Saturday, September 26, 2009

9 Secrets, the Ultimate Success Strategies

"In a nutshell reasons for stress are:

  1. Expectation: Expect least from others, do whatever you can do from your side.
  2. Competing with someone: Compete with yourself.
  3. Not accepting the present moment: Living in the past or future.
  4. Not able to deal with own emotion and other's emotion.
  5. Not having enough knowledge of human psychology (self and others).
  6. Not able to keep up with timings and commitments.
  7. Lack of physical exercise: Include physical exercise, yoga, jogging, walking, skipping.
  8. Not showing gratitude to others (ego).
  9. Not able to forgive yourself and others.

If you can deal with and overcome the above factors you can lead a happy and peaceful life."

(Dipankar Biswas in '9 Secrets, the Ultimate Success Strategies,' p. 237 Landmark)

Landmark-9 Secrets

The Loom of God

"The term Doomsday Machine refers to the class of hypothetical weapons specially designed to destroy all large lifeforms including humans. Could such a weapon be produced? Sadly the answer may be yes. Here are four recipes based on the speculations of Daniel Cohen, author of 'Waiting for the Apocalypse':"

"1. Cobalt Bomb Cluster. The easiest Doomsday Machine to construct is the cobalt bomb cluster. Each cobalt bomb is an ordinary atomic bomb encased in a jacket of cobalt. When a cobalt bomb explodes, it spreads a huge amount of radiation. If enough of these bombs were exploded, life on Earth would perish."

"2. Wobble Bombs. In this recipe for Doomsday, large hydrogen bombs are placed at strategic locations on Earth and exploded simultaneously. As a result, the Earth may wobble on its axis. If placed at major fault lines, the bombs could trigger a worldwide series of killer earthquakes."

"3. Asteroid Bomb. This Doomsday device was actually suggested by Dandrige Cole, a speculator for the General Electric Corporation. He postulated it is possible to capture one of the larger asteroids and send it crashing to Earth by exploding nuclear bombs at specific locations on the surface of the asteroid."

"4. Botulis Bombs. Biological Doomsday Machines refer to biological weapons utilising bacteria, viruses, or various biological toxins. For example, a few pounds of poison produced by the botulis bacteria is sufficient to kill all human life."

(Clifford A. Pickover in 'The Loom of God: Tapestries of mathematics and mysticism,' p. 223 Landmark)

Landmark-The Loom of God

Fight for Your Money

"Most states in the US allow contractors and subcontractors who haven't been paid in full to file what's called a 'mechanic's lien' against your home. A mechanic's lien is a legal claim on a piece of real estate made by someone who is owed money for supplying either the labour or materials to improve that real estate. If one is placed on your house, you won't be able to get an occupancy permit until it's cleared. And in the most extreme case, you could be forced into foreclosure."

"To guard against this happening to you, you should insist on getting a lien release or waiver every time you pay a bill from a contractor, supplier, and subcontractor. If they won't give you the release, don't give them the check."

"On bigger projects, of course, your contractor will be paying most of the bills. But you can still stay on top of the situation. One of the main protections homeowners have is that a subcontractor or supplier can't file a mechanic's lien unless he previously filed a notice of intent when he first started work. In fact, among the most disconcerting aspects of building a house or doing a major remodel is that early on in the project you start getting legal notices from all the suppliers and subcontractors warning that if they are not paid, they will put a lien on your house. The good thing about this is that it gives you a complete record of everyone your contractor is dealing with."

"With this knowledge in hand, the most important advice I can share is that you shouldn't make your final payment to your contractor until you have verified he's gotten lien releases from all his subcontractors and suppliers."

(David Bach in 'Fight for Your Money: How to stop getting ripped off and save a fortune,' p. 232 Landmark)

Landmark-Fight for Your Money

The Moneymakers

"Many of the most successful products are driven by strong marketing or design perspectives that alienate customers, at least initially."

