Lessons learned 2018

-Karthik Gurumurthy

What a fun-filled year it was!!

  • I was able to take control of health. Lost about 22 pounds and through self-discipline, moderation, it was good to change sizes for better in a period of 7-9 months.
  • Learned a lot with regards to Tableau/Collibra at work.  Loved working with the data analytics team @ UCLA. 
  • Got some places off the bucket list and thankful to all the travel done in 2018
  • Awesome to take time off to  catch up with Susi and his family and reconnect.
  • Thankful for the new opportunity at Amex, Phoenix.
  • Would like to learn more and update my knowledgebase in 2019.
  • Get SAfe/ Harvard- American Express Leadership Excellence/ PMI- ACP certification successfully done  in 2019.

 


Good change agents

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I am excited to work with the new team for last couple of months here in Amex. Learning a lot from the team members as well as getting an opportunity to execute lot of good stuff and be  a positive change agent. This is what I have observed from Great leaders that I have worked in the past and I strive my best to follow them.

  • Adaptive/Flexible: They simply want progress towards the overall vision. These change agents are never stubborn on matters that seem to have no vision-altering value. They navigate towards a solution, letting others have “their” way. Everyone walks away feeling as though they have won.
  • Open to criticism: They know how to filter through what is valid criticism and when it is simply a venting of personal interest. They unwaveringly push through the junk and cruise with good takeaways in the process. They value the opinions of other people and work hard to gain trust. 
  • Prioritize actions: They have a keen sense of discernment when it comes to knowing when to pull the trigger, when to wait, and when to pull the plug completely.
  • Follow-up/Follow-through: They always follows through on commitments made and sees the change to fruition. They don’t give up until the post evaluation is complete and the lessons of change have been learned.

Daddykins

-Karthik Gurumurthy

My copy of #Daddykins arrived on time and I couldn't put the book down.

Kalpana Mohan writes magically about her father, his life, all the way from his days in pre-independent India, to the 21st century. I was transported to his village in Palakkad, to the Madras of old that him and his family made Home in. Mostly though, the words paint a breathtaking picture of a man through his daughter’s eyes, through his Man Friday’s eyes, through the lives of those he touched.

Daddykins
A read that was both sad and funny, a story of a love that is both universal and unique. Nothing can ever extinguish the aching sadness of the loss of one's parents; all we are left with are stories and memories. Kalpana Mohan has captured these so beautifully. It is the story of her family, the life and times of her beloved Daddykins and a host of others who were part of his milieu. I can totally relate to her narration as I lost my dad to cancer in 2012 as soon as I heard about his illness, I dropped everything to take care of him. Kalpana has used unswerving probity coupled with a defining and underlying compassion – making us laugh and cry with the family. ! I am teary eyed right now, having literally lived the last moments of Daddykins in the past hour!!  It is a rare book that can appeal to everyone – Daddykins is one such – for we can, each and every one of us, relate to someone or something in the book.  Five stars, that is my vote. Wonderfully written!!


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.

Get out of comfort zone

-Karthik Gurumurthy

What I say is not adding value. I have some experience but not enough…. I will be found out. And made fun of. I don’t want to sound or be branded a phony;

Look into the mirror. You’ve been through it. Or experience this every  time you’re asked to take something up: Speak at an event, lead a team, solve a problem...

The first thought that comes through is “hey, I’m not ready. Perhaps next year. I will direct you to an expert, I’m sure he will do a better job!”.

You’ve had successes in the past, have exhibited brilliance and leadership but internally, you write it off as luck, the team and some heavenly intervention! This is called Impostor Syndrome

The only way to counter the impostor syndrome is to  get out of the comfort zone take it head on.

Do not let your own fear that you are not good enough stop you.

Say what you have to say.

Do what you have to do

What you have to say or do, do it; there is someone who needs to hear it. It will resonate and those who listen will get back to you. Feedback. It will substantiate what your doing.

Keep doing it and you will become better at it.

Two other methods that work:

  1. Talk to someone who is experienced in that field or a mentor who can help you get out of this syndrome and set you on the right track- your track!
  2. Write your accomplishments and showcase your successes.

Priorities

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I have shared this quote from Michael Josephson before and from time-to-time we all need to think about the same.

"Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end. There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours, or days. All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else.
Your wealth, fame, and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.
It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations, and jealousies will finally disappear.
So, too, your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to-do lists will expire.
The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.
It won't matter where you came from or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end.
It won't matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.
Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.
So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?
What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built; not what you got.. but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success, but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage, or sacrifice that enriched, empowered, or encouraged others to emulate your example.
What will matter is not your competence, but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you're gone.
What will matter is not your memories, but the memories that live in those who loved you.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom, and for what.
Living a life that matters doesn't happen by accident. It's not a matter of circumstance, but of choice. Choose to live a life that matters.
How true this is. And Michael Josephson gives us reasons to think.


