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Wake up 69 - The fine print

A friend told me about how he signed up for a scheme which promised doubling his money in 3 years by investing in the stock market. The tele-salesman even assured him that his investment would be protected and that there was no way the premium would be lost. My friend signed up for it and discovered that his investment was now worth only 50% in value because of the stock market downslide. The salesman might have said a bunch of lies but my friend had no proof to point finger at the salesman. If only he had read the fine print in the documentation…if only…

I had my trading account suspended because I was yet to submit some forms as part of new SEBI regulations. The brokerage firm employee shoved a 20 page booklet filled with fine print and asked me to sign. I was about to sign the first sheet when something pricked my conscience – “Don’t sign without reading”. Maybe it was the effect of movies. How many times have we seen a character lose his entire wealth and empire because of signing on sheets without reading the content; I don’t have an empire as yet but still…
“Can I read through it?”
“It is quite lengthy and will take a lot of time. It is a standard document. New customers now have to fill up this form before even opening an account”.
“That’s okay – I’ll drop it in your office after a few days”

Once you’ve decided to read it you don’t want to alter your stand! It was surprising the amount of information that was packed in those pages – stock market terminology, risks involved with different products, brokerage charges, maintenance fees etc. But I wonder how many people actually read or even glance through that booklet? And how many people have lost money in stock market derivatives that they could have avoided had they understood the risks involved which were listed in this booklet.

How many times have we seen ADs that claim:

50% flat discount on our products*

* applicable only on select models

And so the next time you are confronted by fine print – take your time and read it; or at least quickly skim through the contents to have an idea of what you are getting into.

Wake up 68 - Real and reel...

In movies we feel awed and happy with the way the hero goes about his life – fighting for justice, sacrificing for someone else or the nation etc. But when the same situation presents itself in real life we aren’t able to accept it the same way.

Perseverance which we like on screen becomes really tough in reality, a love story that we can accept on screen becomes hard to accept when a similar situation arises around us, sacrifices made on the screen which wrung our hearts seem hard to do when we are presented with the opportunity!

Extreme emotions portrayed on screen, we would sometimes dismiss them by applying logic saying, “Ultimately they have to separate – death would anyway separate them; so why so much drama over this. Just get on with life”. Literature they say is not about generalizing feelings and emotions – it is about an individual. And each person is different in the way they feel and think. To us, from the third person perspective, the emotions in stories sometimes seem ridiculous – “why would anyone behave this way?” we ask. But when the same happens in real life it might just produce the same reaction from us as well!

I wonder why, why the double standards - one for the reel and one for the real world? Perhaps we are too attached to the world and so unable to take the bird’s eye view?!

“Attachment is the great fabricator of illusions; reality can be attained only by someone who is detached” – Simone Well, French philosopher.

Wake up 67 - Ask and you shall get

It is a famous quote from the Bible:
Matthew 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

And many times if you look around people struggle because they don’t ask! In office you might have noticed many times how what one person is searching for, his neighbour will actually have the answer to – but since he never asked, he never got the answer. Till you ask no one knows what you want. There is the pleasure in trying to learn something on your own by experimenting but when time is of essence it isn’t the best way to go about it.

I heard of a very interesting case recently. There is this visually challenged child who completed his 12th standard exams. He was just like the other children and had plans of attending a two month computer course before joining college. There was one difference in him though - he did what the others would have dismissed as a pointless try. He contacted the owner of a small company and asked for a job. The owner had been featured recently in a newspaper and that is how the boy came to know about the owner. After talking to the boy, the owner asked the boy to join for part time work in his company – Monday to Friday afternoon in office for attending phone calls and dictating letters. Mornings he could attend a computer course and weekends were holiday. Now, the point is not many would have believed that someone visually challenged could earn Rs.10000 per month and that too as a part-timer. If the boy had never asked he would never have got as well!

They say opportunity knocks only once but many a times it is we who have to go knocking on opportunity’s door to see if it opens!

Wake up 66 - Time is relative

It was an interesting weekend packed with activities and made me wonder from where did I get the time to do so many things in a couple of days! There have been many occasions where I would think "oh, not enough time to do this - not enough time to do that - it is sunny, can't do it now" and what not.

Time is relative; a person in the best of health might be doing a certain set of things everyday. At this point if one were to ask him to pursue his hobbies for an hour everyday the answer invariably would be, "Oh, it's very tight for me - I don't have time for all that". One fine day when his doctor tells him that he has to undergo regular treatment for a couple of hours daily, he will somehow find time to take the treatment as well as do the other things he used to do. Treatment he is forced to undergo because it is a matter of life and death and that very thought has made him accommodate it in his schedule. So, did he really not have an hour to spare before he started treatment?

The "he" could be just about anyone and the "medical treatment" could be anything from having to help someone to some medical treatment. And if you are wondering about whether there really are medical treatments on a daily basis - there are many like that - radiation therapy for cancer, dialysis for kidney failure, physiotherapy for people with back/neck problems etc.

You'd often see people crib "I don't have time for exercise in the morning" but then after a while they would be forced into physiotherapy daily and they can no longer crib! There are little children who go through treatment of few hours everyday; I'm talking of regular school going children. So the next time you say "I don't have time", hold on - think again.

There is this famous quote, "Live everyday like it were the last day in your life” Perhaps can’t follow it everyday cause you would need to pause at times but we can try on other days!

Wake up 65 - Delegate IT

In times like these with people looking for job security, delegation is not easy to do. Everyone wants the company to depend in some way or the other on them so that when it comes to layoffs they are not affected!

I dropped into a computer shop on the weekend – a medium sized shop running business for more than 10 years with the owner always present in the shop. I have watched him for the last three years and no matter how many other employees he had in the shop, when it came to questions regarding computers and accessories customers always had to talk to the owner. From the simplest questions to the complex ones involving comparison of products, customers were always directed to the owner for answers. The remaining employees only took care of fetching products from shelves and handling customers in search of usb drives and blank cds. The owner, as expected, would always be on phone talking to customers because none of the other staff could take up that role (or rather none of the other staff were entrusted with that role).

The problems were obvious – here he was in the middle of a city with a nice computer shop but everything in the shop depended on him; from handling customers to sales and collecting cash. Maybe he was the kind of person who liked being in the thick of action; but I just felt that he was probably missing the chance of expanding his business and also missing the chance of training his staff – he probably had a high employee turnover – rarely ever did I see the same staff when I dropped into the shop a second time.

So, once you get really comfortable in a particular task, it is easy to keep doing it for years together because you feel safe and secure with it. But it doesn’t really help you; so delegate what you are comfortable with and venture beyond.