Life Beyond Code

Behind the Scenes of the “Power of Scale”

By Rajesh Setty on Mon 01 Feb 2010, 12:01 AM – Leave Comment

I had an opportunity to see the work-in-progress for an awesome project (featured above) by EDF called “The Power of Scale.” The outcome of the project was a 90-second video. The video is about something that we should all be concerned about – energy and what we can do about it to save OUR world.

You can see the video and see the brilliance of thinking, design and delivery for yourself but before that, I wanted to get you “behind the scenes” of this project. Here is the story about how the story got developed in the words of Justin Evans of Stresslimitdesign.

We were approached by EDF earlier this year to make a short video that help introduce and popularize the concept of reducing pollution across corporate car fleets. After reviewing a ton of whitepapers, infosheets and case studies, we realized that at the core of this initiative was a simple story about  a quantity of little actions, that when put all together and applied across the huge number of fleet cars in America, would cause vast pollution reduction and huge money savings. Our visual research led us to Charle’s and Ray Eames Classic film “Powers of 10“. Repeated watching of this and other films of theirs helped us come up with a cool visual language, but also gave us the great central metaphor to tell EDF’s story as a story of  “power of scale”.

Once we had this central concept the idea of the story fell quickly into place:

1. Establish the idea from something that everyone is familiar with

Establish the idea from simple stories of scale that everyone can identify with- in this case how much faster it is to pick up trash when you are 50 people instead of one. We then decided to reinforce this with the great visual story of telling just how much energy can be saved when everyone in a city block turning off their lights at the same time.

2. What’s a Fleet?

Once we established the story of scale, it was time to tell the story of the fleets. Starting out, none of us even knew what a fleet was. A parking lot, and some cool timelapse photography gave us a great way to talk about what fleets are, and the simple things that they can do to save energy

3. The power of scale

Having established our protagonist, The fleet driver, we then introduce the story of scale- by using small matchbox cars to illustrate the huge number of cars there are, it becomes quickly apparent how these small actions taken by one driver in the parking lot can make a huge difference when everyone does them. EDF’s statistics and predictions come to life as our little cars drive in and out of configuration.

To make the message visually exciting we chose to shoot using a combination of Tilt-Shift photography; a technique when used with highly saturated and colorful images, makes landscapes and humans look like miniature models. Combined with the effect of time-lapse photography, time appears to fly by very rapidly. And finally we did a bit of stop motion animation using actual models! All the visuals were done using a Digital Single Lens Relex (DSLR) camera Tilt-Shift lens, and a traditional lens. Playing with the concept of models and scale became a great way to illustrate visually the central metaphor of the story we were telling.

Posted in the Compelling Offers, Cool Movies, Main Page category.

The LINCHPIN in “3 Idiots”

By Rajesh Setty on Sat 30 Jan 2010, 10:55 PM – 16 Comments

3 Idiots is a movie that touched my heart in the recent past. The movie was not just entertaining but was filled with so many life lessons. Brilliant storytelling made it memorable. I won’t go into everything as I am sure many of you have not seen the movie and don’t want this to be a spoiler

The characterization of the protagonist Rancho was what touched me most (apart from the core theme of the movie.)

The Protagonist Rancho (Aamir Khan, Aamir Khan’s blog) was not just different but someone who made a difference and touched the hearts and souls of so many people in his short stay in the college. Then Rancho goes missing and his two friends Farhan (R. Madhavan) and Raju (Sharman Joshi) search for him. They have not found him for five years but they don’t give up their search.

On a similar note, LINCHPIN (new book by Seth Godin) is one of my favorite reads in the last few days.

In LINCHPIN, Seth focuses on BEING rather than DOING. Seth’s compassionate plea is for everyone to “be” an artist – be a Linchpin rather than a cog in the wheel.

There is no premium paid for “being” a cog in the wheel. Not just that, your survival is at stake if you continue “being” a cog in the wheel. So, it is not like one has a choice on whether he/she wants to do something different. One has to start “being” a different person – an artist – someone who creates.

The book is BRILLIANT because it’s a wake-up call for most professionals. Wake up call to let them know that they are heading towards a cliff if they continue “being” who they are.

A LINCHPIN in simple terms is “someone who is indispensable.” Someone who has made such a significant impact that he/she is someone you cannot live without.

Now, combining the two of my favorites – 3 Idiots and LINCHPIN, what I can infer is that Rancho was the LINCHPIN in their lives. That’s probably one of the biggest reasons the friends never gave up the search on Rancho.

In this 5-minute song, his friends recollect memories of him and explain how he had touched their heart. The song is in Hindi but thanks to Bijith, I have found the translation for the lyrics.

A thought experiment for you:

1. If you go missing (and I pray you don’t) and your friends had to think about the difference you made in their lives, what would they think about? What would YOUR song look like?

2. What could you do in 2010 so that there is a better song for you?

You may not have an answer right now, but that’s something for you to think about.

Meanwhile, here is the song and the English translation for you to enjoy:

Translation Courtesy: Bijith

(Note: Made some minor changes to the original translation)

Behti Hawa Sa Tha Woh

He was like a flowing wind

Udti Patang Sa Tha Woh

He was like a soaring kite

Kahan Gaya Usse Dhoondo

Where did he vanish? Lets find him

Humko Toh Raahein Thi Chalati

While we were always following the path

Woh Khud Apni Raah Banata

He always made his path

Girta Sambhalta Masti Mein Chalta Tha Woh

[He] Sometimes fell, sometimes balanced but always went ahead cheerfully

Humko Kal Ki Fikar Sataati

We were always worried about tomorrow

Woh Bas Aaj Ka Jashn Manaata

And, he always celebrated today

Har Lamhe Ko Khulke Jeeta Tha Woh

He lived every minute fully

Kahan Se Aaya Tha Woh

Where did he come from?

Chhooke Hamare Dil Ko Kahan Gaya Usse Doondo

Where did he vanish… touching our hearts

Sulagti Dhoop Mein Chhaaon Ke Jaisa

He was like shade in scorching sun

Registaan Mein Gaaon Ke Jaisa

He was like an oasis in a vast desert

Mann Ke Ghaav Me Marham Jaisa Tha Woh

He was like medicine for wounded heart

Hum Sahme Se Rehte Kuwein Mein

We were living in our own well

Woh Nadiya Mein Gote Lagata

While he would do a somersault in the river

Ulti Dhara Cheerke Tairta Tha Woh

He used to swim against the waterfall

Baadal Awara Tha Woh

He was like a carefree cloud

Yaar Hamara Tha Woh

He was our friend

Kahan Gaya Usse Dhoondo

Where did he vanish… lets find him!

Have a great week ahead!

Posted in the Cool Movies, Main Page category.

Sharpening Your Models

By Rajesh Setty on Sat 30 Jan 2010, 12:01 AM – 9 Comments

Photo Courtesy: Lumaxart on Flickr

Stephen Covey’s 7th Habit in his classic book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” was:

Sharpen your saw

The message there was to keep practicing our craft and continue to get better at what we do.

That message is still valid and very relevant.

However, there is a need for a new habit and this time developing this habit is “urgent and relevant.”

That habit is:

Sharpen your models

We all have models about how things work – what works and what does not.

How do you get a job? We have a model for that.

How do you make a sale? We have a model for that.

How do you make a friend? We have a model for that.

How do you build a relationship? We have a model for that.

How do you build your brand? We have a model for that.

How do you know what customers want? We have a model for that.

How do customers decide from whom to buy? We have a model for that.

Take any significant thing that you are doing and you will notice that you will base it on a model that you learned or created on your own.

In the new world, the models that work have changed. Working hard on models that are OBSOLETE won’t make them work.

If you not been looking at it, the time is NOW to sharpen your models.

Not just polish them, revisit them, refine them, recreate them and re-invent them.

This is not easy.

For you, the models that you are using represents “truth.” Just like you don’t question the “fact” that “sun rises in the east,” you won’t question your models once they are in place.

So, the best way to get new models in place is to get “good help.” There are other people who have figured out what the “new models” are. Your job is to “seduce” them and be an “opportunity” for them so that they start sharing with you what those “models” are.

You might say that you are intelligent enough to figure out the new models. I am not doubting that. There are a small percentage of people who can do that on their own. For the rest of us, we need teachers and mentors who can shepherd us through this process.

Whatever path you choose, may the Force be with you :)

Posted in the Business Models, Main Page category.

Ways to Distinguish Yourself #207 – Learn To Notice What is Left Unsaid…

By Rajesh Setty on Fri 29 Jan 2010, 12:05 AM – 8 Comments

What is said is important. Equally important is what is not said. If you are not noticing is “what is not said,” you might be missing a LOT more than you think you are.

To illustrate the point, I am going to use a song from one of my favorite movies “Music and Lyrics.” The song is just around 2 minutes.

Follow along with me on this experiment (meaning: don’t cheat)

First step: Listen to the 2-minute song without watching the video. Simply click on play and then close your eyes for 2 minutes. If you are too busy and can’t spare 2 minutes, please proceed to step 2 (not recommended but it works too.)

Second step: Just watch the video along with the song. This time, observe everything. Try to see the story that is being told. Try to notice why something and someone are there.

Third step: Reflect for a few seconds how much more richer the experience was when you started noticing what was left unsaid.

I have provided some of my observations to trigger your thinking. They are no way complete and you may have better interpretations than what is being told here.

Here are my observations:

0:00 The camera pans through the entire room giving you an idea of where this is happening. The setting is that of a large party hall in a hotel room.

0:05 There is a banner to show that it’s a class of ‘87 Reunion. So, we know that it’s the get-together of a tribe.

0:10 You see a bunch of women cheering Hugh Grant. There is absolutely no men around that place. Shows that he is popular among women.

0:30 You see a name badge on one of the women confirming again that they are all part of a tribe.

0:35 You see “1987″ in big fonts in the background reminding you again that it’s a class reunion of ‘87.

0:38 You see so many women wearing a POP! t-shirt – showing how crazy they are on something POP! ( It’s a popular band in the 80s in the movie)

0:50 Shows a bunch of really bored men. They probably wanted this song to end right away. Making it clear again that Hugh’s target audience is women ONLY.

0:52 Shows Hugh’s Manager imitating Hugh’s dance and is totally engaged with what’s happening. Indicates special relationship between the two.

1:05 Half way through the song, two women enter. Drew Barrymore and her sister. From the expression on her sister’s face, you know that she is a huge fan of Hugh Grant.

1:20 Drew Barrymore’s sister can’t wait to get in front of the line and runs. Shows that she is not just one of those fans but someone that adores Hugh

1:24 Drew Barrymore shakes her head in disbelief. Shows that she is really not into all this now ( at leas at that time )

1:51 Drew Barrymore shows from her smile that she does think Hugh and his dance are cute.

2:00 Hugh’s Manager is imitating (or giving a cue to Hugh) Hugh’s dance moves. Shows that he is more than a Manager – he is more like a friend invested in Hugh’s success

2:06 Hugh hurts his back during his dance moves. Gives a clue about his age.

2:32 Hugh’s Manager steps out with a clear concern for Hugh. Shows the level of friendship there again.

Last but not least, I have to say that there is a lot of thought that has gone into making this song. So every little thing that happens has  a meaning attached to it.

In a business situation, this may not be the case but the need for noticing what is left unsaid will not go away.

Everyone can hear what is said, only a few will notice and powerfully interpret “what is left unsaid.”


Note 1: Here is a Squidoo lens that links to most of the previous articles in this series:

Squidoo: Distinguish Yourself

Note 2: The first 25 entries in the series have been packaged in a ChangeThis manifesto that was published on September 07, 2005. You can download that manifesto here:

ChangeThis Manifesto: 25 Ways to Distinguish Yourself (PDF, Free)

Note 3: My latest manifesto on ChangeThis was published on August 6, 2008. This is a photographic manifesto featuring 15 of my mini sagas (stories in exactly 50 words). Here is the link:

ChangeThis Manifesto: Mini Sagas – Bite Sized Lessons for Life and Business (PDF, Free)

Posted in the Cool Movies, Distinguish yourself, Main Page category.

Faster, better and cheaper OR…

By Rajesh Setty on Thu 28 Jan 2010, 12:01 AM – 7 Comments

I watched the keynote speech for iPad and was fascinated by what I saw. For those of you who missed it, you can now watch it on the Apple website at the link below:

This post is not about singing praises for iPad but simply to highlight how the iPad has been positioned to make the Kindle or any other e-reader irrelevant.

How did they do that?

First, by simply by making it clear to everyone that with an iPad you get (almost) everything that Kindle offers for no additional cost.And, you don’t have to carry another device to carry your digital books.

Second, by making it clear (in case it was not clear from the above slide) by stating it explicitly. Steve Jobs said,

“Amazon has done a great job pioneering this functionality with their Kindle. And we are going to stand on their shoulders and go little further.”

Third, by announcing current Publisher support and giving a sneak peek of future publisher support.

I am confident that Amazon and others out there are busy updating their battle plans on how to counter this.

Just shows that one cannot stop innovating wherever they are in their lifecycle. Time will tell how this will play out in the next few months and years.

I want to leave you with a quote from #ThinkTweet that I posted about ten days ago. Here it is:


Just I was giving the final touches to this blog post, I noticed my friend Mari Smith echoing similar thoughts and couldn’t help smiling. The writing is clearly on the wall unless there is a new bag of tricks from Amazon


For an alternate viewpoint (which I disagree) you can read a NYT piece by Brad Stone

Three Reasons Why the iPad WON’T Kill Amazon’s Kindle

You be the judge!

***** Update at 11:37 am (hat tip: Guy Kawasaki)

Please watch this quick video where Steve Wozniak (co-founder of Apple) shares his opinion about iPad. Most of his two minute talk is about how iPad will be a better eBook reader

Posted in the Business Models, Compelling Offers category.

Leap of Faith

By Rajesh Setty on Wed 27 Jan 2010, 12:01 AM – 20 Comments

Photo Courtesy: Travis Gray on Flickr

We take “leaps of faith” all the time.

We don’t have a choice but to take a “leap of faith” when the data is limited to make a good assessment of the situation that leads to a rational decision [ For those smart types – not making a decision is making a decision ]

Actually, at some level the data is always insufficient for any major decision. So there is some “leap of faith” in any decision making.

Taking “leaps of faith” is so common and pervasive that sometimes you forget to notice it.

Why should you be aware of this?

Simply because you have benefited from someone taking a “leap of faith” on you (several times) until now. And, you will continue to benefit from others taking a “leap of faith” on you (several times) moving forward.

Reflecting on my own situation, I have been a beneficiary of this multiple times. Here are a few that I can share:

1. When I wrote my first book (a murder mystery) I was ten years old and shopped it like crazy for three years and got rejected more than hundred times. Everything seemed hopeless. Then, three years later when I was thirteen, two people (their names are G.Prakash and Nataraj Choudhury) took a “leap of faith” and said “Yes” to publishing the book.

2. When my first ever startup dream was shattered in 1992 and I was desperately looking for job, things seemed hopeless. I didn’t have the software background but was willing to learn. The future looked bleak. Then, someone (his name is Sridhar) too a “leap of faith” and said “Yes” to hiring me.

3. It was 1997 and Kavitha and I decided to come to United States. I had several interviews for a position in a Consulting company. The final interview was a super-technical one where I could not answer a couple of questions on setting distributed Oracle databases. The interviewer recommended that I should not be hired. So I thought it was over. But then, God had other plans. Someone (his name is Alok Khare, my Boss in two separate companies) took a “leap of faith” and hired me.

4. It was 1998 and I had never managed a large Vantive (a CRM product then, now part of Oracle) implementation before. Neither had I worked on a Vantive project until that time. We got a new project from Lincoln Telephone Company and then someone (his name is Bill Morton) took a “leap of faith” and made me lead that project. It worked out fine as we completed the project a week before the deadline.

5. More recently, in 2005, I wrote my first business book “Beyond Code.” My last book before that was published in 1987 (eighteen years ago) and I had never written anything serious in the recent past. I worked hard on the book for more than a year and I passionately believed in what I had written. I had put my heart into it. It was not easy to get to the finish line.  And then, someone (this time, one of my heroes, Tom Peters) took a “leap of faith” in me and wrote the Foreword for the book. That meant the world to me. I never had to look back after the publication of that book.

I can go on and in each and every case, if the people above had taken a rational approach and looked for “history of accomplishments” as proof, I would have lost. Instead, they decided to take a “leap of faith” and that made  a world of difference in where I am (and what I am doing) today.

These are special people and I thank them and many others who took a “leap of faith” on me.

If you think about it in your own life, you will notice that you will have a set of people who took a “leap of faith” on you. They are special people. Take time to thank them.

If I have one wish for you, it will be that you find more people that will take a “leap of faith” on you.

If I have one request for you, it will be that you take “leaps of faith” on a few people that truly deserve it.

Posted in the Main Page category.

Why Seth Godin’s new book “LINCHPIN” is BRILLIANT and SCARY

By Rajesh Setty on Tue 26 Jan 2010, 12:01 AM – 6 Comments

Seth Godin is one of my heroes and my work is hugely influenced by his work. I couldn’t wait to read his new book “LINCHPIN.” ( It was an honor to see my photo in the inside cover)

I thought I will finish reading this book on the same day that I got my hands on it. Boy, was I wrong.

Today is the launch of Seth Godin’s new book “LINCHPIN.”

In general, it takes me a day or two to complete reading a business book. LINCHPIN was different in many respects. I couldn’t complete reading the book for full two weeks. It was not a comfortable read by any means.


First, it was a different kind of book.

Second, it was a different kind of book compared to Seth’s earlier books.

Let us look at the themes of some of the previous books by Seth:

1. In “Permission Marketing” talks about earning the permission of your audience before you sell something. If you don’t do that, you might not get the kind of results that you will get with permission. In other words, without permission marketing, results will be mediocre.

2. “Purple Cow” was about doing something remarkable. People will remark if you do something “remark”able. In other words, if you don’t do something remarkable, you will get mediocre results.

3. In “Free Prize Inside,” Seth’s focus was on how to make your offers better. What could you include that the audience would consider as “free prize” and get more attracted.

In LINCHPIN, Seth focuses on BEING rather than DOING. Seth’s compassionate plea is for everyone to “be” an artist – be a Linchpin rather than a cog in the wheel.

There is no premium paid for “being” a cog in the wheel. Not just that, your survival is at stake if you continue “being” a cog in the wheel. So, it is not like you have a choice on whether you want to do something different. You don’t have a choice but to start “being” a different person – an artist – someone who creates.

The book is BRILLIANT because it’s a wake-up call for most professionals. Wake up call to let them know that they are heading towards a cliff if they continue “being” who they are.

The book is SCARY because of the timing. It clearly shows that professionals neither have a choice or a LOT OF TIME to debate on this. They have to start “being” an artist NOW. No other choice.

Knowing how busy Seth is, I asked only one question to Seth and here is that question and Seth’s response.

Rajesh: Seth, I love LINCHPIN and am most certain that I will re-read it in the next few days. Knowing the speed at which the publishing industry works, I am sure you have thought about LINCHPIN after the book had gone to print. What are a few things that you would have included on this topic if the book went to print TODAY?

Seth: After you’ve written a few books, you realize that the publishing industry works at its own pace. A blog post takes three minutes to reach the world, a book takes 9 months (if you hurry). The book I wrote was written knowing that people might read it a year or two or ten after I wrote it. So I pushed myself to avoid the solace of recency and the shortcut of the immediate and instead tried to write something that might make you a bit uncomfortable (it certainly made me uncomfortable when I was writing it!).

The short answer is that I wouldn’t change a word.


I have scheduled a bunch of tweets starting 3am PST with some selected insights from LINCHPIN. There will be a tweet every 30 minutes. You can follow them here on Twitter: @UpbeatNow (under hashtag #LINCHPIN)

Posted in the Announcement, Compelling Offers category.


By Rajesh Setty on Mon 25 Jan 2010, 12:10 AM – 3 Comments

Photo Courtesy: Alistercyne at Flickr

Last week, I had an opportunity to introduce one of my mentors Yakov Soloveychik to some of the people that I mentor. It was an honor and a privilege. I was explaining to the group that every time I meet Yakov I come back with something that I had not thought about. Every meeting was insightful and even if I had no questions before the meeting, I would come back with answers for the questions I should have had.

This was not a coaching session by any means but Yakov has insights to share ALL the time.

He mentioned to the group that when he meets with his CEO clients, he focuses on what comes before the “because,” because “because” is the cause of many problems.

The CEOs might say something like:

I can’t hire a new salesperson because…

I can’t fire the existing salesperson because…

I can’t increase the revenues because…

What comes after the word “because” is a story that the CEO has been telling himself (or herself) and the story is so convincing that he or she does not have to think about alternatives.

When you focus on what comes before “because” and ignore what comes after “because” for a short while, we have room to play with. There is an open space to dance. There is a new possibility. We are not captivated by the earlier story. We have an opening to tell a new story.

Over to you now.
Is there a “because..” that is bothering you. May be it’s time to revisit and focus on what comes before that “because.”

Posted in the Main Page category.

When you are not working…

By Rajesh Setty on Sun 24 Jan 2010, 12:01 AM – 10 Comments

Photo Courtesy: Brunkfordbraun on Flickr

When you are not working, are your assets working?

A simple way to get leverage in your life is to have your assets working when you are not working.

For example, writing a “good” blog will serve as an asset. Engaging on Twitter with a “good strategy” can also serve as an asset. Noticing the difference between these two is very important as the former is leaning more towards bits and the latter is leaning more towards atoms. People are looking for thought leadership ( can be heavy on bits ) and the same people are looking for engagement on Twitter ( need to be heavy on atoms )

Since you have only 24 hours (and we are not in the industrial age anymore) you cannot scale using you the strength of your body. That was yesterday. Today, the scaling happens with the power of your mind – your creativity, your intellect, your relationships, your past accomplishments etc. If I have to sum up in one sentence, your scale comes from your “valuable contributions” that help people to “get away from places they don’t want to be” or “go towards places where they want to go.”

Such valuable contributions are your assets.

These assets work when you are not working. They provide the scale. They provide the leverage.

However, creating those assets are not easy. Think about it – if any asset has to be broadly applicable to address a concern, it has to be sufficiently abstract but it should also be reasonably practical so that it can be put to use. Now, to create that would require a lot of thinking and hard work. And, it cannot be done overnight. That’s precisely the reason most people won’t do it. And, that’s precisely the reason why you should.

Go ahead and create those assets so that they can work for you when you are not working…

Posted in the Compelling Offers category.


By Rajesh Setty on Fri 22 Jan 2010, 10:55 PM – 3 Comments

Photo Courtesy: Selva on Flickr

When was the last time you were touched and moved?

Do you recall one such moment in the last few weeks?

I am sure that it was not:

* When you went to a grocery store and picked up something and the cashier gave a smile that he gives to everyone in the line.

* When you ordered a book from an online store and it was delivered on the day it was promised.

* When you went to a restaurant and the meal was good – as it was expected to be.

I can go on with examples – but if I have to summarize it in a simple fashion, this is the way I would do it:

You rarely get touched and moved by a common and expected response on something that you care about.

So, carrying forward the same logic, you generally get touched and moved by an uncommon and unexpected response on something that you care about.

With that in the background, think about the last few weeks.

Were you touched and moved by someone or something?

I hope your answer was – “Yes, a number of times.”

But the real question is this:

In the last few weeks did you do something that “touched and moved” someone?

You would have, if you did something uncommon and unexpected related to something they cared about. You would have made their day.

If you are struggling to answer that question, you got your work cut out for next week :)

Posted in the Main Page category.