Happy 75th Birthday Appa!

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Dearest Appa,

We miss your physical presence. Happy 75th Birthday! You always taught us through your example and there is not a day that goes by without thinking about what you have done for us. One of the greatest things which you showed us by example is the attitude of Gratitude.  You talked about how grateful you were every single day and always thanked God, family, friends. This is probably the best time I feel to express how thankful I am to have such a wonderful dad who set an amazing example. I am thankful for having the most caring Mom I could ever ask. I am thankful for all my Grandparents (both paternal and maternal) who worked hard  and made it happen for the  families. I am thankful to have wonderful brother Aravind who is always there for me for everything. I consider myself superblessed to get an awesome beautiful wife who is the most transparent person I know with amazing qualities being enthusiastic and great sense of innocence and love for people. I am blessed with my wonderful friends and each of them have helped me in multiple ways. The closest being Sudarsanam Raman (Susi), Vijay, PG, Balaji, Ranga who knows everything about me and still had chosen to be friends with me. There are lot of Gurus/bosses/ teachers/ coworker whom I am extremely thankful to know them, These are the CHANGE AGENTS. These people come in your lives and they transform your life for the best.   My high school Math Teacher whom we used to refer as NR;  Prof. AK Mishra  and my favorite of all Dr. KS Viswanathan; Dr. V. Ramamurthy , Dr. Don Creighton , Computational Biology department at Johns Hopkins University L. Aravind, Subbu Viswanathan, Leslie Jones, Shekar Panchapekesan, Priya Sreedharan,  Michael Wang,  Sheila Minton, Yvon Descieux, Robert Marston, Randy Canfield, Pramukh Subramanian,  Juli Kahanamoku. This is not in any specific order. I am hoping I didn't leave any of  my change agents out.  All these people have added tremendous value in my life on a day-to-day basis. 

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 #ThankfulandBlessed #ThanksDad #ThanksAll


Getting prepared to go to college

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Junior year, in my opinion, is the most important year for college-bound students. This is when students start researching and narrowing down which colleges they are actually going to apply to.

Junior year is the hardest academically for most students. This is also the last year that grades will be listed on your transcripts that are sent to colleges along with your applications. Therefore, it is important to stay on track with your grades, make sure you are meeting any special requirements, and remain motivated to finish strong.

Junior year students can start to finalize their college list that will consist of at least 2 reach schools, 2-3 target schools, and 1-2 safety schools based on the research they have been doing unofficially since Freshmen year.

Usually I recommend students to take their SAT/ACT beginning of Junior year which means the preparation for the same should start beginning of Sophomore year which gives them enough time for taking practice tests and work on the areas that needs more practice.  It is important to create a testing plan that ensures you know not only the dates ACT/SAT test are administered but the deadlines for registration for the dates students plan to take the test and continue preparing to do your very best on these test while you are in the sophomore year.

And last but certainly not least start to think about and draft your personal statement. The Common Application also referred to as Common App, usually provides the personal statement prompt questions for the next years application cycle sometime in February but no later than April.

What is the Common App you ask? The Common Application is used for undergraduate admissions by nearly 700 colleges and universities. The Common Application is an electronic college application system that collects a wide range of information: personal data, educational data, standardized test scores, family information, academic honors, extracurricular activities, work experience, a personal essay, and criminal history.

Because of the popularity of the Common App many high schools use the common app prompts as a starting point to help our students draft their personal statements. Students often think writing a personal statement will be simple but it is probably one of the hardest essays your young scholar will write.

Getting started early allows time to create multiple drafts, to have teachers, parents, and older siblings to review and make suggestions to improve your essay and finally getting an early start will allow more time to address supplemental essay questions most colleges ask in addition to the personal statement essay, which you typically won't have access to until you are ready to apply.


Nuggets from Option B

-Karthik Gurumurthy

 

I just finished the reading the book "Option B" by Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) and Adam Grant (Prof. in Wharton Business School). 

After the sudden death of her husband, Facebook COO (and author of Lean In) Sandberg finds herself a widow and single mother.  It is a brave attempt to unveil the vulnerability with such rawness and honesty.Her book isn't exactly a checklist--which I think is a good thing--but it is a way to take charge of one's own response to tragedy or difficulty.

Sandberg researches what these things are, and does her best to follow them. Turns out these types of mindsets or mental exercises are good for all of us who have gone through something as tragic or even mildly difficult. And they are good for those of us who have stood by friends who have lost loved ones or are battling enormous life adjustments. Or smaller challenges, too. Or maybe we're parents of children whose lives will inevitably involve some hardship, and we'd like to teach them to be resilient from a young age.

Some of the things I picked up from the book and will carry with me as tools to face or overcome the loss or failure, both in my own life and others:

- The "3 Ps" can stunt recovery: 1) Personalization, or the belief that we are at fault; 2) Pervasiveness, or the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life; 3) Permanence, or the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever. Challenging those responses and letting rational thinking return to the forefront helps.

