Archana Dutta is the founder and CEO of Second Act, a company that guides individuals and organizations to become the best versions of themselves.
Through her company, Archana Dutta focuses on building emotional wealth and fueling personal well-being to achieve both personal and professional goals.
Dutta believes that all people, even professionals will come to a crossroads in life. They may want to embark on a new journey and create their best selves.
We all deserve to get our own second acts. Even if you don’t know what your second act will be, Archana Dutta can help. She offers guidance on everything from building new skills and learning new things to etching out a whole new path for yourself.
Archana herself has experienced her own second act. She aims to make people experience the joy in their second act for themselves through our interventions.
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How did you come up with the idea for your company? Can you share that story with us today?
Archana Dutta: My name is Archana Dutta and I am the founder and CEO of my company called The Second Act. Second Act, as the name spells it; this is literally my second chance, my second act, a second chance, a second inning, my second life, I would say. I’ve had a very cushioned and a very beautiful, amazing corporate life for 25 years, with very great companies.
And then it was really something–when you have everything, there is still one question that keeps poking you. Is it all that you have to give out, as far as your work is concerned? Is there something bigger that you want to create meaning from?
Those are the questions that really coaxed me.
Tell us a little bit about your current projects. What exciting milestone would you like to share with our readers?
Archana Dutta: Second Act is a human transformational company that works in diminishing the gender gap through inclusion and diversity. Second Act’s vision is really to generate positive change for the society as a whole and to bring about awareness toward conscious living.
Some of the projects Second Act does are I Celebrate Myself, a program that celebrates recognition, self-awareness, and self-nourishment. And the other one, which I’ve just wrapped up, is called Lead From Your Core. That was a program specially for men, to create empathetic leadership, to create kindness and compassion towards one another, to be great humans, great leaders, and great organizations.
I’m also working in the space of creating empowerment in the sanitation and hygiene in the women’s space, working with marginalized women, a beautiful program that I’m creating with them.
I’m also working on the program which actually talks about inclusion and diversity. It urges people to be their authentic selves, and to ask the very tough questions. Are we really ready for inclusion and diversity? Are we really open-hearted? Do we really include all genders, or do we still carry biases? Do we judge them? Because that’s the first aspect of being human, isn’t it?
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up?
Archana Dutta: For the last 2 decades and more, you’re used to a very luxurious lifestyle by traveling business class, and staying in the suites of the luxury hotels of the world. So it’s difficult to be on the other side, and to be an entrepreneur. It’s been a very hard journey especially because my project could not take off for many months. It really gave me all kinds of insecurity. All the time I was asking this question: Why did I make the choice right now? It wasn’t the right time. Why would this happen to me? Like anybody else would. And then I had to pull myself up and tell myself there has to be a reason for these things to happen. And it’s not an easy journey, but the journey I have chosen in the transformation journey–helping people discover themselves, their inner potential, their inner strengths. How can I lose it already in the beginning? It is something that I have paved my journey from now on and I cannot look back.
It’s been a great experience in the last 8 months.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons you learned from that?
Archana Dutta: It’s not really a funny mistake, but I have made a lot of mistakes so far. I’m going to talk about them because I think the life of an entrepreneur is not easy, and there are lots of things that we discover every day. We make amends because we wanted to make it work.
So, in the beginning, when I was doing my workshops, which were transformational in nature, I realized that there are so many people who are ahead of us in this space, and they’ve been ahead for a long time. That made me insecure.
I actually stopped believing in my own strengths and my own abilities. I tried to collaborate with people, thinking that they should lead the business instead of me. This was my biggest mistake. Then I started to invest in my own learnings in my own knowledge bar.
I have paid for myself. There is nobody else who can carry on a business like I would. I would lead it. Nobody else can do that, which is my biggest takeaway in this space.
If you have chosen your path as an entrepreneur, you will need your own skills, your own knowledge, and your own passion. Nobody else can carry it for you. You have to do it yourself, as much as you can.
As somebody said, if an entrepreneur goes through one thousand sleepless nights, they will be successful.
Is there a particular podcast you listened to, or business thought leader that you find helpful while maneuvering this pandemic?
Archana Dutta: Ever since I discovered my second act of giving birth to my company called Second Act, there has not been a day when I don’t read a motivational book or don’t listen to a motivational speaker.
I’m always craving to hear some positive words. I’m always craving to hear some motivating thoughts and really learn from people’s experiences.
Those who have really found a balance are not disturbed by things like the pandemic, which is temporary in nature. As you know, there’s always a silver lining to every cloud.
So yes, it’s not one particular person that I’m listening to. There are a lot of TED Talks and so many beautiful books written, and I’ve paid attention to them for the last 25 years.
Everything is giving me a reason to put my second act together, and to make other people discover the same thing, through my programs, through the workshop that I’m doing, and the platform I want to create.
In your opinion, what makes your company stand out from the competition?
