In this series we meet inspiring over-50s who are re-defining the way we look at age. Here we meet R Sridhar, founder of the Energenie Academy. Let's hear his story.
Briefly share with us with your background. Where you grew up and what your childhood was like?
I live in Worli, Mumbai. My childhood was normal and healthy. My elder brother and sister are much older to me, so in effect, I was pampered by everyone. We hail from a traditional Tamilian household, with family values steeped in spirituality. Life was simple, minimalistic and functional.
How old are you now and what are you currently doing?
I am 51, and I am founder, Energenie Academy, which runs coaching and mentoring programmes for adults and youngsters in Personal Energy Management (PEM) and Journalism. I teach PEM for individuals, corporates, teachers and students in the form of free and paid workshops, online training and one-on-one sessions (called Total Energy Makeovers). I have also authored two books on the subject, one of which is a Amazon Kindle ebook. I also run a programme called The Journo Journey teach journalism in schools, to kids in housing complexes and to college students. I help them publish a newspaper with the children as the editorial board. In addition, I offer one-on-one journalism coaching, ghostwrite books and articles, and offer consultancy services in self-publishing and contract publishing.
For the majority of your career, what would you say you have been doing?
Watching people, their energy, behaviour patterns and understanding why people behave the way they do. We are dealing with people everywhere – family, social circles, work. Hence, it’s important to understand why people behave the way they do.
Life and every aspect of it fascinates me and I have always felt that what humankind knows is miniscule as compared to what there is to know. For the past 35 years of my life, I have been a seeker and student of energy and spirituality, of which 28 years were spent as a journalist. I was Senior Editor at The Times of India, and quit my job last year to pursue my passion of teaching Personal Energy Management full time.
Both, spirituality and journalism, are about people. So, observing people and learning about personal energy is what I have been doing for most of my life! And I have created teaching mechanisms to share what I have learnt.
What would you describe as the proudest moment of your career?
When I chose to quit my job in an institution like The Times of India and set out to create a new identity for myself. When I decided to let go of designation, salary et al to pursue my calling. It was a tough call – age was not on my side, the economy was tough and I am the sole bread earner. I felt good that I had the will and guts to follow my ikigai, regardless of what it takes. As a matter of fact, I mentally prepared myself to take that plunge because it’s more a psychological process than a physical one.
I first prepared my family over six months by constantly feeding them with the news that I may quit. This is because I come from a non-business background. This gradual infusion helped when I actually quit. Then I indulged in things that I have never done before – like snorkeling – that I have never done before. Basically, everything that helped me take the ‘plunge’. All these mental strengthening exercises helped me in taking the actual decision.
What has been the turning point in your career that led you to explore other avenues?
The turning point was in 1995 when I learnt the healing therapy called Reiki. It gave me an insight into the wonderful world of energy. It helped me heal myself of an ailment that doctors had said cannot be healed. I became a Reiki teacher and my expertise as a therapist earned me a column titled ‘Connect-Ticket’ in Bombay Times in 2001. The column became very popular and went on to become a global healing and support network by the same name (www.connect-ticket.org) which is still going strong today.
Subsequently I learnt other therapies and used to treat a lot of people, both physically and long distance. The inputs that I gained and my study of quantum physics helped me to create my course Personal Energy Management where I share my learning in healing, spirituality and energy through the prism of physics and maths.
My pursuit of this subject for such a long time eventually gave me the confidence to leave a full-time job and plunge into teaching PEM. That Reiki session changed me.
I have always worn two hats – I have been teaching Personal Energy Management for the past 15 years, and I have been a journalist for 28 years. At some point, about five years back, I felt my job as a journalist had stopped becoming soul-satisfying, and I could distinctly and intuitively feel that my calling was in spreading the knowledge of energy management as also journalism, and helping a cross-section of people in managing their energy well. I felt I would be more valued if I pursued that.
With regards to journalism, I have been mentoring youngsters for over 15 years, and I have always marveled at their ability, confidence and guts. I felt they would do much better with some mentoring, and that’s where The Journo Journey programme helps me to make better use my skills.
When not at work, what brings you joy? Could be hobbies or passions in life? What do you most enjoy about them?
