355: Channeling Emotions Productively with Hitendra Wadhwa

By October 10, 2018Podcasts



Hitendra Wadhwa says: "Great people take on great causes. In taking on great causes, they make great mistakes. Through mistakes, they generate a lot of learning."

Columbia Business School professor Hitendra Wadhwa defines inner mastery and shows how to achieve it.

You’ll Learn:

  1. The five pillars of inner mastery
  2. Key questions and framework for daily reflection
  3. Two strategies for redirecting your emotions positively

About Hitendra

Hitendra Wadhwa is Professor of Practice at Columbia Business School and founder of the Institute for Personal Leadership (IPL).  Hitendra graduated from the University of Delhi in mathematics and received his MBA and a PhD in Management from MIT.  He has received the 2015 Executive-MBA Commitment to Excellence Award, the 2012 Dean’s Award for Teaching Excellence, and the 2008 Columbia Marketing Association Award for the Most Dynamic and Engaging Professor.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Hitendra Wadhwa Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Hitendra, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Hitendra Wadhwa
Thank you, Pete. It’s a pleasure to be with you and your audience.

Pete Mockaitis
Tell us, what’s your role at Columbia?

Hitendra Wadhwa
I have a responsibility as a professor of practice in the Business School to take our MBAs and executive audiences through journeys to prepare them for this world of dynamic change and uncertainty and fast pace that we live in today. I have created a class that I call Personal Leadership and Success. Over the last about 12 years that has been my research and my teaching.

Pete Mockaitis
Intriguing. Then you’ve also founded the Institute for Personal Leadership. What is the kind of core work or ethos over there?

Hitendra Wadhwa
Gandhi, he once said, he said “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would be enough to solve most of the world’s problems.” My aspiration in building this class was to say hey, listen, we have these incredibly talented, very aspirational MBAs and the executives that come over to Columbia.

And in many ways they’re really aspirational and really talented about finding a way to master the universe, but what about finding a way to master your own self as a starting point …. There are theses in personal leadership both in my work at Columbia and then the Institute, is that there is so much more to our potential than we tap into on a normal day.

What if we were both able to for our own selves and for the individuals, and teams, and organizations, and community that we serve, if we were able to get all of us to our fullest potential, to be at our best in every moment, in every day, what kind of a team and organization and a product and impact, and life that you could build?

That’s really in a sense what we do at the Institute is take the research, take the teaching that I’ve been doing over the years at Columbia and put it out there for any individuals to be able to tap into through the content we created, through the digital learning journeys that we offer. Then also through organizations to help them support the individual, team, and organizational transformations that they might be engaged in.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, really cool. Now you talk a lot about inner mastery resulting in, later on, outer impact. Can you orient us a little bit to this concept?

Hitendra Wadhwa
Sure, sure. Outer impact means any role of the kinds of aspirations and hungers that we have from the outside. We want people to like us, to support us, to be open to being followed by us, to be inspired by us, to change their behavior based on what we’re saying and doing. As a result of that, to be able to launch products and manage teams and deliver great outcomes to the world and bring about positive change.

All of that is the outer stuff in life and leadership. The mainstream, the conventional view of how to do that, is that we have to define certain qualities or attributes of what makes for a great leadership on the outside to have that kind of an impact.

It could be something today around you have to be very adaptive as a leader. Once we evolve … based on what changes you’re seeing around you. But on the other hand, you also have to have grit. You have to have tenacity.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, stick with it.

Hitendra Wadhwa
Yeah, to stick with it. Yeah, exactly. Then you have to be very extroverted because there’s a very gregarious outer energy that you need in order to … and flourish in the world of people. But on the other hand, there’s Susan Cain and she’s telling us to … quiet, that there’s a lot of power to introversion, to the quiet kind of character of a leader, who seeks to be the thoughtful, quiet, empathetic listener in the room. And everything in between.

You want to be connected today in the world of social media and never eat lunch alone, but build your network, but on the other hand you also have to be very disconnected because you want to practice mindfulness and meditation and peace and be the reflective leader, not the one that’s just constantly in the fray of life and all that.

If you take all of these qualities, the reasons … try to convince me that we have to face up to the truth. The truth is that we are being asked today to be everything and the complete opposite. This is no way there is a simple winning path, a human achievable path to getting there.

