Abhi has been having trouble switching his brain off lately.
He’s a business consultant, a startup advisor, with a particular interest in impact ventures and working with female founders.
During our very first meeting over coffee and croissants in Montreal back in 2018, Abhi told me one of his superpowers is turning a profit. He says he’s got a natural, somewhat unexplainable, gift for it.
He might. There might be something eldritch and otherworldly at work here, that holds responsibility for Abhi’s many wins in life to date. In a follow-up email, he explains that his losses, of which he’s had his share, define him as much as his wins.
But I can tell you this: He also works very, very hard.
There are plenty of examples from Abhi’s career to illustrate his work ethic and strong will, but instead, let’s talk about hobbies.
Abhi turned 40 this year, and before he did, he had set out three goals for himself:
- Learn to snowboard
- Go bungee-jumping
- Become a certified scuba diver
Seems doable, right? Maybe even run-of-the-mill, if you consider how common each of these activities generally is.
Abhi hated snowboarding, and isn’t athletic.
And he had a fear of heights.
As for scuba diving, he couldn’t swim and had a long-time aversion to deep water.
Strange as it may seem to most of us to set ourselves goals around the very things we have the strongest aversions toward, for Abhi, it made sense. He will take on the most difficult thing, in part to prove to himself that he can.
“There’s so many things that I had these preconceived notions about in life,” he says, “and I think a lot of them were fear-based.”
He says for him it’s just about stretching the mind, accepting the fear that exists, and then making the attempt anyway.
So although he’d had a lifelong fear of the water, his girlfriend Haley is scuba certified and has completed dives around the world. Her brother runs a scuba certification school in Florida, so there was both incentive and opportunity to dismantle that roadblock for himself.
“I was always so scared of the water,” he says. “I built up this fear for 39 years, and it literally took me a week to overcome it.”
The game is more mental than physical, of course.
Or, as Abhi puts it: “I’m being less controlling, so I’m being less controlled.”
He says it helps him to feel that he’s not living his life inside any sort of box. “You don’t want to say ‘These four things I want, these four things I enjoy.’ But why don’t I enjoy all these other things? Usually it’s because I’ve never tried them.”
Abhi says the biggest risk for him, and he’s seen it play out in both his professional and his personal life, is around getting into a comfort zone with various possibilities or outcomes or behaviors, and engaging in internal discussions about what’s true.
Fear is powerful, but developing the habit of will is more so.
Abhi says the thing he’s proudest of is having the strength to consciously make these changes and then stick to them.
I can personally testify to his strength of will: in 2018, Abhi and Haley told me about a 10-day fast they’d done a number of times. I had always been curious about these, so I completed the fast with them in January 2019. I loved starting the year with something so difficult, and achieving the win right up front felt like it set us all up for a successful and productive year. More than anything, I loved feeling the mental strength that came with setting myself a difficult task and then completing it.
Abhi also got sober in 2017. He says he’s a believer in going cold turkey.
“I had an addictive personality when I was young,” he says. “If there was something I enjoyed doing, I just latched onto it.”
Lately Abhi’s been thinking about his work/life balance, which is new territory. For many years, he’s considered it a point of pride to be always reachable, and always on. And indeed, he felt that in the entrepreneurial community, it often seemed to score him brownie points with clients if they knew they could always reach him. Any hour of the day or night, on holidays, weekends: notifications are on, and Abhi would answer.
Recently, however, he’s been noticing that his workdays never seem to end, his mind races, and he’s awake at odd hours.
A few weeks ago, he had a call with a prospective client in Edmonton. They were working on a sizeable contract in the $50K range, and Abhi told them to contact him anytime over the long weekend that was upcoming if they had questions.
“I don’t think that they were impressed at all,” he says, laughing in recalling the moment. “I don’t think this made them happy.”
“But I like that piece of me,” he says, serious now. “It’s one of my talking points, and I think it’s a selling point, but other people don’t necessarily think so.”
Now he’s wondering whether times have changed, and whether he wants to consider a new model of connectivity for himself.
“I don’t want to be adjusting my spiel based on who I’m talking to,” he says. “I want to find what the space is that I’m comfortable with.”
Abhi says he will find a solution for this new dilemma, and that this, like any other goal he sets for himself, is just about accepting it and then working towards it.
“So I have to redefine how I sell myself,” he says, with an ease in his voice. “You run a risk over time if you get into comfort zones with things, and you create discussions and arguments in your mind about what’s true. Fear and the mind is so powerful. If you believe, even in the wrong way, it’s a powerful thing, and it just holds you back.”
“Now, I think: ‘Well, I’m just gonna do it.’”
No doubts on that front.
Abhi is a startup advisor and mentor who works with clients in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. His motto is “Profit with a Purpose.”