Previous month:
January 2010
Next month:
March 2010

February 2010

What is your calling in life?

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I am self employed and run couple of businesses apart from being in education. 

I have always wondered why some people flourish in a business and why some people do not make it all the way. What ingredient separates the two? For the majority of people, they are in business. For the vital few, business is within THEM like our mentors TD and Suparna. I have noticed the same trait in former CEO of Western Digital when I had an opportunity to observe him up close and personal.

Most people start businesses in the pursuit of a financial dream. Although that’s wonderful (and business must produce a profit or it won’t have the ability to continue), let me step out and suggest it’s still not the best long-term strategy. What could be better than the pursuit of a financial dream?  The Pursuit of a Personal Calling.

Now don’t get me wrong, I encourage all entrepreneurs to be profitable and achieve wonderful dreams. Let’s face it, your success opens doors for others to achieve as well given you’re the creator of jobs and opportunities. Consequently, your hard work deserves rewards. Yet, in addition to pursuing your dreams, look to pursue a personal calling.

The Moment of Truth

>Just as in life, business has its seasons. There are good times and let’s call them not-as-good times. The question isn’t will those tough times happen. The question is how will you respond to them? What will stop you from simply sliding down to point of game over? There are really three things that will keep you going:

1. Your Dream. The bigger, more passionate you are about your dream, the more motivated you will be to persist. When you are chasing a dream that’s meaningful, you’ll fight for it. However, if your dream is weak you’ll rationalize that it’s just not important enough to keep going. Have a fresh, big dream and build the dreams of others with whom you work.

2. Your Relationships. The deeper, more meaningful your relationships in business, the more you’ll go the extra mile to see things through. Go beyond having superficial relationships with your business partners and employees. Create deep emotional connections and they will serve you well. Often we will do more for others than we will even do for ourselves.

3. Your Calling. As powerful as dreams and relationships are to get through your “Moment of Truth,” there’s nothing as powerful as the pull of a personal calling. When you believe that your work is your calling – that it’s God’s will for your life – that you’re specifically designed with certain passions and talents to solve some particular problem, persisting through tough times isn’t an option whatsoever.

Life Burnout

When money is your objective, burnout looms around every challenge. It can become harder to get up each day and easier to quit and rationalize those dreams into something smaller. Yet, when you are passionately in pursuit of a true personal calling, you no longer put energy into what you do. Instead, what you do energizes you! You were made for it and you love it! Rather than pushing forward, you’re feeling pulled into what you do. Wow! What a difference. Try to burnout with something you absolutely feel called to do!

Consequently, you’ll naturally and happily work harder, longer, and with more passion when you pursue a calling. Let’s face it, you’ll also be more creative and a lot more fun to be around! In addition, your true passion will attract others that align with your thinking and cause unique synergistic effects that are hard to produce otherwise.

Your Reward

The reward for this pursuit is a higher level of living. You’re now not only in the pursuit of success but rather in the pursuit of significance. That’s a big difference. Success can afford many things but only significance can touch that deep place of fulfillment.

So look to enterprise in areas of your passions. Look to solve things for people that are meaningful to you and for which you’ve been given gifts and talents. Let your work become a mission and enjoy a life of success and significance.

Cause and Mission

-by Karthik Gurumurthy

What we observed from people who lead a life of significance is their mission/cause passion in helping people. I strongly feel that the real secret to immortality and longevity is to find a cause that's larger than yourself and then have the courage to donate your life to it. That cause might be being an extraordinary leader who creates an extraordinary organization that creates extraordinary value for it's customers. That cause might be to be a person devoted to leaving everyone you meet better than you found them. That cause might mean being a leader that develops the highest potential of his people and evokes their greatness. My Dad shared an Indian saying with me as I grew up that still lives within my imagination: "When you were born, you cried while the world rejoiced. Live your life in such a way that when you die, the world cried while you rejoice." 

The dash and the legacy

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I was browsing through the books at Barnes and Noble and found a book "Watermelon Magic: Seeds of Wisdom, Slices of Life" written by Wally Amos, founder of Amos Cookies. One of his anecdotes really gets you thinking about the meaning of life. Each day all of us work very hard at what we do, but when it's all over, what will people remember about us?

Here's Wally's quote:

"Obituaries always list the year you were born and the year you died, separated by a dash, i.e. 1900-1996. When you were born or when you died is not nearly as important as what you did in between--what you put in your dash."

From a story in Bits and Pieces some years back comes an inspiring story. Years ago a John Hopkins professor gave a group of graduate students this assignment: Go to the slums. Take 200 boys, between the ages of 12 and 16, and investigate their background and environment. Then predict their chances for the future.

