“For the past 3 years our (now) 12yr old son, Vidur, has been setting up a game stall at our society Diwali mela.
While his objective was to have fun, I had a selfish motive.
To teach him about money.
This year he earned 12K in profit.
And he can’t believe it!
1st year lesson: Sales
3 years back I wished for him to learn sales.
How to drive conversions?
What to write on the cardboard?
How to select the prizes?
How to price?
He ran a “break the can pyramid with 3 balls” game.
Priced it at Rs. 10 for 3 balls.
Made a sale of Rs. 4,000.
Had no idea the cost of the prizes he gave away, or something called profit.
But understood that he could have charged more.
Classic startup haha!
2nd year lesson: Costs
Last year, I wished for him to learn costs.
Fixed costs (stall cost, game cost etc) and variable costs (prizes).
He had a budget to work with.
He didn’t like that one bit.
“Why can’t we give away cool prizes?”
“Because they cost money, Vidur. And you only have so much to spend.”
He ran the same game.
Made a sale of Rs. 8,500.
Spent Rs. 5,000 in prizes and Rs. 3,000 in fixed costs.
He thought he made Rs. 8,500.
3rd year lesson: Profits
This year, I wished for him to learn how to make money.
And I saw a different Vidur at work!
He decided on a new game.
Players had to throw table-tennis balls into 10 cups arranged as a cone, each with a score 1-10.
You total the score and basis that win prizes.
I asked him how much he wanted to make, in profit percentage?
He said atleast 75%
I said, ok – let’s play excel excel :)))
We made an excel sheet.
Built the numbers.
I could see his mind work.
His game pitch was “Earn Rs. 15,000”
Score more than 30 points in 3 or 4 tries and pick any of the following prizes – which included a Marshall speaker for Rs. 15,000 (he didn’t buy it – we already had one).
He priced 3 tries for Rs. 20, 4 tries for Rs. 40.
He wanted most people to walk away with a prize, however small.
So he set 5 slabs
1-5 points: Lollipop (worth Rs. 5)
6-10 points: Frooti (worth Rs. 10)
11-20 points: Frooti + Oreo (worth Rs. 20)
21-30 points: Coke + Oreo + Kitkat (worth Rs. 30)
30+ points: Pick from the grand prizes
He went about buying all of these, on a returnable basis from the local shop (very smart of him to consider returnable).
Invested 2,700 to do so.
Plus 2,000 for the stall.
Plus 500 for misc setup.
He was on a roll that day.
I was the cashier handling the money.
He was the one selling and making people play.
Enticing them to go for 4 tries (for Rs. 40).
Celebrating each ball dropping into a cup.
Mid-way he realized the game was harder than he thought it would be.
So he encouraged the same people to play again, because it is a skill game eventually.
It was wonderful to see him in action.
Sales: Rs. 16,600 (40% went for 4 tries!)
- Rs. 2,500 fixed
- Rs. 2,200 prizes
Profit: Rs. 11,900
What did he do?
Kept 1,900 with himself and asked me to invest 10K
How did he feel?
On top of the world.
He can’t believe he did it.
While he gets a fair bit of money on his birthday and other family events, this is the most he has made on his own.
And I don’t think anything else will come close to making this money feel sweeter!
He has been investing nearly all the money he has got till date, through me.
Has invested 1.05L so far, which has reached 1.23L at an XIRR of 24%
This was the excel sheet we made :))
Children are always bursting with questions. But, let’s be real, we didn’t always have the answers or the time to spare. So, we introduced Sabi to ChatGPT+. Here’s how it played out:
- Safety first. We kicked off chats with: “Hi, I’m Sabi. I’m a seven-year-old in second grade. Can we talk?” This let ChatGPT know a young mind was on the other end.
- Quenching curiosity. Sabi dived into everything from “How did the universe begin?” to “How do you play with 1-year-old babies?” Sure, some replies were cliche, but to a seven-year-old, it’s fresh info.
- Intellectually active. Instead of just zoning out in front of the TV, she posed questions, read back, and thought of what to ask next.
