Sunday, July 13, 2008

Walmart v/s Target

I normally shop online as much as possible.  Other than perishables, I try to shop as much as possible all online. It saves times and aggravation of ever crowded stores. Crowd did not use to be this much back when I lived on east coast. On the west coast in California - may be because of high population density-stores are really crowded. Hell of an experience.

From time to time, still need to hit these stores for some urgent purchases. I used to go to Walmart for most of the times. Their prices are the best. But, they just don't seem to understand that it is not only the price that matters but also the ambience. Materials in Walmart stores are so densely shelved and haphazardly organized, it takes way too much to find what you want. Store personnel are not very easily accessible and many do not speak decent English. Shopping at Walmart in California is like entering hell. There is so much crowd that you bump into some cart or some person obstructing your way every step. By the time you clear all that it will take 2-3 hours to finish shopping for a few simple items. Ever since I moved to California, occasional visit Walmart has been mind-numbing exercise. Los Angeles area Walmart stores are the worst due to extremely high population density. Bay area Walmarts are little better but still it sucks to shop in person at Walmart. Online is okay.

For a change, went to Target today after not finding a couple of items at Walmart. What a refreshingly pleasant experience. Aisles are so spacious. So many cash registers. Much fewer people. Overall a refreshing experience. I am going to give up on Walmart at least while I continue to live in California. May be I will revisit them if and when I go back to the east coast. On west coast, with this much population density and their densely packed stores really drive me crazy.

Some practices at Walmart also drove me crazy today. For example, I wanted to buy a few cartridges of Mach 3 shaving blades. With great difficulty found them. They were in a locked cabinet. Looks like people steal them so they keep it locked. Wasted 15 minutes to find a store personnel to have it opened for me. She came, opened the cabinet, took out the 12 pack I wanted and then just left mumbling something. Looks like she wanted to ring that in right away. Before even I could realize she had vanished with the cartridges I wanted. May be she was waiting for me at some cash counter and I did not find her. Neither I wanted to ring that in right away as I had few more things to buy. What a pain. So, did not buy it there. Bought it at Target. No such stupid rule over there. Mach 3 were right there. Just picked them up and paid at the counter.

I normally shop a lot at Firstly I use Visa card for almost everything. So every time I spend $2500, sends a gift certificate for $25. It is like 1% cash back. Not bad. Then I just go and buy most of the things at Amazon.Com. Prices are probably cheapest online. also works with several other stores and you are bound to find the best deal. For clothes, if you know your size well, is the best place. Returns are a breeze. Stuff is good. Prices are one of the best. Choices are also very good.

Anyway, Target got me as their customer for now. Walmart- good bye for time being. Fix your stores first and then we will see. Till then shopping at Walmart is something I won't even consider.


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If then else...

For those of us in the software business, 'if then else' is all too familiar. Most of our code is made up of writing lines after lines of code to handle all sort of exceptions that may come to the program in terms of inputs or other conditions raised by the software ecosystem. I read somewhere that there is more code in every program to handle exceptions than providing the functionality. It may take only few lines to get a program do what we expect it  to do in ideal conditions. Most of the other lines of code are to handle if this happens or that happens. Thus  the terminology - if then else.

Recently a friend of mine opened me up to another aspect of 'if then else' syndrome in our daily lives. Look at everything we do. It is full of 'if then else'. He made a case that our lives have become complicated because of this uncontrolled 'if then else'. Every time we think of doing something, we start thinking about all possibilities. Some idea comes to mind and then come plethora of 'if then else' pop up. Mind, having limited processing power and not being instruction oriented, can not process all these conditions. Result - confused mind. My friend has changed his philosophy to this - do whatever comes to mind first. If something has come to mind, it has not come just like that. Without your knowing, it has already been internally processed and that's the only reason why it has risen up to your conscious mind. If the particular idea was not a good one, sub-conscious would have killed it much before it bubbled up to conscious. So, if our sub-conscious has already done the processing, why do we want to engage in the futile effort of further analyzing it when we know that processing power of our conscious mind is so damn limited? Simplest way to put all this is- power of instruction. I also agree with some theories that say that  more intellectual we get, less intuitive we get. Left brain has its own place but thinking that we can figure everything out is a fallacy.

My friend has since then started doing whatever comes to his mind. He just does not think twice. I asked him how well he has fared. He said he has been relieved much off late from the burden of over taxed mind. He stopped exploring all possibilities.' Just do it' is his philosophy. With several examples, he also made case that majority of his actions have turned out fine. Some actions taken based on first thought have been wrong but he could reverse them without much problem. Another benefit is he has been able to accomplish more. I thought how that is possible. I understood if you act more and think less, certainly you have more probability of accomplishing something more. So, increase the probability by doing more and thinking less.

For many of us, this is going to take fairly long time. First we have to take a step back and convince ourselves that intuition is the best logic. Secondly, we should open up to having to clean up the mess more often than not. But, being able to act more is important I can not think of a better way than 'just do it'. Otherwise, more thinking and more confusion.


