DMV Motorcycle written exam

This week I got my California driving license back in lieu of my old NY license. California laws are more strict and they make you write an exam before issuing you a license. You only need to answer 18 of them with maximum of 3 incorrect answers. There are tons of sample papers available on Internet to prepare for this exam. I also had to appear for another written exam for motorcycle. There are very few resources for practicing for this exam.

I found this link with few test papers. I did go through all of them and there were many questions from this set. However there were still few questions in the exam which I had no clue about. This exam has 25 questions and you cannot pass if you make more than 4 incorrect entries. I failed in my first attempt and could marginally pass in second. Here are the two exams I took that day (exam1) & (exam2). Hopefully they can help you prepare well for yours.

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Writing Business Plan

Last week I attended a session on writing business plan, organized by our school of management. I found it very useful, here is what we learned.
 
Business Plan
A business plan is a kind of wiki document, which is dynamic yet contains all the aspects of the product from business perspective. One mistake that people often make is thinking it as a grant proposal or a scientific paper specifying the specification of the product/idea. It should be very simple yet informative with business as prospect.

Business plan in short should specify following
1. Business description
2. What is the product or service
3. Who will buy it and why
4. How will you produce and develop it
5. What is your marketing strategy
6. Can you make profit out of it
7. Is your team competent enough, if not what do you plan to do

 

You generally start with a mission statement and objective. Don’t write ideas about changing the world or making things beautiful (Mark Zuckerberg is an exception). Talk from business perspective. The goal is to earn money. For instance an objective like “Earning $$$$ by YYYY & being top Z in KLMN market share.

 

Problem
A business is always about solving a problem and you make money in exchange of that solution. However in recent times we have seen things changing. Markets which never existed were created, for example iPAD. However you still focus on customer problems and how your product can solve them or make them efficient. As the author in UX Design for startups explains, always formulate your solution as Customer-Problem-Solution (CPS), where you start with who the customer is and their problems and how your solution helps them. You may also include profits with your solution to each problem.

 

Solution
Further it should include current stage of development, the further ahead you are better chances of funding. Also include specific milestones, more detailed and through the better. On internet the biggest factor is anyone can pirate your idea. Your strategy to protect it would play crucial role and will give confidence to investors in you.

 

Revenue
Revenue model is one single most point of interest for any investor. Be precise on who will pay for it (find your customers) & also find how much will they pay and what services/products do they pay for. How much profit do you really make?

 

Customers
Any business starts from customers. Before coming up with a solution verify if there is a problem in the first place. To identify this do a market assessment. First find how big is the opportunity, what is the upper bound. Once done find what portion of the market are you targeting on. Don’t make the mistake of considering whole market as your target area. Focus on small and define it clearly.

 

Once you identify your market, find how market will accept your product. There are different levels on which you can measure acceptance of your product/idea by market. 
1. You just believe
2. Validated with customer reviews/polls
3. Spoken/interviewed potential customers/affiliates
4. You received purchase orders or customers supported you on sites like kickstarter.
5. Generated $$$ in sales.
 
Competition
Finding your competition & your strategy to stand out is another important aspect. Tell what is so unique about your product/solution. Make a competitor matrix and show how you stand on that scale.

 

Marketing 
Now that you have done everything and have your product ready, how will your customers find you? Tell about your marketing strategy. Think from a customers perspective and ask yourself on how do you search for solution. If googling was one of the answer then a higher page rank or SEO keyword techniques can get you to your customers. If it’s an mobile app, advertising on Facebook may find you more users. Be specific about the geographic location, customer demographics and pricing strategy.
 

Operations
If you are an internet company tell about how you will develop your product, code repository cost, server costs. Also include additional workforce you will hire for sales or marketing.

 

Team
As they say investors will always invest on a A team with B idea than a B team with A idea. So team plays an important role. Put relevant experience, accomplishments and if there are any gaps, what is our strategy in filling that. Enlist key advisers in your relevant area.

 

Financial Plan
Should include income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statements, usually for 5 years. All your assumptions must be chained into the plan and how they affect your finances. In addition if you are looking for funding, put milestone on when and how. There are two ways of growth, organic and disruptive. Former mostly run’s on founder’s money to start with and then grows with profits. Latter seeks investment from the market and gets things done quicker. Identify which type you are & how they impact your business.

 

Writing Style
Write clearly and concisely. Do not overuse technical terms, support your statements with facts. In short consider this as your Graduate school essay writing exam and be assertive & convincing. In addition show your engagement with customers, focus on money & how committed you are. Be optimistic and look for big market share. Never assume/understate marketing by saying “The product is so cool that it will sell by itself”.

