[00:00:06.4] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the Science of Success with your host, Matt Bodnar.
[00:00:12.4] MB: Welcome to The Science of Success. I’m your host, Matt Bodnar. I’m an entrepreneur and investor in Nashville, Tennessee, and I’m obsessed with the mindset of success and the psychology of performance. I’ve read hundreds of books, conducted countless hours of research and study, and I am going to take you on a journey into the human mind and what makes peak performers tick, with the focus on always having our discussions rooted in psychological research and scientific fact, not opinion.
In this episode, we discuss the daily practice that works to develop self-love, how fear is often the sign post for what we most need to do next, the lessons from a 550-mile pilgrimage through Spain, how seeking too much knowledge can often be counterproductive, and much more with our guest, Kamal Ravikant.
The Science of Success continues to grow, with more than 700,000 downloads, listeners in over a hundred countries, hitting number one New and Noteworthy, and more. A lot of our listeners are curious about how to organize and remember all this information. I get tons of listener emails and comments asking me, “Matt, how do you keep track of all the incredible knowledge you get from reading hundreds of books, interviewing amazing experts and listening to awesome podcasts?”
Because of that, we created an awesome and completely free resource for all of our listeners. You can get it for free by texting the word “smarter” to the number 44222. It’s a guide we created called How to Organize and Remember Everything. Again, all you have to do to get it is to text the word “smarter” to 44222, or you can go to scienceofsuccess.co and put in your email.
In our previous episode, we discussed why you should not follow your passion. The two biggest pitfalls people struggle with trying to build careers they love. The incredible importance of deep work, why deep work is so valuable and how we can cultivate it, as well as how you can structure your lifestyle to attain autonomy and mastery with Cal Newport. If you want some tools and strategies to start your new year off right, listen to that episode.
[0:02:08.8] MB: Today, we have another incredible guest on the show, Kamal Ravikant. Kamal has worked with some of the best minds in Silicon Valley. Not only that, he’s hiked to one of the highest points in the Himalayas, meditated with Tibetan monks, earned a US Army infantry patch, walked 550 miles across Spain, and much more. However, all of this is overshadowed by his mission in life, which is to teach others to love themselves and find the best from within, and see the joy and beauty in the world.
Kamal is the bestselling author of several books, including Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It, Live Your Truth, and is the author of the upcoming book, Rebirth: A Fable of Love, Forgiveness, and Following Your Heart. Kamal, welcome to The Science of Success.
[0:02:45.1] KR: Thanks for having me. That’s quite an intro man. I mean, that’s quite a mission. I never committed to a mission, I’m just a guy who is like trying to figure himself out, he just happens to share it in his books, but thank you. I like the sound of that — mission.
[0:02:58.5] MB: Well, you’re welcome to borrow that one. For listeners who may not be familiar with you and kind of your story, I’d love to kind of share that with them.
[0:03:06.0] KR: Yeah sure, I’m a former startup guy in Silicon Valley, and I obviously was in the US Army, and I’ve just kind of like you know, done my own thing. Backpacked across the world and those kind of things, but I think the thing that I believe I was put in this planet for was to write books, and to write from the heart, which is something I’ve done for a very long time, without ever getting published. With lots of rejection letters.
Eventually, them getting better and better, and in the end, I self-published a little book on Amazon in 2012, based on my experience of 2011 when everything fell apart and I fell apart with it, and how I got out of it by working on my inner self. The book’s called Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It.
That little book that I put out, within a month, with no marketing, because I literally hid underneath the table after I put it out. I was terrified I’d destroyed my career in Silicon Valley. Instead, it was the number one self-help book in Amazon within a month, and has gone on to be one of the bestselling books on Amazon four years in a row.
It just kind of changed my life. The power of just really taking what I have lived, what I’ve learned deep within myself, not theory, not from reading others, just what came from within and put it out there to the world. It just showed me just how magical that can be, and how the world responds in spades.
After that, I followed with the book called Live your Truth. It was more meditative and less prescriptive than Love Yourself, more designed to help someone come up with their own truths, and now Rebirth, which is this novel I’ve been working on for a long time and I’m very excited about it, because I put so much of what I learned in life in it. That’s a bit of my path, and here we are.
Day job, I run a venture fund and invest in startups and entrepreneurs. Between that and writing, pretty full-time.
[0:04:44.9] MB: Yeah, that’s quite a busy schedule. I’d love to share the story of kind of how you wrote Love Yourself like your life depends on it, and kind of the startup you had that failed, and how that kind of led to creating that book.
[0:04:58.0] KR: Yeah, it’s funny, I was on a TV show a couple of years ago. I was talking about this, this is because of Love Yourself, and I was talking with the host, and he’s interviewed like, heads of state and so forth. He was a very successful guy.
Between the break we were talking about something we both noticed, which is that everyone we know in our life that we consider great, went through some sort of a fall. It’s like almost like, you have to go hit bottom to realize what you’re made of, and then you rise and that’s where you really start to shine.
I think for me, what happened was with my last company that I built, it self-funded for several years, and it was doing really well, and it blew up and I lost everything. In the process, I kind of lost myself too, and I was really sick, and depressed, and suicidal, until one night I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. I got up and I made a vow to myself that I would actually just focus on loving myself. That’s it. That’s the only thing I would do.
Don’t ask me where that vow came from. It was like one of those moments where you get out of bed and it’s like, I’m going to get out of this or I’m going to try trying. Then, I set out to figure out how to do it, and I was sick and by myself anyway, so I just worked inside my head. What worked, I went deeper, what didn’t. I threw aside. I mean, I had no preconceptions of what was theory or not, I only cared about what would work. I needed to save myself.
Within a month, I was completely in a different place by doing this, and out of that process, I developed a practice of what was working that I would do daily, and my life just got better and better. Eventually, I would tell people about it, they would do it, it would work for them, so eventually enough people were like, “Listen, just write this down. You need to share this.”
I did, more to shut them up and not have to tell the story again and again. I worked very hard on that book to really fundamentally just make it about the simple things that work. Take out all the fluff and put that book out. That’s the story behind the book.
[0:06:44.4] MB: What is the daily practice that you developed?
[0:06:48.0] KR: The daily practice is a combination, actually. The reason why I wrote it in a book rather than a blog post is because it’s not just a formula. It’s also the feeling around the formula, thinking around the formula, which is why it’s in a book. There’s chapters that deal with fear, and chapters that deal with other things that come up, and just doing the formula.
The formula itself is basically, I start with a very basic thing of just neuroplasticity. As you know, neurons that fire together wire together. Using that in a concept of light and emotion, and really creating a certain kind of feeling within myself using a particular thought pattern of loving myself and then a meditation. I started doing like a seven-minute meditation purely based on those principles.
Then, the same thing by looking at myself in the mirror and doing that, and ultimately, when I was better and I was out in life, and dealing with people in their — people’s negativity, as you come across in life. Certain things I would ask myself that would snap me out of engaging with the negativity and keep me in the state that I worked so hard to build, which is very important.
It’s very easy to get become reactive and get sucked in by life. You know, honestly, I still do. I notice when I’m doing the practice hard, consistently, I don’t. But when I get lazy, because I do, and I get slowed down, I get caught up in life and work and so forth. My life starts to show it, and so I go back on it. Practice fundamentally is a mental loop, it’s a meditation, it’s the same kind of mental loop and meditation combined by using a mirror and your eyes, and then fundamentally, questions you ask yourself.
They’re very simple, it’s not like you got to spend the entire day doing them. I spend maybe 10 minutes a day doing it max. It’s like going to the gym. The fundamental thing I learned and I think that I shared in the book was that listen, you know, everyone says love yourself, your mom says that to you. There’s nothing new about it. The only thing is I came up with a systematic process that I used on myself, and it worked.
It’s like going to the gym, it’s like eating healthy. If you want to be fit, you got to go to the gym regularly. You’ve got to eat healthy consistently, you may have days off, or you don’t, but over time, consistently. Otherwise your life will show. Same thing if you want to become a person who is fundamentally just walking around with the sense of self-love with themselves. We have to work on it consistently.
I don’t know why our minds have this pattern of going towards the negative, but they do. Would I rather try to figure out why it’s negative? I say screw it, I don’t care. This is how it is, let me focus on how to get to the positive.
[0:09:11.6] MB: I think that’s so important, and you know, we often have this evolutionary bias that’s been programmed into our brains to think about the threats in our environment and survival all the time. You weren’t evolved necessarily to be happy and fulfilled, you were evolved to reach a reproductive age.
[0:09:27.4] KR: Survive.
[0:09:28.1] MB: Yeah, exactly.
[0:09:29.1] KR: Survive or reproduce, right? Every twig snapping was danger, yet modern society, you know, a twig snapping could be like someone leaving an online comment, or a bad tweet, or election result, or anything, you know? We’re not designed for the modern world. I think we have to actively work on our inner self.
Like the best piece of advice I ever got in my life, which ultimately I based everything on was this one sentence: Life is from the inside out. What I decided was when I was in the bottom that I was only going to work on the inside, and you know what? It transformed everything. When you’re working — and something I fundamentally believe in now — when you work on the inside, as the inside shifts, the outside shifts.
It’s like direct one-to-one correlation. It’s like, stuff that I couldn’t even predict that would happen. One could say, “Okay, if you’ve become better inside, you take better actions, you’re a better person.” Yes, true, all that happens, but then things also happen that you have no control over, for your benefit. That, I don’t know why it happens, but it does. It’s consistently happened for me every time I do the practice. Notice I call it a practice you know? It’s gym practice, it’s football practice, whatever. It’s practice. You do it consistently.
[0:10:41.7] MB: That’s the key point is that it’s not something you can just do once or twice to kind of snap out of a funk, or a depression, or whatever it is. It’s something that is important to do every single day, ideally, but if life gets super busy multiple times a week on a regular basis....
