Betty or Veronica?

Betty Cooper or Veronica Lodge?
Damsel-in-distress or friend-who’s-been-with-you-during-shitty-times?
Living or the martyrd dead?
Arrogant showman or humble success?
Doting boyfriend or wily casanova?
Who would you choose?
Economics assumes that we should always choose in our self interest. But just like economics assumes that we make better choices when we have more options, this is contrary to reality.
Self interest would clearly pick one choice over the other but it seems that our behavior is greatly determined by whether or not we were spurned, told to go away or put down.
It seems like it takes an immense amount of character and strength of mind to act in our own self interest when we are spurned.
How ironic.

The Grass and Greener

I was on the flight to San Francisco from London and was conversing with the passenger in the next seat.
This girl was reflecting on her stay in London and spoke about London being her dream place to live. She was a student at Berkeley and was here on an internship.
My reaction to one of ‘You have got to be kidding me.’ What wouldn’t I give to live in sunny California..
And at that point, the grass is always greener on the other side realization dawned on me.
And I was also reminded of the quote
‘If the grass is greener on the other side, you can be rest assured that the water bill is also higher’
Talk about eyes being opened thanks to some pre-landing small talk. There truly are learnings everywhere.

The Definitive Guide to Your First Trip to Old Trafford

This guide is for those millions of Manchester United fans who are yet to make their pilgrimage. Having now made my 2nd trip to the Theatre of Dreams, I thought I would blog about the process of making a trip and watching a game, for it is a process.
When I was planning my first trip, I remember many questions popping up –
1. Where do I get tickets from?
2. How will the tickets reach me?
3. What are the best seats at Old Trafford? Where should I aim to sit?
– Where is the Stretford end? I only see West/East/North/South. Is it the best place to sit?
4. How do I get to Old Trafford from London? The instructions seem inadequate
5. How long should I allow before and after the game?
6. How much does the whole trip cost?
7. If there are no games in Old Trafford when I’m around, how does it work to catch an Away game in London, or elsewhere?
8. Anything else?
So, before you plan your holiday trip to London, I’d love for you to be do the needful so you can catch that game at Old Trafford. So, here are the answers (to the best of my knowledge)
1. Where do I get tickets from?
The tickets are understandably the first and most important hurdle. The following are the ways to get tickets –
a) Official membership – Straightforward: The steps are –
i) Sign up for the 30 Pound yearly membership
ii) You will get emails when tickets for games are ready for ‘ballot’ (more on balloting below) – typically a month before the games
iii) Or you can wait till a week after the games when individual tickets are up for sale. This is more last minute but you have control on which seats you are sitting (you will be able to pick from a miniature stadium)
I waited until the last minute for the Arsenal game this weekend – still got seats and got it at a location I liked.
Balloting: If you are going with a friend, balloting is necessary. It is the only way you can ensure you are sitting next to him/her. If you wait till the remaining tickets are up for sale, the chances that 2 seats next to each other are empty are minimal.
I am not the biggest fan of balloting because you can’t pick your seats. If you are attending a one-off game, I’d rather have that choice.
Another point to note here – it is fairly easy if you are traveling alone. Most games will have seats, including the big ones, as there are 70,000 odd seats available! If you are traveling with a group, then you’ll have to risk balloting. :) For instance, I balloted for the Chelsea game @ OT next month – and got the East Stand.. even though it wasn’t on my priority.
b) Viagogo: Viagogo is an official reseller of tickets for Manchester United and Chelsea. This means that Viagogo opens itself up to all season ticket/regular ticket holders who can’t make it for a particular game. Viagogo charges a 20 Pound fee (rather exorbitant since tickets typically cost only around 35-40) but it does give you choice – as you will have the remaining seats on display.
Do note that buying on Viagogo also requires you to have an official membership.
This is an option if the ‘Official membership’ option doesn’t give you what you want. I used Viagogo for my first game at Old Trafford
c) Other ‘not-so-legal’ Resellers: An example here is LiveFootballTickets – they are typically not legal since they do what Viagogo do, without the required permits. So, you don’t need any official membership – you can just buy off the website.
I have used LiveFootballTickets myself – for the United vs Chelsea Champions League Quarter final at Stamford Bridge last season – exorbitant prices but atleast you get to sample the experience. Big games will set you back around 200 GBP.
Sites such as eBay, Craigslist etc will also have tickets. This is the option to go to if all else fails.
And if all these fail, try going to the stadium and buying tickets in black. Expect to pay much much more though. I haven’t tried this.. :)
Having used all these options, I can attest to the simple fact that they work. :)
2. How will the tickets reach me?
They will be sent to the address you have registered with.
For the purposes of the game, I would suggest you change your address to that of a friend in London so there are no problems there. Changes can be done online or via the phone.
Man Utd have got exceptional customer service. And calling their ticketing hotline on
+44 (0) 161 868 8000 will give you all the help you need. If you are in queue, you can even leave your number and they will call you right back – yes, even if you’re calling from abroad. Impressive.
Similar for Viagogo and other vendors.
2. What are the best seats at Old Trafford? Where should I aim to sit?
– Where is the Stretford end? I only see West/East/North/South. Is it the best place to sit?
Okay, great question. ;)
Let’s go stand by stand –
1. South Stand: This is where the ‘Director’s Box’ is and where the players sit. So, if you’d like to have a closer look at the stars throughout the game, then this is where you want to be. And for the same, reasons, tickets here are more expensive. Typically about 50 Pounds.
And of course, you have a great view of the game.
2. West Stand: The West stand is the famous ‘Stretford End’. Now, the lower tier is the area behind the goalpost. This is great because you could be on TV and is obviously very close to the goal-keeper and defence.
The ‘atmosphere’, however, comes from West Tier 2. This is where all the songs and chants originate. If you are anywhere on West Tier 2, you can expect to be singing and of course, not sitting. The seats are useless.
The ‘FAM’ stands (in Dark Grey) are great for the atmosphere as well as the view. It’s brighter and closer to the action. That’s where I was for the Fulham game.
The ‘W’ stands, especially right at the top (row 35-40) is where the hardcore Stretford End-ers are. This is where all the chants originate and this is really where the ‘atmosphere’ is. And of course, you are right in front of the famous Stretford End banners.
I am biased to atmosphere but I have chosen to be here both times and boy, they make for incredible memories.
3. North Stand: Best views of the game, especially if you are bang in the middle. I would try and avoid the highest reaches of North East and North West.
So, if you are not in the mood to stand and scream but just want to enjoy a great game, then North Stand is a great option. I met many who would swear by it!
4. East Stand: The South East stand (in blue) is where the Away fans are. So, you can expect lots of banter on the East Stand. It is also behind the goal so there is typically some atmosphere. I’ll probably update this post Chelsea game. :)

