I, The Absolute

Archive for April, 2005

What matters most and Why

Posted by itheabsolute on April 30, 2005

I think of all b-school admission questions, Stanford’s essay A is the most interesting and difficult to write. Having come to a b-school, one tends to think all is set and there is not much worry but getting placed. But it is not a movie where the hero and heroine marry/unite and the story ends. If one goes behind the screen, it is easy to realize that actually the marriage/getting together of the hero-heroine is the beginning and not the end. Similarly, getting into a b-school or even getting placed is a beginning of a longer journey in life than what one has traversed so far.

Today, we were audience to many presentations. Each speaker spoke about life, acads, fun, stress, jobs, etc at ISB. What is noticeable is the difference in perspectives. Each one had his/her own take on career and life. With so much of free, but divergent, advice floating around it is easy to get overwhelmed. It is easier to get confused.

‘What matters most and why’ is a question one should attempt in life and discover answers. What better time to do this than ‘now’. The answers can be found by following the diktats of one’s own heart and head / soul searching.

Conversation enriches understanding; but solitude is the school of genius, as a Prophet said. The answers are always sought ,first, in solitude. Once the homework about what we want and why is done, then, the world is always ready to approach and get advice and clarification.

Post Scriptum:

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy – ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness–that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what–at last–I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.
Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

– “what I have lived for”, Autobiography, Bertrand Russell

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‘Potential’ take-aways from campus stay and the management education

Posted by itheabsolute on April 29, 2005

1. Jargon
2. If unmarried, a bride or a groom
3. Addiction to junk food and cola drinks
4. Either a habit of accosting or sickness to do greet people
5. Allergy to noise, traffic and outside civilization
6. A few friendships & a lot of acquaintances
7. Habit of sitting late into the night or waking up very early morning
8. Tag of MBA along with the name
9. Accelerated greying of hair or baldness
10. Loss of a few years in life thanks to stretching and stress
11. Fantastic understanding of business situations
12. Openness to change
13. Sport
14. Improved ability to work with groups
15. Sycophancy
16. Project management
17. Better jobs
18. Reading habit
19. Loss of extreme individuality / Urge to belong to a group
20. Meticulousness
21. Partying
22. Habit of prioritizing
23. Loss of previously held skills

PS: The list can be much longer than I can imagine

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Let me finish my talking……………..

Posted by itheabsolute on April 28, 2005

Everyone talks. No one listens. This is the way the world functions. I have done some amount of work on emotional quotient, being happy, seven habits, etc. Almost all of them have listening as central theme. I have consciously tried to develop this skill. But never really felt that I got used to it. It is difficult to listen. Every time.

Today we had role play. I started with as a listener. There were set rules to follow which if stuck to religiously, bingo, you achieve being a good listener. Believe me, it was tough. And I ended up talking more than required, using a few Buts, Ifs, interrupting the speaker, etc, which were not supposed to be done. Same was the case with all of the team members. What was fun was most of us performed the job of speaker well. The role play of a speaker was an extension of our everyday lives.

The problem with listening is that mind is almost always processing. Some times, thoughts and ideas. Many times, BS. There is so much of work-in-progress that unless you puke it out, there will be disk-space problem in mind. So, there is almost always no time to listen. We however hear most of the time as the mind can simultaneously pick and process the sound waves passing by.

Also, when I can get things or make someone work for my objectives by bullying, using my position or by faking or even by a good strategy, why do I need to sweat over listening, which almost seems unnatural and un-human. But the problem with all these tricks is that solutions will remain short lived. One will have to apply these tricks every time one needs to get something done.

Listening, on the contrary, provides sustainable solutions. We set a rapport and empathy with the other person and he/she voluntarily does things for us. (@)

Let me see if I can improve this skill.

Post Scriputm

(@)We need more skills to do well on personal front than at our office. At office, things are more or less set, objectives are defined, hierarchy is known, and expectations are again understood. In personal life, goal setting is voluntary which again is a result of soul searching. There is no hierarchy. Expectations are not defined. Listening will help personal life more than it can help professional life.

