I am reading Dan Airley's Predictably Irrational, an entertaining book talking about human behaviour based on a series of campus experiments mostly conducted in the MIT. It makes entertaining read, and often presents interesting ideas [Self-control Credit Card being one: I would have opted for one if it was available]. It is valuable in terms of insights, though arguably, low on empirical base. I don't know whether MIT's students [and some from Berkley] represent the human race, but the conclusions are interesting, and often common-sense.
I am preparing for 2009 at the same time. 2009 is going to be a watershed year - or at least, I am planning to make it one. One of my strategies in 2009, as if I have picked this up from Professor Airley, is to limit my options and focus on few. 2008 has been an expansive year, when I tried to do too many things at the same time. I was also blinded by the abundance of options available, particularly as I travelled and met new people, and talked about new ideas. For example, I talked/ thought about starting a packaged food business, a nursery school franchise, a formalwear business for women, a lingerie business, a web design studio, a graphic design training business, an employee leasing organization and an e-learning consultancy, all in the space of one year. Each option looked attractive, I had made the appropriate connections and could have got started if I wanted to. But, obviously, at the year-end, I know I have to work on limiting my options rather than expanding them.
2008 changed my perspective quite a bit. This time, a year back, I almost had what I wanted in life: Job of a travelling salesman. This satisfied the adventurer in me. However, as I would have known then, and know with experience now, romantic notions rarely survive the first contact with reality. The year gave me a lot of exposure, and ideas, often far-fetched. But, at the hindsight, it taught me just one thing to take away: It pays to be patient. I have made my mistakes as I was too enthusiastic, too involved and too self-oblivious. Life isn't just a romantic journey, and here I am, at the end of a fairly eventful year, thinking about what to do next.
I have made a few friends in 2008, and resurrected some old friendships too. Few of those, I already know, will be for life. However, the truth is, I lost a few friends too, whom I valued and respected. Lost, not through bitterness and dispute, but mostly through neglect and lack of contact. The problem in friendship is that neglect is often a greater sin than dispute, and it will be hard to regain the same level of trust and comfort. But, this will surely top the agenda for me in 2009.
When I first planned to travel to UK in 2003, I wanted to go there to study. One thing led to another, and I landed up in the country as an immigrant. My plans to stay out a limited time and enhance my skills became a full-fledged commitment to stay long term and settle in the country. I have always been divided on this issue: Whether to stay on or to return. I felt strong desire to return immediately after my mother's death in 2006, but stayed on as I did not complete my original agenda of skill enhancement. I felt strongly about it again in 2008, when frequent trips to India enhanced my familiarity and allowed me to assess the opportunities first hand. However, the lesson in patience tells me now to be circumspect, first complete the agenda of skill enhancement and then work out a strategy of return/ moving on. I do think this skill enhancement agenda will dominate most of 2009.
The other interesting thing that happened in 2008 is my involvement with the education ventures in India. I have, so far, no commercial involvement, but got the opportunity to have a ring-fence view of the private enterprise in education. The sector seems to be poised for exponential growth, and I do see opportunities there. I have been recently offered a partnership in a venture too, which I have put off for the moment. It is attractive, no doubt, and I see quite a bit of money there too. But, of course, my plans to return to India still months away [not in 2009] and I am not yet sure that this is the way to build great educational institutes. No doubt, I would love to have an opportunity to be involved with one: But, I am not certain that any of private B-schools and Engineering Colleges I have been interacting with, have the necessary infrastructure - physical and human - to impart World-Class education. It does seem that the Government has no idea how to enhance education opportunities in the country. In trying to create higher education capacity, they have opened it up to Private Enterprise without the necessary checks-and-balances; resulting in profit-making degree shops all over the country.
I have also read a lot of books about emergent India in 2008, and have planned, yes, to write my own in 2009. Does anyone need another one? I thought I have noticed an unique perspective - a sub-altern story of liberalization and economic growth - which is yet to be written. I do not know where I shall find the time after managing my job, family and studies: But this is something I shall surely wish to do in 2009. I am not sure whether I would want to interview a number of people and write their stories, or will be able to complete my agenda to travel around India to write about it. But, I shall keep posting more about this project as I go along.