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Notes to Myself

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Cogito ergo sum

A couple of days ago I wrote a blog titled “I Teach. Therefore I Learn” which was a twist on a maxim by famous French philosopher and mathematician Renee Descartes (1596-1650) which says: Cogito ergo sum. (I think; therefore I am.)

quote-i-think-therefore-am-rene-descartes-138-86-05

In a Discourse on the Method, Renee Descartes questions the world and his surroundings by doubting and re-evaluation everything. By doing so, he aims to gain a fresh perspective without any preconceptions. Through the different parts of the discourse, Descartes questions the reality and incontrovertibility of his surroundings and comes to the conclusion in part 4 of, “I think, therefore I am.” He believes this is the only incontrovertible truth he can actually prove, the logic being that since he has the ability to recognize that other things may not be the true, he must exist to have the ability to do this in the first place. If he didn’t exist, then he would not recognize not doubt his surroundings. His maxim not only conveys his skepticism of the surrounding world but also explains the only truth he knows.

“I think; therefore I am” is such an intriguing quote that there are many layers to it. The deeper you peel, the more meaning and leading thoughts you can generate!

Though I like philosophy and serious thinking, I also like satire, humor, and, at times, even non-sense jokes! Some friends call me “the funny guy with a poker face”. Anyways, so what I found interesting was that how this famous quote by Descartes has been turned and twisted in some most hilarious and intelligent ways! I liked one, in particular, and used it as a tag line for my blog – “I Doubt. Therefore I Might Be?” It goes with my nature of being skeptical and suspicious about things and habit of questioning or debating everything! 🙂

Here are few more:

  • I think (too much); therefore I am (single)
  • I think (a lot); therefore I am confused
  • I didn’t think; therefore I am not
  • “I think I am, therefore, I am… I think.” ― George Carlin.
  • I rant, therefore I am. ~ Dennis Miller
  • I forget, therefore I was.
  • I drink therefore I am. ~ W. C. Fields
  • They think, therefore I am. ~ God
  • At times I think and at times I am. ~ Paul Valery
  • I think; therefore I am dangerous
  • I think; therefore I am…not here
  • I sink; therefore I swam – a song by John Law
  • I crave; therefore I blog
  • I forget; therefore…what was I saying?
  • I Bing; therefore I don’t Google

 

And there is an entire parody song written by The Comedian group. It is published on http://www.amiright.com/ whose mission is “Making fun of music, one song at a time. Since the year 2000”!

Here is the song “I Think Therefore I Am”:

That French philosopher Descartes
Listened to his pounding heart
He thought a bit and he felt a spark
Tingle in his spine

‘Twas then he coined the line

From which
His fame be-gan

That pompous line —

“I think, there-fore I am!”

They walked along drinkin’ rum an’ coke
A little confused, they remembered jokes
And passed around a joint for tokes
In a roach-clip burnin’ bright

They drank whiskey through the night

Before
The big ex-am

Then they cried —

“I drink, there-fore I cram!”

A hurricane someplace far off blew
As he was workin’ wind-jammer’s crew
As the tide bust through a big gust threw
His sailboat upside down

He dropped into the sea to drown

But he was a
Stubborn man

And he shouted out —

“I sink, there-fore I swam!”

(harmonica & guitar instrumental)

He walked up, her back was bare
He didn’t see hair anywhere
He told himself he’d charm her there
Push in-to her open thighs

Felt a gassiness inside

Blew wicked gust-ings from his can

Coughed and cried —

“I stink, there-fore I scram!”

He hears the ticking of the bomb
And works along with a careful aplomb
Shuts it down with a wonderful calm
‘Til the timer’s stopped its spin

Maybe it’s ticking loud again

He’s a
Worried man

His last thought —

“I think, there-fore I–” BLAM!!

People tell me
I’m a fool

To waste what I
Did learn in school

I still believe that this is cool
Writing parodies

I’ll write more of these

‘Cause I
Was born a man

Whose motto’s —

“I think, there-fore I can!”

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I Teach. Therefore I Learn…

I resumed my journey as a Corporate Trainer last week when I conducted a training on “Business Excellence” at Adani Power, Mundra, Gujarat.

I liked teaching even when I was young. I remember teaching my siblings/cousins Mathematics and other subjects when I was 10 years old. I enjoyed the process then and I enjoy it now – whether or not I am getting paid or getting any appreciation or any kind of reward.

It is said that when one person teaches, two learn! I completely agree with the thought based on my own experience.

To borrow from René Descartes (and twist a little bit): “I teach. Therefore I learn!”

All civilizations have valued teaching as one of the noblest professions. Indian civilization is known for putting the educators (the Brahmins) right at the top of social hierarchy (BTW, the hierarchy was not based on birth. There are plenty of examples of the same). A Chinese Proverb says “Give me a fish and I eat for a day.  Teach me to fish and I eat for a lifetime.”. Aristotle said: “Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.” Albert Einstein said similar thing in more colorful manner – “Any fool can know. The point is to understand”. Another Nobel laureate Richard Feynman had interesting take on Teaching. Since it is not a one-liner quote I’m sharing the link here – Richard Feynman on Teaching.

