“Man, when you’re real, you create something special that lasts. That’s what I’ve learned in my career. Even in building products, and building companies, it’s pretty obvious.” – Kamal Ravikant
Mark has a new book coming out in 2020 about the seven commitments of leadership. It is called “Staring Down the Wolf: 7 Leadership Commitments That Forge Elite Teams,” and is available now for pre-order. Commander Divine writes about many of the great leaders he met in SpecOps to give examples of the commitments that one has to make to the 7 key principles of Courage, Trust, Respect, Growth, Excellence, Resiliency and Alignment.
Kamal Ravikant (@kamalravikant) is an entrepreneur, venture capitalist and author. His most recent book is a brand new edition of “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It.” The original was first self-published in 2013. Kamal initially wrote the book as a response to his own personal disaster.
- How you can change the context of memories from bad to good
- How you must recognize that Purpose is bigger than pain
- Your inner life is what you really have
Listen to this episode to hear more about how you can learn how to love yourself and let success follow the inner work.
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Hey folks. This is Mark Divine. Welcome back to the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Thanks so much for being here. As you know, I appreciate your time very much. And I know also that you have a thousand and one things vying for your attention. So the fact that you’re here listening to this speaks volumes. And I’m very grateful.
Today’s show is going to be unlike many others we do. I’ve got a guest named Kamal Ravikant. And I’m actually not going to tell you about him until I get done with my little book plug.
So my book “Staring Down the Wolf” – which is about emotionally mature or authentic leadership – and how we’ve got to stare down our wolf of fear and overcome our shadow elements that trip us up and hold us back, in order to really build elite teams. It’s all about that deep connection of trust and respect.
And also the fact that your teams and your work environment are your best opportunity for growth. It’s where most of the growth occurs, so why not lean into that and use it as an opportunity to grow and evolve yourself and your team. So the organization can evolve.
So I imagine we’re going to talk a little bit about some of that with Kamal.
But my book is coming out March 2nd. So it’s a little bit in the distance. But that means you get to preorder it. And the website staringdownthewolf.com is the pre-order page. And as we tend to do with these things, we have all sorts of cool little offers for you. If you want to buy in bulk, or if you just want to get a signed copy.
But it really helps with the promotion of the book – to get other people to learn about it, to hear about it. So that more people can learn how to stare down their wolf of fear. So I appreciate your support.
Staringdownthewolf.com. Check it out. If you want to preorder a hundred copies I think we’ll have some cool opportunities. (laughing) I’m not even sure what the pre-offers are gonna finally look like. Because as I’m recording this, we haven’t put the page up yet.
But by the time you hear this, it will be up.
All right, so Kamal is a fellow military guy, like me. Is a former army guy. He spent some time in upstate New York, training at fort drum. Miserable place that is.
Went to the University of Albany for a year. And then later returned to get a degree in economics.
I think you dropped out, right? You got bored?
Kamal. No, I joined the army. And then I went to University of Rochester afterwards. All right mark. Rochester. Another great town.
Grew up in Jamaica, Queens…
Kamal. Where rap came from.
Mark. Co-founder of Angelist. I’m actually part of a syndicate on Angelist.
Kamal. Actually, Angelist is my brother’s. Gets confused sometimes. I run my own venture capital firm, and I advise Angelist, but that’s purely thanks to my brother, who I’m damn proud of well.
Mark. Well, tell your brother thanks. I gotta great syndicate on there. I’ve invested in a few kind of like food tech startups… Not tech, but new food paradigm kind of companies. It’s a great, great project.
What’s the name of your venture fund?
Kamal. Evolved EC.
Mark. Right on. So Kamal is also the author of a couple really good books. Best-selling books. “Live Your Truth.” and then the one we’re gonna spend a little bit of time talking about – I’m almost halfway through it – “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It.” how cool is that? Coming from an army officer, venture capitalist… You don’t expect words like that. But a lot of truth in there.
So Kamal, thanks so much for your time. Super-stoked for this conversation.
