147. Can you grow old with this person?

Rama Nimmagadda
5 min readJan 19, 2024
Photo taken by Prateek Kumar Rohatgi in 2023 at Kabini Wildlife Reserve, India

“For me, it’s important to build good partnerships rather than score centuries. Once you have those partnerships, you will also get centuries.” — MS Dhoni

I engaged a gym coach way in the past, but that association lasted only a few months. In contrast, I have been with my current Yoga (and strength training) coach for the last 3+ years. I got reference for my Yoga coach from a runner friend of mine who is an accomplished amateur runner of repute. Despite the positive reference, I was not sure if she was the right coach for me. As it is, the instruction was to be done online which I was not entirely comfortable with. Also, yoga involves subjecting the body to all kinds of stresses and strains. So, I wanted to be sure that the person instructing me had a strong technical footing in the field. Also, given the metronomic nature of three sessions a week, month-in and month-out, she should be able to keep the sessions interesting. In a sense, I wanted to know if her coaching methodology aligned with my own growth philosophy. How do I decide on the right instructor when so many good options are available? Not sure if I read or heard it somewhere or it just occurred to me organically, but I decided to address this question by answering a different question: “can I grow old with person?”. I took three months of classes before determining the answer.

“You want to associate with people who are the kind of person you’d like to be. You’ll move in that direction” — Warren Buffet

When I think back, I used a similar method before settling on my tax consultant as well. At one time, I either filed tax returns myself or ran through consultants based on the price they charged. But for the last 13+ years I have been with my current tax consultant despite him being based in a different city and also the fact that I just can’t understand what he says on phone — he speaks too fast for me. Leaving alone these logistical difficulties, he is very good at his job and is very high on integrity. It did not take long before it became clear to me that I am happy to grow old with him as my tax consultant.

This also explains why I am generally reluctant to see a doctor. I have often struggled to meet doctors whom I can trust — many doctors are very competent in their field, but our treatment philosophies often do not match.

“Long-term games are good not just for compound interest, they’re also good for trust…When you have been doing business with somebody, you’ve been friends with somebody for ten years, twenty years, thirty years, it just gets better and better because you trust them so easily. The friction goes down, you can do bigger, and bigger things together…Whether it’s goodwill, or love, or relationships, or money.” — Naval Ravikant

In keeping with the motto of this newsletter of improving decision making, “can you grow old with this person” can be a very potent tool in deciding providers in all critical areas of life such as personal financial planner, tax consultant, doctor, employer, running coach, the city you reside in and most importantly, friends and spouse.

This question converts a transaction into an act of building partnership. It allows for compounding of a relationship. It can help you wade through the inevitable low phases of any partnership such as insipidity, boredom or even disharmony and strain.

“Alliances and partnerships produce stability when they reflect realities and interests.” — Stephen Kinzer

The attempt is to convert a service provider view into partnership. Provider services a client whereas a partner looks out for the client. This can create non-linear benefits for both the partners. My mother has had the same domestic help for a couple of decades now. She is like a family member now and their relationship goes way beyond the “domestic help” contract. My mother supported her daughter’s wedding and is now helping with the pregnancy of her first grandchild.

This question could work beautifully for probably the most consequential decision of anyone’s life: choosing a spouse. Marriages that do work are typically ones where both the partners answer affirmatively the question of growing old with the other person. It is not that the partners are perfectly compatible but that they are willing to give space to each other so that their relationship gets deeper and better with time.

Bottomline

“If you can’t see yourself working with someone for life, don’t work with them for a day.” — Naval Ravikant

The question is almost never finding the most competent partner but finding competent enough partner whom you are happy to grow old with. The question is not about investing in the fund that returned the highest last year. It is about investing in a fund that has remained in the top quartile for the last ten years. It is not about maximizing the upside, but it is about eliminating the risk of extreme downside while ensuring a reasonable upside. It is not about the rate but about the volume of success.

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Thanks for taking time to read this. In this newsletter, I share my learnings that could help you improve your decisions and make meaningful progress on your goals. I try to share stuff that I have personally experienced or experimented with. If you find this newsletter worthwhile and if you do not mind it, please do consider sharing it with others.

A bit on my background

I help people make better decisions.

I coach people on “Making Better Decisions”, “Financial Intuition” and “Building Great Careers”. I’m open to run sessions on these topics in institutions — this will help me create larger impact.

I’m also an Investment Advisor (RIA) registered with the Securities and the Exchange Board of India (SEBI). As an RIA, I analyze and prepare financial plans to help people achieve their financial goals.

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