Live By Your PERSONAL STANDARDS to Make Your Life More Exciting w/ Shivali BhammerNov 30, 2021
Welcome to episode 24 of the Mindful & Driven podcast! It’s all about how to not lose sight of what really matters whilst chasing your dreams.
Episode 24’s guest is Shivali Bhammer. She’s not your average person who works in an investment bank. She’s a devotional singer who has released three albums, including two that topped the Apple charts. She’s also a dancer and was classically trained at the Royal Academy of Ballet in London and holds a first-class diploma in Kathak. She’s acted in and written her own plays as well as having written for the Financial Times. If you’re wondering how she fits this all in, so was I and that is what we get into this conversation.
I hope you enjoy listening to our conversation! I’d love it if you could subscribe, leave me a review and follow me on social channels.
- You can find all my work and socials here: http://amardeep.co
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- United for Global Mental Health: https://unitedgmh.org/mental-health-support
- Find more about Shivali: https://www.shivali.co.uk/
- Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/shivaliartist
- Follow her on Instagram: https://www.shivali.co.uk/
Topics discussed in this episode:
- Why it’s important to follow your personal standards.
- How to stick to what’s important to you. How to make your life more fulfilling.
- You want to live your life the way YOU want to live it.
- How to make career decisions that align with your personal goals.
- How to reduce the risks tied to your creative career.
- How to take control of your career decisions.
- How to balance your life when pursuing more than one career path.
- Money gives you the freedom to enjoy the things you love.
- Introduction (0:00)
- A prescription method of life (1:43)
- Shivali’s artistic world and learning from her decisions (8:35)
- Carrying confidence, challenges, and regrets (10:58)
- Judging ourselves for the choices that we make and taking more risks (19:22)
- Living your best life (27:31)
- “Never put yourself down.” – Shivali (29:34)
[00:00:00] Shivali: Figure out what you love, figure out what gives you joy. Work extremely hard at it. So it’s not like, just go and do what you want and screw the world and screw your parents, and you know, that’s not what I’m advocating. You don’t need to live like anybody else. You need to live like you, and if you have that kind of confidence, then your life will likely be far more exciting and far more fulfilling.
[00:00:34] Amardeep: Welcome to the Mindful and Driven Podcast, where we help you to not lose sight of what’s really important whilst chasing your dreams. Today’s guest is Shivali Bhammer. She’s not your average person who works in an investment bank. She’s a devotional singer who has released three albums, including two that topped the Apple charts. She’s also a dancer and was classically trained at the Royal Academy of Ballet in London and holds a first-class diploma in Kathak. She’s acted in and written her own plays as well as having written for the Financial Times. If you’re wondering how she fits this all in, so was I and that is what we get into this conversation.
[00:01:05] Welcome Shivali. It’s great to have you here.
[00:01:07] Shivali: Thank you. Great to be here.
[00:01:08] Amardeep: So you’ve got a very interesting story, obviously. So you started off in finance and then you went into the music world and now you’ve kind of come full circle again, which is quite an interesting path, and now you’re balancing both finance and your music career and the other creative things you do. And I think there’s a path which isn’t very common. So I’m going to be excited to learn more about that in this podcast. But the first thing I want to start off with is what’s some common advice you hear people tell others that you disagree with?
[00:01:32] Shivali: That’s an interesting question, actually. I don’t know if I hear a lot of common advice, but I do know that traditionally we’ve always been given the advice of staying and living within the lines that were created for us. So whether that be, keep a simple, straightforward life, you know, have a secure job, go be a doctor, go be an accountant, marry the girl next door, or the guy next door, have the wedding at the Indian hall down the road, have two babies, call it a day, life is perfect and then you’ll be happy. And whilst I don’t have anything against that concept, what I do think is wrong is giving the advice that a prescripted method of life can lead to happiness because it’s simply not the case, and it’s an insult to the creative individuality that we all possess. And so I think a better way or the way that I would advise someone is figure out what is unique to you. Figure out what you love. Figure out what gives you joy. And work extremely hard at it, but have some form of security. So it’s not like, just go and do what. You want and screw the world and screw your parents, and you know. That’s not what I’m advocating. I come from an academic background. I believe in having a safety net and it’s helped me so, I mean, it’s helped me in every juncture of my life, but what I would say is that we don’t need to play it safe and we don’t need to feel that we can only gain happiness and contentment by having a life that is similar to others. You don’t need to live like anybody else. You need to live, like you. And if you have that kind of confidence, then your life will likely be far more exciting and far more fulfilling.
