Leaders discuss their personal frameworks around how they made choices around pivotal moments in their lives. They articulate the set of criteria we should consider having when we are at a fork on the road and have to pick between disparate options. Arguably one of the most critical skills of the future as we navigate a world of abundance.
Taking stock of life after Bazee sale
When Avnish started Baazee, his financial goal was to make USD 2 Million. When he sold Baazee to Ebay for USD 55 Million, he had made close to 10x of his estimate. He talks about how he took stock of life and moved forward from that point.
Career planning 2.0 for graduates
In this rapidly changing world, Ravi has three main nuggets of wisdom for graduates who are thinking about their careers and professional life ahead. How has the view of a ‘career’ changed over time and what is the best way to think about it today? What qualities should one spend time cultivating and nurturing? Hear on.
Gig economy and careers
Ravi has had two long stints in Cummins and then Microsoft, after which he switched to a portfolio of opportunities. He talks about evaluating this deep root vs. wide branches approach to structuring your career. He also has important tips for organizations looking to attract good performers. Tune in!
Career Planning 2.0
Thinking about a career has moved away from a linear notion – educate, work, retire. Also the idea of working in one company for the rest of your life has become obsolete. So how should one think about their career in this digital age? How can people stay relevant? Abhijit believes that skills will become obsolete quicker and gives tips about how to navigate their careers.
Marrying passion with pragmatism
Follow your passion is bad advice says Cal Newport in his book 'So good they cannot ignore you'. How does one think about options and decisions when passion and pragmatism point in different directions. Atul talks about how one could look at adjacencies and be pragmatic about a career decision by looking at supply-demand trends in an industry that one is trying to enter.
Educating ourselves (and link with leadership of the future)
We are growing into a future where there are several unknown unknowns. Pramath talks about what sort of leaders would flourish in the new paradigm and how one should think about education in the context of this broad trend.
Navigating the sea of career options
"What should I do with my life" is often a question that we grapple with at different inflection points in our life. Vinita talks about the various dimensions along which she evaluates opportunities that have come her way at different points in her journey.
Transitioning roles in a large MNC
Navigating your career in a large, complex MNC can often be challenging and confusing. Vinita talks about how she navigated her career across different roles in Cadbury's and the Coca Cola company.
Careers - Paradox of choice
In a world exploding with choice, Barry Schwartz argues that consumers are often worse off due to the complexity in decision making and Fear of Missing Out. Rama talks about how one should navigate the world under such circumstances.
Building optionality during early career
Dheeraj talks about the distinction between process and substance in the context of making career choices. He also talks about how he built optionality at various points in his early career.
Perspectives around career choice
Dheeraj discusses his perspectives on how students and professionals should think about choices and learning. He underscores the criticality of having unfettered curiosity across disciplines similar to Da Vinci who showed equal curiosity to matters of art and science across disciplines.
Navigating your career
Anu talks about her moment of epiphany during an interview with a McKinsey partner that really pushed her to reflect on what she enjoyed and what she didn’t. She talks about how she has tried to get to the bottom of what gives her energy.
Early career choices - Medical Rep/Painting/Advertising
KV Sridhar (Pops) talks about how he thought about an early fork in the road where he had to choose between disparate options in front of him. One was to become a Medical Representative which was highly lucrative in those days, Second was to become a Drawing teacher and the third was to pursue art in the world of advertising. He discusses how he walked the tightrope where the mind and heart were pulling him in different directions.
Rejecting 3 jobs and painting in Goa
KV Sridhar (Pops) talks about how came to Mumbai to pursue commercial opportunities and cast his net beyond Hyderabad – where he grew up. He also talks about the fact that very quickly he got himself three offers (on the creative and commercial side) but decided to go to Goa to learn and reboot. He talks about how he led the life of a vagabond for a few months and how he landed the next role at Ulka.
Transitioning from Banking to PE
Amit talks about how he thought about the transition from the world of Investment Banking to Private Equity. He talks about taking stock of life after reaching the heights of the Investment Banking profession and also seeking more time to devote to some of the other elements in his life such as Social Impact.