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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ask....Thou Shall Receive

"Ask....Thou Shall Receive" - Bible

For whatever reasons, we want so many things in life for ourselves but we don't seem to make enough effort to ask for them. You can probably recall from your own experiences. Every time you have yearned for something with all sincerity, you have got them. It may not have been easy but chances are you were not denied either. Many times, when we want something so desperately, the whole process seem to happen without our conscious knowledge. Won't it be great if we can take sometime to reflect on the process and systematize it so that we can use  the steps to get more and more things we want?

I think the first step is to spend enough time to really think about what we want. It is easy to get what we want only if we know what we really want - so goes a saying. So, crystallize what you want. This is a long and slow process. Best done on paper. 'When you start inking, you start thinking.' Another point is to start listing every reason justifying why we want what we want. You can see for yourself many times we can not even come up with a handful reasons to justify what we want. If that continues to be the case after a few days, what we want is not something we are going to get it easily because destiny caters only to our needs and not our greed. So, ask for those things that you really need and have enough reasons to convince yourself and HIM all the reasons you need. This lack of reasons is the key reason we do not get all that we want. There is no need for us to get all that. On the other hand all that we really need normally is given to us when we sincerely ask for it. When we sincerely ask for anything, we are also blessed with all resources to operationalize the plan to go and get it. You can validate it for yourself. Look at your education, degrees, jobs, titles,family, friends, foes etc. You got it because you asked for it and your needs were justified.

Another thing is when you ask, people normally do not deny. They will hardly deny when you can furnish some good reasons. They did study of this phenomenon on test subjects in photo copy shop. There was a line of people waiting to copy their documents. One man wanted to cut the line and do his copying ahead of others. He simply asked and people let him do that. They repeated the same experiment with other set of people. In the second case, the person who wanted to cut the line asked people if he can cut ahead of them and most importantly gave some reason to justify his request. This time they observed he got much better response. What made the difference? People are understanding and they respond better to reasoning. They repeated these experiments in several places and results were same everywhere. Ask and you shall get it. People just can't say No. It is hardwired in our psyche to say yes  most of the times. If it was not like that we would not have survived as a society. Every time we say yes, we know that we may be in similar situation someday and we would need others to say yes to us too. So, ask and you shall get it. It is sad that some people misuse this but that is such a small fraction. We should not and will not learn to say No because someone sometime misused our inherent goodness.

So, resolve to ask with all sincerity anyone anything you really need and see for yourself you will get it. Ask for a million dollars. You shall get it - provided you have solid reasons to show why you need it.


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Friday, July 04, 2008


It is a mistake to try to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time. - Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965)

It is amazing how much time and money is wasted on so called 5 year, 3 year and 1 year strategic planning. Who knows how the things will be after 1, 3 5 years? Every year, half the time, companies are doing just that. Looking far ahead than anyone is capable of. They burn enough cash on that. Some companies even have strategic planning departments. They do their best to imagine the future and produce tonnes and tonnes of paper and nobody ever reads or implements them and it is back to usual 'what's the problem of the day?'

Early navigators scouring far out lands knew this. They had figured out that they can see only so far. But they could see their guiding 'North star' all the time in the sky. Using such a star as their reference point, they would recalibrate the course of their voyage once in every few days. What is the 'North star' for business? They are the goals we set for ourselves. They may not be as accurate as 'north star' because 'north star' is not affected by changing circumstances but goal may need to change. But, well defined goals can be pursued over 1,3,5 year time horizons. So, we have goals in the form of 'North Star', we start off with a strategy which will guide as far enough as practical say 1 or 2 quarters and then we take a step back and recalibrate our course. In case of ships, they may have veered away from the defined course for a while due to weather or some other obstacle. It is the time to recalibrate the course by again pivoting the 'North star' as the reference point.

Birds migrate from place to place. They know where they are going. But, do they follow the same route every year? No, they do not if the route they decided on has some problems such as wild fires or something else. They have some inherent GPS which automatically reroutes them. Sometimes they may end up using a shorter route or if the birds think taking shorter route will put them ahead of their schedule, they may choose to temporarily halt so that they can burn up the extra time. That's how we should run businesses. Following the plan blindly is like driving on a pre-defined route regardless of road conditions.


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Guilt is anger directed at ourselves--at what we did or did not do.  - Peter McWilliams, Life 101

Nice way to look at guilt and anger. I think it was Buddha who said - 'you are not punished for anger but you are punished by anger.'

Best way to feel little less guilty about everything is to learn to forgive one most important person - yourself. It is easy to find people who are able to forgive almost anyone. You may even appreciate how a great soul that person is. But, ask him if he has forgiven himself for every mistake he has done. Chances are he is regretting them even now. So, learn to forgive yourself first. Mistakes are done and that's about it. No point feeling guilty about it. Many people feel guilty about lost opportunities. If the opportunity was meant for you, you would have seized it. Best way to look at such lapses is to reconcile that such opportunity was not meant for you. You can probably relate to it from your own example if you are professional worker. You really wanted to work for that cool company, tried your best to get through but you did not. They did not hire you and you forgot about it after a while. How does it feel only if you learn  later that the company started having several problems afterwards? Is your guilt justified? Looking at every such miss as 'Boon in disguise' is the best way to look at bad things that we may not know all details at a given point. Bottom line is if you learn to go with the flow, you will eventually reach the ocean. Sooner or later. 'Don't sweat the small stuff. And it is all small stuff.'


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