I met Arvind through the A-list Blogger Club and have been a fan of his blog Make It Happen ever since. We recently had a chance to enjoy breakfast together in London, where he shared with me some amazing stories from his life.
Arvind learned about career design the hard way: he was fired (or as he says in his lovely British accent, “was made redundant”), and later watched his start-up company dissolve. What’s interesting is that even these events didn’t provide the epiphany he needed. He found his calling through community service. He is now a blogger and life coach.
JG: Can you give me a brief run-down of the various jobs you’ve held in your life?
AD: As a 17-year old, I paid for my driving lessons by working at a football ground and that instilled a work ethic in me from a young age.
After graduating, I worked in IT for both British Petroleum and Shell and then a major UK bank. After my MBA, I worked in marketing and product development for ethnic food companies and I eventually joined some friends who had launched a dot com property portal.
Two years later, our dot.com went belly up and I discovered the world of life coaching. I haven’t looked back since. I fully relate to people who get bored in their jobs and get itchy feet, as I was the same.
JG: When the dot.com start-up you were involved with went belly-up, you lost a lot of what you call “paper money.” It must have been surreal and traumatic to lose so much unrealized wealth. How did the dissolution of the company affect the direction of your life?
AD: The dot.com phase of my life was a huge roller coaster. Suddenly after a year of working 18 t0 20 hour days, we received a cash injection of almost £5 million from a FT100 company. So at one time we were actually cash rich too and not just on paper!
However, our strategy of spending a fortune on marketing and thereby trying to capture a larger market share ultimately proved our downfall when the NASDAQ crashed and the funds ran dry. With no further funding forthcoming, we went bust. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but had we managed to get through that stormy period, we could have been hugely successful today.
It was during this time that I visited Nirvana School. Working with children and making a difference to others made me realise what was important in my life. Almost overnight, I went from a Type-A, driven person to a much more likable and chilled out guy!
So as one set of doors closed on me, a whole new way of living and seeing my life opened up for me.
JG: What was it about your experience at the Nirvana School that allowed you to crystallize your life goals? Was it just timing or was it something about that particular experience itself?
AD: My experience at Nirvana School came about as a result of a number of major changes in my life. But there is actually more to it that that since I wouldn’t have had the same life-changing experience if I had just gone off and been a beach bum for a few weeks.
I had to experience Nirvana School and its ethos of love, giving and service to those in need to really reconnect with my own deep longing to make a difference and to find an outlet for my curtailed desire to contribute. After that experience, finding my true path and crystallizing my life goals was relatively straight forward.
JG: You were “made redundant,” as you call it, from your job at the bank and forced to consider new options. Later, your marriage fell apart. How did you pick yourself up and regain your confidence?
AD: Being made redundant by the bank was a huge blessing in disguise. It allowed me the impetus and the finances to study for a full time MBA – which ultimately opened up a lot of exciting career options for me.
As for my marriage falling apart, that was, up until then, the toughest thing I had ever gone through (since that time, the sudden death of my father was even more painful). I very clearly remember the first day that I was on my own in our apartment, after the separation. Despite all the pain and the sense of loss, I resolved to sort out my life and within weeks I had taken positive steps to regain my confidence and energy.
What really helped was being practical and coming up with the key steps I needed to take to move forward again, no matter what emotional upheaval I was going through. I also learnt that no situation is ever as bleak as it may seem – and that there’s always a bright side to negative events if we choose to look for them. It’s a cliché but every cloud really has a silver lining.
JG: As someone who has lost both parents herself, I have to ask, does every cloud truly have a silver lining? Even the death of your father?
AD: Losing a loved one is never easy, especially when it is one of the two human beings responsible for bringing you into this world. Almost three years after the loss of my father, I still think of him everyday and the pain is not much less than on the day of his passing.
So what silver lining can I see in this cloud?
If anything, the loss of my father has made me see the impermanence of everything and the futility of striving for those things that really do not matter. It has made me feel more grown up, mature and a better human being. His passing allowed me to show the world my vulnerable side.
Finally I have learnt to appreciate my father and the life he led. He taught me a lot about compassion and love. I am still striving to bring his teachings and wisdom into my own life.
Arvind Devalia blogs at Make It Happen where he discusses how to make a better you and a better world. A published author, his books include Get The Life You Love (and live it) and Personal Social Responsibility. One lucky commenter will be randomly selected to receive a FREE signed copy of Get The Life You Love, an excellent resource for those considering lifestyle design.