Archive for May, 2008

Power of humility

May 21, 2008

Once the game is over, the king and the pawn go back in the same box – Italian proverb.


The farther a man knows himself to be from perfection, the nearer he is to it – Gerard Groote.


Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness which does not bow before children – Kahlil Gibran


All quotes on that great virtue called humility.  I can never have enough of that.  Then I read Chuck Gallozi on Why are we so gullible – 


…”[One] reason is we can’t face the truth. We’re too weak to accept the fact that not all of life’s questions have answers. We want stability, security, and answers. And we would rather find what we hope for or already believe than the truth. We’re willing to sacrifice the truth whenever it makes us feel uncomfortable.  I quote Plato here – “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”



If we seek the light of truth, we need to strike a balance between skepticism and open-mindedness. Broadmindedness is called for because every new truth is first ridiculed, then opposed, and finally accepted as self-evident. So, we need time to weigh the evidence. Isn’t it true that we can’t make progress unless we arrive at new conclusions? Yet, skepticism is equally important. Each false belief we cling to diverts us from the truth and wastes precious time.



To discover the truth we need to wear the cloak of humility, for we cannot advance until we realize there is much we do not know. Indeed, there is much we cannot know. However, if we accept that there is truth in opposing views and that the truth is shared by all, we can learn a great deal more. Charles Caleb Colton (1780 ~ 1832) offered this sage advice, “The greatest friend of truth is Time, her greatest enemy is Prejudice, and her constant companion is Humility.” The search for truth is never-ending because our understanding of it is ever evolving. That’s why Andre Gide (1869 ~ 1951) advised, “Believe those who are seeking truth, doubt those who find it.”



When we discover the truth, we must not brandish it about proudly and act superior, for as Albert Einstein (1879 ~ 1955) wrote, “Desire for approval and recognition is a healthy motive, but the desire to be acknowledged as better, stronger or more intelligent than a fellow being or fellow scholar easily leads to an excessively egoistic psychological adjustment, which may become injurious for the individual and for the community.”



Let’s experience the beauty and joy of truth by accepting things as they are rather than as we wish them to be.


 Sweet.  How high do you figure on your humility index…?




Role swapping – not for all

May 19, 2008

Why do most business books suck?  Asks Ben Casnocha.  While promising to air his own views later, he has excerpted from an insightful “Uncle Saul”.  I liked it.  Hope you do too.

But I sensed something was awfully amiss. It never touched on who writes those books.  Are they really qualified to write?  Mostly these are anecdotal biographies that are often written in retrospect, in reported speech. Not by the entrepreneur that had the first hand experience.  Professional writers build up great readable passages, but they are not much use when someone buys the book to fix a mess.

So here goes my comment under that post.

“I remember the Chinese General Sun Tzu quote “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”. It happens in the publishing world as well.

An added reason why most business books suck is it is written by professional writers (or worse -management consultants spending not more than a few hours watching an enterprise) who also dabbled in entrepreneurship. It may lean heavily on logic and rationality (the damn book has to sell) but will make little commercial sense to a reader having real customers to service or having a business to run. An entrepreneur is infinitely more impulsive, latching on to opportunities as they come.

He lives with endless series of challenges and a book is the last thing on his mind. It’s a rare day when a hugely successful entrepreneur also happens to precipitate great content because reality is often brief and unromantic and is not elastic enough to fill beyond 20 pages in bold print. A writer usually relies on his reflections and fertility of his imagination centered on experience of someone else (an entrepreneur whom he knew), and it loses flavor as it occurs in retrospect.

And as you say, the publisher often prescribes the size and substance on the basis of most recent sales trends projected by analysts which a writer has to cater to. Value to reader or authenticity of content figures nowhere in that list of priorities. So they invariably suck.

The reason why I love blogs by hands on guys.”

Did you feel the same way?  Do you harbor a different view?  I am all ears.


