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An Experiment of Monthly Goals

Several weeks ago, I had a thought. Rather than set annual resolutions, why not set small monthly goals and be mindful about achieving them?

I am constantly in experimentation mode with something or the other, so why not experiment with this as well? This was towards the end of February.

So I set a goal for March 2022 – Learn how to do a Headstand.

Let’s fast forward to end of March – I could stay in a headstand with my feet straight up, well-balanced. The most I stayed up was under a minute. It was far better than 1-second headstands that I could do before.

I enjoyed the tiny challenge. But more importantly, I learned a few things about goal setting in the process. Here’s what I learned:

  • I need to enjoy the process. If I don’t enjoy it, it’s not a good goal for me. Without enjoyment, I’m simply torturing myself for the sake of “goal”. I can usually tell within the first week or two if I love it or not.
  • Keep the pressure off. I kept my expectations very low. Any progress I made at the end of the month was acceptable. Even no progress would be okay.
  • The results must be tangible. I could measure how long I stayed in the headstand position, independently without any support. This gave me a daily measurement of whether I was progressing forward or sliding back.
  • It was okay to quit if I found myself miserable with it within a week or two. Because come next month, I would set a new goal with something else, and attempt it again.
  • It can’t be a forever goal. It has to have an end. Walking daily is a forever goal. That’s not a good goal for me. It’s something I will do as and when I feel like it because I enjoy it, but my goals need a clear end.
  • More I worked on the goal, more motivated I became. It added energy to me and my goal, not drain energy out of me. That was a very important lesson for me.
  • Goal setting is a process that needs to be personalized. It not a one-fit solution for everyone. I needed to customize it for myself so I can position myself for success. There are other guidelines for goal setting out there that are not conducive to me. If I use those, I’d be setting myself up for failure.

I own a company called Enjoyable Books. I am looking to grow my email marketing database for it, and one of the ways I am exploring is by doing presentations of book marketing ideas. So, I set that as my objective for April – Build a Book Marketing Ideas Presentation.

So far, I’ve worked on it every day of April for about 30-45 minutes each day, and I am about halfway through my first rough draft. Most importantly, I look forward to working on it when I wake up.

I am enjoying this process, and I can already see that as I reflect on my year in December, I will have a string of successes to look at.

For May, I’m contemplating what to work on – my harmonica skills, or fiction writing skills. I am not very good at either. I’m leaning towards harmonica, simply because it’s going to be a busy month, and that can be practiced any place, anytime. Whereas writing will need some dedication.

If you’ve never considered setting monthly goals, I highly encourage it. It’s an amazing experience. Keep a dairy if you can, or even a piece of paper of all the things you’re experimenting with. When you look at it in future, you just may marvel at yourself.

Here are some more ideas on my list for upcoming months:

  • Play the harmonica
  • Write short stories
  • Learn to swim
  • Solve Rubik’s cube
  • Do full splits
  • Run a mile (Currently I can run no more than a quarter mile).
  • Do a 5-minute Horse Stance
  • Learn horse riding
  • Do a cartwheel
  • Create a Podcast

I am confident the list will continue to expand in the future. It seems like an exciting adventure. Hope you try it out too. Let me know.

Success comes from hard work and luck.

Without luck, very few people are successful. Hard work alone will not cut it.

The above idea does not sit well with many people. They don’t like the idea that hard work does not guarantee success. They’ve grown up all their life hearing, ‘work hard and you will succeed’.

That’s an inaccurate narrative, at least when you’re talking large scale success.

Warren Buffett often talks about how luck played a crucial role in his life.

If hard work alone was the prerequisite for success, construction laborers would be the wealthiest people on earth.

That’s clearly not the case.

Some people also take this the wrong way and stop working hard.

Don’t be stupid. Hard work invites luck.

Work hard. Do your best in all things, and luck will present itself. Sometimes it may take years or decades before luck presents itself. Be patient. Persist. Trick is not to be discouraged and to continue working harder. For, that is what you control. You cannot control luck. You do control how you work.

And when luck arrives, you will begin seeing signs of success.

A word of caution … after luck is identified, hard work is still required. Without hard work, luck will go away.

With luck by its side, hard work will result into massive success.

On hard work

Decide … to do everything well.

No matter how large or small the task at hand, do it well.

People who do shoddy work or work that simply gets them by, do not get noticed.

People who work hard get noticed. Getting noticed … is code for luck.

