Elevator Pitch

A lot of bankers come to visit us for marketing their services and request to give an overview so that they can offer services to us accordingly. Recently, we made our first trip abroad to introduce our bank to other banks. Initially, the description that came out of our mouths was in awkward pauses and stutters but after a few meetings we had refined our pitch. Though not necessarily an elevator pitch but we felt that it described us perfectly as well as gave the person we were meeting a perfect idea of what we are looking for. The bank is still trying to figure out what it wants to be so as time goes by we may refine it further or it may change altogether. Right now, this is the spiel:

We are a new bank and young bank in a market which is already over banked with large and well established banks, We cant compete with those banks in standard products. Our balance sheet size is small so we cant write a cheque of $100 million. We cant even write a cheque of $50 million. On the other side, our cost of fund is high so we can’t grow by offering cheap funding to blue chip corporations. Not to say that we don’t participate in standard thinly priced transactions that are there in the market. We do. But those just help us to break even. Moreover we just turned nominally profitable this year so we really can’t bet the bank on high risk speculative transactions. We need to find a sector or niche which enables us to grow sustainably.

Just to give you an overview, from revenue generation perspective, broadly our bank is divided into 3 departments: Corporate, Retail and Investments.Corporate looks after local corporate plain vanilla financing, retail looks after local retail financing and everything else comes to us: international syndication, international real estate, funds, sukuk, equity, structured finance (local as well as international) etc

Corporate and Retail will grow the bank in line with the economy, but the real differentiation will come from Investment Department. Till last year we mainly participated in syndication and funds but it wasn’t participation for participation’s sake. We cast a wide net to gauge which banks we want to forge a relationship with. This year we have started origination. And we are originating land mark deals relative to our size and age. We will be launching an international syndication for a local corporate shortly. We have been appointed JLMS for a first corporate sukuk coming out of Asian country. Shortly we will be launching a US real estate fund and US Equipment leasing fund to offer to our private banking customers. We are doing a sharia compliant securitization program for one of the largest vehicle financing  company in country. You will be reading about all these transactions soon in the press.

Most importantly we have assembled a young energetic team which is not afraid to roll up its sleeves and gets its hands dirty. I have a background in funds, real estate & private equity. Y was part of DCM team in one of the oldest and largest islamic finance institution in the region and lead managed large number of syndication and sukuk transactions. T is a structured finance maestro. T is also the head of department but as I said we are not afraid to roll up the sleeves. Depending on the nature of transaction one of as becomes a champion but all of as work together as a team.

What we are looking for is partnerships. We may participate once or twice but if we see that you treat us as we are just another bank writing a cheque, we may not value that relationship. Our mandate is very wide and we are looking for partners who have skin in the game and co-invest and co-partner with us in transactions.

So this is us.

You are a small banker, so act like one

I have been thinking over this issue for some time. Then I read this article today and it crystallized my fragmented thoughts and I decide it to put it online. Initially I was planning to tweet this but then I realized it will take many tweets to say what I want to say. I am not like @pmarca Marc Andreessen whose legendary tweet storms are lapped up by his cult followers as divine revelations.

I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I have changed my job. Its a relatively new bank in a market that is very liquid and over-banked. The challenge with working with a small and new institution is that you can’t take on the big boys (large and well established old banks) in this game. You might be able to have a quicker turnaround compared to large bureaucratic banks but with decade long established corporate relationships this is not much of an advantage. Say you are used to borrowing $200 million each from Citibank singly and it takes them a month to approve the line. Suppose we can get back to you within a fortnight with our approvals but due to regulatory and risk concentration reasons, can only offer you US$27M max (not even a round number) . You’d rather wait another fortnight and get a nice lump sum from Citibank without the hassles of opening new account and completing KYC for such irregular sums with a new bank like us. Anyway, once you get $27Million from us, you will need to approach someone else to raise the remaining $173M.

