On Feb 22, 2021, I got an email from Apoorba, a participant from our digital detox program Undistractable (it was then called ‘Reboot’).
Apoorba was in the middle of a career crisis. His sales team was shrinking and the sales numbers were crashing. Covid had made it really hard to generate revenue for the company and he could not see any hope. He asked me if he should quit his job and look for something else.
From that low point, Apoorba went on to revive his career and become a star performer at his company. He later joined Grant Thornton, where he is a director. And I have no doubt that he will keep going up and up the professional ladder.
Also, Apoorba is an avid marathoner, a fitness aficionado, and a fanatic about focus and self-discipline. All this may tell us that he was one of ‘those guys’ who are naturally fit and focused. But his real story is more incredible than a movie script. And here it is.
In 2018, Apoorba weighed 137 kilos. He had diabetes, a blood pressure of 180, heart issues, and breathing problems. He would quickly tire out and was in terrible shape.
At that point, he decided to change his life.
He joined a group of runners in Hyderabad, started yoga and running, and began working on his fitness. He changed his diet – no sugar, no junk or fried food. And he became a long-distance runner.
In the beginning, it was extremely painful and he struggled to run even for two minutes. His legs would hurt so much that he felt a strong urge to quit. But he did not.
With persistence, he steadily improved his health and just a year later, in 2019, he went from being obese to running five half-marathons and eight 10k races. He went from 137 kgs to 92 kgs. I don’t know too many people who would have pulled that off.
But his incredible story does not end here.
Even though he had improved his health, he realized another problem – he was just too distracted, be it at work or in his personal life. Even Strava, which he used to track his runs, became a source of distraction – he was more focused on the ‘likes’ than just the joy of running.
While he had nailed the physical discipline and fitness, mental focus and discipline were still a problem.
That is when my path crossed with Apoorba after he joined our digital detox program called Undistractable (then named ‘Reboot’). And as with everything else in life, Apoorba was methodical in implementing its learning.
He cut down his distractions and built good habits. But just as things were looking good, he was hit with the professional crisis I talked about at the beginning of this newsletter. He was a sales leader and the revenues started spiralling down. Targets were missed and every day, he dreaded having to disappoint his manager.
That is when Apoorba decided to bring focus into his life.
He started attending our Deep Work program and had already completed Undistractable. For the next one year, in every deep work session, he would come prepared with a specific list of action items – which emails to send, what calls to make, whom to update, and so on.
These were things that would move the needle but were hard to do in a distraction-ridden office environment.
And slowly this no-nonsense approach turned the tide. With persistence and focus, he soon went from nearly quitting to becoming a star employee. He was now doing so well in the job that one day, his manager asked him to train other team members!
Later, when he found a better opportunity, Apoorba joined Grant Thornton, where he is currently a Director. And I am confident that he will go places.
So Apoorba underwent not one but two transformations – a fitness transformation followed by a focus transformation.
Once, when I was talking to him, Apoorba said that he has learned to be fully present in whatever he is doing. E.g., if he is cleaning the windows at home, his mind is fully into the cleaning. This is the Zen mind we often read about.
I am sharing this story because we sometimes doubt whether real and lasting change is even possible. As Apoorba has shown – it is.
Surely it is neither easy nor super-quick – but if one of us can do it, we all can. I hope this story motivates us to build the life we aspire to.
There are no shortcuts, but there is a method. Build focus and self-discipline. Overcome distractions. Eat healthy. Do some fitness training 4-5 times a week. Inculcate mindfulness and meditation. And you don’t have to do all of them – just start with one or two things.
And gradually, the benefits will compound. That’s all it takes. And if you can stick to it for a year or two, your life can change beyond recognition.
Thank you for reading this. I hope this inspires us all to act.