Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Remembering Ramana Maharshi and Warren Buffett on Guru Poornima

Today is Guru-Poornima. A day to remember one’s gurus. So I ran “Google search” on my mind with “significant influence” as the keyword. The resulting list was long. So I picked up top 2 hits on the first page of results. They turned out to be: Ramana Maharshi and Warren Buffett. I had kept family members (like parents, wife) aside so as to avoid insider advantage. So what kind of influence did these two folks have on my life? Let’s start with Ramana.

A question that pestered me for a number of years is: What the hell is the purpose of my life? Did Ramana help me find a grand purpose for myself? Not at all. On the contrary, he decimated the question and the questioner systematically. A more appropriate question could be: Was it more like Jhatka or Halal (kosher)? OK. I am exaggerating. Ramana did help me find a purpose. It turned out to be (background music): “time pass”. Now, you might say – Why do you need to read Ramana to conclude “time pass” as one’s life purpose? You don’t. In fact, a TV serial would suffice (I remember a regional TV serial with title – TP-TP-Time Pass). But then life is like that. Some people have to spend a lot of energy to learn simple things. Others simply learn it on Discovery channel.

Now, Ramana is more like an armchair strategist. He said, “Now that you found your life purpose my job is done”. That still left me with the question, “How do I pass the time?” In the worst case scenario there are still a few decades left. That’s no small time to while away by just sitting around. That’s when I met Warren Buffett (through his letters to shareholders and books).

Warren gave a hint in one of the lectures while talking to a roomful of students at University of Nebraska. “I am really no different from any of you. If there is any difference between you and me, it may simply be that I get up every day and have a chance to do what I love to do, every day. If you want to learn anything from me, this

is the best advice I can give you.” This advice alone would have been sufficient for Warren to show up on the first page of my “Google search”. But Warren has plenty to give. Business principles which he preached & practiced: Margin of safety, Circle of competence, Mr. Market vagaries, made a huge impact. Result? I quit my job close to three years ago and started independent consulting business (Nothing to do with stock investing … that is beyond my circle of competence.)

Some say gurus become crutches for you to hang-onto. I agree. Eventually, it does not matter which crutches (or how many) you used to learn walking. What matters is whether you have learnt to walk without them.

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