Becoming.

This year I had two major events professionally. The first one was joining bp and the second was getting my Professional Coaching Certification (PCC) from International Coaching Federation (ICF). 

As I was reflecting on the year gone by I also remembered that the reason I chose this path to become a coach. 

This year was like a roller coaster ride with many ups and downs but it was much smoother than I had anticipated. Thanks to my wonderful colleagues at bp for their care and support. Last week as part of our Christmas celebration at work I was given an award as a ‘Coaching Ninja’, it is very special because it gave me some sort of validation that I was looking for and it is also special because it was chosen by fellow coaches.  

Why did I choose to become a coach?

I’m about to tell you a beautiful story. The first time I came across this story was when I was about 14-15 years old. In a way, this story has helped me to define my purpose in life but it took a long time for me to realize it. This story is from Born To Win by Muriel James, Dorothy Jongeward(2)

The story is as follows …

Once upon a time, while walking through the forest, a certain man found a young eagle. He took it home and put it in his barnyard where it soon learned to eat chicken feed and to behave as chickens behave.

One day a naturalist who was passing by inquired of the owner why it was that an eagle, the king of all birds, should be confirmed to live in the barnyard with the chickens.

“Since I have given it chicken feed and trained to be a chicken, it has never learned to fly,” replied the owner. “ it behaves as chickens behave, so it is no longer an eagle.”

“Still,” insisted naturalist, “it has the heart of an eagle and can surely be taught to fly.”

After talking it over, the two men agreed to find out whether this was possible. Gently the naturalist took eagle in his arms and said, “You belong to the sky and not to the earth. Stretch forth wings and fly.”

The eagle, however, was confused; he did know who he was, and, seeing the chickens eating their food, he jumped down to be with them again.

Undismayed, the naturalist took the eagle on the following day, upon the roof of the house, and urged him again, saying, “You are an eagle. Stretch forth your wings and fly.” But the eagle was afraid of his unknown self and world and jumped down once more for the chicken food.

On the third day, the naturalist rose early and took the eagle out of the barnyard to a high mountain. There, he held the king of birds high above him and encouraged him again, saying, “You are an eagle. You belong to the sky as well as to the earth. Stretch forth your wings now, and fly.”

The eagle looked around, back towards the barnyard and up to the sky. Still, he did not fly. Then the naturalist lifted him straight towards the sun and it happened that the eagle began to tremble, slowly he stretched his wings. At last, with a triumphant cry, he soared away into the heavens.

It may be that the eagle still remembers the chickens with nostalgia; it may even be that he occasionally revisits the barnyard. But as far as anyone knows, he has never returned to lead the life of a chicken. He was an eagle though he had been kept and tamed as a chicken.

This story has left a lasting impact on me as I was growing up. First, it inspired me to discover my own potential through learning and experimentation, and the second was to support people to discover who they really are. Like the eagle in this story, all of us have enormous natural potential and we should unlock it.

Coaching has helped me to explore my own potential and I want to help others to explore their potential through coaching. One of my missions is to support people in finding their purpose, it is not easy but not impossible if you go for it. 

The first time I experienced coaching in action was at Landmark Education, wherewith the help of coaches I could see how I can go beyond the constraints and create impactful results. Then the Course Supervisor Program (CSP) helped me to develop deep listening, self-awareness, and empathy. The ICF courses further enhanced my abilities and gave me a solid foundation on the processes along with various tools and techniques. It also grounded me with the code of conduct and the ethics of professional coaching. Finally, the real learning came from the practice session with fellow coaches as well as conducting the actual coaching sessions. 

In the last 7 years of my journey to get the professional coaching certification I have come to realize that it is a real honour and privilgae to be a coach, one never becomes a coach with a certification, every coaching session is unique, as a coach I have to bring my whole person into the conversation,  it is a continuous process of becoming

1. Becoming – The title was inspired Becoming by Michelle Obama a memoir of former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama, published in 2018

2. The original author of the story is not known (there are various attribution on the internet )

3. Special thanks to my coaches and teachers at Landmark Education – Forum Leaders with whom I had the privilege of being a course supervisor – Praveen Puri, Balvinder Singh Sodhi, Mahesh Nambiar, Late Sri Ananth, Ferdi D Souza. 

4. My Course Supervisor Program (CSP) – Venkat Rao (head coach), Poornima, SK Rao, Suresh, Shylaja, Kumar, Anu, Pranav, Prasad, Srikanth, Srivatsa, Rahul, Seema, Prasad (Hyd), and Sachin.

5. My coaches and teachers during my PCC – Sai Ramesh MCC, Bhaskar Natarajan PCC and fellow coaches Satya Kumar, Arjit, and Rahul. Special thanks to my brother Rajesh Mithare.

6. Inspiring instructors from Being a Leader Course – Michael C. Jensen Harvard University, Steve Zaffron, CEO Vanto Group, Kari L. Granger the United States Air Force Academy, and Finally – the one and only Werner Erhard. 