[00:03:50] Amardeep: Yeah. It’s a good point and I think what’s interesting is that the common advice that people hear really depends on what world they come from. So for example, I’ve had people in the podcast who have come from like Silicon Valley and they’ve come from California. and Los Angeles, and they might hear the exact opposite advice of what you’ve heard. They’re always told, like go out there and take risks and do think and smash things and see what you can do. Whereas I guess the advice you heard and people around you were telling you is to play it safer. And I guess it’s kind of the cultural background, it’s different aspects and the different worlds that people come from. Where the kind of prevailing path is different.
[00:04:29] Shivali: Yeah, exactly. I think you’re right in that it is a cultural thing for sure. Ask any Indian and they will likely feel quite similarly. Now I didn’t come from parents who had that mindset. I had, I come from parents who were like, go try everything and go and smash it and conquer the world. I have and I haven’t, you know, I think success is very relative and you ask a successful person if they feel like they’ve succeeded and they’ll probably tell you no. Because it’s success is a state of mind for me, at least. But yeah, no, I agree with what you’re saying and just depends what perspective you’re coming from and what kind of advice you get.
[00:05:09] Amardeep: Because you mentioned before, you’ve always been creative, so I think you said when you were seven years old, you were writing songs and plays even back then. So do you think it was like something you’ve always had in your life where you wanted to take a creative path or at some point in life, did you not think that was even possible, you’ve mentioned about becoming a doctor or becoming this or becoming that? Or did you always have that resolve throughout?
[00:05:34] Shivali: So I think you have certain talents that are innate to you, and that definitely happens for artists. You know, you cannot just, you can learn to paint, but you won’t necessarily ever be a painter, right? Same, you can, you can learn to sing, but you won’t necessarily become a singer. A lot is dependent on the way the cards of life play out. In Sanskrit, we have a word called swabhav, which means your nature and your natural way of being. So my natural way of being was definitely singing, dancing, writing. You know, I’d create a fake magazine at like the age of nine and lo and behold, I wrote for the FT and, you know, I write, I’m a freelance writer for, for newspapers or, you know, I formed a fake band that was called sugar tangle with some friends, I mean just awful name but some good songs. And lo and behold, I got a record deal and became a singer. I used to write really weird plays as a seven year old and make my best friend at the time, act out with me and act and play them and put them on for like the people who lived in our, in her house. And then I ended up writing an award-winning play a couple of years ago. So definitely everything I’ve done as a child has, has translated into reality how successfully it has translated is a whole other question and answer. But I think. You know, I think I knew that I was always good at it. What I, what I think was my drawback, and in some ways it’s turned out to be a positive was that I was conditioned to be academic as most Eastern children or children from Southeast Asia, south Asia are taught to be. So I was taught to go into a good school. I was taught to get the best result possible for GCSE and A levels and have a solid career. And that, that confused my mind because suddenly I had two parts that I was very much interested in, which was finance and the arts. So arts is what came naturally to me and finance is what was conditioned into me, but happily. And so, had I just, you know, had I just gone for the arts and had the confidence just to be, you know, that I could smash it in that scene when I was 16, my choices might have been very different, but had I not made it, then I wouldn’t have had finance to fall back on and thank God I have finance to fall back on. So it’s, it’s really did difficult to figure out. It’s, yeah, I think my life is just a hodgepodge mess, in reality.