And when you get noticed by the right people, you get even luckier, and success follows.

On luck

Want to get lucky?

Do three things.

  1. Work hard.
  2. Put yourself in a position where your hard work is noticed by the right people.
  3. Continue working harder, for if you stop, luck will disappear and put you back at square one.

Networking is something you will need to be adept at. If making small talk, and networking with others is not your strong suit, you will need to strengthen it. Without it, luck will often be evasive. With networking, luck will find your hard work quickly.

Networking is like swimming. You can read about it and watch videos about it. But the only way you will become better at it is by doing it.

What is the value of our life on earth?

Monetarily speaking, each human is worth about $10 million dollars. You can google the question if you want.

I was thinking more in terms of “remembrance”.

Calculating our Life Value

My first thought was … longer people remember you, greater your value.

More I thought about it, I discovered that is not fully accurate. The answer really lies in a three-part equation.

  1. How many people think of me after my death?
  2. How long will I be remembered for after I am dead?
  3. What will people remember me for?

The first two questions can be answered numerically. Answer to the third question is either positive or negative.

Let me give you two examples.

Abraham Lincoln

Let’s go through the questions for good ole’ Abe.

First question … How many people thought of Abe after his death? The entire nation did, and many other people around the world did too.

Second question … How long will Abe be remembered for after his death?

Lincoln died in 1865. We continue to remember him today, and I think it would be safe to say people will still talk about him for next several centuries.

Third question … What will people remember Abe for?

Good things. Positive things.

So, where does Abraham Lincoln fit on the value scale … towards the very top.

Now let’s look at the second example.

Adolf Hitler

While Hitler undoubtedly gives a tough competition to Abraham Lincoln in the first two question, it’s the third question where he falters.

History will forever see Adolf Hitler as a murderer.

The third question permanently fixed his place on the value scale – at the very bottom.

If the average human is worth $10 million, Hitler would be worth $0, while Abraham Lincoln would be worth billions or maybe even trillions.

Back to Life Value Equation

So, the first question really is about “Reach”. How many people will think about you when they learn of your death. Will they care? Will they not?

The second question is the sustainability of your legacy. But it heavily depends on your answers to the first and third question. Think Shakespeare, or Voltaire, or Confucius, or even Jesus.

The last question is about impact. How large of an impact have you made, and on how many lives? This is what really ought to be the true definition of success. Number of people that are better off because you lived. Larger the number, greater your success.

While the above three questions are good to calculate “value”, they ought to be re-written for personal assessment.

  1. What impact have I made?
  2. How many people has it directly affected?
  3. How long will the impact be sustainable?

Not everyone has to be the next Rosa Parks, or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Things of lesser impact done consistently over long periods of time also add up to build your life value. Here are some examples:

  • See someone seeking alms on the street corner, buy them a meal.
  • See a parent frustrated over the support their child receives at school, advocate for the parents and the child.
  • Volunteer at shelters
  • Visit senior citizens at nursing homes
  • Help a colleague get through overwhelm
  • Volunteer as an aid for special needs person

My Legacy

As I think about my legacy in life, I wonder what value would I put on it? $10 million? More? Less?

I don’t know. I need to honestly answer the three questions for myself. If I don’t like the answers, I should change some things in my life so in due time, I start liking my answers.

Failing to Prepare

I found this in my archives. Sadly, I do not know who wrote it. Certainly wasn’t me.

After a series of searches, I could not find the poem online. So, no attribution. Let’s just call the author Anonymous. Here it is. Enjoy

If you founded your house on the movable sand,
And have failed to secure a firm hold on the land,
Take advice from the Lord and His biblical tale,
If you fail to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.

If you squander your time on the tricks of the trade,
On discovering just how shortcut is made,
You’ve neglected to work and your skills are but frail.
If you fail to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.

Can you fathom a sailboat alone on the sea,
And the storm and the waves dancing violently?
Like a crew that’s untrained for the tempest and gale,
If you fail to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.

If a cross country runner trains only a stint,
And he practices simply by running a sprint,
He will make it part way down the arduous trail.
If you fail to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.

Any seeds that are sown will not vanish or spoil,
If they’re spread on the tilled and the fertilized soil.
It’s a soil that’s prepared for the seeds in the pail.
If you fail to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.

If you want no excuses, no worries or frets,
If you want peace of mind, ever void of regrets,
Let the wisdom sequester you far from the wail.
If you fail to prepare, you’re preparing to fail.

