Best-selling author Robin Sharma on his new book, digital distraction, finding happiness and how he wants to be remembered
For Robin Sharma, author, leadership expert, writing is a few things. He sees it as a craft and also a potent way to transform people. He wrote his latest book, The 5 AM Club for four years at multiple places, like Mauritius, Switzerland, Russia, Rome and it was quite a journey. Sharma who wrote the iconic The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari wanted to get every line perfect in his latest work.
“I wanted it to be a handcrafted book, the best book I have ever written; a piece of magic in people’s hands that really cause some transformation. The book changed me while I was writing it. It pushed me to places I had never gone to. It made me stronger. There are things in the book that are very disruptive in terms of ideas”, he says. The Canada-based author was in India recently and in an exclusive interview, he talks about the most important hour of the day, how every individual is an artist and how joy is a GPS. Excerpts from the interview:
In this day and age, people are really struggling with making peace with their lives, be it personal or professional and mindset has a significant role to play there. What is your advice on that?
I pushed myself to come up with ideas that are disruptive in this context. I talk about mindset, heartset, healthset and soulset because you can have a great mind, great psychology, positive thinking but if your heart is full of anger, sadness, disappointment, you are not going to be great at work or in life. Healthset focuses on energy, vitality and longevity and soulset is important because that is about building intimacy with who you truly are, your bravery, your authenticity, your values. A lot of people are busy being busy these days. The starting point is the first hour of the day. The way you start your day determines the way it is going to unfold.
Anyone who feels lost, disengaged, tired, unhappy understanding that from 5 am- 6 am, running the 20-20-20 formula, move, reflect, grow will fundamentally change the way the day unfolds because your neurobiology will be activated, you will have more energy, more focus, you will be living on your terms versus the society’s terms. Getting your morning routine right is a complete gamechanger. Things like just breaking free from all types of digital distraction; there is a line in the book saying addiction to distraction is the death of your creative production.
A lot of people are cyber zombies, they are spending their entire day checked into their phone versus being present in their world. Letting technology be your servant vs your God is really important to decide. There is a portion in the book that talks about joy being a GPS and part of that is making sure you fill your life with people fuelling your joy, in other words releasing the energy vampires in the dream stealers. If you have toxic people in your life, you will never be able to feel happy and productive.
What is the 20:20:20 formula so powerful?
5 am to 6 am is the time of least distraction. Those hours before the sun, there is a quietude that brings magic to our days. The fear hormone is highest first thing in the morning. By exercising for the first 20 minutes, you are reducing your cortisol so how valuable is that? Secondly, by exercising, you are going to release dopamine which is the inspirational neuro-transmitter so you feel strong. Thirdly, you release Serotonin, the pleasure neuro-chemical, you feel happy. Fourthly, you build your focus. The first 20 minutes, your whole brain cognition is activated by that first 20 minutes pocket.
The second 20 minutes which is reflection, in a world when very few people take time to think anymore, the 20 minutes 5:20-5:40 am writing, praying, meditating is going to work on your focus and groundedness in terms of how you live your day. The final 20 minutes which is learning, we feel happier when we feel we are growing. The 20:20:20 formula from 5 am to 6 am optimises your brain, gives you more energy and anchors you into your higher wisdom. By 6 am, you will feel fundamentally different.
Is there a difference between how creative people work on their happiness compared to non-creative people?
It is a great question and in that context, I would say everyone is an artist. Once I was in South Africa and there was a man cleaning the toilets and as I walked in, he said, “Welcome to my office!” The whole washroom was perfectly clean and he was smiling, sparkle in his eye. I asked him why is he so passionate about his work. He said, “I am the ambassador of South Africa. I represent my country. I can lift them up with my inspiration.” It is beautiful to come across someone like that.
You come across people who do their work wonderfully, make you smile and you remember them from time to time. We are all artists. You don’t necessarily have to be a journalist, a writer or an artist to find your creative expression. You can work in a bank and you can perceive it as an opportunity to express your creativity, to help people and enjoy your day.
How would you want to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered like someone who is a humble servant, as someone who woke people up to the possibilities within them that life caused them to forget. I would like to be remembered as someone who handcrafted their books, helped people and then I would also like to add that I don’t really care if I am remembered. I would rather just use my life right now to do the things I want to do. One of the best examples is Vincent Van Gogh. Over the course of his lifetime, he produced 900 paintings. He sold one painting in his lifetime. He became famous after he died. It means that he was working with such love and devotion to art and not for the sake of fame. We are going to be dust one day so why not focus on being happy and fulfilled right now.
I am reading Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. I am also a big fan of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.
I would love it if the 5 AM Club is made into a movie.