Anjali Kumar is truly the definition of a titan of business. In addition to being the new Chief People Officer
and General Counsel at Cheddar and formerly the Founding Counsel and Head of Social Innovation at a little company that revolutionized eyewear called Warby Parker, the Brooklyn born first generation Indian American is also an author, attorney, advisor, speaker, and “idea acupuncturist.” Prior to joining Warby Parker, Anjali was Senior Counsel at Google where she was a commercial and product attorney and also curated and hosted the notable @Google Speaker Series featuring some of the most innovative thought leaders of our time. Her ridiculously impressive resume goes on and on (did we mention she is a frequent Ted Talks speaker?) but today we want to focus on her first book, Stalking God: My Unorthodox Search For Something To Believe In which just came out this week.
Now Kumar could have just written about her incredible career and work ethic but instead she chose to document her spiritual pilgrimage to tackle the very not-Googleable subject, “What is the meaning of life?” This was something that she began to think about a lot when she became a mother and wanted to share something on this complicated subject with her child. But she didn’t just read a few books or take a class. She went to Peru to learn from shamans, practiced transcendental meditation, convened with angels, and even worked with a medium to try to contact the dead. She completely immersed herself in finding out the answers to life deep questions. We had to talk to her about why she decided to tackle a subject like and in a book no less, how she did it with her tremendous career and personal life and what she learned.
First of all, why write a book like this? Did you have a turning point where you just knew
you had to write this?
Kumar: The birth of our daughter Zia nearly 8 years ago set me off on this journey. When Zia was born,
I found myself in a bit of panic when I realized that I didn’t know how I would answer the big
questions she would ask me one day — the kind that I couldn’t Google an answer to. Things like
“What happens when you die?” and “Is there a God?”. While I was raised with several religious
traditions, nothing felt like the perfect fit. So I set off to figure it out for my daughter — and
ultimately for myself.
How did you have time to do this as this was heavily researched and required a lot
of your time I imagine in addition to your very important role at Cheddar? How long did it
take you to write it?
Kumar: I did the research over the course of about 6.5 years — from a year after Zia was born through
turning in my final manuscript last May. I worked full time at Google for most of the time I was
researching and ultimately took a year and a half off from work to write the book. I joined
Cheddar this past fall after I turned in the final copy edits to my book at the end of the summer.
What was your favorite part about writing this book?
Kumar: Being able to write from home a lot was great — after working full time since I graduated law
school, the luxury of being home when Zia got home from school on a regular basis and when
my husband returned from work was one I didn’t take for granted. I felt like I got to know Zia on
a much deeper level by being around more in the afternoons as she went about her day.
I also spent a lot of time in our house near Hudson, New York while writing the book —
especially over the past two summers. Having long summer days stretched out in front of me
just to write was pretty magical.
What was the most challenging part of writing it?
Making sure I turned the manuscript in on time! I had nearly a year to write the first draft and there were many occasions where it was very tempting to blow off writing for a few days, or take in a movie midday or meet a friend for a late afternoon glass of wine — just because I could for the first time in my adult life! I gave into that temptation more often than I should probably
admit! But I did turn my manuscript in on time — early in fact!
Were their aspects of your roles at Warby Parker and now Cheddar you were able to
apply to writing this book?
The discipline of working in a fast moving startup served me well in setting a writing schedule for myself and sticking to it. Working in startups — especially in a senior executive role — you are often setting your own deadlines. You are accountable to yourself. The writing process was similar.
What’s your biggest piece of advice for women who are trying to balance a corporate
career and write a book or have a side hustle?
I think you can have it all, but not necessarily in equal portions or all at the same time. And I think that is ok. But perhaps think of your week almost like a bank account and try to not overdraw in one area during the week. And if you do, then just try to make a deposit in that area the next week.
When do you sleep?!
Haha, whenever I can! I try to get between six and eight hours a night — if not more! I love sleep.
But I meditate every morning which helps a lot…and I love a strong espresso.
Pick up a copy of Stalking God today!