Unless you do something like Einstein once said. He said that “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” In this case, to me, this obsession with outer behavior and outer speech, what we are saying and what we are doing, as a way to which we have outer impact limits us from recognizing that the greatest lever that we have, the greatest power and possibility that we have is to in fact cultivate what I call your inner core.

Your inner core is this stable, pure, intentional, purpose driven, wise part of yourself, your best self. All of us have caught glimpses of, some of us have more systematically cultivated. When you operate from that inner core, we are just able to in the moment operate on the basis of intention, not just instinct.

To be able to bring all the appropriate facts to bear rather than have biases and distortions that blind us. Be able to make decisions with a certain amount of thoughtfulness and freedom, rather than attachment and insecurity.

The idea behind inner mastery is not as much to in a sense retrofit some wisdom from the outside or some new skill from the outside, as it is to invite people to reflect on and deepen their connection with their best selves.

To continue over the course of their life to not merely be committed and obsessed with the outer impact, but also with the deepening of the immersive living and leading inner core, knowing that when they’re doing that, they are going to be able to operate and bring the best energy, the best consciousness, the best thinking, the best judgment on the outside. So inner mastery leading to outer impact.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, understood. Then it sounds like your advocating is not so much about internally trying to be more quiet or gregarious or changing your fundamental natural personality, so much as developing into your best self.

Hitendra Wadhwa
In fact, Pete, my hypothesis is that for many of us, there are more possibilities to our personality than what 20th century science has educated or confined us to. When you and I are talking about whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, it is true that the Myers-Briggs suggest to us that you can either be one of the other. It’s very popular too and has been used in organizations.

But I can also tell you this, most of that has been upended by some of the latest science, which suggests that people have the capacity to also be if you might call it ambiverts, where Daniel Pink talks about it in his book To Sell is Human.

There is all this research that suggests that – I remember when I took the Myers-Briggs when I was in McKinsey, I found a couple of dimensions quite intuitive and insightful, but I really rebelled against a couple of them. Thinking versus feeling, well wait a second. Why can’t I be both a thinker and a feeler?

Introvert versus extrovert, why can’t I be both? I feel I draw energy as much from outside when I’m with an audience and I’m engaged with them. Right now I’m drawing energy from this conversation with you. At the same time, I have periods where I love to draw energy from within me. There is an intro and an extrovert within me.

To that end, – I’ll just give you a great example of history. You take Abraham Lincoln. There’s a historian, he in his study of Lincoln, he said – he was a contemporary. He said “I went and spoke with a number of his colleagues and his friends.” He said, “I found that there were not two of them who spoke about Lincoln in the same way. It’s as though he revealed himself to different people in different ways.”

He said “Some said he was a very ambitious man and some said he had not an iota of ambition. Some said he was very cool and impassive and some said he was susceptible to the most intense of tempers.”

There is research, by the way, to show that when we are deeply infused with our purpose, with something we really care for, then when we have to act out a behavior in the service of that purpose, which is contrarian to our – if you want to call it our personality – we actually feel more authentic acting contrarian to our personality because we are acting in concert with our values in that moment, with our principles at that moment.

As a simple example. Let’s say if you really care about supporting your team after they’ve done six months of intensive product development work and launched this incredible product in your market. You might be an introvert, but in that moment, you are actually going to prepare and plan that celebration party for the launch of the product.

When you’re in there, you’re going to go and act out completely opposite your personality, very engaged, very connected, very joyous, very outwardly focused even though it’s against your personality. Not to say you want to do that, but here’s what the research says, you will feel more authentic doing that because you so deeply care about the aspiration of being there to celebrate that beautiful moment with your team.

Anyway, I just want to offer that up to you because the thesis I sort of want to propose to you and to your audience is that 20th century science, which is still what a lot of us operate with regard to the education system that we go through and what organizations also sometimes inform and guide us with their cultures – 20th century science was a lot about who we are. Today’s science, the 21st century science that is very vibrant and continuing to evolve, is actually telling us who we can be.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Okay, cool. Well, I guess there’s a lot in there. I guess I’d like to get your take when it comes to this inner mastery stuff. What are some of the key I guess sort of roadblocks or things that prevent us from achieving inner mastery and what are some of your top suggestions in terms of actions and disciplines and practices for getting there?