 

This is a living document, keep revising it every sprint. Always remember market keeps changing so adapt and succeed.

 

Few useful links

Writing experience on IPad

Last month I got my hands on an iPad. This device is amazingly wonderful. It opens up lot of possibilities on how we can consume & interact with information in a more natural way. Since then, I have been installing numerous application in order to be more organized. I would like to mention one app called “habit pro”. As we know habits are formed by repeated actions so in this app you can jot down things you would like to be part of your daily life. Later you mark whether you did them or not and also monitor your performance over time.

notebook vs ipad

I was also searching for a daily journal/diary kind app where I can do my everyday introspection & make a note of it (not just 4/5 lines of tweet kind messages). I have been using a conventional diary for about 11 years now. The problem is I have lot of them and lost few while shifting (our lives are so much mobile these days). So I was looking for an app which would translate the same experience for me. I found few on which you can either type of write with a stylus. I thought a stylus would be more natural transition. In search of it, I started behaving like a consumer. I read about different kinds on Amazon and watched a couple of videos on YouTube. Finally went to Fry’s yesterday evening to try them out. There were quite a few of them ranging from $6 to $39. They were good for some occasional marking or drawing but when I started writing, they couldn’t be compared to what it feels when we write with a pencil on paper.

First the iPad screen is smaller than a conventional A4 sheet & the writing resolution is much smaller resulting in ability to write only a few lines on one screen. On top you are writing on glass, so the feedback is poor and you might touch some part of the screen with your palm which would activate some other widget, which is annoying.

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Can happiness be kept isolated?

500+ status updates on facebook in past 12 hours. A feeling of happiness & joy being spread across the world by Indians on their 2nd world cup win after 28 years. How can so many people in the world be tied by one string & a moment of pride can bring happiness on all faces? I am little fascinated by this thought right now.

Most of the time our lives are driven in search of happiness which we mostly get by personal accomplishments & related rewards. Some other times it is like the day today, when your community does something good. It is a reason to cherish for the whole community. Some rare occasions like first man “landing on the moon” was a reason for happiness for the whole mankind.

Now my question is, what really is happiness & what is the degree of happiness in various situations. How can happiness be quantified, is happiness a personal feeling or a group phenomenon. Also how long a happy moment lasts or does it really matter. Is happiness a personal phenomenon or has it something to do with a group.

Can a man live in isolation & be happy about it. However evolution wouldn’t have been possible had that been the case ? In the movie “Into the wild”, they say “happiness is real when shared”. Sometimes I correlate that with some of the personal experiences. I have been to hiking, both with friends & sometimes alone too. Hiking brings happiness to me. The happiness lies in the way my body goes utterly tired & I loose my ego, in addition it gives a feeling of personal accomplishment of having gone through a physical challenge. Now I get this condition satisfied in both the times when I hike with friends or without. But what is the difference of degree of happiness in the two cases. When I am alone after I come back home, I cannot talk about it to anyone, since no one would understand. Language cannot comprehend the full phenomenon to someone who has not witnessed the same.

However when it was done in a group, you just mention it & you share & sync with each other. There is a frequency match & it turns out into a bigger joy. A feeling of comradeship comes to you when you look into your friends eyes & how you all have been together during that event. Sometimes the same feeling is shared even with strangers. say you are running on the trail on Saturday morning. The sun is about to rise & you pass another runner on the same trail from opposite direction. You look into their eyes & greet them. A energy transfer happens at that time too & you feel good about it.

There is something subtle about humans & what brings happiness to them. It seems there is a mathematical equation which can clearly define this, just that there are too many variables to take into account & they may vary in degree depending on the persons past experiences.

Are you running ?

Last Sunday we participated in a local half marathon here at San Jose. Seven of us ran & all completed it with a glittering Rock n Roll souvenir. This evening I just thought to pen down few thoughts around running and hence this post.

Why Running?

I would rather ask why not? It is a good physical exercise & can be done almost anywhere. You don’t need any special equipments beside a pair of good shoes. Jogging in the morning can give you fresh oxygen & can be considered equivalent of a short yoga session. Beside improving stamina & endurance it boosts one’s confidence too. Moreover any physical activity has a direct effect on your psych. So if you feeling low or suffocating with boredum,get on to the trail & just run boy run. I have found this very effective. However if you are already playing some sport like football, basketball, hockey, tennis, running can still compliment to your overall fitness.

running

Rock n Roll 2010 San Jose

How to get started?

