Eknath Easwaran

This book is an interpretation of Bhagavad Gita, great Indian spiritual classic. This is the first volume of three volumes. This volume covers first 6 chapters of 18 chapters that are there in the Bhagavad Gita.

For many people, Bhagavad Gita may come across as a set of verses which do not make much sense. There is certainly a need for scholarly interpretation for common people like us to understand this classic. Many great scholars have attempted to interpret this classic with a sole view that the extraordinary wisdom hidden in Bhagavad Gita became available to common people. However, the need of the hour is to be able to interpret timeless wisdom in a way that is applicable to current life conditions. Bhagavad Gita which must have been first developed thousands of years ago if read in verbatim may not make much sense to people of today.

That's the void Sri Easwaran fills in this three volume commentary of Bhagavad Gita. Easwaran has very nicely developed these volumes. Having been trained in English and Sanskrit and more importantly having the benefit of spending his life time in the 20th century, he is the best position to help us understand and gain from the wisdom of Bhagavad Gita. It is one thing to be able to give a scholarly commentary. It is altogether a different thing to be able to describe the gist of Gita from self experience. Easwaran being one of the great spiritual master is able to drive home the point effectively because he is no mere a scholar full of intellectual hot air but someone who spent more than 50 plus years of his fruitful life practicing the spirituality.

If you have been wanting to know more about Bhagavad Gita, this is the set of books you want to try reading. The book is organized in short essays which take one verse at a time and Easwaran comments on each verse using day to day parables, anecdotes and how the particular verse applies to our lives today. What we can learn from it. What we can take out of that verse and apply to our lives today.  No wonder this books has been considered one of the best books on Bhagavad Gita and has been translated to more than 20 languages.

The more information about Easwaran, his spiritual foundation and life can be found at www. easwaran.org.

This is a life changing book. Life changing for good. So, pick it up and immerse yourself in it and see your life change for good.


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Saturday, October 20, 2007

REITs - Alternative to direct real estate investing

Investing in real estate is probably one of the best investments one can make. As long as mankind exists, there is always a need for place to have a shelter above one's head. Space on this earth is limited. So, technically, it is one commodity which is going to be always in demand. It is also a hard investment. It does not evaporate like companies such as Enron which showed profit days before their demise.

Historically, as you can find many books on popular finance, real estate has not performed as well stock market in the long rage. Say 20+ years. But, it is still an attractive investment that is tangible which can be passed on to the future generations. One of the reasons why real estate has not done as well as stocks may be due to the fact that managing real estate can be quite tiresome. Paper work is extensive. In some countries, risk involved in real estate investments can be very high due to unscrupulous people and no easy legal recourse if you are cheated and so on. By any means, investing and managing real estate is far more difficult than managing a stock portfolio.

So, isn't there a way to invest in real estate without much hassle? One option is Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT). REITs are companies which own real estate properties such apartments, commercial real estate and so on. They sell shares of their stock and public can buy them. REITs also have some special regulations by which they are required to distribute majority of their earnings to share holders in the form of dividends. High dividends also make them very attractive to people who want regular cash inflow.

It may be expensive to buy individual REITs. That's where mutual funds which specialize in REIT stocks come into picture. They are like regular mutual funds but focused only on REITs. There may also be ETFs which specialize in REITs. There are index mutual funds which track the entire REIT market. They are one of the best for people who want invest for long term and would like to have a real estate component in their portfolio. Vanguard offers a good choice of REIT index funds.

REITs have done very well during the last real estate boom. Even after real estate bust, they are doing reasonably well.


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Friday, October 12, 2007

Summer and Winter

"If you don't allow God to be your summer guest, he won't be there during the winter." - Swami Yukteshwar (Teacher of Paramahamsa Yogananda)

From the book 'Autobiography of a Yogi'.

Summer here means prime time of our life. Winter mean terminal years of life. If we do not become God conscious early, it will be difficult to develop that during later years. If not impossible, it will be difficult. I think that's why they say - belief in God is the beginning of wisdom.

More about Paramahamsa Yogananda at - www.yogananda-srf.org

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Paper or Plastic?

Recently, I was admiring a friend of mine who is employed as "Senior Vice President" in a investment bank. I told him I was impressed that he has reached such a high position at relatively young age. I did not understand how come he still did a very technical job and did not have responsibility that normally went with such a title. He burst into laughter and explained me the story behind titles in certain industries using a joke. The joke goes like this.

A super market  worker came home one evening and proudly announced to his wife that he has just been made Vice President of Grocery Bags. Wife was very happy. Next day she called the super market and asked if she could speak to the Vice President of grocery bags. Voice on the other end quipped - "Paper or Plastic, Ma'am?"

So it seems in banking people start at Assistant vice president then become vice presidents and then senior VP and so on. So it is like a principal software engineer or software development manager or something of a similar title in our industry. People with gold always make golden rules. These banking guys are like that. Regardless, title sounds too good. Especially a great pick up like and a conversation carrier in cocktail parties where cock and bull stories run amuck. So, it becomes easier to move in such crowd using these fancy titles.


