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November 2007

Important Questions

-Karthik Gurumurthy

One of the fastest ways to find the solution to an issue or challenge you are facing is to ask the right questions. The right question inevitably leads you to the correct answer. Questions matter. In business, remarkable performers are brilliant at getting to the right question. The one that speeds them to the place they need to get to and offers them the missing piece they need to find. And in life, asking yourself a powerful question will allow you to step into a whole new set of possibilities that you may have missed while you were locked into an old way of seeing things. Like the lesson amidst a so-called "failure". Or the opportunity that inhabits a setback.

Here are 5 Questions which would help you unlock your potential. I suggest you write them down and then find some time today to answer them in your journal.

1. Where am I playing small at work and in life?
2. What would I do if I knew I could not fail?
3. What am I resisting?
4. What can I be grateful for?
5. How do I want to be remembered?

And as you make this day extraordinary, I'll leave you with a quote from Mark Twain: "If everyone was satisfied with themselves, there would be no heroes."

Adding value

Zig Ziglar says "You can get whatever you want so long as you help enough people get what they want". All of your most highly cherished dreams can become reality as long as you help enough of those around you get to their personal mountaintops. Shift from me to we and watch your career - and your life - become shockingly successful. Be a Value Creator - for every stakeholder in the world you inhabit.

Two weeks back I attended BBS by Rashmi Jyotiprakash at the Anaheim Convention center . It was phenomenal. He said: "The problem with society today is that people are too focused on themselves to care about the needs of others. Great change is brought about by ordinary people filling ordinary needs."

Today, look for ordinary ways to be extraordinary (that's a big formula for success). Do the little things with unimaginable passion and off-the-scales excellence. Give your best - and then go farther - to each of today's pursuits. Because the more value you can create for others, the more value they will return to you.

Know Thyself: Mirror Test

Today I got a chance to listen to successful self made entrepreneur who talked a lot about 'mirroring technique' which lot of people used it and implemented. Today I am going to talk about mirror test.

I believe it's strikingly important to remember that when you know better, you can do better. With higher levels of awareness, you can make smarter choices. And the more clarity you get as to who you want to become, the quicker you can start making the choices need to get you there.

A simple tool for you today. Called The Mirror Test. Look into the mirror and ask yourself the following question: "What one thing could I do today that if I did it, my professional and personal life would get to its next level of greatness?" Then think about that One Thing. Reflect on executing that step superbly. Act from courage. And go out and do it. Now.

Fail your way to Success

The very nature of dreaming big dreams and stretching yourself beyond the normal is dangerous. Dangerous in the sense that you leave safety, you leave routine, you leave the common world where unhappy people smile giant smiles when they are asked to pose for a picture. And as you leave your cocoon of comfort, you will certainly fail more than your neighbors and those who live a life called Ordinary.

But one must fail to win. One must be willing to risk greatly to reach your personal mountaintop and your authentic definition of success. And I'd rather reach high and be disappointed than not even try to reach. And when I fall, I get back up, dust myself off - and I start again. Wiser. Stronger. And more committed. Just like you.

Lessons from "Four Seasons"

- Karthik Gurumurthy

Isadore Sharpe started a little company called The Four Seasons, with a single little hotel, in 1961. Did deals based on a handshake. Spoke his truth and kept his word. Did great work and offered great value. Well, good things happen to people who do good things (key thought to remember).

The Four Seasons, now one of the planet's most successful hotel chains, recently received purchase offers from the likes of Bill Gates and other heavy-hitters. Friends and colleagues of Issy Sharpe said things like "he deserves all the great things happening to him". Stands to make hundreds of millions. His reputation continues to soar. Fitting way to tie up his Cinderella Story.

Lessons learnt from his story:

1. Stay true to your vision/dream. There's something to be said for just staying at what you are trying to achieve well past the point everyone else gives up. Life rewards the (unreasonably) devoted.

2. Stay true to your values. In a world of fast-buck artists and people playing the short-game, Issy took the long-view. Built high-trust relationships. Protected his brand. Underpromised and overdelivered. Didn't care if others were unethical - stayed true to himself.

3. The little things amount to big things. Issy's dream started small. But he tended to it daily. Small daily elevations compound into massive results over time. Remember that success comes via those daily wins.

So model Issy - no matter what work you're doing today. Because leadership is all about Leading Where You're Planted. And it's not about the size of your title - but the depth of your commitment.

Lessons from Jim Carrey: Power of written goals

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I used to watch lot of movies when I was in Grad school. Most of them would be movies of Jim Carrey.

