I want my own TED Talk.

I want to change the world. I want to have a beautiful wife and kids. I want to travel the world. I want to be physically fit. I want to meditate every morning. I want to wake up early every morning. I want to go to sleep at a good time. I want to be with friends. I want time to myself. I want to be yogi. I want to be adventurous. I want to be risky. I want to be an entrepreneur. I want to teach yoga. I want to run a triathalon. I want to write a book. I want to be wealthy. I want to run charities. I want to make others happy. I want to make myself happy. I want…everything.

(*Catching my breath…* Phew, that was a load off my chest. Try it, it’ll feel good.)

Five years ago, I worked as a management consultant — I earned good money, loved my coworkers, and enjoyed the work. But…there was a problem: I did not feel like I was changing the world; I did not feel fulfilled; I did not feel important. So, I packed my schedule: I started training for the NYC marathon, raising $3,500 for Livestrong, chasing a girl who was not over her ex (bad idea), working on my ideas for a website that would change the world, developing pro bono consulting plans for the firm I was working for, and studying for the GMATs (because I wanted to go to a fancy business school).

Here is what happened: I finished the marathon, raised $3,800, stopped chasing the girl who was not over her ex (horrible idea), stopped working on ideas for a website that would change the world, developed plans that were not successful in convincing my firm to do pro bro consulting, and I would rather not mention my unsuccessful GMAT score. Or, in summary:

It’s a disease. I wanted more; I wanted more perfect; I wanted more happiness. I thought all of those things were integral parts of my growth as an individual. In a state of continual competition with myself and others, I got caught up in a wild goose chase to grow, grow, grow.

Lesson 1: Ask why? And, then ask why four more times. Looking back, I thought all of those things would make me happy, but, in reality, a lot (probably most) of it was my ego.

Lesson 2: Slow down. I thought the more quickly they became a reality, the sooner I would be fulfilled — not so much 🙂 Slow and steady wins the race. The chairman of the management consulting firm I used to work for always said, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” He started an amazing consulting firm, took it public and sold it, and is now battling (and hopefully winning) cancer.

Lesson 3: Focus. Doing one thing really well is better than doing 10 things not so well, but even more importantly, it would have given me the space to enjoy.

At the end of the marathon, I was walking side-by-side with this old woman in her late 70s or early 80s.

She looked at my grim face and said, “You just finished a marathon, smile!”

I fake smiled and attempted to raise my hands. I wasn’t feeling that happy or even that I excited. I asked her, “Is this your first too?”

Beaming, the old lady said, “Nope, it’s my 20th.” I could see that she ran for the sake of running and nothing more.

Lesson 4: Accomplishments (or Outer Conditions) ≠ Happiness: Our control on the outside world is limited , temporary and illusory. We think if we can gather all he conditions to be happy, then we will be happy. To have everything to be happy dooms the destruction of happiness because if something is missing we will not be happy. (See the wise words of Matthieu Ricard here).

Lately, as I am figuring out my next steps in life, I have been thinking about: What do I want? What is important to me? What path should I take? I hope I can learn from my past and my previous post 🙂

Follow me on Twitter and subscribe to Karmic Lifestyle Design.

13 Replies to “I want my own TED Talk.”

  1. This couldn’t have come at a more perfect time….having just returned from 5 weeks in India, I feel so inspired to complete this service project and begin the next service project and so on….and I started getting stressed, losing the deeper purpose of any of this…and your writing brought back so much perspective…thank you, thank you, thank you!

    1. I am so happy to hear that, Bela! It’s so easy to get overwhelmed. I was in a Dharma Yoga class and someone asked Dharma Mitra, “How do you figure out what to do next?” And he said, “Just focus on doing your best in the present moment.”

  2. good read bro.

    you get the same happiness from doing something really hard like running a marathon or finishing a project you’ve been working really hard on as you do when a girl at a coffee shop gives you her number, no matter how ugly.

    happiness isn’t correlated to the amount of work you put into things that you think will make you happy.

  3. Have you ever considered creating an e-book or guest authoring on other sites? I have a blog based on the same ideas you discuss and would love to have you share some stories/information. I know my audience would value your work. If you’re even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e mail.

  4. I think your struggle is every person’s struggle in a modern society. We all think that we need to achieve so much in a short time, and it is easy to get caught up in thinking about what we haven’t achieved yet instead of what we have achieved.

    Now that André and I are becoming parents, I think about my own parents’ journey and how much risk and sacrifice they experienced moving to the US as graduate students, working in a foreign country, having me and then starting their own business.

    I feel like my journey was much easier because of them. I never had to worry about finances, and I hope to be able to give my children the same sense of security.

    Some friends of mine started a club called Do-RAK, which your cookie-giving post reminded me of. It was a lot of fun, and I remember getting similar types of reactions as what you describe. Of course, it’s easier if you’re not just 1 person but more.

    Anyway, I think you are on the right track, and I hope you are getting as much out of writing your blog as we are out of reading it. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *