Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Boiler Room

I first saw "Boiler Room" nearly 3 years back. And it's been on my laptop ever since. If you are a hotshot sales guy, this is the movie for you. I'm not gonna give details about the plot or anything else. Just posting excerpts of my favorites scenes.

In this scene, Jim Young (Ben Affleck), who is the Head of Recruitment, gives a pitch to a room full of new applicants about the job, the firm and why they should work there. So here goes:

Jim Young: OK, here’s the deal. I am not here to waste your time and I certainly hope your not here to waste mine. So, I’m gonna keep this short. Become an employee of this firm and you will make your first million within three years. OK? I’m gonna repeat that. You will make a million dollars within three years of your first day of employment at J T Marlin. There is no question whether or not you will become a millionaire working here. The only question is how many times over.

You think I’m joking? I’m not joking!

I am a millionaire. It’s a weird thing to hear, right? Tell ya, it’s a weird thing to say. I am a fucking millionaire. And guess how old I am? 27. You know what that makes me here….a fucking senior citizen. Lucky for me I happen to be really fucking good at my job or I’d be out of one. You guys are the new blood. You are the future big swinging dicks of this firm.

Anybody tells you money is the root of all evil doesn’t fucking have any.

They say money can’t buy happiness? Look at the fucking smile on my face. Ear to ear, baby!

You want details. Fine. I drive a Ferrari. 355 Cabriolet. What’s up! I have a ridiculous house in the South fork. I have every toy you can possible imagine. And best of all kids, I am liquid. So now you know what’s possible. Let me tell you what’s required. You are required to work your fucking ass off at this firm. We want winners here. Not pikers! A piker walks with a bell. Piker asks how much vacation time you get in the first year. Vacation time? People come and work at this firm for one reason – to become filthy rich. That’s it. We’re not here to make friends. We’re not saving the fucking manatees here. You want vacation time? Go teach third grade.

Your friends are shit. Tell ‘em you made 25 grand last month, there not gonna believe you. Fuck them. FUCK THEM. Parents don’t like the life you lead. Fuck you. See how it feels when you’re making their fucking Lexus payments. Now go home and think about it.

Think about whether or not this is really for you. You decide it isn’t? Listen, its nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s not for everyone. But if you really want this, you call me on Monday and we’ll talk. Just don’t waste my fucking time.

OK, that’s it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Black Swan theory

I came across a really thoughtful theory this morning - The Black Swan Theory.

This theory talks about taking into consideration high-impact, tough-to-predict, rare events beyond the realms of human imagination. We humans are hopelessly poor in predicting the future. We underestimate the extremes in our range of outcomes. We jump to conclusions using every piece of information that confirms out outlook and conveniently ignore the ones that make us rethink.

So what happens if these extremes occur? These unexpected events have a far more significant impact on us compared to those mundane, predictable events taking place daily. For instance, take 9/11 or the invention of the Internet or the dot com crash or the great depression or the personal computer, world war one or even the ongoing sub prime crisis - all these events have had an epochal impact on us.

Now think monetarily. Few who predicted such events were in far better shape than most. For some, their losses were minimal. For some more, they even made some money. And for many others, lots of money!

The black swan theory could be a smart tool for investment. Lets say, you invest 85-90% on regular, predictable, safe bets. Now, how about finding those 'black swans' for the remaining 10%? Think of some radical ideals to bet on as black swans. What could be the next big thing that could happen in a year or two? Technology breakthroughs, global recession, war, revolution, peace, hyper inflation etc. Sure, you may not have a well-defined ROI or, for that matter, not even know where to bet or if it is even practically possible but just think about it. It is a start. Consider the what-if scenarios! The idea is not to invest in these as a fall back option (for a rainy day) but use these to spread your portfolio. To make some money. Don't expect to win many of them. But the ones that you win, will be nothing less than a jackpot.

And how about using this theory not just for investments but also in our personal lives? Is it possible?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Corporate lesson 1 : Communication

The first lesson I learnt when I entered the corporate world was about communication. I always fancied myself as a good, confident communicator - both verbal and non-verbal. Language was not a problem. Infact that's what had landed me the job in the first place. So I thought I was in good shape but that conviction lasted only till my first few days at work.