I am not going to review his movies now as that is a totally different topic altogether.

Lot of us get excited and inspired after reading a book, or after listening to a talk given by a leadership guru. But most of the excitement wears out after couple of days as we let life happen to us. But there are a small percentage of people who are focussed on goals and who knows what they are shooting for. Success is all about realizing your purpose and going after it with full gusto. So figuring out what you want is really important and vital and having written goals are liking having roadmaps.

Talking about Jim Carrey earlier, he is one of the highest paid celebrities in the movie industry, but success did not come to him easily. He had to leave school in grade nine to help his parents make ends meet when his father lost his job. One of his first jobs was as a janitor.

Carrey struggled for many years to find his way, but he never lost his sense of humor or his determination to succeed, even when things got really tough for him. He was told many times he would never make it in show business, but he had set his heart on success. He moved from his hometown Toronto and moved to Los Angeles to 'make it' and to perfect his craft. During the next years of frequent rejection and loneliness, Carrey always believed in himself. To keep himself motivated and wrote himself a check for 10 million$ and posted it where he could see it everyday: that is what he wanted to earn per movie when he became a star. This was a bold vision for anybody, let alone an unknown comedian to make ends meet. It became almost an obsession with him. Today, Jim Carrey earns well over 20 M$ per movie in Hollywood exceeding even his own expectations!

What goals do you have for yourself? It doesn't have to have 10 million$ price tag on it. It can be anything you want, big or small. Write down something symbolic or especially meaningful about that goal. Put it somewhere so you can see it everyday. Focus on it, but don't lose sight of your true self in the journey.

Work on your daily habits

-Karthik Gurumurthy

What separates the best from the rest comes down to habits. A few good ones (that's really all it takes - two or three really good ones) will make a massive difference in the way your career and your life looks downstream. So choose them well.

I feel a good habit is like a strong oak tree. Starts off as a little seed, planted in a single moment. Fail to nurture it daily and it dies a fast death. But tend to it - just a bit each day - and the thing grows. Until one day it's so strong it is next to impossible to break it.

Your habits will define how close to your personal mountaintop you get. Ones I suggest to you include getting up early, underpromising and overdelivering (always give people far more than they expect and you'll win), being a passionate learner (by reading daily and listening to audio programs by big thinkers), spending the first 30 minutes of each day planning (or thinking), leaving every person you meet better than you found them, working out regularly. Just a few to pick from. To get you going. To plant your seeds.

Focus on what you want

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Every second you spend thinking about what you don't want in your life is a second denying focus and energy from getting what you do want. Every minute you worry about what's not working is a minute drawn away from creating what will work. And every hour spent reflecting on the disappointments of the past is an hour stolen from seeing the possibilities that your future holds.

What I've discovered in my own life is that I see more of what I look for. Clarity precedes mastery (big idea there) and the more clearly I look for what I want, the more powerfully I generate that result in my life. By setting clear goals in the important areas, I see more of what I'm searching for. By looking for the best in others, I generally find it. And by looking for the good things in my life and expressing gratitude for my blessings (rather than thinking about any problems), I see more of what's good.

Your thinking will create your reality. Your thoughts form your world? Why? Because you will never act against your thinking. Every action is the offspring of a thought. And your actions create the professional and personal life you find yourself in today.

Embrace change

by Karthik Gurumurthy

I have identified 4 main reasons why people resist change and often don't take the steps to elevate their careers and their lives, even when they have the opportunity to do so:

Fear. People fear leaving their safe harbor of the known and venturing off into the unknown. Human beings crave certainty – even when it keeps them small. Just remember FEAR stands for "FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL." Engrave that in your mind. The key here is to manage your fear by doing the very thing that frightens you. The fears you don't own will own you. And behind every fear wall lives a precious treasure.

Failure. No one wants to fail. So many of us don't even try. We don't even take that first step to improve our health or to deepen our working relationships or to realize a dream. In my mind, the only failure in life is the failure to try. And I deeply believe that the greatest risk you can ever take is not taking risks.

Forgetting. Sure we leave the seminar room after an inspirational workshop ready to change the world. But then we get to the office the next day and reality sets in. Difficult teammates to deal with. Unhappy customers to satisfy. Demanding bosses to appease. Uncooperative suppliers. No time to act on the commitments we made for personal and professional leadership. So we forget them.

Here's a key to success: keep your commitments top of mind. Keep your self-promises front and center. Don't forget them. Put them on a 3 x 5 card that you post on your bathroom mirror and read every morning. Talk about them (you become what you talk about). Write about them each morning in your journal. Just remember: awareness precedes choice which precedes change. With better awareness you will make better choices. Those better choices lead to better results. Or to put it another way: as you know better you can do better. And as you do better, you will see better.

