Speaker | Sports Scientist | Author | Social Contributor
I was born in Tongaat, a tiny town on the North Coast of Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa. I’m a third generation South African with my roots tracing back to Surat, India.
All I wanted to do in the early days that shaped my life was play cricket for my country, South Africa.
And all i got in return for that ambition was a series of hardships that threatened to veer me off my path.
That is why I want to level with you for a minute.
I had a promising start to what could have been a career in sport, having played representative cricket at club, state & national level, but my skin colour was not fair enough to match my dreams in a pre apartheid era (apartheid was a system of institutionalised racial segregation and discrimination in South Africa).This made the decision to retire at nineteen & focus on an academic career in sport an obvious one. I studied a degree in Sport & Exercise Science whilst working as the strength coach with the state cricket team to help make ends meet. Those were hard days. I had to juggle a full days work with a full time academic degree, not to mention put aside all racial prejudices & my personal financial constraints to win over the confidence of everyone who doubted me for years. The switch from being a player to a member of the coaching team was both psychologically confusing and physically taxing. Having said this, I sincerely believe it was the prejudice that fuelled my hunger to succeed.
In 2003, I got a lucky break as the Technical Analyst of the Indian Cricket Team during the 2003 Cricket World Cup. Most people know this, but few know that the coach had not approved a travel budget for me, which meant I had to drive in a rented car to each & every venue. I had driven over 12000 kilometres during the tournament & had never missed a single practice session. This helped me earn the respect & trust of everyone in the team. Its true what they say – opportunities are usually disguised as hardships.
After the World Cup, I was searching for a more fulfilling life, one that allowed me to give back. I was tired of being disappointed at the racial prejudices that existed. My quest took me to the Hare Krishna Temple in Chatsworth, Durban which became my home for close to three years. I had chosen the life of Brahmacharya (monk), which to date remains my most insightful & liberating years. The discipline of waking up at 3 am, the dedicated hours of scriptural studies & the perseverance to master focused meditation taught me the power one can yield by simply controlling the mind. It was this monastic life that inspired me to blend the science of emotional intelligence with the principles of spirituality. It was like stumping upon a magic elixir. Convinced of its results, I shifted my focus from physiology towards mental & spiritual health as means of developing that “Winning Mindset”. To date, it remains the core of my development model for athletes, entrepreneurs and organisations in search of purposeful progression.
I spent nine years working with South African first-class teams, both internationally & domestically. The politics & racial prejudice that kept many great players from representing the country still existed more than ten years after the fall of the apartheid. I was no longer as bitter or upset, but I was determined to ensure no child suffers such a faith again. Sport is a meritocracy & should remain devoid of any racial, socio- economic, gender, caste or ethnic bias. I was determined to become the spokesperson for the fight against discrimination in sport.
In 2007 I moved to India to work with the Indian Davis Cup Team. I spent six years traveling with the players on the ATP tour. After two Olympic Games in Beijing (2008) & London (2012), I realised that the prejudices I was fighting all my life existed in India as well. However, in India it went beyond the colour of ones skin. My determination to level the playing field forced my hand at new adventure – one that would prove to be my toughest yet – Entrepreneurship. In 2012, I founded the HEAL Institute Pty Ltd, a healthcare start up that aimed to put the spotlight on performance enhancement & raise the standard of awareness around no surgical treatment & physical rehabilitation. We had an earth shattering start which came tumbling down a few years later. These were some of the darkest days in my life. In hindsight, I believe that HEAL was simply ahead of the curve. Entrepreneurship is India taught me many lessons & toughened me up for the road ahead. Founding HEAL was the best business school I could have ever attended. In South Africa we have a saying – if you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch. Nothing describes business in India better.
I’ve spent close to two decades working with elite athletes, celebrities, world renowned industrialists, children, disadvantaged communities, schools & NGO’s and game changers. These experiences have shown me life through many lenses, some joyous, many sad, but all unforgettable. Before you rise up, you have got to lay down. It is there that you will find quiet courage and purpose. Spirituality taught me how to be comfortable on the ground – how to starve my fears and feed my courage when no one else is around. It taught that today’s weakness is tomorrow strength.
The most beautiful thing about life is that adversity will always reveal something beautiful – either materialistically or spiritually. At every stage of life, many people will doubt you & if you lucky, a few will support you. None of this has any bearing on what your true potential is. Believe, work hard & have faith. Its the secret to unlocking that “Winning Mindset”.