Create and prosper


Scuba Diving: what, why, how, where, and when

I know it has literally been years since I published a new post (the delayed publishing of the Greece post notwithstanding). While management consulting tales could take a life of their own, I thought I would write about my newly acquired obsession hobby instead for my first post after all these years.

As I was starting out scuba diving early last year, I did a bit of research online to arm myself, and I found that most of the articles online were one of two extremes: either they were articles for people who'd never scuba dived before, or they were articles for people who'd done more dives than they could count. My goal here is to share a bit with you what I picked up throughout my journey from the former to the latter. Whether you have no idea what scuba diving involves, or you're an avid diver wondering what my take on the activity and the locations I've visited is, I hope you'll find something in this A-to-Z post of my scuba diving tales.

What, exactly, is involved in scuba diving?

You basically float and breathe underwater through a breather (called a regulator) connected to an air (as in atmospheric, breathing air, not necessarily just oxygen) tank that is strapped on to you. All the other complicated-looking gears serve to allow you to do just that - there is a spare regulator for emergencies, weights so you can go underwater as opposed to float on the top, an inflatable vest (called a BCD) so you can counteract the weights and float underwater - as opposed to be stuck on the ocean floor.

Why would one risk one's life by engaging in such an absurdly dangerous activity?

I've always loved the water, and the ocean. The idea of being able to explore more of it than what I could see on the surface or through snorkeling was compelling to me. Since 70% of the Earth are the oceans, scuba diving opens up so much more of the world to explore. It's an adventure into the unknown.

And the explorations - they are jaw dropping, breathtaking, otherworldly, I have struggled to find words to describe it. It is truly a whole different world down there - even 10-20 meters under the surface, there are landscapes - coral valleys and mountains and plains and formations and tunnels and so on, that stretch as far as the eyes can see - towards a horizon. The wildlife at sea is gorgeous and magnificent - fish of so many different colors and shapes, sharks, turtles, rays, colorful slugs, lobsters, octopuses, the list goes on. The best part is, unlike snorkeling or visiting aquariums, diving allows you to be closer to the vista and sea life, and float any which way. This means you can swim through a colorful coral tunnel with arches of soft corals hanging over you, while graceful eagle rays fly (yes, they fly) through the water above or right next to you. The first time I watched a sea turtle float over by my side to then graze on a coral, I was mesmerized - he was inches away from me and was so happily munching away on his lunch while I hovered right next to him.




Negotiations: Just Another Board Game

negotiation1Why do we negotiate?

  • Obtain favorable terms: you try to win the biggest share of the pie for yourself, e.g. buying a car for below market price, get an increase in salary or a better terms of employment
  • Build personal relationships: negotiation isn't always all about winning - it can also create win-win settlements, and develop mutually beneficial relationships

What? Building relationships and "winning" aren't necessarily at odds. This means that you don't have to be a stubborn son of a bitch to come up with an agreeable settlement.

Distribute vs. Integrative Negotiations

Distribute negotiations:

  • Focus on claiming value. It's usually a zero-sum game: what one party wins, the other party looses
  • Typically involve a single issue
  • Example: buying a used car: if the market price is $x, and you get it for $x+500, it means the dealer has a $500 surplus (or "win"), and you are stuck with a $500 loss.

Integrative negotiations:

  • Focus on creating value: enlarge the pie by adding more issues on to the table. Some of the issues may be distributive, but both parties might have similar interests for the rest
  • The negotiation as a joint problem-solving task
  • Opportunity to trade on issues that are more important to you, and less important to the other party
  • Example: job offer negotiation: housing might be a critical issue for you, but for your employer who is a real estate developer, they would actually prefer to have you stay in one of their condos.

