Vanessa Liu

How to create an impact from where you are

How to create an impact from where you are

Vanessa Liu

Entrepreneur, Board director and Investor

About Vanessa

Vanessa Liu is a technology innovator, a business builder, and a digital media entrepreneur. She’s been creating, launching, and re-launching businesses for a long time. Vanessa has over 23 years of experience as a serial founder, operator, strategist, and investor at SAP, Trigger Media, and McKinsey, and has a proven track record of value creation. She supervises SAP.iO’s North American Foundries in New York and San Francisco, including programmes focused to women and diverse-led B2B business IT companies, and has recruited and accelerated 70+ enterprise software startups in her role as Vice President of SAP.iO, SAP’s early-stage venture arm. Vanessa was previously the Chief Operating Officer of Trigger Media Group, a $22 million digital media company.

InsideHook (a digital media firm and a men’s lifestyle brand) and Fevo (a women’s lifestyle brand) are two of Trigger’s portfolio companies she co-founded (SaaS technology for group experiences at live events). She began her career as an Associate Partner at McKinsey & Company’s Media and Entertainment Practice, with offices in Amsterdam, London, and New York.

Vanessa is a Non-Executive Director of Appen Ltd. at the moment (ASX: APX). Bounce Exchange (Wunderkind), Crave Global, Grata Data, GroundSignal, Kable AI, and Narrativ are among the start-ups in which she is an advisor or investor.

Take home these learnings

1) Exploring the impact women can have on family and society.
2) Explaining how business can create an impact.
3) Why investing in aging is important.
4) Explaining the reason for conflict when the heart aches for peace.

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Episode Transcript:

00:02 Gaurav It's the quality of the life, not length, not quantity of life that matters. By the way, what's your notion of age? How do you look at business? What's the connection between business and impact? What kind of impact would you like to create in this world? These are few of the points we are going to discuss in today's conversation. Welcome, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the podcast, the xMonks Drive. I'm your host Gaurav Arora. And today's guest is Vanessa Liu, Vanessa is a board director, an investor, an executive, a business builder, a digital media entrepreneur, and a technology innovator. She has over 20 years of experience in launching businesses. Let's take a dive and hear what it means to live a life of impact. So, Vanessa, thank you so much. Such an honour having you here! 01:04 Vanessa Thank you so much for having me, Gaurav! 01:06 Gaurav How have you been today? and how's this New Year shaping us for you? 01:11 Vanessa You know, I'm very excited to be here. And the new year is shaping up very well. We are all healthy, all raring to go. And after having had, you know, of course, for many of us, like a pretty challenging year, in many respects, definitely was ready for the new page to turn. And there always comes so much optimism in the beginning of the year. And I'm getting a lot of that energy. And I hope you are too. 01:37 Gaurav Absolutely. Thank you so much. You know, Vanessa, when I first got your profile, an investor, an executive, a consultant, an entrepreneur. So I had an image of a lady wearing black colour suit, very sharp in her conversations very clear, very assertive, very bold, and I was literally trembling in my trousers. And I was thinking, "Would I be able to hold the space for her?" And I remember my first conversation. And that's where I met an extremely humble, an extremely approachable, kind-hearted, bubbly girl. And I've always been fascinated by the traits that people bring in from two extremes. And I personally feel that the way we are brought up in our lives had a huge impact on the way we show up in the world. So we'd love to hear from you, if you may share the world that you were brought up in, and the impact of your parents that you still continue to carry with you, that makes you who you are, the combination of the black suit lady, leading teams, and being an entrepreneur and investor and a consultant and on the other side that is chilled out lady who is kind-hearted, and quite approachable. 02:56 Vanessa It's so funny that you say that it's, I don't know why that's the impression that a lot of people have when they meet me. And so I actually have a nickname called the "Velvet Hammer", we can approach that another day. You know, my background is based on my upbringing with my immigrant parents. So, I come from parents who came over from Hong Kong to New York City... in the early 70s. And my parents were both teachers in Hong Kong. But when they came over, they decided to give up everything that they had to start over, really primarily to give themselves and also their future children just a better chance at life just in terms of opportunities. And typical immigrant story, when my brother and I were born. So I'm the older of two, and we were in New York City. My parents were just trying to think of what is it that they should do, my father at this time, had been a journalist, and he decided that he wanted to do more for his community. He was also a community organizer, and had been doing quite a lot with nonprofits as well in the Chinatown area, New York City, and decided to go back to law school. And my mother at this time, just thought, well, you know, she was working in a company. And she had been at the top of her class back in Hong Kong. And when she came here, she was like, You know what, I can do more and she was actually... also, her former boss at the time said you could do a lot more and was encouraged to start her own