He's The Digital Monk

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Hes The Digital Monk

YouTube sensation and motivational speaker Jay Shetty - who, at one point, actually lived in India as a monk - on serving others, making life goals and finding that elusive thing called happiness in today's busy world


Janice Rodrigues

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Published: Fri 1 Jul 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 1 Jul 2016, 2:00 AM

If you happen to be a fan of Huffington Post - or are even simply a part of the social media sphere, for that matter - chances are you'll find Jay Shetty a familiar face. After all, the charismatic speaker recently did a series of videos for Huffpost Rise, an online morning show dedicated to helping its viewers start their day on a positive note. The short, snappy videos are geared towards millennials everywhere and feature Jay talking about everything from relationships to success, asking the questions we've all been pondering over and belting out life lessons and words of wisdom that seem to go beyond his 28 years of age. It's little wonder that the videos went viral, instantly shooting Jay into digital fame.
"I started making the videos simply because I wanted to make people think differently," says Jay, during a recent phone interview. "I love reading; I've been reading a book a month for as long as I can remember and it usually varies from neuroscience to philosophy. And what I wanted to do was connect the themes. I didn't expect the number of views they garnered worldwide and I'm honestly humbled and touched by the positive response they've received."
 It isn't just years of reading that inspired his worldview. Having been born and raised in the UK, Jay admits he was just like 'any other normal Londoner' growing up - even a bit of a rebel while in school. It all changed, however, when he came across a lecture by a monk (who prefers to be unnamed) while in the UK, and his 'mind was blown away' by the concept of finding happiness without materialistic things. At that point, Jay was doing well at university, and on his way to work for a well-known company. But at the back of his mind was a nagging question - if one can actually be happy without these things, would giving it all up and choosing to help humanity be more meaningful?
"After I finished business school, I decided to visit Mumbai in India. I had kept in touch with the monk during that time, and so I lived in the monastery, got involved in charity and just learnt so much. I would wake up in the morning and meditate for two to four hours and learn about philosophy. I remember there being a point where all my possessions actually fit into what looked like a gym locker. I gave up my fancy shoes and clothes, shaved my head, and learnt what it was like to become detached from materialistic things. It was so intriguing to have nothing, and yet still feel like you had everything."

Jay ended up living in the monastery for three years, while travelling between India, the United Kingdom and Europe. In the end, he decided to return to the UK - it was time to start sharing the lessons he had learnt during those years.
"When people ask me how the shift from the monastery to the UK has been, I always tell them I feel exactly the same. Because the truth is that being a monk is a mindset. Those three years taught me how to stay grounded, and understand what is relevant. As a monk, you are taught and trained to live your life for others, and that's what I plan to do."
True to his word, today, Jay has combined his background in finance to his learnings as a monk and channelled it into corporate training. Today, his main goal in life is to connect timeless wisdom with business and technology, and find a way to use it to create a social impact on the world. But his real speciality, for now, lies in empowering and guiding millennials around the world through his inspiring posts on social media. For Jay understands the pressures of the modern world all too well, and he has a way of simplifying things that is both soothing and inspiring.   
"I think that, today, people look for jobs and careers instead of looking for their strengths, and they end up putting themselves in a box before they even realise how powerful they are," he says. "These aren't mistakes - they're natural tendencies. We seek out comfort, instead of people who help us grow. We choose intelligence over intuition. And we don't take the time out to define happiness, success or failure."
But defining happiness is no mean feat and it is also largely relative. Luckily, Jay has a way of narrowing it down.
"Every definition of happiness or success should include service to others in some way," says Jay. "When you work for yourself, you are investing in yourself, but when you work for other people, you are contributing to something much bigger. And the reason so many people feel unhappy, despite having it all, is because they've figured out their to-do list, but not their to-be list."
Figuring out who you want to become is a necessary step towards happiness, he adds, because real happiness should not depend on external factors. If you have to depend on things or people in order to be happy, there will always be ups and downs. Rather it should stem from an internal goal or purpose. And the first step towards finding these goals is asking the right questions, beginning with 'Am I happy?', 'What makes me happy?' and 'What can I do to become happy?'
"I often ask people what they believe should be a priority in their lives - finding the right career path, partner or life goal. Almost all the time, people answer that it should be their life goal, but when I ask them, of the three, which they spend the most time obsessing over, the answer is pretty clear. My advice is to make finding your life goals a priority. Just like your job, or a relationship, you can't keep it as a part-time thing that you only need to think about during the weekend. After all, if it takes 21 years to earn a degree, what makes you think it will take any less to find real happiness?"

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