By Marilyn Tam
As a child growing up in South Africa, Arun was bullied, harassed, and beaten up for being dark, and also tormented, pushed around, and thrashed for being not dark enough. He became suspicious, bitter and filled with rage. Fearing for his future, his parents sent him to India to live with his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi. Arun learned about peace and service, and he found his life purpose, happiness ensued.
Arun Gandhi is one of the six happy, diverse, and accomplished people, who run global multi-million-dollar companies to leaders of national nonprofits, I interviewed for my Happiness and Meaning of Life series.
Happiness and the meaning of life, these are universally important to everyone. Yet people often miss the mark in finding the very things that they are looking for. The “shoulds” and “must haves” in our heads, subtly and incessantly infiltrated and embedded there by well-meaning people, the relentless marketing from media, and pressure from social networks, drive our thinking and actions imperceptibly and ongoingly.
The leaders I interviewed, shared their personal stories, their “ah ha” moments, and how they found their way to living their life purpose, in joy, inner peace and their personal version of success.
Arun Gandhi, humanitarian & grandson of Mahatma Gandhi went from an angry young man in S Africa to a lifelong “peace farmer” and activist residing in the US.
Hyepin Im, founder & president of FACE, transformed from a Venture Capitalist to becoming a minister, and forming her nonprofit.
Howard Schiffer, founder & president of Vitamin Angels, formerly a natural products industry executive, spent five years founding Vitamin Angels from his bedroom while working full time.
Linda Akutagawa, CEO of LEAP, volunteered at the organization in between jobs and stayed on to eventually leading the organization.
Sandra Yancey, founder & CEO of eWomenNetwork, didn’t have any idea she wanted to create her company until she turned 40.
Bill Shireman, founder, CEO & president of Future 500, spends his life joyfully where most people would be quite uncomfortable, working to get polar opposites in politics and the environment to collaborate.
These people are living the lives they were born to live. Happily, gainfully and with a peaceful heart.
Listening to their stories, I found underlying principles and tools that led them to where they are living in alignment with why they were born. Here are the five key points.
Six inspiring leaders, sharing how they found their path to happiness and meaning of life, and I got to record all their stories and insights!
1. Happiness is a choice
In the darkest and most confusing of times, we can still find a reason for being and for gratitude. Each leader had their own version of awakening, where they found inner peace in their life circumstances. They identified reasons to give thanks in the midst of apparent disorder.
By appreciating something about your current situation, the negativity, worries and even outside conditions, change to bring you more happiness.Linda Akutagawa was in between jobs; she was unsure of her next steps. Instead of worrying about her future, she volunteered at LEAP, Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics because she thought she could help others gain training and skills to advance in their careers. LEAP’s mission to support and train Asian and Pacific Islanders (APIs) in leadership, empowerment, and policy for full participation and equality resonated with her. Decades later Linda is still at LEAP, now as CEO. Her choice to help make others happier enabled her to be joyfully doing what she loves every day.
2. Find your life purpose and follow it
Each one has a reason for being. Find yours and live it. How? Go inside and listen to your inner wisdom. Align your passion, gifts and calling to achieve happiness and inner peace.
Howard Schiffer was a successful executive in the natural products industry, but inside he was uneasy. The question of what would be written on his tombstone nagged at him. “He sold a lot of products”, didn’t seem to be meaningful enough. It took him five years of being open and actively working on how he can make a bigger difference for him to birth the nonprofit, Vitamin Angels
Vitamin Angels educates and supplies nutritional supplements to 70 million underprivileged children and mothers in over 65 countries a year. Howard is now comfortable with what is going to be etched on his grave stone.
3. You have the capability to achieve your life purpose, work on your abilities to make it real.
Your dreams are achievable. Get the training, develop the skills, and make the connections needed to follow your meaning of life.
Hyepin Im graduated from UC Berkeley in finance and became an auditor and VC, but neither fit with her life purpose. She enrolled in Ministerial school, and then founded her nonprofit, Faith And Community Empowerment (FACE) to empower faith community leaders to better serve underserved communities. FACE trains faith leaders, educates underserved communities, and provides advocacy so that the voiceless may have a voice. She is now aligned and fulfilled.
4. Helping others is good for you
Service to others is the way to personal fulfillment. When you support others in their growth and life journey, you are also lifted, often in more ways than you can even imagine.
Sandra Yancey’s father died when she was five years old. Her mother alone with three young children went on welfare to survive. Sandra remembers how others helped them when they were in dire straits. Her gratitude inspired her to develop a company dedicated to providing a mutual support business network for women entrepreneurs. She and her multi-million dollars global company, eWomenNetwork is thriving by doing good for others.
5. Your legacy lies in how you made a difference in other people’s lives
What you leave behind when you depart the planet is the good you did for others. Contribute your talents, time, and resources to improving your community. Feed, educate, entertain, support, and heal others, plant trees, and/or green the earth. There are numerous ways for you to combine your interests, abilities, and time to create a more harmonious, healthy, and happy world.
Young Arun Gandhi in S Africa was not thinking about his legacy. He was worried about his personal safety and life each time he went out. He was harassed regularly for his skin color by both the blacks and the whites. He was “not good enough” for either side to accept. His grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi showed him that there is a greater calling and way to live. He taught him that each person has been given unique skills, and talents and they are on loan for you to give back to the world.
Arun transformed his anger and determination to learning how non-violence is more powerful than fists and guns. He has since devoted his life to teaching, speaking and promoting peace and harmony. He is happy and fulfilled now.
Have you found your meaning of life? Are you happy? Asking these questions are a step in developing the path to fulfilling these vital life questions.
You are connected to the greater whole and your thoughts and actions can positively influence the overall direction. Understanding this key fact has shown to be powerful motivation for people to persist and overcome challenges to greater emotional and life rewards. This is even true for young people who are discovering their reason for being.
For me, interviewing these inspiring leaders and absorbing their wisdom have made me even more committed to living my life purpose of making a positive difference. May your life be similarly enhanced.
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