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Jay Shetty inspires and shares his wisdom on how to build a life of meaning and purpose.
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I was really, really fortunate that very early on, I started to experiment with what mattered to me. What people don’t know about me is that I was suspended from school three times for trying out all sorts of things, like things that people would never imagine of someone who goes on to be a monk. I was experimenting with all the drugs in the world. I had multiple relationships. I was really trying to search for some sort of meaning fulfillment. And as for as long as I’ve known, I’ve been chasing thrill and my parents’ rhetoric would always be well, make sure you get good grades. And at 18, I was really fortunate when I met a monk and this monk was invited to speak and I kind of just went because one of my friends forced me to, at that time, I was listening to CEOs and entrepreneurs and business people and marketers who, who I thought that’s what I was aspiring to be like.
And then I hear this monk and he captivated me like no one had ever captivated me before. That was the beginning of what changed me because I went from being someone who did only one, all those things to become successful and trying to, but I started hearing my own inner voice much more in all that noise that I had around me. I remember one of my parents had a match for me because they wanted to be amazing at math. I’d have this tutor and he’d tell me that he goes, the reason that you’re struggling with the next question is because you’re always worried about what your parents think. And, and that really stayed in my head. I was just like, wow. So as long as I’m trapped by what my parents think, I can actually never find the answers to the real questions of life.
And it was kind of like this collation of little things that just made me think, wait a minute, having money, having fame, this that just doesn’t seem to add up. And then, and then meeting the monk kind of made that shift possible. And as I said, he was completely captivating. And then I found out that he’d given up jobs in Google and Microsoft to be a monk. And I thought to myself, who does that? You know, he’s given up everything that I’m chasing and all my friends are chasing, but he seems happier than anyone I’ve ever met before. And he spoke about this incredible principle where he said,
You should plant trees
Under whose shade. We do not plan to sit. And he was speaking about this principle of selfless sacrifice. And that kind of just penetrated me right there. When he said the words selfless sacrifice for the first time in my life, I felt a thrill about something that I’d never felt before. I thought, wow, giving up everything you have for the service of others, sounds like the best thing you can possibly do. And I don’t know why I had that thought because I wasn’t a spiritual kid growing up. I wasn’t a religious kid growing up. I wasn’t even a good kid growing up. I’ve always had friends who were older than me, and I could see a lot of them in the most successful careers, successful jobs, beautiful partners, whatever it was. But I saw a sense of lack of fulfillment, meaning and purpose in their lives.
And I’ve always been an observer. And I would see these people who are like five years old when he’s seven years older than me, maybe 10 years older than me. And I’d be watching the lingo is that the life I want. And often the advice I give to people today is fast forward, where you are, look at yourself in 10, 15, 20 years time and ask yourself the question is that where I want to be. If you’re in a company, look at the person who’s 20 years ahead of you and ask yourself, is that where I want to be? If you’re in a startup, look at where other startups have got to in similar role and go, is that where I want to be? And if the answer is no, and you need to find a new path. And for me, the answer at that time from observing was no, the path that my parents or society or the university I went to, or the community I had that was carving out for me, it didn’t feel like the path for me.
So I was almost seeking an alternative or a new path. I was just so fortunate that it happened to be an uplifting, powerful part, as opposed to something that could have actually taken me down the wrong road, because that could have been possible to see we live in echo chambers. We’re just surrounded by the same thinking. So for me, the first step is just opening yourself up to new experiences and new role models. Because most of us can’t see ourselves in people. So then we try and fit ourselves into the boxes that we do see. And, and I mean, there’s this beautiful quote that I I’ve been saying it everywhere. And I wish I wrote it, but I didn’t. So it’s by a philosopher and writer named Cooley. And he said that today, I’m not what I think I am. I’m not what you think I am.
I am what I think you think I am. I’m not what I think I am. I’m not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am. So we live in this perception of a perception of ourselves. Hence, my identity is made by what my parents think I should be. My identity is made up by what my college or university thinks I should achieve while you’re living in that bubble, in that echo chamber, getting to what you really want to do is impossible because maybe that just doesn’t fit. And I think so many people feel that way today, but they don’t fit into the current education system. They don’t fit with the three or four or five careers that you’re taught exist. So that process of self excavation and actualization first requires being exposed. You can’t be what you can’t see.