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It depends

Posted by itheabsolute on April 26, 2005

It is my feel that perhaps by the end of the course at ISB, I will again perhaps learn to end with ‘it depends’ as an answer for various questions thrown at me by various business situations or even by my colleagues looking for guidance. Of course, I don’t propose to give this as an answer to my bosses.

What happens when you get to know of too many variables? That is what I guess is going to happen with me. I will come to know of too much. And what happens when you are faced with too many variables. You cannot decide. Because limitation of possibilities is necessary for choice. That is one reason why it is generally believed that an MBA education makes people risk averse.

That’s why I had resolved, before I came to the school, that I will not give up on certain positive qualities that I came into the school with. I will cling to my intuition based abilities as a miser would to gold. I will not be because of an MBA degree. I want to learn to live in spite of it.

It perhaps depends.

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I am myself

Posted by itheabsolute on April 26, 2005

It has been my strongest belief that each individual is unique and classifying individuals under types is first not possible and next not acceptable. Hence, my disregard towards sun signs. Now what do you do when you have a widely accepted psychology model which proclaims that there are only 16 types of people in the world. I cannot wish this model away as the authors derived their model from the writings of none other than Carl Gustav Jung. More importantly and increasingly, many a recruiter is using this model, known by name MBTI, to understand the type of the interviewee and thereby his or her fitment into the role he or she is seeking to join. MBTI is built by a daughter-mother duo and takes it name ‘Myers-Briggs’ type indicator from it.

Today, I took the test which led me to the conclusion that I am but one type of the sixteen types than can exist. My being refuses to accept that I can fit into a type. I am myself. How can someone define me or know me just by knowing the result of a test which I took over 10 minutes. The test and its results raise some existential questions to me. MBTI also claims quite presumptuously that my type was formed by the year 7 of my life. There is little that I can do to change my type, the attributes of which are called preferences. What I can to compensate do is to build competencies, which certain contexts demand. It is better if I worked on my competencies with my preferences behind rather than against me. MBTI further claims that I will be a better people manager if I knew what type of people I have in my team and deal with each according to his or her type. Putting to question whether I have been a good people manager at all uptil now.

While I refuse to be fit into a type, I will deal with this model and its results as the implications are quite deep, while being annoying. The employers who are going to come to the campus will put me in the psychological laboratory to know the type I belong to and upon the results will brand me fit or unfit for the job. For the year, I will do further research on this model and see if I can convince myself to buy this theory. I will also learn to effectively manage and use the model to my benefit.

Once I am in an organization, then I will deal with people as though each one is an individual and a type by himself. And that if I cannot convince myself in the next one year that these types are indeed possible.

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Quo Vadis

Posted by itheabsolute on April 25, 2005

• It appears as if the next eleven months are going to be tougher than I had imagined. This morning, the dean, his deputy and the Adcom director addressed us. The presentation of the deputy dean was good. Though there was nothing new in what he said, the format in which he presented was appealing. It made understanding quite simple and the impact quite effective. His speech set the tone for the coming year for all of us. He talked about taking charge. Obviously, of selves. Multi-tasking is an attribute one will need to have or one needs to develop to perform well. Professionalism and Ethics were the non-negotiable qualities that he would like to see in students.

It will all become easy when one starts enjoying what one learns and keeps relating the learning to past experience and potential future application. And one constant thought which would keep me going is the power that I would derive when I understand the intricacies of dynamic business situations and when I become equipped to make the toughest of business decisions. I am so eagerly waiting for the first term classes to start.

• Probability: I had always thought that Probability had to do with tossing coins or throwing a dice. And why on earth should I ever read this subject as I only see tossing coins on the cricket field when two teams go to play and want to decide who bats first. But after a few days at ISB, I realize that probability theories are central to decision making in business. Business decisions cannot be made and thereby business cannot be run, without help of the tools of probability. For instance, having how many waiters is an optimal number for a hotel – given that there are peak hours and lean hours. Statistics / Probability can provide answers.