What we can do is search for opportunities that these big banks are ignoring. These may not necessarily be riskier but are not plain vanilla either. We may need to structure them differently, crossall the “t”s and dotting all the “i”s in legal documents, ring fence the assets etc. Such customers may not come to us. We have to seek them out. The problem with bankers we hired is that they all come from well established large banks where the corporate borrower came to them because they have the balance sheet to singly finance the needs of the customer. It didn’t matter who was the relationship manager in the large bank. The corporate had a relationship with the bank and not the relationship manager.

Anyway the problem is not with the relationship manager. The problem is much higher than that. The CEO, the Corporate Head, etc all have come from large banks and do not display the zeal that is required for the small bank to expand. I am not saying that we need out-of-box thinker as I am not one. But what we need are people who are willing to put in the extra effort. People willing to roll up their sleeves and go out to acquire customers. A corporate head who is actually willing to meet and work with less than blue chip companies. Issuing a press release for being a part of 29 bank consortium that provided funding to a government backed entity is not how small banks make a name for themselves.

Now we are hiring a treasurer as our last treasurer resigned few days ago. I have heard that this treasurer worked for a government owned investment vehicle for 30 years. What the fuck will he know about running a bank treasury where you have daily liquidity requirements. Just because we are a small bank doesn’t mean our treasury requirements are small. We need to setup lines with international banks, ask local banks to increase our limits, monitor liquidity on daily weekly basis. I don’t think a 60+ guy who has worked in sedentary government treasury for 30 Years is the man for it.

Don’t think that the bank will grow much if we keep acting like a large bank.

Modeling Structured Finance in VBA

Landed our first securitization deal. Was asked if I am interested in doing the securitization modeling or should we outsource to the big four auditing firms or someone in India for doing it on the cheap or saving us time. I volunteered that I will do it (it will be good for my CV and allow me to play around with my hobby of coding).

Brought out William Preinitz “A Fast Track to Structured Finance Modeling” and read almost 300 pages into it in a few hourse. After having used python for some time, verbosity of VBA was like a culture shock. Secondly, I tried to follow the coding examples of Preinitz in my own data file. Late into night coding by copying and I realize that I am not learning much. So I start a new file and start coding in VBA from start without referring to the book example yet following the same methodology. I of using a 2D array to load the whole raw data into memory, I follow Preinitz’s methodology loading each column of data in its own single array. This being VBA and “Option Explicit” feature switched on to prevent unintentionally creating variables (by typo), it required firstly declaring a global array variable, secondly ReDim that array to length of column and finally loading the column data in to that array. I have to do this for each column I have to load. Similarly, to do collateral screening, I have to refer to each data column by name.

I had presumed that may be its faster to load data into 1D array and test it by going array by array rather than loading all of it up in a single 2D array because that is why Preinitz goes about doing it. I googled around a bit and whoa.. was I surprised. With the current computer speeds, its faster to load the whole dataset as a single 2D array. Moreover, I do not have to create complicated variable names to refer to data. I can go to them by just using column numbers. Fucking hell. This makes my life so much easier. Fewer variables to create

I will plan to test this today or tomorrow night but God, Preinitz couldn’t have made it harder. Who knows, when the program increases in complexity, I might regret this but common sense tells me I won’t.

How to build your career? Military edition

As A friend of mine quipped, that Pakistani Generals have well rounded CVs hence suited for any position once they retire such as MDs of public sector utilities like WAPDA, KESC and Pak Steel Mills etc, Vice Chancellor of Universities, Ambassadors etc whereas Indian Generals are one trick pony.

Woh Jo Tareek Rahon Mein Maaray Gaye

[TRANSLATION: Those who died in dark pathways]

In my last post, I mentioned that I had a long discussion with a friend about career choices we make and regrets we have as a result. He was going through a tough patch in his career. Though we had gone over a few opportunities that have come his way, but they were not attractive involved a step down but if everything went well and economy turns around, he might make it back very quickly. But those are a lot of “if”s. So I sent him the following excerpt from The Everything Store:

“When you are in the thick of things, you can get confused by small stuff,” Bezos said a few years later. “I knew when I was eighty that I would never, for example, think about why I walked away from my 1994 Wall Street bonus right in the middle of the year at the worst possible time. That kind of thing just isn’t something you worry about when you’re eighty years old. At the same time, I knew that I might sincerely regret not having participated in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a revolutionizing event. When I thought about it that way… it was incredibly easy to make the decision.”

