Change is the only constant — so what about it?

“If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said ‘Don’t change anything.’” — Henry Ford

Nothing in nature is static ever (I think so!). Even celestial bodies are in constant flux — our Sun seems like it is a permanent fixture in the Solar system but even it is changing all the time. In fact it is dying. Our body is changing all the time. Apparently our skin is replaced every two to four weeks. Most cells in our bodies are replaced every 7–10 years. So, technically, you are not the same person after about 7–10 years and in the interim, parts of your body are replacing themselves more frequently. Of course, it depends on how you define yourself — the body or the mind.

Many times, day to day things seem to not change much or even change at all but change is always occurring.

Even matters like our priorities, goals, desires, aspirations change too but may not be very frequently. In fact, when you look back, I’m sure you can identify your own changed priorities and desires.

Most projects in organizations and with governments have project plans and almost always, despite following a well-entrenched management methodology, fail — they go over budget and/or over schedule despite overloading project (mostly human) resources. These plans are open enough to accommodate risks and issues that inevitably pop up but their essential character remains more static and less dynamic. No wonder “agile” management is on the rise.

In valuing stocks, technical analysts keep reactively updating their analysis incorporating there-and-now wayward movement of stock prices — that means their forecasts are constantly changing. In the face of constantly changing forecasts (and hence recommendations), one should not be faulted for thinking of stock markets as casinos.

Fundamental investors on the other hand, make quaint assumptions about things like population growth rate, inflation rate, GDP growth rate, company revenue growth rate, profit margin etc. These inputs and corresponding valuation models seem too static in the face of real world that keeps changing every moment. No wonder most successful investors and money managers don’t get too formal about the models they use for evaluation. More to the point, every bit of news out there could have an impact on the input value — that means, valuation output is constantly changing.

At a more mundane level, daily activities like commute to work, doing work at office etc get upended almost on a daily basis because of things like unpredictable traffic, unpredictable moods of yourself, coworkers and bosses, just the dynamic nature of work environment etc.

Change is constant and largely invisible. This particular observation is as critical as accepting this and accounting for this can lead to lot of satisfaction in life — more likely, not realizing this can lead to lot of frustration and disappointment.

Why do I suddenly talk about this? When I quit corporate career about 10 months ago — I worked out a 2 year, 10 year and rest of life plans/strategies. At that moment, it was clear to me that the biggest risk (and probably hence, the boldest decision) that I ever took was quitting a happy, well-paying career. Well 3–4 months into my corporate sanyaas (renunciation), I ended up taking an even bolder decision — I redid my personal finance portfolio completely. And now I’m in the middle of moving cities. None of this was planned and I’m just 10 months into the journey. In my context, these are significant decisions because they have significant financial bearing and when you are not earning monthly salary, these do become more than mere eye brow-raising affairs.

How does one deal with this world that overwhelms us with non-stop change? Here is what I do:

  • Make volatility your friend (at least a decent acquaintance): Sounds good but how do I do this? In the early part of my career, for a number of years, I did suffer immensely from inability to deal with constantly changing world. Things started improving only after I accepted that volatility is always present. Now, I try to calmly understand the implications of changes and deal with them — this has become largely second nature. For example, when stock markets fell on the back of Ukraine war, I calmly went ahead and increased my position in one of my portfolio stocks. I was waiting for a fall, sitting on some amount of cash until then. Markets are back to being high again and I am sitting on remaining cash and intend to remain so until another trigger to cause a correction or a crash
  • Margin of safety: Given the best laid plans are generally best only on paper and given that we know that things change all the time, I try to incorporate significant redundancy in my plans
  • Give luck a chance: I have begun to organize my life such that downsides from volatility are capped and upsides are open ended (my views here are highly influenced by the book “Antifragile” by Taleb). For example I have adopted my own version of “barbell” approach to personal financial portfolio. Half my financial assets are in relatively safe but low returning fixed income instruments and the other half in a small number of highly volatile small and mid-cap stocks
  • Remember that I’m also changing all the time: This implies that I do not take views, beliefs and perspectives too seriously
  • Timeless qualities: Use timeless truths as guides to inform my thinking process and decisions. An example of timeless truth: compounding creates large long term value and it is entirely reliant on small, short term (and not always pleasant) actions. So, I motivate myself not to skip any of these small sometimes unpleasant steps while my brain cleverly keeps throwing various excuses dynamically. Another example: play to your strengths; avoid pursuits, when and where possible, which make your weaknesses play out
  • Belief that short term changes tend to be random in nature and long term changes are more directional

I believe dealing with change can be very difficult and there is no set way of dealing with this difficulty. Whichever way you evolve, it will necessarily start from acknowledging and accepting that change is the only constant.

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Thanks for your time. In this newsletter, I share my learnings that can help you improve your decisions and make meaningful progress on your goals and desires. I share stuff that I have personally experimented with. To this extent, this is not traditional “self-help” advice.

If you wish to reach out or want to know more about me, follow these links:

Rama on Linkedin (CV and Blogs)

Rama on Instagram (my workouts)

Making Better Decisions Newsletter on LinkedIn

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