Cal State Fullerton Mihaylo College Marketing Professor Chiranjeev Kohli surrounded by his students in a classroom at the college.

Mihaylo College Marketing Professor Chiranjeev Kohli (second from left) was inspired to gather expert-approved advice for young adults from learning of the challenges and questions many of his students face as they begin their professional lives.From investment advice to how to have the most fulfilling existence, Mihaylo College Marketing Professor Chiranjeev Kohli is committed to finding and sharing insightful answers to life questions that impact business professionals and his own students.

From warranty advice to how to maximize willpower for positive goals, Kohli hopes to codify these insights into a short but engaging forthcoming book. “This would be ideal for young adults who are starting their own careers,” he says. “It will be many topics in which I don’t necessarily provide a perfect solution, but give a gist of what needs to be done in a few pages.”

Kohli focuses on scientific evidence, rather than opinions, to form the basis of his advice, relying on studies across a wide range of disciplines.

Readers will be referred to a few concise and actionable resources on the individual topics.

At a recent faculty talk at Pollak Library entitled “The 80% Solution To All The &#%@ing Problems: A No-Nonsense Research-Based Manual for Life” Kohli discussed his insights on some of the subjects that he has found of most frequent interest among his students, who have shared with him their questions, aspirations and problems.

Central to his ethos is a deeper understanding of the ultimate fulfillment in life. “What is the most important thing that we are trying to pursue in this life? If you say it is happiness, I disagree. The ultimate frontier is the search for truth or true knowledge,” says Kohli. “If you live by this, happiness will follow. But if you seek happiness, you may never find it.”

Following is Kohli’s advice on a few topics that he found resonate must strongly with young adults.

Building Willpower: How to Succeed in Making Positive Changes

Kohli notes that self-improvement is a combination of willpower and habit. Realistic expectations are an essential foundation for this.

Even when setting realistic goals for a reasonably successful future, whether impacting finances, health or relationships, Kohli notes that reliance on willpower often leads to defeat and despair. “Willpower is a very limited resource. Once you exercise your willpower for something, that resource gets depleted, so you don’t have the willpower to work on another habit,” says Kohli. “How many people start off the New Year with good resolutions but fall off as the year progresses? The same thing happens on a daily basis. If you want to exercise, do it in the morning. Come evening time, you do not have the willpower.”

Because short-term fads, such as losing weight in a few weeks, are unlikely to be successful, Kohli encourages the pursuit of long-term solutions. “It has to become a lifestyle choice. Habits do not require willpower. It is almost like being on autopilot,” he says. “Fix one habit at a time. Each action takes four to eight weeks to truly become a habit.” Once it has truly become a habit, you can exercise your willpower to work on the next one.

Investing: How to Attain Reasonable Success

Investing was the most common question among Kohli’s students, often focusing on the desire to be super rich, which the marketing professor argues is a misplaced priority. The goal instead should be a focus on being reasonably successful.

“You’re not going to be super rich, and you don’t need to be super rich. You deserve success, you should work toward it, and you are capable of living a good life,” he says. “Don’t follow the old notion of wanting $10 million to $20 million. You will likely not have it, and even if you do have it, you will spend your life fighting to get it and then realize that your life has passed you by.”

Kohli believes the move toward minimalism among some young people, epitomized by the tiny homes movement, is emblematic of the increasing recognition that true fulfillment cannot be attained by seeking ever greater financial net worth and investment returns.

“You may meet people who claim they outperform the market. But in the long run, they can’t and they don’t , because if you did that demonstrably, Wall Street companies would gladly hire you, but odds are they don’t even want to talk to you” he says. “You are investing a lot of time and are not gaining anything. If at all, you may beat the market, but it is just because you got lucky. It is after all an issue of probability. Some people will beat the market, even if they are clueless.”

So, what should you do? The savvy investor should start early, allowing for the time to take risks. “When you are young, you can make riskier investments, because you have time to recover,” says Kohli, who notes that investments lost in stock market crashes are typically recovered over time. “Put your money in an index fund and don’t watch it. Start investing now. If you don’t have a lot of money, make it a habit to invest a minimal amount. But you also need to invest in yourself rather than saving aggressively. You should enjoy life and spend money on fun things also.”

