Let’s kick off our show with a quote today:
“It’s lonely at the top. 99% of people are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for ‘realistic’ goals, paradoxically making them the most competitive.” -Tim Ferriss
When I was introduced to my guest, Shilpa Kulshreshtha and her concept of murdering mediocrity, I took pause. The term even made me uncomfortable, but it stuck, and I knew that I needed to speak with Shilpa.
I started asking myself if I was living in mediocrity. Was I living in my comfort zone or really going for it in my life and career?
And what did I need to do to eliminate mediocrity in all areas of my life?
If you suspect that you may be hiding out in a comfort zone, playing second fiddle, or not taking center stage and shining your gifts and talents for all the world to see, listen in! You will gain inspiration and motivation from our conversation.
During my chat with Shilpa, we discussed:
- What does mediocrity mean? What are the signs of being mediocre vs. extraordinary?
- How do we know if we are in the 1% or 99% as Tim Ferriss said in the above quote I shared to kick off the show?
- What does murdering mediocrity mean to Shilpa? Why did she decide to use the term “murdering”? It definitely stuck out to me.
- What are the telltale signs that we may be in a rut personally or professionally? How does Shilpa help her clients get out of these ruts?
- How can we take center stage in our own lives and not push ourselves to the side or act in that “support” role vs. a leadership role?
- What does it mean to play it full in our lives and careers? Shilpa has a book specifically on this topic called Play It Full: 7 Steps to Unlock Your Extraordinary Career.
Listen to the podcast here
Achieving Magnificence By Murdering Mediocrity With Shilpa Kulshreshtha
Everyone, how are you doing out there? Let’s kick off our show with a quote. “It’s lonely at the top. 99% of people are convinced they’re incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for mediocrity. The level of competition is thus fiercest for ‘realistic goals,’ paradoxically making them the most competitive.” The quote is by Tim Ferris, who famously wrote The 4-Hour Workweek. Who doesn’t want a four-hour workweek? I don’t know about you, but I definitely do. We are not going to talk about The 4-Hour Workweek in this episode, but we are going to talk about mediocrity.
When I was introduced to my guest, her name is Shilpa Kulshrestha, and her concept of murdering mediocrity, I took a pause. The term “murdering mediocrity” made me even uncomfortable, but it stuck in my bones and I knew that I needed to speak with Shilpa. I started asking myself, if I was living in mediocrity, was I living in my comfort zone or going for it in my life and career? If so, what did I need to do to eliminate mediocrity in any area of my life? If you suspect that you may be hiding out in a comfort zone somewhere in that life or career, somehow playing second fiddle or not taking center stage and shining your gifts and talents for all the world to see, tune in. You’re going to gain inspiration and motivation from our conversation.
During my chat with Shilpa, we discussed, what mediocrity means to her and what are the signs of being mediocre versus extraordinary? How do we know if we’re in that 1% or 99% as Tim Ferris said in his quote that I shared when I kicked off the show? What does murdering mediocrity mean to Shilpa? Why did she decide to use the term “murdering?” Definitely, it stuck out to me. What are the telltale signs that we may be in a rut personally or professionally? How does Shilpa help her clients get out of these ruts? How we can take center stage in our own lives and not push ourselves to be on the side or act in that “support role” versus a leadership position? What does it mean to play it full out on the court in our lives and careers?
We touch on Shilpa’s book, Play It Full: 7 Steps To Unlock Your Extraordinary Career. Here is a little bit more about Shilpa. Being made redundant from a leadership position for a large corporation after two decades, Shilpa realized that she had unconsciously slipped into mediocrity. She went on a soul-searching journey to get out of the average game and step into her most powerful self. Shilpa has helped top executives at major companies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Oracle, as well as hundreds of professionals in fifteen countries, step out of mediocrity and build powerful careers.
She has won multiple awards including Woman Entrepreneur Of The Year, Changemaker of The Year, 40 over 40 Winner, and has been named among the 100 most inspiring women across the globe. She is also a TEDx speaker and best-selling author again to Play It Full: 7 Steps To Unlock Your Extraordinary Career. Her mission is to help professionals become mediocrity murderers and create a life of power, peace, and prosperity.
Before we get started, if you’re enjoying Brave Woman at Work, please make sure to leave a rating and review on Apple Podcast and Spotify. Your reviews mean the absolute world to me and it helps the show get that visibility it needs to grow. If you’ve already left a rating or review, I thank you so much. As a reminder, please make sure to hit the plus sign so that you can subscribe to the show and get it right in your feed on a weekly basis.
One more reminder. If you haven’t yet gone over to my website to grab one of my freebies, go to BraveWomenAtWork.com. I have a freebie called Get Paid: 10 Negotiation Tips, 24 Career and Leadership Affirmations, and the 5 Steps to Managing Your Imposter Syndrome. They’re totally free. They’re workbook style, so you can write in them, and you can use them at your leisure when they make sense for you. They’re free, so go and grab them at BraveWomenAtWork.com. Let’s welcome Shilpa to the show.
Hello, Shilpa. Welcome to Brave Women at Work. How are you?
I am very well. I’m excited to be on this show.
Thank you so much for joining. Why don’t you start by telling us about your backstory and how you’ve gotten to where you are now?
I’ll go back to my childhood where I was brought up as a nerd. I was topping my school, and doing well in my education because I was told that education is the way to succeed in life. Because my dad was a professor and my mom was a school principal, the emphasis on education was a lot more than in normal households. I took it a little too literally and wrapped myself up in five professional degrees. I was a CA, CPA double graduate, and double post-graduate. I did law and I did my MBA. I thought I was all set. I went a little too crazy. I thought, “This is it. I’m ready to rock and roll.”
In the starting, I wouldn’t say that it wasn’t good. It started off pretty well. I came to be known as someone with a Midas touch in the first corporate that I worked for. It was a startup. That was because education had instilled in me a discipline and attitude. It helped me for a few years down the line because I was carrying it. However, ten years into my journey somewhere, I started giving my work a bare minimum. A lot of things happen in the lives of women. You get married, you get pregnant, and pregnancy is a comma if not a full stop in our lives. You have children. You have so many priorities. You change cities. You change countries. Sometimes you have to follow in the footsteps of your husband to resign from a well-established job.
In all this hustle and bustle that happened, I stopped going above and beyond. I didn’t realize it. I thought I was still that school-topper national-level ranker. I stayed in that illusion for years. I would’ve stayed in that illusion forever until the day I would’ve retired. In 2018, after 16 years of career, my company came to me and said, “You know what, Shilpa, we can do without you. We don’t need you any longer.” That was the time when I faced my forced rejection. No one in my life had ever rejected me before that.
This was a big slap on my face that I had slipped to a level where people didn’t need me any longer. I’m not contributing enough. Not that the feeling was a sudden feeling. I had an idea over the years that I am not doing my best and I’m not giving it my all. I kept ignoring that feeling. When Westpac, my company came and said, “Let’s put a full stop to it.” That was when I woke up from a deep slumber. That was when I said, “I can take that big chunk of money that Westpac is giving me and go and join another company. It’s a very normal thing. It happens in Western countries all the time, or I can pause and understand what happened to me.”
I wasn’t like that. I was a high achiever. I had some amazing things to my credit at the beginning of my career. People called me the blue-eyed girl of my hometown. This is how my history was. What happened to me? How did I fall prey to this average game? That was where I began a deep dive within myself with the help of my coaches. I started doing a lot of personal development programs. As I found my missing pieces and as I murdered my mediocrity, that’s what I call it, murder the mediocre game that I was playing, I found a very different Shilpa. That Shilpa was very different from that school topper and those artificial successes, which were born out of the expectations of society. This Shilpa was very fulfilled. She was doing her best. She was on her A-game and mediocrity was nowhere near her.
That’s my backstory. When I saw that I could do it for myself, somebody who was hiding on the corporate floors, I would envy the other rockstars in the workplace. If I could do it, then everybody else who wants to. As my eyes started searching for more people who are caught up in the mediocre game, who can do much more but I’ve caught a certain rhythm in their life, that average game, I started working with those people to help them move from mediocrity, crush it, and create a career of magnificence.
You mentioned that you’ve moved. We’re talking to you Shilpa and you live in Australia right now. Have you always been in Australia or have you also moved continents and places throughout your life too? I’m curious about that.
I belong to India. That is where I was born and brought up. Fifteen years back, I moved to Australia because, as I said, I followed in the footsteps of my husband. He was getting an opportunity to start the Australian operations of his company. It was a great opportunity for him, so I followed him. That’s how I came to this beautiful land of blue skies and clear beaches fifteen years back. This is my home now.
I’ve talked to a couple of Australians, so I think you might be the second or the third. I appreciate you spending time with me now in our time zone changes. Let’s circle back to mediocrity. You’re a very high achiever, you’ve had many degrees. I have not had nearly that many degrees, but I would consider myself a high achiever. Why don’t you step back and say what does being mediocre mean to you?
It is not about the degrees. That, I have understood. It is not about traditional education. Yes, it gives a start in your life, but beyond that, it doesn’t matter. When we talk about mediocrity, it is about not giving your 100%. If you feel that you are not at your best, you are playing a mediocre game. That’s all that mediocrity is. All these years, sixteen years of my career, whenever I asked that question to myself in the early morning hours when everybody was asleep and when there was no noise in the world. When I asked myself how proud I am of myself, I didn’t have an answer. I brush it under the carpet. I would get up every morning to do the same rhythm.Living in mediocrity means not giving your hundred percent in life. If you feel you are not at your best, you are playing a mediocre game. Click To Tweet
I was busy. Day after day, month after month, year after year, I didn’t take a break. Even when my daughter was born until the last day, 9:00 to 5:00, I went to my workplace. I did the usual work, came back, and in the next four hours, my daughter was born. I’ve never taken a break. It seemed like I was doing so much, but I wasn’t doing it. Mediocrity, I believe, is not about how busy we are. It’s not about that we never take rest. It is about what is it that we are producing in life. Is that making us happy? Is it keeping us fulfilled? Do we not feel great about us? It is about that measure.
I’ve read on your website and in blogs, and I saw in pieces of your book, Play It Full, which we’ll talk about that there’s a big percentage of us that fall into that mediocre category. What is that percentage? I found it a little shocking.
I hope people don’t take it against me if I say it is between 75% to 98%. That’s where it covers around. If you look anywhere, my focus is the corporates. Even if you look at entrepreneurship or anywhere that you look, only 2% of people are playing it fully or 2% of people are at their A-game. The rest are all doing something, but they can do so much more. I see that a big percentage of people around us, no matter what area of life it is, no matter what designation they are playing on. I’ve worked with CEOs of big companies as well, and they feel that they are playing a mediocre game. From the standard of the outside world, they’re successful, but they don’t feel like that. I would say, it’s 98% from what I have assessed so far.
Women tuning in, if you’ve gone back, if not, you can tune in to, my burnout story. I think my awakening happened in 2019 and I’m still waking up. There are waves of awareness. I went through burnout. I talked to my therapist about this and she said something to me that made me angry. I think that you’ll understand it. She said, “Once you’ve seen it, you can’t unsee it.” Once you’ve been woken up to the fact that you are in the 75% to 98% of people who are living mediocre, you can’t unsee it. It’s irritating. Maybe you would say that most people are aware. I don’t think so. I’m curious, once you’ve awoken to that, why do you think it’s not okay to live and work mediocre?
That’s a very deep sentence you made, the statement that you made. Once you have seen it, you can’t unsee it. I have seen people on both sides. There are people who are playing a mediocre game and they’re not aware. I was in that category. Yes, I had some moments of realization, but then everything is good in life. Everything is going on. There’s no full stop. Everything is fine. There’s a routine to it. That’s where mediocrity continues to cling to you because it never brings a full stop. It just hollows your roots over the years. It is possible that some people live their lives playing a mediocre game, and ignorant of the fact that it is happening. It is possible.
Once you get to know that, “I can do so much more and I’m not happy with what I’m creating on a day-to-day basis. I want to move from being a creation to becoming a creator of something amazing,” so much is possible, but that realization has to come from inside. That realization, no one can say that you’re mediocre. No one can say to the other person that you are playing a mediocre game. It is for the person to assess for themself. If somebody had said it to me at that point, I’m not sure how I would’ve reacted until I realized. What I’m doing right now is a calamity or a storm that came into my life, and pushed me into a corner.
What I say is while nothing like that is happening, if there’s no earth-shattering thing that is happening, wake up because you can do so much more. It’s not about waiting for things to go wrong, it is even before that. If you have even the slightest realization, sit back, reflect, and see what is it that is missing. Do you want to do something about it? That’s another question. Some people, even though they realize they are into a mediocre game, they’re not able to act out of it. 1) What is my assessment of what kind of game I’m playing? 2) Do I want to do something about it?
I want to talk about and I’m going to ask you about the telltale signs. It sounds like if you feel a sense of mediocrity or feeling stuck, it’s up to you. No coach, no therapist, no family member, no one can do it for you. You have to make the decision if you want to live and work mediocre or not, correct?
Absolutely. You see signals from all around, but it is upon us if we ignore those signals or let them bring those moments of realization into our lives. It is upon us. Once you realize, “Yes, I want to do something about it,” then it is time for a coach. It is time for a mentor. It is time for you to hold somebody’s hand who has already done it because they’ve walked their path. Yes, they have made mistakes, but when they hold your hand, they’ll not at least let you make the same mistakes as they did. It is better to hold their hand, walk the path, and get out of that average game into a career that you’re proud of.Once you see signals of mediocrity, it is up to you if you want to ignore them or let them become moments of realizations. Click To Tweet
Besides that sense of discomfort, when you’re working with your clients, are there any other signs that someone might be living mediocre or stuck that we want to have women think about during this show and after this show? Are there any signs that they should be thinking about?
There are a lot of signs. There are a lot of challenges that I see people face, which tell them that they might be playing a mediocre game. 1) If they feel like, what if somebody finds out? They feel like imposters. They might be sitting in board rooms, but they feel like, “I don’t have it inside me and people will find out.” If they feel, “This is it. I have already come so far. That’s it. This is my limit.” You’re playing a mediocre game. For me, it was my introversion that kept me hidden, whether it was Deloitte, whether it was Tech Mahindra. In the startups that I worked for, I stayed in the shadows. That was my place. I was comfortable.