Hitendra Wadhwa
Yeah, that’s a great question. It is a journey. It’s not just a one-time sort of choice we make and then we’re just instantly and magically there. It’s a journey I’ve seen all great leaders in history kind of evolve and grow themselves along. It’s a journey that is a lifetime commitment. There’s no one point where I would offer it becomes perfect and complete.

We like to think in my work of inner mastery along five pillars. There’s purpose, which is about a lot of direction, alignment for your life as to where you’re headed. Stephen Covey used to call it “start with the end in mind.” What is that end that you have in mind feel like?

Then there’s wisdom, which is about emotional intelligence and your thinking, and your mindset and making sure these inner forces are very much harmonized in line with your purpose.

Then there’s love, which is about expanding the heart to seek to take joy in other people’s joy.

Then there is self-realization, which is to start seeing yourself more – not only through your words and actions or your feelings or your thoughts, but also from the spirit that you embody from within, the space of pure consciousness, tranquility, pure joy that great journeyers on this passage and path of life have been able to cultivate, so self-realization.

The last one is growth, which is around this continuous commitment to growth now.

In terms of what gets people derailed from inner mastery, one of the key problems is that we get so invested in our duties, in our responsibilities, in our well-intentioned desire to be of service to our friends, to our family, to our colleagues at work, to our organizations imperatives, to our communities that in that process we get, if you want to call it, spread thin, we get burnt out, we get stressed, we get to digress, digress from that part of us, which is really at the core.

One practice that I highly recommend as a way to stay more true to yourself, to your pursuit of your own … is daily introspection. Take 15 minutes of time every day and structure and organize an activity that takes you into a very soul-searching, quiet, honest, mirror that you can put on yourself.

It could be a form of thought providing. It could be a scoreboard that you create for yourself, where you’re checking in on yourself on a certain set of values of character traits or what have you. It could be just a single question that you ask yourself.

Winston Churchill, for example, he used to ask himself, he said, “I don’t go to sleep at night without challenging myself with the following question, which is ‘did I do something highly worthy today?’” I don’t mean just kind of puttering around and doing things. Did I do something highly worthy today?

Here’s a man who had incredible highs, being at the pinnacle of power, 10 Downing Street and Prime Minister of England at a very critical hour. But he also fell from grace from time to time. At those times when he was away from the madding crowds and thrown out of power, how did he act, what choices did he make, what behavior did he engage in?

This question about did I do something really worthy today – there is a story where his son once was on a train with him when he had been deposed from the Prime Minister’s office. He was out of power. His son asked him, he said, “Father, we’re on this train. We’re in California. We’re on vacation. Why are you going in a small cabin and sweating it out on this hot day and doing work right now?”

After a few hours Winston Churchill came out. He said, “Son, I can’t help it. I must do something truly worthy every day. What I’ve done right now is write a dispatch for this newspaper in England and I’m going to send it.”

Now this man when he was out of power, being defeated in the Prime Minister’s – the political election in 1950 when he was out—1945, sorry—when he was out of power. He ends up doing so much prolific writing over those next five years, that he ends up winning the Nobel Prize in Literature. Think about that pursuit of mastery when the chips are down.

So a daily introspection, a daily question that you ask yourself would be one strong suggestion. Then I do want to sort of just encourage that. Listen, we all fall from grace. We all can’t live up to our highest ideals and standards every day. But that should not discourage us.

Nelson Mandela was once asked by Opera Winfrey, she said, “Mr. Mandela, you’re so incredible. People have such admiration and awe of you. You are a living saint. How do you feel being like a saint?” He said, “I am not a saint unless you think of a saint as a sinner who never gives up.” I think that’s a great working definition for all of us to have.

There’s an article he wrote in his life and his leadership and his struggles and the mistakes he made and the growth he had to go through, and main lessons I reached from it was a great – great people take on great causes. In taking on great causes, they make great mistakes. Through those mistakes, they generate a lot of learning for themselves. They acknowledge their mistakes and they grow from it. That’s the growth that I think all of us can aspire to, not necessarily perfection overnight.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have any suggestions for other powerful questions that could be candidates for a daily reflection?

