69 posts categorized "Honesty"

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.



-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.

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!!

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.

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.

Happy Father's day!

-Karthik Gurumurthy




Happy Father's day Appa. There is not a day which goes by without thinking about you. The older I get, the more I appreciate what you have done and what you stood for. 

I have summed up what I learned from my dad  last year here (2014). This is from 2013. This is from 2012. 

I have learned a lot from my dad but these are the ones which stand out right now.

  • I think I was in third grade.  I was walking back home from school. I found a bright new pencil box in the road. I looked around. There was no one there. I was ready to give it to the rightful owner but since no one was there I told to myself, .."It is going to be mine". I was in cloud nine with this new found friend and was holding it like a coveted trophy that I earned.  Dad got home from work and the moment he noticed this pencil box, he started throwing questions at me. The first thing that he said was, " That doesn't belong to you. How is it here?" I said that it was in the road and since no one claimed responsibility for it..I thought I can have it. My dad told me immediately "You don't touch the things that don't belong to you..Period." Let us go back and put it back where you found it."  I was mad at my dad as it didn't make sense at that point of time. Right when we were putting it back, I saw a girl with her dad frantically searching for the same thing. The moment we told that we found it and wanting to return to the owner, she was delighted. I realized what a blunder I created. Had I kept it, they would have come and not found it. It would have made them really sad if they had not found it.  Thankfully my dad made the right move. My dad, right after we gave it to the right owner, looked at me and said, "Character is who you are, when nobody is looking. The moment you lose character, you lose everything. " If you want a new pencil box, you earn it by working hard. Never ever forget that. It taught me a powerful lesson to always do the right thing  irrespective of whether it is convenient or not.
  • My dad was one of the biggest net workers I know. He had friends from sports, drama theater, and different fields and interests. Irrespective of the status of the individual,  I saw Dad engage every person with respect, giving attention to anyone who wanted his time.  His life taught me that the highest calling is to serve – and demonstrate that you care about – others.
  • He was always thankful..Every opportunity he had he would talk about his parents, his employer, his friends, his  family with zest and enthusiasm. It is not like he would like to thank when they are around. It is like a everyday agenda to show and display his gratitude.  He would take everything as a blessing.
  • Always a Straight shooter. He would always speak his heart out without mincing words. Lot of his friends, colleagues loved him for that. If he thinks something is a bad idea, he would not hesitate to bring it forward.  It might not come out nice. But with him,  there is no ambiguity or guessing. Very predictable. No hidden agendas. He always stood for something.
  • No Gossip tolerated: He would be very uncomfortable if a gossip is brewing. He would say, let us not talk about this and would walk out. 

These are simple life lessons which I learned by observing you. Thanks for being who you are and what you stood for. I really wish you stayed longer but I know you are still guiding us in our thoughts, beliefs and actions.


We miss you big time and we seek your blessings.

Who is your hero?

-Karthik Gurumurthy

It is totally fine to admire what a person achieves in science, business, or in sports, but it is not smart to turn them into a hero unless they are the kind of person you want your child to grow up to be. Sports people were portrayed role models were very appropriate because the media only reported their redeeming qualities. Tiger Woods might have succeeded as a golfer but he is not a great role model.Some great football players beat their girlfriends. What we can learn from Roger Federer/ Sachin Tendulkar is their dedication to excellence.  Here's the challenge- separating the message from the messenger.

There is also lot of confusion between being great at something and being famous. If you are famous, then you are admired. You can be famous for good, for being notorious, or just for being famous (Kardashian, Justin Bieber). If you are famous, people will flock to be near you, to have their picture made with you, and many of them will want to be just like you.

How many people choose a Teacher or Professor or a Mother doing whatever it takes to provide for the kids as a role model? Not many. More often we admire and adore singers, movie personalities and anyone who gets media attention.

We need to look at more than what they do, what they have and how they look. We must look at who they are and how they live.It is our responsibility to determine what we plan to achieve and then, find a role model who has succeeded in that area, using their standard of performance to motivate us in a specific aspect.

Just as we all have fallen short and failed in our endeavors, we have to realize that our heroes do not need to be all encompassing examples of inspiration. I have many role models. My dad, mom, many of my teachers/Professors /Cousins/Uncles/Aunts/ Friends. I doubt you have heard of any of them.

MS Dhoni Sixers (Leadership Lessons from Captain Cool)

-Karthik Gurumurthy


Today MS Dhoni, the captain of Indian Cricket team decided to quit Test Cricket. This is good news for India as he can focus on the upcoming World Cup which is coming up in 45 days.

M.S. Dhoni who is fondly referred to as Mahi is one of the most successful captains who lead India to #1 position many times in his career. 

He had very humble beginnings and worked as a ticket collector in Kharagpur for several years in Railways. When he was not checking tickets, he used his time in practicing. We all can learn a lot from MS Dhoni. MS Dhoni is known for his sixers and the following six(ers) can help us in improving ourselves.


1. The only way to command respect from the team is through your own personal example. Rahul Dravid mentioned while talking about Mahi, "One of the things I really liked about playing under MS was that he never asked you to do anything that he himself didn't do."One should perform at the highest level before we expect it from the team. Personal work ethic and performance is the best and the only way we can teach the team. 

2. MS Dhoni is known for his humility who likes to be in the background and shining the light on other team members. He shares the credit of success with the team members and applauds them in public.His ability to empower his team members created the loyalty within the team and together they were able to achieve more which resulted in securing World Cup 2011.

3. MS Dhoni is known as Captain Cool for being calm in extreme situations and leading the team from the front. Sometimes he can be perceived as being lackadaisical or not being aggressive. But he shows his aggression in the game, letting his bat speak and silencing his critics in several occasions. His unbeaten 91 in the World Cup is one of the reasons India was able to win the World Cup in 2011.

4. Mahi was always criticized for his experimentation. But experimentation and taking risk is part of achieving success.

5. MS Dhoni is known for encouraging the team members despite the setbacks and believing in them despite their debacles. He earned the respect and loyalty from the team members by trusting them and empowering them.

6. MS Dhoni seldom reads or believes newspaper clippings. This helped him in keeping him humble and focussing only on the performance ahead.

Picture source Courtesy: Reuters

Lesson on integrity

-Karthik Gurumurthy


I am currently  reading the book "Playing it my way" written by the Cricket Legend Sachin Tendulkar (SRT).  I always want to know what he had to go through to reach the pinnacle of success he had achieved to be one of the greatest cricketers of all time. One of the stories which he shares in this book really shows what he is made up of. 

SRT's career did not start the way one would expect. When he started getting coached from Ramakant Achrekar (RA), he moved schools to Sharadashram where RA coached. The first two games he played, he scored  two consecutive ducks. He scored 24 runs in the third game.     One had to score at least 30 runs to get the individual score published in newspaper. The scorer of the game mentioned to SRT  that he will make up his score to 30 (adding the extras of 6 to his score) and convinced SRT that it should be alright as he is not changing the total. In the excitement of seeing the name in the newspaper, SRT had agreed to fudge his score from 24 to 30. He was hoping he would get applause all over the place for this accomplishment. Instead, the following day SRT got the surprise/shock of his lifetime. Coach RA got really upset, shocked and unhappy after seeing the fudged score in the newspaper. He took SRT aside  and showed through the motion how unhappy he was with the manipulation. It taught him a valuable lesson of integrity and SRT promised that he will never do that again. What a powerful story and a powerful lesson! The instance clearly shows how his character is made up of.

I have seen lot of occasions where emphasis is given more on performance than integrity. So I have seen lot of people falter and fudge having the notion of doing whatever it takes to make things happen. Doing whatever it takes is good but it has to be done with integrity. Success without integrity is not long lasting.  Even though he might erred in this occasion, it takes a lot of guts to openly share it so that everyone can learn from it.  This is one of the reasons SRT was able to have outstanding success in the long run as he had all these values and principles deep rooted in him. 

Picture courtesy: ESPN Cricinfo

Blind spots and self awareness

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Believe it or not, all of us have blind spots. We need to be aware that we are also capable of making mistakes. We should not be like this guy whom I am going to describe. 

I am originally from Chennai. Chennai is a city in Southern part of India which is known for its humidity.  It was a hot day at work due to issues in air conditioning. There were about dozen people in close quarters and everyone was sweating with a fan on. All of a sudden,  people started to wrinkle their noses at an odor passing through the air. One of the guys at work got irritated and said,  "Oh Boy, someone's deodorant is not working?"

A guy in the corner immediately yelled saying,  "Can't be me, wasn't wearing any."

We all love to visualize ourselves as  self-aware, but when a story comes up we always assume that it’s our neighbor who desperately needs to hear it and not us. Our time is spent judging whether our friends, co-workers, and family members are blissfully unaware of their deficiencies or just too self-absorbed to notice.It is important to check ourselves first before we start judging others.


Good thoughts

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Today my friend G. Krishnan (fondly referred to Gikku) shared a quote from Swami Vivekananda. I loved it and would like to share this with you all.

"If we both exchange one rupee, we each have one rupee.

But if we both exchange one good thought, we each have two good thoughts."

Isn't that so true and powerful?

Effective communication

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I wrote this draft about 2 weeks back  but didn't get to post it until today. I have more time now compared to two weeks back.

Anyways, I was able to notice few blunders in communication at work. I am specifically sharing about a person who was running this project. If I had good relationship with the respective person, I would have told the person directly  about how it can affect the results and morale. If I share it with the person now, the person might get defensive. I am hoping the person learns soon.

However I am sharing it here so that we all can  learn and make sure we don't do the same mistake.

We spend about most of our  time in  talking to other people. By simply improving our  discussions we significantly improve the quality of our lives. There are different ways to make every meeting/discussion better:


If you don’t know what outcome  you want to get out of a conversation you will probably be surprised at what you get.

Be clear on what you’re trying to communicate before you start. Clear intentions greatly increase the odds of getting the results desired.

Are you trying to inform? Come up with solutions? share concern? There are as many potentially different outcomes as there are interactions.

The main bottom line from the discussion is : What do I want to have happen as the result of what I say?

Good conversation is about quality, not just quantity. Saying more isn’t necessarily better. Clarity makes you more concise, not more  verbose.

 Speaking politely/kindly :

"People don't know how much you know until they how much you care."- Dr. John C. Maxwell

A  curt reply can kill a good conversation. It suggests that the other person isn’t really interested. Sarcasm and negativity are humiliating and can be a major turn-off. Likewise, speaking rapidly or assertively can come across as harsh.

Results-oriented aggressive people sometimes forget that how a message is delivered largely determines how it is received.

Speak to others with kindness and you are more likely get a positive response.

It doesn’t take any more time to be civil and polite than it does to be direct and harsh. Pay attention to how you say it, not just what you say.

Converse like a friend.

You don’t have to necessarily know a person for long period of time to talk to them like a friend. When you talk like a friend, you are pleasant and upbeat because you value the person you are speaking to. You expect the best from the conversation, and you give your best.

You can talk like a friend to a complete stranger, and he or she will be positively affected by your thoughtfulness. And how often do we take for granted the important people in our lives and make our conversations  void of emotion?

A stranger is only a friend you haven’t made yet. When the quality of discussions improves, it helps to productive long lasting relationships making it efficient and effective.

One way to assure your performance is as expected or better is to ask for ongoing feedback. Don’t just inquire about how you’re doing; specifically ask about what you could do different or better to improve your work. The person whom you are asking for feedback would give you their feedback only if they know you are ready to listen.

Happy Birthday Appa!

Mothers Day 2011 104


-by Karthik Gurumurthy


Appa, today is your Seventy second birthday. Happy Birthday Appa. There is not a day that goes by without thinking about you. I am sure you are cutting cake with Patti Thatha and blessing us all. On this day, I would like to remember the lessons you taught me. I will keep them close to my heart and remind myself of them whenever I stumble or falter. You have always been the greatest cheerleader and I derived greatest fulfilment when I heard your comforting words of wisdom. Whenever you blessed, the words spoken were all done to encourage, comfort and reassure. This isn’t general wisdom, rather advice that was tailor-made just for me. I definitely miss that.I love you Dad.