- Better screen time. Suddenly, those hours in front of a screen weren’t just passive; they were educational.
- Typing skills. Introducing her to a laptop for this meant she got a head start on keyboard skills.
When raising Sabi, we often faced a common question: “How does Sabi juggle so many tasks at 7?” Our method? Think about how you organize your days as young adults, and we did something similar for her.
We have mass-printed weekly planners for Sabi. On the left side, we outlined essential tasks—like brushing teeth or practicing math. Beyond that? She got to fill in the rest, mapping out her week.
Each week, she used two sheets. Every Sunday night, she sketched out her ideal week. Then, as each day passed, she noted what she really did on a second sheet. She’d review her notes every morning, setting the tone for her day.
Notice the phrase “prepare for”? The planner has inculcated the habit to not just show up, but to plan ahead and make the most of from showing up.
Imagine a machine which is nothing more than a row of boxes that extends as far to the left. Let’s call it a “two-one machine” both written and read in a funny backwards way.
And what do you do with this machine? You put in dots. Dots always go into the rightmost box.
- Put in one dot, and, well, nothing happens: it stays there as one dot.
- But put in a second dot – always in the rightmost box – and then something exciting happens. Whenever there are two dots in a box they explode and disappear – Bhoom! – to be replaced by one dot, one box to the left.
We see that two dots placed into the machine yields one dot followed by zero dots.
Putting in a third dot – always the rightmost box – gives the picture one dot followed by one dot.
Let’s make a table and do it for all numbers till 10
|Numbers||1 <- 2|
Here is a visual way to look at it
Now, instead of playing with a 1 <- 2 machine, we could play with a 1 <- 3 machine (again
written and read backwards, a “three-one “machine). Now whenever there are three dots in a
box, they explode away to be replaced with one dot, one box to the left.
|Numbers||1 <- 3|
You can try this for different types of machine: 1 <- 4, 1 <- 5 and so on…
What are these machines doing?
Can you figure out what these machines are actually doing? Why is the code for two hundred and seventy-three in a 1 <- 10 machine, “273”? Are all the codes for numbers in a 1 <- 10 sure to be identical to how we normally write numbers. If you can answer that question, can you then also make sense of all the codes for a 1 <- 2 machine? What does the code 1101 for the number thirteen mean?
Both the above approaches, teaches the concept of binary (1 <-2) , tertiary (1 <- 3) and decimal (1 <- 10) number systems.
Puzzle: Consider you have squares of different sizes 1cm, 2cm, 3cm, 4cm and 5cm. How many minimum number of squares can be used to cover 7 x 7 matrix?
The most common answer that you will end up easily by trying different combinations of squares is 10. However, there are less than 10 squares that can fit it. Here’s the solution for it:
There are patterns even in daily objects arounds us. A book’s or any grocery product barcode may look like a bunch of random digits, but there is a secret mathematical code hidden in the barcode.
What pattern do you see in the Barcode below?
- There are alternate black and white vertical stripes
- Some stripes are thick and some stripes are thin
- It starts and ends with black color stripe.
Puzzle: Consider a 10cm barcode. How many different patterns can you create using combinations 1 cm or 2 cm (black and white stripe)
You can use paper cut outs of 1 cm and 2 cm and then place them in different combinations to find the patterns.
When Sabi was younger, we encouraged her independence. Simple tasks like choosing outfits or tying shoe laces were hers to tackle. One day, Sabi attempted to comb her hair, which is soft and tends to frizz. A mishap led to a tangled rubber band and we had to snip a bit of her hair. We advised her to wait until she turned 10 to tie her hair again. Yet, her curiosity persisted.
Last October, when her aunt inquired about a gift, Sabi’s initial thought was dolls. This took us aback, since dolls never truly caught her interest. A moment later, she wondered aloud if there were dolls with lifelike hair and accompanying combs. Sabi wanted to comb the doll’s hair to learn how to comb her own hair.
What is the difference between the two leaves?
- Gulmohar has Rounded leaves while Jacaranda has Pointed leaves
- Gulmohar leaves are in pair of two, while Jacaranda leaves are in pairs of two with one single leave at the tip of the stem. Hence, Gulmohar leaves are 2n and Jacaranda leaves are 2n+1.
