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ET-102: Walking the Tightrope of Life: Overcoming Fear and Embracing Courage

With Mr. Utkarsh Narang

ET-102: A conversation with Mr. Utkarsh Narang

and your host Wayne Brown on May 21, 2024

Episode notes: A conversation with Mr. Utkarsh Narang

Hello and welcome to the ET Project. I’m your host, Wayne Brown, and as usual, we’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET. 

Today, we’re in Melbourne, Australia. And chatting with our guest, Mr. Utkarsh Narang, the founder and CEO of IgnitedNeurons. Utkarsh is on a mission to help managers become future leaders for the world. He’s a learning consultant and an accomplished coach on the path to achieving his ICFPCC accreditation, having over 1000 hours of coaching experience. 

With a career spanning 17 years across healthcare, leadership and e-learning, Utkarsh has led numerous cross domain teams in both tech startups as well as large scale client projects for Fortune 500 companies. His career started as a physiotherapist back in 2007, before moving into filming and editing in 2013, then to scaling a startup and leading sales in 2017, and now since 2020 with his company helping individuals and teams outperform themselves.

Here is an extract from our conversation as we start to get into it…

And asking that question led me to meeting a professor at Columbia Business School in New York. And they were doing something amazing, which was, they were trying to film video lectures at that time. And this was back in 2012, Wayne, when Coursera and Udemy were just kind of born. And so they were filming lectures in the classroom and they were putting that into a platform and sending it across to executives and corporates in the world and telling them, how do you become a better leader? And I thought, like, this is fascinating. This would help me achieve my dream of touching lives across the world. And so I met the founder and they hired me for some reason, which I am attributing to my confidence in that moment when I met them…

Today’s Guest: MR. UTKARSH NARANG

Utkarsh holds certifications as a happiness coach from the Berkeley Institute of Wellbeing, and as a neurolinguistic programming NLP coach. He serves as an executive coach at BetterUp and TorchIO, as well as other Silicon Valley startups, catering to executives globally. 

Notable clients of his coaching include LinkedIn, Infosys, MakeMyTrip, Zynga Games, Salesforce and The Lego Group. Team ET, you’ll hear during our conversation that we go deep into Utkarsh’s TED Talk and a word that was foreign to me until this discussion, a funambulist. Listening to learn more about what that means. We also speak about change, growth mindset, values, curiosity, fear and courage. 

This is a wide ranging discussion that you’re sure to take a lot from. So please join Utkarsh and I as we tackle the topic of how we can all become better managers and leaders, one step at a time. 

And Utkarsh’s message, “A spark is a little thing, yet it may kindle the world.” Let’s work together and ignite that spark within.

Final words from Utkarsh:

There’s this abbreviation or slang that is YOLO, which the first time someone used it for me, Y-O-L-O, I had no idea what it meant. And they told me, “Utkarsh, you only live once.” That’s what it means, Y-O-L-O. You only live once. And I’m like, “No, I don’t agree with that. I only would die once. I get to live every single day of my life.” 

And that’s what life is all about. So don’t let the sorrows of yesterday remove the sunshine from your today, whether it’s a cloudy day in Melbourne or where you’re in Singapore, Wayne. Wherever we are, let’s find joy. And I’m an eternal optimist, who when I’m sitting and eating a banana, I find like, “What joy having this banana that has this sweetness in it?” So just find joy wherever you are, and be courageous, embrace your fear. 

And it’s a beautiful journey on the tightrope that we’re all getting to live today…

0:00:05.1 Wayne Brown: Hello, I’m your host, Wayne Brown, and welcome to the ET Project. We’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world, whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET. And today, we’re in Melbourne, Australia. And chatting with our guest, Mr. Utkarsh Narang, the founder and CEO of IgnitedNeurons. Utkarsh is on a mission to help managers become future leaders for the world. He’s a learning consultant and an accomplished coach on the path to achieving his ICFPCC accreditation, having over 1000 hours of coaching experience. With a career spanning 17 years across healthcare, leadership and e-learning, Utkarsh has led numerous cross domain teams in both tech startups as well as large scale client projects for Fortune 500 companies. His career started as a physiotherapist back in 2007, before moving into filming and editing in 2013, then to scaling a startup and leading sales in 2017, and now since 2020 with his company helping individuals and teams outperform themselves.

0:01:13.2 WB: Utkarsh holds certifications as a happiness coach from the Berkeley Institute of Wellbeing, and as a neurolinguistic programming NLP coach. He serves as an executive coach at BetterUp and TorchIO, as well as other Silicon Valley startups, catering to executives globally. Notable clients of his coaching include LinkedIn, Infosys, MakeMyTrip, Zynga Games, Salesforce and The Lego Group. Team ET, you’ll hear during our conversation that we go deep into Utkarsh’s TED Talk and a word that was foreign to me until this discussion, a funambulist. Listening to learn more about what that means. We also speak about change, growth mindset, values, curiosity, fear and courage. This is a wide ranging discussion that you’re sure to take a lot from. So please join Utkarsh and I as we tackle the topic of how we can all become better managers and leaders, one step at a time. And Utkarsh’s message, “A spark is a little thing, yet it may kindle the world.” Let’s work together and ignite that spark within.

