Wednesday, November 22, 2006

One marble at a time

The story below is one of those junk e-mails that one is asked to pass forward. I have often talked of quality of life isues on this blog and I thought this story would be relevant here... especially if you are an MBA who doesn't see her/his familyfor weeks on end.

"The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. Perhaps it's the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it's the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.

A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the garage with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it:

I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net. Along the way, I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind; he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whom-ever he was talking with something about "a thousand marbles." I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say

"Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you're busy with your job. I'm sure they pay you well but it's a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. It's too bad you missed your daughter's "dance recital" he continued. "Let me tell you something that has helped me keep my own priorities." And that's when he began to explain his theory of a "thousand marbles."

"You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years.

"Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900, which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime. Now, stick with me, Tom, I'm getting to the important part.

It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail", he went on, "and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays." "I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy. So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round up 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear."

"Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away. I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life.

There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight."

"Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure that if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time."

"It was nice to meet you Tom, I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again here on the band. This is a 75 Year old Man, K9NZQ, clear and going QRT, good morning!"

You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to work on the antenna that morning, and then I was going to meet up with a few hams to work on the next club newsletter.

Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. "C'mon honey, I'm taking you and the kids to breakfast" "What brought this on?" she asked with a smile. "Oh, nothing special, it's just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. And hey, can we stop at a toy store while we're out? I need to buy some marbles."

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

"Hard work is about risk"

I was cleaning my mailbox and found this article I had mailed to friends:
"The meaning of hard work in a manual economy is clear. Without the leverage of machines and organizations, working hard meant producing more.

Those days are long gone. Most of us don't use our bodies as a replacement for a machine - unless we're paying for the privilege and getting a workout at the gym...

Even if you're a workaholic, you're not working very hard at all.

Sure, you're working long, but "long" and "hard" are now two different things. In the old days, ... hard work meant more work...

The future is not about time at all. The future is about work that's really and truly hard, not time-consuming.

Hard work is about risk. It begins when you deal with the things that you'd rather not deal with: fear of failure, fear of standing out, fear of rejection. Hard work is about training yourself to leap over this barrier, tunnel under that barrier, drive through the other barrier. And, after you've done that, to do it again the next day."

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Shy Guy

Some people like dogs, some cats, others fish. But perhaps the least troublesome is the introvert. "Caring for Your Introvert" seems to suggest so. Actually it is a pretty accurate description of what goes on in an introvert's head and life. I should know, I am one.

I've had questions about an MBA being suitable for the introvert. I think the question confuses your job with your life. I've done some extremely uncomfortable stuff at my various jobs - cold calling and going to conferences to network. But that's part of the job. Like the article says, after a long day (or night) of 'extroversion', I just need some quiet time.

Asking if an MBA is suitable for introverts is like asking if an MBA is suitable for an optimist. Don't confuse your personality with your work or your life.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Battling the Bulge

The Institutional Investor has a nice one on the growth of M&A boutiques and their race against the bulge bracket firms.

A few snippets:
Joseph Perella has a classical philosophy of what makes a great investment banker.

"It is one of the few remaining industries that follow the renaissance model," says the veteran merger adviser. "You don't pick up a book to learn how to do it. You learn on the job under an experienced hand, like going to the studio of Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo to chisel marble."

But this da Vinci code may be in peril, suggests the 64-year-old Perella, who has tutored generations of merger bankers during more than three decades on Wall Street. "The renaissance model requires that the mentors be around to teach the people coming in," he explains. "Whenever there is an exodus of senior people, that model is going to get tested."

Now is one of those times.

...the strong showing by boutiques [is not] a one-off event. As recently as 1999, independent firms were involved in fewer than 10 percent of global public-company mergers... By last year [2005] their market share exceeded 25 percent.

...Many observers, at both small and large firms, now see the independents not as a fly-by-night phenomenon but as a permanent and significant fixture of the M&A landscape -- for a host of reasons.

...Today's M&A boom ensures that there's more than enough business to go around: Rainmakers at the top four M&A firms -- Goldman, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and J.P. Morgan -- generated an astronomical $5.9 billion in advisory fees last year, up from $4.8 billion in 2004, according to their financial statements. Global M&A volume reached $2.2 trillion last year, twice 2002's level and the highest since the bubble-inflated record of $3.4 trillion in 2000.

Monday, June 12, 2006

New look

I was getting bored of the old look. So I decided to waste the weekend getting the new look up. But things did not go smoothly.

For the 3 guys who use the RSS feed: in changing the blog template, I screwed up the feed. You should be able to receive the old feed for about 20-30 days before it finally dies. Please re-subscribe. Sorry about the mess.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

On risk

For those unwilling to risk their heart, career or money
"To laugh is to risk appearing a fool,
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental
To reach out to another is to risk involvement,
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self
To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss
To love is to risk not being loved in return,
To hope is to risk despair,
To try is to risk to failure.

But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing.
He may avoid suffering and sorrow,
But he cannot learn, feel, change, grow or live.
Chained by his servitude he is a slave who has forfeited all freedom.
Only a person who risks is free."
- William Arthur Ward
Thanks to Michael Covel for the pointer

Friday, June 09, 2006

If the losses don't get you...

If you've been on a turbulent flight, you know how I feel.

I've been dribbling (think leaky faucet, not Beckham) the hard-earned into stocks since August 2004 and my portfolio average investment date is September 2005. At the peak, I was up 50% (per annum, not absolute). Despite the fall, things haven't been too bad. I was up 20% even till a few days back. But yesterday, I would have been better off in a bank fixed deposit... treading water and about to go under.

Today, as I write, the market's up. If my (notional) losses don't get me, the volatility will. Nevertheless, we intend to stay the course and dribble away.

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