Targeting women, the wrong way

An investing platform,  that caters to women only, founded by a famous glass-ceiling shatterer on Wall Street, sends out pretty flowers to its new clients to appreciate them.

While flowers are great and mood-elevating, it is a bit ironical that an investing service, is teaching its patrons to splurge instead of being thrifty. What funds those flowers?

What would an investing lynchpin like Buffett say about this? The same Buffett who went to a board meeting, to find directors passing out cigars in the end, and sat there fuming – “That’s my money paying for those cigars.” While sitting there, Buffett computed what fraction of the cigars were being paid for from his pocket, given that he owned ~30% of the company. If we want to make young women skilled investors, lets start by inculcating such a mindset first.

If you are investing service, and want to appreciate your clients, how about doing it in a more constructive way, like teaching them the power of compounding?

A 163 nuggets of chocolate, can cost the same as a bunch of flowers, and represent 0.01 nugget of chocolate doubled daily for 15 days. That could be accompanied with a note saying that the doubling stops at day 15, because at day 31, it would be 10 million chocolate pieces and unaffordable for the company.

Gender-based targeting is not new, and ranges from flowers in investing, to tech companies handing out lipsticks and nail polish  to engineers at a ‘women in tech’ conference.

More often than not, these tactics magnify and worsen the same stereotypes they are trying to alleviate.

 

 

Presidential championing, and aligning with the world

How does one get to be the most powerful person in the most powerful country of the world?

Take a moment to imagine a hypothetical presidential candidate – what images does your brain come up with? Maybe it is someone smart and visionary, with great communication and execution skills. Maybe they are cunning and scheming and adept at amassing popularity.

Whatever the images are, continue that imagination some more. How long does it take for you to list out qualities your hypothetical candidate has, until you get to a point where you are listing not what they bring to the table, but what they’ve gotten (help , advantages or luck) ?

Now imagine yourself in some interactions with this candidate. What do you see? You posing questions and keenly listening? Autographs? Memorabilia?

How long does that imagination need to continue till you see yourself helping out this hypothetical person? Probably, a long while. In normal cases, it is difficult to fathom leader and person being helped as the same subject.

And yet, what made headlines last week was precisely that image.

“I ask you to carry her the same way you carried me.”  President Obama, DNC 2016, making the case for Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy

Really? Do we need to carry someone to the most powerful position in the world? President Obama’s line may make more sense after checking out this quote –

“What the pupil must learn, if he learns anything at all, is that the world will do most of the work for you, provided you cooperate with it by identifying how it really works and aligning with those realities. If we do not let the world teach us, it teaches us a lesson.” — Joseph Tussman

The beloved President, also a master communicator, does a great job at aligning with the world’s realities in two ways – (a) realizing that society’s deeply rooted sub-conscious image of a woman is someone who needs to be helped. (b) realizing that, that narrative doesn’t fly in the context of the ridiculously powerful position that said woman is aspiring to.

So, he builds some association here – “carry her the same way you carried me.”

That reads: I am not going to remind you all of your biases because, of course, you will deny them if I do so. Instead, I will build up a case that requiring help to be in power is absolutely normal. I will do so by providing my association, and stealthily transferring the object of help from me to her.

“Time and again, you’ve picked me up. I hope, sometimes, I picked you up, too. Tonight, I ask you to do for Hillary Clinton what you did for me. I ask you to carry her the same way you carried me.” 

Book Summary: Antifragile by Nassim Taleb

  • Antifragile – a term used to mean the opposite of fragile, and denote things that gain from disorder, chaos, stressors. It is not the same thing as ‘robust’ or ‘resilient’. Fragile things are negatively impacted by uncertainty, stress. Robust things are unimpacted by them. Antifragile things actually grow and flourish in the face of uncertainty and stress. The analogy “wind puts out a candle, but encourages a fire” embodies this.
  • This is an interesting and important concept to think about as it is all around us in nature and evolution – only the antifragile setups could have lasted billions of years in an unpredictable universe. Yet, no known language has a word for the ‘exact opposite of fragile’, leading the author to coin antifragile.
  • Human emotions are a good example to understand ‘antifragile’ behavior – thoughts or emotions such as anger and bitterness grow the more they are suppressed. Countless stories tell the tale of someone whose love/attraction for their chosen ones grows in spite of emotional abuse or mistreatment from the person they desire.

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Book Summary: Give and Take by Adam Grant

  • Reciprocity Styles: People can be classified based on reciprocity styles as givers (do more for others), matchers (operate on quid-pro-quo basis) and takers (look for personal gain at the expense of others).
  • Success and Reciprocity Styles: There is a high correlation between patterns of success/productivity and reciprocity styles. On the success ladder, the people at the bottom are givers. Surprisingly, the people at the top are also givers. The takers and matchers occupy the middle. The book is about how giving enriches you in various ways, and what differentiates givers at the bottom and the top.

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Credit Cards, Beginner Bucket List – 2016

I found myself having conversations with several friends about must-have credit cards. This post is an attempt to record all of them in one place, and is aimed at credit card beginners. For immigrants from places where plastic money isn’t prevalent, it is important to understand why routing all bills and purchases through credit cards is recommended (purchase protection, cashback, and building a good credit history). This list is by no means comprehensive, just what worked for me. For better resources, go here or here. If you hate having to deal with this stuff at all, scroll to the very bottom for a tl;dr.

Below is a listing of all the credit cards that are nice to have, and why. All cards listed are no annual-fee cards, unless specified otherwise.Read More »

Getting There: A Book of Mentors

This book is a collection of memoirs and life lessons from leaders in diverse fields, ranging from investing (Warren Buffett), art (Marina Abramovic), business (several) to academia (Nitin Nohria). The content is surprisingly fresh and different from what one may have read from these same people elsewhere. The candid, reflective and conversational tone makes the book a great bedtime read.

Below are some snippets from each of the subjects.

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