[0:10:56.6] KR: Yeah, I mean, ideally, daily. Like for me life just zings when it’s daily. It’s starts to slide a little bit when it’s not. Of course, over time it also shifts you inner state. I’ve never been as down as it was back then. Things happen, like people die. I’ve had friends die, you know? That’s life. You can’t — and you should feel, you should get sad. If you don’t, there’s something wrong, but yet this practice has become my foundation.
This core thing about loving myself has become my foundation. Think about it, there’s worse foundations to have, you know? Than loving yourself. If you’re truly loving yourself, everything you know, ultimately works yourself out. One of the things I believe is like, we have to start within first, on ourselves first, because that’s actually, it naturally, then ripples over into our relationships and our life. Versus if we try to — I think a lot of you know, like modern society to love someone, it actually comes out of — it’s a place of insecurity.
That’s not love. Love is wanting the best for someone whether they’re with you or not. Let me tell you, it’s hard for me as well, right? If you love yourself, truly it’s far easier to love others. It’s a very interesting correlation there.
[0:12:02.8] MB: I’d love to kind of dig in and understand how you define loving yourself, because I think it’s something that I think you and I and many listeners may kind of intuitively grasp it, but I can definitely see somebody listening to this and thinking, you know, that seems kind of egotistical or selfish, and I don’t think it’s that at all.
[0:12:18.3] KR: You know, it’s actually interesting. Someone pointed that out to me once, and I thought about it, and I thought, “Okay, here’s what’s egotistical and selfish. Hating yourself. Because that’s being self-absorbed, just saying negative things to yourself. That is selfish.”
Because you know what? It makes you worse, and it makes your relationships worse, it makes the world worse. That is the ultimate selfish thing I can do.
Loving yourself actually is the most positive thing you can do, because it’s not narcissistic. It’s not looking in the mirror and saying I’m so beautiful, and it’s not like — there’s no narcissism in it. It’s actually feeling love. Feeling love, which is probably the most beautiful emotion that exists. Every great song, every great poem, there’s a reason why over history, all this has been written about it, because it is the truest emotion.
If we’re going for the one true thing that really every human has within, that actually — love for a child, love for our parent, love for our significant other has caused such great actions in human history, you know? Sacrifice. Imagine sacrificing for yourself versus like all the sacrificing for others.
By the way, sacrificing for yourself is called self-discipline, which only results in good things. For someone listening, someone sent me an email once and said you know, I’m skeptic about this. I’m like dude, if you’re actually taking the time to email me, it means that you're not where you want to be in your life. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be bothering. You’d be too busy living your life. Why don’t you just try this? Why don’t you try it and see, and worst case, turns out you were right all along, you had lost nothing. You’re still miserable. Or, it could actually work and you’re better off.
I don’t really understand too much when someone says they don’t get the whole love yourself thing. I’m like, you know, I think if you were ever a baby, you know what love is. We may have lost touch with it, but it’s in us, and it’s truly like the fundamental human emotion that ultimately we all crave and we need. If we start from a place of giving that to our selves, so we’re not coming from an empty place, life has to be far better.
[0:14:14.7] MB: That reminds me of something else that you’ve talked about that I think is a really powerful concept, which is the idea that life is not happening to you, but it’s happening for you.
[0:14:23.3] KR: Yeah, that’s actually something I’ve noticed with people that I found to be significantly successful and happy or fulfilled. That’s why I work in Silicon Valley, and now because of my books, the kind of people I get to meet, I know quite a few insanely successful people, but I don’t know that many successful and fulfilled, or successful and consistently happy people. The ones who have that are the ones who basically — everything in life is basically an experience where they have to grow and learn, and use for their personal growth.
It’s not like they don’t get sidelined by life when you have that attitude. I came across a few months ago, there’s actually — in one of Rooney’s poems he says that. There’s nothing, this isn not anything new under the sun. These are fundamental human truths that people have been figuring out since we’ve been around.
Imagine like, living from that place. Everything that’s happening is actually for your benefit. Cheryl Richardson has become a dear friend, she’s a very successful self-help author, and she said to me once, I got through a breakup and I was sad about it, she said, “You know? Try looking at it this way: rejection is God’s protection.” I mean, if you think about that, because if someone, if things end with someone, we as human beings don’t know what’s way down the road. You know, it could be magical now, it could be the worst thing that ever happened to you 10 years from now, right?
If it ended now, it could actually be a great gift. If you start looking at it as everything is happening for my benefit from that place, it makes life a lot simpler, and it actually makes us happier. Call it a simple mental hack, it works.
[0:15:51.2] MB: Yeah, that’s so powerful. I love that phrase. Rejection is god’s protection. I think many times, looking back on my life, there’s so many things that I desperately wanted or wished would happen, and the fact that they didn’t happen was the best thing that could have happened to me.
[0:16:04.8] KR: Yeah, look. I was writing for over a decade. Obsessively, you know, teaching myself, reading the great authors at night after work, and on the weekends just writing, rewriting. You know, sending out material, getting rejection letters, and the rejections hurt. I remember I would be depressed for a week or two, and then I would think, “Okay, I’m going to be a better writer,” and I would work harder the next round and get more rejection letters.
You know what that gave me? Over a decade, I became a way better writer because of that. That allowed me to be the kind of writer who could write Love Yourself and take his ego out of the way and just write only every word that mattered and cut everything else out. If I hadn’t got those rejections for a decade, I wouldn’t have written Love Yourself. If I had gotten like, published early on, I’d be writing this really clever drivel. It’s very easy to write clever stuff. I mean, I do it all the time, and then I throw it in the trash, because I know now how to write pure from the heart, but that took a lot of time and a lot of work to get to that place. That was all because of the rejections.
[0:17:00.0] MB: You touched on earlier kind of the difference or the distinction between someone who is successful and someone who is fulfilled. Could you explain that distinction?
[0:17:07.6] KR: I always make this distinction of someone who is successful AND fulfilled. Fulfilled, right? A couple of things I’ve noticed with that. One of the key things is their attitude tends to be that everything that’s happening is actually for their benefit. They work it out, they’ll handle it, they’ll figure it out, they’ll be in a better place because of it.
Success and fulfilment. I think, in that case, I think fulfillment for me is when you’re really living your life in a way that your life is an expression of you. The true you, what you’re putting out in the world, where you’re being, if you’re walking the earth, being you, and putting out to the world a real you. That is natural fulfillment.
It’s actually a beautiful way to be. Now having success from that place is more amazing. You’ll never have any issues with that success, because it’s just you being you. The real you, not the ego, not the scared person, just you, the gifts you got. I would say like, of all the things I’ve done, startups, building companies, venture capital, all these things. The thing that I found most fulfilling, even though it’s also the hardest work I’ve done, is writing and putting these books out. It is by far the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done in my life. Blows everything else away. Because it’s a pure expression of me.
[0:18:20.1] MB: One of the things you’ve talked about is the idea that if something scares you, there’s magic on the other side.
[0:18:26.1] KR: Yeah.
[0:18:26.7] MB: I’d love for you to kind of explain that.
[0:18:28.4] KR: That’s just a rule I’ve developed for myself. It’s just a personal rule, and one, whenever I live, just results in magic. Like, for example. I was terrified of putting the Love Yourself out to the world, I was petrified. I wrote it, and I remember, just being like, I was just as likely to just trash it than I was to publish it, right? It was actually crossing that fear that actually changed my life, transformed my life.
I’ve noticed other things. If there’s like, they’re really scared, you know, okay, if you’re scared of throwing yourself in front of a truck, yes, that’s a legitimate fear, but like most of our fears that come from within, they’re actually, I think, often a signal of where to go rather than where to run away from. It’s kind of funny how that works.
I think in our gut, we’ve learned to listen to in a very weird way as humans, but like this fear of going and asking that girl out. What’s the worst that can happen? Eventually, you could meet the girl of your dreams. Publishing the book where I’m going to be a laughing stock in Silicon Valley. Everyone’s going to be like, “What the hell, dude? You’re writing this book about loving yourself, with this strange cover, and now you’re doing like, mantras in your head?” I thought I would never be able to raise a dollar for a company again. By doing it, it changed my life. So many CEO’s I’ve met told me how it’s transformed their lives and made them better. That was a huge thing.
It’s almost like I look at life as a cliff. These things in life, it’s a cliff you're standing on and we’re waiting to jump, and we think, you know, we’re going to jump after our wings grow. The irony is that they never will. We have to actually jump somewhere along the way. While we’re falling is when they grow, because it’s like life tests us. I think life gives us more than we could ever ask for, but we have to step up. It’s life that requires us or of us. I think that’s a fine deal.
[0:20:06.2] MB: I love the phrase that you use that you have to take a leap before you can sprout the wings.
[0:20:10.9] KR: Yeah, Startup Lab, you talk about like, building a startup is like building a plane while you’re falling off a cliff. This is just, you do without knowing what you’re doing. You’ve just got the peace to jump, and you’re trying to build a plane to fly before you hit the ground.
What I’ve learned is just overall in life, like in anything, the great things come from taking risks. Real risks. Not like, stupid risks, but the real risks from our heart that there will always be fear. I don’t think we can overcome fear, honestly. What we can do is we could look at it from a different way. I was like, that’s a signal, that’s a beacon.
Because a beacon, let me go there. You’ll still feel fear, you know, what’s courage? You know, the classic definition of courage, feel the fear but do it anyway. That’s all that is, I think if you look at life that way, you’re going to start jumping off more cliffs, and having more wings, and more magical experiences.
[0:20:56.9] MB: It’s such an important point that fear can be an indicator. I think one of my favorite kind of quotes around that is the idea of what we fear most is what we most need to do.