0:02:25.8 Speaker 2: Welcome to the ET project, a podcast for those executive talents determined to release their true potential and create an impact. Join our veteran coach and mentor, Wayne Brown as we unpack an exciting future together.

0:02:43.5 WB: Welcome Team ET. Today we’re embarking on a journey with our guest Utkarsh Narang, and we’re going to be discussing a number of topics that we’re both quite passionate about and committed to within the work that we perform, starting with our baseline of acknowledging that we exist in a world of constant change, and therefore we need to embody a growth mindset, where perhaps curiosity and learning become our parallel constants and help us transform and adapt. I’m guessing based on our initial conversation with Utkarsh, that our conversation probably going to take us down the path of personal values, and I’m hoping that we’re gonna get to Utkarsh’s TED Talk, which is titled, “Can Fear Push Us to Be Courageous?” And Utkarsh used a really interesting word. I believe it comes from somewhere and I’m sure we’ll talk about it, but it’s funambulist, funambulist. So, Team ET overall you’re probably guessing already that we’re gonna be asking the question, “How can we become better managers and leaders?” throughout this conversation. So Utkarsh, I’m excited to dive into the conversation. Welcome to the ET project.

0:04:00.8 Utkarsh Narang: Absolutely. Thanks so much, Wayne. I’m looking forward to this conversation. And you’ve given a very beautiful brief to our conversation because it touches upon the word funambulist. It touches upon fear and it touches upon how you become a better manager and leader. So I’m sure that the people who listen to it to the end will have some beautiful insights. I would highly recommend that if they sit down with something where they can scribble certain points, because to me, podcasts, unless you listen to them and apply something out of them, they are just knowledge that’s out there in the world. You need to practice it to make it happen for yourself. So that’s my only guidance and looking forward to the conversation, Wayne [laughter]

0:04:41.3 WB: No, excellent advice. Thank you for that. But first things first, you’re living in my home country in Australia, and you’re based in Melbourne, so I have to ask, how’s the weather been? I can imagine it’s starting to get a little bit chilly.

0:04:57.0 UN: It is, it is. It is about… It was seven degrees in the morning, in Celsius, for those who understand that. But yeah, it’s a cold day today, Wayne. And since we’ve been here only 13 or 14 months now. When we came here, people used to tell us that you could have four seasons in a single day in Melbourne. And I used to tell them, “You’ve gotta be kidding me. How is it possible that you could have a summer day and a winter day on the same day?” But that’s what Melbourne gives you. And it almost keeps you on your toes and you would’ve experienced it. I’m sure about that.

0:05:28.5 WB: Together with the wind and the rain, the sun and the heat, and the cold weather. Absolutely.

0:05:35.2 UN: Yeah.

0:05:37.3 WB: People are probably already able to tell that your accent, and you mentioned you’ve only been there, you know, less than a couple of years. So I wonder if you’d mind filling in a little bit of the blanks, and where you hail from, some of the adventures that you’ve been on that have helped shape your story.

0:05:55.2 UN: Perfect. This will be a little bit of a monologue but I will try and keep this interesting so that our users can… Our listeners can stay on the edges of their seats. So it’s been four decades on this beautiful planet, almost there. And the first significant part was back home in Delhi, India. Born and brought up there to parents who are doctors and my mom, a PhD and a professor. And so since the very beginning, they always told me that you gotta study hard, you gotta become a doctor, because that’s what happens in India. And at least 30 odd years ago, if you’re born to parents who are doctors, you gotta be a doctor. If you’re born to parents who are engineers or lawyers, the same path gets opened up for you. And these ideas of being a leader, being a YouTuber, being a photographer, an artist, a musician, were far fetched at that time.

0:06:46.4 WB: Right.

0:06:47.4 UN: And so I went on that path. I ended up doing my masters in orthopedic physiotherapy, and I was a doctor a couple of decades ago. I spent about seven years building my private practice in my hometown, Delhi, India. It was an adventurous journey. I had three clinics, they were all doing really well, but this question, Wayne, always kind of bothered me that What’s gonna be my larger impact on the planet? And it started to seem like I’m this little frog in a well for whom the well itself is like the biggest water body, the expansive water body that’s gonna see. And that did not sit well with me. And so I kept asking this question, where do I push myself? Where do I push myself? 

0:07:29.6 WB: Right? 

0:07:29.9 UN: And asking that question led me to meeting a professor at Columbia Business School in New York. And they were doing something amazing, which was, they were trying to film video lectures at that time. And this was back in 2012, Wayne, when Coursera and Udemy were just kind of born.