• What does one do when one suddenly finds oneself having more time than one can manage? Till recently all of us were working. And many of us were working for about 10 hours. After work, perhaps go out to chill or hang oneself on couch for watching TV. Time used to fly away as most of us used to sleep for 7 to 8 hours. Now at ISB, all that we are actually occupied are for about 6 hours (only 4 hours starting today). Once the lectures are over, yeah, we could go back to the apartment and prepare. Since pre-term is a voluntary program and we are not evaluated, many of us tend to take it light. We could still watch TV and sleep for 7-8 hours. But most of us have come with the preset mind that sleep is something we have to do only for 5-6 hours. TV is something which we should not watch. What do you do when you are left with such huge amount of time at disposal? Send junk mails to all others. Chat (network?) till ad nauseam with other group members in the atrium. Accost (network?). Booze. Play pranks. Sit late into the night surfing the web and send mails again. Chat late into night with people whom we have not said hello to in many months. Overdo this to an extent that we miss the class the next day. We will keep doing this for a few days by when the work-fun balance is set. People who are here to learn will work more. People who are here for a degree will have more fun. Diversity in true sense.

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The ‘CHI’ of Life

Posted by itheabsolute on April 22, 2005

• We are far from reaching 100 % efficiency because first mathematics is primarily based on assumptions and two statistics are only approximation to the truth. Because statistics is always done with samples and not with the entire data. Also, certain important numbers in mathematics do not have terminal value. Pi or exponential e, for instance. Meaning that you will always remain that much far from truth and efficiency. As the knowledge base grows you will approximate the truth & efficiency but can never attain them.*

• Exponential ‘e’- this number has a great significance in the world of number/math. So told my professor. It takes a value of 2.718 (approximately). I believed him as he told that he does not have to lie. But what can be the significance of a number 2.718 known by the name ‘e’. Despite sitting in a few classes, I failed to understand. Today I resolved to know the meaning and thereby the significance of this number. I discovered that when one unit of a currency is continuously (every minute) compounded for a year, you arrive at this value. Perhaps, then there is some significance to this number.

• The preferred graphical figure of the mother earth is a Bell Curve. When you plot values of physical and mental characteristics of human being such as height, age, mental makeup, etc on the x/y-axes on a graph, you would end up with what is called a bell cure (a curve which is in the shape of a reverse bell). I don’t know the reason why mother earth should prefer such a pattern in allocating physical and mental characteristics for human being. But what I observe is that, with increase in medical facilities, longevity has increased to beyond 70. Because of increasing population growth (exponential), the number of children below 10 or 20 years is increasing. The percentage of the people between 20 and 60 is decreasing. The resultant effect is that the bell shape, as far as population is concerned, is getting distorted. But as we know bell shape is the mother earth’s choice. Will Mother earth do something bad with human beings to correct this anomaly and get the graph of population back to bell curve.

• Imagine beginning your day with some professor talking about unintelligible Sigma, PI, MU (pronounced mue), d/dx, delta. Today I was introduced to CHI (pronounced kai). I am yet to figure out what significance this CHI can have in my life. All that I ever want to do with these three letters in life is to have them as the first three letters of my designation.$

*My first reactions to the daily dose of math and statistics. I could be entirely wrong and if I discover so then I will come back with corrected version. I am also only approximating the truth, you see.

$ CHIef Executive Officer

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At ISB, we ‘also’ study

Posted by itheabsolute on April 21, 2005

• What will you do, when you blink your eye and you miss the link between two important concepts being taught by the professor in the classroom? This is the case of people who are very young and are just two or three years since their college study. Imagine the fate of relatively old students like me who have left college for many years. For us, blink of an eye is an interlude between a long wayward journey of mind into a land of something unimportant and irrelevant. Keeping concentration and focusing on what the professor is saying has been quite tough.We have already seen people sleeping off, getting photographed while sleeping, falling off the chairs in the classes. I was not among them.

• Our (wife and I) rendezvous with café at ISB was quite disappointing. The people managing the café are sloppy; the food not delectable; waiting time quite long. We will not go there ever unless we feel extremely desperate to have a muffin or some milkshake, which desperation usually we don’t get.

