Anirudh Maddali

coffee date #14 with anirudh maddali

host of Spotify’s Health Outlook, pre-med at UMich, 6’4 human, tennis and basketball pro, Small World Coffee fan

me: cold brew iced latte with oat milk | anirudh: moccha frappe | sanj: moccha latte
location: small world coffee, new jersey

This was my first time meeting Anirudh. This makes him the first person who I had not known for years and years before a coffee date.

My first “encounter” with Anirudh was through his podcast, Health Outlook. He reached out one day and asked if coffee date #1 and I could talk about our pre-med journeys and Happy2Thrive for his podcast. We gladly agreed and it turned out to be an incredible episode! (Take a peak below ☺️)

I remember after the episode, Sanj and I were in awe with how professional and amazingly awesome Anirudh was at interviewing us. He gave us big Jay Shetty vibes in his ability to ask deep questions and find a way to keep the conversation flowing so easily.

My second “encounter” with Anirudh was when he once joined Happy2Thrive’s IG live and talked about what confidence means to him. (Take another peak below! He pops up at the end ☺️).

Because of Anirudh’s ability to think critically and have such natural conversations, I had to have a coffee date with him. We literally had to meet twice because we couldn’t fit everything we were trying to talk about (partly due to the fact that we kept getting off topic) in only one sitting.

Coffee date #1 also joined us during our second meeting and overall, we had incredible conversations! Note: there were A LOT of things we covered and I am physically and mentally incapable of remembering and writing it all down, so here are some of the most insightful points that I gained from our conversations.


  • Self-esteem vs confidence.

I didn’t even know there was a difference between these two traits until coffee date #1 and Anirudh talked about it.

According to them, self-esteem is an internal quality – how we feel about ourselves. Whereas, confidence is more of an external quality – what we put out into the world.

This clearly isn’t a ‘set-in stone’ kinda definition, but it’s a super simple way to attempt to differentiate between the two traits.

“Guys don’t like to accept that they may have low self-esteem.” – Anirudh Maddali, 2021

I love how the world is slowly starting to change and allowing/empowering men to also be emotionally vulnerable. Low self-esteem and low confidence levels are no longer perceived to be issues that only girls go through. We all face through these internal battles, so it’s high time that ANY person of any gender or sexuality be given that safe space to state whatever it is that they are going through without succumbing to societal pressures.

  • Swallow your pride.

Anirudh talked about how he quit basketball at an early age because he was never getting the ball during games. However, as he got older, he realized that he loved the sport and there was no need for him to give up simply because he didn’t get the ball. Thus, basketball has now become one of his passion sports.

“I quit when I was 10 years old because I had one bad practice.” – Anirudh Maddali, 2021

Living in such a competitive world forces us to feel as though we need to be the best in everything we do. Here’s a spoiler alert: YOU will never be the best in EVERYTHING you do. That is okay. And this is what Anirudh realized when he picked up basketball years later.

He said that once he embraced the fact that he does not have to be the best player on the court, he started having so much more fun and enjoyed the sport even more. He had to “swallow his pride” to realize that he does not need to be the best option on the court all the time.

  • The fear of failure holds us back in life.

We agreed that one of the biggest fears for majority of people is the fear of failure. Anirudh talked about how playing tennis caused him to fear failure as he played back to back tournaments. Losing tournaments (sometimes consecutively) will obviously feel like utter shit. However, you have to lose some in order to know how to win right?

“Being on the brink of success and failure is kind of exhilarating.” – Anirudh Maddali, 2021

I loved this quote ^^^^ !!! When we change the way we perceive failure, it becomes something that fuels us to keep going.

  • Having dual identities can sometimes act as a privilege.

The beauty of living in a diverse country is that everyone comes from different walks of life. This enables us to have dual identities – Indian Americans, German Americans, Polish Americans, Greek Americans, etc. Having such identities gives us the privilege to blend multiple cultures together to evolve as a person.

  • Cultures determine our adulthood.

I recently finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers and I was in awe with this book. Gladwell talks about plane crashes and pilots in one part of this book that absolutely shook my mind.

In one plane crash, the plane was driven by a Colombian pilot. Gladwell discusses how because of this pilot’s cultural upbringing, he was unable to firmly tell the headquarters that their plane did not have enough fuel and they needed to land ASAP. Instead, the pilot was soft-spoken and passively compliant. As a result, the Americans at the headquarters thought that the pilot could do with flying for longer and landing at a different area because the pilot kept replying “I guess so,” “I can try,” etc. He never said “No. We need to land right now.” That plane eventually crashed and I don’t think anyone survived.

Gladwell compares this incident with another plane incident. This time the pilot was American. When the American pilot realized that he needs to land immediately so that his plane does not crash, he was able to disobey the people in power and state clearly that he will not be able to continue flying. As a result, his plane landed safely and not a single soul was injured.

The key takeaway from these true incidents that Gladwell shares is the fact that our cultural upbringing determines the fate of our adulthood.

Colombian culture, similar to Indian culture, revolves around respecting and never disobeying elders and people in power. American culture, on the other hand, is much more individualistic and open to the fact that every single person has the ability to speak up.

This does not mean that American culture is in any way superior to other cultures. I am simply pointing out one difference between these cultures. We all know that there are some MAJOR flaws in any culture.

This part of our conversation came up when coffee date #1, Anirudh, and I were talking about our relationships with family members.

Growing up, we were always taught to never disobey that grandpa or that super powerful Aunt or the boss who can fire you at any point, etc. What this inevitably teaches us is that even in a life or death situation, we need to keep our mouths shut rather than saying what needs to be said to prevent a lot more harm.

BUT we need to realize that the best option is to speak up. It is to raise your voice and call people out, even if they are in a “better” position than you.

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