I think this incident took place towards the end of my first week at work, some time in May 05. My company provided us with provisional accommodation for 15 days, within which, we were supposed to hunt for a suitable place to stay for ourselves. So I decided to ask people for help. After all, this was my first trip to Bangalore. I could use all the help that I can get. And, who better than my boss to ask. He seemed like a nice, sensible guy. Surely he would help me out. All I need to do is ask. That's what he told me.

So, ask I did. While we were walking to the cafeteria. And here's how that conversation went:

MS: (In a low tone) umm...Boss, As you are aware.......
AB: Pardon? Sorry can't hear you.
MS: (Louder and nervously) Actually..uh..I am staying at this hotel...and..umm we got just 15 days to find a uh...just wanted to know.....actually, where do you stay? Coz the thing is...I'm new here so uh...don't really know any places.......and I thought if you knew any.......
AB: What? (Confused)
MS: (Took a deep breath and tried to compose myself) Boss, do you know any real estate agents who could help me find a house?
AB: Oh, that...OK. Hang on. (Takes out his cell phone) Here, note this number. Call this guy. He helped me find a good place.
AB: Actually, let me call him up right away.

This small incident thought me big lessons:

1. Be audible and clear
2. Be concise and to the point
3. Speak only when you need to speak. Timing is everything.

These are the basics of business communication. Till today, I haven't forgotten that incident.

Note: AB was my boss till my last day at work there. I considered him my mentor and, for the two n a half years that I worked with him, went to him for all kinds of advice, both professional and personal. I am still in touch with him, despite both of us moving on. More on him in a later post.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Dentist

I decided that the best way to keep my mind off from what was coming is to go for a movie. But, unfortunately, plans changed and we ended up loitering around the mall, waiting, dreading!

And then it was time. We took a cab and I told the cab driver to take us to 'New Medical Center'. We reached there in 10 min. I walked up to the information desk and asked them, "Which floor is the Dental clinic?". In typical mallu accent the person replies, "Sar, naat yin this building. Go straiiit yand leyeft. Wold NMC building. Mejaanine floor, Wokay?". Wokay.

We walked to the wold NMC bldg which was just a couple of min away. At the reception, I confirmed my appointment, handed over my insurance card and took a seat. How long was this gonna take? Whose bright idea was this? What the hell am I doing here? Of all places, of all people, I was at a dental clinic seeing the dentist! Great!

Invariably time passed. Someone from the reception suddenly yelled, "Maaassuud". Gulp. I looked around to see if someone else got up. Someone. Anyone. None. She cried out again, only louder this time. I decided to finally give in. There is no way out. I had to go. So I got up. Looked towards the reception, quickly nodded and walked towards the's chamber!

"What have you done to your teeth? Where have you been all this while? My my...tch tch this your first time? Look's all falling off. Here...see....take a look at this piece. Do you want to take it home? I'll gift wrap it for you if you want."

Who me? What did I do? I was abducted by aliens. They don't have people like you there, you see. First time.....and last. Yeah, right! That's exactly what I'm here for!! Great idea. I'll gift it to my boss.

Wow. What a start. This was going to be an interesting session.

"Let's start with this one. I'll need to take an x-ray. After which, we will first drill through it and then fill it up." Wha?! What logic! First drill just to fill it up again. Sounds like a roadway project in India.

45 minutes went by. "Take a look in the mirror. How does it look?". Frankly speaking, I was impressed. This guy was good. Really good actually. There was no sign of any cavity. The sensitivity was gone. All this without much pain.

I was beginning to like this guy. So much so that I even got a follow up appointment fixed. All my inhibitions vanished. The doctor, though a little cranky but very caring and fatherly, was an expert at his job. I would be visiting him more often to maintain my teeth. And would highly recommend everyone else to do the same. There's nothing like healthy teeth. Cheers.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

He's my dad

I was in his hands when I was taken home from hospital for the first time after my birth. He's my dad.

