Wisdom of the ages – outcomes or processes

Here is a Ted talk that delivers an excellent though well known insight which is the basis of rational decision making – “You can not control outcomes. You can only control processes.”  https://go.ted.com/CtRj

Another way of saying this would be “Its of no use focusing on goals. It makes sense only to focus on the best set of actions that will get us to our goals”

This is the wisdom of the ages. We hear this not only from many of the gurus of today but is also baked into the folklore and cultural/religious heritage in almost all civilisations.

In the Bhagwad Gita, this is one of the most popular verses “Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kada Chana”. People interpret it in many ways. For me it is simple and clear – It says, “focus on the best process or set of actions that will get you to your goal. Focusing on the goal will actually hinder your chances of getting there.”

You hear the exact same thing from the Greeks. The stoics and others. In Seneca’s words – “The wise man regards the reason for all his actions, but not the results.”

You hear it said in a different way by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius “Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”

The Buddhist interpretation of Karma is almost the same.

I am willing to bet that this simple piece of knowledge exists in every major philosophy and culture.

It’s good to have goals. So you know what you want to accomplish. After that it makes sense to figure out what needs to be done to get there and then focus only on the actions while course correcting along the way.

You can not control the outcome. Only your actions.

Are you doing donkey work?


There are only four reasons I can think of, for people in corporate India routinely working longer than typical office hours.

1. You love your job and take on much more work
2. You don’t love your job and take on much more work
3. You are given much more work
4. You either think or you pretend that you have much more work

In the first case, congratulations! It’s a great place to be in. Do make time for yourself too. It will enhance your ability to work better, which is what you would love to do anyway.

In the second case, you are in the wrong job. Your employer or your manager is an exploitative jerk. Get out of there.

The third case is the same as the second. But then this could also be because you are the sucker who can be depended on to be a dumb mule.

The fourth situation is unfortunately the most common in corporate India. I would think over 80 percent of employees who work long hours belong in this category. It’s simply a case of low productivity.

The work could be done in 4 hours if these workers worked smart instead of hard (long hours).

Often it’s a problem of the environment. Too many time wasters all around you. Distractions, useless meetings, unnecessary documentation, excessive and totally unnecessary email communication and more.

It is also often about you. Your priorities at work. Your focus areas. How you allocate your time to these. Your ability to say NO. Your social media habits…


Did you just bury someone in a rented suit?

The rented suit liability is something business and finance people know well.

Here is the story in the words of Warren Buffet –

“A man was traveling abroad when he received a call from his sister informing him that their father had died unexpectedly. It was physically impossible for the brother to get back home for the funeral, but he told his sister to take care of the funeral arrangements and to send the bill to him. After returning home he received a bill for several thousand dollars, which he promptly paid. The following month another bill came along for $ 15, and he paid that too. Another month followed, with a similar bill. When, in the next month, a third bill for $15 was presented, he called his sister to ask what was going on. “Oh”, she said. “I forgot to tell you. We buried Dad in a rented suit.”

Rented suit liabilities are not just about finance and investing and money.

Rented suit liabilities are all too common in almost all aspects of our daily lives.

This is also true of decisions we make every day. That’s the reason a lot of highly productive people simplify their lives and adopt routines.

What happens when someone simplifies their work wardrobe by replacing their clothes with a whole lot of identical outfits? They are eliminating the need to choose what to wear and the need to make a decision everyday. It’s one rented suit liability that disappears from their lives.

This is extremely common in our workplace. Any process or element of a work process that can be eliminated but is not, can be called a rented suit liability. Most legacy systems and processes that can be automated but are not, are rented suit liabilities.

If you were to take an inventory of all the things in your personal, work and home life, I assure you that you will find many many things which will qualify.

Here is where I picked up the finance and investing relevance from-

Open offices drain your energy and spirit

The scientific evidence that demonstrates the stupidity of open offices continues to pour in.

Open offices do not enable collaboration. On the contrary you collaborate and interact more in the cubicle and cabin type offices.

Workers in an open office are not more productive. How can you be? With the drumbeat of constantly changing visual, auditory and olfactory inputs all around you, you are being distracted and interrupted hundreds of times every day.

An open office is an environment that tells you that it is not important to focus or to get the job done well. It forces you to struggle against totally avoidable obstacles and yet expects you to get the job done.

It’s like forcing you to sit at someone elses untidy desk with blaring music, bling and disco lights added and still expecting you to get your best work done.

You might as well put your employees in a crowded public space and expect them to work from there 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

Guess what you would want to do if you were made to work in a crowded public space all the time? You will crave privacy. You will eagerly wait for weekends and after office hours, when you can disappear into a private and quiet place where you can get some work done.

And that’s how people end up working all the time – in office and outside. Personal time and family time goes out of the window. So does curling up on the sofa to spend two hours reading a book.

Open offices create an attention deficit hyperactivity culture that spills over to addictive, obsessive compulsive, social media use. And then blank out zombie like in front of dumb television.

People need privacy. People need silence. People need to be left alone. That’s when they get good work done. Whether it’s problem solving, coding, writing, reading, analysis, research or decision making.

They will collaborate, reach out, talk and meet when they must. These can not be impositions. These are choices.

Here is an article in the Economist with some science and opinions on open offices – https://www.economist.com/business/2018/07/28/open-offices-can-lead-to-closed-minds