“Being” an entrepreneur

I was getting ready to deliver my talk at a newly opened co-working space in Bengaluru which already had few promising start-ups operating from there with series A funding. I was nervous but I was also excited about the opportunity to speak at the event. It was about 4 months into my entrepreneurial journey and I wanted to make the best use of it. The speaking engagements are a good alternative to expensive digital marketing efforts to build credibility and trust with potential customers, partners.  

I had reached the venue well ahead of time to do the setup for my speech. About ten minutes before the session we got the right cables and connectors. The laptop finally started projecting the slides, it was fully charged, the power cable was also kept as a backup, the clicker was ready and was kept next to it. As a plan B a white board and few markers were also arranged with a glass of water and a few tissues on the table. My cue cards were decked neatly adjacent to it. The mic was tested and kept on mute, ready to go. I was ready. 

I was satisfied with the preparation and with a smile looked at the audience and to my surprise the hall was almost full. I thought that the topic of the session has made people curious to attend the session. For a moment the fear of failure kicked in but at the same time I remembered the tip from one of the youtube videos I had watched on public speaking, in which the influencer energetically speaks in a high pitch, with a fast pace about effective public speaking like connecting with the audience before the session, starting with a question or a story etc. I decided to go and speak with the guests. Being an introvert this journey of entrepreneurship was not easy for me. It was a constant battle of pushing myself out of my comfort zone. 

I had to get into action, first I went to the snacks counter and picked up a cup of hot filter coffee. I gathered my courage and went to the first few rows, started speaking to a few people in the audience. I also observed some curious eyes eager to learn, some tired souls looking for a break, few people sitting without any expectations who looked like they were just following the crowd, and many opinionated faces accessing and judging me and a few calm faces that looked like zen masters. 

I was also looking at my watch often to ensure that the session starts on time. When I had about a minute and half for the session, I started walking towards the podium to start my session. At that point one gentleman from the front rows asked me in a loud voice, “Raghav, are you qualified to speak about this topic?”, “ Hmm …” his name tag read “Naren”*. I was taken aback by the tone of his question but I was unfazed as I knew what I’m going to share was my perspective about being an entrepreneur and not the ultimate truth. 

The topic of the day was “Being”an entrepreneur. What does it take to start and sustain?

I smiled and said “Yes, I think so. It is almost time and let’s start the session on time, as Indians we are slowly coming out of the bad reputation that we are not on time. Can I start the session and then respond to your question?”, I asked for his permission to start the session and he agreed readily. I could see a sense of satisfaction on his face for asking that question. 

I switched on the mic and at 6.30 pm sharp, I started the session. The hall was full. There were one or two people near the snack counter waiting for the coffee flask to be refilled. Otherwise there was a positive space in the venue.  

After introducing myself and thanking the host, I told the audience “One thing I can guarantee if you choose to take the path of entrepreneurship – you can always expect the unexpected. Like the question from Naren – am I qualified to give this talk?”. There were few laughs in the audience and few disappointed faces who thought his question was inappropriate and a digression.    

I looked at Nareen and asked him – “Naren frankly that question has never occurred to me, this is my 3rd time I have taken on this path of being an entrepreneur. Can you please give me some context?. Your question was “are you qualified to speak about this topic?”What made you say that? or in your opinion what qualifications one should have to speak about this topic? “. 

Naren started sharing “I’m Narayan Krishnamurthy Dandapani*, I’m known as Naren, I was in the Bay area for many years and I moved to Bangalore about 5 years ago, many people in the startup circles know me. I’m a very active participant in the startup community. Currently working with a MNC as Senior Architect, I’m from IIT Delhi. Nowadays everyone starts a company … “ 

“Naren, sorry to interrupt you, I have limited time and I want to share a few ideas as part of my session. We can catch up after the session to discuss in detail. Right now, can you please share your thoughts around the qualifications required to speak about this topic? “.

Naren without taking a breath, “ Yes, I’m coming to it. I have been thinking about starting my company,I have done a course on entrepreneurship at Stanford and I have collected a lot of information, I have even met many VC’s , I have even met Prof. CK Pralhad when I was in the US. To become an entrepreneur you start with an idea, then you start with a seed fund, then you find some angel investors and develop a product, then you will get your Series A, then you grow, get your series B and C, scale your startup then take it to public through a successful IPO. Then you write a book and speak at conferences and events”. 

I smiled at him and said “ Yes, thanks for sharing , that is one of the ways. You also mentioned “successful” IPO, I would like to stress on the word “success” – it is very personal, it means different things to different people. I will share my definition and my views later in the presentation. In my view I’m qualified to speak about the topic ‘cos it is based on my journey, it is the third time I have taken this journey. Moreover if you notice my focus is on “being” and it is more about starting and not about exiting, This session is for those who are on the fence. I also should admit that I’m speaking about this topic for the first time. Like an entrepreneur, we test our ideas and listen to our customers, right?”. He looked pleased, felt he realised that before exiting he should start one first. 

