Episode 13- Inflection Points
Rajesh: And this is Rajesh Setty, friend of Ravi, and a serial entrepreneur in the Bay Area.
Ravi: Fantastic Rajesh, we actually picked a topic which may actually represent a state in our own journey with Spontaneous Conversations, and the topic we picked was Inflection Points.
Ravi: It can be very mathematical or it can be very transformational. So, tell me, what does inflection point mean to you, Rajesh?
Rajesh: See for me Ravi, inflection point is a significant change in the trajectory of your life; or a significant change in the velocity in the right trajectory in your life.
Ravi: Mmm, okay so, significant change. So, again if you look at what it means, an inflection point, it’s basically a change of slope. Things are going well, and suddenly something happens, and boom things change.
Ravi: And every investor, who wants to invest in companies that are at their inflection point of where things take off. But here’s the irony of it, you never know you’re in an inflection point until after the fact. But I can guess the reason you kind of picked this topic is, you can actually choreograph to be at an inflection point. You can do certain things to increase the odds that this incident turns into an inflection point.
Rajesh: You guessed it right. You almost spoke my mind. [Ravi laughs: crosstalk 01:30]
Ravi: That’s why we’re such conversational companions, Rajesh. [laughs]
Rajesh: [laughs] That’s right. So, before we hit the record button, you were sharing that you had an inflection point in your own life, very early in your life. And can you share that story?
Ravi: Oh, is that why you thought of making this the topic of the inflection point? Yeah, you know I didn’t know I was in one. So, this was way back when I was in 10th grade, I came number seven in India, which was a big accomplishment. My parents were happy, we were all celebrating, and I was all set to study the next two years of high school at a local college. And so, one evening I was hanging around outside the principal’s office, and I heard two of my friends; one 50 feet to my left, and one 50 feet to my right, yelling at each other, “okay, we’ll see you in the evening at the train station.” And that curious person in me, kind of caught on the word, train station, “guys, where are you going, we’re all supposed to be enjoying holidays.” So, that question alone told me that these guys were off looking at colleges outside my hometown, to study 11th, and 12th, because they also came in number nine, and number 11 in the country. So, I said, “okay well, I’ll also come.” So, within two hours, I told my dad that “dad, my friends are going to a different city, which was in Chennai, also called Madras, they’re going.” And my dad said, “I don’t know what mind-set he was in, and he said, “okay, sure.” I said, “but dad everybody’s dad is accompanying them,” but he said, “ you know, we can’t get two tickets right now, it’s such a short time frame, why don’t you go, and I will support you.” And that changed my trajectory. I ended up going to college in a whole new town, lived in a dormitory that exposed me to the fact that there’s something called IIT, which is one of the toughest institutions to get into. I got into IIT, which is when I figured out that everybody goes to US for masters, because nobody in my family went to college for engineering, nobody went to IIT, nobody went to the United States, and now I have a Ph.D., and I’m here, and I look at that incident being a very, very critical turning point for me.
Rajesh: Yeah, that caught me as an inflection point. Imagine, if that conversation… you didn’t overhear that conversation. Maybe you would have ended up in the same place, but the odds of that are very low.
Ravi: Exactly, and I’ve also kind of spoken about this story in other talks I have given. I could have easily said, “okay guys have a wonderful time,” but I highly encourage people, not be curious like the cat, be curious to say, “what else is out there?” What else can I do with this God-given life, and time? So, the curiosity in me is to have just wishing those guys, “have an awesome time,” and I go back to my own business, is that curiosity really opened up a whole world of opportunities that neither me or no one in my family was exposed to, because of where we came from.
Rajesh: Yeah, for me, I call it the curiosity with a qualifier. Curiosity with the right bias.
Ravi: With a Q, maybe.
Rajesh: Yeah, so curiosity with the right bias means you’re not curious just for the sake of being curious. You just want to know where they’re going in that instant. So, with the right bias means with the bias towards exploring new possibilities. The bias to take action, or the bias to grow, so when you have that bias, the curiosity is very different. You want to see what else is out there? What am I missing, where is the opportunity? And without that, even if you have an inflection point, you are never going to see it. Like you mentioned, you always see the inflection point in the back, but I tell you, hundreds of people would have had the opportunity to see those inflection points, but they didn’t have the curiosity with the right bias.