He took me to kindergarten for my admission and, when I fell off the slide that day at the playground, he was there to pick me up. He's my dad.

On my first day at kindergarten, the moment I realized that he was going away, I started crying uncontrollably. I kept crying. And he came back. He couldn't leave. He's my dad.

Whenever I missed my school bus, he would drop me to school. And every single time, he would hand me a Dh 1 coin to buy something at the canteen. He made me feel like a king. He's my dad.

At my first sports meet, he bought me running shoes. Shoes that were pricey and beyond our modest budget. But he still bought them for me. He's my dad.

Every time I scored good grades in school (specially in Maths), he would smile and look at my proudly. He's my dad.

When mom went to India for a few weeks, he tried to help me not miss her much. He took me out to my favorite restaurants, to parks, to the arcade, to my friends, he did everything that an eight year old would want. He's my dad.

When I had undergone a minor surgery, he fainted because I was in pain. He's my dad.

He helped me through the confused phase of adolescence. He shared his experiences & wisdom with me. He shared his dreams and aspirations with me. He showed me how to talk like a man. He showed me how to walk like a man. He showed me the difference between right and wrong. He's my dad.

At my first step of success, class 10 board exam results, he was with me, next to me, while I saw my grades. He's my dad.

He supported my interest in sports, pushed me to go for training and just weeks before my class 12 board exams, allowed me to participate at the national sports meet in India. He paid for my ticket and expenses despite the extreme financial crisis that we were in. He's my dad.

The day I left home for college, he cried. And cried each time he entered my room and would not find me there. He's my dad.

For four years, he fulfilled my every single need and desire without a question. His greatest dream was to see me as an engineer. And he did. He's my dad.

He let me choose my career and, without second thoughts, let me go away again for my MBA. He came to the airport and cried seeing me leave. He's my dad.

When I got my first job offer through campus, he was the first person I called. His joy knew no bounds. He's my dad.

On my first day at work, I called him to take his blessings. He wished me loads of professional success, growth and prosperity. I have not run out of those wishes yet. He's my dad.

The day I got my first salary, he said he was very proud of me. He's my dad.

When I got back from Dublin last December, he hugged me and told me that he had never missed me more than he did over the last 2 weeks. He's my dad.

But the truth is, I am more proud of him. I am proud to be his son. Proud to carry his name after my name. Proud to call him my dad.

It's his birthday today. Happy Birthday, Dearest Dad.

Thank you for making me the man I am today. Thank you for everything.

Jaane Tu...Ya Jaane Na - Movie review

Saw the latest from Aamer Khan banner last night. Here are my ratings:

(Does not contain spoilers)

Arc: (Low)ish - (High)ish - (Low)ish

Star power: 2 (All new comers. Some cameos from Naseeruddin Shah, Paresh Rawal, Sohail and Arbaaz Khan, Kitu Gidwani and Rajat Kapoor)

Mumbling quotient: 9 (Sounded clear)

Bladder: 7 (Depends on the size of your coke! Just over 2 and a half hours)

Artistry: 6 (Not the typical Rehman ......but yes, it does come in flashes here and there. 'Kabhi Kabhi' is a nice foot-tapping number. Otherwise, overall, about average. Some scenic locales add freshness to the movie)

Sadism: 0 (A romantic comedy - what sadism?!?)

Originality: 1 (Very common story line. Every couple of years a movie like this comes out. Infact Genelia played a very similar character in Tujhe Meri Kasam with Ritesh Deshmukh)

Incomprehensibility: 0 (If you can't figure this one out, stick to Tom & Jerry, dude!)

Humor: 8 (Now, this we have in plenty. Some clever, some 'duh' and some spontaneous - its all good)

Scariness: 0 (You don't need to carry NTG)

Suspense: 0 (No prizes for guessing this one!)