Kamal. Thanks for having me. And as I told you earlier, I’m excited, cause I’ve been a fan of yours – I read “Unbeatable Mind” I think when it first came out – no sorry not “Unbeatable Mind,” “The Way of the SEAL.”
Kamal. And I loved that book. And that’s so aligned with a lot of my personal philosophy. And it’s one of those ones where I returned to the highlights regularly. It’s just really… I know your latest book is gonna be phenomenal. Because like I do leave that in business you’re challenged in ways that you’re not in other parts of your life. Talk about all your insecurities popping up all the time and have to deal with them.
I think it’s great this new book. For anyone who hasn’t read “The Way of the SEAL.” It’s just a fantastic book. And it’s really ultimately about mindset.
Mark. For sure.
Kamal. Which I think is what it all comes down to.
Mark. Applied mindset. First get control, and then figure out how to really kick ass while you’re in control. Focused on the right thing at the right time, for the right reasons.
I love that. Thank you very much for that little unsolicited plug…
Kamal. My pleasure. It’s honest, man. I’m excited. I’m a fan.
Mark. “Staring Down the Wolf,” I make this bold assertion. I said, when I was in the SEAL teams, actually building elite teams was easy. Compared to trying to build as an entrepreneur or even in a business environment. Especially if you’re trying to do some rapid change.
And that’s all we have today, because of the VUCA world is change.
It’s hard work, but in the military – especially in the elite units – the structure and the system does a lot of the work for you. In terms of who they attract, the recruitment, the assessment process, the training paradigms, the acculturation…
And then just the system that kind of enforces let’s say the SEAL ethos. That very strong powerful cultural glue.
And so when you have those things going for you it’s pretty easy – relatively speaking -to build an elite team and to kick ass.
But then you get out into the civilian world and like all that systemic and structural stuff you got to create on your own. And it takes time and a lot of thought and care. And a lot of times, if you ignore it or if you ignore your own fears then disaster strikes. I’m sure you’ve experienced that a few times.
Kamal. You know, you’re not the first Special Forces operator to say this. I have a few friends – a mutual friend Brandon Webb – he’s built a successful media company. And I’m actually an adviser to his company.
And he was a SEAL sniper. And he was a head instructor at SEAL sniper school, pretty accomplished.
And same thing – he’s like, “man.” he’s going through some rough stuff at this company this year and it was like “this is harder than anything I went through in the SEALs.” which is just amazing when you hear that, right? Just amazing.
Because you are on your own, and you’ve got to figure it out in a way you weren’t trained for… Business school doesn’t train you for this. There’s no training that trains you for this – this is one of those things you learn by doing, by jumping in and making a lot of mistakes. And hopefully correcting them before…
Mark. And what I’m trying to do with Unbeatable Mind – and the way of the SEAL is an offshoot of that – is to give leaders and actually all individuals, but leaders in particular, the tools to train themselves to deal with that uncertainty and that complexity, ambiguity – the VUCA environment…
And so that while they’re figuring this stuff out and getting kicked in the groin and falling down seven times getting up eight – they don’t lose themselves. They don’t end up with the major breakdowns. Like I think we’re going to talk a little bit about your life in a moment and how those breakdowns came.
Like, I’ve had some massive crap thrown at me in my life, but I’ve been studying Zen and practicing martial arts and yoga since I was 25 – before – I was actually 21 – 4 years before I was a SEAL – I got my first black belt and had been at multiple Zen retreats.
And the resiliency that that built in me – and I’m not like tooting my own horn – but I sailed through SEAL training – I, by the grace of god, didn’t have to suffer from post-traumatic stress. And all the times I got kicked in the face in the business world, I was able to dust myself off fairly quickly and get back. Shift fire and move forward.
And I attribute it all to the training, and that’s why I’m so passionate to give back those tools, because I think they’re really, really powerful.
And just like your current book is such a powerful set of tools.
Kamal. Yeah, thank you. Like, you’re talking about “falling apart”… They came from a space when I was literally falling apart. Then what I did to basically save myself. And something in me instinctively went to working the inside.
And it’s something I’ve come to believe really fundamentally. I believe you work on the inside first, and life is from the inside out. You work on the inside, and then that starts to hum. And it takes care of the outside. You just make better decisions. Life starts to work.
