10/13: Pep

It was sometime in 2011 that we’d gone for a family function where Pinky had worn my mother’s jewellery. An uncle instantly recognised it commented that she’s wearing “old models”, and asking why I hadn’t gotten her any jewellery of her own.

Pinky had stayed quiet then, but about a year later when I was trying to build my own consulting practice (and living off the savings from the job I’d recently quit), demanded that I buy her a diamond necklace. Not really knowing what it might cost, I instantly agreed. It was after I had taken her to the shop and she liked something that I realised it was going to exhaust all my savings.

I had to redouble my business development efforts, and about a month after that got my first big consulting contract. Pinky later told me that the reason she had made me “invest” (whether buying jewellery is an investment or an expense is something we disagree on) then was to shake me off my comfort zone and get me out there to do real business.

Pinky has her own way of inspiring me to do more, and to do well in whatever job that I do. When I was on outstation consulting assignments, which meant leaving home at 4:30am to catch a flight, she would wake up an hour earlier to make sure I had hot water to shower in. As I got ready, she would get me coffee and even polish my shoes!

When I was writing the first draft of my book last year, which was a damn difficult process, she made sure we celebrated every little milestone. When I finished the very first draft she took me out for a fancy dinner to our favourite Japanese restaurant in Barcelona. This way, she made sure I remained motivated as I took the not-so-easy task of preparing the first draft.

She’s also not hesitated to use the stick. Every time during my consulting life when she’s felt I’m not doing enough work, she’s made sure to throw sufficient tantrums to make sure I don’t slack off. Each time she’s done that, I’ve found myself pursuing leads with renewed vigour, and managing to win some business or the other.

Pinky has also turned out to be a reliable career mentor. When I decided last month that I should look for full time roles as well, she helped me figure out how to go about the process (it was 8 years since I’d last applied for a full time job). She’s repeatedly sat down with me to review my business plans, and to guide me regarding the best course of action. When there have been consulting or job or partnering offers I’ve been unsure of, she’s dissected the problem in a way for the solution to become apparent to me.

There’s little more I could have asked for from a wife in terms of motivation!

1/13: Leaving home

2/13: Motherhood statements

3/13: Stockings

4/13: HM

5/13: Cookers

6/13: Fashion

7/13: Dashing

8/13: Dabba

9/13: UnPC

Scott Adams’s advice and career options

Some five years back, I took a piece of advice from Dilbert creator Scott Adams. A few years earlier, he had blogged that there are two ways in which one can be successful in a career –

 But if you want something extraordinary, you have two paths:

1. Become the best at one specific thing.
2. Become very good (top 25%) at two or more things.

The post had made an immediate impression on me when I had read it back in 2007. And when I was planning to leave a full-time corporate career in 2011, it was Adams’ old advice that I turned to.

There were a number of things that I’d found myself to be good at (definitely top 25%) – mathematical modelling, data analysis, writing (based on this blog), economic reasoning, financial markets and maybe even programming (I’m a good coder but lousy software engineer). Combining these, I reasoned, I could do very well for myself.

And over the last five years I have done reasonably well for myself. I’ve built a fairly good freelance consulting practice which brings together my skills in mathematical modelling, data analysis and economic reasoning. The same skills, along with an interest in public policy, have led to me joining a think tank as a Resident Quant. Data analysis and writing together has got me a column in Mint. Yet another subset led me to become Adjunct Faculty at IIM Bangalore. And yet another led to my book, which is currently under publication.

However, now that I’ve decided I’ve achieved enough in my portfolio life, and am looking for a full time job (it was supposed to happen a while back I know, but I postponed it due to an impending location change – I’m moving to London in March), I’m not sure this strategy (of being reasonably good in multiple things rather than the best at one thing) is particularly optimal.

The problem is that the job market hasn’t evolved to sufficiently demand people who are good at several things (rather than at one thing). This is a consequence of not enough people following Adams’s second advice – they’ve chosen to strive to be the best at one thing instead.

And so, if you are like me, and consider yourself reasonably good at several things rather than the best at one thing, the job market doesn’t serve you well. Think of all the things you’re good at as dimensions, and your skillset being represented by a vector across all these dimensions. Traditional job markets tend to look at you from the point of view of one of these dimensions (the skill they’re hiring for). And so, rather than showing your potential employer your full magnitude, you end up only showing the projection of your vector along the dimension you’re optimising for.

And if you are good at several things, it means that the magnitude of the vector along any one skill is far smaller than the magnitude of your full vector. And the job market is likely to leave you frustrated!


In contract bridge, when you are dealt a hand that is equally strong in all suits, you bid to play a No Trump game. In this scenario, though, it seems like it’s impossible to effectively play No Trump.