I’m Still Here!

Hello everyone! It has been a long time since I’ve posted to this blog. Almost a year ago, I posted that I was leaving my career to travel the world with my wife. 11 months in…..we are still going strong!

We have traveled throughout Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and are six months into an epic road trip around the USA and Canada, visiting dozens of national parks along the way.

Our decision to take a career break seemed scary a year ago, but was absolutely the perfect decision for both of us.

We are spending the next six weeks being nordic ski bums while living in a “Tiny House” (really…it’s <200 square feet small!) in Canada. These six weeks will be the longest stretch we have stayed in one spot in the past year. To make things even more deluxe, we just got an internet connection to the Tiny House, so we will be able to blog more. You can read about our travel adventures at www.raviandalison.com.

Also, I plan to get back into a regular rhythm posting to http://www.sethigherstandards.com as well. If you are still subscribed, thanks for sticking it out!

Thank You Microsoft

Thank you Microsoft for all of the amazing memories, friendships and a lifetime worth of learning about business, technology and perhaps most importantly, a lesson on how to work together with others to achieve a common vision. It’s funny how the skills I learned in grade-school about how to cooperate and work well with others ended up being the most important ones in my career.

I joined Microsoft over 13 years ago – as an intern. Towards the end of my internship, I was given the offer to join full-time. After exploring some other career options, I figured what the heck – Microsoft would be a great place to spend a couple years (at most!) before going to get my MBA. I never imagined that a 20 year old would be given so much responsibility anywhere else. I accepted! The MBA never happened. I was learning a ton on the job and fell in love with Seattle and the company. What I thought to be a short stint turned into much more.

During my career I worked on mergers and acquisitions, new business models, product naming and branding, pricing, market research, product planning and finally, business planning for our retail channel. I’ve traveled the world, met with Fortune 500 companies and CTOs, worked as an individual contributor and been a manager of several different teams. I worked on line of business software, productivity software, enterprise services, consumer services and operating systems. I couldn’t have asked for a more broad-based and educational experience.

I can say without question that happiness in the workplace is directly related to the person you work for. A boss means everything. I’ve been lucky to have many world-class managers. Thank you to my past managers: Paul, Marc, Jason, Jenna and Bernardo. You gave me the latitude and flexibility to do my work as I saw fit and apply my own creativity, with just enough guidance to stave off disaster. You looked out for the business and also for my own well-being. Thank you for that.

What’s next?

I am leaving Microsoft to travel the world, see the American country-side and witness my life through a different lens. I’m not leaving to join any other company – as most people would think. I don’t have a startup idea or some other business venture on the side. I am simply resigning to do something now that I thought I wouldn’t be doing until after I retired.

Most importantly, I am lucky to have the chance to go on this great adventure with the most special person in my life – my wife Alison – before kids or further obligations come into the picture. For my entire adult life my identity has been largely defined by Microsoft and the Seattle area. Aside from heights, the only thing that scares me is the idea of living a life wondering “what if…” I’m going to find the answer to that question.

So here I go. I’m going to spend the forseeable future (a year? maybe more?) living a different type of life that is free of daily work, and full of whatever else comes to mind. Some days will be great, others will be tough. This vagabond style of life is not going to be forever, but it is the right thing for now. As a 34 year old, I have many more years of my life left to work (and plan to!).

For now, it is time to get my but out on the road while I am healthy and able.

You can follow our exploits at www.raviandalison.com.

Ravi

Warren Buffett – How to Identify a Good Investment

Words of wisdom from the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffet.

 

Highlights

  • Habits and character matter a lot…pay attention to how things are done not just what gets done.
  • People who function well are not the ones with the “biggest motors” they are the ones with the “most efficient motors.”
  • Story of founder of Nebraska Furniture Mart still working at age 101, and sharp as a tack 
  • If you can buy a business with a founder who has strong character and solid work ethic and smarts you can’t go wrong. 
  • Any good investment idea can be put in one paragraph.
  • “Buy a business that is so good that any idiot can run it, because sooner or later one will!” Warren Buffet quoting Peter Lynch.
  • Circle of confidence. You need to know what you know vs don’t know and be clear on where the edges are. 
  • When I find a good business I buy a lot of it and hold it for a long time, since there aren’t many of them out there.
  • The time to sell a really great business is NEVER. 
  • I like business where I think I know what it will look like in 20 years.

 

Unarmed Self-Defense Training

Last weekend I attended an Unarmed Self Defense workshop, conducted by Insights Training. The last time I hit anyone was in tae kwon do class when I was 10 years old. I figured it would be a good idea to learn how to hit and defend myself at a basic level. I also heard great things about the training and figured it would be a good use of a weekend. I was right.

The workshop was two full days and was mostly drill-focused with partners. Hardly any time was spent sitting in chairs. We would learn a technique for defending/attacking and then carry it out multiple times with multiple opponents. We covered a variety of grabs and attacks – both standing and on the ground. We also learned how to de-escalate verbally and through body language. The culmination of the day was a full force attack against a trainer in a specially designed attack suit. During breaks the trainer would tell stories and answer questions to teach new material.

The most important learning  for me was a new mindset (one of preparedness and a desire to protect what matters most) and a firm understanding of my rights to protect what is important to me. Mindset is even more critical than fitness, equipment or skill. Personal safety is not something I have spent much time thinking about so this weekend definitely opened my mind to a whole new world and how to deal with it effectively. If you are in the Seattle area I highly recommend taking this training.

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Me telling my attacker who is boss!

 

Nothing to Do and That’s OK With Me

I’m finishing up the first month of my sabbatical and I’ve intentionally not set any big goals or projects in front of me. The last thing I want to do is treat this break from work like I treat my work! So for the past month I’ve mostly chilled out.

I did spend 10 days on Kauai, but even that was very spontaneous and every day just unfolded as it needed to. Not much in the way of planning went into that trip. I had a permit for a few nights of camping and figured out the rest as the days rolled by.

Fast forward a month, and this morning my brain was sorta freaking out, feeling like it didn’t have a focus, I was rudderless and life was passing me by. I just went back to bed and that fixed things up really quickly! Amazing what a cure sleep can be.

Nowadays I’m quite content doing yard work, riding my bike around town fetching groceries, cleaning the house, reading (a lot) and going for the occasional run or hike. I’ve also starting learning more about how to properly use the fancy digital camera I bought last year. I now know that the “intelligent auto” setting is decent but far from suitable for many shots I aspire to take.

I’ve been surprised how my mind/body has been anxious at the prospect of not having a big project on the horizon, meetings to attend or a big to-do list, but I suppose that is the experience I needed to have this past month and I’ve learned to accept that.

Early Retirement Extreme by Jacob Lund Fisker

Early Retirement Extreme: A Philosophical and Practical Guide to Financial IndependenceEarly Retirement Extreme: A Philosophical and Practical Guide to Financial Independence by Jacob Lund Fisker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is book is not like any of the other “retire early in 10 easy steps” books…it is a full-blown life plan for making it happen, and not for those who aren’t willing or able to take massive action to change their current consumerist habits.

I’ve read a ton of blogs and books on financial management and investment, but this one has a very counter-intuitive and yes – EXTREME – approach to retirement that can be achieved relatively quickly. The overall thesis is that by saving a majority of one’s net income (50, 60, 70 or even 80%!) on an annual basis, it is possible to “retire” in five years or so. This is the case not just due to the high amount of savings, but the low annual expenses needed to sustain a lifestyle where you live on 20% of what is earned. The author was a theoretical physicist and the attention to detail comes through (and at times the math equations get a bit extreme!).

What I liked:
1. A significant amount of the book is devoted to the MINDSET needed (philosophy /psychology) around the early retirement approach. It really goes deep and Jacob provides examples (from his own life), frameworks to help the reader understand character types and plenty of hardcore data.
2. There are specific strategies and tactics that can be applied on day 1 by the reader to boost savings and cut expenses. Some may not apply to you, but many will.
3. There is a very detailed blog Early Retirement Extreme that provides more examples, Q&A topics and links to an active online forum to go deeper into various topics.