"Apple's iPod is probably the best recent example of this phenomenon. On the most basic level, the iPod is just an MP3 player, indeed a late-entering, more expensive, and less fully featured version. Imagine how a more customer-responsive organisation might have objected to bringing out the iPod. No doubt someone would have noted that customers cannot load other MP3s onto their iPods; only songs downloaded from iTunes, the music-purchasing service that Apple provides, or songs ripped from their own CDs work on the device. Salespeople would have been aghast at the pricing. 'Who will buy a product with such limited use and at such a high price point?' might have been a question that prevented the iPod from seeing the light of the day and becoming the best-selling digital audio player in history, with more than 100 million units sold."

"Steve Jobs and his team at Apple recognised how intangibles could create value that swamped other aspects of the product that were less consumer-friendly. They knew people would pay for a product that was aesthetically pleasing, sported a price that said it was worth it, and was supported with a strong marketing campaign. They saw that the value offered by the simplicity of a closed software-hardware environment was more important to customers than their desire to download MP3s purchased elsewhere. An additional benefit to Apple of the closed system was that it diminished competition and led to profitability better than almost any product in the consumer electronics business."

"It is easy to underestimate the impact of intangibles, especially in relation to price…"

(Anne-Marie Fink in 'The Moneymakers: How extraordinary managers win in a world turned upside down,' p. 118 Landmark)

Landmark-The Money Makers

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lords of Finance

"Since the founding of their republic, Americans had had a love affair with France and especially with Paris. In the early twenties, with the franc at a quarter of its pre-war level, that romance had suddenly become accessible to any American with a couple of hundred dollars to spare. A tourist-class passage across the Atlantic could be had for as little as $80 and the cost of living in France was astoundingly cheap for anyone with dollars. By 1926, an estimated forty-five thousand Americans were living in Paris and every summer another two hundred thousand tourists arrived to enjoy the combination of culture, gracious living, and a risqué nightlife that made Paris, even then, the most visited city in the world."

"Unfortunately, the affection of Americans for all things French was increasingly unrequited. The French press had for a while expressed its indignation at the spectacle of rich Americans taking advantage of the low franc to buy up the choicest French property on the Côte d'Azur and Côte Basque, along the Loire valley, and on the Champs de Mars in Paris. The newspaper Le Midi had taken to referring to Americans as 'destructive grasshoppers.'"

"One incident in particular had been a lightning rod for bad feeling. In March 1924, at the height of the currency crisis, the US ambassador, Myron Herrick, bought out of his own pocket a grand mansion at Two Avenue d'Iéna to house the embassy. Built in the late nineteenth century at a cost of 5 million francs, equivalent at the time to about $1 million, the mansion was now selling for 5,400,000 francs. Herrick astutely chose to exchange his dollars for francs on March 11, 1924, the very day that panic selling on the Bourse drove the exchange rate down to 27 francs to the dollar, which gave him the house for only $200,000. As ambassador from 1912 to 1914 Herrick had won the affection of the French for his decision to stay in the city when it seemed about to fall to the Germans. The affection was great enough that he had been asked to return as ambassador in 1921. But when the newspapers discovered that the American ambassador himself had cut a sweet deal from the franc's collapse, there was outrage."

(Liaquat Ahamed in 'Lords of Finance: 1929, The Great Depression, and the bankers who broke the world,' p. 256 Landmark)

Landmark-Lords of Finance

His Utopia Her Utopia

"Hindu marriages are performed according to rituals prescribed in the Vedas. These rituals go back to the very beginning of history. The venue is the bride's house, a temple or a marriage hall. There are regional variations but three basic rules are universally followed."

"First, the rituals are performed in the presence of Agni (sacred fire lit for the occasion). It is called Agni Saakshi Vivaha (marriage with fire God as witness)."

"The second ritual is 'Kanyadaan,' when the father of the bride gives his daughter as a 'gift' to the bridegroom, who accepts her. The bridegroom cups his palms and the girl likewise does and places her hands above his. The father of the bride then gently pours holy water on his daughter's palms which trickles down through the groom's palms into a vessel placed on the floor. The bridegroom places his right hand over the girl's shoulder affirming his acceptance of the 'gift.' If the girl has no father, an elderly family member does Kanyadaan."