- It's no big secret that learning from mistakes is helpful in school and at jobs. I liked the story of Kim Malone Scott at Google who brought a stuffed monkey named Whoops to team meetings. The person who had the biggest screw up got to have Whoops sit at their desk for the week. 

- I loved the idea of opening yourself in a humble way to feedback. Sue Ashford's studies "show that although fishing for compliments hurts your reputation, asking for criticism signals you care about improving."

- "Believing it will all work out helps it all work out."

- Loved the last chapter of adding humor back into life after a tragic event or loss. "Humor lowers our heart rate and relaxes our muscles. Humor is a signal that a situation is safe. Laughter breaks tension by making stressful situations less threatening."

For people going through a tragedy or loss, Sheryl offers some useful phrases: “you are not alone” is better than “I cannot imagine”; “I will bring dinner” is better than “how can I help?” which puts the burden on the grieving one to come up with something to do. And as for “how are you?”: It can be a punch in the gut to someone already in pain, since the answer is probably somewhere along the spectrum of awful to unbearable. A better alternative: “how are you today?”

I strongly recommend this book. I am in complete admiration of Sheryl Sandberg and her determination to move forward in a positive way for the sake of her children, family, friends and colleagues and  am thankful that she generously decided to share her nightmare with those of us who can always use a little advice of what to do when someone we love meets tragedy. 


Powerful words

-Karthik Gurumurthy 

A conversation with a friend, coworker and family member will turn into positive action when you ask these two words:

What’s next?

That question focuses on the next action to be taken, the new thing to be done, or where effort should be exerted. It moves you from dwelling on the moment to moving ahead.

“What’s next?” is all about what action–however small or large–you can take to create forward forward momentum towards results. “What’s next?” combats complacency. It gets you off your current plateau and breaks complacency. “What’s next?” goes beyond “thinking about” to “identifying and doing” what is necessary to make progress.

It gets an uncommitted prospect to make a decision. 

“What’s next?” uncovers what part of your big goal is achievable now. Over time enough questions like “What’s next?” results in an achieved goal. “What’s next?” identifies what it will take to make your relationship better, for you and the other person. “What’s next?” creates movement and progress with whomever you’re talking to.

Stumped? In a rut? Stymied about how to move forward? Just ask, “What’s next?”


Significant Progress in Insignificant Moments

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Most of us living on earth today will not win a Nobel Prize, Magsaysay award or a Medal of Honor. Most people will not receive a lifetime achievement award, invent something groundbreaking, or change the landscape of the world. For most of us, things like getting married, making a lifelong friend, having a child, buying our first home, or retiring are large moments in our lives.

For all of us though, it is not the moment that we receive that final reward that makes up the significance. Progress is not achieved in large, momentous occasions. We are not defined by those big moments in life. We are shaped by the 100,000 moments we experience, not the 1. In every moment, you have an opportunity to make an impact, and it is significant. In order to move toward those large goals, you have to put together thousands of great moments.

Don't wait today for that significant thing to happen in your life to feel as if you've made progress. Make every moment count today. It is in those 100,000 moments that you will shape your progress in this life. Significant progress is made in what some would call "insignificant" moments. Make them count and make it happen.


Interesting perspective of life from a someone who is 100 years young

-Karthik Gurumurthy

  • Life isn't fair, but it's still good.
  • When in doubt, just take the next small step.
  • Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
  • Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.
  • Pay off your credit cards every month.
  • You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
  • Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.
  • It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
  • Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.
  • When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
  • Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.
  • It's OK to let your children see you cry.
  • Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
  • If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.
  • Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.
  • Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
  • Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
  • Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.
  • It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.
  • When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.
  • Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, and wear the fancy clothes. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
  • Over prepare, and then go with the flow.
  • Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple or blue or green.
  • The most important organ is the brain.
  • No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
  • Frame every so-called disaster with these words: 'In five years, will this matter?'
  • Always choose life.
  • Forgive everyone everything.
  • What other people think of you is none of your business.
  • Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
  • However good or bad a situation is it will change.
  • Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
  • Believe in miracles.
  • God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.
  • Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
  • Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.
  • Your children get only one childhood.
  • All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
  • Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
  • If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.
  • Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.
  • The best is yet to come...
  • No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
  • Yield.
  • Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift."

Put your glass down

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I cannot claim this as my own writing; the website attributed it to the world famous "Unknown". I did enjoy the moral of the story. I hope you do too.

A psychology professor walked around the stage while teaching stress management principles to an auditorium filled with students. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the typical “glass half empty or glass half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, the professor asked, “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?”

Students shouted out answers ranging from eight ounces to a couple pounds.

She replied, “From my perspective, the absolute weight of this glass doesn’t matter. It all depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute or two, it’s fairly light. If I hold it for an hour straight, its weight might make my arm ache a little. If I hold it for a day straight, my arm will likely cramp up and feel completely numb and paralyzed, forcing me to drop the glass to the floor. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels to me.”

