Chance: Get Out of… Debt

Stardate: 11024.6

The last few days made me feel like I was in CERN’s LHC, racing at near light speeds, meeting challenges head-on, smashing them to bits in soundless but resplendent encounters!  The rush of solving problems is addictive but the pace can sometimes take a toll.  So, it appears that in the world of colliders, the fast and furious conjure up loaves of bread or bird feathers simply to take a break from it all!  In the world of polymath’s, recreational cooking can help slow the pace some; aah the scent of pesto and garlic in hot olive oil!!  Had a great time whipping up (and consuming) some spicy pesto shrimp!!!  (Note: Ordinarily Henna doesn’t care for shrimp but this stuff is more than amenable to her – I think she just likes the idea of a man cooking for her while she is on conference calls… She takes this Women’s Development thing very seriously ;-D)

One of the many rabbits – umm particles – that I have been chasing thanks to the considerable motivational drive from my esteemed colleague HS Shajahan Merchant is the Debt Particle.  From an AKEPB perspective, our discussions were centered around leveraging Saleemah Ahmed‘s team to lay out, in simple terms, some strategies that both early career professionals (read: college debt, for which you may want to also investigate income based repayment) and mid-career professionals could follow to mitigate debt service burdens in the short-term and the overall size of personal debt that they may be carrying in the long-run.  Hopefully, by the end of this month, we should have a little card that provides quick pointers on getting out of (or at least reducing the burden of) undesired debt.  Over the last few months, Saleemah’s team has been hard at work helping folks with debt management, so it made sense to ask them to create a quick checklist – a “Get Out of Debt” (as in Monopoly) card.

Now, we don’t need a collider to tell us that there are both Debt Particles and Anti-Particles.  Debt can be good; the kind that fuels growth.  Without instruments such as student loans, home loans, business loans, bonds, and so forth, our socio-economic engine would slow down to an excruciating crawl.  In fact, it could lead to social injustices such as the imprisonment of the marginalized in deep wells of poverty and despair with not even a spark of hope for a way out.  On the other hand, debt can also be bad; the kind that [shaky or illusory] growth fuels.  Ninja loans anyone?

Carrying the particle analogy further, debt can be said to have mass, charge, and spin.  Mass is obvious, the amount of debt carried.  Charge, the debt service of course!  Now for spin.  This one requires a little twist to grasp.  The spin is essentially the credit score (or credit rating for bonds).  The better your credit score, the easier your access to cheaper credit – let’s call this spin “up”.  “Down” spin is truly vicious.  When you get in a credit crisis, your credit score drops (down spin), reducing access to credit and increasing your debt service.  Which in turn would effect an increased need for debt, leading subsequently, to a further reduction in credit score; down spin could become self-perpetuating forming a downward spiral of despair.

The good news is that solutions exist.  Solutions exist regardless of whether you hold Debt Particles or Antiparticles, regardless also of the mass, charge, and spin of those particles.  Now, I’m not saying that it will be easy.  Nor am I saying that this should encourage irresponsible behavior.  On the contrary.  My position remains that regardless of the economic landscape, excercise prudence in managing the mass, charge, and spin of the Debt Particles and resist the lure of Debt Antiparticles!!

PS: The “Get Out of Debt” card is still WIP.  We will bring the compilation to you soon, perhaps in another forum – perhaps even in person!  In the interim, feel free to help by sending me ideas that we should include on the “Get Out of Debt” card – while I go back to my particle smashing!



Stardate 11008.3

No, not the musical group from the 80s but the highly efficient little organ inside us that keeps the red stuff enriched and flowing.  From my basic understanding, our heart is made up of four chambers (and Salima keep me honest here please).  Each apparently routing the blood stream in a different direction; to a different destination.  Viewed in isolation, these chambers seem to be working in a completely disjointed manner, however, when seen together: precision and singular focus.  Amazing!

In our discussions today at the National EPB/IPN meeting, I couldn’t help but be drawn to this image.  Farid (Business Services), Taj (ESS), Saleemah (Financial Services) and I (IPN) have different mandates, different target demographics, and we each (using Chairman Amin’s words) bring a different lens to the discussion.  And while individually, each one of us may have appeared to be moving in different directions – completely opposite at times – in reality, we were enriching ideas by making them flow in different directions, holding them to different standards and scrutiny, ultimately polishing and enhancing them to the point where they were ready to bring life to our programs and services for 2010.  Amazing indeed!!

