30 Mar 2011

10 Tips for Leading A Better Life Today...

Here are 10 tips on how to lead a better life today with the world hurtling ahead at breakneck speeds :

1. Throw out nonessential numbers. This includes age, weight and height. Let the doctors worry about them. That is why you pay "them!"

2. Keep only cheerful friends. The grouches pull you down.

3. Keep learning. Learn more about the computer, crafts, gardening, whatever. Never let the brain idle.

4. Enjoy the simple things.

5. Laugh often ... long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath.

6. The tears happen. Endure, grieve, and move on. The only person who is with us our entire life, is ourselves so Be ALIVE while you are alive.

7. Surround yourself with what you love whether it's ... family, pets, keepsakes, music, plants, hobbies, whatever. Your home is your sacred refuge.

8. Cherish your health. If it is good, preserve it. If it is unstable, improve it. If it is beyond what you can improve, get help.

9. Don't take guilt trips. Take a trip to the mall... even to the next county ...to a foreign country, but NOT to where the guilt is.

10. Tell the people you love that you love them. ..at every opportunity.

REMEMBER that life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.
May you all make it to a healthy 100 and a half!

25 Mar 2011

Is an Instinctive Decision Really Instinctive?

I was watching a MOTOGP race with my friend one evening, and one rider made a move to pass the other. Before we could see what happened next, I blurted “No! He’s gonna run wide!” And he did! This was not the first time I was making such a call (and I have at least an 85% accuracy record when I do). My friend asked me how I could judge such things even better than the commentators, and my reply was the clich├ęd “Gut Feeling!” However, that night I sat wondering how I developed this gut feeling. Or for that matter, how do most people who instinctively make the right decision manage to do it? Top – level managers of MNCs, team bosses & engineers of successful racing teams, good traders on the stock market, the Joker from The Dark Knight; how are they blessed with the power to make these snap judgements and still have the advantage over millions who may take ages to do the same with much more information at hand? How can one automobile fanatic differentiate between two BMWs while the other is all at sea? How can one see 2 – 5 minutes of their favourite TV serial and predict how it’s going to end? Why are Warren Buffett’s “gut feelings” so much more profitable than 99% of the other investors? Try and find similar examples in your daily lives; I am sure you’ll find enough. Is a “gut feeling” really just that much or is there more to it?

We all have opinions and intuitions; being Indians we probably have a few more than needed. But how often are those correct and accurate? We have studied that a BRAND is a gut – feeling. But why? Why do some brands give us such positive vibes while some makes our guts feel like they are being wrenched? I believe that it is repeated exposure to certain circumstances and experiences (or goods and services) and our ability to comprehend and analyze the happenings that helps us to develop a good instinct. Our mind does not necessarily compile and calculate all the occurrences or weigh every strand of evidence. It sometimes considers only what can be gathered at a glance. So the more we go through certain experiences, the better and quicker we understand the probable outcomes. Developing an expertise in a certain field equips us to make more educated guesses in it. The unconscious side of our mind has already considered the important factors for making a split – second decision. And, before we are even aware of what happened in our mind, we are adhering to what we believe is our instinct. That’s probably why jewellers can glance at a gold necklace and realize whether it’s real or fake; drivers can make a guess quickly whether their car will fit into the gap while driving, so on and so – forth. Experiences and knowledge about a certain brand also make us instinctively decide whether the product/service will indeed be worthwhile. A superman CEO like Jack Welch may have entitled his autobiography Jack: Straight from the Gut, but he makes it amply clear that what developed those gut feelings were carefully charted management and operational theories.

The next time you feel your instinct telling you something, just stop and think about why. Have you been in a similar situation before? Do you have prior experience on the matter? Do you think you are equipped enough to be able to substantiate that feeling? If most answers are YES, then by all means, follow your gut. You will mostly be proved right. And following your gut feeling (when you have faith in it) saves you a lot of time than making the same decision with a lot of information at hand and time spent in pondering.

24 Mar 2011

Is Gold Still the Primary Crisis Currency?

You may have spent a lot of your childhood hearing from your elders about how much money could buy in "those old days". And how over time everything became expensive, politicians got more corrupt and so on. It is very intuitive for people to invest in precious metals. They may not know about monetary policies, fiscal deficits and such sophisticated jargons. But gold has been a safety haven since time immemorial. It still continues to be. Now, silver is increasingly becoming a global monetary metal. And there are fair chances that silver prices will outpace those of gold in the coming times.

