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- “The monk mindset is, ‘How do I just place this next step? Not perfectly, but how do I place this next step with my best intention, process, and habits possible?’”
- In this special episode of The Brendon Show, Brendon sits down with Jay Shetty for a conversation about perseverance and what it means to use the monk mindset to overcome challenges.
- “You’re not the end of who you’ve been, you’re at the beginning of who you’re going to become.”
- Watch the video to get the full training.
- Get Jay Shetty’s book, “Think Like a Monk,” on Amazon.
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[The following is the full transcript of this episode of The Brendon Show. Please note that this episode, like all TBS episodes, features Brendon speaking extemporaneously–he is unscripted and unedited. Filmed in one take, The Brendon Show has become one of the most viewed unscripted, direct-to-camera self-help series in the history of YouTube. It has also been the #1 Podcast in all of iTunes and is regularly in the top podcasts in Self-Help and Health categories around the globe. Subscribe to the free motivational podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.)
Brendon: All right, Jay Shetty, my brother.
Jay: Brendon, thanks so much for having me. I’m so grateful to be here. You’re such an inspiration to me and have been for such a long time. Just for anyone who doesn’t know, I sent Brendon these updates of his quotes that I used to share like five, six, seven, eight years ago. And they’re still so powerful. So when I read them, and I get my Facebook reminder, I’m like, “Wow, this is so powerful.” So Brendon, thank you for doing what you’ve been doing for so many years and being such an inspiration to me and so many people and paving the way.
Brendon: Well I’ve never gotten to tell you face to face, but every time you send me those you make me feel old. I’ll get this text and be like, “Hey, it’s Jay,” it’ll be like, “Hey, I like this quote from 2008 or seven or something. I really love them.” And that’s great too, because now I’m always sharing your quotes with our tribe as well. So it’s just so cool to see and we have such shared background and experience. But today, I’m super pumped, as I shared in the intro to everybody to talk about Think Like A Monk.
And if you’re on video with me, you can see these tabs aren’t just my notes because there’s tons of highlights and underlines. These tabs are the questions that I thought when I was reading this, “I want to ask Jay.” I want to know more about these things, so that I can understand deeper in the book, understand his world deeper. And for those who don’t yet know, Think Like A Monk, I’m going to call it the Field Guide to Handling 2020.
Literally Jay, so many people haven’t been able to adapt, or they’re really drowning in pessimism. The stress is real. People have lost jobs, they’re freaked out because of COVID, they’re freaked out because of the volatility in politics, they’re overwhelmed because their lives fundamentally changed in one way or another and that they really struggled with that stress and that turbulence. I’ve been waiting for this to occur, I can say, you just need to go to Think Like A Monk. And I’m not saying that to blow smoke. It’s a field guide for a different way of thinking and managing the world. And I really believe it’s going to change people’s lives. So thank you for writing.
Jay: No, thank you. I appreciate that. And it’s interesting because I didn’t write the book based on what we’ve experienced. In the five months, I wrote my book based on what I believe are the muscles and the mindsets that we need forever in life. They’re timeless.
But that’s what’s so incredible about wisdom, is that whether it was spoken 5,000 years ago today, or 5,000 years from now, human challenges and suffering and pain are so similar in one sense that it will always hold true and so thank you for saying that.
It means the world to me. Our virtual tour is actually called Dear 2020: Please Think Like A Monk. I really feel that this is a mindset that will really, really help people heal right now.
Brendon: You had to face that stress too. I got an advanced reader edition from Jay and his publisher, and it says on sale, April 14, 2020. Walk us through that as an author, because this is a big deal. And a lot of my tribe, they want to write books, they’re creators or influencers as well. So they’re in this place of, they’ve wanted to write a book, you actually did write it, you’re going to launch it, and COVID hits and Black Lives Matter movement begins. We’re in this very shaky, uncertain time. How did that affect how you thought of the work that you just put months and years into and were about to launch? Because a lot of people listening, their projects have been thrown sideways, too. How did you personally deal with that?
Jay: Yeah, well first of all, I think perspective is a beautiful thing. And when I see the level of pain that other people have gone through at this time, and I’m experiencing the fact that people have lost someone or something or they’ve lost their job, or they lost their livelihood, or some people have lost their homes. And to me, that level of perspective really allows me to look at my life in perspective, and I’m not devaluing my loss, and I don’t think anyone should devalue or belittle their loss. But I do think that perspective is a game changer. Because all of a sudden, you can look at something with the significance that it has.
I’ll give an example. When you stub your toe or you lock your finger in a doorway, it feels like a 10 on the scale of pain, and it’s like the worst thing that could have ever happened to you. Yesterday I cut myself on the side of my bed. I have one of these low Zen beds, and really sharp corners, and it cut my leg and I’ve got this big scar across my shin. And it was bleeding. And in the moment, that was the worst thing that happened to me, and I’d say I felt a 10 on the scale of pain. But actually, if I think, what is a level 10 of pain, or what is 100% of pain, it would be like losing my family or something terrible happening. And when you look at things with that perspective, all of a sudden, cutting my leg feels like a one on that level. And so I think that perspective is really powerful.
The second thing with the book getting pushed back. My goal has always been if my vision is to make wisdom go viral, and my purpose is to try and serve people through storytelling and content creation and programming, the book is one element of that. And granted, it’s probably my most exciting thing I’ve done in my career so far, but I have to remind myself that the book being delayed doesn’t stop me from fulfilling my purpose. And you realize your purpose is not existing in a book, or a course, or a program. Your purpose exists beyond all of those things.
I find my certainty in uncertain times through service. That’s how I find my certainty. I feel like whenever things are uncertain, I can’t find happiness, I can’t always find joy, but I can always find service.
And if I find service, then that leads to joy and that leads to meaning. So I just launched my—I did 20 days of live meditation on Instagram and Facebook for anyone. It was absolutely free. Because I was thinking what I can offer and I was like, “I can’t sing like John Legend and play the piano.”
Brendon: Or go to seminars outside.
