From Frenzy to Focus: Kavita Sahai On How We Can Cancel Hustle Culture And Create A New Sustainable Work Paradigm
An Interview With Drew Gerber
Change the belief that you have to hustle to be successful by affirming you can do it and still have peace.
“Hustle Culture” is an ethos often propounded by young self-proclaimed internet gurus that centers around the idea that working long hours and sacrificing self-care are required to succeed. This mentality may have gained popularity in the mid-2010s, but it has peaked, and now it has been sardonically renamed “Burnout Culture.” So why exactly is Hustle Culture the wrong path to take? What damage can it cause? What is a viable, sustainable alternative to hustle culture? How can we move from Frenzy To Focus? In this interview series, we are talking to business leaders, mental health leaders, marketing experts, business coaches, authors, and thought leaders who can share stories and insights about “How We Can Cancel Hustle Culture And Create A New Sustainable Work Paradigm.” As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Kavita Sahai.
Kavita Sahai is founder and CEO of K Sahai, a natural beauty and wellness brand. She is certified in aromatherapy, yoga, Ayurveda and human design. Previously, she worked as an investment banker and private equity investor. Kavita received her MBA from UC Berkeley and BS in finance from the University of Florida.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to know how you got from “there to here.” Inspire us with your backstory!
I am a proud mom of three kids and a recovering workaholic. I started my career as an investment banker and then went on to do private equity. I was working crazy hours, but I thought I was successful since I was making good money. One day I found myself lost in a sea of post notes because my brain fog was so bad, and I finally hit a wall of exhaustion. My brain and body started to shut down. When I went to doctors, they diagnosed me as an “overwhelmed mom,” so I started to look for alternate paths. Feeling “normal” was my new definition of success. Finally, I came across an aromatherapist who made me a custom blend and after a few months my brain fog cleared and I felt like my best self. Bringing these custom oil solutions to the world became my new passion. I also became obsessed with many different wellness, beauty and spiritual modalities. I also realized that I needed to build self-care into my everyday life
Tell us about your typical day!
I wake up at 6am, meditate and then get my three kids ready for school. After dropping them, I enjoy some talk therapy with my best friend while I head to the office. I start with a morning 5–10 min huddle with my team on the focus for the day, and we open with a word to describe our mood. Twice a week I will try to use lunch for a yoga class and usually I head home around 5pm. I get dinner started and spend time with the family. I make it a point to get to bed early so I usually wind down around 9:30 pm. I spend at least 20 minutes on self care before bed doing face massage/yoga, meditation and/or journaling.
What lessons would you share with yourself if you had the opportunity to meet your younger self?
Working all hours of the night doesn’t mean you are being productive or effective. I can remember many nights working till 3am and my co-workers and I would complain/brag about who was at work the longest. Also, the strain you put on your body now will have a lasting effect on your health.
Ok, thank you for sharing your inspired life. Let’s start with a basic definition to make sure that all of us are on the same page. How do you define Hustle Culture?
Hustle culture is the idea that if you want success in the traditional sense of wealth, you have to only focus on work at the expense of everything including: health, relationships, etc. It is the “cool factor” of a person who stays in the office at all hours or brags about not getting enough sleep or not using any PTO days.
Now let’s discuss an alternative to Hustle Culture. To begin, can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority on the problems that come with Hustle Culture?
I was the poster child for Hustle Culture. I was the first in the office and last out while bragging about the lack of sleep, meals, vacations and family events I had missed. No email was left unanswered for more than five minutes regardless of the time or day sent. I kept pajamas and a toothbrush at work. Once my mind and body finally gave out, I realized I was living my worst life and in no normal world would this be considered success. I started studying many different wellness modalities and realized the importance of self care and how the lack of it can lead to many of the modern day problems we see including insomnia, inflammation, brain fog, anxiety, stress, etc. Many of which I was experiencing.
As I studied different wellness modalities, I realized we could accomplish and focus more if we actually spent time on self care. I created an entire company around self-care and spiritual practices to help people get grounded and calm so they can be more focused and happy.
The specific term “Hustle Culture” may have been popularized in the 2010s, but the concept behind it and the behaviors that come with it can be traced back hundreds or perhaps even thousands of years. From your vantage point, experience, or research, what were the main drivers of Hustle Culture?
The main drivers of hustle culture come from the perceived belief that “hustling” is the only way to be successful and powerful. Social media is full of influencers promoting the “grind” and even top CEOs like Tony Robbins and Elon Musk glamorize the hustle mentality.