Inflation in India and China has been on the rise. And not so surprisingly, silver's role as a monetary metal is gathering the most momentum in emerging economies. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the world's largest bank by market value, sold 418,000 ounces of physical silver to Chinese citizens in January 2011 alone. Now compare that with 1.06 m ounces for the whole of 2010. China was a net importer of over 100 m ounces of silver last year. It is important to note that a few years ago the dragon economy was exporting an equal amount annually.

On the other hand, can the mining community match up to the burgeoning appetite for silver? Not really! Silver is primarily extracted as a by-product of gold mining - an industry that's already operating at peak capacity. So an explosive demand coupled with inelastic supply translates into guess what, higher prices!

Both gold and silver have rallied significantly. Of late, silver has stolen much of gold's sheen. Its spot price rose by 83% last year, whereas gold posted a relatively modest gain of 30%. If this is any indication, then silver's dominant outperformance of gold is set to continue. Silver's lower unit price makes it the poor man's gold. Think about it, 90% of the world's population is poor.

Courtesy - Equitymaster.

India Inc. – Moving Ahead, or Staring Down the Barrel!

India Inc.’s GDP has grown on an average of 8 – 9% in the past few years and the IIP looked steady until now, albeit relatively low. A lot of economists and investors are looking at India as the next destination to sustain and expand wealth. More and more companies are looking to establish their presence in India to gain access to Indian resources and the population. Investors are increasing the amount of faith and money they place in the Indian stock market. India seems to be on a roll and the growth is at a maniacal pace.

But is this growth sustainable or eyewash? Or is it all a bubble simply waiting to burst! Fund managers cite 5 – 6% as the long term inflation figure to be considered. However, inflation figures hovered around the 12 – 15% mark for the last 2 years. This has mainly been dominated by wholesale food prices, which constitute 47% of India’s inflation figures. The UPA’s stint has been mired in controversies and volatile political issues and much of the time has been spent in fire fighting rather than actually taking time to implement population friendly policies. Sharad Pawar stated that his priorities mainly lay with the ICC rather than food and agricultural development and management in India. Ashok Chavan, Suresh Kalmadi, A. Raja, etc. were too busy in taking advantage of their positions to favour themselves and relatives. Unrest has consistently increased in Kashmir and Naxal affected areas, while all political parties are only trying to gain brownie points and mileage out of any scandals in India. Large projects with enormous investments have been stalled citing reasons like flouting of environmental norms, which could very easily act as a deterrent for companies planning setting up large projects in the country. All the RBI is doing to combat inflation is increasing basis points of its lending rate; the fear of this has already led to $900 million flowing out of the ever – so volatile Indian stock market. GST and other such policies are encountering roadblocks constantly, while petrol prices seem to have no control ever since deregulation has occurred. New laws of DTC are all set to further discourage common man from investing in the stock market and his savings will further dwindle away.

There seems to be a huge lethargy on part of the central government on encouraging our country’s growth. Many politicians are busy amassing all the wealth they can while they are in power for fear of not being re – elected in this democracy. Until recently, the government was in denial about inflation being a hindrance to growth and development, and when they finally gave in, it led to pandemonium on Dalal Street. This is evident in the drastic drop in SENSEX figures since the past 2 – 3 weeks.

The members in power need to dedicate time and effort in strengthening the economy which has tremendous potential in it. Alternatives should be provided for companies which cannot set up at locations off – bounds due to environmental regulations. Improvement in logistics for food items is quintessential. Reducing the number of intermediaries should be a part of the exercise to eliminate hoarding and spiralling of prices of important food items. The government can also look at its policies regarding export of important items to ensure there is no shortage of the same in the country. It will be good for India if the UPA and NDA concentrate on control of inflation and encourage more than just the existing 2 – 3% of the population to invest in the stock market to make it more robust and stable. Those funds will also empower the listed organizations to work on their expansion plans and aid in development of the country. The need of the hour is to concentrate on finance – friendly policies and reining in inflation rather than squabbling over pointers like lapses in Rahul Gandhi’s security. In all this, we are frittering away the momentum gained by the country until now.
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