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!


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.