“Will power alone is not enough. You need systematic analysis of the situation when getting rid of bad habits and learning good ones like dieting”, says Sarah, our new Health and Wellness director here at Next Jump. This was what resonated with her the most about this last month’s CEO Talk by Dr. Srikumar Rao, former business school professor and the creator of Creativity and Personal Mastery.
Dr. Srikumar Rao’s effect on the audience was immediate. With a booming voice and a personality so disarmingly phlegmatic, Dr. Rao started off by asking the audience to imagine themselves in a car during rush hour being late for an important meeting and predict their behavior and interactions as a guy cuts them off in traffic. What was profound was watching people’s reactions to the scenario change from anger to one of understanding and pity when told to assume that the driver who cut them off was hurrying to visit his son fighting death at a hospital. Before he had even explained his ideas, he had made the audience experience them. That can only be a mark of a great speaker.
The one thing that stood out about Dr. Rao’s talk on mental models was how they dictate every reaction and feeling one has towards their experiences. As Michael Hirth, an engineer from the New York office put it, Dr. Rao “had a lot of good insights applicable beyond the workplace, even in day to day life”.
During the course of the hour, Dr.Rao had wisely moved on to making us all understand how our mental models and mental chatter were keeping us from looking at things from a bird’s eye point of view. According to Dr.Rao, every interaction, every experience, every act we perform is based on the world we think we live in - the mental model of the actual world. Mental chatter that goes on in our heads is what drives us to say or do things the way we do them. This restricts us from looking at things from a different perspective. This revelation struck a chord in most of us, as I learned later during water-cooler conversations.
Natalie who works in the London office was no different from the rest of the company when it came to enjoying the talk and the message. She loved the video of the “Humming Bird” that continued to do its part in putting out a forest fire despite being tiny. She agreed with the speaker on the ideas of mental models and mental chatter and how they can be tweaked to help one lead a good life.
One of the key things from the talk that raised eyebrows was Dr.Rao’s idea of taking a process-oriented approach to everything as opposed to a goal-oriented approach. He was very vocal about how goals tend to constrict our thinking and keep us from looking at the big picture. He argued that once you achieve goals, the joy of the journey is often forgotten. This kind of emphasis on the goal may lead to brief moments of happiness but leaves us with an unsatisfied yearning after the journey ends. Unlike Natalie who agreed with the speaker on how her over-focusing on the goal was slowing her down, Sarah was not in complete agreement. While Natalie saw how goals can set us in one path alone, Sarah believed that goals help motivate people to act and do great things.
As a Next Jumper in her first week, the CEO Talk was one of many interesting first experiences at Next Jump for the new Health and Wellness Director. She got the opportunity to meet Next Jumpers from all offices who had come to New York to be a part of the traditional Next Jump holiday party and dance competition. In her words, “friends don’t believe me when I told them what I have experienced so far”.
Like every other CEO Talk, Dr.Srikumar Rao’s succeeded in entertaining and teaching us how to make life better for oneself and others. In the end, what Dr.Rao left us with was the idea that we are all part of a greater cause and it is up to us to realize that sooner in life and work for it, and the way we do it is by taking control of our mental chatter and being positive as much as possible. As Dr. Rao put it, “We may not control what happens but we can definitely control what we feel about it.”