So we started our session. “Being” an entrepreneur. What does it take to start and sustain? 

(The slides from that event are here ) 

This incident happened about 6years back in Bangalore, when we had just started our ProcessWhirl UK entity. This incident brought a smile to me as I was reflecting about my entrepreneurial journey and noting down my learnings as I’m starting a new journey. I have a lot of notes from my experience in the last 6 years and will share them if it helps others. 

After more than 6 years of this amazing journey of being part of ProcessWhirl, I have taken the tough decision to complete it and go back to a corporate job. 

Some of my learning and views on entrepreneurship are as follows. 

What is entrepreneurship? 

Is the process pursuing an idea and implementing it for the benefit of the customers and/or society. Building a business model around that is also an important part of it. At a fundamental level it is all about creating value for society. Most ideas when converted into a value have potential to be exploited commercially. 

Who is an entrepreneur? 

A person involved in the process of entrepreneurship. 

When is the best time to start a venture? 

Best time to start? None. If you have not started already, it is today. 

Do it now ! 

With so many start-ups failing is it a good idea to pursue the dream of entrepreneurship? 

It is very important to understand one key distinction around failures. Start-ups fail (yes more than 99%) but the entrepreneur never fails

Yes, the businesses fail to survive due to various reasons. But the spirit of entrepreneurship never lets you down. If you start and take this journey you are guaranteed to walk out with fond memories and a great deal of learning (and few friends).  

Personally I think the only failure is, if you have a dream and you are an entrepreneur at heart but you never took that plunge. 

Closing your start-up is not a failure but not starting one is.  

How to start my startup? 

In the UK, you register your company at the company’s house. The website says “It costs £12 and can be paid by debit or credit card or Paypal account. Your company is usually registered within 24 hours.”

https://www.gov.uk/limited-company-formation/register-your-company

I know it is a bad joke, technically, that is it. In most countries it is similar.  You just have to start.

What comes in your way before you decide to take that plunge? 

The fear of failure. 

Paulo Coelho — ‘There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.’

How to overcome the fear of failure? 

By failing often and creating your own definition of success. Here it is very important to distinguish between failure of the enterprise (the entity) and failure of the entrepreneur (the person). At a personal level you should develop that mindset of separation. You are separate from the entity you are creating. 

Do you have any suggestions for people who have just started or contemplating starting this journey?

No, Just go ahead, trust yourself and the universe. Everyone’s journey is unique. If you can survive then you will succeed. Manage your cash-flow and risks. Enjoy the journey and the experience. Trust me you will never regret it. 

 I found the philosophy of Sridhar Vembu inspiring. 

Please let me know if you have any questions and I will be happy to help.

As I start my new journey, I’m filled with gratitude for all the learnings, experience. I’m immensely grateful for the support I received from my family, friends, partners, customers and so many wonderful people, I can not even list them all. 

May all your dreams come true. 

Thank you. 

31-Jul-2021

*changed the name and few factual information to respect the identity of the individual

“Indian Variant”

Yesterday (25th May 2020) marked one year since George Floyds death which ignited the Black Lives Matters protest.  Last year when these protests startarted my initial thought was “Why only Black lives, why not all lives?”, until I saw the video of that brutal killing on twitter. It shocked me and impacted me deeply and I started reading more about the racial abuse and dicremination against blacks. I realised my understanding of racial descrimination and bias was too naive. Any form of racial descrimination, bias and prejudice has no place in modern society and should not be tolerated.  

When COVID-19 hit last year, I was one of the persons impacted by it. It was a difficult time and luckily I recovered from it (my experiance). In the early days many of my friends and acquaintances used to call the Covid-19 as “Chinese virus” or “Wuhan Virus”. I felt it is racist and defended strongly against calling it that way. I insisted that they call it “COVID-19”. (correct technical name is SARS-CoV-2) . 

Now after more than a year, the virus has mutated multiple times and new strains are becoming more contagious. The new strain of virus is called in the media as “Indian Variant”, it has infected millions of people in India and created enormous stress on the fragile health care system. This new strain of virus is B. 1. 167.2 is known as the “Indian Variant”.This new variant is definitely a cause for concern as it is spreading like a wildfire. But is it right to call it “Indian Varian”?.

I will not say that all the media houses and social media streams are saying it, there are many exceptions. Thanks to the Financial Times and Economist – They have used a better phrase and nomenclature.

Variant” and some sites were quick to correct the naming. (It’s not the ‘British variant.’ It’s B.1.1.7 ). The other variants were also called as Brazilan Variant, African variant based on the origin of the variant. In many cases naming the disease based on the origin is a practice but there is no standard set by WHO. There are various suggestions and discussions going on this topic. (World needs single naming convention)

Though it is easier to name the variant based on its origin somehow it doesn’t feel right. 

I’m strongly against calling these variants using racial prefixes. Personally I don’t feel safe to go out and feel the freedom. It is not that when I go to get milk from my local Sainsburys people will call me “Indian Variant” absolutely not, but it is that sense of discomfort and intention that I should not cause people discomfort and make them feel “I’m not safe”. Even if they dont have such concerns I will not be comfortable. 

You have to remember there is only one single race for all humans that is “being human”. Humans are sharing the planet with millions of other animals and plants. We should stop using the language that creates division among people. 

You should pause and think before calling the virus strain of the COVID-19 as “Indian Variant”. 

I may not be able to stop it but I would also like to spread the original “Indian Thought” on unity. Today unfortunately even in India it is forgotten. Across the globe, the obsession with “success”  has made us into “self centred”, “independent” individuals. It is high time that the attitude in the society changes from “me” to “we”. 

Next time when you read “Indian Variant” also think of this “Indian thought” on universal “universal wellbeing”. 

During my school days we used to say this prayer, which captures the essence.

ॐ सह नाववतु। सह नौ भुनक्तु। (Oṁ Saha nāvavatu | saha nau bhunaktu )

Aum, May we all be protected, May we all be nourished

सह वीर्यं करवावहै। तेजस्वि नावधीतमस्तु | (Saha vīryam karavāvahai | Tejasvi nāvadhītamastu)

May we work together with great energy, May our intelect be sharpened (may our study be effective)  ( and to make it happen the following )

मा विद्विषावहै। ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥ (Mā vidviṣāvahai | Oṁ Shāntiḥ, Shāntiḥ, Shāntiḥ || )

Let there be no Animosity amongst us. Aum, peace (in me), peace (in nature), peace (in divine forces)

I wrote this blog to remind myself to read/listen to the mention of the “Indian Variant” with the mindset of peace and harmony. Peace.

Update 01-Jun-2021

 World Health Organization has announced today they are offering a new system that follows the Greek alphabet.

Naming SARS-CoV-2 variants

Thanks to 

  1. http://aumamen.com/  for the sanskrit verse and translation.
  2. Shri Siddeshwar Swamiji for the Inspiration and reminding me about the prayer through his lectures
  3. family and friends, and all those working tirelessly across the globe against this pandemic. 

References 

  1. The prayer (http://aumamen.com/prayer/asatoma-sadgamaya-lyrics-and-meaning)
  2. t’s not the ‘British variant.’ It’s B.1.1.7  (https://www.statnews.com/2021/02/09/not-british-variant-call-it-b117/)
  3. World needs single naming convention – https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00105-z

by Raghavendra (Raghav) Mithare based in London – May 2021 (views are personal)

I want to “change”

“I want to change” is one of the most common endeavours for people.  For most people, the journey of self-improvement starts with the notion “things are changing fast, I need to adapt to survive and thrive” to “I need to change to improve”.

You might have come across many people who resist change, they prefer the status quo. They are in the comfort zone, there might be some underlying fear, that even they may not be aware of it. Unless they see a benefit of change, they may not even try.

Next are people who don’t want to change because they have given up after many unsuccessful attempts to change. Showing them the benefits of change will not work these people. They might benefit from a method or a technique.

This blog is for those people who have given up the hope of changing, to give them some alternate method to try out. This method is simple and others also might find value in this.

People who think “change is not possible”, mostly they have given up “trying to change”. They belong to the family of Parmenides School. The Parmenides, a great Greek Philosopher (515-450 BC) and founder of the Eleatic school of philosophy (universal unity of being) taught that change is not impossible.

If you think “change is possible” then you belong to the family of Heraclitus. Heraclitus, another great Greek Philosopher (535-475 BC) taught that there is an ever-present change in the universe. You also think that change is possible. 

For many years I was trying to ‘fix’ myself (after being motivated by the Self-Help books ) and failed miserably. I kept shuttling between Heraclitus and Parmenides schools.  

Earlier as soon as I realise that I need to change, I used to jump into action immediately. Suppose If I have to take care of my health. 

 I used to say “Ok, from tomorrow, I will go for running”, buy some expensive shoes with the justification “Yes, I’m buying for a good cause, it is not a waste of money”. Go for two days then order a Fitbit to track my progress. 

Take a break till the Fitbit is delivered but by the time it was delivered there was no motivation. Then I used to get some new insight that used to become my new area to “Change”. After a few failed attempts, I used to get upset and declare “change is not possible”.  This continued for many years. 

I used to think I’m becoming a zen master -like “accept what is and what is not” but in reality, I used to be frustrated.

Now my new approach to change is like this. 

First is the belief that “change is possible”. 

The proof is you can observe things changing around you. Look around and start watching. You are also changing but you are not noticing. Change is happening some desired and some undesired change. Next step is to bring the desired change. 

This can be broadly put into the following phases. 

Awareness 

The first phase is being aware that you want to create change in some aspect of your life. Usually, this comes in the form of a thought, an idea or feedback. Avoid the temptation to get into action. If it is critical, then the only step you should take is to write it down as clearly as possible. Nothing more. 

