Sachin Shah is an Investor at AirTree, a venture capital firm with a mission to back the most ambitious Australian and Kiwi founders, building the iconic technology companies of tomorrow.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
My background involves a lot of disparate experiences but at my core I’ve always been interested in how I can use my finite time on earth to positively impact society at scale.
Finishing school: I wanted to work for the World Bank, hence I studied economics and finance (with philosophy and psychology sprinkled in-between). However, I soon discovered social enterprise which represented a perfect marriage of my interests in business and impact. I followed this curiosity working for a number of startups and helping build a disability tech startup with my dad.
During University: I started a podcast with my best mate called ‘The Sachin and Adam Show’. We are both endlessly passionate about the stories and drivers of the world’s most accomplished people. What started as an experimental hobby has quickly turned into the most impactful thing I’ve done in my career.
It has led us to interviewing a former Prime Minister, publishing an ebook, investing in awesome startups, speaking at events and so much more. The podcast has been a compass for my career and an outlet for my never ending curiosities.
After university: I decided to start my career off as a management consultant. Paradoxically I knew I was going to spend most of my career in tech/startups so I wanted to back solve for the other experiences I wanted to have in my life. Consulting was one of those experiences and I loved my time there.
Currently: I work in my dream job as a venture capital investor at AirTree. I get to meet the most ambitious founders and learn from incredibly smart people.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I split my week into ‘meeting’ vs ‘deep work’ days when possible. I’m an extrovert so there’s nothing that recharges me more than speaking to founders or other investors.
This is a typical ‘meeting day’.
- 7:15am: Wakeup, gratitude and journaling in the sun. I won’t check my phone for the first 30 minutes of the day.
- 8:00am: Cold shower and breakfast.
- 8:30am: Office commute and podcast. If I’m not listening to a podcast I’ll call my family.
- 9:00am: Emails, reading and any high priority tasks.
- 10:00am-4pm: Meeting founders, researching sectors, due-diligence on potential investments or sourcing new companies to meet.
- 4pm-6pm: Back behind the computer completing any outstanding tasks and usually sending a lot of emails.
- 6:30pm-7pm: Commute home, if I’m tired I’ll walk home with no stimulus and just let my mind wander.
- 7pm-8pm: Gym, run or yoga. If I’m extra lucky (and it’s summer) I’ll go for a surf.
- 1) 8pm-10pm: 2-3 nights a week I will attend a social event. This may involve a startup event for work, podcast meetings or a catchup with a friend.
- 2) 8pm-9:30pm: Other nights I’ll be home and do podcast work. This will involve research for episodes, editing, emailing sponsors or planning the next few weeks.
- 9pm-11pm: Writing, reflection, reading or wind-down time. I will try my best not to be working during this time.
On ‘deep work’ days I will start my day off sitting in a cafe for 2 hours. It’s important for me to not have my extra screen and change my environment for creative tasks.
3) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
When I was younger I was obsessed with optimising my routine to find ‘perfect balance’. Now I don’t seek balance, rather a great relationship with myself.
I’m a big believer that the most important thing in life is how you feel about yourself when you are by yourself.
How can your work-life balance enable you to have a great relationship with yourself? For some this may involve working 80h a week on something they love and for others it may be spending as much time on their hobbies. No-one can tell you one is right or wrong. Spending time reflecting on what you actually value is probably the most important thing you can do in life.
Even when I’m operating on all cylinders I have a few activities that are non-negotiable and fill my cup:
- Daily workouts
- See my family once a week
- 8h sleep
- Laughing with my friends
- Spend time in nature (ocean swim is the best medicine)
- Work on 1-2 goals outside of work. Currently I’m trying to become a better runner and writer.
4) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I’m a habit and routine nerd. I’m tempted to give a cookie cutter tech-bro answer but I’ll give my non-consensus takes.
- Started drinking coffee everyday: I used to only drink coffee 3-4 days a week to ensure I didn’t build tolerance and it always gave me a performance boost. Since I’ve transitioned to drinking it everyday my sleep has improved a lot. This is either placebo or my body responding better to receiving caffeine consistently.
- Walking without my phone: Leaving my phone at home and going for a walk feels like a complete reset. Ideas and thoughts, that were buried under quick dopamine hits, bubble to the surface.
- Calling my grandparents more: It makes their day which in turn makes mine. I don’t think many of us call our family enough.
5) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
- Siddhartha – Hermann Hesse
- Not Fade Away: A Short Life Well Lived – Peter Barton
- Greenlights – Matthew McConaughey
- The Tim Ferriss Show (common take but I’ve been listening to it for 6+ years and still love it)
- Huberman Lab (the way the information is distilled is such a gift to humanity)
6) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I’m currently really interested in how great right and left brain thinkers work. I’d be fascinated to read one about Leonardo Da Vinci, Barack Obama or Sigmund Freud.
7) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
This is more a reminder to myself than anything else. You can have everything in life but not at the same time. Ruthlessly go after the things you really care about because you won’t be around forever.
Don’t let anything get in the way of your relationship with yourself or the people you love. These relationships are universally the most meaningful thing in our existence on this floating rock.
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