Mark. For sure. Yeah, you can you can fine-tune how you execute on the outside, but it all flows from that inner space. The intentionality, and the vision, and your sense of self – who you are…
Kamal. It is everything. I mean, in the end that’s what you got.
Like, I didn’t mention this but when we spoke earlier – about two months ago – I was in emergency surgery basically dead…
Kamal. Yeah, I went in for elective surgery, for old athletic… I’m an athletic guy, going to infantry boot camp at 18, I turned 19 in boot camp – put that in me. Just being active. And so I climb mountains, I do all this crazy stuff…
Mark. You were in the 10th army division right? That’s a mountain division?
Kamal. Yeah 10th mountain. They put you in a lot of cold…
Mark. Lot of cold with a rucksack and a sleeping bag and say “go.” oh, and your weapon too.
Kamal. Yeah, and your rifle. And just be miserable and get through it. That’s the military.
Mark. Okay, can we stop there why did you…? I want to come back to this but… Well, first… I’m sorry… Finish this story, because I don’t want to interrupt the flow of what you were doing on this hospital bed.
Kamal. Oh, so I went in for elective surgery, and they were fixing a vascular issue. And 12 hours later, as I was getting ready to be discharged, the arteries that they’d stitched together ruptured, because there was too much pressure. And basically built up so fast… An artery’s a one-way street, if an artery goes – it bursts.
It built up so much and then so much pressure, it burst out of my body. And I was spraying blood everywhere.
I mean, this is basically a battlefield wound. I mean, talk about getting attention at a hospital – I got a lot of attention really fast.
Mark. I bet you did. Code red. Holy cow.
Kamal. Yeah, it literally was like the movies. And they’ve got me an emergency surgery to stop that and save my life. I was very quickly bleeding to death.
Mark. Were you conscious or unconscious?
Kamal. I was. I was spraying… Watching yourself spray blood out at everyone around you is a hell of an experience.
Mark. Good god. You were a medic in the army, weren’t you?
Kamal. No, I was a grunt. I carried an M203. That was my thing…
Mark. But you’ve seen the likes of that probably in your years of service.
Kamal. I haven’t actually. I got pretty lucky. But it’s one thing to see it, it’s another thing for blood to be spraying out of your body like a hose. Your brain’s not designed to handle it man. It’s not.
And something in you goes primal. You know, something just goes primal, because something kicks in going “this has to stop or I’m out.”
And actually they got me into O/R right away. There was it there was a new case coming in. They threw that case out, put me in. Mayhem. Someone’s like trying to slow down the spray of blood. And when the doctor came and talked to me briefly, I kind of came back online. My brain came back online to talk to her.
And then it was literally like realizing, “what a shitty, messy way to go.” and then having to surrender to that. And I literally went through that process where actually like – because you have no choice – it is the ultimate giving in.
And I remember experiencing that. And I came out of… And so then they put me on anesthesia, they worked on me, they fixed everything and I’m here two months later talking to you.
And coming out in the hospital… And I’ve never been in a hospital before like as a patient, and then I had to spend all this time as a patient there. Worst place to be if you’re not feeling well is a hospital, I’ll tell you.
Mark. Of course.
Kamal. And talk about mindset that’s where mindset kicks in, cause I could have gone to a lot of places in my mind, which were not good. This was just a regular elective procedure, and all of a sudden to go through something so messy, and so painful. And I knew by now like having done things like… I live what I write in the book. And I also write in the book, I fell apart again at one point, and how I applied the practices, and how the stuff just really works.
So I applied it hard. And I was talking to my brother about this a couple of weeks after I got out of the hospital… I was like “man, if there’s anything that’s proof of the work on the mind, it’s like my mindset right now. I’m walking around feeling grateful. I’m walking around feeling blessed. But that’s not coming naturally, I’ve been working on it in the hospital.”
Sometimes your mind goes into victim mode and it still does, but very quickly I shifted and I go to that. And it just works.
Mark. Right. Wow. What an amazing story. Holy cow.
