Nuggets from Avnish Bajaj
Dealing with failure
Confused about listening to your heart or your head? We all face those crossroads in life and Amish did too, especially while facing initial rejections from publishers. Dealing with failure, enlisting support, recognising what works for you and ultimately making it work for you: Amish touches upon these important themes in this nugget.
Perspectives on Resilience
Vijay discusses how he has dealt with challenging moments when he was on court. He talks about navigating forks in the road where you often have to choose between low risk and decent outcomes and high risk with a potential of making it big. He shares an insight from Billy Jean King who says “Every challenge is an opportunity and pressure is a privilege”. He discusses the frame of mind with which one could approach such crucial moments.
Grit can be defined as ‘courage and resolve; strength of character’- something we all need to live our lives and face successes and failures. Raghu says, “We all have the DNA to create that reservoir of strength.” Hear him talk about the elements of grit and how an organization can create an environment to foster it.
Building the Grit muscle
Viren talks about where he (and some of the athletes OGQ works with) gets his strength during difficult times. There is enough and more research (if interested, please look up Angela Duckworth’s book Grit) on the role of Grit and performance. He specifically alludes to the need for having clarity of why people do what they do in the context of building that muscle.
Harsh realities of Entrepreneurship
It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted. Avnish talks about how the need for resilience is intellectually understood but not fully internalized till events happen. He talks about how entrepreneurs could build that capability. He also talks about how he has been influenced by Rudyard Kipling's poem IF.
Being tenacious through the transition
Transitioning from one path to another is not easy. We often celebrate individuals after they have demonstrated success. But we often miss the iceberg that is below the sea surface. Atul talks about how he persisted through multiple hurdles when he transitioned from studying Chemical Engineering to pursue photography.
Building an anti-fragile culture
Dheeraj talks about the parallels across the fragility spectrum (that Nassim Nicholas Taleb refers to in his book Anti-Fragile) and the Honesty spectrum (that Mike Robbins refers to) and talks about the similarities across the two. He discusses how he has gone about building authenticity and anti-fragility in every aspect of the business.
Dealing with losses
Vishy discusses his approach to dealing with losses. He candidly talks about how his approach to dealing with losses has not changed significantly over time. He talks about how he tries to clear the baggage of the past to ensure that he is fully present on the Chess Board at any point in time. He also discusses about how Chess is like other disciplines such as Science and History where you are often standing on the shoulders of giants in the context of discovering the next breakthrough.
Identifying and unlocking potential
Vishy talks about what he looks for when he is looking for long-term potential. He talks about the criticality of consistency in performance coupled with an attitude where someone is willing to grind away at a goal. He also discusses the success of academies that have produced a pipeline of talent and juxtaposes that with examples of a Roger Federer emerging from Switzerland or a Magnus Carlsen emerging from Norway.
Dealing with shocks
Meher talks about how she and her mother (Anu Aga) dealt with the sudden loss of her father and her brother within a span of a few months. She talks about how they got the strength to deal with the loss and the soul-searching she went through to come to terms with it. She talks about the criticality of gratitude and cherishing the relationships that matter when people are still alive and the importance of not having the guilt that you didn’t give it what you could.
Maggi crisis and decoding resilience
Suresh talks about how he took charge when he came back to India during the Maggi crisis. He talks about how he prioritized the various elements of the business and how he spent time for the first 6-9 months. He also shares his views on where he got his strength and what it takes to build resilience in the organization while dealing with a shock.
Jay talks about what the bad days in politics look like. He talks about how easy it is for people to assign motives when you have none. He also talks about the good days when some of your ideas take hold and people see you as an individual who championed that change.
Early formative years
Roopa talks about how she grew up amidst nature in the North Eastern part of India and how some of her perspectives on working women started getting shaped right from an age of around 10\. She also talks about her first brush with Mumbai when she comes to pursue a B.Com in Sydenham College but quickly find the city overwhelming and goes back to Guwahati to pursue B.Sc in Mathematics. She also talks about the peculiar situation where despite clearing the entrance process for IIMA, she is unable to join. She decides to teach in a primary school and appears for CAT yet again.
Managing time, unfettered curiosity and resilience
Vinay talks about Narasimha Rao spent his time at various points in his career. More specifically, he breaks down the pie chart of time across different phases - when you are campaigning, when you are in power and when you are in opposition. He talks about how Narasimha Rao had unfettered curiosity that helped him indulge his curiosity when he was in opposition which helped him evolve as a person but also ensured that he did not make any hasty decisions in the short-term out of anxiety that would hurt him in the long run.
Staying relevant through transitions
Vinay talks about how Narasimha Rao stayed relevant through the various transitions that he went through in his journey. He also talks about how he learns and grows when he did not gets a transition wrong. He also talks about how Narasimha Rao re-invented himself when Congress moved from the Indira Gandhi phase to the Rajiv Gandhi where the core group had several people from an Oxbridge background (far from Narasimha Rao’s comfort zone).
Dealing with two possible fatalities
Deepa recounts her twin-ordeal in 1999\. Her husband was fighting in the Kargil war and she was anxious about his well-being. At the same time she had a tumour in her back that worsened which got her to a point where she had to make the choice between leading a normal life and facing a high probability of death or going for surgery to improve her odds of living but in a wheel-chair. She discusses how she navigated this passage of play.
Rebounding from a near-death event
Deepa talks about the mindset with which she took stock of life when she had chest-below paralysis and had to recalibrate her approach to her activities, schedule, relationships and aspirations. She talks about how she developed a sense of gratitude for what she had and how she and her family chose happiness. She also talks about how her hobbies enabled her to immerse herself into an activity and bring happiness to her life.
