Wednesday, March 13, 2019

We are really the masters of our own destiny

I had written about my earlier meeting with Utkarsh Rai that i wrote about here. We had an interaction again recently and that led me to a few more learnings.

After have a successful professional career, Utkarsh decided to disrupt his life in the spirit of exploring the unknown and improving himself. After leaving his job as Managing Director of Infinera India (he wrote 3 books during this tenure), he became a certified coach and also took courses in acting and recently acted in a high profile Bollywood movie with a renowned director and actor.
That is what i call as 360 degrees disruption. Simply put, it is excelling in a totally unrelated field in a very short timeframe possible. In my span, i haven't seen any corporate leader of a large organization making such a dramatic shift in profession, in such a short time.

This actually reminded of something very riveting i read a while back. It was about Max Deutsch, a Chess novice who challenged Magnus Carlsen, the greatest chess player of this generation, on track too be a GOAT (Greatest of All Time). He describes himself as an extreme learner. From this profound article:

Starting in November 2016, as part of his Month to Master project, Max has mastered one expert-level skill every month, blogging daily about the process. So far, Max has become a grandmaster of memory, learned to draw realistic portraits, solved a Rubik’s Cube in 17 seconds, landed a standing backflip, played a five-minute improvisational blues guitar solo, held a 30-minute conversation in a foreign language, built a self-driving car, and developed perfect pitch.

A story worth following and something that resonated with me as i spoke with Utkarsh recently.  Sharing what i learned from the conversation.

Being Vulnerable:
I know i started this article praising Utkarsh's achievements and risk-taking abilities but what stoood out for me was his ability to sound fully in control of his destiny, was as vulnerable as any lesser mortals would be. He shared unsafe side of risks he had taken with his life and was fully present to find the way out of these situations. Accepting to be vulnerable is a sign of a balanced and authentic human being.

Embracing discomfort:
In our talk, he made a candid admission that he has disrupted his life completely. He was advised against doing it by many of his well-wishes, yet he went by instinct and in return, earned valuable experiences and some fine achievements. While explaining his situation, he talked about physical and mental discomfort that he chose to put himself into. Like all of us, he had the choice to be happy in the current situation and in the bubble of comfort zone.
We are all the result of choices we make every day. Our small decisions shape our destiny. Making risky choices may result in short-term discomfort but may also come with long-term gains. I am sure when Utkarsh looks back many years later at this time, he would look back with much more awe and satisfaction that he would have had he been leading a predictable life.

Conviction that tomorrow would be better:
I heard him say that I beleive tomorrow would be a better day, always no matter what. And often it turns out to be true.
I listed to one podcast where Ravi Venkatesan (Former Microsoft India CEO) referred to a book called as 'Learned Optimism', where he said that optimism can be learned.
Positive thinking almost always shows the path forward, should be a default state but yet struggle to master it and give way to negative thoughts.

Thank you Utkarsh, for teaching that we are really the masters of our destiny. 

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