Take The Leap, Start a Business with Payal Kadakia
Hey, everybody, what's up, it's Chase. Welcome to another episode of the Chase Jarvis LIVE Show here on CreativeLive, where I unleash the power of the brains of the smartest, most talented, hardworking, and creative people on the planet with the goal of helping you live your dreams. And our guest today is Payal Kadakia. You are probably familiar with the insane success of a company called ClassPass. Well, Payal is not only a mother, an artist, but she's also the entrepreneur that started that company. Again, more than 30,000 partner studios across 30 countries and 100 million hours of workouts that you signed up for in order to make her company come to life is one of the premier ways that anyone can have access to boutique studios. This is a huge episode. Payal comes from an Indian American background. She was a consultant at Bain and then left that safe world, the safety net that our parents and our career counselors all told us to chase to pursue her dreams. And in this episode, we t...
alk about that leap, we talk about how when you have a purpose, how the judgment and outside influence of others, how it impacts you a lot less 'cause you're doing the true thing that you're supposed to be doing, we talk about why doing things that light you up will also impact other areas of your life in the most positive and fruitful and beneficial way. And lastly, we cover things like entrepreneurship and how it looks like science from the outside, but how she knows, I know, and so many of the best entrepreneurs in the world know that it's actually an art. I'm gonna get out of the way and let you enjoy this conversation between yours truly and Payal Kadakia. (uplifting music) (audience applauds)
We love you.
Payal, thank you so much for being on the show. Welcome.
Thanks for having me, Chase. Great to be here.
Well, I have been looking forward to this for a long time. I got your new book. I got my mits on your new book early. But long before you wrote the book, I was paying attention to what you're doing now more than a decade ago when you started your company. And rather than me giving all this away, I would love for you to start out by orienting our listeners, to folks maybe who might not be familiar with you or your work. Of course, you've created something that millions of people use all over the world, but I don't wanna make any assumptions for our listeners. So maybe open up with a little bit of a background on who you are, how you think and talk about yourself and your history, and take us up to modern times.
All right. I'll try and keep it short, because we know that these stories can be long. But really my story starts with when I was three years old and fell in love with dance. And the thread of dance in my life was so important to me, really was my place to be centered, to be creative, to be myself. And I really fought to keep dance in my life through college years, through my professional life. And I would say, that afterwards, I got to a place in my career where I really wanted to find a place where I could dance and do something for the world that would give them what I always felt in dance as well. And that led me to building a company that was called ClassPass. And so that really came out of my own passion for wanting to build a company, to help people really find classes and find passions in their life because I truly feel that our passions and activities in our life are really what make us exceptional and we should never let go of those things. So ClassPass, it's all over the globe, it helps you get access to different studios and gyms in your local area. We worked with 30 different, 30,000 different partners around the globe. And we sold the company at the end of last year and I decided to move on, but at the same time it's been a decade of building a company. So that's really been a journey.
I love it. Well, another thing I love is that, as part of your bio, when we make arrangements to have conversations like this on the show, everyone's publicists and whatnot, they send the information. And I love that you identify as an artist. And this show is primarily for creators and entrepreneurs and freelancers, people who identify with a lot of those monikers and help reconcile for, I mean, this is part of the narrative of the show and my background personally, but how do you think about this concept of being an artist and an entrepreneur? Those historically have been at opposite ends of the spectrum. And I know and feel differently, I think the listeners do, but it's never enough to continually check in on people because this is a thing that culture largely has divorced those two things, business and creativity, and yet I believe deeply that they're intertwined. So I'm wondering if you can start off by talking to that, you consider yourself an artist and here you are creating a billion-dollar company.
You know, that question is, I think, one of the deepest parts of my journey and almost one of the hardest parts too, because I think it took me a really long time to even call myself a creative or an artist. And whether that was because success in the eyes of the people around me when I was younger was more analytical and doctor, engineer, and lawyer and that based, it took me a really long time. And even though I started dancing when I was so young and it was so prevalent in my life, it just, I didn't even understand I was creative, right, and I think I was trying to find the creativity in the sort of analytical standard life I was living, like I went to MIT and then I was a consultant, and I was always trying to find that creativity. And when I found entrepreneurship, it was this place where I felt my creative side and my business leadership side could thrive. And when I really look back at the journey of ClassPass, is it the, obviously it's a combination of the two, but is it the MIT girl and business person who created it or is it the creative? It's the creative, 100%. It's the creative that connected those dots. It was the creative that was seeing something in the human behavior of my product that helped me think through, how do I solve this when it wasn't working? And I really actually think that people don't always highlight that, especially in the tech world, like I think it's something that creativity is sort of like a job you hire for. But at the end of the day, I think founders who think in a creative mindset are the ones who are able to build these new blueprints for the world, right, build these new product ideas that didn't exist before because it requires that out-of-box thinking. And I am really grateful to my creative side for always giving me that ability to think out of the box. Because then when I saw this idea and when I started being an entrepreneur, I didn't follow anything because there was nothing to follow. And I just followed my mind and my problem that I wanted to solve and it led me to giving something to the world that I'm really proud of today. But it really is an art. It's funny. I literally was messaging someone this morning about this. I actually feel like entrepreneurship today almost feels like a science, less of an art. But it actually is such an art to build a company. And it's almost because there's so many now out there that I feel like people think it's like you do this, and then you do this, and then you exit, and then blah, blah, and here's the data, and it's not, it doesn't, I think the big, big ideas that we've seen in the world truly came from a sense of solving a problem and a lot of creativity.
