Yesterday, I stumbled upon a talk DNA of happiness, by one of our favourite profs then at IIMB. He used to teach us B2B marketing, which he was very good at, but for me and perhaps many others, the lessons to learn from his presence, his energy, from the spaces between the words, from some snippets of his life journey we got to hear — were very different than marketing. Those were lessons or questions, which will perhaps become much more important and relevant for each of us, at some point or another, than business and marketing. :)

In this talk, he discusses snippets of various western and eastern frameworks of happiness from his last 27 years of life study of this topic. :)

Greek philosophy from 500BC — Happiness determinants

  1. Freedom
  2. Family and Friends
  3. Analysed life (actualization, am I serving others, etc.)

These are more important determinants of happiness than money. Further, at times money can inversely interact with your ability to have freedom, family and analysed life. (See the talk for some interesting charts)

Clayton Christensen — How will you measure your life —

  1. How will you find fulfilment in your profession — checkout interesting 2*2 matric in the talk on hygiene factors (money, fame, etc.) and motivators (purpose, serving others) — somehow, most of us invest too much in hygiene factors at the expense of motivators
  2. How will you find fulfilment in your relationship with spouse- awesome case study on milkshake sales to drive the point, which is, you will have to be mindful and attentive and tune in dynamically on what action/inaction from you can make life a bit more happier for your spouse (no cookie cutter formula, but deepen in awareness of others’ needs)
  3. How will you find fulfilment in your relationship with your children — give equal weight to providing resources, to process (doing things by hand together to create more shared context) and being the change for them to observe and absorb the values. Process and values are subtle aspects (but very critical) and they have a long lead time of 30years. So you need to have your wisdom in the right place, else you will not invest there. Suddenly after 30years your neighbours may say — what a grumpy selfish unhappy youngster, or they might say what a joyous, creative and caring honest youngster. It all depends on how you set the context with your life (not with your gyaanbaazi)
  4. How will you stay out of jail — Lot of top grads end up in jail because of short term gratification/profiteering impulse. Solution — do not cross the lakshman rekha, do not even think about it. A 0.001% transgression is an assured beginning to your end. 1 transgression will finish you off surely and certainly (dots will connect only looking backwards). So stay safe and stay far away from the lakshman rekha, maintain ethical distancing.

Mo Gawdat, Chief Business Officer at Alphabet on Solving for Happy

“If we dump our negative feelings on others, they experience it as an attack and they, are forced to suppress, express, or escape their feelings. Therefore, the expression of negativity results in deterioration and destruction of relationships.

A far better alternative is to take responsibility for our own feelings and neutralize them. Then, only positive feelings remain to be expressed.”

(In his book, Mo says that he was earning like couple hundred million dollars a year, but in his assessment, he was one of the unhappiest guys in the world. So he decided to take charge and figure this happiness business. He over time, was able to embody these learnings so much so that suddenly their young son died without any symptoms. Hundreds of visitors came to their house for the last rites, and Mo and his wife would just engage with all the visitors “how are you doing? when are you getting married? How is your work going on? etc.” without any trace of sadness about their loss. He said if their son’s deadbody wasn’t lying in the middle of the room, people would have thought its a wedding celebration or something going on in the house, all of them were so positive. He said death and change are noble truths, what’s the point of being sad about them)

“Advertising is the enemy of happiness” — ( interesting to hear this from a b2b prof)

6 grand illusions -

1) Self (that i, a separate self exists)

2) Knowledge (that I know. my knowledge will benefit the world. He says we know only 0.001% of existential truth. That too, we know that collectively as a species. One individual typically knows 1/6billionth of it. — and yet we feel so confident of what we know)

3) Control

4) Thoughts

5) Time

6) Fear

5 Ultimate Truths-

1) Grand Design (God, Truth, Nature, Universe)

2) Love (not bollywood, but unconditional, universal love. Love is the healing balm for whole of cosmos)

3) Now (only present moment is real)

4) Change (inevitable)

5) Death (inevitable)

Levels of consciousness

  1. Inertial stage — Shame, Guilt, Apathy, Grief, Fear
  2. Energetic stage — Desire, Anger, Pride, Courage, Neutrality, Willingness
  3. Peaceful state — Acceptance, Reason, Love, Peace,
  4. Enlightenment state

Most of us are caught in inertial stage. Where we have to make a lot of effort, use will power and force upon us and upon others. When you move to peaceful state, you simply desire and it will manifest.

Its a progression from Having-doing-being

Only purpose of life is to move to higher consciousness. Its a very long journey but the only journey you can undertake where you will not feel jealous of others.

On David Hawkins, “Letting Go”, the pathway of surrender (best book DVR has read) —

“it is said that most people spend their lives regretting the past and fearing the future. Therefore, they are unable to experience joy in the present moment”.

Typical strategies for dealing with our emotions/thoughts/sensations —

  1. Suppression (Deliberate) /repression (unconscious)
  2. Expression (eg- shout slogan, burn buses)
  3. Escape (eg- hit the bottle big time)

None of the above will reduce the feeling

Better way — mechanism of Letting go

Letting go involves being aware of a feeling, letting it come up, staying with it, and letting it run its course without wanting to make it different or do anything about it. It means simply to let the feeling be there and to focus on letting out the energy behind it.

  • For example, you are jealous of a colleague. Don’t say that you shouldn’t be experiencing this. Also, don’t rush to achieve more than the other person. Just observe, allow it to come up, and allow it to dissolve.
  • Dealing with a big loss (like job loss, end of a relationship etc) — breaking it up into smaller components and letting go part by part can help

Eastern Philosophy — There are many branches of eastern philosophy but in the talk, Seshadri talks about Advaita Vedanta which sort of is a meta container which can hold all diff philosophies. The crux is life (and rebirth) is a endless cycle of suffering. It makes sense to analyse that deeply within yourself and once you are convinced, make attempts to breakout of that cycle.

3 myths of human existence-

  1. I am the body
  2. Relative existence (competition) (I am different other person is different)
  3. We want to become something (not in a state of being, we want to become something)

Therefore we carry a burden around us.

Important to have a spiritual mentor in life. People who have climbed to that scale of enlightenment. Some traits of a true spiritual mentor-

  • not interested in your money,
  • not interested in number of followers,
  • not interested in relationships with persons of opposite sex

In India luckily, there are probably there are 10s of 1000s of people (they will come magically when you are ready. Till then, lage raho munna bhai, keep trying to move to higher levels of consciousness to prepare yourself to receive the teacher)

The human condition — We were walking in a dark scary night and have fallen in an underground well. Luckily, our foot got stuck in a creeper growing midway into the well and we are now hanging upside down, staring into the pit, full of pythons and scorpions waiting to devour us. And then our eyes go on a rat nibbling away on the creeper. Our death is eminent.

And there is a honeycomb just above our head.. There is a drop of honey about to dip from that honeycomb and we are so much in an addictive slumber that we keep wishing may that drop of honey fall in my tongue and I will be happy. This honey is metaphorical, it could mean the next promotion, the next vacation or even the next big development project.

Moral- We are losing the bigger picture of how deeply caught in cycles of suffering we are, and just intoxicated at inconsequential drops of honey, which is not going to solve anything..So we need to become mindful and work for our liberation from the well.. 🥴🙃

You can watch the 2 hour talk here

With lot of gratitude to DVR and teachers like him, whose life lessons remain relevant much beyond our classrooms and boardrooms :)

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