“Aspire to inspire”, by Siddhartha Gupta and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

Parents should aspire to inspire their kids to do something they believe in. They should be able to dream bigger and have the eccentricity and the audacity to risk it, to try out something new and to have that knowledge that failing is completely okay. I keep pushing my kids to do things outside their […]

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Parents should aspire to inspire their kids to do something they believe in. They should be able to dream bigger and have the eccentricity and the audacity to risk it, to try out something new and to have that knowledge that failing is completely okay. I keep pushing my kids to do things outside their comfort zone and giving them the surety and confidence that nobody’s measuring whether they come on top of the things they attempt or not. It’s them today vs. them tomorrow and it’s not about anybody else.

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Siddhartha Gupta, CEO of Mercer- Mettl. Over his corporate stint of over 18 years, Sid has been a part of two big mergers- one seen from the ringside (Compaq with HP) and another from inside the ring, being very much a part of it (Mettl with Mercer), and life seems to have taken the colloquial full circle for him. Sid has been a part of the corporate tribe who takes pride in building verticals and businesses out of oblivion eventually rising to the top. Currently, he is maneuvering taking Mercer- Mettl to come true on its name by building mettle in its people and expanding continentally.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

By courtesy of my father being in the military, I had had the privilege of studying in different government schools in various nooks and corners of the country. I was in constant information and cultural exchange with students who brought their own cultural differences making it a great mix to learn from and grow.

My father kept very busy due to his military engagements and went on transfer duties for long tenures but every now and then he would make sure that he had the time to catch up with me and what was going on in my life. Since my mother was a homemaker, I have always had her by my side. It was a very loving environment- a very shielded and protected one owing to my father’s profession. But I realize now or maybe have been realizing it ever since I have come out of the protected zone into the big bad world (that’s how they say it!), that we had little to no exposure to the competition outside.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

My career has always revolved around working for multinationals. It was the order of the day back then after the dot.com boom and burst- either leave the country with one of the IT companies or work for multinational companies in different industries in India. I chose the former and started working with Compaq which in the later course of time got acquired by HP, and then later I moved to SAP.

During that time, India and the world, in general, had become a hotspot of startups attracting a lot of youths to quit their daily high paying and stable corporate job and jump into uncertainty. Sometimes I feel I could have joined the startup revolution earlier, but that couldn’t materialize somehow. After two decades in multinationals, I had had the chance to meet Ketan and Tonmoy (the CEO and COO of the then Mettl) through a common friend. I was enthralled by the idea and excited by the prospects. And this B2B startup called Mettl was doing mighty fine, so I instantly took it up partly because I saw it as an opportunity and mostly because all three of us gelled so well- we hit it off immediately. We became more of friends than colleagues because of which we could put that extra thrust into the machine we were trying to create.

Working for MNCs, you have a very unidirectional approach to things, you are defined into the boundaries. But a startup is a melting pot- there are a lot of things happening at the same time and you have to take care of them all. As a management practitioner, I wanted to see how things are created from oblivion, what goes into shaping brands that go down in history or people’s memories as a brand they recognize and love engaging with.

Though I was a CRO, I got the first-hand experience of deciding what products we would be marketing, what technologies and innovations we think would work for us, what processes we will change across the different lines of business, and many such decisions that had the power to change what we made of Mettl.

Now with Mercer coming in, I got this great opportunity to be in the shoes of a CEO because the Mercer leadership was looking for somebody who not only has worked in a startup but also understands the boundaries in which an MNC operates. It gave Ketan and Tonmoy a much-required breather from the intense 10 years that went into making Mettl- a steady state.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

I consider myself a minimalist or an essentialist at heart. While it feels very romanticized to be the CEO of a company, you are stormed with work from morning to evening. But I am thankful for internalizing a very great attitude or habit right from the very initial days of my career- the art of prioritization. I am very selective about what I put on my agenda. Productivity tools have always been my best friends in jotting down what needs to be done. Not just that, I let my team know the agenda of the day so that there is no miscommunication or time lost for any individual.

Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

I reckon 95–96% of a child’s learning happens from their ecosystem. If the parents can’t be available at most times for their children, other people like members of a joint family or a set of well-educated grandparents and friends for your children can help them imbibe a great wealth of educational and psychological learning. A strong support system for your children to fall back on does wonders and has a long-lasting impact in their development far more than textbook knowledge have. It’s all about spending quality time with your children than the quantity of time. As long as you do that, your children will grow up to be responsible and respected individuals.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is important to make time to spend with your children?

In today’s day and age, it becomes nearly impossible to maintain a good work-life balance and devote dedicated time slots for personal activities as well as for your children. It’s not just about you; even kids have their own schedules- games, tuitions, and classes and are busy in their own lives. You have to make it a point to slot different time to be with them.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

I practice certain rituals that are part of my and my family’s life like waking up my kids every morning and spending half an hour with them when they’re getting ready, and putting them to bed to every night.

My son and I go for a walk every night before sleep and we talk our hearts out- I love listening to his stories and what he is up to. Even though it’s hardly 15- 30 minutes of walk, the fact that we do it every day makes it special and something that my son looks up to. Since my daughter is already in her teens, we have more of a formal engagement. We go to a café together on Saturday mornings to talk and read separate things together. We have a good exchange of words about what is going in our lives. There is nobody disturbing us- it’s an excellent father-daughter bonding time.

Once you give space to a ritual in your busy schedule and follow it every day, children value it more. It has far more positive consequences on the mental and psychological well-being of your children than taking your children to a shopping mall to buy them things.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

  1. Be Aware of where you are Spending the Most of your Time:

One should be fully conscious of how much time they are spending on different things. I keep a tab on how much time am I spending checking emails, browsing news and notifications, watching Netflix. There are a lot of such things each one of us does that consume a lot of our time but don’t deserve to. The best possible outcome is to have a mental record of what the 12 hours in a workday look like.

