Are You Really Free? Ask Yourself These Questions.

Freedom has different connotations for different people. I just stumbled upon a note I had written a while ago about human freedom. These are the questions you need to ask yourself to see if you are really free (remember, there are no right answers here):

  1. What does it mean to be free?
  2. What is freedom?
  3. What is Freedom of Thought?
  4. What is Freedom of Action?
  5. Can I eat what I want to eat without getting unhealthy or unwell?
  6. My day is filled with tasks and activities. Do I experience freedom during every moment of each of my acitivies?
  7. Do I have the time to do everything I want to do?
  8. Do I enjoy those activities?
  9. Do I have the money to participate in those activities?
  10. Do I have the time to participate in those activities?
  11. Do I have the company of people I enjoy every moment?
  12. Am I able to be at any place I desire to be?
  13. What are the constraints to my fulfilling my desires?
  14. What stops me from dealing with those constraints?
  15. How do I deal with those constraints?

Think and Grow Rich Principle 2 Exercise – Faith

Topic : Faith

SELF CONFIDENCE FORMULA

  1. I know that I have the ability to achieve the object of my Definite Purpose in life, therefore, I DEMAND of myself persistent, continuous action toward its attainment, and I here and now promise to render such action. 
  2. I realise the dominating thought of my mind will eventually reproduce themselves in outward, physical action, and gradually transform themselves into physical reality, therefore, I will concentrate my thoughts for thirty minutes daily, upon the task of thinking of the person I intend to become, thereby creating in my mind a clear mental picture of that person. 
  3. I know through the principle of auto-suggestion, any desire that I persistently hold in my mind will eventually seek expression through some practical means of attaining the object back to it, therefore, I will devote ten minutes daily to demanding of myself the development of SELF-CONFIDENCE. 
  4. I have clearly written down a description of my DEFINITE CHIEF AIM in life, and I will never stop trying, until I shall have developed sufficient self-confidence for its attainment. 
  5. I fully realise that no wealth or position can long endure, unless built upon truth and justice, therefore, I will engage in no transaction which does not benefit all whom it affects. I will succeed by attracting to myself the forces I wish to use, and the cooperation of other people. I will induce others to serve me, because of my willingness to serve others. I will eliminate hatred, envy, jealousy, selfishness, and cynicism, by developing love for all humanity, because I know that a negative attitude toward others can never bring me success. I will cause others to believe in me, because I will believe in them, and in myself. 

I will sign my name to this formula, commit it to memory, and repeat aloud once a day, with full FAITH that it will gradually influence my THOUGHTS and ACTIONS so that I will become a self-reliant, and successful person. 

<SIGN YOUR NAME HERE>

Think and Grow Rich Principle 1 Exercise – Desire

Topic: Desire

  • Burning Desire
  • Definite Purpose
  • Burning All Bridges
  • What’s at Stake
  • Convince Yourself that You Will Have It
  • Change the World
  • Look for Opportunities
  • Use Your Imagination
  • Listen Beyond Your Physical Senses

Actions:

  1. Fix in your mind the exact amount of money you desire
  2. Determine exactly what you intend to give in return for the money you desire (there is no such reality as something for nothing)
  3. Establish a definite date when you intend to possess the money you desire
  4. Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire, and begin at once, whether you are ready or not, to put this plan into action
  5. Write out a clear, concise statement of the amount of money you intend to acquire, name the time limit for its acquisition, state what you intend to give in return for the money, the plan through which you intend to accumulate it.
  6. Read your written statement aloud, twice daily, once just before retiring at night, and once after arising in the morning. AS YOU READ – SEE AND FEEL AND BELIEVE YOURSELF ALREADY IN POSSESSION OF THE MONEY.

 

 

Did Your New Year Resolution Work?

If your New Year Resolution has worked for the past five days (today is the 5th of January), it should predictably work for another five days. Jeez! Some people might think I am such a pessimist! We have been talking about New Year and I am only taking into account the first week that isn’t over yet.