I try to explore my skillsets in a variety of ways. I practise digital art, cartooning, therapy, punning, singing and thinking out of the box. I try to make time for all of them in some way or the other, because I feel one should stay connected with passions that provide you with energy.
Does it bother you that you are now older? When does it bother you the most?
It’s not a bother but I desist from discussing my age. I learnt this from my late father who used to never talk about his age. And somehow that helped him in looking much younger. I try to think like a 30-35 year-old and pursue stuff that’s applicable to that age. I feel the body ages faster when you think ‘old’. The body will age and we have no control over that. But the mental age is in our hands, isn’t it?
What advice would you give to those who are older and exploring second careers?
We live in a fascinating world – one that’s full of opportunities. It’s a paradox that technology has made our lives simpler in terms of communication and commute, but we are also facing job loss and more stress. The dynamics of the job market have totally changedtoday. During our parents’ generation, a ‘permanent’ job was considered a safe bet. Today, you may have a permanent job, but you can be dismissed from your job at any point. You are just a number when the management decides to sack people. There is this saying: “The moment you move to protecting the status quo instead of disrupting it, you put yourself at risk.” That’s the challenge – to know at what point you are protecting and defending what you know, instead of looking at what else you can learn and how you can grow,
Therefore, it’s important to have a second line of income which doesn’t conflict with your main job. Something small, something to fall back on in case you lose your primary job. Today, employees do not give this importance, and find themselves trapped when they lose their jobs, and don’t get a new one. You should plan flexibly and be ready to pivot in your career if necessary. Always have a Plan A, B and even Z in your back pocket.
In my case, I didn’t want to ‘retire’ from my job. I don’t believe in this concept of retirement. The moment we succumb to the notion that we have ‘retired’, it means we have subconsciously instructed our body to slow down and therefore ‘age’.
I congratulate people who reinvent themselves at a later stage in life. This community of people have truckloads of experience, the right attitude, gumption, skills, resilience and have seen ups and downs in business cycles. It would be foolish to let all this knowledge lie unused.
I have always believed that there is nothing called unemployment. It only means you have not adapted yourself to fit the market need. If you can find a pain point or need in society and you have a service or product to meet that need, and if you can create a mechanism whereby you can get paid for that service or product, you have a business for yourself. One just needs to explore, observe society, have the confidence and take the plunge.
What keeps you motivated to stay productive?
Well, there is so much to know and learn in this ever-changing times we live in. And the subject that I research and teach, ‘energy management’, in inexhaustible in terms of the knowledge base it offers to learn. Also, I get a kick out of creating a brand, nurturing it and creating a robust equity around it. That keeps me going.
Which aspect of work gives you the most joy? (Salary, designation, team, purpose etc) and why?
Purpose. My job should enable me to contribute towards society, and that effort should get me the right compensation, right position and a great team. That’s the ideal scenario. Journalism is one career when you can fulfill your sense of purpose provided you don’t lose your larger personal goal in the rigmarole of the job. I quit my job once my liabilities (read housing loan) got over.
How would you say your approach to work has changed since you first landed a job?
Increase in confidence levels, communication skills particularly writing, leadership skills, time and team management. Also, the ability to think big and get exposed to a whole of lot of happenings and people in the world.
What advice would you give to your 30 year old self to prepare for a 100 year life?
That, spend about 10-15 years to earn well. Invest that money well to create a good corpus. Resign and reinvent yourself at 45, start a new venture, create employment and create revenue streams that do not depend on your physical presence. When you do that, you can live your life well till 100 without worrying about finance because that will automatically come in. We live in favourable times because the Internet offers huge opportunities. It would be a pity to not learn, practise and utilize at least some of them.
What advice would you give to companies who are not sure if they should hire older talent?
Companies hire based on skillsets but companies run well when the energy of the employees is good. And theirenergy can be good only if they know how to manage the ups and downs in business cycles with equipoise. That skill comes with experience. It comes with the ability to manage energy. Skills help up to a point, but an experienced workforcetakes a company to the shore. Hiring older talent can help instill resilience in the company, but the older talent needs to be thinking young. That’s the catch: simply hiring holder talent will not help. Mentally, the older guys need to be as young as the younger talent in the workforce. That’s when they can be parity.
Where can people find out more about you? Here’s where you could share your blog link / Linkedin profile etc