Faith. Too many people have no faith. They are cynical. “This leadership training and personal development stuff doesn't work.” Or “I'm too old to change.” Cynicism stems from disappointment. Cynical and faithless people were not always like that. But they tried and perhaps failed. Rather than staying on the game, recognizing that failure is the highway to success, they shut down and grew cynical. Their way to avoid getting hurt again.

So there you go, the “4 Fs” of why we resist transformation and playing our best game. Understand them and you can then manage and overcome them. Because awareness really does precede greatness.

Work on your People Skills Everyday

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Today I got a chance to attend the training by Rao and Vanitha Pokuru. The presentation was phenomenal and more than that, I got a lot of nuggets from the training. Vanitha talked about importance of growing ourselves internally on a consistent basis and having a united home team. Rao talked about having the innocence and excitement of a rookie and keeping the innocence all the time with the expectation to win every single time. He also insisted about the importance of people skills books for people who are moving on fast track. He had emphasized that the rate of growth of the business is directly proportional to the consistent action habits and how much one works on their people skills.

The things which they talked about are the most important but the mostly forgotten ones. I strive to read people skills books on a consistent basis. Few of the things which I got after reading today were as follows:

* Use people's names

* Look at them in the eye and show them you care

* Say please and thank you

* Listen a thousand times more than you speak (only a slight exaggeration)

* Be on-time

* Keep your promises

* Be more concerned about helping than selling (people can sniff sincerity a mile away)

* Be passionate about your products and services so that passion gets transferred.

* Be better than anyone else in your field at what you do (so read up on the product, learn daily, develop yourself/skills and always be improving)

* Treat your customers like they are visiting royalty.

Simple strategies. But remember: what separates the best from the rest is their consistent adherence to a few simple best practices that over time evolve into spectacular results. And also remember, everyone is selling something.

Don't sleep too much..Please..For Goodness sake

I know I'm unpopular on this point. But I owe you my truth: most people sleep more than they need to. They fall into the trap of spending some of the best hours of their lives on a mattress. They squander their potentially breathtaking gifts under the covers. They lose The Battle of The Bed. They trade their greatness for a snooze button.

Here's an insight I invite you to consider: sleep begets sleep. The more sleep you take, the more you need. Ever noticed that as you sleep more, you feel sleepier? Strange isn't it.

But it's true.

Yes, I get that sleep is essential to keep us bright and renewed and healthy. My fear is too much sleep. The kind that keeps great people small. The kind that minimizes high-potential lives. The kind that sucks the living out of human beings destined to shine (and you know who you are). Happens to a lot of us. Because we fall in love with a pillow.

Too much to do and too many great places to explore and too many Big Hairy Audacious Goals (thanks Jim Collins) to get to sleep too much. Life is for the living. I need to repeat that again: “life is for the living.” You and I have been given a gift today: to have the opportunity to make a difference and exercise our talents and have a brilliantly fun time doing it. And we need to seize (and respect) that gift.

So sleep less. Live more. And as Shivaram Kumar says: “there will be plenty of time to sleep when you're dead.”

You are whom you associate with

You will become your surroundings. So choose them well. The people you associate and the conversations you have profoundly shape your thinking and actions. Be with people greater than you and you will become a greater person. Fill your home with great books and you will rise to meet the promise (and possibilities) they offer. Eat great/healthy food and your physical life will reflect that association. Place yourself in and around the best. And you'll become it.

Happy Diwali

Happy Diwali. Diwali is the celebration of the victory of the right action over the wrong action.

Someone reading this blog today will walk out into their world and do something that will get them to a whole new level of excellence. Someone from within this very community will make a decision over the coming hours to raise their standards and step up to their highest potential. Someone around us will do something - even if it appears to be a little gesture - that over time will cause breathtaking improvements and results in the way their life looks -in all its dimensions. Why not make that person you?

Forget what anyone's ever told you. Stop listening to the small thinkers. Muffle the voices of the critics. Get to the truth: you are meant to play big with your life. To go out there and be remarkable. No, extraordinary. And every time you refuse to listen to that call on your life - you betray yourself. You dishonor you.

So make this day a special and unforgettable one. One small step can have gigantic consequences over time. Remember who you truly are. And all you have been built to be.

Ego: Edging God Out

Swami Sukhabodhananda

There was an egoistic king. Once when he went to the forest to hunt, he met a sage. The sage was deeply engrossed with his eyes closed. The king said, ‘I have fought so many great emperors, won over many lands and have annexed them to my kingdom.

