266: Sakshi Shukla — Understanding Identity and Being the Only One

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Arvid Kahl 0:00
Identity is a surprisingly complicated issue. And often, we feel like we're not where and who we're supposed to be. And sometimes this stops us from making any progress at all. But it doesn't have to. Welcome to The Bootstrapped Founder. I'm talking to Sakshi Shukla today. Her journey from a medical background to content strategist and mentor is what I would call the squiggly career. And that's a good thing. Sakshi and I dive into the philosophical and practical challenges of how we see ourselves as entrepreneurs, how we're shaped and limited by external pressures, and how we can empower each other to accept the squigginess of our journeys. This episode is sponsored by acquire.com. More on that later. Now, here's Sakshi.

Sakshi, thank you so much for being on the show today. I'm quite excited to talk to you because I know you and I, we are both big fans of Kevin Kelly. I just recently found that out about us. What's the thing about Kevin Kelly that currently impacts your life? Because in our community, the 1000 true fans paradigm that Kevin Kelly has introduced is one of the biggest things that everybody tells you, right? As an audience builder, as a founder, as an entrepreneur, you need these people. And he has written great books. His blog is amazing. I just recently read his book about the future of technology and all the kinds of stuff. He's spectacular. How has he impacted your life?

Sakshi Shukla 1:27
Thank you for asking that great question. What a start! One person that we both really like. And Kevin, if you're listening to this, yeah, thank you for who you are. But a thing about Kevin Kelly is number one, he just feels like this, you know, ray of warmth. Like he's like this genuine warm person that I've never met in my life, but seems to have impacted my life in so many different ways just through his words and I thing that I'm currently obsessed with. And I really want to ask him how he came up with that was, don't be the best at something, be the only, right? And as you're growing up, you're always told be the best, be the best, be the best, right? And what that kind of does is pushes down or kind of like burries the weirdness that makes you you or kind of like, you know, fizzles out that genuine curiosity that you have about life. And so when I read his code, I think it triggered this, you know, innate sense of, wow, like, yay, like, I'm worthy as I am, right? And maybe more capable than I knew, right? And so that one sentence has got me really hooked. And I read it around like three months ago, that's when I bought his book, the new book, right? I think, Rules to Live By. I'm sorry if I'm missing the name up, right? But I have it on my shelf and I pick it up every day and I read one line out of it. But this one's in dense around, hey, you know, don't be the best. Like, how can you be the only at something, right? And I'm asking myself these questions like, how can I become great at coming up with ideas? How can I be someone that people feel comfortable enough and you know, can come up and say, hey, Sakshi, here's the problem that I'm facing? And I know that you're the only person possible who can solve this. And as I'm thinking about this, to be honest, I think early in my life, I call it my first life. When I wanted to be like a neurosurgeon, right? And then pivoted into business and entrepreneurship. Back then, I was also obsessed with being the only person who can solve real, you know, neurological problems. I wanted to solve alzheimer's. I was very curious about why Parkinson's happens and you know, all of those things, right? So it kinda like, come full circle. And now where I'm at, I'm like, how can I be this person who is maybe the, you know, the only person to tell stories in a certain way or the only person to approach problems in a certain way, right? And what kind of problems are those going to be? He's played such a pivotal role in just helping me just like giving the direction you know, to your life where you're at a sort of like an inflection point making big decisions. Yeah, so I think even like, another thought that I have and have been having is, how do I come up with ideas like this, that don't be the best, be the only, right? What do you think about that?

Arvid Kahl 5:00
Well, it took Kevin Kelly a lifetime or a significant part of his life to come up with these ideas and you're right, like, it's also funny because he embodies this to me. Like his lived experience in his software life and his, you know, entrepreneurial life and the guide and warmth, the father like figure that he has to so many, that to me, embodies just, it takes a while to get there. And it's in the intersectionality of all your skills and all your insights that your specific uniqueness lies, right?

Sakshi Shukla 5:34

Arvid Kahl 5:34
That's like, there is no second Kevin Kelley, like it's

Sakshi Shukla 5:37

Arvid Kahl 5:38
Just one of them. And what I love about how he approaches this is that he so willingly shares it along the way, right? Like, you said, like all these little tips in the form of a book that he gives people, these rules, he's been doing this every single year of his life or in many years, like he just comes up with the 30-50-60 rules or just insights that he's found into living.

Sakshi Shukla 6:01

Arvid Kahl 6:01
And that is, the fact that you have these rules is already a pretty important thing because that means you've kind of calcified your thoughts into rules, right? It's a process of reflection and then kind of specification, I guess, into something actionable. That is also quite unique because I think a lot of people have internal rules that they sometimes most of the times follow, but never really, like pragmatically put into a shape that they could communicate. And I guess that's where it starts, like deep reflective thinking about your own experiences.

Sakshi Shukla 6:35
Yeah. And, you know, like I love that you bring that up because another idea that I've sort of, like, you know, found through a thread of thoughts and things is best practices. Like, I think we're a bit too much obsessed with best practices that other people follow.

Arvid Kahl 6:54

Sakshi Shukla 6:54
And we underestimate what happens when you create best practices for your own life. Right? And so a little thing and you know, an idea that I've been, like, you know, just like, been very fond of is, how am I going to design a life where, you know, I create best practices that serve me as an individual and best practices that help me serve the community better? You know, in terms of whether it is a particular way that I talk, whether you know, how I show up to a podcast, whether the kind of people that I help and in what time do I help them? Right? And how do I approach these things these little day to day moments in my life and as they come across to me because it's these like, you know, slow and steady moments that come together in a classroom make up your life, right?

Arvid Kahl 7:49

Sakshi Shukla 7:49
And that's where, like a lot of frame working and decision making and as I talk, this I feel like just this is what Shane Parrish in Clear Thinking has been talking about, right? And people may call me, I'm stealing stuff from him. But I don't know, you know, it's been what I've discovered by working with people who are, you know, 20 levels above or even 30-40 levels above is that they have their own unique way of doing things, right? And own different, just like you said about Kevin Kelly, right? That he has embodied those rules completely. And he owns his truth of sorts, you know, if we must say that, yeah.

Arvid Kahl 8:37
And we're lucky, that's an interesting tension there. We're lucky that he shares it because that gives us the insight into his life. But we could also completely overreact and just imitated completely and all of a sudden, we would, like you said, follow the best practices of somebody who is not us, right?

Sakshi Shukla 8:54

Arvid Kahl 8:55
Somebody else's practices. I've had this problem with advice in general

Sakshi Shukla 8:59
Oh, yeah

Arvid Kahl 9:00
All the time, right? Like advice to me is a best practice kind of turned into a teaching, which is problematic. And I say this, as somebody who gives a lot of advice. I've written two books about it. Of course, I do this show every week, where I just talked about something like that is advice. It is an incredible tension within me because I know it works. But recently, I've come to understand that it works for me, right? It works because of all the things in my history, all the path dependent choices that I made along the way. I don't know if you've ever seen this visual of the decision tree that starts in the past and then it goes to the now and then it goes to the future, right? And then yeah and you see the tree like the path you took and then there's a whole tree in front of you where all the potential exists. Right? And that is, it's kind of scary to think about that you always just look back at the past version and you think oh yeah, I did this all like intentionally and on purpose and I went this way because that's totally what I was meant to do. But if you look in the future, there's so much potential and you have no clue what you're gonna be doing, right? And you give advice looking back at the past knowing that this past was a high potential future for you at some point in your own past. Sorry, if this is a bit convoluted. The problem with advice to me is that we over index on the implementability. Is that a word? You know and the capacity to implement advice that somebody else has kind of forged from their own experiences. So

Sakshi Shukla 10:36
For sure

Arvid Kahl 10:36
Very much a problem if you cannot set up your own best practices. Because you have never thought about stuff, then taking somebody else's best practices probably is not going to help you. Right? It's the whole ice bath in the morning problem. Like all these, like when I get asked what my morning routine is, it's like, well, what does that even matter to you? Like, do you have the same dog as I have and that needs some walk at eight in the morning stack, right? If you don't, then my morning routine has no meaning for you. So I was gonna ask you if you have any best practices that you would like to share, but in thinking about it was like, well, what does it matter?

Sakshi Shukla 11:16
For sure. I think, I love that you bring that up because I think that, you know, it's important to share. I believe it that that it's important to know what other people are up to. But you need to build this muscle internally when you kind of realize how far you've gone, you know, in terms of just exposing yourself to all these external ideas. External ideas are important. And exposing yourself to different things is important because of course, that's how our brain makes connections and you're aware of the world around you that's like, just basic psychology and neurology of existing in the world. But I think that, you know, it's really important to know these boundaries and have this sort of, like awareness built in that, okay, if I've consumed a particular piece of advice or information, what am I doing with it, you know? What actionable point has really come out of it? Or am I just like I'm doing on the internet? Or am I just, you know, scrolling away my time and attention on the internet, right? And I know a lot of people are talking about this but I truly believe that best practices for your own self are not things that you imitate from somebody else. But at the same time, you kind of like, you know, you take somebody else's approach to life or approach to problems or approach to a particular thing, even money or wealth or, you know, buying and all of that, right? And you kind of take it and you're like, okay, here's how this person kind of like lives and does things, right? But where does it fit in my life? Because it might be very possible that your morning routine does not fit in my morning routine, right? But something about your morning routine, maybe inspires me to change how I spend my evenings or something like that, right? So really thinking about what kind of life you are living instead of I think we get really caught up in if I'm going to do something that somebody else is doing, I'm going to get the same level of success.

Arvid Kahl 13:31
Yeah, that's right.