Well, let's go back to, I think you shared a point that is a thread throughout this show's 11-year history. And that early on this sort of identity crisis, you thought of yourself as a dancer and yet the surrounding you, I'm just gonna make these positions up, but your parents, your career counselors, your peers, your grandparents, they were oriented around jobs that pay the bills. And so get specific for us. How did you reconcile those things? Or did you not reconcile those? I mean, you went into consulting at Bain, which is I think most folks, well, I find there's a creative side to everything, but that seems like you originally listened or took the guidance from those, the career counselors and the parents who wanted the best from you, but also it didn't seem like that was pursuing your heart that may have been pursuing some other cultural aspirations or something. I'm wondering if you can fill in the blank spots for us here and help me understand how you actually wrangled the creativity to a point in your life where you were able to put it to use like unabashedly in front of everybody who thought that it was better to be running science experiments than solving problems that were passion, that you're passionate about.
Yeah, I mean, I would say, if I think about these dualities I've had in my life, I would break down a younger childhood, and I talk a lot about this as well, to being Indian and American, okay? So just having sort of like two really strong identities and ethnicities and cultural backgrounds really shaped me and also, in a way, broke me into two. So I was, by the week, I was with my, in my school, I was a cheerleader. I was like cheerleading at the football games on Friday nights. And on the weekends, I was with my Indian community, dancing, learning with other girls, and performing, right? So I really lived two separate lives. And I think the reason I talk about that in the question you just asked is because the reason I even sort of went to dance and went to my cultural background is because I think I needed to understand more of where I had come from and sort of that knowledge and the roots of the history of who I was and the woman I came from, right, and what their history was. And I think the DNA of that, I think, made me feel more comfortable in my skin. And I think that's a big part of this journey, is just building the confidence of loving who you are as a human being. And I think dance for me was my gateway into that, which is why I really truly fell in love with that at such a young age, because it just gave me this place where you know what the differences, I didn't see them anymore, right. And I think the world wants to put us in boxes and put expectations on us. For some reason, when I found dance and I would perform, everything disappeared. It was like I felt like I was the tallest person in the room, and I'm a really small human person. I'm 4'11". So I think I learned how to go beyond my skin and my being and sort of go into this out-of body-experience to shine. And once I found that, I think I hung onto that. So in moments where, I obviously still did the checkmarked path that my parents wanted to and I'm very grateful to that. I think the foundation of that is ultimately what gave me the strength and fundamentals to be able to take the leap I did when I decided to quit my job and build a company. But I would say that through that journey, I was always fighting for this space in my life to dance. So at MIT, like I went and started the Indian dance group on campus, right? Like whenever that community and that place didn't exist for me, I went and sought it out. And I think when I went to New York, like literally the first day I moved into my apartment before I started my job at Bain, I went and found a Bollywood dance class to take, that happened to be literally three blocks away from my house. So I think, for me, I just never let go of this place that made me feel confident. And so when the world started always telling me what to do, I always had a place to go that was pure, that wasn't tainted. And I really truly believe like people, everyone needs that in their life, this place where they can be themselves. And eventually it's like I knew that I needed to stay in that place even more. And so what I did, and this is sort of like my personal journey. When I decided I knew I needed to fight a bit more to do what I wanted and start getting off this train that I felt like society was pushing me towards, I decided I would take like a half step. I wasn't ready to jump off a cliff. And I think this is what most people do. You kind of have to like see what works and see what's gonna feel right. And so I took a more corporate job that, like, wasn't necessarily like the standard and the gold star. This is like the first time in my life I wasn't doing the thing that was like at the top of what everyone should be doing. And so most of the people around me were like, "What are you doing," like taking a more nine to five job. But like, to me, that worked because what it gave me was predictable hours. It still gave me a salary. And guess what? From 5 to 10, I could dance and do anything I wanted without someone being like, "Oh no, you need to create a presentation," or show up to this meeting or travel. And so it gave me what I needed at the time. And during those two, three years, I started a dance company, I started being an entrepreneur, I started believing in myself to go after my dreams, right? It was a small step, but I was leaning in to who I really wanted to be while also still having a cushion. Like, I think that's really the part. It's about feeling responsible at the same time. My parents taught me enough values to be able to say, "Hey, look, like I don't want you to, I want you to dream, but I also want you to be realistic and responsible with your life," and I'm really thankful to that. Because by the time those three years were over, I was in a place where I had made enough money to take a break to be able to fund my life while I built a company. I felt like I had responsibly been in a place, like, financially, as I said, I was in a responsible place from like a career perspective where, like, I had enough stuff I had done. So in case my company didn't work out, like, I'd probably be able to find another job at some point or another, right? And I had learned also enough about how the real world works, which I also think is pretty important to the journey of entrepreneurship, is just knowing how to problem solve in the real world, which is very different than when you're in (audio warps) building something. Anyway, so I think all of that really got to the point where I was able to shatter those expectations. And the only other thing I would say on that, which I think is really important, is how I brought my parents along with me on my journey. Because I think it's very easy to wanna hide these things like, "Let me hide dance from my parents and not tell them I'm doing all these things." I did the exact opposite. Like I would, they were a part of every big dance thing I was doing, they were a part of every big thing I was doing with ClassPass. I almost overshared the journey with them to the point where they, my mom was the one who told me to quit my job and build the company because I think she had, at that point, been like, "Wow," like, "You will go and succeed in everything you do in your life. Let me let you go free and fly and see what you can become," and I really needed that from her to say that. And those wings, I took those wings and I took everything my parents had taught me in the foundational values and I went after my dreams. And I think once I started getting over my fear of what was like on the other side of that, I just, more doors just kept opening, like more and more and more. And that's, I think, a part of the pattern that gets any of us to these points where we build these things.
