Management – 60% you – 40% others

60% of management is managing yourself, 40% is reaching out to people and addressing their fears.

Heard this fantastic way to think about management from Suresh Narayanan, at a talk about brand management organized by MMA& Equitor 

So fascinating. When thinking about how to lead better, I often focus on how I can understand and respond to people. While those skills are important, much of the challenge lies in the prep leading up to that moment.

Case in point – providing your team clarity, often begins with clarity in your own head.

Keep Opening doors for yourself, keep walking through them

Wonderful message from Rich Lesser (CEO, Boston Consulting Group) to the graduating class for 2020.  On Linked here, and embedded below.

My favorite part, timely but also timeless, is right at the end:

Keep Opening Doors for yourself,

Keep walking through them,

With a willingness to let yourself grow, change and learn,

Not just now, but always,

With persistence driving you.

The opportunities are limitless – for you to make a difference & create a sense of fulfillment in your own lives.

Your duty today…

Our duty today is:

  • To perform at your highest potential
  • To build a better version of yourself

“Today” is typically derived from the past and the future.

The past does not exist, only our memories of the past exist. Our version of the events of the past, invokes in us a reaction in the present. Any event evokes in us a positive reaction or a negative reaction, and leaves behind a lesson.

Our duty to the past then, is to take the pieces that will help you be the best version of you today. Take from the past anything that will motivate you today, and the lessons you can apply today. Gratitude towards people & events of the past are always great motivators. Memories, thoughts, or emotions from the past that do not serve this purpose – must be deleted, subdued or best – reprogrammed.

Our duty to the future, is to bring to the present that which will provide drive & direction now. Typically, this starts with articulating your dreams for the future, and truly visualizing it to give it life. The dream maybe a be a monetary goal, a new skill, or a slightly more intangible objective e.g. “being a better leader”.

The bigger the dream, the harder it is to begin. Begin by focusing on the now. Break down your big dream into smaller bits – pieces for the now. Then ensure a considerable portion of your calendar today is dedicated to that future you.

If you struggle with this piece – your goal may still be vague or your action for today is unclear. Cut yourself some slack, this is not a perfect linear path. Plan some actions for now anyway– actions that might help you explore and uncover those goals & actions (talk to someone or complete that “somewhat aligned to my dream, but not quite” task). After all, this is better than no action, and will help us build a better version of ourselves.

All of this takes constant effort of course – but that is the goal. You have a duty today, dependent on the past & the future.

P.S. For those who journal, think of yesterday & tomorrow.


Incurable Optimist

Inspiring Ilango  described himself an “Incurable Optimist”, a phrase I have since loved. He spoke of a Thirukural that inspires him :


“Idukkan Varungaal Naguga Adhanai
Aduthoorvadhu Agudhu Oppadhill”

Optimism combined with the acceptance of the world/hand you have been dealt, and sky is the limit.

Reflecting on a year at Booth

I just wrapped up a year of business school – technically I started school 9 months ago, but that’s how we count years. It has been a whirlwind of a year – a year that has pushed me, a year that has taught me a lot and a year that I have absolutely loved.

Friends who started at school two years ago (21 months ago, not 18 months) are graduating now. Graduation means social media is filled with a barrage of photos, emotional messages and accounts of how much they’ll miss Booth. Some thank their friends, some thank their family, some start new fashion trends (tasteful knee slip). My batch mates, though not in as much rigour, have also taken the chance to profess their undying love for year one of the two year package. I endorse these actions(through likes on Facebook), I would do the same too. I’ve loved my time at Booth. But I’m a rebel, I want to say it differently.

I’m also a reflective rebel, so I ask myself a question. A question that partners ask each other, a question that has many right answers yet one I always find incredibly hard to answer, a question that can make or break partnerships. “Why do you love me/X/her/Booth?”.

Why do I love Booth? I have answers, many answers. Answers that almost everyone seems to repeat. I’ve loved the people here – yes sure. I’ve loved the energy I’ve had through days packed with appointments – appointments that should only be on the same day if you are a maniac or if you are in b-school. I’ve loved the classes, they’ve engrained in me frameworks to think with and I’ve been a fan boy to more than one professor (sorry Goolsbee, Kamenica is in now).  I’ve loved the trips we took together with school mates. I’ve enjoyed the geeky conversations about life, school & company strategies.

So why do I love Booth?  Its all of those things, all combined. The combination taught me a lot. I grew. It’s this growth that I loved (#selfish). It’s knowing that you can continue to grow. It’s the feeling in the morning – knowing that I can experiment, make mistakes and learn something today. I’ve loved that. That’s my #WhyBooth.

What have I learnt? Boy this post has many questions. Lessons from year 1 to follow.


3 Lessons from Improv (A)

Improv means different things to different people. For some it’s a skill to make a living, for some its a hobby, and for some its a way to build confidence and presence.