Sakshi Shukla 13:33
Which is like no, doesn't work that way.

Arvid Kahl 13:37
Because it's only the veneer too, right? The ice bath to me like let's just stick with this because I think it's such a clear visual of something that you probably won't enjoy, right? If you introduce it into your life, you do it because you see somebody else like Jocko like doing this in the morning and then running a marathon or whatever, right? You have these people that do this and it's part of their identity. It's part of their projected self into the world. They project this and this is part of what they think is unique to them. So if you then take the ice bath, it's kind of just like the outer layer of a whole thing that you take because they start at the ice bath because of a strong discipline and a belief in like a healthy and shock in the morning or you know in maybe reluctance to stay like lazy and they force themselves to do something uncomfortable. All of that is part of their personal being that you cannot imitate, like you cannot imitate somebody who just hates to be uncomfortable or hates to be lazy if you personally don't mind being uncomfortable or if you don't mind being lazy, right? That's kind of you copy a result, you don't copy the whole process if you do this. So yeah, the identity thing is important to me here. Can we talk a little bit about this? What do you think about making the personal best practices of other people that may be more impart identity to them and taking them over. What does it do to you?

Sakshi Shukla 15:04
Over the past two years, I've been speaking to a lot of people. And I think this is one of the greatest things about writing and probably has been said maybe a million times, but writing and the thing about putting yourself out in the world and the thing about telling your story to the world that I have discovered and why so many people, even very successful people struggle with it, right? Or when people are building companies and they don't know what is the core of the company, right? And of course, there are so many technicalities to it: positioning, branding, competitor research, all of that, right? But I think it all comes back to what your sense of identity is. And what I've kind of realized is that and again, this is kind of like moving into the best practices part. But self awareness, whether you're struggling, suffering, venting, achieving being is actually so crucial, you know, to understand your true identity. And let's take the eyespot situation as an example, right? These people are putting themselves in a situation that, of course, you know the signs of it is completely different. And yeah, it works, right? I mean, but what if you are somebody who actually goes and beds in like, glacial river water. I've done that. And I would recommend that overnight but any day. The sole reason for that is when I took that dip in that river, I'm in India and this was in north India. I had gone for a camp and it was my first time in that absolutely freezing cold water. And when I took that, you know, dip, okay, maybe it was good for my body, right? Like I don't know how it affected the neurology, the signs. Okay, good, it is great, right? But the respect I had for life just changed in that moment, you know and it has now become a part of my identity, that one experience, right? It made me realize it was like I was, you know, like going back in time for a while when it was just, I used on Earth, right? I was like, wow! So what I'm just trying to say here is that and which you kind of like touched upon is experience and your choices, right? Are so essential to your whole and accepting that is really important. Because, like you said, right? I mean that Tim, I think Tim Urban designed that. It's like you're coming at it and you're here and then there's like possibilities, possibilities. There is no way you will know which of those branches takes you to a more successful place or a more happier place, right? You can't future prospect or something like that, right? Like you can only retrospect, right? But I guess it becomes easier when you're sort of comfortable with who you are as a person. And you know and you own your story. Right? And so I really feel that a lot of people who maybe are thinking that, hey, if I do this one thing, my body's gonna get better or my health is gonna get better and you know, they're doing it right. I might reach their level of, you know, athletic body or God knows skin or whatever, right? And that's another reason I personally hate people that say do the skincare and everything is going to be solved.

Arvid Kahl 19:03
Yeah, right

Sakshi Shukla 19:03
You can have the best skin and not be a confident person. Right? But if you're self aware and if you kind of like are comfortable in your journey and in your experiences and you're of course exposing yourself that hey, let me try a sauna or let me try an ice bath, doesn't work for me. I'm not that person. Maybe I'm a glacier bath person or maybe I'm gonna jump out for you know sky or some God knows what, right? But yeah, you know, this is what I kind of like understand about identity so far in life.

Arvid Kahl 19:38
How do you get more comfortable around this? Because you mentioned two layers, right? One is awareness of yourself like your own story. Owning your story is just allowing yourself to be part of your your story, right? That which is for some people I'm not even talking about trauma. I'm just talking about the path that you take in your life, right? For some people, they made mistakes. And now they don't want to be that person anymore. But

Sakshi Shukla 22:35

Arvid Kahl 22:35
You know, that is allowing yourself to own it and then getting comfortable with it is kind of the next step. Do you have any ideas that would make this easier or allow you to, I guess build a best practice internally to get to terms with that?

Sakshi Shukla 20:18
For sure. I love that question. I think that, for me after like a lot of failure and shame, I mean, there was a lot of shame in my life four years ago. I was very, like, ashamed to look at myself in the mirror. And I was like and I was the most self confident person early on in my life because my parents would constantly validate me, my, you know, teachers and mentors would constantly validate me. I was really good at theatre and arts and education in all of these things, right? And then, all of a sudden, there was this downfall, right? Where I couldn't get to where I thought I should be. And the way to sort of like, after that the only thing that sort of worked for me was forgiving myself for failing or forgiving myself for making a particular mistake. And I think and this is another idea that goes on in my head as I've been looking at my do your sort of like an entrepreneurial or freelancing and now running your agency sort of a journey is, heck, a lot of times I've forgiven myself because if I had not, I would not take risks again. Right? I mean, okay, one rejection, boom. I'm never going to get another client. I'm never going to have anybody who's going to say yes, right? But I forgave myself for whatever that mistake was that I made in that process. And the key to being comfortable to yourself with yourself and also being like, kind to yourself, your story is forgive yourself, you know. We're very easy to forgive others. That's what I feel, you know, somebody hurts us. And we're like, it's okay. She's my best friend, you know, it's fine. It's okay. He's my dad, you know, it's fine, right? It's okay. He's my partner, right? We're very forgiving of other relationships that we have. But I think we have to become very forgiving of the mistakes that we have made or even the way we have kind of like treated our own selves. And I think that to anybody who is maybe not finding power in their own journey, I would just say, just sit back and tell yourself, hey, I forgive you, you know and it's okay. We're going to give this kind of like an another chance, a better chance, something like that. So I think that is one piece that is really important, at least for me has been really important in being comfortable with my journey, whether it was the downfall or trying to get back up and learn how to walk again because that's how it really works. You know? Yeah

Arvid Kahl 23:04
It sounds like you have developed this retroactive experimental mindset, where now you look back at things and say, well, it could have worked. It might have not and it didn't, but that's fine. It was all an experiment. That's how this feels.

Sakshi Shukla 23:24
Oh, my God. Exactly. And the idea, okay, so I studied science for the longest time in my life and I still do, right? And one of the best things that scientists probably taught me and people are going to be, you know, so mad at me because I keep repeating this. But I think it's worth repeating is, can you live your life like it's an experiment? You know, I think science teaches you the best way to live your life, you know. You put things in the bottle, boom, you know. Okay, didn't work. Okay, messed up. Clean the lab again. Right? Let's try putting other things. Oh, my God, this is a blood red color, doesn't work. Okay, throw that up. Let's try again. Right? Maybe that blood red color was a, you know, a chemical compound that, you know, I don't know, this is how scientists discover things right? But there's always something that comes out of whatever your experience has been. And so yes, like, I honestly respect the fact that you kind of like captured this part. But I do, especially after realizing that there is no map to anything, no matter how much anybody tries to sell you a map. They're just trying to sell you an experience. There are no maps in the world.

Arvid Kahl 24:57
That's a wonderful way of saying this, yeah. And it might be benign, right? People might want to help you find your way. They might sell you a compass. But it's not a map, right?

Sakshi Shukla 25:06
It's not a map. It's never going to be a map. I think, okay, maybe that sounds like rude because I do consume what other people create, right? I do buy courses, I do buy folks. The way to think about it is nobody's handing you a map and nobody possibly can hand you a map. But I think they can hand you ways of what does it take to build a map?

Arvid Kahl 25:34

Sakshi Shukla 25:31
You know, you need a paper, you need to know what different kinds of roads are there in the world, right? It's like geography almost. So these are basically tools to understand geography and maybe where it goes, right? Or where it could possibly take you. Or this is what mountains look like, no, don't go that way. Right? This is what a valley could look like. No, don't go that way. Right? Or maybe go explore that well, right?

Arvid Kahl 26:00
Yeah, it depends, but yeah, that's great. It's a wonderful way of phrasing it. I think that kind of encapsulates why people are looking for the map, right? Because everybody wants the map because it allows them to skip the experiment. They don't want to fail, they don't want the potential of failing, they don't want to run into the forest. And then all of a sudden, there's a mountain out there. Ah, I don't know how to climb a mountain, right? They don't want that. They want to go around it before they even come there. And to me, it's kind of an analysis paralysis problem that we have when we get started, right? Get started building businesses or even just get started becoming aware of our own stories and our own trajectory in life. Once we noticed that there is something that we can do about it, we want to do it 100% right. That's how it feels to me, right? Which was why a self help as a book genre exists. And everybody wants the perfect way to form a habit or the perfect way to thinking clearly. You just talked about like clear thinking, right? And nothing wrong with atomic habits or clear thinking, like all of these books and thoughts and frameworks are great ways of finding your own path. But they are not the path. I think that's a wonderful way you just described this. It's never a map. I'm going to use this from now on. I just really liked the way of because you're confronted with a terrain that you don't know. And of course you want to map because ideally, you don't want to fail. It's so hard to overcome this.