business. So that was what my upbringing was. So I would, my brother and I would both be in school, for regular school and also after everyday after regular school, all throughout primary school, we would go to Chinese school, and I remember my brother and I thinking like, "Why can't we be like the other kids like who have free time afterwards?". It was because my parents had to figure out a way so that they could keep working and doing the work that they were doing while We went to school. And my weekends were spent helping out in the family business that my mother started, which was a retail establishment where we sold, in the beginning, sunglasses and watches. We used to wheel like the shopping cart, so watches and sunglasses, onto the subway to go to Queens, to a flea market to sell on the weekends. And I remember, that's where I learnt mental math. That's where I learnt how to approach people and to say, you know, "Can I help you?", and they were lifelong skills, but I remember my brother and I thinking like, "Wow, this is a really hard life." And I personally just never wanted to have anything to do with entrepreneurship, because I just thought that it was so hard. And we had several stores over the years. But each time I just felt like, it was tough. I remember our, like some stores being broken into or I remember, like, basically just times when business was not as good because there was like a recession. And it was hard, but that really shaped who I was because the entrepreneurial genes really come from my parents, and I have them to thank and so that's like, really the genesis. So much of what I try to do is to live up to the fact that my parents gave up so much to come here. And I want to be able to like, I feel like I bear that responsibility to truly make full use of that gift that they gave us. 06:29 Gaurav Wow! So from selling glasses, on the street side, and approaching people and then hesitating to ask for money, to raising funds, you have done it all. 06:40 I don't know if I've done it all. But I've been doing quite a lot. And you know, I think about how my mother had to do this, Right? She was a businesswoman in the 80s. Back when you know, starting businesses, especially for an Asian woman is tough! Like even in our culture, I remember in the beginning, it was not like today where it's much easier to get a small business loan or to get some type of angel funding, she had to go around to family to ask for the funds to start the business. And I remember for her, she had a lot of pushback, even from our own family saying like, "Well, should that be your role?" And she overcame that, she really just like rose to the occasion said: "Yes, I can do this." And that type of confidence is what I tried to channel, even though fundraising is definitely not one of my favourite activities. It's necessary while you are an entrepreneur, but I try to channel that energy whenever I go into a pitch meeting. 07:46 Gaurav And what are those default scripts that were written during that time? It could be your relationship with business, it could be the impact a woman can have on family, the impact of women in society? What were those default scripts that got written for you as a child? 08:03 Vanessa You know, I think about how, for me looking at the role models that I had in my parents that you work and if you do, you work hard; and that's the way that you develop a foundation, and then people can take you seriously, especially my mother, like, I never questioned whether or not I should be working when I was older, because, you know, my mom was working, my father, when he was going back to school was also working in the family businesses. But my mother was really driving a lot of the work that we were doing. And seeing that I think that just became engraved in me that the expectation is that I'll definitely be contributing in some way, by coming up with something of my own and doing something that's purposeful outside of the additional, you know, obviously, like heavy responsibilities of raising a family, which are also so great. And that type of expectation I never took for granted. So I always thought they always instil, in both my brother and me the importance of education, the importance of using that so that you can have the tools so that you can build things that was the default script that "Okay, you are going to get the best education possible. And with that, you are going to figure out what it is that you are going to do. Alongside, of course, like if you are lucky enough to find the right person to settle down with, have a family." So the notion of working and also living was ingrained very, very deeply. 09:52 Gaurav Makes so much sense. And you know, I'm a firm believer the context that you're born in has a huge impact on the way we show up as an individual same time, I'm also a firm believer, that with all the pluses and all the positive things that you continue to carry with yourself from your childhood, there are some of the things that you wish you would not have to face. Is there anything that you still carry from your past and you wish that would not have been there with you, that at times, comes in your way? 10:24 Vanessa You know, I'm not the type of person to live with regrets, I feel like every moment of defeat, or, like, you know that you haven't tried your best or some type of moment of failure actually brings an important lesson that you can learn from, and that's like something that I always think about. So, you know, even though growing up, like and we were really trying hard to make ends meet, it was really tough. And I saw the strain that placed on my parents, I mean, there were times when I bet you their relationship was certainly tested. You know, I feel like that was also a learning, that