The goal is to try and convert all negotiations you care about to integrative - integrative negotiations ensure that both parties maximize their share of wins, while not destroying any relationships. Speaking of wins, there are a few things one needs to keep in mind when negotiating:

BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement)

This is your greatest source of power. Your BATNA is your fallback plan: if the negotiation doesn't result in a deal, what alternatives do you have? For example, if you are negotiating a job offer with one employer, you are in a position of power when you have a good BATNA, e.g. a comparable job offer. In this situation, you are able to negotiate compensation, benefits, etc. - whereas without the BATNA that is the other offer, this discussion might not lead to such favorable terms for you. Therefore, while negotiating, it is in your best interest to increase your BATNA. Find other options that you equally like, may it be a second house you'd be willing to purchase, or a hoverboard when negotiating for a car.

Reservation Price

Reservation price is your "bottom line". If this price is not met, you do not do a deal - lest you are subjected to the agreement bias, where you go into an agreement just for the sake of reaching a deal, even though you will actually be worse off than you currently are.

Making the first offer

Usually, it's a good idea to make the first offer, because it anchors the other party on YOUR terms: research shows that final agreements are more strongly influenced by initial offers than by subsequent concessionary behavior. An aggressive first offer gives you room to concede and thus appear flexible and cooperative, while also letting you get a better deal. On the other hand, weak first offers tend to make you appear stubborn, as you do not have room to make any concessions.

The only exception to the "always make the first offer" rule is when you know the other party has a lot more information than you do, in which case you might make a misinformed - and hence dumb - first offer.

How aggressive should your first offer be?

  • “As high as you can go without embarrassing yourself in front of a respected third party” (Fisher & Ury)
  • Use target price to set your first offer
  • Use references (past prices, similar products) to rationalize the offer
  • Most important: ensure it is reasonable - especially when you want to build a relationship with the other party. An irrational first offer will set a tone of distrust.

Notes: I wrote this as a recap of my Negotiations class at Kellogg, to aid in my exam  studies and real world negotiation project. I hope this was as helpful to you as it was to me!


Inspiration + Assets = One happy me

(Speaking of inspiration - this post was inspired by the prolific John  Nack)


Gender Targeting in Advertising

655Gender targeting is one of the Kellogg topics that piqued my interest. Men and women are clearly different, but I found it interesting how some of the different factors of their personalities can be used in targeting a particular advertising campaign towards either gender. Men and women, apparently, differ greatly in how they make judgments - and, thus, their purchase decisions:

  • Men are more likely to:
    • Be quicker in making their decisions
    • More certain about their judgments
    • Be less easily persuaded
  • Women are more likely to:
    • Be slower in making decisions
    • Consider more details in their decision making process
    • Seek more discussion

Therefore, when making decisions,

  • Men tend to be goal-oriented, single-minded, and look for short cuts, such as prior knowledge or the first information presented.
  • While women will tend towards comprehensive information processing, and will tend towards products with more information, not less when making their purchase decisions

This means that, even though gender targeting can be easily presented through the use of obvious, everyday cues (the Heineken ad is a great example of this), the WAY the ad is presented can be just as important in improving the effectiveness of the ad for the target gender. This was a revelation to me!

Some ads try to appeal to both trains of thought - for example, the headline in this AMX ad might appeal to men, while the detailed information might appeal more to women.

I find that the print ads below illustrate perfectly the differences between the male vs. female thought processes. I've never seen them illustrated so well before! I love this campaign.

Print Ad 1 Print ad 2 Print Ad 3


A new start

So after about 14 years of hand-coding my personal website (the most current one would be, all while developing and working with various CMS'es professionally, I've decided to re-start my online existence with WordPress.

Why? Because these blogging and CMS platforms are becoming so much better and easier to use by the minute, that hand coding a personal website is going the way of the dodo. Another reason is that this will entice me to update the site a little more than once a year. Also because everyone blogs nowadays, and I feel slightly inadequate for only having an online journal, a LiveJournal, and accounts on Twitter and Facebook - because no matter what you do or how much you know, unless you have an ACTUAL blog, you're a nobody on the web. That or I have just gotten suckered into blogging (very likely).

Anyway - welcome! Please read the About page for what the site's all about, leave a comment, and we'll talk soon.