HOW PASSION DRIVES BUSINESS SUCCESS
The first day Payal Kadakia moved into her apartment before starting her job at Bain & Company, she attended a Bollywood dance class that happened to be just three blocks away.
Payal, who has an Indian-American background, studied operations research and economics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but she was always determined to keep dance in her life—both during her college years and her professional career. She was three years old when she fell in love with dance because it offered her a place to center herself, be creative, and be herself.
The corporate world provided Payal with a safety net, but one day she decided it was time to build a business around her lifelong passion.
The result, ClassPass—a membership program offering access to an extensive network of wellness and fitness experiences—became a global sensation. The platform became the first unicorn of the decade, and Mindbody, one of the leading wellness technology platforms, acquired it in late 2021. Prior to the acquisition, ClassPass members had completed more than 100 million hours of training at 30,000 partner studios in over 30 countries.
In today’s episode, we talk about her first book, LifePass: Drop Your Limits, Rise to Your Potential. The book is designed to share the hard-earned lessons with other creators and entrepreneurs aspiring to marry business and passion.
Most importantly, the judgment and influence of others affect us much less when we have a purpose and love the process of pursuing our dreams. What brings us joy will have a positive, fruitful, and useful impact on other areas of our lives.
Payal is a highly successful entrepreneur who was named to Fast Company’s list of the 100 Most Creative People and Fortune’s 40 Under 40. But we can all see ourselves in her. We all have aspirations, but fear prevents us from taking a leap of faith and plunging into the unknown.
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Why we fear change
To be fair, neuroscience research suggests that fear of change is a very natural discomfort in our lives because it brings uncertainty.
Scientists have found that uncertainty registers in our brain like an error. Just as a machine can’t function properly when it receives error messages from its system, we must correct that error before we can feel comfortable and in control again. That’s why many of us try to avoid change and thus uncertainty as much as possible.
As the human performance expert, Tim Ferriss says, “People will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.”
Experts say that we also fear change because we fear losing what’s associated with change. Our aversion to loss can sometimes cause logic to fly out the window and leave us vulnerable to poor or impulsive decision-making.
For example, research shows that gamblers who are having a losing day at a racetrack are most likely to bet on a horse with 20-to-1 odds in the last race of the day.
The Great Resignation
One positive development we’re seeing post-pandemic is that more and more people are finding the courage to embrace change, as part of a trend many are calling “The Great Resignation”.
A recent survey shows that about 50% of Americans would move to a completely new industry if they could retrain, and that 25% of workers plan to look for a new job. Compensation, work-life balance, and lack of development opportunities are the main barriers.
Change can be scary, but the rewards far outweigh the challenges.
Like many of us, Payal had her doubts. She wasn’t ready to “jump off a cliff.” So, she decided to take a “half-step” before becoming a full-time entrepreneur.
After leaving Bain, she took a 9-to-5 job at a company that offered her “predictable hours” and didn’t require her to travel, which allowed her to take dancing more seriously and build the foundations of her business.
“Founders who think in a creative mindset are the ones who are able to build these new blueprints for the world.” – Payal Kadakia
Being realistic and responsible
Payal’s parents taught her great values, such as being realistic and responsible with her life while pursuing her dreams, so she didn’t put all her eggs in one basket until she was sure she’d earned enough money to take a break.
“I had earned myself three years to do what I wanted to do, and it was nice to know how much time I had.” Understanding her runway was key to strategic decision-making. In addition, having a financial plan and calculating risks also helped in her entrepreneurial endeavor.
Another interesting thing she told me was that she took her parents with her on her journey from the beginning, instead of “hiding” her passion for dancing.
“I almost overshared the journey with them to the point where my mom was the one who told me to quit my job and build a company,” Payal said.
In her opinion, it’s never too late to reach for the stars. “I always felt pretty lucky that I found something [I loved] when I was really young, but I think people can find it at any point in their life.”
Is entrepreneurship an art or a science?
Payal, who is also the founder and artistic director of The Sa Dance Company—a platform for expressing the Indian-American identity through movement—believes that a rich, fulfilling life comes from having something you deeply care about. She defines a calling as something you love to do that can have a positive impact on other people’s lives.
Entrepreneurship may look like a science to many people, but I believe it’s actually an art. And Payal couldn’t agree more.
According to her, it was her creative side, rather than her business side, that helped her connect the dots and found ClassPass.
“Founders who think in a creative mindset are the ones who are able to build these new blueprints for the world,” Payal said.
Don’t forget that you can pre-order her book, LifePass: Drop Your Limits, Rise to Your Potential, which offers “a unique method of goal setting from the founder of ClassPass that will help you hone in on your feelings, screen out unnecessary distractions, and live a successful and fulfilling life based on your deepest desires.”
Here are some highlights from today’s episode:
- [02:40] How ClassPass was born
- [06:45] The importance of a creative mindset
- [07:23] Is entrepreneurship an art or a science?
- [11:30] A leap of faith
- [14:00] Dealing realistically and responsibly with your life while pursuing your dreams
- [20:00] Having a financial plan and calculating the risks
- [21:40] Your greatest life is on the other side of your greatest fear
- [24:00] What is a calling?
- [28:30] Dealing with failure
- [42:00] The more you execute, the more you believe in yourself
- [54:45] What problem in the world are you solving?
- [55:00] False signals of success
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Chase: 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.
Chase: 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 as one of the premier ways that anyone can have access to boutique studios.
Chase: 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 talk about that leap. We talk about when you have a purpose, how the judgment and outside influence of others, how it impacts you a lot less because you're doing the true thing that you're supposed to be doing. We talked 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 going to get out of the way and let you enjoy this conversation between yours truly and Payal Kadakia. Payal, thank you so much for being on the show. Welcome.
Payal Kadakia: Thanks for having me, Chase. Great to be here.
Chase: 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 want to 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?
Payal Kadakia: All right. I'll try and keep it short because we know that these story's going to 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.
Payal Kadakia: 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 we make us exceptional and we should never let go of those things.
Payal Kadakia: 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 30,000 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.
Chase: 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 over 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.
Chase: And help reconcile for... 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.
Payal Kadakia: 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, I didn't even understand I was creative. And I think I was trying to find the creativity in the analytical standard life I was living. 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.
Payal Kadakia: And when I really look back at the journey of ClassPass, obviously it's a combination of the two, but is it the MIT girl in 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 one when it wasn't working?
Payal Kadakia: And I really actually think that people don't always highlight that, especially in the tech world. I think it's something that... Creativity is 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. Build these new product ideas that didn't exist before because it requires that out-of-box thinking.
Payal Kadakia: 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.
Payal Kadakia: And 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 in a lot of creativity.
Chase: 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 identity crisis, you thought of yourself as a dancer and yet the surrounding you, I'm just going to 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?
Chase: 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 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 wrinkled 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 you were passionate about.
Payal Kadakia: Yeah, I would say if I think about these dualities I've had out 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 two really strong identities and ethnicities and cultural backgrounds really shaped me and also in a way broke me into two. So by the week I was 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.
Payal Kadakia: 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 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 that knowledge and the roots of the history of who I was and the woman I came from 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.
Payal Kadakia: 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. 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. I felt like I was the tallest person in the room and I'm a really small human person, I'm who 4"11".
Payal Kadakia: So I think I learned how to go beyond my skin and being and 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 check marked path that my parents wanted too. 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.
Payal Kadakia: But I would say that through that journey, I was always fighting for this space in my life to dance. So at MIT, I went and started the Indian dance group on campus. 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, literally the first day I moved into my apartment before I started of 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.
Payal Kadakia: 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 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 have to see what works and see what's going to feel right.
Payal Kadakia: And so I took a more corporate job that wasn't necessarily like the standard and the gold star. So it was the first time in my life, I wasn't doing the thing that was at the top of what everyone should be doing. And so most of the people around me were like, "What are you doing? Taking a more nine-to-five job?" But to me, that worked because what it gave me was predictable hours. It still gave me a salary. And guess what? From five 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.
Payal Kadakia: 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. It was a small step, but I was leaning in to who I really wanted to be while also still having a cushion. 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, 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 a career perspective where I had enough stuff I had done.
Payal Kadakia: So in case my company didn't work out, I'd probably be able to find another job at some point or another. 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 college building something.
Payal Kadakia: 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 want to 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. 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.
Payal Kadakia: I almost overshared the journey with them to the point where my mom was the one who told me to quit my job and build a company because I think she had, at that point, been like, "Wow, 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, more doors just kept opening, 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.
Chase: 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 Z cigarettes. And that pursuing your creativity has to take some radical different shape.
Chase: And the reality is, and for so many of the guests on the show, this is another really common theme 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 intended by are 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.
Chase: So I think it's fascinating and it's a very clear takeaway for our listeners that that is an untruth and that you said responsible and it makes me want to 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.
Chase: And the last thing you mentioned before I grabbed the mic back was fear. And I've got a list of things that I want to 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 guests time on the show here Brené Brown talks about gold-plated grit where we take the 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.
Chase: 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 reconciling the thing that society maybe thought you were relative to who you were on the inside, 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?
Payal Kadakia: 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 and I still had a sense of a career and a place to go to work and structure. I think it comes down to a lot of those things of people who can tell you what to do and 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.
Payal Kadakia: 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, to just think and dream at the time. And first, getting my parents on board word was important. Second, having some financial plan was also important to me. And I think these are the things that helped me get over my fear. And I think I call these risk calculations. At the end of the day, this is not jumping off a cliff.
Payal Kadakia: This is about calculating risk. And I was calculating my risk of how much time do I have? My dad and I sat down and we went through my money and I had three years 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 on what I wanted to do, which it was nice to know how much time I had. It wasn't 10 years and it wasn't one, It was three years and that was good.
Payal Kadakia: 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 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. I'm leaving." And I'm going to tell them that, why didn't they do that? What path am I following? And I remember after I told my boss and then I started telling everyone else on my team, the interesting thing that happened was, one, every single person was like, "How do I help you? Do you need anything? I'm here." Which was interesting to be like, "Wait a second, you usually... These were people I either reported into or... I was like, "Okay, great. Sure, actually I do need help with." That was just an interesting thing. I think when people see you doing what you, you love, they want to truly help you. So that was like just an interesting thing that happened right away.
Payal Kadakia: And then the other part which was 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 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."
Payal Kadakia: And so I remember walking in in that feeling and I didn't know what door was on the other side. 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 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 want to invest." And he also introduced me to someone a tech incubator, which was life-changing for my company.
Payal Kadakia: And so I couldn't believe it 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 going to happen? You think the doors are closing and they're going to stay closed, and you're going to be stuck in a box in a way like that's the fear, but you have to believe actually closing that door is going to open a whole set of new doors that were just actually go bigger and bigger. And this was never the path you were actually supposed to be on.
Payal Kadakia: 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 dabble in that and seeing the doors, but not fully closing the door that was going to unleash me. I was living that 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, back to the whole Indian-American thing, I was being two different people. I was showing up to work and crunching numbers in excel. And then at night I was this amazing, incredible performer who was 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.
Payal Kadakia: 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 my heart wouldn't even have a website at this point. I literally was doing this on the side, thinking I just couldn't even put anything together. And I just remember moments like that being 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.
Chase: That is so well characterized. I love it. I think that is very profound advice too. If you didn't crack 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 there's so many nuggets in there.
Chase: 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 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 tone at first, and then you created a cushion for yourself so that you were able to go all in on your dreams.
Chase: And it seemed like in your story there, you were your own mental blocker. 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 pulling you like a tractor beam in star wars or something. I'm wondering if you can validate that or how you can characterize? Obviously folks, you got to read the book. It's amazing. But why did you opened with this concept of a calling?
Payal Kadakia: So when you talk about mental hindrances and I think about what people always tell me why they aren't living the life they want, the number one question to ask yourself and really get over is, where do you want to go? I can tell you all the roadblocks to get through and how to get through them, 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.
Payal Kadakia: 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 that will help you when those trees fall in the woods, you still know which direction you need to go. You just got to 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 because look, figuring out what to do to just 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.
Payal Kadakia: And the way I define a calling is really about something that you love doing, but it's in service of other people 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.
Payal Kadakia: 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 to other people, especially as adults 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 dancing through the streets, ready for performance when I was 25 years old working and consulting. And I wanted other people to have that life to them.
Payal Kadakia: And just to even end that, I think about ClassPass and the journey, and people always ask me like, "Why didn't you give up? It's been a decade." And we went through many failures at so many points. And I think as an entrepreneur, if you don't care about that calling and that why, you're going to give up. It makes the reward not worth it. And to me, when 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.
Chase: 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 pass. And we've talked about... You just talked about calling. Expectation is another chapter that we've walked through as a... Unintentionally, we're covering chapter or the part one here. We talked a little bit about fear.
Chase: And I wonder if you could just explicitly... We've talked about embedded in your personal identity that having dual life as you've 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... What changed when you did that?
Payal Kadakia: Ultimately, I look back at ClassPass and I don't know what other DNA of a human being could have created that. 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 is going, working and consulting and running in and out of Pilates classes and dance classes in the middle of meetings. I was living that before. I even in a way created a product like that. And I thought I was weird for doing it at the time, 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.
Payal Kadakia: And so ultimately, 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.
Payal Kadakia: And at some point I just realized the corporate world and working in the offices and the way I was was just not my jam and it wasn't my way of working. I didn't want to be in big meetings and all... It just wasn't my... And this thread's come up in my life, even as ClassPass got bigger, 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 and about identity that I talk about is what environments do you want to be in?
Payal Kadakia: 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 want to be in. I love being in a studio and dance classes and in classes in general, and I'm glad the rest of the world wanted to be too. But I didn't realize that that's where I thrived. 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.
Payal Kadakia: By the time I was the only woman in tech in most of these meetings and events I went to, I felt proud for being different. I was like, "You know what people, 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 into the conversation or fit into what everyone else looks like or is dressing 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, the more I just felt more comfortable being me and I felt like I needed to continue to shine and give something to the world.
Chase: Amen. There's so much texture in what you just shared. That is, it's not written in any books anywhere. And you mentioned you're creating this. You're choosing what environments do you want to be in? I think there's this so prescient that it is creativity, it's creativity at a different scale, but 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'd attended via ClassPass. I'm sure those were different feelings. But at the base of it, we often lose sight of our own autonomy.
Chase: And again, citing from the book which is called class path, sorry, LifePass : Drop Your Limits, Rise Your Potential - a Groundbreaking Approach to Goal Setting. So I want to fast forward to the goal setting because let's be real, most folks right now, if 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.
Chase: And if I outlined the way that you've structured the book, your life, your limits, understanding them, things like finances and skills and people in time, I want to 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 want to be?
Payal Kadakia: 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. 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, I knew I had just created ClassPass and it was going viral and we had like a 1,000 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.
Payal Kadakia: But then I looked at my personal life and I was single, I was 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.
Payal Kadakia: 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 the words that would anchor you in where you've been over this past year. I think in order to figure out where we want to 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, you know what you've been up to and what your heart and soul have been up to.
Payal Kadakia: And then it's all about asking yourself, if you did the same exact exercise a year from now, what words do you want to say? So what are your dream words? What do you want to be able to achieve over the next year? And this all in terms of themes and feelings. 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 want to feel? When you arrive at that end of that year, what do you want to be? This year was it about love? Was it about impact? Was it about dreams? What was the year all about for you? And so we write down your dream words. And this is like your true north, your calling for the year personally.
Payal Kadakia: And then we go through a big exercise which is about focusing. Because at the end of the day, we can all write goals across all of this, but how do we even know where we want to 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 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.
Payal Kadakia: And so when you have goals in your life, you need to be like, "Whoa, here is my layout of my plan. 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. So imagine you want to start a new activity or a passion or start writing or reading. This is your time to say, "This is how my life is encompassed right now in these 10 buckets."
Payal Kadakia: Then we go through process of reflecting and rating all of these areas in terms of, how are they serving you today? So it's not just about writing the time diagnostic. It's almost understanding, okay, I spend a lot of time working, how much is work serving my dreams right now? And just 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 and people forget and you can't do it. And a quarter is in enough time to make change 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.
Payal Kadakia: So at this point, we pick three to five areas where you're going to spend time. So you might pick like, okay, family. You might pick, I want to play tennis. You might pick, I want 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.
Payal Kadakia: 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 setting because now, these areas are coming from yourself. You know what you want to do in terms of your dream work. You have some anchors for the year. You have a good map of your life and where you want to spend and focus your attention. So now, instead of saying, "Oh, I want to make progress in all 10 areas of my life." No, 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 because we won't make enough impact.
Payal Kadakia: 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. 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 the step that can actually be done. They set goals that are too big. 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 want to learn to play tennis.
Payal Kadakia: 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 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. 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. This gives you something that's so small. All you have to do is sign up for a tennis class in three months.
Payal Kadakia: Now, that feels like something you can accomplish 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 going to go. But just getting to that place honestly is something that's hard.
Payal Kadakia: And I think this is 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, at so small, but the fact that I did that helped me build a confidence to do it for 200 people, then 1,000 and then be like, "You know what I want to start? A tech company." It was all these incremental steps that helped me arrive 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. So part of so much of this LifePass Method is this idea of getting started and executing. Because 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.
Chase: Yeah, there's this sense of inertia. It's like when you hold yourself accountable and you actually produce the result, but that's signing up for the tennis class or something different, that creates momentum and momentum begets momentum. Such thing I had highlighted in the gallery of your book LifePass, which is for those listeners out there. I don't know if 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 at 181. The area is just... One of the things I love about the book, it's a very action.
Chase: These forms are actually in the book that how do you prioritize your time? How do you, yeah, stack rank these things in importance. And just I'll refer real quick here this steps around goals, make them measurable, breakdown and sequence them, shoulds also deserve goals, which I want to 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 explanatory, but what about shoulds also deserving goals? What do you mean by that?
Payal Kadakia: Yes. So there's obviously things in our life like finances which might be a should, but they also, like I said, deserve goals. It's easy, and we talked a little about this earlier, it's easy to kind of always put things like that off, 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 with your time and with your goals.
Payal Kadakia: And so we always think about it and even something like it might be like, oh, I have to see certain friends or family, how do you turn those into things that you want to do? I think I was talking to somebody who was telling me like, "Oh my God, I have to always spend so much time with my cousins. And I don't have enough time." And I'm like, "Okay. Well, what if you were proactive about this? Plan like 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, thinking why am I here?" And that's what so many of us do.
Payal Kadakia: Be active about it. Be intentional about it. And you what, you're probably going to 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 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
Chase: Dream words, I love it. All right. Changing directions. You said earlier something that that stood out to me around you were a woman in tech and you went into 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 cited that as 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.
Chase: 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 financeers, you acknowledge being one of the few women, if only, women in the room. So what did you... Frame your thinking and explain 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. So how did you do that?
Payal Kadakia: So it first started obviously like I didn't always feel comfort. I think it's important to acknowledge that too. So even being at Bain and having to run these meetings with executives from huge like Fortune 500 companies, did I feel uncomfortable? Yes. Did I know I was smart. Yeah. Was I scared I was going to say the wrong thing? Yes. I think it comes down to, yeah, 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.
Payal Kadakia: And I think what happened for me is, the more, and I want to 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 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? I wanted to build a company and 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.
Payal Kadakia: 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 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.
Payal Kadakia: But I started finding people and investors who were really leaning into even my story. Most of my investors even watched me dance. They would come to my shows. And I realized even through my journey, there were investors I said no to ultimately even when ClassPass started 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.
Payal Kadakia: 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
Chase: Magic? I'm using that one.
Payal Kadakia: Yeah, we're all magical.
Chase: Yeah, but it's 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 the 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. It doesn't mean getting a new set of friends. But give some advice on this passion piece because now more than ever before, we live in a culture where they're 50 million Americans have a side hustle and that's growing. That is like a huge piece of the workforce.
Chase: 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 aligned on this? So preach for us for just a second here about this 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?
Payal Kadakia: 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.
Payal Kadakia: And 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 and which theme and 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, I've ultimately ended up with so much that I am so grateful for more than I ever could have imagined. But at the end of the day, and that thing that I am most proud of is the fact that I helped people literally book over 100 million hours of their life in doing soul nurturing experiences because of my platform.
Payal Kadakia: And I think when you truly care about something like that, honestly, the other stuff just... It's great. It's great because society 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 of, how do you just not feel good when you give something to other people?
Payal Kadakia: And so you really need to think about how you turn that into, we're going back to it, but into money. 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 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.
Chase: Say more. Yes.
Payal Kadakia: The best [inaudible 00:54:59] out there are about solving a problem. And I think the other part of it is knowing how are you going to measure that? That we you've solved it. And 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 going to build an open table for classes. And I called them false signals of success. Actually I talk a lot about them in my book as well. So I thought because we had raised money and because we had had fame and gotten press and all this to off that we were doing the right thing. And then I launched a beautiful product. And I thought everything was just going to work and it didn't at all. And it was like a slap in the face for me.
Payal Kadakia: And honestly, that was the moment I actually think I became an entrepreneur when I failed because it made me realize, wait a second, 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. We literally were working in such a different environment than we were in before. 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.
Chase: Got to 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 established these little check-ins along the way.
Chase: So the congrats on an incredible book and of course, more so for ClassPass. That is, as you said, 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 some supporting authors in their week of launch. So we're going to 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 [crosstalk 00:57:42]?
Payal Kadakia: 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 want to learn more about Indian dance and our amazing culture, you can go there as well.
Chase: 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, thank you.
Payal Kadakia: Thank you so much for having me. Bye.
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