"After this the bride and groom promise each other thus: 'Dharmecha, Arthecha, Kaamecha, Naathi Charaami.' 'I will not impose my views on my spouse in the matter of righteous conduct, matters of money and physical possessions and in matters relating to worldly desires and physical pleasures.'"

"The third and most important ritual is called Saptapadi (seven steps) the couple takes together no only to invoke blessings of Gods for their health, wealth, prosperity and worthy progeny, but also to validate their marriage under the Hindu Law."

"The Seven Steps: The bride and groom recite Sanskrit prayer with each step.

'With this first step, we pray for Anna (Daily bread).

With this second step, we pray for stability in life.

With this third step, we pray for wealth and abundance.

With this fourth step, we pray for happiness in life.

With this fifth step, we pray for good progeny.

With this sixth step, we pray for long married life.

With this seventh step, we pray for togetherness forever.'"

(Raj Gadasalli in 'His Utopia Her Utopia: Indo American vignettes,' p. 162 Landmark)
Landmark-His Utopia Her Utopia

Quantitative Finance

"The current muddle in asset pricing theory arises from a perverse difficulty faced by researchers in finance, and one that is not confronted on the same scale in any other scientific field. It is that the objects of study – human beings, individually and collectively through their participation in markets – can learn and react to the findings of those who study them. While this applies to some extent in all fields that study contemporary human physiology, psychology, and social and economic behaviour, the effect is much more dramatic in finance. This is because individuals are intensely motivated to achieve financial gain and because the behaviour or financial markets can be substantially influenced by just a few well-informed and well-endowed participants. The problem is somewhat like that faced by researchers in quantum mechanics, where on tiny scales objects seem to 'know' that they are being observed and react differently than they otherwise would. However, the financial problem is more severe, in that people alter their behaviour individually and purposefully so as to profit from new insights about how they behave collectively. It is as if they actively try to overturn the findings of empirical researchers and thereby vitiate the theories that had been proposed to explain them. Thus, progress in financial research tends to be of the two-steps-forward, one-step-back variety."

(T. W. Epps in 'Quantitative Finance: Its development, mathematical foundations, and current scope,' p. 94 Landmark)

Landmark-Quantitative Finance

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Accidental Billionaires

"It was brilliant. He blinked, hard. A social network – aimed at the college market. It seemed so utterly obvious. The one big gap in the social networking market was college – and college was such a perfect market for a social network. College kids were so incredibly social. You had more friends in college than at any other point in your life. MySpace and Friendster missed the one group of people that had the most use for a social network – but this site? This site seemed to take aim straight at the mother lode."

"Sean's gaze drifted down to the bottom of the page. There was an odd little line of text. A Mark Zuckerberg Production. Sean smiled. Oh, he liked that. He liked that a lot. Whoever had made this site had put his name right on the bottom of the page."

"Sean hit some keys, mover over to Goole. He started to do a search. To his surprise, he found a lot, much of it culled from a single source – the Harvard Crimson, Harvard university's school newspaper."

"The Web site was called thefacebook, and had been started by a sophomore about six to eight weeks earlier. In four days, most of the Harvard campus had signed up. By the second week, there had been nearly five thousand members…"

"Sean started mumbling to himself. 'Thefacebook.' Why not just 'facebook'? That was the kind of thing that would drive Sean crazy. His mind was always doing that, instinctively cleaning things up, smoothing them out…."

(Ben Mezrich in 'The Accidental Billionaires,' p. 140 Landmark)

Landmark-The Accidental Billionaires

The Geopolitics of Emotion

"The impulse that drove me to write about the geopolitics of emotion is at least in part based on personal history. As the son of a survivor of Auschwitz I was born with a deeply ingrained sense of tragedy. But the experience of my father, who survived the camps through a combination of luck, energy, hope, and the will to testify about what he went through, gave me something like a sense of mission. The central question my father's life posed to me, which I have been wrestling with for decades, is: can the world we live in achieve even in part what my father achieved, the transcendence of fear and humiliation and the rekindling of hope, even in the face of tragedy?"