Just to allay his hesitation, I also shared my personal leap of faith:

[The excerpt] didn’t help me in making the decision to switch but made me feel less bad for switching when bonuses(tiny as they may be) are expected within couple of months after a hiatus of 5 years.

I am not a fan of self-help books or self-help mantra and I know one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t work for everyone but I believed that the book excerpt is something to ponder over. But what I didn’t expect was the response I got. I had touched a nerve. My friend replied:

Statements such as these (coming from successful ones) never impress/motivate me. These people are only a minor %age of all those who dared to switch to do something new but crashed and burned, and both you & I know that nobody knows and gives a shit about “Woh jo tareek rahoN meiN maray gayae” ones, and what they did or say about their fucked up experiences.

I am so confident that when go and ask the losers (majority group I mentioned later) how they feel about their decision, 90% of them would regret taking that daring step that changed their life altogether (of course in a bad way) and the rest of the 10% who answer that they never felt regret and If given chance would like to do it again, are all lying.

I could have let it be but knowing that he is my friend and I want the best for him, I gave it my last shot:

My points always have been:

[Firstly,] Hindsight is 20:20. If you look back considering new developments that happened after you took the decision, it is a wrong way to look at it. One should always look at the decisions he took in light of the information one had available at the time. Moving to (my current employer) was a good decision [for me]. No one knew the future and that [financial] crisis would strike so hard.

Secondly, only Allah knows the future. Every such decision I have taken after doing quite a lot of istikharas. It’s my belief that after that it’s in lords hands. Yes, I complained, I was miserable but not for the decisions I took. Just because of the circumstances I was in. And since its after istikhara, I like to think I would’ve been more miserable if I haven’t moved.

Thirdly, Rizq jitna likha hai Milna hai. Question is whether you got it rightly, wrongly or while you were miserable in a job or if you were happy in your work. And that was the complaint. I was miserable because I wasn’t doing anything. It was never about money or job title. Always about not learning anything.

Fourthly, this is where you piss me off with your constant cribbing about why you went to world renowned education institution. I am extremely grateful to Allah for enabling the realization of my dream to study abroad in one of the best schools of the world. For someone coming from a university which is about to be closed and didn’t know a GMAT score from GRE score, I have come a long way. And wouldn’t have been possible without the right friends (such as yourself) and right circumstances (nothing which I could control).

Fifthly, those who regret their decisions are I believe stupid and ungrateful. Question is did they take a decision blindly without looking at circumstances or did they make the decision soundly after considering all the available information? If it’s the latter, there is nothing to regret. Not everything works out as planned. As barhay boorhays have said, “man proposes, god disposes”. You don’t and can’t know everything. The only question is did you do the right thing.

We can have more discussion whenever we meet but moping about without even making a CV is a shit way to go about it.

The last one was the final nail as he had been crying about his circumstances for over a year and whenever  I ask him if he applied for certain opportunities he came across, he always replied that he has to update his CV.

Again, we all know that what has worked for one person will not necessarily work for the other person because of his unique circumstances, physical attributes, personality traits and luck. Even twins have a totally different life trajectory despite having the same upbringing from the start.

Anyway, what my friend was referring to and what I am myself am wary of is what is described as “undersampling of failure” in the book The Success Equation:

Perhaps the best-known book about this method is Jim Collins’s Good to Great. Collins and his team analyzed thousands of companies and isolated eleven whose performance went from good to great. They then identified the concepts that they believed had caused those companies to improve—these include leadership, people, a fact-based approach, focus, discipline, and the use of technology—and suggested that other companies adopt the same concepts to achieve the same sort of results. This formula is intuitive, includes some great narrative, and has sold millions of books for Collins.

No one questions that Collins has good intentions. He really is trying to figure out how to help executives. And if causality were clear, this approach would work. The trouble is that the performance of a company always depends on both skill and luck, which means that a given strategy will succeed only part of the time. So attributing success to any strategy may be wrong simply because you’re sampling only the winners. The more important question is: How many of the companies that tried that strategy actually succeeded?