[00:08:16] Amardeep: One thing’s interesting. So for me, I discovered I was good at writing or I enjoyed writing only last year. So I think I say that as a kid, I did use to write stories, but then I basically just abandoned it from the age of seven or eight and then came back to writing again, 20 years later literally. Did you have anything like that? Where, because you’re in the creative world now, I guess you interact with people from all different kinds of backgrounds. Was there any new thing that you picked up in adulthood, which you hadn’t tried up before in terms of the creative side, which you found actually, you’re pretty good and you enjoyed that too.
[00:08:55] Shivali: So my artistic world was always split into writing, singing, dancing, and acting. And I can, I have continued all four in some shape or form, but like children, they all grow at different stages and they all have issues at different times and you have to focus on different things and and they give you pleasure at different times and things like that. So they’ve been peaks and troughs with all of them. And within those four, I have experimented. So for example, I trained in Western classical singing music. So English vocal. And obviously I went into Bhajans. My Bhajans are my albums. I’ve been doing that for the last decade, but in the pandemic, I went back and I got a Western vocal singing coach and I’m having lessons, you know, singing like Etta James songs and that kind of thing. and that’s purely just for fun or, you know, I think I mentioned to you when I lived in New York, I couldn’t continue my Kathak training there because my guruji was in London. So I thought, well, what do I do? And I went into competitive Latin, and I started competing in tango, and samba, and ramba, and chacha, and paso doble and that, and that was a whole different experience. So I’ve always been into the same thing, but I am interested in all different avenues of it. You know, one, I’ve made a bunch of English songs that nobody knows about that never went anywhere, even though I think they’re pretty good, but,
[00:10:32] Amardeep: Well maybe somebody listening today will go and seek those out?
[00:10:35] Shivali: Yeah, maybe .
[00:10:37] Amardeep: So going back to like, when you were doing fine, and you were doing creative side. So once you left university, you guess you had a decision to make in some ways, right? So I know you went straight into finance and that was your full time role, but then at the same time, not long afterwards, you got a record deal. And how did that change things and how did you kind of make those decisions between two things, which was one was a childhood passion, and then one was a passion that had kind of grown over time?
[00:11:09] Shivali: I think when you are 22, And you convince Sony music to sign you, you never walk away from that. And I convinced them. It wasn’t that they landed on my doorstep and were saying, hey, we love you so much. It was me who said to them, hey, you need, you need to sign me. We need to release this Bhajan album. I’ve come up with something contemporary and completely different. And I really, really had that confidence. Where did I get that confidence? Well, I did a sales and trading internship at Goldman, which nearly killed me. And that gave me tons of confidence to believe that there is nothing in this world that I would never, ever be able to do. And I have carried that confidence with me ever since those days. It was a very easy decision. I didn’t even think about it twice. Now was it difficult? And did it come with challenges? And do I look back and think, oh, if only I’d been older and wiser and just had a little bit more time, I could have made certain decisions differently. I could have handled certain things better and you think, you know, so much and in your twenties and. Then you hit thirties and you think, god, I was just so stupid. so definitely a lot of hard lessons that came after that. So I have all the confidence and then I have all the problems that come after that.
[00:12:38] Amardeep: But it’s one of those things I think, I can’t remember [unintelligible], if you live each year and you think you are stupid the year before, that’s good because it means you’re growing right. That you should think like, like me a year ago, like I made so many stupid decisions, but as long as each year, I can kind of keep acknowledging that I’m smarter than I was a year ago, I still, I still make dumb things, but I don’t know about it now. I’ll know about it in six months time. Like why did I do that for?
[00:13:02] Shivali: Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. It’s, it’s an look, it’s a natural evolution of life, of humanity, of your self, of soul. So that’s the direction we are going at. It’s a discovery of oneself. So yeah, hopefully you’re moving in the right direction.
[00:13:19] Amardeep: But it’s also an interesting point you mentioned about having the confidence because you need to kind of believe in yourself or have that confidence, even though you’re probably wrong, because if you just hesitate, then nothing ever happens. You’ve got to try something and if it fails, it fails, but in a way you have to believe really stronger that you are right. So that you can make the decision and learn from it in a year’s time. And it’s what you did. And what were some of the problems that did come up? So was New York, was that as part of the music career or was that with the finance?