13 Quotes from Charlie Munger

If you think your IQ is 160 but it’s 150, you’re a disaster. It’s much better to have a 130 IQ and think it’s 120.

We recognized early on that very smart people do very dumb things, and we wanted to know why and who, so we could avoid them.

Invest in a business any fool can run, because someday a fool will. If it won’t stand a little mismanagement, it’s not much of a business. We’re not looking for mismanagement, even if we can withstand it.

Obviously if you want to get good at something which is competitive, you have to think about it and practice a lot. You have to keep learning because [the] world keeps changing and competitors keep learning. You have to go to bed wiser than you got up. As you try to master what you are trying to do — people who do that almost never fail utterly. Very few have ever failed with that approach. You may rise slowly, but you are sure to rise.

You’ll do better if you have passion for something in which you have aptitude. If Warren had gone into ballet, no one would have heard of him.

What do you want to avoid? Such an easy answer: sloth and unreliability. If you’re unreliable, it doesn’t matter what your virtues are. You’re going to crater immediately. Doing what you have faithfully engaged to do should be an automatic part of your conduct. You want to avoid sloth and unreliability.

Life will have terrible blows in it, horrible blows, unfair blows. It doesn’t matter. And some people recover and others don’t. And there I think the attitude of Epictetus is the best. He thought that every missed chance in life was an opportunity to behave well, every missed chance in life was an opportunity to learn something, and that your duty was not to be submerged in self-pity, but to utilize the terrible blow in constructive fashion. That is a very good idea.

Well, opportunity cost is a huge filter in life. If you’ve got two suitors who are eager to have you, but one is way better than the other, you’re going to choose that one rather than the other. That’s the way we filter stock buying opportunities. Our ideas are so simple. People keep asking us for mysteries, but all we have are the most elementary ideas.

Generally speaking, envy, resentment, revenge and self-pity are disastrous modes of thought. Self-pity gets fairly close to paranoia, and paranoia is one of the very hardest things to reverse. You do not want to drift into self-pity. … Self-pity will not improve the situation.

I met the towering intellectuals in books, not in the classroom, which is natural. I can’t remember when I first read Ben Franklin. I had Thomas Jefferson over my bed at seven or eight. My family was into all that stuff, getting ahead through discipline, knowledge, and self-control.

Students learn corporate finance at business schools. They are taught that the whole secret is diversification. But the exact rule is the opposite. The ‘know-nothing’ investor should practice diversification, but it is crazy if you are an expert. The goal of investment is to find situations where it is safe not to diversify. If you only put 20% into the opportunity of a life-time, you are not being rational. Very seldom do we get to buy as much of any good idea as we would like to.

The liabilities are always 100% good. It’s the assets you have to worry about.

Ben Graham was a truly formidable mind, and he also had a clarity in writing, and we talk over and over again about the power of a few simple ideas thoroughly assimilated, and that happened with Graham’s ideas which came to me indirectly through Warren, but some also directly from Graham. The interesting thing for me is that Buffett the former protégé — by the way Buffett was the best student Graham had in 30 years of teaching at Columbia — became better than Graham. That’s the natural outcome — as Milton said, ‘If I’ve seen a little farther than other men, it’s by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ So, Warren stood on Ben’s shoulders, but he ended up seeing more than Ben. No doubt somebody will come along and do a lot better than we have.

Accidental Success vs. Deliberate Success

Let me first share some examples of each, and then I’ll share some thoughts on this.

When Michael Jordan shoots a ball and it makes it in the hoop, that’s deliberate success. He’s practiced the skill a million times before.

When I shoot a ball and it makes it in the hoop, that’s accidental success. Anyone familiar with my basketball skills will concur.

Sticky notes were an accidental success. The engineer who created it didn’t set out to make sticky notes. He accidentally discovered a glue that you could use to stick and peel, many times over.

Berkshire Hathaway is a deliberate success.

So, what’s the difference between the two?

One requires planning, hard work, and determination. Other is a pleasant surprise.

One can be replicated many times, in any field(s) of your choosing. Other offers no such guarantee.

5 Things I require before I purchase a stock

Every time I’ve been strict about following these requirements, I’ve made money. It’s true 100% of the times.

Other times, I’ve lost money.

Apply these requirements to your investment selection process, and see how it works for you.

