This is Part 4 in a series of interviews with the gurus of leadership and management theory.
Robin Sharma is a Toronto-based leadership development expert who has written 11 books, including the mega-hit The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. His most recent, The Leader Who Has No Title, another fable, shows how to be a leader no matter where you are in the corporate hierarchy. In this interview, he shares some timeless truths about life and leadership.
What led to The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari? What were you trying to do in writing it, and what were the main messages you wanted to send?
The journey started about 13 years ago. I was a litigation lawyer, working in downtown Toronto. I was successful, yet I was very unfulfilled. I had the sense that I really wasn’t living according to my values and I didn’t have the passion or sense of mission I was looking for.
I started to reflect more deeply on my values, the kind of work I felt would be meaningful, and on what it took to make a great life. I interviewed elders, I read a lot of philosophical books, I read a lot of the great biographies, and I learned some simple ideas and practical tools that made a profound transformation in who I was as a person.
I decided to share the idea and everything I learned with other people. I wrote and published The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari in a Kinko’s copy shop in Toronto. My mother was my editor; my father helped me sell it, one book at a time. I’m a believer in the idea that every dream starts out small, like this one, and step by step it started to grow. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari became a word-of-mouth best-seller.
If I had to pick one message to take from the book, it’s that there are no extra people on the planet; we are all here for a purpose, and every single one of us has talents that we may not be aware of. When we discover those talents and have the courage to pursue that purpose, our lives not only become much more fulfilling, but we make a dent in the universe. I think part of why so most people like The Monk is that there were a lot of timeless truths about what life is all about wrapped up into an interesting story about a superstar lawyer who gave it all up to move to the Himalayas to discover the philosophy.
What are those timeless principles?
One of the most important ones is that the fears you do not face become your walls. Most people in business, and in their personal lives, design everything so they can avoid doing what makes them feel uncomfortable. Yet any good business person knows we are not only paid to work but also we are paid to be scared. So the more you confront your fears, the more confidence grows within you and the more fulfilling your life will be.
A second idea is the importance of relationships. The business of business is relationships; the business of life is human connection. We live in a world where many of us have a lot of friends on Facebook but yet we have lost human connection. I reminded people in the book of the essence of relationships, and how some of our greatest happiness comes in connecting with other people at an authentic level.
Another vital idea in The Monk is the importance of doing valuable work. A job is “only a job” if you see it merely as a job. Every single job offers us a chance to express our creative potential and also to make a difference.