Acknowledge

The next phase is to acknowledge the change, it is an act of admitting the existence of that thought or that need. Suppose you realise that “I should lose weight”. You just acknowledge that I have a view or there a need for me to lose weight. 

Accept 

This is a significant phase, you should spend time and analyse before accepting it. You exercise your choice in accepting that thought. You might realise that the need for change has come out of some reaction, in that case, you can choose not to accept it. You need to be mindful of your arrogance/ego coming in your way to look at things objectively. It is better to accept the changes that arise out of your will than those coming from external sources. 

Act 

This is nothing but getting into action. It ultimately depends on the results you want to have in your life. Results come from taking actions. 

This is summarised beautifully by my favourite leader/guru Werner Erhard. 

“In life you wind up with one of two things – the results or the reason why you don’t have the results. Results don’t have to be explained. They just are.”

Award 

This is the one more important part, as you are taking actions, it is vital to have some award mechanisms to keep you going. Be generous, small rewards, but they do the trick. 

Yes. You deserve the reward for your efforts. 

Use these steps and evaluate and most likely that you have created the desired result and successfully implemented that change. 

Conclusion

Once you take actions consistently, the “change” becomes part of you. Then you are ready to take the game to the next level. 

I have found that jumping into actions is not sufficient, giving time for self has helped me tremendously. 

Consider you are already doing your best, don’t try to better your best.  

COVID-19 … Fever, Fear and Freedom

COVID-19 … FEVER, FEAR AND FREEDOM

Yes, I’m in a hurry.
I’m in a hurry to live with the intensity that only maturity can give.
I do not intend to waste any of the remaining desserts.
I am sure they will be exquisite,
much more than those eaten so far.
My goal is to reach the end satisfied
and at peace with my loved ones and my conscience.
We have two lives
and the second begins when you realize you only have one.

Mário de Andrade

The sun was shining brightly outside and it felt like an invitation for a long walk. I was feeling fresh after my shower. I got ready quickly knowing that in the UK, weather changes faster than the mood swings of cyclothymiac.

I was feeling a slight weakness as I was putting my shoes but the excitement of going out after 38 days to enjoy the fresh air was irresistible. There was no fever from the last 14-15 days, no headache and cough as well. It was my first day out since my recovery from illness with COVID* like symptoms.

Unfortunately after struggling for more than three weeks with all the symptoms, it remained a mystery to me and my family, if I ever had the COVID or not. Here in the UK/London, there is no way to get tested for COVID. For the vast majority of people like me, there is no option to get tested unless it is very severe or you are some important personality. (Prince Charles was tested positive for Covid, UK Prime minister Boris Johnson was hospitalised due to COVID)

I was reading about the COVID from early Feb and started taking precaution before it became widespread. I was observing the exponential rise in the number of cases. I was trying to analyse the data and thinking about the distribution that the data fits into. I was washing my hands frequently, avoiding crowded places. I knew that very soon it is going to reach UK.

On Saturday, March 14th 2020 and I had a fever around 38.2 C (100.76 F). As a precaution I did self-isolation, The fever lasted for about 2-3 days. Then my wife also had fever and I was really worried. She recovered within 2-3 days. We both were relieved that nothing serious happened to us but we were conscious of not going out and put ourselves or others at risk. Luckily we had the essential things at home and there was no need to step out. (The number of cases worldwide at that point was 142,439, In the UK it was 1,140, in India 82 and US 1,678).

The media was full of negative news, the panic buying of toilet rolls was flooding the social media. There was a speculation that in a few days the lockdown will be imposed. My only panic buying was a laptop (I ordered online) and later it proved to be a wise decision. Overall there was a sense of fear all around.

After 4-5 days one afternoon, I was feeling very uncomfortable with an intense headache. I had a sudden rise in temperature and did not realise it. I was also not ready to accept that I’m getting the fever a second time. my wife tried to convince me that I’m worrying unnecessarily. That afternoon, I had a cup of tea and then went to wash my hands and I suddenly felt dizzy and blacked out. I regained my consciousness quickly. As I was trying to comprehend the situation I observed thousands of thoughts bombarding in all directions, few were reassuring me but most of them were alerting some danger. My wife started calling the NHS as we wanted some guidance about what to do? What medications to take etc.

Luckily the previous day we had arranged a room for self-isolation and I quickly moved there with my books and phone. The lines at NHS were extremely busy; the line was on hold for a few hours. I took some paracetamol and waited for the NHS line to connect but it was in vein. I had some food and slept off.

Next day though I had fever, I was feeling much better and to my surprise, I had a call from the NHS, a volunteer spoke to me and advised me to speak with the member of the medical staff.  He connected me to the NHS, this time it was fast. I had to be on the line for less than an hour. But the call was worth the wait, the NHS staff was calm and listened to me patiently and asked me to watch out for two things: breathlessness and constant high temperature.
Then he also mentioned a few precautions to protect others in the family. The only medication was to continue with the paracetamol and nothing for the cough. After the call I felt relieved but at that time I had no clue that it was going take me a few weeks to recover.

