Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Good Lessons Learned from a Chance Meeting with Utkarsh Rai

'Believe in Magic': this phrase caught my attention during a recent reading session with my son on a flight back to Bangalore. Both of us were taking turns to read a few pages of the book 'Geronimo Stilton - The Kingdom of Fantasy". The reason that phrase caught my attention wasn't just because of the richness and the meaning that phrase brought but also because it lead my mind to a recent interaction with one of finest leaders i have known.

I have known Utkarsh Rai for quite sometime, not personally but through his various public appearances, in panel talks and as a speaker. So when i got a chance to interact with him person, i couldn't let go of the opportunity. He has recently written a book named: The Fitness Currency: At Any Stage, At Any Age
I had a few exchanges, sharing comments about the book over social media that eventually led to this interaction.

I learned a few things that i wanted to share briefly here as below.

Always believe that something good is about to happen:

One of the things he shared during the conversation was this phrase:
"Always believe that something good is about to happen".

This is the phrase my attention drew towards while reading the book with my kid. I would explain the context in which he said this phrase in the next point, but in many ways i think believing in the positive phrases becomes a self-fulfilling prophecies. Funnily, this is true for most of the negative reinforcements that happens in our minds.
Our thoughts aren't stateless like HTTP is, they tend to have a positive state or a negative one. Left unchecked, the state naturally tend to gravitate towards negative one. Avoid that. Always believe in the magic that is about to happen.

Disrupt life, when the time is appropriate:

Utkarsh shared about his current life choices and used a phrase that "I have disrupted myself'. He said this as he had chosen an unchartered path where he was trying all that he wanted. As he was headed towards a future that was exciting yet unknown, he chose to respond to situation by believing that something good was always about to happen.

Leaving his lucrative job, he was trying his hand at different things like becoming an executive (certified) coach, becoming an actor, an accomplished author, trying to solidify online presence by creating online snippets of his book, among a few other things.
One of things that i had asked him during my online interactions was:

"About 40% done with the book, Utkarsh. Have an different kind of observation, indirectly related to book. I know that a thousands of people join gym mostly for health, fitness, which many achieve. But I was thinking about your motivation levels that you didn't just attain fitness but succeeded in being a thought leader (with this book as an example) in a field totally unknown to you. This is what I find amazing. At what stage in your journey did you think you should write this book ? Going by narrative in the book, appears like you were taking notes everyday about the conversations and learnings."
And i still find it amazing to see such rare ability to think big while mastering an unknown skill.

Master things you feel you are not good at:

As one of the passing mention in the conversation, he said that I want to do things that I feel I am not good at. He not only said this but also backed it up by saying that he as learned Kannada 60-70% even though he considered himself not good at learning languages. He said he did acting while in school, something he is working to rekindle. He hadn't done gym all his life but started that a couple of years (or less) back and ended up writing a book.
All of us have one life- either we can choose to live a routine, template like life not wiling to pick-up battle to beat inner demons or we live like kings, always willing to pick-up fight with the demons of mind who are working overtime to pull us back. He certainly chose the latter strategy to lead his life.

Even though it was for 30 min or so but it was a very enriching conversation for me. He was brutally honest at several instances such as admitting that the fact that he has photo-memory often comes in the way of his leading people (as people get impression that he always remembers their mistakes :-)). Another instance of such honesty was when he admitted that he tends to draw his energy from meeting people, which is something he misses in his current chosen path.

A memorable meeting for me and hopefully it was first of many such interactions in the future.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Overview of 'P-Rules' for Effectively Conducting Meetings/Reviews

There are many things that world’s renowned management schools don’t teach you. It might take a book to list all of them here but in this post I want to focus on one of them. And it is about 
conducting meetings effectively.

I don’t believe in the school of thought that proposes that meetings are useless. Meetings themselves aren’t unproductive but meetings run unskilfully are indeed unproductive.

Meetings are necessary for collaboration and collaboration is foundation of everything good that happens in the organizations.

As much as meetings are necessary, conducting the meetings effectively is one of the most underrated skills, something that doesn’t get as much attention/training as it deserves.
While writing this, I got reminded of this tweet from Vala Afshar that truly conveys the universal negligence around meetings.

Having said all this, its not that people, organizations and thought-leaders have put in ample efforts to fine-tune meetings in the organizations. One such effort that I came across recently was from Andrew Bosworth (Vice President, AR/VR at Facebook).

He summarized his philosophy on conducting meetings in these 7 rules that he happened to call as ‘P-Rules’. You can check detailed article here, but a quick summary and my sketchnote follows:

#1 NO PILING ON: When one person finds a weakness in an argument, others often feel the need to form a chorus around it. DON'T Pile on.
#2 NO PEDANTRY: Spotting typos on slides or correcting misspoken words isn't helpful (unless you think people might be genuinely confused).
#3 NO PONTIFICATION: Often leaders tend to explore some tangential topic during meetings to satisfy their own intellectual curiosity.
#4 NO PRESCRIPTION: The most damaging mistake I see leaders make after they identify problems is to propose solutions.
#5 NO PERMISSION: When teams ask for permission, they're subtly trying to move the responsibility to you. Don't let them.
#6 NO PESSIMISM: With limited time, it's tempting to shut down what seem like obviously bad ideas. It's much more valuable to react with curiosity.
#7 LET PRESENTERS PRESENT: People go to a lot of effort to prepare content and it can be demoralizing to get derailed without being able to finish.

What are your ways for conducting meetings effectively ? 