Six nuggets you shared

  • Be yourself. Accept who you are, you’ve got no one else to be. You're born an original, don't die a copy: be yourself not someone else.Don’t apologize. Don’t make excuses.
  • Be unique. Don’t try to adapt yourself to someone else’s view of normal. That belongs to them, not you. Like yourself as you are.
  • Don’t worry about other people’s opinions. Everyone’s a critic, but ultimately what they say only matters if you let it. Don’t believe your own press. People can just as easily sing your praises as they can tear you down. Don’t waste your time on things you can’t change. Let it slide off you like water off a duck’s back.
  • What ever you do, always give it a good go. Don’t be afraid of failure and disappointment. If you fall flat on your face then get straight back up. You’ll always regret not trying. Disappointment is temporary, regret is forever. As long as you dedicate yourself to your goal, you have nothing else to worry about.
  • Never, ever, ever, ever give up. Keep on punching no matter what your up against. You’re only defeated if you give up, so don’t give up. Don’t take yourself too seriously. People who take themselves too seriously are boring. Laugh. There’s humour to be found everywhere, even in your darkest days there’s something to have a joke about. Laugh long and loud and make other people laugh. It’s good for you.
  • Be generous and kind because you can’t take it all with you. When you’ve got something to give, give it without hesitation.Love with all your heart and be humane. In the end, love is the only thing that matters.


-Karthik Gurumurthy

I am thankful for the train ride to work every day. It gives me a chance to read, observe, contemplate and capture ideas that will be relevant to my audience and useful in my speaking, writing, coaching and consulting. Reading broadly and eclectically develops intellectual bandwidth. If we read only what others are reading, we will likely lack the ingredients for true originality.


-Karthik Gurumurthy


The path to self-transformation is often sprinkled with the remnants of our former selves-beliefs, habits and perceptions that once defined us but now act as shackles, preventing us from progressing toward who we wish to become.  Our psychological attachment to our past self is a defense mechanism, providing a sense of identity and continuity. However, this attachment can also be a barrier, a heavy weight that drags behind us, making every step towards change a laborious trek.

Breaking free from the inertia of our past selves requires a conscious effort to acknowlege and confront the comfort we find in familiarity. It involves recognizing that our past achievements, failures, and labels do not define our future failures, failures, and labels do not define our future potential. The process is akin to shedding an old skin, not discarding it out of disdain but out of recognition that it no longer fits.

You can't become who you want to be because you are too attached to who you've been. The moment they decide to cut ties with the outdated self-image, they begin to contribute ideas, take initiative and assert themselves in discussions. Only through this metamorphosis, and reinventing oneself is essential for personal growth and fulfillment. 

Thank you Amma......for everything!




-Karthik Gurumurthy

One day out of the year, we have this beautiful opportunity to remind ourselves how blessed we are to have a Mother. We might not thank them enough for all the things they have done for us. She carried us inside of her for nine months.

So, Mom, this one is for you:

Thank You For Your Unconditional Love and Support.

You are my best friend and you always have been. I’ve seen your love million times be it when I was sick in school, be it taking me to IIT coaching classes, be it taking me to undergrad/grad admission counseling.You were always there for me with me. You comforted me at times that life became a little too tough to handle. Not to mention, you have shown me how to love others and how to love them well.

Thank You For Showing Me Grace When I Didn’t Deserve It
Perhaps it is easier for me to take my frustrations out on you than anyone else in this world because you love me limitlessly and unconditionally. There were times when I was a total jerk to you; I was rude, selfish and unkind. Still, you loved me anyway, and for that, I am forever grateful.

Thank You For Giving Me Everything
You never told me no and I appreciate that generosity. I know kids can be expensive and demanding. Working 9-5 for 34 years and still raising wonderful kids...I don't know how you did it..You never skipped a beat. Doing an outstanding job at work as well as taking wonderful care of us...You are the biggest outstanding Go-Giver who have lead by example about how to take care of everyone without grudges, complaining but with a happy heart.

From supporting me emotionally through my awkward beginning high school days, to sacrificing your personal time after your long days at work to talk me through my problems and working extra hard to support us (Aravind and me) financially through college, you and Appa have always been there.

You have sacrificed so much in order to give me a better life than you had when you were a kid.

Thank You For Always Believing In Me
Life has been difficult and there have been times when I’ve felt like giving up, when things were not going my way. Each time, you were there to remind me of my worth as a human being.

You encouraged me to keep reaching for the unreachable and never settle for anything less than I deserved. No matter how crazy my dreams were — you always told me to go after what would make me fulfilled.

Whenever I have any hardships, the only person I can count on who has been there and prayed enough to make the mess to a miracle is because of you Mom.

As I get older, I realize more and more how much you have done for me and continue to do every day.

The greatest gift God has given me is the gift of a wonderful Mother..who has given me the strength, the courage, unconditional love and support through a great example, sacrifice and loads and loads of patience.

This Mother’s Day, thank whomever you call “Mom” for being the best on the planet at her job.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom..



-Karthik Gurumurthy

An apology serves three purposes. First, it claims responsibility for past mistakes. Second, it announces your commitment to change and, third, it works as an agreement between both parties. When you apologize, say the words, "I'm sorry. I'll try to do better." Then say nothing else. Do not qualify your behavior or make excuses for your actions.

Just saying you're sorry for past behavior is not enough. You must announce loudly and clearly, again and again, that you are committed to making a change. This personal advertising help you change other people's perceptions of your behavior and it holds you accountable. It also gives people permission to monitor your progress and offer suggestions.

Thoughts for today: Plenty of room at the top!

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I was raised in an extremely competitive family. My cousins went to great schools and set a great standard for us to follow. This definitely provided me with energy and desire and a great deal of stamina. But what I found in my early years was that the goals that I set for myself became meaningless as soon as they were reached. This created a pattern of dissatisfaction and non-contentment. Beyond that there was an undercurrent of inability to share the joys of others' achievements, since, by definition, winning is about being at the top. And if someone is there, you're not.

When I joined my Grad school in Baltimore, I had to slow down to reflect this, that  there is room enough at the top for everyone. If I compete for the first spot, First, it means that your personal success does not need to be tied to someone else's failure. Secondly, it reinforces the belief that supporting others and their successes can be incorporated into your own view of success. Finally it calls for patience; for there is truly enough room at the top for everyone, you need not seize every opportunity that arises for fear that that opportunity will be forever lost. That extra room at the top means that there is room for you as well as everyone else. The opportunities will appear again. One priority may be displaced by another for a period of time without completely abandoning the vision no matter how strong. And if one can be patient, supportive, and capable of rejoicing in another's success, then peace will follow. Because each changed life signals renewed hope as one life touches another, and then another, and society begins to reflect the difference. Because, after all, "civilization is just a slow process of learning to be kind."

Thoughts for today! Attitudes

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Earl Nightingale, said, "Attitude will always affect your success, and you'll know it affected your success when you take credit for your success that's the good side or you blame somebody that's the bad side."

Leadership Guru Dr. John C. Maxwell tells this story about taking responsibility for attitude. After seeing how-to-improve-your-attitude books in his father's briefcase during a vacation, Maxwell said, "Dad, you're 70 years old. You've always had a great attitude. Are you still reading that stuff?".

Melvin Maxwell looked his son in the eye and answered, "I have to keep working on my thoughts through out my life. I am responsible for having a great attitude and for maintaining it. My attitude does not run on auto pilot."

So, we not only choose our attitudes, but they are also a continuing choice. TV anchor Hugh Downs defined a happy person not as someone with a certain set of circumstances, but with a certain set of attitudes.

Today's thoughts: Dreams

Karthik Gurumurthy

Our dreams are our invitations to perform the dance we have been gifted with. Dreams are full of purpose. They mean to inspire us, acting as markers along the paths to our destination. If we had no dreams, we would quickly lose the will to live.

The twenty-four hours ahead will be filled with dreams as well as actions. The actions we take today are no doubt inspired by yesterday's or last week's dreams. Dreams help us to image that which our souls desire us to do. This imagery is powerful, helping us to be prepared for any situation that requests our involvement.

Through our dreams we feel the pull of the inner self - that center we have that knows our needs, talents, our proper course and destination. My lifeline to tomorrow is through today's dream. I will respect its call and take the action necessary to make it come true.

Thought process: Laughter- The best medicine

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Scientist Lee Berk brought laughers into his laboratory at Loma Linda University in California. Half of the subjects watched a video of a stand-up comedian while the other half, or control group sat quietly in another room. Blood samples were drawn every 10 minutes from both groups. The control group showed no physiological change. The subjects who watched the video showed decreased levels of cortisol, a hormone that suppresses the immune system, and "significant increases in various measures  of the immune function." This means laughing activates:

  • T cells that battle infection.
  • B cells that produce disease-fighting protein.
  • Natural killer cells that attack tumors and microbes.
  • Immunoglobulin- antibodies that patrol the respiratory tract.
  • Gamma-interferon that is key immune system messenger.

Berk concluded that "laughter creates its own unique physiological state with changes in the immune system opposite to those caused by stress." He summed up the benefits of laughter this way: "Blessed are those who laugh, for they shall last." Dr. Stanley Tan and Dr. Berk have shown that laughing lowers blood pressure, increases muscle flexion, and triggers a flood of beta endorphins- natural morphine -like compounds.

Dr. Derks and his colleagues mapped the brain activity of subjects while they listened to jokes.Having discovered that the entire outer layer of the brain is involved when people laugh, they believe it could boost the immune system.

The bottom line to all this research is that laughter increases disease-fighting cells and proteins in the blood and increases our immunity to infections. Even common sense tells us that no one can be anxious and tense while laughing. It is important that we develop the ability to find humor in life.


-Karthik Gurumurthy

 Silence is a source of great strength. – Lao Tzu

One of the hardest lessons for a young leader to learn is that of silence. One of the hardest lessons for seasoned leaders is to remember it. Silence is a great tool for leaders. You can observe a while lot within your organization by paying attention and listening. What you can learn and the wisdom you gain will serve you well. The lesson here is simple. Don’t be afraid to listen when you are tempted to speak. Take time to process your thoughts. It could very well save you some grief by speaking too soon. Watch and listen. You will be the wiser for it.

Thoughts for today: Happy Face

-Karthik Gurumurthy

In the Power of Positive Thinking, Norman Vincent Peale tells about meeting a couple in a railroad dining car. The woman was dressed in expensive furs, diamonds and jewelry. Wrinkling her nose as though she smelled a dead fist, she proclaimed regally that the car was not only dingy, but also drafty, the service was abominable, and the food tasteless. Her easy-going husband cringed at his wife's critical attitude.

To change the subject, the man asked Peale's occupation, mentioning that he was a lawyer. Then he said that his wife was in manufacturing, which surprised Peale, who asked what she manufactured. Her husband replied, "Unhappiness, she manufactures here own happiness."

The story is told that an adviser to President Abraham Lincoln suggested a certain candidate for Lincoln's cabinet. Lincoln immediately refused, saying, "I don't like the man's face."

"But sir," the adviser said, "he can't be responsible for his face."

Lincoln looked him in the eye and answered:  "Every man over 40 is responsible for his face." The point is, our face reflects our internal activities. If we're happy, it shows.

Question enough to get the answer..

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Status Quo HCPSS 7-2013.001

I learned about the amazing story of Stanislavsky Lech who saved his own life by constantly questioning until he found the answer.

Stanislavsky and his family were arrested by the Nazis during World War II and sent to a death camp in Krakow. His entire family was shot in front of him and he was forced into hard labor.

Starving to death he somehow continued, but he knew if he didn't escape he would surely die. He questioned how to succeed every minute of every day. His friends told him it was useless. He refused to accept this and continued to question..continued to search for a solution.

Finally, the solution presented itself. The Germans would  pile bodies next to the gas chambers and each day load them into trucks to be dumped into mass graves.

As his work day ended, Lech slipped out of line, ducked behind a truck loaded with bodies, removed his clothing, and while no one was looking,  jumped into the back of the truck with the dead. More bodies were dumped on top of him and he lay quiet, pretending to be dead.

Finally the truck moved outside the camp grave site and dumped its aweful grave. Lech stayed silent for hours until dark and escaped from the site.

How did Lech survive? Because he refused to give up. He continuously questioned to find the solution.

In life or in business, if something isn't right, we have two solutions: accept it or question it to find a solution.Sometimes you have got to ask many questions to find the right answer.  The key is to never stop questioning until you are satisfied with the answer.

Thoughts for today: Counting my blessings!

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Today is my birthday.I won't say how old I am. I can say I am celebrating my 11th anniversary of 29th birthday. Wow really..! Yes..Time has gone by so fast..

But that is fine...Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional.It’s up to you whether or not you get old.

Few years back, I had in my mind my target weight goal in lbs and some financial goals.  But this morning? I decided to ignore the number and celebrate the day. I didn't get on the scale. I didn't check my bank balance. I decided to count my blessings instead.

I remember what birthdays were like as a kid. All of the anticipation of what you might get for a present, what kind of cake you wanted and most importantly what treat you were going to take to school. Yes, I grew up in the days of taking candy for your birthday. That practice that is now frowned upon in some schools and classrooms because of the health implications and the policy in those places is strictly enforced here.

My mom and dad made it special with their personal touch. My mom would make special Payasam (Indian Dessert) along with other special dishes and would shower her love and affection and my dad would pour his affection and I always felt like million bucks that day. Dad always got finer quality new dresses and expensive cakes. I don't know how he was able to afford them but felt like being in Cloud 9 the whole time. For dinner, Dad would take us all to a fine restaurant. Since going to restaurant was reserved for special occasions, we were looking forward to it the whole time. Since dad and mom were in good mood the whole day, I used this time to get their signature on the subjects which I didn't do too well.( I am not sure if they follow the procedure anymore. Back in those days, school students are supposed to show their grades to the parents and parents have to sign them (as a proof) showing they acknowledge the grades!)

I left the whole birthday present thing until last. Honestly, I can’t remember a single thing that I got for my birthday. Don’t worry, me and my brother always got a fantastic gift and it was usually something fun that we had asked for, but I really don’t recall exactly what any of the presents were.  I do know that we only got one present from Mom and Dad and we appreciated it.It is a great feeling to get the blessings from parents and other elders which made it more special.

Fast forward to the present day, my birthday is still a really good day. My lovely wife got up early to cook special lunch with so many of my favorite dishes and a special dessert for me. She also got the cake which I will be having with my dear in-laws. It was nice of them to grace us and we definitely appreciate their presence on this birthday. Made it lot more special.

Maybe it is sad that our birthday goes from being one of the two or three best days of the year to just another day. Sure, every ten years is that “special” birthday when everyone pokes fun at your age and make sure the whole world knows how old you are. I guess in retrospect while birthdays may not be such a big deal when you get to be an adult, they are still important. After all it is a day to reflect on all the good memories and blessings in our lives that came in the past year. It is also a day to look forward and wonder what the next 364 days might hold.

As I celebrate a milestone birthday this year, I want to pause, reflect, and say: Thank You. Over the past several years you have been part of the moments, the days, the months, and the years that have built on each other to create my life story. You have helped shape my journey and it would have been a different adventure had you not been part of the cast.

And so, in celebrating this milestone, I am in turn celebrating all of the cast, all of you, our times together, the moments we've shared, the laughter and the tears. Thank you for being part of it, for reminding me of my strengths when times were tough, and for keeping me in check when my ego took hold. For appreciating my idiosyncrasies, loving me as I am, and helping me be true to myself. But also for telling me when I wasn't being the best I could be, while at the same time reminding me that I am human and allowed to make mistakes. Thank you for inspiring and encouraging me in my creative pursuits, for intriguing my curiosity, for all the conversations, and for listening to my endless meandering thoughts, helping me learn and grow. Thank you for showing up and being present. For never ceasing to impress me, inviting me to celebrate your successes with you and for trusting me to be your pillar when you've needed help.

I am in awe that we are traveling this realm at the same time in the history of the world, and grateful that our short duration on this earth have not only overlapped, but that our paths have intersected. When I think about the odds for this to have happened, I really come to appreciate how special this is. That we are now here together, at this time in the history of the world, and that we met and were given the chance to create something together. And I sure hope that together we can continue creating a more loving history, a more generous world, a more peaceful one, one that we're proud to leave behind for the next generations.


If I was to try and summarize some of the big life lessons gathered over the past 29 years the list might look something like this at first draft..You can say  :

  1. Try not to be in too much of a hurry to “grow up”, always look at the world through a child’s eye as if it is something new to explore. Looking at the world through the eyes of our children we are reminded of the pure goodness and can take ourselves back into this magical place.
  2. My parents had more influence on me than everyone I've ever known. My wife is perfect example of  giving 200% in everything wholeheartedly. I have learned from her, anything worth doing is worth doing well.  If you want to learn about the word loyalty, my brother's name would be there. I learned from him what it means to be fiercely loyal. 
  3. Success is having appreciation for what God’s blessed you with. We need to be thankful all the time. Everytime your name is not in the Obituary section, you need to be thankful. Anyone in the obituary section in your today's newspaper would love to trade places with you whatever your situation maybe.Write down what you are grateful for every day – it changes your outlook on life – I promise.
  4. It’s okay to NOT know what you want to be “when you grow up”. Growing and learning is one of the most fun, important things you can give yourself. You can change careers, jobs, and directions as many times as you want. These are all patchworks and important parts of who you will become. Enjoy the journey.
  5. If you are expecting to see a pattern or purpose to the order of these, good luck.
  6. We only truly live if we put ourselves out there, and I mean right out there, in amongst the scary and the uncertain. Playing it safe is OK if you are happy existing, if you want to LIVE then you need to face your fears, fall, fall again and pick yourself up.
  7. Find a way to really connect and follow your intuition, even if everyone else is saying not to. Only you truly know. (although your parents are usually always right!)
  8. It is OK to ask for help, repeat after me. Oh! how this one could have changed things for me, it is never too late though and it has been one of my greatest learnings. It is NOT a sign of weakness, it is a sign of respect for ourselves and others. Giving someone special the gift of our asking, and allowing them to help is one of the most beautiful acts.
  9. Always say what you feel, always tell your people that you love them. If I could have one wish granted, it would be to have the chance to tell my dad one more time that I love him, for him to hear those words in his resting place.
  10. Spend time to listen to your parents and grandparents stories.
  11. Try your very best not to judge anyone. We are all a work in progress and many experiences dictate how people go about their day to day lives. Try to understand and accept that it’s the way things are. You can support and love, but you cannot change someone who doesn’t want to be changed. Respect people for who they are, not what you want them to be.
  12. Spend time to think about what you want your life to be like. Create visionboards and affirmations every few months. This is so much fun to do and will help you stay focused on what you what to attract into your life. They are also really lovely to look at everyday.
  13. Smile and acknowledge EVERYONE you meet and have eye contact with. Everyone is important.  Everyone matters.
  14. Don't waste your time arguing with hard-headed /hard-hearted people.  Pray for them, love them, leave them to God.
  15. Friendships do not need to be forever, there is an old saying about friendships coming into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Embrace this, learn to let go, speak your mind and surround yourself with those who share your dreams, lift you up and accept you for every little bit of you.
  16. You cannot change people but you can change how you react to certain situations. Always see the opportunity every relationship or experience presents to you. They are here to teach you something!
  17. Step up for people, and for what you believe in. Sitting on the sidelines is OK for those who are happy to exist, if you want to feel alive then you need to step up. Be a little extra-ordinary, go above and beyond.
  18. To inherit the future one must be constantly learning. Those who have finished learning will find themselves equipped to live well in the past.
  19. Being kind to others will lift you up. Possibly one of the most significant lessons and also one of my favourite personal wellbeing strategies, if you are stuck in your crap, simply spread some kindness to others and it will change things for you,  I promise!
  20. Learn to spend time by yourself. Without any other distraction from outside of yourself. It can be scary, but you will learn so much about yourself and feel confident that you are strong enough to stand on your own two feet.
  21. The next time you complain about your problems..remember if they weren't so difficult someone with less ability would probably have your job.
  22. You cannot get up early if you don't go to bed early.
  23. It costs way too much to go the the doctor, fill up your gas tank, and send your kids to college.  Start saving now.
  24. Consuming is easy but gives diminishing returns. Creating is hard work but has increasing returns.
  25. You are more productive in a clean, organized, uncluttered environment.Declutter your home on a regular basis. 
  26. There is nothing more destructive than a liar, except maybe a gossip.
  27. Challenge yourself often. Challenging your assumptions opens a new world of possibilities. Just because you have been thinking a certain way, that doesn't make it right. 
  28. I am not sure how much time is left for each of us.Whatever time is left, let us make the best use of it. My gift to my future self is a life of no regrets.
  29. I believe the best is yet to come.

Love and regards,


Rest in Peace Nelson Mandela

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Today Nelson Mandela went to be with God and World has lost a tremendous leader today. He was 95. In his life of 95 years, he spent 27 years in prison. But in his 95 years he has packed more substance than so many of us together.


I read his book "Long Walk to Freedom" and would love to share about what I got from that book. The best thing is to read the book. This is just the essence of the book.

"I never thought that a life sentence truly meant life and that I would die behind bars. Perhaps I was denying this prospect because it was too unpleasant to contemplate. But I always knew that someday I would once again feel the grass under my feet and walk in the sunshine as a free man."

Nelson Mandela grew up in a traditional village in the Transkei region of South Africa, hundreds of miles from either Johannesburg or Cape Town. A member of theThembu tribe that forms part of the Xhosa nation, his father was both a tribal chieftain and the chief adviser to the Thembu king, and Mandela was groomed to follow in his father's footsteps. The name given to him at birth was, prophetically, Rolihlahla. In his native Xhosa, the colloquial meaning of the name is "troublemaker."

The first member of his family to go to school, Mandela was given the English name Nelson. He recalls an idyllic Transkei childhood of animal herding, stick fighting,and storytelling, but after his father died he was moved to the Thembu capital to live under the wing of the tribal chief.

In his early years, Mandela says, he saw the white man more as a benefactor than an oppressor, and was enamored of British culture and its political system. But he came to realize that the Xhosa was a conquered people, with most of the men having to slave away in the gold mines for minuscule pay or work on whiteowned farms. Mandela observed: "No matter how high a black man advanced, he was still considered inferior to the lowest white man."

Early lessons, lifelong contacts

As a student, Mandela was introverted and not brilliant, but worked hard. He was placed in an English-style secondary college for blacks, met young people from other tribal backgrounds, and began to get a sense of being "African" as opposed to simply Thembu or Xhosa.

At Fort Hare University College, run by missionaries and with black professors, he studied English, anthropology, politics,native administration, and Roman Dutch law. At this time his ambition was to be a low-level civil servant, a clerk or interpreter in the Native Affairs Department.

For a black South African, Mandela's education was privileged, and he believed that a BA would be his ticket to prosperity. Only later did he realize that there were many people without degrees who were smarter than him, and that character was the greater ingredient in Competing in cross-country running in college taught him that he could make up for a lack in natural ability by hard training. In his studies, he observed: "I saw many young men who had great natural ability, but who did not have the self-discipline and patience to build on their endowment."

Back home from college for a break, Mandela found an arranged marriage waiting for him on which he was not keen, and fled to Johannesburg. After trying to get work in the offices of a gold mine, he eventually found an articled clerkship in a liberal Jewish law firm. He was paid a pittance and often had to walk miles into thecenter of Johannesburg from his township. Slowly he began to get involved in politics and the African National Congress (ANC), but for a number of years was more observer than activist. It was at this time that he met ANC stalwart Walter Sisulu, a real estate agent when blacks were still allowed to own some property.

A black lawyer was a great novelty, and when Mandela enrolled in the University of Witwatersrand for a Bachelor of Law degree in 1943 he was the only African student in the faculty. His discomfort was lessened by a circle of supportive whites and Indians, who would later prove to be important in the struggle for black freedom.

Beginning the fight

On a platform of "the nigger in his place," in 1948 the Nationalist party came to power in South Africa. Though the idea of apartheid ("apartness") had been around for centuries, the Afrikaner Nationalists entrenched it in hundreds of oppressive laws designed to create a brutal hierarchy: whites at the top, blacks at the bottom, and Indians and coloreds in the middle. Afrikaans, the language of the original Dutch farmersettlers,took over from English as an official language. With race as the basis for South African society, elaborate tests were required that often broke up families. "Where one was allowed to live and work could rest on such absurd distinctions as the curl of one's hair or the size of one's lips," Mandela notes.

