Expectations

-Karthik Gurumurthy

"When one's expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have."
-Stephen Hawking

Love this quote. Not in a sad way, and I suppose it depends on how you read it.

Lot of times we tell ourselves that “no one cares what I think” or “this is just the way it is or there’s nothing I can do”

When we realize that those are just stories and we learn to not expect what people might be thinking, or how a situation should be then it opens up a whole new way of seeing the world and appreciating what’s really there.

Because people will care what you think and want to hear what you have to say and there’s always something you can do.

Always.

When you learn not to expect a certain result, people surprise you and Life surprises you.


Rewind or Fast forward

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Lot of times I encounter people who wished that they can go back in time and alter the course. I don’t believe in living with regret but there are some things that I would definitely have done differently in my life. Obviously I can only know that now with hindsight so it would be impossible to know how some things would play out at the time. I’m a big believer that we do what is right at the time, using the information we have.

What is helpful now though is having the benefit of that knowledge to know that that thing, person or job isn’t for you.

It helps us to make future decisions and navigate our way through any new options that present themselves.

One of my friends asked me the question  the other day if f it was possible, would I go back in time and change anything? Probably not. All those decisions (good and bad) led me to where I am today, and all the people I now know and love. Better to focus on now and appreciate all the positives rather than dwelling on a past you can't change. Easier said than done sometimes.


Struggle to Sensation(al): Lessons from Rahul Tewatia

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I follow IPL (India Premier League) Cricket tournament which happens every year during March-May where Cricketers all over the World participate for different franchises and  is exciting and entertaining to watch. Because of Covid-19 pandemic, this year it moved March-May to Sep-Nov time period and was scheduled to happen in Dubai..

One of the games I watched today was between Rajasthan and Punjab teams. Punjab played first and posted a  big total of 223 funs and Rajasthan was given an opportunity to chase this mammoth total. Even though Rajasthan had the potential to cross the line, one of the players Rahul Tewatia  was struggling in the middle and was taking lot of time to score runs. His batting partner (Sanju Samson) was however fluent and was scoring runs with ease. At one point the way Rahul was paying everybody was feeling sorry for the Rajasthan team and felt that Rahul needs to exit as  he was taking time and if someone else comes,  at least they can take a chance of winning the game. That was the impression every body had (including myself).
Then, without the slightest warning, he broke free. Rahul who is in the team more for his leg-spin bowling started hitting sixes all over the ground. It was not a flicker of hope, but an all-consuming fire. He scored 53 runs of 31 balls and helped Rajasthan team win the game against Punjab almost from an impossible position.

RahulT

 

Lesson#1 We all make mistakes, but the way we approach mistakes defines our relationship with them. For some of us, we are intrinsically terrified of mistakes and failure, and we refuse to even try or freeze  in the fear of doing something worse. However, Rahul Tewatia diid not let his mistakes define him. He quickly learned it and moved on. 

Lesson#2: Following was the tweet from Rahul back in 2017.  What is there to learn from this tweet? He has pre-played his success. Everything is created twice: First in mind, then in reality.

 

RahulTewatia

 

Great work Rahul! Such a great inspiration!

 


Happy Independence Day, India

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Happy Independence day, India. The  poem "Where the mind is without fear" was written by one of the greatest poets of India, Rabindranath Tagore. This was written during the period when India was struggling for freedom from the British rule. It was a part of ‘Gitanjali’, a compilation of all his poems which was published in English in 1912.

"Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of the truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake."

-From Gitanjali (aka Song Offering) by Rabindranath Tagore


In this poem, Rabindranath Tagore expresses his love for his country and prays to the Almighty for its well being. In his prayer, the poet says that his countrymen should not live in fear anymore and must do away with the evils of society. They must live with respect, dignity, honesty and perfection.  The poet envisions India as a country where the people live without any kind of fear or oppression and hold their head high with pride, dignity and self reliance. He also says that knowledge should be attained without any restriction. There should be no discrimination based on caste, creed, race or religion. India must reach towards its goal of attaining freedom and being an ideal nation. The countrymen must possess noble thoughts and do away with all the superstitious beliefs that defy logic and reason.The poet prays to God, seeking his support and guidance for his countrymen to have noble thoughts and actions. He asks God to awaken them into this heaven like place of an independent nation.