3. How do I get to Old Trafford from London? The instructions seem inadequate.

I added the last part as I found them inadequate. :) If you have friends who are prepared to drive, then that’s definitely an option. Parking is not impossible to find but you will probably have to be prepared for a bit of a walk. I can’t be of much help with the highways etc. So, all the best!
Train is how I’ve traveled. You can check out options on the National Rail Website. Trains from London to North East are managed by Virgin. The trains run from London – Euston to Manchester – Piccadily. The booking process is straightforward and will set you back 50-70 Pounds depending on when you book your tickets. (1 month = 50 Pounds, 1 week = 70 Pounds)
Getting from Manchester Piccadily to Manchester United Football Ground
Cab is one option. Do this if you are late.
Tram is another. This can be fun as you will travel via the city (15-20 minutes) and you will also have a 5-10 minute walk to the stadium. Of course, traveling with an army of red if fun and the walk to the stadium means you also get a taste for the very ‘red’ atmosphere around. Don’t worry about getting lost.. everyone will be heading to Old Trafford.
Returning via tram can be a bit of a pain as the queue to get on the tram is massive and takes forever. On the bright side for the cricket fans, the queue forms in front of Old Trafford cricket ground.
Train – this is the simplest option. Drops you right at the stadium. 10 minute ride. A return ticket costs around 3.5 pounds – very simple, very straightforward. The last train is typically 30 minutes before the game and trains also run for 1 and a half hours or so after the game.
Few things to note when getting train tickets –
– Book for arrival atleast 1 hour before the game. Ideally, 1 hour 15 mins. This will give you enough time to get to the stadium, see the players warming up and also get a ‘feel’ for the pre-match atmosphere. You can also sneak in a trip to the Megastore. Expect that to take 20-30 minutes though as it is VERY crowded!
– Book for return atleast 1 and a half hours after the game. Again, just for safety. If you would also like to stand with the crowd for autographs when the players leave, then you want to budget atleast 2 hours. This happens near the car park.. you can catch all the players up close with their fancy cars and fancier wives/girl friends. :)
– I have been told you can also catch trains without reservation from Kings Cross (yes, Harry Potter’s.. :)) but if you are not a regular, I wouldn’t chance it.
– If you are traveling on a long weekend, watch out! We had a nightmare experience with trains being delayed, not allowing passengers in etc. This is hard to predict.. but if you’re traveling on a long weekend, get an earlier train and spend a few extra hours in Manchester.
Another option could be to stay overnight. If you go on a non-match day, then you can take a tour of the stadium, the changing rooms etc – I haven’t been able to go on a non-match day yet.
– Tickets are either sent to a UK address or can be redeemed at the station using the same credit card used for payment.
– On normal match days, the journey is pretty comfortable. It’s a scenic 2 hour 30 minute journey with lovely views of the English countryside. There are a few seats with tables in every coach and this means you can get work done as well.
4. How long should I allow before and after the game?
These are answered above. It really depends on you. 1 hour before and 1 and a half hours after is typically decent and gives you time to experience the nice things.
Whatever you do, don’t miss your train especially since it is likely to be late evening by the time you finish and it takes around 2 hours and 30 mins to get back to London.
5. How much does the whole trip cost?
This varies from around 90-140 Pounds. If you can book your train tickets early, you will save a lot of cash.
And of course, it is more than worth it!
6. If there are no games in Old Trafford when I’m around, how does it work to catch an Away game in London, or elsewhere?
Away games are harder to catch simply because there are only around 3000-5000 seats available and the away ‘faithful’ are just that – very faithful. But, you can give it a shot. You’ll have more luck trying to find tickets among the home fans though.
These guidelines work with other clubs as well. The process is similar – if you have a network of friends in London, asking around helps greatly in finding tickets for London games. There are quite a few stadiums here – Stamford Bridge (Fulham Broadway Tube Station – south), Arsenal (Arsenal Tube Station – North), Tottenham (White Hart Lane main line station – North), Fulham (Hammersmith Tube Station – South) – so you have a good shot at catching a football game.
And you may also have West Ham if they make it back up. :)
8. Anything else?
Few thoughts that come to mind –
– The whole experience is a lot of fun. If you are traveling from Euston, you will likely see many many United fans traveling with you. There are lots of smiles and excitement. And if you are traveling for a game with any of the London clubs, you are likely to meet many. I’ve not seen any crazy rivarly yet – it’s all been in good spirit so far – before the game atleast.
– Coming back is typically accompanied with a lot of crazy singing (alcohol is in the air) especially if United win.. so expect a part of sorts especially if it’s a big game and the train is over booked meaning there will be loads standing.
– If you get a ticket to the Stretford end, knowing some of the popular chants (U-N-I-T-E-D, Champione, Ryan Giggs, Scholes, Park Park wherever you may be etc) always helps. Just check them out on YouTube.
Even if you don’t know them, don’t worry. Just ask the person next to you. The regulars are generally VERY welcoming and sweet.
I still remember my 1st few minutes at Old Trafford. The players had just finished warming up – it was bright and sunny and ‘I got a feeling’ was playing. The moment is etched in my memory. I realized why the place is called the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ because that’s what it really is – a theatre.
I also remember all my feelings of sympathy for the players disappearing when they walked in to the stadium. I used to feel sympathetic because it seemed like they paid a very high price (tough media, flak from opposition fans) for earning the big bucks.. but when I saw the kind of reception they got, I was just envious that moment. Performing in front of 75,000 adoring fans week-in-week-out AND being paid astronomical sums of money – boy, that IS a good life.
It really is an unforgettable experience. I hope you will make the trip someday. And when you do, I hope this post helps you.
And if I have missed anything or if you have any other questions, do reach out, in the comments. And for fans of other clubs, parts of this post would apply to you too. Again, happy to help any way I can.
And one last thing..
The prime reason for writing this was because I know what it feels to be a fan outside Europe. Back in Singapore, following United meant mid-week matches at 345AM, weekend games post midnight. And hence, I guess I can relate to how much it means to actually watch a game at the stadium.. and feel that sense of belonging while egging the team along and celebrating a Rooney goal – that sense of belonging that comes from being a fan of Manchester United.

On Approach and Richard Feynman

This week’s learning draws inspiration from ‘Surely you’re joking, Mr Feynman’ by Richard P Feynman.

When I began reading Richard Feynman’s autobiography, I expected to understand what made this Nobel Laureate tick. Of course, I expected to hear his life story and all his accomplishments in the field of Physics.. but I wasn’t prepared to hear about his expertise in..

