28 December 2019

Nikita visits my friends in the hospice

Nikita had asked to accompany me to one of the hospices during the holidays. Finally, our times matched today. (You will be surprised how busy a high schooler can be even during the Christmas holidays). I am glad she came today.

When I arrived, one of the patients was particularly agitated. We will call her Maria for privacy reasons. I sat her down and started talking to her. She just wanted to go home. Of course, being a memory care unit patient meant most of her memory and cognitive power has been fried. She tried explaining that her dad was supposed to come and pick her up and he has not come yet.

“How old is your dad”?, I asked her softly
“Oh! mid seventies, I think”.
“How old are you?”
“I think I am older than him”.

You get the idea about how the conversations go. Nikita, who was patiently watching all this time, drew a chair and sat next to us. I introduced her to Maria. Within seconds, they were chatting like old buddies. Most of the discussions went in circles. After some time, I left them to do my rounds with other patients. When I left, they were having a discussion on who looked prettier. Each insisted the other did.

Half an hour later, I came back and these two were still talking. Nikita asked if she could stay for some more time.

Eventually, I had to tell her that we needed to go home for dinner. Maria immediately asked if I could give her a ride.

“Where do you want to go?”
“I live in Ohio”
“And what when your dad shows up?”
She thought for some time and said “I think I will stay”.
“No problem. He may take some time. The weather outside is not good”, I lied thru my teeth.

The hope was that the sleep medicine would soon do its trick and one more day will come to an end in her life.

Also, the further hope is that Nikita got a sense of the cycles of life we go thru and how blessed we are now. The proudest moment for me was when the staff – and one particular patient too – asked her to come back.

28 December 2019

Interesting coffee place

Rode the motorbike up to Ballground, GA and found a nearby coffee place with an interesting name – Barrel House Coffee Company. Once inside, got to meet the owner – Ryan, who explained the name to me. He ages the coffee beans in bourbon barrels for a month to two months and then roasts them. Tried out a cappuccino. Tasted pretty nice.

Presently, Rakesh, who was also out and about in his motorbike, joined me there. It was a good ride and some very interesting coffee!

25 December 2019

Lessons learnt as a CEO – part two of three

If last week was about the childhood sea-saw, this week is all about teenager years. Specifically calculus! Yes, calculus!!

Lesson 1: Don’t forget your derivatives from the calculus class in high school

To quote the much hackneyed statement – change is a constant. As a leader, your worry is not change per se. Whether you like it or not, change will happen. Even if you or your company desire not to change, the market will, technology will, customers will and competition will. You simply have no option.

And chances are that as a CEO everywhere you look, you can see the writing on the wall about the changes that you need to bring or would like to bring. That is given.

Change of status is a first order algebraic equation. One of the lessons I have learnt as a CEO is to get a deeper understanding of the first derivative. What is the “right pace of bringing in change”? The rate of change, if you will. (First derivative, if you remember your calculus)

You cannot ride a speedboat like you are steering a ship. You will lose out on the potential progress and fun you could have had. On the other hand, you cannot steer a ship like you are riding a speedboat. A couple of hard turns and you are going to break the ship into pieces.

Setting the direction (change required) is relative easy. You can hire one of those management consulting firms and they will wax eloquent on what change you need. Figuring out at what pace you want to turn the ship and what is the speed you can push the organization to but no more requires a deep understanding of the company and its culture.

As a CEO, this can often be very frustrating. You know what you want and have a rough idea how to even get there. But you cannot dictate the speed. Turning organizations has as much angular momentum as rectilinear momentum. You do not want to spin it out of control – but you want to keep the force on.

You have to apply the right throttle and the right steering. All the while, trying to change the culture, re-equipping the talent inhouse to be able to deal with a little more throttle and a little faster steering.

You will not get all changes right all the time. That is okay. Going back to the ship metaphor – you will pivot and change directions multiple times. But if you pushed the ship beyond its limit of handling change and broke it in two pieces (or even some major component of it), that is irreversible. You will have no chance to pivot any more. Or make anymore forward progress, for that matter.

So, the key lesson is, it is not about the change. It is about the “rate of change”. Not the “delta”. The “d – d – t”, in your teenager math speak.

24 December 2019

Reached the milestone of ten thousand miles

10,000 miles in just under two years. It has been a great journey… with a few scares no doubt. Ever indebted to Magesh, Danny, Avi and Rakesh without whose encouragement and support, I would have never reached here. It is still scary but thoroughly enjoyable. Nothing beats the feel of the wind on you in the lonely, rural roads – especially if you are going as a group!

How about this as a coincidence? After finishing my ride today, went to the Apple store to pick up something for Nikita. Guess who I ran into? Rakesh!! He was picking up something for his daughter too. Told him about my milestone today.

Without any further delay we shimmied to the bar next door to celebrate!!

22 December 2019

Strength in Stillness

This book gets a big thumbs down from me. The title “The Power of Transcendental Meditation” made me believe that it will give an idea about what Transcendental Meditation is and how it works. In reality other than talking about there is a “mantra”, all the author does is gives quotes from others and examples of others. The quotes come from very big names like Oprah and Seinfeld and all that. The whole book could have been summarized in couple of pages – “See all these big guys have benefited from this. So can you”.

When it gets to actually talking about how to do it, the book only offers that you get yourself a teacher. Otherwise you cannot learn it. Almost made me feel like I paid twelve dollars to buy me some kind of marketing materials.

This does not mean that Transcendental Meditation does not work or that getting a teacher is not the right thing to do – just that it was not worth spending the time and money to read a book of other people’s quotes and any analysis (if that is even the word I am looking for) that shallow, in my opinion.

I have personally found books by Eckhart Tolle and Jon Kabat-Zinn to be much more thought provoking and insightful.

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