0:07:46.5 UN: And so they were filming lectures in the classroom and they were putting that into a platform and sending it across to executives and corporates in the world and telling them, how do you become a better leader? And I thought, like, this is fascinating. This would help me achieve my dream of touching lives across the world. And so I met the founder and they hired me for some reason, which I am attributing to my confidence in that moment when I met them. And then from 2013 to ’20, I spent eight years living in India, but continuously traveling between the US and India and got an opportunity to work with Fortune 500 companies. Built the leadership content for that institute over the first four years, got into sales and operations and part of me was like, I’ll be 85 and I’ll still be working with that institute because I love that organization a lot.

0:08:38.5 UN: And I had seen the team as the second employee, and I’d seen the team grow to about 40 to 45. But when the pandemic hit, that opened up a new frontier, right? Where I thought like, what more is possible with life? Because what if COVID takes my life away? And it was a very challenging time for many but also a time of change as Wayne, you and I are speaking about change for many. And so that’s when I paused my corporate life with that institute and I dived into building this company called IgnitedNeurons. So that’s the journey till now. And I’m gonna give like little pause so that if you have any follow up questions, we can dive into that before we move forward.

0:09:18.2 WB: Well, I have a lot that we’ll try and limit them as well. So you mentioned sort of pausing and I guess looking at your higher purpose or looking at, you know, what else is there that I’m going to leave behind as a legacy? Is that essentially what you were thinking at the time? 

0:09:39.2 UN: I would say at that time. Wayne it was more about what will give me the highest amount of joy right now.

0:09:45.0 WB: Okay.

0:09:45.3 UN: Because for me, it’s very hard to imagine that I can imagine a life at 45, at 55 at 75, because I mean, I can only live in this moment. Right. And if folks can go and listen to the Redx talk, there’s an experiment that I do there, Wayne? Which I’m gonna do with you right now. Wayne, what’s the time where you’re at right now? 

0:10:06.1 WB: The time right now is 7:38 in the morning.

0:10:11.5 UN: So it’s 7:38 in the morning, Wayne.

0:10:13.6 WB: 7:38.

0:10:13.9 UN: What will you be thinking, Wayne, in about 14 minutes from now? And I want you to predict the exact thought.

[laughter]

0:10:21.2 WB: Well, Utkarsh, I’ve listened to your TED talk, so I know, I know the experiment and of course I can’t predict it.

0:10:31.2 UN: Yeah. And so that’s the hypothesis, right? That we cannot predict the thought that’s gonna cross our very own mind in 14 minutes from now. And here we are trying to predict the future and trying to say that AI is gonna take over the world and try to say that I’ll be a billion dollar worth person in 10 years from now, and we cannot do that. And so even when I was planning to move from physiotherapy to something else, or planning to move from my filming and operations to something else, I was thinking more of the moment. But it was very in depth and rooted deeply in the values that I have and continue to evolve on those. And so that’s what kind of my understanding of life became, that if I can find a way to express my values every single day in the right way, that the results will take care of themselves and I can live in the present and the future will be beautiful.

0:11:20.6 WB: Nice. Very nice. I’m curious what took you then to Melbourne? So I’m guessing that it was the trigger somehow that opened up this corridor for you to ship to Australia.

0:11:35.8 UN: Yeah. So, shifting to Australia, this was back in 2021 when during the second wave of COVID, we had an opportunity as a family to go to the US where my sister lives. We spent about three months with her. And then we saw the difference in the quality of air, quality of life and other things that some of the world countries outside of India were providing. And it was not that you wanna take the leap because I am to my heart and core a very proud Indian. And I love that country. I go back to India multiple times a year. But then over the years, my wife had a private practice back home in India Wayne, and leading a team of 15, serving kids with special needs. So she and I met in college.

0:12:22.0 UN: And I often say that the best thing that came out of college for me was my wife and not my degree. But she was feeling a lot of stress and strain from what was happening around her. And she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a condition where almost all joints and muscles of your body pain unexplainably. So, and that made us feel like if we could change the environment for her, that might be a valuable leap to take. And yes, there was again, risk that what if we change the environment, but things still continue to go down. But I think we were willing to take that risk because it was the fear of losing a loved one that allowed us to be courageous and…

0:13:06.7 UN: And the universe plans in mysterious ways, Wayne, because this was back in, 2022 when, someone on LinkedIn reached out to my wife that we have a job offer for you in Melbourne. And, at that time it seemed too good to be true, but she persisted on that path. And, here we are, two years later, calling this beautiful city, Melbourne and Australia, a beautiful country, our home. So that’s been the journey.

0:13:31.6 WB: IgnitedNeurons. I love the name of your company. What is it you do through the business? What are you doing to support that cool name? 