Any limelight or being required to run the show gave me a lot of stress because I felt that I wasn’t capable enough, I wasn’t competent enough, and I needed somebody to run the show while I stood in a small corner of this stage. A lot of feelings, but I feel with women, one thing that I have seen constantly is not being the center of our universe. We’re doing things more for others, for the family, and for the people around us, because we come with such a strong sense of commitment. I work with people across sixteen countries. We come with such commitment towards the people around us that we forget that we don’t have the same commitment to us ourselves.
Sometimes we keep ourselves in the backseat and we have those moments when the children grow up and they don’t need us any longer, we don’t see that much pride in their eyes when they look at us moms, but we don’t know what to do about it. These are different realizations I have seen. More so, the last one that I’ve seen with almost every single woman.
You talked about the term “murdering mediocrity,” which is interesting. When I was introduced to you, I was like, “Murdering mediocrity?” It’s a very unique term. Why do you use the term murdering mediocrity? Just because it catches your attention, so maybe that’s why. Why did you use or pair that together with mediocrity?
That’s not the first time I’ve been asked this question because some people love the word “murdering.” I love it because I have a strong sentiment or strong emotion behind it. This mediocrity took away my life. It did all my excellence. There are some people who think that murdering is a negative word. It is a negative word. The way it came around was I was listening to this podcast by Tony Robbins in 2000. There was a guest on the podcast, I forgot who he was, but he took some words as examples. He was speaking about some words. Crushing and murdering came as part of it.
At that moment, my mind picked it up and I said, “This is what my mission is, murdering mediocrity,” because I knew it had killed me. It was a boring straight line, where there were no ups and downs. I kept myself safe all my life. I was on this seesaw trying to balance it all playing a mediocre game. I didn’t experience the highs. I didn’t experience the lows. That’s why I don’t have anything to tell people about me. There’s nothing interesting about me. Because I don’t have anything interesting to tell to people, I keep hiding in the shadows. It is the bane of my life, which has given rise to these very powerful words “murdering mediocrity.”
The thing that’s coming up for me is you keep saying that it took your life away. It’s almost like a fight for life and death. Maybe I’m taking it too far, but I’m making sense of the term “murdering mediocrity,” because it sounds like you weren’t playing to your whole capability. You weren’t playing it fully, as your book says. As I said, it was stealing your life away from you. Do you resonate with that?
Absolutely, I do. I have realized that it is upon us. How do we take it? It could have been just a simple thing when your company says, “We don’t need you.” You can just go and pick up another job. It could have been a little moment for me, but I decided to make it big because I realized that there is no middle ground. I’ll go to the extremes. Either it’ll be this or that. I’ve been playing that middle ground for all my life and I didn’t want to play it any longer. I decided to create it as the biggest pivot of my life and realize how much pain it had caused me, even though I was unaware of it.
The way I describe it is as if somebody had given me a numbness injection over the years and I didn’t feel life in those years. I didn’t feel any ups and downs. When you don’t go through those ups and downs, there’s no growth, which was literally what happened to me. If you’re not growing, you’ll decay. If I look back, I was decaying. I didn’t realize it. I carried a strong face. I was smiling, but inside there was a numbness, which I didn’t understand. I don’t want to belittle it. I want to make it big and do something amazing about it.
You absolutely have. Related to this, you have a TEDx Talk. I wanted to make sure women who are tuning in know about it. You talk about being a support person or a behind-the-scenes person. You’ve touched on it here. Were you a support person not only because we as women are often caregivers? I read this as I was researching your work about being introverted. I have talked to other people who work and specialize in introversion. I, too, funny enough and I believe you’re an introvert too. Do you think that also is something that you allow to hold you back into that more support role, rather than taking center stage in your life?
Absolutely. The first thing that you mentioned with women, usually, we are conditioned that way, that we are enablers for other people. Somewhere in the process, that was part of the conditioning. Secondly, I took introversion more as an excuse to shy away from being in the front, going out there, and playing in the open. I was worried about judgments. I was worried about people saying, “Look how stupid she is looking or what kind of idiotic things she’s saying.” This was on my mind all the time. When I would go to the meetings, even though I held good designations. I was doing programs and handling digital transformations, this was on the back of my mind. It would result in me not speaking up in meetings and not even speaking up in groups.
One-to-one, I was okay. I felt the power when I was one-on-one, but when it was groups, I couldn’t speak. Over the years, my voice had died down. Now, I decided that introversion will not be my excuse any longer, it is my strength, because introversion means that I listen, I reflect, and I have this amazing capability to come up with solutions that others don’t have. At that point, I realized, what is the biggest challenge I can put myself up for life?
The biggest challenge would be to speak on a global state. Something that I was scared of. This dream was born in a shower. I said, “I want to see myself on a TEDx stage.” I visualize the thing. The visualization didn’t have a name to it, like TEDx or anything, but I saw myself speaking to a crowd of a thousand people with blue lights. It happened, and it didn’t happen once, it didn’t happen twice, it happened three times. I spoke at TEDx three times in literally one and a half years because I decided to not hide anymore.
That’s on my bucket list. I’m calling myself out that I want to be on a TEDx stage. Were you terrified to do that as an introvert? Were you, “No, I’ll just push it aside.” You were excited. Tell me about your experience with doing TEDx not once or twice, but three times.