Jay: Or go to seminars outside. But what I can do is teach meditation and if everyone can find 20 minutes of peace in their day, then hopefully that will help them navigate what’s going on. So we did 20 days and then because people wanted it, we did 40 days of live meditation every single day for 30 minutes a day. And we had 20 million people view the meditations over 40 days. And the feedback—I would go live with people at the end and 90% of people said that they never meditated before. And so for me, that was how I responded and that genuinely—Brendon you know me, so I’m not giving you an answer that isn’t true—I really just realized that my purpose, my fulfillment, doesn’t exist in a product.
Brendon: Yes, we say in high performance all the time: the project is not the purpose.
Jay: Love it. There you go.
Brendon: A project falls out, a project is delayed—because a lot of people right now, they formed their identity based on the projects and the projects fall apart. Or they formed their identity based on the relationship that fell apart, which is my story; I was severely depressed and suicidal as a teenager, my identity was tied to a relationship that fell apart. Or, for some people, their jobs have been lost. Some people got sick or lost somebody who they really cared about. Those things are not them. And those things are not the purpose.
And when you tap into that—and I know that’s genuinely you, because you texted me and said, “We have to move. What do we plan to do?” And there was no bemoaning it. I’m sure there was a moment where you were like, “Well, this sucks.”
Jay: Well, I think the truth is that I really want what’s best for the book, because it’s like, if you put your heart into something, you want what’s best for it.
And I feel like that’s the difference between detachment and attachment. Attachment is, “I want it to happen this way.” Detachment is, “I want it to happen in the best way.”
And the problem with attachment is you think you know the best way. And so we have like a movie role playing up here of how we imagine and envision our life to be, but reality is down here, actually happening. And when they don’t match, we get flustered and we go, “Oh, no, no, it’s not meant to be like this.”
But the truth is that you’re living the movie of your life. So you don’t have to direct it beforehand. You’ve got to direct it in the moment. And I think that’s the mistake we make. We try to direct our movies 10 years in advance, but the director is in the movie in the moment, guiding each character and guiding yourself.
So to me, it was definitely a moment of uncertainty and anxiety. There wasn’t a moment of like, “Oh, this is going to be terrible.” There was a moment of, “Oh, what are we going to do?”
Brendon: How do we handle it?
Jay: How do we handle this? It was that panic moment of like, “Where’s this going to go? How is this going to happen? What’s going to have to change? How many things are going to get pushed off?” And there’s all of that and then you just go, “Okay, let me breathe for a second. And let me do Brendon’s wonderful Qi Gong exercise that we did on my podcast when you came.” And just take a moment to just be like, when you just beautifully said, the project is not your purpose. That’s so beautiful. And as soon as you realize that you think, “I can still live my purpose. I’m okay, I can still live.”
Brendon: What I love about your book—one main chapter comes to mind, which is the identity chapter where you talk about where identity comes from, but you also talk about our values, and just being more conscientious and more deliberate about what we want our values to be, because they’re guiding us. What would you say was your work of value? What was the value that allowed you to go, “Okay, I’m going to handle this. I’m going to handle this well, and it’s going to come out when it’s best serving the book?”
Jay: That’s a great question. I think the strongest value that guided that decision was trusting timing. And that’s a hard one, but it’s something that I’ve developed over time where I’ve consistently realized that I think I know when things should happen. But the timing that the universe, the source, God, divine, however you want to put it, the timing that’s meant for you is really the right timing. And I’ve seen that time and time again in my life where I’ve planned something perfectly, and you’ve got it all measured and mapped, and then the timing changes, but actually the results supersedes what you ever believed was possible.
Brendon: It was like 2018 for you when you had the most viewed video on Facebook the entire year, 300 million plus views or whatever. I’m sure you weren’t going for 100 million video views on that. It was like divine timing or something that just said, “This message, this person, this medium right now—well beyond our control.”
Jay: Yeah, we limit the universe with our plans. We limit the universe so much. If I had it my way, my goal was a million views, a million subscribers. That was my goal, right? And now when you think about that, you’re like, “Oh that goal was just arbitrary,” and so I really feel that if you’re in alignment—and that’s the other value that helped, it was alignment—where you feel aligned with what you’re really trying to do, not what you’re trying to do right now.
That disconnected—like we’re so focused on what we’re doing right now versus what we’re really trying to do.
And what I’m really trying to do is just help and serve and make a difference. And I think that’s the value that you can offer through any form or any medium.
Brendon: I hope you all heard that and will recall too, because our audience is always talking about high performance. And there’s that concept we talk about in high performance habits, which is: Achievement isn’t the problem. Alignment is.
People can get things done all day long and people are really busy all the time. But it doesn’t really align with who they are, what they really want, or what might be right for them at that time. And I think that’s happened a lot in 2020, where people are really discovering, “oh, I was doing this hustle, but it doesn’t mean anything to me.” Or, “I was doing that, I didn’t enjoy it. And now I have this break. Or maybe the universe said, ‘Hey, take a break.’ And now I need to reevaluate who I am and what’s important to me.”
And I think a lot of people are struggling with that. Jay, what do you say to that person who writes and says, “I don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t know what I really want.” Where do they begin?
Jay: Yeah, I give the example in the book of Method Acting. And I talked about how when actors are preparing for a role, the process of method acting most famously done by people like Heath Ledger and Daniel Day Lewis.
Brendon: Yeah, you mentioned Daniel Day Lewis in the book as the example. I loved it.
Jay: Yeah and these people talk about how they lost themselves in the role. And I was speaking about this with someone the other day, and they were saying that Jim Carrey, when he made a movie, he said that he lost himself in the role so much that when he came out of the movie, he didn’t know who he was anymore. He didn’t have an understanding. What he liked, what he didn’t like.
And that’s an experience that we all go through when life runs a train through our journey and pathway, which is kind of what everyone’s going through right now. It’s like this sharp awakening of just, “well, who am I now?” And so that’s actually a beautiful place because you get to restructure and rebuild and now you get to choose the bricks that you build that identity with rather than letting people give you the bricks. Our whole life we’ve been given bricks by people of what they value and we built our house with those bricks.
Now we’ve got a choice to go, “No, actually, I don’t even want a brick. I want that. And I want that material and that material.” So the first thing I’d say is to recognize that you’re actually at the beginning of a beautiful journey. You’re not at the end of the last one, right?
You’re not the end of who you’ve been, you’re at the beginning of who you’re going to become.
