CAVALLI TO MANALI, One-Way Ticket out of Dubai
Do You Know What Makes You Tick?
Without knowing the answer to this question, you will always feel like something is missing, no matter how successful you are, which is how I felt many years ago when I was running a multi million dollar business in Dubai while living a seemingly successful life.
I was co-founder of a communications firm involved in events, entertainment, and modelling, with 45 full-time employees, a 6,000-square-foot office, and partners who were pretty much ruling the nightlife in town. Our holding group at that time had created the most successful nightlife ventures, one of which was the first global Cavalli Club, a $30 million restaurant-lounge designed by the famous fashion designer Roberto Cavalli.
I will leave it to you to imagine how my lifestyle was!
Although my life looked super successful on the outside, like the stuff you see in movies and rap videos, I was all empty on the inside. Sure enough, I had a nervous breakdown and started waking up every day, dreading going to work—the same business that, at one point in time, was my dream come true!
My business was great, and my lifestyle was enviable, but I wanted more out of life than this golden cage. I kept asking myself, “WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?” It became increasingly apparent that having clarity about one’s passion and purpose affects one more than just direction; it impacts the quality of life and increases the probability of success!
This question triggered me to start an inner search of true passion, purpose, and meaning.
I spent years and tens of thousands of dollars on courses, books, documentaries, and educational programmes, trying to learn everything related to the topic. Although I spent years on my journey, I never found that one source that did it for me. There were are a lot of either self-proclaimed “best” programmes and books, which never lived up to the promise, or very shallow content that barely scratched the surface without any profound revelations on the matter.
For four long years, from 2008 to 2012, I sought and searched in vain, till one day it hit me that there was no single definitive source on the topic simply because most of them just regurgitated existing material without adding too much thought into how all of it can work together to provide a complete meal rather than nibbles that would soon enough leave me looking for more.
It was no longer okay to wake up every day feeling lost and confused. I realised that without knowing the answer to this all-consuming question, I would continue to feel empty.
The Guru from the Caves
By mid-2012, my search introduced me to vipassana, a meditation technique where we spent 10 days in absolute silence (16 hours a day of silent meditation). You can imagine how such an experience was for a hyperactive person living in the fast lane.
One of my revelations during the meditation was this:
At a certain stage of our spiritual evolution, there is a point where you have to give up who you are to become who you are meant to be.
I was at the stage now where I had to go deeper on my journey inwards before I looked for resources outwards. I remember waking up one day with a jolt of energy and a thought that got stuck in a loop in my head: “I’m going to India.”
And so I bought a one-way ticket to India.
I had no clear plan of where in India I was going or even what I would do there. I recall my mother asking me, “What are you going to do in India?” And, with no hesitation, my answer was, “I’m going to get lost.” That’s all that I knew at the moment.
The story of my journey from Cavalli to Manali is a whole book in itself, but not the purpose of Live Passionately. I will, however, share two key incidents that stand out for me and that were pivotal in my life.
The first of them could be described (for lack of a better word) as a coincidence—meeting Swami Yogananda who had been meditating in caves for over 13 years. He had just stepped out of a life of solitude and meditation and started teaching wisdom-seekers in his ashram in a small village outside the town of Manali in the Himalayas.
On one of my many deep conversations with him, trying to get an answer about life and the purpose and meaning of everything, he said, playing with his long beard, in an Indian accent,
“Do you know what you are thirsty for? If you do not know what you are thirsty for, you cannot quench your thirst.”
His words made me realise that while I had bought this one-way ticket to India seeking an answer, I did not even have the most essential element right: the question!
The Wake-Up Call
I had no clue what I was thirsty for! I realised that the more glamorous my life had become, the emptier I had felt. Most of us, while in the pursuit of happiness, lose sight of our ultimate destination, and get stuck in the rat race for more money. And here, I needed a man who had spent a considerable chunk of his life in caves to jolt me out of that daze.
As my journey continued from one place to the next, across the span of this vast, beautiful landscape that is India, I experienced another coincidence (if you still believe in coincidences). One day, on my way to the meditation centre, I decided to walk into a hospital to get myself checked up. When the results came in, I felt as if my life stopped and everything crumbled and collapsed around me; I was told that I had benign prostate enlargement that was, at that moment, labelled medically as an incurable disease!