I work in the marketing industry, and so I’m very cognizant of this question. What role do you see that marketing and advertising has played in creating the frenzy caused by Hustle Culture that many of us feel?
Marketing plays such an important role in influencing how we feel about culture and what is acceptable. Hustle culture is a reality in part because mediums such as social media, TV, billboards, and magazines, have sold the idea that success is achievable only if one is willing to work harder and longer than anyone else. They have portrayed the notion of “hustling” as a badge of honor, with the idea that success only comes to those who are willing to grind and put in the effort. I think this quote by Will Smith says it all
“The only thing that I see that is distinctly different about me is I’m not afraid to die on a treadmill. I will not be out-worked, period. You’re not going to out-work me. It’s such a simple, basic concept. The guy who is willing to hustle the most is going to be the guy that just gets that loose ball. The majority of people who aren’t getting the places they want or aren’t achieving the things that they want in this business is strictly based on hustle. It’s strictly based on being out-worked; it’s strictly based on missing crucial opportunities. I say all the time if you stay ready, you ain’t gotta get ready.”
Outworking the next person should not be the goal.
Can you help articulate the downsides of Hustle Culture? Why is this an unsustainable work paradigm?
The downside is burnout and the negative impact on your mental and physical health. It is unsustainable to live a life where work is the only priority and comes at the expense of health, family and all other aspects of life. Even if you love your work, it will take a toll on your mind and body.
Let’s now discuss Focus, the opposite of Frenzy. Can you please share one area of your personal or business life where you simplified things and then felt less frenzied and more fulfilled? Can you please explain?
At work and personally, I stopped saying yes to everything. No matter how amazing an opportunity it seems at first, I will take a few minutes to sit with it at the end of the day (away from the Frenzy) to really see if it feels like something I should or need to do. Before my immediate reaction was a yes. Can you volunteer at school? Yes Can you do this podcast? Yes. Should we expand into hotels? Yes. I would then have to deal with the Frenzy that followed being a “yes” girl. Instead, I keep a list that I review at the end of each day and really see if it would make sense to do it. I say no to the invitations that don’t have a high return on time. This keeps me focused on the things in my life that I want to grow while leaving me plenty of time for self care.
What life experiences have you adopted in your business or personal life that have left you more satisfied? Can you please explain?
I discovered human design a few years ago and it changed the way I live my life, do business and handle my relationships. Living in my design allowed me to live life with more satisfaction, joy and purpose so I incorporated it into my skincare brand. We give personalized human design journey’s with our face oils to give customers the same satisfaction. The process of self-discovery is something I encourage at all times to find our unique path to satisfaction and joy.
Okay, fantastic. Here is the main part of our interview. In your opinion, how can we break the addiction to being busy or trying to find the next big thing? How can people truly focus on tasks that make THE difference to their business and lives giving them satisfaction or life purpose alignment? Based on your experience and your area of expertise, can you please share “Five Ways To Move From Frenzy to Focused”?
1 . Get enough Sleep: Nothing works well if you are not rested.
2 . Plan & Prioritize: Make a list of what you need to do and number based on urgency.
3 . Sit in silence everyday: It will help you ground and get the perspective you need to focus.
4 . Change the belief that you have to hustle to be successful by affirming you can do it and still have peace.
5 . Set Boundaries: Say no to things that don’t have a great return on time (low impact).
How would you describe a work paradigm that is a viable alternative to Hustle Culture? What would it look like, and what would you call it?
Conscious Culture — get your work done with the mentorship and breaks you need to be successful. Get feedback on work product vs hours worked. No defined amount of vacation or PTO days. Take what you need when you need as performance is just tied to work product. It is how we run K Sahai.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have inspired you about working differently?
Thrive by Arianna Huffington had a big impact on me because it felt like a familiar story of a successful woman who had to redefine success by focusing on wellness and giving.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can inspire.
Soul Success — a movement to focus on your spirituality and soul purpose. Leading your personal and business life with soul health in mind (good karma above all).
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
You can find my blog on ksahai.com and on any social media channel @loveksahai for self care tips.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.
About The Interviewer: For 30 years, Drew Gerber has been inspiring those who want to change the world. Drew is the CEO of Wasabi Publicity, Inc., a full-service PR agency lauded by PR Week and Good Morning America. Wasabi Publicity, Inc. is a global marketing company that supports industry leaders, change agents, unconventional thinkers, companies and organizations that strive to make a difference. Whether it’s branding, traditional PR or social media marketing, every campaign is instilled with passion, creativity and brilliance to powerfully tell their clients’ story and amplify their intentions in the world. Schedule a free consultation at WasabiPublicity.com/Choosing-Publicity.