My treasury overflows with riches that I have brought from various places. In my palace, there are many wonderful and pretty women from different regions, at my beck and call, ready to please me. Yet I am not happy. When will I become happy?’

The sage, opening his eyes, screamed at him, ‘You will be happy only when I die!’ and went back to meditation. In a rage, the king drew out his sword to kill him, saying, ‘I am a great king! How dare you insult me thus?’

The sage opened his eyes again and said, ‘You fool! I did not mean myself when I said ‘I.’…I meant the ego. When the ego dies, you will be happy!’

Hindu scriptures mention God as ‘Ananda’ meaning ‘joy.’ The word ego could be expanded thus – Edging God Out – that means, moving God or joy away from us is the state of ego.

In Hindu tradition, people break coconuts in front of God to symbolize breaking of ego. While breaking the coconut, we indirectly signify to ourselves, ‘Oh, God! I am breaking my ego – ‘I’, in front of you!’

Just as sweet water comes out of the broken coconut, so does joy emerge when one surrenders his ego.

Time to reciprocate

-Karthik Gurumurthy

It's only human nature to want to help those who've helped us. Each of us have a deep-seated hunger to do unto others as they've done onto us. And so I do believe it's true that we get back what we give out. An example.

I just drove 20 minutes out of my way to fill gas. Why would I do that when I have a big list of To Dos and a full schedule for today? Why would I do such an inconvenient thing when convenience suggests that I go to the station 2 minutes away from my home? Answer: I did it because I wanted to return a favor. For someone who was good to me. To a good person.

A few months ago, I noticed I had a flat tire after coming back from work I went to three gas stations - no one could fix my tire quickly - except one. An elderly gentleman in overalls with the name “Andy” stitched over his heart said he'd be happy to help me out of my situation. Offered me a coffee while I waited. Entertained me while he did the repair. He did his work with obvious joy. A leader without a title. People like him inspire me. Make me want to be a better man.

So I've been looking for an opportunity to show my appreciation. It starts today, by giving him my business. And then I'll be sending my friends over. And they'll tell others and so on. Because Andy deserves to win. And I want to reciprocate.

Relationships: Key to Success

-Karthik Gurumurthy

The quality of your life comes down to the quality of your relationships. With your customers, with your peers, with your loved ones, with your self (big idea there). Commit to insanely great relationships (Steve Jobs coined the “insanely great” standard BTW- I adore it) and you''ll have an insanely great life. And being a great human connector is pretty easy stuff. Remember, success is all about a precise consistency around fundamentals.

The following First Principles are profoundly simple and yet simply profound (and isn''t that the case for all great truths?):

-be the first one to say hello (or namaste/Shalom/Hola etc) when you encounter another human. In other words, be kind first (takes courage because we''re all scared of rejection, not being liked etc).

-smile a lot. One of the best ways to have someone open up to you. Remember, we make lasting impressions of people within the first few minutes of meeting them. Start with a smile.

-get devoted to using people''s names. Really important. Shows that you care. A mark of respect.

-look people in the eye when you speak to them. A mark of respect.

-become a world-class listener. Get this one right and you''ll own the title of “Relationship Superstar”. Most people don''t listen. Most people are so self-focused they fail to ask good questions when they meet another person. Listening and asking questions shows humility. It shows you are interested. Demonstrates that you are engaged - and not in love with yourself. Most people''s idea of listening is waiting until the other person has finished speaking.

-offer sincere compliments. Praise is free. Never miss an opportunity to celebrate and elevate another person, whether at work or at home. You''ll connect with the best within them. And then they''ll give you their best. Leave people better than you found them.

-treat everyone (and I do mean EVERYONE; it scares me when someone''s really nice to me but rude to a waiter - no consistency there) like royalty. Behave as if you''ll never see them again.

Sure the above 7 ideas are simple. Master these First Principles and you''ll get to your mountaintop quicker than you can imagine. The best practice mastery around the fundamentals. Keep it simple. You''ll win. And have fun.

Give it away

Big idea: the very thing you most want to see more of in your life is the very thing you need to give away.

Want more credit for all you do and who you are? Be the one who gives credit to others. Spread it like wildfire. Give away what you most want. This will create a space in the minds and hearts of all those around you to give more credit.

Want more understanding from others? Be more understanding and give that out.

Want more loyalty? Be the most loyal person you know. Watch what happens.

Want more love? Give more love.