Hitendra Wadhwa
Well, if you and your audience are open to it I can share my own personal favorite.

Pete Mockaitis

Hitendra Wadhwa
I think one of the greatest missed opportunities in life is to befriend death. We tend to operate in a world where we almost want to make death invisible.

I smile sometimes when I’m walking here in my neighborhood in the Upper West Side. There is a funeral home here. It is so discreetly architected from the outside in terms of its façade as to be completely nondescript. Yet, sometimes the garage door is open and I glance inside, I see a hearse that carries people over when they’ve passed over.

I feel a great sense of gratitude when I see that because it’s a reminder to me about the gift of every moment of life and the fact that I cannot take it for granted for myself or for others around me and that it can end at any time. My favorite question is to ask myself that if this is the way I keep living my life as I’m living it right now, then at the moment that I’ll be dying, as I look back at my life at that moment, will I be grateful and happy or will I have some sincere regrets?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great, thank you. Okay. Any other questions that pack a punch?

Hitendra Wadhwa
You’re definitely making me walk into my sort of magic box and take out whatever tools I can, which is great. I appreciate your service to your audience.

Well, Steve Jobs had a similar question. His question was that if today—and it’s a little bit more provocative—if today was my last day on earth and I kept doing the things I had been doing, would I be happy? He said “If many days pass by where the answer is no, no I wouldn’t be doing this if this was my last day on earth, then,” he says, “then something is wrong in my career and the life.” That was his question.

The last one I want to offer you is not a simple question, but it’s more just a framework. That framework is both Nelson Mandela used it and Benjamin Franklin, which is that they created a scorecard for themselves, a simple one sheet paper with a few qualities in it that they were seeking to really work on. Then they would ask themselves, did I live up to that standard, did I live up to that quality today.

In the case of Ben Franklin, he would give himself a black dot if he saw that he hadn’t lived up to that quality on a given day. He did that for each of his 13 virtues as he called them that he had for each day of the week.

In his autobiography that he wrote later on in his life he reflects – he says … – he says “I never really reached a point where I was able to clean up my act so well that I didn’t have a single black dot on those weekly grade sheets. But I do to my satisfaction note that over the course of many years that I tracked myself this way, the number of black dots had decreased.”

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, that’s great. I admire – it takes a level of honesty and humility in the first place to acknowledge that it was a black dot day as opposed to squinting and justifying and rationalizing, “Well, I mean the circumstances were such that I had to engage in gluttony or else it would have been rude,” for example. I think that was one of his 13. I think it’s gluttony and sloth and chastity and assorted virtues there.

I think that would be the hard part for me is in terms of like, finding a way to convince myself that I did not deserve a black dot for my behavior after all during the course of this day because there was some extenuating reason.

Hitendra Wadhwa
Yeah, no, I’m with you. That’s very humble of you to operate that way. I’m sure you have a rich, reflective life, Pete, otherwise you wouldn’t even be doing this show.

Since you’re mentioning some of his virtues, perhaps you might even remember humility, one he added later upon some criticism that he received from a friend of his, who talked about how “You’re very respective, Benjamin, but you’re not very light.” To your point about some of the pitfalls, the other pitfall here is to make sure it’s the right scorecard.

Pete Mockaitis
Right. Well, what I also get into some of your perspective when it comes to – when negative emotions pop up, you’ve got some thoughts with regard to how we can channel those into effective directions. How do we do that in those moments where you’re ticked off, you’re frustrated and annoyed, enraged, fill in the blank in terms of emotion you’d rather not experience. How do you channel those into better places?

Hitendra Wadhwa
Yeah, yeah. Let me share a story about Abraham Lincoln. He used to open – had moments like that where he was very triggered by things that were happening in the field at the time of the Civil War, very stressful time you can imagine for a leader like him. He wasn’t really in complete agreement or alignment with this general doing this thing here and this battle or that general doing that thing there.

He would write these letters to these generals, where we was extremely vociferous in his criticism to them. Some of these letters have been received by the generals and it’s in history as to what they were told and scolded by Lincoln for.

