Lessons Learned From the CIA to CEO With Rupal Patel, Founder and CEO of Entreprenora 

 December 7, 2022

Rupal Patel
Tiger Performance Podcast
Lessons Learned From the CIA to CEO With Rupal Patel, Founder and CEO of Entreprenora
Rupal Patel

Rupal Patel is the Founder and CEO of Entreprenora, a company to help founders, leaders, and change-makers unleash their potential, grow their businesses, and reach new personal and professional heights. As a sitting CEO, author, strategist, coach, and mentor, Rupal helps founders, executives, and next-generation change-makers reset their mindsets and make the impossible possible. 

After her career as a CIA officer, Rupal earned her MBA from London Business School and started her first award-winning business over 10 years ago. Rupal is the author of From CIA to CEO, which provides a powerful new toolkit for living and leading that reveals how the techniques of the CIA can help anyone find their voice and thrive without conforming to stale stereotypes or dated best practices.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Rupal Patel shares her personal background and how it impacts her professional life
  • Why Rupal became a CIA officer
  • How being a CIA officer shaped her character 
  • Rupal shares her experience publishing her book
  • What is identity-driven leadership?
  • Why people should focus on their own race and avoid comparing themselves to others 
  • The trade-offs in leadership 
  • How health can impact your professional life 
  • Rupal talks about her services and ideal clients
  • Rupal’s fantasy job

In this episode…

Are you struggling as a business owner? Where can you get the tools and tips to help you think bigger, lead better, and be bolder?

Agent-turned-entrepreneur Rupal Patel believes a successful leader should be resilient, adaptable, and optimistic. Her experience as a CIA officer in a high-risk, male dominant field, equipped her with unique skills that led to her success as a CEO. With the insight she has obtained as an officer and CEO, she has established a platform and is qualified to coach and advise other business leaders in their journey towards success.

In this episode of the Tiger Performance Podcast, Steve Adams sits down with Rupal Patel, the Founder and CEO of Entreprenora, to discuss her journey from a CIA officer to successful CEO. Rupal explains why she became a CIA officer and how it shaped her character, the idea of identity-driven leadership, the process of publishing her book, why people should focus on their race and avoid comparing themselves to others, and services her business offers. Thanks for tuning in!

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode…

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At Tiger Performance Institute, we know that maintaining a state of flow drastically increases your productivity, creativity, skill acquisition, and so much more every single day.

That’s why we created The Tiger Flow Method—an integrated training program that helps you implement high-flow habits at work and at home.

So, what are you waiting for? 

Visit tigerpi.com today to learn more, or visit https://tigerpi.com/freesession/ to schedule a free session with CEO Steve Adams. 

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:06 

Welcome to the Tiger Performance Podcast where we feature high achieving entrepreneurs and coaches and share their performance journeys. Now, let’s get started with the show.

Steve Adams 0:20 

Steve Adams here, founder and CEO of Tiger Medical Institute, I’m the host of  the Tiger Performance Podcast where I interview thought leaders and experts about their specialized knowledge, they can offer the world to help us all live better. It’s time to acknowledge our sponsor for today’s episode, which is the Tiger Medical Institute. Our focus is on the mid-career dental professional C-suite executive and entrepreneur, many of whom are depleted and that showing up as the best version of themselves. The Tiger system is a personalized root cause approach to health optimization. The Tiger system is a one year health transformation journey, empowering you to experience the best possible health to achieve the goals and experiences in life you want most. Visit tigermi.com today to learn more. All right, we have a fun guest today Rupal Patel, and let me read this backstory and for all of you who’ve been listening, you’re going to laugh because of what my dream job has always been. So I’ll tell you about that in a minute Rupal. After a thrilling career at the CIA, she started her first six figure business from scratch almost 10 years ago. Combining the business savvy gained along the way with her CIA training, she now helps startup founders, corporate leaders and innovation focused organizations think bigger, lead better, and be bolder, leveraging her Ivy League education MBA degree and CIA training, Rupal combines in industry leading theory with tactical experience to engage everyone from boardroom executives to bootstrapping founders. Rupal’s work on identity driven leadership helps new and seasoned leaders delve deeply into their identity so that they can leverage their unique strengths, uncover their blind spots, and become better, more effective and more fulfilled in the process. Her powerful perspectives on resilience, adaptability, mindset and growth are invaluable for teams, leaders and change-makers who want unconventional insights to help them think bigger, lead better, and be bolder. Rupal, thank you for joining  the Tiger Performance Podcast.

Rupal Patel 2:28 

Oh, it’s my pleasure, Steve, thank you for having me.

Steve Adams 2:31 

You are welcome. Just a little warm up one, tell us about your family.

Rupal Patel 2:37 

Gosh, well, I could I probably at some point will write a whole book about my family. But I am one of those lucky people who has a wonderful tight knit and very large family. So I am one of four. I’ve got a sister and two brothers. I have many, many cousins who we grew up as siblings with each other. And I’ve had really, really wonderful parents who were both very career focused and very family focused, but also always instilled in us this idea of giving back at every step of the way, no matter how much or how little you have to always help those that you were in a position to help. So yeah, really?

Steve Adams 3:28 

Are they all over the world? You’re in London, correct?