Here is how I spent my New Year’s Eve. I STAYED AT HOME AND WENT TO BED BY MIDNIGHT!!! If I did not receive the calls and messages wishing me a happy new year at midnight, I would have been fast asleep by midnight. I am not particularly a fan of new year resolutions, but something does fine tune January onwards worldwide. Since all the festivity is over after Christmas, the world gets into work mode. All the tasks the businesses have put on the back-burner start to gain momentum from January. Companies start recruiting and some job seekers find their livelihood. Government offices which shift gears. New businesses start their registrations. For about four months (in the western world that is till Easter) there is no major holiday. I live in India. In India there are no major festivals in sight until the Ganesha Festival (around August – September). Monsoons won’t start till June. Summer will become unbearable by April or May. In America and Europe Winter will start subsiding in two – three months. In Australia Autumn will start at the same time. In Australia dry Summer and the beach activity will subside and people will start focusing on work again. Don’t I love Sydney! It’s fun there Down Under. So all in all, personally for me, January is the time when things pick up momentum for the next three four months.

I have been following a fitness programme by Mike Matthews. Try this link. It’s quite nice. This year 1st January was a Monday. I have learnt from physical exercise that life only works one week at a time, at least in my case. To surrender to a fitness programme, I have to surrender to it for a whole week. On the New Year’s Eve, I was not looking forward to the entire new year, but only to the week ahead. I woke up relatively early on Monday the 1st of January, and finished my first five-day week this morning.

Here is what works for me in life. I have a calendar. If I don’t have a calendar, I don’t have a life. I used to use Google calendar because I have an android phone. However, lately I shifted to Outlook. That’s just my personal preference. My outlook calendar is synced on my Microsoft account, my Outlook on my computer and Outlook on the phone. For me the calendar is synonymous with life. I have in my day of the calendar, tasks that cover major and important areas of my life and tasks that are doable. Taking an example of fitness, my Monday is a day for Chest and Calf. I have the exercises written in the calendar which repeats every Monday. Every day I delete what is finished so that the calendar is clean and there is no clutter when I look at it on the computer screen.

If you read my previous post about Creativity, you cannot think creatively at peace unless you complete what needs to be completed. If you do not have your life planned, you automatically switch to the survival mode and life is like firefighting. If you want to create your future, you have to use a calendar and make sure you assign yourself tasks that are important and doable. At the end of the day you should have that sense of accomplishment so that you can sleep peacefully.

Survival versus Creativity

Can a man being chased by a tiger think about music? This man is running for his life. If he thinks about music, he’s dead meat!

A brain that is thinking about survival cannot think creatively. I don’t have any scientific data to substantiate my claim right now, but when I am chased by a tiger or if a tsunami strikes, or even if it starts raining suddenly, I would protect my guitar, camera or paint brush – any creativity tool – and ‘run for cover’.

We have nicer, faster cars. We have homes bigger than we need. We have mobile phones that cost more than computers, which we discard in two to three years. But still, we struggle for survival. A measure of our financial achievement is how good a health ‘cover’ we have. Every moment we are reminded about survival. If you are employed, you’d better worry about survival, or else you’d lose your job to someone else and you’d lose your health cover to your competitor at work. If you are in business, you’d lose your business to your competitor if you didn’t play your cards right. In short, there are multiple stimuli that force us into the fight for survival. If you are in that struggle for survival, would you be able to play music, paint pictures or indulge in any creative activity?

Creative life cannot co-exist with survival. Those crazy creative people forget about hunger and survival to tap the genius within them. At best, the normal people like us can think creatively when our bodies are well fed. In short, the Survival faculty of our life needs to be shut off for us to be creative.

What is the importance of creative stuff? It is all around us. It makes us feel better. It relaxes our nerves. There is music around us, and movies too. That is all creative stuff. Look around, after the billionaires of the world (who own big corporations), it is the creative people who make most money. So being creative must have something to do with money and financial success. Let us consider it to be true. It is a nice thing to be creative. I am not sure if creativity can make us all rich, but creative things surely are nice to do. Playing a musical instrument, painting, colouring, gardening, all these are creative activities and they do relax our mind.