Raising the game when it matters
Mouli talks about the concept of Learning Cycles and how it is critical for people to focus on completing large learning cycles to build significant distinctive capability. He also makes the distinction between major and minor learning cycles and talks about how effective leaders often kick their game up a notch when it comes to a major learning cycle. The concept of learning cycle is also relevant when we think about processing opportunities that come along in our journey.
More from Chandramouli Venkatesan
Picking mentors thoughtfully
Mouli underscores the criticality of having sound mentors in todays world where there are more forks in the road and several choices to be made for all of us. Mouli also talks about his framework for how we all should think about selecting the mentors that guide us. He talks about how Mentors should have seen some parts of the “movie” that you haven’t and should be completely vested in your success with no conflict of interest.
More from Chandramouli Venkatesan
Decoupling quitting & joining decisions
Mouli talks about how people often mix up the two decisions and how they can end up over-appreciating what is right in the new context and what is wrong in the current situation. He brings it back to the point that careers are driven by capability and not by role/title. He urges us to think hard about the learning opportunity in the current environment and carefully evaluate the pros and cons of the current and the new opportunity before taking a decision.
More from Chandramouli Venkatesan
Choosing career direction post CRISIL
Roopa talks about how she took stock of options after her successful run in CRISIL. She talks about the process she went through to first eliminate what options may not make sense for her before she ended up choosing to join Omidyar Network. She talks about having informal discussions with ~45 people over a 9 month period to get directional clarity on what might make sense for her.
Changing orbit - HBS, Wall-Street and Dasra
Neera talks about her transitions to Morgan Stanley, Harvard Business School, UBS and then to Co-founding Dasra with her spouse – Deval Sanghavi. She talks about the mindset with which she started thinking about her HBS degree. She talks about moving from seeing it as an asset you could market to something she could leverage and extend to drive impact in the Social Impact world.
Committing to a career in Music
Jayashri talks about her chance meeting with Shri Lalgudi Jayaraman and how that changed everything for her. She discusses the faith that he had in her when he asked her to learn music under his guidance and how that instilled a sense of responsibility for her to stay committed to the path.
Making Directional Choices
Jayashri talks about how she made choices along the way, more specifically, the choice between going deep into Carnatic music versus collaborating with different art forms. She also speaks about how she has learnt from collaborating with other artists and how that has improved her core art form – Carnatic Music
Strategy and Careers
Tarun talks about developments in the field of Strategy and maps that to how individuals should think about their careers. He acknowledges the influence of Prof. Ben Jones (of Northwestern University) in shaping his thinking here. He talks about the fact that the world of knowledge is growing exponentially and we will know less and less (as a percentage) of what is to be known. He discusses how people should think about specialization and collaboration in this context and shares his perspective on the mind-set with which we should march into the future that can feel overwhelming.
Key career choices
Dr. Guha speaks about some of the key choices he made at various forks in the road that presented themselves in front of him. He specifically talks about the crucial role of his father and his wife in giving him the flexibility to pursue his calling without getting him to “play safe” or to seek commercially lucrative options at the expense of pursuing things that energized him.
More from Dr. Ramachandra Guha
Flex the current context or reboot
Stew speaks about how we should try and stretch the boundaries of our current context before we start thinking about drastic solutions including changing jobs. He speaks about the notion of the Theory of small wins that underpins that Total Leadership approach and also refers to the work of Herminia Ibarra – Author of the book Working Identity.
Taking the entrepreneurial plunge
Falguni speaks about the phase of life when she decided to become and entrepreneur after 25+ years post IIMA and after a successful run at Kotak. She also speaks about other businesses she considered (Professionalizing Nursing Homes, Creating a Market for second homes to name a couple) before proceeding with building out Nykaa.
Key choices that stand out
Rajat speaks about some of the choices he is proud to have made in his journey. He also reflects on choices that he wonders if he could have made differently, especially while transitioning into the next phase of his life after McKinsey.
When a promotion may not make sense
Michael speaks about how leaders could end up making a mistake by following the “default momentum” in their corporate journeys. He says that it is surprisingly easy to make yourself unhappy by the choices you make at senior levels. He talks about the need to pause and take stock of the opportunity even if it means that it is the natural rite of passage to the top of the organization.