0:13:42.7 UN: So the whole idea, Wayne, is that, ultimately it’s a mindset that drives everything for us in life. And we can try to be a great leader, a great manager, a great business person, but ultimately it all starts by being a great human being. And so how you perceive life’s challenges, how you understand yourself, how you connect with your values, and then go out and serve the world, that’s the whole mission that IgnitedNeurons is on. Our purpose is to help managers become future leaders. And we do that through coaching and workshops and webinars and all that is needed as a learning development consultancy. But there’s also the other side, which I thoroughly enjoy, is producing content for social media. So if folks can find me on different platforms, they could either search the name of the company, and I’m pretty sure you’ll put all the links in the description. But helping others just live a life that’s more intentional and built with a higher amount of awareness. That’s the big thing that we wanna achieve through IgnitedNeurons. And all that happens when new neurons get connected in your brain and you do things that are beautiful and meaningful. So that’s in short, the purpose of IgnitedNeurons.

0:14:55.4 WB: Excellent. Looking at the company website you have a few things on there that jumped out to me. You use the infinity symbol as part of your philosophy, I guess, about where your client sits within that infinity symbol. And would you like to explain that a little bit? 

0:15:16.2 UN: Absolutely. And you’ve done very thoughtful research. I really appreciate that, Wayne. So this idea came up, during a flight that I was taking, going from Melbourne, to Delhi. But I was trying to figure out, what is it that represents human life in a very beautiful way? And the symbol of infinity came to mind because it joins at the center, but then it stretches to the left and the right. And how much it stretches is a choice that we all as human beings have. And so how we see this is that if we visualize, and I’m making it, if people are listening to this, I’m making a infinity sign right now, and at the center of that infinity sign where the two parts intersect or collide, that’s where you are sitting as a human being, as a team, as an organization.

0:16:03.9 UN: And the sides, the left and the right, they’re two expansive sides of you. So, for example Utkarsh as a family person, in his personal life, but as a professional in his work to his coaches, to his clients, and these two identities almost. But I gotta be true to myself, which at the center, to be doing justice to these two sides. And it is my choice and completely my choice, how much I wanna stretch each side. And so that’s the whole philosophy behind this infinity sign. And I truly believe, and this is something that, when I started coaching, and when I was training to become a coach, my mentor told me that, there’s this one principle that we follow that whenever a coachee walks into a conversation they have infinite potential, they know the way they know their answers. And it’s only our job as coaches and supporters to help them find those answers. And I think the human wisdom to me is infinite. And I often say that the future does not, the future will not be controlled by artificial intelligence, but by how human intelligence interacts with artificial intelligence and builds upon it.

0:17:18.1 WB: On the website, you also talk about that you follow a process called the Five Cs, Converse, Challenge, Co-create, Commit, Calculate. So how do you apply that? 

0:17:30.7 UN: Yeah. So when we walk into a client conversation Wayne, I’m not gonna say that I’m the expert here and I’m gonna give you a toolkit or a learning intervention that’s gonna change your organization and solve everything that you’re trying to solve for. But as I’m gonna walk in, there’s gonna be a beautiful conversation. And I was speaking to a client yesterday and they were sharing a very massive challenge that their organization of 2100 people is facing right now. And I use the word that is a beautiful challenge so and so. Instead of Utkarsh, I don’t know about the word beautiful yet, all I’m seeing is a challenge. But that’s what I told her, that if we start to look at this as a beautiful challenge, have that conversation where I can get to understand you really well, then that’s step one.

0:18:14.7 UN: Step two would be that where we start to challenge you, that there could be a new way of looking at that problem. There could be a very human way of looking at, that problem. And Wayne, one of my values that maybe, we’ll speak about those as well. One of my values is love that if I’m being present here to this conversation with you, Wayne, I’m doing it with a lot of heart and a lot of love. Similarly for my coaches, my wife, my kids, my parents, my clients, anyone and everyone. And this love is unconditional because you deserve the love without doing anything in return for me. And so that love we take to our clients as well, and we do it with a lot of heart, but we also challenge them that the way you’re thinking about this problem, maybe there’s a new lens that we can look at.

0:18:57.0 UN: And that’s when we start to then co-create with them as to this might look like a beautiful learning program that we can execute. And when we sign that deal or scope of work or whatever you might call it, then we commit that we are gonna leave no stone unturned. And we are not gonna count the number of hour that it takes, but we are gonna count the impact that we are gonna do for you. And then I think what is really important for us is to calculate the data. What you can measure is what you can change. And if you don’t measure learning outcomes, if you don’t measure behavior change, then it’s gonna be hard to prove the ROI and the impact of the program. It’s like when you’re losing weight, the first thing you’re gonna do is stand up on that scale and see how many kilos or how many pounds you weigh, and then you slowly start to reduce. So learning, for me, is a very similar thing. We build robust assessments to make sure that we calculate what we are trying to achieve here. So that’s the five C process.

0:19:54.1 WB: I love it. Well, let’s jump into our central theme, I guess, thinking about how we become better leaders. And you’re all already indicating something that I suspected we would do. And let’s talk a lot about the brain, just the title of your company, IgnitedNeurons, which suggests that’s where the focus is, and I love it. So let’s look at that little 3 kilo mass of… That sits up there on that black box as such. And we all hear this term, growth mindset, but I’m wondering how many people are clear about what it really means. Could you put some definition or framework around the term, please? 