2. Be Brutal about your To Do List:

I am finicky about not adding to my agenda anything that comes up at the last minute. Contrast it with the beauty of being in a startup up ecosystem- anything can present itself asking for your attention at any time. I have pretty well been able to make my priorities sit pretty with the uncertainty and volatility of the startup world. That’s my way of ensuring that I don’t get overwhelmed with the number of responsibilities.

 3. Conserve your Energy:

There are times when I delete all my social media and movie streaming apps for a month or a quarter when I know some projects would need a lot of attention and I would need to conserve my energy for them. The cognitive functions that you are investing in analyzing the twist in the plot of a potboiler or reading through the scrolled-down push notifications can be put to better use in reading things up for your business or prepare a presentation or a pitch for your clients.

4. Let your Team Know about your Schedule:

I believe there’s no one superman who has the solution to everything and can rescue the situation. It’s usually the team effort. Every decision doesn’t have to gravitate to one person in an organization. The team around leaders should be able to make decisions. The leader or CEO, for that matter, should share that power with his/her team in empowering them to make decisions. That automatically reduces the burden from my shoulders ensuring I am not too busy to spend time with my family.

5. Plan Ahead and in Advance:

I sit every night to think and plan about how the next day would look like and to also plan for the things to be done that week and that month. Another thing is my home is a little far from my office which gives me ample time to go about other things apart from work, judiciously- like finishing some calls, reading some pages of books I am currently reading, checking emails, and sending congratulatory notes to people.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

That’s a big one! To come true on the definition of a good parent and to personify that definition is a challenge, it’s always been. The definition of a good parent according to my experience and beliefs is when the kids feel loved and comfortable enough to come to you and share anything with you.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

Parents should aspire to inspire their kids to do something they believe in. They should be able to dream bigger and have the eccentricity and the audacity to risk it, to try out something new and to have that knowledge that failing is completely okay. I keep pushing my kids to do things outside their comfort zone and giving them the surety and confidence that nobody’s measuring whether they come on top of the things they attempt or not. It’s them today vs. them tomorrow and it’s not about anybody else.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

I am a big fan of Warren Buffet and I keep reading him. He is one of those people who might have made a lot of money but have a very sorted thought process. He is a very simple thinker. His definition of success is something that I adhere by- “I should be happy getting up in the morning, working with people I love and who love me, and doing something that matters to me- and in the process, if I make money, that’s fine.”

To illustrate it better, if you are a good cricket player and you’re given a choice between an MBA Finance and a cricket coach for even a school team, you should always go for the latter choice- because you get up in the morning and are doing something that you love. It’s always better than wearing a business suit and sitting in a posh office and doing the work that you hate.

I frankly love working with my team. I get along with people here like a house on fire. Most of the people that I have worked with here are those who I can call up at any time and share the things I want to and I am sure they feel the same about me. And that’s the reason we have seen the kind of growth that we are witnessing at Mettl. We have worked really hard in being where we are today but all this while it never felt like work and I think it has to do with the camaraderie I shared with the team. I have enjoyed every bit of leaving my bed each day and going to Sector 44 of Gurgaon, where Mettl stands tall.

I think too much is being written about the bank balance and vacations abroad, but that’s not how I perceive success.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

I am a voracious reader and there are many books that I really love. I am currently reading three books at the same time.

There’s one with the name Siddhartha by the author Hermann Hesse; it’s an old book published way back in 1951. It’s the story about the protagonist who goes with the name Siddhartha- which also happens to be my name. He leaves everything to become a hermit just like Gautam Buddha did. But in the midst of it all, he realizes every individual has their own journey. The book is my favorite because it says if you have the intellect, if you don’t have the hunger for things, and if you have the patience to wait- all good things will come to you eventually.

These words inspire me a lot and I keep sharing this knowledge with my kids. I don’t know whether they are ready for all of this or not, but I believe this book is a must-read for every teenager and their parent.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It has to be from one of the other books that I really like which is called Essentialism- The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. The quote is- “the lesser you own in the world, the more time and energy you have left to focus on what you need to do.”

As I earlier said I am a minimalist- I have very few clothes, I have very few assets, I don’t buy things at all till the time I don’t need it, and my wardrobe is the smallest in my home.

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 trigger. 🙂

Since I am from the military background, I really feel for the families who are left behind when their people serving in the military meets with a casualty. The military people are always on the line bearing the brunt of extreme climate and hostility between nations, away from their families- I think it’s the act of supreme selflessness. I am dedicated to the cause of helping the families of deceased personnel through my time, knowledge, and money.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

About the Author:

Dr. Ely Weinschneider is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist based in New Jersey. Dr. Ely specializes in adolescent and adult psychotherapy, parenting, couples therapy, geriatric therapy, and mood and anxiety disorders. He also has a strong clinical interest in Positive Psychology and Personal Growth and Achievement, and often makes that an integral focus of treatment.

An authority on how to have successful relationships, Dr. Ely has written, lectured and presented nationally to audiences of parents, couples, educators, mental health professionals, clergy, businesses, physicians and healthcare policymakers on subjects such as: effective parenting, raising emotionally intelligent children, motivation, bullying prevention and education, managing loss and grief, spirituality, relationship building, stress management, and developing healthy living habits.

Dr. Ely also writes a regular, nationally syndicated column about the importance of “being present with your children”.

When not busy with all of the above, Dr. Ely works hard at practicing what he preaches, raising his adorable brood (which includes a set of twins and a set of triplets!) together with his wife in Toms River, New Jersey.

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