Previous month:
February 2013
Next month:
June 2013

May 2013

Dad's Perspectives

-Karthik Gurumurthy

My dad and mom are always big on character. The best months of my life was the time I spent one-on-one with my dad from Nov 2011-Feb 2012. Until end of January, my dad was in a position to talk very well and I got many opportunities to listen to him speak about different aspects of life.

He mentioned, " Reputation is what others think about you. What is far more important is character, because that is what you think about yourself." He had saved bunch of clippings from the past about me. I was delighted to see them and was proud and ecstatic.He said "Reading press clippings is a great idea. The danger, he said was not much I would hear or read something bad about me, but that I might tend to believe my glowing articles too much. He didn't want me to get a big head." Then he said something that really rang true to me. He said that reading about your results was reading about yesterday. You need to live now to shape your future.Why sit back and admire yourself when you could be spending time getting better and better.

Living in the present was something my dad his whole life. My dad had guts and determination. From my dad, I learned the importance of valuing each moment, carrying on, doing your best no matter what the difficulties. To be successful in anything he stressed the importance of reinventing themselves through continuous learning. 

To overcome challenges, you need an unwavering sense of self, and if you listen to what everyone says about you, you won't gain that personal insight.

We are all ignorant about something but recognizing that allows us to do more than give information inclusively. It also opens door to receiving information. If we are able to identify our own ignorance, we can then identify someone else's expertise. I miss you dad..

Give it one notch up

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Everybody knows that at 200 F, water is hot. Very hot.

And we also know that at 212 K, water begins to boil. And becomes steam. And steam is powerful enough to move loads of people. Think about it. Just one notch up..One degree more- and hot water becomes powerful enough to move a train.

While we may not realize it, our lives are like that too. One degree means a lot. That little extra effort can mean the difference between being a winner and another participant. The difference between achieving your goals and missing them. The difference between being just hot water and being able to move a train.

Too often, we give up when the goal might have been just one step away.  Whatever it is you set out to do, whatever goal you seek to achieve, push yourself to do just a little bit more. The difference can be magical. Successful people do all that is expected of them. And then, they do a little bit more.

Make that extra effort. and watch the magic begin!

Honesty is a time saver

-Karthik Gurumurthy

SOME YEARS ago, Dr TR Balasubramanian (TRB), a Professor, asked my opinion of a statement of purpose (SOP) letter from a student. "A boy I know wanted a feedback, hoping you could guide him," he said. "I haven't had time to read it."

After I had read only a few paragraphs, it was apparent that the SOP had been copied from an online website. But I didn't say so. I hedged. "I don't know about this," I said. "I'll send it to my coworker who is a faculty and will get back to you."

TRB scanned the pages as I handed them back. After a minute he looked at me in surprise. "Do you mean to tell me you'd take the time and trouble to send this to your friend, and impose on a man there to read it and write you a letter, only to have to return in a week or so to tell me what you can tell me now?" he asked incredulously. My embarrassment must have been apparent, because he smiled gently. "Always remember this," he said. "Honesty is the world's greatest time saver."

I thought about his advice for some time afterward. My dad's favorite saying was always, "Truth need not be remembered."For how long, I kept asking myself, had I been engaging in deceptions that were squandering precious time and irreplaceable energies- both mine and those of others? And all under the virtuous facade of diplomacy. Gradually, I came to realize that honesty is more than just a time-saving device:it is the ultimate of economy in ALL human relations.  For example:

It Saves Time.

I'm often interrupted by telephone calls from strangers offering everything from "you can make a million doing nothing" to "you need to sign up for this telephone service which will be panacea for all your issues". There was a time when I remained mute during such calls, listening to a memorized speech that took valued minutes and left me frustrated and resentful. Now, however, I interrupt my caller immediately. "It wouldn't be fair to take your time," I say, "when I already know I'm not interested." And I hang up.

A couple I know made a New Year's resolution to be completely honest in their social life. "It all began with a friend calling every Monday morning to make plans with us for the following weekend," the wife explained. "I'd say okay-whether we wanted to see them or not-because I could never come up with a quick excuse. Then my husband and I would spend all week trying to figure out a way to cancel. We finally realized that it is all right to refuse any invitation."

It is Good Manners.

Few years ago, at the international rendezvous in my Grad school, I heard an exchange student speak glowingly about his year in US. "But there's one thing I still don't understand," he added. "Americans often promise more than they deliver. 'Come to see me,' they're always saying, or 'we must get together.' Yet few follow up. Everybody seems to want to be a good guy, but I find their dishonesty unkind. Maybe it's meant to be good manners, but it turns out to be bad manners."