0:20:36.7 UN: Absolutely. The first time I was introduced to this word and this work by Professor Carol Dweck, who put this word and coined this theme out there in the world, growth mindset, it was fascinating for me. And over the years, as I practiced it, Wayne, part of me feels like whoever I speak to, they should know about the growth mindset, which is an unconscious bias that I walk into conversations with. And so I’ve started to pull back from that. Now, in the easiest way, what growth mindset really means is, that if you are someone who has a growth mindset, then you will see failure, you will see feedback, you will see criticism as an opportunity to get better. You will not say that… If tomorrow someone says, “Utkarsh, that workshop that you did, it was not the right way. There was this wrong with it, this… ” And very specifically, they gave me feedback. If I start to get defensive of that feedback, that, “Who are you to say that? I’ve done a hundred workshops, and I know my shit,” and that’s what I’m thinking, then that’s me operating in a fixed mindset. I’m not ready to change. I’m not ready to accept that someone else has a viewpoint which is worth listening to.

0:21:47.9 UN: Now, that does not mean that if someone gives me certain feedback, I have to change everything about my existence, looking at what they’re trying to say. So it’s a very fine balance, but in a sense, growth mindset is your ability to take feedback, criticism, and failure, and use that to get better, use that to improve yourself, use that to push yourself out of that comfort zone where you feel that you’re not growing enough yet. Does that fully answer? And happy to speak through more about it.

0:22:18.6 WB: No, I think that’s a perfect response. I guess the lead-on question to that might be, why is that so critical in this world of constant change? How does that play into that environment? 

0:22:34.8 UN: Your question almost answers the question, Wayne, because it’s an ever-changing world. The world is not gonna stop evolving. But are you ready to change yourself? That’s the big question that we need to ask ourselves. And I go back to this example multiple times. When I had my kid… And I’m pretty sure that all of us here were born on this planet as little babies sometime, small little 3 kilo blobs of existence, and then we grow up to do so many beautiful things. But when we start to walk, if there is no physical challenge that we are bothered by and we have, then as a child, we fall multiple times. But never did a parent tell a child that, “Stop trying to walk because you will not be able to walk anymore. Stop trying to learn the bike because you cannot do it anymore.” And if we don’t do that at that point, then why when we grow up and as adults, we say, “I’m gonna try and learn the language,” but two days failing into it, we say, “You cannot never learn a language.” And that’s the application of the growth mindset, that the world is gonna change and evolve, because there are people in this world who are pushing the envelope again and again. But if you’re not ready to change, if you’re not ready to accept that something needs to shift, then the challenge will remain for you. So that’s one.

0:23:48.4 UN: And the second thing is, there’s solid evidence that people who continuously improve and continuously change, they become the A players. Because for them, the growth never stops. The growth never ends. It’s not that we enter life and then we will grow till a certain point and then we can die. But growth has to continue till our final breath. And the final thing, Wayne, that comes to mind is that our bodies keep changing themselves, from the microbes in our gut to every cell of our body, is being replenished every few weeks. If that body is not stopping to grow, then why do we let our mind stop growing? 

0:24:31.3 WB: Listening to you, it all sounds very logical, very straightforward. I’m wondering what would prevent somebody from wanting to have a growth mindset and move in this direction of evolution, if you like, or transitioning. Is there anything that jumps out that may limit people in this approach? 

0:24:52.0 UN: Two things popped into my head, and it’s a very commercial/new age kind of an answer. But Netflix can stop you. Instagram can stop you. And I say that is that once you start to get very comfortable in the ways that you’re living, they start to… Blinders get bombed, where you feel like, “That’s the norm, and that’s the best I can do.” I’ve seen people, and I’ve coached them, who would say that, “Utkarsh, I have a 9:00 to 5:00 job. I work so many hours. I wanna start my business, but I don’t have the time. And I can never leave my job because it’s gonna be impossible to pay the bills.” And I challenge them. 9:00 to 5:00 is what? Nine hours a day. Eight hours a day. My math did not serve me well in there. But eight hours a day, five days a week is like 40 hours. And your week has 168. You end up sleeping for, say, seven hours a day. You still have enough time. Ask yourself, what are you doing after 5 o’clock that cannot support you starting a new business. A new business does not mean that you have to hire a team of 100 people and go into investing and this and that. A new business could be a very small thing. Maybe you start to do some art. Maybe you start to build some music. Maybe you start a YouTube channel. And I’ll leave it to the people, what they wanna decide.

0:26:08.3 UN: So what happens is that we become so comfortable in our ways that we say that, “This is the norm, and we cannot move away from it.” And that’s where the whole resistance happens. And that’s why people don’t get to take those small steps into building a growth mindset. Now, the idea that can really work there, Wayne, is that you need to be aware that, “This is what’s stopping me right now. And if I can gain the small habit, then that would lead to growth,” and that could be anything.

