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Willful De-construction: Why you should self-destruct every so often

I thought my life would go like this.

1

I analyzed every decision to death so that it would be the right one—find the perfect partner, choose the right jobs that would accelerate my career, buy a house in the perfect city at the perfect time.

Then, my life collapsed.

I quit my job to travel for six months and landed back in the US on the day Lehmann collapsed in 2008. My savings evaporated. A seven year old relationship ended. My mother was diagnosed with cancer. I was sleeping on my sister’s couch. At thirty, I was broke, single, and unemployed, not the outcome I expected from my meticulously planned life.

I picked up the pieces but I was full of regret. Why did I quit my secure job to travel? Why did I break up? Why did I….

A year passed. Then, I began to notice something. Rock-bottom didn’t feel so bad.I was thick in the middle of the darkness and I was okay. In fact, I almost enjoyed it. I was kinder, less impulsive, more silent. I found a new job. I wrote a new novel. The maturity showed in my work, in my writing, in my relationships, in everything. My career accelerated. My writing deepened. I met Kerry. I realized what hundreds of people have realized before me that a good life really goes like this.

2

You try a big thing, you fail spectacularly, then pick up the pieces, stronger than ever and rise higher than ever again. And then you fail spectacularly again. But the point of this post isn’t to repeat those homilies. Rather it is to ponder how you can build the benefits of failure—being humbled, feeling like a complete beginner again, deepening and learning new things—into your life without waiting to fail?

Could this be your life model?

Now each time I think I know something, I willfully dissolve my life and become a beginner again. After Keep off the Grass and Johnny Gone Down, I thought I knew how to write commercial fiction in India so I went beyond my abilities to write a literary novel in the US. I’d reached a senior position in my corporate career so I took off for a year to become a yoga teacher. Kerry and I are comfortable in our lives in New York so now we’re breaking our lives down and moving.

When you think you know, break everything down.

Move. Change. Flow. Become nothing again. Don’t be an expert. Be a lifelong beginner. And never, ever become comfortable. Soon life will begin to look like this.

3

Your first leap is overwhelming. The mind wants to hold on to certainties. You define yourself by labels—I’m a bestselling author, I’m a corporate executive, I’m a yoga teacher—and suddenly you’re nothing.

Soon though, you realize everything connects.

Life is one stream of continuos learning. Writing a novel makes you a million times more intuitive as a corporate executive. Sleeping on the floor of an ashram and taking cold showers for a year makes you more honest in your business career because you know deep within you that you’ll survive just fine if everything shatters. As a result, you always do the right thing. Each time you fill your well with new experiences, it’ll flood every part of your life with new ideas.

Keep coming back
Successful people are consistent. What you’re looking for is not variety but nuance. Take a free fall and learn new things but come back to your trade deeper, more three-dimensional. Business is my dharma. Writing helps me make sense of the world. I’ll keep coming back. And hopefully I’ll see you here.

“Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. I have tried prudent planning long enough. From now, I’ll be mad.”