Yeah, I love the idea. I don't know if you call that a half step or half measure, I forget the word you used. But I think there's this notion that we have to get a new set of friends and move to Paris and wear a beret and smoke cigarette, that sort of pursuing your creativity has to take some radical different shape. And the reality is, and for so many of the guests on the show, this is another really common theme that that is the belief that the entrepreneur puts it all on black and bets. But the reality is that, my experience was the same. I waited tables and tended bar so that I could have the maximum amount of flexibility and the maximum time to pursue the thing that I wanted to pursue on the side. So I think it's fascinating and it's a very clear takeaway for our listeners that that is an untruth and that you put, you said responsible and it makes me wanna go to your book. There's a line in here that I highlighted. "Life is full of practical considerations. We need to pay bills and take care of responsibilities to family, work, and so on. But that does not mean we can't also go for what we want in our lives. By shifting our perceptions and developing a plan, we can approach a parent limits and constraints so these things work for us and instead of against us." So I think that is such a lovely nugget. And the last thing you mentioned before I grabbed the mic back was fear. And I've got a list of things I wanna talk to you about and it's almost like you're looking at my notes here because the next card that I wanted to turn over in the deck is a card about fear. And I think it's my dear friend and numerous guest time on the show here, Brene Brown talks about gold-plated grit, where we take the hard things in our life and, in interviews like this, we say, "Oh yeah, it was so hard," and that's part of the story, lasts about 10 seconds, and then we talk about how glorious success felt. And so I would like to actually flip that relationship. I would like to understand from you when you were dealing with the fear of leaving Bain or telling your parents or sort of reconciling the thing that society may be thought you were, relative to who you were on the side, talk to us about the fear, what was especially hard about it, and were there any times where you severely doubted some of your decisions.
Yes. All right, so I think the biggest decision after I finally got my parents and everything on board was quitting my job. I think that's really, I think, the big one. Because up until then, I still had an income, right, and I still had a sense of a career, and a place to go to work, and structure, right? I think it comes down to a lot of those things, of people who can tell you what to do and show you, tell you how to show up, and feeling like you're moving forward. And then when you no longer have that, what is moving you forward in life compared to what other people are thinking, right? And to get to that moment, like I said, I think I had thought about different ideas to build at the time and ClassPass was obviously at the top of, "Hey, like I could go build a company. I can go build a startup." But what I really needed to do is just to give myself the freedom, right, to just think and dream at the time. And first, like getting my parents on board was important. Second, kind of having some sort of financial plan was also important to me. And I think these are the things that helped me get over my fear, right? And I think, I call these risk calculations, right? Like at the end of the day, this is not jumping off a cliff; this is about calculating risk. And I was calculating my risk, right, of how much time do I have? My dad and I sat down and we went through my money and I had three years to kinda live off of my savings for that time after basically sacrificing my life for six years and not doing anything. I had earned myself three years to go make an impact and what I wanted to do, which was, it was nice to know how much time I had, right? It wasn't 10 years and it wasn't one, right? It was three years, and that was good. So the day I really went in to quit, I think, it's just scary. It's just scary doing what you can't see anyone else doing. And you look around, and this was a part, one of the shocking parts to me. I have obviously a lot of people who are older than me who are succeeding at work, that I'm about to be like, "Bye," like I'm leaving. And I'm going to tell them that. Why didn't they do that? Like, what path am I following? And I remember after I like told my boss and then I started like telling everyone else in my team. The interesting thing that happened was one, every single person was like, "How do I help you," like, "Do you need anything? I'm here," which was kind of interesting, to be like, "Wait a second. You usually," like these are people I either reported into. I was like, "Great, sure." Like, "Actually I do need help with this." That was just an interesting thing. I think when people see you doing what you love, they want to truly help you. So that was like just an interesting thing that happened right away. And then the other part which was kind of interesting is I felt like they looked at me with the sense of, "Oh my God, I wish I had the guts to do that too." And I was obviously like much younger than a lot of these people. And when I saw that, I was like, "Wow, I am making the right decision, and I'm just doing it when I'm really young." And I could tell in their voices, they were like, "I wish I could do the same thing and go and live my dream," right? And so I think, I remember walking in that feeling and I didn't know what door was on the other side. Like, I truly believe in the quote, "Your greatest life is on the other side of your greatest fear." Because I walked out that day I quit my job with a $10,000 check from one of my, one of the executives at my company because I decided to tell people what I was doing and what I was passionate about and he was interested. And he was like, "Actually I wanna invest," and he also introduced me to someone, a tech incubator, which was life-changing for my company. And so I couldn't believe it, like, the amount of doors that started opening right after. And they were smaller doors, but they were doors. And I thought, going back to the