This is a tale from December, 2019 when a handshake with friends (and strangers) was still in vogue and when sneezing in public was not considered a crime!

I was holidaying in a place called Dharamshala, which happens to be my hometown in Himachal Pradesh. I was visiting certain ‘happening places’ around town on a local school friend’s insistence when I came across a gentleman from Europe at a hill side restaurant. He appeared to be a man in his early 50s. (later came to know that he is 63!)

What started as a general conversation about the place, climate and our interests, ended in a well-meaning, deeply involving and engrossing four-hour long discussion.

His knowledge about India in general and Himachal in particular was impeccable and he had travelled the length and breadth of several Indian states.

(The restaurant owner later mentioned that the man has been visiting Dharamshala for more than 18 years now and is a well-heeled business owner from a major European city)

He was a brilliant conversationalist, multilinguist, a major philanthropist and calm, poised, and compassionate at the same time.

My friend and I refer to him as the “Monk who kept his Ferrari”.

As the lockdown and compulsory stay at home has turned most of us into ‘multifaceted leaders’ and ‘practitioners of meditation’, I thought it would be apt to share some profound life lessons from the experiences of this ‘Millionaire Monk’:

1 Life is not about ‘owning a home’ in a city at all costs. It can be ‘one of your goals’ but worrying about EMIs for 10,15 or 20 years? Life is definitely more precious. Choose your goals, mentors and investments carefully.

2 ‘Tomorrow’ is an illusion. ‘Happily ever after’ exists only in movies. Wake up, move and do something which matters-Today. This is applicable for your exercise routine, a course that you have been thinking of completing for months or connecting with that school friend.

If you can postpone a task for tomorrow, it is NOT important.

3 Seek wisdom, not information. You must have gained enough information during your  academic life. Now, go for real knowledge and for mastery over things which matter to you and which can make a difference.

Books constitute an easy and impactful source of wisdom. You are what you consume – it holds true for food as well as knowledge. For body, eat right and eat well. For mind, read well and imbibe the lessons.  

4 Dream big and embrace change. Even opportunities are presented to those who think big and are action oriented. Research and ground work would otherwise, count for nothing.  

Staying flexible and open to change brings plethora of opportunities and is a sign of strength and courage.

5 Integrity is non-negotiable. Shortcuts are for non-believers. Life is more about choices than circumstances. Stay true to certain principles you believe in and choose friends, businesses and bosses who value integrity more than intelligence.

6 Invest in yourself and stop blaming others. When you are aware, no one can mis-sell to you or lead you into something you would regret later. Knowledge is your greatest weapon.

7 Simplify things, relationships, systems, processes and in turn, life. Are the numerous apps and gadgets simplifying your life? Think again.

Probably it is time to update (not the App..)

8 Competing ‘against’ someone is useless. It will increase stress and fetch nothing. Instead, try to add more to your efforts. Life is a marathon, not a 100 meter sprint race.  

9 Celebrate more. Even small success stories and simple achievements need to be appreciated and celebrated. Don’t wait for the big events.

10 Indulge in what you like. What is money for and why should you work hard otherwise? Don’t sweat the small stuff is sound advice.

11  Say ‘No’ to toxic relationships, investments and influences and say ‘Yes’ to good reasoning, new opportunities and sane advice.

12 Share your wealth. In whatever little way possible, indulge in ‘giving back to the society’. COVID-19, after all, brings home the fact that we actually do not need much for buying ‘essentials’.

Isaac Newton said “If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Live well, learn well and stay safe.