Planning your day

-Karthik Gurumurthy

One of the things my dad advised when I left to US for grad school (about two and half decades back) was making a schedule or routine and sticking to a routine on a day-to-day basis.

One of the many challenges of Covid was the disruption of routine. As creatures of habit, we all had routines around going to work and the activities of our personal lives. These routines were dramatically changed and constrained. Suddenly most of us were working from home and establishing new routines by necessity. Some put their routines on hold hoping that things would soon return to a semblance of normal.

I quickly realized that I needed to adapt to the new constraints and develop a daily agenda that would best serve me and the results I wanted to achieve. I saw the challenge then (and now) to make the most of every day regardless of circumstance.

So I revisited and nenewed my current schedule.

A good schedule creates good results and vice versa. Knowing high payoff activities and doing them consistently is key to effectiveness. Rather than leave their day to chance leaders are strategic. And with an increase in remote work, a schedule is even more important.

Here are the ingredients of my schedule:

Rest. A majority of us don’t get enough sleep. Given the increased time we have at home, there’s no reason not to catch up and start getting the sleep we need. Sleep deprivation can lead to decision making that is impaired to the equivalent of moderate intoxication. A quick review of research shows how sleep is central to attitude, mental and physical help, obesity etc.
Starting Early. Getting your day off to a good start is important. For me that includes walk, study, prayer and reflection. I like to rise early so I can do those things without rush (right now I’m editing this article at 5:15 a.m.). The point isn’t how early you start your day but to begin purposefully and peacefully. This will equip you to hand the challenges that you will inevitably face later.
Problems. Some will come to you but others are already on your agenda. Prioritize the most important problems to address. Trying to solve every problem at once usually makes you ineffectual. A good challenge is to ask yourself, “How can I change this problem into an opportunity?” The difference between a problem and an opportunity are often perspective and ingenuity.
Projects. These are the important things you choose to do to move you closer to your goals. Don’t confuse activity with accomplishment. You can get lots of little things done and still not be doing important work. Projects are the building blocks of your business’s and your life’s success.
Relationships. Which need renewed, repaired or raised to the next level? Think in terms of the important people in your business and life like you think in terms of important projects. Before Covid-19, many relationships were addressed in the time we had left over rather than intentionally. When the pace of life slowed, we had time to invest in deepening and strengthening relationships.
Hobbies. All work and no play doesn’t make Jack dull, it makes Jack fatigued and unhealthy. What things that you enjoy and refresh you that you can do for some period of time each day to provide you a much needed respite? I hear leaders say they don’t have interests outside of their work. If you find yourself in that category, consider the benefits of curiosity and wonder, of learning new skills and widening your interests. Not only will it be rewarding, it will almost certainly benefit your work life.
Rejuvenation. What do you do the end each day as well as you began it? One classic technique from positive psychology is to identify three good things that happened during the day. Another is to simply ask yourself, “What is the most important thing I accomplished today?” I keep a note pad next to my bed to record insights that come to me in the time before I sleep. Ultimately, gratefulness and reflection are a positive ending to the day.
The next day? Simply repeat your routine.

You might notice I left out interruptions (which will inevitably occur). You don’t have to design them into your day. They will happen naturally and regularly so you might want to include some margin to deal with the important ones as they occur.

These are my ingredients. You may add or subtract for your renewed routine. But now is a good time to re-examine and renew your routine to make the most out of every day you are given. You can’t put more time into your life, but you can put more life into your time.


Review of The Test: A New Era for Australia team: Season 1

-Karthik Gurumurthy

 About two years back, Australia’s Test cricket team became entangled in a ball-tampering scandal during the third Test of a series in South Africa. Captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and batsman Cameron Bancroft were the key figures involved in an incident dubbed ‘sandpapergate’ and one which would cast a dark shadow over the sport. Steve Smith was stripped of captaincy and handed a ban along with David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.  The Australian cricket authorities were forced to make changes in personnel. Justin Langer, a retired top-class batsman, was brought in as head coach and Tim Paine was made team captain.

For all cricket lovers, who are in desperate need of some decent viewing during this time of isolation and lock-down, the newly released Amazon Prime"  "The Test: A New Era for Australia’s Team" is worth the watch.  This  is an in-depth, behind-the-scenes, eight-episode examination of a cricket team in crisis. It chronicles 18 months in the travails of the Australian national team, from the squad’s all-time lowest point to its return to relevance in the 2019 World Cup.

