Thursday, February 1, 2018

Of Indian descent, but virtually a lifelong New Yorker, Anil Jethmal is often asked about the caste system in India.  Many confuse the "caste system" with the similar sounding "class system".  Anil Jethmal is quick to point out that the Indian caste system is vastly different from the American class system.

The class system, in the Western world, is generally about money.  The upper class is defined by those having more money than those in the middle class….and the middle class is defined by those having more money than those in the lower class.  Some might quip that the word “class” is a misnomer. However, in general American parlance, those with higher levels of monetary wealth are considered to be in a higher class.

In the Indian caste system, the wealthiest business people belong to just the third highest of the four caste levels.  The highest caste is the Brahman (spiritual)…then, the Kshatriya (warrior or ruler)….third, the Vaisya (skilled worker/businessman) and last, the Sudra (unskilled worker).  Thankfully, the caste classification of “untouchable”, a despicable period in Indian history,  no longer exists, having been banned in 1949.

The highest caste, the Brahmans, understand that making money, in itself, should not be an end, or even the sole means to an end.  They understand the need for balance and that contributing to the common good is a necessary ingredient to attain that balance—not just giving money, but also giving of one’s self.

Many Vaisyas (businessmen) in India instinctively aspire to a higher caste by attempting to incorporate those Brahman ideals not only into their daily lives, but also into their own day to day business.

From early childhood, Anil’s family adopted those ideals and led by example.  They demonstrated, time after time, how many spectacular successes can occur in business, seemingly effortlessly, when a truly worthy purpose was intrinsic to the goal. 

Anil Jethmal recalls his father speaking about “tapping into an energy” when one is doing what is right.  More than that, his father continued, those who do garner that energy never seemed to care who got the credit for a successful endeavor, often donating to others and giving of themselves anonymously.  As proof to his skeptical son, he pointed out that the best colleges and universities (with presumably the most accomplished alumni) receive the most and largest anonymous donations.

Through the years, Anil Jethmal recalls several instances where his father would act in a similar manner---often going well out of his way, in order to do the right thing---even if he thought no one was watching. It is a philosophy truly worth following.  And for Anil, it has the added benefit of connecting him to his family and to his heritage.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Are Student Loans Worth It?

Six months after graduating from Bowdoin College in 1987, Anil Jethmal received in the mail his student loan installment plan.  Only twenty-two years old and with an entry level financial advisor job with its associated entry level salary, reality began to set in for Anil that he had to start paying back tens of thousands of dollars in student loans.

Was it all worth it?  Of course, it was.  Anil knew all the statistics.  For every dollar invested on an education at Bowdoin, the lifetime financial returns are considerably higher.  True to form, Anil was able to pay back every penny of his student loans with interest well before the 10-year allotted schedule. 

Anil Jethmal is well aware that his financial successes in life, including his being featured in The Winner’s Circle II: How 10 Stockbrokers Became the Best in the Business, can largely be attributed to his education.  However, he has since learned to appreciate his education in a much broader sense.

In a time where racial tensions in society have reached a boiling point, Anil recalls a conspicuous absence of racism during his entire 4 years at Bowdoin College.  Anil was aware that Bowdoin College is perennially ranked in the top 1% of all colleges in the U.S and, therefore, only accepts the best, the brightest and hardest working students. However, it wasn’t until he got there that he realized the wonderful by-product of Bowdoin’s vetting process.

Anil Jethmal, in a conversation with famed author and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou, discussed the relative, if not total, lack of racism at Bowdoin.  Maya Angelou theorized that it was due to an abundance of “intellectual curiosity” on campus.

She held firmly that those with an “intellectual curiosity” don’t fear people who are different.  They want to know more about what and why others are different.  Those with an “intellectual curiosity” have healthy self-esteem—they don’t need to put down others to feel better about themselves.  

Through the years, Anil has found that his education has bettered him and broadened his own scope of interests in countless other ways. 

His studies of history, for example, inspire Anil often to choose vacations where he may explore new and exciting world cultures.  He feels that those who exclusively spend their vacations at the golf course or at the beach are bypassing some of the best that life has to offer.  Even with something as simple as food, Anil Jethmal finds, those with eclectic interests (inspired by intellectual curiosity) discover many wonderful ethnic cuisines that others may never know and enjoy.  

