Friday, March 18, 2011

That's Enough

One of the most difficult decisions to make in the context of retirements or scaling down is to know if what one has is enough. I know first-hand that these doubts never go away. There are always scenarios in which the savings seem inadequate.

In light of that, I really liked this poem by a favorite writer of mine – Kurt Vonnegut. (I found the poem in Bob Sutton's blog, Work Matters)

It's a small poem that appeared in the New Yorker back in '05. I am posting it in full.

Joe Heller

True story, Word of Honor:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
now dead,
and I were at a party given by a billionaire
on Shelter Island.
I said, "Joe, how does it make you feel
to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel 'Catch-22'
has earned in its entire history?"
And Joe said, "I've got something he can never have."
And I said, "What on earth could that be, Joe?"
And Joe said, "The knowledge that I've got enough."
Not bad! Rest in peace!"

--Kurt Vonnegut

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Eudaimonic Well-Being as opposed to Happiness

Here's a short article in WSJ that makes a distinction between Happiness and "Eudaimonia."

From the article:
The pleasure that comes with, say, a good meal, an entertaining movie or an important win for one's sports team—a feeling called "hedonic well-being"—tends to be short-term and fleeting.
Researchers have found those with greater purpose in life were less likely to be impaired in carrying out living and mobility functions, like housekeeping, managing money and walking up or down stairs.
A lot of it is common-sense, but it is good to remember that these two are related but quite different. The full article is here. Thanks to Sateesh for the pointer.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Another Perspective on Stability

Stability in our lives is something that most of us intuitively seek out. Mr. Kukunoor, it turns out, has a very different perspective on stability.

Nagesh Kukunoor was a featured speaker in IIT Madras at this year's Saarang festival (2011). He narrated the story of how he came into movie making. He was working in Atlanta, GA, as an environmental consultant, leading a comfortable life. However, he harbored this lifelong desire to make movies though he had no training in it whatsoever. Mustering up courage he quit his US job, sold off all his stuff and moved in with his parents in Hyderabad, India. Using his own savings and his credit cards, and with a lot of assistance from both his parents he wrote and shot the movie "Hyderabad Blues." After starting out slow, the movie really caught on and Nagesh Kukunoor made a name for himself as a director.

Based on his own experience, Nagesh Kukunoor came to believe that stability (and the comfort that a regular paycheck brings) works actively against those who want to pursue their passions. He believed in this so strongly that he named his own production company SIC – which stands for Stability Is a Curse. He has gone on to make around a dozen movies under this banner.

PS – In that talk, Nagesh also narrated the story of trying to get Hyderabad Blues sold. India's Star TV expressed interest in the movie. Nagesh who had run out of money once the movie was made, and was headed back to the US asked for Rs. 2 lakh, which is quite a small sum. But Star TV refused to pay that and Nagesh dropped the asking price to Rs. 1 lakh. The network again refused and in desperation Nagesh said he'd settle for 0.5 lakh. The network wouldn't even pay that. In the next few weeks, the movie got picked up by a couple of international film festivals. Within months, Star TV came knocking and paid Nagesh Rs. 50 lakh (100 times his last asking price) for the rights to broadcast it.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Early Retirement Dilemma in One Sentence

Barbara Ehrenbeck in her book Nickel and Dimed (a good read) raises the question of why she gave up her job and proceeds to answers it herself.
I treasure the gloriously autonomous, if not always well paid, writing life.
It can't be stated more succinctly than that.
Choose only one: a) Autonomy or b) a good salary.