Review:

Born in India I have been passionately following the game as much as I can from the late 1970's and 1980's and it continues to provide non-stop entertainment and excitement. Australia has been one of the most successful cricketing team and been a dominant force for decades winning multiple World Cups  and other ICC trophies. I always admired Aussie team for their fighting spirit but  never liked them as a team as most of the team members were arrogant, offensive and knew that these players would do anything to win and I strongly felt that what happened in Capetown was something they totally deserved.

 With regards to this documentary..Where do I start?

The series takes a deep look at coach Justin Langer’s ruthless yet humble characteristics and attributes, both as a former player and as a potential manager of a team that had hit rock bottom in 2018. Coach’s vision was also quite clear and obvious from the start – " that is to build a team that will earn the respect, not only of their own country, but of the cricketing world once again".

This documentary showed all the raw moments of the players and coaches and this showed you the person behind their own titles. It brings forward the real people, real emotions and real drama that unfolded after what happened. The series was thoroughly enjoyable, it's rare for outsiders to see inside the inner sanctum of a test dressing room and that was great.  Everybody in the Aussie dressing room was very passionate and charged up and not afraid to show their frustrations. The camaraderie was almost tangible and the way the team stuck together through thick and thin was amazing to watch. The behind-the-scenes footage shows all the drama and emotions of winning and losing matches all before Australia departed for last year’s World Cup and Ashes series in the country of their biggest rival, England. After watching two of the episodes,  cricket fans will have a completely different perception of the Australian cricket team. First time in my life I will use the word respect and Aussie cricket team in a sentence.  It was great to see what Aussies thought of Virat Kohli and the Indian Cricket team. However, I am surprised that they didn't include the part when Virat Kohli  pleaded to the fans to stop abusing Steve Smith when the crowd booed him constantly during the India-Australia World Cup  2019 game played at the Oval.If you're a true lover of the game, if you can put aside team loyalties and just applaud the 'Rising from the Ashes to win the Ashes', this series is for you. 


Code of conduct

-Karthik Gurumurthy

In light of COVID 19, the related crisis and challenges and the normal every day difficulties we all face, what should be our code of conduct?

I believe the question of our time is, “How can I help?”  The first and obvious answer is to take care of yourself and stay safe so that you are able to help others. 

But if you stop there, you’ll limit both your impact and your happiness. The best way to beat self-absorption is to answer the question, How can I help?

Here are  some possible good answers:

  • Share good ideas if it can add value. Just be careful you don’t spread disinformation. Focus on what you’ve learned and know from experience. (Unless you are an epidemiologist or a medical professional who understands and worked on virology, it is risky to speculate about specifics of the virus.) We can all grow through this experience if we share great ideas and learn from each other.
  • Offer encouragement. A phone call or an email with a kind word, a positive comment and whatever reassurance you can offer means more than ever now. You don’t need to offer solutions (unless you are confident you have really good ones). The goal is to lift the spirits of anyone who is down, lonely or discouraged.
  • Check in with others. Ask how people are doing. Let the person know you care for them and are thinking of them. Go deeper than the normal conversations you have with people that are often rushed.
  • Reconnect. Dust off old relationships you haven’t had time to re-establish in the past. For most of us, there is no pressing agenda or no time crunch that keeps us from doing so.
  • Donate Time. This one is tricky as nobody wants to risk exposure. That is a personal choice. But you might not necessarily have to leave your home to help if a charity needs skills you have that can be applied virtually. To find out your options, call and ask what you might do to help. It is equally important not to spread the virus knowingly or unknowingly by restricting trips outside your home (And my deepest gratitude and respect goes out to the first responders who are there on the front line for us at their own peril.)
  • Donate Money. This is the least risky thing to do, and how much you donate isn’t the point. Any and all donations are appreciated. Take care of your family’s financial needs first. But if you have something you can give where needed, consider donating. But please do your homework so you don’t become a victim of a scam.

There are no quick fixes to the problems we face. But enough people doing what they can to help will indeed make a big difference.

God bless you, and please be safe.


The New Normal

-Karthik Gurumurthy

And so we enter a new world of social distancing, people stocking tissue paper, and limitations on how we can gather. Borders are closing, airports are shutting down, and in some countries, police and armed forces are getting prepared for handling this new situation. How are we going to handle this new normal?