His enjoyment of the fine arts and for the symphony can be directly traced back to his incredibly engaging professors and the stunning facilities at Bowdoin.  The list goes on and on.

While so many may analyze the monetary benefits of an elite education in terms of financial returns, Anil feels that education has enriched his life in so many other ways.  And that, as the saying goes, is priceless.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Dress for Success

When Anil Jethmal was 6 years old and attending the Campion School in Mumbai, India, he wore a tie to school.  The tie was part of the school uniform for 1st grader Anil.

At age 10, Anil Jethmal and his family moved back to New York permanently.  For his first day of 5th grade at the Browning School, located on Park Avenue in Manhattan, Anil again wore a tie, this time with his three-piece suit.  The suit had a decorative pocket square in the breast pocket.  He carried his books to school in a brief case.

While many consider Anil’s attire to be unusually formal for a 10 year-old schoolboy, The Browning School felt otherwise.  Founded in 1888 by John D Rockefeller, Browning’s stated goal since inception was not only to educate, but also to foster an atmosphere where boys grew up to be gentlemen.  The clothing was just a part of that endeavor.

However, something interesting happened along the way.  After several years of wearing a suit to school every day, Anil began to psychologically associate dressing up with working.  Four decades later, even when working from home, Anil Jethmal still finds a need to dress up in order to be productive. And while he does not wear a suit and tie when working from home, he comes pretty close….always a professionally pressed collared shirt and creased pants.

Moreover, in an age when technology is insidiously blurring the line between work and leisure, Anil, now more than ever, feels the need to delineate the two---what better way, then, than dressing for success…and equally important, dressing for leisure and family time.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Four Wonderful Years Free of Racism

A native of New York and of Indian heritage, Anil Jethmal was used to hearing racist "jokes", comments and innuendos from far too many of his native New Yorkers. He often heard that the ethnic diversity of New York actually made the city a much more tolerant and accepting place than other parts of the country.

So when Anil Jethmal attended Bowdoin College in Maine, it marked the first time that he would be living away from his New York home.  He read that Bowdoin College was mostly comprised of a somewhat homogenous "white" student body.  It was Anil's full expectation that the jokes and comments would come more fast and furiously than anything he had experienced prior to the point.

In reality, quite the opposite turned out to be the case.  In Anil's four years at Bowdoin, he does not recall a single slight towards him because of his nationality.  Yet, when Anil would return to New York for summer and winter break every year for four consecutive years, he felt each time as if he were journeying not just back to New York, but back to America's intolerant past.

In a period of time, where so many feel emboldened to express their intolerance and racist tendencies, Anil Jethmal often wonders exactly what it was about Bowdoin that made its constituents break down racial divides.  The most obvious answer is that Bowdoin College is known to be one of the best, if not the best, college in the United States.  It accepts only those students whose academic achievements rank them at the top of their class.

So, when Anil would inform his fellow students of his ethnicity, he would brace for an all too familiar negative response. Instead, much to his surprise and delight, he encountered a very different attitude. He found that his fellow students had an intellectual curiosity about India, and of Anil's experiences as an American of Indian heritage living in the US.

Given the recent social climate in the US, Anil is convinced more than ever that quality education is the most effective antidote to racism.  And, as he fondly remembers those four wonderful years, he is jolted back to the realization of how far away we, as a country, are from that utopia.  How to get there, of course, remains the million dollar question.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

An Education in Mindfulness

Anil Jethmal graduated from Bowdoin College in 1987 with a degree in Economics.  While he feels fortunate to receive his education from an institution that perennially ranks as one of the top ten in U.S News and World Report’s Best College Report, Anil wishes there was one class offered back then that is offered now.

During a recent summer vacation in Maine with his family, Anil Jethmal decided to visit his alma mater.  During his tour of the campus, Anil noticed a “new” building.  The Peter Buck Center for Health and Wellness had opened and been available to students starting in September of 2009.  It was a stunning facility, to be sure.  However, what really caught Anil Jethmal’s attention was the fact that it was also where a course titled Mindfulness in Education was taught.  The course, Anil was told, focuses on the ancient eastern arts of mindful wellness through activities such as yoga, meditation and mindful eating.

