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Why Glance's Piyush Shah doesn't equate success with work

Piyush Shah, president and COO of Glance, on the importance of “protecting” his calendar and investing in life coaches

Piyush Shah finds guidance on work and life with books. 
Piyush Shah finds guidance on work and life with books.  (Glance)

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For Piyush Shah, president and COO, Glance, believes in living a full life is more important than growing in only one aspect of life. “There is sustained joy and happiness in doing what you do when you live a fuller life. You really can have it all,” says Shah, who is also the co founder of InMobi Group. And this philosophy influences his approach to work as well. 

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Shah started his entrepreneurial journey in college by setting up Learning Spiral which was in education sector. He then worked with Deutsche Bank and Citigroup before co-creating InMobi. He has also invested in over 20 startups. 

An alumnus of Indian School of Business, Shah speaks to Lounge about books being his mentors, having life-coaches on payrolls, and why he thinks J Krishnamurti is an inspiring yet underrated philosopher.  

Who do you consider your mentor and why?

For the first 15-20 years of my life, books were my biggest mentors. They really struck a chord with me and shaped me. These ranged from Bill Gates’s The Road Ahead to Alvin Toffler’s The Third Wave

Lately, it has been The Almanack of Naval Ravikant, which is a compendium of Naval’s tweetstorms. His writing is simple, fresh, yet incredibly grounded. He talks about the classic journey of an entrepreneur fighting for hyper growth, while maintaining great judgment, and staying sane. The book speaks to my desire to create interesting, successful new age startups, without compromising on health and happiness. It is a breath of fresh air in an ecosystem that excessively glorifies the narrative of grit, resilience, and sacrifice in an entrepreneur’s journey. 

One major change you worked on with the help of your mentor's guidance?

Naval has a great quote about how we pursue wealth, health, and happiness in that order, but the actual importance is in reverse. It really struck a chord with me. We have rightly been celebrating all the unicorns of 2021. But I worry about maintaining sanity and the longevity of our startup community during the covid-19 waves. Over-indexing heavily on just the work pillar is harmful to the health and minds of entrepreneurs. It also makes our success feel hollow. 

I had to learn not to treat this single pillar of work as equivalent to my success. The last few years have redefined success as something more expansive and meaningful. And I didn’t have to compromise on business results. By nourishing life as a whole, I became far more impactful at home, in my relationships, and in my health. It’s not an OR but an AND. 

What does being a mentor mean to you? How do you mentor your colleagues at work?

Often, mentorship in the workplace is too strongly linked to business outcomes or coaching. When you make mentorship too transactional, you ignore the person for something as narrow as their productivity. To me, it is important to involve yourself with each person authentically – explore their mindsets, aspirations, fears, blockers, and discover their unique strengths. Unless we do that, we cannot unlock the power of their truest selves.

This is a huge area of investment I do at Glance. We have a world class team of life coaches on our payroll to work with our entire leadership team towards unlocking their full potential. We take our leaders through an entire journey of increased self-awareness, self-confidence, and building effective self-care. And this is not just lip service - I went through this same journey myself, and know how powerful it is.

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What's your morning schedule after waking up?

With remote work, the workday is extended, working both US and Asia hours. I wake up at 6 am and start my day early with some solid self-care. My wife and I exercise with our trainer four days a week. I then try to meditate, before spending my morning with my kids and seeing them off to school. It's a chance to just be around my family in the mornings. Giving myself that one hour every day has not just improved my health, I see the fantastic impact it has had on my work as well. I come away with increased clarity of thought and immense energy to take on the day.

What's the one positive work routine you have developed during the pandemic?

One very practical change that has had an outsized impact is how I design my calendar. I realised when I don’t protect my calendar, I lose control of it to other people. Now, I carefully design mine to achieve specific balance - 20% of my effort will have 80% impact. There’s always enough work to fill up your day but never enough time to think deeply about the big questions to solve. So, I ensure I give myself enough window of time throughout the day to do this high thinking, rather than being caught up in endless Zoom calls. It has been a great positive.

In the last couple of years, our screen time has increased exponentially. How to you digitally detox?

To some degree, especially with the pandemic, it has been impractical to step away from devices. My goal is to be more mindful about how and on what I spend my connected time. My rules are that any screen time must either be useful or bring joy. I don't spend a lot of time on social media except LinkedIn. I also have any notifications turned off so that they don’t interrupt, and helps me focus on what I want to at the time, whether it is work or fun.

How do you unwind? 

I love trying out food at new restaurants. It is also a chance to catch up with friends. Movie night is also a huge hit with my family. Lately, we have been dedicating the weekend to an outdoor activity like bike rides or a hike. Reading is another hobby I am passionate about. Even though I don't get to do it as much as I used to, it is something that has stayed with me since childhood.

Any book/podcast you would recommend about mentorship and workplace growth? Why?

In the last few years, I have been drawn to books that give me some perspective on how to take on life’s many challenges. A recent favourite has been What Are You Doing With Your Life? by J Krishnamurti. He is one of the most underrated philosophers out of India. This book goes beyond the lower-level needs on Maslow’s pyramid and conveys higher level thinking. But it does it in such a lucid way, it is incredibly inspiring.

Monday Motivation is a series featuring founders, business leaders and creative individuals who tell us about the people they look up to and their work ethics.

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