The best way of understanding something deeply is by teaching it. You are forced to think; to get your concepts right before you present.

I had asked my MBA Professor what they look forward to in teaching. Didn’t they get tired of teaching same Case Studies, same theories/models year after year?

The Professor said that he would look for that “Teachable Moment” which would bring Aha! moment for him and would help him learn something new. Every time it is a different experience; can be made into a unique experience and that’s what all good teachers aspire for. I can totally connect with that thought now. The search is for “Teachable Moment” and the joy of pursuing it.

हा:हा:हा: कारम् कारणे…

For all Hindi movie songs buffs

You will like this if you are a Hindi movie songs buffs…

7 Songs with similar Tune 🎼…but based on different ragas (that’s what a friend told me. I have no knowledge to confirm it)…That’s the beauty of our film music.

You may also like this:

Chronicles of plagiarism in Hindi film music industry
Hindi songs copied or influenced from some other song

 

Good Read: The Power of Compounding Small Daily Decisions

If you invest in stock market you would have heard umpteen times the importance of “Power of Compounding”. It is a basic mathematical function – exponential – which leads to huge numbers as the compounding frequency increases. And the same is true about decay function, or negative compound as well. However, the world of investing is always in complete awe of power of compounding.

The principle has some value, but I think it is now one of the most misunderstood concepts. Some true stalwarts have quoted compounding, which are often used to sell the concept. For example, Albert Einstein famously said:

Einstein-Quote on Compounding.png

“The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”

— Albert Allen Bartlett

This is very true – mathematically. It is also true in case of personal finance. That is how all Mutual Funds sell their Systematic Investment Plans (SIPs).

Then the same principle is used to create “inspiring” or “most motivational” message such as follows:

compoundposter

And this is where the misunderstanding of power of compounding lies. The message says that if you give your 99% everyday – for 365 days – you would end up at 0.03. If you give 100% everyday – for 365 days – you would end up at 1 (the message doesn’t mention it, but that’s the baseline case). And if you give “a little bit extra”, 101% everyday – for 365 days – the result is staggering! You would end up at 37.8! That is 37.8 times more than what you would achieve by giving 100% everyday! Just 1% extra effort and such a huge reward! Really motivating! But only for people who don’t understanding mathematics properly.

It is all good in pure numbers, but it doesn’t work in that manner in real life. CAGR (Compounded Annual Growth Rate) is a derived number – based on what you achieved over a period of time. It is not something which you can “chase” or “set as target rate”. Most of the life happens in non-linear manner and it would be foolish to chase a rate of compounding.

Also, “giving 1% extra or 1% less everyday” is all good in theory – what does it really mean? How does it translate into actions? It doesn’t make sense. It may motivate some people to start something but not to sustain it forever.

Does it mean that the idea has no utility? Absolutely not. It helps us understand that

  1. Starting early and sustaining it for longer period has huge advantage
  2. Having a trajectory is important. Purpose of CAGR should be just as a guiding path, not as a target. You will have to continuously monitor and revise the trajectory to achieve goal. Because things don’t happen in linear manner as planned

Here is another chart that is often cited by long-term investment community and advocates of “patience” and “power of compounding”

WB Net Worth

This is how Net Worth of Warren Buffett grew exponentially, after age of 50 or so. Yes, graphically it is true. And if you have read Buffett’s letters, he would talk of CAGR of ~19-20% for 50-52 years!

But that’s the backward-looking calculation. You cannot start today and say that you would earn 19-20% returns every year. That’s plain wrong. You cannot chase target in that manner. You’ll have to earn 30-40-50% returns for many years and limit bad years to lower returns (0-3-5%) or even occasional negative return years (-5 or -10%).

So the way compounding can help is by setting some intermediate milestones, say 5-10 years and setting different compounding return targets for those milestones. Remember, it is very easy to grow $100 to $200, but extremely difficult to grow $1M to $2 million (and far more difficult to turn $1 Bln into $2 Bln).

And yet, the idea of compounding is very appealing in investment world and lot of people try to apply it in different domains. Here is one interesting article I read today:

The Power of Compounding Small Daily Decisions

Intelligent Fanatics is an interesting initiative and you can read some interesting articles on their blog. It is also available in Book format.

Another interesting website you should follow for worldly wisdom is Farnam Street run by Shane Parrish. Farnam Street is the address where Warren Buffett lives. Though it is named after Buffett’s home, the blog is largely influenced by Buffett’s partner Charlie Munger‘s concepts of mental models.

Do check some interesting articles there and share more of such resources if you know.

First anniversary of Demonetisation

One year after “Mitron…” Day i.e. remembering (not celebrating) first anniversary (8-Nov-2016) of Demonetisation…

Will post throughout this week jokes and articles that showcase the blunder called Demonetization.