The students, after consulting social statistics, talking to the boys, and compiling much data, concluded that 90 percent of the boys would spend some time in jail.

Twenty-five years later another group of graduate students was given the job of testing the prediction. They went back to the same area. Some of the boys - by then men - were still there, a few had died, some had moved away, but they got in touch with 180 of the original 200. They found that only four of the group had ever been sent to jail.

Why was it that these men, who had lived in a breeding place of crime, had such a surprisingly good record? The researchers were continually told: "Well, there was a teacher..."

They pressed further, and found that in 75 percent of the cases it was the same woman. The researchers went to this teacher, now living in a home for retired teachers. How had she exerted this remarkable influence over that group of children? Could she give them any reason why these boys should have remembered her?

"No," she said, "no I really couldn't." And then, thinking back over the years, she said amusingly, more to herself than to her questioners: "I loved those boys..."

How fortunate the men had a teacher who loved them and because of her influence now live productive lives. If you think for a moment I am sure you can recall a teacher, coach, or mentor that had an impact on your life that helped guide you to where you are today.

Tim Elmore said, “Mentoring is a relational experience through which one person empowers another by sharing their wisdom and resources.” The sharing of resources, much like that of the above mentioned teacher, is built through relationship with those you lead. Consider these simple but powerful characteristics of her leadership and how she left her legacy.

The teacher accepted her students. In Life 101, Peter McWilliams said, “Acceptance is such an important commodity; some have called it “the first law of personal growth’”. No doubt her students had already been labeled by others as underachievers or trouble makers, with few seeing any potential in them.

The teacher disregarded the stereo-types about the boys and accepted them not only for who they were but what they could become.

As you mentor those in your organization it is important that you do so with an expectation that the best is yet to come. Where a person has come from is not nearly as important as where you are leading them. Accepting the people you mentor is the first step in impacting their lives.

The teacher believed in her students. Chosen out of the slums and placed in a statistical category of perceived outcomes; these boys faced insurmountable obstacles. Yet their destiny was changed, not by perceptions, but because a teacher believed in them.

Mark Twain said, “Keep away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” As a leader, your success as a mentor comes as you instill hope in the hearts of those you lead. When you believe in those you mentor, they will know it and will respond to it.

It’s hard to say where the boys would have ended up without a teacher who believed in them, but as John A. Shedd said, “Opportunities are seldom labeled.’ You will leave your legacy as a leader when you have faith in those you lead.

The teacher cared for her students. When approached about the boys she had taught in those early years, she simply recalled that she loved them. It was just that simple.

John Maxwell said, “Loving people precedes leading them. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” While tempting to measure success by the bottom line, true leaders understand it is defined differently.

Aesop said, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” Your legacy as a leader is marked by the time, wisdom, passion, and kindness that you invested into the lives you touched.

How will your legacy be defined?


Absolute Honesty: Avoiding Dishonesty Traps

I got this as a forward and Mark Sanborn (Author of Fred Factor, You don't need a title to be a leader, Encore Effect) has done a outstanding job talking about Honesty. All of us need to watch out for these as it is easy to slide in the white lies. Thank you Mark Sanborn for sharing this great article.

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Absolute Honesty: Avoiding Dishonesty Traps

by Mark Sanborn

Are you honest?

If someone were to ask you that question, you’d be taken aback by his or her forwardness. Nobody wants to have their honesty questioned. Yet in our private hours we’d benefit from asking ourselves that question.

Flash back to grade school: “Did you throw that eraser?” the teacher asks. You knew you’d be in less trouble for throwing the eraser than you’d be for lying about it. It took character to own up to your mistake, and before long you figured out that it was better just not to do stuff like throwing erasers in the first place. It was easy to recognize the boundaries back then.

We inevitably get older, but growing up is a choice. Now you’re an adult, you’re in business, and whether you realize it or not, your honesty is challenged by more complex factors. As leaders, we pride ourselves on having integrity, on shooting straight and telling the truth. The truth is, there are pitfalls and temptations out there that will periodically challenge your best intentions.

Five honesty traps to avoid:


Your spouse, your boss, your customer, or your child asks for something. You aim to please, so you say “yes” – hoping but not really sure you can deliver. Maybe you just want to get this guy off your back, or maybe you really, really want to make this sale. Motives don’t matter: anytime you over-promise and under-deliver, you’ve been dishonest.

What does this do to the value of your word? How many times will you try this tactic before you get called on it? It’s more important to be trusted than to be popular. You can still communicate your desire to serve without making promises you can’t keep. This way, everyone wins. The other person will understand your desire to deliver, your intent to do all you can to make it possible, and your word remains intact.