I kept taking paracetamol and monitoring my temperature and also kept myself hydrated. The following graph shows my temperature, headache and cough levels over a period of 4 weeks. (Headache and Cough are approximated to fit the graph).

Few distinct symptoms.
The cough was very distinct, I never had that kind of dry cough, I used to have few bouts of cough once in a few hours initially that reduced over a period of time. The cough was very dry and it used last for some time (once it lasted for few hours but normally around 20-30 minutes). The intensity, duration and frequency came down over a period. There was always fear about this cough. I tried to control it through ginger, honey and warm water and I’m not sure if it had any impact on it but at least I used to feel like I was doing something.

The headache was also unique. Normally I feel ache on the front side towards my forehead during the common cold. This time it was on the backside.

Initially, I was expecting the fever to come down after 3-4 days. I was really worried when it continued in week 2. During this time I realised how restless my mind was, I could identify the fear of the unknown and the fear of something bad happening.

The conflict between “What is ..” and “What can be ..” the series of thoughts around “What if …?”. These thoughts were so powerful thatI used to feel helpless.

After about 9-10 days, I got used to the routine but fear of the unknown was creating the stress. It was not clear how long this phase was going to last. I had the question “I’m I missing something?”. I was not sure whether to take it easy or take it seriously. On the internet and social media, I was finding only about the number of cases and the death rates but no details about people who recovered, about their symptoms while recovering and how long it takes to recover etc. (after some time I totally stopped reading any news around Covid or news in general, also avoided social media to a large extent). Started listening to podcasts and audio books.

When I completed two weeks (on the 14th day), I said to myself “it is enough now!!” and decided “let me accept what is happening and surrender completely”. That was the beginning of my experiencing freedom. I really felt liberated. Though I had fever, the freedom from fear was very liberating.

I had a new laptop to explore. I started experimenting with mixing music, coding, reading (and listening) books and tidying up my table.I started enjoying the care, space, and the time.

I have observed as humans we have this duality, sometimes we are confident and say “I’m in control my destiny” and march forward and other times when there are obstacles, we say “I’m helpless” and behave like a mouse in the mousetrap. Most of the time we are on this continuum but there is a third option in a different space and that is “operating from the space of surrender”. It is like the teachings of the Gita – “You have the right to work, but never to the fruit of work. You should never engage in action for the sake of reward, nor should you long for inaction.”

My intention of writing this blog was to share my experience and to communicate that COVID is not life threatening but it is contagious. With patience and right information it can be managed. If you can control your mind then you can control any situation, by default the mind goes into the negative mode and it up to you to handle it.

If you are worried about COIVID and it’s fatality then have a look at some data. Globally 800,000 people die from suicide every year* compared to total deaths from COVID till now 345,991. (also there were 1.25 million road traffic deaths globally in 2013 as per WHO)

COVID is dangerous because it spreads (contagious) and not because it is fatal (the death ratio is small compared to many diseases). This can be fatal for people with underlying medical conditions. So we need to be careful to protect the vulnerable people around us.

If you are still worried about COVID then talk to someone or drop a note to me. The intention of writing this blog was to help you to observe the world from a different perspective.

Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Suffering follows an evil thought as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that draw it.

Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves.

Easwaran, Eknath. The Dhammapada (Easwaran’s Classics of Indian Spirituality) (p. 107). Nilgiri Press.

I’m grateful for my family, friends and all the people who cared and helped me during this challenging time.

If you have come across any good resources/idea to deal with COVID please mention them in the comments below.

The monk who built his own Ferrari

 

In search of a leader 

This is a fascinating story of a servant leader’s journey in creating a company on a foundation of strong values and principles. Personally, for me, it is a completion of a “gestalt” about leadership and my search for a leader and a role model. 

Finding inspiration is difficult these days, some authentic real-life stories like these bring back the sense of direction and purpose. 

It has been a journey of 20 years of exploring various dimensions of Leadership. It was also a search for a role model, whom I can admire, relate to and learn from.

My interest in leadership was ignited during my first job at Wipro when my friend Manju, mentioned about Stephen Covey’s book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. That book was fascinating and mentions about leaders, leadership and various dimensions around it. Since then I have explored various sources on leadership and their styles from Gandhi to Hitler, Dalai Lama to Steve Jobs, Read many books in the Warren Bennis series on Leadership, studied various views from Ayan Rand to some Indian mythology, attended many courses and workshops as well. 

My search came to an end when I came across the fascinating story of this Leader.

The leader is Sridhar Vembu founder and CEO of Zoho.  He started Zoho with other co-founders about 20 years back in Chennai, now it is one of the most successful software product/SAS company from India with 40 plus applications used by more than 13 million users globally. It also competes with global giants like Salesforce.

In fact, Forbes described in an article Sridhar as the “Smartest Unknown Indian Entrepreneur”. 

This finding was for me like the Santiago Shepherd boy, the protagonist of The Alchemist finding his treasure.  