Acting your way to new thinking
Herminia speaks about the criticality of not over-thinking around transitions and urges us to take actions which gives us new “material” for us to reflect on and move forward. She specifically urges us to craft experiments (try new activities and roles), shifting connections (find doors into new worlds) and making sense to rework our story.
Portfolio approach versus Full-time role
Herminia speaks about how leaders should think about choosing between a full time role and a portfolio where they take on a set of initiatives. She goes on to speak about the criticality of having an anchor around which we could build our identity which often happens by default when we work in a corporate context.
Operational, Personal and Strategic networks
Herminia speaks about the different networks that we need to bring to bear especially when we are in transition. She speaks about personal, operational and strategic networks and goes on to say that the first two often evolve by default but one needs to be deliberate about the third. She also speaks about how leaders need to think about acting like a bridge rather than as a hub where everything converges into the leader.
The perils of foreclosure
Herminia speaks about two dimensions – commitment and exploration – when leaders go through a transition. She speaks about how there is a tendency for leaders to commit to something too early and how that could lead to a suboptimal solution because they haven’t considered enough possibilities before they make a decision.
Role of the spouse
Herminia speaks about the role of the spouse in transitions and the criticality of aligning the transition strategy with them. Very often, implicitly they assume that you would plan your way and dive into an opportunity shortly after. They are often not mentally prepared to deal with the phase of exploration and experimentation that is often required before you make a choice of direction. She speaks about the importance of staying close to them and keeping them updated on the thinking process during a transition.
Physical trainer to Leadership Coach
Paddy speaks about the journey and the various steps he took as he moved from being the fitness trainer for the South African cricket team between 1994 and 1998 to becoming the Strategic Leadership and Mental Conditioning Coach (working closely with Gary Kirsten) of the Indian Cricket team between 2008 and 2011 (helping them win the World Cup in 2011).
Going on an inner journey
Paddy speaks about how he went on an internal journey over a period of time that gave him a deeper understanding of himself. He speaks about how he tried a range of things including mindfulness techniques, meditation, breath work and Yoga. He also speaks about how he attended several 2-3 day sessions including the Landmark Forum that gave him an opportunity to explore himself.
Choosing to stay in HUL
Sudhir speaks about why people in organizations like HUL provide an opportunity for people to pursue a career over the long term. He alludes to the quality of HR processes (specifically Career Management and Leadership Development) that keeps motivated through their journey. He also speaks about the criticality of early shared experiences in the field which builds a special culture and creates a camaraderie that keeps the cohort together as they grow in the organization.
Specialization versus Generalization
Sudhir speaks about why it is easier to grow a category than growing market share in a category. He also speaks about his experiences with Kissan to make the point about limited real estate in consumers’ minds and therefore suggests that brands should win where they are by solving unsolved problems in what they are doing well than going wide. He also goes on to speak about how he thought about his early career choices and his father’s influence in getting him to join HUL.
Core Competence versus Competitive Advantage
Sudhir speaks about the distinction between these two terms that could often be confused. He goes onto say that HUL’s core competence is the ability to understand consumer needs and giving brands to solve those needs. He goes on to say that its strength in some of the other areas like distribution might be a competitive advantage but that is not the “heart of the gig” it is in.
Building habits in the right areas
James speaks about the criticality of us understanding our genes and personality (the deck of cards we are dealt with) and ensuring that we play a game that is conducive to our natural wiring rather than get to a canvas which requires us to deviate significantly from what comes to us as second nature. He also speaks about the explore-exploit trade-off in the way we could think about going broad versus going narrow in a certain area.
From 3 stages to multiple stages
Lynda says that in the earlier paradigm, people made two transitions. Study to work and work to retire. And they made it in lock step, with the herd (peer cohort). In a multi-stage life, she says that we all make transitions at different points in time and that can be unnerving. She also speaks about the need to focus on recreation to ensure re-creation of our professional journeys.
The Power of Options
Lynda refers to the notion of options (as economists think about it) and speaks about the criticality of having multiple pursuits and adapt based on the waxing and waning of intensity levels of the various things we pursue. She also urges us to listen to the head and the heart when we go about making choices around careers.
