Jay Shetty jokes that growing up, there were only three paths for Indian youth: doctor, lawyer, or failure. According to society and his extended community, when he decided to attend the Cass Business School in London to pursue a big business degree, he had chosen option three – failure.
He didn’t let that phase him though. He’s always had a fascination with learning about people who went from nothing to something. As often as he could, Shetty attended sessions to hear CEOs, athletes, entrepreneurs, and celebrities speak about their journeys and all the struggle, sacrifice, and hard work that went into their achievements.
Then one night, Jay Shetty’s friend invited him to go hear a monk speak. He questioned what he possibly could learn from a monk, but he agreed to go if they promised to hit a local hot spot afterward. That single decision changed the course of his life forever.
The monk spoke about how the greatest gift we can give the world is to use our talents, strengths, and skills to serve others. To Jay Shetty, this was different from anything he had ever heard.
“I’d met people who were rich,” Shetty explains. “I’d met people who were famous, beautiful, and attractive. I’d met people who were knowledgeable and smart, but I don’t think I’d met anyone who was truly happy.”
The monk exuded this sense of joy and compassion, and Shetty wanted that for his life. When the talk was over, Shetty introduced himself to the monk, then followed him around the area for the rest of his speaking engagements. Shetty’s desire to learn more led him to spend his summer and winter breaks with monks at an ashram.
“I spent half of my summers interning at finance companies in London,” Shetty shares. “I’d be in suits and steak houses, in bars and offices. Then I’d spend the other half, or as much time as I could, living with the monks in India. I’d be sleeping on the floor, taking cold showers, and meditating every day.”
This went on throughout the rest of his time in college. When he graduated, Shetty had a choice to make. What kind of life did he want to lead? Turning down job offers from the business world, Jay Shetty left his possessions behind to go live as a monk.
Opinions, Expectations, and Obligations
Deciding to live as a monk was the easy part for Jay Shetty. Telling his family and friends what he had decided was harder.
“I think all of us have different opinions, expectations, and obligations,” Shetty explains. “You may have opinions that impact your choices and expectations that are put on you that influence your choices. You may even feel a sense of obligation towards family, friends, school, teachers, or professors.”
Not everyone shared Shetty’s enthusiasm about his decision to join the ashram. Friends were confused. In disbelief, they told him he would never get a job and that he was wasting his life and letting his family down. They couldn’t understand why he would spend three years studying to throw it all away to become a monk.
“The biggest lesson I learned in becoming a monk was that you’re going to have to make decisions that other people don’t understand,” Jay Shetty explains. “It is something that applies to each and every single person in the world, whether you want to become a monk or not. In some part of your journey, you’re going to have to make a decision that no one understands.”
Shetty’s confidence to decide not to follow his original path into the business world came from living and experiencing both the business and monk worlds. By the time he needed to decide, Shetty was confident that the monk life was the path he wanted to pursue.
The Power of Hindsight
Hindsight is twenty-twenty, meaning sometimes it’s easier to see things clearly after it has happened. But do you really have to personally experience something in order to learn from it? Shetty believes that you can use the hindsight of others to help you move forward in life.
“I was fortunate growing up that a lot of my friends were older than me,” Jay Shetty explains. “I could see that despite them having the ideal career, the perfect partner, the beautiful house, and the beautiful car – whatever it was – they were very honest with me. They said, ‘Jay, I still think I haven’t figured it out. Something is missing.’ I owe my friends a lot of gratitude because that honesty from my friends who were a few years ahead in life allowed me to look for alternative paths.”
Shetty admits that not all monks are joyful and satisfied. Some are dissatisfied, just like people everywhere. The principles and practices that the monks embody aren’t exclusive to the ashram or even to those who live as monks. They’re principles and practices everyone can utilize to find meaning wherever they may be.
“It’s not really about where you are and what you do,” Shetty shares. “It’s about how you do it. It’s about why you do it. It’s about having the tools and the techniques to navigate where you are. It’s about changing the wiring of our mindset that can allow us to look at things differently and appreciate things differently.”
A Daily Blueprint
The blueprint for Jay Shetty’s day is something that he learned in the ashram. He starts his day with gratitude and thankfulness. How does he do it?
He encourages everyone to wake up and make sure that the first thing they see is inspiring and energizing. Whether it is a work of art that you love, a picture of your family, a favorite quote, or your favorite prayer, it’s essential that the first thing you see in the morning is something uplifting and not draining. This allows you to seize the day instead of just starting your day.