1. Drumming: While Feynman was a guest lecturer in Brazil, he learnt how to play the Brazilian drum. He was so good that he was considered a role model drummer for his marching band at the world famous car-na-val. Even while he was lecturing, he did drumming on the side and recorded music.

2. Art: Feynman learnt to draw while he was at CalTech. As an amateur artist, he painted many a model and even sold many of his paintings. He was so much in demand at one point that he was even paid in advance for a work of art.

3. Safe cracking and Lock picking: While at New Mexico for the famous atomic bomb project, Feynman became an expert lock picker and safe cracker. He was so good that he was called on any time a colleague was on vacation and had left their safes locked.

And all this aside from being one of the most celebrated Physicists of all time. The point here is that he used his in-depth learning approach as a student of Physics and applied it to become an accomplished student of drumming, art and safe cracking.

While Feynman’s genius in Physics might have extended to safe tracking and lock picking (logic being the base..), his expertise in Art and Drumming came from his ‘approach.’

True top performers are not good at just one thing alone. Being best in the world at something means they can apply their learning ‘approach’ to anything they try!

Here’s to working towards being ‘best-in-the-world’ at one thing!


There’s almost never been a better age for a musician. Thanks to the iPod, YouTube and Smartphones, the world is literally a stage.

Now, of all the songs produced, we have many ‘good’ songs, some very good and few ‘great’. Very very very few, though, become ‘Anthems.’
I call them ‘Anthems’ because it doesn’t matter where you are or who you are with, these songs get people tapping their feet or clapping, happily.
I have only seen 2 so far that have that sort of universal reach. ‘Summer of 69‘ by Bryan Adams and more recently, I Gotta Feeling by Black Eyed Peas.
And what is always jaw dropping is the effect that these songs have on people’s faces. Play them, and you are guaranteed to have more smiles in the room! It almost seems like people are transported into a different world – a world of positive memories the moment they hear these songs.
I’ve often wondered what it takes for great songs to become ‘anthems.’
We often tend to have anthems at RealAcad – it is a perfect setting for an anthem – the sort of ‘intense’ 1 week experience where a song gets stuck in your head, a song that reminds you of the great time you had – a bonding moment of sorts. Of the ‘anthems’, I remember Zombie (I managed to fish out an old crazy video) and the reason I began writing this post.
I had Adele playing on my playlist. At the camp in Stanford, the big hit song was Rolling in the Deep..
I have no idea how this song became our ‘anthem’ but it did. This song was playing in our heads for a good week after the camp and I can guarantee you that every time this song plays, every one of those at the camp will have a smile on their faces.. remembering the great times!
But, we’re still a small group, of course. And I’m sure you share such anthems with groups of friends, colleagues etc.
Now, imagine a song that does that for groups of millions. That puts the anthem statuses of ‘Summer of 69’ and ‘I Gotta Feeling’ (and, possibly, a few other ‘anthems’ out there) in perspective. Pretty incredible.


Half awake I lay
I love those moments
When I flirt with consciousness
To wake up or not to wake up
To think or not to think
While I was thinking thus
My mind wandered
And spent a few moments remembering the old couple
The old couple I’d seen on the train
Helping each other
Must be in their 90s, I remember thinking then
I observed them from a distance
As they talked and laughed
I could feel years and years of memories
And the connection
How could I forget?
The connection
We all long for connection
Maybe that’s why we end up as halves in a pair, happily
That way, we live secure knowing we are always connected
No matter what
And at that moment, I realized I looked around
And sighed
For I felt exactly like a half would
It always amazes me (among the many things..) as to how much we can learn by just listening to ourselves when we are half awake..

John Wooden and Perfect Socks

Harsha Bhogle wrote a very good article on the need to ‘sweat the small stuff’. He wrote it in the wake of India’s crushing defeat in cricket at the hands of England.
The point he makes reminded me of this story..

John Wooden, the coach who won 10 basketball championships for UCLA in 12 years, is rightly considered among *the* greatest coaches of all time.

At the start of every season, the best young basketball players in the US would show up for practice. And guess what Wooden would start with?

He would show them how to put on their socks!

Why? Because if they couldn’t put their socks on just right, they might get a blister. Get a blister and they might miss practice time. Miss practice time and their game-time performance would suffer.

The equation was simple: Blister = No championship.

Often, when we see blisters (anxiety, fatigue), we ignore the fundamental causes (lack of exercise, inspiring goals) and reach instead for band-aids (remote control, doctor).

This week, let’s remember to take a look at how we’re putting on our ‘socks’.

(John Wooden with Kareem Abdul Jabbar)