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About Sridhar Vembu 

The journey of Sridhar is not a story of a bold vision and then driving it relentlessly till it is realized nor a story of breakthrough innovation and creating a billion-dollar company, or about rags to riches. But this is a story of failures and learning from those failures, it is about entrepreneurship, starting small and focusing on serving customers, this is a story of self-realization, principles, values and trust, it is about finding the reason for existence, this is about redefining the meaning of business itself.

The best part of this discovery is most people in India can relate to it.  Personally, I could relate to most of his experiences and principles.  

Sridhar did his degree in electrical engineering from IIT Madras and PhD from Princeton, it sounds like typical success formula right? But after all these qualifications he realised the real value of “education”. He concluded that the context-free education has very less value. That realisation helped Zoho in creating the Zoho University (ZU), which takes underprivileged students from the local schools and provides them the relevant training. Once the students finish their training, they are given a job in the company.  

Entrepreneurship 

There many interesting stories around Sridhar and Zoho, like not focusing on profit but focusing on delivering value, not focusing on formal qualifications while hiring etc. 

Sridhar values freedom over money, this is one of the reasons it is not externally funded.  His suggestion for entrepreneurs is also inspiring, The first, one is around bootstrapping and not taking external funding.  He gives the example of the neighbourhood vegetable vendor and how they manage their business. 

Next suggestion is starting with year -5 years, yes it takes about 5 years to learn about the business. 

The final point I noted down was around success and survival.  If you have a clear set of values and principles then if you can survive then you will succeed

My inspiration 

What I liked the most about Sridhar is, he is not perfect, his presentation style is not great, his appearance is also not stylish and he is perfectly fine with it. You can not miss the authenticity in his eyes and voice. This is what makes him special. 

After completing his PhD, he went through a phase of deep reflection, confusion and transformation. That is the genesis of his journey.  It started with a small group of people trying to start a company. In the last 20 years, the company has grown from a small company into a major corporation with more than 40 products and more than 13 million users and more than 9000 employees across the globe.   

Final note 

Sridhar has interesting views on Leadership, culture entrepreneurship, building a company, innovation, role of education. I can write a series of blogs (maybe I will do that) but let me complete this blog with the message he had shared with students of Sastra University on their 31st convocation. 

“… you have 24 hours in a day. As you grow older you realize how valuable the time is, I sometimes feel my life is over and have I done enough with it? Time is the only thing you have actually. Money can buy lots of things but it can not buy time. The quality of thinking is the only thing that separates from successful from not successful. Quality of thinking means that. What type of thoughts going on in your head? You can spend 3 hours getting angry at another person. You can spend an entire day being disappointed by something….  Those are also thoughts in our head. But those thoughts are useless thoughts….. Some good thoughts might spark some ideas and from those ideas, the actions happen. Those actions can lead you somewhere. … purge all the unproductive thoughts. Angry thoughts, resentful thoughts or sad thoughts all of these. Fill your head with quality thoughts. Learn to use your time wisely… Thank you”.  

Epilogue

The title Monk who built his own Ferrari is inspired by Robin Sharm’s Monk who sold his Ferrari.  Though Sridhar doesn’t live like a monk. He has spent millions of dollars on a team for designing and developing an indigenous microprocessor chip. That is his Ferrari. 

Personal Note:

  1. I take full responsibility for any errors, omissions and misrepresentation. As a reader, if you find any mistakes please bring it my notice and I will correct them. 
  2. Source of all the information is from the Internet. My apologies for not keeping track of all the references.
  3. If you have any other question and feedback please write to me at mithare@gmail.com  
  4. If you liked this post then please share with others. 

End quote 

“ A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says is never accurate because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something that he can understand”  – Bertand Russell 

By Raghavendra (Raghav) Mithare

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Raghavendra (Raghav) Mithare is Regional Head for ProcessWhirl Management Consulting, UK and he is based in London, he is a professional coach, Agile consultant, Speaker and aspiring writer. His interests include Leadership, Philosophy, Economics and engineering.  You can reach him at rmithare@processwhirl.com

 

Principles

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Principle is a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour or for a chain of reasoning. The Cambridge dictionary defines this as a  basic idea or rule that explains or controls how something happens or works. Principles are more basic than policy and objectives and are meant to govern both.

Principles help organisations and individuals in navigating in the “right” direction. They are different than values. Values are subjective whereas principles are objective. They help you to navigate towards your “ true north”.

“Rather than thinking, ‘I’m right.’ I started to ask myself, ‘How do I know I’m right?’”.

Ray Dalio says “ Principles are ways of successfully dealing with reality to get what you want out of life.”  “Rather than thinking, ‘I’m right.’ I started to ask myself, ‘How do I know I’m right?’”. Ray Dalio is no ordinary man, founder of Bridgewaters one of the most successful and largest hedge fund management company.  

He has published the principles of life and work in his book “Principles”, here is the list my favorites from his book.

