By Zaiceka Ahmed
It surprises me that while there is no dearth in the number of coaching centers that claim to carry aspiring students to their desired academic institute, in turn bringing them one step closer to their dream job in a grand firm, there isn’t even a single organisation dedicated to help these aspirants survive under the tidal wave of work load, deadlines, and ever eluding targets.
So what does a company do to keep their employees from breaking under pressure? Call Akash Gautam – one of the most sought after & popular Motivational Speakers & Corporate Trainers in India, Dubai & Singapore – to the rescue, of course!
His “No Gyan, No Yawn” approach has made his Talks and Events so coveted that honestly one shouldn’t be surprised if corporate giants feign crisis just to hear him speak! In an extremely candid interview, Akash Gautam bares it all (some of it is his trade secrets).
(Addressing 5000+ audience at Gandhinagar, Gujarat)
You speak at corporate and youth events throughout the year, so much so that it’s really difficult to track you! Where are you actually based?
I try to live in the beautiful city- Chandigarh but my family doesn’t believe so. I travel for almost 15-20 days a month, I fail massively at living out of my home!
You have been motivating students and professionals for so many years (16), but what motivates you?
I have found that my own problems get solved when I solve others’ problems. For example, there is a saying ‘if you want to shed weight, start speaking on weight loss,’ so my own relationship issues became better when I started to do events on relationships, my life became less stressed when I did an event on stress management called “Calmasutra”. Whenever I am going and helping someone I am basically helping myself, that’s one reason.
Second, till 4 -5 years back I was working for money instead of fame – these two still matter, but a large part of it is about paying it back to the world. So even when I am done with my event, I try to help out people who are in need through emails and phone calls. This gives me a lot of satisfaction.
Third is, there is nothing negative about my work. I am lucky that I got into this profession, I don’t crib, I enjoy doing it to the max.
Given that you career is quite unconventional, what gave you the idea that you could make a living out of it?
When I started to make a living out of it I realised I could make a living out of it (laughs). Initially I used to do a lot of free talks, but I understood that if I continued to do so my waiting list would be for the next 20 years. I had to put a price tag to differentiate between quality work and non-quality work.
(Leadership Training with IPS officers of Himachal Pradesh)
How do you categorise your work as “quality” and “non-quality”?
For me quality work are assignments which make me work hard. If the kind of work coming to me is equal to my skill set, it means that I am not growing. But assignments which are beyond my skill and which make me work hard and research more, where I have to deal with difficult clients and a highly intelligent audience, are the ones that show that I am not vegetating.
So your content is subject specific. How different would you say the issues you address to a crowd at Google is from the ones you address to a crowd at a comparatively smaller scale firm?
I customise the content depending on the audience. 90% of the Indian corporates make me do events on improving sales (given that they are obsessed with sales, which is okay because they are listed firms and need to show quarterly results), but at the same time there are companies that talk of finer things like leadership, team building, stress management. There is also my flagship motivational talk called “Rise and Shine”(I so love doing it).
One of the factors to be considered when speaking at Google was that their employees were mostly aged below 30, and you know what happens in that age – they go through nearly 3 break-ups each year (joking but possible). So I did an event called “Lovepal Bill”, a funny take on how we experience relationships these days and how we can manage our relationships better, be it personal or professional. The content basically depends on what kind of intervention the audience is looking for.
Isn’t working for big brands like Google, McKinsey & Co., Aditya Birla Group etc motivation enough for the employees?
Trust me they are very demotivated! They have their bosses to demotivate them (laughs) , they have a lot of targets so they get stressed out, they possibly forget that work-life balance is important, fitness is important, creativity is important. In the daily rigmarole their motivation suffers. But more than motivation my talk works like a cc cleaner for their system. Just as clearing cookies and cache from a computer opens up storage space making the system faster and more efficient, I look to de-clutter their mental thought processes so they can be more creative and streamlined in discharging their normal life.
(Adani Group Sr Mgmt gives Akash’s Event a standing ovation)
How do you get to know about the issues your audience is struggling with?
We have extensive phone calls with different sets of people when it comes to corporates. We make a spec sheet, and this gets added upon by the client team till we are closer to the pertinence. This is not required in youth events as they are already overwhelmed by the prospect of attending a talk. They are like ‘ana hai, sunna hai.. whatever he says is okay.’
Your talks are over and done with within 2 – 3 hours, whereas other motivational speakers stretch their events over 2 -3 days. Do they speak more or do you speak less?
I believe that what gets said over 2-3 days can easily and practically get conveyed in 2-3 hours – unless you are fond of taking unwanted Gyaan. My genre is sarcasm, humour and storytelling, and I keep my talks very to the point. My talks are based on the principle ‘no gyan, no yawn’!
Are you some sort of an atheist guru now?
No I’m not a guru. Guru is a huge word! A guru looks into a person’s spiritual well being, and subsequently become accountable. I am just a professional trying to do his job differently. I just go and talk, I don’t take care of my audience post that. I do answer their emails, but I’m not accountable.
(Being honored by the top management of Maruti Suzuki)
How much time does it take to come up with the content for a public appearance?
Content comes up anywhere anytime. In my initial years 90% of what I spoke was rehearsed and 10% spontaneous. I was new to the profession and naturally had my complexes and struggles – I was talking to people who were much older to me and more experienced than I was. But now it’s 10% rehearsed 90% spontaneous, I speak whatever comes to my mind… the analogies and similes I come up depends on the company situation, or depends on whatever is happening in my life. Now it’s more like I go to an event and make an event. It’s a lot more fun now than it was some years back. Trust me, it is a dream job now- speaking your mind ruthlessly.
Vocab Dhaba (your previous venture) was a great concept. How did you come up with that?
Back in my college days I used to remember the entire dictionary, and I also helped my brother run a discotheque for a year and a half. I just married the two concepts – vocabulary and music, and came up with interesting ideas to learn vocabulary through music, advertisements, songs, and fun. It was a spontaneous idea, and these events and workshops have been attended by 4 lakh+ youth from across India and even abroad. But I have discontinued doing those events, maybe because I have become less relevant to the youth, and more to the middle aged people now(laughs)!
(At St. Xavier’s College Fest)
Did you literally remember all the words in a dictionary?
Yes, the Oxford dictionary, along with their application in sentences. It’s not that difficult if one has been a good reader in their early years; the dictionary doesn’t have more than 3000 words to remember.
Do you have photographic memory?
No, I don’t have photographic memory, but I have good memory. I do forget things… I have forgotten most of the words I knew back in college days. The more involved a person gets in family life and related responsibilities the more the only things people remember is which bills to pay!
Motivational words for the readers to kick start 2017 with –
Bunk the junk stuff from your life, whatever will be left will be real life. Take care of your emotions – at times your emotions can be the only issue holding you back from becoming what you want to become. Be emotionally more competent. Daydream less, add fitness to your life. And the best gift you can give yourself in 2017 is to read twice (not once) the book ‘Autobiography of a Yogi” by Paramhansa Yogananda.