If I never saw a monk, I would never have wanted to be a monk. If I never meet a billionaire, I wouldn’t want to be one because I wouldn’t know what that feels like. I don’t know what it looks like. I don’t know what it takes. And I think that’s the biggest challenge of our society that we’re not exposed. So that’s the first step being exposed to unique experiences, role models. Second step is finding that experience or role model that you’re passionate about. And exactly like you said, taking it seriously, shadow them network with them, spend time with them, observe them even from afar. It takes that observation being addicted to observing that person’s lifestyle. And then the third step is going yes or no. Does that work for me? Not everyone. Who’s going to go off and become a monk is going to feel like the way I did and that’s cool, but not everyone is going to go and follow and shadow a billion anger.
That’s exactly the lifestyle I want. They may want the result, but do they want the hardware that goes with it? And so for me, that’s the third step it’s observing, focusing, shadowing, getting as close to the process of that individual and then going yes or no. Do I want that process? Not do I want the result to be able to train the mind and energy to focus it exactly where you want it and when you want it to be, you are completely detached and undeterred from external ups and downs. You’re able to navigate anything that seems tough, challenging, fun, excitement with the same amount of being equipoised and balanced and equanimity without being too excited in pleasure, or being too depressed in pain of knowing how to navigate every situation to me, that’s great strength and great power. There’s a beautiful bus in the bumper detail that says that detachment is not that you own nothing detachment is that nothing owns you.
And I love it because to me, that summarizes detachment in a way that it’s not usually explained, usually people see detachment as being away from everything. Actually the greatest detachment is being close to everything and not letting it consume and own you. And that’s real power. That’s real strength. How many people do we know that have had fame and then that fame has ruined them. So for me, that definition of detachment is possible to practice even in the real world, rather than saying, Oh, I’m just gonna have a really simple life. I’m just going to have nothing in life. Being able to overcome ego, being able to overcome envy, being able to overcome jealousy, being able, able to overcome the negative of competitive state. There’s a positive competitive state. And there’s a negative competitive state today when people are looking on Instagram or Facebook or YouTube, all you’re looking at is, Oh, she got that many likes or he got that many likes.
She got engaged or he got married or, Oh my God, look at her body. Or look at that. And it’s like that. Stuff’s destroying us inside envy, jealousy, ego greed, to be able to have enough clarity to purify yourself with those things is going to alleviate the biggest anxieties and depressions of our time and mental health problems. And, and we know that we know that because all the mental health research today suggests that things like isolation, overexposure now can have more pain consumption in one day because of what we’re exposed to, then the pain we would have had in a lifetime. That’s huge like that. That’s ridiculous to think that one day, because of the media news and social media, we consume more negative than we did in lifetime. For me being able to have time, energy and clarity, to focus on self purification. That is the best thing about being a monk because you have that time reflection and a process and an environment that only allows you to become more purified of those things.
The biggest challenge is that there’s just so much noise. It’s like, have you ever had someone in your home? Maybe it’s a wife, or maybe it’s a friend or whatever. Just play a really bad song too often, right. Is playing a song that you really don’t actually heard my wife laugh because she knows how guilty she, right. Okay, there you go. Right. There you go. And you just play a song and just turn that off. And after a while it’s been on for so long, you become immune to it. Like it’s just there and it’s still on. It’s there in the back of your mind and you didn’t manage to turn it off. So the noise that are describing life, whether it’s your parents’ expectations, whether it’s society’s expectations, whether it’s your partner’s expectations, all of those are like noise in the background. And that noise drowns out your ability to understand the mind and the intelligence. That’s one of the biggest trip ups to really create a thriving environment, know your element, know your environment and know your energy. And so on all times, if I see anything going wrong, I’m going is my element out of alignment. Is my environment out of alignment or is my energy out of the line? That’s a great three question test you can do to yourself. And you’ve done. Think things are going right. And all you have to do is bring that back into alignment. Now I love that.