the Year that was — 2022
“It’s not where we stand but in what direction we are moving.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Welcome to this this week’s blog. Another year end post by yet another middle-aged person trying to spew out wisdom…. well, I do get this feeling as I begin to write this blog. I will nevertheless proceed and write this because, I have been on a slightly unusual path for the one and a half years — a path that I understand many are keen to pursue — this sets premise for potential value of this blog.
First off, why I called my current path slightly unusual — I quit a reasonably successful and thriving corporate career suddenly in the middle of 2021. It was a result of hard hitting (although basic) insights from COVID-19 pandemic — life (even if one ends up living for 100+ years) is too short and too unpredictable to while away most of one’s time engaged in activities that one does not find any meaning in. This decision being sudden did leave me exposed to certain risks like the need to make money to get by. Importantly for me, the decision may have been sudden, but it was also quite deliberate. I agonized over the decision for a few months. I assessed my financial situation and played out a range of scenarios in the excel sheet to see what kind of compromises we will end up making in case adverse scenarios were to materialize. I reviewed these with my wife and a few friends. So, my decision was measured, calculated and anything but impulsive.
“Whatever you do or dream you can do — begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
In terms of operating principles, I decided to do away with “planning” — whether it be about career or vocation or even financial investments. I mean “planning” in a conventional or corporate sense — where you plan milestones and timelines and strive hard to make the planned dates. Instead, I decided to pursue timeless growth principles — develop good habits, be disciplined, create continuous value and let all my actions and efforts be informed only by innate curiosity and natural discovery.
Two impactful highlights of this year
- We relocated from Pune to Hyderabad: This was a big deal because we had to change schools for my children — identifying schools that aligned with our values and sensibilities and then securing admission made for painful and nerve-wracking activities. Also, relocation turned out expensive — this impact magnified psychologically given that I have not been earning for a while now
- Personal financial portfolio: it took a big hit (and is continuing to fall) given stock market vagaries and specific circumstances around my own stock portfolio. While this kind of drawdown is par for the course, it has been hard to deal with it in real time, very hard
Key changes I have observed in my thinking and attitude
In the absence of any planning, how do I make and measure progress. Well, my endeavour has been to move rightwards (Fragility to Robustness to Antifragility) on this continuum in all important dimensions of life: relationships with family and friends, self-worth, vocation, health and personal finances. There has been some progress on some of these fronts and not as much in others but this framework is turning out to be game changer for me.
Deterministic-Probabilistic thinking paradigms
Transition from a “deterministic” thinker to “probabilistic” thinking freed me from the clutches of expectations regarding outcomes/results. Equally importantly, it has enabled me to understand what to look for to increase chances of success. Also, understanding complex adaptive systems also helped shape some of this thinking
Biases and Heuristics
I have greater appreciation of our cognitive heuristics now than ever in the past. Significantly, I now understand that heuristics are actually potent mechanisms that drive all of our decision-making — mostly helping us make effective, good decisions in timely fashion but on occasion, leading us astray. With this light, I find categorization of heuristics as biases as disproportionate and maligning.
On critical introspection, I can see that a lot of setbacks this year have been more than offset by a number of good things. It is also a matter that the setbacks generally tend to dominate one’s mind. So, important to keep reminding myself of all the good happenings of life.
Sanity seems to be returning to broader environmental aspects such as the economy and the stock markets. Inflation and stock meltdowns are getting us back to reality from runaway optimism. However, I do have a concern regarding the impact of probable correction of the steep inflation in wages and corporate titles over the last couple of years. I hope for a soft landing here.
To end on a positive note, my meandering along the guiderails of “curiosity” and “discovery” seems to have led me to tangible progress on at least one front: vocation — I just raised my first invoice (although only for a sum that hardly accounts for a fraction of my monthly expense) and collected the amount. As rickshaw-wallahs in Mumbai say, meter is down now (in other words, earnings counter has begun).
The bottom line of this blog is best summarized by the following quote from Von Goethe: “The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never have otherwise occurred…unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.”.
I can see this happening but there is a still a lot of doubt in my mind. Hopefully this time next year, I will have more to show from this experiment called life. Until then, it is all about action:
“Action has magic, grace and power in it.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Thanks for taking time to read this article. In this newsletter, I share my learnings that could help you improve your decisions and make meaningful progress on your goals and desires. I share stuff that I have personally experienced or experimented with. If you find this newsletter worthwhile, please do share it with others — of course, only if you do not mind it.
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