Then there are a lot of these letters that historians found after Lincoln’s passing in the Presidential desk in the White House, unsigned and unsent. They’re called Lincoln’s hot letters. You might be aware of them.

That’s one technique right there for us, which is to engage in this Lincolnesque kind of grace, which is to say, “You know what? I am angry right now. These are the thoughts that I am feeling right now and I am not going to act upon them because I don’t really trust myself right now in terms of my judgment. I’m not seeing things in the fullest and most nuanced of light as I should.”

Maybe in this case what might have happened is that at the time he wrote these letters – he wrote them, but he went to get his sleep, to cool down, hit the pause button, as I call it, and when he was cooler and calmer, he made a call. If he felt at that point that it would be constructive for him to express that criticism in just those words, he might have sent the letter off.

When he felt like, “You know, in the larger scheme of things, I want to keep this general motivated. I think there’s a different, better way to motivate them. I kind of want to let them know this but in a way that will still make them feel empowered and inspired and motivated to do the right things, so net-net I shouldn’t send this letter out in those cases ….”

A simple path for us is just to keep check on what is happening within us. Not just to focus on the conversation, not just to focus on the body language, but to focus on the inner storms that might be brewing.

If we feel that they’re beyond a certain level that we can trust our environment, to recognize that our first responsibility is not to act on the insight, but to in a sense, act on the inside, to calm some of these inner storms and to create a little bit of distance.

Whether it’s just asking for a bathroom break, whether it is just doing a little bit of deep breathing, whether it is stepping away and listening to soothing music, going talking to somebody that can distract you and put you in a happy place because that’s the kind of person they are, going for a brisk walk, sleeping over it. Any and all of these are mechanisms to which we allow in a sense our best self to be emerged rather than get consumed and act upon our inner demons.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, so just taking a pause right there. There is one strategy. Any other approaches?

Hitendra Wadhwa
Well, I would offer another one which steps the game higher. This one would require some level of basic mastery that then allows us to play this more advanced game. Hit the pause button, couple other things we can do to just get to feel a sense of ownership over our state of inner awareness and mastery is a starting point.

But then what you can do is really lean into that emotion rather than seek to distance yourself from it or to express it in some sort of non-constructive way, to lean into and ask yourself “Yes, I’m anxious right now. Yes, I’m hurt right now. Yes, I’m angry right now. Now what am I going to do about it?” to in a sense, recapture agency over the situation, over the problem. Say, “I’m going to do something about it.”

I’ll give you an example. Have you heard of Buck, B-U-C-K?”

He is a cowboy. He’s a rancher out here in the US. He was the inspiration behind the book The Horse Whisperer and ultimately the movie that Robert Redford made called Horse Whisperer on which he was an advisor.

Actually, you and your audience might enjoy having him on the show. He’s a remarkable human being. There’s a movie, a documentary on him called Buck. I think you and your audience will both enjoy the documentary as well. Incredibly inspiring.

He when he was growing up – it’s all in the movie – so this is not information he hasn’t shared in public. But when he was growing up he had an alcoholic father. If I recall I think his mother was not there. I think she may have passed away early. He was, among other things, he was beaten up.

He was very good at the rodeo, so he was doing lassoing and things like that. His father would encourage him and his brother to go and do that, but then constantly berate them, beat them up, alcoholic, right? When he was in his teens he had to in a moment of desperation, escape from his home under all the duress and stress. He was raised in foster care.

Fast forward now to the time he’s an adult. He now says that “The pain that I went through at that time and when I reconnect with that pain, it motivates me to want to make sure that people around me and that I can serve do not feel ever that kind of pain, not just people, but even horses.”

There is perhaps traditionally, as I best understand, the way the ranching culture is working here in the US, horses have been trained under the assumption that the way they will obey is by punishing them if they don’t obey during the early formative training years. You inflict some kind of pain on them, driving something sharp into their body or etcetera, as a way to make them realize the value of obedience or the risk of disobedience and so they start obeying you.

His approach is one that is based on love. His approach is one that is based on creating a trusted bond between the master and the horse. He goes around the country, training ranches on how to take their horses, some of whom have been very disobedient, and make them very tame, make them start to really align and harmonize their actions and behavior with their ranchers.