Sunday, July 22, 2018

One Minute Blog: Key Learnings from Finishing Jaipur Marathon

In the first week of July, I completed the Jaipur full marathon (42.195 km), aptly named as the 'hot' run, with temperatures soaring to 40 degrees celsius plus.

Sharing some fine learnings here:

1. The route included long, never ending roads. Such tracks can lure runners to think that nothing is changing after running several km as one sees the similar surroundings, same plain roads. Breaking the monotony was the key, especially at the later kms. How does one break the monotony in a physically demanding and a mentally draining sport? - By not thinking beyond the next step of the run, by keeping a tunnel vision just on the next km.

2. One of the advices I recently read from an acquaintance who was on radio for the first time, he shared- "while on air, audience can listen to your smile. So smile and talk". Likewise, while running, especially in gruesome conditions, it helps to run with a constant smile and encourage the fellow runners. I have no scientific proof to prove this but it has worked now and in earlier runs almost as if "while on track, your legs can listen to your smile."

3. Lastly, life lessons aren't best learned while on the couch with our favourite gadgets but right in the trenches, while being amidst nature at its extremes and dealing firmly with what it has in store for you.

Zinnov Confluence 2018: Sharing a Perspective on Future of Work

I recently got an opportunity to share my perspective on the topic of  'Future of Work'. This was during the recently concluded Zinnov Confluence 2018.

Sharing below ~12 min opening note on the topic.

Please do view, share your feedback.

Monday, July 16, 2018

One Minute Blog: Key Highlights from Citrix Synergy 2018

To Quote Tim Minahan, Chief Marketing Officer @ Citrix:

Citrix Synergy 2018 is all about showing the world how Citrix powers a better way to work. It’s about unifying our vision and providing creative solutions to give our customers the security, choice, and experience they demand.

Citrix Synergy 2018 was an awesome showcase of technology that defines the future of work. David Henshall, CEO @Citrix delivered a powerful, super-energetic keynote that was followed by cool demos aptly showcasing the future of work.

So, what were the announcements made ? Do catch-up my sketchnote summarizing the key messaging from Citrix Synergy 2018.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

One Minute Blog: Under the hoods- Citrix Workspace App

At the Citrix Synergy 2018, one of the most prominent announcements made was the unveiling of Citrix Workspace. Citrix Workspace provides the next generation user experience for accessing any application- SaaS, web, mobile, virtual and reliable accessing any content.

This awesome blog by Jeroen van Rotterdam explains the technical goodies behind Citrix Workspace.
Citrix Workspace: Embedded Browser vs Secure Browser Service vs Secure Browsing

If you want to catch-up with quick snapshot view of technical working of Citrix Workspace, here's my sketchnote:

Timeless Skills for the New World

Recently came across this wonderful podcast between Ravi Venkatesan (former CEO of Microsoft India) and Pankaj Mishra (CEO of This conversation revolved primarily around how careers of future will evolve.

Summary of conversation:

Rebooting the Core Career Principles:
New world requires core career principles to be rebooted. What are the new principles?
    1.      The reason we were born on earth is not to have a job; most of us are searching for the reason as to why we were put on the earth. The job is only a means to that bigger end.
    2.       The biggest obstacle to your success is you. Learn to get out of your own way.
    3.       Be the CEO of your own career.  You better take charge of your career because nobody else will.
    4.       Don't get fooled into thinking that you have a lifelong career. At any moment, you need to be able to prepared to be independent and stand on your own 2 feet. If you prepare yourself for that you are going to have much better ride.
    5.       The chances of you getting a great job by pursuing it are not so great. Its far better to make yourself attractive and let the jobs/opportunities come your way.
    6.       Stay away from the sense of entitlement: Nobody owes you anything.

What are those Timeless Skills that will sustain any disruption ?

#1 Learning Ability (Learning Agility):
If a person is thrown into a situation that they have never seen or experienced, how quickly can they figure out what it takes to succeed. Learning agility is a muscle, the more you practice, the stronger it becomes.
People who have learning agility
1. tends to be intensely curious about everything,
2. they tend to like to read,
3. they tend to like new challenges,
4. they don’t like predictable things,
4. they like ambiguous situations.
No matter what you know today, in 2 or 3 years it is going to be obsolete. The ability to forget and relearn new things goes a long way.
Each time you take a risk and put yourself out of the comfort zone, learning happens. That's how this muscle called learning agility develops. Repeatedly throw yourself in a completely new situation. This is one of those horizontal skills that you can see that will never be obsolete.

#2 Ability to lead:
Second skill that is going to be timeless is the ability to lead. No matter how much automation is there, there would always be people around and the ability to lead them to do amazing things is a very precious quality. What limits the ablity of an organization to grow- it is frankly the number of leaders it has. Leadership is not the same as position of people in authority.
Most people could be a leader, they have the latent potential but a very few end up harnessing it. The first step it takes to become a leader is to take ownership of something.

#3 Ability to manage yourself:
The biggest obstacle to your success is you. Sooner or later, we each become the barriers to other's success. We have to learn to get out of our own way.
It takes high degree of self-awareness.
Metaphor of a giant balloon: Think of a giant hot-air balloon which has a huge lift, thats your potential. You could be anything but this balloon is held down by thick ropes or chains. These chains are your weaknesses, your fears.
Don't create stories in your mind that are self-limiting.
People who are able to succeed beyond luck are the ones that are able to see whats holding them down and gradually unshakle themselves.

Here's the sketchnote summary i drew for the podcast: