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Author Jinny Uppal: How I Am Redefining Success Now

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Find a way to overcome FOMO (fear of missing out). This may require limiting time spent on social media or ‘unfollowing’ certain people. Spending too much time watching and trying to emulate other people’s lives takes us away from our own vision of the life we want to live.

Have you ever noticed how often we equate success with more? Whether that’s more products, more profits, more activities or more accomplishments, we buy into the belief that we have to do more to have more to be more. And that will sum up to success. And then along comes The Great Resignation. Where employees are signaling that the “more” that’s being offered — even more pay, more perks, and more PTO — isn’t summing up to success for them. We visited with leaders who are redefining what success means now. Their answers might surprise you.

As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jinny Uppal.

Jinny Uppal is no stranger to driving contrary and innovative thinking. Uppal’s 20+ years of experience leading transformational growth by challenging existing norms in business is key to her success working with Fortune 500 telecom, ecommerce and retail companies, most recently as Vice President of Strategy at a $12B North American Retailer. In her book, IN/ACTION: Rethinking the Path to Results, Uppal explores the downside of the prevalent cultural bias for action even when it’s unnecessary or counter-productive, and presents reflective thinking and strategic inaction as a less stressful and more efficient way of achieving more by “doing” less.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today? Also, we all have myths and misconceptions about success. What are some myths or misconceptions that you used to believe?

The biggest myth I used to believe in was an established “formula” for success. When I was growing up in India, the formula for professional success for a young person was to get top grades in school and go on to study engineering or medicine. Higher secondary education was very competitive and getting a top score was hard. Well, I wasn’t getting along with the world in my late teens and did very poorly in my 12th grade (senior year high school in the US). I didn’t get admission to a top college nor in engineering, which I had wanted to study. My professional future seemed doomed. But a teacher encouraged me to study in the US which I did, to earn a graduate degree in Computer Science. The grad school I went to was also not a top school. To this day, I believe that was the best decision I ever made to set myself up for a successful long term future, a decision which came out of failing at the ‘formula’. I am not alone; we all believe in a playbook for success. My experience taught me a couple of things. One is that for every so-called ‘formula for success’, someone tried it first to become successful. Then everyone got on the bandwagon, it became overcrowded and undifferentiated. Moreover, any given formula is not the only path to success or may not be the path for You. Sometimes it’s better to come up with an atypical path which works for you instead of fatiguing yourself by competing on the formulaic path.

How has your definition of success changed?

I define success in terms of ROI (return on investment); where the numerator (return) is the result or outcome I want and denominator (investment) is time I spend and the fatigue and stress I incur. When I was writing my book, IN/ACTION: Rethinking the Path to Results, a coach told me that many authors hate their book for a while after it publishes because they are so exhausted and fatigued from the journey! I promised myself that wasn’t going to be me. This is not the hill I was going to die on! Since I was writing a book on achieving great results without burning out, I was able to practice the techniques I was discovering and writing about.

The pandemic, in many ways, was a time of collective self-reflection. What changes do you believe we need to make as a society to access success post pandemic?

What do you see as the unexpected positives in the pandemic? We would love to hear a few of your stories or examples.

The forced slowdown and self reflection during the pandemic has been a blessing in disguise for many of us. My book started as a question in my mind “What really drives success? Is it the tangible action we can see and measure or those moments of pause and, what may look like inaction, when seeds of inspired action are being sowed?” As a happy irony, had it not been for the unemployment break imposed on me, I would have never written this book. Indeed, writing a book was not on my list of things to do, ever! This book is the result of inspired thought and action during a period of downtime and self reflection. Now that we are on our way past the pandemic, I hope, for us all, that we don’t rush back to filling our lives up with things to do and back to our old ways of chasing action in order to chase results. Thoughtful pauses and self reflection don’t have to take months or years, even a few minutes of pause before jumping into misguided action can make room for inspiration to show up.

For those considering quitting their job from a place of frustration and urgency, I encourage first taking time off for reflection. A senior leader at a marketing agency whom I interviewed for my book did just that. She shared the burnout she was experiencing with her management. Instead of quitting outright, she took two weeks completely off, no emails, no phone calls. Upon her return she had another round of conversations and ultimately decided to stay on and change her client, whose toxic behavior was the root cause of her and her team’s frustration.

We’re all looking for answers about how to be successful now. Could you please share “5 Ways To Redefine Success Now?” (Please share a story or example for each.)

I’m happy to share some ideas from my book:

  1. Define success in terms of what I call “360 degree goals”. Include life dimensions such as relationships, well-being, community and any causes you are passionate about in your goal setting process. Goal oriented people, like me, are very good at setting and achieving goals. Several years ago, I realized that my goals were too narrow. I would set a goal to, say, get a promotion at my job or buy an investment home. In the pursuit of my goals, I would then get busy and sometimes neglect my health or meditation practice. So I learned to set 360 degree goals. As an example, I now always add this goal: “Stay committed to my daily meditation practice”. This way I won’t compromise that aspect of my life while I am working towards other aspirational goals.
  2. Find a way to overcome FOMO (fear of missing out). This may require limiting time spent on social media or ‘unfollowing’ certain people. Spending too much time watching and trying to emulate other people’s lives takes us away from our own vision of the life we want to live.
  3. The highest success comes from original and inspired ideas, not running the hamster wheel like everyone else. Contrary to common belief, the best source for inspiration and original ideas is not ‘out there’ but deep in our own consciousness. While researching for my book, I came across neuroscience studies that show that when we give our mind a break from focused tasks, it connects the dots on all the information it’s been gathering and comes up with creative “aha” solutions and ideas which no amount of brute force concentration will lead to. Hiking, walking in nature, meditating are all great ways to give the mind a break and let our brain sort things out in the background.
  4. Give laziness and procrastination a chance! This may sound crazy, but as I share in my book, IN/ACTION: Rethinking the Path to Results, there is a huge advantage in delegating or delaying a task or decision. My book writing journey, from decision to write to publish date has been less than 12 months. This journey is full of pressure, deadlines and complexity, especially for a first time author. Counter-intuitively, I have employed more laziness and procrastination in the last 12 months than ever before! When I run into a complex problem, I walk away from it, renegotiating deadlines if I have to, to give myself mental space for a creative solution to come through. I’ve made choices on what to outsource or deprioritize. All sorts of new ideas and information come up when you strategically delay a decision or task.
  5. Define the outcome or result you want and alter the playbook or the formula: You probably had a playbook in mind to get to the outcome. It either came from something you tried in the past, something an expert or a guru has been preaching, or something you feel bound by (for example, the norm in your industry). For my book, I interviewed Tyler Hayes, a three-time Silicon Valley founder who turned to crowdfunding to raise funds for his fourth business. He did it at a time when venture and angel fundraising was (and is) the norm for startups. When the crowdfunding campaign was over, his team significantly exceeded their goals (180%) and also saved themselves the frustration and emotional exhaustion that comes from innumerable pitches and inevitable rejections in the traditional fundraising path. If the journey is as important as the destination, what might you try differently?

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she or they might just see this if we tag them.

I’d love to meet Jack D’orsey. I admire his commitment to his physical and mental health, while running two companies, both of which continue to disrupt the status quo of how we communicate, engage and buy. He apparently eats only one meal a day, I’d love to join him in whichever one it is!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My first and last name combination is unique, I am easy to find! I would love to hear from your readers @jinnyuppal on LinkedIn or twitter. They can also read more short form content on my social media channels and longform book insights and journey in my newsletter at jinnyuppal.substack.com.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.

I wish you and your readers great success and a fun-filled journey towards your destination!

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

825 Followers

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.