[0:21:05.7] KR: I didn’t know that, but I love it. It’s so true man, all these things that the poets and writers and philosophers said for us, how many centuries, they say the same thing. Time to actually just, you know, we can either learn from our own experience by making the mistakes. or we can actually really pay attention and just do it. I’m a big believer in rather than just go to every seminar, reading every book, it’s not gaining knowledge that makes us better. It’s actually applying knowledge that makes us better.
Even more than that, there’s too much knowledge out there that we try to apply, and it will never go anywhere. So just pick one specific thing that feels right for you and go all in. For me, it was loving myself, I went out all in. Writing, went all in. You know, when you go all in, I’m not saying it’s easy along the way, but it actually shifts things and it transforms your life. It’s like, it’s not knowledge that matters, practical application of specific knowledge that matters.
[0:21:55.6] MB: It’s amazing how much wisdom, both sort of from a productivity, effectiveness standpoint, but also from a spiritual standpoint. If you look back thousands of years ago, if you look at stoicism of the Romans, you look at Buddhism, these lessons are timeless, and people have been sharing them for millennia, but so many people in many cases live the vast majority of their entire lives without ever even kind of opening their eyes to a lot of these really fundamental truths.
[0:22:23.1] KR: Yeah. I mean, fortunately, we live in a time now but all this knowledge is very readily available. It’s getting around. I think one can get caught up in just seeking the knowledge, right? I think seeking the knowledge is fine, until you hit something that feels right, and then just do it. We can always do more later, but just pick one thing and just do it.
It’s like startups, right? You can’t build multiple startups at a time. You can’t. There’s very few human beings who can do that. Same thing. If you want to work on your inner self, find the one thing and just do it consistently. Make it a practice.
[0:22:54.7] MB: One of the other topics that you talk about that I really like is the idea that we are the effort, not the outcome. I’d love for you to kind of share that concept.
[0:23:02.3] KR: Yeah, that came actually out about, I had to reevaluate my definition of success, because my definition of success used to be what company I built, how much money I made, and then when I lost everything I realized, “Well, why did I fail? Did I fail because I didn’t work hard?” No, I worked harder than anybody I knew. Was it because I didn’t work smart? No, I built something very special that very few people have pulled off. Yet I failed, and why? You know, it was just a matter of market forces, wrong partners, classic stuff in business, and that kind of stuff, one is not responsible for. All I could do is just be the person I bring to the table.
Funny enough, last year I got to read the Gita, and the Gita’s core lesson is the same. You are — I can’t remember how to say, you are basically — you have a right to your actions, but not the fruit of your actions. If you just focus on what you’re doing, what you bring to the table versus the reward, the rewards take care of themselves, and your sense of self, your confidence and being comfortable in who you’re being is not the result, because the result is dependent on so many different things.
The irony is you do that enough, you will have fantastic results and you’ll be happier, you’ll be more content in the process. I think a lot of anxiety and misery comes from imagining negative circumstances versus just focusing on what can we do, what do we bring to the table, because that’s the only thing they have control over anyway, right?
[0:24:21.8] MB: Very true. It’s funny because that lesson it can come from so many different places. Even something as simple as, I am an avid poker player, and in poker it’s all about making the right decision, and then being agnostic to the outcome, because you can’t control where the cards fall.
[0:24:36.9] KR: Yeah, perfect. That’s a great analogy. You’ll be a calmer poker player, a better poker player for doing that.
[0:24:45.5] MB: Absolutely. Well I’d love to transition and talk a little bit more about your upcoming book Rebirth. On the show kind of hard-nosed, non-fiction readers, typically, and I was curious about the book because I think you called it a fable of love, forgiveness and following your heart, and it’s based loosely on some of your personal experiences, but obviously has some sort of fiction elements. I’d love to hear what inspired you to write it.
[0:25:11.8] KR: Because I had the story to tell. Also, one of the things I think is that fundamentally as human beings we learn best through stories. Like look, sitting around campfires, telling stories, kids run around telling stories, and I remember reading a theory of evolution once on what sets us apart from Neanderthals was the fact that we could communicate in a way, and create stories and tales that allowed us to gather together versus they could never gather.
They were always scattered, and we were gathered in higher numbers. I think stories fundamentally make us human. That’s how we pass along wisdom and knowledge. I want to take so many different things I have learned personally from my life, and seeing people’s lives that I think I really admire, and put them in a story. In a classic journey where I layer them in, and the themes keep on coming and going, and there’s resolution, so that by the time someone’s done reading it, these things have nationally been went well into their psyche.
So they’d naturally have learned about this concept of knowledge, and hopefully some of the practical ways to live these concepts, which is why I set out to do this. Trust me, it’s way harder to write than non-fiction. My God, it was the hardest thing I have ever done creating all these characters with all these different dialogues, and you can’t make dialogue exposition where someone is giving a lecture. Human beings don’t operate that way, so to create this journey of this guy walking through Spain, and the people he meets along the way, and their conversations and how he transformed.
