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“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing”, Deepak Shukla and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

I’ve been trying to make time for long walks. I know that might sound counter-productive when you’re facing a looming challenge, but making time to just BE, away from noise in all its forms, is so important. It gives me clarity and a sense of calm, which in turn sharpens my focus. I know I […]

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I’ve been trying to make time for long walks. I know that might sound counter-productive when you’re facing a looming challenge, but making time to just BE, away from noise in all its forms, is so important. It gives me clarity and a sense of calm, which in turn sharpens my focus. I know I mentioned running above as stress reliever. I also use it to curb any anxiety about upcoming situations.


As a part of our series about “Optimal Performance Before High Pressure Moments”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Deepak Shukla.

Deepak Shukla is an Search Engine expert and influencer. He has featured in TEDx, SEMrush, Woorank, The BBC, Markedu, Chelsea FC and more! When he’s not working, he’s running marathons, completing Ironmen, getting inked or playing with his cat Jenny.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Growing up was interesting! My folks migrated from India in the 60s in search of a better life. But not before they got married at 11 and 13 (but that’s another story!)

School was school, I guess. I was considered ‘gifted’ by my tutor, Mrs. Proud. In fact, she told my mum at age 14 that I should take my exams early. But my mum was more interested in my inability to wash my dishes than anything else.

Despite attending one of the statistically worst schools in the country, (Evelyns),things turned out okay. I managed to get through it all, get some decent grades and come out in one piece!

What or who inspired you to pursue your career as an entrepreneur or business leader? We’d love to hear the story.

I started in the world of Search Engine around 8 years ago whilerunning a tutoring agency calledGobsmacked.

I realized that if I put an actual ad on a classified ad site called Gumtree (aka Britain’s Craigslist) that I would literally make more money. I started to get more returns and conversions when I added more keywords to my actual job titles, as well as the description for the service, rather the tutoring service itself.

At around the same time, I began looking and running competitor analysis. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, it was by observing different ads and looking at best practice for pictures, the best practice for the style of content and placement for conversion rate optimisation. That I was once again able to spend maybe 14 pounds per month and generate a 500-pound return.

So, in a nutshell, that’s how I got started in the world of Search Engine entrepreneurship!

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My dad was a laborer who worked tirelessly to provide for our family. Once I finished University and was debating my options, I remember him saying, “Deepak, I didn’t work 100 hours a week so you could waste your education making money for someone else. That’s MY life. It won’t be YOUR life.”

Even when I moved back home at 30, with nothing except a vision for what was to become Pearl Lemon, my dad never stopped believing in me. “You’ll figure it out,” he’d say whenever I’d panic about tackling new challenges.

His faith in me when I needed it the most has definitely helped shape the man I am today.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I once accidentally included a client in our internal email communication thread! The worst things is that I was having some choice words with my team about performance issues.

Having someone you’re working alongside read about how “you’re being made to look like a twat’’ isn’t a great experience. It taught me to always check which Reply button I was hitting!

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

The key (in my opinion) to being productive is to not-overthink anything. In fact, don’t think much at all. Trust your intuition and run with ideas.

Here’s the important part: mostly, they will fail — and will do so with minimal impact to yourself or others.

However: all it requires is a couple of things to work well — then you can start building incredible momentum!

Breaking that down into steps:

  • Quiet your inner voice and focus on the action.
  • When you have an idea — IMMEDIATELY execute it!
  • Continually build that ‘execution muscle’ and watch it grow over time.

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?

Jordan Belfort’s cracker about Straight Line Selling. This book is densely packed with value in its 7.5 hours or so. It is definitely a book that’s worth coming back to, as Belfort has his own language and codification for everything he has developed over time.

It’s the first time I’ve listened to someone from the last couple that I’ve read and I’ve felt like ‘I’m truly learning from a master’.

Jordan details how important it is to visualise a key victory from your career and use it as a vehicle to change your state of mind and being right before important moments — like when you’re about to get on a sales call.

In fact, I enjoyed the book so much, I wrote a blog post about it (which you can check out here if you’re interested)!

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

In the words of the late Stephen Covey (author of ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’):

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing”.,

You do this by understanding your priorities; crystallising them and making them literally visible in front of you. That way, you’re reminded of what they are before offering your time up to do something else.

This for me — focussing upon what’s really going to push the needle in my life — is the main failure I’m certainly experiencing within my own path.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I’m really excited about PlantSumo, our new vegan food delivery service in London! While it’s a totally different industry than anything we’ve done before, the quality of our menu makes it a truly excellent service. As a fitness and health fanatic myself, I’m looking forward to contributing to a better quality of life for clients who want to eat well, but just don’t have a lot of time to invest in it!

