This post highlights a written interview with Payal Nanjiani. I sent her a few questions and she’s been kind enough to send me the responses. She and I connected on LinkedIn, and it’s my pleasure to bring forth her experiences in this short post.
I crafted a list of 10 life’s philosophical questions that I wanted to answer for myself. I thought—what would it look like if I ask the same set of questions to the best in the world from the different domain—so that I can learn from them—what they do, how they think on the same questions, and much more!
Payal Nanjiani is a top leadership speaker and one of the world’s renowned leadership experts who to date has helped a million people and numerous organizations lead and succeed against all odds. Her work is embraced by Fortune 500 companies, large 0rganizations, government officials, and many celebrity CEOs.
A former Human Resource Manager, Payal witnessed tremendous success in her early work life. When she moved to the United States of America in the summer of 2000, Payal was constantly reminded by friends and family that she is stepping into a land of opportunities where people are very successful. Excited for her new journey, she quickly rose to higher roles at her work. To learn more about her, visit page
This post highlights my conversation with Payal Nanjiani on such questions.
Please enjoy this conversation with Payal!
Nishant: What books—or even movies and documentaries—would you recommend to someone who wants to live a meaningful life? What books have you gifted the most, and why?
Payal: The one book I most often recommend and re-read myself is Tough Times Never Last but Tough People do by Dr. Robert Schuller. It was a book that was gifted to me by my father when I was in college and since then it’s helped me a lot in my own life. It’s a book that helps shape your leadership in crisis.
Nishant: You have interacted with many successful people over the years – what have you found are the most beneficial exercises that people really feel have changed their lives for the better?
Payal: If I was to name just one practice that I’ve found common across every successful leader I’ve interacted with, it is the practice of self-awareness. It just opens up the neuropathways of your brain and leads you to be accountable for your karma (actions).
Nishant: In the last 3 years, how have you handled work/life challenges? If so, what questions do you ask yourself during tough times? What does your support system look like (any go-to-person)?
Payal: I have faced many challenges. When anything comes up, my first question is always — ‘what do I want.’ Until I do not have clarity on this question, I feel very uneasy. And once I know the answer to this question, I go to my guide and mentor with whom I have worked almost daily for the past 7 years. I also have my winners circle to whom I look up for advice and guidance. I believe you cannot do it alone. It takes a village to raise a child. Similarly, it takes many people to help you move ahead in this journey. One of the persons who I constantly talk to for solutions is my family.
Nishant: What practices do you have in your life to calm your mind and body during overwhelming moments? Any recommendation to someone who often feels stressed out?
Payal: Detachment and Surrender. This is one practice I follow when I am stressed or worried about anything. In fact in one of my books I’ve written about how this practice is useful in a leader’s life. You experience the feeling of bliss amidst all the chaos. This practice helps you to focus completely on your game without worrying about the end result.
Nishant: How do you cultivate joy in your life? Whom do you consider the happiest and fulfilled to you personally, and why? Could you share any instance(s) that caused you unhappiness and how you dealt with it?
Payal: This happened around 14 years ago when I had bagged my very first corporate contract of leadership workshop and it went extremely well. I was asked to conduct this workshop for a few more departments in that company and I was super excited. But later the company was suddenly going through some restructuring because of which all of my workshops were canceled and the money was withheld. So, you can imagine how devastated I was — this being the very first corporate contract that I had earned. And that’s when I learned that everything in your life is impermanent. What is today, isn’t tomorrow. So, the person who is truly happy is the one who can move ahead constantly without blaming the situation and enjoying the journey with its peaks and valleys.
Nishant: What are some of the things you have changed your mind about in the last few years? Do you have any other favorite quote(s) or life philosophy you live your life by?
Payal: I think the most significant change in my thinking happened around 11 years ago when I stepped out of Corporate America to do what I am currently doing — executive coaching and writing leadership books. During the initial phase of setting up my own work, I realized that Success Is within you. You take yourself with you everywhere. That means if you feel successful, your success follows you everywhere. If you feel like a failure, you take failure with you everywhere.
I’ve long left the traditional idea of success which is linked to externals: you get this type of success when you make enough cash and secure the right amount of fame and get the right houses and receive the big title. This change of thinking has helped me maintain a state of equilibrium where you create a state of balance between joy and sadness. One quote that I often repeat to myself and which is linked to what I just said is –”this too shall pass”. I do not know who said this quote but it helps me center myself. And then there is one quote by Nelson Mandela “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.”
Nishant: What does your first 60 to 90 minutes in the morning look like? What are your specific rituals on a regular basis?
Payal: The first 90 minutes of my day are unapologetically non-negotiable. I am up and out of my bed between 4.30am and 5am.I don’t need an alarm to wake me up. I like to greet the sun and take some positive energy from it. Morning is the time you will find me doing yoga, stretching, and meditation followed by some deep reflections. I truly practice what I teach executives, my personalized optimization cycle which begins with the idea of priming yourself to succeed in the day. It’s a game-changer.
Nishant: How do you find the balance between being appreciative of what you already have and striving to achieve more?
Payal: I believe that true greatness lies in overcoming challenges, in bouncing back, and in achieving your goal one after another. A true leader and a successful person are the ones who consider work as dharma and dharma as work. Work is divine, and I celebrate the divinity of work that helps me stay grounded and appreciative of what I have and what I want to achieve.
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