Here he is, he is a horse whisperer. He gets these horses to do things that others have not been able to ever get done before. It’s all coming from this pain that he has experienced at some point in his life. Because he took agency over that pain and said, “I’m not going to ignore it. I’m not going to channel it in something futile and ineffective. I’m going to channel it into something heroic and beautiful.”

Pete Mockaitis
Got you, so that became a powerful motivation there in terms of this his sort of standard that – of how things ought to be and therefore he’s going to do all the efforts necessary associated with making that come to be. That’s cool.

I wonder then when it comes to anger, if you’re thinking about using that to channel into positive stuff. I guess in some ways it’s possible to be angry and then just do a lot of things because you’re angry. It’s like, “This cannot stand. I am taking action. I am going after this injustice.”

I wonder though how sustainable that is because, at least for me, that’s kind of exhausting as a fuel source, that sort of anger. From a hurt, I can see that being a little bit different in the sense of that is something that I know and I just I will not allow others to experience, whereas anger it’s sort of like – it can come up every time you think about the thing that should not be. Is there any sort of nuance in how you go about channeling anger?

Hitendra Wadhwa
That’s a great point. It’s funny because when I started studying some of these great leaders from history, which is one path through which I have sort of built up this whole teaching and work and growth and leadership, I’d assumed that these were incredibly peaceful collective tranquil people.

Yet, when you study their lives, I saw how for several of them, not necessarily all, but several of them a key source of energy for them was their – in a sense, their righteous anger against something that was deeply troubling about the social order of their day.

Whether it was Gandhi with his views on the huge loss that India was facing with British rule and the subjugation and the atrocities being committed against their less advantaged communities in society, Martin Luther King, of course, and civil liberties, Nelson Mandela, of course, with what he was doing, Mother Theresa and her work with the poor, etcetera.

Many of these people were deeply, deeply, deeply—if you want to call it—angry, but they had come to a place where they could lean into that anger and channel it.

The important thing I would offer you is that you cannot have the tail wag the dog. The tail is your emotion. The dog is the purpose or journey that you’re seeking to make in life and leadership.

For those of us who have not yet perhaps gained a certain level of mastery – let’s say mastery could be quantified from level 0 to level 100. If we are at step 34 and Gandhi is at a step 67, we shouldn’t seek to jump from 34 to 67. That would just not make sense.

In our case, if to your point, we have a certain experience that we want or a certain issue that we’re concerned with, were we to get as angry as he was getting, we might get burned by it to your point. We might get consumed by it.

In our case at step 34, it might make more sense to use some of the other tools of emotional mastery to create a little bit of distance and buffering from that emotional state because we can’t handle it. We don’t have the voltage in our light bulb to be able to handle that kind of power yet.

It might make more sense to stay within more confined bounds and to use more confined smaller sparks of anger to kind of get to a good place if that is a path we want to choose.

But as we grow in our capacities, we may be in a position to take on even more heroic causes and to take on even more purposeful, energized, disciplined journeys because we just built that machinery within us, both in our brain in terms of finding and fighting patterns of neurons and just physically and spiritually overall. Until then, to your point, we may want to just stay in more bounded space.

When we do have those intense bursts of any such emotional state, maybe our best mechanism there at step 34, which could be different from … step 67, our best mechanisms there, might be to do some deep breathing, might be to hit the pause button, might be to do some mindfulness, some meditation practice or something like that, just get ourselves into a safe place, into a place where the best in us can operate so that the tail, again, is not wagging the dog. But if the dog is strong enough, they can have a strong tail and still allow the dog to control the tail.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, thank you. Now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Hitendra Wadhwa
Mother Theresa, she once said, she said, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.”

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Hitendra Wadhwa
Yeah. This is not as much conventional kind of study as you’d expect, but one that I have huge regard and affection for anyway and I think would be of value to your audience.

Bonnie Ware is a palliative care nurse in Australia. She used to essentially look after people who were in the last several weeks and months of their life. They have this terminal illness in most cases and therefore were starting to plan their exit.

She would ask them this question, “What is your biggest regret in life?” The most common answer to that question is the finding from this research that I want to offer to you and to all of us. What do you think your audience might think is the most common regret of the dying?

