I want my own TED Talk.

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 🙂

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On Passing Around Smiles

Smile Cards

One of my intentions for 2011 was to continue surrounding myself with a community of individuals that helped bring the best out in me. By the end of 2011, naturally and serendipitously, I was introduced to group of individuals that gets together one Wednesday per month to meditate and discuss a passage.

After my second month of joining this great group of individuals, I sat down with Amit and Birju, the two organizers, to get to know one and other better. What I assumed would be a lighthearted getting to know one and other session, became an a heartfelt discussion with presence.

It felt like a therapy session. I poured my heart and soul into my confusions and challenges with figuring out my next steps with life and they listened and communicated so openly. They felt like long lost elder brothers giving me guidance.

While Amit was leaving, he gave me a bag of these delicious cookies and told me I need to give them out. Later on, Birju provided me with these cards that say “Smile. You’ve just been tagged!” (http://www.helpothers.org/cards.php)


At around 12:30 AM Thursday morning, I began my expedition to give out cookies to strangers in NYC. I I first offered a cookie to the front desk security guard, he looked in the bag and took the biggest cookie he could find and said thank you. I thought well that’s the biggest cookie in the bag, that’s a bit selfish. Nonetheless, I smiled and was happy to give him a cookie.

Lesson 1: Mind = Autopilot. I noticed my mind is on autopilot! Even when I was trying to give out a bag of cookies, I was judging the receivers! Although, I was happy to give the cookie, I still had expectations: What cookie will they take? A big one? A small one? A couple? How will they respond? With gratitude? Indifference? Skepticism?

I offered another cookie to this woman standing at the desk, she declined by saying “I don’t eat cookies, but thank you.” I smiled and laughed in my head.

Lesson 2: Not Everyone Wants Cookies (Rejection). I had a feeling some people would think it was odd that a random man was giving them cookies. Here were my assumptions of other people: They would think I put ruffis in the cookies. They would think there was a catch. Women would think I was hitting on them. At the end of the day, everyone had a different view of receiving a cookie — no one view was more correct than the other.

Lesson 3: Persistance.  During my cab ride home, I offered the driver a cookie. He declined. I offered again. He declined. I offered again. He declined. I offered again. He accepted and said, “thank you, thank you very much, thank you very much, Sir.” I am not sure why I was so persistent, but I had a feeling he wanted a cookie but was being really kind.

The next morning, I had a bag of at least 15 cookies left. I thought to myself, how am I going to get rid of these cookies. For some reason I started the morning thinking it might be difficult to give away cookies.

I gave one out to a lady picking oranges from the grocery store. She was glowing and excited. I was glowing.

I got to the 1 station at 23rd and 7th, I offered one to the station agent. He started laughing and smiling from ear-to-ear, but he declined. I felt amazing. I had made someone smile and laugh.

I began offering cookies to people on the uptown subway. I got some strange looks, a couple rejections and a couple laughs and smiles. I felt amazing.

I gave some out at an acting studio in midtown. The actors could not have been happier.

Lesson 4: Confidence. Giving away cookies, gave me confidence. Every time I would try to give a cookie, I would be scared of being rejected. But, the interesting thing was that every time I gave a cookie — whether accepted or not — I received something different: a laugh, a feeling of happiness, a sense of friendship with strangers and confidence to give more.

Lesson 5: The more I give, the happier I will be? I think so 😉

(A special thanks to Birju and Amit!)