I’ve always had friends who are 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 in like 5 years old than me, 7 years older than me, maybe 10 years older than me and I’d be watching them and go.
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 is twenty years ahead of you and ask yourself, “is that where I want to be?”
If you’re in a start-up, look at where other startups have got to in similar roles and go, “is that where I want to be?”
And if the answer is no, then you need to find a new path. And for me, the answer at that time from observing is 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.
See, we live in echo chambers.
We’re just surrounded by the same thinking: How often do you bump into a monk? You know – it just doesn’t happen. No one has a dinner party and goes, “oh yeah, we just invited the monk!” You know, from town, like the local monk. Like, no one ever does that and so, we meet people who are just like us most of the time. And we talk about this in business all the time.
If you want to be a billionaire, spend time with billionaires. If you want to be a millionaire, spend time with millionaires. If you want to be a tech startup, spend time with, you know – that’s the common rhetoric that we hear all the time. But what if you want to find purpose and master the mind? There’s no one better than a monk who has mastered the mind.
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, I mean there’s this beautiful quote and 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.” And just let that blow your mind for a moment. It’s so powerful. “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 3 or 4 or 5 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 don’t know what that feels like, I don’t know what that 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.
by Jay Shetty