Somehow, I managed to spend nearly an entire week in the same room with some of the most revered minds in personal development. I was literally feet (if not inches) away from influential writers and speakers like Deepak Chopra, Brené Brown, Shawn Achor, and Simon Sinek. PINCH ME. IS THIS MY REAL LIFE RIGHT NOW??? Yes, I’m happy to say it is. Each of these awesome human beings has either A) Been interviewed by Oprah or B) Had a wildly successful TED Talk, or C) both (in addition to their crazy speaking and writing careers). They have each made tremendous contributions with their work, so you better believe I absorbed every ounce of what they said like a little sponge and took pages of notes. One common thread that wove into each of the talks from these great mentors was happiness and connection. They each discussed how we might achieve it, and - most importantly - how we actually resist is. While I’ll share longer posts about these awesome folks later, here are my quick takeaways from each speaker:
Deepak is top-notch when it comes to wellness, I’m 100% certain Oprah has him on speed dial. I jumped at the opportunity to hear him lecture. He kept his talk relatively simple, though he was certainly introducing concepts that might be challenging to those just beginning to explore wellbeing.
Meditate, just do it. Learning to slow down and look inward for answers (versus looking outward for validation) is one of the key components to both physical and mental wellbeing.
Although we are tempted to confuse our experiences and our “habitual self” (ego) with who we are, enlightenment comes when we understand we all have a divine, infinite intelligence within us that cannot be conceptualized, it must be discovered.
Check out Deepak's book: The Healing Self
This was my second time having the good fortune to see Brené speak live. While (like any pro speaker) she did have some repeat content, her words - all backed by tons of academic research, I might add - were things we all need to hear. Brené, by trade, is a researcher who studies tough topics like shame, vulnerability, and courage. Through her research - hours and hours of personal interviews - Brené has collected a wealth of insight into how we relate to one another and what is required to achieve true connection. Here are some of the main findings:
We often focus on being “cool,” but being cool requires us to shut down emotionally. What we need, instead, is courage. Specifically, the courage to share who you are with all of your heart. Courage means letting our guard down even though there’s a chance we may get our hearts broken in the process.
Vulnerability is not weakness. In fact, you can’t be brave or courageous without being vulnerable. Vulnerability entails uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure; but it’s through vulnerability that we find true connection.
In the absence of connection, there is always suffering.
Check out Brené's book: Braving the Wilderness
I’m not sure how Shawn Achor hasn’t been on my radar until now. I’ve been missing out (and so have you if you don’t know his work). He brings enthusiasm and killer comedic timing that light up the room; plus he’s clearly incredibly intelligent and passionate about his work. I’m a fan. Shawn is a Harvard-educated researcher who studies happiness. Like Brené Brown, Shawn has also completed a TON of research to help him better understand the indicators for personal happiness - this research has helped him bridge the gap between traditional scientific and spiritual outlooks on the topic. Here’s his take:
Social connection predicts almost everything; when you eliminate connectedness from the formula, you can’t sustain happiness.
Success doesn’t create happiness, not even for Oprah. Success isn’t a sustainable measure for happiness because it’s a moving target - you always have another brass ring to grab for, meaning you’ll always be focused on working and pushing harder versus focusing on happiness.
However, happiness is one of the biggest competitive advantages in a modern economy. Those with higher levels of happiness were found to perform better than their peers.
Check out Shawn's book: Big Potential
While his book Start With Why and his TED Talk are both extremely popular pieces of his work; I absolutely love the interview he did on Millennials. He’s been on my list of people to meet ever since. His mission is to inspire people to do what inspires them - here are some of his inspirational words:
There are two types of players in life: the Finite player and the Infinite player. The infinite player understands that sometimes you’re ahead of others and sometimes you’re behind. In the infinite game, the only competition is yourself. The Finite player, however, struggles, pushes, and stresses to be on top, always worried what others are doing and how the world perceives them.
We should always be on the lookout for our worthy adversary, someone who pushes us to be better as we strive to be as good as they are. They reveal to us our weaknesses. While they might sometimes be our competition, we can choose to admire them and ask how we might do better.
Check out Simon's book: The Infinite Game
As you can imagine, I walked away from this extraordinary week filled with first-hand access to these mentors feeling extremely inspired. Deepak validated the extreme importance I place on self-care. Brené reminded me that vulnerability is courage and that letting our guard down is the way we build meaningful connection. Shawn turned me on to a whole new way about thinking about and striving for happiness. And Simon inspired me to follow my passion and make an impact in the lives of others. They each offered an important reminder and stressed that our source of happiness in life comes from our own deep connection with self and others - as opposed to the external drivers social norms guide us to follow. Through their talks, their conviction, their vast knowledge, and their passion; I was energized to continue pursuing my own radical path to happiness and success...and to proudly share my passion for living a full and fulfilling life with others by any means possible.