And that’s such a powerful place to be because it’s a rebirth, or it’s a birth for the first time sometimes. So that’s the first message here. The second thing I’d say is that this is the time to really question the intent behind what you’re chasing, to really question what you want and your intent behind it.
Because so often our wrong intention for the right thing will lead us down the wrong path.
And I think we don’t realize that when we keep to our alignment, that beautiful statement you shared about, it’s not the achievement, it’s alignment. Alignment means, is my intention aligned with my action? And when I’m saying aligned, I’m saying is, am I looking for the right thing in the right way? And sometimes even if you’re looking for the wrong thing, but in the right way, you’ll still get it. That’s why intention is so powerful, like if you’re planting seeds in your garden, and you by mistake water the seeds but water a weed next to it, because you’re still watering, the seeds are still going to grow and you spot the weed. So that process of watering needs to continue.
Brendon: I love that. Well let’s talk about that. I love that weed metaphor because it’s going to bring me to the two or three of my favorite chapters in the book. You’re playing on that weed metaphor, what comes to my mind is, oh, yeah, but some of the flowers that we’re watering right now are becoming poisoned by all the negativity. You wrote so accurately about what I personally feel, experience, and believe about negativity. I think if ever in 2020, if any other time we were seeing negativity really rip people from their foundation, really tear people away from that feeling of life satisfaction or joy or even connection or contribution.
Even people who are doing good feel like it’s a kind of a slog, because there’s so much negativity in the news on social media; so much vitriol around race, opportunity, where we are as a country, where the world is heading both socio-economically and at personal levels. I’ve seen people in our own industry, people who we know who are so positive and joyful, and they’re struggling. I shared with you before, I want everyone to know this, I shared with Jay before, there’ve been moments in the last couple months I’ve been discouraged. The motivation joy guy, because seeing the pain and the struggle that people are having, even as you’re serving, can be very discouraging. You can see that negative struggle and that can be integrated. So for those who are vibing with anything I’m talking about right now, and they feel the negativity out there, what does Think Like A Monk mean, in that case?
Jay: Yeah, absolutely. I really think there’s a need for compassion culture, for ourselves and for others. And what I mean by that is, the ability to first of all recognize that no one had the guidebook for 2020 up their sleeve, or no one could even have expected themselves to be ready for this. No matter how good you are at predicting or trends, or whatever it is, 99% of people did not see this coming. And so, there needs to be a bit of self-compassion and not judging ourselves. It’s so easy to get into that spiral of—one of the pieces of negativity is judgment of self. Judging ourselves for not being the best parents, not being the best partners, not being the best people. And that’s not a “get out of jail” free card to behave how you want. What that is, is genuinely allowing yourself to say, “Hey, I need a bit of time just to adapt and be compassionate because no one had the mindset or the plan for this.”
Brendon: No, this is a black swan event for everybody.
Jay: Yeah, this is crazy. It’s so extreme, but what should happen—and we were talking about this the other day, Brendon—is that in this moment, you now shift to go, “Okay, I get it, I’m going to build the muscles that are going to help me build adaptability and resilience for this forever so I’m never going to be blindsided again. I never want to be in a situation again where I don’t have the tools.”
So when you’re thinking like a monk, for this situation in the negativity, the first thing that a monk does, is it’s about putting on your own protective shield. A lot of us walk out onto the battlefield of life without having done our own training, our own shielding, and our own protection. A very simple practical way you can transform your environment is a three S model that I gave in the book: sights, sense, and sounds.
Now sight, sense, and sounds have a huge impact on your personal shield and the strength of your shield. And so when we look at sights—sights is what you see. So the big question I’d ask Brendon, to anyone who’s listening or watching right now, is what’s the first thing you see in the morning? If it’s your phone—and studies show that 80% of people see their phone before their partner in the morning and the evening—Brendon, can you imagine? Your phone is the last thing you see and the first thing you see in the morning when you wake up.
Brendon: I would be awful.
Jay: I would be awful too. I mean, this is the point. Monks are not training in a strip club. Sorry for my crudeness. You’re not putting yourself in an environment where you’re set up to lose when you’re training. Right? When you’re strong, you can put yourself in extreme environments but when you’re training, you make it work. So if you’re waking up in the morning, make the first thing you see be a quote you love. Make it be a work of art that inspires you, make it be a picture of your family that really means something to you. But make it the first thing you see. It could be in your bedside table, it could be a ceiling. Wherever it is that you look at, first make it something that makes you pause.
Because otherwise, when you dive into your phone, you’re now reacting to everyone’s agenda. Everyone’s focused on the news, the negativity, and you’re now starting your day with people filling you up, rather than you being an abundant creator.
Brendon: Love that.
Jay: And so the first thing is sight.
The second thing I’d say is you’ve got to change your sounds in your life. And as monks, sound design was huge. So I discovered this when I lived in New York City for two years, and I used to find myself feeling quite mentally tired. And I was always wondering what it was. And so I started researching and reading as we do. And I read about this thing called cognitive load. And it was saying that when you’re processing insignificant, irrelevant sound, your brain is trying to process something that doesn’t actually have meaning or use. And so now you’re wasting 80% of your brain’s energy on cognitive load. So examples are having the news on in the background. Examples are being around culture where there’s a lot of noise and gossip, drilling, construction work. All of that creates cognitive load. Now sound, how can you change it? We all know, Brendon and you do this at your seminars beautifully, you put on music and everyone’s jumping up and down. Sound has that energy to change our physiology. It has that opportunity to change our biology. So what sound are you playing in your work environment? Is it what you want intentionally? What’s the sound that you wake up to? By the way, why does anyone wake up to an alarm?!
Jay: Why would you want to wake up to a fire alarm? So change the sounds that you work to, that you cook to, that you sleep to, and you will just see your anxiety just depreciate.
And the third one is sense. I think sense is so underestimated. When you smell a food you love, you’re already tasting it, you’re feeling the benefit of it. There’s a reason why when we walk into a massage room, and I remember when we were in Puerto Rico we went for one of those beautiful, which you recommend to me that I couldn’t miss, it was one of those tree top massages.
Jay: Beautiful place. So I went for one that was amazing. But massage spas, they all have scents like lavender, eucalyptus, sandalwood. This isn’t just to make you feel good for two seconds. When you breathe in, inhale that, it reduces your reaction and desire for negativity and brings that positivity into your life. So if you’re creating these habits in your day, you’ll find that the external negativity is still there, it’s not changing it, but it’s able to less penetrate your shield.
Brendon: I love that. I love that. When I think about negativity right now, there’s that component of it that is very critical. There’s a lot of criticism. There’s a lot of accusations. There’s a lot of that stuff that people are scared of more than ever, we are focusing on culture change. They’re excited to be part of a movement, they’re excited to speak up for what they believe is right. And inevitably in doing that, a lot of vitriol comes back to them. And they can be criticized, they can be accused of things. What do you think about that? Because I think that’s a negative effect that social media has on a lot of people. How do you deal with that?
Jay: That’s a great question. I think one of the greatest rules for change that I think is not given enough focus is that change can never happen if someone has to lose, right? Someone has to lose in creating a change? That’s not change. Change is a win-win for everyone. And we’ve heard this and that, being it’s in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, a win-win is like their win-win. But what I’m saying is when you’re trying to create a change, don’t look at it as, “I’m right and that person is wrong.” As soon as you’ve done that, you’re not created a change, you’ve created division.
Jay: And so what we have to do is how do we create a new platform whereby both people are growing above right and wrong, where there’s movement above right and wrong. Right and wrong are stagnant places, places that cause division. But when you do a movement as you mentioned, that comes when we go beyond right and wrong. This is the direction we need to go. And as a society, that’s hard to do. But it really is the truth of change, that the rule of change is stop trying to make someone wrong because that means you’re right. Well, guess what? They’re right now, you’re wrong. And that’s never going to create a harmonious society. What we need is where we all go,”Actually, let me understand, let me listen, let me really understand why that person thinks that way.” And it’s not that you agree with them. It’s not that you think they’re right. It’s that you have to give it a chance.
I remember when I used to be in my debating society at school. I was super dorky and geeky and loved debating society. And I remember the first rule of debate was that you could not debate someone if you didn’t fully understand their motion and their side. If you did not understand their motion and their perspective, you weren’t allowed to debate because then you were just debating based on ego. And I think that’s the thing that’s misleading us is that we’re fighting based on ego and this desire to be right and make stuff happen rather than fighting from a place of compassion, which wants collective growth, not just individual growth.
Brendon: How do you do that when it’s extremely tied to your identity and your values? So an example of this, and I know a lot of people fear this or there’s a lot of negativity around it too is like so imagine you’re back in your ashram days. You’re maybe in the monk robes, you walk out and some tourists passing by laugh at you and go, “You look stupid”, and they start accusing you and belittle you. They bully you, they say awful things. And it’s specific. It is you, they’re targeting you. They’re saying it to you. Because a lot of people are asking me like, how do you deal with that? I said, “Well, I got the guy who knows how to think like a monk!” In that moment on that street being accused, or being criticized in that way that’s specific to your religion, your identity, who you are, how do you in that moment cope?
Jay: Yeah, I give an example of that in the book of me literally being in that exact scenario where someone goes to me like, “Oh, couldn’t you’ve been doing something better with your life?” I remember everything was boiling up inside of me to be like, “I’m a first class honors degree graduate and I’ve been a straight A student my whole life.” And that’s what my mind is wanting me to say. And then for a second, I have to sit back and go, “Well, how much pain must that person be in to be pushing someone’s pain out?” We remember the beautiful teaching of Wayne Dyer when you squish the orange, the only thing that comes out is orange juice. And it’s almost like when we’re squeezed, the only thing that comes out is what’s inside of us.
And so, for me, the first method is just going, that person is obviously being squeezed right now, they’re being squished right now. And so what pain is that person experiencing to get into this place where they’re accusing me or they’re directing? What are they going through?
And that’s the first level of thinking like a monk, you’re always living like an observer. You’re realizing that there is a reality beyond this and that person, and observing the situation from a different perspective.
As soon as you make it about you, you’re only seeing it through your lens. You want to see it as almost an outside director of seeing two people interact. That’s why we’re better at solving our friends’ problems than our own. Because in our friends’ lives, it’s like, “Oh, you two are arguing. Well, let me tell you exactly what to do.” And we’re so great at that. And then when we’re in the argument because we think it’s us and that person, we get it wrong. And so you have to see yourself as the director, the observer, the listener, the mediator. Even in your own life, you have to play the role of the mediator. So often what I do is I voice record, or I journal what I think I want to say to someone, and then I listen back to it to see if that even made sense. And sometimes I laugh at myself for how bad what I’m about to say is.
Brendon: That’s really smart. It’s holding your thoughts and listening to them. I love that
Jay: Exactly because most of us say our thoughts. Most of us, the first time we hear our thoughts is when we say them. And so I really believe that you should hear your thoughts out loud to yourself before you’ve said them to someone else. That way you get a chance to choose whether you think they make sense or not, and edit them and review them and refine them.
The second step to thinking like a monk in that particular scenario is really wishing that person well from the inside. Really coming to a place of like, “Let me wish that person well. Let me put forward a positive meditational vibe for them.”
And the third is asking yourself, “Was there any reality in what that person said? Was there any truth in it? Can I revisit what I’ve heard and actually use it to improve myself or benefit myself now that I’ve distanced myself enough from it? Because in the moment, if you’re trying to take it as feedback, the moment you get it, your mind will take over. You need to approach it from a distance and come back to it.
Brendon: I love that. I love that, I have this vision of monks being sort of warriors too, sometimes.
Brendon: You can’t hurt them. I say it to my coaching clients all the time that if your first impulse is to defend yourself when someone says something to you, be aware of that because what if you didn’t feel that impulse because you knew their arrows couldn’t hurt you? And it’s almost as if you have a bubble around us so you don’t have to defend. You don’t have to defend yourself if the arrows can’t hit. You can walk through that battlefield almost magnanimously being calm and peaceful because their weaponry can’t hit you. It’s a superpower. When you don’t over personalize, you walk through the battlefield and the arrows can’t hit you. And now you don’t have to defend, now you can just watch. You can observe, you can see things and there’s a lot of parts of your book, Think Like A Monk, where it just reminded me of breathing. It reminded me of intention. Specifically your writing on ego was so powerful. It’s like, “Oh, my ego is hooked into this. That’s why I feel this way.” I think if anyone’s really struggled with that, taking things too personally, please read Think Like A Monk because Jay nailed that section on ego. He nailed that section on fear, this idea that you can have compassion to others who are being mean to you. That’s another elevated state of consciousness. And that’s why I think this book is important.