• Mobile phone service companies have invaded the campus. You don’t get to sell 300+ cell phones connections at one place everyday. ISB is an attractive market for many a marketer. In turn, ISB manages to get handsome discounts for the students (and I guess for the staff too) from these marketers.

• All of us here at ISB have really slogged, cleared GMAT, wrote good essays and managed to get good recos from bosses. All of us have given up jobs to get our MBA degree. That’s the larger objective for which we are here. But when you live life through every second, minute and hour of the day, it is not easy to always keep in mind the objective. Mind tends to run away to have easy time. And ISB provides good opportunity for distraction. Chatting & Bitching are the most interesting activity for human beings. ISB provides ample opportunity to do this. Eating is one more such activity. The café is always available to go there and eat. Library is one more. There is a lot of crowd here. But how many actually sit here and read is something about which I have doubts. Women here are good distraction too, both for men and women (don’t they need to compare with others and be high on the fashion metric).

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It has started to make sense

Posted by itheabsolute on April 20, 2005

• Till yesterday, even simple things like mean, median and mode were just some concepts for me. Today I realized the relevance of each of these concepts to decision making and everyday life. Not all are very important. Important, nonetheless. MBA education has already started making some impact on me.

As my erstwhile colleague was commenting about me today, I am more an arts person than a science person*. As I had written earlier, I am more comfortable with people than with numbers. But through MBA education I would like to use these numbers to make things for people and their organization better.

• Today, we were taught the concept of exponential (growth/decay). A colony of bacteria growing or decaying is an example of exponential. Chain mails are an example of this. I was happy knowing this concept. But what I did not realize was that I was ignoring ‘this’ happening with me.

I did not need any revision for my first day class. Second day classes hence were not difficult to grasp. I thought third day classes would be equally easy. But the exponential stuff happened. Third day classes included a whole lot of theory which was taught in first and second days. Unless you had a good understanding of what was taught those days, you din’t profit much from the third day. Each class is tougher than the earlier class and would include the concepts taught in all the previous classes.

This reinforces my belief. There is no tomorrow here. Things have to be done today. Now. An old LIC ad is an apt one for our situation.

• Having incurred a huge expense on the fee, most of us are already saddened souls. As though this weren’t enough, we are to buy books. And I cannot buy books written by Maheshwaris and Chandras of the world, which books are available in Koti at second hand prices. These are books written necessarily by foreign authors and are heavy on the wallet. Yeah, I din’t deny that these books are excellent. And I also don’t complain that I get a 15 % discount on these books.

Post Scriptum:
*That I have a B Sc degree is not all my fault. One needs a bachelor degree to get some job in India. Isn’t that.

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Math, Coin & Coffee and Sartorial philosophy

Posted by itheabsolute on April 19, 2005

• I used to hate math. Not because of any great reasons but that the teachers, later professors never explained the application of mathematics. The context was missing to appreciate its beauty. Why did I need a quadratic equation? Why do I need to understand calculus? These were some of the questions that went unanswered.

Today, after many years I still struggle to concentrate in a math class. Though I know much more of math than I knew when I was in school or undergraduate college, I still cannot claim to understand the usefulness of each theorem. I hate math when it is not provided with context. I asked the professor to provide the context. He asked me to be a bit more patient till we reach calculus by when it should be evident on the usefulness and business application of math. I surely have that much of patience.

• ISB has coffee/tea vending machines at some corners. You can have your coffee/tea by using a “five rupee coin”. It accepts nothing but a five rupee coin. This morning an old visiting professor was disillusioned after he failed to have his coffee with two and one rupee coins with him. A few of us had had such experience of not being able to have coffee despite having five rupees but not having a five rupee coin. Now I guess all coffee lovers can be spotted with such coin in their person. I will wait for all new things that ISB campus and education will make me do.

• I was sick of seeing myself and people around in formal attire. It is a refreshing change to see people in informal wear. The informal dressing goes with what happens in the campus. Informal atmosphere. No fetters. There is a book called Sartor Resartus by Thomas Carlyle in which he writes about the philosophy of dressing. What you wear to an extent influences what you (can) think. Nakedness and self-watching are an effective way to purge ‘ego’.

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