How Shreeraj Patel practices healthy living to drive results in all aspects of his life
Leading Well: An interview with Shreeraj Patel, Vice President of Commercial Financial Services at RBC
Shreeraj Patel is the kind of guy who connects with you in a way that resonates immediately. He sees you. He listens deeply to understand who you really are. And he connects with you to meet you wherever you’re at.
He’s not a typical suit you’d find walking downtown, bumping shoulders with others on the street in a rush to his next meeting. No, you’d find him at a coffee shop rocking a pair of Jordans, and even through a mask he’d recognize you, and greet you with a solid bro-shake.
Then, exactly a week later, you’d find him at another coffee shop and he’d drop what he was doing to come over and say hi.
That sounds weirdly specific doesn’t it?
Well, that’s because this encounter recently happened to me!
After he connected with me on LinkedIn three years ago, we would go on to have a few conversations via email, direct message, and phone. But as we pressed on through this seemingly never-ending pandemic, I finally met him not once but twice in the span of a week.
It was great to finally meet Shreeraj aka Raj, in person.
During our earliest conversations, I picked up on the energy he brings. He spoke so much of wellness not only of himself, but of his family, colleagues and the community. He told me about his obsession of powerlifting, and we instantly connected. I’m not into powerlifting, but if you start talking about picking heavy things up and putting them down, I’m gonna listen. Real intelligent, earth-shattering stuff here, I know.
I’m excited to share with you his perspective on wellness. I think you’ll really appreciate his insights, and hopefully you can integrate a few of these ideas into your own life. Let’s get to it.
How does taking care of your health and fitness impact your life as a whole?
For me, the elements of health and fitness need to be in balance to feel my best. It's an active pursuit for me, where I'm constantly mindful of the interdependence of the mind and body.
My ability to be the best husband, father, brother and son is tied to my psychological and physical health. I see happiness as a by-product of purposeful acts I practice daily, all geared towards greater spiritual and mental resilience and my overall well-being.
Why is self-care so important to you?
Self-care is a crucial practice I make every effort to make time for every day. Truthfully, there are days when I forget to create space for myself, but I sincerely appreciate the importance of self-care behaviours that help me navigate through daily stressors.
I try to focus on activities that nourish my mind and body. By simply checking in with myself forces me to slow my breath and calm my mind. The act of mindfulness helps me drive results in all parts of my life.
What are 3 health habits that you focus on the most, and why those specifically?
Meditation - It helps me slow the mind and calm competing distractions around me. Overall it seems to help me remove friction in my mind and sharpen my ability to concentrate and tackle a problem. The practice of meditation is a part of the Indian culture that dates back thousands of years. I credit my father for introducing me to meditation and mindfulness at a very young age.
Exercise - Since my late teenage years, my hobby has been lifting weights/powerlifting. I started doing Brazilian jiu-jitsu about three years ago (to keep up with my sons, who both compete in the sport). I love putting my body under pressure and strain - it forces mental and physical resilience that continues to motivate me here into my mid-forties. It's taught me perseverance but also regularly exposes my limitations. Through Brazilian jiu-jitsu, in particular, I've had to learn to control my stress response and focus more on the tension of the mind.
Diet - This is an area I am constantly battling but remains a significant focus. It's such an essential dimension of wellness. Fuelling our bodies in the right way helps us manifest optimal mental and physical health.
Who supports you on your health and fitness journey, and in what ways do they help you?
My wife and sons are a huge part of what keeps me motivated. My wife has fantastic health routines that she has passed on to my sons. I'm thankful my sons have her as a great role model. Now 15 and 12, they have been training in martial arts since they were 4. They are both Taekwondo black belts who have trained exclusively in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu these last four years.
Pre-COVID, I attended a powerlifting gym in Winnipeg for almost 12 years. I was lucky to have a dedicated trainer/coach keep me engaged and motivated with dynamic and challenging exercises that forced me to adapt and grow constantly. Around the same time as the pandemic began, my wife and I built a powerlifting gym in our basement that the entire family now uses.