  • Nothing concentrates the mind more than an existential threat. At our core, we all want to survive. We will check we have the fundamentals in place and learn to live without the non-essentials we used to rely on.
  • Social distancing is vital to slowing the spread of COVID-19, but it also pushes against human beings’ fundamental need for connection with one another. Especially during difficult times, people feel an urge to commiserate, to comfort and be comforted by each other.
  • We will see the best of human behavior. We will see extreme acts of kindness as our streets connect up and we look after the elderly. Volunteer networks will spring up across the country and across the world. We will witness the selflessness of our health workers who will continue to turn up, day after day, exhausted and exposed. We will owe them our lives.
  • We will see the worst as well. Absolute greed as families hoard months supplies of tissue paper while others can’t find any. Price gouging. Thankfully, it will not stay that way for long.
  • There will be misinformation and rumors, because these things thrive in a time of crisis. Social media aggravates this and gives oxygen to sensationalism/ quick cures. If you can, counteract the nonsense that is already spreading, and call-out the worst to get it shut down.

We have known times of adversity before. And just as we have come through those difficult times in the past, we will come through this one. It’s who we are and it’s what we do. But before we complain too much about this new normal, how about taking time to count our blessings. Write down 3-5 things you are grateful for at the end of the day. They can be simple things like when someone smiled at you.

This is the opportunity to be more thankful for what we have ,  to show courage and kindness and act with common sense. Our example matters.

If we do that, we will sustain, survive individually and collectively. This is the time to slow down everything,  act with empathy, kindness and reflect. Not sure when we will get this again.


Superstar of my school departure

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Rajinikanth Veeraraghavan:(June 28 1974- March 6 2020)

Rajinikanth

Circa' Nov 2015: Three Quarter Chinese restaurant , Church Street Bangalore

This is my good friend Rajinikanth (also known as Superstar) from school who went to be with Almighty today (March 6, 8:10 AM IST).  Our school friends and I  are still coping with this tragic news and we are recollecting all the good memories we have had with him. I have known him from VI grade and he was one of the math whiz who did very well in academics in school. He was in the same section from VI -IX grade. I  took language classes and  he was very thorough and complete in his approach towards acads and was jovial too.  He lived in a place called Velachery which is quite far from where I used to live and thus I was not in regular touch with him. After high school, I found out from my other friends that he got admission to one of the premier institutes named BITS Pilani. 

All of us went our merry way to do our undergrad and lof us decided to come to US to pursue Grad school. While we were here, we tried reconnecting back with our school folks and tried to get back in touch with most of our friends.  Slowly but surely we finished our grad school and  got married and some of them started family as well. We got back in touch around 2005 and started writing back and forth via email. (Googlegroups). He was very quick to respond and  started sharing the funny incidents in school and always took time to correspond via email. With most of my school folks, there was always a sinusoidal pattern where all  of a sudden,  all the team members felt the need to correspond sharing their nostalgic moments  or about the birth of their son/daughter and suddenly it will soon ebb.  In the year 2014, suddenly with the advent of WhatsApp groups, bunch of school folks started reconnecting and ended up finding almost of our school friends and it was like frenzy catching up with the school folks all over again. Thanks to the initiative of my classmates Maya , Ram Pai and  other networkers we all got back in touch. After 1991, I got a chance to speak with Rajini only in 2014. I vividly remember running downstairs to call him during my lunch break and was so excited to hear his voice and we were so happy to catch up on lot of stuff. Needless to say that the lunch break was long. After that we were in regular touch and I am thankful that I got to meet lot of my school folks in 2015.  Thanks to my school friend Anu's initiative, I was able to meet Rajini in person and had dinner together. It was wonderful to meet and that was the last time I met in person.  That was the time I  captured the picture posted above. We did talk over the phone  regularly and Rajini went through lot of challenges at work and I tried my best to help him out with the best of my ability and was in regular touch till Oct /Nov 2019.  