Jerker Denrell, a professor of strategy at Oxford, calls this the undersampling of failure. He argues that one of the main ways that companies learn is by observing the performance and characteristics of successful organizations. The problem is that firms with poor performance are unlikely to survive, so they are inconspicuously absent from the group that any one person observes. Say two companies pursue the same strategy, and one succeeds because of luck while the other fails. Since we draw our sample from the outcome, not the strategy, we observe the successful company and assume that the strategy was good. In other words, we assume that the favorable outcome was the result of a skillful strategy and overlook the influence of luck. We connect cause and effect where there is no connection. We don’t observe the unsuccessful company because it no longer exists. If we had observed it, we would have seen the same strategy failing rather than succeeding and realized that copying the strategy blindly might not work.

The title of this post is a misquote from famous Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Below it is in full with translation from here:

Tere honton ke phoolon ki chaahat mein hum
Daar ki khushk tahni pe vaare gaye
Tere haathon ki shammom ki hasrat mein hum
Neem-tareek raahon mein maare gaye…
Jab ghuli teri raahon mein shaam-e sitam
Hum chale aaye laaye jahaañ tak qadam
Lab pe harf-e ghazal, dil meiñ qandeel-e-gham
Apna gham tha gavaahi tere husn ki
Dekh khaayam rahe is gavaahi pe hum
Hum jo tareek raahon mein maare gaye

In the desire for the flowers that were your lips
We were sacrificed on the dry branch of the scaffold
In the yearning for the light of your hands
We were killed in the darkening streets…
As the evening of tyranny dissolved in your memory
We walked on as far as our feet could carry us
A song on our lips, a lamp of sadness in our heart
Our grief bore witness to our love for your beauty
Look, we remained true to that love
We, who were executed in the dark lanes.

 

This is the full poem in Urdu script if anyone is interested

تیرے ہونٹوں کے پھولوں کی چاہت میں ہم
دار کی خشک ٹہنی پہ وارے گئے
تیرے ہاتھوں کی شمعوں کی حسرت میں ہم
نیم تاریک راہوں‌ میں مارے گئے

سولیوں پر ہمارے لبوں سے پرے
تیرے ہونٹوں کی لالی لپکتی رہی
تیری زلفوں کی مستی برستی رہی
تیرے ہاتھوں کی چاندی دمکتی رہی

جب گھلی تیری راہوں میں شامِ ستم
ہم چلے آئے، لائے جہاں تک قدم
لب پہ حرفِ غزل، دل میں قندیل غم
اپنا غم تھا گواہی تیرے حسن کی
دیکھ قائم رہے اس گواہی پہ ہم
ہم جو تاریک راہوں‌ میں‌ مارے گئے

نار سائی اگر اپنی تقدیر تھی
تیری الفت تو اپنی ہی تدبیر تھی
کس کو شکوہ ہے گر شوق کے سلسلے
ہجر کی قتل گاہوں سے سب جا ملے

قتل گاہوں سے چن کر ہمارے عَلم
اور نکلیں گے عشاق کے قافلے
جن کی راہ طلب سے ہمارے قدم
مختصر کر چلے درد کے فاصلے

کر چلے جن کی خاطر جہاں‌گیر ہم
جاں گنوا کر تری دلبری کا بھرم
ہم جو تاریک راہوں‌ میں ‌مارے گئے

Decision Journal : Job Switch

Earlier I had talked about my career going nowhere in a few posts here, here and here. Now I have finally been presented with an opportunity and I have resigned from my current job. I am optimistic about the new job (otherwise why would I have chosen it) but I am also careful not to have too high hopes as I have seen that greener grass on the other side can turn yellow few years down the road or sometimes even as soon as you step on it.