Creativity in one activity makes us creative in multiple activities. Creativity isn’t just about doing things, it is a way of life. Creativity gives us focus. When you draw, paint, play a musical instrument, you are paying attention to detail. Creativity gives us focus.

How does one become creative? Is it really possible for anyone to be creative? I would say yes. But the level and flavour of creativity of every person may differ. Firstly, when things are piled up, i.e. you have a huge backlog, you cannot be creative. So you must finish all the stuff you need to finish. You need to be disciplined. To finish what you need to finish, you must first know what is the most important stuff. You need to know what is important, and what is not important. You need to learn to prioritise. Pay your bills first. That is a part of survival. Buy your weekly groceries in advance. That is a part of survival. Get survival out of the way. Look after your family. That is the most important part of life. With that unattended, you cannot be creative. Learn to love people. An artist or a singer would not succeed if the people didn’t appreciate their art. Whenever you are doing something, think about who you are doing it for, even if it means just yourself. I have been playing guitar for over thirty years. Sometimes I play guitar just to entertain myself. Sometimes, as a side effect even others around me get entertained. You don’t need a reason to be creative. You can be creative for no reason at all. You involve yourself in a creative activity just because it is calling.

To summarise, finish your stuff first. Do what calls you. And mainly, love people. Everything else will automatically get sorted.

Survival versus Excellence

About fifteen years ago a thought crossed my mind: To really succeed in life one has to leave the survival mode and live in the Excellence mode. At that time I had just quit my job to start a new venture. I had accumulated a substantial debt because of a car which was financed, and to make it worse I had multiple credit cards which were maxed out. I was young and ambitious. I wanted a decent lifestyle as per my definition. So it was absolutely OK for me to borrow money to buy a car. When I looked at my peers they were either as bad financially as I was, or even worse. So, as per the social standard, I was doing OK. Looking back, it feels a little stupid to have made those financial decisions. But they taught me something and they made me cautious in the future.

Having made my decision of quitting the job put me into the shoes of an entrepreneur. That is when this groundbreaking thought crossed my mind to compare Survival Mode and Excellence Mode. Today I have recovered from the financial mess.

Let us first look at the Excellence Mode that I am talking about. As it says, for anyone to show excellence, they have to be first be excellent at something. If they are not, they have to practise until they get excellent. That takes discipline and commitment. It takes resilience. And above all, almost every endeavour in life costs money in some form. Around the turn of the millenium i.e. aroud the year 2000 I used to live in Sydney. I happened to read an article about  Kerry Packer (he was the richest Australian then). The article mentioned about Kerry talking to his buddy from the billionaire club (I think it was Frank Lowie). Kerry asked the other guy, “how much do you really need to survive?” Together they came to a conclusion that they needed about $200,000 per year to survive. Now remember, they had their private planes, private yachts, their private parties, first class travel, holidays and all that extravaganza! But most of their luxury assets and toys were paid for. They needed just about $200,000 for survival as per the figures of the year 2000 – a small amount for a billionaire. Everything over and above their $200,000 threshold either goes into their savings or investments. I am sure they both earned many times more than $200,000 per year. The Kerry Packers and the Frank Lowies (or the Bill Gates and the Warren Buffetts for that matter) of the world don’t need to worry about money. They can focus on what they really want to do. That is what I call Excellence.

While the billionaires of the world had made it, I was still busy paying my bills month after month, paycheque after paycheque. I was still a survivor. Was my decision to quit a job while having a debt right, or wrong? I cannot answer that question. However, that decision taught me a lot. From my view then, it was the right decision. I was younger, I was frustrated with my job; and I thought I deserved better. But mainly, I was willing to take risks. I had no wife or kids. I was in mid thirties. Now I have crossed fifty. If it was possible, would my older self like to advise my younger self? Would my older self say to the younger me ‘don’t take risks’? Probably not! When I look back, it is when I risked and played bigger than myself that I leaned something. Risks taught me to face failure; and I completely agree that failure is a great teacher. Whoever has said it (I think it is Hellen Keller), has said it right: The biggest risk in life is to not take any risks. But I do wish I had known then what I do know now: Most of the things that I was looking for then don’t matter that much in life.