  1. Good friends: if you have people around you, who are disciplined & actively run & appear fit, make friends with them. Sometimes they can be inspiring & they may even pull you up in case you lag behind.
  2. Self conciousness: Many people start an activity with an impulse but fail to keep that over longer duration. Impulse is good for creating an enviornment or getting a quick start but to continue that you need a insight & motives behind your actions. You should do it for yourself and not because someone else wants you to do it.
  3. Rhythmic music: I would say this is more of a personal choice. I have found significant distance patterns while running with music than without. During the initial period you would feel like stopping if you are out of breath. But music can help you ignore that thought & you keep stepping with every beat.
  4. Participate in group activities: Running in a group can boost each others morale & can develop a feeling of comradeship. If possible participate in local marathon’s & keep collecting your Souvenirs. Also they would look good in your drawing room & a good conversation starter.
  5. Inspire others: Inspiring others can have a feedback effect on you. You become more disciplined & focussed. One of our friend, who inspired us has run 15 marathon’s so far & everytime there is some local event, he is the one who first registers for it. This creates a healthy community around.

Beside these things, keep yourself hydrated always. Glucose or some energy drinks after run can help body recover. Do not run everyday (if you run long distance). Give your body some time to recover before you hit the trail. A good warmup is the most important part of your run. Spend at least 10 minutes on warmup for a 30 minutes run, let the body be aware of your endeavours. Durning practice applications like “Run Keeper” can help you track your progress or share with friends.

During marathon there will be stalls for water & glucose. You don’t need to drink at each stop. Know your body & do not drink or eat much during the run. Keep a check on weather, in case of rains keep your mp3/ipod/phones protected in some plastic sheet.

I think this is all I had to say. Happy running!!

Wassup

The most common question I encounter is “Wassup?”

“kya Chal raha hai”. As part of normal civilized world I end up saying “Everything is fine”. I sometimes feel this question is very silly. Although it’s conversation starter but I still feel it’s useless. Take another case suppose you were out of office for a week. People will repeatedly ask you the same question “Where had you been? What were you upto?”. It’s good that we have something like Twitter where in I can update & tell my friends what I am upto these days.

But not everyone is on twitter & following me. The real physical world is still different. How do I solve my problem?

Here is a solution. Nowadays T-shirts with digital prints have come. One with minimalistic design is here.

It displays current time. So if someone continously keeps on pestering you by asking “current time”, you can buy this tee & save your energy & enjoy silence. If the technology advances further with more display units connected together & in smaller size to get even small fonts, I can find my solution. Every T-shirt will use Solar energy/body heat/light for display. Also they will have a small wireless/bluetooth interface through which the messages can be updated. Say if there is wifi in the area, it will pick up signal & connect to internet & then update your tweet message onto your tweet.

I will be able to walk hassle free with no useless questions to answer. This T-shirt has many innovative usages. I feel it will end the digital divide with the reality.

Life lessons from cycling

Cycling is a wonderful exercise & experience in itself. There are many life lessons one can draw from cycling. Here are few I figured out.


a man on bike


1. Stop worrying about the goal: In life we often project ourselves in future depending on our ambitions or desires. So instead of living in present & enjoying it end up worrying about future. In cycling same rule applies. Once you decide a place to go you do not think much about it & focus on your path. You forget all statistics as the present becomes more eventful.


2. Be efficient: There is a lady in my office. Her work is impeccable. she is super efficient. I once asked her the secret behind doing every job with such an agility. She said “I believe in deadlines. I always choose them & then chase them”. That is it. While riding if you lull around for whole day, it will sap your energy. So pacing at around 15 – 25 KMph without a major break can help covering a good distance & reach home early. Then one can couch on a bean bag and feel the state of thoughtlessness.


3. Accept life as it comes – If things are pleasant we merry but if anything goes wrong we say “God! why did you do this to me?” We have different attitudes towards comforts & hardships. cycling teaches a great lesson here. Crossing a Ghat section makes one go through similar emotions. On downhill you feel like a king but on the reverse journey its like paying the price back. But cycling changes your attitude. You accept both the situations with equal zest. On downhill you feel the joy & thrill of speed. On the acclivity you challenge yourself with more enthusiasm.


4. No limits – I remember when i first started cycling. It was 15 KM ride in one stretch. I felt like reaching a new physical limit. Later travelling the same distance made me feel like there is more I can endure. It was 40 KM which gave me new heights. Now even 80 KM feels less. There is a lot more that I am capable off. It was just that i had incapacitated myself. So cycling teaches you to give up inhibitions & explore new horizons


5. Humility – After a long ride all your false ego drops down. A feeling comes where you feel yourself connected to the whole ecosystem. A feeling of brotherhood comes in. It is after that one starts respecting things & starts seeing value in everything.