The defiance campaigns that the ANC organized, involving stay-at-homes and gatherings to protest against new laws, only made the new government more iron-willed in keeping black people downtrodden. School education was scaled down, whole towns were razed to make way for white housing, and the pass system made it extremely difficult for non-white people to move freely. The 1950 Suppression of Communism Act was only partly related to curbing communism; its real purpose was to allow the government to imprison anyone on a trumped-up charge.

Despite this harsher climate, in 1952 Mandela and Oliver Tambo established the first black law office in South Africa. It was inundated with cases from the first day and was highly successful. In those days, Mandela admits he was a "hotheaded revolutionary" without a great deal of discipline, and that he enjoyed wearing smart suitsand driving around Johannesburg in a large American car. He even bought land in the Transkei with a view to moving back home.

Fate had other ideas. At 35 Mandela was banned from any involvement with the ANC, which meant that any work he did for the organization would have to be secret and risk long-term imprisonment. His roles as freedom fighter and family man were never compatible, and from this point on he would live with the constant anguish of having made the people he loved secondary to the larger struggle for freedom.

Criminal and outlaw

In the famous 1958-61 Treason Trial, the Nationalist government charged Mandela and others with trying to overthrow the state. Though the prosecution lacked real evidence, the trial dragged on for years. By this time Mandela's marriage had collapsed, and the time required to be away from the law practice saw that, too, fall apart.

When the members of the group were acquitted, the authorities' embarrassment was so great that it made them even more determined to quell insurrection. In 1960, 70 black demonstrators were killed at Sharpeville, a township south of Johannesburg, when they peacefully surrounded a police station. Many were shot in the back trying to flee the gunfire. South Africa came under a State of Emergency in which the rights of blacks were further curtailed.

Mandela knew that he would soon be rearrested for something, so he decided to go underground, moving from place to place with the help of disguises. He grew his hair and wore the blue overalls of the worker and, because he had a car, pretended to be driving it for his baas (white master). During this outlaw existence, when there was a warrant for his arrest, the newspapers began calling Mandela "The Black Pimpernel." For several months he actually left South Africa to visit various African states including Sudan, Haile Selassie's Ethiopia, and Egypt to seek support for the ANC's cause, solicit donations, and learn about guerrilla warfare. The trip was the first time Mandela had experienced freedom and had seen blacks either running their own states or being treated as equals, and it only inspired him further. However, back in South Africa he let his guard down, and in 1962 he was captured on a road leading into Cape Town.

Captive revolutionary

At his trial, Mandela tried to put the onus of guilt on to the government, and wore traditional clothing to symbolize that he did not recognize the white legal system and the charges it was making against him. He received a five-year sentence without parole. However, much worse was to come. As the ANC's philosophy of non-violence was clearly not working, Mandela had founded a covert military affiliate that began a sabotage campaign on government property. In 1964 he was charged with sabotage and conspiracy, along with a number of other ANC members.

The death sentence was expected, and in his address to the court Mandela said that he was prepared to die for the cause of justice. Perhaps because of international pressure, however, the men "only" received life sentences. This seemed like a great victory.

Mandela would spend the next 18 years in the notorious Robben Island prison. The first decade involved hard manual labor, terrible food, and a climate of fear and abuse. However, the political prisoners were kept together and so could continue their discussions. Denied virtually all outside contact, the acquisition of a newspaper was prized almost above food. The men's political struggle was reduced to within the prison walls, and they had to fight for any kind of improvement in their daily life. For the slightest infraction they could be thrown into a solitary confinement cell for days on a diet of rice water. Mandela writes: "It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones—and South Africa treated its imprisoned African citizens like animals."

The years on Robben Island made Mandela a virtual stranger to his family, and he often wondered whether the struggle was worth it. His mother died while he was there and he was not allowed to attend the funeral. On the rare occasion that he was allowed family visitors, he was given only half an hour with them. Because of the restrictions on her movements, he did not see his second wife Winnie Mandela for two whole years, and his children were not allowed to visit before the age of 15. The nadir of Mandela's time on the island came when he received news that his 25-year old son had been killed in a car accident.

In the latter years of his imprisonment, as his legend grew, Mandela was moved to mainland prisons and received special treatment, ending up with his own house and cook, and was able to receive visitors.

He had been seeking dialog with the government for some time, and after 75 years of bitter antipathy white politicians began to listen to his ideas for a fully democratic South Africa. They knew that history was not on their side, and the country was becoming explosive.


Amid great euphoria, Mandela was released in 1990, having spent 27½ years in jail. Four years later, after the country's first nonracial elections, he was elected President of South Africa. In the meantime there had been much bloodshed, but the worst years were behind the country.

Final comments

Long Walk to Freedom is simply but skillfully written, and even at 750 pages you feel that it only skims the surface of one of the twentieth century's great lives. This commentary, in turn, only highlights a few points; reading the book cannot be more highly recommended.

Today we think of Mandela as a grayhaired statesman, a legendary figure, but his memoirs allow us to get behind the image. We see that he was a normal man who was willing to react positively to extraordinarily bad circumstances. He got through his ordeal because he was an optimist, and could therefore inspire himself as much as others. The key to his success as a leader was the sense of inevitability he created—the power of his belief. The message he gave out that things would change wasso great that even prison warders came around to his way of thinking. The end result was a new nation based on fairness and dignity in the place of a rotten police state.

Though he received a privileged education and was groomed for leadership, neither of these things was a cause of his future success as a leader. As the state gave himless and less to work with, he parlayed even these meager opportunities into positive action.

In a tight situation or a long struggle for recognition or success, we would do well to remember Mandela, and to have even an ounce of his mental discipline and bravery.

We will miss you Madiba!


Thought for today: Self deception

-Karthik Gurumurthy

We need to know where we are currently to move on to the next level. I feel lot of people miss out on this.

As long as we are lying to ourselves, it is impossible to get to where you want to be. Here's why. You will never get to where you want to be if you don't know where you are to begin with. When we deceive ourselves, we blind ourselves to our current location. Maps are useless if you don't know where you are. This reminds me of my student who got lost driving by himself at night for the first time. When he realized he didn't know where he was, he grabbed his cell phone and called his dad. His dad started questioning him about what he saw around him so as to get some idea of where he might be. But that turned out to be a mistake. My student started looking for landmarks instead of paying attention to the road. To avoid an accident he drove off onto the shoulder of the road and into shallow ditch. He wasn't hurt thankfully  but he was stuck. When his dad realized he was okay, he said, "Don't worry, son, I'll come get  you out. Just tell me where you are." Long pause. "Dad, that's the point..I don't have any idea where I am."

Geographically speaking, you can't get to where you want to be unless you know where you are to begin with. You need a reference point. Similarly, you can't get to where you want to be in life until you are willing to admit where you are to begin with. Self-deception makes that next to impossible. Think about it for a moment. Don't all the lies we tell ourselves have  a similar theme?

  • Everything is fine.
  • Everything is going to work out.
  • I'll get through this.
  • I can handle this.
  • It is all going to be all right.

This kind of positive affirmation doesn't help when you are lost in the highway. and it doesn't help when you are lost in life. All that does is empower you to keep moving in the wrong direction. These messages are the very messages that keep a person from stopping and getting help.

To find the path that will take you where you want to go, you must break the cycle of self-deception. As long as you hide behind reasons that aren't the real reasons for your behavior, you will never have the clarity or strength you need to turn around and move in a new direction.When you are willing to come clean with yourself about the uncomfortable truth behind your choices, you're on the verge of freedom. We can never be free as long as we're in the habit of lying to ourselves about the reasons behind the choices we make and the paths we take. Tell yourself the truth will free you to move from where you are to where you want and need to be.

Great expectations

-Karthik Gurumurthy

"The greater danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we hit it."

~ Michelangelo

The expectations you have for yourself are important. You will not rise above your own level of expectations which is why they are critical. If you are feeling trapped or held back in your personal development then stop and assess your expectations and also what thoughts are dominant in your mind. If your thoughts and attitudes are negative then so will be your actions and outcomes. Keep your thoughts right, your attitude strong, and expectations high. Remove the limitations to your success by believing the best and being your best. 


-Karthik Gurumurthy

Caution is a good risk to take.

Prudence is all about good judgment, weighing all the possibilities, considering the consequences of one's actions, thinking before one acts, being thoughtful, using common sense, doing what's best for oneself, using discretion, exercising caution, and conforming to reason and decency. It is the avoidance of thoughtless and reckless behavior. It is the ability to distinguish the difference between what is harmful and what is helpful and following the right course of action. Imagine how much misery would be eliminated if we all following the dictum, " Look before you leap.

You see, part of being prudent is being balanced; it is imprudent to be otherwise. Because of the need of balance, prudence may direct us to hold our tongue on one occasion and to speak up on another.

There are two types of risks, those with bad payoffs and those with good payoffs. A prudent person doesn't smoke because it is a health risk; it has a bad payoff.Prudent people avoid risks with poor payoffs, but have no problem taking risks that have good payoffs. Part of being prudent is valuing courage.

Some disasters are avoidable while others are unavoidable. The consequences of our actions are always unavoidable. But as long as they are governed by prudence, we will have nothing to fear. Prudence is a protective shield and the absence of caution is more harmful than the absence of knowledge.

In the thirteenth century, Persian Poet Saadi wrote, "Learn from the misfortunes of others, so others may not learn from you." Besides learning from the mistakes of others, prudent people also learn from the accomplishments of others. Every person we meet is an example, one to be followed or one to be avoided.


Thought for today: Integrity

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Integrity is a value, like persistence, courage, and industriousness. Even more than that, it is the value that guarantees all the other values. You are a good person to the degree to which you live your life consistent with the highest values that you espouse. Integrity is the quality that locks in your values and causes you to live consistent with them.

Integrity is the foundation of character. And character development is one of the most important activities you can engage in. Working on your character means disciplining yourself to do more and more of those things that a thoroughly honest person would do, under all circumstances.

To be impeccably honest with others, you must first be impeccably honest with yourself. You must be true to yourself. You must be true to the very best that is in you, to the very best that you know. Only a person who is living consistent with his or her highest values and virtues is really living a life of integrity. And when you commit to living this kind of life, you will find yourself continually raising your own standards, continually refining your definition of integrity and honesty.

You can tell how high your level of integrity is by simply looking at the things you do in your day-to-day life. You can look at your reactions and responses to the inevitable ups and downs of life. You can observe the behaviors you typically engage in and you will then know the person you are.

The external manifestation of high integrity is high-quality work. A person who is totally honest with himself or herself will be someone who does, or strives to do, excellent work on every occasion. The totally honest person recognizes, sometimes unconsciously, that everything he or she does is a statement about who he or she really is as a person.

When you start a little earlier, work a little harder, stay a little later and concentrate on every detail, you are practicing integrity in your work. And whether you know it or not, your true level of integrity is apparent and obvious to everyone around you.Perhaps the most important rule you will ever learn is that your life only becomes better when you become better.

Ask yourself this question: What are your five most important values in life? Your answer will reveal an enormous amount about you. What would you pay for, sacrifice for, suffer for and even die for? What would you stand up for, or refuse to lie down for? What are the values that you hold most dear?

Think these questions through carefully and, when you get achance, write down your answers. Here's another way of asking that question. What men and women, living or dead, do you most admire? Once you pick three or four men or women, the next question is: Why do you admire them? What values,qualities, or virtues do they have that you respect and look upto? Can you articulate those qualities? What is a quality possessed by human beings in general that you most respect? This is the starting point for determining your values. The answers to these questions form the foundation of your character and your personality.

Who you are, in your heart, is evidenced by what you do on a day-to-day basis, especially when you are pushed into a position where you have to make a choice between two values or alternatives. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Guard your integrity as a sacred thing." In study after study, the quality of integrity, or a person's adherence to values, ranks as the number one quality sought in every field. Integrity in leadership is expressed in terms of constancy and consistency.