Back then, my aspirations were high. I wanted to achieve things. My aspirations then were mostly centred around ‘showing it to the world’. I wanted to show the world that I can do it. I wanted to have a nice home, a nice car – mainly a nice lifestyle. I wanted to earn respect. I wanted to be known. I wanted recognition. All these possessions I thought would give me that respect and recognition. At the stage that I am in life now, I have failed more often than I have won. But now I am aware of a huge world that is there around me now – the world made of people! What this world of people has given to me is the love and respect. That’s the world I did not know existed back then. People who truly love and respect me don’t care about my possessions or achievements. They love and respect me unconditionally.

Whatever I know now I cannot share with my younger self anymore. But I can surely share some lessons that this rough and tough thing called life has taught me with other people. These are the things that come to mind without any order or structure. Here are the five most important things that I have learned:

  1. It doesn’t matter what your circumstances are now, and what circumstances you come from.
  2. The only thing that matters is what thoughts dominate you. Reading and learning constructive things makes your thoughts constructive. Unless you are out in the nature you are within four walls. What lies outside the four walls doesn’t matter.
  3. Go out there in the nature and respect it. It is very important to experience nature and get your hands dirty.
  4. It is arrogant to think you are better than everyone else. You are where you are because of the people who have been around you – your family, friends, teachers, peers etc.
  5. Being self centred doesn’t take you anywhere. Think not what you can do for yourself, but what you can do for others.
  6. When you say five (didn’t I say five things? Read again), there’s always the sixth and the seventh and so on. Learning should never stop. Always look for what else is possible.

Writing a Business Plan

Preparing a Business Plan

The Business Plan

Venture capitalists view hundreds of business plans every year. The business plan must therefore convince the venture capitalist that the company and the management team have the ability to achieve the goals of the company within the specified time. The business plan should explain the nature of the company’s business, what it wants to achieve and how it is going to do it. The company’s management should prepare the plan and should set challenging but achievable goals.

The length of the business plan depends on the particular circumstances but, as a general rule, it should be no longer than 10 pages. It is important to use plain English – especially if you are explaining technical details. Avoid jargon and general position statements.

The following are essential areas to cover in your business plan.

Executive Summary

This is the most important section and is often best written last. It summarises your business plan and is placed at the front of the document. It is vital to give this summary significant thought and time, as it may well determine the amount of consideration the venture capital investor will give to your detailed proposal.

It should be clearly written and powerfully persuasive, yet balance “sales talk” with realism in order to be convincing. It should be limited to no more than two pages and include the key elements of the business plan.

Background on the company

Provide a summary of the fundamental nature of the company and its activities, a brief history of the company and an outline of the company’s objectives.

The product or service

Explain the company’s product or service in plain English. This is especially important if the product or service is technically orientated. A non-specialist must be able to understand the plan.

Emphasise the product, or service’s competitive edge or unique selling point.

Describe the stage of development of the product/s or service (seed, early stage, expansion or MBO). Is there an opportunity to develop a second-generation product in due course? Is the product or service vulnerable to technological redundancy? If relevant, explain what legal protection you have on the product, such as patents obtained, pending or required. Assess the impact of legal protection on the marketability of the product.

Market analysis

You need to convince the venture capital firm that there is a real commercial opportunity for the business and its products and services. Offer the reader a combination of clear description and analysis, including a realistic “SWOT” (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis.

  • Define your market and explain in what industry sector your company operates. What is the size of the whole market? What are the prospects for this market? How developed is the market as a whole, i.e. developing, growing, mature, declining?
  • How does your company fit within this market? Who are your competitors? For what proportion of the market do they account? What is their strategic positioning? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What are the barriers to new entrants?
  • Describe the distribution channels. Who are your customers? Comment on the price sensitivity of the market.
  • Explain the historic problems faced by the business and its products or services in the market. Have these problems been overcome, and if so, how?
  • Address the current issues, concerns and risks affecting your business and the industry in which it operates.
  • What are your projections for the company and the market?
  • Assess future potential problems and how they will be tackled, minimised or avoided.

