Commitment Device…

Friday, June 10, 2016…

“So, did you take a vacation this summer? Where did you folks go…?” asked my good friend Laxman – over lunch when we met after a very long time earlier this week…

Laxman has tween-age children… just like mine… and when we are chrono-spatially suspended in the months of May and June as we are, it becomes relevant for us to compare notes – particularly since the kids have holidays… and as it is celestially ordained in my case – Smee – my wife – also has holidays…

For the record… my wife and my kids go to the same school – or at least until the last academic year – albeit for different reasons… my wife tries teaching kids… and my kids are trying to learn what their school tries teaching them…

For keeping the record round and spinning… the academic institution that they go to, has long ensured that in this process of education – all the 3 actors in the play never get to be on the stage at the same time… their scripts are different… written in different languages and curricula… Smee taught in the CIE – Cambridge International curriculum…my son is in the ICSE for all the intelligence that the curriculum demands – ancient Indian “make-life-tough-and-teach-them-all-jacked-up-trades” curriculum… my daughter is in the CBSE so that she could be one of the last bastions to champion the cause of education for the lesser mortals… because I am made to understand by the technical experts in the education space… that this is a curriculum that sucks the least…!

I guess I can vouch for that… I went through a CBSE curriculum too… but my schooling was primarily owing to two reasons… 1, neither of my parents had any political connections and… 2, I figured early in my life that driving a car on the Delhi roads needed one to be purposefully educated – otherwise you merely ended up ‘thinking in Punjabi’ and behaving like a ‘Gurugramee Tau’…!

But the best part of my growing up in my school – despite its best efforts that the school put in – was that I NEVER LET MY SCHOOL INTERFERE WITH MY EDUCATION…!

As such… Laxman’s question earlier in the week got me thinking of my “COMMITMENT DEVICE…”

Now… that’s what a lot of Behavioural Economists substitute for a simple phrase in life called – ‘the daily questions that we ask ourselves’.

Whether my family and I took the customary Summer Vacation or not, is definitely NOT a daily question that I ask myself… but it set me thinking on a more vital dilemma – particularly since the time I took Smee to be my wife 20 years ago… and eventually we both added two more souls to our lives a few years ago… and eventfully voted Mody into power two years ago…

Consider this…

  • (Raghuram) Rajan has kept the repo rate unchanged this week…
  • Mody has added another half a percentage earlier this month, to the Service Tax that I pay…
  • My Boss gave me an increment earlier this year but never told me that it would be just sufficient for paying Mody more than what I had paid him and his Govt. last year…
  • Tomatoes have started looking Crimson and Bloody Red ever since they have shot up to 80 rupees a kilo earlier this week…
  • Jaitley is touted to exit the Finance Ministry…
  • … and Priyanca Gandhi is finally going to enter the political fray, left void and null since eternity by her super talented brother…

Well – what does that have to do with my Summer Vacation…?

My good friend Marshall Goldsmith – well I had met him on two occasions in life and we did commit to a friendship for a foreseeable future… at least his office thinks so, as they keep sending me his weekly articles, his book releases and videos and a host of marketing matter to my email id… matter that can neither be created… nor destroyed… looks like Goldsmith has kept his side of the bargain on the friendship… I am seriously thinking of sending him my Fursat Friday blog spots every week…

Goldsmith’s interpretation of the “COMMITMENT DEVICE” set me thinking on some of the parameters around the daily questions that we ask ourselves… and so, my questions around my Summer Vacation with my family…

One of the parameters on Commitment Device – is the distinction, dilemma and the dichotomy between “Self-Discipline…” and “Self-Control…”

Now… you might ask what the hell is the difference?

Well… Self-Discipline is about ACHIEVING “Desirable Behaviours”… in this case, committing to go for a vacation and keeping that commitment… and Self Control is about AVOIDING “Undesirable Behaviours”… how do I control my desire of going on a vacation owing to… and despite… the “geo-socio-econo-politico-cultural” changes around me… and be left a pauper after the uncontrolled spend… on Crimson-Red tomatoes in the Indigo flights…

Well this dilemma wasn’t as mind-numbing as many of the oxymorons that I see around me… flabby personal fitness trainers… or Bollywood song and dance choreographers… or absolute pure vegetarians who smoke two dozen cigarettes a day… but the daily questions that I asked myself during these last 2 months of my family’s summer holidays are…

“So, did I do my best to help my kids do a variety of things that they could do and enjoyed doing and those that my money could buy during these holidays…” and… “did I do my best to say no to that expensive holiday…”

While I rationalised my Commitment Device in the best possible way my money and my mind could respond…

… could I have struck a balance somewhere…? do I want to put my family on a footloose, fancy-free, backpacked, shoestring-budget summer vacations that I used to have when I was younger…?

Hmmm…

Happy Weekend…

Ravi Kodukula

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