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August 2012

Reevaluation of your priorities

-Karthik Gurumurthy

We fine-tune our lives choice by choice, much the same way a harpist plucks at the strings of the harp to create beautiful music. He has to select the right strings, at the right time, to create grace in the sound. In our life, we have to choose the right strings to pluck. We do this by reevaluating what is currently important. Life is an ever-flowing river. Events and circumstances are in flux; they come and go. 

We  should be flexible in our priorities. Have Plan B in place when Plan A isn't appropriate.  Rigidly planning events you can't control only leads to frustration and disappointment.

We should question our priorities regularly, asking ourselves what really makes sense now. The past can shed some  light on our direction, but the path we're on may be entirely different from the one that was appropriate for us five or ten years ago. When we're honest with ourselves, we may find that many of us were brainwashed into certain belief systems that are no longer true for us. In order to have strong personal convictions we have to brave enough to change our life around. We do this by reevaluating our priorities.

Many of the cells in our body are new after a few days or several years. I remember few months back being  in a state of shock when Dad was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma. If someone you love has a health crisis, you quickly readjust your priorities. There is a chain reaction among all things because of their interconnection. We should certainly set up our lives  in a pleasant manner, thinking and planning ahead, but being open and receptive to what is real now. Be willing to give up old patterns, old familiar ways of being, in order to open up to a new way of seeing your life, with fresh beginnings that bring great meaning. 

Every choice you make is a going to have a ripple effect of consequences. All of life is paradoxical. Be ready, at any moment, to make fresh, bold choices that will enable you to make the most good of whatever happens. Things will always be different. We replace one thing with another. Flow with the currents of the river of life, living peacefully and happily with growth and change as you deepen your sense of satisfaction and appreciation of all our privileges.

Realistic expectations

-by Karthik Gurumurthy

The wisest way to live is to choose to enjoy what is actually available to you right now, right here. We learn to see the world of abundance, not limits, through training our minds. Whenever we become attached to the outcome, an end result, that we have preconceived, we deprive ourselves of experiencing joy. We have to choose not to be sad about what we don't have but to be glad with what we have.

When we accept reality- not fixating on how we wish things to be- we will be less disappointed in ourselves, in others, and in life in general. It is a good idea to regularly give ourselves a reality check to determine if our circumstances or expectations conform to the truth. When we gladly face the true, the real, the actual, we're able to let go of the myth, and the unrealistic. Why should we expect more than is literally possible? None of us embraces failure, but we often set ourselves up for disappointment when we ask or expect more than is realistic.When we focus on playing the best game we can, win or lose, this is our personal victory.

 A recent study showed that Olympic Athletes who only focus on being victorious, being number one, winning the Gold medal, are depressed when they win the silver or bronze prize.  If we are too tough a task master, we are unable to find pleasure in how well we are doing. A well-lived life is not about winning or losing, but about playing the game, doing our best learning from the process, and accepting that there is grace and dignity in losing you.

Many respected philosophers believe it is important for us to discover and come to grips with our limitations, with what we cannot do.  Who is it that once made the brilliant remark, "You have to choose to sail according to the wind"? We are all capable of an enormous amount of good, but in our lifetime, we have limitations- we can't be good at everything, nor are we going to have everything happen just the way we wish. Expect the unexpected. Things will happen. They will catch us off guard unless we are prepared. When we have  a contingency plan in place, we don't need to panic when the unknown becomes known. The author of the famous Serenity Prayer, Reinhold Niebuhr, helps us to keep things in perspective: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference." A realistic attitude frees us to work hard to change the things we can.


Lessons from Encore Effect

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Remarkable performance doesn’t happen by accident. Whether delivered individually or organizationally, it is always preceded by commitment. Think about the connection between commitment and performance this way:


Commitment is the price you are willing to pay to get remarkable results.

Performance reveals the price you have paid.


•A remarkable performance reveals how highly you value (price) your customer, spouse, child, boss, co-worker, or other goal (athletics, music, academics, and so on).

•A poor performance reveals how little you value (price) those same people or goals.

When we deliver a remarkable performance we are saying, “There is no other place or way I would rather spent my “commitment dollars” than on you. But when we deliver a poor performance we are saying, “My “commitment dollars” would be better spent somewhere else.

Which do you want to communicate when it comes to your most important relationships and goals?

Commitment is not a binary (either/or, on/off, yes/no) experience. You and I make choices every day that reveal different levels of commitment. For instance, I enjoy the occasional good movie but I have no intention of being a movie reviewer so I am not committed to viewing every movie that comes out. That would be a poor investment of my “commitment dollars.”

You are making the same choices daily. Our challenge is to make smart, conscious investments of commitment; to pay the right price at the right time and place. When a remarkable performance is called for, we need to be ready to write a check and pay the price.




1. Interested Aware of the basics and adding to that knowledge on a casual basis.•Non-remarkable: the equivalent of flipping through magazines or listening to CNN Headline News while working out at the gym.
2. Informed Knowledgeable as a result of persistent, intentional study.•Potential for remarkable: subscribing to magazines, buying books, taking classes, attending to seminar with the intention of
3. Involved Knowledgeable as a result of both study and activity•Evidence of desire for remarkable: taking what they are learning and applying it to life; beginning to make positive changes in light of recognized benefits.
4. Immersed Recognized as an expert or specialist•Gateway to remarkable performance: rising above the pack, standing out in the crowd; expert/specialist status creates desirability and indispensability.
5. Invested Recognized as “a” leader in the field•Consistently remarkable performance: investing time, talent, and treasure in improving; clearly committed to education, improvement, and continually seeking higher standards of performance.
6. Innovative Recognized as “the” leader in the field•Defines remarkable performance: doesn’t seek new standards as much as setnew standards of excellence and remarkable performance. Discovers new, innovative ways to increase his/her own value by meeting the needs of others.