Marketing

Having defined the relevant market and its opportunities, it is necessary to address how the prospective business will exploit these opportunities.

  • Outline your sales and distribution strategy.
  • What is your planned sales force?
  • What are your strategies for different markets?
  • What distribution channels are you planning to use and how do these compare with your competitors?
  • Identify overseas market access issues and how these will be resolved.
  • What is your pricing strategy? How does this compare with your competitors?
  • What are your advertising, public relations and promotion plans?

Business operations

Explain how your business operates, how you make the products or provide the service, first in brief and then in more detail.

  • What are the sources of raw materials? Who are your suppliers?
  • What are the labour requirements?
  • What is the company’s approach to industrial relations?
  • Outline your company’s approach to research and development.

The management team

Demonstrate that the company has the quality of management to be able to turn the business plan into reality. The senior management team ideally should be experienced in complementary areas, such as management strategy, finance and marketing, and their roles should be specified. The special abilities each member brings to the venture should be explained.

  • A concise curriculum vitae should be included for each team member, highlighting the individual’s previous track record in running, or being involved with, successful businesses.
  • Identify the current and potential skills gaps and explain how you aim to fill them. Venture capital firms will sometimes assist in locating experienced managers where an important post is unfilled, provided they are convinced about the other aspects of your plan.
  • Explain your controls, performance measures and remuneration for management, employees and others.
  • List your auditors and other advisers.
  • Include organisation chart.

Financial projections

Consider using an external accountant to verify and act as “devil’s advocate” for this part of the plan. AVCAL has a range of national and regional corporate members who could help you with this. You should search AVCAL’s member directory.

  • Realistically assess sales, costs (fixed and variable), cash flow and working capital.
  • Produce a pro-forma profit and loss statement and balance sheet. Ensure these are easy to update and adjust.
  • Assess your present and prospective future margins in detail, bearing in mind the potential impact of competition.
  • Explain the research undertaken to support these assumptions.
  • Demonstrate the company’s growth prospects over, for example, a three to five year period.
  • What is the value attributed to the company’s net tangible assets?
  • What is the level of gearing (i.e. debt to shareholders’ funds ratio)?
  • How much debt is secured on what assets and what is the current value of those assets?
  • What are the costs associated with the business? Remember to split sales costs (e.g. communications to potential and current customers) and marketing costs (e.g. research into potential sales areas).
  • What are the sale prices or fee charging structures?
  • What are your budgets for each area of your company’s activities?
  • What are you doing to ensure that you and your management keep within these or improve on these budgets?
  • Present different scenarios for the financial projections of sales, costs and cash flow for the short and long term.
  • Ask “what if?” questions to ensure that key factors and their impact on the financings are carefully and realistically assessed. For example, what if sales decline by 20 per cent, or supplier costs increase by 30 per cent, or both? How does this affect the profit and cash flow projections?
  • Keep the plan feasible. Avoid being overly optimistic. Highlight challenges and show how they will be met.
  • Relevant historical financial performance should also be presented. The company’s historical achievements can help give meaning, context and credibility to future projections.
  • Consider the amount and use of capital required and exit opportunities.
  • State how much finance is required by your business and from what sources (i.e. management, venture capital, banks and others) and explain the purpose for which it will be applied.
  • Outline the capital structure and ownership before and after financing.

Exit

Consider how the venture capital investors will exit the investment and make a return. Possible exit strategies for the investors may include floating the company on a stock exchange or selling the company to a trade buyer.

Further advice

As further direction, below is a guide from serial entrepreneur Dr. McKaskill on developing a comprehensive, informative and appropriate investor presentation.

