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A Long Climb to Reinventing the Motor

A few weeks ago, I was honored with the Professional Achievement Award from my alma mater, the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, in recognition of my innovative high rotor pole switched reluctance motor (HR-SRM) technology. This technology, the focus of my doctoral thesis, promises to revolutionize the way the world uses energy by reducing overall electrical consumption. 

In 2014, it served as the catalyst for what would become Turntide Technologies. As implemented in our Smart Motor System™, adopting this technology globally would have the same environmental impact as taking millions of passenger vehicles off the road. 

But this discovery was far from guaranteed. Before finding the solution, all I had was the yearning to fulfill my life’s purpose, the desire to change the world, and the support structure to overcome life’s challenges. And that, as it turns out, was everything I needed.

Identifying My North Star
I’ve known my purpose in life for as long as I can remember, and in that way, I’m very fortunate. Ever since I was 18 or 19 years old, I’ve wanted to work hard and be a good human being. I’ve wanted to know, at the very end of my life, that I had done everything in my power to leave the world in a better state than I found it so that when the final book on human history was written there would be a chapter about my efforts and contributions. 

And if not a chapter, then a paragraph. And if not a paragraph, then a sentence. 

The book on human history is a very tall mountain to climb. You can’t see how high it is, so you take one step at a time and know only that there is still farther to go. 

What matters, then, is your purpose in life. Whatever it is, everyone has a reason to keep breathing, and that reason has the ability to manifest through your thoughtful actions. Even if you’ve never articulated your purpose, your heart and soul and bones know you have one. 

Beginning a Long Journey
Even with a clearly defined purpose, you still need to orient your North Star. You need to define a goal that aligns with your purpose and passion. 

Throughout my life, I’ve always believed in a future where humanity lives in equilibrium with our environment — in the existence of a more efficient way of using energy and undiscovered technology that could unlock this future. And while you can’t change the world with faith alone, you certainly can’t change the world without it. 

At the same time, I’ve never doubted for a moment that we have all contributed to the current state of the world, both as individuals and as a collective. In mathematics, we have something called the final value theorem, which is useful in calculating the final value of a system as time approaches infinity. When looking through this lens, it’s clear that our current path is devastating the world’s equilibrium. 

But if we can bring the world to the brink of catastrophe through ignorance and inaction, imagine what we can accomplish — both as individuals and a collective — if we act purposefully toward defined goals. 

After earning my Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering in 1992, I started a one-man engineering company in India, my home country, that provided automation components and solutions to small businesses. Here, I quickly became fascinated with an emerging technology called the variable frequency drive, which could be attached to a motor to vary its speed. I experimented with this technology in various applications and soon realized its immense energy-saving potential. 

And just like that, my north star erupted into a dazzling light over the horizon that has guided my journey over two decades. Along the way, I moved halfway around the world and spent long periods away from my wife and young daughter — all to find a better future for myself and our world. 

Surrounding Myself With Positivity
In order to accomplish anything of value, it’s also important to remember that failure doesn’t exist. Just because something doesn’t work doesn’t mean it’s a failure. My journey wasn’t easy, and it certainly included what others might consider “failures.” During my time at IIT, for example, a more senior graduate student dismissed my SRM studies as pointless, and I was later turned down for a job after presenting my HR-SRM idea.

But for most of my life, I’ve had the opportunity to work in environments and with people that encouraged a positive point of view and the development of new ideas. My advisor and mentors embraced this growth mindset and inspired me to dream big and bold, and this has made all the difference. 

I often recall two anecdotes that summarize the dangers of a toxic work environment. 

In the first, a visitor at an elephant sanctuary notices that each animal has one leg tied to a post with a small rope. This seems strange — the elephants are so big and strong that they could easily break the rope — so he asks a worker why they don’t replace the rope with a chain. 

His response: The elephants had been tied using the same ropes since they were small calves. They tried to break it several times over the first couple of years, but they weren’t strong enough. And now, even though they’re mature and a hundred times stronger, it’s ingrained in their minds that the rope is too strong, so they don’t even try. They have no reason to believe they can break it.

In the second anecdote, a king decides to punish one of his subjects, so he gives the man a royal goat and says he will be punished if the animal gains or loses any weight. So the man, faced with a seemingly impossible task, places a large pile of food in front of the goat and lets it eat as much as it wants. However, the man also chains a lion to a nearby post. As a result, the goat has constant access to food, but it lives in a state of perpetual fear that drains energy and prevents any weight gain.

For the majority of us, we end up like the elephant: we have the ability to display our strength, but our mental rope prevents us from even trying. Or we end up like the goat: we keep trying, we keep eating, but we don’t move the needle, we don’t gain weight, and we don’t grow as individuals. 

Replicating This Mentality at Turntide
These three points — identifying your purpose, pursuing your passion, and surrounding yourself with positivity — aren’t exclusive to engineers or inventors. Every person on the planet at any given time can benefit from their transformative power. 

At Turntide, we’ve gone out of our way to ingrain these themes into our culture, but I’m especially proud of the growth mindset that permeates every division of the company. I’ve also had the honor and privilege of working with a very enlightened group along the way, and our success at Turntide wouldn’t have been possible without them. 

This isn’t one person’s journey. Climbing Mount Everest takes a lot of preparation and training, but it also takes a powerful support system. I’m amazed every day that though I am credited for our innovative motor technology, the credit really belongs to a number of people. Ryan Morris, Turntide’s CEO, has been a great believer in this technology, and that has made a big difference. 

And then there are Turntide’s employees, who have embraced this vision and dedicated their skills to bring it to life. They could be working for any other company, but they chose to work for Turntide, a company based on my own ideas, and advance our mission.

Now that’s a real honor. That’s a privilege.