The goal is to also for the reader to suddenly transform and learn these lessons. So that’s why I set out to do this. It’s not exactly a classic fiction. It’s not your classic non-fiction either. I think it’s a hybrid, and I think what I wanted to do, this served it best, which is why I set about to do it.
[0:26:54.9] MB: I think it’s amazing, because a lot of the themes in there are sort of subtly woven into the dialogue and the main character’s experiences, and being someone who reads — probably 95% of what I read is non-fiction, I really enjoyed how those lessons — it’s funny, because in a way fiction almost teaches them more effectively, and so I think that’s based on the power of storytelling to really anchor some of these themes.
[0:27:20.1] KR: Yeah, there’s something very special about it. It also gave me such great admiration for writers that all they do is tell and write fiction. It’s, my God, the level of work that goes in is insane. I think my next book is going to be non-fiction, you know? I need a break. It’s a very special day. Today was when the publisher sent me the hard cover. I got to hold the hard cover for the first time in my hands, the final, for the final copy.
All this work, to see it come out, to see this out in bookstores and everywhere, and obviously in online places like Amazon, Barnes & Nobles and so forth, and to see your work in the world that you’ve given your all to, it’s the best feeling. It is the best feeling. So look, I gave it my best. That’s all I can do, right? The rest is up to the book. I gave it my best, I’m going to talk about it and market it, but in the end, it’s up to the book to fly and touch people.
If you touch people, they will share it, which is exactly what happened with Love Yourself. That book went viral. It’s insane. It goes everywhere, and that’s the power of just sharing what you know, whatever your medium is.
[0:28:26.3] MB: So the book, for listeners who may not know, the book is about — well you can probably tell it better than I can.
[0:28:31.8] KR: No, I’d like to hear it from you.
[0:28:33.4] MB: Well, I was going to say it’s about a pilgrimage across Spain, basically. It’s a lot more than that, but it’s the vehicle that tells some of the other pieces of the story. That’s loosely based on an actual pilgrimage you took, right?
[0:28:45.4] KR: Correct. I did that when I was about 25 or 26, and I’m not religious at all, and in fact, most of the people I met at the pilgrimage weren’t religious either, but it is something by walking. This pilgrimage has been around since the 11th century. It’s called the Camino de Santiago, and there’s something about walking in the same footsteps of people who have done it for so many centuries. You’re just another one, and as you go through and walk through wheat fields, and vineyards, and cities, and mountains, and deserts, and forests, you shift.
And the people you meet along the way, the conversations you have, by the time you start to – by the time you end, whatever you need to resolve gets resolved. It’s kind of like how that works. It’s very interesting. There’s a reason I guess why many cultures have a concept of a pilgrimage. So a pilgrimage is the perfect vehicle to share these lessons. I took these experiences I have lived and wrote the story in a way so I could weave the lessons into that vehicle.
[0:29:37.6] MB: So what prompted you initially to choose — I guess when I was reading I was like, why Spain and why a pilgrimage?
[0:29:45.2] KR: For the story or my life?
[0:29:46.4] MB: No, in your real life, when you initially decided.
[0:29:48.5] KR: You want the truth?
[0:29:49.3] MB: Yeah.
[0:29:49.8] KR: I was in Italy visiting a friend from college, and we were at this beautiful Italian woman’s house and we were very drunk on grappa that her grandmother made, and I was trying to impress her, and she told me about this pilgrimage and I said I would walk it. So I came up with the idea when I was really, really drunk trying to impress a beautiful Italian woman. The next day when I woke up I was like, “Well that was interesting, but it seems cool. Let me just go do it for a few days.” So I went off and I did it, and ended up doing the whole thing. But the whole thing started off being drunk trying to impress a woman, which was pretty much where all a lot of great male stories start.
[0:30:22.9] MB: That’s really funny. That reminds me and I’m trying to remember, I think there’s some psychologist who’s written a lot about the idea that basically, all kind of technology and human innovation is essentially an elaborate giant mating ritual.
[0:30:36.6] KR: It really is. It’s us peacocks doing our dance literally. It’s funny, there’s a lot of truth to it.
[0:30:42.4] MB: So from that actual journey, what were some of the biggest learnings or takeaways that you had from it?
[0:30:48.7] KR: Actually that journey, taught me that — I learned a lot about forgiveness in some conversations I had, which is actually one of the core themes in this book as well, because I think forgiveness is such an important thing in our lives, forgiveness and self-forgiveness. If you want to talk about being free, I don’t think we can be free until we fully either forgive or forgive ourselves. Forgive who we hold, otherwise we are just carrying this psychological baggage.
So that was one of the key things I learned, and that’s one of the key lessons woven in this book. What else did I learn? I mean, that was the main thing, honestly, because I’ve done it. I’ve climbed mountains. I was in the Army and stuff, so it wasn’t like I learned how to walk across the country or anything like that, and what’s interesting is it’s quite easy to do. People walk in their 70’s and 80’s, and you’re in Spain. You are not walking the Appalachia trail.