Kamal. Yeah, that’s still fresh.
Mark. Yeah, I bet it is. Two months ago. You’re probably looking around going “did I really need this proof?”
Kamal. (laughing) Yes. Like I’m done with the hard stuff, man.
Mark. Yeah, the more work you do on the inner game, I think the more that the challenges start to come at you. Because it really is like a like a test. Yeah “I got that level. Okay, now it’s time to take it to the next level of this video game called life.”
Kamal. You really do level up. That’s something I’ve noticed too. When you work on your internal self, you don’t just hit it like the first time around. And you’re in.
Mark. No. And there’s no there, there. It’s kind of like the solitaire I play am I on my iPhone. It’s like I’m on like level 130. I’m like “how many levels are there? They keep going.”
Your life is like that, isn’t it? It’s like there’s no there, there. And the more you develop, the vaster the potential becomes for further work, and further growth.
And so in a sense like my journey, I’ve felt smaller and smaller, the more and more work I’ve done. And I guess you could say that’s kind of my ego shrinking since… Where I’m emptying my cup.
Kamal. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Mark. Fascinating. So let’s talk about your life a little bit, just so we get some more context. You grew up in queens and then you decide to go to college. What was some of the formative years like? And what led you into the army?
Kamal. Sure. So I was an immigrant child. I was born in India. We came here when I was a little kid. Grew up in Jamaica, Queens which for those who aren’t familiar, a lot of rap came from there. Run DMC and those guys came from that area. So rap, it didn’t come from a pretty place. Rap came from a hard place, right? It grew from a hard place.
Mark. Right. Were you accepted and did you have friends in queens? I mean, how did you get along with those rappers?
Kamal. I mean, like I was in an area which was a rough area. And all that comes along with it. That’s what I grew up in.
And I was a skinny, shy kid and as you can imagine, dealt with that. And single mom, no money, I remember someone in New York once said looking at my brother and I she’d go, “you guys were just born with silver spoons in your mouth.”
I laughed so hard. I’m like “you have no frickin’ idea where one can come from in this country, and what they can do.” that’s what makes this country so special.
So I got a scholarship to SUNY Albany, and full scholarship. Went there for a year and it just wasn’t it for me. And I went to the recruiter’s offices and all the various recruiters.
And they throw things at you. And especially if you have a little bit of college.
And the army offered me the most for college later – I knew I wanted to finish my education, so they offered me the most.
And then I scored really had my ASFAP but I wanted infantry. And I chose mountain infantry, because that just seemed like the hardest infantry I could find so. So I got a spot on the 10th mountain, before I went in.
And the next thing I know I’m in a bus to Fort Benning, Georgia and they shave my head. In the middle of summer. And welcome to the military.
But I wanted to serve my country. I was an immigrant child, I was always felt like the strong passion for my country. For my country that… I’m American…
Mark. I have to admit, I have not seen a lot of Indian guys in the military…
Kamal. I think I might have been the only one back then who wasn’t a doctor. I think in the entire infantry, I might have been the only one. I kid you not, man.
I met one or two, but they were all doctors…
Mark. That makes sense. Fascinating.
So how many years did you spend in the army? Any real formative experiences there? Kamal. Three years and then once I was in, I realized very quickly like, “look I want more as well. Like, this was a great experience” – but I wanted to go out and do more. So as soon as I could, I went off to college. And I went to university of Rochester upstate. And I got a degree in economics and biology.
And then actually I was also just grabbed a backpack, traveled around the world, came back, started writing… Really fell in love with writing. And then I moved out to Silicon Valley and startups were happening. And just jumped in and started building startups. And that became my career.
Got involved with something that did really, really well. Started some. And what most people don’t know about the writing process is at night rather than going out partying on weekends when I have free time – I was like obsessively studying the greats like Hemingway I just fell in love with his writing – that clean, clear prose. You can go to depth with the simplest words…
Mark. And I notice that in your book, by the way… Like, I love the crisp style. It’s very easy to read, right?
Kamal. Thank you.