not everything in life is easy. And, you have to really learn how to weather those storms? And how do you do that as the family unit? That's something that I carry with me. I mean, I think about it a lot, whenever, you know, of course, everybody, all of us, we have stressful days. But how do you manage that? How do you bring that home? And do you take that out on your loved ones, I noticed that unfortunately, it's like the pattern that I sometimes have that, you know, I get super tough on the people around me when I'm stressed. And they call me out on it! And I'm glad that they do! And so that's like something, it's almost like a default, where I'm like, Oh, I get it. This is something from how I was raised, like, you know, that's a pattern that I see. And we have to try to break it. But we have to be able to have that type of awareness. So I definitely carry those learnings with me. 12:01 Gaurav Yeah. And those patterns that you are talking about when you tend to get tough on people are what do they tell you? What are those basic met-unmet needs those values which are important to you? What are those patterns telling you? 12:15 Vanessa You know, it's interesting, like I said, I have a 13-year-old daughter, an 11-year-old son, and, and they are great, great kids, just so you know, such good human beings, and I'm just so proud of who they are. And, any parent will tell you, there's only so much that you can do in terms of raising your children that come out the way that they are. And so I feel 80% of this is based on what they come out with. But, you know, of course, like, you know, we get tough on the children. And I remember my daughter when she was younger, maybe even like when she was seven years old. She called me out she goes, "Mom, I can't always be perfect." And I remember that jolted me, because when I was growing up, you know, sometimes I placed that pressure on myself, I don't think my parents ever overtly placed that pressure on me. But it was certainly an expectation I had of myself, being like a perfectionist and wanting to achieve and everything and like I want everybody to be able to reach up to that level. So, I know I always think about what is this for? What is the learning? And is this healthy? And how do you manage that? That's something I am very aware of, especially in my role as a parent. 13:28 Gaurav And when you asked this question, perfection for the sake of what? So, what response do you get from yourself? That you are either you are either comfortable or not so comfortable with? 13:38 Vanessa Yeah, the strive towards perfection, it is about pleasing others. And that's something that is very deep in me, I hate disappointing others. And it's no conflict avoidance. It's almost like something that I've definitely noticed within myself, and it actually made me, when I was in law school, spend a lot of time in the whole conflict resolution arena. So I was I just wanted to know like, how do you manage conflict? How do you confront it on a set? not only on a large scale level but also on an interpersonal level? And because is being perfect so that you can please others? Or is it for yourself to have impact and that's like a shift that had over time that for me, I just want to be able to push myself to be the best that I can be so that I could achieve the impact that I'm looking for in terms of having a having made a difference in people's lives. And so that's what perfection is now. 14:43 Gaurav This is so interesting because I'm just trying to process it as I'm listening to you because on one hand, we are talking about Vanessa being in business, on the other hand, there is a need to please others and then there is another new streak of perfection coming in the game. So, one question that I have is how Do you manage this dichotomy of ensuring that you do well in business, but at the same time, I have to ensure that I avoid conflict? And there is a need to please. 15:11 Vanessa Well, I know now that you can't please everyone, even as much as I'd like to, you just can't. And it's something that it's a learned skill that I've had to develop over time to be like, that is okay. And, not everybody is going to agree with what it is that you'd like to do. And that is okay. And because the greater impact that I'm striving for doesn't necessarily mean that everybody needs to be on board. And from a conflict perspective, being able to manage that, and to be able to talk to and have the right team members, it's also a learned skill, like how do you manage conflict? How do you work with people who are harder? I think the most successful people out there, not only pick the best people to surround themselves with but there is a way of managing this conflict so that it actually is for the greater good, is actually good for surfacing the best ideas or being able to, you know, get to the right solution. And that is very healthy. 16:17 Gaurav Makes so much sense. So two questions, you know, in the last 15 minutes conversation, and we are just warming up in the conversation, you have used the word impact three times, and I remember our initial few conversations, the word impact has been a very prominent part of your vocabulary. At the same time. Another theme, which is emerging during this conversation, Vanessa, is around conflict, right? Which one do you like to pick up right now? And then we'll come to the next one. And we will do? Where would you like to steer this conversation? 16:50 Vanessa Let's definitely talk about impact. I think I like being able to paint the picture of what the vision is, I think that and then use that as like a way of framing our conversation. 17:05 Gaurav Fantastic. Let's take the first step, before I even talk about impact helped me understand how do you look at business? Because all the listeners who are listening to this conversation, I'm sure they have their own version of looking at business. What's your definition of business? 