As the class nodded their heads in agreement, she continued, “Your stresses and worries in life are very much like this glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and you begin to ache a little. Think about them all day long, and you will feel completely numb and paralyzed – incapable of doing anything else until you drop them.”

The moral: It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses and worries. No matter what happens during the day, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the night and into the next day with you. If you still feel the weight of yesterday’s stress, it’s a strong sign that it’s time to put the glass down.


Contentment: Art of being satisfied

-Karthik Gurumurthy

There is an age-old idea in the business world that one should never become completely content, or satisfied, as this will lead to complacency and lack of growth. We are taught to constantly seek something greater, bigger, and better. We start at a job, and immediately we begin seeking to acquire a greater position with greater authority. Once we have that new job, we seek the next level, and so on and so on. This cycle never stops. This transcends the business world and runs many of our lives. Before we buy the car we have always wanted, we say "if I only had that car, I would be happy." The new car smell and feel wears off in about a month, and we are looking to the next best thing. The world teaches us that we need the newest model of everything: phones, computers, watches, houses, clothes, jewelry. Funny thing is, most of us never find any long-term contentment in these things. The new job promotion gets old quickly, the new house is nice but we really want a bigger yard, a larger LED TV, an extra bedroom.....you get the picture.

What we need to learn is how to live today with contentment. This doesn't mean we don't set goals, strive for greatness, or do our jobs excellently. What it requires, however, is that we do not tie our identity to what we have, how much money we make, or what our job title is. We must learn to be content in whatever situation we are in. There are lessons to be learned in every stage of life. We learn tremendous lessons when we are broke, tired, and worn down. We also learn tremendous lessons when we are wealthy, energized, and have great position and authority. No matter where you are today, seek to be content in that place. Look for the lessons you can learn and take away from the stage of life you are in now. Strive to do things excellently, but don't get caught up in the quicksand that is awaiting you when you convince yourself that you will find contentment in the "next thing".

If you're not happy with what you have today, you won't be happy with twice as much.


Triggers

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Just finished up Triggers.  This is what I got from the book

Triggers

Marshall Goldsmith explains in Triggers the kinds of things in our environment that derail us from becoming the kind of leader, co-worker, parent, or spouse that we want to be. He illuminates an aspect of self-awareness that is so vital to a leader’s success.

We can’t control our environment, but we can control our responses. We always have a choice.

When it comes to interpersonal behavior we can’t rely on habits to help us. “We must be adaptable, not habitual—because the stakes are so much higher.” We need something more to help us deal with the uncertainty of our day.

When it comes to triggers, it’s not the big triggers that usually do us in, it is the little moments in life that trigger our most outsized and unproductive responses. They trigger some of our basest impulses. Especially with the people we know and love the most. “We can say and do anything with these folks. They know us. They’ll forgive us. We don’t have to edit ourselves. We can be true to our impulses. That’s how our closes relationships often become trigger festivals with consequences that we rarely see in any other part of our lives—the fuming and shouting, the fights and slammed doors, the angry departures and refusals to talk to each other for months, years, decades.”

So where the problem is most vivid is in the small, minor moments of the day, when we are not thinking about our environment or our behavior. That’s when we need to be most vigilant.

Sometimes the best strategy is to avoid the trigger altogether. Stop flirting with those things that tempt you. Goldsmith says that one of the most common behavioral issues among leaders is “succumbing to the temptation to exercise power when they would be better off showing restraint.” And that behavior is very hard to eliminate because those who engage in it because they no doubt enjoy doing it.

But we can’t always walk away.

What is the solution?

The solution then isn’t trying to fix the environment or the behavior of others, the solution is to change our behavior. When we are triggered we need to adjust.

Goldsmith has found that asking yourself some active questions works magic. Active questions get to personal responsibility—something you have control over. Goldsmith suggests six engaging questions anyone should be asking themselves each day to build engagement:

Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?
Did I do my best to find meaning today?
Did I do my best to be happy today?
Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
Did I do my best to be fully engaged today?

In addition, Goldsmith has a number of other Daily Questions he asks himself to gauge whether he had taken responsibility for his own life. Our own questions would reflect those things that we want to work on—will success on these items help me become the person I want to be?

Did I do my best to have a healthy diet?
Did I do my best to be a good spouse?
Did I do my best to add value to ______?
Did I do my best to learn something new?
Did I do my best to get a good night’s sleep?
Did I do my best to not prove how right I am when it’s not really worth it?

You score yourself on a scale from 1 to 10 to track your progress or the lack of it. “One of the underappreciated benefits of the Daily Questions is that they force us to quantify an unfamiliar data point: Our level of trying. We rarely do that.”

Daily Questions remind us that success is the result of small efforts repeated consistently over time. Daily Questions can be a game changer because they reinforce our commitment, they ignite our motivation where we need it and not where we don’t, and they shrink our goals into manageable increments.

OUR NEED FOR STRUCTURE

The Daily Questions provide structure in our lives. Simply put, Goldsmith says: “We do not get better without structure.” Like rules, structure pushes us in the right direction when our first impulse is to go the other way.

Goldsmith has worked with Alan Mulally and finds that “no idea looms bigger in Alan’s mind than the importance of structure in turning around and organization and its people.” Goldsmith explains how Mulally integrated the Daily Questions process in his weekly Business Plan Review meetings with his sixteen top executives. And repetition was key. “In the same way that Daily Questions drive us to measure our effort every day and then face the reality of our own behavior, the executives would be announcing how they graded themselves every Thursday—without deviation.” And in the group setting the idea was: How can we help one another more?

Structure “limits our options so that we’re not thrown off course by externalities….Imposing structure on parts of our day is how we seize control of our otherwise unruly environment.”

Goldsmith points out that after a hard, decision-filled day we become depleted. Our discipline and decisiveness fade at the end of the day to the point where we want to do nothing or fill our time with mindless activities.

Deletion isn’t something that we are always aware of but we should anticipate it and create structure where we can. “If we provide ourselves with enough structure, we don’t need discipline. The structure provides it for us. We can’t structure everything obviously—no environment is thatcooperative.” But the more structure we have the less we have to worry about.

ANTICIPATE

When you know you are headed into a pointless meeting, imagine that you are going to be tested on your behavior:

Did I do my best to be happy?
Did I do my best to find meaning?
Did I do my best to build positive relationships?
Did I do my best to be fully engaged?

Sometimes we think we have to show everyone how we feel but that’s ego talking. “Why waste that hour being disengaged and cynical?” asks Goldsmith.

It’s in the moment that we shape ourselves into a better person. Sometimes hourly questions might help. When we face an event were not up for or a person that usually throws us off our game, why not try setting our Smartphone to ask us a question like, “Am I doing my best to…?”

THE FAVORITE PART

What I like best about Triggers is that by creating an awareness of our environment and identifying our own triggers we can be a force for adding value in other people’s lives by triggering something good in others. It requires our imagination and clarity about what we want to become.

When we dive all the way into adult behavioral change—with 100 percent focus and energy—we become an irresistible force rather than the proverbial immovable object. We begin to change our environment rather than be hanged by it. The people around us sense this. We have become the trigger.

Responding to critics

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I have heard a story about Winston Churchill and his extraordinary integrity in the face of opposition. During his last year in office, he attended an official ceremony. Several rows behind him two gentlemen began whispering. “That’s Winston Churchill. They say he is getting senile. They say he should step aside and leave the running of the nation to more dynamic and capable men.” When the ceremony was over, Churchill turned to the men and said, “Gentlemen, they also say he is deaf.”

How you respond to critics is very important part of building yourself. It’s all too easy to get defensive when critics rub us the wrong way or misunderstand us. There is also a possibility of us  being wrong as well. Ask yourself why the criticism was made. Is the person trying to help, to make things better, to help you avoid making mistakes, to suggest positive improvements? Is the person just in a cranky rude mood, having a bad day? Is the person just mean, or jealous? Is there good reason for the criticism?My dad gave me an outstanding piece of advice when I first left to US. He said, “If you take the blame when you deserve it, you will take responsibility and will improve and become a better person." I have found that to be very true. Difficult, but true. In my experience, until someone in a group (or in a family) accepts blame, everyone stays very anxious and focused on fingering the person at fault. Once I take responsibility and be accountable, then everyone else can relax. And then we can all focus on what needs to be done.

Thank the person offering the criticism. Sometimes they’re coming from a place of wanting to help you. That takes courage, and is a very generous thing. Be grateful for that. Even when they’re not trying to be helpful, they’ve taken the time to respond to you — and trust me, getting a response is better than absolute silence. Provoking a reaction means you’ve done something interesting — and for that, you should be thankful. Either way, thanking the critic will help lead to a positive exchange.

It is also important not immediately respond but delay the response.  Delaying the response gives time to think it over and not be reactive. Calm yourself down before responding. Always. Responding to a critic in anger is never, ever, ever a good idea.Respond rationally and calmly. Instead of being defensive, be honest. Share your reasons, acknowledge the other person’s points if there’s any validity, and come to a rational conclusion rather than jealously guarding your way of doing things.

Or stay silent. If you can’t respond with grace, then just don’t respond. Silence is a much better response than anger or defensiveness or quitting.