Ravi: Correct, I think that the operating word is curiosity. And always kind of being very futile. There is another word called serendipity. People think serendipity is luck, but serendipity also needs a futile ground. One of my good friends wrote this blog about that to be lucky, you got to have done some work before hand to express your aspirations, your desires to be out there networking people, and luck doesn’t happen just like that. So, even inflection point doesn’t just happen just like that. It’s happening because you’re constantly thinking about your future; you’re very aware of what’s happening around you, and looking to, “what else can I do to make the next second thousand times more than what it is right now?”
Rajesh: I totally agree. You said it right about preparation as part of getting lucky. There is a famous old saying; the definition of luck is the meeting point of your preparation with opportunities that are passing by.
Ravi: That’s very, very true. That’s an extremely… very relevant quote because opportunities are always there. If you just sit back, and you’re just kind of locked up in a cubicle, then you may not ever, ever see this opportunity. So, I think the point we’re point agreeing on is that inflection points can be choreographed? Is that right?
Rajesh: Yes, I totally agree, and that’s what I wanted to lead to with the… I have a story about [crosstalk 07:27]
Ravi: Oh yes, please…
Rajesh: …this story is not about me, we can talk about it later, but jack Ma, the CEO of Ali Baba, he shares a story of how Ali Baba even started. So, several years he tried to get into a job, and he could not get into many, many jobs, he was just remote. He was in the United States with his friend, and this was… he was talking about the internet, and everything. So, jack Ma was curious with the bias towards… with the right bias. He said, you can find anything. He said yeah, so the first thing he said was beer. So, and then of course, there is such deserts and everything, and he wanted to get beer from China. So, China beer or something; there was none. So, he said, “why is there none, because nobody is selling that.” “why is nobody selling that?” And then there are so many people who manufacture beer, and of course there is a long story. But that alone; he is not a programmer, he does not know how to code, he’s a teacher. But, now with the right bias towards action; exploring possibilities, and exploring how to grow, and everything, what started off as a thought: why is Chinese beer not available in the United States?
Ravi: Was that the… really the question he asked, that led to Ali Baba?
Ravi: Oh my God. You know, if I go back to your story, I kind of… it’s the questions he asked himself, and the questions he asked other people. Right? So, these are very probing questions. Not for the sake of knowing, but for the sake of figuring out. And if there is this diamond that is hidden, and if you don’t ask the right questions, the world doesn’t lead you to the right answers.
Rajesh: Correct, it definitely starts with asking the right question, and it should not stop there. He said, “why is Chinese beer not available in the United States?” Hmmm, very interesting. That’s good, at some point in time, we had to think about it. But then he takes action, he says, “I don’t know how to build a website, and everything, but somebody else knows that. I can choreograph this. And whatever it takes, I’ll bring the right people.” And today, Ali Baba is… everybody knows who is Ali Baba.
Ravi: Exactly, and you also in other episodes, we talked about fierce conversations, and your famous…the line that one conversation can change your trajectory, that’s that life changing inflection point conversation that jack Ma had with somebody about something that was interesting. And I think, I almost feel like that sparks was kind of ignited at that point for him. It was there. The spark was there, it was waiting for the moment to get ignited, and that was just the conversation.
Rajesh: Yeah, and these people… I heard this from many entrepreneurs, it’s almost like if they find a hole, we talked about it in a previous episode or something, it becomes a hole in their life. They had to do it.
Ravi: They had to do something. [crosstalk 10:52]…
Rajesh: … incomplete, otherwise, why not? I will do whatever it takes to make that complete. And moving on Ravi, we talked about…we touched upon it, how to choreograph an inflection point. Now, we know that it happened in the past, that means, we talked about not let it happen in the past, but we’re all smart. Why not make it happen in the future, with our smartness? [crosstalk 11:23]
Ravi: I think that’s an excellent point for our listeners is inflection points can be choreographed by being in the company of right people; by asking the right questions, by… you know again, I think, was it Marshall Goldsmith who wrote the book, “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There?” So, just the awareness that my trajectory up until now is not going to be guarantee…it’s not going to guarantee my trajectory from no one, but so what can I do today to change it. Because Marshall said it so beautifully, what got you here doesn’t get you there. I know, having been a very successfully executive in the corporate world, did not make me a great entrepreneur. I had to completely do things, undo things, undo my learning, change my surroundings completely. Meet with a whole bunch of new people, but I did it very consciously because I wanted the trajectory of my life to change.