[00:13:52] Shivali: That was after. That was, that was a mix of finance and arts. You know, the problems came when I was living in Mumbai after just before my first album came out and it was, it was very hard. I was told I had to lose weight. I was told I had to wear this or wear that for this event and everything I did was controlled and I didn’t like it. Now, looking back, I realize that’s how artist management works, but I wasn’t used to being bossed around and had I allowed myself to be bossed around a lot, then perhaps I would be a complete superstar now, who’s undergoing depression. And instead I’m not, but I’m mentally quite healthy. So, you know, that was hard. And I think after my first album came out, the first album did so well and it was nominated for two Global Indian Music Awards. It was first of its kind, it was number one on various charts and then my second album came out and that did really, that did really well. But after that I was lost and I thought, god, now what? What exactly am I doing? And the problem with success is the high you get declines with the number of successes you have. if that makes sense. So the high I felt from that Bhajan project and that Sony music first album, I will never get that high again. And so you, which is why a lot of artists suffer, which is why I chip is kind of different. It’s because we’re chasing to try and feel that rush. And we just can’t get that hit. And it’s very similar to drugs. I assume I’m not a drug user, but I assume it is very, very similar. Or it’s the reason why people drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes or whatever it is. Right. You’re just looking for that rush again. and that’s what makes it difficult to be an artist. And that’s where finance actually helps me because working in finance is a stabilizer. It’s an anchor. Some people have their husbands or wives as their anchor or, you know, their parents or whatever it is. I actually have a different career as my stabilizer. And I’m eternally grateful for that because it does everything that a partner or, you know parents or would do. It provides you with security. Some form of love, even though it’s different and protection and it distracts you. And when, so when the chips are down, I just work even harder at my day job.
[00:16:40] Purely money. Yeah. So it’s been it’s been four years since I went back and. Funnily enough. My artistic career has really has continued to blossom. So I’ve actually achieved a lot artistically in the last four years, despite actually having gone back and that’s perhaps because I have the financial flexibility from my day job that allows me to invest more in the things I love. And what triggered me to go back while I was living in New York, and as an artist, my choice was either to be poor and live somewhere really, really far away from Manhattan and struggle or to capitalize on the fact that I come from a finance background. I studied economics and get a job that pays well. And it’s good. It’s good. It’s good to have money cuz it gives you freedom. And anybody who pretends like it doesn’t, it’s just not true. It gives you freedom, freedom to enjoy the things you love even more.
[00:17:44] Amardeep: Hi everyone. I hope you’re enjoying the episode so far. I want to take a quick break to ask you to check in with yourself. There’s many people struggling with balance and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. It’s tips that my guests might share can hopefully help you along the way, but if you already feel overwhelmed or burnt out, it’s probably best that you ask somebody for help too. For some, this might be a friend or family member, while others might feel like they have nobody they can talk to. If you’re one of these people, check out the link in the show notes, it’s for United for Global Mental Health. They’ve got health plans all across the world, with people willing to listen on the other side. It’s important to let somebody know how you’re feeling. Now, back to the show.
[00:18:21] And I agree what you said there about, for me, like I quit my job to go full time into what I’m doing and it is doing well enough, but if I had to rely on this and every time an article didn’t do well, every time I didn’t have something to do, I would panic. Whereas now I know that I’ve got my savings from my consulting career. That the worst that can happen, there is no real worst case scenario. The worst case scenario is I don’t earn money for a few months, and I decide to go back to my job, which is what I was doing anyway. So I haven’t really lost anything. And I think that’s quite important for sometimes people to realize is that you don’t need to be kind of a martyr and you need to give up everything to try and be creative or to do your own thing. You can have another job that you build up your savings. You can keep working. So you don’t need to kind of like, worship at this altar of you need to like struggle and struggle and struggle before you can succeed. You can actually have some balance like you’ve got at the moment.