Here is a parody song to begin with:

बार बार फैंको, हजार बार फैंको…

Remembering Shakuntala Devi

Today is 88th birth anniversary of mathematics wizard Shakuntala Devi, known as the “Human Calculator”.

Google created a Doodle on her 84th birthday to honour her…

 

https://www.beaninspirer.com/shakuntala-devi-amazing-indian-human-computer/

As a child the only source of Mathematical puzzles for me were the books by Shakuntala Devi (before I discovered Martin Gardner, Sam Lloyd and W. Sawyer, Alex Bellos et al).

Fields Medal winning American mathematician of Indian origin, Manjul Bhargava explained in one of his talks the difference between math savant and a math genius. By his definition Shakuntala Devi would be called more of a Math savant, and not math genius; nevertheless she is very popular and inspiring person for lot of young students who love mathematics.

 

I am NOT OK. You are NOT OK.

Our Professor of Organizational Behavior at IIM-A one day asked:

So, how are you feeling now?

Some people said that they were feeling OK. I think the Professor was expecting someone to say that so that she could pick up on that and go on.

Professor told us that we often use words that don’t mean anything. Don’t convey emotions. “I am OK” is not a feeling, she said. Then she asked the persons to elaborate on the “I am OK” response and describe more. Some said they were sad, some irritated, some were joyful, and few relaxed. All these ARE emotions. OK is not!

What Professor was referring to was Theory of Emotion developed by eminent psychologist Robert Plutchik.

Plutchik conducted the initial research which later became full domain of study called “Emotional Intelligence”. He created a “wheel of emotions” consisting of 8 primary emotions. Those emotions can be further broken down into more granular ones which have subtle differences – more like shades of basic colors. Here is the Wheel of Emotions.

Emotion_Spectrum_Large.jpg

While attending the class I realized two things about understanding own emotion or state of mind:

  1. Our ability to perceive and understand own emotion in finer shades
  2. Our ability to describe it in precise word

First is the function of how well you can see through the finer shades of emotions and distinguish one from the other. For example, I might use words “frustrated” and “irritated” interchangeably without knowing the subtle difference from above wheel that “frustrated” is an extension of “angry” and “irritated” is an extension of “hateful”, both of which belong to primary emotion called “mad”.

Does this even matter? Well, it may matter if the recipient can understand subtle difference and interpret your differently. You may tell him that you are irritated(when actually you wanted to say “frustrated”, and the recipient would take it as a shade of “hateful”. In most scenarios such subtle difference wouldn’t matter; but when it does, it would really cause some trouble.

The second aspect of understanding own emotion or set of mind is ability to describe in precise word. The vocabulary – which is a function of your grasp over language.

I feel that is where a lot of people (including myself) would face challenges. It is one thing to express my emotion or state of mind in my native language/mother tongue – very convenient up to 4 or 5 layers of depth. However, if I am doing the same in a foreign language, I would be less confident. So instead of going to 2nd or 3rd layer of emotion I would stick to the first or primary emotion layer – even if I know all words for shades of emotions. And that may lead to unimaginable consequences, especially on Social Media.

Case in point is Shashi Tharoor’s eloquent tweet few months ago:

Farrago

Exasperating = intensely irritating; infuriating

Farrago = confused mixture

So Tharoor took the emotion layer beyond the wheel and made it “intensely irritated”! The public, however, found most of the words incomprehensible and trolled him on Twitter for many days.

Anyways, coming back to main topic, I am OK is not a true emotion, state of mind. You should understand and express true feeling.

So, how are your feeling now? 🙂

P.S.: I am pretending to be “delightfully skeptical”!

P.P.S: There is a popular self-help book called “I’m OK, You’re OK”. I also came across another book titled “I’m OK, You’re NOT OK”.

I think I should write a new book titled “I’m NOT OK, You’re NOT OK” 🙂

 

Just for fun

Murphy’s First Law for Wives:

If you ask your husband to pick up five items at the store and then you add one more as an afterthought, he will forget two of the first five.

Kauffman’s Paradox of the Corporation:

The less important you are to the corporation, the more your absence is noticed.

The Salary Axiom:

The pay raise is just large enough to increase your taxes and just small enough to have no effect on your take-home pay.

Miller’s Law of Insurance:

Insurance covers everything except what happens.

First Law of Living:

As soon as you start doing what you always wanted to be doing, you’ll want to be doing something else.

Weiner’s Law of Libraries:

There are no answers, only cross-references.

Isaac’s Strange Rule of Staleness:

Any food that starts out hard will soften when stale. Any food that starts out soft will harden when stale.

The Grocery Bag Law:

The candy bar you planned to eat on the way home from the market is always hidden at the bottom of the grocery bag.

And Here goes the last one !!

Lampner’s Law of Employment:

When leaving work late, you will go unnoticed. When you leave work early, you will meet the boss in the parking lot !

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