Rajesh: Totally agreed. Let’s double click on what you said because that’s what I was leading to, but you said it in a summary fashion. Getting together with the right people, and having the right questions, and having the right conversations. Now, I tell you where it gets difficult is, how do we get together with the right people? So, for example, everybody moves in bands so, meaning that among their friends, they all have a similar capacity to contribute, create value. Cause if it is too different, then they’ll feel out of place. Either the person who is creating massive value, 10 times the value that is in the group, he will feel out of place, or the tribe becomes a little bit uncomfortable, the person may not be uncomfortable, the tribe thinks he’s somewhere, kind of thing. So, the right crowd could be one or two levels above, in terms of their capacity to create value. How do we jump to that tribe? [inaudible 13:35] you are becoming uncomfortable, right? So, there are few things that I have written before [inaudible 13:44]. The competent I want is of being very nice. If you are very nice, people think it’s a sign of weakness. Some people may think it’s a sign of weakness, but if you are relentless in growing, and you are a nice person, you can find one or two classes above your weight class. By thinking what can I bring to that tribe, which is one or two levels above me, so that I’m an opportunity, rather than an opportunity cost.
Ravi: So, you’re essentially expanding on the surrounding yourself with the right people. Obviously, if everybody is just like you, there’s no way that the inflection point is likely to happen, whereas, and you’re seeing, for you to have the inflection point possibility, you want to be in a tribe that’s likely better, or at least one or two levels above you. Not super high above you, but then to be in part of the tribe, you have to be thinking what can I do to belong to the tribe, to be worthy of it. I think that’s an excellent… I mean because it’s all about people. There’s not going to be a shooting star that comes and changes your trajectory. Right? You’ve got to read some new books. You’ve got to have a new conversation. You’ve got to go to an event, and kind of listen to something inspiring. And of course, you have to take some actions that are sort of new behaviors too. Your behavior has to change also, if you want to see an inflection point in your career.
Rajesh: Yeah, that’s why they say Ravi, that if you keep doing what you are doing, you’ll keep getting what you are getting. So, just a reflection on the last week, right. If there is nothing that made me uncomfortable in last week when it comes to my projects, startups, and books, [inaudible 15:34] or anything, then I’m not [inaudible 15:38]. I’m not exploring, I don’t want to fail, so I’m in the middle of the circle, just happy-go-lucky, because people can be doing what they are doing, without travestying their exist and it will be just fine. The family will be taken care of, and things will keep moving in a steady state. But if you’re not uncomfortable, then you are not on the edge. But if you are not on the edge, how do you know where the real boundary is?
Ravi: That’s so beautiful, I think they can actually make that the closing remark is, if you aspire for the larger, bigger things in life, then you should be feeling a sense of un-comfort. And that’s the time you know that you are being stretched in terms of your skills; in terms of capabilities, and you know you are on the edge. And inflection points happen at the edge. Is that a good way to summarize it?
Rajesh: Yeah, because at the center, you are very familiar with what is happening. And an inflection point, if it comes, it could have happened you will miss it because you are so comfortable with the surroundings. It has to be a game changer. And game changers cannot happen in the center of where you are playing. It has to happen at the edges.
Ravi: Fantastic. So, in closing, an inflection point can be choreographed with a good networking, and being part of the tribes that are higher in terms of achievement, capabilities, and definitely like you said, being on the edge.
Rajesh: Yeah, so my closing comment is that once you realize that inflection points can be choreographed, already you have entered a different level of awareness that you don’t have to wait for some stroke of luck, or God-given serendipity, or something you said. I may not be to choreograph a 100 percent of it, but like you used the word, if I have a futile mind, and open to new possibilities, at least I know I can increase the odds of getting to an inflection point.
Ravi: Yeah, because there’s also a quote, right? “You miss a 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” So, it is really worth taking shots in life because life is short.
Rajesh: Yeah, beautifully said. With that, should we sign off?
Ravi: Yes, thank you all for listening. Ravi Gundlapalli, signing off at Mentor Cloud dot com.
Rajesh: This is Rajesh Setty, and you can find more about me on my blog Rajesh Setty dot com slash blog
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