I’ve always tried to be conscious about my actions, so they can take me where I want to go, instead of some place random. I’m happy to say it has worked great so far – I have accomplished almost any goal I’ve set out and found success in business, as well as my personal life.
Interestingly, there are things that have brought me disproportional returns in both, so I’ve spent time thinking which they are and why this is so. This process culminated in me writing a short list of the 7 “ingredients” that make up the recipe for my personal happiness.
I guess those 7 ingredients are pretty universal, but the way I treat and approach them might be a little different, so I think they are worth sharing. Imagine a perfect world in which we have 100% of our time at our own disposal. My way of using that time is to split it evenly among those 7 ingredients, so each one gets about 15-20% of my time and attention. This way they form a sort of cogwheel with seven equal teeth. I make sure no tooth is much longer than the other, so the overall movement always stays smooth. The exact percentage I devote to every ingredient surely varies over the short term, but if you look at a year’s time, it’s pretty even.
Let’s take a look at each of them:
This includes my family, my friends, my social circle in general. I have few close people, but they’re all very dear to my heart. In order to maintain a good connection with each of them, I try to provide them with security, love and all the time I can.
I’ve heard many people say how important their family and friends are to them, only to see them regularly burn the midnight oil at the office. I take a different approach – I dedicate part of my time every week just for my close ones, no exceptions. Instead of just taking my daughter to singing or swimming lessons, for example, I take time to sing and swim with her. This little investment has made us much closer. We do everything together, even working out – something not many dads do with their 4-year-old girls.
I value old-school friendships, the kind that involve showing up at your friend’s door uninvited on a Sunday morning, with breakfast in your hands, just to spend the day together.
If you ask a hundred people how important their health is, 90 will surely tell you it’s their number one priority. Then you get to know them and you realize their actions and habits speak otherwise.
As with my family, I’ve found that all it takes to stay in great shape is a little investment on my side. Regularly setting aside time to work out and keeping a healthy diet has done wonders with my overall energy and well-being. Nothing extreme has ever been necessary to keep me looking and feeling excellent.
There is something, however, that has made both exercising and eating healthy very easy – telling myself I am the kind of person that does both. There is a big difference between having to do something good for yourself and honestly wanting to do it. Working out and eating good have quickly become part of my identity and I’ve never had to make compromises with my desires.
Many people say money is not important to them. Some even think money is the root of all evil. I myself disagree with both, although I won’t bother trying to persuade anybody. I just think being able to provide for your family is crucial if you want to feel safe and relaxed. To me, money is just a means to allow my soul and mind the freedom they need. I have therefore decided to dedicate a part of my time to making money and to enjoy it quite as much as anything else I do.
The desire for maintaining a good living standard has helped me start and build several successful business. Among them, a low-cost airline carrier, a telecom and my current pharmaceutical company with over 70 offices around the world. I feel like having the right attitude toward money has greatly helped them to flow my way.
In my business endeavours. I’ve always followed just one simple rule: If something feels right, it’s probably the thing I right to do – even if I don’t know why. On the other hand, whatever doesn’t feel right is probably wrong for me, despite the obvious ways it may benefit me. Time and again, trusting my inner compass has helped me make great business decisions and find great partners. Today, I’m trying to stick to compass not just in business but in everything I do.
Our professional life often takes over half of our waking hours. I feel it’s something we’re devoting so much of our short time on Earth to, that it’s worth doing well. This is why I’ve always tried to give my best at the things I do, no matter how important other people might consider them.
I’ve found there are just two things that I excel at – communication and negotiating. They both come easy to me and they have both proven vital in my business. I’ve never taken them for granted, however. I spend a good portion every day reading, practicing and fine-tuning those skills. Every mistake I’ve made has given me room for contemplation and improvement, so I’ve happily welcomed each of those opportunities to become a better professionalist.
This conscious constant improvement type-of-approach to my work life has even stretched beyond business and into the things I do for fun – traveling, kiting, snowboarding, surfing, etc. It has helped me ride some of the tallest waves in the world and spend months on end in Africa without getting malaria. All it has taken is paying close attention and doing constant iterations to my strategy. Both free, by the way.
Everyone loves traveling, but travel and the adventure it comes with are surely a crucial part of my life. So much so, that I can trace most of my success and my happiness back to them. The reason is simple – they force you to seek a balance between how you think and how locals think. Traveling thus allows me to look at problems and challenges with fresh eyes, to hit the reset button in my thinking.
I’ve visited or lived in over 140 countries. To me, traveling is as important as eating and sleeping. The moment I stop traveling, I can feel my brain stops ticking. My work as an entrepreneur involves a lot of critical and out-of-the-box thinking and I am still to find anything that helps me more with these than a good old trip to a distant country.
When I travel, I normally follow the adrenaline – easy to find in more turbulent regions like the Middle East, Africa or Asia. I never push my luck, though. I’ve found that going 80% of what I would like to manages to keep me safe and sound but still test my limits. Whenever there’s something I’d like to try but I’m afraid of, for example, I let my fear guide me and protect me, instead of stopping me. I will do it, be stay cautious – this keeps me careful but growing. I call that type of fear “constructive”, as opposed to the the destructive fear that’s always shouting “Don’t do this!” in the back of your head.
A side effect from my many travels has been the local expertise I’ve gained in many African and Asian countries. It has helped me collect amazing memories, stay healthy and understand the local mentality better so I can close many business deals later on.
My inner harmony is the sixth ingredient of my happiness. Over the years, I’ve formed a set of my own beliefs and principles that continue to maintain this balance perfectly. Those beliefs are a mix of several religions and philosophies that I’ve been in deeper contact with – Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, etc.
An idea I feel especially close to my heart is Ahinsa – the sanskrit word for nonviolence. It states that as humans, we are forced to cause damage and harm. To make sure we bring more value than we do harm on the fragile ecosystem we live in, we need to be conscious about our choices. Being vegetarian is just a personal example – it doesn’t require doing another living creature harm to put food on your table.
What I love most about Ahinsa is the idea of abstinence – refraining from things you otherwise like and have access to just because you’ve chosen so. Nothing else I’ve done has built my character so much than this simple practice. I believe what you DON’T do in life is what makes you who you are, even more so than what you do. That’s especially true with all that choice we have today.
Last on my list of ingredients is what I call my “legacy”. Those are things I spend time, money and efforts to build that won’t benefit me in any direct way. Aside from the satisfaction of leaving a dent in the universe and doing something meaningful while I’m here, they don’t bring me anything personally.
I’ve chosen education to be the field where I try to make a difference. It sounds traditional but I believe this comes for a reason – there is nothing more important to leave to this world than a generation, well prepared to handle the challenges of tomorrow.
I’m a big advocate of non-conventional education. To me, applied knowledge is all that matters – teaching somebody to fish, instead of just giving them a fish, as the old saying goes. I’ve recently helped fund one of the best schools in my own city, foregoing the chance to have a share in the school and a say in how it’s run, just to make sure I’m always helping for the right reasons.
Those 7 ingredients are just my personal list of favorites. I don’t think you need to match every one of them or that yours need to be seven. What I do think, however, is that taking some time to make your own list has the power to bring more meaning, priority and happiness into your life.