The Buddha and the Badass
Uncover Your Soulprint
Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.
—George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1)
Every person’s life unfolds in a way that is unique to them. Each significant event you experience leaves a trace: every high, every low, every elation, every suffering. These experiences shape you into who you are meant to be. And when you decode them, you’ll discover that the Universe has a plan for who you are meant to be. You are here to fill your unique role, career, and mission. Your greatest job is to uncover your story, stay true to it, and act from it.
From 2013 to 2016, my company, Mindvalley, was burning through cash. A series of disastrous events nearly wiped out the business. This three-year period was a battle for survival.
One evening after another horrid day in survival mode, I flopped onto a chair at my kitchen table in distress. I was in crisis. It was 11 p.m. I wanted to smash my head in my pillow, turn the lights off, and go to sleep. But I had an appointment. I had a call booked with a potential Mindvalley teacher to discuss his appearance on one of our popular content shows. And thankfully I kept it.
I dialed the number of Srikumar Rao. And that night, I experienced his sage wisdom for the first time.
Rao is a famous business professor who has lectured at places like Columbia and London Business School. His classes have waitlists because his teachings are so revolutionary. Rao mixes the wisdom of long-dead philosophers and spiritual teachers with modern American business school ideas. It’s not your classic MBA curriculum. It’s more like the love child of Rumi and Jack Welch.
Rao lives in New York, but he is not the classically brash New York type. He’s a humble, down-to-earth Indian man. He’s the kind of person that only occasionally opens his mouth in a group, and he speaks slowly. But whenever he speaks, every person in the room shuts up because they know he’s going to blow their mind.
That night we were strangers. But he’s good at reading people. The tone of my voice clued him in to the fact that I was stressed.
“Vishen. Enough business talk. Are you okay?” he asked.
“Yes, I am,” I said.
This was a lie, of course. Rao knew it too. So he probed further. He struck me as so loving, so sincere, I felt safe with him. I’d been struggling to hold in my anguish, and now I let it all out in a big messy stream of confessions.
“I’m burning out, Rao. I am so stressed. My health has gone to shit. I’m questioning my ability to lead and be a CEO. I am fighting to keep this company above water. And I can’t share this with anyone. I’ve been keeping it all in. And I just don’t know what to do,” I shared.
Rao listened. Then he said, “Vishen. I want to read you a poem. Just listen. It’s by a thirteenth-century poet named Rumi.”
“Okay,” I said.
But in the back of my mind I was thinking, Poetry? Is he serious. I’m pouring my heart out and he wants to give me a damn poetry lesson?!
But he did.
Here is that poem Rao read to me:
When I run after what I think I want,
my days are a furnace of distress and anxiety;
If I sit in my own place of patience,
what I need flows to me, and without any pain.
From this I understand that what I want also wants me,
is looking for me and attracting me.
There is a great secret in this for anyone who can grasp it.
I didn’t get it then. I only came to truly understand what this poem truly meant two years later. But at the time, Rao asked me what the poem meant, and that started me on the journey of understanding. So now I turn this question to you.
What do you think this poem means?
Pause for a moment. Consider your answer before you read further. Better yet, write your answer down. What do you think this poem means?
At the end of this book, I will remind you of it. I’ll ask you to again consider what you think it means. You might surprise yourself with a new interpretation.
Rumi expresses that there are times where you feel a need to run after what you want. But is this a want that is emerging from your innermost self? Or is this an artificial want; a desire programmed into you by cultural conditioning?
That is different from true wanting. No one can explain those moments. There are people, places, ideas that we may feel drawn to for no particular reason. I’m sure you’ve had experiences like this. It may be an idea that pulls you or a vision that keeps you up at night. Sometimes it makes no sense at all. It may seem eerie to you. Yet you feel pulled by this vision despite common sense.
Just as each of us has a unique fingerprint, what if we also have a unique soulprint? A unique marker for our soul based on the experiences that soul seeks to have in this lifetime?
Discovering Your Soulprint
I’ve learned to listen to my soul. You may call it your inner knowing or gut instinct. I’m sure there are times you’ve listened to it too. And when you do, the Universe sends you what you need. This is when magic happens.
Your soulprint is an underlying set of instructions that you are operating in sync without realizing it. In business-speak, your soulprint is created by uncovering your foundational values.
What you’ll learn in this chapter is that these values can’t be made up. They come from you. They are the unique markers of your soul. And I’ll walk you through a process for how to do this.
This is what it means to think like a Buddha. Instead of getting tied to the illusions of the world, which train you to want things that don’t truly matter, you must strip away the brainwashing. When you learn to listen to the voice that’s authentically yours, you will understand what your soul is actually driven to do in this world. And this is the reason you were truly born.
Your soulprint is represented by a unique set of values built into you. Values make every decision simple. When you uncover yours, you obtain a newfound resonance in your life that attracts more of what’s in harmony with your real desires and repels what is not.
Too many of us are running after what we think we want because we’ve been brainwashed to believe these are our needs. We take jobs that crush our soul. Or build businesses that have no resonance with our deepest longings. I know because I’ve been there.
In 2010, I started a venture-backed start-up in the then-hot Silicon Valley digital coupon space. I had no interest in digital coupons. I only cofounded this company because I knew the space was booming. We closed a $2 million round of funding and the business took off. But six months in, I realized how miserable my life had become. I dreaded going to work. And I saw no value in our product. So I gave up most of my shares to my cofounders and quit feeling like a failure.
I was making false starts because I was woefully unaware of my foundational values, my soulprint. If I had only known to ask myself this philosophical question that I learned years later, I wouldn’t have endured the turmoil:
If I am a soul choosing a human experience, why am I here?
If you run a successful business, are building one, or lead a team, what you learn next in this chapter is vital. Perhaps even a complete game-changer.
So often we’re told to build products based on product market fit. We’re told to ask, “What product do you want to sell?” or “What’s the market asking for?” These questions should be asked inside a context of values. The question most people fail to ask is: “Given my values, given what fulfills me and how I want to grow, what can I uniquely offer the world?”
Before you take a job or start a company, begin first by knowing your values. Your book, your blog, your clothing line, your app, your career should be infused with your unique set of values. If you’re not in a leadership position, identifying your values is the easiest way to align yourself with the right people and the right career where your gifts will shine.
Your values are what give you and whatever you create that special edge. More than that, they make your work meaningful to you so you know you’ve truly made a dent in the world. Market research, data, customer surveys are subservient to your values.
And make no mistake, your values are already shaping the choices you make. When you clearly uncover them they help you steer clear of putting yourself in positions that go against your deeply ingrained beliefs. Life becomes easier. Unlike so many other people, you know who you really are and what you truly want.