Napoleon Hill, in his book, The Master Key to Riches, tells about how he created an imaginary board of personal advisors made up of great figures of history. He chose people like Napoleon, Lincoln, and Alexander the Great. Whenever he had to make a decision, he would relax deeply and then imagine that the members of his advisory council were sitting at a large table in front of him. He would then ask them what he should do to deal effectively with a particular situation. In time, they would begin to give him answers, observations, and insights that helped him see more clearly and act more effectively.

You can do the same thing. Select someone that you very much admire for their qualities of courage, tenacity, honesty, or wisdom. Ask yourself, "What would Washington do in my situation?" or, "What would Lincoln do if he were here at this time?" You will find yourself with guidance that enables you to be the very best person that you can possibly be.

Shiny Happy People

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Shiny Happy People...This was the song by R.E.M which I vividly remember listening to when I was a freshman in College. I loved the song but more than that, I want to belong to Happy people group.

"Happiness comes most to persons who seek it least, and think least about it. It is not an object to be sought, it is a state to be induced. It must follow and not lead. It must overtake you, and not you overtake it"

-John Burroughs

Anyways, I realize there are two types of people in the world: those who choose to be happy, and those who choose to be unhappy. Contrary to popular belief, happiness doesn’t come from fame, fortune, other people, or material possessions. Rather, it comes from within.
The richest person in the world could be miserable while a homeless person could be right outside, smiling and content with their life. Happy people are happy because they make themselves happy. They maintain a positive outlook on life and remain at peace with themselves.

The question is: How do they do that?

It’s quite simple. Happy people have good habits that enhance their lives. They do things differently. Ask any happy person, and they will tell you that they …

  • Don’t hold grudges.

Happy people understand that it’s better to forgive and forget than to let their negative feelings crowd out their positive feelings. Holding a grudge has a lot of detrimental effects on your wellbeing, including increased depression, anxiety, and stress. Why let anyone who has wronged you have power over you? If you let go of all your grudges, you’ll gain a clear conscience and enough energy to enjoy the good things in life.

  • Treat everyone with kindness.

I just talked about the same yesterday. Did you know that it has been scientifically proven that being kind makes you happier? Every time you perform a selfless act, your brain produces serotonin, a hormone that eases tension and lifts your spirits. Not only that, but treating people with love, dignity, and respect also allows you to build stronger relationships.

  • See problems as challenges.

The word “problem” is never part of a happy person’s vocabulary. A problem is viewed as a drawback, a struggle, or an unstable situation while a challenge is viewed as something positive like an opportunity, a task, or a dare. Whenever you face an obstacle, try looking at it as a challenge.

  • Express gratitude for what they already have.

There’s a popular saying that goes something like this: “The happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything they have.” You will have a deeper sense of contentment if you count your blessings instead of yearning for what you don’t have.

  •  Dream big.

People who get into the habit of dreaming big are more likely to accomplish their goals than those who don’t. If you dare to dream big, your mind will put itself in a focused and positive state.

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Happy people ask themselves, “Will this problem matter a year from now?” They understand that life’s too short to get worked up over trivial situations. Letting things roll off your back will definitely put you at ease to enjoy the more important things in life.

  • Speak well of others.

Being nice feels better than being mean. As fun as gossiping is, it usually leaves you feeling guilty and resentful. Saying nice things about other people encourages you to think positive, non-judgmental thoughts.

  • Never make excuses.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.” Happy people don’t make excuses or blame others for their own failures in life. Instead, they own up to their mistakes and, by doing so, they proactively try to change for the better.

  •  Get absorbed into the present.

Happy people don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future. They savor the present. They let themselves get immersed in whatever they’re doing at the moment. Stop and smell the roses.

  • Wake up at the same time every morning.

Have you noticed that a lot of successful people tend to be early risers? Waking up at the same time every morning stabilizes your circadian rhythm, increases productivity, and puts you in a calm and centered state.

  •  Avoid social comparison.

Everyone works at his own pace, so why compare yourself to others? If you think you’re better than someone else, you gain an unhealthy sense of superiority. If you think someone else is better than you, you end up feeling bad about yourself. You’ll be happier if you focus on your own progress and praise others on theirs.

  • Choose friends wisely.

Misery loves company. That’s why it’s important to surround yourself with optimistic people who will encourage you to achieve your goals. The more positive energy you have around you, the better you will feel about yourself.

  • Never seek approval from others.

Happy people don’t care what others think of them. They follow their own hearts without letting naysayers discourage them. They understand that it’s impossible to please everyone. Listen to what people have to say, but never seek anyone’s approval but your own.

  •  Take the time to listen.

Talk less; listen more. Listening keeps your mind open to others’ wisdoms and outlooks on the world. The more intensely you listen, the quieter your mind gets, and the more content you feel.

  • Nurture social relationships.

A lonely person is a miserable person. Happy people understand how important it is to have strong, healthy relationships. Always take the time to see and talk to your family, friends, or significant other.

  • Meditate.

Meditating silences your mind and helps you find inner peace. You don’t have to be a hermit or Sage to pull it off. Happy people know how to silence their minds anywhere and anytime they need to calm their nerves.

  • Eat well.

Junk food makes you sluggish, and it’s difficult to be happy when you’re in that kind of state. Everything you eat directly affects your body’s ability to produce hormones, which will dictate your moods, energy, and mental focus. Be sure to eat foods that will keep your mind and body in good shape.

  • Exercise.

Studies have shown that exercise raises happiness levels just as much as Zoloft does. Exercising also boosts your self-esteem and gives you a higher sense of self-accomplishment.

  • Live minimally.

Happy people rarely keep clutter around the house because they know that extra belongings weigh them down and make them feel overwhelmed and stressed out. Some studies have concluded that Europeans are a lot happier than Americans are, which is interesting because they live in smaller homes, drive simpler cars, and own fewer items.

  • Tell the truth.

Lying stresses you out, corrodes your self-esteem, and makes you unlikeable. The truth will set you free. Being honest improves your mental health and builds others’ trust in you. Always be truthful, and never apologize for it.

  • Establish personal control.

Happy people have the ability to choose their own destinies. They don’t let others tell them how they should live their lives. Being in complete control of one’s own life brings positive feelings and a great sense of self-worth.

  • Accept what cannot be changed.

Once you accept the fact that life is not fair, you’ll be more at peace with yourself. Instead of obsessing over how unfair life is, just focus on what you can control and change it for the better.

Ctrl Alt Del and start over

-Karthik Gurumurthy

 Once in a while as a leader it’s reassuring to be reminded of this simple truth. The weight and responsibility of leadership can drag you down and it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that tomorrow is a new day. The view you have of today’s troubles can improve drastically in just 24 hours. Keep your eye on the ball, keep your attitude right, and don’t be distracted by the obstacles you face today. Tomorrow is a new day with new opportunities. Ctrl Alt Del and restart with a great attitude!

Daily To-Do list

-Karthik Gurumurthy

  1. Think of the three things I have to be thankful for.
  2. Do what I do normally a little differently.
  3. Take a minute or two to think about my life purpose.
  4. Think about the goals I am striving towards.
  5. Prioritize my  list of goals.
  6. Eat less sugar, lower the portion (making a conscious choice to lower the portion every day).
  7. Making a conscious choice not to participate in any gossip.
  8. Give someone a compliment.
  9. Do a common task with great attention.
  10. Exercise or atleast go for walk with Ashwin.
  11. Look for one quote each day that inspires me.
  12. Thinking about how to add value and write something which can help someone in the blog on a daily basis.
  13. Read a book for atleast half an hour everyday.
  14. Finishing the day with the thanks.

Reading good literature/books/articles

-Karthik Gurumurthy

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go. – Dr. Seuss

It’s been said that leaders are readers. I agree. It’s one of the single greatest recommendations I can give to all leaders. It’s through the reading of books that your mind is awakened, your understanding is strengthened, and your knowledge is increased. Reading is one of the most productive leadership habits that you will develop. Have you read a good book lately?

I meet people all the time asking me to recommend books which they can read. The answer to them depends on their taste.

Today there is more to read than ever. Traditional and social news sites are filled up with the latest buzz stories repeated ad nauseam. One is pressed to keep up. Amid the endless competition to make headlines and build traffic there is no enduring value.

From time to time, I love to turn back to the classics, the old enduring books that have stood the test of time and retain their lustre. The common perception of old books is that they are antiquated and useless. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We believe, with out technology, that we have reinvented life. But that is not the case. The gadgets that surround us are minor details, the essence of life remains unchanged. It feels the same to be alive today as it did a thousand years ago. We are still lone souls confined to our thoughts, facing the same challenges.

Everything has it particular place. Old books cannot teach you how to effectively use your IPad or teach you coding a programming language. But they will teach how to live. They will teach out what it means to be human. They will give you a firm place to stand against the assault of common change. The wisdom of the greatest human minds passed down through centuries is our most reliable asset.

I am not alone in this opinion. I leave you with this passage from the immortal Albert Einstein.

Somebody who reads only newspapers and at best the books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely nearsighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything else. And what a person thinks on his own without being stimulated by the thoughts and experiences of other people is even in the best case rather paltry and monotonous.

There are only a few enlightened people with a lucid mind and style and with good taste with a century. What has been preserved of their work belongs among the most precious possessions of mankind.

Nothing is more needed than to overcome the modernist’s snobbishness.

My favorite ones which I like to read once in few months are as follows:

  • Self Reliance by  Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • The art of living by Epictetus
  • The Prophet by Khaleel Gibran
  • Aldous Huxley essays
  • Experience  by Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Ethics- Plato
  • As a man thinketh by James Allen

"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention"

- Sir Francis Bacon

Perception, Reality and Authenticity in Communication

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Ever get the feeling that people-even people who know you (or should know you) very well-just don't "get" you?

Ever get the feeling that the relationships in your life-some of them anyway- are a little  out of sync with your ideals and what you really want?

Ever get the feeling that there's a troubling disconnect- maybe only minor, maybe profound- between your personal life and your professional life?

In every case described above, a gap seems to exist between the " real you" and the you other people see and interact with.

Your personal brand is a perception held in others minds, and it has evolved through their interactions with you. Through repeated contacts between you and another person, his or her perception of you sharpens and your brand in that person's mind become clearer.

In other words, people are constantly observing who you are, what you do and how you do it. Having a brand is not the point: more important is the question, How strong is your personal brand? The strength of your personal brand grows or weakens depending upon the consistent impact (positive or negative) you are making on other individuals.

It doesn't involve changing your personality- you can be an introvert or extrovert. And it is definitely not about trying to be something you are not.

 We should strive to work on having a strong personal brand. A personal brand is a perception or emotion maintained by somebody other than you that describes your outstanding qualities and influences that person's relationship with you.

A Strong personal brand does not result from a contrived image, colorful clothing, snappy slogan, or from having put on an artificial veneer to disguise the true nature of what's within: A strong personal brand describes a person who chooses to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others and who builds trusting, valued relationships. A weak personal brand describes a person whose attributes and perceived qualities lack clarity, and more importantly, someone who is not perceived to extend him- or himself to make a difference for other people.

The difference between one personal brand and another is that the person with a strong brand utilizes his or her special qualities to make a difference in the lives of others. Using one's values and distinctive qualities to make a difference for others is the core ethos of strong, thriving personal brands. Since the ability to build trusting relationships is a key component of professional and personal success, people with strong personal brands are able to achieve more what they want by being more of who they are.

An important competency of building and growing a strong personal brand is to harness the power of perceptions. If others' perceptions define our personal brand, we need to be purposeful about managing the perceptions we leave with them. Let us be clear that how people perceive us has a significant impact on how they relate to, and react to, us. And in some case, their perceptions may impact whether they will even take the time to meet with us. So to leverage our personal brand and make the most of our relationships, we must improve our competency of managing the perceptions we create.

Even with our best intentions of managing others' perceptions of us, it is not easy. Commonly we view ourselves one way while others have a very different perception of us. Do you know of someone who takes pride at being a hard worker- while other people perceive him or her as a lazy person. Who is right? How does that difference in perception impact their relationship? In the end, the perspective others have of us will clearly bias how they perceive and relate to us.

There are many reasons why a difference exists between how one perceives oneself and how one is perceived by others. We each have a unique set of lenses through which we view others, so to speak. Each person's lenses are colored by life's experiences, attitudes  at the time, and how the person feels about him-or herself at a particular moment. The result is that a person's actions or words may be interpreted differently by various other people ir at different times. Building a dependable strong brand requires a level of wisdom and flexibility to ensure that one's actions and words consistently reinforce the way one wants to be perceived.