Outwitting crisis

May 18, 2008

We may have all faced or are facing crisis in our lives, in varying degrees.  Some of us may have survived it, others may have given in.  But there is always a lot to learn from those who have suffered unimaginably but triumphed by sheer grit and self will.  Excerpts from an interview Guy Kawasaki had with Jerry White, whose life changed in 1984 after he lost one leg to that lethal litter called landmine.  He later co-founded Survivor Corps and went on to share the Nobel Peace Prize in 1997.  Here I go –

“…Acceptance is just the beginning…slowly, we start to “face facts” to break through initial denial and fear. When life explodes, our first instinct is “fight” or “flight.” We rage at what as happened or we run from it. These are short-term survival instincts, but not healthy long-term survivorship strategies needed to get through tough times. And just “getting through” is not our primary life objective….

….I never give “good press” to a “bad thing.” To this day, I wish I had never stepped on that landmine in Israel and lost my right leg. I don’t romanticize the pain nor do I give any credit for my thriving to landmines—they are lethal military litter that daily maims and kills innocent men, women, and children. I don’t know any rape survivor who would put a positive spin on sexual violence, nor any cancer survivor who fancies cancer and chemotherapy….

…..The key to thriving is not the “thing” but our determination to choose the survivor path, en route to a healthy and positive future. Life can wound us terribly, but we, thankfully, are more than the sum of our wounds. We can choose our response to tragedy and trauma. As the cheerful but hackneyed saying goes, we can “make lemonade out of lemons.” Still, lemons never stop being sour, do they?”

Great lessons.  Powerful insights.  It touched and moved me.  More importantly, it made me all the more wary of my immense power as a human.  It’s a shame that we often limit ourselves because of fear (of having to compromise something if it didn’t work out) despite having all limbs and senses in tact.  I am now completely convinced that we grossly under-commit and under-extract ourselves. 

Strategic innovation tip: Forget, Borrow and Learn

May 13, 2008


“To turn a powerful idea into a successful business – Forget, Borrow, and Learn.”  [Bolds are  mine] Authors Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Timble in the Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators: From Idea to Execution.


“Forget assumptions, mind-sets, and biases from the traditional core business, because a new business (as opposed to a business extension) must be fundamentally different from a company’s traditional core business. Borrow assets like existing customer relationships, distribution channels, supply networks, brands, credibility, manufacturing capacity, and technological expertise from the core business, because those assets confer a significant advantage over entrepreneurial startups. Learn to make ideas — some of which may not be new — work together in ways that are fresh to your industry. And learning quickly minimizes the time to profitability, lowers risk exposure, and maximizes the chance to overwhelm the competition.


Very well said.  There is always a hangover from an earlier something that we unconsciously inherit and implant.  So long as it is a perfect overlay (say accounting method, inventory control or even a security system), it doesn’t matter. But mostly we inherit a lot of practises from the past unrelated business that is ill-suited to the new outfit. 


I have experienced it.  I was working for a family owned full service media & advertising outfit where the management consisted of two sons and the father.  The sons had developed the business along the modern methods and practises.  But the father, coming from sugar industry took charge of HR and Administration and started running it like he did the blue collar workers in a rural sugar mill.  Soon the geezer became the butt of all jokes in the office (even the chauffers ribbed him). But the major downside was that the agency lost quite a few good people that found him way too meddlesome – including a few top dogs. 


Have you had similar run-ins with such dim stereotypes?


Entrepreneurs, welcome aboard !

May 8, 2008


My PE / VC consulting business is coming off age.  I want to make a difference just like you.


My take on Indian I-banking industry can be found here, here and here.  If you think like me and have put in over a decade in the industry, you know what I mean.  The markets are a lot sober now and deals are harder to come by because owners think their businesses are undervalued.  Now is the time when well intentioned and innovative deal structures (not far removed from the realm of common sense) are to be put to work.  The excitement and the reward are ours, up for grabs.  


So, I am about to enter my next phase in business.  My boutique proprietary business advisory (PE/VC consulting) outfit is maturing into a full blown business model and I am about to hire the best in business.  The entrepreneurially inclined, battle hardened I-bankers and operational whiz kids that have resurrected many a badly mauled, terminally ill enterprise.  [Not for me the 0.001% fee based deal makingLeave those crumbs for the rats!] 


Would you like some piece of action?  You think you’ve got what it takes?  Namaste. Welcome aboard! 



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