I had a long discussion with my closest friend about taking leaps of faiths, regrets and future not turning out how one hoped it would (I will right the next post on the discussion), and then I came across this article How to Improve Decision Making in Your Organization which suggests making a decision journal:

Whenever you’re making a decision of consequence, take a moment to think; Write down the relevant variables that will govern the outcome, what you expect to happen, and why you expect it to happen. (Optionally you can add how you feel about the decision and your confidence level in the outcome you expect.)

A journal of this nature will reduce hindsight bias and give you accurate and honest feedback.

It’ll also help you distinguish between when you’re right for the wrong reasons and when you’re wrong for the right reasons.

If you’re anything like me, one thing that you’ll discover is that, on the few occasions when you’re right, it’s often for the wrong reasons.

I have already resigned a week ago but I think the variables that nudged me in this direction as still fresh in my mind. It will also help me to make an improved decision when next time I am presented with similar opportunity.

The opportunity

Title:                  One step down

Salary:               Slightly above

Organization:      Reputed, well established financial institution

The Positives

  • Small department reporting directly to CEO
    • Not a huge hierarchy at the moment. It means unless someone is sandwiched in between, the communication channel with the CEO will be direct and I will get due credit if I do good work
  • Learning new stuff
    • Potential of learning lots of challenging new work in international investments, syndications and debt capital markets something I wanted to do for a long time but wasn’t able to do
    • Whereas my current job promises my lot of relaxation, the greatest fear I have is that my mind is rusting. If god forbid I get fired from this position (which seems not improbable due to recent warning made by my superior explained further in glass ceiling point below) I will have a hard time landing a new job because I have not added much to my skillset in past 5 years
    • Secondly, my work in past few years has been in restructuring and any good opportunities that present themselves nowadays are asking for people with new investment experience. If I accept this position, I will get the requisite exposure of new investment which is so sought out during boom times.
  • New financial institution does not have a heavy baggage like my present employer
    • The new employer that I am joining is a proper bank whereas currently I work for an investment company_a sector which has received lot of flak in the crisis years. On the other hand the bank was established after the crisis and hence does not have a stigma of huge losses, restructuring or bail out attached with it thus giving me the opportunity to make a clean break.
  • The institutions has funds as well as willingness to deploy those funds
    • Though we talk about some funds coming available in my current job (I was responsible for managing those assets and generating those funds) however those are not huge funds and will be utilized in maximum two real estate investments. After that it will be back to monitoring existing investments. Whereas the new organization not only has available liquidity to invest but is also investing in multiple sectors (not just real estate) thus allowing me to add to diversify my skillset and add to my CV.
  • Istikhara
    • Unlike other people I don’t see signs in Istikhara. I just pray while deciding to make the decision or during the interview phase for example and if everything pans out in the end and my mind is inclined in that direction I take the decision. Even if the consequences doesn’t play out as I hoped they would, but since I did the Istikhara I believe that I am better off. Who knows something worse might have happened if I had not taken the decision. Life has ups and downs and nobody knows the future. Having done the istikhara makes me feel better (not always but most of the times) when I am going through a rough patch down the path in the decision I have taken.