I was smiling when you asked this question because it was amazing. When I stood there and twice I was the opening speaker, I wanted to be there. I wanted to go up the stage. I was waiting for the moment. There was not the slightest fear in my mind, because I think I was waiting for it, though it is not. Even after that, when I have spoken publicly, I felt fearful. I don’t think anybody can conquer those butterflies in their stomach at any point. The three TEDx I gave, I wasn’t scared at all. I stood there as if I was destined to be there. This is amazing because even after that, when I go up on the stage, I realize I’m not the best speaker in the world and I don’t need to be, but I speak from my heart.
In that process, sometimes I fumble for words, I make mistakes, and I may use a better word, but I end up using words or whatever comes to my mind. There were those fearful moments and anxious moments after and between that TEDx stage, but during the three TEDx stages, I didn’t feel the fear because that was a dream and I lived every moment of it.
One thing that we can take away from your TEDx experience that is plural is that you did some visualization even before you got to the stage. It shows that visualization works. They say that with athletes, like Michael Phelps, the retired Olympic swimmer, he would visualize. I’m sure many of the track athletes and star basketball players, NFL and football players in the US, and soccer players all over the world, they visualize the outcome and you did the same. You saw yourself on a stage, and then you made that happen, which is such a cool thing to hear about.
When I look back, why did this happen, why did this happen in this manner, and how do I see it in hindsight? What fed into it was the story of Major D.P. Singh. He’s the Blade Runner of India. I was interviewing him in 2019. He lost a leg in the Cargill War. I asked him, “What was the feeling when you were lying down at the operation table? You had just lost a leg. Did you feel terrified?” It took ten years for him to get up on his feet with an artificial leg. I asked, “What was the feeling?” “You know what, Shilpa, I thought about what is the biggest challenge I can put myself at this point.” He said, “Running? I never liked running. When I was running, I would shy away from running, but I thought with one leg, what is it that I can do? I can run. Probably what I can do better is run a marathon.”
That’s when a marathon runner was born. That’s what he did. I think somehow that stuck with me. What I would like to tell our women audience is, wherever you are, look at what is it that you are most scared of, the biggest challenge that you can put for yourself. Formulate it, manifest it, and that will feel like your biggest win. Everything will fall into place, but think about the biggest challenge that you can put yourself up for and what scares you. It would be a feeling for you to cherish forever once you do it.
That is part of the formula. When you say murdering mediocrity, people are probably wondering, “How do I do that?” It sounds like getting still within yourself, admitting what you dream about, and maybe where you are not living to the fullest part of your life and your career. Even though you’re afraid, go for it and take the steps to go for it. Are there any other steps that you take clients through? I’m sure that even yourself now, you’re not immune to it now. You’re probably still using these steps on yourself. Are there any other steps that we can use to murder mediocrity?
When I say murdering mediocrity, it is about snapping out of the rhythm that you are already used to in your life and career. With that, you need to take yourself through an intense deep dive. You need to see, what is it that I am doing every year and every month in my day that is keeping me stuck. What is coming in the way of my forward movement? What habits, what patterns, what kind of stories have I been telling myself? For me, it was like, introvert, no Friday drinks because I’m not made for people. I don’t enjoy it. No lunches with the office people because I wanted to finish my work so that I could be back in my happy place with my family very quickly.
What is the story you have been telling yourself that is enabling you to cut corners and not give your best? Ask all those questions. Stop doing what is holding you back. Obviously, it’s easier said than done, but basically, it’s that. Stop doing, break all those patterns, develop a strong belief system, and then build all the blocks in terms of having the right relationships and the right framework. This is important for us women because we have so many people dependent on us. When you have the right support system, it gets easy because we’ve got backups and all. Also, establishing a roadmap as to, “Where do I want to go and how do I lock it up with things that I do in my day-to-day so that I consistently keep moving towards that destination that I have created in my GPS?
I love all of the movement metaphors. The GPS, the roadmap, and all of those things. I’m sure you see this. What happens if your clients or women tuning in get stuck? They’re on a good trajectory and they get stuck. What do you often see happen when they’re stuck? Let’s say they’re making movement and then they derail. What causes those stuck moments?
You are trying to get out of something that has been your life for 30 to 40 years. I deal with women somewhere from 30 to 33 years of age to early 50s. Literally, for 30 to 40 years, you have been doing something. It is not easy to get out of it. It’s possible that you slip. Now, when you slip, you need to pull yourself back, forgive yourself for slipping, and then get back into the rhythm that you have chosen. No other way. You can’t get into self-beating, “I couldn’t do that.” You are killing your future by getting into that self-blame game.
Forgive yourself. It happens to all of us. No one is immune to slippages. Get back into that consistency mode. I’m not that much about the quality. I’m about consistency because quality can be built with consistency over a period of time. Just keep moving. One action a day, two actions a day, and keep moving to that destination that you have chosen.
