Inside Bill's Brain

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I just finished watching the Netflix series “Inside Bill’s Brain" and I love how it ended with a quote from Mary Gates and it is worth sharing the same:

“Each one of us has to start out with developing his or her own definition of success. And when we have these specific expectations of ourselves, it’s more likely we will live up to them. And ultimately, it’s not what you get or even what you give; it’s what you become.”


Fight like James Holzhauer

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I have been watching the show "Jeopardy" for the last 20+ years. Why am I talking about the show now?

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Let me give a blurb about this gentleman James Holzhauer. He has been unstoppable for the last 32 shows  and his total winnings were  $2,464,216 until he lost to a librarian from Chicago- Emma Boettcher yesterday. Eleven times during his winning streak, he went a whole game without buzzing in incorrectly. The way James took control of the game for the last 32 days left most of us in awe. I am sharing today what I learned by watching and observing James which all of us can benefit from.

  • Don't just follow the pack. Most  players begin at the top of the board, where the more straightforward questions are located and work their way down. They do this to get some wins under their belt. That is not the case with James. He starts at the bottom of the board, so he can accumulate the wealth needed to make significant bets when he hits a daily double. He also does this to unsettle his opponents. What's the lesson here? Just because everybody does it doesn't make it right. We need to be fearless. We need to stop  looking for easy tasks and it pays well to go the extra mile to get challenging work.
  • Be relentless. Every now and then James answers a question incorrectly but when it happens, he doesn't dwell on it and lick his wounds for a long period of time. Instead he keeps charging ahead to the next question.
  • Playing to win. There is a huge difference between playing to win and playing not to lose. James does have to play defense, as his offense is so fine-tuned, others can't keep up. We have to create a strategy that will put us in a position of dominance.
  • Creating a buzz. Everyone who watches this show talks about James. Is anyone talking about you/your work in that way? We have got to change this and we have got to do that now.
  • Go all in.  I love it when James hits a daily double, and when asked how much he’d like to bet, he cups his hands and pushes them forward while saying, “all in.” This guy knows that to win big, he has to bet big. He’s confident that he’ll come up with the right answer, which he did! Let us think about your work..Are you all in or partly in or sorta in? That makes all the difference. Isn't it?
  • Continuously upgrading the knowledge base. Few weeks back, the program host Alex Trebek asked James how he prepared himself for ‘Jeopardy!’. He said he spent time in the children’s section of the library reading children’s books. Proper Prior Preparation is the key. He had prepared himself to succeed. How are we preparing ourselves? Are we still talking about what we did 10 years back or are we constantly upgrading ourselves?

James kept winning and dominated for 32 days mainly because of the above factors. For us to be in the cutting edge in our chosen profession, we need to do the same and let us challenge ourselves to get better everyday. Let us do it!


Happy Birthday, Dad

-Karthik Gurumurthy

The last birthday we spent with you was in August 2011. Now it is all just memories. We do miss your physical presence. I know you are always guiding us every step of the day every day in thoughts and actions. I miss the interactions,  all the galatta and getting scolded by you. Would love to meet you sometime soon.


Guru Purnima

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-Karthik Gurumurthy

Today is Guru Purnima. Guru Purnima is an Indian festival that is celebrated as per the Hindu Moon Sign calendar to express reverence towards your Guru, your teacher or mentors. Etymologically, the word Guru has been derived from two parts – Gu that means darkness and Ru that is the antidote to the darkness.The word 'Guru' is defined as a person who leads people on the path to enlightenment. Guru removes avidya, or ignorance, which is a case of mistaken identity.

I wanted to take some time now to thank all my Gurus starting from my parents, my teachers in School, College, specifically my Math teacher from Sankara (Shri NR), Dr. KS Viswanathan -IGCAR(currently at IISER), Dr. A.K Mishra -IIT Madras, Dr. King Jordan, Dr. L. Aravind -NIH, Chris Wintrode, Leslie Jones, Michael Wang, Randy Canfield, Sheila M and my friends, seniors, relatives (too many to name!) and my students who continuously have helped me evolve to get better, transforming me one day at a time. I cannot thank all the teachers enough to take time out of their schedule to dispel darkness from my mind. I seek blessings of my Guru(s) on this auspicious day.

