Mindfulness & Wellness with Vishen Lakhiani, Founder & CEO of Mindvalley
Business Today (Mohil Chaudhari): When I think about your success story, I see a best-selling author on one side who has written a fundamentally life-impacting book, and on another hand, I see a CEO leading a transformational organization. What was your motivation behind starting up a company? Did Mindvalley scale because of your book The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, or did the book become a bestseller because of the organization’s success?
Vishen Lakhiani: When I was writing The Code of the Extraordinary Mind in 2016, I was in a situation where Mindvalley was doing well, but it was still a startup that was burning money. When The Code came out in May, the company exploded; the number of students, participants, and enrollees accelerated. By August, Mindvalley had its best month and we made enough to no longer need investors. The company continued growing year after year with over 50% growth. Today, Mindvalley is four times bigger than it was when I wrote The Code, and by the time the second version of The Code comes out in January, it’s going to be five times bigger. It’s exhilarating waking up every morning and thinking about the power we have to change the world.
I never set out to create Mindvalley to win a startup prize or to become rich. I created Mindvalley because I love getting powerful enlightened ideas out to millions of people. I want to make a massive impact in the world, the kind I have read about in history books. Every morning, I ask: “What is the largest impact I can create in the world?” My answer is education, but not the traditional education that’s out there. Rather, it’s education for the complete human being, mind, body, soul. Most importantly, it’s how we connect to each other and how we become better families, partners, coworkers, stewards of the planet. I sought to create the number one program in every category of human development, whether it’s speed-reading, weight loss, or work culture, and to create the number one technology platform for learning. Those are the two things I am obsessed with. Today, I can confidently say that if you are looking to study any aspect of the human potential, Mindvalley’s programs are the best in the world, and our results in our customers are proof. The level of growth is so rapid that in the last of seven months, we doubled in terms of revenue.
BT: In the book, you talk about breaking down the preconceptions associated with doing meditation. What is the true meaning and purpose of meditation and how can one master the art effectively in achieving an altered state?
VL: Meditation is a word that confuses a lot of people. The word “meditation” is like the word “exercise.” People think meditation is one thing: breathing in and out, focusing your mind, clearing your mind, but that’s wrong. It’s like saying exercise is about one thing: jogging. In reality, there are many different types of exercise for what you are trying to accomplish, whether it’s yoga, pilates, or high intensity interval training; likewise, there are many different forms of contemplative practices or transcendent practices that lead to different outcomes. I don’t talk about meditation; rather, I use the word “transcendent practice.” Transcendent practice is any practice that is about going within, transcending the physical, and exploring the inner you. When you look at it from that point of view, it’s not about clearing your mind; it is not necessarily about breathing. It is about gratitude, forgiveness, compassion, creative visualization, or reprogramming. That whole sum is a transcendent practice and what I try to do in my work is to give order and meaning to this massive field. The six-phase meditation which I invented embodies six different transcendent practices that give the best outcome to anyone working in the developed western world.
BT: You have set a bold goal to live for 150 years. What is your specific plan of action to make sure you live that long?
VL: There are a number of different ways to extend the human lifespan. One of the primary things is to avoid the Four Horsemen of Death, as Dave Asprey calls it, which include heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. The first thing to consider is food; while a lot of people attribute their body shape or health to exercise, the primary contributor is food. The second item is recovery, giving your body time to heal itself. Too many people make a mistake of underestimating recovery’s importance—they don’t sleep enough, they sleep late, they wake up too early. The third thing is movement and exercise, but exercise is overly emphasized in our culture. For example, in the study of blue zones, areas in which people live the longest, low to moderate exercise was key, and in studies of the Hadza Bushmen, who hunted for wild animals in the plains of Africa, they did equivalent exercise as the average person today. Why are the people in the blue zones living longer, and why do the Hadza Bushmen look so ripped? It’s because the modern diet is screwed up—we are seduced into intaking food that is downright awful to our biology. As the food makes us sicker, we fall for another grand modern scam: big pharma. In countries where big pharma is allowed to advertise, the nation is focused on not healthcare, but sickcare. You become sick, and rather than heal the root of your sickness, you pop a pill to make the pain go away so you can forget about your sickness until it comes time for the next pill. To make matters worse, we have created a society that overemphasizes hard work and long hours. So many people work for ridiculously long hours and in companies where culture is not a focus; they end up unhealthy, overstressed, anxious, and lonely, all of which affect your health. When you look at the blue zone studies, community led to longevity. It is the ability to sit down with friends and live a life where you don’t come back from work completely crushed.
I take good care of my health by eating healthy. Every day, I optimize my sleep by tracking four or five different variables. When it comes to exercise, I adopted a scientific approach brought to Mindvalley by biohackers like Ben Greenfield. The fourth element is the connection of emotional states, human connections, and spirituality. All of these are what I believe will allow me to live to a hundred and fifty. If you go and look at pictures of me today versus two or three years ago, I am actually getting younger.
BT: You have an aura that attracts amazing people towards you, which has been one of the core reasons behind your success. How did you go about growing your “human magnet” skills?
VL: All human beings radiate a certain type of energy: that energy can attract the right people and can also repulse or elevate others. I try to radiate an energy that attracts people. For almost everybody who enters my life, I elevate them by encouraging them to be their best selves. It’s deliberate but also spiritual. Through daily meditation, I can radiate love and compassion to everybody in my life, starting with my closest circle to ever expanding circles, eventually to the entire Mindvalley fan base. I also have practical aspects to what I do. When I travel, I toss private gatherings and bring together friends from all around the world in a circle and connect people to each other. For instance, at one of my private gatherings in LA, with 40 - 50 people, I had them stand in a circle and say one point of fascination about everyone in the room. By the time I am done, everybody feels so deeply connected to each other. Because I stand at the center of a wide network of extraordinary individuals, I never feel lonely. I can go anywhere in the world and know there are people I have as friends. It’s a deliberate act on my part to serve the people.
BT: Mindvalley is pushing productivity forward through its amazing work culture, and its family has people from fifty different cultures. How do you bridge the cross-cultural gap as you build a productive work culture?
VL: There is no cross-cultural gap; it is an illusion that comes from the 80s and the 90s in pre-internet days when cultures had vast differences between them. Today we are more similar than different. Politicians are the ones who will tell someone in India and someone in Pakistan and someone in Bangladesh that they belong to different entities called nations. I think one of the biggest lies is that we belong to nations. Everyone is a citizen of planet Earth. Your religion, beliefs, and culture are a tiny part of you. In the internet age, most of us read similar books, watch similar TV shows, hold similar feelings, emotions, and ambitions. Mindvalley celebrates culture; we have a big Desi Day where all Indians in our team help others dress in saris, and they serve Indian food in the office. While that event happens, we also do Latin America Day, America Day, Canada day, Malaysia Day. Everyone recognizes that the beautiful aspects of our culture give us uniqueness, but ultimately we are more alike than we are different. There are no mass cultural differences that are disruptive to people at Mindvalley. There are so many other things that make us human beings—the messy, juicy, complex soul that a human is—I prefer to look at what is common to human beings.
BT: You have initiated amazing events like A-Fests, and recently you led a mobile university with 1,100 people accompanying you for one month in a different country. Could you talk about its story, and how is it helping Mindvalley march towards its purpose?
VL: Mindvalley University is an event that gives me a chance to grow close to my customers and experiment with new styles of learning. At Mindvalley University, we don’t have classes just for adults; we have kindergarten, we have classes for teenagers, and a lot of these are experimental. We learn a ton about human development and how to improve our models, so it’s also incredibly fun. I have many close friends from Mindvalley University. Even as CEO of a company, being able to step away for a month into a foreign city and immerse myself with customers and students is a very important part of who I am and a very important part of my role. It creates greater empathy and understanding towards the customer, so we can ultimately build more effective products to serve the customer.
BT: Success is something people aspire to achieve by pushing themselves continuously, yet only a few understand it. Could you please elaborate on your theory of success and give advice as to how younger generations can find their true passion?
VL: The education system will tell you that success is all about your career, the title of your business card, the validation you get from an employer, or money. That is not true. Some of the most miserable people I know are people who are truly wealthy. Some of the successful people I know are people who may not have all the wealth in the world but wake up everyday loving the life they lead. They live as digital nomads traveling around the world, pursuing their art or hobby, whether it is writing, painting, or connecting with other human beings. Don’t buy into the lie that you need a college degree or that you need a traditional job. Our world is so filled with incredible opportunities because of emerging technologies and the dawn of the internet & mobile age. Do you want to live your life like you emerged from a photocopy machine, where you are nothing more than a photocopy of the hundreds of thousands of people around you? Rather, you should want to live a life where you are a masterpiece; your life should be a blank canvas, and you get to decide what you want to paint. Don’t paint the same picture as your parents; most of our parents grew up in the post-World War II era where it was about survival. Today the world is safer than it’s ever been before. It’s not about survival, it’s about happiness, wellness, and joy, and pursuing goals that reflect these. Yes, have a goal for money and have a goal for career contribution, but also, have goals for the emotions that you want to experience on a day-to-day basis, have goals for the love you want to give and experience, have goals for your friendship, have goals for your adventure, have goals for the places you want to visit and the creativity you want to bring into the world. Most of us never set goals for the things that truly make us happy, we set goals for the things that make our parents happy, and that’s the problem with the modern world. The greatest thing you can do is to wake up from this trap.
Vishen Lakhiani is one of today’s most influential minds in the fields of personal growth and human consciousness. He is the founder and CEO of Mindvalley, the world’s leading online personal growth education company and behind several top-ranking health and wellness apps. He is also a New York Times best-selling author with several more books on the way. With an incredible passion and drive to unite humanity and challenge the status quo, he has built a movement of growth-seekers, spanning across 100 countries, engaging more than 10 million followers on social media, and nearly half-a-million students online each year.
Vishen grew up in Malaysia surrounded by diversity and describes his childhood schooling experience as “forgettable”. As a young adult, he envisioned going to school in the United States, and so he applied and was accepted into the University of Michigan’s highly touted Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) program. Despite being among the top five ECE programs in the U.S., Vishen barely graduated because he didn’t click with the formal concept of education. These experiences ignited a passion within to evolve the education system. After creating Mindvalley, Vishen launched Mindvalley University, a yearly rotating school centered on holistic growth, and he built Mindvalley’s learning platform called “Quest”, which shows 5x higher completion rates than the average online course.
In 2016, Vishen penned his New York Times bestseller, The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, which challenges you to reject the inherited Bullshit Rules (Brules) that hold you back. In 2017, it hit the coveted #1 spot on Amazon five times and twice he became the No. 2 author in the world on Amazon Kindle, overtaking JK Rowling and Stephen King. His book has since been translated into 20+ languages which led to winning many awards and being featured on several magazine covers in Malaysia.
Vishen believes in work-life integration, which is reflective in the company culture he has created at Mindvalley. In fact, Mindvalley has been recognized by the likes of Huffington Post, BBC and Inc. Magazine, and by corporate democracy academy WorldBlu as a certified Freedom-Centered Workplace since 2008.
He is a passionate health and education activist (read his exposé on Nestle in Malaysia, shared over 20 million times). He is a member of the Transformational Leadership Council.
As a father of two, Vishen hopes for his children to grow up in a borderless and awakened world with extraordinary education options. His goal? For Mindvalley to reach 100 national schooling systems and every company in the Fortune 500 over the next decade.