Five Questions For … Manoj Saxena, AI Investor & Ex-IBM Watson Chief

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apply to innovating or the startup ecosystem?

MS: When I race, it slows me down, and slows my mind down. It lets me meditate. Before, it was go sit with a monk and meditate. Now, I race cars.

I was attracted to speed early on in my life. [Racing is] meditation in motion for me. When you are racing, you have to be connected with the car, with the road. You have to shut your mind down. Just like in regular meditation, you focus on your breath. In racing, you have breaking points and turn points and you’re feeling the car on the road. The mind needs to get stilled and completely focus because, if you don’t, bad things happen. The car is sort of sensing your temperament. If you’re on the edge, the car gets twitchy. If you’re calm, it’s like the driver Ayrton Senna says: When he moves his feet on the pedals, he feels like he’s walking on eggshells. It’s that soft, moving softly and gliding across the road.

As a student of racing, I found there to be multiple parallels between racing and life: No race is won on the first turn but many races are lost on the first turn. One of the things they teach you in racing is when you start getting into tough situations, lift your sight and look farther down the road and not on front of the car. Similarly in life, look ahead and plan for that, rather than the crisis that you are in. No race is ever won on a straight; it’s won on how you take the corners and turns. In life, it’s how you tackled the twists and turns of adversity.

X: What did your 25-year-old self know that you have forgotten?

MS: Uh, inside the body of a 51-year-old is an 18-year-old saying, “What the hell just happened … ”

I’m more idealistic than I was when I was 25 years old. I think I’ve forgotten fear; the 25-year-old probably had more fear about living out his dreams and visions and purpose than the 51-year-old has right now. I describe my state of mind as feeling unlimited in terms of what I can do given all the experiences and skills and resources I’ve been able to accumulate. I feel incredibly energized about the types of technologies and types of opportunities that these technologies can create for bettering society and business.

The 25-year-old was not as flexible and open-minded as the 51-year-old is. He was a little bit more fearful and didn’t believe in himself … Next Page »

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Angela Shah is the editor of Xconomy Texas. She can be reached at or (214) 793-5763. Follow @angelashah

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