Mark. Some authors just… And I try to write with a lot of density and I don’t mean like I’m dense – I mean like I try to offer these gems with every sentence, and not have a lot of excess crap, right?
And I think you exceed me by quite a bit in your writing. It’s just very precise. So, anyways, just reinforcing what you just said.
Kamal. Thank you. I really appreciate that.
Mark. That takes a lot of work.
Kamal. It’s a lot of work. A lot of work and a lot of rejection letters that I collected over the years, right? And somewhere along the way it’s like rejection letters are no fun, it’s not like I was making any money off it, and people are like “what are you doing with all your time?”
And I was just like “I just got to do this, because I just have something here.” and I just made a decision that like, “look, I’ll get rejection letters now. But somewhere along the way they’re gonna chase me.”
I just made that decision. That kept me going. And the writing and being a better and better and better writer. Because it’s talent, but then there’s craft… And anything great you do in life, you got to work on the craft. You can’t write on the talent. Talent’ll get you like a one-hit wonder. Craft will get you a career, right?
Mark. Yeah, there’s a difference between the two. And also, a lot of the books being produced are actually one-hit memoirs, written by somebody else.
Kamal. Oh yeah, I mean, I know the people who write them. So l won’t name names, but I’ve actually sat in on podcasts where like the guy’s going on and on about how hard he worked on his book. And I know the person who wrote the book.
God, why do you have to lie like that? Just say, “look the book…” talk about the book. I don’t know why people feel like they have to do it.
But anyway, yeah, it’s a little pet peeve of mine. These days, it’s like everybody’s gotta have a book, but here’s the way I look at it.
Here’s my purpose I literally I was built to write books that transform people. Like a hundred years after I’m gone whenever that is – hopefully, I mean at this time I’m done with the hard stuff for a while – I’m gonna be around to like 90 something. Hundred years after I’m gone, the books I write, because they’re about human truths, they’re about the internal work that anyone can do – they gonna be read…
Mark. I feel the same way about “the way of the SEAL,” and some of mine… They’re perennial truths and I had to tell my… I had to – I think just through my actions – convince my publisher was reader’s digest for that and said “this is a long game. Like, we’re gonna sell millions of books, but it’ll start slow, and then it’ll pick up speed. But this book will get better with time.”
That’s what I told them.
Kamal. I think it gets better with every read. And that’s remarkable by the way.
Mark. I think we’re tapping into the same line of knowledge. And using kind of different contextual experiences and life experiences, right? And also, it’ll appeal to different people. We’re at a point in human history where we need an army of you and me to really help advance culture.
Kamal. Yeah, there’s so much noise. And so I think when you set that high bar for you – like, I won’t put anything out unless I… I’m obsessive about every comma, about the feel of a comma at a turn of a phrase, right? And I won’t put it out until I’m satisfied.
But you do that, and people can feel it, right? People know… And also the heart that’s gone into something.
You haven’t heard the last part, but man that last part gets so… I’m supposed to be on a podcast next week – it’s a very big one – and I’ve never met the guy before, and he got a galley and he emailed me and he said “look, I got to tell you – and I don’t do this – this is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I’m applying it. It’s changing my life.”
And then he emailed me this morning he’s like “oh my god, it just got better.” when he got to the last part, where I really show “okay, this is what happens when I fell apart. And be in my mind and watch me then do the work and heal.”
Because we’re all human, we all go through the same stuff. The scenery might be different, details might differ, and it’s just a different curtain going by.
But the internal is the same.
Mark. Right. I agree. No matter where you grow up, what culture, what color skin – the human experience is going to have the same qualities to it.
Kamal. Bingo. So if you’re write about fundamental human truths, and fundamental human truths in a practical way – like in the way that you and I both do – that’s one of the reasons I think I was so drawn to your book, is it’s practical.
My favorite part about “the way of the SEAL,” is when you took your personal stand. You define your personal stand. I remember thinking, “oh my god. This is the best thing ever. To define what your personal stand is. Because now you know what you stand for, and who you’re gonna be.”
And it comes down to who you’re gonna be. Not what you’re gonna do because what you’re gonna do arises from who you’re gonna be.
