1 Jan. 9 Jan. 20 Jan. 3 Feb. 17 Feb. 18 Feb. 21 Feb.
We’re just over two months into 2023, and it’s been a year of great change – personal and professional. Change is never easy, and brings along with it uncertainty and anxiety…but also opportunity.
As I went through these last two-odd months, I found the space to reflect, upon the past and upon the future. And, as I found clarity, I also found myself remembering a talk I’d made at an offsite last year. A talk about finding clarity, driving change…and pivoting. For anyone going through similar musings this year, I hope this helps.
I turned 40 last January.
Yeah, yeah, I know. You’re wondering – 40? Samit looks not a day over 28!!!
But…who am I to argue with how we measure time?
So. I’d just turned 40. That’s a fairly significant milestone in anyone’s life. And a good moment to step back, reflect and take stock.
I was, I reflected, happily married.
I was a new Dad, something that has always meant a lot to me.
I was part of a great team at work, leading a great group of people in doing meaningful work.
The pandemic had still separated us as a family.
I was struggling with my own health and fitness.
And I was, frankly, a bit lost from a career perspective. I didn’t quite know what I wanted to do or should be doing…or if what I was doing was making me truly happy.
The work I do has always been a huge part of who I am. And the last question was haunting me, dragging me down…making me somewhat unhappy.
I ended most days exhausted, feeling as if I were running on a treadmill – putting in effort but not really moving forward.
My energy was declining, and it was harder and harder to be positive and find motivation.
One day, during a conversation with my coach, I shared some of my thoughts with him.
That’s when he introduced me to the Japanese concept of ikigai.
Many of you will be familiar with this already.
Ikigai means, “a reason for being”.
It refers to something that gives someone a sense of purpose, a reason for being.
My coach asked me to spend time reflecting on what my own ikigai was.
It took me some time to get there. But after several weeks of reflection, I discovered – no, I remembered – my ikigai.
And this led me to make two profound changes. One professional…the other, personal.
I’ll start with the professional.
Last June, in a 1:1 conversation with my manager, I shared with her my struggles and fast-declining happiness with what I was doing.
You see, the reason I joined Google was to build my favourite brand from the inside out. To tell our story to the world, to help people see the company the way I do.
Somewhere along the way, I had lost sight of that.
I’d buried that goal under the idea that I was still building our brand, through the work I did.
But the work I was doing was taking me further and further away from what makes me happy, from what gives me energy, from the areas I was strongest. From the very reasons (I think) Google hired me in the first place.
The thing is, it was right in front of me all this time.
On the first line of my social media bio.
“Reader. Writer. Geek.”
Reader: Someone who is fond of reading.
Writer: A person who writes books, stories or articles.
Geek: A person who collects facts and mementos related to their fields of interest.
My ikigai lies in connecting everything I read and collect, developing ideas and telling stories.
And that’s what I found I enjoyed most, even after all these years.
Dreaming up ideas, telling stories.
I could wrangle the stakeholder management and even survive budget management – with a little help from my team.
I learned a hell of a lot.
But I needed to be focused on telling stories.
That conversation led to me stepping away from Brand & Reputation Marketing, and refocusing on Brand last June.
And, every night, no matter how hard the work day has been, I go to bed happier and wake up more energised than I have in the two years past. Using everything I learned in those years to good effect, too.
Now on to the personal.
Very simply, my ikigai is my family.
And, after becoming a father, I found myself more determined than ever to have more time in this world with the two people I love the most – my wife Saav and my son Reyaan.
That’s literally my reason for existing.
Since November, I’ve been on a journey to combat ageing and extend my lifespan. (Bizarre but true.)
I began with a lot of research on nutrition and supplementation that’s already borne results…but that’s a story for another time.
In January, I realised that my fitness just wasn’t where I wanted it to be. I knew that doing the same thing over and over again would just give me the same results, over and over again.
I needed to make a drastic change.
On the 7th of March, I started out at Ultimate Performance Fitness. The gym that media reviews call, “The Goldman Sachs, Real Madrid, Apple of personal training. They’re so far ahead of the field.” I discovered it on Google – it had 499 reviews that day, of which 498 were 5-star and 1 was 4-star. How could I not sign up?
I have to say…
It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Harder than adjusting to the client side.
Harder than B&R.
Harder, sometimes, than even parenting.
The very first day, I found myself strapped into a machine that was nothing less than torture equipment, physically crying, and yelling at myself – “Remember why you’re doing this! Remember why you’re doing this!”
The programme combines an incredibly strict calorie-deficit diet regimen with a weight training routine that is based on the concept of Progressive Overload. And is supplemented by an active lifestyle – I have to get 10k steps a day, come what may.
Since March I’ve sacrificed dessert, alcohol, and eating out. I’ve had 4 drinks since I started. Food isn’t a source of pleasure – it’s just sustenance, something that my body needs to go on living.
But I’m gradually learning a new, healthier, more sustainable way to live.
Slowly, every day began to get easier. My body began to transform, visibly. I began to end workouts strongly, and look forward to the next one.
The result? I’ve dropped 10kg and 12% body fat…so far.
And gained 4kg of lean muscle.
I have more energy than ever before.
I’m no longer disappointed when I look in the mirror.
I feel more confident – and I think it shows.
And I’m only halfway to my goal.
But, most importantly, I’m happier. I know I’m investing in my ikigai – and that any additional years I get with Saav and Reyaan are worth the pain I’m going through now.
So, what have I learned from all of this?
One: Prioritise happiness. Not success, not promo, not money, not transient pleasures. The long-term outweighs the short-term, no matter how difficult or far away it might seem. Finding a role you love. Find those things in your personal life that set you up for happiness. When you prioritise waking up happier every day, things just have a way of coming together.
Two: Purpose is the most powerful motivator. Reflect deeply. Once you’ve found your true purpose, it’ll blaze so bright within you that it’ll illuminate a path for you in the darkness. Understand your purpose, your why, and everything will become much clearer.
And, three: Don’t just embrace change – trigger it. It’s when things seem the most difficult, the most complicated, the most unachievable, that triggering change can set you on a better path. And that’s where leading with ikigai can guide you along the way.
Thank you for coming to my TED talk.