The Investor Pitch – by Dr. Tom McKaskill, FCPA

Credit : Avcal Australia

Altruism versus Individualism

There are different paradigms to look at this issue. One of the paradigms is from Sociology. A paradigm of Sociology is that the Society exists for the Individual, rather than vice versa. The society exists for the individual to prosper. A stable, developed society may be beneficial for everyone and it appears that society comes above the individual. However, it is still the Individual that matters. Society collectively exists so that each member benefits by co-existing. Nation is a formal structure given to the society. The laws for the proper functioning of the Nation exist categorically, where a society exists because of traditions. The principles that make a Society exist are abstract. For the societal norms to become laws, they have to be documented so that they become statutory laws.
The other paradigm that exists is from Ayn Rand’s book Fountainhead. In her books, Ayn Rand talks about the inherent Selfishness of the Individual. She appears to endorse Selfishness, as it is a fact of life by my interpretation of her.
The Individual is almost always at war with the Society. An individual grows by responding to the stimuli. The individual has desires which may be morally acceptable or unacceptable. But in a social structure, the actions of the individual are governed and limited by social standards. What may be morally right for one person may be morally wrong for another. However, both sides have to agree to the civil or statutory law. The statutory law in this case may in favour of one, or the other; or it may be a compromise. In any case, certain elements feel disadvantaged. A law in favour of A may make B feel disadvantaged and vice versa. A compromised law may in different situations, on different occasions may make one or both parties disadvantaged. A compromise may appear like appeasement. Appeasement of A and B may make another element C completely sidelined by A and B.
Statutory laws that are accepted unanimously relate to public infrastructure. Laws that maintain a smooth flow of traffic are universally liked, no matter if you are A or B or C. A driver driving a car follows the same rule whether they are A, B, C or D. A pedestrian crossing the road has to wait for the pedestrian signal to turn green whether they are of group A, B, C or D.
The Nation is defined by its ideology – Democratic, Secular, Christian, Islamic etc. Ideologies that define Governance encompass Religion. That is when they are effective. In other words, they are effective when they are implemented by looking at the human needs of the society rather than ethnic or religious. They are effective when there is no preferential treatment to one group over another – whether the group in question is a majority group or minority. The ideal situation may never occur where everything is black and white for everyone. The Nation still has to stick to its national ideology for it to be considered a Nation.

The Battle Within

An individual human being lives in a connected world. Though the individual’s body may be isolated from the rest of the world, or in other words, though their body is independent, their human existence is not. We read news in our homes, but we are connected to the world via the newspaper. If is the outside world that shapes our inside world. That is the bottom-line. It is the outside world that will shape our inside world. To change our inside world, the outside world needs to change. That has been the ongoing turmoil of the human society. The human beings do what they do, to win their battle of their internal turmoil. The war within is never against an individual. The war within is a war against the outside world, the very world that makes their internal world. It is a paradoxical world.

Importance of the Mother Tongue

I lodged a service request with LG India toll free number for an air-conditioner. Yesterday, I chose English as preferred language. I gave the guy 5 on 5 on the satisfaction feedback. He tried pretty well (I gave him 100%) for his communication, though he was obviously speaking from a memorised script. English obviously wasn’t his first language. But I go by the standard of communication and not grammar. I felt however, that there is an unconscious obsession with English. At first I thought of switching to Hindi with this guy, but he stuck with his English, probably as a standard of his Training and Service. It is not his first language, definitely not his natural language.

Today I had to call LG again. This time I selected Hindi (out of Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and English, in that order). I gave the girl 5 on 5 this time, too. This girl, too, was speaking from the script in pure Hindi (unlike the Hindustani we are used to speaking most of the time). However, I felt that the communication this time was much more fluid.

Earlier on when I returned to India, the autorikshaw guys in Mumbai would start speaking to me in Hindi. I would insist on Marathi, unless the driver was a non-Marathi-speaker. Initially I used to struggle with both Hindi and Marathi, though I am proficient in both. After nine years, I have begun to realise that English doesn’t flow as smoothly as it used to then. I will not forget English, but I have to make a conscious effort to speak in English in a multiliungual culture.

I feel that we should use the mother tongue (those in India know better what I mean) over Hindi, and Hindi over English.

Though I realise that English is an important language, it is not the only language. Thanks to the British for giving us English, but I think we Indians have given it undue importance. Other languages should not be undermined by English. There have been benefits of the British system of Education, but there are flaws too.

A language should be spoken with proper grammar. However, it is the Communication that matters. For that, I feel, the natural language is the best, not an adopted one.

p.s. I have also been a student of German.

You might like to read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_of_India