Pete Mockaitis
They didn’t spend enough time with their family and friends.

Hitendra Wadhwa
Yeah. That’s very similar to what I hear from my students at Columbia as well. That certainly one of the regrets that she heard from time to time. The most common regret was that I … you get that I was not living a life true to myself. I was living it based on other people’s expectations.

I want to just encourage reflection on that by anyone who is listening here today because notice that that pitfall can arise as much in a personal life as a professional life. That pitfall is not about I should have been hanging out more with my family than my work.

What he’s actually saying is whether it is family or whether it is work, there is a risk that in our desire to conform, to love and be loved, to relate, to be recognized and rewarded, is it a risk that we might be letting the clock of time run out before we have truly lived—truly, truly lived.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Hitendra Wadhwa
If you’re open to it, I’d recommend two. For those who are drawn to really deeper kind of quests about the meaning of life, my favorite book is the same as the one and only book that Steve Jobs had on his iBooks which is Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda. For those who are interested a more sort of focused commentary on life and leadership today, my favorite book is Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite habit?

Hitendra Wadhwa

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get quoted or attributed to you frequently?

Hitendra Wadhwa
The idea that all of us have within us a space of purity, purity of intent, purity of purpose, very wise and joyful and calm and balanced and secure space within us. I call that your inner core.

There is research today to show that if you go beyond the mountains and plains and rivers into the structure of the earth, you have the hot, molten lava, but beyond the hot molten lava you have a solid sphere of pure metal. We call that the earth’s inner core.

Metaphorically picking from that, beyond our outer senses, beyond the hot molten lava of our thoughts and emotions that might volcanically erupt from time to time, beyond all of that there is this space of pure consciousness within each of us. That’s your inner core and that’s the space through which when you get deeply anchored, you’re able to bring out and project and manifest your best.

Pete Mockaitis
If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Hitendra Wadhwa
Our website is simply PersonalLeadership.com. There are resources there in terms of articles I’ve written, videos that you can watch and executive programs online that you can take. I’m working on a book that I expect to get published next year. I certainly would be delighted and honored to have you look out for that as well.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool, thank you. Do you have a final challenge or call to action for those seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Hitendra Wadhwa
One technique that I learned from a colleague, Adam Byrant. I say colleague because he and I often have been teaching together. Adam was a columnist at the New York Times, where he wrote this column for many years called the Corner Office, in which he used to interview CEOs about their leadership journeys. He shared this anecdote from one of his – or there’s two from one of his interviews.

The CEO talks about how she said “I like to practice the MRI rule.” That’s what I want to offer to your audience as one thing to do at work or one challenge to take on at work.

The MRI rule is any time that you are disappointed, hurt, angry, reactive, impatient, about anything that somebody has done, the MRI rule tells you to apply to it the most respectful interpretation, which means before you start including the character or start assuming that the intentions are really poor or bad or etcetera, try to ask yourself are there any other ways to interpret what happened here.

What could be going on in their health? Could they be having a relationship challenge at home? Could they be having a really stressful day with regard to their boss or some other things that are happening? Could some budget have suddenly been cut off from them? Etcetera.

Since you don’t know everything, are there things that you don’t know that could be happening, that may allow for a deeper understanding of what they have just done or responded to. I found that sometimes it’s not even what is happening to them in the present, but what experiences they have gathered over the course of their life that you don’t know about.

When something is triggered from them in a certain way, rather than quickly judge them for it, seek to understand, seek to make the space to recognize that in the rich fabric of their lives, both past and present, there is a lot more that if you knew perhaps, you would get much more sympathetic and connected with them.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well, Hitendra, this has been a lot of fun. Thanks so much for sharing the goods. I wish you tons of luck with Personal Leadership and all you’re up to.

Hitendra Wadhwa
Well, I want to congratulate you for the excellent work that you’re doing. I’ve been deeply both inspired and impressed with the path you’re on. This is the modern, new sort of path you’re communicating, connecting and serving audiences like yours. Congratulations to you on that.

All the best to you and certainly to your audience as well. I’m grateful for this opportunity. Thank you and wish the best of success in life and leadership by operating from your inner core.

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