"This is an ambitious task, but hope and confidence are above all a state of mind. When Tristan Bernard, the Jewish French playwright, was about to be arrested in Nazi-occupied Paris, he said to his wife, 'We had been living in fear, now we will live in hope.'"

"To respond to the challenges we face, the world needs hope."

(Dominique Moïsi in 'The Geopolitics of Emotion,' p. 159 Landmark)

Landmark-The Geopolitics of Emotion

The Life You Can Save

"Many people get great pleasure from dressing stylishly, eating well, and listening to music on a good stereo system. I'm all for pleasure – the more the better, other things being equal… But my argument does imply that it is wrong to spend money on those things when we could instead be using the money to save people's lives and prevent great suffering. The problem is that we are living in the midst of an emergency in which 27,000 children die from avoidable causes every day. That's more than one thousand every hour. And millions of women are living with repairable fistulas, and millions of people are blind who could see again. We can do something about these things. That crucial fact ought to affect the choices we make. To buy good stereo equipment in order to further my worthwhile goal, or life-enhancing experience, of listening to music is to place more value on these enhancements to my life than on whether others live or die. Can it be ethical to live that way? Doesn't it make a mockery of any claim to believe in the equal value of human life?"

(Peter Singer in 'The Life You Can Save,' p. 149, Landmark)

Landmark-The Life You Can Save

The Compass

"Elie Wiesel once said that we are all connected by pain. Wiesel is the Nobel Peace Prize-winning author of the book Night, and he witnessed the murders of his friends and family in the Nazi concentration camps yet went on to talk about it from a survivor's point of view. We are all connected. By love, by pain and, sometimes, by major events."

"The philosophy that we are all connected is a major thread within the story of The Compass. Each one of us travels a very specific and unique journey, yet we are all connected, and in this connectedness there is life."

"Sharing our wisdom, gifts and words with the world can literally save or change a life… Words are the greatest currency we have to empower a life, build up a soul and create change. Words transform lives, yet some are afraid to give them, fearful of what someone might think, and others are afraid to receive them. They are afraid to risk, yet there is no transformation when you are locked in fear."

(Tammy Kling and John Spencer Ellis in 'The Compass,' p. 243 Landmark)

Landmark-The Compass

Gold: The once and future money

"Governments should be cautious before they raise taxes in an effort to emulate what they consider to be international standards. The fact that one country can be marginally prosperous with a high value-added tax, like Germany, does not mean that instituting a 15 per cent VAT in a country that did not have one previously would result in Germany-like prosperity. Instead, a severe recession could result. Often, countries are able to manage under certain high tax rates because taxation of other activities is kept low."

"Governments of developing economies, in particular, should not adopt the tax systems of the governments of developed economies. The developed countries are able to support generous welfare systems that the developing countries cannot, simply because they are wealthier. The citizenries of developed and developing countries desire different services of their governments. Generally speaking, less-wealthy populations have less revenue that they are willing to give to the government t, which is why these countries so often have a ratio of total tax revenues/GDP of less than 15 per cent, compared to over 30 per cent in the developed countries. Taxing the rich to give to the poor makes sense, up to a point. Taxing the poor to give to the poor does not."

(Nathan Lewis in 'Gold: The once and future money,' p. 147 Landmark)


The Future For Investors

"Can a better read on earnings quality be profitable to investors? Most certainly. One way to measure the quality of earnings is by examining a firm's accruals, which is defined as accounting earnings minus cash flows."

"A firm with high accruals may be manipulating its earnings and this could be a warning of future problems. Alternatively, a firm that has low accruals may be a sign that earnings are being conservatively estimated."

"Richard Sloan, a professor at the University of Michigan, determined that a high level of accruals was related to subsequent low stock returns. Sloan found that from 1962 through 2001, the difference between the returns to firms with the highest quality earnings (lowest accruals) and the poorest quality earnings (highest accruals) was a staggering 18 per cent per year. Further research indicated that despite the importance of accruals, Wall Street analysts did not take this into account when forecasting future earnings growth."

"Determining earnings will always be fraught with estimates, even if made in good faith. That is why cash flows, as well as dividends, are objective measures of firm profitability that must supplement earnings data."