The Negatives

  • May be a glass ceiling for expats
    • The way my superior at the current position told me couple of months ago, he was hinting that I have already surpassed a glass ceiling as he can’t deliver what he promised me 2 years ago for sticking with him and lot of locals in the office have their eyes on my office room
  • Politics
    • This is really a disadvantage. If there is politics in my current organization, I am really immune to it for now. Whereas in the new place not only there is “Egyptian mafia” in the Accounts department but also lot of pressure from Government as well as locals on the CEO to hire locals and push out expats.
  • No increase in salary and missing out on Bonus
    • The elusive bonus that was supposed to be given to us in March 2013 and its December 2013 and it still hasn’t been announced due to some issues with Board of Director’s compensation and reluctance of parent company.
    • And its my belief that any Rizq that Allah has written for me, I will get it either Halal way or Haram way or while I am doing challenging assignment or while I am miserable in my job browsing the internet the whole day.
  • CEO dependent
    • I have a track record in my current position, however, in my new organization my growth, development and even if I get to stay depends on CEO as he is involved in nitty-gritty of the bank. Moreover, if he leaves and in his place a new CEO comes, he may not be interested in taking the same path to growth as earlier CEO has taken and might bring in his blue eyed boys to run the show and sidelining me.
  • One step down in job title
    • When I joined my current organization, I had taken a step down in my career as well as salary. I was getting into the most vibrant sector before the crisis and I also wanted to get out of corporate back office finance to the front office world of investment. Unfortunately, days after my joining the new company, Lehman Brothers collapsed and it has been an uphill struggle since then to recover my title as well as my earlier salary (during this time I have grown, my family size has increased etc). Now after 5 years, I am moving to another job with stars in my eyes (not really, after the last 5 years, I am what you call in financial BS “cautiously optimistic”) with another step down. I had a long discussion with the CEO of my prospective employer over the titles but he just wouldn’t budge saying that if he moves to Citibank, he will not be made CEO as he is coming from a smaller financial institution and he might join them as VP or SVP etc. I impressed upon him that the title he is offering me is entry level (it wasn’t but it makes my case stronger) and anywhere you go no one will come at this title. I am happy to say that after 45 minutes of discussion and to and fro, though I still didn’t get what I sought but he agreed to nudge me one position upwards. I like to think of this step down as “investment in my career” as I mentioned in my earlier post Karma is a bitch.

The Conclusion

The idea of a journal is to help one decide what decision to take and be a useful reference for future when hindsight is 20-20. Since I resigned a week ago, I am highlighting here the variables I considered in making a decision. If one looks at it lengthwise, the negatives are larger than positive implying that I have allotted higher weight to positive factors.

I assigned weights to all the listed points initially: +100 divided equally amount positives and -100 divided equally amongst negatives. Then I changed the weights relative to each other based on how I subjectively felt about them when I took the decision.

  • Small department                    +20
  • Learning new stuff                   +50
  • New financial institution           +30
  • Have funds                             +40
  • Istikhara                                +50
  • Glass ceiling                          -20
  • Politics                                  -20
  • Missing out on bonus              -10
  • CEO dependent                      -40
  • One step down                       -40
  • NET                                      +60

Weight allocations are bit arbitrary and not normalized but this is my first attempt and it is as much subjective (or may be more) as it is objective. The reason I have allocated higher weight to “one step down” is as it hurt me the most and this is the most I negotiated when I accepted the job offer.

Only Allah knows the future. All that man can do is to strive with hard work and dedication, analyze his options if and when they become available as best as he can and take decisions that he believes are best under the circumstances. Finally, he must pray that Allah accepts his struggles and make the future full of prosperity for him.

Failing

Caveat: This post will have a religious flavor. Moreover, the chronology of the events is true

Wednesday, 20th November 2013

I read this longform piece What It’s Like to Fail. Though one may not agree with the choices author made but it is an inspiring uplifting story about a man trying to survive and fight against the consequences of the bad decisions he had made. One paragraph particularly stood out:

What happens when you hit bottom? I can tell you one thing: you don’t bounce back. You crawl back, fighting every step of the way. It isn’t a straight arc back up either; there are dozens of setbacks every step of the way. And the place you land isn’t anywhere near where you were when you slipped off the cliff.

It is human nature but an Ivy League education makes you more conscious of where in the corporate ladder your classmates are. It is cliched but no one measures their quality of life in strength of their relationships with friends and family. The measure of a successful person is his wealth, which school one’s kids go to, what is the job description and employer name on one’s business card, where did we go to during summer holidays etc. And yes, we do admit everyday that we are amongst top 5% or top 10% of the world and non-deservingly more blessed than 5.5 billion people (assuming world population is 6 billion) but the circle we move in comprises of top 5% of the world and we always compare ourselves to them.

Post financial crisis of 2008, amongst the 150 or so graduates of my Ivy League class, only one or two updated their job descriptions on LinkedIn with a promotion or move up the career ladder. And comparing myself to them made me depressed as my career had come to a stand still. I carried on at my dead end job because there weren’t any better jobs in the market. What I knew from school grapevine but didn’t admit to myself was that reason many of my colleagues were not updating their profiles had been made redundant by the crisis. I talked to quite a few colleagues from my earlier jobs and with the exception of one or two, all are sticking to their jobs (with or without promotion) because their current jobs is providing them temporary job security which is a huge stress relief in these fluid times.