Sakshi Shukla 27:32
It is, it is and you know, I think when we start out in life, right? I mean, it feels like you're handed a map, right? You got to go to school

Arvid Kahl 27:42

Sakshi Shukla 27:43
Then you gotta go to, do college, you're hired. There's a mentor who's gonna guide you, right? And I think this is why I like entrepreneurs so much or indie hackers or people who just went out of their own way because it's absolutely something must be wrong in our heads, I truly believe. And I think it's Jensen Huang of NVIDIA who said this. Yeah, I watched these things and they stick with me. And he said that something has, there's something wrong with entrepreneurs that they and he said this so wonderfully. I just have to tell you. He said this, like, we ask ourselves, how hard can it get? How hard could it possibly get? Right? But at the same time, a lot of people don't. The thing is, I don't blame people. Actually, I think that's just how we're shaped. We're always told what to do, where to go, here's how it's going to be like, right? And what happens is, after a point or just like, oh, my God, now it's my turn to figure things out, right? And so I think problem solving is never really ingrained in us or ideation and thinking through things is never like a subject that's like taught.

Arvid Kahl 29:12

Sakshi Shukla 29:12
I don't think it can be taught, right? Maybe somebody should try if that can happen, right? But and then all of a sudden, you're like, go out there. It's your turn to figure things out. It's impossible to not want a map, right? So I don't blame people. But I also think that after a point, everybody wakes up to the fact that maybe I should have done my life different. Right? And that's when but they couldn't have because they were not ready to face uncertainity. Right?

Arvid Kahl 29:47
Yeah. And they were also not, like you said, the systems, the institutions of the world in which they grew in, they were not conducive to allowing them even to build the skills that they would then need. That's a wonderful example. And I know you're from India. I'm from Germany. And I think both of our cultures are pretty traditionalist in many ways, right? You have a very clear path and you go to university, you get a degree and you get a good job and then you keep this job forever. You're there for 50 years, you get a watch, and then you're done. Right? That's kind of the story, which is horrible because that sounds super boring. But that's coming from an entrepreneur's perspective. Some people might like this. It's stability. It's a clear vision of what your next 20-30 years are going to look like. You can make long term choices. I understand why people would like this. But the reality today, it looks very different, right? You jumped from job to job, you switched careers completely, like you did going from medicine into business and entrepreneurship, which is quite different, right? The impact that you have is different, the people you work with are different, the methods used are different. And I wish, I absolutely wish that school would have prepared me to lead a life of kind of self determined choices instead of trying to suppress creative thinking. And you know, be in kind of a, I was kind of a problem kid in school. I was always very outspoken about my opinions, you probably too. Yeah, obviously. Right? Otherwise, we wouldn't be talking right now. But that's been an issue for the people around me. And they tried to kind of squash it. And it took me ages, a long time in my life to unlearn these lessons of compliance and of following rules to the point where you learn for the test not to have the knowledge, right? That kind of stuff. And culturally, I think we come from similar places when it comes to these kinds of things. Other countries, Canada, the United States, Canada being the place where I live right now, it's a little bit different. There's still a lot of compliance. But there's also free thinking, competitive thinking. There's a lot of competition in many ways and expression of the self and that stuff. And it's interesting how that affects your journey because I would love for creativity to be a subject, let's just say that, right? Where people teach you maybe not how to be creative, but how to find things that you're interested in because creativity comes automatically from there, right? So do you have any big ideas that would help people maybe small ideas, doesn't matter, to foster that sense that maybe the institutions have suppressed now that they've understood that there is something that they need to learn?

Sakshi Shukla 32:19
For sure. And touching base upon like India as a country and you know, these ideas that we've been fed have like the journey to follow. And funny story that I think people would find very interesting was like two years ago, I found myself very overwhelmed with where I was headed because I had changed careers. And I didn't know what the heck was going on. And as I'm looking back now, I realized I actually never applauded myself for the shift I made and never really said, wow, you pivoted from something to something. And I never gave myself any credit, which was a disservice to myself and I'm learning to forgive myself for that. Right? But here's the thing, nobody else also did. For a very long time, nobody and not even my parents, I don't hate them for this, right? They set in their ways, right? Like traditional people don't think about this in the ways but they never really realized how much it must have taken to make that change, just accepting that change, right? And I think that's why I was deeply struggling with the questions of who am I? What does this working out for me mean? Right? Like, I was not good at something. But this is working. What does it really mean? And where do I sort of like to get ahead? Right? And a question that I was asking to myself was, should I go for like a proper business education, right? And I started mulling over that question. And I started writing to Howard students and I was like, hey, I know you're doing MBA. Would you talk to me for like, just 10 minutes? And three women replied, three women I spoke to and asked them questions. And after each call and it takes a lot of strength to say this, I will just sit and cry because their stories and journeys were 100 times different than mine, right? They had different resources, different ideas, different exposure, different perspectives in their lives. And here I was in a small town in a country that's still like developing. Of course, everybody is now looking at India. But I was scared. And I was like, I'm talking to these people starting at the top institute of the world and I'm grateful that they're talking to me, right? Because I've made that ask. But my context is extremely different, right? I'm glad that I took that move and talk to those people, at least because the clarity it gave me was a truth that people rarely accept, especially in traditional societies like India. Here people do an MBA after their undergrad. So like, it's like these complete school, they do undergrad, which is like maybe three, four years, whatever. And then they do an MBA and then they get a job, right? Which is like, the traditional path. In the US, it's opposite. You do undergrad and then you go to a job. And then you take an MBA and I remember one of my clients/mentor said to me, do you need a two year vacation at this point in your life? Because that's what an MBA is. And I laughed out so hard because that was real. My life is just beginning and talking to those students at Harvard and my mentor and slash client, it taught me that, you know, I have to do my own learning of sorts. And I have to first accept the huge change that has happened in my life, right? And I needed to like, change my environment and change my unlearn is the word that you just said, right? But accepting that you need to unlearn something, is the big step in its own way. Because your mind is trying to convince you and your upbringing and your values are trying to convince you no, you've been taught something because it's right, because it works, right? And I think that is where creativity lies. When you say to yourself that, hey, what I've been taught may not be working. Or maybe I need to choose a different way of thinking is where creativity happens, at least in my opinion.

