Workouts- settling for a routine

Last year in April, I started focusing on running as exercise over cycling. I chose Punjab University ground for workouts. Unlike to my usual routine of extended but slow workouts, I opted to go for shorter but more rigorous ones. I usually did 4-5 short sprints post a 1.5 km warm-up.

This routine continued till July month, before I left for my third Ladakh trip. Post returning, I exercised on 4 days and gentle walks on other 3 days of the week.

After returning from the bike trip, I restarted cyling hoping to finally settle down with my favorite sport. But I could not continue with it for long. A 60 km ride made me feel so tired that I did not spend time stretching exercises later.

For remaining part of the year, I continued changing my routine every few weeks. When I chose running, I felt well exercised but usually suffered from pain in calf muscles.

Cycling gave me a moderate but extended workouts. But limited stretching post cycling made me feel heavy and dull.

Chadar trek in Jan made me walk on ice for some 70 km over a span of six days. Post returning, I continued my walks followed with extended exercises for abdomen, shoulders, legs etc.

By April, I decided to follow a mixed routine; cycling on weekends and walk and running atleast every alternate days. I have kept changing my mind. I love cycling but when I feel missing my fitness benchmark I return to running.

I am yet to settle into a particular sport. I am not sure if I need to. May be this is the best routine to follow- alternating between cycling and running every few months.

Likelihood of a debt trap.. again?

I was pretty content to have done away with all debt in my life, till recently though. But I feel like falling for it again secretly. Secretly, since I am yet to openly acknowledge to my family that I am ready to fall into the debt trap again.

As per the formal accounting conventions, no asset can be created without debt or cash. So for all practical purposes, it is still economical to borrow to acquire an asset and then repay the debt in equated monthly installments.

The inherent assumption in equated monthly installment rationale is certainty of future cash flows and hence, an implied ability to repay.

So the culprit for all practical purposes is “certainty of future cash flows”.

Chitkul trip

Chitkul was chosen by me for two reasons. One, the roads were good unlike two years back when I was on my bike trip to spiti. Two, the destination, at an altitude of 11k feets, will be pretty cold to let us experience cold weather in summers.

Drive from Chandigarh is usually 13 to 14 hours but it is advised not to overstretch the drive to reach Chitkul the same day. Our halt was at Rampur Bushahr for the June 20 night.

Rampur is pretty hot given its low altitude after descending from Narkanda. We needed air conditioned rooms to get a good sleep in the night.

Chitkul is 120 km ahead, a 5-hour, drive from Rampur Bushahr. The road from Karcham is a narrow one. One cannot average more than 15 km an hour while ascending towards Chitkul.

Sangla is a popular destination enroute to Chitkul. Given the easy availability of hotels and home stays, it seemed most tourists would be optimg to park themselves in Sangla and the plan a day trip ahead to Chitkul and the last border post.

We reached Chitkul by 12 noon and stayed at The Wanderer’s Nest. The place is costly but food is good and and can surprise many about the variety in their menu.

Chitkul is a village with less than 30 houses and is very clean. The village has a basket ball court and a villey ball court. We could see kids playing volley ball and badminton too. We did not see any kid with a mobile phone. Only BSNL services run and that too with 2G services only. So may be this is a blessing in disguise.

The locals would guide us to a short trek towards North of the village during evening hours to view the sunset and towards South for a 4-hour trek to view Black Galcier.

I tried the Black Glacier trek which is muddy, narrow, and a steep trek. I returned after climbing for 1 1/2 hours.

Three narrow streams flowing through the village add to the beauty of the village. And spending some time on the banks of the BASPA river is also refreshing.

Mourning Manik

I once asked him, “When do you sleep?”. He said pretty casually, “While travelling or a few naps here and there, whenever possible.” I never saw him feeling sleepy.

He never had a day-off from work. He was always cheerful and soft spoken. He had troubles and concerns about his business but he never seemed overwhelmed by them.

He was literally never free and hence did not take family vacations. His life was a hurried one that involved falling for the love of his life, fathering his only son and ensuring continuity of his business.

His parents and his elder brother could have bailed him out pretty early, but for reasons unknown, they could not. I recall he mentioning about the debt burden, he inherited, that cannot be repaid by liquidating his unit. The debt trap engulfed his work and family life. He struggled but still stayed on.

Five years ago when I met him, he was bald and still driving his scooter. He had calls to attend every now and then while he volunteered to pick me from airport. He was bald and had a pot belly.

His persistence at work was taking a toll on him. And yet he put up a smile of an optimist. He smartly dodged any sympathetic gestures and defended his individuality and self-respect.

On June 7, 2018 he was at home when he complained of some uneasiness. He requested his family friend to drive him to the nearest hospital. He gave up while on the way. He was declared dead at the hospital.

My friend is dead. A friend of times when I was unsettled and poor. A friend who always cheered me up. A friend who never disagreed to what I said. A friend who listened patiently.

I will miss him since he was not even 50 when he gave up. He called me a week back and I replied, “I call you back.” I should have taken his call. He must have had something to talk about.

Our Manik is no more. God! please rest his soul in peace. He is tired. Manik, it will be tough for Shalu without you but then your son is a blessing.

I will remember you once again, if I can, when I breath my last.

Next Steps- deciding on first list of subjects

It will not be easy for my daughter to decide on her career interests so early in age. With her limited reading outside her school textbooks, I decided to start suggesting a list of subjects that she should pick-up. I am pretty sure, by this approach of mine, I will not be deciding for her. My suggestions are just going to help her learn the process of deciding.

The subjects she should pick-up are:

a. Social science: With increasing role of technology in our daily lives, the paradigm of social science goes beyond human-to-human interaction. An exposure to the basic science, will lay a strong foundation for her.

b. Psychology: Specialising in Psychology will help her master the theories pertaining to human behaviour. I will personally share findings from latest empirical research to keep her abreast with the relevance of theories she studies in her curriculum.

c. Consumer Behaviour: This is a subject mostly on the application side of Psychology. This course has to be done outside of her regular curriculum since there are hardly any institutes offering it as a specialisation in India.

d. Research Methodology: This course will help her learn research design, conducting empirical studies and comprehend the existing empirical studies better. Post this coursework, I will not have to summarise the findings as mentioned above in point b.

e. Designing: Design is omnipresent in everything we use, engage or interact with. A formal course on ‘design’ as a subject will help her learn the design principles better.

f. Software programming: Some exposure to coding will help tune her logical skills to applying them. May be she codes our her first software product herself.

g. A design software: Adobe photoshop remains the most common and effective application to express creativity.

Once she is done with these 7 subjects in a span of 5 year post 2019, she in my opinion can be:

a. Behavioural scientist

b. UI/UX designer with a Software company

c. Set up her own independent research/product design company

d. And so much more

I have to be sensitive about not enforcing any of my opinions or viewpoints on her, atleast explicitly. After it is for her to decide her future.

Next Step!

My daughter completes her schooling next year in June. I have been madated by my spouse to help our daughter decide the field of education she should pursue for further studies.

My wife believes the impending decision is a high-stakes one and cannot be taken impulsively. Of course she is right but I am personally more concerned about ‘being prepared to be wrong’.

If we reciprocate a high-stakes decision with an equivalent financial commitment then we risk ‘not prepared for being wrong’. For instance, what if I end up paying Rs 1 cr for a medical seat and she decides midway of her graduation to drop and do something else.

Rather, I will provision for atleast 10 different options she tries her hand at before zeroing on one that helps get money and satisfaction.

And I will ensure she is not constrained by the limited choices offered in higher secondary education- non-medical, medical, commerce, and home science.

Books to get better at Decisions

I had realised that I had a knack to take decisions pretty quickly both personally and professionally. The skill to be decisive does not come easily and is one of the most important attributes to remain significant in a competitive world. I decided to delve deeper to get better at it. I share my evolution as a decision-maker in chronological order of the books I read.

How to make better choices in life and work was the first one I picked up. The book outlines the role of bias in decision-making and outlines, in simple steps, how to make better choices/decisions.

My first book was a pretty quick read and it did not give me the theoretical insights I usually look for in topic of my interest. Daniel Kahneman’s, ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ turned out to be the best book. The author explains the concept of behaviour using easy-to-relate concept of System 1 and System 2. Simplified interpretation of behavioural experiments in the book made me feel like an expert in the emerging field of behavioural economics.

The book had several references to lead me deeper into the subject and I preferred to pick up Influence- The Psychology of Persuasion. The book is relatively a more difficult read compared to earlier one and I could not relate to the concepts very well. May be it should have been read after I read Nudge . The subtleness of ‘nudging’ technique to influence a decision impressed me. Just like the authors of the book, I began keeping notes of nudges I noticed in daily life. I applied some of the nudge tools at work and home.

I was soon reading my next one – Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioural Economics . My ‘econ’ concepts were washed away by the whole new set of evidences presented by the authors. I became more receptive to irrationality traits in myself and others. I was getting better at nudging and leveraging irrationality in humans. I was often stating ‘behavioural economics’ as my preferred subject to complete my Doctoral program.

Predictably IrrationalThe Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions was a further refinement of the concept of irrationality and its impact on decision-making. By the time I finished reading this book, I was running out of references for new books that were significant extensions of my last few reads. 

PayoffThe Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations turned out to be a good extension on the subject of decision-making by introducing the role of motivation. The book outlines the importance of ‘meaning’ in motivating us. This goes far beyond the Maslow’s hierarchy I was introduced to as a student.

In Praise of SlownessChallenging the Cult of Speed  was an accidental pick. The book helped me comprehend the importance of prioritising and take things one at a time. The book had a significant impact on my daily routine. I quit Whatsapp for 6 months and deleted my Facebook account. I stopped reading/tracking news and finally started feeling less hurried and distracted in my daily life. Today, I am delighted to have zero updates on current affairs. 

IrresistibleThe Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked  introduced me the role of addiction and how new-age technology is influencing our behaviours. The linkage to my previous reads focused on behavioural economics was more clear. The book is an excellent read to understand why addiction is a serious challenge for us and our kids. 

I then picked up ‘The Power of Habit’ to understand how are habits formed. The concept of cue-trigger-reward will help me counter some of my habits that are likely to turn into addictions.

Now I am on ‘Hooked- How to Build Habit-Forming Products’.

I will  re-read the above books in same order for remaining part of the year to revise/refresh the concepts and keep getting better at taking decisions.