Thursday, 21st November 2013

I called up one of my closest friend. Both of us lamented our lucks. We took a break from career, went to business school and graduated a year before the credit crisis struck. While we were studying, it was still hey days and our colleagues climbed up the corporate ladder during this time. So when we joined the workforce, unlike earlier times wherein we were supposed to get a bigger and higher role as our CV was embellished with a top university education, we had to struggle very hard to get the position we left. Though I don’t think of it this way, but from a career growth perspective, the decision to go for a higher education at an elite university appears like a mistake to my friend. I look at it totally differently. It was one of my dreams to go for an education at an elite university and with grace of God I realized that dream. I look at the decision to go to the elite university like this as founder and CEO of Amazon Jeff Bezos had said:

“When you are in the thick of things, you can get confused by small stuff,” Bezos said a few years later. “I knew when I was eighty that I would never, for example, think about why I walked away from my 1994 Wall Street bonus right in the middle of the year at the worst possible time. That kind of thing just isn’t something you worry about when you’re eighty years old. At the same time, I knew that I might sincerely regret not having participated in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a revolutionizing event. When I thought about it that way… it was incredibly easy to make the decision.”

For me the experience, the learning and achievement of sitting amongst the top finance leaders of the future and having studied, competed and held my own in academics with the best students of the world is a source of pride. I don’t know whether I will get to live to 80 and be able to derive same pride at that age but having realized one of my dreams is something to be truly thankful for.

I didn’t complain about my decision to go for an elite education but I did complain about how the career has come to a stop, prices for foodstuff, rent as well as kid’s tuition fees are rising etc and life isn’t exactly turning out to be how I thought it would. By life (I meant career).

Friday, 22nd November 2013

The Friday sermon at the mosque was about being thankful for what you have and comparing yourself to the ones below you and not comparing yourself for what you don’t have. Have heard such pep talk before. Then the Imam quoted following verses from the Quran. I don’t know about you but I have felt that whenever a verse is quoted from Quran, it just sinks directly into my heart and clears up a lot of things. May be it is faith. May be I am what you call a fundamentalist. Despite having read large number of books on worldly wisdom and sciences, I am still melted by Quranic verses. And the timing was perfect. It felt like that sermon was especially for me as I was feeling down.


And [remember] when your Lord proclaimed, ‘If you are grateful, I will surely increase you [in favor]; but if you deny, indeed, My punishment is severe.’ ” [Ibrahim:7]

Yet we are all human and sometimes feel that God is unnecessarily punishing us or testing us. And the Imam then quoted the following verse

What would Allah do with your punishment if you are grateful and believe? And ever is Allah Appreciative and Knowing. [Nisa:147]

This reminded me of the verse that my father used to quote:

And do not wish for that by which Allah has made some of you exceed others. For men is a share of what they have earned, and for women is a share of what they have earned. And ask Allah of his bounty. Indeed Allah is ever, of all things, Knowing.

The crux of above verse being that never compare yourself or ask the Lord for what he has given others. Just keep asking Him for his bounty. He may and will bless you with a different sort of bounty.

So yes, I am in a dead end career for now. And yes, the price of goods and services are rising whereas my income is not rising proportionately at all. And yes by the standards I use to measure my life (read career), I am failing but I have achieved a lot in life, realized a lot of my dreams and more for which I am thankful to Lord and seek His mercy and graciousness to bless me with more bounty from his unlimited sources.

Sunday, 24nd November 2013

A friend shares this as his status update on Facebook:

Volume 1, Book 3, Number 73: Narrated ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud: The Prophet said, “Do not wish to be like anyone except in two cases. (The first is) A person, whom Allah has given wealth and he spends it righteously; (the second is) the one whom Allah has given wisdom (the Holy Qur’an) and he acts according to it and teaches it to others.” (Fateh-al-Bari page 177 Vol. 1)

My earlier related posts: