Mukesh Bansal, founder of Curefit, talks about the misconceptions related to productivity, the merit of formal education, and the importance of health in preventing burnout
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 and studies, the 382 pager book, guidesthe reader on how to learn, focus on health and thereby, achieve wholesome, sustainable productivity.
In this edited excerpt, the founder of health and fitness company, Curefit, (also founder of fashion e-commerce platform Myntra) talks about the misconceptions related to productivity, the merit of formal education, and the importance of health in preventing burnout.
What are some of the popular cultural narratives you try to dispel through the book?
One of the most popular narratives that I am trying to dispel is people thinking talent is inborn. I went through that journey myself, where I used to think that talent is something you are born with, that you discover your talent at some point in time and work on it. But as I read research around talent, I got convinced that there’s a whole method behind how a talent is developed. So, people should let go of the notion of whether they have a particular talent or not. If they are interested in some area, go about learning it in a deliberate manner, and get reasonably 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. I talk a lot about how 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 long term mindset and you have to keep incrementally getting better and eventually, you will even surprise yourself at the level of excellence you would have achieved.
In the quest for high performance, many people push themselves too far and get burnt out. How does one create a balance?
Before one can embark on any performance endeavour, you have to invest your health. You would then approach your work with fresh, energised mind without being fatigued and exhausted state every day. Sometimes people get carried away and push themselves too much. That, I think, is extremely short sighted and doesn’t add up to high performance; once you burnout you’re not even in the race. I believe most people, who are high performers they figure out that balance.
There is a school of thought now that praises wasting time and not doing anything as a way to relax and rejuvenate, instead of chasing productively all the time. Your thoughts.
I agree, productivity requires 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 quiet moments of solitude, gives your brain that breathing space. And I would strongly endorse everyone tries to create some time of silence in their life.
People confuse being extremely busy with productivity. It’s not the same. You can be very busy and not be productive at all. Productivity is you actually producing something genuinely meaningful over a period of time. And without good health, mental balance and perspective, you can’t produce anything meaningful.
How does a founder avoid getting swept by the next shiny object, not get affected by fear of missing out (FOMO), 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. I argue against it in the book because it means that you will keep shifting from one thing to another frequently and your effort will not add up. For all the good companies in the startup space, it takes them many years, even decades to really build a differentiated product.
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 and not pay attention. So, I would deliberately not go through the competitor’s products or go to their website for very 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 if you need to.
If one has to continuously learn lifelong and things you learn getting obsolete so fast, does traditional degrees and formal education system still hold value?
It’s (formal education) a good launch pad to acquire some foundational skills like learning language and communication skills, basic math, critical reasoning, how to structure your thought process. In college, you learn hard skills in your field of interest. That domain knowledge is useful. Of course, the traditional education needs to evolve and keep up with the modern tools. But there is still value to college education. Dropping out of college is still an outlier phenomenon. We only hear about it when someone has made it big but it can work out of occasionally for some people but a lot of people may end of struggling.
Which are some of the skills that you are still practising to become better at?
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 every day leads to interesting new insights and ideas.
I have been learning how to play golf for a while now, and I continue to improve my skills at the game.