Yesterday, all of a sudden, I received a message from a great friend of mine, GB that Rajini has been  battling a health issue and is not looking good.I was totally shocked to hear that as I wasn't aware of the same and my friends started sharing about the health challenges that he had been facing last few months. I was at first incredibly confused. “How could this happen?” I wondered. Not comprehending in that moment that life does eventually lead to inevitable death. Even our highly intelligent, self-aware species can’t grasp the idea of a guaranteed future demise. I just couldn’t process it, until I finally did. Then the shock came. I stared at my computer in complete silence as my brain began to rewind ancient memories through my eyes and into my bones at a rapid fast-forward speed. Death is always an unexpected earthquake, regardless of whom it happens to or what your relationship was.  The sudden impact of receiving this news made me aware that I had absolutely no idea he was suffering.  Our group of school friends still prayed hoping a miracle can happen which will make him live longer. Few of my friends who live in Madras decided to meet him in the hospital and today morning as they reached the hospital found out that he just departed. As soon as I saw the message from Mana (Anand) from the hospital, I  started to sob uncontrollably quietly.  I texted a couple of high school pals who I remained tight with and asked them if they knew. They did. They expressed their shock and anguish as well. Like me, they seemed to be in regret that their grief was so consuming, considering they also were not aware of his health issue. I guess he has gone from being a super star to a shining star. This poem written by the unassuming anon. sums it all.

"The angels looked down from heaven one night.
They searched for miles afar,
And deep within the distance
They could see a shining star.

They knew that very instant
That the star was theirs to gain,
So they took you up to heaven,
Forever to remain.

Look down on us from heaven.
Keep us free from hurt and pain.
You'll always be within my heart
Until we meet again."

-Anon

P.S; I  have added a GoFundMe site supporting Rajini's family kids. Whatever you could help would help his family/kids. Thanks in advance!


Don't blow the whistle

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Sharing the story for some weekend inspiration 😎

I watched a soccer game as our son's team was getting ready to play the next game.

While my son was warming up,  I sat down and  asked one of the boys what the score was.
With a smile, he replied; they are leading us 3-0.

And I said, "Really? I have to say you don't look discouraged."

"Discouraged" the boy asked with a puzzled look.

Why should I be discouraged when the referee has not blown the final whistle.
I have confidence in the team; we shall definitely overcome.

Truly, the match ended 5-4 in favor of the boy's team.

He waved at me gently, with a beautiful smile as he left; I was amazed, mouth wide open; Such confidence; Such beautiful faith.

As I got back home that night, his question kept coming back to me - .....
Why should I be discouraged when the referee has not blown the final whistle.

Life is like a game....
Why be discouraged, when there is still life.
Why be discouraged when your final whistle has not sounded.
The truth is that many people blow the final whistle themselves....


But as long as there is life, nothing is impossible and it is never too late for you.
Half time is not full time.
Don't blow the whistle yourself....


Value of Inquiry

-Karthik Gurumurthy

What is common between a student, Business Analyst, Project Manager, Program Manager, and your profession. Irrespective of your chosen profession, one thing common is the ability to ask questions. I recently read a book "Ask More" written by Frank Sesno. He was a former CNN Anchor and White House correspondent and spent his career asking questions. In this book, he talks about the "taxonomy of questions" and explores the value of inquiry. Each chapter covers a different type of question, including "diagnostic, bridging, confrontational, mission, interview, legacy," etc. and more.

What I got from the book:

  • Asking questions helps you open doors, solve problems and break down barriers.
  • To use inquiry effectively, master asking different type of questions, including:
    • "Diagnostic" questions help you get to the heart of the matter and zero in on the problem.
    • "Bridging" questions act as connectors between a reluctant subject and needed answers.
    • "Confrontational" questions demand accountability and uncover the truth.
    • "Mission" questions identify shared values and goals.
    • " Interview" questions can be helpful or can intimidate both employees and employers. When used correctly, interview questions produce meaningful revelations.
    • "Legacy" questions give you the opportunity to reflect back on your life.
  • Asking questions and reflecting on it encourages personal growth. 

"The simple act of asking, of listening without comment or judgment, and letting a silence linger or a free-form thought coalesce invites a person to reflect or think out loud."


Take_Aways from the book " the Stuff"

-Karthik Gurumurthy

A young woman wanted to be a doctor, but couldn't get into a US medical school. A Cuban medical school accepted her, but she couldn't read or speak Spanish. She graduated within five years and now a physician. Authors Sampson Davis and Sharlee Jeter attribute her success to her having "the stuff". They discuss the essential elements of this level of fortitude and share stories about people whose stuff enabled them to overcome life's challenges.

