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Gautam Kaushik, Payback CEO. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Gautam Kaushik, Payback CEO. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

I am disciplined about fitness now

Sometimes, when you hit a wall, you just need that one person to show faith in you

Gautam Kaushik, CEO of Payback, a multi-brand loyalty programme, was forced into his first run in 2002, when he was in college. His friends registered him for a 7km run; he “huffed and puffed to the finish" and, ashamed, decided he would return the next year. In the years since, he has done several half marathons, with a personal best of 1 hour, 37 minutes in Jersey in 2008. In an email interview, Kaushik explains how his running style has evolved. Edited excerpts:

Did you ever hit a wall?

I hit a wall in my first marathon at the 18th mile. I was cramping all over, water was available only at the next milestone. Then someone passed me a bottle of water and patted me on the shoulder. That egged me on and I started walking. I walked for a few hundred yards and then I felt I could run. I ran and finished the marathon, with the last mile being the fastest. Sometimes, when you hit a wall, you just need that one person to show faith in you.

What leadership lessons did you learn from that?

In professional life, it’s important to understand the resources at my disposal and establish a rhythm, ensure that the team is collaborating, etc. Then I can let the team take over. I trust it and the process, and I will only push them when they need it—sort of like this man pushed me when I hit a wall.

What impact does leading by example as a fit leader have?

Well, fitness is a personal choice. I do not see this as something which sets an example for others to follow. It definitely keeps my stress levels low and keeps me positively oriented. It also gives me the energy to last the distance.

Discipline is paramount for a runner.

One trait I have picked up is being disciplined about my approach to fitness. I believe in setting up goals that can be broken down into activities with measurable milestones.

Any leadership lessons from distance running?

In distance running, you compete with yourself. The version you are today should be better than yesterday’s. In running, it is easier to measure that. It could be time or distance or both. And gradually you realize you can do things you once thought impossible. The biggest lesson: Committing to a goal is easy, following through is the hardest.

Has running made you more goal-oriented?

When I started running, I needed those occasional motivation boosters—a new GPS watch, a new gadget, shoes, a new playlist and what not. Gradually, I realized the real motivation needs to be the joy of running itself. Now I do not carry any gadgets when I go for a run…not even my phone. One needs to find unadulterated joy in what one does .

Running With The Boss is a series in which CEOs, MDs and senior executives talk about the importance of a fit team and striking a work-life balance through running.

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