No pain, no growth—How I reinvented myself

Anurag Goel

Cofounder and Executive Chairman

December 1, 2020

The CACTUS Way #7: Continuously destroy your past to reinvent yourself.


“I want to do something new!” — I never thought I’d feel stagnated in a company I co-founded and helped grow.

But here I was. I wanted out. It should have been easy, right? I was surprised at how challenging letting go of the past and reinventing myself would be.

I had served as the CEO of CACTUS since its founding in 2002. I helped CACTUS achieve many milestones—opened offices in Japan, China, South Korea, and the US; set up a vertical to offer communication solutions for the life sciences industry; and took our very first steps towards building our technology prowess. CACTUS was scaling up its business steadily. We were successful.

Despite the success, I was feeling saturated. By 2014, I realized I was done. I wanted change. To put it simply, I was bored of being the CEO. After being at the center of operations for more than 10 years, every issue had started to look the same. I was tired of dealing with similar problems. The path for the future was in some way clear, so I did not feel as challenged or it was no longer engaging. I found myself not enjoying being the CEO of a company that was growing very well, had skilled people, and had some great opportunities to have impact.

I brought this up with Abhishek [Goel; Co-founder]. I asked him to take over as CEO so that I could explore something new. We had been managing CACTUS together for the last 12 years, so him taking on the role was a no-brainer to me. He knew the business as much as I did. But he didn’t agree. He was going through a crisis of his own, and he didn’t want the role. Every time I brought it up, he’d say no. He needed more time.

Finally, sometime in 2017, he agreed. We decided to announce the role changes during our 15th anniversary celebrations in 2017. I took on the new role of Executive Chairman and started looking into the long-term strategy of the company. Soon, I’d have a small team called Strategy. It was the beginning of a new life at CACTUS. While the change has been exciting, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t come with its own set of challenges.

Strategy is a new function at CACTUS. This is the first time we’ve had a dedicated team for something like this. The idea of me steering this ship was intimidating. I had to do a lot of thinking, research, and documentation just so that I could give direction to the team.

I also had to come to terms with my place in the organization. As the CEO, I used to be a part of every crucial meeting and I signed off on every critical decision. This was no longer the case. Strategy is a much smaller portfolio than CEO, and my involvement in the company’s decisions is limited. Even though this was a natural outcome of my choice and my dream to start something new, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I was being left out or that I’m no longer important. Detaching myself from my previous role, the people I worked with, and the teams I was a part of was painful.

I had to alter my mindset and adjust to the new pace. Strategy requires a lot of patience. Reaping the fruit of your hard work may take months and there’s no immediate satisfaction. So I had to keep motivating myself to keep going without immediate rewards.

There’s a lot to love and I’m happy with the decision I took. I am proactive again. I feel like I’m not passively solving problems and challenges of the teams. I identify problems and solve them myself. I’m learning new things every day and, with it, encountering some challenges. But it’s worth it.

Don’t be surprised if you feel fatigued with your job. What excited you once may become monotonous and you may want to do something new. Embrace the change—but remember that it needs a lot of learning, unlearning, and relearning and it can be painful. You’ll have to learn to let go of many things and reinvent yourself because that’s the only way you’ll be able to move forward.


This writeup is part of a series called The CACTUS Way Leader Stories. The CACTUS Way is what we collectively call our 8 guiding principles. We asked the senior cadre at CACTUS to share personal experiences where they practiced or identified with these guiding principles. These stories of struggle and reinvention, despair and hope, conflict and collaboration, and self-doubt and self-discovery make for an interesting read.

Learn more about The CACTUS Way here:

By Anurag Goel


Cofounder and Executive Chairman

Anurag Goel co-founded Cactus Communications along with Abhishek Goel. He has been a driving force in making the company a global entity with offices across Japan, the US, the UK, China, South Korea, Singapore, and India in a span of 18 years. Anurag has played an important role in shaping the culture at CACTUS, which has been recognized for its people practices through multiple awards, namely Great Place to Work® - India’s Best Mid-sized Workplace, Top 10 Safe Places to Work, and many more. He currently looks after strategy, corporate development, and coaching leaders to take CACTUS to the next level.
Anurag started his career in Amsterdam with McKinsey & Co., with projects in corporate finance and strategy and has also handled multiple clients for them in India. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics, BAS in Computer Science, and a Dual Degree in Management and Technology from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania.

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