The nuggets from this book:

  • Life is tough. To stay on top of it, you need "the stuff"
  • Using your stuff requires a mission statement and steadfast hope. Having the stuff means defying your limitations. Use your stuff to embrace the hard work.
  • Remain alert to unexpected inspiration.
  • With this level of fortitude, you can ignore fear and turn negatives into positives.
  • The stuff is inside you. We need to activate it.

"If you can re-evaluate a situation after experiencing trauma, look past the pain and find the positive elements of the experience, you are better positioned to grow from it."


Nuggets from Lifescale

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Your time and attention have never been more valuable. Tech companies vie for your attention and trade it as a commodity. They lure you into increasing your time on their platforms, and exploit neuroscientific  discoveries to manipulate your online behavior. You succumb to the barrage of distractions, losing focus and  creativity. "Digital anthropologist" Brian Solis noticed the demise of his own creativity and developed the Lifescale method in response. He provides a framework for recapturing your focus, rekindling your creative spark, and igniting a deep sense of purpose and well being.

People suffering addiction to digital devices often drop out of real life to sleepwalk, zombie-like, through a virtual existence. They lose the ability to focus, meet goals and fulfill responsibilities. The detrimental effects of never disconnecting from the digital world include decreasing attention spans, loss of empathy, and less energy for creative activities or critical thinking. Productivity drops as workers spend an average of two hours a day on their smartphones. The time you spend on apps, networks, social media and texts does not make you happier. It erodes your sense of well-being, increases stress and anxiety, and engenders feelings of loneliness and self-doubt.

The author has clearly spent a lot of time thinking through the optimum way to deal with the stress that can overwhelm us through being constantly interrupted by alerts, emails, messages on a plethora of platforms from Slack and WhatsApp to Twitter and Facebook.

The author provides a framework to help you navigate your way through your work life and personal life while still being able to be connected and avoid the inevitable burn out we all suffer from leading a digital life. As he says we've all, somewhere along the way, have become distracted. Maybe we don't realize quite how much our personalities have changed due to the advancement in technology but they undeniably have.

Read this book, reclaim your attention, break the cycle of instant gratification to think creatively and critically once again. Learn to waste less time on distractions and spend more time with your loved ones! Happiness and success are possible if you live consciously.

This book helps you build good habits, live with a strong sense of purpose and make technology work for you, not the other way around.


Circle of Influence

-Karthik Gurumurthy

There are few books that I like to go back once or twice a year to reflect on and how I can get better. One of those books is Stephen Covey's  "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People".  One of the concepts in the book that I found very interesting was that of the circle of influence. For those of you who have not gotten a chance to read the book, I shall briefly explain the same, essentially the aspects to improve productivity.

The core of the concept is that broadly, everything that has an effect on you, impacts you and is of consequence to you can be divided into two broad circles. One is called the circle of influence, which comprises all those things that you have an influence on, and the other is the circle of concern, which comprises things that impact you directly or indirectly, but which you can't influence. These are two concentric circles- the inner circle, the smaller circle, which comprises things that you can influence, and the bigger circle that has things on which you don't have influence.

Circle_StephenCovey

This is in context to work.You dream of being very successful in your career, but to be successful, one must deliver high quality and high quantity of output at work. You must deliver results which are compelling so that people make note of them, and thus create a good reputation and long-term career for yourself. For you to deliver those results, there are set of things which are within your sphere of influence, in your circle of influence. Likewise, there are things that impact your ability to deliver results at work that are not in your influence and those are in the outer circle, the circle of concern. Whenever I set a target to work at, I measure consistently and review periodically and reflect on how I can get better. Whenever I spend any amount of time on my circle of concern, I realized it is a major productivity killer and an extraordinary waste of my precious time. Whenever I spent time in my circle of concern, I felt irritated, angry, frustrated, at times incapable of creating results and  feeling inadequate- a whole set of negative emotions.

I have observed from all the productive leaders I have had  the opportunity to witness, that they spend all their time on things to which they make a difference, where they have an influence. The benefits of this habit go beyond just productivity. The more you focus on your circle of influence, the more it grows, and slowly and steadily, it starts to cover more of the areas that earlier fell under your circle of concern. 

To increase productivity, let us focus relentlessly on whatever is in our circle of influence. Rest will take care by itself.

