By Eder Bozzer Machado – Master of International Business – Class of 2016
During my Hult year, I was in a state of euphoria and constant anxiety. I wanted to make the most out of my academic year. I got that roll up the sleeves attitude instilled in me. There was only one way to go: onwards and upwards. I drank the Kool-Aid, I worked hard, I networked. I radically shift my fixed mindset to the very well emphasized growth mindset. To a certain extent, I did achieve momentarily success during my year and the years following graduation. I got not only one, but three internship offers, I also got a job offer prior to graduation where I wanted to live. Although I did contemplate mild setbacks and even go jobless for a while, nothing truly prepared for what it was about to come.
Simultaneously, something else was also evolving inside of me. As the bar was getting higher, expectations of what my life should look like were getting clear and in better shape. I would get easily angry and I couldn’t admit when things didn’t go my way. The more responsibilities I had at work, proportionally, the more stressed and unbalanced I was. If only I knew better. All of this worldly matters should not have mattered at this level, but it did matter – a lot. The deeper these achievements mattered, the stronger the denial of things falling apart and the sicker I got.
When I learnt that I had to immediately leave the US due to my work visa constraints, I was on the verge of a literal nerve breakdown. I was so identified with the outer form I have created for myself: my role at the company, my close relationships, my apartment, my commute, I forgot who I really was. I built a sandcastle in the midst of a thunderstorm. Nothing I have learned up to the point in my life fully prepared me to let go and move on. I packed all my possessions in 2 suitcases I went straight back home. And I suffered. And most of that suffering came from my attitude towards what had just happened. And boy, that was tough!
Suddenly, as I spent more time by myself than at any given point in my life, all that spiritual teachings we all have heard at a certain point in our lives made sense. I understood why people spend so much of their time meditating, repeating all these motivational quotes to themselves. Oprah made sense! Minimalist’s podcasts clicked, journaling was the therapy I never had. All I have is the present moment, breath in, breath out, it works. I realized up to that point, none of it truly had a deeper meaning to me or anything above or below the surface level. I was so obsessed with building, achieving, succeeding I had no time for sitting around becoming aware of my breath to be a balance and healthy human being. There is so much to worry and obsess about. What I have considered my first traumatic experience was my actual first meaningful wake-up call.
I learned very quickly by putting things in perspective, whatever the world tells you is important at this moment, no longer wasn’t that impactful. A Quarterly Financial Report deadline will no longer give you sleepless nights as it used to, a rejection letter from a job you really wanted is not that painful. Everything, absolutely everything in this life is transient (at least on a personal level). We seize to always strive to be in control of situations and circumstances presented to us. I am not saying you should not have ambitions. It doesn’t mean you should stop trying to achieve your goals and dreams. By all means, you have attended a business school, do work hard, build that multibillion-dollar empire, get that promotion, buy a new car, go to Disneyland, but never ever allow whatever that is to define who you are.
A good employee or entrepreneur comes from a state of balanced and resilient mind, focus and determination, not desperation, anxiety and impatience (this last one I have seen as a job qualification!). A heart first pumps blood into itself than to the other parts of the body. Living life the way I was for most of my adult years may work for a period of time but it will teach us a powerful and painful lesson when things fall apart. I wish I could tell that to my 24 years-old self. Knowing how to ask the right questions while comparing to the grand scheme of things gives every situation I have encountered the right amount of significance and its right place. The unnecessary suffering created by my thoughts for incessant pursuit of financial and emotional security no longer plays the leading role in my life. I have a long way to go in my spiritual path to Being rather than Doing. I often catch myself compulsively thinking about achievement, and let me tell you, it is bad for business in the short-term.
As I write this on the train back from London, when I got home today I noticed my bike was stolen from the bike rack at the train station. Naturally, I got frustrated and angry, then upset. I talked to the guards, attempted to file a report over the phone late at night. Then I observed my thoughts and my emotions in my depressing and cold 30 minutes walk home from the station, trying to stop thinking about my stolen bike.
My mind wandered into thinking how many hours of work was stolen from me (as I have this useful but terrible habit to measure prices by hours of work), how many weeks I actually had the bike (3) and how long it would take to me to find a decent bicycle at that price. Most importantly, how I would take an extra 25 minutes of my day to commute to and from work until I buy another one.
When I arrived home, I received a call from my grandma in Brazil and I told her what had just happened. After consoling me, she burst out laughing: “You lived most of your life in one of the most violent countries in the world and you just got robbed in the English countryside, right under the Queen’s nose. LOL. Laugh with me, kid.”. Her shift in consciousness happened years ago.
“You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace.” – Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes
Build a mind palace, it’s tax-free and it won’t fade away if you take good care of it.