0:26:38.4 WB: So based on that, it sounds like we have the ability or the capacity to develop things, like our curiosity, or for us to shift towards becoming, I’ll use the term lifelong learners. So we have this capacity to make this transition. How do we go about that? Is there a simple approach, or is this something that people reach the first hurdle and they’re going to stop? How does this all unfold? 

0:27:07.9 UN: I can make it… As you asked that question, something just sparked, which I think can make this very simple, and I’m trying to split it on my diary here. We could divide it into very simple three steps, Wayne. The first could be just asking yourself, “Why the hell should I do that?” And that answer, if you find out… And let’s take a very thoughtful example. Say if there’s a person who wants to get fit… And that’s something that resonates with the 8 billion of us, we all wanna be fit in life. If health is an important thing, ask yourself, “Why do you wanna be healthy?” And the answer might come… Okay, I’ll take my example, Wayne. I’m 38 years old right now, and I weigh maybe 90 kilos. I know that that weight is not fully healthy. And so my journey is that I wanna get fitter so that I can play longer with my kids, who are 13 and 10 right now. My journey is that I wanna get better and get fit so that I can, hopefully, live longer and serve my clients and be with my family. And if that why is very strong, I recommend people should write down that why and keep that in front of them all the time. Because we all tend to forget things, and then something that’s right in front of us makes it easier. For example, the beautiful phones that we have, they’re right in front of us. And so getting onto Instagram, scrolling through, becomes very easy.

0:28:33.6 UN: And so one of my coaches, I was speaking to him yesterday, Wayne, and I made him create a wallpaper on his iPhone that said that, “This is my why, and this is why I wanna improve my… ” Whatever it was that we were challenging with. Once you have that why, then you gotta figure out who you are as a person. And the simplest way to do that, Wayne, is to find out what are the values that you live by. If I can take a few minutes, I’ll help people do a very quick exercise.

0:29:02.0 WB: Yes.

0:29:03.0 UN: I would recommend that they draw a circle and then cut that circle into eight slices, like you would cut a pizza. So now you have these eight opportunities right in front of you. What I want you to think about right now is what are the values that you wanna live your life by, that will make you feel, “Damn, that was a good life.” And for me, the five values that I live with… So I did this exercise a few years ago, came up with my eight, simmered them, stayed with them, loved them for a few weeks, months, and then five came about. And the five values for me were discipline, excellence, freedom, growth, and love. And now, these five values go as a second post-it note. So you have your why, you have your five values. And the third and the final, easiest step, I would not call it the easiest, but something that you build upon, is to create a set of habits, that, “These are the actions I will take on a daily basis. This is how my values are gonna serve those actions. And then this is my why.” That’s why I’ll continue this process for a very long time. And that action, for me, could be that I’ll go to the gym 30 minutes every single day, come what may.

0:30:11.6 UN: Now I go there and run, I go there and do the elliptical, I cross-train, I lift weights. Whatever that might be, I’ll do that. I will eat healthier, I will do intermittent fasting and whatever it works. These are all scientific things that you need to talk to people and understand. You build these actions and then your values are gonna support actions and your why is gonna keep you on track to achieving these goals. So I think that, Wayne, to me, seem the easiest way to put the growth mindset into practice and become a lifelong learner.

0:30:43.1 WB: It’s great advice. I’m just thinking as well about the alignment, the need for personal values to be aligned in some way with the role that you’re playing in your professional life. So I know, when I look at your website, you also have some values that you show, four different values. If you’re looking at a job or a new company, how do you go about trying to make that connection or that alignment at the early stage? 

0:31:14.0 UN: Yeah, it’s a wonderful challenge to play with, because again, work is a large part of our lives. We need to be happy and satisfied through work. I think the important thing that… And if someone who’s a young person or someone who’s trying to find a new job right now and trying to move from the one culture to the other, I think it’s very important for us, when we walk into interviews, to ask a lot of good questions, which again comes back to the point that you shared, Wayne, which was curiosity. So instead of going into an interview thinking that they need to ask you questions, which need to answer the right way to be part of that organization, you gotta think of the reverse as well, where you gotta ask those questions and qualify that organization as the right organization for you or not.

0:32:00.6 UN: Now, it’s a challenge because the job market keeps going up and down, keeps throwing challenges at us. And if you’re someone who’s probably laid off or in a situation where you’re seeking a job but you’re not getting it, then you might say, “Utkarsh, we don’t even care about what the culture is, because we just wanna get in and get our paycheck,” which absolutely is okay. But if you have the opportunity, at least test these things out, go to their website, read about how the company is operated, talk to a few people who are already maybe at the organization or who you know through networks. And social media is offering everything to us these days. If you can just have a conversation with them, that, “What kind of an organization is this?” If you’re aligned with how the organization operates, then it’ll be just a seamless process. And that infinity sign, Wayne, that we spoke about, that will stay in a beautiful balance.

0:32:47.8 WB: Right. I thought we would also just tie in your TED talk topic, fear and courage, as well as choice. So I think your message at the end, your challenge at the end is about looking at the choices that we have. How does fear and courage play into this whole dynamic? 