The rest of Shetty’s day is spent in service and trying to give back. Although his life today looks much different from his life in the ashram, he still follows this basic blueprint today.
A Life of Service
You can possess all the material things you could ever want and still lack purpose and happiness in your life. When you begin to use your time, talents, and possessions in service to others, you’ll find what you have been lacking.
Jay Shetty explains, “What we do with what we have makes the most significant difference. Through the service element at the ashram, I found that we were always asking ourselves, ‘How does this improve the life of someone else?’”
“Most people who are successful in the world today do something that they’re passionate about, and they’re good at it,” Shetty shares. “It is how they built success, but it doesn’t create happiness. Happiness comes from adding compassion to the equation.”
Transition Back to Modern Life
The hardest part of monk life for Jay Shetty was realizing that long-term monk life was not for him. Shetty wanted to share the wisdom he had acquired in the ashram with people in the modern world. That meant he had to make the tough choice to leave the monkhood after spending three years dedicated to that life.
“I wanted to be able to connect everything I was learning back to the world I’d left,” Jay Shetty shares. “I could see that it wouldn’t be sustainable to live as a monk and do that.”
That doesn’t mean it was an easy transition, however. The questions and doubts started to creep back in as Jay Shetty made the transition back to modern life. There he was, 25 years old and moving back in with his parents.
The doubts that others had voiced began to ring in his ears.
“I told you so.”
“You’re never going to get a job.”
“What will you do for money?”
He felt behind. All his friends had been in the workforce for several years, and they were buying homes or getting mortgages and were in committed long-term relationships. They were the epitome of success.
“I was behind, or so I felt at the time,” Shetty explains. “It was a low point in my life. I felt the closest thing to feeling stuck and depressed that I possibly ever have.”
The job hunt didn’t help. Jay Shetty was rejected by 40 companies before Accenture finally hired him. Shetty began his corporate job with the intention to share the messages and principles he had learned as a monk with the corporate world, but he first needed to see how the corporate world functioned to see how his message would be relevant.
“I found out that my friends who had nice cars, houses, and long relationships were all stressed and burned out at work,” says Jay Shetty. “I was doing my job, but really, I was trying to figure out how to help implement mindfulness and meditation in these circles.”
Jay Shetty stayed true to what he knew he was good at and immersed himself in the educational programs that Accenture offered. These programs opened up Shetty’s eyes to social media and the power to create a platform that connected with and understood people’s behaviors.
As he started to follow his passions inside the company, Jay Shetty was becoming good at the things he was passionate about. A year after he started with Accenture, Shetty was asked by the company’s executives to speak on social media and mindfulness at a summer event for a thousand of his peers.
“I taught a mindfulness exercise that I learned as a monk,” Shetty explains. “It was just amazing. Everyone appreciated it. There’s such amazing feedback. All of a sudden, I was teaching mindfulness and meditation across the company because Accenture prioritized mental health.”
Shetty believes that sharing wisdom and educating people does not have to be boring. It can be fun! He decided to publish monk-inspired teachings on social media, but although he pitched his idea to ten different media companies, they all rejected it.
Jay Shetty did not give up. He was determined to pursue his passion, so he networked in every way he thought possible. Finally he found an opportunity when he heard about an ethnic minority TV training day that was being run by the BBC at Pinewood Studios.
“There were six people in the room; everyone was brown, or black,” Shetty shares. “They were training us to be presenters. I went there to find out whether I had the skills, because I thought, well, maybe I’m just not skilled enough. We did this test, and they told me that I had good skills and qualities.”
Then someone encouraged him to start a YouTube channel.
“Yeah right,” he thought. “That works for Justin Bieber, not me.” Thinking that he had exhausted all the options to get his content to the masses, Jay Shetty realized maybe it was time to give the YouTube channel idea a shot.
Within the first three months of creating his channel, Shetty had about 1,500 followers. When his global HR leader at Accenture showed his video to Arianna Huffington at Davos, it became the tipping point that launched Jay Shetty’s entire media career.
When you take your passion and combine it with your strengths and compassion, you can take your purpose and message anywhere you want it to go. Learn to tune out the opinions of others and go with your heart. When you know something is right for you, pursue it with passion and purpose. Live a life filled with gratitude and lend yourself to service. When you are intentional in these actions, you can achieve a life that is full and rewarding.
More From Jay Shetty
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode with ON “3 Steps To Connect With Your Intuition & Feel More Grounded” in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.