In 2019, Zayn Patel experienced a life-threatening allergy attack during a family trip to California. He recalls his parents rushing him to the hospital and fearing his life and his family each step of the way. But his biggest takeaway from the experience was losing his voice. “I could not ask the doctor any more questions because I had to preserve all of the breathing to make sure that I could continue just, living in essence,” he said. “I wasn't able to communicate my thoughts, my emotions, and my body language was abysmal because I was shaking.”
The experience empowered Zayn to reclaim his voice for good and use what he learned to inspire others. First, he started seeking to come up with solutions to food allergies through his venture La Nourriture, which allowed customized meals for people. Later, he decided to start a podcast where guests could share their voices with the world.
Above all, the experience helped him realize the strength of his community. “I think it also showed me what it meant to have a community of people around you, the doctors, my parents, my sister, the people that were in California, the hotel staff who told us how to get to the nearest hospital, all of these people were the factors,” he said. “Without them, without even one of them, I don't know where I would be today... I would not exchange any amount of money for the people that I'm fortunate to have around me.”
This week, we sat down with Zayn on the latest episode of The Conversationalist Podcast. a podcast host and tech founder who is on a mission to become a unicorn person and impact 1 billion people. Zayn shares his experience breaking out of his social media echo chamber and losing his voice during a life-threatening allergy helped him find his purpose. He also offers advice for channeling gratitude in all areas of your life and why difficult conversations are essential.
Zayn Patel is a 17-year-old host of the podcast Foundations, ConversationaLIST 2020 honoree for healthcare, and a member of TC’s Gen Z Advisory Board. He is a self-proclaimed PBS enthusiast and is currently working on multiple ventures, including La Nourriture, Studio Tech, Scholar VR, and UConnect, among other projects. Zayn previously consulted for PathCheck, an MIT-backed startup, and is currently working with the United Nations to increase gender equity in Senegal.
In proper TC fashion, we opened the conversation by breaking the ice. In a series of rapid-fire questions, Zayn shared that his most controversial take is that school is not for everyone. But, if he could change one thing about the world, he would change the way we approach problems. His bucket list travel destination is the Maldives. He believes that his energy and passion for life are what makes him, him. “Yesterday, I was on a call with some people I'm working with on a current project, and we were there for six hours,” he said. “My mental stamina was never able to keep up for six hours, but there was dancing, there were jumping jacks when we were doing breaks. We were having fun and solving problems, and it was like, this is what I was meant to do.”
He also offered some insight into his echo chamber, which he said once involved social proof. Zayn no longer regularly uses social media, but he found himself wanting to post in to keep up with his peers and experience instant gratification. “I remember being so, so hyper-focused on meeting those requirements to be part of a certain group in school or socialize with specific people,” he said. “And it was, ‘why am I living this life? That's not me. That's not authentic to who I am.’ So I think after I shut off social media, my state of being changed.”
Zayn said that after his allergy attack, he experienced mental trauma around food. As a result, his mother encouraged him to pursue therapy. He was hesitant, but he eventually discovered self-therapy, where he wrote out his feelings and emotions surrounding that day and then threw out the piece of paper. “There was this huge symbolism effect of being able to take this and just throw away my emotions, my feelings, any of the mental trauma that continued to stick with me through that moment,” he said. “After doing these sessions consistently for two weeks, I felt myself getting better.”
He now does daily check-ins and suggests others follow suit. “There are consistent reminders of where I am today,” he said about his reflections. “That was a big learning for me and taps into the gratitude that I mentioned earlier, but it's also just being able to understand things that have worked for me in the past and how I can take those lessons to inspire others.”
Today, Zayn is on a mission to impact 1 billion people and go through life as a ‘unicorn person.’ His allergy attack drives his mission to use his platform to help people who might not have the same opportunities as he does. By keeping a gratitude journal, he’s successfully fostered a practice to achieve this goal.
The experience also showed him that difficult conversation can lead to incredible results. “Those results can come in different forms, but it's important to be extremely intentional about what I'm attempting to get out of it,” he said.
As he seeks to impact a billion people, he hopes to encourage self-awareness in others.
Here at TC, we have a whole room in our community dedicated to Hot Takes, where members can share a controversial thought, question, or icebreaker about something they believe. Today’s hot take was brought to us by community member Zahier Turner who thinks echo chambers aren’t necessarily wrong unless someone isn’t allowed to disagree.
Zayn said he somewhat agreed. He thinks it’s crucial to take both sides into account but that we should strive to break open our echo chambers and challenge our points of view during challenging discussions. “I think everyone should also be open to just the ability to listen intentionally and suspend judgment during those conversations,” he said.
Zayn encourages Gen Z’ers to make an impact by thinking unconventionally and incorporating that mindset into different aspects of your life. “When you continue to train your mind to think this way, it becomes extremely habitual,” he said. “I think an unconventional mindset is what yields success. Just taking something as simple as that. Sophie knows that I watch a lot of Curious George, and so I'll just go through these curiosity sprints, and I'll make sure that what I'm watching can be integrated into my life.”
He also suggests defining intentions. For example, he has a five-minute daily journal where he checks in with himself and affirms what he seeks to accomplish. “[I] make it a point to continue to reaffirm for myself why I wake up every morning and what I am on a mission to do.
Finally, Zayn encourages others to practice anti-fragility, which is the idea that you have to fail to be successful. In turn, this empowers him to continue executing and creating with the intent to see results. “Through this focus on growth, I could see my goals come to fruition,” he said. “I think it's incredible what the power of anti-fragility does because it allows me to think in this totally different mental makeup and changes the way that I view life.”
Zayn invited listeners to follow him on Instagram and subscribe to his monthly newsletter, which offers information about his current projects, personal development tips, and events his audience can get involved in. that's filled with some information about my current projects, personal development tips, and even events that his audience can get involved in.
He is also workshopping a project called studio.tech, which amplifies Gen Z voices through podcasts. “So my new goal with that company is just to create podcasters and take all of the amazing voices within the TC community and elsewhere within Gen Z and turn those into a podcast,” he said. “So we'll definitely be talking a lot about that within the next couple of weeks and within the newsletter as well.”
He is also writing a book about education and changing the way that we associate grades with self-worth. “What other ways can we improve confidence within the classroom, maximize human potential, and leverage intellectual horsepower to change the way that we solve problems?” he said about the conceit.
Now, we want to hear from you! How are you using your voice for good? Join The Conversationalist Community on the Geneva app. You’ll be able to make new friends, find new opportunities, and have 24/7 conversations about anything under the sun that matters to you. Come and introduce yourself, break the ice, share your hot takes, and more. Want to be chosen as our featured hot take on our next podcast? Make sure you’re in our community and sharing your thoughts in our hot takes room.