As young people watch their income levels rise as their careers gain steam, Kohli suggests that savings levels should rise commensurate with this increase, thus ensuring a successful future without compromising quality of life.

Dollar cost averaging – putting the same amount of money every year into an investment – is the best approach for long-term investment, says Kohli. “Don’t put it all in at one time, spread it over 12 months,” he advises. “When the stock goes down, you automatically buy more stocks. When the market is high, you buy fewer stocks.”

On the other hand, Kohli warns against trying to time the market by buying low and selling high. “The problem in practice is that you don’t know when the market has hit the low,” he says. However, on a minimal extent, recognizing blatantly high prices as a cautionary note can be beneficial, as this can be indicative of the rise of a bubble that must burst as equilibrium is reached.

Warranties: A Needed Security or a Wasteful Expense?

From insurance to cover practically all possessions to company guarantees for the latest electronic gadgets, we are in a culture saturated with warranties.

Kohli suggests that consumers determine the financial importance of an item and the likelihood of loss to decide whether a warranty is necessary. “Never buy warranties unless it will be a significant economic hit to you,” he says. “For instance, buying a three-year warranty for a television set that is unlikely to break down is not necessary, but taking out earthquake insurance on your home is good, since your home is your greatest investment, and you could be bankrupted for life if you lose it.”

As many corporate warranty divisions are separate profit centers, Kohli notes that warranties are inherently lined up to provide income for the company, rather than the purchaser.

“Your money that you pay in warranties is used for payouts, plus the expenses of running the business and the profitability of the business. What you are getting back on average is less than what you paid for, which means you shouldn’t do it,” he says.

Do Unto Others…Only if Others Treat You With Respect

While many people are raised with the ethic of treating others the way they would wish to be treated, Kohli says the reality can be complicated. He proposes that the human population is divided into personalities who are genuine, trying to make restitution for any mistakes, and a second group that is not above taking advantage of others who are overly kind to them, mistaking their generosity with being gullible, or worse yet, a pushover.

“There are some people to whom if you are nice, they will be nice to you. Be wary of people who take advantage of you,” he says. “Always start off nice, but if you are being taken advantage of, don’t think that one day the person will change.”

Depression: Can You Banish the Blues?

In reviewing responses from students, Kohli was surprised that depression was a common challenge among young people. While depression has beset people of all walks of life for centuries, the decline of stigma and a better understanding that a persistent downbeat outlook is a chemical imbalance, not dissimilar to cholesterol levels, rather than an easily alterable mental state, has brought the most common mental illness front and center.

Since he is not qualified to dispense advice on this serious topic—and he strongly recommends seeking professional help—he is nonetheless very concerned about those suffering from this ailment. He offers hope. “Understand the disease, and know that it can be treated,” he says.

“Think of it as a bucket full of good chemicals. People have different levels of that chemical in their bucket. For those with a near empty bucket, a small dose of stressful situations will deplete that,” says Kohli. “On the other hand, people who have their bucket loaded to the top, can easily handle high levels of stress and come out smiling.”

For minor cases of depression, Kohli suggests that good personal and psychological hygiene, which includes thinking positive thoughts and avoiding unnecessary stress, may do the trick. As an example, Kohli notes that he has minimized the stress of today’s vitriolic political environment by restricting himself to scanning headlines from The New York Times, rather than drowning in the coverage. If, however, that doesn’t help, a formal intervention may be needed, and there is little reason to postpone that.

For More Information

For more on Kohli’s research, reach out to him at ckohli@fullerton.edu. As he plans to publish his book, the marketing professor looks forward to hearing about the challenges, concerns and aspirations of Cal State Fullerton students to best identify the topics that will resonate.

For more on the Mihaylo College Department of Marketing, including faculty research and academic programs in the discipline, visit the department online or at SGMH 5214.