Another thing was just the people you meet. So the thing with travelling and doing something like that, especially because people come from all over the world to do it, so you meet interesting people. Very interesting people from all over the world that you share with each other stories of their lives, and you can’t help but grow because of that. They can’t help but grow because of that. It’s basically a very nice encapsulated micro-chasm of just personal growth. I would highly recommend anyone to do something like that.
[0:32:03.3] MB: And I think you say, and I might be paraphrasing in the book, but you become part of the Camino and it becomes part of you.
[0:32:09.4] KR: Yeah, I think it’s like when you do anything like that, you become a part of it and yeah, for example the Camino, not only have people changed your life, you’re changing other people’s lives. You all become part of that same journey for each other. It’s never a one-way street. You all become part of this one constant flow of people that have over the centuries done it, and changed, and gone onto live better lives. It’s a beautiful thing.
[0:32:32.6] MB: I’d love to dig into forgiveness a little bit, and I think the book does an amazing job of dealing with it. The main character both is having to forgive himself, and also is forgiving his father. I thought it was really fascinating. I’d love to get your thoughts on how do we cultivate, I guess let’s start with self-forgiveness.
[0:32:52.1] KR: Self-forgiveness, ultimately, I actually wrote a piece about this I’m going to put out. It’s another practice that I’ve done that works. You see the theme there, right? It’s practice. I think self-forgiveness ultimately is just recognizing you’re human. Look up human definition at any dictionary, it doesn’t say equals perfect, right? What does it mean to be human? That we learn, and we do, and we try. We keep on trying. We’re these amazing special creatures that keep on falling and getting up.
We keep on moving forward, and eventually become better and better because of it. I think that’s just the human journey. Realizing that this is part of the human journey. Our mistakes are part of it, there is no way around it. So if we realize that, it’s easier to forgive ourselves, to have that kind of compassion for ourselves versus holding ourselves to this. I am very guilty of that. I am hard on myself until I realized, all you can do is you’re doing the best you can at that time. Now, do the best you can at this time. That’s all we can do. That’s the only contract, and it makes it way easier to forgive yourself when you look at life that way.
[0:33:53.0] MB: And there’s a really powerful passage on the book that I’m going to read here, when Ahmed, who’s the main character, is thinking about his father, which ties into what you just talked about. He says, “He was not a saint or a monster, just human. With all his faults, dreams, hopes and desires, a human being.” I think that perfectly encapsulates that, and for me, I feel like that was a powerful passage in the sense that it just really simply captured the fact that we are all human. Despite the flaws and errors and the mistakes that we make and others make, behind that there’s something that you can always find a way to forgive somebody.
[0:34:32.9] KR: Yeah, and forgiving doesn’t mean forget and go run right back. Forgiving just means making that fundamental shift of understanding inside yourself. Ultimately, it’s all from within. Forgiveness helps you more than anyone else. Forgiveness is just basically a burning inside you that you just need to let go off and it goes away.
It’s all within, that’s the irony. Like to forgive someone else is to actually just helping yourself. I know we all have to go through a journey of forgiveness. Sometimes it takes a while. Like, Ahmed has to go walk this pilgrimage, the lessons he’s got to learn, which lead him to forgiveness, and I think we all do that in our own way and that’s all fine. It’s the human condition, it’s the human journey.
[0:35:10.2] MB: The beautiful part about that is that the research, then, the science in psychology shows that forgiveness is incredibly powerful, and not only is it associated with brain states that are more beneficial to thinking and having more cognitive ability, but they are also associated with longevity, happiness, all kinds of outcomes. Forgiveness is not just woo-woo. It’s actually really scientifically validated and incredibly powerful.
[0:35:37.1] KR: I totally agree. These emotional states inside of us, they create the mind-body connection. At this point, if someone doesn’t know it, they must be hiding under a rock somewhere. It’s true. You can look at data, you can look at your own life, and if you do it for yourself, ultimately, the people around you in the world is better. So there’s nothing selfish about it. One has to work on themselves first and work on forgiveness and self-love. The very core things that matter.
[0:36:00.7] MB: One of the other lessons from the book that emerges as you’re reading it is this phrase that Ahmed learns from, I think a French woman that he encounters. I might be messing that up, but it’s basically the question of, “If I loved myself, would I do this?”
[0:36:17.0] KR: Right. It says, “If I loved myself, what would I do?” Yeah, and that incorporates the stuff that I learned in loving myself into the book. I mean how could I not, right? It’s such a core lesson, but then he uses that simple question to actually guide him forward in the journey, which is just a metaphor for guiding yourself in life, and a place for making these decisions, and what I found very powerful when I came up with that question for myself was I never said “because I love myself” or “when I love myself.”
I said, “If I love myself,” so let’s go from there. If I love myself what’s the action I would take? It’s that simple, anyone can answer that question. Otherwise, we’ll get stuck in, “Well I don’t love myself yet,” or so forth. So that “if” statement is very powerful, and it’s actually very freeing.
[0:37:00.8] MB: Yeah, I think the “if” is what makes that statement so powerful. It takes your mind off the hook from dealing with whether or not you feel like you love yourself, etcetera, and it opens a new pathway of possibility for thinking about and cultivating self-love.
[0:37:18.1] KR: Yeah, and I think that “if” thing is part of the practice that I was locked in my room coming up with. That actually really helped me a lot, because I didn’t start off like that. I hated myself. I didn’t believe in the word love, I laughed at that. Now really, I am the guy who say, “Oh I love this pasta,” or whatever. I started from the opposite place, and if anyone can end up with it, it shocks me that where I’ve ended up, the way I feel about it now, but starting from an “if” place gave me the freedom, because there was no having to prove anything. If. Okay, if I did, what would I do? Well, I would do this, so why don’t I do this? It’s that’s simple.
[0:37:54.9] MB: The funny thing about the power of the word if, and we’ve talked about this in previous episodes of the show, where we dig into limiting beliefs and how to overcome them, and using “if” statements like that are a great way to trick your subconscious and sidestep the resistance that you feel to imagining new possibilities and blowing apart some of your limits. So it’s really powerful, and a great tool, and it’s something that is so simple, but that simple turn of phrase can have a massive impact.
[0:38:23.5] KR: Yeah. I think I remember I was on Facebook, and I heard someone had quoted Tony Robbins. He said, “The quality of your life matters more than the quality of your cushions.” Aha, okay I get it. I’m doing that with this cushion, and it’s a transformative question that one just asks themselves and their actions. It will transform your life. That alone, that simple one alone.
[0:38:43.4] MB: And in Rebirth, in many ways, Ahmed goes through the process of changing some of the questions that he’s asking, about why is he suffering to what can he do about it? I think that transition is really powerful in terms of internalizing that lesson when you read that story.
[0:39:02.2] KR: Yeah, that’s the beauty of writing fiction. You can show the growth and show lessons of growth. That is what makes storytelling special.
[0:39:09.5] MB: It’s funny, I said it a little bit earlier, but as a non-fiction reader, I went in very skeptical of “what is this going to be about, and what am I going to get out of it,” and I was amazed how much I took from it, and how relevant it was to some of the struggles that I’ve dealt with within my life, and some of the challenges that I’ve had, and it was really powerful for me to read the book, even though it was a fictional story that didn’t seem like it had any sort of relevance to what I was thinking about.
[0:39:36.3] KR: That’s beautiful. Thank you. That was what I was going for, thank you so much.
[0:39:40.6] MB: So for somebody who’s listening to us and wants to take a first step or some kind of action to implement some of these ideas, what is one simple piece of homework that you would give them?
[0:39:52.1] KR: Well, let’s just stay with what we were talking about, that simple question. Start asking yourself that in your actions like, for example, in simple things such as eating, or working out versus not working out, or interacting with someone, and in negative versus a positive state. If I love myself, and when I say love, I mean truly love, like the way you love a parent, or a baby, or even a puppy, like the way the puppy loves you. True love for yourself. If I truly love myself, what would I do? Answer that question, and then go live from that place. That alone. I think your life will be amazing just like that, you know?
[0:40:28.3] MB: Simple, but not always easy advice.
[0:40:30.3] KR: Of course. It’s an advice, it’s a work. No one that I have met in my life who’s ever done anything of value or significance has ever not put in the work, and I think truly the thing that we should work on the most is ourselves, because when we are better the world is better, our life is better, everything is just better because of the classic ripple effect.
So yeah, not easy, but not necessarily that hard either. You don’t have to burn any sage, you don’t have to do any like, go walk across the country. Just ask this question, and throughout actions in the day. Ask yourself twice a day. That’s two more times your actions will be better rather than before they would have been, you know?
[0:41:10.0] MB: So for listeners who want to learn more or find some of these resources, where can they find you and the book online?
[0:41:16.4] KR: Well, they can find everything, I have set up a special page for the book. People can learn more about it. It’s rebirthfable.com, and they can just go there and learn more about it and see where it’s available, and it’s going to be everywhere starting January 3rd. Yeah that’s the best way. I figured that’s a simple enough URL for people to remember, and this also captures the book: Rebirth Fable.
It is a fable, because I want it to be like a journey that transforms a reader just as it transformed the main character. I don’t like reading drama and all of that, and in the end, you’re just tightly wound up and stressed. So I wanted this to be something that creates a shift inside and fables do that. So just go to rebirthfable.com and check it out, and I hope you enjoy it.
[0:42:03.0] MB: I just wanted to say thank you so much for being on the show, Kamal, and the book. It was really impactful for me, as I said before we started recording, I was brought to tears at a few pieces of the book, and I thought it was really, really powerful. So for listeners out there who are thinking about it, I highly recommend checking it out. It’s a great book and it shares some really valuable lessons. So thank you again for being on the show. It’s been an honor to have you on here and we really enjoyed it.
[0:42:27.3] KR: Oh, the honor is mine, really. I’m so lucky I get to share myself with the world through experiences like this. So truly, thank you.
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