Raj speaks about the valley of mid-life and how we can try to bring greater happiness by either job-crafting (look for adjacent spaces around what we do currently in our company), pursuing a vocation on the side that energizes us that could one day possibly become a profession and pick up a hobby or two that could give us a sense of meaning and bring happiness that we could take back to our work.
The S curve of personal disruption
Whitney speaks about the application of the Theory of Disruptive Innovation (Courtesy Late Clay Christiansen) as applied to Careers. She speaks about why going up and up on the same curve starts yielding diminishing returns and discusses how we can take a step back or sideways to slingshot ourselves into the next trajectory.
Picking the right S curve
Whitney speaks about how we all should think about the next S curve we could get onto in our journeys. She speaks to the notion of market risk versus competitive risk when it comes to identifying S curves. She goes onto say that the rewards are statistically better if we choose to identify a “job to be done” that is currently not being done or an unmet need.
Cutting our losses
Whitney speaks about the dilemma that a lot of face at the foot-hills of a new S curve. Should I persist with the pain or should I climb a different mountain. She speaks about the fact that even if we climb the right S curve, statistically, often, it is only a 36% chance of success which leaves us with a 64% chance of failure. She speaks about the 4 questions we need to ask ourselves to discern if we should persist or jump.
Venkat speaks about how he thinks about his vision – inculcating the spirit of giving in India. He sees it as a journey that gives him a sense of direction. He also speaks about how he derives from Bill Gates who says that if he has managed to solve a problem well, then the odds are people a few years down the line may not remember him. Not being remembered around an issue that exists today is possibly the best measure of somebody having addressed the issue.
Educating ourselves for the future
Ashish discusses his perspectives around how we should educate ourselves for the future. He speaks about STEM versus Liberal Arts and the role each plays in informing our mental models.
Planting seeds for the future
Ashish speaks about how he is seeding some initiatives that could possibly prove to be pathways for him in a few years. He speaks about his interest in Air Quality, China and Healthcare and how some of these experiments might pave the path for his next innings.
Are you a Taylor or a Morgan?
Ashley speaks about two broad archetypes in the world – Morgans (people who prioritize money) and Taylors (people who prioritize time). She speaks about how this impacts some of our daily choices and some of our macro choices. She goes onto say that interestingly enough Taylors often end up making more money than Morgans. She links it to how this is often impacted by our upbringing and the impact on our overall happiness levels.
Career choices in the future
Ashley speaks about implication of valuing time (as a Taylor) or money (as a Morgan) on how we make career choices. She speaks about how it is all the important for us to self-select ourselves into a career that we are intrinsically passionate about given that the paradigm is shifting from driving on a highway to navigating a maze.
Shaping one's journey
Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi speaks about how he has shaped his path and has made choices along the way. He speaks about how he has handled the various pulls and pressures to move in a certain direction to stay true to his purpose.
Dan expands on the phrase “Emotional Labour”. This the effort that a lot of us put in where we feel we are not being our true selves and have to put on a mask. He speaks about the connection between his work in the role of highlights reel and advances in neuroscience.
Perspectives on Navigating Career
Harish speaks about the navigational principles that he has used in his journey. He speaks about how we all could explore for 5-10 years and once we have some sense of what we enjoy and what our unique skills are, we start converging and going deeper in a certain area.
Deploying Time, Talent and Treasure
Lloyd speaks about how we all can take stock of our resources (Time, Talent and Treasures) to discover the greatest impact one can make as we go through our journey.
From Interest to Identity
Lloyd speaks about how we get interested in a certain topic or an area and how it slowly grows to becoming a part of our identity. He speaks about how we can look for some of the cues from the past to see how we can reflect on some of our experiences that move us and see if there is an opportunity to lean in towards any of those as we architect our lives.
Myth of the single choice
Sukhinder speaks about the myth of the hero’s journey that often goes along with several successful people. She also goes onto say that we think we make a few clean choices which drive our outcomes but it is a lot of the micro-choices that determine the shape of our journey. She speaks about some of the small choices and micro-risks that shape our destiny.