Miss you NR Sir

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Today I received sad news that one of my favorite teachers in high school had passed away. As children, we spend almost as much time with our teachers as we do with our parents. The teachers who have had tremendous influence on us are far and few and N. Rajendran Sir   (whom we used to fondly refer him as NR Sir) was one of them.  He created such a ripple effect with students that  there is not a day that goes by without thinking about him. I tutor Math almost on a regular  basis and I owe everything I learned in Math to NR Sir. I have lost close ones before, but have never felt such sadness and grief as I feel today. I really adored you Sir, and I will always. The infectious zeal with which NR Sir have taught so many of us continues to energize us even today. 

I was failing miserably in my IX grade in Math and was promoted to X with warning meaning I barely passed my Math in IX. In our school, Our X grade students were segregated based on our performance in our IX grade and luckily for us, NR sir was the assigned teacher.  We weren't sure what to expect of him as we never had classes with him or had an opportunity to interact with him. He sported a big moustache  which made him look scary. After I had classes with him , I soon  got over the moustache part and realized that he was a wonderful teacher who was able to connect us  really with the Math concepts. He used to make us do so many problems over and over that our hands used to hurt by the time we were done. I was sitting in the first row right in front of him, and for some reason he used to pick on me as well and asked me to go to the board and solve a problem.  I had low self esteem up until that point of time . His teaching boosted my self esteem big time.He always used to have chalk piece with him which he used to throw at someone who is not paying attention. He wanted to do everything under his control to help out students and  am thankful he took me under his wings to help me understand appreciate and enjoy Math to the fullest. I moved from barely passing in IX to being top of the class in his tests. I never had  the passion to  be the first or anything but getting a pat in the back meant a lot to me . I remember few tests which I didn't do too well,  He was very angry  at me and I was mad at myself for not giving my best and made sure I didn't  slack off after that. He was eminently fair, honest to the point of bluntness, ever helpful, but would brook no nonsense that would disrupt his classroom routine.  NR sir always exhibited extra bit of life in whatever he did and had the rare capacity to instill some of that in others he met.

I fall short of words to express my grief on the sad demise of our beloved NR Sir. I am what I am today only because of him.  The right way to pay tribute to him is to face this news boldly and go ahead and do a great job as his student and carry forward his legacy.

I hope his family can take solace in the fact that such a great man is surely looking down on them from the highest pinnacle of heaven.

Rest in peace NR Sir, you're probably lecturing God right now or having a breakfast with your Math teachers. 

Sukumar_NRSir

I am thankful to one of our seniors Sukumar Rajagopal for sharing  his picture. Few years back he also honored this wonderful teacher..and am attaching herewith the video of the same (with his permission).

 


What matters

-Karthik Gurumurthy

This is not the first time I am quoting this but worth reading this once in few months.

Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end. There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours, or days. All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else.
Your wealth, fame, and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.
It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations, and jealousies will finally disappear.
So, too, your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to-do lists will expire.
The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.
It won't matter where you came from or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end.
It won't matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.
Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.
So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?
What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built; not what you got,  but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success, but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage, or sacrifice that enriched, empowered, or encouraged others to emulate your example.
What will matter is not your competence, but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you're gone.
What will matter is not your memories, but the memories that live in those who loved you.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom, and for what.
Living a life that matters doesn't happen by accident. It's not a matter of circumstance, but of choice. Choose to live a life that matters.


How true this is. And Michael Josephson gives us reasons to think.


Rest in Peace Ramesh Mahadevan

-Karthik Gurumurthy

When I landed in US few years back for Graduate school it was a totally different kind of world.  Laptops were uncommon and expensive. We used to stop by at the University library to check email and internet and speed was lot slower than the current scenario. But at that point of time, we did not know it was slow.  We were plain excited and  just access to free  internet by itself was fascinating.

Calling home was also an expensive proposition and there were no vonage/whatsapp/fb./Blogs. Those days there was only text based emails and there were internet news groups. There was soc.culture.india and some other groups like that. The Indians in US and some other parts of the world were connected through these news groups. It was mostly graduate students who had come from India who were active on these groups - the University email accounts helped. This was the practice ground where many of us started writing - especially armed with our new experience in the new place we had just entered. The news groups were very popular and we would eagerly wait for any update on these newsgroups just like we would wait for the morning paper in India the day after an exciting win for the Indian cricket team.

Of all the people who wrote on those news groups, Ramesh Mahadevan was my favorite. For all of you who are not aware of Ramesh Mahadevan,  Ramesh  obtained his PhD in Applied Physics from Ohio State University and was working in Maxtor in Denver, Colorado. Ramesh used to pen lot of articles relating to Grad school life which most students can relate to and he had diverse interests from Carnatic Music-Wall street. I  thoroughly enjoyed his articles and used to write to him regularly and he was prompt in responding back and we were in regular touch for quite sometime until he decided to move back to India. It was such a solace to read his articles when I was feeling home sick as a new arrival in the US. He was very knowledgeable and his observations of life of Indians in the US - - especially student life in US were spot on. His write ups on music, movies, food, TV programs were pure pleasure to read. He could write recipes which resulted not only in a tasty dish but would tickle you with the humor in it. I vividly remember his recipe for a dish made with Cauliflower which he called the king of vegetables. His series titled "A gentle introduction to Karnatic music" is both educative and humorous.   