What advice would you have for busy leaders, professionals, parents, or anyone looking to take control of their health and fitness habits for good?
We all must recognize that physical and mental health are critical life pillars that must be invested in—being actively engaged in developing and cultivating your wellness takes effort and time.
Give yourself the permission to put yourself first - making your mental and physical health a top priority. It's a necessary investment. Prioritizing healthy nutrition and mindfulness practices will help you unlock your long-term well-being.
What’s something that you tried that didn’t work for you, and what did you learn from the experience of trying it?
I tried CrossFit about 15 years ago. I deeply admire and appreciate the approach and methodology they apply. In particular, I liked the group training model. But after three weeks, I realized it was not for me.
The experience helped me source out a more traditional powerlifting gym, with more traditional movements but still provided a group-like training experience. Nothing beats a bunch of old dads trying to one-up one another in squat, bench and deadlifts lol
What's your guilty pleasure food?
Double Stuf Oreo Cookies
Favourite type of exercise and why?
Deadlift & Squat - the feeling of putting your central nervous system under so much strain that you may pass out is addictive.1
Favourite meal of the day and why?
Dinner - I love the time with my wife and sons to connect and talk about the day.
An activity you've never tried before but really want to?
My wife and I have talked about investing in some road bikes. I'm normally allergic to cardio-type activities, but I like the idea of evolving into2 this hobby with my wife.
A famous person you'd want to work out with and why?
Muhammed Ali. He's one of my childhood idols. He inspired me on so many levels. His speed and boxing IQ were revolutionary. He was also a pioneer, social innovator and disruptor beyond the sport of boxing.
If you could go back in time, what's one thing you'd like to tell your past self in regards to taking care of your health?
Great question. I have a few nagging injuries that I should have taken the rehabilitation more seriously, from a broken wrist and ankle from my teenage years as a skateboarder to a current torn ACL, MCL and meniscus from Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.
Active rest and rehabilitation are crucial to allow one to do more active sports later in life. I'm thankful that my Physiotherapist and Chiropractor are close friends that are always there to help put me back together again.
What to do next
Here are my key takeaways from my interview with Raj.
Make time for nourishing activities. I say it often, but it bears repeating: You can’t wait for time to fall into your lap, you must make it work for you by carving it out in advance. Whatever you choose to fill this time with is going to cost some level of energy. Do the things that nourish you, make you feel great, and help you build greater energy reserves in the future. You know, like eating well, exercising, rest, and mindfulness to name a few.
Find something to strive for. Raj loves how Jiu-jitsu and powerlifting gives him tangible goals to train for, and how it makes him feel mentally, emotionally, and physically. It’s crucial to find something that you can do that helps you gain a sense of progress, accomplishment, and constant milestones to work for.
Allow yourself permission to start with with yourself. As a leader, you’re busy caring for your family, friends, colleagues, and team. It’s easy to put others ahead of yourself. And this is a quality a leader must have. But a factor that separates a good leader from a great one is knowing that they can’t lead well if they aren’t practicing what they preach.
Be a mirror for the behaviour you wish to influence others with. Just don’t go sideways with this and start pushing extremes or unrealistic health and fitness goals!
About Shreeraj Patel
Mr. Raj Patel has an extensive background and involvement in the financial industry both in Commercial and Corporate banking for the last 18 years. Mr. Patel joined RBC in 2014 and was appointed to the role of Vice President, Commercial Financial Services in 2017. He is responsible for a diversified team that covers the industry sectors of Real Estate Development/Private and Public REITS, Construction Services, Public Sector, Supply Chain and Transportation.
Outside of RBC, Raj currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce and was the past Chamber Chair for 2020/21. He is also a member of the United Way Winnipeg Board of Trustees. He is a passionate member of the Asper School of Business Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI) Task force and a member of the James W. Burns Leadership Institute Advisory Board. Raj earned his Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) degree from the Asper School of business, University of Manitoba and his MBA from the University of Phoenix (Vancouver campus).
“Evolving into.” Wow. This is some damn good terminology. I might have to steal this.