Also, I apologize for the ruthlessness of the following sentences. These are absolute necessities for my investing methodology. Any leeway is these matters is inconceivable.

I require my investment to either produce a product, or deliver a service.

When a business produces a product, or delivers a service, the value of the business is no longer hypothetical. It relies on the quality of the product or service delivered. This requirement automatically eliminates all commodities and cryptocurrencies from my radar.

I require the business to be profitable before I invest in it.

Companies that continue losing money for more than 5 years after inception in the name of growth, do not interest me. The senior management in such businesses is made up of incompetent folks.

I require the business to be self-sustainable.

The business has to operate on little to no debt. Businesses that heavily rely on debt for its operations do not deserve a place in my portfolio. As soon as the river of debt dries up, the operations take a nosedive in such businesses.

I require businesses to have increasing revenues and higher profit margins.

Combination of these two factors fortify a business. It gives it a moat. Longer the sustainability of this moat, better the business.

I require the business to be on extreme sale before I invest in it.

When a high-quality business is being offered at a significant discount compared to its intrinsic value, the odds of losing money are almost non-existent, and odds of making money are greatly in my favor.

19 Bear Market Indicators from Bank of America

On a regular basis, I go through all my files, clippings, etc. Most things I save “in the moment” turn out to be useless shortly thereafter. So, those get chucked.

One of the interesting things I found saved from earlier was a list of bear market indicators from Bank of America. Sharing them here with you.

  1. Federal Reserve raising interest rates
  2. Tightening credit conditions
  3. Minimum returns in the last 12 months of a bull market have been 11%
  4. Minimum returns in the last 24 months of a bull market have been 30%
  5. Low quality stocks outperform high quality stocks (over 6 months)
  6. Momentum stocks outperforming (over 6 to 12 months)
  7. Growth stocks outperforming (over 6 to 12 months)
  8. 5% pullback in stocks over the last year
  9. Stocks with low price-to-earnings ratio underperform
  10. Conference Board’s consumer confidence level has not hit 100 within 24 months
  11. Conference Board’s percentage expecting stocks go higher
  12. Lack of reward for earnings beat
  13. Sell side indicator, a contrarian measure of sell side equity optimism
  14. Bank of America Fund Manager Survey shows high levels of cash
  15. Inverted yield curve
  16. Change in long-term growth expectations
  17. Rule of 20, trailing price-to-earnings ratio added to CPI is above 20
  18. Volatility index spikes over 20 at some point within the last 3 months
  19. Earnings estimate revisions rule

I found many of these to be interesting, and useful.

5 simple tips that I learned to improve my writing

Writing is an amazing habit. I try to write everyday. Most days, the writing is average or below average. Once in a while though, the stuff that comes out makes me wonder … did I really write that?

Regardless, writing on a daily basis is a habit I recommend everyone ought to cultivate. You don’t have to write lengthy prose. Just write anything that comes to your mind. There are so many benefits to writing. Just google “benefits of writing“.

But, there are 5 tips I learned, from many different sources, that improves my writing. Hope it helps your writing also.

#1 – Delete the word “that”

You believe that I’m sleeping, but I’m not.

Now, let’s try again without “that”.

You believe I’m sleeping, but I’m not.

#2 – Avoid words that end in “ing”

The food I am eating is usually very disappointing. What are you eating?

Now, let’s try it without the -ing.

The food I eat usually disappoints. What do you eat?

#3 – Remove the words “I think”

“I think, this computer is faster” becomes “this computer is faster.”

The words, “I think” add no real value to the sentence.

#4 – Short Sentences, Shorter Paragraphs

Write short sentences. Write shorter paragraphs.

This tip is from Ernest Hemingway. Most classics have long sentences, longer paragraphs. Not Hemingway. His style came from being a journalist from Kansas City Star.

His best example about short sentences and shorter paragraphs is this:

For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.

Ernest Hemingway

A powerful six-word story.

#5 – Be positive, not negative

Another tip from Hemingway. Write what is, not what isn’t.

Instead of saying, this is painless, say, this is comfortable.

Instead of expensive, say economical.

In conclusion …

That’s it. Writing is a muscle. More you work it, stronger it becomes.

When I first discovered these rules, I had trouble committing them to memory. I still forget many. So, I created a printout I can keep on my desk for easy recall.

Download your copy of 5 Simple Tips that Improved My Writing. (no email required). Share it with others without changing anything.

Hope these tips are beneficial to you

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