On top of consulting, he was teaching at SSN College of Engineering and started a weblog which had a good following. However, I noticed that he didn't update after 2011. I always used to wonder how he was doing. Last time I was in Landmark book store, I picked up a book written by him about etiquette people skills at work. It was a well written book which I used to frequently refer back in 2012.  Today I found out he passed away last week which was shocking. I am hoping it is a rumor. I am sure lot of his fans who read his articles would feel the same sadness which I am feeling now.  I just have no words to express the sadness. Whoever knew his mind/views/ideas personally, will definitely miss him.

Whom the Gods love die young.

Rest in Peace, Ramesh.


Nuggets from the book "Presence"

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Just finished reading the book "Presence" by Amy Cuddy.  Practically written upon the base of sound academic research and knowledge, Cuddy manages to clearly and succinctly lead the reader into the world of "Presence"; so much so that it is becoming an entity in its own right.

Presence is about harnessing confidence and poise. How do you carry yourself? How does that make you feel? How do you think others see you? The first few chapters are all about harnessing this presence and believing your own story.

This is one of many profound insights Cuddy presents about how we can use our physiology (our bodies) to increase our power and presence.

There seems to be what researchers refer to as a “bidirectional” relationship between feeling and behavior: when you feel powerful, you expand your body, and when you expand your body, you feel powerful.

Bottom line: Expanding your body language, or carrying yourself in a more expansive way can actually make you feel more powerful. 

"…the smaller the device, the more we must contract our bodies to use it, and the more time we spend in these shrunken, inward postures, the more powerless we feel. Our findings uncover a cruel irony: while many of us spend hours everyday working on small mobile devices, often with the goal of increasing our productivity and efficiency, interacting with these tiny objects, even for short periods of time, might reduce assertiveness, potentially undermining our productivity and efficiency. If you must spend long stretches in front of a screen, which many of us do, be sure to choose a device carefully and configure your space to allow for the most upright and expansive posture.”

Go to your local coffee shop on a busy day, and you’ll probably find 80% of people hunched over their tiny little smart phone screen.

Regardless of whether they do it while they’re sitting or standing, this hunching-over-screen habit is NOT contributing to their sense of presence.

In fact, it’s impairing their ability to expand, thus contributing to powerlessness.

It’s actually quite obvious when we think about it: hunching down at a smart phone screen produces an inward stance; when what we’re really looking for is an expansive stance.

If you’re looking to cultivate more presence, power, and a sense of genuinely connected with other people, then stop hunching over and tapping away at your smart phone all day long. And start being more present by putting away the smart phone, straightening out your posture, and expanding your stance a little more often.

The tips, studies and facts around positive poses and presence really resonated with me. If you really liked what you read so far, you should get the book.

 


Thinking about you dad

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Appa

It has been four years since Dad left us. There is still not a day that goes by without thinking about him. I miss his physical presence and cannot thank him enough for what he has provided for us and the family. There are lot of values that he imbibed which still makes me the person I am. 

Self-Esteem

Dad was my biggest cheerleader.My dad always told me I could do anything I wanted to do and be anything I wanted to be. He said that my gifts and abilities were unique. Now that I am a dad myself, I try to do the same for my son and hope that he believes me and subsequently believe in himself. 

Adventure

Every summer, my dad would make it a point to take us to a new place which was a big deal. It was very special for my brother and myself and we always looked forward to that. Both my parents worked hard the whole year and took that break which was very refreshing. They instilled a desire in me to see the world. There was always another adventure waiting around the corner that kept us on our toes and made life exciting and sweet.The lesson he taught us was to smell the roses along the way.

Living within your means

On my eleventh birthday, my father began to teach me how to live within my means. When I was about 11 years old, He sat me down and taught me about an allowance. He was going to provide me with a monthly pocket-money that I would later come to realize was my means. I was going to have a set amount of money that I could spend on anything I’d like. The only catch was that once I spent it all, I couldn’t buy anything else until the following month when I received my next allowance. At the age of 11, I began to learn how to budget, how to save, and how to spend wisely.It is a powerful lesson which I realized and learned only later, but I learned really well what he really meant.

Choose your friends wisely

Successful people surrounds himself with successful people. He valued his friends so much and he had friends from all walks of life.  He was so right. When I think of the friends I have been blessed with in my life: I am often reminded of the quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson who said: " I didn't find my friends, the Good Lord gave them to me."

 

Thank you Dad for everything you did and all your blessings you are showering on me and the family. I consider myself superlucky to be born your son. We miss you. 