Why should anyone work so hard to manage the perception others have of them?

It is all about the gap in communication. The size of the gap between the way you want to be perceived and the way you are perceived by another person will have a big impact on the general tenor and productivity of the relationship. A narrower gap supports a productive and enjoyable relationship. Conversely a wider gap results in a relationship that will require more effort to accomplish things, and interacting may not be as much fun.

Leadership Nuggets from Books Part 9

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Today I am going to write about a book which I quote often in my presentations. The book I am talking about is "How to be Rich" by J. Paul Getty. For people who are in the Los Angeles area, you might have heard about famous Getty museum in LA. Back in the 60s, he was named richest man in the world. I learned that How to be Rich is essentially a series of articles that Getty was commissioned to write by Playboy magazine. His intention was to explain himself and why he was a businessman, and secondly to get behind the myths of what it was like to have great wealth. Hence the title of the book: not to get rich, but to be rich.

Wildcatter to mogul

J.  Paul Getty's (JPG) father, George Getty had grown up poor on an Ohio farm, but managed to get through law school supported by his wife. He became a successful Minneapolis attorney and did well in the Oklahoma oil rush.

JPG was born into this relative prosperity in 1892, an only child. He writes fondly of a teenage apprenticeship of a roustabout in the oil fields, then very much a dusty frontier place of rough men, "where gambling halls were viewed as the ultimate in civic improvements." In utter contrast, he then spent two years at Oxford University in the UK before returning to the States.

He had planned to enter the US diplomatic service but at 22 went into business on his own as a wildcatter (an independent oil driller and speculator) and got lucky with some oil leases. He was a millionaire by age 24. Deciding to "retire" he enjoyed himself for a couple of years, but his parents were not pleased, his father telling him that he had a duty to build and operate businesses that created wealth and better life for people.

The oil rush had shifted to California and Getty decided to invest in new oil leases near Los Angeles. His business rapidly expanded over the next few years, but his father's death in 1930 was a setback. It was said that Getty Sr. left JPG $15 million. Actually it was $500,000.

During the Depression of the 1930s, Getty came up with the idea of an integrated oil company spanning exploration, refining and retail marketing. He bought up oil stocks, which were now very cheap, purchased the Pierre Hotel in New York at a bargain price, and began a difficult 15-year take over of the Tidewater Oil company, then one of California's largest. After the Second World War Getty Oil gambled $12 million on oil concessions in Saudi Arabia. Though it took a further four years and $18 million for the wells to produce, by then the world had become aware of the vast reserves in the area, and the gamble paid off handsomely.

In 1957, Fortune magazine named Getty the richest man in America with an estimated worth of $1 billion. He would from then on receive an average of 3,000 letters a week from strangers requesting money.

JPG's tip on success in business and in life

Beat your own path

How to be Rich was written at the zenith of large-company capitalism, when the species "organization man" evolved to make the most of his small place in the corporate machinery. Getty described this person as "dedicated to serving the complex rituals of memorandums and buck-passing." In contrast, Getty's "office" in his early years in the oil fields was the front seat of a battered Model T ford.

Most executives, Getty observed, would rather become "boot-lickers" to those above them than risk rocking the boat. This was actually counterproductive, because the only real security in the workplace was reserved for those who demonstrated that they could add value. Successful businesspeople, he believed, were usually rebels of some description whose wealth was built on rejection of the status quo. For example, Getty does not mention his purchase of low prices after the Wall street Crash as a boast, but to demonstrate that the person who does not follow the pack often "reaps fantastic rewards"

Be open-minded

Getty had invited an outspoken socialist to a  dinner party at his Sutton Place mansion just outside London. Another guest, a fellow American, was appalled. Getty did not apologize; in fact he felt he was honoring the great American tradition of encouraging dissent. Hearing views different to your own, he believed, "adds spice, spirit, and an invigorating quality to life."

Writing at the beginning of the 1960s, he correctly forecast that the "vanished dissenters" would soon reappear,  and knew that the economic future would brighter because of it. Getty's moral was that wealth was only ever generated by open minds, because only such intellectual openness enables us to see opportunities that others do not. 

Get the facts, then act

In a chapter titled "Business blunders and booby traps," JPG says that many mistakes in business and in life result from a failure to distinguish between fact and opinion or hearsay.

He once commissioned a geologist to report on the potential of an oil lease. The report said that there was little chance of finding oil, so Getty sold the lease. It later turned out to be part of the huge oil pool. Yet Getty did not blame the expert, only himself for accepting his view without question and not getting another opinion.

Businesspeople frequently accept as fact what they have heard or read without doing their own investigation or study. This is not so bad on its own, but when the results will affect a whole enterprise and the livelihoods of workers, it is an important point. If you have made a decision that is based on facts, stick to it. Have the courage of your convictions. The relaxed business person, Getty says, is always much more effective, and if you have done your homework your resolve will be less likely to be sabotaged by worry.

Final comments

Getty notes that of the tens of thousands of Americans who take their lives each year, a significant number are classed as "economic suicides." His point is that many scramble for and achieve financial success, but when they get it they find that it lacks meaning. People need to believe that their efforts are increasing value and enriching the world in some way, that they are engaged in real creative effort and not simply status seeking.

Getty himself gained a reputation as a miser because he famously put a payphone in the hall of his Sutton Place mansion. (Guests had been using the regular phones to make transatlantic calls). Yet with the passage of time, we can see that if it were not for the man's dedication to eliminating waste and maximizing resources, millions of people would not be enjoying what he left. He is now, after all, more famous as an art collector and philanthropist. The collection he created is one the world's best-as anyone who has been to the Getty Museum at Malibu, California will attest.

Getty was a great believer in the free enterprise system, but was the arch capitalist that many people think. He never complained about high wages, taking the Henry Ford view that a work force that was not well paid would not buy the products you were trying to sell.

A millionaire had to accept everything with good humor, Getty realized. When he was named "richest man in the world," he had a hard time explaining to journalissts that he did not sit on mountains of cash; nearly all his wealth was tied up in infrastructure and operations, and he was working 16-18 hours a day to keep it all going. He admits that his marriages suffered and fell apart as the result of his dedication to work, and there were books he had wanted to read and didn't have the time for- but on the whole, he reflected, he had led an exciting and rewarding life.

This concludes the nuggets from books part for now. Will continue back on the same after a break.

Leadership Nuggets from Books Part 6

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Today I am going to talk about a book called "Take Time for your Life: A Seven-Step Program for creating the life you want" written by Cheryl Richardson. Cheryl Richardson was originally a tax consultant where she found out that her clients needed advice and support on making decisions on the non financial aspects of their lives. Eventually she stopped doing people's tax returns and gave workshops on the "secrets of success". This is different from the other books I have read in this topic. She focusses more on life instead of simply career or personal goals. Outward achievement is all well and good, but if it is not balanced by what she calls "extreme self-care" you will burn out and be no use to anyone.

Slowing down to success

The best part of Take Time for Your Life is its vignettes of people with whom Richardson has worked.Most of her clients seem to live fast-paced lives and dream of more time for themselves, more fun and more authenticity in their existence. They feel that it is time to step off the merry go-round and take stock.

Richardson identifies the seven common obstacles that these people seem to face in living their best lives:

  1. They generally have difficulty putting themselves first.
  2. Their schedule does not reflect their priorities
  3. They feel drained by certain people of things.
  4. They feel trapped for monetary reasons.
  5. They are living on adrenalin
  6. They don't have a supportive community in their life.
  7. Their spiritual well-being comes last.

You may feel that to get ahead or simply maintain your current success you have to work very long hours, sacrificing everything. This is a myth, and Richardson shows how altering even small things about your daily existence can make a big difference. She mentions one woman, for instance, who tried leaving work by 5:30 pm each day and found, to her surprise, that her work did not fall apart;  she achieved the same amount through greater focus and delegating.

Yet Richardson's book is less concerned with time management than it is with self management. She does not suggest abandoning your responsibilities, merely that you need to devote much more consideration to the renewal of your energies. In his book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People", Stephen Covey calls this "sharpening the saw." Without frequent sharpening you become blunt in a productivity sense and lose the ability to connect with the people you love and influence those you work with.

Tipping the scales in your favor

One of the main ways to regain balance is to create what Richardson calls an "Absolute Yes" list, a ranking of what you feel are the most important aspects of your life. One client of Richardson's, Joan. put at the top of her list daily time to herself to read, meditate or exercise. Second was time spent with her husband each evening. Next came quality with her children, then study to complete her degree, time with friends, and finally household chores. She had to reorganize her life to fit these priorities, but the result included much better moods and greater harmony. Note that the elements in her life did not change, just the order of priorities.

The gift of Take Time for your Life, through its hundreds of ideas for self-care, is the feeling that you do not have to be hurried along by circumstances. You can regain control of your life simply by making more conscious decisions. The seven obstacles to a balanced life mentioned above are the springboard for Richardson's strategies to "win back" our life. The following gives a taste:

  • Regular "downtime" is important for your sanity. At first you may feel very edgy in doing "nothing" but as Richardson put it, "We all need a holiday from thinking too much."
  • Pay people to do services you normally do. Though it costs money, "sharing the wealth" allows you to care for yourself and think at a higher level, both of which can bring you greater success.
  • Go through old stuff and papers and throw much of it out. This makes way for what your really want to come into your life.
  • Don't fret over spending a little less time working. The world has a way of rewarding those who are focused and make better use of their time.
  • Identify the drains on your life; that is, the people, places and situations that tax your mental and physical energy. Eliminating or lessening their impact is the beginning of successful living and abundance.
  • Stop running on caffeine or adrenalin. "Fuel your body with premium fuel and it will provide you with the strength and stamina to live well." Caring for your body is essential to living a high-quality life.
  • Consciously engineer more "amazing moments" into your life: bring back the soul.
  • Tell people when you are grateful for what they have done.
  • Write a journal.
  • Notice your dreams.
  • Follow your intuition.
  • Have the courage to seek your highest purpose instead of simply looking for another job.

Taking time for financial health

As you would expect from a former financial consultant, Richardson includes a useful chapter on "Financial health". She manages to bridge practical financial skills witha  more spiritual attitude to money. Her thesis is that once you decide to take more responsibility for your finances (paying bills on time, paying off your debts, keeping an account of spending), money stops being a source of frustration and beings to flow more freely into your life. You have to get more serious about money before it gets serious about you.

She identifies all the attitudes you may have to money that prevent you from attracting more of it, and disabuses the ready of such ideas as  " I am a creative person, I shouldn't have to worry about financial stuff." A person can be both spiritually and financially rich, Richardson says. She includes a list of books at the end of the chapter that can help you appreciate this, covering the practical and spiritual aspects of wealth, including authors such as Catherine Ponder, Thomas Stanley and Robert Kiyosaki.

Final comments

With her emphasis on spiritual well-being Richardson may not seem too practical for some readers, but her definition of "spiritual" is fairly loose. It simply means the sense of calm that comes to you when you are willing to stop and contemplate. Though uncomfortable at first, the practice reconnects you to what is important and therefore puts your life on more solid ground.

You need to appreciate the truth that success should not be "at all costs," that you don't want to achieve something if it leaves behind a trail of poor health, ignored spouses and children, and the hollowness of never having any time for yourself.

With its checklists, wealth of ideas, and warm friendly style, Take Time for your Life, is as close as you will get to a personal coaching relationship in a book. Sometimes you need a person outside your regular circle of friends, family, and co-workers if you are to see your true worth. While therapy will focus on your problems, a good life coach will work with you on your possibilities. The element of success are already there- you simply need to  identify them and bring them to the fore.


Leadership Nuggets from books Part 5

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Today I am going to share about a book viz. "Lincoln on Leadership".

There are now many books that extract leadership lessons from the lives of famous people, but this was one of the first. Phillips had the initial inspiration for it when, in the middle of a week-long management seminar, he realized that the ideas being presented had been enacted in real life by Abraham Lincoln. He was then amazed to discover that amidst the thousands of articles and books written on Lincoln, there was very little on his leadership style. It seemed that Lincoln's very genius as a leader and his success as president had made him into a myth, obscuring the fact that his life before becoming president was unspectacular, and that whatever he knew about leading he had, like everyone else, learned.