Embracing risk as a discovery process
Sukhinder speaks about the fact that we often make decisions once we have sized up all the risks and rewards. She says that “take risk and iterate” approach beats “plan and implement” as a strategy. She says that people feel that risk taking begins when we make a choice. She goes on to say that taking risks will ensure that we end up with the right kinds of choices.
Inside out or Outside In
Sukhinder speaks about the scene from the movie where Nemo’s father catches the East Australian Current to get to Sydney quickly to rescue his son. She speaks about how we can look for some of the tailwinds that can turbocharge our career and how we can marry that with our understanding of ourselves as we think about our career.
Going Deep Vs Broad
Sukhinder speaks about how we should think about going Broad initially to explore different pathways and then once we know our sweet spot, we should think about going deep in a certain space. Eventually, she speaks about how we should consider going broad to leverage the distinctive capabilities we have built-in a certain area and apply it in different contexts. She also speaks about how women sometimes prioritize specialization overgeneralization and how that can sometimes come in the way of CEO / GM roles that require breadth.
Extending the horizon
Dorie speaks about the time horizon with which we operate and says that if we are able to operate with a longer time horizons, the number of credible competitors around us drops significantly.
Deconstruction and Reconstruction - The 4 step process
Ayse speaks about her four step deconstruction and reconstruction process that she uses in Life Design. She uses the metaphor of a Chicken Soup to make the point about deriving inspiration to create a recipe that is unique to our life context. We connect the dots with an insight from Rama Bijapurkar in an earlier conversation where she speaks about how she drew inspiration from her role models.
Getting playful about Life Design
Ayse speaks about how it is critical for us to get playful when we think about coming up with ideas for Life Design. She speaks about some of the warm up exercise she conducts to get people in the right frame of mind.
Key choices post the Corporate path
Ravi speaks about some of the choices he has made post his corporate career spanning Cummins and Microsoft. He speaks about how he has thought about the portfolio of things that he has architected and how the portfolio has evolved over time. He also discusses how one could think about doing one thing versus pursuing a portfolio.
Serfoji and Social Development
Pradeep speaks about Serfoji and how he could have chosen a comfortable life but he decided to go ahead and commit his time and energy to various causes that led to the thriving of Thanjavur in those times.
More from Pradeep Chakravarthy
Regret - The photographic negative
We all are familiar with the phrase – No regrets! Dan speaks about why it may not be a good idea to say that we do not have regrets. In the book, he actually speaks about an individual who got a Tattoo that said “No Regrets” and subsequently regretted that! He compares Regret to a photographic negative and says that it might have useful information around what we truly care about.
Four Core Regrets
Dan speaks about the Four core regrets that often lie below the surface of the regrets which we often experience – Foundation regrets (I wish I had done the work to lay the foundation when I was younger), Boldness regrets (If only I had taken the chance), Moral regrets (I wish I had done the right thing), Connection regrets (If only I had reached out). He also speaks about how the regrets we have reveals something about the needs we might have.
Choices post financial independence
Ayelet speaks about how having clear goals can show us the path but our ability to stick to the path is determined by our intrinsic motivation in walking that journey and the joy we experience in it.
Key choices in the journey
Raghu speaks about some of his choices post his undergraduate degree from IIT Madras. He speaks about how he was influenced by the times he was in and the people he came in touch with (Student Revolutions around the world, Meeting Dharampal etc). He goes on to talk about how Dharampal urged him and some of his friends to spend a decade going deep in a subject before moving on to make a difference.
More from Raghu Ananthanarayanan
Doing versus Being
Raghu speaks about the distinction between DOING and BEING. He speaks about BEING as a regenerative process, something that heals and nurtures. He also speaks about the need for coherence between what we are doing and who we are being at various points in time and not resolving this is often at the root of what people often describe as a mid-life crisis.
More from Raghu Ananthanarayanan
Pausing to Reinvent
Michiel speaks about how he takes various retreats (3 days, 10 days, 6 months etc) at various points in time and how that often creates the space for new things to emerge.
The infiniteness of Purpose
Michiel speaks about how Ambition can be a finite resource which could empty at some point in time but Purpose can be a perennially replenishing driving force if we tune into it.