To achieve absolute honesty, keep promises you make. Period.


This one rears its ugly head any time you’ve got an unpleasant or difficult task ahead. How many customers did you call on this week? Maybe you made a couple hundred calls, but only actually reached a few prospects. So how do you answer that question? You could give the number you called, and look like a superhero – or give the number you actually reached, and be the goat. Sometimes the truth is in the details.

To achieve absolute honesty, be specific about your actions.

Lies of Omission

Sometimes we can be just as dishonest by what we don’t say as if we told a bold-faced lie. There’s the old joke about a lady who spent a fortune on a new wardrobe, hid it all in her car’s trunk, and transferred it to her closet after her husband fell asleep. The next morning, she looked stunning in her new outfit. He compliments her and asks whether it’s new. Her response? “Oh, this – it’s just something I had in my closet.” Sure, it came from the closet, but she’s carefully orchestrated a way to conceal her shopping spree.

While we’re not obligated to take out a billboard ad proclaiming all our faults, mistakes, and shortcomings, it’s still important not to dodge the question or hold back important information. When we try to protect ourselves by what we don’t tell, it’s still a lie.

To achieve absolute honesty, don’t lie silently by withholding information.

Lying to Ourselves

Know that nagging voice buried way down inside? The one that you can usually silence by staying busy? When we ignore that voice, the one that’s determined to get our attention, to make us think long and hard about an issue, it’s like lying to ourselves.

Change is usually uncomfortable if not downright frightening. Auden said most people would rather be ruined than changed. That’s one reason we don’t want to listen to our inner voice.

Socrates was harsh but at least partly right when he said the unexamined life isn’t worth living. Listening to your inner voice is simple but not easy. Instead of justifying, explaining, rationalizing and making excuses, simply consider the implications of what you’ve found by examining your life.

To achieve absolute honesty, listen to everything your inner voice has to say instead of just what you want to hear.

Failing to Take Action

This one comes up at least once a year for many people – in the form of New Year’s Resolutions. It looks like this: This year, I’m going to lose weight (stop smoking, spend more quality time with my kids, get out of debt, etc.). January passes, February passes, March, April, May… December again. Nothing happened.

It’s like the guy who’s in debt. Every time he picks up the phone, there’s a creditor on the other end. When he checks the mail, it’s full of bills and notices. It isn’t that he’s not facing the facts; he’s unwilling to deal with them.

The lie? Failing to take action to back up our words. Failing to honor ourselves by honoring our own words. After a while, nobody – not even yourself – will believe what you say. You talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.

To achieve absolute honesty, don’t just face the facts—deal with them.

Whether you’re a leader with or without a title, or just a conscientious person trying to fight the good fight, you know the importance of being truthful. Your word is your bond. Awareness is often half the battle. Look out for these landmines that threaten absolute honesty, and stay strong in your commitment to live and lead in truth.

Self Mastery


Stephen R. Covey once wrote, “the undisciplined are slaves to moods, appetites and passions”. And in the longer term, the undisciplined lack the freedom that comes with possessing particular skills and abilities – e.g. to start a new habit.

Self-Mastery involves acting according to what you think instead of how you feel in the moment. Often it involves sacrificing the pleasure and thrill of the moment for what matters most in life. Therefore it is self-discipline that drives you to:

    * Work on a worthwhile idea after the initial rush of enthusiasm has faded away
    * Go to the gym when all you want to do is lie on the couch and watch TV
    * Wake early to work on yourself
    * Say “no” when tempted to break your diet
    * Only check your email a few of times per day at particular times

In the past self-discipline has been a weakness of mine, and as a result today I find myself lacking the ability to do a number of things which I would like – e.g. to update my weblog three times a week. But I have improved, and I can say that it is self-discipline that got me out of bed this morning at 5am to do my reading for half an hour and then write this article. Believe me, I would love to be curled up in bed right now, but this desire is subordinated by my inner sense of purpose.

If you struggle with self-discipline, the good news is that it can be developed. For example, it is only in the past  year that I have trained myself to workout three times a week. The following are what I have found to be the five traits of self-discipline:

1. Self-Knowledge

Discipline means behaving according to what you have decided is best, regardless of how you feel in the moment. Therefore the first trait of discipline is self-knowledge. You need to decide what behavior best reflects your goals and values. This process requires introspection and self-analysis, and is most effective when tied to written expression. I highly recommend taking the time to write out your goals, dreams and ambitions. Even better, write out a personal mission statement. I found that writing such a statement gave me a greater understanding of who I am, what I am about and what I value. Dr. Covey has an excellent Mission Statement Builder on his site.

