I used to think that you discover your talent at some point in time and work on it
Before one can embark on any performance endeavour, you have to invest in your health
At a time when the working world is split between chasing optimal productivity and slowing down, Mukesh Bansal’s new book No Limits: The Art And Science Of High Performance strives to take the middle path. Backed by research, the book has several anecdotes that can guide you on how to learn, focus on health and thereby, achieve wholesome, sustainable productivity.
In an interview, Bansal, co-founder of fitness company, Cure.Fit, (and founder of fashion e-commerce platform Myntra), talks about the misconceptions related to productivity and the importance of health in preventing burnout. Edited excerpts:
What are some of the popular cultural narratives you try to dispel through the book?
One is people thinking talent is inborn. I used to think that you discover your talent at some point in time and work on it.
As I read research, I got convinced that there’s a method behind how a talent is developed. People should let go of the notion of whether they have a particular talent. If they are interested in some area, go learn it and become good at it.
The other point I am trying to raise is underscoring the importance of habit. We tend to celebrate overnight success. In reality, there is no such thing. When you add something year after year for a decade or more, that’s when you truly see a remarkable performance. Sometimes, we pick up something and if we don’t see results or progress in few months, we start to give up and move on. But performance doesn’t work that way. You have to have a long-term mindset and keep getting better, and eventually, you will surprise yourself at the level of excellence you would have achieved.
In the quest for high performance, many people push themselves too far and feel burnt out. How does one create a balance?
Before one can embark on any performance endeavour, you have to invest in your health. You would then approach your work with a fresh mind without being fatigued. Sometimes people push themselves too much. It is short-sighted and doesn’t add up to high performance; once you burnout you’re not even in the race.
There is a school of thought that praises wasting time as a way to relax. Your thoughts.
Productivity requires a good deal of quiet time. You are giving yourself time instead of running pillar to post without knowing where you are going or why you are going there. Those moments of solitude give your brain that breathing space.
People confuse being busy with productivity. It’s not the same. You can be busy and not be productive at all. Productivity is producing something meaningful over a period of time. Without good health, mental balance and perspective, you can’t produce anything meaningful.
What skills are you learning to be more productive?
I have been trying to practice stillness, increasing the amount of quiet time I spend doing nothing. Often, there is a temptation to find something to do and become busy, but I find that spending a few hours in stillness leads to interesting new ideas. I have also been learning golf for a while now.
How does a founder avoid getting swept by the next shiny object, and focus on finding purpose in what they are doing?
It’s true that many of us tend to be driven by what’s happening around us. One of the things I did in my career is to pay little attention to competition. Earlier, I would pay attention to competition to see what was going on and tend to react. Then I figured, the best thing to do is to avoid this pitfall.
So, I would deliberately not go through the competitor’s products or go to their website for a long time to make sure that it wasn’t affecting my judgement and decision. The choices you make are driven by your internal conviction, and you have to constantly remind yourself this, be disciplined, and at times, put the blinders on.