Getting people comfortable with the context
Deepa shares her thoughts on the trade-off between seen as a “different person” versus being seen as just another individual who can do most of the things that a regular person can. She talks about how it is about her taking the onus and putting the other person at ease rather than expecting the other person to react to her situation. She says “if I am OK with it, they are OK with it”.
Deepa talks about what gives her the resilience to deal with difficult situations and how people can build that muscle. She talks about the criticality of moving from a “wallowing in the problem” mindset to a solutioning approach where you think about how you want to drive change and be the change.
3 levels of resilience
Rich speaks about three levels of resilience – Inner calm, Emotional Resilience and Cognitive Resilience. He talks about the example of Captain Sully Sullenberger (who miraculously landed the plane on the Hudson river after his plane was hit by birds after taking off from LaGuardia) to talk about how calm and composed he was and stayed present during the ~3 minutes he had between the bird hit and when he landed the plane.
Cross-border transitions are always hard and often involve multiple variables. Avnish talks about the context in which he took the plunge from a lucrative career with Goldman Sachs to return to India with nothing concrete in hand.
Backing an entrepreneur
Apart from being an academician, Kartik is also an active entrepreneur and invests and mentors start ups. So who better to ask, how does one pick an idea to back? Kartik elaborates on three main skills he looks at before deciding to support an idea or a person.
Building an entrepreneurial culture
Organizations love to grow yet want to retain the entrepreneurial culture that nurtures innovation. What is the one thing that Kartik looks at to figure out if an organization has an entrepreneurial culture or not? Find out in this nugget. Hint: Don’t miss the anecdote about a major competitive advantage that Pixar has cultivated and fine tuned which has led to its unprecedented success in the movie business.
Hyper-development of a leader in a Start-Up
Start-ups often grow at a rate faster than the rate at which people build the leadership muscle. This leads to the risk that your job may outgrow you. Hence, it is imperative to keep growing as a person and as a leader. Ravi lays down three aspects you should focus on in order to grow with the times and your organization.
Selecting the right co-founder(s)
Nandan talks about one of the seminal choices that entrepreneurs often have to make - Selecting a Co-Founder. He provides his thoughts around what they should bear in mind in this process. He also talks about what it takes to make the relationship work over a prolonged period of time.
Running a start-up inside the Govt.
Nandan talks about how the Government is fundamentally different from the Private sector in terms of how financial and human capital decisions are made. He talks about he thought about navigating those constraints to drive to the outcomes he had committed. He also talks about a couple of mistakes leaders often make in transitions.
Entrepreneurial pursuits beyond photography
We often have to reinvent ourselves along the way as we go through our career. There are variuos trigger points where our priorities change and market opportunities change. Atul shares his perspectives around how he has managed to go beyond Photography to venture into new domains. He shares a piece of feedback that one of his friends provides which paved the way to a new possibility.
Picking Founders effectively
Backing the right founders is a combination of a science and an art. How do you back an entrepreneur who has the conviction arond his idea but is also amenable to input. At the stage of Venture Investing, a big part of value creation is often around getting this judgment right on the Founder. Karthik talks about what he looks for during investing.
Building leadership capability in entrepreneurs
Staying relevant is one of the key challenges that is facing the leaders of this generation. A few decades back, they could check into a career on graduation and check-out at retirement. Pramath talks about how leaders (entrepreneurs and otherwise) should think about scaling up their capability as they go through their journey.
Relationship between Co-founders and Company
Dheeraj talks about how the relationship between him, the co-founders and the company has evolved over a period of time. He also talks about 4As (Antifragility, Authenticity, Ambition, Attention to detail) which are at the core of how he looks at himself and others he works with.
Evolving as a leader with the company
Dheeraj talks about how he looks at the company like a combination of multiple sub-companies that are building, scaling and maintaining all concurrently. He discusses the notion of arcs of destruction and pursuing multiple arcs at various stages of maturity.
Leadership Development in a turbo-charged environment
Dheeraj talks about how he thinks about evolving as a leader and discusses the criticality of breathing and staying present even during challenging times. He describes his approach to pause and remind himself of the key elements that are core to him and his effectiveness. An interesting insight in the context of the overloaded lives that a lot of leaders are living.
Creating the conditions to create
Tarun makes the case for why it is critical for entrepreneurs in developing economies to build trust in their local economies. He contrasts the differences between a start up in Boston and its counterpart in Bangalore, Bogota or Beijing. Given the relative differences in maturity of institutions that provide support and the depth of talent in some of the associated areas, entrepreneurs starting up in emerging economies might have to deal with a lot of friction and Tarun makes the case for building trust for it to act as a lubricant in those circumstances.
Leadership in Emerging Markets
Tarun talks in detail about the mind-set with which entrepreneurs need to think about creating the conditions to create. He talks about the example of Charles Shao and how he battled the decline in trust in the milk industry in China. He discusses how Charles gave away IP (which seemed counter-intuitive in the short run) to widen the profit pools of the industry as a whole and thereby improve the outcomes of his business.
Origins of SIY
Rich talks about the origins of the Search Inside Yourself programme. It started out as a quest for Googlers looking for a solution to stay agile and resilient while you are on a “rocket-ship”. He also goes on to talk about how SIY brings in wisdom from multiple domains ranging across Neuroscience, Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence to help people develop a new kind of intelligence that enables them to cope with the roller-coaster ride of a tech driven company
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.
Rewiring the leadership approach
Falguni speaks about the key shifts that she has made to her leadership style as she moved from a Senior Leadership role in an institution like Kotak to starting Nykaa from the ground. She specifically refers to the poem Ithaka that had daughter had shared with her at that point. It talks about the criticality of focusing on the journey than the destination.