In zero-sum games, for someone to win another has to lose.
Why it matters: It is important to identify zero-sum games and avoid them because the resulting drama distract us from what matters strategically.
- It makes us hallucinate opportunities where none exist.
- It takes significant time to play status-games because status needs to be known, signaled, and maintained.
- Those who play zero-sum games don’t attract opportunities from long-term players.
- In zero-sum industries, prestige is given much higher weightage than merit.
In contrast: Be on the look out for and play Positive-sum Games.
What causes it: Zero-sum games are triggered by scarcity, conformity, and status-seeking.
- Competition happens when it isn’t feasible to create net-new things and there is isn’t enough money (store of value) to go around. This happens in industries like real-estate, etc.
- In some industries, success is rewarded with status instead of money (store of value), for example, in academia, news and media, identity politics, managers in a dysfunctional organization, etc. In such situations, signaling becomes a better means for advancement than actually doing the work. In contrast, incumbents play the role of gate-keepers.
- A rookie in a cricket team doesn’t resent a pro. However, when hierarchies are built without any meaningful criteria and merit, it degenerates into a zero-sum game. For a number 2 to be number 1, the number 1 must be brought down.
To break free from zero-sum games:
- Think and act independently. Don’t conform.
- Think in Building Blocks
- Build on what you’ve got.
Anti-Fragile systems not only withstand shocks but improve as a result. They learn from adversity, adapt to changing circumstances, and evolve to be more robust. For example:
- Exercise builds. Exertion burns.
- Vaccines and some exposure to diseases improves overall immunity.
- Regular bubble bursts overall weeds out the weakness in the economy
In contrast: Most systems are either fragile or at best resilient.
- Fragile things and systems are vulnerable to shocks and disruptions. For example, glass, weak minds, unprofitable businesses, etc.
- Resilient things and systems can withstand shock and return to their original state after being disrupted. For example, buildings that are designed to withstand earthquakes.
How to build anti-fragility:
- Mindset: See uncertainty and volatility as opportunities to learn.
- Prepare: Actively do things that enhance margin of safety (resilience)
- Take risks, but within your margin of safety, i.e., avoid making bets that, if unsuccessful, could lead to the Risk of Ruin.
- Subject your system to controlled levels of stress (variety, volume or velocity) and pressure.
- Do a pre-mortem, i.e., imagine what scenarios would lead to failure.
- Learn: Observe failures objectively to identify weaknesses and areas of improvements. Work on them.
- Build feedback loops across the system to enable information flow.
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb
What is the difference between exercise and exertion? If the amount of effort, tiredness and mental fortitude required for either is same, then what differentiates between exercise and exertion?
There’s only one answer — Who is driving it?
If you voluntarily make yourself go through pain and hardships towards a goal, then every day is fun and happy because your eyes are set on the goal. If the world is making you go through pain and hardships, then every day is like a slow death.
Related reads: Anti-fragile.
Who has the will to act? Anyone in good health and of reasonable intelligence, provided they utterly commit themselves to the journey.
How: Health is a linear domain, i.e., you need to make progress on it everyday. Hence, it needs to be Habit-forming. Don’t make it too nuanced because Complexity slows down execution.
Physical: When it comes to physical health, always:
- Eat simple, eat less
- Avoid Easy dopamine hits
- Recognize the difference between Exercise builds. Exertion burns.
- Build three forms of fitness: Flexibility, Strength, and Cardiovascular.
Mental: To build mental wellbeing, actively take decisions that lead to One Less Thing To Worry About.
- Embrace impermanence. Don’t be saddened by separation
- Be at home anywhere. You might need to move houses, cities, and countries based on situation. Hence, live in a safe neighborhoods that is conducive to a life of focus and ongoing practice but be indifferent to where you live and your living condition. For example: Do not over invest in furniture and home decor. If you do either keep it low cost and simple so that it can be trashed and bought again when you move or so small that you can pack it up and move.