At first blush, one might surmise that the course is a “gut” (college term for easy class), especially when one considers that Bowdoin College is an institution that is known to have a rigorous curriculum.  Anil Jethmal asked his tour guide that very question.  He was told that quite the opposite is the case.  Bowdoin College students are used to digesting large amounts of information and writing hundreds of pages of term papers on a regular basis.  And while “Mindfulness in Education” does require a lesser degree of those demands, Anil Jethmal was told, it focuses on a mindful awareness and rewiring of personal habits….a much more difficult endeavor to learn and master for those who have not had any prior experience or training.

As an individual steeped in the world of high finance and all of its pressures, Anil Jethmal discovered many years ago the value of mindfulness.  Anil’s particular brand of mindfulness was self-taught due to an occupational hazard of constant pressure and stress. During his Bowdoin tour, Anil couldn’t help but envy those who have the opportunity to study this art under much more idyllic conditions.  However, more overwhelming, was a sense of pride that his alma mater, Bowdoin College, widely recognized as among the best, if not the best, had taken it up a notch.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Meditation & Stock Market Investing

When the stock market crashed in 1987, Anil Jethmal was a stockbroker trainee at Lehman Brothers in New York City.  He recounts in The Winner’s Circle 2: How Ten Stockbrokers Became the Best In the Business, “I’ll never forget that day.  Pandemonium broke loose and the entire office was in a frenzy.  Normally cool brokers were screaming… broker even had a nervous breakdown”.

Anil went home shaken.  He was unsure whether this was the right career path for him.  He turned to his father for some sage advice.  It was this advice, even 30 years later, that Anil Jethmal credits for his success today.  His father told him not to make any rash decisions while his mind was in a frenzy.  All decisions, particularly in the fast paced world of stock market investing, need to be made with a sense of calm, focus, patience and perspective.  He spoke of how Christians and Catholics remind themselves that “this too shall pass”.  Of Indian heritage, Anil’s father talked about the benefits and techniques of meditation.  Being in a state of mental crisis, Anil was willing to try it.

Over the years, Anil Jethmal found that the benefits of meditation are exactly what the greatest investors preach as necessary tools in order to succeed.  Ray Dalio, whose entire 17 billion dollar fortune was made in stocks, credits meditation for his success. Recently, he emphatically stated, “more than anything in my life (meditation) was the biggest ingredient for whatever success I’ve had.” Billionaire stock investor, Paul Tudor Jones, is also an avid meditator.  Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, Pixar and Next, credits meditation with helping his creativity and focus.

To this day, Anil uses meditation, not as an emergency tool during times of crisis, but as a daily ritual.  Besides making him a better investor, it connects him to his father and to his heritage.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Seven Points of Posture for Meditation

A successful financial executive, Anil Jethmal has over 25 years of experience in the industry. To help himself relax and achieve a greater sense of focus for the upcoming day, Anil Jethmal enjoys meditating. 

While there are six primary meditation poses, include the quarter lotus and seiza, they all share the seven-point posture of Vairocana. Naturally, the first point of posture is sitting down, typically in a cross-legged position. The second point requires you to sit upright and elongate your spine to the point where it is straight as an arrow. Next, it's important to rest your hands, ideally on your lap with your elbow resting near your thigh, acting as an axis point and providing additional support for your spine. According to Kilung Rinpoche, author of "The Relaxed Mind," having your palms face down helps calm your body's flow of energy.

The fourth point of posture is to push your shoulders back slightly and let them relax, keeping your chest out. Next, slightly tuck your chin into your neck and let your mouth drop open to relax your face. Finally, the seventh point of posture is resting your gaze. Adopt a loose, unfocused gaze toward the ground in front of you, approximately three feet away. Alternatively, you can close your eyes. Proper posture will help quiet your mind for successful meditation.

Of Indian descent, but virtually a lifelong New Yorker, Anil Jethmal is often asked about the caste system in India.   Many confuse the ...