Saturday, November 16, 2013

188 - Monday Musings - Good guys can finish first

188 - Monday Musings - Good guys can finish first

It is difficult for any observer with even a small cricketing bone in him in India and outside, not to be swayed by the Sachin-mania that has swept them like a typhoon. They can be broadly be classified in the following categories - The cricket enthusiasts, The worshippers, and The pattern makers.

The cricket enthusiasts are the purists within this lot. They adore the 'Big' little man for the sheer cricketing genius that he was. Their love for Sachin was nothing but a personalization of their love for the game. What better way of expressing their love for the willow or the cherry than idolize the one man who almost became larger than the game itself! In praising Sachin they praised cricket and their love for it. They loved him because he took the game to levels higher than what he inherited. But make no mistake - they loved Sachin because they loved cricket and not the other way around. 

The worshippers loved him for what they aspired to become but probably fell short of. Sachin represented the Indian version of the 'American dream' if there is one - A middle class Indian who aspires to make it big by the dint of his hard work in the right way, An 'Aam Admi' who wants to raise his future to a level where matters of existence do not faze him anymore and allows him the rare luxury of doing what he loves. The worshippers were in awe of Sachin because he had demonstrated that such a thing was indeed possible. He represented what they always wanted to do and become. His God-like following was perhaps less to do with his cricketing genius but more to do with what he came to represent for the 'aam aadmi' - a metaphor for unbridled aspiration even in the face of scarcity. In an icon hungry but icon scarce country he offered hope. 

The pattern makers are intellectuals who try to solve the non-sporting aspects of Sachin the person and his meteoric rise. They explore, amongst other things, how Sachin's rise coincided with the rise of India along with the liberalization of economy, how Sachin represented the rise of youth power in the face of a geriatric leadership, how he heralded a silent aggression in an otherwise lukewarm dressing room so on and so forth. They will continue to draw such patterns. 

What do I like Sachin for the most? Given the cubclist that i am, of the many things i admire about him the one thing that keeps coming back to me is that - 'Good guys can finish first'. Sachin's rise to prominence and stardom is unblemished. His humility and personal disposition is unquestionable. In 24 long years, despite his dizzying stardom, there is absolutely no question about his integrity. Even his worst critic knows this as an ablsolute truth that he owes his success, riches, and iconic status to nothing and nothing but merit. In the corporate world where it is so easy to be disillusioned as many have, for right reasons or wrong, and where everyone is in search of the secret of making it big, that is such a reassuring conclusion. 


Sunday, November 10, 2013

187 Monday Musings: A walk in the graveyard

187 Monday Musings: A walk in the graveyard

I am midway through a book "The art of thinking clearly" by Rolf Dobelli. It is not an earth shatteringly original book, though it sits pretty in that comfortable area between original research and common sense. It has a collection of a hundred common biases that prevent human beings to make perfectly rational, logical and objective decisions. It is an easy read and everyone should read the book to at least become aware of the ubiquitous nature of biases that we are susceptible to.

The first bias outlined by Rolf is called the "Survivorship Bias' which says that 'people systematically overestimate their chances of success'....and that we should 'guard against it by frequently visiting the graves of once promising projects, investments and is a sad walk but one that should clear your mind'. This bias stayed with me for quite some time, for it is not strictly a statistically provable bias, but probably more like a folk wisdom.

We are sure of things more often than not only of what we want, but also how we want it and most importantly why we want it. Life is governed by certitudes. May be some of us care to admit not being sure of things in our personal moments, but continue to maintain the charade of surefootedness. It is not difficult to see why such certitude is the norm and expected behavior. We derive our place in the sun - at workplace, families and society by being sure about things. This is most pronounced at workplace because being sure pays for your groceries. Organizations do not like tentativeness in circumstances and people. They demand guarantees and certitudes. Hence that is what they get. Sometimes authentic and at other times manufactured.

It would all be fine except the survivorship bias. 'Visiting the graves of once promising projects, investments and careers' provides a sense of proportion. I 'knew' of this but I 'felt' the enormity of this wisdom only now. I bounced it with a friend and he assured me that I am now officially 'middle age' or suffering from mid-life crisis. I checked the public view on this bias with a few more and realized the following. One, if you are young and have had no major failures or struggles so far at work or relationships, then you are going to dismiss this bias as humbug of the weak and/or old. Two, if you are not that old and have had a mixed bag of successes or failures, then you are most likely to identify with this wisdom. If you are not that old and have missed the bus in your career or relationships or were particularly ill fated to be dealt with more than normal bad hands then you will use this bias as the 'scientific explanation' of your bad fortune - and then order another drink. Finally if you are old, irrespective of your successes at work or relationships and are by and large mature then you will identify with this bias as one of those things that we must remember, just when we are planning to conquer the world.

Finally, where do I stand on this or better still where do I want to stand on this? I want to go for the final assault with all my might - want the victory badly enough and then go for the walk in the graveyard.