Mark. That’s right.
Kamal. Makes all that easy. Absolutely one of my favorite things I’ve ever read. That part about your personal stand.
Mark. That’s cool.
So let’s get into some details… You first wrote like a 60 some-odd page version of this for a very specific reason. Because you’ve talked about a couple breakdowns that you had. It was around your first kind of like existential or metaphysical crisis.
And so let’s talk about that crisis and what spurred… How did this book – the original version – come out of you at that point?
Kamal. Yeah, this was in 2011. This was a company I’d been building for three and a half years, almost four years. I put everything into it, and it was becoming high-profile – Silicon Valley. It was like getting celebrated…
Mark. Company have a name?
Kamal. It doesn’t matter anymore. It’s gone. It’s gone. I’ve buried it.
And also, it was it was more of a technical company in the ad network space. And I built this, and then it fell apart – it blew up. And I blew up with it.
Mark. Because you identified with it? Or because you put so much money and energy?
Kamal. Everything. All my money was in it. I’d self-funded it for a few years. All the money I’d made over the last decade had gone into it. And building a tech company is not cheap.
And I fell apart with it. And I was really sick, and miserable, and depressed, and suicidal.
And I remember there was one night – or it might have been a morning – it kind of blurs, it was dark outside. And I remember, I was just miserable I was like “I can’t take this anymore. I’m done.”
So I walked over – I have a journal on my desk, where I just would write my thoughts. And for some reason, I just sat down or stood and wrote so hard that I almost like went right through the paper. I wrote a vow.
And I’m a huge, huge believer in the power of personal commitments to oneself. Cause if you make a personal commitment to yourself, you got to keep it. There’s no backing away. You’re done. Like your personal stand.
And I wrote a vow, and this – I don’t know where it came from – but it was a vow to love myself. Because I think, maybe it was from a deep place, because I was pretty much doing the opposite, at the time.
And so the vow was a little bit more beautiful, than I’m describing. But it was a full-on vow. And then I remember sitting back and thinking “what have I just done? And how in the world do I do this?”
Mark. Right, what’s the action plan that comes out of this?
Kamal. Yeah, no one ever taught me that. There’s no training for it, and I didn’t want to go out to read people’s books and stuff on it, because I was in a place where I like… When you’re on fire, you don’t want to hurt hear about the nature of combustion. You just want water.
No theories. No theories. Don’t give me give me fat books talking about the importance of taking bubble baths… I’m miserable, and I want to check out of life. And I need to get out of this by loving myself, because I made a vow. I’m gonna do it.
So I just sat around and started working on my mind. And all I did was I tried things and tried things… And I noticed, when my mind would go after a while, and I would follow down the trail. And if I started to feel better, that’s what I started using as the metric. If I felt better, I went deeper, and if it stopped working, I threw it away. Just tried other things.
And eventually, I came up with a basic practice that was very simple, very fundamental… And also having the degree in biology, so enough neuroscience to be dangerous enough to try on myself.
And just how thoughts work. And started doing it, and I noticed I started to get better. And I started to get better fast.
And then, as I got better, life just started to get better. In ways that I can’t really describe. It’s like, even things I had no control over, on their own, started to work out. And that’s where I realized like “look, whatever it is, work on your inside first. No matter what happens, work on your inside, but then try to force the outside. When you work in the inside, and you get to a place inside when you start humming, the outside starts to hum too.
I don’t know how that works, but that’s something I’ve learned again and again in my life. And the more people I talk to about that, the more people admit that to me as well. There’s some pretty famous people who admit it, but privately. They won’t say it publicly, because then now you get into woohoo, right?
And so I used to use the word start using the word “magic” to describe it, and I wrote about that in the book. And so I started sharing this with people, because it was just like “oh my god.” it’s like you find god. Like when you find the truth… Some truth…
Mark. And you want to shout it from the ramparts…
Kamal. Yeah, yeah. And it’s a fundamental human thing. We want to share with others what worked. And some friends – including James Altucher, who we spoke about, who is amazing – convinced me to write a book on it.