Another project that will benefit a demographic who’ve really suffered during the Pandemic is ResumeCats. We’re using our knowledge of Search Engine and digital marketing to craft top-notch CVs. Young people starting out in the job market will be especially keen to use this service and land the job of their dreams!

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As a business leader, you likely often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to cope with the burden of stress?

From a young age, I felt as though I was born to run. I started running at the age of 14, with my childhood friend, Tom. We’d frequently do 5 kilometre runs together — although at the time he used to always beat me.

My dedication to sport and endurance was something that would truly begin some 9 years later when I decided to run my first marathon in Chicago of all places! Some 15 marathons later I then went on to do a 27-hour ultramarathon in Madeira, and then on to a 15-hour Ironman in South Africa. I still run daily and use this as a main outlet to decrease stress!

Another way I beat stress is by getting up earlier. Starting my day at 4:30 AM means that I plough through the bulk of my work during my most productive hours. It also gives me more time in the evening to spend with my partner, Daniela!

Lastly, when I get stressed, I step away from whatever project I’m finding challenging. I tend to work in bursts of 1–2 hours, tops. Taking a breather and coming back to something later on refreshes your perspective!

Aside from being able to deal with the burden of stress, can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?

I’ve been trying to make time for long walks. I know that might sound counter-productive when you’re facing a looming challenge, but making time to just BE, away from noise in all its forms, is so important. It gives me clarity and a sense of calm, which in turn sharpens my focus.

I know I mentioned running above as stress reliever. I also use it to curb any anxiety about upcoming situations.

Also, I remind myself about the power of No. Understanding limitations and priorities is vital to success helps me psyche myself up for dealing with whatever comes my way.

Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques, meditations or visualizations to help optimize yourself? If you do, we’d love to hear about it.

On my runs, I try to listen to my body and mind in its natural form — free from external influences. The adrenalin rush I get from physically exerting myself energizes my brain! It gives me a surge of power and clarity, and a confidence in my abilities to accomplish whatever I put my mind to!

Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?

I use the Pomodoro app to clock into the ‘zone’. I also play white noise on my headphones. Doing these two things consistently has conditioned my body and mind to get into Flow mode much faster!

We all know the importance of good habits. How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

  1. I read every day — usually a book related to my own personal goals. I try to devote at least a couple of hours to this practice daily.
  2. Sticking to a sleep routine. I’ll wake up around 4:30 AM and try and hit the sack no later than 11.
  3. Always act on good ideas. Even if it’s just to put out feelers with my team or anybody else involved.
  4. Be accountable to myself and others. In our weekly team meetings, I’ll rate my productivity and share a summary of my workload just like the rest of my staff. This motivates me to stay on track.

What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?

Firstly, you need to remove all distractions preventing you from getting in the groove. Make sure your workspace is uncluttered and in as private a location as possible. Invest in some noise-cancelling headphones. Remove any visual reminders of other projects on your wait list. They’ll get their turn eventually.

Set yourself a clear goal before commencing work. For example: “I’m going to hit 1000 words, then break for lunch” or, “I’m going to action these five feedback tasks on X project, then go for a run”. Having a concrete target that you’re aiming will definitely help motivate you to stay on track, so you can get down to business (and likely knock that goal out of the park)!

As a business leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

Every action has a trade-off — no matter how big or small. So, in deciding to start one venture or one activity — you DO sabotage another, no matter how small — in one way or another you will sabotage that activity.

You need a set of maxims against which you can judge things — and decide whether they should occupy your time (your most precious commodity).

Choosing what matters most to you — and making all your decisions around those things — is what will help you break free of distractions. Learn to say No to anything that distracts from or derails your pursuit of your goals!

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

The internship experience we offer at Pearl Lemon is like nothing else out there. The practical experience that people gain while helping us actively build our brand really is unparalleled. I want to build on what we’ve already accomplished in this aspect, and help young people enter the job market with the kind of experience that top employers will be looking for!

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, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I’m a huge fan of Cal Newport! His books have played a huge part in influencing my path to success as an entrepreneur — so much so that I’ve written whole blog posts about the subject. Being able to meet with him in person to share our experiences of the business and sales world would be a fantastic experience, to say the least!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find my personal website here: https://deepakshukla.com/. It’s the best place for getting to know more about my journey and what I’m up to at the moment. I’ve also got a YouTube channel, a LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter (@deepakpshukla1) and Instagram page where you can hit me up!

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

My pleasure! Thanks so much for featuring me and I hope my answers have been useful 😊

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