Jay: Yeah and it’s a beautiful way to live because when someone gives you negativity, and like you said, if you defend and you give them negativity back, you’ve created more negativity within yourself. Whereas if someone comes at you with negativity, and like you beautifully said, if you realize that those arrows can’t hit you, now you’re focused on love. And so now all you have is love. And you have compassion, and that’s what it’s about. It’s about choosing how you want to feel, right? We say things like, “Oh, that person made me feel that way”, right? That’s a common thing. Like, “Oh, they made me feel so bad.” But actually, that’s because we’re not allowing ourselves to choose how we feel, right? And that’s a really important thing. We can choose how we feel in moments of negativity.
Brendon: So real.
Okay, let’s talk about what you’re known for, and deservedly so. A lot of your videos and content are based on relationships. You wrote a beautiful chapter on relationships in the book. Talk to us a little bit about how a monk would think about these times when literally hundreds of millions of people around the world have been crammed in their house, with their spouse, with their partners with their kids. And now, all the problems that might have existed but were run over by being busy. There’s a lot of relationship turmoil happening all over the world. We’ve seen many friends of ours, their marriages didn’t even survive through these difficult times. When you take stress and you overlay it on to COVID, on to politics, on the negativity, on the fears of our uncertain times, it’s affecting relationships. So how does the monk stay calm and cool in a relationship where now there’s a lot more exchange?
Jay: Yeah, well like you said, what we’re experiencing is extreme and so you have to take as we know, extreme measures, and you have to change the focus. So for example, and I’ll talk about the monk perspective, but even for me and my wife, when we went through this together, and we obviously we live together, I was saying to Brendon before, we’re so used to me traveling, her traveling, distance apart. And now all of a sudden this is the most time we have spent together. And I have to be honest in saying that the first month we had to have several clear, clarifying, mind setting expectation conversations.
Brendon: Love this.
Jay: And that’s the crazy thing, if you don’t adapt your strategy, you’re going to lose. And I think what often happens is the game changes and we want to hold on to the old strategy. Can you imagine that your favorite sport in the world changes the game because of the way the other team is playing? Or the rain starts pouring down and the coach goes, “No, no, we’re going to stick to the same strategy we came with.” And that is how we approach life. We go, “No, I’m going to stick with it. I like my normal life. I like the way we used to do it, we’re going to stay that way.” But the game just changed on every single one of us. And so we have to reset expectations. We have to reset what we’re asking for from our partners. And that has to be a very evident conversation. So how monks see this, and by the way, monks live in ashrams. I remember waking up sometimes in the ashrams of 100 people that you’re living with. So you’re living with 100 egos, 100 minds, and 100 different opinions.
Brendon: Like you’re not on a mountaintop by yourself. Your communal living.
Jay: Right, it’s communal living and often what I would say is this was the first thing that we heard when we became monks,
“Welcome to the hospital.” Some of you will think that doctors have no weakness. But they said, “Remember that the doctors are as much patients as they are doctors. And remember that all of you as patients will also sometimes grow to be doctors. But we’re simultaneously always doctors and patients. And don’t you ever forget that.”
And it was like this reality and wake up call of like, in a home, sometimes you’re leading, sometimes you’re following and it will shift. And so you have to learn that role that you play.
So this is one of my favorite things that I share inside the book, which I really believe is the heart of all challenges in relationships. And I’m not just going to say the word communication, I’m going to go a step further than that. It’s the ability to diagnose what we’re actually asking for and what we actually need. Most of us are asking for things that aren’t even clearly linked to what we are actually missing. And so I’ll give you an example of this.
I have so many clients that I coach or so many people that I work with where the number one thing they want from their partner is time. Now the amazing thing is me and Brendon right now are giving each other time. But what if I was like this the whole time, right? We’re going to be writing another best selling book at this time. And we kind of talk, but imagine if we did that the whole time.
Brendon: It looks like you’re present there with them. But you’re not when this is like this force field between you, your phone, your tasks, your thing. I love that; time. Yeah, that’s so good.
Jay: This could be a book, this could be a newspaper, this could be email, whatever it is. But it’s interesting, people say that they want more time and so people come back from a weekend away and then they’ll get back and be like, “I wish we spent more time together”, and the other partner is going, “But we just went on a weekend together.” They’re thinking, “But no, you were at the beach and I was with the kids” so what are people really asking for? I’ve realized that over this time, people are asking for three things. They’re asking for time. They’re asking for presence. And they’re asking for attention. And they’re asking for intimacy. That is what people are actually asking for. If you say the word time, we misunderstand it. So I share in the book, this beautiful link to a table. And if you type in a “Harvard emotional list” into Google, you can find this. And I recommend actually printing this out or keeping a screenshot on your phone. And what it is is an emotional vocabulary. I really believe that we have a very limited emotional vocabulary. So when someone says we use five words, Okay, good, bad, fine, right? Like,”How’s your day going? Okay, How’s it? How’s that project? Fine.” And so we don’t even understand how we feel so how is someone else going to understand how we feel?
So what the emotional vocabulary by Harvard does is that it shows you the top word of say, ‘sad’. And then it shows you almost an extension of what are you really feeling when you’re sad? Are you upset? Are you offended? Are you disappointed? Disheartened? Are you heartbroken? There are so many more words. And this is what it means to think like a monk, where you diagnose how you genuinely feel. And then you clearly articulate that so that not only are you asking for the right thing, people really understand you. And that’s one of the biggest mistakes in relationships, we don’t really know what we’re asking for.
Brendon: I love that. I love that when you talk about setting expectations, and maybe more clearly communicating like that. How did that look in your relationship in the beginning, like what is setting expectations in a relationship during COVID or uncertainty like this look like?
Jay: Yeah, so for me and my wife, it was very much around what we expected each other to do around the home. Because we were noticing that, you’ve been to our apartment, it’s nice, but it’s not huge. And we recently moved, actually. But when we were there, which was for most of our time during the beginning of the pandemic, we were working out in the same space, eating in the same space, cooking in the same space, working in the same space.
