Thích Nhất Hạnh, the Buddhist monk, teacher, author, and peace activist has had an incredible life. He was exiled from his native Vietnam in 1966 after urging for the reunification of Northern and Southern Vietnam and wasn’t permitted to return for 39 years. He gained the support of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who called him an “apostle of peace” and nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.
Nhất Hạnh speaks seven languages fluently, studied at Ivy League universities, and authored more than 100 books. He founded a press and established the Buddhist University of Saigon. On top of this, he created the School of Youth for Social Service, which establishes schools, builds healthcare clinics, and rebuilds villages. At 88 years of age last year, he suffered a major stroke causing to lose his ability to speak. After intensive recovery, he recently spoke his first words after a year of silence.
As someone who was a key participant in some of the most important events in the second half of the 20th century, and as someone who has achieved such high levels of success despite tremendous adversity, there are clearly some major takeaways from Thích Nhất Hạnh’s life and teachings. Here are 5 of his most important lessons:
Always Keep Your Mind Open
“For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”
We all have a tendency to get stuck in our ways. It’s so easy to become limited by our biases and belief systems. As an entrepreneur, undoubtedly complicated situations will arise that will test your limits and problem solving abilities. It’s essential to have strategies to keep your mind open to possibilities you might not see at first.
Meditation can be one method. Having a mastermind group or circle of trusted friends and colleagues is another. Surrounding yourself with people who think differently from you can have tremendous value. It’s important to accept that you can and will be wrong sometimes. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to let go of an idea completely and start over.
Thích Nhất Hạnh is quoted saying, “The secret of Buddhism is to remove all ideas, all concepts, in order for the truth to have a chance to penetrate, to reveal itself.” Whether you’re Buddhist or not, letting go of what you think you know and staying open is a powerful way to see new opportunities.
Let Go of Everything that no Longer Serves You
“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.”
Connecting with the previous idea, this point has two parts. Firstly, being a successful entrepreneur means putting your heart and soul into venture—it’s easy and natural to become deeply attached. However, if you’re not able to release those emotions and return to a state of calm, life can become very stressful and uncomfortable. Your mind can become clouded, hindering you from greater success and bigger possibilities.
Secondly, sometimes as an entrepreneur you get attached to planned ventures that are no longer in your best interest. Sometimes it’s important to do a close evaluation and decisively choose to let go. Thích Nhất Hạnh is quoted saying, “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” Don’t be afraid of the unfamiliar. Recognize when something isn’t working—attempt to fix it or let it go.
Welcome All of Your Feelings, No Matter How Positive or Negative
“Feelings, whether of compassion or irritation, should be welcomed, recognized, and treated on an absolutely equal basis; because both are ourselves.”
It’s so common for people to connect themselves with positive emotions and separate themselves from the negative ones. When we have a stressful day it can be easy to beat ourselves up because we got angry about something or that we didn’t handle something as well as we could have.
Thích Nhất Hạnh is quoted saying, “It is best not to say, ‘Go away, Fear. I don't like you. You are not me.’ It is much more effective to say, ‘Hello, Fear. How are you today?’ Then you can invite the two aspects of yourself, mindfulness and fear, to shake hands as friends and become one. Doing this may seem frightening, but because you know that you are more than just your fear, you need not be afraid. As long as mindfulness is there, it can chaperone your fear.”
By accepting all your feelings, including the ugly and most uncomfortable ones, you’ll become far more successful at managing them.
“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.”
This quote can easily be applied to many situations that arise as an entrepreneur. If something is going wrong with your venture, there is no use blaming the product, the public, or members of your team. It is a thousand times more useful to examine what is going wrong and take action to ameliorate the problem.
Prioritize Relaxation and Time to Renew Yourself
“From time to time, to remind ourselves to relax and be peaceful, we may wish to set aside some time for a retreat, a day of mindfulness, when we can walk slowly, smile, drink tea with a friend, enjoy being together as if we are the happiest people on Earth.”
Extra long hours are the norm for many entrepreneurs. However, it’s important for you to also prioritize time for rest and renewal. Although it may cause anxiety to close the laptop or not check your phone for a day, it’s important to disconnect and calendar in time just for yourself.
The Bottom Line
Keeping an open mind and having a team of people with diverse perspectives is a powerful way to find new opportunities. Overcoming the fear to let things go that don’t work can save frustration and allow for faster growth. Accepting and analyzing negative feelings is much more useful than trying to avoid or separate yourself from them. Blaming has no use—finding solutions and fixing problems does. Prioritizing time for relaxation ensures sanity and that you put forth your best work.
I believe that finances don’t have to be stressful and that solid financial strategy and mindfulness are the keys to successfully reaching your business goals. For more information visit www.thewealthyyogi.com.
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