I am very disciplined about my sleep as that plays a huge role in my daily performance and ability to handle stressful situations. I use sleep devices to track and optimize my sleep and follow experts like Dr. Michael Breus to understand where and how to improve my sleeping habits. I am very focused on putting the right foods in my body. Many foods are responsible for cognition and brainpower, so I eat foods that are great for my brain and avoid bad foods that slow me down or deplete me of energy.
As a part of our series about “Optimal Performance Before High Pressure Moments,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Vishen Lakhiani.
Vishen Lakhiani is the founder and CEO of Mindvalley, an online personal growth education company spanning across the globe with a community of 12 million students and millions of engaged followers on social media. Vishen is also a New York Times bestselling author of two books — The Code of the Extraordinary Mind and his latest release, The Buddha and the Badass. He is a passionate activist for health and education.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in Malaysia, surrounded by diversity, and my childhood schooling experience was “forgettable.” As a young adult, I envisioned going to school in the United States. So I 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., I barely graduated because I didn’t click with the school’s formal education concept. These experiences ignited a passion within to evolve the education system. My engineering background led me to view transformative learning in a highly analytical, replicable way — breaking down the process into components that others could quickly learn and practice. My vision and insatiable drive for a more conscious and connected world drove Mindvalley to become the world’s largest curated personal growth platform online. As a father of two, I hope for my children to grow up in a borderless and awakened world with extraordinary education options.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career as an entrepreneur or business leader? We’d love to hear the story.
I was inspired by both my mother and my father. My mom was a public school teacher and my dad worked as a manager at a department store. One day, my father realized he was more ambitious than what he was doing and decided he wanted to work for himself. Once he changed this mindset and started his own business, I was pulled out of the horrible school I was in and put in a proper school, and we could finally afford more things. At this point, I was a teenager, and I saw the positive impact it had on my family and my education. And, at the same time, I realized I had a passion for education, like my mom. She was a teacher and somewhere that influenced me to be an entrepreneur in education. And so, I combined these two and created my own business with a mission to reform education and elevate humanity through personal growth.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve been lucky to have many mentors throughout my life (over 200 people!). This is the very foundation of what Mindvalley offers — experts, authors and mentors from many different areas to provide a wholesome approach to education and personal growth. I don’t believe in learning or following just one person. These exchanges would happen through masterminds, brain exchanges and mentorships, and I integrated all of these learnings into my life.
But, if I had to pick one person, it would be Richard Branson. Years ago, I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to spend five days on Necker Island for an entrepreneurial mastermind with Branson. There was a cancellation, and I got the extra space. This trip completely influenced my life and certainly my earlier years as an entrepreneur. Branson is very ambitious, and he has so much fun in his business. Growing up in Asian culture, I had believed that starting a business could never be fun, but when I saw how he ran his business, it was mind-blowing to me. We are often influenced by the visions put before us. Branson put in front of me a vision of how I could build a business while also having an incredible lifestyle filled with adventure, travel, and being happy and blissful on a daily basis. And being on this magical island for five days with Branson and all of these other incredible humans really can transform your whole attitude and life vision.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
One of the most interesting mistakes in my career was one of the sales jobs I held in my twenties. As a young adult, I was thrown into the hustle and bustle of post-college sales and marketing gigs. I was going through the motions and living within a boxed set of rules: go to college, get a job from 9 am-5 pm, buy a house, get married, etc. At the time, the only job I could find was a miserable position in technology sales with no base salary — I essentially had to close a sale to earn enough to eat. The stress and anxiety were overwhelming.
In desperation for something different, I took a class on intuition and meditation and fell in love with the practice, eventually learning to listen to my inner voice. I applied meditation practices to my job and saw my sales skyrocket. I got deeper into meditation and personal growth, wholly impressed at how my meditation practice transformed my career. I ended up being promoted four times in three months. And eventually, I was made a VP in the company while I was just 27 years old. So things are going great. Right? But here’s the interesting part…after 18 months at that job, I felt jaded. I felt there was something more that I needed to do — a higher purpose that was calling me. I always remembered Nelson Mandela’s famous quote, “if you want to change the world, change education.”
I saw how meditation transformed my performance at my job but realized a considerable lack of personal growth development in the workplace. My calling became clear — to elevate global consciousness through personal growth education, and so Mindvalley was born.
The lesson? Success doesn’t equal happiness; having a real passion for your calling and following your inner voice is far more important. And loving what you do is far more important than breaking your back over a job you could care less about doing.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
I have three tips for the younger generation:
First, at a very early age — as young as you can — start creating a vision for your life. This doesn’t mean you need to know your life’s calling; rather, it means you need to begin the framework for your life. This will help because as you get older, you will have more direction and can put more thought into your actions and what you are passionate about. There are a variety of tools you can use to help build these visions, but the bottom line is you have to have a vision, or else your life will be directionless. You can use any sort of traditional goal setting or use the “3 Most Important Questions” or “3 MIQs,” which help you separate your means goals versus your end goals. With the 3 MIQs, the questions you ask yourself are:
- What do you want to experience in life?
- How do you want to grow and develop yourself?
- How do you want to contribute to the world?
Number two, whatever you seek to pursue, make sure you set growth as your number one goal. People fall into the trap of thinking that life will be about their bank balances, finances, and career. It’s not. It’s about how rapidly you grow. As much as you grow, you’ll see your bank account grow, and your career grow, your business grow, etc. Most people forget this and live lives of quiet desperation and gradual stagnation. Aim to grow so fast that your friends have to get to know you over and over again because you’re moving at such a rapid pace.
And number three, make sure you create a life that involves contribution. Too much young talent end up wasting their lives working for companies that do little good for the world. Think about companies pushing sugary beverages or those that destroy our environment. Don’t be a cog in the wheel of soulless industries that are destroying the world. Find a company that is contributing to the betterment of humankind or start your own. Your life will be so much better if you can figure out how to contribute or tie this into your career.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Absolutely. I would have to say The Silva Method, written by José Silva. José was a brilliant man, and I wish I could have met him — it was my dream, but he passed in 1999, and I never got the chance. I read his book when I was 14 years old, and it opened me up to the possibilities of the human mind and completely transformed my life in remarkable ways. The book was about accessing altered states of mind. The great American philosopher Ken Wilber said that the problem with our education system is that we teach people how to only exist and operate from one state of being human. There are many alternate states of humanness that are not esoteric or “woo-woo” or unusual. But we don’t learn these. We learn and teach Human 101. This book showed me that there is a Human 2.0 within us that we never learn in the education system. And this book transformed my life. It made meditation a part of my daily practice. It made listening to my intuition a part of my daily routine. But what I love about this book is that it’s so precise in teaching you how to unlock your mind. And the Silva Method was the very first program that Mindvalley published. I started the first Silva website in 2002 and became a Silva instructor and eventually purchased the license to the Silva Method globally.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
I came across this quote when I was in college, and it stuck with me:
“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he is always doing both.”
This quote resonates with me because I genuinely believe in combining work and play. I’ve always looked at the work I do as a way not to earn money but to create the life I want to live. I love meditation, and that became part of the business. When I got into healthy eating, I incorporated programs like Wildfit into our business. I recently got into journaling and introspection, so I’m now building a journaling app.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Mindvalley is expanding in so many different directions right now. We have an R&D Lab building a variety of incredible new technologies. We recently built and launched our Connections By Mindvalley App because at the core of Mindvalley is our community. This app helps you instantly connect with your online Mindvalley friends (hundreds of thousands) — you can join or host meetups and attend virtual events (and eventually live events).
And right now, we are working on a type of utility that allows people to subscribe to each other’s brains. Imagine you have a friend or co-worker who is an avid reader who is continuously learning. Imagine being able to subscribe to each other’s brain, so as they learn, so do you, and vice-versa.
We are focused on building new models of how human beings learn because education is something we haven’t innovated in decades. Yes, there are many online educational platforms. Still, most have just taken the classic model of a teacher presenting to a student and turning that into a video and putting it online. Look at what’s happening with our current school systems having to go virtual. There are so many challenges and bugs because we have not spent the time to invest and learn how to create a better education system in general. And this starts from elementary school through college and specialty schools. There are so many more ways of dynamic learning, and this is what Mindvalley is investing in for the future of education.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. As a business leader, you likely often face high stakes situations that involve a lot of pressure. Most of us tend to wither in the face of such pressure and stress. Can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to cope with the burden of stress?
Yes. First and foremost, I believe this pandemic has taught me how important our surroundings are for our well-being. Now that we have become so virtual, I realize I don’t need to be in my office anymore, and so I pay more attention to my surroundings. Place yourself in a healthy environment where you have good, natural food options and where health and being active are a part of your daily life. For instance, can you bike to work? Are there grocery stores nearby that offer natural foods and less processed foods? I feel like so many leaders are starting to figure this out because they are not distracted with the daily grind of coffee and quick breakfasts, followed by a commute to work and a 9–6 job. I’m currently more productive and healthier than ever because of this massive lifestyle change.
Second, daily meditation is a must. The meditation I created, called the 6-Phase Meditation includes a visualization aspect, and it’s followed by millions. Recently NBA star Reggie Jackson came on our podcast to talk about how this meditation has effectively helped him visualize winning in basketball. Meditation is so important because it sets you up for the perfect day. If I don’t have time to meditate, I find that I’m more anxious and high-strung.
And lastly, focus on incorporating health and wellness experiences into your week. Think of yoga, breathwork, energy healing, going to a chiropractor, etc. A lot of these things are available for free online, including my 6-phase Meditation!
Aside from being able to deal with the burden of stress, can you share with our readers 3 or 4 strategies that you use to optimize your mind for peak performance before high pressure, high stress situations?
I’d say sleep, food, meditation and exercise are the four most important daily techniques that I use.
I am very disciplined about my sleep as that plays a huge role in my daily performance and ability to handle stressful situations. I use sleep devices to track and optimize my sleep and follow experts like Dr. Michael Breus to understand where and how to improve my sleeping habits.
I am very focused on putting the right foods in my body. Many foods are responsible for cognition and brainpower, so I eat foods that are great for my brain and avoid bad foods that slow me down or deplete me of energy.
I try to exercise every day, including biking everywhere. I’m lucky I live in Estonia, which is a very bike-friendly town. I don’t need a car at all. I use high-intensity interval training in the gym as well. And as I mentioned before, meditation is a must for me.
Do you use any special or particular breathing techniques, meditations or visualizations to help optimize yourself? If you do, we’d love to hear about it.
I am a product of my company Mindvalley — many of the techniques we offer I use daily. As mentioned above, my 6-Phase Meditation is a daily practice of mine. I especially love it because it takes you through different phases, including love and compassion, gratitude, forgiveness, future dreaming, the perfect day and the blessing.
Do you have a special technique to develop a strong focus, and clear away distractions?
Focus stems from training your mind. When you meditate, eat well and do the practices I’ve mentioned above, focus automatically comes. For instance, before I go on stage, I visualize my performance and how I want the audience to react, look, applause, etc. But I also visualize an energy being going from my heart to those in the audience. I fill the room with compassion, love and understanding. I set an intention that what I say will be of best value to those in the audience.
We all know the importance of good habits. How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
My entire day is a series of “Systems for Living.” I develop systems for everything I do in my life. I have systems for how I furnish my apartment, how I eat, how I communicate, how I keep in touch with my friends. Additionally, I practice something I call a “High Rate of Refresh,” which applies to everything in my life. For instance, every few months, I research new systems for workouts to optimize my gym knowledge and get better and better. I refresh my spirituality, how I raise my kids, the way I eat, etc. This means I’m continually optimizing every area of my life.
What is the best way to develop great habits for optimal performance? How can one stop bad habits?
The best way to develop great habits is to create your own living system, as I mentioned above. If you take control of the different aspects of your daily routine, you’ll end up being healthier and more productive. For instance, focus on kick-starting your day with meditation so you can visualize a great day and get rid of any anxieties or bad feelings that may have carried over from the day before.
As a business leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
First and foremost, you must make sure that you enjoy what you do. If your job feels like work, you need to rethink what you’re doing. Instead of thinking about a state of flow, every day, I practice what I call “Blissipline,” which I go into detail on in my first book, The Code of the Extraordinary Mind. Blissipline combines spiritual mastery with the real-world desire to meet your goals and make your intentions come true. To achieve a bliss state, you must ensure that your emotional state of bliss is your number one discipline every day. You must understand that your PQ (positivity quotient) is rocket fuel for productivity. Studies show that you do significantly better at work when you can live your day with more positive emotions than negative. You are way more focused on your priorities, which means entering “a state of flow” is no longer a challenge. For example, optimistic doctors make 19% better diagnoses, and happy salespeople have a 55% better closing rate.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
The very reason I started Mindvalley was to reform the concept of education and help people achieve greatness. This goal is definitely my calling, and I’ll continue to innovate and build new platforms that allow millions of people to transform their lives and become better learners and better versions of themselves. One of the concepts I introduced in my first book, The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, is called “Brules” or “Bullshit Rules,” which teach people to abandon their old belief systems in order to break through to a new way of thinking. Many “Brules” surround our educational belief system and the path we are told to take to live a happy and successful life, and yet so many people are miserable and unfulfilled. Mindvalley’s core focus is to break people out of this antiquated mindset to reach higher greatness and give back. By 2038, we aspire to transform one billion lives and have our Mindvalley programs implemented in every Fortune 500 company and school system around the world.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
I would love to sit down with Barack Obama. I have so many questions for him, especially right now, considering what the world is going through. I really respect him as a leader and would love to understand his views on the world, the current administration and how we together can change global education. Barack, can we grab a coffee?
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Please follow me on Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. I also have my website, which includes my story and updates on any new books I have coming out. And for inspiring talks from me and authors on our platform, visit our Mindvalley Talks YouTube page.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.