In a crowded “nothing new under the sun” world, being successful no longer means having more or being at the apex of a vocation. That narrative is a dime a dozen. The richest man on earth is as forgettable as the average speaker at a TED Talk is memorable.
Being successful in a digital, multichannel age means transcending the constraints of your field, the expectations of your culture, and even the guarded borders of your identity. It means reinventing yourself to the point few will forget your brief tale in this universe. That context of achievement is easy to grasp when thinking of such modern “success” stories as Steve Jobs, Tim Ferris, or Reed Hastings.
How to do these lords of transcendence do it? Is there a code? If there is one today, it might be found in a book aptly called The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, written by Vishen Lakhiani. Although known as the founder of Mindvalley, trying to label Lakhiani is as hard as labelling the complex figures mentioned above—individuals who can thrive as both entrepreneurs and social activists, captains of commerce and spiritual servants of the common good.
The Code of the Extraordinary Mind is also hard to pigeonhole. You could say the book is a manual on how to upgrade and reboot your existence with an equal mixture of common sense and mysticism. You could say the book is transcendent.
Lakhiani’s work provides a blueprint for any individual to find his or her potential without having to run to a cave in Tibet (although that is optional). He is no mere guru of anecdotal experience dressed in New Age lingo. His writing is brutally honest, humble and intimate. At the same time, the book’s content is laser-like in its practically—drawing partially from Lakhiani having 17 jobs in 17 years, from washing dishes to founding (and losing) companies. He also draws heavily from many of today’s “success” stories.
Thus, I present here the wisdom Lakhiani learned from other lords of transcendence and revealed in The Code of the Extraordinary Mind.
Lakhiani asked the famed founder of Tesla this questions: “Elon, you’ve done some pretty epic things, stuff most people would never even dream about. Yet what makes Elon Musk? I mean, if we could put you in a blender and blend you to distill your essence, what would that essence be?”
Lakhiani writes that Musk laughed at the blender metaphor and then thoughtfully answered:
When I was just starting out, I walked into Netscape to get a job. I just sat in the lobby holding my résumé, waiting quietly for someone to talk to me. No one did. I waited and waited. But no one spoke to me. So I said: ‘F**k it! I’ll just start my own company.’
Obviously, few of us can be like Musk. He also did tell Lakhiani that “I have a high tolerance for pain.” In any case, many us forget that before we can think outside the box, we must understand we’re trapped inside one.
While spending time together on the beach at Richard Branson’s private island, Lakhiani shared openly about various philosophical issues with Branson.
At one point, Branson interrupted him and stoically said, “You should write a book.”
That was it. Lakhiani took the suggestion. Why? Because Branson found him interesting? Maybe or maybe not. It was likely that Branson simply knew everyone has an important story to share. Lakhiani had merely been brave enough to take the first step of disclosing one’s soul to later expand it.
Later on, Lakhiani asked Branson why he always seemed happy. Was he ever sad? Branson answered, “I can’t remember the bad times. I only remember the good things that happened in my life.”
Branson’s view reminds me of a Tom Robbins quote: “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” The past is a stern classroom, sure, but eventually the bell needs to ring and we need to venture into the playgrounds of our positive experiences. Your mileage and metaphors may vary.
Lakhiani recalls asking Arianna Huffington the same questions offered to Musk: “What makes you Arianna? If we could distill you and try to extract your essence, what is it that makes you you?”
I would say trust. I have an incredible trust in life. One of my favorite quotes is a little misquote: ‘Live life as though everything is rigged in your favor.’ I really profoundly believe that whatever has happened in my life, including the biggest heartbreaks, the biggest disappointments, was exactly what was needed to help me get to the next stage of my own personal evolution and growth. I always had a sense of that, but now I believe that so profoundly. I can literally see the hidden blessing in every bad thing that happened.
In essence, I would say, every person has a history and that history is unique—filled with wonder and insight.
Lakhiani recalls in his book a quote by Peter Diamandis, founder and chairman of the X Prize: “If you can’t win, change the rules. If you can’t change the rules, ignore them.”
Not much can be commented on this quote, especially once you’re involved in writing the script that is your life (as with Musk and Branson) and are enraptured in the lessons of your past (as with Branson and Huffington).
In The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, Lakhiani proffers his own insights that correlate with the figures mentioned. He furthermore presents his personal journey, as Rudyard Kipling wrote, of meeting with “Triumph and Disaster” and treating those two impostors as they were one. It is quite a journey, and he calls for each one of us to take that journey.
As mentioned, being successful today means transcending until you find the best, unique, and helpful version of yourself. It’s not so much about reinventing, though, but rediscovering who you were meant to be—and that is a person whose tale is unforgettable in this universe.