Nuggets from Jim Collins "Great by Choice"

What do highly successful organizations have in common?

Jim says it starts with “Level 5 Leaders”: those who have humility coupled to will. But it takes more.

Here are the three drivers for “10x companies”, those that outperform others by a factor of 10:

Fanatic discipline: doing what isn’t easy when it isn’t easy and doing it with dogged persistence. “If there is one chapter to read from my new work Great by Choice, read the chapter about the 20 mile march.” That is the ability to undertake difficult but critically important tasks and execute them consistently. “The true mark of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.”

Empirical Creativity: learning, trying things and testing the results. The key word is empirical (“based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic”). “The ‘genius of the and’ is the ability to blend creativity and discipline.” Creativity is natural but discipline is not. The key is the ability to marry the two.

Productive Paranoia: translating paranoia into preparation and buffers for when times are tough. “It is what you do in good times to prepare for bad times so that you can be strong when people most need you.” “Underlying it all is a motivating force: passion and ambition for a cause or company larger than yourself.”

The twist: “Think of an event that hit you or your enterprise that meets three tests. One, you didn’t cause it. Two, it had a potentially significant consequence. Three, it had an element of surprise. It was unpredictable. Then ask yourself as a leader how well you performed in the face of it.” Jim said his research lead him to a great question: what is the role of luck? Could the difference between 2X and 10X success that people just got lucky? He decided to define, quantify and study luck. It meets the same three way test above, but with a positive outcome. “What we found is that the great companies weren’t luckier. The same events happen to everyone.

It is about what you do when these unpredictable, consequential events come.” Was Bill Gates the only lucky one when the PC first came out? Lots had the same opportunity, but Gates worked hard to create the basic app and then worked for 25 years to build the company.

“Most companies squander the good events and leave themselves exposed to the bad events.” Jim has concluded that 10x performance is about superior performance in the face of disruption: how to use a bad event as a defining moment to transform and deepen your purpose.

“Greatness is first and foremost a matter of conscious choice and discipline.” Reflect on these questions: What distinctive impact are you making? Who would miss you if you went away? Are you able to achieve enduring success? To the leader, Jim says, “An organization is not truly great if it cannot be great without you.” “In the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life.” Live and lead in a way that when the end of your life comes, you will know that it mattered.

The Big Picture: Where are we going?

-Karthik Gurumurthy

The subject of vision has always intrigued me.

What is vision after all? What makes someone a visionary? What makes ordinary people raise themselves to extraordinary heights when they are shown the right vision?

The word has its origin in the Latin word, video, that means ‘I see’. But at a deeper level, it refers to an "unusual competence in discernment or perception, intelligent foresight". It is how one sees or conceives of something. It is also, as the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language puts it, a mental image produced by imagination and a mystical experience of seeing as if with the eyes of the supernatural.

Whether it is an unusual competence or a mystical experience, vision is invariably associated with great leadership. Noted futurologist Joel Barker defines a leader as someone we opt to follow to go to a place we would not go by ourselves. She is someone who takes us from our current state of existence to a future state – on the power of her vision. What are the characteristics of such people who lead us from our state of inertia into decisive action, and to the creation of a new state of things?

To start with, they have comfort in departing from the past. When we study great leaders, we find that many started by moving out of a place which would have provided them with the kind of safety that most people seek. Take Gandhi. His turning point came when he left for South Africa. Mother Teresa’s first great step was in leaving her homeland. Someone has said: "The safest place for a ship is the harbour. Yet, it was not built to stay there."

Departure from the past is also a deeply mental concept. Many of us cling to our past in our mind, in the same way others cannot physically dislocate themselves from their zones of comfort. The Swedes are a great example of departing from the past. Two centuries ago, they started their own East India Company to trade with India and China. In the last century, they vacated the position of trading and became one of the greatest ship builders of the world. Today, if you go to the city of Gothenburg, the locals will show you a massive ship that has been converted into a car park! The erstwhile nation of seafarers boasts of great companies like Ikea, Volvo, Scania, SKF, ABB and Astra Zeneca. In the world of business, examples of significant departures from the past are many.

GE Chairman Jack Welch exhorted a whole generation of people to move from product orientation to services, from national mindset to a global mindset. When such leaders ask their people to move from the past, it is not as if they have the fullest picture of how the desired future would unfold. Consequently, a visionary must have a high degree of comfort in times of poor clarity. Visionary leaders are path creators who are willing to act and execute with only a speck of an apparition. Just the thought of a higher state of being for their people is enough for them to articulate their thoughts and begin the process of the journey.

When one sets sail for such a future state, most people get paralysed by the thought of resources. Where will the money come from? Where will we get the right people? You propose the smallest of things, and the typical manager first thinks of the resources. Only a person with a sense of vision will start from the opportunity. Such people do not feel fazed with the paucity of resources. Resources have followed every great idea – it is seldom the other way round.

People with great vision do not see failure as an option. They are committed to a beneficial outcome for their people, whom they carry along. At a personal level, they are not fazed by failure. They are able to go against popular wisdom. They seek data and question it, even when it comes from their own mind. They know that sometimes facts can be the enemy of truth. They have deep respect for intuition while seeking data. Finally, these are people who do not conjure a vision of the future around the constraints of personal survival.