0:33:07.4 UN: That’s very fascinating topic. And when I was given the opportunity of this TEDx talk, then part of me just wanted to speak about courage and speak about my journey of changing careers, of taking this leap of us as a family moving to Melbourne, a completely new country at this age and stage of our lives. And I so created a WhatsApp group of some very close friends, and I said that, “This is what I’m planning to speak about.” And one of them very beautifully so challenged me. And he said, “Utkarsh, the world is talking about courage, and everyone wants to be courageous, but is that the only emotion that we have? What about fear? Because no one speaks about fear.” And when that person challenged me, part of me was like, “Who are you? I’m getting a TEDx talk and now you’re challenging my thought and challenging this and that?” But then I listened, because curiosity is an important value, and what they were saying then started to make sense. Because as a child that’s born, fear is a very innate reaction. We touch something hot, our hand ultimately goes away. When a child is born, they have certain reflexes which are primitive, fear-driven reflexes. And I thought that no one is born with courage. Courage is something that you develop over time. And so maybe it’s fear that’s the more critical emotion that you need to learn to sit with, that you need to learn to embrace and then use that to embark on this journey of courage.

0:34:32.3 UN: And the big example that I use there, Wayne, is that… And the word that you and I have been… And it still is a tongue twister for me, funambulist. And the first time I heard this word, it was by the Indian mega-star Shah Rukh Khan. He’s done plenty of movies. If you’re a Hollywood fan, you would know him dancing in Switzerland and things like that. And he said that… His philosophy for life is that he is a funambulist. And what that really means, Wayne, is that you’re a tightrope walker, that you’re walking this tightrope, 40 feet above the ground, and it’s never gonna get easier. But if you start to, instead, focusing that, “What’s going to happen on that tightrope? What I’m gonna?” and blah, blah, blah, instead of that, you just focus on that first step, there’ll be fear as you walk this tightrope of your life. There will be fear, but you embrace that fear to allow you to be courageous. And that’s the whole TEDx talk where I share three stories from my life, parts of which we have shared here as well. But then ultimately, the choice to act is completely yours. You are the author of your story. So write a beautiful story. Your life is yours and not someone else’s. And then finally that we cannot predict the future. So let’s find joy in the present. And when the future comes, we will get into it and we’ll live that too. So that’s why fear becomes a very important element of this tightrope.

0:35:53.8 WB: Right. When I was listening to it and thinking about it myself, I was imagining, part of the reason that we stumble at fear, like when it first comes across our path, is that we’re looking very narrowly at a point in time, perhaps, or a point on the path, rather than seeing the bigger picture that we’re trying to get to. And for me, what I found is if I can pause for that moment and look further ahead at what my goal is or what my ambition is or what I’m trying to strive for, then that helps to generate, perhaps, courage, or at least, it reaffirms my commitment in many ways. So it overcomes that initial fear by being able to see a bigger picture. So I can make that correlation with what you’re talking about. But I love the tightrope metaphor because [chuckle] I could imagine taking that first step out there on that narrow piece of wire and thinking, ‘I’m going to die. [laughter] I’m going to plummet to my death here.’

0:37:02.0 UN: Absolutely. It is scary. But I’d love to explore, Wayne, if you’re open to sharing, like in terms of your own relationship with fear, how has that fear and the relationship evolved? 

0:37:16.6 WB: It’s been a journey. I would say there’s been intense moments in my life where the fear has been incredibly high. The one thing that has kept me going is that ability to understand that this is just a moment in my life, a moment in time. And tomorrow… [chuckle] As bad as it may seem right at the moment, tomorrow morning, when I open my eyes, there’s a high probability the sun is going to be out, the birds are gonna be singing and I’m still going to be here. So that’s how I build on the courage aspect of it.

0:37:55.4 UN: Amazing. Thank you for sharing that, Wayne. I think that’s very powerful. It almost, for one minute, seemed like I’m the podcast host and you’re the guest on the podcast, which I enjoy. But you know, there’s a story that…

0:38:05.3 WB: I love it.

0:38:06.4 UN: Yeah, thank you. There’s a story that comes to mind. So there was this… And it’s an Indian parable, which has been in different cultures, through different ideas. But what it says is that once, there was an emperor who said to the minister that, “There’s a crossroads in our kingdom where the two walls are meeting like that. I want you to write something on that crossroad, on that wall, that if someone’s coming from the right side and they’re very happy about their life and where it is, they should go sad. And if someone else is coming from there who’s very sad and sorrowful, they should go with a little bit of joy in their heart.” And the minister is like, “That’s a tough problem to solve.” But the next day, the minister comes up with something, and the emperor goes there, and that’s exactly what’s happening there. And so what the minister wrote on the wall is, “This too shall pass.” So the joy that you have right now, this too shall pass. And the sorrow that you have right now, this too shall pass. So I love that theme, which is coming through what you shared, Wayne.