I believe life wants you to win. Most people just get in their own way and sabotage their success. They let their fears keep them from greatness. They let their limitations become their chains. They become their own worst enemies. To get all that life wants for you, apply what I call The Boomerang Effect: give out what you most want to see come back. It's a gorgeous life you have in store for you. Just go out and get it.

Making Failure Your Friend

Dr. John C. Maxwell

This is taken from John C. Maxwell's book ( Failing Forward). I encourage you to read that book if you want to get the complete description.

Failure is either your friend or your enemy - and you choose which it is. If you play a dirge every time you fail, then failure will remain your enemy. But if you determine to learn from your failures, you actually benefit from them - and that makes failure your friend.

William Bolitho said, "The most important thing in life is not to capitalize on our gains. Any fool can do that. The really important thing is to profit from your losses. That requires intelligence; and makes the difference between a man of sense and a fool."

Anyone can make failure their friend by maintaining a teachable attitude and using a strategy for learning from their mistakes. To turn your losses into profits, ask the following questions every time you face adversity:


You won't learn all you can unless you're willing to find out what went wrong in the first place. Were you in a no-win situation? Is there a certain point when things broke down? Can you pinpoint one central mistake?

After his near death experience on Mount Everest, climber Beck Weathers admitted, "When you're up that far, you get
high-altitude stupid."


My friend Warren Wiersbe says, "A realist is an idealist who has gone through the fire and been purified. A skeptic is an idealist who has gone through the fire and been burned." Don't allow the fire of adversity to make you a skeptic. Allow it to purify you.

No matter what kind of adversity you experience, there is always a potential jewel of success contained in it. Sometimes it may be difficult to find. But you can discover it if you're willing to look for it.


Unfortunately many people react to adversity the same way Peanuts character Charlie Brown does in a comic strip I once read. Charlie is at the beach and has just finished building a beautiful sand castle. But as he stands back to admire his work, his masterpiece is pummeled by a huge wave. Staring at the smooth mound that had been his creation, he says, "There must be a lesson here, but I don't know what it is."

People that approach adversity like Charlie Brown become so consumed by the events that they miss the whole learning
experience. But there is always a way to learn from adversity and mistakes. The key is to always maintain a teachable attitude and embrace the idea that Lord Byron once conveyed: "Adversity is the first path to truth."


Generally speaking, there are two kinds of learning: experience, which is gained from you own mistakes, and wisdom, which is learned from the mistakes of others. Admiral Hyman Rickover said, "All of us must become better informed. It is necessary for us to learn from others' mistakes. You will not live long enough to make them all yourself."

As much as possible, glean wisdom from the wise counsel of others. Seek advice, but make sure it's from someone who has successfully handled mistakes or adversities.


In their book "Everyone's a Coach," Don Shula and Ken Blanchard state, "Learning is defined as a change in behavior. You haven't learned a thing until you can take action and use it."

When you are able to learn from bad experiences and turn them into something good, you make a major transition in your life. For several years I've taught that people change when they HURT enough that they have to, LEARN enough that they want to, or RECEIVE enough that they are able to. You may have experience with each of those situations. Make sure that they are agents of positive change in your life each time you face them.

Writer Sydney Harris said, "A winner knows how much he still has to learn, even when he is considered an expert by others. A loser wants to be considered an expert by others before he has learned enough to know how little he knows."

Make a new commitment to learn something from every mistake or adverse experience in your life. The lessons are there for the learning. But failure won't reach out and teach you. You must be willing to make failure your friend by seizing the opportunity to learn.

Attitude of Gratitude

I'm very human. And so I sometimes get a little bothered by ingratitude. I try to treat people well, help them win and champion them, so that they reach for their best life. Sometimes, I'd just love to hear two magic words: “thank you”.

Yes, I know that if you do something good for someone with the expectation of a reward it's not a gift - it's a trade. And I know that good things happen to people who do good things. And I know that life has a very fair accounting system and as one sows, one will reap. But I'd still like to hear those two magic words once in a while.

I had breakfast with friend the other day. He's helped so many people in his organization realize their highest potential - as leaders and as humans. He looked at me and said: “Karthik, after all these years in business, I can count on one hand the number of people who have told me that they appreciate what I've done for them.”

I believe I'm offering you a very real point. According to Gallup research, the number one reason an employee leaves an organization is not because they were not being paid enough money; they leave because they were not given enough appreciation. Your talent goes to the competition because no one said thank you to them.

So today, take a moment and think about the people in your life who need to be celebrated, appreciated and told that their support has been helpful. Offer a heartfelt and enthusiastic “thank you”. Those two magic words don't cost anything. But they will make a world of difference.