It’s interesting because we all are creatures of comfort. We’re like, “That feels more comfortable.” When we’re in fear, our brain is telling us, “Don’t do that because you’re going to die.” It’s like we’re using all these murdering terms. “You’re going to die. You could get hurt.” It’s taking those small actions each and every day. By doing that, you can make progress and you can get out of mediocrity. It’s interesting that you’re saying between 2% of people up to 25% of people are living a magnificent life or an extraordinary life. Why do you think it’s so few? Do you think it’s because it’s so much work or people don’t want to get out of their comfort zone?
It’s the comfort zone. It’s not that none of us like to dream. We all have dreams, but we stay stuck there looking at the dream. Some of us don’t even dream but a lot of us do dream. Only a few go forward with not an interest in those dreams, but a commitment towards it. Those are the people who end up doing it. What I mean to say is that we filter along the way. Let’s say I set up a free session. I do 4-hour free sessions and 1,000 people register for it because these 1,000 people are interested. They want to do amazing stuff in their career. How many people actually end up coming to that event is 350, just a small percentage of it.Every person has dreams. But most of the time, they stay stuck there. Only a few go forward with their interests, but it requires commitment. Click To Tweet
Out of those 350 people, only a selected few actually end up taking the next action. Out of that, only a select few end up committing to their dreams. Those are the people who end up getting. That percentage comes to as few as 2% to 25%. We figure along the way. As it gets difficult, we go up to a certain extent. When it starts getting difficult, we give up. When I look back on my life, it looks like it was well designed and I had thought that I would be a bestselling author, three-time TEDx speaker, and all these awards and amazing things, but it all happened along the journey.
When I started my journey, my husband had also jumped into this executive coaching a few months before me and we weren’t doing well financially. Finances is something, which is a very practical example because there’s no solution to that. We have to pay the bills. We have to keep life. We were reduced to a point where some unfortunate things happened. We didn’t know how to sell ourselves because corporate teach us how to deliver, but they don’t teach us how to sell, which is a skill required in business. I think we were too naive for it, but we weren’t broke in the process. We had $563 left in our bank account.
In the outside world, our bestseller was being released. We were creating results outside, but at home we were broke. It was easy for us at that point to think, “Let’s go back to jobs for a while. Once we have got jobs, we had the potential, both of us, of going and earning more than $3,000 a day,” which was a big amount at that time. We decided that we had not done this to go back. That was a decision a lot of people would figure out at that point as well.
We took a big loan from friends. I won’t tell you how much it was because it is a crazy amount, and we decided to invest. In that sense, we were very well aware that we were not capable enough to go and shake hands with our dream at this point. We were not competent enough. We needed to learn more. We needed to be more. We needed to create more. For that, we need to go through a development journey ourselves. We invested that money in ourselves. We kept doing programs like crazy so that we could learn. We were hungry.
The second thing we did was we called up the bank and we said, “Our mortgage, can we get that off our head for a few months because we are going through this hardship?” We didn’t even know what hardship meant until that point because we had never ever faced any monetary problems in life. That was the second thing that we got creative around.
The third thing was literally when we had nothing. One day we got up and we were looking at what we sell from our house, which can give us some more money so that we can go on for a little more while. We saw that our living room was very big. That day, we created a wall right in the middle of our living room dividing it into two parts, and one portion of it we gave on Airbnb. That fed us grocery and our recurring expenses for a few months until everything started working.
I’m telling you this story because this was a real hardship. We could have given up. One of us could have gone back to the job, but then it would’ve broken the rhythm. No shortcut measures. When you are going there, you have to go all in. You cannot just stop at one point. Most people do stop when it starts getting difficult. Some people go a little bit more, but then it gets difficult that they don’t know what to do. Again, some more people filter off, and then finally there are only those 2% to 25% who make it, but it is a decision. You make a decision and you make it happen. It’s about that.Most people stop when things get difficult. Some go a little bit more, but get stuck when they do not know what to do. Only a few make it, and it is a decision you have to make yourself. Click To Tweet
That is such an amazing story. How long did it take you and your husband? You got down to it with your Airbnb story and the faith that you had. You nailed it. There are so many people that would’ve said, “Forget this. I have to go back to a corporate job. I can’t do this.” However, you stuck with it and you had faith. How long did you guys keep that face before you started seeing a return on your dream?
It took about 11 months when we started. There are things that are stamped into our heads because of the conditioning that we got from our background and experience. The first dream was to make as much money that can cover our expenses. The second desire was, “If we make as much as we were making in the corporate, that’s it.” You know how dreams multiply after every dream, and then it was like, “We have reached this level where our expenses are covered, and then now we have reached the level where our salary was.”
I remember it was a big moment for us when we got there. That was eleven months it took after we both got into this together. Not to forget the earlier year when my husband had been struggling. He was on his own. He made $17,000 in this entire year. Badly screwed up, and then from that point, it took eleven months for us to get to a place where we were making several multiples of what we were making in the corporate.