 It Saves Needless Contriving.

A family I knew recently underwent the chores of moving. As the movers were gathering their barrels and boxes, they realized they hadn't seen a valuable vase. Carefully, the four men went through every every box of papers, while my friend and her young daughter searched closets and shelves. After an hour, on the verge of giving up, the woman's eyes caught the gleam of a pieces of crystal on the kitchen floor. The daughter looked at her mother and burst into tears. "I dropped it early this morning," she confessed. Our family friend was distressed over the loss of a treasure, naturally. But she was more distressed over the unnecessary trouble her child had caused. "You have wasted an hour for six people," she pointed out. "That's six hours-almost a day's work." The girl wiped her eyes.

"But I think I learned a lesson, Mother," she said. "If the truth hurts, putting it off only hurts worse."

It Generates Trust.

A little boy who greatly feared the sight of blood was taken to a dentist to have a tooth pulled. Both his father and the dentist assured him there would be no blood. There was, of course, and the child was outraged. Now an 40-year-old man, he said to me, "I remember it to this day. Parents shouldn't lie to children even if they think it's for their own good. Lies deteriorate relationships, can ruin them permanently."

It Brings Inner Peace.

One of my favorite movies of all time is Quiz Show . This is where Professor Mark Van Doren posed that he was lot more knowledgeable in a TV Quiz show in an effort to appear more glamorous. Actually he was given the quiz questions and answers before the show. When an attorney investigated this case, Mark admitted that, "It was a horrible existence--trying to be what you're not." The investigator wanted to expose the TV show and Mark Van Doren initially resisted it but finally admitted, he is grateful to the investigator for the rest of his life. "He forced me to admit the truth, and the truth set me free."

A final word of warning about honesty:solicited or unsolicited, it should never be confused with rude, intrusive comment."Aggressively outspoken people get satisfaction from saying that they don't like your new dress or your new chair,"  My uncle (LMK Athimber) told me. "Worse, there are those who say they wouldn't be your friend if they didn't tell you something ugly that was said about you. In my work, I sometimes have to tell a hard truth. But I don't do it unless I'm absolutely certain it's meant in a loving way. The rule I use-and think anyone could use-is to refuse to employ painful honesty unless the unpleasant task breaks my own heart. Thus, I'll never wound to gain feelings of self-righteousness or superiority. Or to punish someone I really don't like."

From time to time, each of us should step back and take a look at our daily lives. Are we wasting time and energy carrying out deceptions, both polite and impolite? Having stepped back myself, I have learned that being honest is not a talent, not an art, not even a skill. It is a habit. And like the forming of most habits, this one requires concentration and practice. But once formed, it rewards us with a sense of well-being and the trust of others.

Failing forward

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Everybody talks about Gen-Y and how the trend goes towards empowering Gen-Y. One of the reasons mature people are apt to learn less than younger people is that they are willing to risk less. Learning is a risky endeavor, and nobody likes to fail. By late 30s most of us carry in our heads a tremendous database of things we have no intention of trying again, because we attempted once and failed. We pay a heavy price for our fear of failure. It is a powerful obstacle to growth. It assures the progressive narrowing of the personality and prevents exploration and experimentation. There is no learning or growth without some difficulty and fumbling. If you want to accomplish more, we need to be willing to risk more, and embrace failure. That is the last step before achieving any kind of lasting success.

How do you perceive things?

-Karthik Gurumurthy

How we become aware of success, failure, happiness,friendships, and everything else is just a perception. It is how we perceive failure or defeat, and what we do with it, that  makes all the difference. Actually, perception is our personal opinion or our point of view about any particular event. Of course, the event is a fact, not imagination, but at the same time there is a very personal view coloring the event. We really need to accept the truth about our emotions and perceptions: our thoughts and attitudes create our emotions-not the external events!

Our own perception depends on many things. These include our attitude, which, in turn, includes self-acceptance, self confidence,self-respect and other things. Because your mental structure is different from my mental structure we see the same situation differently. The same pleasant or unpleasant episode is not the same for you and me. You choose your own perception and the consequences are yours, not mine.

Is it clear? If not, may I remind you about cognitive distortion? Cognitive distortion simply means that our thoughts and our way of thinking sometimes misrepresent the facts. Our own mental filter chooses how we feel. This filter will pick up any detail to prove that things are as we perceive them-negative or positive--but mostly negative! Sounds strange but any kind of behavior is a conscious choice. I didn't choose for my friend to be angry or upset. I am sorry if I am unkind but this is a reality that my friend doesn't want to see and understand. It was his attitude, his perception, of this "disturbing event" that led him to his behavior.