question of fear, what did I think was gonna happen? You think the doors are closing, and they're gonna stay closed, and you're gonna be stuck in a box in a way, like that's the fear. But you have to believe. Like, actually closing that door is going to open a whole set of new doors that would just actually go bigger and bigger, and this was never the path you were actually supposed to be on. And once I really started living in that life and journey, and like you said, going back to the half step, the half step was like me starting to kind of dabble in that and seeing the doors but not like fully closing the door that was going to unleash me. I was kinda living that like plan A, plan B life. I know a lot of people have side hustles and stuff. But I ended up at a place where I felt like I was split in two again, like back to the whole Indian American thing. I was being two different people. Like, I was showing up to work and like crunching numbers in Excel. And then like at night, I was this like amazing, incredible performer who was like ending up on, in The New York Times. It was like I literally was living two different lives. And I felt like the world was also guiding me towards listening to my passion. There were things that happened during that journey, and I'll never forget this, but my dance company got invited to go to a festival and we ended up on the cover of the art section of The New York Times. And like my heart, we didn't have a website at this point. Like, I really was doing this on the side, like thinking, I just couldn't even put anything together. And I just remember moments like that being like the world is telling me to go after my dreams. Why am I not listening? And I think if you start listening, the universe also does guide you towards your passion and purpose. If you need a guide, it's inside of you already.
That is so well-characterized. I love it. I think that is very profound advice to, if you didn't grok all that and you're listening to the show right now, you're commuting, you're walking on the walking path there, rewind and listen to that whole bit again because that, there's so many nuggets in there. And I read from your new book, which is excellent, congratulations, it's called "LifePass." I read from that early on, just a moment ago, about the practical consideration about life. And the next paragraph is about, I love how you organize the book by the way, and it has talks about how part one is focusing on shifting perspectives by identifying our own mental hinders. And part of, I'm hoping to now take this conversation from this idea you tap into it. You dip your toe at first and then you got, you created a cushion for yourself so that you were able to go all in on your dreams. And it seemed like in your story there, you were your own mental blocker, right? And it was until you took those steps, that you saw the doors opening and you realized that all this stuff is happening for you, not to you. And I couldn't help but notice that the, I think it was the opening chapter is calling. And I wrote a book called "Creative Calling." And so this notion of the universe sort of pulling you like a tractor beam in "Star Wars" or something, I'm wondering if you can validate that or how you can characterize, I mean, obviously, folks, you gotta read the book. It's amazing. But why did you open with this concept of a calling?
So when you talk about mental hindrances, right, and I think about what people always tell me like, why they aren't living the life they want, the number one question to ask yourself, and really get over, is where do you wanna go? If I can tell you all the roadblocks to get through and how to get through them, right, and give you a plan, but you need to know where you're going, I can't tell you that. No one can tell you that. And I always felt pretty lucky that I found something when I was really young, but I think people can find it at any point in their life. But having that why and that true north is the anchor, right, that will help you, when those trees fall in the woods, you still know which direction you need to go, you just gotta get over that tree. And the whole book is set up to get over those trees. But the north star comes from who you are and you need to find that, right? Because, look, like figuring out what to do to just kind of appease society and appease what other people want from you, yeah, you'll move forward in life, but to have that rich, fulfilling life comes from having something that you deeply, deeply care about. And the way I define a calling is really about something that you love doing, but it's in service of other people, right? Because that's truly what we're all meant to do, is it's actually about doing something you love and that you feel connected to and fuels you, but it's about the fact that it actually provides something and impacts other people. And I think that's a very different way to look at a calling. That's what actually makes it fulfilling, is that it's in service of other people. And whether it was performance for me, which honestly, like people, I didn't dance for myself. I danced because I wanted to make other people feel. And even ClassPass, that deep why that I had was about giving people what I found in dance my entire life, right, to other people, especially as adults, right? Because I saw people in the middle of New York City just walking the streets, doing the normal thing every single day. And here I was sort of dancing through the streets, ready for performance when I was like 25 years old working consulting. And I wanted other people to have that life to them. And just to even like, and that I think about ClassPass and the journey. People always ask me like, "Why did you give up? It's been a decade." And we went through so many failures, so many points. And I think as an entrepreneur, if you don't care about that calling and that why, you're gonna give up. It makes the reward not worth it. And to me, when you know you're changing somebody's life, and when I saw someone go to class, and yes, it took us three years to get one person to class, I would do it all over again. Because getting someone to class and changing their life meant everything in the world to me, and I was going to fight no matter what for that.
Let's go back to the structure of the book. I love how it's organized. Not necessarily the structure that you had as a Bain consultant moving into, but the structure of the book, again, three parts: your life, your limits, and your life paths. And we've talked about, you just talked about calling. Expectations is another chapter that you've sort of walked through as, unintentionally, we're covering chapter, or the part one here. We talked a little bit about fear. And I wonder if you could just explicitly, we've talked about embedded in your personal identity that having sort of dual life as you talked about, but it was really when you put those things together that you were able to stand out. And I've got a phrase that you can't both stand out and fit in at the same time, yet that's what so many of us do in our lives. So I'm wondering if the role that identity played when you were able to say, "This is who I am," fully, completely showing up and putting, was there, what changed when you did that?
Ultimately, I look back at ClassPass and I don't know what other DNA of a human being could've created that, right? Because with my background, even though I may have not felt proud of all those threads of who I was at the time, those were the different threads that made me be the perfect person to create a company, who was going, working consulting and running in and out of Pilates classes and dance classes in the middle of meetings. I was like living that sort of before. I even, in a way, created a product like that. And I thought I was weird for doing it at the time, right? But at the end of the day, I realized I actually had a human calling inside of me and a feeling inside of me that the rest of the world was craving as well, right? And so ultimately, like when I think about what changed over time was the more I started leaning into what I loved, which, like I said, for me, was that anchor was dance. Every single time I did that, I felt more confident in who I was. And so the more hours I spent doing something I loved, just started overtaking the hours of doing something I didn't enjoy. And ultimately, I knew I wanted to be doing that more and being in a zone and in a state of flow that made me feel alive. And at some point, I just realized like the corporate world and working in like in the offices and the way I was was just not my jam and it wasn't my way of working. I didn't wanna be in like big meetings and all, it just wasn't my, and this thread's come up in my life, even as ClassPass got bigger. Like, these things have come up in my life. But I've been very, very attuned to who I was, what environments I like to be in, which is another big thing about identity that I talk about, is what environments do you wanna be in? I think we think that we have to be wherever everyone tells us to be. But no, we craft our own lives and the journeys and the environments we wanna be in. I love being in a studio and dance classes, and classes in general. And I'm glad the rest of the world wanted to be too. But I didn't realize that that's like where I thrived. Like, even the clothes I was wearing to work were different than what I really wanted to be wearing. I wanted to be in leggings all the time. And I know these are small things. But at the end of the day, when do you feel like you are trying to fit in? And I think that what you said is so true: it's about always stand out. I felt so proud about being different. By the time I was the only woman in tech in like most of these meetings and events I went to, I felt proud for being different. I was like, "You know what, I have something interesting to say and something different to add to this conversation and I'm going to lead into it. I'm not going to try and fit in to the conversation or fit in to what everyone else looks like or is stressing like." And I think when I started finding that strength in myself, and like I said, I do think a lot of it came from leaning into my confidence, which came from this dance side of who I was, because it gave me a core and a center and a calling in my life. I just felt more comfortable being me, and I felt like I needed to continue to shine and give something to the world.
Mm, Amen. There's so much texture in what you just shared that is it's not written in any books anywhere, right? And you mentioned you're creating this, like you're choosing how you, where do you wanna, what environments do you want to be in? I think this so prescient that it's just, it is creativity, it's creativity at a different scale. But you literally are, you're in charge of creating all of the moments of your life. And sure, we all have to do things that we don't love. I'm sure the quarterly financial review with your board of investors was less delightful than showing up at a class full of people who attended via ClassPass, I'm sure those were different feeling. But at the base of it, like there, we often lose sight of our own autonomy. And again, citing from the book, which is called ClassPass, sorry, "LifePass," "Drop your limits, rise your potential, groundbreaking approach to goal setting." So I wanna fast-forward to the goal setting because let's be real, most folks right now, there's a gap between where we are and where we want to be in the world, and whether that's career, life, hobby, financial, there's this gap. And so part of the way to transcend this gap or to go over around or through this gap is by breaking it down into small steps. And if I outlined the other, the way that you've structured the book, your life, your limits, understanding them, things like finances and skills and people and time. I wanna fast-forward to you've basically pioneered a method called the LifePass Method with reflect, dream, focus, and then setting goals. So let's jump forward to the goal setting part. How do people transcend this gap between where they are and where they wanna be?