Brendon: I know this, yes. Oh, my gosh!
Jay: I mean, it gets to be a lot. And so the first thing we’re saying is, okay, what are the activities that you’re doing every day? And what are the activities that I’m doing every day? Which spaces? Are we going to do them in? What times roughly? Are we going to do them? And also, how do I expect you and me to help out? What days is it now we’re creating more trash than ever? Because we’re eating three meals at home? So it’s like, who’s going to take the bins out but stuff is basic is that who’s going to take the time? Who’s going to take the trash out often? Who’s going to clean up more often? Because guess what, now we have to clean up nearly every other day because we’re just in this space all the time. So we need to set really clear guidance about who’s cleaning? When are they cleaning? When are you using this room? When are you not using this room? It sounds so basic, but that’s what I mean that when the game changes, your strategy has to change. And if you think that your same strategy that you’ve used for 10 years of marriage or 20 years of marriage is going to survive, it won’t. And of course with this, deeper underlying problems have erupted. And that it is also something to not just push under the carpet, but to really address it. And so if what’s happened for people is that there’s all these underlying things that have erupted like a volcano under that volcanic pressure of the situation, then that isn’t about just trying to move on and figure it out. That requires a reassessment of a relationship. And if that means you’re going separate ways, then that’s a decision you have to take together. But if that means you’re willing to make it work, but I often think that sometimes, and Brendon, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, but I really feel that sometimes a lot of people break up over really weak arguments. I’m not saying always, like emotional and physical abuse is different, or like cheating. That kind of stuff is different. But I mean, when it comes down to what do we actually argue about? Sometimes I think when my wife and I argue, it’s about the stupidest things in the world. And if we were to break up over that, it would be heartbreaking to me. Because they’re not about anything real.
Brendon: Oh, yeah, I think some people don’t realize the levels of conflict that are happening. One of my mentors, Bill Wilmot, one of the world’s leading experts on mediation, said that people think they’re arguing about the content. Things like where the vacuum is, did you do the garbage, the things they think they’re getting mad about are why they break up. But what’s really going on is on a deeper emotional level. So the three levels beneath that is relationship — which is am I being respected in this relationship? How does it work your identity? Like who am I in the world separate from you independence, interdependence. And then the one thing that most people break up about that they don’t even know they break up about is process.
Brendon: Which is how—What’s our process for managing conflict? What’s our process? Like, how do we talk through and figure out things? It’s how you work together and talk together that most people break up. They don’t know. They just blame the content. And so yeah, I think you’re—
Jay: That’s right. I couldn’t agree with you more. There’s that beautiful study by the Gottman Institute by John and Julie Gottman—incredible I love their research. I’ve made so many videos based on their research. And I recently interviewed them for my podcast too, and they talk about exactly what Brendon just said, they say that the number one skill that keeps relationships together is not a date night. It’s not movie nights. It’s not a beautiful vacation. It’s knowing how to fight. It’s learning how to manage your conflict, because conflict is always going to be there. And most of us don’t have the skills or the emotional capacity to go there. And we kind of think that that’s like a bad thing. And I think that’s part of it, Brendon, is that movies and music and media have created these negative viewpoints in relationships—like the end of a movie. I’m sure this has been said a million times, but the end of a movie is always happily ever after, or at the beginning of the wedding, right? It’s like, they got married at the end of a movie when for most loved relationships, the marriage is the beginning of the relationship and so you’re watching it only up until the point two people fell in love and they were happily ever after. And I think that’s planted this seed in our mind, our relationships have to look beautiful and wonderful and roses and this and that and that is part of it. I love that I’m a hopeless romantic and I love all of that stuff. But at the same time, relationships require real honesty and transparency and talking things out that are tough and having those awkward conversations and silences sometimes.
Brendon: Yeah, I think the best thing people can do if they’ve struggled in 2020 together, especially if they were together more because of COVID is to really observe how you’ve communicated with each other. Don’t observe or think of just how did you feel? Because a lot of people—“I don’t like it.” They might have a negative bias there. Because when all it’s in front of you, you start evaluating it very differently. Very binary. It’s like, good, bad. So having a higher perspective to use your word or thinking like a monk is sometimes to just observe, like, “How have you been doing this? And is the way that we’ve been doing this, really bringing us closer, or is the way we’ve been doing this pushing us further apart or making us kind of focus on the idiosyncrasies that make us angry or impatient?” And if you can observe with the lens of, “Is how we are doing this bringing us closer together?” Which I love what Jay said—presence, attention, intimacy. Is the way we do life together bringing those things to the forefront more often? Good job. If not, it’s time to get some more tools. Read a book like Think Like A Monk, read John Gottman’s book, one of my favorite books of all time, Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. A must. I think you can tell that I’ve given away about 10,000 copies of that. I’ve given that to almost all our relationship seminars over the years. So it’s necessary to do the work to get better at that. It’s usually the person is not wrong, the process between the people as well. And you can fix the process between two people.
Jay: Well said. That last thing you just said is exactly it. We think we’re with the wrong person. But actually we’ve just had the wrong process between us.
Brendon: Last idea I’d love to talk about. Because I think this is a real struggle for people right now. And I’m particularly fascinated by how a monk would think about this. Because in my naivete about being a monk, to me, that would mean so much about being in the moment, being present, managing mind, body, spirit in the here and now. You know, be here now, stuff. But you have three separate chapters in your book about what I consider future things like intention, purpose, service, and many of them are in visualization. Seeing into the future. And right now, dude, people can’t. They don’t know if their kids are going back to school or if they’re homeschooling. They don’t know, are they going to be able to travel for the holidays? Do they get their job back? So when the future is super uncertain, how does the monk live in both spaces—present and future—in order to be able to have intention and divine purpose?
Jay: Yeah, that’s a beautiful question. And when you look at material society and our world, we’re always fixated on the output and the result and the goal. And the month mindset is really focused on the input, the process, the day to day habits, and the now. That’s not me saying we shouldn’t have goals. I have goals too. But what I’m saying is that often that part can seem very uncertain, right? Right now, it’s hard to set goals. Results are uncertain and the future is uncertain. And the monk mindset actually starts from the back and goes, “Wait a minute, it’s actually our input, our intention, our current process that creates the future that we need and want.” And yes, there are everyday things like whether kids are going back to school or whether jobs are coming back there.