Rupal Patel 3:32 

I am. Yeah, sadly, I’m the only one who is. My immediate family, siblings, parents, etc, live in New York. And then the rest of my family’s almost all in Chicago. And we’ve got some smattered through Ohio and Indiana. But the two big clusters are in New York and Chicago.

Steve Adams 3:53 

New York and Chicago. Yeah, I lived in Michigan my whole life until recently. But Chicago is a great city. been there many times. Yeah. So tell us and we’re going to delve into it more from your book but delve into what was it like growing up in Brooklyn, right. Staten Island, okay. In your family, just tell us what that was like growing up? And what did you take away from your mom and dad that showed up later in the CIA and then your business that you have today?

Rupal Patel 4:26 

So growing up was a bit complicated. I mean, I think everybody has, well, maybe not everybody I shouldn’t speak for others, but it felt at the time. Like it was very complicated. I always felt like I was straddling lots of different worlds. So I have very strong Indian cultural heritage but also very, very American. Feel even particularly more American living here in the UK now. I got a very private and introverted side to me, but I’m also a very social person. I grew up in a world where I just always was very aware of how I didn’t fit as opposed to how I might fit. And I think some of that might be temperament because to be honest, with the benefit of hindsight, and maturity, and life experience, etc, looking back on the things that I felt really angsty about, and not being one of the cool kids, or the popular kids, and all of those things, it didn’t really matter, because I’ve always had great people in my life, really good friends, really, sort of supportive friends, as well as my wonderful extended family. And so I think a lot of what felt at the time, like, oh, it’s so hard, and I don’t fit in. And I don’t feel like there’s a tribe of people like me out there. Some of it was, perhaps, like I said, just sort of a temperamental thing. Because looking back, I think, wow, well, actually, you know, some of those moments where I felt like I was a bit alone, and I didn’t have anybody else. I still did have some really great people around me again, friends and family members. So yeah, it was complicated, to say the least, but it was also really, really enriched and really enriching. Because as I shared, how it will have captured in the book, my parents were and still are very driven, very community focused and very excellence focus. And that often translated into them just setting really well, I won’t say high expectations, but having yes, I guess maybe having high expectations for what me and my siblings could do and shouldn’t do. And that was actually really nice. A lot of people talk about oh, especially the stereotypes of Asian immigrant parents, and Indian American parents, always for browbeating their kids. It never felt like that it was always, we would go through that stereotypical conversation of like, oh, you only got a 98 out of 100, what happened to the other two points, but I never took that as a oh my gosh, my best is never good enough. And the way they asked that question wasn’t like, oh, well, you know, we want you to be perfect all the time. It was more and that was the question they then asked was, could you have done better? Why, understand why you missed out whatever number of points you missed out on? Did you prepare? Did you let yourself down. And again, sort of instilling that that discipline in that habit of always at least trying your best, and always trying to see what you are made of and what more you could bring to the table next time, if you did leave something behind, in whatever it was in a sporting event, or in a test or anything like that. So, yeah, there was real culture of excellence and always trying to improve both yourself, but then also always trying to improve the world around you. And that stays with me even now, I brought it with me. Of course, when I went and started my slightly sort of meandering, early career, or I should say, non-traditional career. And even now, the most important questions I asked myself is, what could I have done differently? What could I have done better if something is other than what I was hoping for it to be? And also the importance of asking the question, why, really understanding both the fundamentals of anything we do, whether in a professional capacity or interpersonal relationships or whatever, but really understanding the fundamentals and the logic behind things, so that you could always operate from that really solid foundation of understanding.

Steve Adams 8:42 

When I was reading your book, you talk about that story, when you didn’t make valedictorian you were the second place person illustrates that your parents did it, right. Because the way you process that now, obviously, we’re mad and all that, because you’re 17, not super mature at that age. You’re more mature than boys were. But this boys are not mature until like, 40. But just that story, though, of how you talk about in your book, it’s not what happens to you is, how do I frame it? How do I process it? And you did that in a way that was like, you wanted excellence. I was raised in the same kind of a home. My dad went from, he was the fourth kid and his family, first one to graduate high school, and ended up at General Motors and had several 1000 people working for him. He developed himself into a great leader. He used to always tell me that I have very high expectations for all of my people, and I watched them work really hard to live up to them. And then I expect excellence until they prove otherwise I don’t look at him otherwise. So that’s really what you’re saying you grew up in.

Rupal Patel 9:57 

Yeah, exactly. And I think human beings were really, really good at rising or falling to expectations. You and I were lucky to grow up in an environment where that was what we knew. But they’ve done psychological studies on small children, where they’ll tell a five year old and separate them into two groups and say, okay, well, you guys are the superstars and the really smart ones. And you guys are the average students, even though they’re exactly the same to begin with. And then the superstars perform at a higher level than the average and stay average. And so we are, like I said, we rise or fall to the expectations set out before us. And I think there’s no harm in setting the bar high. Because even if you miss, at least you’ve gotten higher than you would have if you set it really, really low.