Absolutely. So I'll give you a little bit of background on also the method, which actually, for me, came up in my life during a really hard time, right? I think I needed a system that would help me succeed and thrive in my personal life as much as my professional life. So at this point in my life, like I kind of knew I had just sort of created ClassPass and like it was going viral and we had like a thousand customers, which was not a lot at the time, but I just knew I had created something that people really wanted. So I feel like all this hard work I'd put into my life was finally culminating. But then I looked at my personal life and, I mean, I was single, I was like spending the holidays by myself, it was like, what, my health was bad, there was just so many things going on and I realized I needed a system in place to set goals across all the same aspects and do it in the same way I knew I was succeeding in my professional life. And I think this works the other way, too. Some people know how to really succeed in their personal life and don't know how to do it in their professional life. But everything I had learned in my life taught me how to think in a certain way and I knew I needed to solve this problem the same way. So the method starts, and it takes an hour and a half. So we can't go through the whole thing right now. But the main steps of it are, the first step is to reflect, to really think back at your life and come up with sort of the words that would anchor you in where you've been over this past year. I think in order to figure out where we wanna go, we need to know where we've been and what we're starting from. And I like to think of this as themes of the last year, I call them your reflect words because they're sort of what you've been up to and what your heart and soul have been up to. And then it's all about asking yourself what, "If you did the same exact exercise a year from now, what words do you wanna say?" So what are your dream words, right? What do you want to be able to achieve over the next year? And this all in terms of themes and feelings, right? This is not, "I'm going to achieve X, Y, and Z, or reach some big milestone that society is pushing you towards." This is really all about anchoring yourself on how do you wanna feel, right? Like, when you arrive at that end of that year, what do you wanna be like this year was about? Was it about love? Was it about impact? Was it about dreams? Like, what was the year all about for you? And so we write down your dream words, right, and this is sort of like your true north, your calling for the year personally. And then we go through a big exercise, which is about focusing, right? Because at the end of the day, we can all write goals across all of this, but how do we even know where we wanna put our time and energy into focusing? So it starts actually with the time diagnostic, where you go through and list all the big buckets of time that you spend any hours on. So this obviously goes from like anything from family and friends to social media and obviously work. And I think it's important for people to just get a sense of where they're allocating their time, because that's usually what we waste the most, right? And so when you have goals in your life, you kind of need to be like, "Whoa, here is my layout of my plan," right? And then therefore these are sort of the buckets in your life that are going to serve you and where you're going to end up creating change in general because that's where you're spending your time. And this process should also include obviously adding new areas of your life, right? So imagine you wanna start a new activity, or a passion, or start writing, or reading. This is sort of your time to say, "This is how my life is sort of encompassed right now in these 10 buckets." Then we go through a process of reflecting and rating all of these areas in terms of how are they serving you today, right? So it's not just about like writing the time diagnostic, it's almost understanding, "Okay, like I spend a lot of time working, how much is work serving my dreams right now," and just kinda having that sense. And then ultimately, what we end up doing is getting into a place where you pick three to five areas for the next quarter. So the way I do goal setting is it's a quarterly process. I don't set goals past that. And the reason I do quarterly is because I think a year is way too much time, people forget and you can't do it. And a quarter is enough time to make change, right, where it's not like a week where you feel bad about not doing something or life happens and things change. But a quarter gives you enough time to make progress. So at this point, we pick three to five areas where you're gonna spend time. So you might pick like, okay, family. You might pick, I wanna play tennis, you might pick, I wanted to clean my house or get my house decorated and you pick these areas of your life. And once you have those areas then we go to the larger part of the step, which is about the actual goal setting. So everything up until that point is literally about fine tuning it. So you arrive at a place where you are focused on the areas you're going to goal set in, right? 'Cause now these areas are coming from yourself, right? You know what you wanna do in terms of your dream words. You have some anchors for the year. You have a good map of your life and where you wanna spend and focus your attention. So now instead of saying, "Oh, like, I wanna make progress in all 10 areas of my life." No, like you've chosen three to five areas that you can actually make an impact on. Because if we choose all 10, we probably can't do anything 'cause we won't make enough impact. And then we go in and I have a deep system which you'll read about in the book. It's about how you actually set goals. Now that's the magic, right? It's actually how you set goals. People don't know always how is the best way in making them measurable, making sure that they start with a step that can actually be done. They set goals that are too big, right? And then therefore they never accomplish them. So I go through a system of helping people actually break down what a goal looks like. It could be as simple as: I wanna learn to play tennis. Now, what can you do in those three months? Okay, a lot of times people are like, "Okay, well, I failed if I'm not like a great tennis player by the end of the three months," no. Signing up for a class, just one class, by the end of that three months is actually success, right? And I think being able to look at it in terms of progress, because by the way, most of the times, you know what would happen? A whole year would go by and you would've never even signed up for a tennis class, right? This gives you something that's so small. All you have to do is sign up for a tennis class in three months. Now that feels accomplished like something you can accomplish, right? For people, and even the process of finding that class. What requires you to maybe do some research, maybe putting it in a place where you might do some reviews and ratings on different instructors and then interviewing some instructors and seeing who you like and then you get to pick where you're gonna go. But just getting to that place, honestly, is something that's hard. And I think this is sort of like when I look at my life and I feel like my whole life started from probably putting on a dance show for 100 people. That's so small, but the fact that I did that helped me build a confidence to do it for 200 people, then a thousand and then be like, "You know what I wanna start a tech company." It was all these incremental steps that helped me arrived at this place. And I do believe the more we set these goals and we do it and we put it in a process that is actually achievable, the more you believe in your own execution, right? So like part of so much of this LifePass Method is this idea of getting started and executing. 'Cause the more you execute, the more you believe in yourself, the more you believe you can go towards your dreams and accomplish the bigger thing. But it starts with the small steps.