17:20 Vanessa So for me, business is about solving problems. And it's about identifying out there, what are the needs of customers, whether or not their consumers or enterprise customers and to figure out what is necessary for them to be able to achieve whatever outcome that they are looking for. That's how I've always looked at business. And maybe it's because I like problem-solving that I was drawn to it, I wasn't the type of person who read the business section of a newspaper growing up. I only became interested in business when I realized it could be a tool to solve basically some of the most pressing challenges that are facing us, not only in our society but just like, in day to day living. And so I remember, it was around the time after having studied the sciences for a long time. And I decided that I did not, unfortunately, have the passion that my professors had like enough so that I could pursue a PhD in the sciences, I decided to start thinking about well, where's it should I go? And I was always thinking a lot about the problems that are, for instance, facing economies, like why is it that you look at different economies? Why is it that some countries are just impoverished, while others are much wealthier? And what is it that you can do to bridge the divide? And I realized that actually, economic development could be the solution for a lot of these types of disparities. And so I just looked, I look at it as a problem-solving tool and how do you use that to make things better? 19:03 Gaurav Makes sense, Makes sense. Now let's create a bridge between business and when we are talking about it's all about identifying the challenges that your consumer, your customers might be facing, and then making an attempt to solve that, from there creating a bridge to the impact that you have been talking about? What was that moment in your life? Where you thought, because you have worked with McKinsey, you started a couple of organizations, you have been an investor, what was that moment where you thought that business is not only about making money, it's not only about being on the right, or being on the high of calling yourself an entrepreneur or an investor and moving towards creating an impact. 19:46 Vanessa I actually think when I first entered business that I felt that way, so around the time, I decided to go into business, to go into management consulting as the first step like being somebody who had nothing who had done no studies in economics or, or anything around business administration. I would at the time doing research on the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. So very idealistic thinking about the atrocities that have happened in the former Yugoslavia that were now being prosecuted in The Hague. And it this was towards the end of my time, and I realized, well, okay, you know, I thought law would be the vehicle that I wanted to have impact. But instead, I found myself quite dissatisfied with the fact that the problems, the original problems, to begin with, were not being addressed, like through these trials is more likely you are prosecuting things that happened. But what were the underlying factors that made this situation happen in the first place, and I started talking to somebody who was, his name is Buford Alexander. He was a partner in the McKinsey office in Amsterdam. And he started telling me about the work that they do and introduced me to a few partners in the office. And I remember meeting, this one partner who was on his way to being the head of the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, another partner, who had just come back from a stint of being the Minister of the Environment, and yet another partner, who was spending some of his time on the International Olympic Committee, and I just thought is this business, I didn't think that this is business, and but it was because they were applying their skill set to be able to, you know, to address the challenges that they were seeing around them. And so, that's when I thought, like, wow, I want to do what they are doing when I, you know when I am farther along in my career. And so that's what started my McKinsey career, and actually, I ended up staying so long because I loved what I was doing in media and innovation. But towards the end, that was when I realized, like, Wait, if I really want to have more impact, it's not just about advising companies, it's also about building and that was when I decided to leave. When I left to become an entrepreneur, and I teamed up with a business partner, I was just excited by the fact that I was going to be starting something from scratch. And did that for six years, we launched two companies, one called inside hook and one called Fevo. Inside hook is now in the hands of the real clear media, which we sold to and Fevo is the company that is a Series C venture-backed company that is all around coop commerce. And we power the group ticketing for 80% of the sports teams in the US. I remember, I'm really proud of those companies. But I remember being towards the end of the time when I was stepping away from day to day roles at these companies, I just thought Okay, the first company I did great publication. But at the end of the day, I'm helping affluent men learn how to spend their money. And the second instance is helping people entertain themselves, not like those are not great end goals. But I just felt like something more needed to be there for me to be excited enough to build again. And I saw firsthand, the problems around when I opened up my eyes, I just thought well, you know, for the last six years and entrepreneur, I've had so many women and people of colour coming to me and asking for help from an investment point of view, or what business they should be building and how they should do it. And I just felt like, you know, that's what I want to spend my time doing. And I just felt like if you are in service of other people to help them basically get their equal share of, of opportunities, like there it gets you it makes you like wake up with an extra step because you want to help. And that was what drove me to SAP when I decided I want to work with women and people of colour, and help them basically get access to funding get access to networks, which they normally wouldn't like, you look at the venture capital world and basically the amount of venture dollars that flow to women and people of colour. We are talking about single digits here in terms of the money that goes to these types of companies, which is really, like so lopsided. And it's certainly not a pipeline problem. It's more of an access problem. And so, in for the three and a half years I was at SAP and cultivating a startup ecosystem, where startups would come and work with SAP. It was just so rewarding to think about all the founders we were working with. So I had a portfolio of 87 companies in North America 80% of which ended up being companies founded by women and people of colour and they are now they are thriving. I'd like to think that we had, like an important hand in it. I mean, they have collectively raised north of 900 million dollars at this point. And so that's something that no matter how tough things got, I always thought, let's think about the impact that we are having, not just us, not only on the founders and, and their livelihoods, but also their companies, we are also making, like, significant impact in the field of retail or sustainability or human resources, you see all these studies that are about happiness, and what makes people happy. And I think so much of it is linked to helping others. And that's what's really driven me so much over this last year, the last phase of my career, and something that I want to devote the next phase of my career too. 25:49 Gaurav And I think that's what brings out the human side of who Vanessa is, so prominently. Right, and I think that's what makes you so approachable, Vanessa, and when I said that, I really mean it. Because I remember, and this is what I told you as well, when I first heard about you, when I went through your profile. When I was doing my own homework. I was shit scared. And then I remember, your cheerleaders that you carry with yourself, always your two beautiful parrots. Wow! Am I sure that I'm talking to Vanessa Liu? who's an investor who's an entrepreneur? And our initial conversation itself very soon took a turn and we started talking about impact. Vanessa, now given a choice to you, which area would you like to invest your time, money, energy, hopes? what's that one cause that you would like to stand for? 26:42 Vanessa So, where I decided to devote this next phase of my career to is actually around older adults, it's an area of thought so much about especially being in the diversity inclusion, equity field over the last few years. I feel like ageism is the most accepted form of discrimination, especially in the workplace, and especially in our society, and that something needs to change with it. And this is an area I've been interested in ever since I was studying in college, I was doing Alzheimer's research. And I was also volunteering in a nursing home. And I saw firsthand just how people who are older, are treated, especially in the society where there's such a premium placed on youth. And I want to change how ageing is perceived. And maybe it's because, it's definitely a little bit selfish, right? in basically in 15-20 years time, I will be there. And I'm just thinking about the types of services and products that I would like to see, and also, more importantly, how I would want to be treated. But I do think that there's so much that could be done that. How is it that people who've had storied careers, right? are not being given like the time of day, they are like almost cast aside. But when you think about how companies in the past like usually just give out retirement packages, and you sail off into the sunset and you don't have a role anymore. Like I've always thought that that is such a shame. And I've also grown up in a society where people who are older, your elders are truly your elders, their source of wisdom. That is what I would like us as a society, especially here in North America, to like recapture I think many of us come from those types of cultures. And, let's do that. Let's have also let's embrace what ageing is going to be, of course, the demographic shifts are happening as we speak. And by the time like 2060 rolls around, like there's going to be close to 100 million people over the age of 65, just in North America alone, in the US alone in these types of numbers that are like really staggering. And you look at, for instance, ageing societies like Japan, for instance, or parts of Europe, and you see the greying of those populations and how they are handling it. I think that there's so much more of a need to address that here now. 29:23 Gaurav Thank you, Vanessa, for sharing that because the moment you said that, the moment you do something for others, it gives you immense happiness. At the same time, the conversation went into when you said that ageing is the most acceptable form of discrimination. And when you said that something shifted within me, you know, I had the privilege of interviewing somebody known as Ravi Kalra. He's based out of Gurgaon in India, and he works with old age care. I've had the privilege of doing some work with Helpage India. And on one hand, when you are talking about, in our culture, we truly look at elders as elders so that we can tap into the wisdom. But on the grassroot level, the condition is very different as well. Now, what you are talking about is not just that you can actually regulate the knob in one direction and everything is going to shift. On the other hand, we are talking about changing the culture, we are changing, we are talking about changing the context in which people are born into and the way people treat their elders. I don't know much about the North America, but what I know is, definitely in our culture, whether we are talking about India, we are talking about Indonesia, or the Asian culture that we are talking about, right? People do consider their elders as elders, no doubt, we have got joint families, and still, we have the culture of joint families, which is not the case with the Western culture. How are you looking at this? Because I'm sure there's going to be a mammoth task, What do you think could be done at an individual level? at a family level? at the society level? at a global level? 30:50 No, I think there's now increasing awareness that intergenerational communities are just that much, they are just so much more rewarding and richer for all individuals involved. I happen to be a part of an intergenerational community, in the alumni community for Harvard, my alma mater, where is one of the greatest joys of the work that I do is that I get to meet and work with alumni from all different classes. In terms of the college classes, or from the graduate schools, like there are some of the alumni that I work with who were graduates 50-60 years ago, of the University and thinking about what's top of mind for that is something like it's a gift to me every day because I feel like I'm learning from them every single day. Also, at the same time, I get to work with current students and recent alumni. And that's an equal gift as well, just in terms of their optimism, and you know, their skills and how they want to apply their skills to make things better, especially when we are talking about the climate crisis, for instance, I think that if you look at what are the challenges of today, you need to have that type of lens, and people are realizing like, we need to have that type of not only a diverse lens but also, like truly, bring everyone around it to contribute. And so that's already starting, and I'm seeing some businesses, like being really successful at matching people of different generations to one another. So there's this one company called 'Papa' here in the US, what they do is they are providing non-medical companions. So usually, people who are, for instance, they could be students, like medical students, or nursing students, or just people who are who have the capacity to help others with older adults who need help in day to day transportation needs, or maybe technical help, or just to have someone to talk to you. And they are now a unicorn. And, you know, what's interesting is that the findings are also backed by payers who are looking at the results where the older adults are getting companionship, and it decreases your sense of loneliness and isolation. And at the same time, for the people who are Papas not only do they get compensated for it, but for them, it's a very rewarding relationship. You know, these are the types of models that need to be built in, I think, in the past where, you know, there was like, the whole notion of senior living, if we think about that, where you go into a care facility, like assisted living or independent living or a nursing home was only because people needed a level of care, that was really great. And they didn't want to be a burden on their family. So I think if you think about the essence of where these industries came from, it came from like a sense of love for your family, you did not want to be a burden. You said, "Okay if there's a place for me to be taken care of, I'm going to go there." But now it's almost like the accepted form of "Oh, we should put people away." I think that there needs to be more of going back to the drawing board. This is about care. What's the best way of delivering that? And how can you bring it into the home? Yes, not everybody can live in like an intergenerational environment like you and I have, are used to growing up. But certainly, there's something that can provide the types of communities that we all desire. 34:41 Gaurav This is so interesting because you know, when we are talking about old, my definition of old when I was a teenager was anyone who's in 20’s, right? And I got into my 20’s Anyone who's in 30’s is old. When I got into my 30’s Anyone who's in his 40’s, is considered old. When I'm just starting my 40’s, anyone who's in 50’s is considered old. But interestingly, if I look at my own self, nothing much has shifted, the way I used to look at life is more or less, I look at life in a similar fashion, but at the same time and we look at when I look at others, I create a wall for myself, which is very invisible and you said it so well, that ageing is the most acceptable form of discrimination consciously, unconsciously, knowingly or unknowingly I have created a wall. That's one part of it that I would like to dwell into the second part that you are talking about creating a model that could allow people to come into, not only cultural, but intergenerational people can come together and learn from the wisdom. 