It is necessary to understand that sometimes the next day we will see the same event differently. How is it possible? The next day we are wearing a different "pair of eyeglasses." That is, a
different mental filter. Yes, we are very fashion-conscious in that respect--we change our mental filter every time we process our thoughts. Now you know why some days are "so bad, boring and disturbing" for you. Your emotions-fear, anger, anxiety and guilt are a direct result of your mental processing system that day. Don't blame the weather, the event, the company, the other person or the government.

To give you an example, I run a tutoring business and I have few people who help me out in this endeavor. I am the point of contact between the students/parents and the associates who help me in this opportunity. I always look forward to the feedback from students/parents to see how I can improve my service. Most of the times, the feedback has been good. But there are occasions where the parents/students give feedback which are not uplifting. For us to provide  consistent outstanding service, I am mature enough to understand that I need to work on improving our services to take it to the next level. Few weeks back, I had a similar experience where the student parents expressed dissatisfaction over a certain thing and I shared what the students parents  mentioned to my associate. However, my associate took it personally, got defensive and perceived that I am complaining , condemning the service. Actually that was not my intention. The feedback was meant to correct the approach so that we can aim for better service next time.

All of us have blind spots which we are oblivious too.  The four quadrants (below) relate to knowledge about you, in four categories:

  • Open area (arena)- What you know about yourself and others also know.
  • Blind area (Blind spot)- What you don't know about yyourself but others do know.
  • Hidden area (Facade)- What you know about yourself but others don't know
  • Unknown area- What neither you nor others know about you.

How does it work?

The quadrants expand or shrink in relation to each other as you gain more knowledge about yourself through experience, observation, feedback from others, communication, self reflection, and so on. To operate most effectively and productively, you need to develop your 'open area'. This is the space where communication is good, with no mistrust or misunderstanding- where there is openness. Learning more about yourself through a new situation, such as work experience, can shrink your 'unknown' area and expand your hidden area. If you demonstrate or communicate this self learning to other people, you expand your 'open' area, where people know you and you know yourself. If you ask for and take note of feedback, then things people know about you will become part of your self knowledge, moving from your blind area to your open area.

Getting feedback plays an important role in improving ourselves. If we take it personally, we lose out on that opportunity to improve and get better. Lot of times, we shoot down the messenger because they hurt our ego.  But that's exactly the feedback you need to move on further in life. We need to create an environment where we get honest feedbacks so that it opens up more possibilities.


What I learned from Raju Pandu

-Karthik Gurumurthy

This is my 1001th post. I wanted to use this opportunity to talk about someone whom I learned quite a bit through his words as well as actions.

Few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet a gentleman named Raju Pandu. Raju is a very accomplished individual both in the corporate arena as well as a self made successful entrepreneur.

When I met him for the first time, he projected a totally 'in the moment' focus on each person he met. Raju exuded warmth; he seemed a man genuinely interested in liking you and not concerned with whether or not you liked him. How much of that was genetic and how much developed I can only speculate. All I know is that I was, in that brief moment of meeting, totally charmed by a person whom I do not know much about.

I would refer Raju as a charming personality. By charming, I am not talking about table manners, good looks or being a snappy dresser. I am talking about something much more profound. True charm is something that goes beyond mere appearance. It is that ability some people have to create extraordinary rapport that makes others in their presence feel exception.  Charm has an engaging quality to which we respond powerfully and emotionally instinctively.

What is fascinating about Raju that I looked mesmerized by him?

When he speaks to you, it is as though you are in a cocoon with him. No one exists in the world for him but you. And when he listens, he listens as though every word you say is important and needs his undivided attention. Though this happened more than ten years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday. What is the secret of his charm? He know how to make others feel important.

What letter makes your parents or teacher happy when they see your transcript?

A's..Same one goes here. To be charming you need to have 5 A's..

  • One is Accepting the person as who he is without any limitation..
  • Second is Appreciating what they have done.  You say 'Thank you" on every occasion, for any large or reason. You make a habit of thanking everyone in your world for everything they do. Robert A Eckert who was the CEO of Mattel between 2000 and 2011 emphasizes the importance of thanking in the Harvard Business Review article (Two most important words) (Apr 2013).
  • Another critical ingredient in being charming is Approval. Entrepreneur Rick Fairchild says "Kids cry for it, Men die for it." All humans have a deep subconscious need for approval of their actions and accomplishments.
  • Admiration. When you give people a genuine, sincere compliment about a trait, possession or accomplishment, they automatically feel better about themselves. They feel valuable and important. Last not but not the least..
  • Attention: When you pay close attention to other people, the more valuable and important they will feel they are, and the more they will like you.