Suddenly, nothing mattered any more. When something this serious hits you, life halts for a moment while a dozen questions and a hundred scenarios pop into your head—all at the same time! You ask yourself some serious questions about life (or death).
As I left the hospital, I had a few realisations that were crucial to my journey of healing, the first of them being that the word “disease”
contains two syllables—“dis” and “ease”—which means to have a lack of ease within you. This lack of ease causes your organs to develop less than perfect health, thereby leading to what is known as an ailment or a disease. If you pay attention to the way people talk about disease, you’ll hear them say “developed” and not caught, like one would “catch” the flu.
The disease first starts in the mind (well, actually they begin in the spiritual space, but this is too deep of a discussion for now). So once you heal your mind and soul, your “dis-ease” goes away.
The second realisation was that I was in India, the motherland of healing!
There are no coincidences; if there was a time and place for me to heal from my “dis-ease,” then this was it!
It suddenly seemed that all the years I had invested in studying and researching all matters related to the well-being of mind, body, and soul were geared towards one purpose: to prepare me for dealing with this situation. And so it was. I dedicated all my time and energy towards healing with the help of everything I had access to: Ayurveda, vegan diets, juicing, and all kinds of meditations (including laughter meditation and crying meditation). You name it, and I did it. And as you might have guessed, I eventually healed!*
Live Passionately, however, is not about physical healing and medical miracles.
I am here to talk to you about the self-reflection I had to go through when I faced the reality of a serious “WHAT IF…?”
What if this was cancer?
What if I had not discovered my condition early and it had turned into lethal cancer in the future?
What if this did not heal?
What if these were the last days of my life?
If so, DID MY LIFE REALLY MATTER?
I asked myself three specific questions that I urge you to ask yourself:
Was I FULLY ENGAGED WITH LIFE or was I just a tourist?
Did I live a life that was MEANINGFUL TO ME or did I just comply with people’s expectations?
Did I leave a LEGACY and IMPACT that I was proud of?
In my case, at that time, the answer to all three questions was a big NO!
I don’t know what to tell you…
Imagine you live your life, thinking you are on top of the world— you’re ruling, you’re the king, you’re “it.” And then, you realise none of this is worth it. When it’s time for you to kick the bucket, you are going to reflect on your life in a totally different manner. Luckily for me, I realised the following:
Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.
Thus, I ask you to look very carefully into your life and ask if your apparent success is masking the real answers to these questions and stopping you from getting 100% fulfilment out of your life. Are you pursuing outer success at the expense of inner fulfilment?
A few months after my healing, as I continued my journey across India, I woke up one day with another strong jolt of energy like the one that got me to buy the one-way ticket to India, only this time the voice in my head was saying, “I’m going back to Dubai.” And there I was. The journey that started in 2012 ended in 2013, with me buying my ticket back to Dubai.
After my arrival, I had to take on some consulting work to pay the bills, till I figured out how I was going to rebuild my life—the passionate life I aspired to. To keep my fire of passion alive, I made sure I took part in every inspirational event possible. However, one day, I found myself invited to take part in a TEDx-style talk about my journey to India, which was an overwhelming experience, to say the least.
The whole week before the talk I’d get teary-eyed every time I thought about what I was going to do: stand in front of a large group of complete strangers and reveal parts of my life that I had never told anyone about.
However, I used all this emotional charge to energize myself on stage, to put my heart out with no holds barred, to speak with no fear, and it was nothing less than a heartfelt, standing ovation.
A few months after this talk, I was working on the terrace of a hotel in Dubai. One gentleman walked up to me and said, “Hey, are you that speaker guy?”
I said, “Yes.”
He said, “You did a talk about your India journey.”
I said, “Yes.”
He exclaimed, “You changed my life!”
And that was the AHA! moment for me. I suddenly found out what I was thirsty for—being able to change people’s lives with my work!
Soon after, self-doubt kicked in; the voice in my head kept saying, “Who do you think you are? This is just a random incident, so just get back to your work.” And so it was. I kept at the consulting work that I was doing, and my frustration with life started to increase.
At the same time, more and more of such “You changed my life” incidents started happening in the following months till it became undeniably apparent that this was a sign. It was my calling, and I was not willing to wait till I got into another extreme that required a one-way ticket before I responded. I was not going to let fear take over!
I now wanted to be able to build a legacy around transforming people’s lives. And I promise you that, even today, NOTHING comes close to hearing an unsolicited “Thank you for coming into my life.”
I was lucky to have found my calling when I was in my mid 30s. This is not such a bad time to reset your life; it surely beats finding it in your 70s or 80s!
Yet I wish I had someone to help guide me on my journey earlier in life; it might have saved me a lot of the loss and confusion I went through. So I decided to be that person for others.
This is not to say that I do not totally appreciate this journey that made me who I am today; however, this is not an easy or guaranteed route that I would recommend for everyone. How could I even suggest such a thing to someone who came up to me after one of my talks and said, “Listen, I’m married. I’ve got a family. I’m too busy making ends meet, so I can’t buy a one-way ticket to India. What can I do to discover and live my passion?”
It was that question that triggered the beginning of my journey into further research to distil all the knowledge around the topic of living passionately into a practical system that helps people transform their lives. The result was several programmes around discovering and living your passion, and the most practical of them is the book you are holding in your hand.
WHY Should You Even Listen to Me?
As great as this might sound, it was one thing deciding what I wanted to do and an entirely different thing making it happen!
Since my return in 2013, I invested all my time, energy, and efforts into studying and researching the topic of passion. I looked into every book that was ever written as well as every programme and training course. I learned different human behaviour sciences and gained qualifications in various coaching techniques from the world’s greatest thought leaders.
By 2016, I launched Passion Sundays, the world’s leading passion talk show, where I travel the world to conduct in-person interviews of 160+ leaders, authors, speakers, coaches, celebrities, Olympians, and Nobel Prize laureates to date. My aim was to dive deep into their interpretation of passion and its impact on all aspects of success in life and work.
By end of that year, I got recognised as one of the Top 100 Coaches & Leaders of the Future, by Dr Marshall Goldsmith, the world’s #1 Executive Coach. Keeping in mind that over 12,000 coaches applied for the award, this means that the acceptance ratio is less than 1%. Compare that to Harvard, which admitted 938 of 6,473 applicants last year (14% of applicants). This means it was 14 Times Harder to be Shortlisted as one of the top 100 Coaches & Leaders than to be admitted into Harvard!
One of my interviews was featured on the blog of Thinker50, the world’s most prestigious ranking of the top 50 management thinkers alive.
The depth of the work done on the topic led me to co-authoring a book with Brian Tracy; being named “MR PASSION” by Prof. Tony Buzan, inventor of Mind Mapping and Nobel Prize nominee; and being named “THE PASSIONPRENEUR” by The National.
These years of research and study enabled me to develop an unprecedentedly deep level of understanding passion and to move from just concepts and theories into integrated end-to-end processes, tools, and techniques, which you will find embedded in this book.
Throughout the years, I have delivered hundreds of passion talks to tens of thousands of people across five continents and synthesised all this knowledge into frameworks to help organisations use passion as a competitive advantage to dominate their market and also to help executives, entrepreneurs, coaches, and speakers to build their global brand so they become recognised as passionate thought leaders.
I have written this book, Live Passionately, for the millions out there whom I cannot reach through my talks and seminars.
I am so committed to spreading passion around the world that I have explicitly announced a BHAG—a Big, Hairy Audacious Goal—of spreading passion to 7,777,777 people.
Am I going to get to 7 million in a few years? I’m not sure how long it will take, but since I know that I have dedicated my life to this purpose, I will get there sooner or later. My philosophy is to Live life so fully that it is a life worth dying for.
And I assure you that when you know your purpose, you will be ready to die for it because it’s the only reason worth living for, and nothing else matters.
And to be clear, to #LivePassionately means taking care of all angles of life, not only work. I always have a healthy dose of adventure, nature, yoga, meditation, social work, and lots of network building on a global scale to create a Passion Tribe.
So the fundamental question I have for you is whether, or not, you want to BECOME A SUCCESSFUL PASSIONPRENEUR who is changing the world while enjoying an amazing life truly worth living.
If so, let’s get you started in discovering and living your passion and living a life worth dying for!