 


Twitter..Facebook..Whatsappening?

-Karthik Gurumurthy

 Everything must be done yesterday. Ideas need to have been thought of last month and you’re expected to see 4 years into the future. 

This is the ridiculous notion that the next generation is told to think, act, and work towards. In this "new" normal, we post about our life on an hourly basis for our “friends" to validate our choices and actions. On social media, doing things in private is almost considered “weird”. We reach out with passive aggressive posts hoping for the sympathy and/or support we seek.

We compete online for the most ‘likes’ for our achievements and adventures  (which are sometimes exaggerated, posed or fabricated), and we post about our challenges as if they’re the worst imaginable experiences. We talk about our routine commute to work or school as if it’s something special or something that needs to be recognized by our so called  social media friends.

I AM HERE TO SAY STOP IT! There’s no rush to “get there”. Why are we in such a hurry to get to the finish line? Time is still time; still equally as valuable now as it was 40 or 50 years ago. 

So many people look to others and ask: What is the finish line? Who decides who is winning? What is winning? How can I show others I am succeeding? It really doesn’t matter what others think, you need to answer and define these yourself. In the future, the leaders that will succeed far beyond the rest are those that have patience, love, and live in this moment – Each moment!

What if  Mahatma Gandhi could have tweeted?  Let’s imagine what that would have looked like using an expert from his journal:
“Just got back from the Dandi March. I want World Sympathy in this battle of Right against Might."

Now, here’s an actual post I read on Twitter:
"I just had a cup of tea with  almond milk. It was one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made in my life.”

I am sorry Mahatma. We are pretty entitled aren’t we?  Maybe I don’t appreciate my days fully. I need to remind myself that I have it good, Really good!

This blog isn’t to offend anyone. I am  guilty as charged.  I am saying we need to slow down. We need to appreciate the here and the now. We need to stop documenting our lives for the approval of someone else, someone we may not even really know. Be appreciative of what you have. Tell your problems, your challenges to a real human, a close friend, not the world. 

For those that travel, I get it – it’s exciting. It’s a privilege to travel, and something I get to do. Yet I have stopped posting about getting on planes or checking into nice hotels.  I am guilty of that too. But not any more. 

If you want admiration and accolades from others, do amazing things, create an astounding impact in the world. Let others tell your story for you, it will mean more.

If you are sharing stories of cool humans or new interesting experiences then I say, “Do it!” Get excited and share the love because it is good to show human connections and wonderful accomplishments.

Be proud of your accomplishments. If what you’re doing is of value to others, creates Joy or provides knowledge, SHARE! People will want to celebrate with you. But if it’s just to gain acknowledgement of what you do or how “great” your life is, maybe it’s time to opt out of this ‘post and brag’ behavior. 

Today is today. Live in it. You are blessed.

I often need to remind myself of that too. Will use this opportunity to take a break from social media as well to see if I can practice what I preach.

Seeing the Goodness in everything

-Karthik Gurumurthy

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” – Winston Churchill

Train

What we focus on expands. It is a choice. Take every thought captive and redirect.

Who is in charge of your mind? If you don't lead your mind, you'll find yourself enslaved to the automation of your younger days. Our minds develop patterns. When we lead ourselves, we disrupt thought patterns that don't serve us well.


Keep moving forward

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Few months back, I passed an exam called PMI-ACP. This is for  experienced Agile Project Managers who wanted to get certified by the prestigious Project Management Institute. Even though I had the experience of leading agile teams for several years, I had to undergo training for the same to take this  exam. 

I took an online course which was offered by Joseph Phillips.  He is an outstanding trainer and what I loved about his training was, his videos were short, succinct and to the point. On top of it, he is always encouraging, very positive and says "Keep moving forward".. Thanks Joe for your outstanding training and words of encouragement.

MLK


Building rapport

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Be interested, not interesting.

Checking your ego at the door and simply just listening is incredibly empowering, both for you and whoever you’re meeting with.

The less I talk, the more I feel in control. If I’m 20 minutes in to a monologue about something, barely taking a breath let alone a question from the audience, how can I possibly be sure I’m on the right track?

Humility, empathy and listening are key skills to develop as a Program/Project Manager along with the ability to use silence and pauses as tools to control dialogue and it’s outcome.

