What does it take to effectively control diabetes when medication does not work?
Alok Agrawal, 52, the former chief operating officer of one of the largest media companies in the country, asked himself this question as he stared at his Hemoglobin A1c report that showed a score of 9.8. The upper limit is 6.5, give or take a few decimal points. His restlessness and the underlying stress was not helping his diabetes as the report showed. He had to admit to himself that something was wrong and what he had done to quell his restlessness so far was not going to work anymore.
To explain a little, Agrawal’s career path had been what most people dream of. Starting off in advertising, he made his way to the top of a multinational agency. The characteristic restlessness had already made an appearance and he tackled it in his own inimitable style of plunging into something bigger that earned him even bigger bucks and larger perks. He quit advertising to join as the CEO of a news channel and then went on to head a clutch of channels and manage multi-million dollar deals. However, did that dissipate his restlessness? No, it didn’t. The dissatisfaction mounted.
In personal interactions, he had begun to sound cynical and frustrated even though he continued to do well in his job. He missed the creativity and ideas-driven world of advertising but had no desire to return. Once again Agrawal put his dissatisfaction down to the organization ethos and the job. Health, he argued in his head, was a “personal" problem—a family inheritance, and his frustration was linked to his “professional" issues. Besides, the job did not allow him time to exercise or diet properly.
Agrawal then did what he had always done—he changed his job. This time the group was larger, had a reputation of being more professional and his role was bigger. After the first few months all the restlessness returned. One year later, he was staring at his diabetes report and thinking how life and everything he had been doing seemed so incomplete.
Agrawal finally admitted to himself that he had lost the drive and passion. To put it in a nutshell, he had lost his mojo.
What he was experiencing was not a unique phenomenon. His diagnosis of the reasons for his restlessness and hence, his ill health, was that it was because of the job and that it had no connection with his personal self. This is a common misconception.
I see it all the time in successful leaders. In Agrawal’s case, he had not allowed himself to question what he really wanted to do with his life. The eight-figure salary had blinded him to the fact that he had failed to move out of the popular paradigm of “success" and find his real “purpose".
Agrawal’s journey to a happier state of being, of enthusiasm, energy and spreading positivity started when he was willing to revisit that paradigm. It wasn’t easy but with a little help, he started the process of asking himself tough questions of what really mattered most to him and what he wanted to do.
“Finding a purpose", for most people, is a difficult and messy process. There will be many false starts but each of those takes us closer to something that really gets the magic going for us again.
Eventually, Agrawal quit his job and after a period of doing nothing, started exploring options. He became active on social media and became a popular blogger. That attracted many start-ups and businesses to him and he found himself in the role of a mentor, a role that was energizing for him. The interesting shift in his outlook was the move from thinking about ‘valuation’ and revenue to being of real service to people. He began finding joy in helping others find solutions.
Agrawal is now a consultant who helps organizations and people think innovatively. He has married his love for ideas and creativity with a deep desire to help others unlock their creativity. And of course, he makes money from it too.
When I called him the other day, he mentioned a coincidence: He was sitting with his latest Hemoglobin A1c report and the score was 6.4. Mojo, when it gets going, it’s like that, magical, full of happy surprises and entirely diabetes-friendly.
Find Your Mojo is a series that maps the journey of people who seek out a new purpose in their lives.
Sanjeev Roy is the founder of Bullzi Inc and runs Reflections—a programme for leaders to reinvent and recharge themselves.