Practical Wisdom with Dr. Srikumar Rao

by | Jul 15, 2019 | INSPIRED EVOLUTION PODCAST | 0 comments

Our guest for this week is Dr. Srikumar Rao, a keynote speaker, author, executive coach and the creator of the renowned ‘Creativity and Personal Mastery’, a course designed to effect personal transformation. 

About Dr. Rao

Dr. Rao has obtained his Ph.D. in the field of Marketing from the Columbia Business School. Prior to that, he was an executive at Warner Communications and the head of the Marketing Research Department at Data Resources.

Later, he went over to academia and in 1994 he created his famous course called ‘Creativity and Personal Mastery’ (CPM). Since, he has taught CPM at some of the world’s leading business schools such as Columbia, Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, London Business School, and Haas School of Management at the University of California at Berkeley. The course was created with a goal of empowering students to discover their unique purpose, creativity, and happiness, through teamwork and considerations of the philosophical perspective. 

In 2013, he founded The Rao Institute. Dr. Rao has coached thousands of executives on how to be better leaders by helping them discover a deeper meaning to their career and life. He has helped them achieve “quantum leaps in effectiveness”.

He is also an author of several books on the subjects of personal mastery, purpose, and success. In 2010, he released a book titled “Happiness at Work: Be Resilient, Motivated, and Successful – No Matter What”. In it, Dr. Rao aims to teach you the vital wisdom essential for achieving a joyful life, successful per your own standards, by helping you become more resilient and develop a stronger inner core.

Connect with Dr. Rao:


Dr. Rao’s Story of Inspired Evolution

During his student days, Dr. Rao was on the path of becoming a successful physicist. Yet, the twist occurred some years later when he decided to visit America and acquire a doctoral scholarship. In 1980, he got his Ph.D. from the Columbia Business School in the field of Marketing.

But he was already very successful in the field since Dr. Rao had worked as an executive at Warner Communications several years prior. His big break came when he worked on an advertising strategy for a blockbuster movie which is to this day on the list of top 50 grossing movies of all time. The movie in question was the world-wide phenomenon, ‘The Exorcist’ released in 1973.

His career was skyrocketing but he felt restrained and put down by corporate politics. He decided to shift towards academia and teaching. But some time after joining the University of New York, Dr. Rao started questioning his decision.

“Basically, I stagnated. And there was a time when I woke up feeling very sorry for myself and I had this great corporate career and I threw it away.” – Dr. Srikumar Rao

Dr. Rao relied heavily on reading about spiritual subjects in order to find his inspiration but he was always confused by the fact that these teachings weren’t working for him in the real world. He knew these insights were valuable but he just needed to figure out a way of how to apply and make use of them.

“One day I had my bright idea which was ‘Why don’t I take the teachings of the worlds, great masters, strip them of religious, cultural and other connotations, and adapt them into exercises acceptable to the diligent people in the post-industrial society.’ And the thought of doing that made me come alive!” – Dr. Srikumar Rao

His desire to create a course wasn’t driven by the needs of the market. He prepared the course because he felt he needed to do it for himself. After some adjustments and a couple of iterations, Dr. Rao created what we know today as ‘Creativity and Personal Mastery’ course.

In This Conversation We Canvas:

  • The Pursuit of Happiness

Dr. Rao postulates that our principal desire is to be happy in some shape or form. We go over the dynamics that create the underlying anxiety, depression and overall unhappiness in today’s society. Dr. Rao realizes that the model which we use to conceptualize happiness is broken and suggests a perception change.

“We are unhappy because we’ve spent our entire life learning to be unhappy. And the way we learn to be unhappy is by buying into the “if-then” model and the model is broken.” – Dr. Srikumar Rao

  • The ‘Sense of Control’ Paradox

Dr. Rao reflects on our need to control the world around us and points out the paradoxical nature of our attempts to attain it. He also describes how we can use this paradox to our advantage.

“The more you accept that you don’t have control and you let go of your need to have control, paradoxically, that’s when you find that you have the greatest control.”  – Dr. Srikumar Rao

  • Should Mental Models be True or Useful?

We use different models to understand the world around us. But rather than focusing on whether or not a model is true or if it rightfully depicts our reality, Dr. Rao suggests we should be asking ourselves if the model is useful. Taking this as the main standard for assessing our models, we can then use this perspective in order to deal with issues and challenges we face in both our personal and professional lives.

“Look at the situations in your life that you find unpleasant. And every time you find a situation in your life that you find unpleasant and it persists, you’re using one or more mental models that are not serving you well.” – Dr. Srikumar Rao

  • Living a Life of Service

Having a sense of purpose is one of the main aspects of Dr. Rao’s teachings. Feeling that we’re connected to a cause greater than ourselves is one of the preconditions to living a happier life. The great thing is that “serving the greater good” is a very flexible idea meaning that we can all define it for ourselves and create a path that’s just right for us.

“You need to have a cause which is bigger than yourself and which brings a greater good to a greater community. And you get to decide what the greater good is and what the greater community is. You have tremendous flexibility!” – Dr. Srikumar Rao

  • The Importance of Intent for Personal Growth

Dr. Rao recognizes the importance of the things that we are doing but also proposes that what we are being while we’re doing those things is way more important. He believes having the right intent is an essential component of our attempts to become better versions of ourselves.

“Whatever you do, the intent with which you do that is what really counts. That is what makes a difference in your growth and development and in many cases that is also what makes a difference to the other person.” – Dr. Srikumar Rao

Dr. Rao’s Message of Inspired Evolution

The message in the teachings of Dr. Rao is one of hope for a better tomorrow. His courses and books have inspired an evolution in the minds of many and he sees that this approach is not only a solution for improving the wonderful world we are living in further, but it is also our duty. 

“It is, fundamentally, a wonderful world. And it is your job to recognize it, anchor yourself on it and continue to make it better for yourself and for everybody else.” – Dr. Srikumar Rao