Overall: 7 (The movie is predictable. Imran Khan looks good and makes a promising debut. Some characters look out of place but this is a light script so it really doesn't matter. It is an enjoyable movie but only for those who don't take cinema too seriously and are looking for plain entertainment. Movie defies logic more than once. But again, it's just a movie guys. We need a few like these as well. So just chill and enjoy the popcorn!)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Disappointing weekend

This weekend was way too disappointing for my liking. The buildup was phenomenal but the climax, a complete anticlimax.

1. Federer lost the Wimbledon finals to Nadal.
2. India lost the Asia cup finals to Srilanka.
3. Ferrari not on the podium at the British F1 Grand Prix.


Even worse, they lost to guys or teams I despise the most!


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Inflation in UAE

For years I never understood inflation. Not even the definition nor the concept. All I knew was that the prices increased. Stuff got dearer. But why? No clue. How? No idea!

Then I moved to the Gulf last September. And this region has been experiencing a double digit inflation. So I was forced to take notice. What the hell is happening here? The cost of every damn commodity is sky rocketing. Two of the most talked about problems the region is currently facing are the rising cost of living and the depreciating value and purchasing power of the local currency, both of which are directly related to inflation. This made me think. Isn't this the most natural phenomenon for any region known for its exponential growth? And also for it's artificiality!

I think this is a direct result of being complacent. Anyone who knows two of the most commonly used words in macro economics will understand what I am talking about. 'Demand' and 'Supply'. When there is excessive demand for a certain commodity, the prices will go up. When there is a monopolistic scenario where greedy traders control the market, the prices will go up. When there is no liaising within the UAE on fiscal policy, the prices will go up. The fact of the matter is that the country has bit more than it can chew. It is a vicious circle. With increasing multi-billion dollar real estate projects, millions will be required to populate the offices and residential units. This will in-turn increase demand exponentially for basic commodities like food, schools, hospitals, transportation and other factors that go into an individual's monthly expenditure. Where there is demand, there is inflation. Inflation and development go hand in hand. To reduce inflation, demand has to come down. And, with the number of projects announced daily, this may not be far away.

Increasing interest rates will not help. It will only reduce liquidity in the market. People will not be able to buy those billion dollar properties. That will reduce the demand. And they can't afford to do that. They need the money. It is a double edged sword. In all cases, they need to sustain high demands. But inflation hits all commodities. Even the industry that started it all - Real Estate. Thus higher costs will also affect the developers. Several will go bust, leaving incomplete projects, and in some cases, projects not even started with desperate investors in the lurch. What next? Chaos. Damaged reputation. Demand falls. In the meantime, with the US economy under recession, what happens if the dollar peg breaks? The value of the local currency increases that will paralyze the non-oil economy as it will drive exports down and make it more expensive to sell property. Demand falls further. What next? Oil prices? US-Iran crisis? I don't want to think any further.

For now, I am happy to buy a tin of Nido for Dh 74, which was Dh 30 a couple of years back, and pray......that my employer increases my salary! :)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

UAE driver license

I flunked my driving test last week. This is a strong enough reason for me to sulk. But guess what? I'm perfectly fine. It was just my first test I tell myself. Nothing to be proud off though.

So, after I flunked, I asked the other 3 guys with me if it was their first tests as well? These are the answers I got:

Seventh, Fourth and Fifth!

I was like...what?!!? They were laughing at me. These guys just flunked yet another driving test and were perfectly cool about it. How? Why? Had they resigned to their fate? Did they know something that I did not? What am I missing?

Anyways, there were four of us in the car and only one guy passed - the guy appearing for his fifth test!

So I think this is going to be a long journey! My next test is now on 4th August. A good one month of nothing before appearing for another test. And all this shit after I fuckin know how to drive!!

Getting a drivers license is a menace in UAE. So much so that there have been reports in the newspapers about it. Take a look at this:

I should take heed from the fact that I am not the only one suffering.

But why is it that this makes me feel better? The thought that there are others out there feeling miserable and helpless after failing to get a drivers license when they need it the most. People who are spending precious dirhams paying for extra classes and test fee. People who have to go through many inconveniences because they cannot legally drive their own fuckin' cars. People like me.