Are you Upstreaming?

Amar Pandit , CFA , CFP

Amar Pandit

A respected entrepreneur with 25+ years of Experience, Amar Pandit is the Founder of several companies that are making a Happy difference in the lives of people. He is currently the Founder of Happyness Factory, a world-class online investment & goal-based financial planning platform through which he aims to help every Indian family save and invest wisely. He is very passionate about spreading financial literacy and is the author of 4 bestselling books (+ 2 more to release in 2020), 8 Sketch Books, Board Game and 700 + columns.

In case you are wondering whether Upstreaming has anything to do with streaming, it does not. In fact, the post on today might have a little to do with streaming but this one clearly is way out of the streaming zone. Without wasting any more words, let’s dive right into the post.

“You and a friend are having a picnic by the side of a river. Suddenly you hear a shout from the direction of the water – a child is drowning. Without thinking, you both dive in, grab the child and swim to shore. Before you can recover, you hear another child cry for help. You and your friend jump back in the river to rescue her as well. Then another child drifts into sight …and another …and another. The two of you can barely keep up.” These are literally the first set of lines of a wonderful book “Upstream”, by Author Dan Heath.

Dan further adds, “Suddenly, you see your friend wading out of water, seeming to leave you alone. Where are you going? you demand. Your friend answers, “I am going upstream to tackle the guy who’s throwing all these kids in the water (This is a public health parable, adapted from the original, which is attributed to Irving Zola).” 

The author refers to Upstream efforts as those that aim to prevent problems from happening. In the above case, going upstream meant tackling the guy who was throwing the kids in water and putting an end to this. Downstream actions on the other hand react to problems once they have happened.

This is super insightful but what does this have to do with us?

Let me elaborate a bit.

When you spend years responding to problems, you can sometimes overlook the fact that you could actually be preventing them.

We have all seen this in our daily work. There are many who save and invest diligently whereas there are some who wait until something forces them to start saving. There are some who insure (and manage risks) properly whereas there are many who will think of insurance as a cost and will skip it only to solve the problem when it happens. 

There are many such things that we clearly see with our clients. However, what about us. An amazing visual by @AlexMaeseJ on Twitter, comes to mind.

We are people too. We also suffer from this issue of preferring downstream versus upstream. We too have this preference for solving problems rather than preventing them. To clarify, this is something that impacts all of us in every area of life including (but not limited to) work, health, relationships, and investing. 

In the last couple of weeks, I wrote extensively about the nature of competition and their impact on industry (our) revenue and business models. I wrote briefly about how to tackle this competition. Despite all of this, most of us will wait till this becomes a problem for us personally

We will not think of changing anything till we are forced to solve the problem. We will only look at this problem if/when we lose a few key clients. We will only look at fixing something when a regulatory change happens or if there is severe revenue compression. Till then, we will not proactively invest in the business, modernize the client experience and business overall. Why change something that is not fully broken yet?

What about you?

Does this happen to you? 

Think about this. Ok, let me ask you something.

How much time do you really set aside to think about your business and to take certain decisions? Do you set aside an hour or so to think through some important decisions and then actually make those? Or are you too busy to Think on matters that are going to impact your business 3-5 years down the line

If you must Upstream, the first thing to do is to start thinking about your business from a futuristic perspective and ask yourself some hard questions.

1. What are the risks to my business? Are they revenue compression, competition, consumer preferences, increasing costs, regulatory changes, or a completely new way of doing things (Crypto, DeFi (Decentralized Finance) and so on)?

Then take each area and ask follow-up questions.

For example, if the risk is competition – what is the competition that I am already facing and then likely to face. Is it going to be even more sophisticated than it is today? Is this going to cause me to lose clients?

Once you have thought through this, then think on prevention or think Upstream.

How can I take care of my clients better than anyone else? 

What should I be doing to not only protect my business but to flourish (which brings me to the second hard question)?

2. What are the opportunities that I can capitalize on?

If you are finding it difficult to think through all of this, let us know. We can have a session to discuss these issues.

The 2 biggest issues that I see in our industry/profession are indecision and inaction. Many simply don’t take the time to think but even when they think, they simply cannot make a decision.

A wise man once said, “when you are faced with a difficult decision, it is absolutely important that you make a decision.

And once you make a decision, don’t second guess yourself. Act. Just Do It.

Make this a Process. Don’t focus on the outcomes too much as this can cause decision paralysis.

A simple yet powerful mantra has worked for me (and continues too) – Be Impatient with Action and Be Patient with Results. Surely, I have made mistakes but at the same time this has led to progress and prevention. 

Are you then ready to Upstream? Or Is Fear Holding You Back?


P.S. As always, I would love to hear from you. Let me know if there is a particular topic you want me to address.