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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Usefulness of quotations

Some people asked me why I so much like to write about quotations from famous people.

There are several reasons. Let me explain one of the reasons with an apt quotation itself.

"The dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant sees more than the giant himself."

The giants(famous and great people) have left a large "virtual" shoulders for dwarfs like us to stand on and attempt to see at least a fraction of what they saw or understood in a hard way. When things have been made so simple for us, why not make best use of them?

Quotations also help me drive home the point very well. By constantly adding useful quotations to my repertoire, I tend to become more effective when the situation calls for it. Quotations help me understand a concept better than I would have if I simply read or reflected on a concept.

Another usefulness of quotations is the chain reaction they produce. I learn about people from their quotations. If I like a quotation from a person, I look for more from that person and chances are I find some more excellent quotations from the person or the persons referred to by that person and so on. My sphere expands.

Quotations pack so much insight so tightly in a few words. If a picture is worth a thousand words, I would add that a quotation is worth a thousand sermons.


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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Useful insights

Recently I met a friend after a long time. We talked about lot of things. Here are some tid-bits of wisdom that came out of this conversation. Before I forget them, writing them up here.

1) Worry, stress causing you sleeplessness - I think most of us have those nights when some worry or stress does not let us sleep. It varies from person to person and kind of situations they are in. Here is one of the best ways to do something about that is causing you worry to death and not get sleep. Wake up. Write down all your worries and they try to go to sleep. Just write it down. OK, it does require some action. That is the key. Doing something about anything is the way to go about it. If you are not able to sleep even after writing down all your worries, take one worry at a time and analyze it. Once again, analyze on the paper. Make mind-map which helps clarify the worry. Bottom line, anyway you are tossing and turning with all that churning going on your mind. Why not use that time to do something about the worry? I am pretty sure this is going to help reduce the worry quite a bit.

2) Savor the experience of every situation - One of the reasons why this friend of mine is very successful at a fairly young age is his willingness to get into any situation just for the experience of it. He says - many times he has to take up responsibilities or do work he would not have liked to do under normal circumstances. But, there is no way not to do it. So, he just gets into them without worrying about the actual tasks. He gets into them to just experience them. I asked how do you manage to get into such situations time and again because it might be becoming boring after a few time. He has a solution for that too. Make the experience different by trying to do things differently.

3) Meetings - Many people in corporate world think meetings as necessary bane of working life. We hate them but also know that when we have to get something done, meetings are invariably required. Sometimes, people who we need for a meeting routinely do not show up. What we do? Keep getting frustrated? First, do everything you can do to get a reputation that you are a master meeting organizer. That means you take your meetings seriously and conduct them to get maximum out of them. Despite all your efforts if your meetings are not being attended. Do what you think is the best. If something blows up, let it be. Sometimes, it takes a big blast for people to take notice. Nothing is going to be that serious to kill your career. Hmm...this is one piece of advice, I do not know how to implement. But, the guy giving this advice is running a large unit of a very large company.So, it probably has some value in it.

4) Have belief that things that are helping you carry through your current situations will help you carry through all future situations also.

5) In the grand scheme of things, all your worries and problems of today look like minor blots if any. So, do not worry. What worried you a month ago or an year ago is not likely worrying you today. So, probably what is worrying you today is not likely to be of worry after a month or year. Why worry  now when you are not going to worry about them later? OK, I remember this from Dale Carnegie's book. But, this a true jewel and I  do not mind everyone I meet repeats it at least once.

6) Work less, achieve more. This seems like a contradiction. However in knowledge industry, it is all about thinking and planning. Higher you go in the organization, you will have more people to do it for you. What they expect you to do is to pave way for the people under you to do the things. So your job become predominantly thinking. Sometime you can think better when you are away from the confines of your office. My friend in office only for 8 or less than 8 hours. Does not sit before his computer all the time. Carries blackberry but not a slave to it. But, he spends tonnes of time thinking deeply about issues that need his attention. As he thinks, he commits his thoughts to paper. His most hi tech gadget - you may be surprise -  a notebook and a pen. I opened his notebook and was impressed. It is full of idea, thoughts and plans. All he does is as thoughts come up, he just jots them down. He  also has devised a way of short hand which uses his custom notations liberally. This saves his time. I asked him if writing thoughts does not reduce the speed of thinking or if he does not lose continuity of thoughts. He said that is the very reason. Thinking should be slowed down to produce quality thoughts. Without slow thinking, what mind produces are mainly junk thoughts. Writing one thought at a time helps the mind think through completely. What an insight? Work smart and not work hard.

These are some bits of wisdom from someone who I think has achieved quite a bit pretty early in life.

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Monday, October 01, 2007


"Money is not the key to happiness. If you have money, you can buy the key."

From a recent issue of Readers' Digest humor special issue.

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