And so, by now had the craft. I had all those rejection letters. I was teaching myself to be a literary fiction writer. So I took the craft and now I had something special to say. Something special to share. So I took that craft and I wrote this little book.
I would cut out 90% of what I wrote. Just whittle it down. And I self-published on amazon and as I was telling you earlier, before the podcast, and this is the honest got truth, I thought it would sell 10 copies. 8 of them bought by me to give to friends. Cause I didn’t want to keep explaining the same thing again and again, also.
And it took off. It went viral. People still… Like I have so many emails, thousands and thousands of emails from people all over the world. And it’s not available all over the world, so it gets torrented a lot – which is quite an honor. Actually, people taking time to torrent your book. And how it’s changed them, how it’s saved their lives.
I’ve met people, man, in person who told me like the moment of how it changed their life. It saved them.
I remember one man – who actually I’m a huge fan of – who was on Tim Ferris’ podcast and he told me he’s like look – he’s passed away, just with natural causes – but he told me like “look, I was sitting there with a gun in my hand. And someone sent me your book. And your book was just like… I could tell it was real, it was written by a man.”
He said “I put the gun away.”
It’s like this is because all I did was I shared something that worked for me. And so what that first book did – the first version – I think it was a primer. It gave permission for people to understand what the power of this was. And that they had to they had to do something about it.
And so I think that’s the story – so like people say “oh, you got on these podcasts and so forth…” look, none of those podcasts came until the book was already a success.
Mark. For sure. I love this idea that people can self-publish something and not care – like you said to me – you thought it would sell ten copies, and eight of them would be the ones you bought to give away.
Kamal. Yes, I would have made a loss.
Mark. And yet people will find it, because the energy. It’s that law of attraction right? It’s that vibration… The energy, the love that you put into this work attracted other people to it, really quickly, somehow. We don’t know how that works in the metaphysical realm, but it is.
And so like you said, the vibration change… That book has a certain vibration to it, because of what you mentally put into it. And then it’s going to attract people who are attracted to that vibration. And then from the inner, the outer, right?
Mark. It’s all the same if you want to look at it from your culture’s yogic perspective right? The vibration – whether it’s coming from the mind, or it’s vibrating in the exterior world – it’s really the same thing. Just different experiences of the same thing.
Kamal. They’ve all been trying to figure it out since we’ve been around, “how does this whole thing work?” and they always keep on coming to the same stuff.
But it’s when we discovered, or when we are applying ourselves in a practical way, is when we were changed. When we start to understand “like, look, there’s more to this game than just me and my other monkey in my head rattling around.”
First thing is tame that monkey. And then things start to work.
And it really did. It was the biggest… It was the best thing that ever happened to me, was putting that book out it. It was also the riskiest thing I’ve done… The riskiest thing I’ve done in my life, because I thought I would be a laughingstock in Silicon Valley, I would never raise a dime again for companies.
You know what happened? I ended up becoming a VC and building my own fund. And now I’m the guy who funds companies.
Using the Right Words
Mark. The core practice, as far as I can tell, it starts with a mantra. But the word mantra – everyone thinks – is just repeating a phrase. And that’s not the way I experience mantra. To me a mantra is a phrase that has deep meaning. Is aligned with a universal truth. Can evoke a deep, personal, emotional connection to it. And also has some imagery associated with it.
And so your mantra which is “I love myself,” evokes all of those things, right? It’s the perfect kind of holographic, energetic collection of words, imagery, feelings, emotion that can stir up and really accelerate one’s growth I think. Or feeling of positive self-worth, I guess.
Kamal. That’s actually one of the best descriptions… Might be the best description I’ve heard of the word mantra, because that’s a word I’m allergic to.
Mark. (laughing) I understand. Me too, in a sense. But I don’t know if… I’ve used “power statements” and stuff like that but…
You just have to define these words, because there’s so much junk meaning around them…
Kamal. Yeah, like even the words like integrity, vulnerability and all that, and I just say “look. Be real. Just be real.”
Mark. Be authentic. I’ve been using the word authentic. In my book, I reference Brené Brown. I think she’s doing some great work.