One point I want to share with women on that is that money is a real thing. We have to pay the bills no matter if it’s in corporate or in an entrepreneurial piece. Aside from the money piece, I will share that money has often been an excuse for me. I want us to watch our objections to our dreams like you’re talking about. I’ll give a couple of examples. Let’s say that I went to one of your workshops and I’m like, “Yes, Shilpa can help me. She’s going to be my executive coach.” I would say the following things in my mind. I would say to stay in my comfort zone, “I don’t have time for this. I don’t have money,” when I may have had the money.
I’m using every excuse in the book to stay small and not play it fully or stay in the mediocre lane because it’s comfortable to me. While you are giving a real-world example and I’m not going to minimize it because that happens to people with their dreams and you are giving real-world stories of how you need to stick to it as long as you can or within the frame and have faith and work hard. There are also times when you’ll stop yourself with your own objections even before you get to your dream.
Objections, I’ll call them blockers. I divide them into two parts. There are internal blockers and there are external blockers. Internal blockers are, “I’m comfortable. It’s not that bad. I don’t have time.” Those kinds of things. Those are the internal blockers, which are insiders. External blockers are more of the market economy. Why do you think certain people, despite the market doing anything, they end up getting jobs and they end up doubling their salaries? I deal with that sector where people get promoted, get new jobs, and get much enhanced salaries in a very short period of time. These people are not market-dependent.
What these people do is they do not even focus on the external factors, because they’re not in our control. Everyone has a situation, but everyone also has an opportunity. Let’s say when the market is down, you can either measure and say, “Market is down.” You can be a thermometer. You can assume the avatar of a thermometer or you can be a thermostat where you say, “I’m going to regulate the temperature. I’m going to decide the market.” You work on your internal brokers to become so strong that the external factors don’t even matter. This is literally what has happened. I’ve witnessed it all along. I’ve witnessed it in my journey. I’ve witnessed it in the story of my clients.
There have been people who have walked into interview rooms and they have six and a half months baby belly and they’ve got the job on the spot. They have negotiated a much higher salary. There have been people who have gone up 4 levels in a matter of 22 months. There have been people who have walked into interviews for a particular designation, but they’ve got a designation higher than that. They’ve come out of the room feeling like a winner. There have been people who have been stuck in positions.
A client of mine was there for eight years. He was stuck as a director of a big company. He just didn’t know how to get to it. When he decided, he said, “I’ll do everything. I’ll make myself so strong internally that everything else comes under my control,” he got promoted in five months. He got the top three awards in his company. Situations can change like anything if we stop worrying about external factors and just work on ourselves on our internal blockers because that is in our control.
Money and everything, even though they look like big parameters, practical things, I couldn’t have done it if I had not worked on myself. I’m so glad that I was investing in the programs that were making us strong because if we were not doing that, I would’ve given up. Just because I was working on removing my internal blockers, I was able to take care of that external blocker of not having money, still going on, being creative around it, and still taking actions, even though their actions will not get anything.
Every day will go to sleep feeling like nothing has happened. Every day will get up with a new zeal and will take some more things. Somewhere the doors opened up and one door led to another door. This is literally what happens. The cruxes, external factors, don’t even worry about it because you can’t control them. Work on getting yourself strong internally so that none of that matters.
That’s strong. Instead of calling it objections, those internal blockers to you playing it full. Let’s give the whole title of your book now. It’s called Play It Full: 7 Steps To Unlock Your Extraordinary Career. What motivated you to write this book and what do you want readers to take from it?
What motivated me was a message that I got on LinkedIn in early 2019 when somebody wrote to me and said, “I can’t afford your program, but can you do something for the people who can’t do it?” I remember in the night talking to my husband and saying, “What can be the way? Can we come up with something, some other program? Can we write something and give it away to the people?” That is when the idea of this book was born. The story behind it was, something like, it took us five months to write this book. This is written by both me as well as my husband. It took us five months to write 150 pages of this book. We went to this program, there was a sales group and he was saying, “All of those people who are writing your book, do not write the book, finish the book.
We came back home. For five days, we sat. I don’t know what else we did or who fed us, but for five days we sat at a spot in our house and we finished the rest of the 150 pages. That’s how this book was us playing it fully. There are a lot of emotions behind it. If you see, when it went out in the market, there were a lot of grammatical mistakes. In some places, English is wrong, but it went out and within hours, it went out of stock and it became a bestseller. That’s the little story behind Play It Full and not worrying about getting it perfect, but just pushing it out. That became the mantra for us in life.
What is covered in that book is it talks about the triangle of life. When we look at life, there are three arms to it. One arm is your achievements, which is your role designation, the wins that you have, and the money that you make. The other arm is relationships. Your relationship with yourself, with your partner, with your family, with the community, with the world, and your workplace. It’s about relationships. The third arm is about health, mental, physical, and emotional health.
