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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 ResponsibilityOne 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.

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18 Responses to On Careers And Community: An Interview With Arvind Devalia

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  2. “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. ”

    What a beautiful quote. The death of my father 22 years ago hit me the same way. It’s an important lesson, and it’s one I periodically forget.

  3. Thanks Jennifer for interviewing me and for your wonderful write-up.

    You have concisely encapsulated some of the key moments in my life and I am honoured and grateful to be featured here on your blog.

    I hope that some of my life lessons are useful and valuable to the beautiful and supportive community you have created here.

    Thanks again Jennifer, for the opportunity to share. And it was really wonderful to meet you in London a few weeks ago:-)

    • My pleasure, Arvind! I’ve learned a lot from you and truly enjoy our friendship.

    • On
    • November 8, 2010 at 10:11 pm
    • Katie
    • Said...

    Wonderful interview Jen. Arvind, you are a treasure. I lost my father when I was 24 and I have always wished he could have seen me have a career and family. It does put life in perspective and makes you realize what is truly important, as you said. Thank you for sharing so much of your wonderful heart with us. All the best to you, dear man.

    • Totally agree, Katie. I’ll always be grateful to the A-list Blogging club for the many wonderful introductions it’s made for me. You included!

  4. I will have to sign up for Arvind’s blog and also read his book! I’m a firm believer in the saying, “everything happens for a reason”, and often you have to really search it out. I always ask myself, “where’s the lesson here?” I usually find it and am often surprised by it. It’s all part of the journey.
    Thanks for another great post Jen!

    • Barbara,
      Arvind’s blog is well worth adding to your list of subscriptions. He has a wonderful perspective on life, as you get a glimpse of here. I’m always happy to share my “finds” with my friends! :)

  5. Touching…inspirational…motivating. Thanks to you Jen for this wonderful post and to you, Arvind, for sharing so much in this meaningful way. I have passed through many gates similar to yours and been enlightened in some way by them all. Losing my father was one of them; I think of him and draw on his wisdom every day. We all share the challenges of finding our way and our place in life. Every bump is an awakening if we let it be. What a treat it was reading this post! ~Dawn

    • I love this Dawn: Every bump is an awakening if we let it be. How is it I know so many wise men and women? I’m lucky indeed.

    • On
    • November 9, 2010 at 5:45 pm
    • Aileen
    • Said...

    Jen, how fantastic you were able to meet up with Arvind in London!! I love that!
    A wonderful interview you both have here!!

    • Yes, we really had such a great time. You really must add him to your “must see” list for London!

    • On
    • November 9, 2010 at 11:26 pm
    • Farnoosh
    • Said...

    You guys, this was a bittersweet interview – I am so sorry for your parents’ loss, dearest Jen and for your father’s loss, dear Arvind! And all the challenges you have gone through makes you even more special – When (not if) I am in London next, we shall meet too I hope. Thank you Jen for doing this interview and creating such brilliant insight to our appreciation for the present time!!

    • On
    • November 10, 2010 at 1:10 am
    • Sandra Lee
    • Said...

    Thank you both for this beautiful interview. I loved having the chance to get to know you more, Arvind. You have such a good heart and I’m so inspired by your dedication to helping others.

    This point stood out for me so strongly in the article because I feel that embracing impermanence is so central to leading a meaningful life:

    “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.”

    • On
    • November 10, 2010 at 6:35 pm
    • Satya
    • Said...

    Wow — what a remarkable series of life experiences. Thanks for sharing this, I have even more respect for arvind… :)

    • I agree completely, Satya. So glad to see you here. :)

  6. Arvind is a true inspiration to us all, a good friend with an abundance of care and advice for everyone, no matter who you are or where you have come from.

    I’m so happy to have you in my world…. :)

    Keep up the good work!

    S