Archana Dutta: When I started to design the Second Act, I did not think that there was anything different than what the others were offering. There were a plethora of choices one could make; the website looked very heavy. There was nothing in particular that stood out. And I really wasn’t happy with the product I created. I had to really scrap everything and restart, as they say. I really had to do my vision board to myself. I had to really pin down: What’s my bigger “why?”
Why did I leave my corporate life? What am I trying to create now? What is my differentiator? Where is my niche? What am I trying to do? How am I going to solve it?
So, I became my own coach. I coach a lot of people, but I had to become my own coach, and really pave out an action plan to make something different and stand out from the competition.
I had to put myself in the shoes of the clients themselves to create the differentiator. And that really helped me to design very simplistic, very impactful, and something that really can transform. I always put myself in the shoes of the person on the receiving end, to really stand up and say if it impacts me, only then will it impact somebody else.
I think that has worked for me.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success?
Archana Dutta: I think the three things that have been instrumental in my success so far are perseverance, my belief, and collaboration.
Perseverance is something I truly believe in. I am a person who doesn’t give up easily. When I decide on something I go all out and give 100%, whether it’s my learning or my skill in reading or hearing something out. When I create something out of what I believe in, I just go for it.
I also have faith. When you believe and you walk on an unknown path, you know that you really believe in it. When I believe in something I can actually walk the path.
In fact, you don’t even need to know anything about the path, but just wanting to make it work and do something in that space is enough to create something bigger out of it.
The third thing I truly believe has helped me is collaboration, the spirit of actually coming together with a lot of people I never knew before. But thanks to the instruments and tools and techniques that are available right now, it’s so much easier to collaborate.
I think this nature of extending an arm and opening my heart makes me able to invite people the way that they are in order to collaborate and make something big. I think these are the 3 things really.
Being a CEO of the company, do you think that your personal brand reflects your company’s values?
Archana Dutta: Most definitely. Second Act is a version of my own self, since I believe that all human beings have inherent greatness to be the best version of themselves. All we need to do is enable ourselves by being open to experiences which unlock our unknown potential.
Second Act focuses on consciously creating awareness within humans, serving as societies and gaining insights and bringing transformation through experiential learning of individuals, teams, and organizations.
This awareness helps in creating a holistic look, bringing in a higher motivation and productivity, and helping in the revenue generation with a purpose.
So, when you create something in 25 years of living a corporate life and switching to being an entrepreneur, the values I stand for as a person and the transformation I really went through from the development programs are everything that I’m trying to bring on this side of the space.
I want more and more people to gain out of it and I want more and more to actually tap into their inner potentials, which helps them become a better human, a better leader, and a better organization.
How would you define “leadership”?
Archana Dutta: I would say a good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination. This is a quote from Nelson Mandela that I always remember, and that’s what I term good leadership as, to be honest.
It is not a term or designation that defines a leader. Everyone is a good leader as long as we are sensitive to everybody around us. We allow people to grow around us; they can have an opinion; they can speak their voice. They can have a point of view. They are respected in what they are saying.
It’s a very holistic environment you are bringing as leaders, for the others also to flourish. When we do leadership workshops, I particularly believe that through Second Act we’ve done a few of them. When we found the topics such as Finding Your Purpose or Asking Your Bigger Why, as far as leaders are concerned, what are the values that I stand for, as a leader?
Do I really believe in the values that I think I believe in? When I put it in a professional life, do the values change, really? Am I operating from a space of empathy and collaboration, or not? Am I putting myself in somebody else’s shoes and thinking about them? Am I operating from a mindfulness space? Am I really giving people deep listening? Am I hearing beyond what people are listening, really, feeling their pain, their distress, their aspirations?
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
Archana Dutta: The one thing I would like to tell the youth of today who want to be entrepreneurs is don’t believe in shortcuts. I believe the youth of today are in a very great rush to achieve things. They want results very quickly, and so they do not invest enough when it comes to starting a new business.
So, firstly, please invest in yourself. Invest in education and knowledge. Read a lot. I do a lot of market research to create a niche. Find the need gaps. Then take the plunge into what you want to do. Money is just a consequence. Nobody can stop money for you guys.
I just feel that this generation is in their little bit of a rush of earning quick bucks, and that just misleads them along the way.
And I just feel that being patient and investing first in the right areas would help you to really grow pretty quickly. Nobody can stop that.
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Archana Dutta: The favorite quote I really believe in is “What goes around, comes around.” The causes that you create have an impact on everything that you do. So, find your bigger purpose. It has to be everything that life gives you. Take it to the fullest potential. Try to make the best of it. Once you throw in the right causes, the right intentions, the impact will be felt in the space. Nobody can take it away.
Similarly, if something is not done with the right intention, it will have the worst impact, and nobody can stop that, too. So get your intentions right, always believe in things the way they are happening. There are always situations which will come. Do not give up at that time. Keep doing your best, so that only the best can happen.
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