#299 – Fight For Yourself With Shruti Rustagi

Thomas Green here with ethical marketing service on the episode today we have Shruti Rustagi. Shruti, welcome. Thanks, Thomas. I am happy to have you. Would you like to take a moment and tell the audience a bit about yourself and what you do? Absolutely. Um I am the CFO of a $4 billion business with Amazon Canada outside of my uh work. I also am a leadership coach. Um I’m IC F Certified BC C coach and um I coach um middle air leadership entrepreneurs, actors, um very different walks of life, people um all over the world. I also am a mom to two kids. Um and an explorer who’s these days exploring the Pacific Northwest. Well, the parenting is a leadership role as well. Right. So, absolutely, negotiations involved. Well, thank you for the introduction. Um I think by most metrics, people would consider you uh quite, quite a successful individual.

Uh But as I understand, it hasn’t always been that way. So, um can you share a little bit about how you were before you decided to um fight for yourself in your words? Absolutely. Um So, you know, of course, life has these uh valleys and uh troughs and crests as we call them. So back in 2017, I moved from India to Dubai, my husband had taken a role and I decided to uh take some time off and I took about a year off and I was exploring, I got myself trained as a coach and everything and then I was ready to get back to the corporate world. Now, it so happened that Dubai or United Arab Emirates at that time was not necessarily um you know, flowing with opportunities. And so the opportunity that I got, um that was with Amazon was really way below um what my experience level would have joined at. So like, um I was already a 12 year professional, 12 year experience professional by then.

Um And um but what they were offering me was pretty much what people in the US would usually take off to port, I guess experience. So it was suddenly like, oh, I’m starting again and that was a big hit. Although I took the role simply because I was like, yeah, it’s Amazon, I’ll make my way through, I’ll grow. But the first year was a big hit and, um, it was pretty confidence shattering when every day I’m working with people who have less than half of my experience. And then I’m like, yeah, I’m being mashed at the same level and everything. So um so that was a pretty rough batch and there was this whole period of almost six months. Uh the end of which my husband was like, you need to go see a psychologist. This is almost tethering on clinical depression now. And so how I basically got myself out of it out of it with the transition.

So after about six months, I realized, ok, something’s going wrong, this is not working this way. And then I, I basically, you know, took my own advice as I did. Uh I had taken coaching training by then and I could see the signs, I could see the warning signs and I then applied some of it on myself. Thank you for that. Uh There’s a lot to follow up on and I think there are might be my perception, but I think there are a lot of people who have been in your position in the sense that they have been offered a job which is perhaps below what they have experience in and they’re struggling with that decision as to whether they should take it or uh negotiate or hold out for something better. So, in terms of what you would do differently now and also what advice you would give other people. What are your thoughts there? The two things I would have done differently is one definitely negotiate a lot better. Um At that time, since I had already seen multiple rejections, I was almost in the zone of OK, I’m gonna take whatever next opportunity I’m gonna get.

And that is what I wouldn’t do. So that would be the first thing that I would do differently is still keep the objectivity that whatever is happening right now is more a marker or indication of what’s going on with the economy. And it’s not a reflection on my capability, which is what I did not do. Um And hence I did not negotiate as much as I should have. And the second thing that I should have done is even when I had accepted the rule, I should have fought for re leveling, which again, I did not do because my 1st 6 to 9 months, I was so much deep into, I am not good enough that I did not even fight for getting relevel even when I had joined. So, so those are the two things I would have totally done differently. Did you consider yourself that you needed therapy? Do you think that was necessary? Um, I had considered, but like I said, I did not go down the path.

I think I had enough support from the family and my own training that I started applying a lot of it on myself and I was able to come out of it. But I can imagine that sometimes people when they are done with acute, um feelings of not good enough and negativity, it could pretty much spiral down in that zone. OK. So what was it specifically that made it so difficult? Cos um on the one hand, you’re taking a job that is, oh my perception is that it’s perhaps beneath you. Uh And on the other hand, you’ve got some, you said um that you’re not, you’re not good enough. So what was it specifically about that experience which um was difficult? Sure. So um I had prior to that worked in corporate strategy modules and acquisitions. Those were the areas I had worked in in India on very different sectors than Ecommerce. So when I joined Amazon, um there were multiple things different.

I did not know the geography at all. I’d never worked in Middle East before. I did not know the industry at all, which was e-commerce retail. I also Amazon has a very peculiar culture and I know that now because I’ve been with them for almost 5.5 years. And I love it. So it has a very peculiar culture and a very peculiar way they run and track and review businesses which is not standard in most of the uh conglomerates if you will. Um And of course, it’s very different from how consulting works. So for me, everything was super new, uh the culture, the place, everything was new and I was not giving myself time to ramp up. I was expecting that day one, I should be delivering day two, I should be giving insights. You know, I was too harsh, too high, expecting of myself and not giving myself time to actually ramp up my learning every mistake that I did. And it’s common to make mistakes when you’re doing something for the first time, right?

We all know that I was not giving myself leeway to make mistakes and own them. I would just either strugg it or I would be like, oh gosh, I’m so dumb. What am I doing? Why did I do this? I would not be able to speak up in meetings. So there was a lot going on at that time. And plus because I had this nagging feeling at the back of my head that I am supposed to be at a higher position. But I’m here, which means I must be pretty bad at all of this um that kept going along with everything else that was happening. So what made it super tricky was all of this negative self talk along with the steep learning curve and of course, with two kids and back then they were as young as a six year and two year old. So, you know, none of it was necessarily very helpful. Yeah, that can be uh added stress for sure. Um But uh a summary of your answer if I’m interpreting correctly, uh instead of being sort of too big for the role, you actually shrunk to fit the role.

Is that a fair assessment? You could say that in fact, I shrunk to fit the role as well as I almost thought, I shrunk below it. Hm. In my head, I was not even there. Well, you alluded to something which is um taking your own advice. And uh I would like to know what uh the that advice is, but also there’s a kind of a lesson there in the sense that sometimes we know what the right thing to do is, but we actually don’t follow our own advice. So how if, if someone is doing that, um how did you do it? And how would you encourage people to ensure that they are actually listening to what they know? So this is, it’s a very interesting point. Thomas, mostly when we dole out advices to people, we don’t apply it on ourselves saying and telling ourselves that, oh, this situation, it doesn’t apply, it would apply generally to other people. But my situation is different. This is the common string that happens automatically for all of us.

Uh taking my own advice basically happened. Um So there was this, uh there is this thing called Morning Pages. I don’t know how many people have heard about it, but it’s basically sitting down in the morning and like just writing, emptying out your mind on a piece of paper. So everything that comes to your mind, just write it down. I had recently read a book and I had given this advice to one of my coaching clients around the same time. And then I was like, ok, if I’m struggling so much with such negative feelings, why don’t I just try it out, maybe it’ll work and I was so convinced it’s gonna work for her. But for me, as you can imagine, my own thought process was maybe it will work, but I still gave it a shot and that is what kind of changed my belief to. Yes, my situation I am actually in that situation and I’m not realizing it. So um a and you know, it was a, it was a weird point.

So what had happened is um my daughter had come back from school or it was one of those mornings and she had come to me and she had said something like I don’t understand this and I snapped back at her and I was like, this is so simple. How don’t you not even get it? And like, you won’t amount to anything if you can’t even solve this. Like this was my negativity just literally coming up on her. And the moment I said it, I was like, what am I doing? And I stepped out and I took a walk and that was the, the moment that I realized, OK, something in my head is not right? Like I need to do something about this. This is, this is not. So that is when II I figured that I am in that place where a lot of time, my coaching plans are, I need to apply the same things to me. It is very much so is that um making time in the morning and sort of journaling, uh like you say, emptying your mind so that you, you can get it all on paper.

And it’s kind of, it’s almost like sharing a problem in the sense that it’s, it’s separate from you. Is there anything in addition that you did to that? Um I now journal in the night and for a very different reason? But yes, what you said was exactly what I did back then for almost like a month and a half. I did my morning pages regularly. And yes, that’s what it is for a lot of people. Sometimes writing is not an option. So they could also just use their phone and talk to it. So everything that comes to your mind and you can have like a set time two minutes, five minutes, whatever that may be typically 2 to 3 minutes does the work. You just talk, whatever comes to your mind, even if the thought is, I don’t know what to talk about, just say it. And as you get in the practice of doing it a lot more often, um, like you do it 34 days continuously, the fifth day you’ll start realizing the things which are, um, you know, a bit more deeper will start coming out the concerns, the issues.

And then when you see yourself, write it or hear yourself say it is when it strikes you. Am i insane? Why am I being so negative about myself? Am I that bad? No, so that’s, that’s what this does, you know, shows you kind of a mirror which you badly need to see that time. But in a good way, I can imagine it’s a uh a very good exercise to do uh because we can get a bit. Um I don’t know, the thoughts is like the wood through the trees phrase where you just can’t really see the big picture, right? And I can imagine it helping. But at, at this point in your story, we’re at the point where um you’re still in the role that you’re not necessarily happy with, but you’re starting to come up with a solution or you’re starting to help yourself a bit, maybe being a friend to yourself. So what happens next? So the role that I was in. See, the, here’s where I would love to make one more slight distinction. The third thing that I had done so two, I, I told you that I should negotiate better and when I joined, I should have thought for myself better.

The, the third thing which I actually did was what was the kind of a turning point is the designation and the rule are not the same things. And that’s the distinction that I made. Um And this happened in a very funny way. I was uh so there was a friend of mine, we both used to do these workshops together. We used to call them up your game. And that was meant for women professional. And she was just saying, OK, let’s practice our introductions. And I told her, well, uh I’m just a senior finance analyst that doesn’t look like much. She said, OK, but what do you do? I thought you did something pretty awesome. I said, like, what do I do? Um I had the three B finance, finance business like three B finance, but this whole region UAs the Egypt. She was like, and you’re saying that’s not a big role and it just hit me. I was like, hello, my designation may not be that much, but actually the role is pretty important.

It’s a regional rule. It manages the finance for 50% of Amazon’s business in this whole region. And I think it’s So, so that is when it just hit me and that’s why you need people around you to actually help you see some of those things, but you can’t see for yourself. And that is the day I decided to make the distinction between the designation and the rule, it doesn’t have to be the same. And so when I talk about it these days, I never say my designation, but I always say what my role is in the business in the company. And that makes things very different because then suddenly in my head, it is important. And then I also think about how can I make it matter, what more can I do? Because this is something very important for the whole business. So if I’m not showing up fully as myself, how is it not just impacting me, but also my organization and then things just things start to change perspective because then suddenly it’s not just about you, your impact outside of you also matters.

And so, so that was the switching point of the turning point. So your interpretation of how important you were in the company changed and then that changed my guess. Uh it changed your actions and then because you changed your actions, you changed your outcome. Is that about right? Absolutely. Absolutely. And um you’ve mentioned a couple of times about what I refer to as the inner critic. Um The first question is, do you still have any of those thoughts now because you’ve got all the tools that you have. And um for those people who do uh how do you help them? I still have them from time to time. I just know how to handle them better. I’ll be honest, like they will always raise their head, but I know that it’s happening and I just know how to handle it. It’s, it becomes automatic. The one body of work that I have found amazingly helpful in, in a critic is uh this work called Sabates by Shaza Chain. He’s a Stanford professor.

And if you type out saboteurs Shinza, I mean, you will find it. Um He uh first of all, the, the very first tool that there is is is an assessment, it’s a saboteur assessment. It’s a free publicly available tool. Anybody can take that assessment and that gives you a language for what’s going on inside your head. So that that was very helpful for me. Uh I found some of the saboteurs and inner critics in my head and those gremlins as we like to call them. And then it also goes on to talk about how do you address them and of course you find your own techniques. So I merge some of what he says to some of what I had learned and um just a general positive word lifestyle if you will. So the few things that worked for me, one was John that I already told you. The second was reframing. I figured that every time. So he talks about something called uh you know, three gifts technique every time you’re in a situation which is seemingly negative, identify what good could come out of it.

So finding that silver lining in the black cloud is basically what it is and it works every single time it works. Um The third thing that I do is thinking long term and I’ll give you a very simple example. Um, one of the times and this is just literally take for yesterday, I had to take my son to his basketball class and we were running like five minutes late. And uh at that point, he was like, mom just drive faster. And I said, you know what, if we meet with an accident, then you won’t be five minutes late. We’ll be a whole hour late. So think about the longer term right now. The risk is only five minutes. So let that be, but the risk could be much bigger. We both could be in the hospital, we both could be in the police station or wherever, sorting out an accident. So I would rather just take it slow and it’s ok, be ok with five minutes late. And that’s a principle I’ve applied day in and day out whenever I’m in the midst of a decision, I’m like, ok, long term.

What makes more sense? Let’s just do that and that’s it. There are no more. So that’s why I said that the inner critics will rise once in a while when I’m sitting in a meeting, I would have this thought that, oh my God, should I say it? I’m not so sure about the idea. I didn’t think through it fully. How will people perceive me? And then I’ll be like, does it matter? It’s better that this group knows this idea and we can talk it and thrash it versus this group never even knowing what that idea could have been. And that’s it. So it’s, it’s those quick um things that I think now in a bigger perspective and the long term and that’s it. Um The third thing that I have used and I still use a lot is talking out. So, you know, if there is something that’s bothering me, identify a friend most of the times it’s my spouse, but sometimes it’s just another friend. Uh Somebody appear at workplace, one of my mentors, anybody and just talk it out and help um ask them to help me understand other perspectives that I’m not thinking of or not considering.

So, so those in general have helped me um really quell the inner critic and also take decisions better if you will love those. And thank you for sharing them. One of the things I was gonna ask you about is actually habits. So how do you get in the habit of um you know, making sure you’re not going down that negative way of thinking, it just requires so it needs practice. It’s a muscle. So you have to exercise it to build it stronger. The initial few times, I would literally jot down and say, OK, today I will at least do it for one instance when it hits me. So be on a lookout. So like so very first thing before you even build that habit is being able to identify that’s what’s happening to you. So that spiral of negative thinking, you have to, first of all recognize that you’re in the spiral. And so start with just saying that OK, this week, I will at least identify five times, three times whatever that may be that I am in the negative spiral and I’ll stop it and just say, OK, I don’t wanna be there at least do that.

The next week you can start with OK. The next time I am, I will think three positive things that can come out of this negativity. And if I’m not able to think, I’ll ask somebody else for a more objective perspective. And so do that, the more you keep doing it to yourself, the more automatic it becomes because it’s like it’s basically the circuit in our brains. The reasons negative spirals happen is because we have a particular circuit, the moment negativity hits, it just goes down in that circuit goes down the loop and it becomes negative what you’re trying to do is break that circuit and establish a new one that can move you in a positive direction. So just like you’ve done the negative spiral 100 times, you need to do this 100 times to make it just as automatic and as strong. So then, so, you know, after a few iterations of it, you won’t even go down the spiral, the moment it hits you, you know, it’s gonna hit and you automatically switch to your positive. So it, that’s how, that’s the only thing it’s gonna work.

One of them. Uh You’ve mentioned is about obviously discussing with other people who maybe have a different perspective. Uh It makes me think about perhaps the peer group. So for, for people who do and ha don’t have those good people in their lives who will be able to give them a good perspective. Have you got any thoughts on and no choosing or um just in general about the peer group, any thoughts there, if people do not have um those friends who they can speak to or any of that beer group, I think they may want to find mentors who could do something similar. So identifying people at work at um home, personal life or wherever that may be identifying one or two of those people. And those, those mentors could be basically people, they could be from any time in your life who, you know, will not judge you who you’re comfortable with thinking that they won’t judge you. And I think that is what you need.

That’s what friends or peers that you would be needing and identify at least one such person. Um, if you’re able to, if not talk it out to yourself and as you say more and more, um sometimes it, you’re able to hear yourself and it makes things better. The second technique which we sometimes use with people is make that negative thinking. It’s extreme version, put it on the loudspeaker. So for instance, if you’re going down the spiral of, I’m not good enough, I always do this wrong and so on now make it in a loudspeaker, make it worse. I’m the worst person. I know nothing about financial analysis. I always make these mistakes. I’m just pathetic at all my life. I’ve just got bad reviews. Just make it like the extreme bad and when you make it extreme bad, it starts hitting you that that’s not true. And then when you start eliminating what’s not true, you actually start being objective about it and then suddenly it hits you.

It’s not as bad as I think it is. And then you come to terms with what objectively is, right? What is not? So that’s a loudspeaker technique. That’s again, something that’s used with people who are not able to at that point in time, go speak to other people. Don’t have mentors, don’t attack us, you know. So, so this is another thing that they can do. Yeah, I, I love that idea. Um You did speak previously about the fact that you had a mentor. Um How did that come about? Um I have actually multiple mentors and I have a, I have tried to like identify the mentors in areas where I know I would be needing guidance. So anybody who’s been there before me, so um one of my mentors is basically from the organization, the my own organization, but a broad team um because I want to understand from her how she has grown and how she has tackled the challenges which I’m expected to get.

What should I be focusing on? What skills should I be developing? She’s kind of like my professional mentor. There’s another mentor who I have and she’s a friend and a mentor and this person is more of my go to person when I have doubts about any decisions that I’m making and my husband’s not either available or he’s not able to give me, you know, a sense like, so my husband is always for my personal things, he’s my guru discuss. But this uh friend of mine and a mentor and now she is the one who usually is able to talk more sense and objectivity into everything that I’m speaking. She is able to poke holes, be completely honest with it and able to help me think differently, which I’m not thinking at that moment. Um There’s another mentor who I have and this person is great at networking. He is just literally amazing at forming connections and helping people make other people, like make connections between people to help them and so on.

And that I think is an area I would love to develop. So he’s somebody who I would reach out to if I have any people kind of questions like, OK, this is the area I wanna get a project in Who should I be reaching out to? Who can I ask to be my sponsor? Um This is one area where I want to build my network more. How should I be thinking about it and so on and so forth. So I would say that mentors are basically for a specific purpose and you should always think what is it that you’re seeking um in terms of the problem as well as what is it you’re seeking in the mentor when you’re identifying a mentor? And hence, it doesn’t have to be just one person could be like multiple people. So one of your ways of uh dealing with um Theresa, the, the inner critic is thinking about it from the long term. Um I’d like to know what your uh your long term goals are. Uh Do you have any anything that you’re trying to achieve or w work towards at the moment?

My long term goals have changed when I think of long term as 5 to 10 year period, they have changed, they keep evolving. Um But one of my, as we call a legacy goal, um my legacy goal continues to be that um on my deathbed, I just wanna be able to think and thank the world and, and God, I’m a very spiritual, spiritual person that I made a difference to people’s lives. And um for the better, like every time I think about any person who’s coming to my life, of course, after, you know, I’m an adult, um, whoever’s lives I’ve touched, I have made it or left it better or the same, if not, if not better, at least the same. And I’ve not made it worse in any way possible. And that is like literally the only North Star that I have my goals keep changing.

Um, at some point I had a goal to, um, I’m still not able to do that. I still haven’t done that. The Kilimanjaro Peak that still continues to be a goal. Um, and so on. So I have these whole sort of goals that me and sometimes with my husband, we both have these goals. But yeah, um, they keep changing. Well, the first one kind of sounds a little bit like a mission statement. Um And it, it does make me think that if you’re, you, you’re coaching, right? You coach people. Um, so if, if you’re, if you’re looking to make people’s life better, I mean, I’m guessing the more you coach, uh, the more you’re gonna be, um, meeting that mission statement. Would you say that’s accurate? I would say that’s accurate. And, um, I like to apply those same principles even at work when I’m not coaching where my role is finance and all of that, I’m still meeting people, I’m still touching their lives. And through my work, my words, both of them, I should be able to make something better for them.

And that’s why it’s coaching is a big, big part of it. You rightly got it. And it also transcends my everyday life, my kids PTAs um my neighbors, friends, anybody and everybody who is black by touch, however I can help and make it a tad better is what found in statement or not strong is always. Well, I think that’s great and um I think a lot of the tools that you’ve given today, um you make a big difference to people’s lives. So, um it’s kind of like, uh you’re not doing it on an individual basis in this conversation other than for me, of course. Uh But uh you’ll, you’ll be reaching, you know, more people. So I appreciate your time today. Um If people do want to hire you as a coach or follow you, where do they go? Um So they can follow me on linkedin. That’s where I am most active. And if they wanna reach out to me, um they can go to my website uh www dot Shruti rusi.com.

Shrutirustagi.com and they can just block a 30 minute complimentary uh chat. That’s the best way to reach me. And uh, do you have any closing thoughts for us today? Um, just one. always own your awesomeness. We’re all awesome. We just need to own it. Mhm. Well, you’ve been an awesome guest today. So Shruti, thank you very much. Thanks a lot, Thomas for having me here.