Yeah, there's this sense of inertia, right? It's like you hold yourself accountable and you actually produce the result. But that's signing up for the tennis class or something different, like that creates momentum, and momentum begets momentum. It's interesting, I had highlighted in the galley of your book, "LifePass", which is for those listeners out there and that's an advanced copy. So I'm not sure if my page will correspond to the book that you actually get, but I'm here in 181. The air is just, one of the things I love about the book, it's very actionable, right? These forms are actually in the book that you can, how do you prioritize your time, how do you stack rank these things in importance? And just to, I'll riff real quick here, these steps around goals: make them measurable; breakdown and sequence them; shoulds also deserve goals, which I wanna ask you about that; identify tasks that can be delegated or outsourced; be very specific; and lastly, focus on the how as much as the what. So of all of those, I think most are self-explanatory. But what about shoulds also deserving goals? What do you mean by that?
Yeah, so there's obviously things in our life like finances, right? Which might be a should, but they also, like I said, deserve goals, right? It's easy and we talked a little about this earlier, it's easy to kind of always put things like that off, right? Creating a budget, putting a plan together, any of that stuff. But those are the things that actually, if you do them today, in maybe the second quarter or third quarter, it's going to give you the ability to make a different choice, right? With your time and with your goals. And so, we always think about it and even something like it might be like, oh, I have to see certain friends or family, right? How do you turn those into things that you wanna do, right? I think I was talking to somebody who was telling me, like, "Oh my God, I have to always spend so much time with with my cousins. And like, I'm always, I know I don't have enough time." And I'm like, "Okay, well, what if you were proactive about this? Like plan two weekends where you're going to go there and you're going to really be present versus being sad about every single time you're there, right? Thinking, uh, why am I here?" And that's what so many of us do. Be active about it, be intentional about it. And you know what, you're probably gonna enjoy those two weekends then with your cousins because you plan them, you put them into the system, you feel like you gave, they feel like you were there. And instead of it becoming this like long drawn out thing where it takes up so much of your time mentally, you're actually present and you get to get something from it too. So it really comes down to, like I said, even turning these things that we do think as responsibilities and obligations into things that actually are going to serve you and your dream words through the year.
Dream words, I love it. All right, changing directions. You said earlier something that stood out to me around you were a woman in tech and you went to rooms with people that didn't look like you, had different levels of experience and you found a way to lean into that. And you said that is ultimately something that was a strength and a differentiator and allowed you to pursue your dreams. Now, we have to start off by acknowledging there are all sorts of different privileges that people are born with. I'm white and male and born in the United States. And by most measures, that's basically almost every advantage that you can have. And it's important for us to acknowledge that there are all sorts of advantages or lack thereof. That said, there are rooms that everyone walks into where they feel like an outsider. And so when you walked into originally these rooms full of tech entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists, and financiers, you acknowledge being one of the few women, if only woman in the room. So what did you frame your thinking and explain it, in a little bit more detail, how you were able to take a thing that historically may be seen as a disadvantage and leverage it to something that, I think you used the words like empowered and confident? And there's like some good mind ninja shit going on in there. (audio warps)
So how did you do that?
So it first started obviously like, I didn't always feel comfort, right? Like I think it's important to acknowledge that too. So even being at Bain and having to run these meetings with executives from huge kind of Fortune 500 companies, did I feel uncomfortable? Yes. Did I know I was smart? Yeah. Was I scared I was gonna say the wrong thing? Yes, like I think it comes down to, it wasn't yet, I knew I had done the analysis or I had known the numbers. It's this fear of what people are going to think about you, right? At the end of the day. And I think what happened for me is the more, I wanna go back to calling here, the more I was doing something out of purpose, the more a lot of what everyone thought of me started to dissipate. Because here I was like truly trying to change the world and do something good for people, how could I ever be wrong in doing that? And that's when I think the story for me started to be so authentic and I go back to that too, is the authenticity, how could anyone tell me that what I was saying was wrong? Like I wanted to build a company to get people to class because of my passion for dance. It just felt really authentic to me. And the way I was going to go about it felt genuine. And I think when you start acting in that authentic way that's coming from a really deep sense of purpose, you just stop questioning anyone thinking about you. Which is why I go back to identity and environments. Because if you are in environments that make you feel uncomfortable, you're probably not necessarily doing something in line with your purpose necessarily, right? And you're probably not around the right people. Obviously, you need to raise capital and do all these things and those meetings are uncomfortable. But I started finding people and investors who were really like leaning into even my story. Like most of my investors even watched me dance, they would come to my shows. And I realized like, oh, even through my journey, like there were investors I said no to ultimately even when class was starting growing because I'm like, I don't know you and I don't know if you believe in me and my ethos and the ethos of this company because I was building something with such a deep why. And I think you have to keep going back to that. And I was careful about who I surrounded the room with. Like this was obviously, before I didn't get a choice, afterwards, I did have a little bit of a choice and I needed to protect that environment because I never wanted that sense of purpose to go away from the company. I never wanted it to leave me. And I do believe that I always felt like that was like my magic when I walked into a room. I felt like I had magic when I would walk into these rooms. And that's how everyone should feel because you do, you have something that's really unique. And I think that's really what you have to fight for is that confidence in your own magic.
Magic, I'm using that one, that one.
Yeah, we're all magical.
Yeah, but say more because this is what I feel like, the purpose of this show is to help connect people with their passions so that they can live their dreams. Because I believe that is like the rocket ship to achievement success and most importantly, I would say fulfillment, is doing the thing that you are put on this planet to do. And maybe you have to experiment a little bit to find that. And we explored early on where the inputs are coming is your parents, your career counselor, do the responsible thing, or it doesn't mean getting a new set of friends. But give some advice on this passion piece because now more than ever before, right? We live in a culture where there are 50 million Americans have a side hustle. And that's growing, right? That is like a huge piece of the workforce. Now, if we can get more people, the calculus that I do is we can get more people doing the things that they love and pursuing their passion and the purpose that they were put on this planet to do. God, isn't everything better for everybody when the whole world is sort of aligned on this? So preach for us for just a second here about this sort of virtuous cycle of pursuing your passion. Picking that passion and putting it to work in the market, making money, doing the thing that you love, and that sense of purpose. Give us a speech about what you've experienced following your passions. And maybe some horror stories when you see people who haven't. But give us a speech on why pursuing your passions matters.
I mean, what is a rich life? A rich life is one that is fulfilled. It is not chasing the vices in the world of power, money, needing to have things and materialistic things. I think we think that those things are what bring happiness, but those are not. And I'll be 100% honest in saying this. When I went to start ClassPass, did I ever think about the money? It would give me the potential fame? It would give me any of that? No, I didn't think about any of those things. I thought about solving a problem in the world for people. And I think when you are driven by such passion and purpose, your decisions in your life all connect into something greater and so much more fulfilling than living a life that, like I said, is chasing money or chasing power. And it's on an everyday level, you can really think about your actions and decisions. And just start thinking about which decisions you are making in line with which vice, right? In which theme, in which value. And I really believe the more I started making decisions in line with my passion, which was dance, the world started hugging me a bit more and moving me closer to where I really needed to be. And yes, like I've ultimately ended up with so much that I'm so grateful for more than I ever could have imagined. But at the end of the day, that thing that I am most proud of is the fact that I helped people literally book over a hundred million hours of their life in doing like soul nurturing experiences because of my platform. And I think when you truly care about something like that, honestly, the other stuff just, it's great. It's like, it's great because society sort of values it. But what makes me go to sleep at night and being happy is that, is that I made an impact on the world. Because like I said, passion and especially calling, is in service of other people. How do you just not feel good when you give something to other people? And so you really need to think about how you turn that into, like we're going back to it, but into money, right? So now the trick here is, okay, how do you spend time on it? How do you test ideas? How do you build? How do you talk with people about ways to solve problems? And I truly believe entrepreneurship. The number one question every entrepreneur should ask themselves is: what problem in the world are you solving? You have to know that.
(audio warps) out there are about solving a problem. And I think the other part of it is knowing how are you gonna measure that, that we've solved it? To be honest, I didn't know that in the beginning when I started my company, I was chasing a product idea. I just thought I was gonna build an open table for classes. And I called them false signals of success. Actually, I talked a lot about them in my book as well. So I thought because we had raised money and because we had had fame and like gotten press and all this stuff that we were doing the right thing. And then I launched a beautiful product and I thought like everything was just gonna work. And it didn't at all. And it was like a slap in the face for me. And honestly, that was the moment I actually think I became an entrepreneur when I failed. Because it made me realize, wait a second, you, this isn't about putting on like a dog and pony show, this is about solving a problem in the world. Get to work and go solve the problem. And once I started doing that, and it's actually funny because there was a phase in those, I remember that there was a six-month period where we had to downsize our office. Like we literally were working in such a, like a different environment than we were in before. Like I wasn't talking to anyone, I wasn't telling anyone what we were doing and we were isolated. And that was actually the most magical time of the company. Because that's when we were actually figuring it out and doing a lot of the grinding work. And it wasn't about being a parent for anyone else and appearing on anything or speaking at anything; it was about doing the work. And I think when you are doing the work and you are passionate about it, everything else really goes away.
Gotta love the process. Payal, congrats on the book, "LifePass". Again, the subhead, "LifePass: Drop Your Limits, Rise to Your Potential, A Groundbreaking Approach to Goal Setting". It's an amazing book. I love how prescriptive and easy it is to follow. And there's a lot of value in these workshops that you have sort of established, these little check-ins along the way. So congrats on an incredible book. And of course, more so for ClassPass, right? That has, as you said, changed people. Hundreds of millions of hours have been changed because of what you've created. So congratulations. Thank you so much for being on the show. Tell people outside of buying the book "LifePass", which we're really good at supporting authors in their week of launch, so we're gonna show up for you. Yeah, where else would you steer people to know more about you, to get more connected? I know, the dance studio and maybe it's social media, where would you steer--
Yeah, I'm on Instagram, I'm @Payal, that's P-A-Y-A-L. And then yeah, my dance company, it's Sa Dance Company. You can find us and if you wanna learn more about Indian dance and our amazing culture, you can go there as well.
Payal, thanks so much for being on the show. Congratulations again. And to everybody out there in the world, let's show up, and it's really an incredible book. Congratulations. Thanks again, and until next time, I bid you and everybody else out there in the world adieu.
Thank you so much for having me. Bye. (uplifting music)