Indeed, as someone more introverted, being in control by listening comes much more naturally than trying to dominate and drive a conversation through words alone.

Maybe it’s just me.. but I find it works well for my style.

 


Fear of the Unknown

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Whenever we reach an uncharted territory, we need to remind ourselves of Joseph Campbell's words: "The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek."

We need to own the fear, find the cave, and write a new ending for yourself, for the people you are meant to serve and support and for your team. We need to choose courage over comfort. We need choose the great adventure of being brave and afraid..at the same time.

 


Kobe Bryant

Devastated! I am devastated that Kobe, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed  in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, today morning.  My heart is with the loved ones of everyone who perished in that tragic incident. He was truly an inspiration  to many.

Remember shaking hands with this legend back in 2004-2005 at the Vons store Newport Coast between my tutoring sessions. He was easy to talk to and was very approachable. What is special about Kobe? He constantly worked on getting better.. Constantly worked on himself..Really fearless , Laker. Can't believe this news..I definitely wish this is not true.

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#WillmissyouMamba #ReturnIfPossible


Just Move Forward

-Karthik Gurumurthy

A lot of people concern themselves with grudges; who did what, how they were hurt, what they deserve, and the pain that was caused them.

But this takes a lot of time and emotional turmoil, which brings you down and limits your happiness. It’s stress that you don’t need, stress which can bring you mental and physical consequences. Life becomes easier when you learn to accept the apology you never got. 

So instead of waiting for an apology, just move forward.


Walking in somebody's shoes

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Before you criticize someone walk a mile in their shoes.

Many years back I was working as a Project Manager on a project which was suffering from scope creep. This was not due to the project team or lack of planning but due to management making promises to the customer over coffee.

As a result the entire team was under duress but one SME was particularly negative during our team calls and meetings. He said bluntly in a meeting "You have a technical background why don't you do it yourself".

My first response was reactionary but then I paused and calmly offered "Why don't you shadow me for a day and if you want I can work with your line manager to position you for a PM role." We did this for a day. I shared all the stuff I was busy with including change requests, risks, escalations, management calls after work and sought his input.

Before the day was finished I could see a change in his demeanor. Anger and contempt replaced with understanding and empathy. At the end of the day he politely said that he was happy being an SME.

People are like icebergs. You don't see most of what they are going through. So if someone is negatively critical no need to react, it is important to respond politely sharing your life and struggles.


Lessons learned: 2019

-Karthik Gurumurthy

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Thankful to lead an incredible team in Amex. It was a great opportunity to learn and serve an  amazing, passionate, sharp team of Engineers and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. As a TPM (Technical Program Manager) while  we finish one project/program, we always reflect on the lessons learned from the sprints/iterations/ projects/ programs. Likewise end of the year is a good time to reflect on lessons learned and how to make 2020 year better.

  • What are we thankful for? It is not enough to just count our blessings but to rehearse, relive and revisit them constantly. One of the things my wife does very well is to write thank you letters and she does that with our son on  a regular basis. Lot of times, it is easy to get complacent and tend to take things for granted.
  • What did the past year teach us? What are the good things that we are going to carry forward to 2020? What are the things that didn't go too well which we will improve upon in 2020.
  • Over the years, I am realizing the value of simplifying life is  to focus on the right priorities and remove the things in the agenda that doesn't add value. We all need to realize and reduce the time we spend on less important things/trivial which doesn't add value from our day-to-day routine. Past will equal future if we do not change.
  • One of the things that I learned from my boss  ( Dr. SV) is  to always have  a learning agenda. Whenever he had free time, he consumed himself with learning new technologies, getting his hands dirty and implementing what he learned. What do we need to learn or want to learn in 2020 to move on to the next level?  Cultivating curiosity,  expanding intellectual bandwidth sets a great foundation to move forward in 2020.
  • 2018 was awesome with regards to exercise and diet. With traveling and staying away from home for extended period of time in 2019, diet and exercise got really messed up. Developing a proper routine in 2020 with diet and exercise will pave way to better health.
  • Every day, asking ourselves “How can I be of greater service?” Volunteering to help prevents self absorption and serves a higher purpose. Who and how can we serve in little and big ways in the coming year?

Success is never an accident. Improving requires intent and we need to work on it on a day-t0-day basis.  Let us make the 2020 the best year of our lives. Happy New Year 2020!