35:45 Vanessa I've always thought into your point, right? When I was in my teens too, I thought people in the 40’s, like, wow, that is just so old. Or I remember when I was in college, just thinking about people coming back to campus for their 25th reunions, right, they are in their late 40’s. And like, oh, my gosh, like, they are towards the end of their lives, you know, which could be so farther from the truth. But it's true. Like, it's like, my psyche has not really changed all that much since I was, maybe like 25 is like, probably when it's settled. And, you know, I think about how, the notion of time and how the, you know, the days are long, but the years are short, and how I've always been more about reflecting on the moments in my life, like, how am I going to spend the next decade? How am I going to spend like the next 30 years? And I feel like, it's such a waste to think about like how, okay, the first, you know, 18 years of your life, or 20 years of your life, it's about education. And usually what happens is that the next 20 is about laying a foundation from a career perspective. And the next 20 After that is about like, you know, kind of being able to nurture all of the foundations that you have built to create wealth, or whatever it is, and then the last phase, it's like, oh, you go and you go away, and you travel, and you got to play golf, and then you are not contributing anymore. It's like, Is that the end state? Is that the end goal? No! like, if you are a lifelong learner, you want to keep learning, you want to keep learning. And I want to be thinking about what's next. And I spent a lot of time with people who are, you know, people are in their 60’s and 70’s. And the types of people I get to spend with I'm lucky like with the Harvard community, they are always thinking about what's next. You know, we talk about the climate crisis, how can we battle that? We are talking also about web three! What are the opportunities around that? Or we are also talking about how do we, like address, the discord that's now plaguing our society where we can't even have civil conversations with one another? How do we do that? That type of curiosity and desire to change and to learn does not go away. So I feel that if you can unlock a way for people to continue finding their purpose, later on in their lives, think about how much better our society would be if we are able to do that. So that's why I feel like this is a very important calling I'd like to dedicate my time to. 38:34 Gaurav Isn't that so beautiful? It doesn't really matter if you are a graduate from any of the Indian universities, or you are a graduate from Harvard doesn't really matter if you are illiterate, or you are a graduate and an entrepreneur sitting in the Silicon Valley. Right? Interesting. Every time I speak to people, people talk about this very basic, how would that be in case we can live our life from a space of purpose, this is so beautiful. Now, let me just dovetail what you spoke about initially on the conflict management and what we are talking about right now finding your purpose. At the same time, one of the callings that you are taking the stand for is doing something for ageing. Now, this is so interesting, Vanessa that every time I speak to people, very often I hear people talking about that we should do something for old-age care. But when I look at their own respective lives, I find that they are dealing with some of the other conflict with their own parents. And that's what I would like to dovetail these two concepts that you are talking about. On one hand, you have got conflict management, you are doing some study on that. On the other hand, ageing as well. What do you think when it comes to dealing with your own parents? Where does that conflict emerge from? 39:43 Vanessa Yes! It's about giving people autonomy and agency and when I think about my parents are now 79 and 81, and they are still working by the way here in New York. My mom is no longer Selling sunglasses watches, but she has a dazzling studio. And so she crystallizes things for brands and also for celebrities. And my father continues to work as a lawyer in the New York City Chinatown community. And in the beginning of the pandemic, when things were quite-quite dicey here in New York City, we fled the city, we rented a house through Airbnb upstate, where basically, my parents could live with my husband, my kids and me. And I remember towards like, maybe three or four months in and where things were still closed in New York. And my father said, Well, I want to go back to the city. And I said, like, No, you can't, it's still so dangerous. And it was just because he was like, I feel like my purpose is down there. And, you know, for him, it was like, "Wait, am I here, because like I want to be?" We were all, of course, like, trying to stay safe. But the whole notion of who drives a decision making then, that's something I want to really just keep at the heart of like I want to make sure that my parents still have that agency to call the shots. And that's something I would always want to, as long as possible, be able to support like, unless they don't have the faculties to do so anymore. But it is like a fine line, like, yes! you care so much about a person, but then they, you know, they might be getting more frail over time. Does that mean, you have to baby them, though? I don't think so. And that is like what I'm trying to, you know, actually address head-on, like, a lot of the companies out there right now, for the last 20 years I've been in this space, has that lens that oh, you know, as a caregiver better than the person who's older, it's almost like very, very much like you are talking down and you are like thinking that your loved ones who are older, cannot think for themselves, I think it's the opposite. You have to respect how they feel and how they think. 42:14 Gaurav Wow, that's a million-dollar response, Vanessa, it's definitely a pause moment for me because, in my mind, the closest I could think of is about a need for control. And the identities that both these generations are operating from, according to them, you are a child, and you will always remain the child. But there at one point in time, when you are considered as somebody you have some stature or some status outside your home, you don't see look at yourself as a kid. And when you come back home, you carry that identity as well without realizing that you are talking to your father. And the father also does not realize that now the Son has grown up. And that's where the conflict gets into the space, right without realizing, only if we are able to look at each other, from a different lens with respect with love with care with compassion, and without forgetting that the Father will always remain the Father, Mother will always remain the mother could be a possibility that one of the faculties might not be working. So I think that's a beautiful response that you have shared, Vanessa. Vanessa now, just picking up the same thread from here drawing the palette in the organization. What do you think? What are the possible reasons? Why do people get into conflict, When the heart aches for peace, When the heart aches for unity, at the deepest possible. 43:28 level? Vanessa I think so much of this is about wanting to feel heard, and not feeling like you can be heard. And also, I do think that a lot of our current way of living where you are just like behind a device, and you are only hearing one side, unconsciously, you become just even more close to other arguments because you feel like well, I know better because I've spent so much time doing XY and Z research. And this is where I feel like it's very important to have heart to heart conversations and to ask the why even, especially actually, when you meet somebody who has views that are very different from yours but to have the ability to say like why tell me about why you feel that way and tell me about you know, the data that you have seen tell me about, like, have you thought about this? Have you thought about that? there's like a there's this one person, I forget his name, I would need to look it up but um he's uh, he's black. He has gone around to Ku Klux Klansmen in the United States to talk to him like why do you have such hatred for people who are like me and he converts them? And he's done that again and again and again, just by having dialogue and, and to show like, you are human I think that because so many of us now are used to just like, only speaking through mouthpieces or just like not having the chance to talk, truly face to face. And then the last few years have certainly not helped. It's being in a pandemic, that is leading to a lot more conflict. And I think we need to relearn the skills of just speaking again, talking to your neighbours, and checking in with one another. 45:26 Gaurav And that's so beautiful because another friend of mine, his name is Vinay based out of Washington, DC, he often tells me that most of the conflicts can be resolved by having a conversation either with yourself or with somebody else. My teacher, Dr, Marilyn Atkinson, she often talks about that, changing the world, one conversation at a time. So Vanessa, what's that one conversation that you have not had? You are actually looking forward to have either with yourself or with somebody as a part of your life? 45:54 Vanessa That's a good question. I think for me, it's more about like, I'm always just thinking and trying to have the conversation with others, like, what is it that you want to be known for? you know, if we had to say, the VSA like this is this made me lead a very good life! That's how that's the type of conversation I want to have with people. Because then if you go towards that core, and that essence, you can connect with people on a much deeper level. 46:21 Gaurav you said, What you'd like to be known for? 46:24 Vanessa Yeah, what do you want to be known for? Gaurav So, Vanessa, I remember 46:27 our last conversation, where you left me with this question, which was a statement for you that, "Gaurav, I have not yet proven myself." So on one hand, there is a question for you that, what is that? What is that you have not proven to yourself? That's one and the second, what would you like to be known for? 46:49 Vanessa Yeah, just in terms of like, if I were to go back to me like I want to be known for having made a significant difference in other people's lives on a personal level like that's like what I want to have, but not just my loved ones, but like, I'd like to be able to affect 1000s of lives out there where people can say, you know, that helped me. And for them to be able to carry that type of feeling forward, to their communities and their loved ones as well. 47:27 Gaurav Thank you so much, Vanessa. I think all our conversations, they revolve around creating impact and making sure that there's happiness around us, within me. And as you mentioned, every time you do something for others, it gives you with a lot of happiness. And thank you so much for your time, it was an immense pleasure having you here, listening to a sharp lady with a bubbly voice and the childlike energy, which is always spreading happiness. Thank you! 47:55 Vanessa Thank you so much for having me Gaurav. This was such a thought-provoking conversation. 48:01 Gaurav One of my key learnings from this episode is, if you can unlock a way for people to continue finding their purpose later on in their lives, how much better our society would be. The question is, how can I unlock that way for people? By the way, what's your key takeaway from this episode? I would love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment and do review this podcast. And I look forward to meeting you again. Next week with yet another interesting conversation on the podcast, The xMonks Drive. Till then, stay safe. Thank you

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