[00:19:22] Shivali: Yeah, I think so. And I think it’s also just a personal choice. Each to their own. If you want to, if you want to struggle and you feel, you want to just focus and you care less about protecting yourself financially, fine, go ahead. Like there’s no judgment. And I think that’s what we have to move away from. We just need to stop judging ourselves and other people for the choices that we make.
[00:19:52] Amardeep: Yeah. Do you find you were able to take more creative risks because you had the job as well, because, I know, for example, let’s say you had to have a hit album in order to make money because that’s what you’re going to live off of. You might make different decisions because you might go even more mainstream or appeal to an older audience rather than doing what you really loved.
[00:20:12] Shivali: .Yeah, absolutely. I, you know, I have chosen to only do devotional music really, and to be known for devotional music, and that is because I have the freedom to do that and it’s really important to me. So look, I’m not, I’m not known as, as a global superstar, but for those who know the devotional scene or the urban Bhajan scene, then I’m the superstar of that. I’m like, I’m like the number one person in that field because I created that field. And so those things are important to me. I created a niche market that never, ever existed. I’m mainstreamed, devotional, Bhajan music, and that never existed. And from that, so many people have been inspired to do like mantras and modern contemporary versions of spirituality and more so the things that touch me is the fan mail because I’m not just getting fan mail that’s like, oh my god, I love you. Like, you’re awesome. It’s it’s hey, I, you know, I received a fan mail from a, from a girl many years ago and she said she was considering committing suicide and she was just, she was just about to try, and my Bhajan came on for whatever reason. She had a playlist and suddenly my just randomly came on and she said, I listened to your voice and I couldn’t do it. And you changed my life. And it isn’t me, of course. It’s this devotion and the song and it’s the spirituality and it’s God’s grace. So, you know, or consciousness, it’s not actually me, but it’s, that’s why I do this. And money can’t buy that. Money can’t give you that satisfaction.
[00:22:10] Amardeep: Yeah. It’s like I said, money gives you the freedom to do the things that you want to do and be more creative and take risks. And rather than kind of almost corrupting it to make it as, profit making as possible. You can actually just do what you think makes the biggest difference. So at the moment what’s happening? So you are, you’re working, you’re doing singing. What’s the kind of struggles you have at the moment. So I think you mentioned you also dance as well, and there’s been some injuries recently?
[00:22:41] Shivali: Yeah. I had a, well, I pulled a muscle in my back and it was pretty bad. And I’m, you know, I’m a Kathak train dancer. I’ve done my diploma in Kathak and sort of, I did 18 years of ballet. So I’ve been dancing a long time and this was the first time I had a really severe injury and it put me out for two months and it was so difficult. And then it’s so hard to get back in because you become so lazy. So I’ve been booking this, just this, this dance studio room and just, you know, practicing and trying to retrain myself. And it’s so frustrating because it’s like going to the gym or anything, you just stop, and even though you have that muscle memory, it’s, it’s hard to get, get that sharp, sharpness back. .So, you know, it has been tough. It’s made me really appreciate and be grateful for the body that we have. And We can’t take these things for granted. We always think, oh, I always have tomorrow. I’ll always be able to do it tomorrow. We don’t all know that we always have tomorrow. We really, really have to embrace that we have the, that we can do it today, that we have two legs that can go and run around the block. And we won’t always be able to do these things.
[00:23:59] Amardeep: Yeah. I’ve, I’ve had a similar experience of injuries, so. I think where it’s literally half my life ago now I was told I’d probably not be able to play sport again. So I had like serious knee injuries and, but from that in the last, since that diagnosis, I became a karate black belt, I’ve done also dance, I’ve done lots of obstacle courses. And part of that with me, pushing through the pain to kind of prove a point, but I think now I’m the healthy acceptance point of like, I’ve got limitations, but there’s still a lot I can do and a lot I can train myself. And look after myself properly. And I guess for some of the people listening who might not necessarily know what Kathak is. Could you kind of explain a bit about that and your like grounding in it?
