After hearing a monk give a lecture when he was 21, Jay Shetty’s life completely changed. For three years, he says he spent half his summer vacations working for corporations and the other half living like a monk in India.
Along his journey, Jay applied the mindsets and practices he learned as a monk to everyday life, with a mission to make wisdom go viral by creating videos — which are now viewed by billions of people worldwide.
More recently, he incorporated his journey, and the lessons he learned along the way, into his first book, “Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day.”
In our conversation, Jay talks about uncovering your personal values, following your own life journey, the importance of intentions, overcoming fear and his best career advice.
You start your book talking about values. How do you figure out what your values are and then start to notice those values in other people?
If you want to really know your values, look at where you spend your time, and look at where you spend your money. That is a genuine view of what your values are. People say, “Oh, do a reflection exercise,” or, “Look inside yourself and ask yourself what your values are.”
The truth is your values are what you spend your time, and what you spend your money, and what you spend your energy on. So let’s look at time, for example. We spend a third of our lives in bed. We spent countless hours getting ready every day. You’re spending all of that time over a lifetime just taking care of your body.
Most of us spend most of our money on rent; 25% or 30% of our money is spent on rent. So our values are dictated by where we spend our time, and where we spend our money. And what I recommend to everyone in this book is do an audit of where you spend your time and money, and ask yourself whether that feels right. If you do that activity and you’re like, “Oh, wow, this is exactly what I believe in,” then you’re winning. If you do that activity and you’re getting scared by the numbers, then it’s time you need to switch.
There are so many different things competing for our time now, especially with social media and the fear of missing out. How do we decide what to listen to and move in a direction that’s authentic to us, while avoiding distractions?
I read somewhere that we’re exposed to more negative information today in 24 hours than we were in our whole lifetime 25 years ago. That’s insane, if you think about it.
So the amount we’re having to process, whether it’s notifications, alerts, news messages, it’s just completely sensationalized and catapulted in terms of volume. That’s where our values become so important, because if you don’t have a core set of values that you’ve defined, it means you’re constantly being guided by everyone else’s.
There’s a beautiful statement in the Bhagavad Gita that I quote in “Think Like a Monk.” The verse says: “Better to live your own life imperfectly then to impersonate someone else’s life perfectly.”
I think all of us, at some point in our life come to a moment of reflection where we think, “I think I’m living someone else’s life.” I’m doing someone else’s job. I’m doing someone else’s career. I’m doing someone else’s passion. I’m not actually living the life I want to live.
It would be great to get to a point where I get an opportunity and I can say, “Actually, Dan would be better at this opportunity, why don’t I give it to him?”
That would actually be maturing in your values, and that would actually be maturing in knowing what’s right for you and what’s right for someone else. You’re able to look at something and say, “That is definitely for me because my values are so aligned, but actually I could find things that my friends would do better at, and I should be able to introduce them to that.”
Can you talk a little bit about setting intentions and then following through on them, because a lot of people talk a big game, but action doesn’t follow?
Intention is the why behind what you do. I have two separate clients who give a lot in charity every single year.
Let’s say that their charity amount, every single year, is in the one to five million dollar range. They both give the same amount in charity. One does it for press and publicity, and the other one does it because they really believe in the cause and then we really want to serve and support the people that they’re donating money to. The second one is the happier person.
The intention doesn’t affect whether the kids are helped, whether the money received at the end helps the people change their lives or whether the money has an impact, because that happens either way. But the intention defines whether you are happy, and that’s what I love so much about it.
One of my favorite parts of the book is when you talk about getting to the root of the problem and you say, ask why, why, why, why. Can you give an example about how you did that in your own life?
In the book, I talk about how to build a “why ladder,” because mostly what we’re dealing with is our superficial fears, or we’re dealing with the latest trend and news that’s upsetting us, but we’re not really dealing with the root.
And the problem is if you’re not dealing with the root, you can’t really solve it; you’re just dealing with another symptom.
An example is, let’s say I was scared of going off to become a monk and worried about what that meant. I asked myself, “Why am I scared of that?” Answer: “Because I may never get a job again.”
Okay, why am I scared that I may never get a job again? Because I may never be able to make money or support my family.
Okay. Well, why am I scared of that? Well, because I don’t want to let my parents down. It’s like, well, why don’t I want to let my parents down? Because I don’t want to let my parents down.
And then all of a sudden it hit you that that is the root cause of why you’re not taking this moment. Now, you can actually focus your energy on overcoming that fear rather than what you thought the fear was, which was that you’re scared of becoming a monk.
And so, so many of us are not making that career change because we think we’re scared of something, but we haven’t really found the root of our fear and so we don’t deal with the root of our fear — and that way it consumes us.
What’s your best piece of career advice?
Go really deep in becoming an expert in your passion. I have this rule right now, where every year I should be doing something that I love. So there should be something in my life that I’m loving. Right now what I’m loving is my podcast “On Purpose.” I’m in love with doing it because I’ve been doing it for a year and I’ve got into the flow.
Every year, you should be doing something that you’re learning. So you should always be learning about what you want to do the next year. If you’re not learning a year in advance, that dream is not happening. So when I was writing the book, I learned how to write a book the year before, so that made writing easier. The year before I launched the podcast, I was learning how to launch a podcast. And then every year you should be launching something. So this book is what I’m launching this year.
Every year, pick something that you’re loving, something that you’re learning, and something that you’re launching. The loving gives you satisfaction and happiness, the learning gives you excitement and curiosity, and the launching gives you a new learning curve, a new risk, and a new excitement.
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