(Jeremy J. Siegel in 'The Future For Investors,' p. 164 Landmark)

Landmark-The Future for Investors

Good Value

"The world's most sought-after commodities in the European Middle Ages were cinnamon, nutmeg, mace and cloves. Their supply lines were the commercial links of the early world. Their profits funded some of the wonders of the world – for example, the public architecture of Venice was built largely on the profits from spice trading. The rarity value of these commodities was huge, and they became status symbols as much because of their expense and mystery as because of their flavour. Cloves grew only in five tiny islands in the North Moluccas in what is now eastern Indonesia. Nutmeg and mace grew only on nine tiny islands in the South Moluccas. Cinnamon came from Sri Lanka, just on the edge of what for Europeans was the known world. At the height of its popularity, cinnamon flower juice was valued weight for weight the same as gold. For nearly a thousand years after nutmeg, mace and cloves first appeared in Europe their source was unknown to consumers. The three trading routes – the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the Silk Road – were beyond the control of the European merchant states, in the hands of Muslim traders."

(Stephen Green in 'Good Value,' p. 54 Landmark)

Landmark-Good Value


"The Ancient Greeks would have applauded the continuing popularity of giving to the arts – which in America, currently accounts for a hefty 14 per cent of total foundation giving. Ancient Greek philanthropy was not necessarily targeted at the needs of the poor. Most philanthropy worked through the performance of liturgies (leitourgia): public duties, such as sending a sports team to a tournament or funding a chorus – activities that would not be unfamiliar to many of today's philanthropists. Indeed, the Ancient Greeks would wonder why sponsoring a sports team is no longer counted as philanthropy. After all, owning a soccer or baseball team is a good way of earning personal and civic prestige while in many cases losing a lot of the owner's money."

"So too the Romans. Gaius Maecenas is the most celebrated Roman donor because of his support for the poets Virgil and Horace. Indeed, his name is now synonymous with patronage of the arts (literally so in French, where mécène is the word for 'donor' or 'sponsor'). Maecenas was a political associate of Caesar Augustus, the first emperor of Rome, and saw the value of art and literature in guiding public opinion through the political transition from republic to empire."

"Today, most of the giving to the arts goes to the big beasts, such as New York's Museum of Modern Art, rather than to grassroots and community arts organisations where the need is arguably greater and the impact clearer."

(Matthew Bishop and Michael Green in 'Philanthrocapitalism,' p. 143 Landmark)


Your Portable Empire

"Use your guarantee to shift the risk from the purchaser to you."

"You want your customer to feel totally confident when they buy your product. If they feel like they're going to be stuck with it if they don't like it, they won't buy it. This is especially true on the Internet, where they can't touch or even see the actual product."

"Here's a rule of thumb I learned from a very famous copywriter who was speaking at a seminar: 'The longer the guarantee, the lower the return rate.'"

"Think about it. If you know you've got three days to decide if you like something, you're going to be in a pretty big hurry to find something you don't like. If you know you've got a year, or a lifetime, you don't feel any urgency. In fact, you may forget about it completely…"

"Clickbank, and most merchant account companies, keep a reserve to pay for refunds. They use an algorithm based on your refund history, the price of the product, and the phase of the moon – I guess. I really don't know how they do it, but I do now that they keep part of the sales revenue for a long time to make sure there's money there to pay for refunds."

"It's worth it."

(Pat O'Bryan in 'Your Portable Empire,' p. 68 Landmark)
Landmark-Your Portable Empire

The Box

"Barbie was conceived as the all-American girl. In truth, she never was: at her inception, in 1959, Mattel Corp. arranged to make her at a factory in Japan. A few years later it added a plant in Taiwan, along with a large cadre of Taiwanese women who sewed Barbie's clothes in their homes. By the middle of the 1990s, Barbie's citizenship had become even less distinct. Workers in China produced her statuesque figure, using moulds from the United States and other machines from Japan and Europe. Her nylon hair was Japanese, the plastic in her body from Taiwan, the pigments American, the cotton clothing from China. Barbie, simple girl though she is, had developed her very own global supply chain."

(Marc Levinson in 'The Box,' p. 264 Landmark)

Landmark-The Box


"Resolutions fail because of a lack of individual will or stamina. Sometimes the timing is just wrong. The excuses are as many and varied as they are familiar…"

"Yet, there is a group that is able to change. These diehards do something different: their commitments become reality. So what is it that they do differently?"

"…People who make change stick in their personal lives do several things differently: they tend to set realistic goals; do a little every day; are motivated personally; and set up the external structures to make it easy. So, for example, they make a decision to leave work early on Wednesdays. They make sure childcare is in place. They walk to the train station for 20 minutes rather than drive. They think and manage the internal things they have control over and shape the external dimensions that they can influence. They do something different and reap the rewards of a different outcome. They are able to draw upon their own personal mastery of insight, reflection, and on-going learning. Another way to think about this is that they apply leadership to their own resolutions."

(Michael Jarrett in 'Changeability,' p. 177 Landmark)


The God Market

"In many ways, Muslims in India are faring much worse than even the Dalits. They are largely self-employed – only 13 per cent of the entire Muslim population has salaried jobs in public or private enterprises, with barely 5 per cent of public sector jobs going to Muslims. The recent Sachar Committee report found that globalisation has hit the Muslim workers harder than other communities. Many of the traditional occupations of Muslims in industries such as silk, weaving, leather, and garment making have been hurt by cheaper imports from China. There are industries like gem cutting and brass work which are experiencing large growth in exports, but the benefits are mostly going to the Hindu owners of these enterprises."

"To sum up: the rising tide is not lifting all boats!"

(Meera Nanda in 'The God Market,' p. 47 Landmark)

Landmark-The God Market

Deep Economy

"If you want to see the spiritual centre of the cult of More – its Vatican, its Mecca, its Potala Palace – you should probably visit the Chinese city of Yiwu, four hours by crowded train from Shanghai. Yiwu didn't even appear in my nine-hundred-page tourist guide to China, but it boasts sights every bit as awesome as the terra-cotta warriors of Xian, or even the Great Wall disappearing over the toothy hills. Consider the 'Suitcases and Bags, Including School Bags' section of the International Trade City. It comprises about 800 ten-foot-by-twelve-foot stalls, each representing a different factory, each displaying its wares to buyers in the hope they'll order lots of ten thousand or twenty thousand or thirty thousand. There are stalls with duffel bags, change purses, wallets of every kind. Fanny packs, metal lunch-boxes, jewellery cases. The International Trade City is also a headquarters of dubious English…"

"The International Trade City ('A Sea of Commodities, A Paradise for Purchasers') is only two-fifths built and there are still whole sectors of the manufacturing economy you have to go elsewhere to see. (China has a sock town that produces billions of pairs a year, while cigarette lighters are down the coast in Wenzhou.) But the two huge buildings already standing – they each look like the Empire State Building laid on its side and mated with a fleet of aircraft carriers – demonstrate the almost unavoidable truth that anything that can be easily made by human beings can be easily and cheaply made in China."

(Bill McKibben in 'Deep Economy,' p. 178 Landmark)

Landmark-Deep Economy

The Spirit Level

"A very important source of the close social integration in an egalitarian community is the sense of self-realisation we can get when we successfully meet others' needs. This is often seen as a mysterious quality, almost as if it were above explanation. It comes of course from our need to feel valued by others. We gain a sense of being valued when we do things which others appreciate. The best way of ensuring that we remained included in the cooperative hunting and gathering group and reducing the risk of being cast out, ostracised, and preyed upon, was to do things which people appreciated. Nowadays, whether it is cooking a nice meal, telling jokes or providing for people's needs in other ways, it can give rise to a sense of self-worth. It is this capacity – now most visible in parenting – which, long before the development of market mechanisms and wage labour, enabled humans – almost uniquely – to gain the benefits of a division of labour and specialisation within cooperative groups of interdependent individuals."

(Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in 'The Spirit Level,' p. 206 Landmark)

Landmark-The Spirit Level