- Give away things you don’t need. You should proactively let go of Things you own with a sense of gratitude after they’ve served their purpose. Hoarding of things isn’t wise.
- Avoid zero-sum game.
- Tolerant with others: One less thing to worry about: My way.
- Clarity of Purpose: Poor Strategy, or the lack thereof, can quickly turn prioritization into some version of the Hunger Games.
When you pursue the pleasure of the tongue, you stop appreciating simple food — food that is made with less ingredients, less preparation, and least processing.
Why it matters:
- Eating rich food leads to Easy dopamine hits. Over time this transitions into gluttony (over-eating), which eventually results in bad health. Once we’ve reached this point, we eat only to seek comfort from the pain of food craving.
- More importantly, you need to eat food that gives appropriate nutrition for a life of focus and ongoing practice.
Examples: Below are examples of low ingredient foods:
- Sushi — simply vinegar-rice with raw fish
- Black coffee or green tea without milk and sugar
- Hummus — chick pea paste with olive oil
- Do intermittent fasting
Either things are in your control or they aren’t. If they are then go ahead and act. If they aren’t then state your preference and logic but don’t be forceful and let society take its natural course of action.
Why it matters: When we have strong preferences but no agency to act on them then we create a dependency on the outside world. This in turn has control over our mood. In such situations, the only way to get things our way to is to play Zero-sum game.
- If it is situation A, then go ahead and act. If it is situation B, then let it go. https://twitter.com/johncutlefish/status/1652351187012980736
The artefacts you own can symbolize what you stand for.
Why this matters:
- Often the things you own can give you temporary access to other people who want to experience those objects.
- The storytelling around those objects not only communicates that you’ve the ability to buy these objects but also to appreciate their significance and value.
Examples: The display of high-end bookshelves behind you in the backdrop during video calls (Zoom).
There are many forms of separation:
- Separation from things we associate with our identity: people, places, products or companies you build, Capital or wealth, objects, or ultimately death.
- Separation can be temporary or permanent.
- Separation could be due to your own doing or due to situations beyond your control.
When you deeply associate your existence and identity to things beyond your mind, they start owning a significant portion of your mind space and thus when remove create an intense feeling of lacking — a null, void, and emptiness. This in turn leads to suffering and sadness.
Trust is the belief that you’ll act in a reliable and dependable way. It is earned over time through consistent behavior and actions.
Do you have built a reputation for being trusted, reliable, high-integrity, long-term thinkers in an otherwise trust-deficit ecosystem?
Even after you Buy your way in, always give more than you take from a Owned Network.
- Be present: It could be something as simple as not carrying on a conversation with yourself in your head. Instead, be there fully, listen, and care about the people you are speaking to and focus on their interests.
- Provide value to the conversation by teaching, giving a compliment, making a funny comment, or telling a story.
- Finally, be high status and don’t seek approval.
Easy dopamine hits are activities and experiences that give immediate pleasure or reward without expending much effort. This could include empty calorie foods (junk, sugary, salty), doom scrolling on social media, binge watching TV, shopping, porn, drugs, gourmet food, romantic love, etc.
Why it matters: You get addicted to them and it makes you mentally weak.
Nassim Taleb expanded this principle to include:
- Muscles without strength
- Friendship without trust
- Opinion without risk
- Change without aesthetics
- Age without values
- Food without nourishment
- Power without fairness
- Facts without rigor
- Degrees without erudition
- Militarism without fortitude
- Progress without civilization
- Complication without depth
- Religion without tolerance
Given this, take clear stock of what you’ve got — Capital, Owned Network, Owned Identity, Owned Media, Labor, Judgment, etc. and see what you can build from there. You should always want to Build multiple entry and exit options. But your Lived experiences will it close and which options it might open.
Building resentment or complaining about what you’ve got is against building a life of focus and ongoing practice.
Accept what have you got and focus on what you can act on.
- Personally: Beauty, smartness, gifted ability, or lack of.
- Socially: People will behave foolishly, rudely, ungratefully, take advantage of us, and treat us unjustly.
- Situations: People won’t comply with our ethics and values.
- Zero to One
- Good Profit, Charles Koch