Who would’ve thought that the *Economic* Planning Board is all heart!!! 😀


Stardate: 11005.8

Not totally sure of the first few minutes, but here is how the story goes, a massive explosion happens sometime in the past.  What is the “past” anyway?  Well, that’s a topic for another day.  Getting back to our story.  There is debris all over – the explosion is so massive, it is still happening.  Debris hurtling in all directions at dizzying speeds.  Some pieces are still white-hot, others have cooled some, and yet others are down-right cold.  The accidental star – well, star dust – of this story is a giant somewhat-egg-shaped blue ball still with a fiery core that is fiercely racing, more like rolling, through space.  This third rock from the sun that we call Earth.  Now, why would this seemingly invincible giant blue ball – resulting from a cosmic explosion – need our protection?  Can it really be fragile in some sense?

No matter which side of the fence you sit on, one thing is for sure the Clean and Renewable Energy sector is here to stay.  And the possibilities are green in more than one sense!  Which is why for one of the sessions at the upcoming Regional Ismaili Professional and Business Conference (RIPBC) in Dallas, IPN is putting together an expert panel to discuss this extremely important and rapidly emerging sector of the economy.  Our goal from an IPN perspective for this session was to cast a net 10 years out in the future to identify new knowledge areas (nKA).  The next step was to zoom in on the nKAs with the greatest potential for sizeable socio-economic impact in relatively short order.  Another factor to bear in mind was the location of the RIPBC; the nKA would have to be relevant.  No surprise then that energy – green energy – kept bubbling up to the top in our discussions.  We sealed the deal when Shajahan, HS for AKEPB USA, proposed Shafiq Jadavji as the lead for this initiative.  Shafiq is an incredibly sharp individual with a strong grasp of this sector.  The scope and format of this panel has pretty much been his brainchild.

So, is green energy the next big thing?  A springboard for investment and engagement?  Or a pothole?  Well, having had subsequent discussions with the panelists, I am  sure that attendees will get a running start on ideas for re-greening the planet and their wallets!  ;-D

Back to the earlier question of protecting our planet.  Ignoring the harm we are causing our environment is like failing to notice that the branch we are cutting – yep the branch way on top of the tree with a great view and fresh air quality – is the very branch on which we are sitting.  Here’s to protecting this big blue ball we call home!  😀

The Outliers

Stardate: 11005.0

Back in Birmingham after an action-packed weekend in Orlando (Florida).  Considering weather conditions and the anticipation of heightened security (read: longer slower lines), I rushed to the airport an hour and a half before my flight on Saturday – only to find out my flight was delayed by about 40 minutes.  The connecting flight, to make matters more exciting I guess, was not.  I had 4 minutes (what’s new).  My flight from Birmingham, brought me to a gate in terminal D while my connecting flight was impatiently preparing to leave from terminal A!  Less than a minute left and I am about 10 gates away – I can almost see it… but will I make it in time?

Made it!  Not because of an incredible feat of agility or a remarkable dimple in space-time.  When I got to the gate, I realized that the connecting flight was delayed after all; by about 15 minutes at that!  So much for an edge-of-the-seat-drama.

HS and I travelled to FL this weekend to join the FL IPN team host an ICS program geared toward placement preparation.  I loved the format of the program – it was very content-focused but not intimidating.  We had super-star panelists and an equally candid and no-nonsense moderator.  The panelists each had over a decade of HR experience in diverse vertical industries.  And they were not shy in the least in sharing their expert opinion and advice.  There was even time for some one-on-one resume review.  The goal of this workshop was to empower attending IPN members with the tools to give them a competitive advantage in realizing their career goals.  Even in this economy.  Especially in this economy.  Based on HS and my observations and early evaluations, the program was very well received and we anticipate that, it will be followed by focused action by the attendees leading to some exciting positive outcomes in terms of placements in the short-run and top-performing IPs in the long-run 😀

Both HS and I were extremely pleased by the thorough planning and impeccable implementation by FL IPN and EPB; for you, we have one word: Bravo (pun intended)!!!  Another aspect that was most inspiring – one that is very dear to my heart – was the effective collaboration between the institutions.  Many kudos to the AKYSB and AKEB for their remarkable partnership in this endeavor.  IMO, it is this kind of collaboration between institutions that will help us make quantum leaps.  The era of going at it alone is history; now is the age of coming together.

PS fringe benefits of volunteering: Although this seminar was designed for people exploring opportunities to advance their careers, I learnt a great deal from these panelists about managing our hiring process and overall HR management to bring back to elixir international!  😀