Arvid Kahl 37:10
That's such a great way. You're thinking the unthinkable, right? The thing that people kind of forbade you from thinking because it doesn't fit with the narratives that they tell each other. Oh, that's cool. And

Sakshi Shukla 37:20

Arvid Kahl 37:21
You've brought a lot of things together just now. I just want to like, reflect this back at you because you talked about shame earlier about this not reaching the thing that you want to reach. You just talked about external pressure like your parents and a traditionalist perspective from the outside. And we talked about identity earlier, which is kind of who we are and what we think we need to do. And there's this political philosopher, Amartya Sen, who wrote about identity a lot. And I read his books and university when I studied political science for some reason. And he described it so well because we are such a layered individuals. We have identities that stack on top of each other, right? We are people of Earth, we are people of India or of Germany, we are a son or a daughter, we are a friend, we are a professional, we are a doctor, or we are an academic, or we are a thinker, or we are an entrepreneur, we are so many things and they all exist in one. And often they conflict, right? Because if you want to be a free thinker, but you also want to be a good daughter to traditional parents, there's a lot of tension there. It's unsurprising that you feel shame if one part of your identity gets stronger and the other one gets smaller, right? Gets weaker.

Sakshi Shukla 38:33

Arvid Kahl 38:34
How did you deal with that? Are you still dealing with this on some level?

Sakshi Shukla 38:38
Okay, so I first of all, love the idea of the stack of identities that you talked about. And I have a few thoughts on that. Right? So there's this concept of like, most people are fake or most people are wearing a mask, right? I think that isn't what the problem is. Yes. I think some people try to be who they are not. I agree, right? But I also truly believe that identity is so difficult because it's so layered. And you cannot come to me and say, hey, Sakshi, you are just this one thing. Right? And that's another thing that has helped me be more creative of sorts when I kind of shunned those labels around and I was like, you know, and not even shunned. I would say actually accepted, you know, more like, okay, I am all these things. I'm also a very strong woman. And I also have my weak moments. I'm also a really great daughter but I'm also a bad daughter at times, right? I'm also a great you know, mentor or a great leader. And sometimes I also make mistakes and I'm a bad one, right? So, and all these other you know, senses of identity and dimensions that we have, right? And I think that we need to be more empathetic towards these different parts of ourselves. So I think that's something that I've started to work on and accept and embrace. In terms of the shame and the part like that one part of my identity was rebelling against the other. I'm not really dealing with that anymore because I think that it was just the time that that was needed. And my parents had no clue that I was making that pivot and what it looked like for me, right? Because I had no clue what it would look like for me, right? So how could I go and tell them, hey, this is what I'm up to work. This is how I'm thinking about my life in the long term now, right? So I think that when we shift thoughts, the first and most important person who needs to embrace and think about it is you. And then of course, the other people catch up along the way. That's been my learning because it was also the case with my friends, you know. For the longest time, I wouldn't tell them what I was up to simply because I didn't want to explain it to anybody, right? I didn't have that mental bandwidth, if I may say that. But then I took my time. I first embraced my journey. And then you know, I'm more comfortable now talking to people. Here's what I did. Here's how I did it. Here's where I struggled. You know, all of that.

Arvid Kahl 41:28
I love this, like the fact that you embrace it, which probably also made it so much clearer to justify and defend if you need to, right? This is such a negative phrasing because justification and defense means like, there's something wrong with it. There's nothing wrong with it. It's just an explanation. Like, you're helping people understand where this comes from. This is wonderful. I think this is the idea that you first have to accept, embrace, and then project instead of, you know, deflecting all the time.

Sakshi Shukla 41:59
Exactly! I think some people do it the opposite way. They think that they need to, they feel the need to explain to other people so that they can accept something, right?

Arvid Kahl 42:12

Sakshi Shukla 42:12
You know and it could be about whether you're building a company, they try to convince other people so that they can convince themselves in the journey, right? And I've seen that happen, like I was at this event where an aspiring farmer comes to a VC and he's like, what do you think is going to be the hottest trend in the coming 10 years? I want to build something in that space. And I'm like, good for you chap, you know and I was just overhearing that this conversation because I was just standing right next to them. But my question was, how are you going to justify to yourself when you were five years down in and you're trying to explain to other people because it didn't stem from within you? You were trying to find the best hot thing, right? And yeah, you know, I think people try to explain a bit too much externally rather than accepting and embracing things within themselves. Because I think this is where your heart is where most of the work really happens. Right. And another idea that I have, like kind of like, I don't just enjoy listening to any more is work is just a part of your life, you know. And bear with me on this because, yes, it is a part of your life and there are many parts to your life, right? But purpose is very, very deeply correlated with identity. I'm not saying that purpose manifests only in the form of your career or work. But most of the time, it does. Yes. And your career could also be like training at a place, right? Or being a traveler, vlogger, whatever, right? But, so I think that we're teaching people that your purpose doesn't matter enough and that there are these other parts of your life that are really crucial. So don't kill yourself working too much or thinking too much, right? But, and it doesn't come from a place of wrong, to be honest. They're like, hey, take care of yourself as well. Right? I know that that's what they mean. But internally, a lot of young people have started to believe that I don't need to push myself anymore or I don't need to seek my purpose anymore because I'm okay the way I am, right? I personally have a huge problem with that.

Arvid Kahl 44:37
I can tell. And me too, and on some levels I think that's just something in the way we communicate nowadays. What like, it sounds like I'm an old person, but the internet in a way has changed the way that people, the culture perpetuates itself significantly, right? And what you just said people, it's the whole Gen Z thing of people not wanting to work. I don't want to dive too deep into this, but there is kind of a cultural, you know, the fog that everybody walks through and they can barely see and that they think, okay, this is reality around us. I think we are just exposed to everybody's opinion all the time. And then we pick the things that kind of feel most compatible. And then we come to conclusions like this. The thing that makes it so much easier I feel to find your own path or to go your own path is to surround yourself with people who have the same kind of goals, right? It's kind of the echo chamber, but in a good way is like you surround yourself with people who are aligned with what you want to do. And that's the big difference, who don't need you to defend your things to them because they understand them. And I think you've done this so well with her stage, right? The the concept of this of finding people around you to support you and then lift them up. I love this. Could you please talk more about this? Because I think that's a super important thing.

Sakshi Shukla 45:55
For sure. Thank you so much. You've done your homework. That's what I'm feeling here. But yeah, and you know, the idea of surrounding yourself with people that you don't need to defend yourself to, I love that. I absolutely love that. And I think that it's really important to do that in your life. And this is an advice that I would give to people, like put yourself in whether those are friends, whether those are mentors, that aren't asking for explanations of why you're doing something, right? Because it's very okay to chase the wrong thing as well. Right? Of course, I mean, I'm not saying don't validate your ideas, don't see the value of things. But if you truly believe in something, it's okay to go out there and try, right. And it's great to have people that are like, okay, go for it, go give it a try, right? And you're not trying to explain to them that, hey, I'm going to burn my savings or I'm going to go crazy in the process or I'm not going to eat for five days, right? They're like, come over to my house. I'll cook for you, right? You need those kinds of people in your life. And on the point of like, an echo chamber but in a good way, I'm also truly a fan of opposing views or different ideas because I like surrounding myself a lot with people that I don't know anything about. So I'll go, you'll find me someday on a walk listening to a physics podcast because I'm just like, okay, what's happening in that world, right? Expose myself to it, I will not understand anything for the first 15 minutes of it, then I'll take out my phone and I'll make some notes into it. Okay, this is how it made me feel. Here's what's going on. I should read a little bit more about this, right? And then I'll just keep it in my, you know, in my pocket and I'll just just go my way, right? And five, six days later, something will hate in my business or an interaction with a client that, okay, heard that on that podcast, right? And ooh, something's clicking, right? So I do believe in exposing yourself to different ideas as well. A little bit about her stage is it's a total experiment again. The aim is I want more women to be sharing their stories, right? Especially in my country, especially in India, I feel that there's a lot of stigma around women telling their stories or their journeys, right? And I've also heard this from so many people that there aren't enough women in tech. There aren't enough women, you know, in product. There aren't enough women speaking up or saying things, right? That's because they're not actively present. You're not inviting them to speak, you want more women in tech, whatever many are there, 10, 20, 50, put them on stages and let other people see, hey, I could be here. These people are similar to me. Their journeys are similar to me, right? And my vision with her stage is also evolving as we speak. I've been brainstorming a lot about it. So the initial idea, which I'm executing on is that it's going to be a database of women speakers or panelists that you can reach out to and be like, hey, come speak on my podcast, come speak in our conference, give a keynote speech, take a masterclass, stuff like that. But I also eventually going public saying this now is that I eventually want it to be its own event of sorts, where this is a stage for women, right? And I'm not saying men are not invited. I have great men in my life and have been great, great allies, right? But I just believe that a lot of people have been talking about women empowerment and women this, women that, but it's really important to get into the nitty gritties of it, right? It's really important to ask yourself, what happens when a girl says, I want to go work at the top research facility in India? Right? Can I create something that she can hear someday? And be like, no, I'm gonna go at it. Right? Or can I build something that can support her in that journey, you know? So yeah, those are, that's just how I've been thinking about it.

Arvid Kahl 50:45
Oh, that's awesome. I'm so glad you're doing this. And that's the thing. I love that you're here today, sharing your story. And at the same time, you're empowering others to share there's . I'm really grateful you're doing this. I believe the same thing. We definitely need more women's voices, presence and journeys to be inspired by. I'm just sick of the same white dudes doing everything. It's just really saying this as one of them myself, I have all these privileges in my life that I think are not necessarily of my doing, obviously. So their diversity of thought and diversity of life and story and narrative is such an important thing. Otherwise, honestly, otherwise, life would be boring. That's also one thing. It's not just about the fact that, you know, there's a political and social problem. It's also just a variety of experiences that we can all share with each other. So thank you for sharing your story here with me today. If people and I know that people would love to follow you, if they want to find you and follow your journey, where should they go?

Sakshi Shukla 51:46
They should go on Twitter and LinkedIn and search for Sakshi Shukla. I'm going to pop up first. I can give you that

Arvid Kahl 51:55
You've done great work with your personal brand, could tell you that.

Sakshi Shukla 51:58
Thank you! Thank you. But you can also, my DMs are always open. People can reach out to chat, to jam. And if you're in Bangalore, I would love to hang out with you. And if you're listening to this, I hope this wasn't a total waste of time.

Arvid Kahl 52:16
There's the self doubt coming back. No, it was definitely not. It was a wonderful conversation. And I'm really, really fortunate to have talked to you today. I'm really inspired by several of the things that we talked about. And just the awareness of you, you're very self aware person and you're talking about it in a wonderfully open and embracing way. So thank you so much for being on the show today. Sakshi, that was really, really nice. Thank you.

Sakshi Shukla 52:42
Thank you so much for having me. It's been an honor. It's been a true honor.

Arvid Kahl 52:46
Thank you!

And that's it for today. I will now briefly thank my sponsor: acquire.com. Imagine this, you're a founder who's built a solid SaaS product, you acquired customers, and everything is generating really consistent monthly recurring revenue, the software as a service dream, right? The problem is you're not growing for whatever reason, maybe it's lack of skill or lack of focus, or just plain lack of interest to kind of done with the thing and you feel stuck in your business. What should you do? Well, the story that I would like to hear at this point is that you buckled down, you reignite the fire, you work on the business not just in the business, and you do all these things that you always wanted to do. You built an audience, and you do marketing, sales, outreach, and all that stuff. And six months down the road, you made a lot of money, you've tripled your revenue, and you have a hyper successful business and everybody is happy. Well, reality is unfortunately not that simple and the situation that you might be in that looks different for every founder who's facing this crossroad. Too many times though, the story here ends up being one of inaction or stagnation until the business itself becomes less and less valuable over time or worse, completely worthless. So if you find yourself here already, you feel like this is where you are. Or you think that your story is likely headed down a similar road, I would consider a third option at this point and that's selling your business on acquire.com. Capitalizing on the value of your time today as a founder, as a maker. This is a smart move. It's always good to think about and acquire.com, free to list, they've helped hundreds of founders already. Just give it a shot. Go to try.acquire.com/arvid and see for yourself if this is the right option for you and your business at this point in time.

Thank you for listening to The Bootstrapped Founder today. You can find me on Twitter @arvidkahl. And you'll find my books and my Twitter course there too. If you want to support me and the show, which I would really appreciate, please subscribe to my YouTube channel and get the podcast in your podcast player of choice. And then please leave a rating and a review by going to (http://ratethispodcast.com/founder). That makes a massive difference for me and the show because if you show up there, then the podcast will show up in other people's feeds and then we all get to learn and I really like that. Any of this will help the show. Thank you so much for listening. Have a wonderful day and bye bye.

Creators and Guests

Arvid Kahl
Arvid Kahl
Empowering founders with kindness. Building in Public. Sold my SaaS FeedbackPanda for life-changing $ in 2019, now sharing my journey & what I learned.
266: Sakshi Shukla — Understanding Identity and Being the Only One
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