Me and Brendon were talking about this earlier. Brendon has a fairly large company, I have a smaller company, but there’s people that are dependent on me, and families, and things like that. And so when I think about all of that stuff, I realized that all I can get certain about is putting my next step forward. And I think it’s kind of like when you’re walking, you become so comfortable walking, you don’t even realize, but actually, all you’re doing is putting your next step right. You can’t think about what’s going to happen in 100 steps time, because you haven’t walked over the ground there. You don’t know how the ground is going to change.
So for me, the monk mindset is, “How do I just place this next step? Not perfectly. But how do I place this next step with my best intention, process, and habits possible?” And what does that require?
That requires me to be connected internally to my internal guide. And what does that require? It requires me to find that stillness and space so I can actually listen. One of the things, Brendon, that you and I know is that when you’re traveling, if your partner wants to tell you something and you’re living a hectic, busy life, your partner will be scared to actually say, “Brendon, Jay, I really need to tell you something.” Because they just think you’re too busy and all over the place. Your body and mind are the same way. Your body, your mind, your soul—they want to communicate with you, but they can’t communicate with you if you’re always rushing around and everywhere and all over the place. So the answers, the answers are not within me, the answers are within you. And they become clearer as you become more silent, more still, and you allow yourself to have that inner connection from your inner guide.
And so, what I’m trying to give you is the tools to get there. I’ve had clients literally say to me, like, “Jay, when I look at that question in the book, that just changed the way I think about it.” So there’s a beautiful meditation I talk about in the book, which is called a question meditation. It was probably one of my favorite techniques that I learned. And often when we ask questions, Brendon, to the world, at least to the universe, they’re often demands. They’re not questions. “Why is this happening to me?” That’s not a question. “Jay, I’m really curious, how does this work?” It’s what’s known as a sincere request, or a deep intention, right? And so a question meditation is, I want you to sit with the question that causes you anxiety and pain. And I want you to ask it with sincerity, with genuineness, with love, and understanding. And I want you to allow yourself to not force the question to come to you at that moment, but allow yourself to discover the answer throughout the day. And just sit with it. If you sit with it sincerely, I guarantee you, there will be someone, something that happens in the day could be a message or billboard you see, and it would just shift the way you start seeing intervention—divine intervention—everywhere in your life. And it really works. I would just say sit with that question.
Brendon: I love that. I love that. My favorite thing you’ve said today in our conversation is about how our partners sometimes, they want to ask you for something but they don’t because they see you’re so busy. And that’s real inside to your mind, your body, your heart and spirit trying to say, “Hey!” But you’re so busy that they’re not getting through. Yeah, so to me, Think Like A Monk is a lot of, can you sit with yourself and allow the answers? Can you sit with yourself? Because in my mind, monks are hanging out, and they’re opening up the space of possibility for insight, enlightenment, love, peace, and those things flow through not just because they say, “My purpose is to go get peace”, it’s that, “I’m still enough,” that that emerges.
Jay: Yes, exactly. And you can hear in between the lines. Brendon, it’s almost like your journey and where it all began when you had that terrible accident—not terrible because you’ve reframed the experience which changed your life—but when you shared that with me—when you think about that moment, that is just so—I remember even when you shared on my podcast that you’re in tears, and it’s still such a powerful moment with you. It’s because you experienced stillness in the most extreme way. And we don’t have to wait to have a near death experience to have stillness. But that stillness, you experience so much stillness, and space in silence, because you are so in your moment and in that body where everything was revealed to you, and that’s what you went through. And I’m not saying that you can manufacture that. That is very unique to Brendon, but what I am saying is, if you sit with yourself every single day and be present with your body and mind, they will inform you. When people do this, they say to me, “Jay, I’ve had a backache for probably six months. I didn’t notice it till now.” Or “Jay, actually, I just really found this new idea that’s going to change my business.” Because the answers are there inside of you, but because we don’t sit with ourselves enough—and there’s a beautiful statement in the Buddhist tradition, the Tibetan Buddhist tradition that says what movement does for your body, stillness does for your mind. Movement does for your body, the energy, the expansion, the confidence. That’s what stillness does.
Brendon: I love that so much, brother. I love that so much. So for those who are really struggling in this time, in the season, please, maybe listen to this episode again. Maybe take some more notes. And maybe ask yourself how can you sit with yourself and give yourself that time and that space a little bit now, because so many people have kind of drown themselves in distraction, so they don’t have to cope with what’s immediately coming up. But I always tell people, a lot of pain that comes up is at a superficial level, and there’s a depth of joy and gratitude and beauty beneath that, but you kind of got to mine for. The way that you mine for that depth of beauty and joy and peace is stillness. You go quiet, you allow that to come back to the surface of what’s really important. And I’m telling you all—Think Like A Monk—it’s that field guide.
If you’ve been really stressed, or your mind has gotten the better of you in this last couple months, or your ego got the better of you, or your relationships fell apart, or you do feel like you’ve lost a little vision for your life, please read Think Like A Monk. I shared this with Jay in advance. The book helped me prepare and read for this time. When I received the book and got ready for him today, and went back through all the chapters and all the notes and you can see all my questions on it. It is just a baseline—you brought me right back to the foundation of what’s important for living a peaceful, joyful, fulfilling, spirited, service-driven life from a different perspective. And everyone in the world seems to believe that we need a different perspective right now. So I think this book can be incredibly valuable on your journey, my friend, so please make sure you’ve listened to it and watch it and read it and just pay attention to what we did here today. Listen to Jay’s podcast. It’s called On Purpose. It’s one of the very—I only have seven podcasts on my phone. Literally, only seven. And Jay’s is one of them that I listen to. So please, listen to On Purpose. It’s incredible. Get Think Like A Monk and you can go to thinklikeamonkbook.com. He’s offering some free resources that go along with the book, which of course I’ll be promoting. I’m super pumped about them as well.
Jay, what would you love to share with people as they head into the final months of 2020? We’ve been through so much. What would you give us here as some parting thoughts?