The Unlikely Hero

Lincoln was born in a log cabin in what was then frontier America. His mother died when he was young and his father remarried. Fortunately, his stepmother encouraged him to read. With a minimal education he went on to try his hand at a number of jobs, including clerk, store owner, surveyor and postmaster, before becoming an attorney. Though not particularly successful in his early political career, his views on slavery in the Lincoln-Douglas debates brought him wide attention, and at the 1860 Republican convention he won the party's nomination for the presidency.

Lincoln's election to the White House was not exactly an accident, but he was greatly helped by the fact that the Democrats were split between North and South. Within the Republican party, Lincoln had only been selected over William Seward because he was considered the more middle-of-the road candidate.

By the time he was sworn in, seven states had broken away from the Union on the slavery issue, yet the outgoing president, Buchanan, had given up trying to control the situation. Congress, though the Union army was in disarray and underfunded, was looking to cut its costs, and only Lincoln seems to see that action had to taken if the Union was to survive and be rid of slavery. Decisive and ceaselessly energetic, his determination surprised everyone. He made William Seward, his Republican rival, secretary of state, and Edwin Stanton his secretary of war. While neither man thought much of him, within a relatively short space of time both would change their minds.

Phillips presents us with the amazing fact that Lincoln had never held an executive position before becoming president, yet he proceeded to a total reorganization of the US military, and a constitutionally questionable expansion of the powers of the presidency itself.

Let us look in more detail at some of the points that Phillips makes about Lincoln as president.

The active leader

  • Lincoln knew that the White House was an ivory tower and spent most of his time of the office: visiting troops in the field, visiting his staff in their homes, visiting the wounded in hospital, holding cabinet meetings where it was convenient. He prized informality and human contact.
  • Lincoln employed what is now known as MBWA- management by wandering around. He sacked one general for isolating hinself from his men, and believed that the best information was found at first hand. He took charge of battle situations himself when necessary and remains one of the only US presidents literally to come under fire.
  • The most accessible US president in history, Lincoln rarely turned away who came to see him, whether top general or lowly farmer. This, and his great ability as a listener, helped build trust in him as a leader.

The scholar of human nature

  • Lincoln had a "penetrating comprehension of human nature," Phillips writes, which allowed him to take the broad and compassionate view. He was able to forgive mistakes easily, and was notorious for his many pardones, particularly of war deserters, who normally would have hanged. Phillips believes that this compassion evoked trust and loyalty, which in a time of war are absolutely crucial to success.
  • The president used persuasion, not coercion, to achieve his ends, and was fond of the maxim, "A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall." Only if you could someone that you were their friend could you really influence them. Despite periods of depression, Lincoln never underestimated the power of a pleasing personality, and was always ready to compliment or encourage. He rarely lost his temper.
  • In terms of managing his own generals, Lincoln was not afraid to let them know  what he thought was their bad points, yet he also gave them free rein to perform. Many did not meet his expectations and were given lesser responsibilities, but when the man did come along who could act in the way he wanted-Ulysses S. Grant-he placed the entire U.S army under his command.

Honest and compassionate Abe

  • The nickname "Honest Abe" was accurate. Lincoln's reputation for honesty made people trust him and increased his ability to lead. Top leaders are expected to "do the right thing" and he had this attribute in abundance. "Values motivate," Phillips notes.
  • Lincoln sought objectivity. "I shall do nothing in malice. What I deal with is too vast for malicious dealing." He did not have time for retribution, pettiness , or blame. Although he frequently wrote angry letters to his generals who were not doing enough to defeat the Confederate army, he never sent them. To do so would have made enemies, and he was always keen to give people another chance. While some perceived this as weakness, his willingness to overlook mistakes and hold his tongue endeared Lincoln to his staff.
  • When the Civil War ended in 1865, Lincoln did not seek revenge on the South, instead offering good will. In his Second Inaugural Address, he spoke the famous words,  "With malice towards none; with charity towards all..let to strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds."

This large view of things helped the South to get on with rebuilding the country without fear, minimizing both guilt and shame.

The great communicator

  • Lincoln was a brilliant writer but also a remarkable orator. With his high-pitched voice, strange gangly frame, and ill-tailored clothes he did not make first impressions, but by the end of a talk his audiences were usually rapt. He enjoyed injecting anecdotes, stories and jokes into his speeches because he preferred them not to be too "high-minded." He wanted them to appeal to the average person.
  • The same man, with very little schooling, ws able to write the almost poetic Gettysburg Address, not to mention thousands of superbly crafted letters. Lincoln's lesson is that every investment we make in increasing our communication skills pays off.

The unmoveable

  • Lincoln was a master of overcoming setbacks and defeats, because he was supported by the belief that he had right on his side. His assertiveness and refusal to buckle under pressure made him the target of unjust criticism, slander, and abuse,  and until he could demonstrate himself in office he was rejected out of hand as a hick country lawyer. Yet he did not often attack his detractors, and in fact accepted criticism as part of the job, only worrying when the criticism might affect perception of the Union war effort. He found release in humor and story telling, both to amuse others and to get him through the dark years of the war.

Final comments

What is remarkable about Lincoln, Phillips notes, is that he actually did what he said he would in terms of preserving the Union and abolishing slavery. This wasn't good luck. He had goals for his time in office and he accomplished them relatively quickly(within four years). Though always ready to admit when he was wrong, he was massively confident about the stance he had taken, and with this certainty of purpose came decisiveness.

Lincoln on Leadership is worth reading to appreciate the nuances of Lincoln's character and for the points that end each chapter, providing an easy reminder of his leadership lessons. It is an inspiring read, because Lincoln himself inspired. He fulfilled the main criterion for a great leader that James McGregor discussed in his seminar work "Leadership": a person who can "lift others into their better selves."

Next time you find yousrelf in a quandary about how to deal with someone or how to cope witha  crisis, ask yourself, "What would Lincoln have done?"


Leadership Nuggets from Books Part 2

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Today I am going to write about one of my favorite books "Magic of Thinking Big" by David J. Schwartz

Think of people who earn five times as much as you. Are they five times smarter? Do they work five times harder? If the answer is no, then the question, "What do they have that I haven't?"  may occur to you. In a book that has sold several million copies, David Schwartz suggests that the main factor separating them from you is that they think five times bigger. We are all, more than we realize, the product of the thinking surrounding us, and most of this thinking is little, not big.

Plenty of room at the top

In the course of researching The Magic of Thinking Big, Schwartz spoke to many people who had reached the top in their field. Instead of getting detailed responses, he was told that the key factor in personal success was simply the desire for it. Rather than there being "too many chiefs and not enough Indians," the opposite is true. Some people choose to lead, others to follow. Success is not primarily a matter of circumstances or native talent or even intelligence- it is a choice.

From the many little comments and asides that have been made to you throughout your life, you may have unconsciously written a log of the things you can or can't have, the person you can or you cannot be. These daubs of paint many even have been applied by people who loved you very much, but the result is that it is not your picture. The Magic of Thinking Big tries to show that in fact the canvas you work on is vast. Schwartz delivers the right quote by Benjamin Disraeli: "Life is too short to be little." You must enlarge your imagination of yourself and act on it.

"Thinking Big" does work in relation to career goals, financial security and great relationships-but it is more significant than that. You are challenged to see yourself in a brighter light, to have a larger conception of life. This is a choice that is no more difficult than the choice to keep doing what you're doing, laboring in darkness.

You may feel that some of the ideas and suggestions are somewhat obvious or basic compared to more recent success writing, but like the other older success classics, The Magic of Thinking Big contains simple and powerful messages that do not date.

Road to success

This book is about "getting ahead" with a fair amount of attention given to increasing your income exponentially, making that dream home a reality and getting your children a first-rate education. It tells us how to think, look and feel "important."

Action drives out thought, whereas leaders set aside time for solitude to tap their supreme thinking power.

Belief is everything

There is nothing mystical about the power of belief, but you must draw a distinction between merely wishing and actually believing. Doubt attracts "reasons" for not succeeding, whereas belief finds the means to do the job. Schwartz was in conversation with an aspiring fiction writer. When the name of a successful author came up, the aspiring writer quickly said, "But I could never equal him; I am not in his league." Knowing the writer in question, Schwartz pointed out that he was neither super-intelligent nor super-perceptive, merely super-confident. The writer had at some point decided  to believe that he was among the best, and so he acted and performed accordingly.

Most of us believe that the result of an event is the best indicator of how successful we are, yet events are much more likely to reflect our level of confidence. In Schwartz's words: "Belief is the thermostat that regulates what we accomplish in life." Turn the thermostat up and witness the results.

Excusitis, the failure disease

Never depend on luck to get what you want. The only vaccination against "excusitis" as Schwartz calls it- "commonly known as failure's disease"- is conscious self-belief. Schwartz knew that as soon as you hit a rough spot your thinking is likely to shrink back to its normal size, yet this is exactly when it is crucial for it not to do so. Sporting champions do not collapse when, in the course of a game, they are being beaten. Instead of building a case against themselves, they remember they are champions. Tennis star Boris Becker tells up-and coming tennis players that talent is not enough: you must walk, talk and think like a champion.

Staying big

While it is said that a large vocabulary is a big determinant of success, what really counts is the effect that your words have on how you think about yourself. Instead of trying to use long words, Schwartz says, use positive language and see how it transformrs your mood and the perception of others. Don't see yourself merely in terms of how you appear now. You may have an old car, dingy apartment, debts, job stress, and a crying baby, but they are not truly a reflection of you as long as you are working on the vision of what you will be two years from now. Concentrate on your assets and how you are deploying them to change the situation, and avoid getting mired in petty recriminations. Absorbing the blows is a quality of greatness.

Schwartz also reminds you that every big success is created one step at a time, therefore it is best to measure yourself against the goals you have set rather than comparing yourself to others.

Improving the quality of your environment

Schwartz phrases it, "Go first class". This does not mean always getting the most expensive ticket. It does mean getting your advice from successful people and not giving the jealous the satisfaction of seeing you stumble. Spend time with those who think on a large scale and are generous in their friendship. After a while, the base level of what you think possible will rise. People make assessments of you whether you like it or not, and the value the world gives you matches the one you give yourself.

Schwartz has many more useful tips on how to think and act success, backed up by case histories. They include:

  • Don't wait until conditions are perfect before starting something. They never will be. Act NOW!
  • Persistence is not a guarantee of success. Combine persistence with experimentation.
  • Goal, once in the subconscious, provide energy and an invisible guide to correct action.
  • Walk 25% faster! Average people have an average walk.

Final comments

This classic book was written in the golden age of post war American industrial society. The focus is on sales, production, executives getting a great job in a good company. It may be a product of its age, but it transcends it too.  The Magic of Thinking Big has literally been worth its weight in Gold for many people. I try to read it once every six months. It  is one of the great examples of the success literature's call to break free of self-imposed limitations, to recast your idea of what is possible.

Schwartz argues, the desire for success, begins with a willingness to find the tools that can deliver it. Amazingly, although no one likes crawling in mediocrity, not everyone is seriously interested in finding and using these tools.

Around 1890, a person named Gottlieb Daimler drew a three-pointed star on a postcard to his family and wrote next to it, "One day this star will shine down on my work." He co-founded Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, now Daimler Chrysler. Great accomplishments such as these demonstrate Schwartz's claim that a person is best measured by the size of their dreams.

Leadership Nuggets from Books-Part 1

-Karthik Gurumurthy

I love reading about leadership and watch leaders and see what I can learn from them and put in action myself. Starting today, I will write more frequently from the notes I have taken from leadership books. I am writing this so that it gives me a chance to review them as well as it benefits you as well.

Today I am going to write about "On Becoming a Leader". This is written by Warren Bennis. Bennis is a major figure in the study of leadership.

On becoming a leader provides many fine insights. Perhaps the key one, and the theme of the book, is this: True leaders are not interested in proving themselves, they want above all to be able to express themselves fully. Proving oneself implies a limited or static view of the self, whereas leaders, by continually seeking their fullest expression, must be willing to engage in periodic reinvention. For Bennis's leaders, life is not a competition but flowering. Structured education and society often get in the way of leadership. "What we need to know gets lost in what we are told we should know." Real learning is the process of remembering what is important to you, and becoming a leader is therefore the act of becoming more and more your true self.