0:39:11.6 WB: Yeah, very nice. I noticed on your website, again, IgnitedNeurons, you also have a life journey. I think it’s called Ignite Life Journey. What was the inspiration? You have that book? 

0:39:28.9 UN: I have it right now, and it’s on that shelf as well. So the Life Journal, why it came about, I coach people and then I feel like, “How do I help a billion people?” Because that’s one of the missions in life, that I wanna touch a billion lives positively. And so what the team and I came about is that we’ve created these 183 pages, which for example, the wheel that we were discussing right now, all of that is in this. And it’s 180 pages of reflection of thinking about your life, about asking some tough questions, because the quality of your life depends on the questions that you ask yourself. And so this journal, if people would wanna buy, they can go directly to Amazon. It’s available in the US, Canada, India, Australia, and across the world. So they can just find the word Ignite Life Journal, and they should be able to find it.

0:40:21.9 WB: And it’s extremely cheap, I have to say. I made the purchase last night myself.

0:40:27.6 UN: Oh, thank you.

0:40:27.7 WB: So I’m looking forward to the delivery. [laughter] Very good. You also have another area where you have a, I guess, a survey or a questionnaire for high performance teams. I also completed that, by the way. Very simple to complete. What was the motivation in developing that, or how did that come about? 

0:40:53.0 UN: Absolutely. So again, it was something that we thought, as a tool, would help people, just evaluate where they are. It speaks about three critical features, which are of a high performing team, about communication, about how you’re innovating and how about your team is building trust and gelling together. So simple questions that help people realize that, Are they really building a high performing team? And again, all of that comes back to the infinity sign about how you’re working as an individual, as a team, as an organization. So we’re trying to ultimately… Organizations come and ask me, “Utkarsh, we wanna create the sense of wellbeing with our people. And how do we do that? What programs can we run?” And I keep telling them, “It is not just the organization’s responsibility to do that. It is your responsibility as an employee, as an individual, as a team, as a peer, as a direct report, as a manager. The responsibility never goes away. So as you walk that tightrope of building a beautiful organization, of building greatness in your own role and organizations, keep doing the best that you can, and that’s the whole message, Wayne, that we’re almost summarizing at this point.

0:41:58.4 WB: Yeah, very nice. Is there anything that we haven’t touched on today that you think is important for our listeners, predominantly leaders, that they should hear? 

0:42:09.5 UN: Yeah, absolutely. I don’t know why this thought came, but this one final thought.

0:42:14.2 WB: Yeah.

0:42:14.3 UN: There’s this abbreviation or slang that is YOLO, which the first time someone used it for me, Y-O-L-O, I had no idea what it means. And they told me, “Utkarsh, you only live once.” That’s what it means, Y-O-L-O. You only live once. And I’m like, “No, I don’t agree with that. I only would die once. I get to live every single day of my life.” And that’s what life is all about. So don’t let the sorrows of yesterday remove the sunshine from your today, whether it’s a cloudy day in Melbourne or where you’re in Singapore, Wayne. Wherever we are, let’s find the joy. And I’m an eternal optimist, who when I’m sitting and eating a banana, I find like, “What joy having this banana that has this sweetness in it?” So just find joy wherever you are, and be courageous, embrace your fear. And it’s a beautiful journey on the tightrope that we’re all getting to live today.

0:43:11.6 WB: Yeah, I would highly recommend for the listeners to look up your TED talk. I thought it was extremely well-structured. From a facilitator’s point of view, from somebody who talks a lot about communication, I think the TED talk came across very nicely. I’m wondering, are you working on anything new at the moment? Is there a book in the pipeline or working on a new program, perhaps? 

0:43:37.5 UN: Yeah. So a few things that are… A book is brewing, and it’ll take its own beautiful time to come out in the world, because I wanna do it right. So that’s one. The second is I’m trying to build a self-paced coaching program that we can offer to the world. So people can stay tuned on social media. And then anyone who comes to us for coaching as an organization to change things, that all excites us. And so we’re looking forward to being in touch with whoever finds us at the right moment, in the right…

0:44:13.7 WB: Fantastic. What is the best social media channel to connect through? 

0:44:19.5 UN: I think LinkedIn will be the best. That’s where we are the most active. And so you can find me as Utkarsh Narang on LinkedIn. I think that’ll be the best one. And then if you want regular content and you’re someone who scrolls on Instagram, you can go in there as well. But LinkedIn is the best one.

0:44:34.4 WB: Well, Utkarsh, it’s been a real treat, a real pleasure, and I’m sure our listeners will have got a lot from the conversation. So thank you very much for that.

0:44:43.3 UN: Well, thank you, Wayne. It was a joy. I’m glad we could do this. And always enjoy our conversation. And hopefully someday in the future, there’ll be an in-person conversation that’ll happen, and looking forward to that too, when you’re back here in Melbourne.

[music]

0:44:57.6 S2: Thank you for joining us on The ET Project, a show for executive talent development. Until next time, check out our site for free videos, e-books, webinars, and blogs at coaching4companies.com.

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