Simple Question

-Karthik Gurumurthy

It is getting hard to listen to the political candidates and their promises. Any time any candidate of any party promises to give you something new, ask one simple question: Where will the money come from? The question can be the same..Be it in United States or be it in Tamilnadu, India where elections are scheduled to happen in May. The answer: he who receiveth will also giveth. Funding for programs is a reallocation of existing funding (money is taken from other programs), an increase in the deficit (money the government doesn’t have to spend) or, most likely, an increased tax burden on Americans who pay taxes. You don’t need a degree in finance or economics to understand that something for nothing doesn’t exist in the real world–it exists only in the minds of politicans looking for easy votes.


Maturity

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Got this as a forward.

What's maturity?

1. Maturity is when you stop trying to change others, but instead focus on changing yourself.
2. Maturity is when you accept people who they are.
3. Maturity is when you understand everyone is right in their own perspective.
4. Maturity is when you learn to "let go".
5. Maturity is when you are able to drop "expectations" from a relationship and give for the sake of giving.
6. Maturity is when you understand whatever you do, you do for your own peace.
7. Maturity is when you stop proving to the world, how intelligent you are.
8. Maturity is when you do not seek approval from others.
9. Maturity is when you stop comparing with others.
10. Maturity is when you are at peace with yourself.
11. Maturity is when you are able to differentiate between "need" and "want" and are able to let go of your wants.
12. Maturity is when you stop attaching "happiness" to material things.


Happy Birthday Bapu

-Karthik Gurumurthy

As we celebrate the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, we can take some time to think about how he led his life. One of my favorite quotes from Mahatma Gandhi is “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” To truly lead, and make a difference in the world, we must always start with our self.

In order to start with our self,we must understand if our actions come from a place of obligation or opportunity. Do we see moments to serve others as a matter of obligation or opportunity? The people who act as leaders almost always act from a sense of incredible opportunity.

How do we change our motivation from a place of obligation to opportunity? This is a challenge faced by the entire society. Many people face this challenge of perspective because of their lack of self-mastery. People have fallen victim to allowing their dissatisfaction control them.

A recent Wall Street Journal report stated that 80% of line workers and 50% of executives are dissatisfied with their lives at work. This highlights the challenge for anyone is to make a life while making a living. Many people feel paralyzed by their lack of control over life.

Instead of losing control over our life, we can focus on all the things we do control. To achieve this, hone in on our self-mastery skills. Self-mastery defines the promises made versus promises kept, both to oneself and to others. 


Why do great people leave/quit an organization?

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Quitting is portrayed a bad thing usually. People who leave an organization after being there for long haul are usually portrayed as someone who is not paying the price, losing the dream.  But we do witness great wonderful people leaving quit organizations from time to time. Why is that?

People don't quit organizations, they quit leaders. It’s a sad but true commentary on the lack of leadership skills that are so desperately needed to thrive.

There are consequences to poor leadership and where it’s not present, people will leave to find it. Inevitably it’s the good hardworking loyal workers who leave. Left behind is a weakened and demoralized team forced to pick up the pieces.

But why do the good ones leave? What is the tipping point? The specifics vary, of course, but typically the good people leave for the following reasons.

No Backbone

This type of leader plays to the crowd and will say whatever he or she thinks you want to hear. The good ones had rather hear the uncomfortable truth than the pleasant sounds of a diplomat. The good ones want a leader who is not afraid to make the difficult decisions.

No Vision

The good ones long for and thrive in an environment where the leader has a vision for the future, can articulate it, and sets a course of action that will take them there. The good ones understand that without a clear vision for the future there is no future to be had by  just merely staying.

Cheap talk Manager

It will be hard to command the respect of your people if you have no skin in the game as it relates to your organization and its mission. You can’t expect a buy-in from your people if you are not fully invested yourself. The good ones seek to be with leaders who are as passionately invested as they are.

Not Adding value

If the so called leader does not move forward or makes effort in moving forward, the good ones will not sit idly by while the leader plays politics or favorites and be denied the opportunity to advance professionally.The good ones will thrive in a culture of excellence where their hard work and talents are put to best use. 

No accountability

The loyal great leaders fundamentally understand that accountability and transparency are the cornerstones of success. When a leader no longer feels the need to be transparent or be accountable for his or her actions, then the good ones will not stay. Trust is like glue for the leader, is there is none, people won’t stick.

Low standards

Ultimately, the leader is responsible for the culture of the organization. If proper boundaries are not being observed and inappropriate behaviors are being tolerated, then the good ones will not stay in that environment.

No Integrity

At the end of the day it all comes down to the integrity of the leader. The good ones want their leader to be a person of integrity and one they can trust. If integrity is lacking in the leader then integrity will be lacking in the culture. The good ones will leave to avoid the connection.

Many personal factors contribute to the reasons why the good ones tend to leave and move on. I have discovered that it’s not always for the money or a promotion or not willing to work hard. The good ones understand the wisdom of the words of John Maxwell who once said, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” That’s why the good ones leave- to be with good leaders.