When I joined Improv classes, I expected  that it’d make me funnier, better on my feet and an all round winner. To some extent it did (some say otherwise), but it also taught me many other things. Here are my top 3 realisations.  Let me caveat them though – none of these are “new” and I think that is the essence of Improv. To me, Improv is a mindfulness exercise with immediate feedback loops. In an effort to be more effective on stage, I learnt lessons that translated directly to my effectiveness in daily life. 

Team before me – The essence of  “Yes, and”

“Yes,and” is a rule-of-thumb at Improv and frankly should be a mantra for life. It means you accept whatever your team throws at you, accept it and volley back. No rebuttals, no belittling, no arguing, no “making it better if we did it that way instead”. Instead keep building with the team.

Think about using that spirit in a team meeting.  I’ve forced myself into that rule (as often as I can remember) and its been tremendous at meetings. It means I don’t need the limelight. I don’t even need to force myself to contribute. I need to watch out for the team and add value to make the whole better. Team before me.



Stop thinking about yourself! 

I’m going to borrow a friend’s story. He was in a scene and a team member slated to join him on stage. Just before the team member’s entry – the audience started laughing hysterically. My friend spent the rest of the scene wondering why they laughed so hard – he didn’t think he said anything that funny, he was scared he accidentally made a mistake and he even wondered if there was something wrong with the way he looked. Why did the audience laugh? The team mate entering the scene had apparently walked in a funny way.

WE SPEND SO MUCH TIME IN OUR HEADS! We think about ourself, we think about what others think about us. So many questions and so much doubt. At improv it causes stage fright, and you may freeze on stage. These doubts in life have more dire consequences – they drive the lack of confidence, they stop you from executing efficiently, and often they stop you from even taking a shot.

Does Improv help you get over this fear? Yes, it trains a muscle. A muscle that makes you take the first step before your thoughts overpower your judgement. Sure, you’ll make a fool of yourself a few times,  but you’ll also learn to get comfortable with that.

Mindfulness – being present 

Improv requires you to listen to your team and accept their ideas as-is (lesson 1). Then you need to trust yourself, get out of your head and not be afraid of being judged (lesson 2) . And if you manage that – you can take a simple scene and build an enjoyable experience. BUT these skills are so hard that you can only do them when you are fully present.

Improv caught me off guard here. I would be on an imaginary garbage truck in a scene, but my mind would wander to my Accounting homework. I knew my mind wandered, but I never realised how often my mind wandered. This was perhaps the BIGGEST takeaway for me.

My class: Can you feel the love?


Since, I’ve caught my mind wandering – conversations, lectures and meetings. If the wandering mind reduces the quality of an Improv scene so substantially, the impact on life is much worse! I don’t think there is a quick fix here, but Improv gave me the awareness to catch myself.

Bonus: Weekly Stress Relief

An Improv class every week is like going to a standup show every week. Not just any show, at this is a show you are great friends with the performers (if you aren’t when you start, you will be by the end).  A combination of laughing and love does wonders when life is rushing past around you. (read:recruiting crash landings)


The fun in tough times!

Stressed about this big goal or project in your life? Yes am sure it is a lot of work, but isn’t it also fun? If it isn’t fun – are you defining fun as those activities that have minimal consequences? Watching a movie, visiting a restaurant or grabbing a drink.

Aren’t bungee jumps, scuba dives or hikes also fun? Yes, they have a danger and stress element to them, but the stress goes away when you finish. The gratification is also delayed and frankly compressed to a really short timeline. When you attempt a sky dive, you will probably feel stressed through the training, the plane’s take off and  perhaps even for the first few seconds in the air. The gratification comes in the last few seconds of the dive and in the memories that remain.

Perhaps then, it makes sense to think of your stressful project as fun – where the fun comes in short bursts and the pressure lasts longer but eventually goes away. Shift your focus to the fun – keep the reward in mind not the consequences, learn to enjoy the thrills of the journey as you can’t prevent them and attack those problems as puzzles (hell they need solving). There really can’t be anything more fun than a goal that makes you sweat.

Going Short or Going Long?

There is always a dissonance between what’s in front of us now and what could be.

Taking that well paid job that’ll be stable or looking for that dream job where you’ll learn the most but not earn the most…

Focusing on the problem & task at hand, or concentrating on the growth & emotions of your team members….

Eating an extra slice of pizza or aiming to be healthy when your grandchild turns 18…

Walking away from a relationship because it complicates life today or working through it because it’ll enhance life later…

Do think through the long term implications of your decisions today.

Lessons from Biryani!

For a long time,I’ve been a fan of Biryanis and a few months ago I started a photo album on Facebook about Biryanis. I did on a whim – but apparently it captured peoples’ hearts(appetites). Since people have reached out with their biryani recommendations, share biryani memes/ memories and generally include me in any Biryani conversations. I’ve actually learnt more about (and ate more) Biryanis as a result!

Is it honestly so easy to polarize the world towards certain aspects of your life? Here’s applying to Biryani polarization to more “fruit”ful goals in the new year!


A snap from my Biryani album!

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