Ashish Arora: “Fight hard to stay positive and optimistic”

… Everyone has to fight hard to stay positive and optimistic. It’s a choice we have to make. I say the glass is always full now… I’m just trying to find a bigger vase to fill it up again. It’s a choice you make to be optimistic and choosing positivity will help reduce your anxiety. As […]

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… Everyone has to fight hard to stay positive and optimistic. It’s a choice we have to make. I say the glass is always full now… I’m just trying to find a bigger vase to fill it up again. It’s a choice you make to be optimistic and choosing positivity will help reduce your anxiety.

As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashish Arora.

Ashish Arora is President and Chief Executive Officer of Cricut, a creative technology company with a mission to empower people to unleash their creative potential by providing products and tools that help them design and create beautiful DIY projects.

Arora has a passion for building and marketing products and software that provide a visceral experience and transform people’s lives. His work is captured in the idea that great businesses cannot be built without great products, which aligns with his expertise in building great customer experiences end to end.

With over 27 years of experience in the consumer electronics and software industries, Arora joined Cricut in 2012 and led a business turnaround. Prior to this, Arora served as the General Manager at Logitech and led several businesses from computer peripherals to digital home products. He was one of the key executives that oversaw Logitech’s remarkable growth over the years. In 2011, he was named by Digital Media Wire as one of “25 Executives to Watch in Digital Entertainment,” a list recognizing emerging leaders in the digital media and entertainment industry. He spent eight years in software and analytics-based companies in the financial space.

Arora holds a bachelor’s degree from Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, and an MBA from University of Kansas.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I grew up in India and went to a military boarding school when I was 11 years old. When I moved to the U.S. I worked in a number of industries and was always passionate about what I do, but I felt like something was missing. I wanted to do more — I wanted to do something that would combine my creativity with my love for design. When I started working at Cricut, a crafting technology company, I didn’t know anything about the crafting industry, but I was so blown away by the passion of crafters and what motivates them to make things for others. Seeing so many people making and personalizing crafts for their friends and families, and seeing others use crafting as a therapeutic outlet made me fall in love with the community and this company in Utah. And it’s what I was looking for: a company and an industry that brings creativity, design and passion together, and allows me to pursue a higher purpose in my career and in my life. So, Cricut became this special place that checked all those boxes, and really nurtured my professional and personal goals.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The topic I enjoy reading about the most is change — whether through innovation, leadership, education or design. One of my favorite books is called Our Iceberg is Melting by Harvard Business School’s John Kotter, and it’s about this little penguin who is trying to convince his friends to move off the iceberg before it melts. The theme at the core of the story is about change and, specifically, the fear, inertia, politics and behavior that goes along with it. What I love about the book is how it channels the sense of urgency and how to empower people to affect change in their communities. It looks at change as a muscle that must be exercised, and I think that’s why I like this book so much — especially in these times. Governments are having to change quickly…the world’s biggest work from home order got put into place in weeks. I believe it’s important that these entities and bodies work to empower people to come together and change the world for the better. This message is so relevant to today and it’s really beautifully shared in this charming, simple fable.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons to Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. I’m generally a glass half-full person, so I genuinely feel that there’s a lot of optimism to find all around us. As a dad, a husband and a leader, I try to always be optimistic. So, my first bit of advice is to do your best to embrace change and the new reality we live in because when you take that approach, you can mitigate some of the downstream effects. Take social distancing and mask-wearing for example; if we all take the small steps to flatten the curve now, we can make the future much brighter.
  2. The second thing to be positive about is the vast momentum in science right now with countries coming together to develop a vaccine — it gives me a great deal of hope and reminds us that there are countless people out there dedicating their lives to fight for us.
  3. And it’s not just the scientific communities that are working tirelessly to control the pandemic; millions of people around the world are uniting to support not only their friends and families, but strangers and all members of the essential workforce. With Cricut, we’ve seen over 1.3M masks cut on our machines since we launched our Millions Of Masks challenge on April 15, which makes me incredibly proud to be immersed in a community that is so generous and caring.
  4. The last silver lining is the gift of connection and the fact that we live in a time where it’s easier than ever to stay in touch with those you care so much about — whether it’s through video chat or a simple phone call, any amount of social interaction can be a saving grace when you can’t leave your house. In the past few months, I have found myself constantly amazed by the power of the human spirit and what it can accomplish in times of crisis, and I know it will only grow stronger from here on.

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

  1. First and foremost, everyone is obviously feeling restless and maybe even a bit claustrophobic right now with stay at home orders. This is why I think it’s so important to take the time to go outside and get some fresh air. If you can walk while social distancing, that is the best thing you can do. I have always loved to walk because I feel that it clears my head and let’s my mind take a break from worry. There are even studies that show the positive effects walking has on the brain, and now I’ve found myself regularly grabbing a mask to stroll around my neighborhood.
  2. The second piece of advice is to stop watching the news all day — it adds unnecessary fear and anxiety to an already stressful time and, the fact of the matter is, there is really only a few minutes of important news every day. Personally, I allow myself 8–10 minutes a day so I can stay properly informed, without being inundated with the same stuff again and again.
  3. Another thing you can do is find special ways to connect with friends and family. Whether by video chat, phone calls or even a social distancing stroll down the block, I’ve found that some of the most meaningful conversations I’ve ever had have been in the last couple months.
  4. I also strongly recommend people pursue a creative outlet or hobby and dive into it headfirst. Flexing your creative muscles is a great way to keep your brain active, while also distracting you from the craziness of the world.
  5. Lastly, everyone has to fight hard to stay positive and optimistic. It’s a choice we have to make. I say the glass is always full now… I’m just trying to find a bigger vase to fill it up again. It’s a choice you make to be optimistic and choosing positivity will help reduce your anxiety.

What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?

As I mentioned above, crafting is incredible at reducing anxiety and can act almost as a form of therapy. Any activity that gives you a sense of peace is invaluable — especially at times like these — and finding a creative hobby can do wonders to lift your spirit and cope with unease. And it doesn’t have to be crafting. People around the world are learning new instruments, writing stories and music and even designing new products. I know many people think they are just not the creative type, but that’s the thing, we all have creativity built into our DNA and opportunities to flex those muscles can be found everywhere. That’s why I always try to urge people to take risks and pursue new interests — you might stumble upon your passion.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

Very early on in February I cut out this quote to make a banner for myself as a personal reminder. It said, “When you can’t change the direction of the wind, adjust your sail.” Basically, it’s saying not to worry about things you cannot control and instead, alter your approach… when you can’t change the direction of the wind, you adjust yourself. We can’t change the pandemic — it’s here and we have to come to terms with that — but we can alter how we go about coping with it. In the business world and from personal experience, hoping and knowing that you’re doing everything you need to do helps you get to the destination.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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 trigger. 🙂

That’s an easy one — I would start a kindness movement. A movement that would brighten up people’s days by showing them all the good that can come from a simple act of kindness. I am genuinely touched by the kindness that is happening in the world right now, and all I hope is that it continues after the pandemic is far behind us. The power of kindness is something I truly believe in and I’m glad to see more and more people realizing its potential.

What is the best way for our readers to follow you online?

I’m active on Facebook and LinkedIn under my name, Ashish Arora, and Instagram at @AshishCArora2. And, I encourage anyone who is interested to follow Cricut on Facebook, where I love to interact with crafters on their projects and share our new products.

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