The questions lobbed across the table…
What impact do you want to have? And, on whom?
I sat, for a moment, like a dear in headlights.
After a year packed with media interviews, I have answers for pretty much every question. Good ones. Interview-crushing, soundbite-worthy ones. But, this wasn’t an interview. It was a friendly conversation in a quaint Indian restaurant on the middle of Long Island. There were no cameras, no microphones, no digital voice recorders…and I was stumped.
These two questions cut through all my prepared stuff and went straight for my psychic jugular.
“That’s exactly the exploration I’m in the middle of,” I responded, then began to lay out the litany of projects I’d explored since selling my last “real” company a year before and publishing Career Renegade in January.
The voice on the other side of the table was Srikumar Rao, former Columbia University B-School and LIU professor, Forbes contributing editor, author of Are You Ready to Succeed? and founder of Creativity and Personal Mastery Institute (CPMI). We’d been introduced days earlier by a mutual friend and discovered an immediate sense of connection on the phone, so we took it to the next level with lunch.
Actually, it’s more like mild dislike – hate. I love genuine tools, people and processes that guide you deeper into what matters and elicit change, but I hate that 99% of everything out there is repackaged hooey that adds very little to either the body of genuinely transformative work or the ability to have a very real, tangible impact on peoples’ lives. Which is, I think, why Srikumar and I connected.
He’s NOT full of crap…and I like that!
In his last book, Are You Ready to Succeed? (aff link), Rao is both authentic and transparent. You’d think he was a blogger, but apparently a few others outside social media operate under this same ethic. Who knew?
Rather than taking credit for the contents, he readily shares that much of the wisdom is drawn not only from his years in big business and teaching, but from the cumulative experience of thought and spiritual leaders and philosophers over thousands of years, many from Eastern traditions. His contribution is more on the side of “Westernizing” and synthesizing them into a coherent “system” or approach, complete with lessons, ideas, processes and exercises.
My conversation with Rao and subsequent reading of his book pushed a lot of buttons in me.
Some of what he shares is easy to digest and accept, other elements push the boundaries of what I’d call verifiable science. But, what I love about that part of his teachings is that he doesn’t require blind faith. Indeed, he simply asks for you to suspend judgment while you try what he suggests and let the outcomes leave you persuaded or not. I also like that his approach and the entire course were developed not as an info-product, but as part of the curriculum of two different universities and they’ve been tested and validated by hundreds of exceptionally accomplished, high-level executives. Also, a friend who I consider really smart raved about it.
But, let’s get back to lunch…
As my conversation with Srikumar went on, we compared a lot of notes on writing, speaking, passions and future plans, but my head kept circling back to his earlier questions.
What impact did I want to have? And, on whom?
Truth be told, I’m still having trouble honing in on the answer. Amazing opportunities lay in front of me. I’ve worked insanely hard to open a lot of doors over the last year. But, I’ve also hesitated more than I’m comfortable with. Not, because I don’t know what makes me come alive or am disconnected from my passions. But, because often times deciding between options is more difficult than identifying one.
And, I’m not yet convinced there is a single, quantifiable group of people I want or need to choose between.
But, I’m also not convinced I can have the depth of impact I want when I’m playing too many games at once.
So, we moved the conversation over to Rao’s vision for his work. A shift that was actually instigated when I turned the same two questions back on him. And got an immediate, laser-focused response. He is wildly passionate about and fully committed to fundamentally changing the way people, very often at the highest levels, experience work. His message is well defined, his audience is crystal clear and his vehicle is his Creativity and Personal Mastery course.
The more we spoke, the more I wanted to experience his course myself.
In part, to know this new friend better. But also because I wanted to see if I’ve really been deluding myself into thinking I can keep catering to a variety of communities and still have the impact I want to have. And, I want to have a better answer to the two impact questions. One with the same laser focus and commitment that’d just poured out of Rao’s mouth. Which is why I was thrilled when he asked, “would you like to do the course?”
Turns out, Rao is offering the Creativity and Personal Mastery course in NYC from February to April.
In fact, just this morning, he shared this may be the last time it’s offered outside of more of a private enterprise-level business setting. Here’s a link with all the details (download the syllabus at the bottom) . FYI – it’s called a course, because, as I mentioned, it’s not a one-off event (aka pitchfest), but a nearly 3-month course, one that until recently was taught at Columbia University’s graduate school of business and Long Island University as well as privately to a small army of top-level execs.
I spent some time reading through the detailed syllabus and was a bit mesmerized.
Here’s the overview from Rao’s website:
This is a course on “creativity”, about the human mind and its immense potential and how you can harness it to achieve your own ends and whether those ends are worth achieving. To reach any major goal you will probably need the help of others, so we will study leadership and the qualities of a leader. Most of all, this course is designed to help you discover your unique purpose for existence. At the very least it will get you started on this quest.
The exercises prescribed are drawn from varied disciplines and many have their roots in different ancient traditions. These exercises produce results and have been used and refined by such eminently hard-nosed bodies as the United States Armed Forces and trainers of Olympic athletes. The course also deals explicitly with issues such as developing personal values, ethics, integrity and achieving mastery. A particular focus is the understanding and resolving of conflicts between personal values and workplace actions.
I’m in, working on my application as we speak…
But, you guys know I’m always thinking of you. So, I asked Rao, “hey listen, I know you only have around 20 seats for the February program in NYC, but I have thousands of readers around the NYC area and they are an amazingly thoughtful community of people. Any chance I could persuade you to offer them an Awake@TheWheel discount?”
Why don’t we do this, he said…
Tell your readers they may deduct $1,000 from the tuition (provided there are still seats available) if they register for the NYC program, email their applications directly to me (his email’s on the application) and mention they came from you.
So, I’m passing this on to you now.
I’ll be there, diving into the experience, setting up my 2010 to break out on an extraordinarily high level. Would love to share the experience with you if you’re game.
Even if you can’t make it, do yourself a favor and spend some time asking not what you want to do in 2010, but;
- What impact do I want to have? And…
- On whom?
And, if you have the answer, I’d love to hear more in the comments below…
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