Set Higher Standards by Ravi

Ramblings from a 30-something ultra-marathoning yogi with a day job.

Archive for the ‘Personal Development’ Category

Thank You Microsoft

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Thank you Microsoft for all of the amazing memories, friendships and a lifetime worth of learning about business, technology and perhaps most importantly, a lesson on how to work together with others to achieve a common vision. It’s funny how the skills I learned in grade-school about how to cooperate and work well with others ended up being the most important ones in my career.

I joined Microsoft over 13 years ago – as an intern. Towards the end of my internship, I was given the offer to join full-time. After exploring some other career options, I figured what the heck – Microsoft would be a great place to spend a couple years (at most!) before going to get my MBA. I never imagined that a 20 year old would be given so much responsibility anywhere else. I accepted! The MBA never happened. I was learning a ton on the job and fell in love with Seattle and the company. What I thought to be a short stint turned into much more.

During my career I worked on mergers and acquisitions, new business models, product naming and branding, pricing, market research, product planning and finally, business planning for our retail channel. I’ve traveled the world, met with Fortune 500 companies and CTOs, worked as an individual contributor and been a manager of several different teams. I worked on line of business software, productivity software, enterprise services, consumer services and operating systems. I couldn’t have asked for a more broad-based and educational experience.

I can say without question that happiness in the workplace is directly related to the person you work for. A boss means everything. I’ve been lucky to have many world-class managers. Thank you to my past managers: Paul, Marc, Jason, Jenna and Bernardo. You gave me the latitude and flexibility to do my work as I saw fit and apply my own creativity, with just enough guidance to stave off disaster. You looked out for the business and also for my own well-being. Thank you for that.

What’s next?

I am leaving Microsoft to travel the world, see the American country-side and witness my life through a different lens. I’m not leaving to join any other company – as most people would think. I don’t have a startup idea or some other business venture on the side. I am simply resigning to do something now that I thought I wouldn’t be doing until after I retired.

Most importantly, I am lucky to have the chance to go on this great adventure with the most special person in my life – my wife Alison – before kids or further obligations come into the picture. For my entire adult life my identity has been largely defined by Microsoft and the Seattle area. Aside from heights, the only thing that scares me is the idea of living a life wondering “what if…” I’m going to find the answer to that question.

So here I go. I’m going to spend the forseeable future (a year? maybe more?) living a different type of life that is free of daily work, and full of whatever else comes to mind. Some days will be great, others will be tough. This vagabond style of life is not going to be forever, but it is the right thing for now. As a 34 year old, I have many more years of my life left to work (and plan to!).

For now, it is time to get my but out on the road while I am healthy and able.

You can follow our exploits at


Written by Ravi Raman

January 6, 2014 at 3:12 pm

Unarmed Self-Defense Training

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Last weekend I attended an Unarmed Self Defense workshop, conducted by Insights Training. The last time I hit anyone was in tae kwon do class when I was 10 years old. I figured it would be a good idea to learn how to hit and defend myself at a basic level. I also heard great things about the training and figured it would be a good use of a weekend. I was right.

The workshop was two full days and was mostly drill-focused with partners. Hardly any time was spent sitting in chairs. We would learn a technique for defending/attacking and then carry it out multiple times with multiple opponents. We covered a variety of grabs and attacks – both standing and on the ground. We also learned how to de-escalate verbally and through body language. The culmination of the day was a full force attack against a trainer in a specially designed attack suit. During breaks the trainer would tell stories and answer questions to teach new material.

The most important learning  for me was a new mindset (one of preparedness and a desire to protect what matters most) and a firm understanding of my rights to protect what is important to me. Mindset is even more critical than fitness, equipment or skill. Personal safety is not something I have spent much time thinking about so this weekend definitely opened my mind to a whole new world and how to deal with it effectively. If you are in the Seattle area I highly recommend taking this training.


Me telling my attacker who is boss!


Written by Ravi Raman

November 4, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Nothing to Do and That’s OK With Me

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I’m finishing up the first month of my sabbatical and I’ve intentionally not set any big goals or projects in front of me. The last thing I want to do is treat this break from work like I treat my work! So for the past month I’ve mostly chilled out.

I did spend 10 days on Kauai, but even that was very spontaneous and every day just unfolded as it needed to. Not much in the way of planning went into that trip. I had a permit for a few nights of camping and figured out the rest as the days rolled by.

Fast forward a month, and this morning my brain was sorta freaking out, feeling like it didn’t have a focus, I was rudderless and life was passing me by. I just went back to bed and that fixed things up really quickly! Amazing what a cure sleep can be.

Nowadays I’m quite content doing yard work, riding my bike around town fetching groceries, cleaning the house, reading (a lot) and going for the occasional run or hike. I’ve also starting learning more about how to properly use the fancy digital camera I bought last year. I now know that the “intelligent auto” setting is decent but far from suitable for many shots I aspire to take.

I’ve been surprised how my mind/body has been anxious at the prospect of not having a big project on the horizon, meetings to attend or a big to-do list, but I suppose that is the experience I needed to have this past month and I’ve learned to accept that.

Written by Ravi Raman

October 31, 2013 at 7:01 pm

The Fear of Enlightenment – Alan Watts

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  • Each of us are really the Great Self
  • We deny this because we don’t “feel it”
  • We are frightened of feeling it
  • We develop a method of practice of putting off feeling it
  • We think we need to suffer and be worthy of being our Great Self
  • All of this is just postponement, because we are  afraid to see it in the here and now
  • Suffering is something we (falsely) think we need to do to achieve enlightenment
  • Suffering has nothing to do with realization of the Self
  • Realization of the Self is just about “coming off it” (it being our own perceived model of the world)
  • A guru/teacher is always saying to you “what are you doing? what is your game?”
  • A guru/teacher has many methods of helping you see the reality of who you are
  • If you have a thin shell, it can be easy for a guru/teacher to help you
  • If you have a thick shell, it can be tougher

Written by Ravi Raman

January 7, 2013 at 6:24 pm

What if Money didn’t matter

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Ravi Raman:

A simple but very important question to ponder, particularly for those of lucky to have “enough”.

Originally posted on ricci barros:

How do you like to spend your life? What do you desire? what if money didn’t matter? What if money was no object? What would you like to do if money were no object?

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Written by Ravi Raman

January 5, 2013 at 1:21 pm

We Control The Meaning of Our Lives

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Last month I participated in my second Date With Destiny experience. This is a program led by Tony Robbins that focuses on identifying the core values driving you today, the new values you want to live by and using this new “inner compass” to direct your life in an even more fulfilling manner. There was a lot to take in over the six days, but one distinction that I came away with is that we control the meaning of our lives (past, present and future).

No matter what.

No matter what has happened in the past, no matter what troubling conditions we are dealing with in the present, and no matter how potentially bleak the future looks; we can create our own meanings from the experience and either use it to empower ourselves or cast ourselves as a victim.

In the same way that one person could love a day full of bright sunshine and another could cower with fear of getting sunburn, so it is that we can define how we react to situations, memories and possibilities in a way that serves us or in a way that doesn’t.

Written by Ravi Raman

January 5, 2013 at 1:15 pm

The Value of Building Things Yourself

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I just built a little raised bed in my yard.

I needed more space to plant greens (I eat a TON of them!) and this part of my lawn was already destroyed from overgrowth and pine needles that killed off the grass.

It was a simple little project, just arranging some rocks, adding soil and planting seeds (all organic!) – but it feels good having done it. Building things with your hands isn’t about doing something cheaper or better, it’s about the sense of accomplishment and pride that can only come from creating something from scratch – by yourself.

What are you building?

Written by Ravi Raman

July 15, 2012 at 8:01 pm

How to Get Along With People

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I’ve had my fair share of challenging conversations over the years. It can be tough to deliver a challenging message at work, take critical feedback, deal with an emotional family situation or stand up for what you believe – even when it means going against the views of someone else.

How do you deal with such situations and the people involved?

One option is to get angry, frustrated and label the other party as wrong and maybe even totally psycho! Put the blame on the other person, protect your own ego and make it a story of “me vs them”. This option might feel good initially, but will inevitably lead to more frustration, anger and rarely will solve the issue at hand. It is far more likely that you will enrage the other party, cause more resentment and ill will between everyone. Not to mention the sleepless nights spent tossing and turning worrying about the issue.

Another option is to assume the best and highest intentions for the other person involved. Don’t cast them off as psycho. Don’t belittle their ideas. Don’t make them evil. Don’t create a story of “me vs we” or “us vs them”. Instead, assume that they are behaving the way they are because at some level, deep down, they truly believe it and it serves some higher purpose for them. Assume that in their view of the world, they are right and doing the right thing.

You do NOT need to agree with their point of view. You only need to assume that they have a reason for it, and that their intention is good. You may need to really do some soul-searching to find that good intention – but it will be there if you look hard enough.

This applies even in extreme cases – where lives (or entire ways of life) are at risk or big sums of money are at stake. Even for people the public might condemn as murderers and felons, there is some seed of intention and higher purpose for what they have done. Even if that purpose serves only the individual and not the other person (or people/community) involved. It is still there.

For less  extreme cases – this is also true. Let’s take the example of a disagreement at work with a co-worker. You might not agree on an issue, but if you start a conversation by assuming their best intention (they are trying to help, build a stronger team, solve a hard problem, etc.) then you immediately have common ground and can move forward to find a resolution. You don’t have to agree with their actions, but how can you doubt their intentions? How do you know what is going on in their head? You don’t, so take the “high road” and assume the best.

At some level everyone is right in their own mind and any dialogue needs to start with acknowledging that in your own mind and internal dialogue. The alternative is to assume they are out to get you in some way…and that way of thinking just leads to stress and despair.

I prefer the way of thinking that lets me sleep well at night.

Written by Ravi Raman

April 21, 2012 at 11:28 am

Don’t Manage Your Time Manage Your Energy

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Managing your energy is far more important than just managing your time.

Keep a log of how you feel during the day based on your energy level.

Over time see how hydration, nutrition, sleep, training and work schedules impact your energy.

Then, make adjustments to maximize your overall energy level, and make sure that your key activities during the day are aligned during the times when you have the most energy to give.

For example, I know that hydration has a HUGE impact on my energy level. I also know I tend to have the most energy between 9-Noon. After noon (and until 3-4pm or so), I’m essentially useless :) . Later in the evening, I get a second wind around 9-10pm but if I take advantage of that I will pay the price by feeling awful the next day.

Knowing this I focus on getting creative tasks at work done in the morning before lunch, and do my training in the evening around 5-7pm. I carry a water bottle with me and hydrate constantly during the day – especially when teaching lots of yoga or training more in hot weather.

I don’t believe that it is necessary or even possible to feel awesome ALL of the time. Instead, strive to do your best to feel good MOST of the time, and focus on making use of that productive time to do something worthwhile.

A typical lunch during the week, a super large salad with grilled tofu and peanuts at the cafe at work. Yes, we have an awesome cafe!

Written by Ravi Raman

April 8, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Three Keys to a Happy Life

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1. Make friends with your past.

2. Live in the present.

3. Be optimistic about the future.

…go on and be happy.

Tulips in La Conner, WA during the Tulip Festival a few years ago. It's almost that time of year again.

Written by Ravi Raman

April 3, 2012 at 7:39 am

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