  1. Trust in Truth
  2. Realize that you have nothing to fear from the truth
  3. Be extremely open
  4. Have integrity and demand it from others
  5. Be radically transparent
  6. Don’t tolerate dishonesty
  7. Create a culture in which it is OK to make mistakes but unacceptable not to identify, Analyse and learn from them
  8. Don’t worry about looking good – worry about achieving your goals.
  9. When you experience pain, remember to reflect.
  10. Teach and reinforce the merits of mistake based learning.
  11. Be assertive and open-minded at the same time.
  12. Remember that almost everything good comes from having great people operating in a great culture.
  13. Recognize that people are built differently.
  14. Hire Right, because the penalties of hiring wrong are huge.
  15. Understand the difference between managing, micromanaging, and not managing,
  16. Put things in perspective
  17. Go back before going forward.
  18. Recognize the Power of Knowing How to deal with Not Knowing.
  19. Remember that the Root cause is the reason, not the action.
  20. Understand and connect the dots.
  21. Don’t try to please everyone.

Out of the above #1 and #12 are my favorites. What principles resonate with you?

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Here are the selected References.

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/

http://www.businessdictionary.com/

https://www.bridgewater.com/

https://www.principles.com/

Raghavendra (Raghav) Mithare is a consultant and coach at ProcessWhril Management Consulting, based in London.  (rmithare@processwhirl.com)

 

 

Happiness ! :-)

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Happiness is something that all of us seek. There are various definitions of happiness but deep inside all of us know the moments when we feel truly happy within.

Personally for me “happiness” comes as #1 priority and it ranks even before health and wealth.  Recently I read a quote that I completely resonate with

“Happiness is success, success is happiness “

Dimensions of happiness

We engage in many activities in order to be happy. Below are the activities we engage in to be happy.

Happiness = function of ( P, E, M)

Now let’s look at each of these components.

#1 P stands for Pleasure

There are many activities that give us instant gratification and give happiness, we can call them as pleasure and happiness.  For example

  1. Watching football
  2. Listening to music
  3. Eating our favourite dish

There are many actions we do to be happy. These include habits like smoking, internet surfing etc. Such actions that involve “instant gratification” give happiness.  But the problems is, at the end of the activity we feel like “I want more”. However when we repeat the activity, we notice that the level of happiness comes down drastically and at one point it even stops giving any happiness.

Another issue with activities that gives us instant gratification is they are addictive and at some point the activities become mechanical.

#2 E Stands for Engagement

When you are completely involved in these kind of activities, they also give happiness. The level of happiness is more than the activities involving pleasure.

For example

  1. Playing football than watching football
  2. Playing a musical instrument than listening to music
  3. Preparing a dish for family and friends than eating your favourite dish

In these activities you are completely involved, and there is some sense of accomplishment. You are in a state of “Flow” – It is a state of total absorption in an activity where the individual is so focused that nothing else seems to matter.

Compared to “pleasure” the activities involving “engagement” are longer in duration.

(please refer excellent work done by Mihaly Csikszentmihalay – FLOW)

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The optimal engagement comes when your ability and the challenge is optimal. When the challenge is bigger than your ability to do the activity then you experience some stress/fear whereas when your ability is more than the challenge then you experience boredom.

The problem with “Engagements” is it involves lot of time and requires initial investment. To enjoy playing guitar or violin you should invest your time in learning the instrument, then practice playing the instrument.  You need to have certain level of skill to experience the “FLOW”.

So far we covered pleasure (p) , and engagement (e).   The next aspect of happiness is activities involving meaning.

#3 M stands for meaning

Meaning involves engaging in activities with a purpose – a purpose bigger than self and caring about others. When you are involved in these kind of activities your level of happiness is not only higher but is also long lasting.

Prof. Selgman  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Seligman) authority on positive psychology reportedly conducted this experiment with his students.  One day instead of his regular class he took them to a movie and when they came back he asked them to rate on a scale of 1-5, the level of happiness they felt.  All students rated whatever they felt.

Next week again instead of his regular class he took them to a near by community school where kids from underprivileged background were studying. They spent the afternoon playing with these kids.  Again when they returned to college he asked them to rate on a scale of 1-5, the level of happiness they felt. He collected the data.

After six months towards the end of the semester, he handed over two forms, one was titled “Movie” and the other was “Visit to community school” and he asked the students to rate the current level of happiness with respect to these two events. Many of the students had forgotten that they had gone for a movie but everyone remembered the visit to the school.  The ratings after six months for  “Visit to community school” were much higher than the that for a “Movie”

The activities involving meaning will not only give higher level of happiness but it is also long lasting.

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I can share from my own personal experience.  We run a trust called Kruti( www.mykruti.com ) and couple of years back we did a photography workshop for kids from lower income group families .I still have beautiful memories about it.

Even after so many years, when I see the Kruti videos, I feel very joyful remembering the time spent with kids and their unconditional love, editing the videos, selecting the music and compiling the movie etc.

We can see that when we engage in activities that give us meaning and engagement automatically our level of happiness goes up.

Let’s be happy !