By Edouard Gatignol

Early on from his childhood, Premal Shah sought a sense of belonging and understanding. Having grown up fully aware of how lucky he was regarding what he calls “the birth lottery”, he understood that having been raised in a loving and caring family was something that he would cherish throughout his lifetime. Yet, in the meantime, Premal experienced exclusion at school when he was discriminated for the color of his skin. This impacted him profoundly, and led on to forge the young man he would later become. His need for recognition and love pushed him to run for student council president at school- he thought that visibility would maybe make him more popular, and therefore be accepted by the other students.

He recalls an event that became pivotal in his approach to life: coming across a resume, a single sheet of paper that included one’s entire life story, helped him rethink his own. Premal became aware that doing things to be loved to seek attention wouldn’t get him anywhere and he started building from his own strengths. This new spirit of energy and desire to thrive led him to change attitude when he came back to school after the summer and enrolled in multiple activities. At that time, he questioned himself on what was most important to him: India, microcredit, and poverty were his answers, and therefore became his main priorities. Sorting things out and clearing his mind radically helped him become a better student and finish his studies full of self-confidence. After college, he joined what was the beginning of the Paypal adventure. This was a time that was stimulating as he was at the heart of building something that seemed to have an immense potential. He was doing what he loved, and work became an obsession. Nonetheless, he slowly started to wonder how he could combine both microcredit and Paypal. When he understood that this could not be done within the company, he began to feel disconnected with it. His main goal was to help the poorer, less advantaged, and microcredit would be the key to doing so.

Premal’s next move was to create Kiva: the world’s first online lending platform connecting lenders to entrepreneurs. Motivated by a desire to do good and to stick to an ethical, honest business development, he put all his time and energy in this new project. However when the Kiva board rejected his desire to become CEO, he felt deeply hurt. This is when he decided to turn to The Wellbeing Project. Premal applied to The Wellbeing Project because he was angry and disappointed, feeling he had put so much effort into something sincere and true. His experience as a participant of the Inner Development Program ignited a change in his vision of self-worth, ambition, and work. He learned how to deconstruct, dismantle, and undo everything that he had been taught over time in order to rethink and reevaluate his own happiness. Lacking a certain amount of tools due to the educational system in which he had been raised, Premal also learned knew ways of understanding himself. He left behind him many frustrations and difficulties he had accumulated over the years.

“If I had to summarize the before versus the after of participating in The Wellbeing Project, I’d say this: it helped me shift from fear based on operating system to one based on love. I feel like I can trust the unfolding of life, and follow what feels most enlivening. So much of my fuel was based on fear of not being enough. Now, I realize I am love. And no one is in the binary bucket of “admirable” or “inadequate”. It is quite the opposite, everyone else is love as well. This changes everything. “ Premal Shah

Now driven by a spontaneous desire to go where things will bring him, Premal is currently taking the time to rebalance his life towards family, health, and connecting with others. For his future, he focuses on being more dynamic and productive, and more involved as an activist. Although he has not yet found all the answers, it is with more confidence and energy that he is moving forward.

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