[00:24:40] Shivali: Yeah. So Kathak is a north Indian form of classical dance. It’s one of the oldest dance styles to exist in world history. It is made up of a couple of elements. One is intricate footwork. So you wear these hun, you wear a hundred bells, or sometimes I think 200 bells on each ankle and you dance with your feet barefoot. You make rhythmic patterns that are similar to like, to the tabla beat and to various beats. It’s really, really technical and really mathematical. And then the other part is a lot of very, very fast spins. So think ballet pirouettes, but think on the ground without raising your feet and then expression. So there’s a lot of storytelling. The word Kathak comes from Katha, which means to tell a story. So essentially you are telling a story and you are becoming that character and You are supposed to display different emotions. I think there are nine forms of emotion and convey them to your audience and sort of really capture your audience, whether it’s love, anger, lust, fury, pain, sorrow. So it’s very encapsulating and very, very technical and difficult, but anything worth doing requires discipline.
[00:25:58] Amardeep: Once you’ve got over the injury and you’ve got back to the kind of sharpness you want to be at, are you living your ideal lifestyle already or is there anything you want to change your work towards in the future?
[00:26:08] Shivali: In some ways I am leading my ideal lifestyle. I still have ambitions. I’m working on a lot of scripts, television scripts, film scripts, and so I have some ambition there that has yet to be realized. I have still have my, you know, third album to come out. And yes, I’m living my ideal life, but I think my life will continue, my desires will continue to change. Perhaps I’ll care more about family at some point, perhaps I’ll care more about being grounded and being more settled, so I think the concept of living your best life and living your ideal life is evolving and changing at any point in time.
[00:26:52] Amardeep: Mm-hmm . Yeah, but it’s for where your mindset is in the moment you feel like you’ve got the right balance, which is quite nice to hear.
[00:27:01] Shivali: Yeah, I think right now I have a really good balance. I manage to fit everything in because I invest a lot of time in myself, in spending time alone. I don’t believe in over socializing. I think you need to be a lot more strict, I think people should be a lot more stricter in how they spend their time. We live in a world where it’s we want to be at every party and know everyone, and be in every Instagram picture and story possible to show that we are living a full life, but actually fullness comes from allowing space in your life for things to flourish.
[00:27:41] Amardeep: But then you enjoy the weekends or you relax at the weekends at least.
[00:27:45] Shivali: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I’ll still be, I’ll still be dancing and working on artistic things and, but on yes, I will be going out, which will be different.
[00:27:56] Amardeep: So what’s one mindset shift you think people listening today could make in their lives that would make a positive difference?
[00:28:01] Shivali: I would say that, don’t put yourself down, never put yourself down. I do it a lot. So this is not, this is coming from personal experience. Never question what you’re doing and where you are relative to other people. We now live in a world where we have far too much information on other people’s lives. And we know far too much about what’s going on. We don’t need to uh, our lives and our paths are, are our own. And you should, we should have the confidence to out it. And we should have the confidence to know that what we are and what we do is unique and is special and carries weight. And it never has to look like anybody else’s.
[00:28:56] Amardeep: So it’s been a pleasure to talk to you Shivali. Where’s a place that people can hear more from you?
[00:29:00] Shivali: So Spotify, iTunes, Apple Play. If you search Shivali, I will come up, or shavali.co.uk. That’s my website. Instagram, Twitter, I’m around. I’m just anywhere everywhere.
[00:29:12] Amardeep: Perfect. And the final thing to end up on is, what’s one small thing that’s brought you joy recently?
[00:29:18] Shivali: Lots of little things bring me joy. I really, really love jacket potatoes. For some reason, I have this baked potato cheese obsession, and every time I make one, I just feel so happy. And it’s a really sunny day today, and I’m about to, by myself to get an ice cream while I continue my work. And Once scoop of ice cream is a whole lot of happiness in a cup.
[00:29:49] Amardeep: If you’re listening on Apple Podcasts, I’d love it If you could leave me a five star review, it really helps get the message out further. Wherever you’re listening, it would be awesome If you could subscribe and share in your social media channels. If you want to see more of my work and advice, you can find all of the links in the show notes.
Thank you again for listening and I hope you have a lovely day.
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