Steve Adams 10:43 

Sure, sure. Right. So on this podcast, I asked everybody, the last question I asked them is, what is your fantasy career? And so you can think about that for the next 40 minutes. And it’s not about regrets or anything like that. It’s just like, what would be super fun if I could do this parallel life while I’m living the one I’m living now. And the one that I always I tell people there I have two. One is would have been to be a division one basketball coach in the US. Okay. So I coached basketball for 15 years. I’m pretty good at it. But it just didn’t work out. I couldn’t pursue that. But the other one was, I wanted to be a CIA agent. So that’s why it was so fun when I saw this book, and I’ve got to get her on my podcast. Because I’ve only met one other one. But I used to live in DC I met one who was retired and what was interesting was I had a guest one time asked me, do you think that it shows up somewhere in your life? And I’m like, wow, I never thought of that. And yeah, I did coach basketball 15 seasons, while I was running my business, but also, I started a microlending nonprofit like 20 years ago, and I go to places like Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, and Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and Baku, Azerbaijan, and Tbilisi, Georgia, and southern Russia, which I couldn’t go to now. And I’ve been to Ukraine eight times. And I’ve been to, in my organization, we’re in Indonesia and China. And I started thinking, in some ways that has showed up in my life because places normal people go from the US.

Rupal Patel 11:27

That’s a really great question actually, I’ve never heard it phrased that way. But I think it was a brilliant question that your guests asked you. And clearly it has shown up.

Steve Adams 12:41

It has. Yeah, and ends up showing up in a lot of my guests that I asked the question to. Yeah, I mean, they may not always be able to process it right live on the podcast, but later then like, then they’ll write me a little email and say thanks for that. But so the reason I brought that up was why the CIA Rupal. I’m I saying your name right Rupal?

Rupal Patel 13:02 

It’s Rupal.

Steve Adams 13:03 

Rupal, okay. I’m sorry.

Rupal Patel 13:04 

That’s okay. Thank you for asking. So why the CIA, to be honest, it was a no brainer. It was someone asking me to pay me to do the things that I love, which is get really smart about a topic really delve into the details and understanding why things are the way they are, or why our relationship with another country is what it is or why certain things are happening in the world, the way they’re unfolding. And also, paying me to learn languages to travel and to inform foreign policy, all of which were like, you could not have written a better job description for me. I’ve studied political science, international affairs. I’m definitely a nerd. I love learning. I love studying, I love understanding things. I love learning languages and living overseas. And so every single one of those things when I was like, someone’s going to actually give me money to do these things. Yes, please. It was an absolute no brainer. And the experience, it’s never too late, Steve, but the experience.

Steve Adams 14:11 

Yeah. I don’t know. They take them with somebody my age. I am learning Russian, though.

Rupal Patel 14:17 

Hey, there you go. You never know. But yeah, it lived up to every single one of those expectations. It really was. I mean, I remember having many conversations with my dad, while I was still there about how I would wake up genuinely excited to go to work. That’s such an amazing feeling, and he said it to me at the time. He’s like, if you have found that thing, then don’t ever let it go, that is really special.

Steve Adams 14:48 

And so, how do the movies depicted at all even remotely close or is it like, way off?

Rupal Patel 14:57 

It’s not way off but there’s a lot of questionable dramatization. But then again, there’s a lot of stuff that the movies can’t begin to capture. Because, I mean, we do and did some amazing, quite literally mind blowing things. And so, yeah, I think they get, exactly where you can exactly. You would have to take liberties. And I would say, I think they get it, I wouldn’t even give it a percentage. They get something’s very right, and they get something’s very wrong. And then everything else is just Hollywood sort of throwing in. All of that stuff. So yeah.

Steve Adams 15:38 

Okay. Right. Well, that’s really interesting. I mean, when you look back on your time that you were at the CIA, how did that shape who you are now into the person that wrote this book? And does the coaching that you do.

Rupal Patel 15:52 

I think, fundamentally, was that real mindset shift of nothing is impossible. Facing physical challenges, sort of geographic challenges, intellectual challenges, mission related challenges, and response was always a unanimous can do attitude towards how are we going to find a way around this because, again, from Hollywood, but also reality, very rarely do things. So to plan. And we are dealing with very naughty complex situations, where it takes both physical as well as mental resilience and adaptability and all of those things. And just being immersed in a culture where it was never a question of oh, well, we can do that. It was always a question of, well, how could we do that? Given the situation we’re in right now, given the realities on the ground, given the resources we have accessible, it’s sort of that MacGyver mentality, right? So just do whatever you can with what you’ve been given. And don’t give up until you decide when you give up as opposed to letting circumstances decide that so that it’s almost like an indomitable sort of, can do, nothing is impossible sort of mindset, I mean, it was just an incredible experience, because that, for me, is the one thing that is universally applicable whether corporate organizational setting, or even in a personal context, where, yes, all of us at every stage at every level of fame, and fortune and success and all of those things, everybody faces challenges and obstacles and difficulties and hurdles. But it’s become a cliche now and sooner, but what do you do with that, that separates those who succeed and keep going and achieve their ambitions or their dreams, or whatever it is, and those who just are still talking about it and moaning about how difficult life is and what was me kind of thing? So, I think that was just, it was a great, great training and just being indomitable and relentless until you decide otherwise.

Steve Adams 17:59 

I just mentioned, my nonprofit minute ago, I think we’ve started over 250 businesses in these developing countries. And the traits that we look for our ability to remain resilient and adaptable, and optimistic, I think because anybody that’s been in business, the adversity just stacks. And it’s literally it’s like I heard one speaker say it, what are you willing to do that everybody else in the world is unwilling to do? There’s probably similar in there. And also, you probably have to learn a lot of rigor too, because if you didn’t apply rigorous thinking, you get killed, somebody gets killed. Right.

Rupal Patel 18:00 

Yeah, exactly. And again, it goes back to that fundamental sort of immersion, again, that I got from my parents that constantly questioning and constantly trying to understand the root causes of something the fundamentals that are very sort of engineering mindset, right, where you really have to go back to first principles, then everything is built upon that and yeah, that the combination of those two that sort of relentless or resilience as combined with the rigor that will see you through every and anything in any context.

Steve Adams 19:22 

Yeah. So let’s shift to your book. Was it hard to get this cleared? I always hear that.

Rupal Patel 19:30 

It wasn’t. Well, I don’t know what other people think. I have gone through, there’s just a process you know, you have to submit the manuscript and then the people at the review board will look it over and of course, ask you to redact anything that could be seen as classified, but they’re so reasonable and they’re so easy to work with. I have had nothing but good experiences with it. So sadly, there’s no drama here. They made very minor redactions. And I mean, literally, there was like small changes that no one would notice. And then we went on.

Steve Adams 20:09 

Well, you weren’t telling stories about what you were doing, either you’re talking principles that exactly that track across transcend professional. Yeah. And that’s cool. So let’s talk about the right up front, you deal with identity, and identity driven leadership. Can you tell us why you dealt with that right up front? And maybe a little bit how do you help pull that together for a client of yours and help them get that right inside them? Because there’s got to be a downside, if they don’t?

Rupal Patel 20:48 

Yeah, so I think a lot of it really was born of my own experience, like I said earlier, where I felt always in conflict, and like, I never fit. And, again where I, like I said, sort of, there was cultural sort of tension, sometimes an internal tensions, and also what people expect someone who looks like me to, what those expectations are, etc. And so, I’ve always just been very aware of the many facets of who I am, and how I’ve had to juggle them in the various contexts I’ve operated in. And then I realized that so much of what happens from a young age, but even as you grow into adults, and leaders, etc, is that we buy into stereotypes and archetypes that we have received from popular culture, or from our families, or from friends, or all of these different influences. And they’re total rubbish, because let’s face it, I’ll give a very sort of glaring example, oftentimes, when people hear the word CEO, they think of man, middle aged man, six foot something tall, wearing a suit. Well, yeah, but wearing a suit, no offense, progressive and very shouty and very just sort of alpha male. And that, in my experience, has mainly been 50% of the leaders of CEOs that I’ve even that high. And yet, because we’re constantly bombarded with this idea of what a leader looks like, and how they behave, and how they’re supposed to act, and all of these things, people feel that they either have to conform and become someone they’re not, which creates a whole other tension in and of itself. Or they hold themselves back. Because they say, oh, well, I’m a woman, I don’t like to shout. I don’t wear suits, whatever it is, I’m not alpha, I’m not whites and middle aged whenever they opt out, without even having given it a go, or without even considering or having seen examples that don’t conform to that norm. And so I think there’s just a lot of nonsense that people, we all sort of, and again, I’m speaking from personal experience, where I have felt that tension of like, oh, well, someone who was a leader has to put on certain airs, or if you reach a certain level of wealth, then all of a sudden, you can’t shop at, I don’t know, Macy’s or whatever, you have to become a totally different human being. And that’s just total nonsense. Like, that is just not reality. But too many people buy into it, and then hold themselves back or again, try to force fit themselves into a mold, that doesn’t fit. And that does not serve anyone because it robs the world of a huge richness of potential leaders, wealth creators, role models, whatever you want to call it. And so that is why for me, it all has to start with, unpacking who you are, who you care, what you care about what your values are, and how you as an individual wants to lead and how you see leadership for yourself. And then seeing how we can bring that into the real world. So that again, there’s a greater diversity and richness of the types of leader that I don’t mean, just from a demographic diversity perspective, but personality diversity, introversion, extroversion, all of that stuff, because why are we leaving so many people out of the game effectively, by telling everyone we have to conform to this one mold. So that’s why for me, it’s so important because it again, it creates just better working environments, but it also creates better leaders because then you can be authentic and you can be who you are, and you can lead in a way that is sustainable for you. You’re less likely to burn out if you’re not feeling like you’re an imposter pretending to be somebody else every day. And I think it’s again, it’s just a sustainable and a better way to lead and I think for too long, people have really tried to be someone they’re not because they reached a certain level, or they want to apply for a certain job. And like I said, that doesn’t serve anyone. So for me it really again, going back to first principles, who are you, what is important to you, how are your values going to show up in your career in the way you lead, and whatever it is. And then let’s look at how we’re going to integrate that very practically into your day to day working environment, it’s not to say that everybody has to all of a sudden, there’s not like a big free for all, where everything goes and anything. But again, understand who you are. And then let’s build on that.

Steve Adams 25:35 

And if you try to lead not doing that, you have all of this internal dialogue going on, in distress, and then you don’t need authentically in your voice. I mean, I had leadership roles as young as sports because I was like a captain of the sports teams and stuff like that, and played football at the university level. But my first real leadership role in corporate America was kind of in my mid-20s. I got into the banking industry, and I was in the retail branch administration. And then I moved into corporate lending. And then by 30, I was back in a leadership role. And I can tell you from personal experience, it took me probably, because I didn’t have a coach like you who could help me figure it out. So 30 to 45 years old, there was about a 15 year period. Now I’m not saying I was completely ineffective, I was effective, but I kind of hit my stride in my mid-40s. Like, this is who I am, this is my voice, because I was trying not to be that typical CEO because I’m somewhat curious, but I’m as much an introvert as I am an extrovert and I’m like you. I nerd out, I want to go deep on something I like to travel and all these weird things that, and I’m not Uber competitive, like most CEO, stereotypes are, win it all costs. So it took a while to sort all that out. But I will tell you, I’m 58 now in the last 13 years have been amazing leadership thing. Every generation has to learn the lesson.

Rupal Patel 27:13 

Well, and I think, for me, part of the reason again, I think maybe there is just a shift that happens when one reaches sort of late 30s, early 40s, because that’s when it started happening for me as well, that acceptance and real appreciation for who I am. And instead of constantly battling against it, and trying to make it fit to actually double down on my strengths and what makes me who I am and how I tick as opposed to feeling like I need to fit another mold. And I think if I can help anybody short circuit, that process, and instead of wasting 15 years of their life, going through that agony, if we can cut it down to five years or no years, then that is going to be so much better for everyone. And it’s not just this aspirational thing of like, oh, it sounds really great. There are real physical consequences to living intention with herself. And as you know, again, we can all probably name more examples than we’d like to have people who have burned out of who’ve gotten stress related heart conditions or given themselves, you know, sort of, and you work in the health field. So you see it every day, people quite literally making themselves sick and getting themselves to an early grave, because there is all that internal tension that has not been able to be processed and or redirected or transformed in any more productive way. And so this is about, again, without sort of making it sound a bit overblown, but saving people’s lives quite literally sometimes.

Steve Adams 28:44 

Yes, it is. And, so identity is a big one and another one that distracts leaders is this idea of looking to the left and to the right, straight ahead. I love your dad’s advice. He says, live an absolute life, not a relative life and talk about that. Talk about this idea of running your own race. I love that. That was the most part I underlined, I love that.

Rupal Patel 29:12 

I literally even just hearing you say that my dad’s quote again gives me chills because it is one of the hardest things to do. And you and I we both are really love our sports. And I love using sports analogies as well. And this idea of running your own race because too often we’re distracted by everyone around us. What are other people in my industry doing what are people who graduated from my alma mater doing, what are people my age making where they live?

Steve Adams 29:42 

Behind or ahead?

Rupal Patel 29:44 

Exactly, and this you know, and I refer to it in the book as comparison itis because I do think it is a bit of a disease and it can really again sidetrack us from what is important to us. And this constantly measuring ourselves by other people’s standards, maybe we care about those things? But maybe we don’t, or shouldn’t enjoy it, or whatever it is. And that’s, again, it’s a very personal choice, what you care about what you don’t. But I think, for me, it comes back to questioning Well, anytime I find myself telling myself, I should do something, it’s that idea of why do I feel like should do it? Is it coming from an internal source? Like, my values, the things I care about my ambitions, my dreams? Or is this a message that I got from a family member, friend, community, or whatever it is? And so I think the reason I focus as much as I do on unpacking where all those messages come from, so that we can see and start to interrogate Well, is this coming from me? Is this actually important to me? And should I keep pursuing it? Or is it not and this is just a distraction, it’s comparison itis, it’s looking all around, and it’s not useful. And I need to refocus myself. Because in a business context, we often are looking, oh, well, this is the benchmark, this is the industry standard. This is the SOP, this is the best practice. And that might work for some companies, but it might not work for yours. It might work for some leaders, but it might not work for you. And again, it goes back again and again to always asking why, why is this best practice? Why is this SOP? Why am I comparing myself to others? And instead of getting mired in how we don’t measure up, I think another way of flipping it is okay, fine. Human beings will compare, that’s what we do. We like to sort of measure ourselves in relation to other people. And from time to time, it just happens. But instead of just wallowing in that place of like, oh, we’re behind, or we’re not doing this or not doing that. I again, like to flip it and say, Okay, well, how can we make this productive? What can we learn from that company who’s miles ahead? What have they done differently? Is it in a process? Is it in hiring? Is it in training? Is it in customer service, again, understand the fundamentals, and then see if it’s still relevant, because they might just have billions more to invest in something that you do or have a 15 year track record that slower than yours, or whatever it is. But again, it’s getting back to the fundamentals, understanding the why. And then more often than not just refocusing on that running your own race and living in absolute life instead of the relative one where you’re constantly comparing because businesses do this all the time, where they forget that often, it’s already stuff that they have, that they’re just not using, effectively, and they don’t need to compare, they don’t need to go external for best practice or for ideas, they just need to do what they do better. So get really clear on what they do, what they stand for, what they care about what they’re delivering. And then just get better at that. You’ve already got the customer base, you’ve already got fans, or whatever you want to call them. So who cares what the others are doing focus on what you can do to make your company better.

Steve Adams 33:04 

Yeah. Excellent. You know, when I first got into business in my early 30s, I was obsessed with my competitors, PetSmart and Petco, because I was in a pet superstore chain. And the thing I realized about that, first of all, it makes us sick, because you’re constantly worrying. And also, every minute you’re thinking about them, you’re not thinking about your strategy. And the better version of me, 20 years later, one this Tiger Medical started, I had people like you’re really going to do that. There’s mayo, there’s Cleveland, there’s Johns Hopkins, there’s all and I’m like, I don’t care, I did the whole blue ocean strategy map and created something that was completely different and unique from them. So that I can just focus on that and not worry about what they’re doing. It just calms you down and focuses you.

Rupal Patel 33:58 

So let’s face it, everything has been done before. Every idea has been had, every song has been written, every great story has, any capacity in any field of endeavor, in some way or another, everything has been done before, right? So it’s what are you going to do to make it yours? Because they haven’t heard it from you. They haven’t seen it your way. And I think Apple is a fantastic example of this. They didn’t invent the portable music player. They didn’t invent the smartphone. They didn’t invent anything thing. So, the greatest innovation that they had was in the user experiences in the design. And that’s what made them different. If Apple had tried to be Microsoft, they would have floundered and died in year zero, right, but they didn’t, they focus on their race on what their USP or whatever jargon, you want to use it. And the same is true for, again, the arts like no one would ever become an actor. No one would ever become a singer. No one would ever become a painter because it’s all been done before but it hasn’t been done by you. And that is what is so easy to forget. Because previously, business has, again been part of sort of embrace this culture of zero sum and winner take all and this very impressive competitive view where I think you and I perhaps share a more abundant view of the world. There’s always more, there’s always more ideas, there’s always more contributions, there’s always more ways to tweak something to add something to deliver something a little bit differently. And so that’s what I’m bringing, I’m bringing myself I’m bringing my values, I’m bringing my vision, and it doesn’t matter if it’s been done before, because it hasn’t been done by me.

Steve Adams 35:41 

I’m with you. When I was a corporate banker, I remember thinking, oh, my gosh, the world is so big, because I saw so many deals, and so many rich people. And there’s just almost unlimitless supply of resources to good ideas. And so, yeah, so hey, let’s talk publicly about one of your weaknesses. And only say that because it wasn’t a book. Let’s have fun. It’s a weakness of all achievers Taipei’s, and that is, we want it all. And forever, it took me to learn this lesson that I can’t chase everything that I want to do that I got to accept trade offs to talk about trade offs.

Rupal Patel 36:25 

Well, again, you’ve seen it, you’ve got sort of an insider view and to sort of my brain, I guess, but for the longest time again, like, I think there’s an element of naivete or whatever you want to call it. But for a long time, it was that question of like, oh, but I want it all, and I want it all right now, and I’m gonna be the one who does it all at the same time, or whatever.

Steve Adams 36:48 

You still give off that energy?

Rupal Patel 36:51 

Yeah, it is a good thing. The way I’ve matured it into something mature and sustainable and realistic, is balancing being content with where I’m at, and what I’ve got, without becoming complacent. Because for me, the reality is, again, there are a fixed number of hours, units of energy, dollars, whatever resource, we all have our disposal. So literally, you cannot use that same resource in two different places. So every hour I’m at the gym is an hour I cannot spend working on my business, every hour that I’m spending, having quality time with my family is an hour I can’t be spending with friends and developing those relationships. And it’s just, we’ve been sold this myth that like we can have it all at the same time. And everything has to be this idea of work life balance, well, actually, you can never balance everything perfectly, you have to choose and there will be times where your career takes a backseat. And other things that are more of a priority, there will be times in your health takes priority when your business takes priority, we have to consciously choose and accept that, okay, right now, for me, for example, my family because I have two small kids that are two and five, my family and my professional growth are where the majority of my resources are going to be. Everything else has to be met with an unapologetic, but still kind no, and that’s just life. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t see my friends or I never talked to anybody else who isn’t my kids are my clients. It’s just a realistic appreciation that we have to choose. And that’s how we build over the course of a lifetime. That elusive balance, or the way I like to think of it is harmony, right? Things will never be perfectly balanced, whatever that even looks like, or could be right, of course of our lives if we built this harmonious thing that again, is in alignment with our values, what we care about, what do we want our legacy to be, all of those things, then that inevitably will mean that we’re going to have to let some things go consciously and choose to focus consciously on other things that we were going to focus on right now.

Steve Adams 39:18 

I’ve written about, so we have a newsletter we send out to all of our clients. Because one of the things we do with our medical company, we also teach flow science and how less is better, and the way to achieve balance is to subtract. And so that’s how we get there. And when we try to do everything because I have tried my 30s was a whole decade of like, I’m going to do it all. You know, I had a business I was a bank president while I was running my own business and just crazy. And at the end of the day, you don’t do anything really well. Right, which is that’s what ended up causing me to go you know what, this isn’t good. I got to stop doing that. So let me transition here. Rupal, what do you think about in terms of if you want to perform at an elite level, where do you think somebody’s health plays? What role does your health play in that?

Rupal Patel 40:13 

I subscribe to what sounds to me like that cliché. But if you haven’t got your physical health, then nothing else will work as well as it possibly could. Right? So look, again, I’m all about being realistic, because health has to be your priority. And as many of us will find, unfortunately, we fall sick, or we get some sort of a chronic illness or something. All of a sudden, we’re forced to make those trade offs and those choices and those decisions that we wouldn’t let ourselves do before. So don’t wait for that to happen, I think is the first sort of fundamental. And then secondly, again, we know this, when we feel horrible, we don’t perform well, we don’t have that spark, we don’t have that vitality, we don’t have whatever it is that fuels, and look, we can power through with supplements, or vitamins or Red Bull or whatever people choose. But that’s not again, that’s not sustainable. For me, my view is, what is sustainable, and that’s why I hate things like fad diets, or crash this or this. It has to be sustainable, and it has to fit into your lifestyle. So instead of creating this wholesale overhaul of like, oh, well, I’m going to just all of a sudden go from never working out to being in the gym six hours a day, every day. No, that’s not going to work. That’s not who you are. If you were going to do that you would have done it by now. But can you go for a walk in your lunch break? Can you decide to every time you’re going to take a phone call, instead of sitting at your desk, just pace around your office or go outside? What’s small and sustainable and almost in obtrusive changes can you make to your life to start making these smaller, healthier choices a no brainer. And so for me, some of those examples I gave are the ones I do, it’s like, when I take a phone call, I don’t sit in my chair and take it I will walk even if I don’t go outside, it’s too cold. I’ll just walk in circles in my living room, and it’s a small thing, but human beings we’re not meant to we’re not designed sedentary beings. And so I get everybody is over overtaxed and overworked and exhausted and has a bazillion things hold on their time and their energy. So work it in in a way that works for you. Another way I do it is we’ve got a small daughter whose nursery is about two miles away. So instead of taking the car, she has to get to school or to nursery, I will walk her there and I will walk back, it’s a small thing, getting a job done along the way to clear your head. It’s perfect for first thing in the morning because to my surprise never ending surprise, I am a morning person. I’ve tried to force myself, okay, I’m going to set a target of going to the gym five times a week and doing this and it just hasn’t never last. But what does last the small and incremental changes, and they just become what you do. It’s not a thought that goes into it. And yes, I do other things to stay fit and maintain my health, but I’ve never become obsessive over anything. And I’ve been again goes back to honoring who I am understanding who I am and how I work. And for me, it just has to be more incidental than not. So that’s how I built it into my life. And similarly for others again, your health literally is everything you cannot buy good health, if you pass a certain point and there’s this great quote that sort of echoes in my head all the time is make food, your medicine or medicine will become your food. In all of those things. It’s in your movement and exercise has become this really loaded word where people feel like they’re being browbeaten into doing these crazy fitness routines. Just look at it as movement. How can you move more each day? You don’t have to run a marathon, you don’t have to be deadlifting 600 pounds, move a little bit more each day than you did the day before and again, in incremental incidental ways, until it becomes just another thing that you do.

Steve Adams 44:24 

We have something we call the eight health habits at Tiger and that’s what we do. We build them incidentally into their life using a tiny habits type methodology. And people are amazing because we do a one year health coaching program with them. And by the time they get to about month seven, they’re like, oh my gosh, I’m doing eight things I didn’t do before and none of it’s that hard. It’s movement is daily breathwork it’s meditation and you can combine things and definitely eating cleanly and taking supplements, doing time restricted eating, these are the kinds of things that work, and the reason I say those things is because what happens when it becomes incidental, now it’s sustainable. You’re not trying to push something big into a limited sack, right.

Rupal Patel 45:14 

Now the last thing I was going to say is that my view is that we have to at least experiment to see what fits because for some people, all of those eight habits I imagined will land and it’ll feel right, and it’ll fit, right, some might find that only four of them do, or six of them do or whatever, but you have to be willing to try and then pay attention to what is working for you and what you find sustainable, because all of these things as you said, they compound and they and they build over the course of a lifetime, a few months. So even if you just chose one and stuck with it forever, that you would still see benefits from it. So again, I think for me, anytime anyone tries to make a big wholesale overhaul of their entire lifestyle and everything, we know it’s not going to last right. So yeah, like you said, the incremental stuff but be willing to experiment and play around with it and see what works for you.

Steve Adams 46:07 

Yeah, that was spot on, you’re right with everybody, we have them implement them in their own unique way that works for them, right. So I want to get to your company now. Can you just paint a picture for your core business, that’s all from the book, because the book isn’t the only business there’s a business behind it. So explain that and tell us, who’s really a good client for you? Okay, somebody’s listening, and they’re fit? Unpack that for us.

Rupal Patel 46:36 

So for me, it’s twofold. One is working with growth, mindset oriented leaders, so people who are open to learning about themselves about experimenting with different ways of doing things than what they may have tried doing before, and are willing to implement the things that come up during our time together. So effectively, it’s sort of executive coaching, leadership coaching, performance coaching, whatever you want to call it for people who are willing to do the work, and who are willing to experiment to see what works for them. I work with everyone from, you know, relatively early stage founders, all the way to corporate executives. And my dream client is someone who comes with an open mind, and is willing to have a conversation around what’s working, what’s not working, and then we work together to find ways to unleash or tap into that potential, that identity, the things that they feel, that aren’t being brought out, that they want to bring out, and the whole sort of spectrum of who they are as an individual, in addition to being a leader. And they’re willing to, like I said, do the work, because it’s messy and bold, and it’s uncomfortable. And a lot of people run sort of, scurrying from even asking themselves some of these questions. But at the result of doing that work it’s transformative, it transforms your life, it transforms your business, it will transform your teams. I mean, literally, it has sort of that cascade effect. So, like I said, for me, it’s sort of first and foremost, with the leaders who have that growth mindset and are willing to learn and do the work. And then secondly, it’s for organizations, again, at any stage, who are going through that uncomfortable process of change, or rapid growth or rapid shrinkage, or whatever it is, but there’s a big change. And let’s face it, that’s pretty much every company these days or two years, but again, has that openness, and that willingness to do the hard work, have the difficult conversations, whether it’s around how are we hiring? How are we serving our customers? What are we doing well? Where are we falling victim to comparison, itis and all of those things, then they can again, get back on track and unleash their organizational potential. Because the problems that I see, companies have is, they’re good at hiring, but they’re really terrible at getting the best out of their people. And then again, making that sustainable and often what happens during periods of crisis and uncertainty and change, depending on how that’s dealt with. It’s that thing of, people sticking their heads in the sand of pretending the problem doesn’t exist and will go away or not having the difficult conversations with maybe team members who aren’t performing or whatever it is. And it just becomes somebody else’s problem. That idea to the next CEO or the next, whatever it is, and so, companies who are sick of that and who are ready to just like I said, do the work, go through the mess, but know that at the other side of it, there’s going to be immeasurable rewards and satisfaction and retention and all of those things, but it will be messy and ugly along the way.

Steve Adams 49:58 

I love how you just said that. I’m going to play that clip to all of our new clients when they come in. We tell them, I love Robin Sharma, he’s got some really good stuff and he talks about changes. It’s like really exciting on the beginning of it, then it’s really hard, then it gets really messy. And then it’s beautiful in the end. So, I always say, I told my kids this when they were growing up, mine are 29 and 27. And they remember this, I said, the people that I want to go to battle with are the ones who get in the messy middle and they finish because a lot of people head for the exit in the middle. And you want clients that won’t quit in the middle. Right?

Rupal Patel 50:45 

Who are willing to test themselves and do the work even when it’s hardest and messiest.

Steve Adams 50:51 

Yeah, right. Rupal. If you can live a parallel life, here’s the question, what would your fantasy job be? Not maybe right now, because you’re young mom, you just like to be a librarian and have quiet time. But if you can think of one since you’ve already lived this, like, life that so many people admire, what could be one for you?

Rupal Patel 51:18 

It’d be to be an Olympic heptathlete.

Steve Adams 51:20 

Really, what’s a heptathlete?

Rupal Patel 51:22 

So the women, track and field athletes we don’t do, I think men do pen, their pants athletes, but women only do events, for whatever reason anyway. But the reason I chose that sort of event or sport, whatever you want to call it is because it is all around. And it’s again, it’s all about testing your limits physically. You have to have well balanced upper body as well as lower body strength for the sprinting, for the long distance for the Javelin for all of those things. And for me, again, in the realm of sort of testing ourselves and pushing ourselves what the human body is physically capable of. Just never stops to, I mean, really just astounds me it and, and just army, and I’m one of those people who watches World Championships who watches the Olympics, he watches the World Cup. I mean, I love a good sporting event, because of just the sheer physical prowess of the people involved. The excellence and the pushing yourself. And then having the adversity and having the physical adversity and having the setbacks where you’ve got an ACL injury, and the day of the meet, or your hamstring gets pulled on while you’re running to 200, or whatever it is, right. And it’s the agony and the ecstasy and all. For me, it’s just the pushing the physical limits of what we can do. I would absolutely love to do that.

Steve Adams 51:22 

So your assignment after this is the thing that shows up in your life already.

Rupal Patel 51:46 

Yeah. Well, I already know the answer to that. I love it. I love a good physical challenge. I’ve set myself a challenge to be able to, for example, this year to be able to do 10 chin ups. And I’ve already got to eight. So I’ve got two more to go with the good few months left. I want to be able to do splits before I turned 50. So I’ve got, I mean, it’s a weird thing. But it’s again, it’s a challenge. It’s hard to find, and it’s I know when I’ve done it, and there are programs and things and so, and yeah, I like being physical. I like being strong. I like I like pushing my personal limits, obviously right now. Well, ever, there never be an Olympic level. But yeah, that’s how I think it shows up for me.

Steve Adams 53:52 

That’s really cool. I love asking that question, because everybody is so different. And so Rupal Patel, thank you for being on  the Tiger Performance Podcast. And this book, you can see it here on the video, From CIA To CEO is available on Amazon and everywhere else you can look for a book. I personally endorse it. With 35 years of experience as leader, this book was one of the best ones I read on leadership in a long time. And I would encourage people to get it. And where can they find you if they heard? Now, our show notes people are phenomenal. They’re going to get everything here that you say and it’ll be in there. Yeah, we will get it out on social media and our YouTube channel, but we’ll give it to you too to share with your list. How do they find you Rupal?

Rupal Patel 54:43 

It’s super easy. If you’re a LinkedIn person, you can find me on LinkedIn. Or you can just come to my website which is rupalypatel.com.

Steve Adams 54:52 

So rupalypatel.com.

Rupal Patel 54:57 

You got it.

Steve Adams 55:00 

Got it. Thank you for being on the Tiger Performance Podcast.

Rupal Patel 55:04 

It’s been an absolute pleasure, Steve. Thank you for having me.

Outro 55:11 

Thanks for listening to the Tiger Performance Podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get the future episodes