Jay Shetty’s path to becoming a best-selling author, media superstar and imparter of wisdom was not an obvious one.
First, he became a monk.
“The worst thing was having to make sure you have the discipline to wake up at 4 a.m. every day, that was tough, that was really, really difficult. It got easier as time went on, for sure, as I saw the value in why we woke up (early), but that definitely took some time and discipline.
“I’d say that the best thing was, paradoxically, the morning meditation. They were incredible. So the hardest thing was waking up at 4 a.m. and the best thing was waking up at 4am, because these morning meditations that I had are some of the ones I hold closest to my heart today when I’m travelling and moving. I often reflect on being in that place again.
Shetty, the author of “Think like a Monk,” is addressing the Y20 Saudi summit from Los Angeles. It’s very early in the morning, but we know he doesn’t mind.
The topic of the day is youth empowerment and Shetty urges young people to avoid the toxicity of feeling rushed by “other people’s timelines”.
“We’re all surrounded by three things. I call these in my book OEOs. Opinions, expectations and obligations,” he said. “A lot of us are living our lives trying to fulfil the expectations of the people around us. We’re trying to live up to the opinions of people around us. Or we’re following dutifully the obligations that have been set before us. This may be from parents, may be teachers, it may be school, extended society or what we see on social media. And because of this we may be following paths that may not be our true paths, following pursuits that may not be our true pursuits.”
The result is that young people may start to compare themselves to others; sometimes positively, but more often negatively.
“As soon as we feel ahead or behind, we start losing perspective of what we truly have to offer, of who we really are and we get lost in this false race we create in our minds and we’re always trying to play catch up,” Shetty said. “We’re always trying to get ahead of that one individual, not realising that when you look at it as a race you’ll always be ahead and you’ll always be behind.”
Shetty, who presents the ultra-successful On Purpose podcast, prescribes certain solutions to avoid falling into the compassion trap, and why a person should never deny themselves happiness.
“The number one thing to do about it is to realise that there is no race, there is no sprint, here is no marathon,” he said to moderator Edie Lush. “In the book I describe it as there are an unlimited number of seats in the theatre of happiness. We create this viewpoint that there are a finite number of seats for success, for happiness, for joy, for entrepreneurship, for purpose. We think if someone is sitting on that seat they may have taken ours. So we compare ourselves.”
“Someone else’s success does not take away from yours. Someone else’s joy or happiness has no impact on yours.”
The second step Shetty encourages individuals to take is to explore themselves, to experiment and discover what their true passion, strength and compassion are.
“This is where purpose is found, in the heart of this energy of passion, strength and compassion,” he said. “We spend our whole lives feeling misplaced, feeling disconnected unless we discover and make an effort to discover these three paths. And when we do that, we get the confidence, we get a sense of enthusiasm and energy, that we’re contributing something, that we have something to offer.”
This may sound easier said than done for the many marginalised young who make up more than half of the world’s population according to a G20 survey. But there are ways.
“Let’s look at these three methods to finding purpose,” Shetty said. “Passion. You may say you don’t know what you’re passionate about. A good place to start is curiosity. What is it that you always pick up a book about? What is it that you love watching documentaries about? What is it that you talk about? Could that be something that could become part of your purpose?”
Some may say there are several things they are passionate about in which case, Shetty says, they are in a lucky situation. Follow your strengths.
“Passion on its own is not good enough to find a purpose, it needs to be balanced with strength,” he said. “So where are your skills? Where is your expertise? And, it’s important to note, don’t confuse inexperience with weakness.”
Shetty’s third and final method of finding purpose is about experience and a desire to help others.
“A lot of us find our purpose not through our passion, but through compassion,” he said. “What pain have you been through that you don’t want someone else to face? What challenge do you see in the world that you want to solve? That can often be the gateway to a purpose.”
Shetty insists that developing resilience is central to finding your purpose. To illustrate this point, he ends his talk with an equation given to him by billionaire investor and philanthropist Ray Dalio.
Pain + Reflection = Progress
“If you remove reflection from that equation, all you’re left with is pain and so a lot of us when we’re going through pain when we don’t make time to reflect, we can’t build resilience,” Shetty said. “Resilience is built through reflection, through introspection. Asking ourselves, what am I learning from this? How am I never going to make this mistake again? What skills or muscles do I need to develop to overcome this? And when you shift into that mode, you start gaining the insight needed to overcome the next challenge. “