All three arms are important for you to play it fully. If any one arm is ignored, your triangle will collapse. It is about playing it full in all three areas and making it bigger. At the beginning of my journey, women go through it a lot. Family is an important piece of the puzzle. I had made a decision that I would not do it alone, I would carry my family along. My husband is with me. Our daughters are with us, they have been our cheerleaders, and they’re very much a part of the journey because that was a decision I made out of this concept of playing it full that I will take care of all three arms of the triangle. This is the concept around it. You live a fuller life while playing it full across all the areas that are important to your existence and not ignore any of them.
I did look it up on Amazon, I know that you’re located in Australia, but it’s located worldwide. In the US, we can purchase it. Anywhere people are tuning in from, they can purchase the book, correct?
Absolutely. It is available on Amazon.
Are there any other resources that you would recommend to women who are done with being mediocre and want to live a magnificent life and career?
I would point out to the three TEDx Talks. The first one is about murdering mediocrity. It’ll give you a lot of thoughts about how are you living your life. You need a light bulb moment. Light bulb moment doesn’t come from big things. It can be about a simple statement that you hear somebody speaking and that creates a war inside you. It can be the start of a revolution inside. That first talk, I would say murdering mediocrity. The second one is for people who are introverts and who feel that they have somehow gone invisible in the corporate space and not many people know them and they’re hiding in a corner because they don’t know how to get out of it. They’re not working on their reputation management. Some people call it brand, but I prefer to call it reputation. It is cut off for them. Introverts to the center stage.
The third one, I would say about interviews. That’s amazing because the one I gave in Philadelphia in May 2023. It is about people who are looking for jobs. No matter how many times you have given interviews and no matter how your success has been, this one talk will make sure that you never ever fail an interview. I bear my soul there. All three TEDx Talks, they contain immense things. The third one, I bear my model, which I implement with the people, with my clients, and with whom I work personally. I think those are good places to go to.
What are 1 to 2 ways that you believe that women can be braver at work now?
Braver at work, I would say think about what is it that you are doing which is not part of your day-to-day rut. Your day job is the minimum expected out of you. It is about doing things that you don’t usually do. It might seem like a big thing, but a small initiative, which is not part of what is expected out of you. If you start doing that small initiative every week or even one initiative a month, you will see yourself coming out of that comfort zone. It will require a little bit of courage but those consistent steps, one initiative at a time, and it is not a big initiative.To be braver a work, do more than what is expected of you. Do things you don’t usually do even it might not seem big. Click To Tweet
It can be doing a five-minute blank session for the people in your workplace. It can be as different as this or it can be going and speaking at places. It can be an internal conference. It can be representing your team in another group. It can be having a coffee catch-up with your boss’s boss or with somebody outside your team. Little acts that you don’t usually do that will feed into your bravery and you’ll end up doing something that you would enjoy and it’ll push you slowly out of that mediocre game.
That is good. How can women find you and your work online?
LinkedIn is the best place to find it. LinkedIn is my authentic home because I love that platform. They’re real people, real designations, and real faces. That’s the best place. Send me a message on LinkedIn or do connect with me, follow me on LinkedIn. I do share some good thought processes almost every single day. That’s my battlefield and it would be good to get connected.
We’ll include your LinkedIn profile. Your coaching business, is it Scintillate?
Yes, that’s perfect. Scintillate Coaching.
Shilpa, I want to thank you for being on the show. You helped me understand what the term “murdering mediocrity” means and how mediocrity is not where I want to be. It put my burnout in my own story in a different perspective, so I appreciate you being here.
Thank you so much. It has been a pleasure and I thoroughly enjoyed your questions. Thank you.
That does it for my discussion with Shilpa. I hope you found our conversation both valuable and inspiring. Here are some questions to think about before next time. Are you operating out of a place of mediocrity or magnificence? What is one decision you can make to move closer to living a life that is in full alignment with your potential, your hopes, and your dreams? How can you take center stage in your own life? As a reminder, please rate, review, and subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. The show is also available on Google Podcasts or any other platform you enjoy. Until next time, show up, move past your mediocrity, and be brave.
- The 4-Hour Workweek
- Play It Full: 7 Steps To Unlock Your Extraordinary Career
- LinkedIn – Shilpa Kulshrestha
- Scintillate Coaching
About Shilpa Kulshreshtha
Being made redundant from a leadership position for a large corporation after 2 decades, Shilpa realized that she had unconsciously slipped into mediocrity. She went on a soul-searching journey to get out of the average game and step into her most powerful self. Shilpa has helped top executives at major companies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Oracle as well as several hundred professionals in 15 countries step out of mediocrity and build powerful careers.
She has won multiple awards including Women Entrepreneur Of The Year, Changemaker of The Year, 40 over 40 Winner and has been named among the 100 most inspiring women across the globe. She’s also a TEDx Speaker and bestselling author of Play it Full – 7 Steps to Unlock your Extraordinary Career. Her mission is to help professionals become ‘Mediocrity Murderers’ & create a life of power, peace, and prosperity.