What I didn’t like:
1. Many times the books dives too deep into a topic (e.g. in taking about character archetypes, detailing math equations) or seem to be going off on tangents and rambling. I am good at skimming/skipping this stuff so didn’t mind it too much. Overall, there is much more good about this book to love so I was willing to put up with these parts.

View all my reviews

Vegetarian food on Moorea Island in French Polynesia

On my honeymoon here in French Polynesia. Right now we are on the island of Moorea. Much of the cuisine here is French style. Tons of fish and meat oriented dishes. There is a lack of awareness amongst locals and the hotel staff regarding vegetarian food on the island, though there are many options available if you choose to seek it out. It does amaze me that given how expensive everything is and the number of tourists that come through that there are not more veggie options.

The fruits here are great, pineapple and papaya especially. There are citrus and coconuts too.

Many restaurants have pizza, pasta and salads to choose from if you are vegetarian. All places have desserts….Chocolate mousse, ice creams, creme brule.

Some recommendations:

Intercontinental Hotel: several options on the menu, including a salad (tell them what you want and they will make it), a veggie pizza, veggie sandwich (again, tell them what you want on it, it isn’t on the menu), veggie stir fry noodles (they have tofu…but you need to ask them for it), French fries, samosas. The breakfast buffet here is epic. Made to order eggs, pastries, fruit bar, cereals, potatoes, several steamed veggies, meats, coffee and self serve espresso machine. We got the breakfast every day and then just had an afternoon snack and dinner.

Le Sunset restaurant at the Hibiscus Hotel: veggie pizza was very good, best of three pizzas we had here so far. The goat cheese salad was great and very big. We also had French fries (thick cut, like steak fries). The view is remarkable, right on the beach. Prices are also affordable compared to other places. The owner will pick up and drop off if you stay nearby.

Les Tipaniers: close to the intercontinental hotel, this place had an amazing vegetarian lasagna. We also had a veggie pasta dish that was quite good. Prices are decent, though Le Sunset was cheaper. They also pick up and drop off from hotels nearby.

Le Plantation: this place actually had a section of the menu labelled vegetarian! They had a few options….a veggie/soy pasta dish, a tofu mango stir fry with rice and some other stuff. The food was decent. However it was very expensive and I preferred the food at the other places noted above.

Overall, as long as you eat cheese/eggs, there is plenty to eat here for vegetarians. Vegans will need to be creative and plan ahead – bring a few bags of nuts, visit the local grocery store for fruits when you arrive. It is doable to travel here as a vegan, but definitely plan for it!

Also, prices are costly, even small restaurants outside the large hotels will cost about $80 for dinner for two….for one drink each, a salad to share, two entrees and a dessert to share. Costs are roughly double what I would pay back in Seattle at a decent restaurant.

Yoga Strengthens Your Weakest Links

I recently started practicing yoga asana again after a 9 month hiatus. Life got busy so I spent my time doing things aside from heading to a warm yoga studio to sweat and breath deeply. Over the past few weeks I’ve rolled out my mat several times. I’ve re-discovered how my yoga practice illuminates and challenges my “weakest links.” Right now these weak links are my ability to breath deeply, flex my spine and maintain a steadiness of mind. What I love is that even though I’m challenged now, I know that what is challenged will inevitably react and strengthen.

 

The Fear of Enlightenment – Alan Watts

  • Each of us are really the Great Self
  • We deny this because we don’t “feel it”
  • We are frightened of feeling it
  • We develop a method of practice of putting off feeling it
  • We think we need to suffer and be worthy of being our Great Self
  • All of this is just postponement, because we are  afraid to see it in the here and now
  • Suffering is something we (falsely) think we need to do to achieve enlightenment
  • Suffering has nothing to do with realization of the Self
  • Realization of the Self is just about “coming off it” (it being our own perceived model of the world)
  • A guru/teacher is always saying to you “what are you doing? what is your game?”
  • A guru/teacher has many methods of helping you see the reality of who you are
  • If you have a thin shell, it can be easy for a guru/teacher to help you
  • If you have a thick shell, it can be tougher