2. Conscious Awareness

Self-discipline depends upon conscious awareness as to both what you are doing and what you are not doing. Think about it. If you aren’t aware your behavior is undisciplined, how will you know to act otherwise?

As you begin to build self-discipline, you may catch yourself being in the act of being undisciplined – e.g. biting your nails, avoiding the gym, eating a piece of cake or checking your email constantly. Developing self-discipline takes time, and the key here is you are aware of your undisciplined behavior. With time this awareness will come earlier, meaning rather than catching yourself in the act of being undisciplined you will have awareness before you act in this way. This gives you the opportunity to make a decision that is in better alignment with your goals and values.

3. Commitment to Self-Discipline

It is not enough to simply write out your goals and values. You must make an internal commitment to them. Otherwise when your alarm clock goes off at 6am you will see no harm in hitting the snooze button for “just another 5 minutes….” Or, when initial rush of enthusiasm has faded away from a project you will struggle to see it through to completion. My senior associate TD always mentions that "commitment to continuity leads to emotional stability."

If you struggle with commitment, start by making a conscious decision to follow through on what you say you’re going to do – both when you said you would do it and how you said you would do it. Then, I highly recommend putting in place a system to track these commitments. As the saying goes, “What gets measured gets improved”.

4. Courage

Make no mistake, self-discipline is often extremely difficult. Moods, appetites and passions can be powerful forces to go against. Therefore self-discipline is highly dependent on courage. Don’t pretend something is easy for you to do when it is in fact very difficult and/ or painful. Instead, find the courage to face this pain and difficulty. As you begin to accumulate small private victories, your self-confidence will grow and the courage that underpins self-discipline will come more naturally.

5. Internal Coaching

Self-talk is often and by default negative, but it can also be extremely beneficial if you have control of it. When you find yourself being tested, I suggest you talk to yourself, encourage yourself and reassure yourself. After all, it is self-talk that has the ability to remind you of your goals, call up courage, reinforce your commitment and keep you conscious of the task at hand. When I find my discipline being tested, I always recall the following quote: “The price of discipline is always less than the pain of regret”. Burn this quote into your memory, and recall in whenever you find yourself being tested. It may change your life.

Nuggets from "Eat that Frog" by Brian Tracy

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I have read this book several times before. It is always a good book to revisit as it has great stuff which we can internalize it in our schedule. Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things. Your ability to plan and organize your work, in advance, so you are always working on your highest value tasks determines your success as much as any other factor.

Brian Tracy suggests a method called ABCDE method of priorities.

The process of setting short-term priorities begins with a pad of paper and a pen. Whenever you feel overwhelmed by too many things to do and too little time in which to do them, sit down, take a deep breath, and list all those tasks you need to accomplish. Although there is never enough time to do everything, there is always enough time to do the most important things, and to stay with them until they are done right.

The best method for setting priorities on your list, once you have determined your major goals or objectives, is the A-B-C-D-E method. You place one of those letters in the margin before each of the tasks on your list before you begin.

"A" stands for "very important;" something you must do. There can be serious negative consequences if you don't do it.

"B" stands for "important;" something you should do. This is not as important as your 'A' tasks. There are only minor negative consequences if it is not completed.

"C" stands for things that are "nice to do;" but which are not as important as 'A' or 'B,' tasks. There are no negative consequences for not completing it.

"D" stands for "delegate." You can assign this task to someone else who can do the job instead of you.

"E" stands for "eliminate, whenever possible." You should eliminate every single activity you possibly can, to free up your time.

When you use the A-B-C-D-E method, you can very easily sort out what is important and unimportant. This then will focus your time and attention on those items on your list that are most essential for you to do.

Just Say No
Once you can clearly determine the one or two things that you should be doing, above all others, just say no to all diversions and distractions and focus single-mindedly on accomplishing those priorities.

Much stress that you experience in your work life comes from working on low-priority tasks. The amazing discovery is that as soon as you start working on your highest-value activity, all your stress disappears. You feel a continuous stream of energy and enthusiasm. As you work toward the completion of something that is really important, you feel an increased sense of personal value and inner satisfaction. You experience a sensation of self-mastery and self-control. You feel calm, confident and capable.

Here are three ideas that you can use, every day, to help you set priorities and to keep you working at your best:

First, take the time to be clear about your goals and objectives so that the priorities you set are moving you in the direction of something that is of real value to you.

Second, remember that what counts is not the amount of time that you put in overall; rather, it's the amount of time that you spend working on high-priority tasks.

Third, understand that the most important factor in setting priorities is your ability to make wise choices. You are always free to choose to engage in one activity or another.

Resolve today to set clear priorities in every area of your life, and always choose the activities that will assure you the greatest health, happiness and prosperity in the long term.