Jay: Yeah, what immediately came to my mind was the beautiful old tale and analogy of the butterfly, of the caterpillar becoming a butterfly. And there’s that old story of how there’s a caterpillar struggling to get out of its cocoon. And a young boy sees this, and he sees the struggle and he sees the pain. And he thinks to himself, “I better help this caterpillar out because it needs to go off and become a big butterfly.” And so the little boy breaks the cocoon. And by breaking the cocoon he doesn’t realize the caterpillar also dies. Because a caterpillar needed that struggle in order to become this beautiful butterfly. And so I really believe that we’ve all been trapped in this cocoon for the past five months. And it’s so easy to want to now rush out the other side and just break through and get on with it. But I would say that a more steady and a more self-development approach to it, which is like—let me learn through this time. Let me really gain every lesson during this time. Because that caterpillar becomes a beautiful butterfly on the other side every time when they allow themselves to go through the process. When they try and jump the process, skip the process, someone helps them break the process, it can end completely the opposite way. And so I think nature is always showing us how to deal with transformation and how to deal with pain and how to deal with negative situations and struggle.
And no matter how much of a struggle it is, the biggest mistake humans make is that we try and rush out of the pain on the other side. And that’s kind of what happened a few weeks ago, at least in the United States. People rushing out of their homes because five months have been too long. And then all the numbers went up again. And so, that’s what happens every time we try and rush out of a painful situation. It’s almost like, let’s just build up that extra piece of and I know it’s hard, I get it. I know how painful it is. But it’s going to create less pain in the future. And I think that’s why we have to keep putting that yardstick of like, we have to realize that it’s better to go through that consistent, definite struggle that we’re going through, but for a future that we really want to create.
Brendon: That is the most hopeful thing, my friend. Beauty is on the other side of this, and being able to be at peace and sit through the struggle to emerge as who you really are supposed to become, that’s trust in the future. That’s trust and faith. That’s trust in something bigger than ourselves, that there’s beauty coming.
Jay: Yeah and I want to say one more thing, Brendon, if I can, because you just sparked another thought, and it’s kind of the other side of it. Because in the book, I talked about how it’s about training your mind for peace and purpose every day. And that’s the peace part. That’s how you find peace in difficult times. You recognize it’s part of the process, but I always like to offer the service element too, which is the future part, the purpose part. I would think about the year 2030 or 2050, whichever year you want to meditate on. Ten years time, 30 years time and think about your kids or your grandkids or younger people around you, your nieces and nephews—if you don’t have kids, people around you, they’ll be going to school. And they’ll be learning about 2020 in their history book. And let’s say that one of their teachers’ assignments is you have to go back to your parents or grandparents and ask them what they were doing in 2020. So imagine, now you’re sitting at a dining table and 2030 or 2050 your kids or your grandkids come up to you “Mom! Dad!” I don’t know what the language is going to be there. And you just say to your parents, they say, “What did you do in 2020?” And whatever answer you want to give them in 10 or 30 years time, just do that today. And that will literally clear your mind because as long as you can give them an answer in 10 to 30 years time that you’re going to be happy with—just say, “We just stuck together and we got through it. You know what I did? I became an activist and I really supported this. We just doubled down on our business to make sure we didn’t let go of anyone and we made sure all of our teams were well taken care of.” Whatever answer you want to give in 10 to 20 years time, that question will give you so much clarity. And that will be the thing that pulls you through this time, rather than you feeling like you’re pushing through.
Brendon: I love that, brother. Intention of the future so that you show up. And the questions you ask yourself in the future, you’re happy with the answers. My audience knows that’s central to my whole teaching with live love matter. You’re going to ask questions at the end of your life. So live your life intentionally so you’re happy with those answers. And I love that we vibe on that together because we can be victims at this moment right now or we can be role models. We can go through this time and say, “You know what, I’m proud of how I handled this. I’m going to know that I took the right next actions of integrity for myself during a really hard time. During a really hard time. I’m proud of how I handled it even if I was a hot mess a little here and a hot mess there and I screwed up here and I freaked out over there. I ultimately endured that year in a way that was purposeful and meaningful to me. Not because it gave it to me, but I chose those things. I allowed those things. I found those beautiful things through that process.”
Jay, you’re helping us all do that, brother, so many of us. You give us that wisdom, that inspires us every single day. Everyone, please visit thinklikeamonkbook.com. It’s such a good book. And I’m so proud of you that this is your first book, because you hit on everything in personal development that I think is critical for people to actually grow. And you wrote with such eloquence and great metaphors throughout the book. I know everyone’s going to really love it. So Jay Shetty—always spreading the wisdom, making wisdom go viral. Please listen to his podcast On Purpose and follow this guy. He’s a good human. He does great work in the world.
Jay: Thank you. And Brendon, I want to thank you for genuinely being such a leader in the industry, and I really see you as that. And I really am grateful for people like yourself because I think it’s really easy in any industry to turn it into a competition, to turn it into a hierarchy, and I really feel like you genuinely like—I liked you before I met you. Then I met you and thought, “This person is on another level.” And I’m saying that honestly and your audience doesn’t need to hear this, they already know it. But for me, I genuinely feel very grateful that the industry has leaders like yourself that can guide and help people like me and help us learn and grow. And I really mean that because it’s just a game changer to have people that believe in you, that invest in you, that have done this for longer than you and are open to mentoring and growing you so you you really are that and I think that’s going to be an incredible legacy that you leave and the impact of everyone who is in the industry now and will be in the future. So thank you for doing that. Honestly, from my heart.
Brendon: Thank you, my brother. And thank you for inspiring us and teaching us new ways and most importantly, teaching us not new ways just to make things viral but to make sure that wisdom is attached to that because we need this wisdom and this peace and a different way of approaching the turmoil of the world. And you’re doing that with this book and your work. So everyone again, thinklikeamonkbook.com. Check out Jay Shetty, his podcast, and listen to my podcast right now. Subscribe to the last 10 episodes of On Purpose with Jay Shetty, because that actually helps him and you’ll find that as always, his episodes are incredibly inspiring. So Jay Shetty, my brother. Thank you, brother.
Jay: Thanks, Brendon. That was amazing. I’m so glad we did this show. This is wonderful. Thank you, man. Thank you so much.