Leadership is an engagement with life itself, because it demands that your unique vision be accomplished, and that usually involves a whole life. When people protest that they can't lead, or don't want to lead, they are usually thinking of management and giving speeches. But leadership is as varied as people, and the main question is not whether you will be burdened, but how you are challenged to escape mediocrity and conformity and really lead yourself.

According to Bennis, becoming a leader involves:

  • Continuous learning and never-dying curiosity.
  • A compelling vision: leaders first define their reality (what they believe is possible), then set about "managing their dream"
  • Developing the ability to communicate that vision and inspire others to follow it.
  • Tolerating uncertainty and taking on risk: a degree of daring.
  • Personal integrity: self-knowledge, candor, maturity, welcoming criticism.
  • Being a one-off, an original: "Leaders learn from others, but are not made by others."
  • Reinvention: to create new things sometimes involves recreating yourself. You may be influenced by your genes and environment, but leaders take all their influences and create something unique.
  • Taking time off to think and reflect, which brings answers and produces resolutions.
  • Passion for the promises of life: a belief in the best, for yourself and others.
  • Seeing success in small, everyday increments and joys, not waiting years for the Big Success to arrive.
  • Using the context of your life, rather than surrendering to it.

What does the last point mean? Bennis believes that late twentieth-century business life was mostly about managing rather than leading, with people and organizations focusing on small matters and short-term results. His message: Stop being a product of your context, of your particular place and time.

You can see your context as the backdrop for your particular genius to develop, or you can let it enslave your mind. In many ways the path of a "driven" person is an easy one, since it does not require much thought. The leader's path is consciously taken, may be more challenging, but involves infinitely greater potential and satisfaction, not to mention better health. To lead, you have to make a declaration of independence against the estimation of others. You have to decide to live in the world, but outside existing conceptions of it. Leaders do not merely do well by the terms  of their culture, they create new contexts, new things, new ways of doing and being.

Some examples

Personal integrity, a compelling vision, and the ability to enjoy risk and uncertainty define leadership.  Bennis uses the example of television writer/producer Norman Lear, who revolutionized US Television by making shows such as All in the family and Cagney and Lacey. For the first time, TV shows reflected real American people rather than cowboys, private eyes, and caricatured families. Lear saw a world that are waiting to be expressed, and expressed it. Not only did his shows break the mold, they were successful year after year.

In his assessment of American presidents, Bennis sees Johnson, Nixon and Carter as driven men who projected their personal histories on to the country they ruled. Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy, on the other hand, had the gift of personal reinvention and lived in the present to reshape the US future. Lincoln was perhaps the greatest president because he focused on what at the time seemed only remote possibilities: ending slavery and preserving the Union. He fits of deep personal depression were nothing put next to those mighty causes.

World of Leaders

Bennis's conviction is that we are in dire need of leaders. He wrote On becoming a Leader when economic leadership was being seriously challenged- we forget now, but in the late 1980s it did seem for a while that Japan was surpassing the US in production, wealth and innovation.

Maybe the US listened to Bennis and other leadership Gurus, for the American economic resurgence was characterized by obsession with innovation and quality, and the realization that firms get ahead by empowering the team members reach their full potential. It took someone of the stature of Bennis to highlight the link between self-knowledge and business success, but this is now becoming accepted. The new type of leader is not satisfied with doing a job or running a company, but is compelled to find an outlet for their personal vision of the world.

Final comments

Bennis has probably done as much as anyone to shatter the myth of leaders as heroes, born not made. Above all, leadership is a choice and involves leading ourselves first.

We live in a democracy of leadership, in which everyone can lead in some way. As some people understand what leadership means and are taught to achieve their potential, it might be expected that competition will increase of ridiculous levels. However, competition is the result of everyone striving to win at the same thing whereas personal visions are unique. To become a leader is to claim the power and assurance that come from being a one-off.

This is based on the original edition of On Becoming a Leader. There is a new, updated and expanded edition that you may prefer to acquire.

Characteristics of Leaders continued..Part 2 (Reflection)

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Yesterday I discussed about the traits which makes up great leaders.

As a leader you must be willing to look at your life and reflect- on where you have been, what you have learned, and how your life experiences have shaped you- and realize that this collection of factors is now a meaningful and inescapable part of who you are and how you see the world. Listening to ourselves is difficult, and it doesn't occur to us in the normal course of a day- we are always thinking, moving from challenge to challenge, reacting , and getting things done. It is often true that the only thing we don't make time for is listening to ourselves- reflecting on our deepest thoughts, feelings and intuitions. For some people, staying this busy is a way of permanently avoiding any self-reflection that would be possible. We need some quiet time and personal space to search our memory for the patterns in our life that have become our routine.

Knowing who we are at the core is a project of awareness, courageous introspection, and thoughtful reflection.  We need to ask ourselves open-ended questions: "Why did I do that yesterday? How do I feel about this, really? What worries me? What was I concerned about when I did that, or said that or thought that? What is driving me right now? What past experience of mine just influenced my thoughts or feelings? This is work no one can do for you- you must initiate your own process and follow it through your own insights. The lens through which we see the world is uniquely ours: it affects the way we interpret everything that passes before us, and we must own that point of view and any biases that come with it. When we own our point of view publicly and take responsibility for seeing things the way we do, we allow debates and conversations to occur more objectively. We can separate the facts from bias that we might carry and that keeps others from feeling as if they are fighting our "opinion". When the authority of hierarchy speaks with a strong personal opinion- as opposed to a strong fact-based point of view- it usually serves to shut down any hope of a useful, collaborative dialogue; no wants to argue with the "so called leader's "opinion". I have noticed the same trend in few families as well. I find Great leaders also find opportunities to weave a lesson or principle from a specific experience from their life into a conversation or a situation as it occurs, as a way of further revealing some insight into what makes them tick.

We are who are, and it is comforting to our teams as well as family members to know something about our background- and that is possible only when we are willing to look at ourselves and see what is really there. When we, as a leader, are willing to explore the forces and events that shaped our point of view, the process results in the comfort of knowing we have reflected in your life story and accounted for the experiences that have formed our unique and personal point of view towards important ideas, concepts and principles. Ultimately, knowing yourself better than you thought you could will repay you many times over in the form of the confidence that comes from being totally comfortable in your own skin. In the toughest moments, that one person who will always be there with you is- you. You want to know that person.

Characteristics of leaders whom you admire/adore

-Karthik Gurumurthy

Pause for a moment and think about the leaders whom you admire.  Make a list of the common traits exhibited by them. These are the ones I can come up with.

  • Ambitious (aspiring, hardworking, striving)
  • Broad-minded (open-minded, flexible, receptive, tolerant)
  • Caring (Appreciative, compassionate, concerned, loving, nurturing)
  • Competent (Capable, proficient, effective, gets the job done, professional)
  • Cooperative (Collaborative, team player, responsive)
  • Courageous (bold, daring, gutsy)
  • Dependable (reliable, conscientous, responsible)
  • Determined (dedicated, resolute, persistent, purposeful)
  • Fair-minded (just, unprejudiced, objective, forgiving, willing to pardon others)
  • Forward-looking (visionary, foresighted, concerned about the future, sense of direction)
  • Honest (truthful, has integrity, trustworthy, has character)
  • Imaginative (creative, innovative, curious)
  • Independent (self-reliant, self-sufficient, self-confident)
  • Inspiring (uplifting, enthusiastic, energetic, humorous, cheerful, positive about the future)
  • Intelligent (bright, smart, thoughtful, intellectual, reflective, logical)
  • Mature (experienced, wise, has depth)
  • Self-Controlled (restrained, self-disciplined)
  • Straightforward(direct, candid, forthright)
  • Supportive (helpful, offers assistance, comforting)

The basic one is being honest.

"I hope I shall always have the firmness and virtue enough to maintain, what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man."

-George Washington.

Honesty is absolutely essential to leadership. If people are going to follow someone willingly, they first want to assure themselves that the person is worthy of their trust. The benefits of honesty cannot be overstated. Failure of honesty poisons the team, damages the trust between people, and break down team cohesion. Being honest means that if you make promises to people you never break them. You are only good as your word: If you cannot deliver, do not offer your word.

Leaders need to have a vision about how things could be and to be clear enough about it that others will be able to see it themselves. This provides the capacity to walk a path towards the future with great confidence, and fosters shared values because we all know where we are heading. Leaders must have a destination in mind when asking others to join them on a journey into the unknown. Leaders should have a clear picture of what the organization will look like, feel like, and be like when it arrives at its goal in six months or six years.

 Leaders knows what he's doing (Competence) - he sets goals that are realistic and knows that the steps necessary to achieve them - and that creates confidence and motivation in  the team members.

The characteristics of honest, forward-looking, inspiring and competent refers to as being credible. People everywhere want to believe in their leaders. They want to have faith and confidence in them as people. People want to believe that their leaders' words can be trusted, that they have the knowledge and skill necessary to lead, and that they are personally excited and enthusiastic about the direction in which they are headed. All leaders must take their credibility seriously. This is the foundation on which leaders and team members will build grand dreams of the future. Without credibility, dreams will die and relationships will rot.

Just think about it this way. Imagine a time when you might need to borrow some money. Imagine that you are trying to get  a mortgage to build the house of your dreams, or to open a new business. You sit down across the desk from the loan officer at your local financial services company. After you have completed all the paperwork, the first thing that the loan officer is likely to do is check your credit.

Credit and credibility share the same root origin, credo meaning "I trust or believe." A loan officer checking your credit is literally checking trust and belief, searching to know whether you can make good on your word. The officer wants to know whether to believe you when you say that you will pay the loan back on time and with interest.

When it comes to leaders, in many respects team members act like loan officers. When leaders make promises ( that is, complete verbal promissory notes) about what they will do to guide the organization on a journey to an uplifting new future, people instinctly do a credit check. They ask themselves, "The last time made such a promise, did it get kept?" "Was it the truth, or was it just election pledge to get us to vote on?" "Can I trust this person?"

People also ask, "Do I see enough enthusiasm to keep us excited along the different road to the future?" "Can this leader inspire others to make the sacrifices necessary to make it through the end?" And they wonder, " Does this leader have the competence to get us from where we are now to where we'd like to be?" Does  this leader have a track record of accomplishment that would give us confidence for the current effort?"

If the answers to the above questions-about being honest, inspiring and competent- are yes, then people are likely to lend their time, talent and toil willingly. If the answers are no, then people are not likely to sign up to the mission. 

 More on this tomorrow. Have a great evening!

What drives you?

Karthik Gurumurthy

What makes people comes alive?

People are energized by values and visions that give their lives meaning and purpose. They want to be surrounded by something that uplifts and excites them.

Leadership may once have been conferred by rank and privilege. It may once have been something that was characterized by a command-and control, top-down, do-as-I-say style. But no more. Those days are long gone. It does not work with my 4 year old son. Today, leadership is only an aspiration. It is something you have to earn every day, because on a daily basis, people choose whether or not they're going to follow you. It is something you keep striving to achieve and never assume you have fully attained. I feel Leadership is a relationship between those who aspire to lead and those who choose to follow.

What do leaders expect from the team members? What purpose do leaders serve? Why do people believe in some leaders but not in others? Why do some people choose to follow one leaders while others reject that leader? What actions sustain that relationship? What actions destroy it? What is the state of the current relationship between leaders and team members?

Loyalty is not something a boss(or anyone for that matter) can demand or even command. It is something the team member choose to grant to a leader who has earned it. The people's choice is based not upon authority but upon the degree to which leader lives up to the expectations constituents hold. They key to unlocking greater leadership potential can be found when you seek to understand the desires and expectations of your team members and when you act on them in ways that correspond to their image of what an exemplary leader is and does.

If we have to select the most basic ingredients for leadership, it would be

  • Integrity (is Truthful, Trustworthy, has Character, convictions)
  • Competence ( is capable, productive, efficient)
  • Leadership (is inspiring, is decisive, provides direction)

We will go over the same  in depth.