 
 
 

 


Self Awareness

-Karthik Gurumurthy

All of us have blind spots and it is very important that we take time to be aware of them.  If we want to develop your own ability to be more conscious of your strengths, weaknesses and how they are perceived by others, here are some steps one can possibly do:

1. Please try to get feedback from someone you trust other than the family. It should be someone in your life you trust 100%, who has your back and will tell you the truth. While you may want to ask a family member, there’s too many feelings and emotions tied with family and sometimes with family they may judge you and they might give you a sermon than honest feedback. Please make sure you prepare your friend in advance about what you are seeking and don’t be afraid of what they’ll say.

If the feedback you receive seems to be out of left field, let the other person know you are surprised and then ask for examples. Ask for an example of the last time you exhibited the behavior: For example, “Was there a specific time you felt I wasn’t listening carefully enough?” That may help take the sting off any unexpected criticism because it narrows it to some specific events as opposed to feeling like an overall character flaw.

2. Take a few days, a week or even a month or so before you determine what or how you want to react. Generally, there are three possibilities you can address the information:

Make a big change: If the feedback can improve your life across the board, move forward with making changes.

Make a small change: The information may not impact every aspect of your life, but will allow you to make improvements in small ways.

Do nothing: In some cases, the phrase “I am who I am” applies as long as you are aware of the consequences of not changing.

3. Forgive yourself and move forward
You probably won’t like everything you hear. But feeling bad about criticism is only human. Acknowledge how you feel, whether it’s angry, sad or ashamed, and then work on self-acceptance.

We are so focused on building self-esteem when what we should be doing is looking at self-acceptance. Once you can give yourself permission to not be perfect, you can identify what you can control and do something to change that behavior.

Being at peace with yourself is key to building self-acceptance. People who are most introspective make self-awareness a priority and commit to working on it every single day.


Leaders look to upgrade everyday

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I consider myself very  fortunate to work with some of the best companies and highest performers of our day. I noticed that many had succeeded at becoming the best in their space, but that once they did, they faced an even bigger challenge: how to become better.

When you are at the top of your game improvement are more incremental and harder fought. You have got few if any to emulate. You now are the leader, and just maintaining much less increasing that lead is difficult.

If you are already among the best, or even really good, why would you even want to get better?

 First consider this: we all know how good we have become, but none of us know who good we could be. No person or organization I’ have ever worked with has ever claimed they were living or doing business at peak potential. Why is that? We simply don’t know what is possible, so we keep aiming to get better and find out just how good we could be. That makes life and business incredibly interesting. 

I believe that there are three vital factors to consider for upgrading yourselves.

The first is change: with so many changes occurring around us, we need to improve our knowledge and skills just to keep up.

The second is customers. They have increasing expectations. Ever noticed that the more you do for customers, the more they expect? Of course. And that’s why you need to continue to increase your value proposition.

Finally, your capabilities are above whatever level you are performing at now.  We don’t benchmark against our competitors, we benchmark against our capabilities.

Nobody gets better “accidentally.” Only wine improves with age without trying. You don’t accidentally improve significantly, reach the highest summits or make the greatest positive impact without intentionality.

How much do you want to get better? Teachers can teach you, coaches can coach you, and can pump you up but it is what you do with the information that matters.

Ongoing improvement requires a process and is based on principles you correctly and consistently apply. The exciting thing is, when are intentional and take action, the door to your future swings wide open. Your willingness to work at improving yourself is the secret  sauce to realizing your full potential.

You supply the commitment to getting better coupled with the right plan and process and your effort will start to pay off. It is definitely worth it.

Not only will it benefit you, but it will also benefit the people around you.


Choices make the Man/Woman

-Karthik Gurumurthy

As young adults prepare to go off to college, most on them on their own for the first time, having to make important choices and do their own laundry, I like to pass along these simple rules:

  1. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  2. If you have to ask, "Is it legal?", it probably isn't.
  3. If you cannot tell your mother (or father) don't do it.
  4. We are our choices…choose wisely. and of course, make sure you know how to do your own laundry.