But I say like, “You know what? I’m a navy SEAL. I do not like being vulnerable, you know what I mean? Cause that means I’m gonna get attacked, I’ve got weaknesses.
So let’s think of it, in terms of authenticity, right? I definitely want to be authentic. But I want to close my weaknesses so that the enemy can’t find a find a footing there.
Kamal. And look, for anything we create, I think the world needs it – be real. There’s so much out there – it’s from theory or what sounds good, or what’d make great sound bites.
But man when you’re real, you create something special that lasts, right? That’s what I’ve learned in my career. Even in building products and building companies, it’s pretty obvious, it’s something that just applies throughout.
So I totally agree.
Mark. I mentioned to you, before we started this podcast, I found an audio tape when I was like 18 or 19. And one of the recommendations was to say if you were feeling down or feeling depressed or had a victim mindset – basically negative – which at that point in my life, I was.
It’s just to start saying to yourself “I like myself, I like myself, I like myself.” and I was like “okay, what do I got to lose?” I felt kind of silly, right? But what have I got to lose?
And so I started saying it over and over and over and over – like hundreds, if not thousands of times a day – and sure as shit, like 30 days later – I felt a lot better.
And your mantra is like 100x that, right? I think you even addressed that – if I recall – in your book. You say, like the difference between liking and loving is like two different worlds.
Kamal. Love is primal. Love is totally primal. Look, man, like when I was almost basically exiting the planet two months ago, what went through my mind? It wasn’t gentle, because it was a very messy way to go, right? And so the thoughts and emotions… There were no thoughts… There were just emotions and images that came. And they were either love or fear. That’s basically all it was.
It was very interesting. I felt… I’m not someone who… If there’s something I’d really strongly dislike it’s fear. I hate feeling fear. I just don’t like it.
And yet, I felt it in a way that I didn’t even know you could feel…
Mark. Interesting. Well the primordial fear of just facing a final moment. Wow.
Kamal. Yeah, and then having to give into that. But also love.
So we’re wired for these two things. And so if you go for what you wired for, that’s when transformation really happens fast, and in a way that’s bigger than you thought. And so that’s why the love thing works.
And it’s sometimes hard for people to go there. And so that’s one of the reasons why I did the updated version. Just showing the nuances, and what to do, and why.
And also through my example of watching me go through stuff, and how that works. But I’ve really come to believe that go toward what you wired for. And it’ll be better or faster.
In fact, like who doesn’t need love? And it’s not narcissism.
And people ask me… In fact, no readers ever asked me that. Only people I meet who are very intellectual have asked me that. Who haven’t read the book. If they read the book, they understand.
I think narcissism is actually a strong dislike for yourself. I’ve met a few narcissists, and you can tell, this is not a person who likes themselves. On the outside but when you start to read people, when you start to just know yourself – you read people. I’m very good at reading people. You can just tell right away.
So narcissism is a focus on the inside. And trying to like project on the outside a different image.
But you can tell someone who’s got the love inside. That’s different. You can just tell.
Mark. Yeah, I remember, I was reading a book from a Tibetan monk – I wish I could remember who it was now – but I can’t he was saying that a lot of words in the west have been corrupted. I just kind of referenced that a little bit earlier with the word mantra.
And “meditation” is another one. The word “meditation” has kind of been corrupted in the west. Like, it doesn’t mean anything really to anybody except for some sort of collection of practices – you put on your muse, or your headspace and you’re meditating. And I got a very different view on that.
But I think love falls into this category, too. The word “love” – not love itself – but the word love has been corrupted in a sense. For males it’s like icky – it’s not something that males are supposed to even express. And they don’t really know if they’re feeling it, right?
And it’s not something that you can really express in the workplace. And it’s just been corrupted.
But I think it is the basic, universal, foundational energy of god, right? Of universal intelligence. And so insert whatever definition you want right if the word “love” doesn’t work for you. It’s the intention behind the energy that you’re invoking, I think, right? Would you agree?
Kamal. You totally nail it. And one of things I talk about – you got to make yourself feel the feeling, create the feelings inside you. And I show how to do it, but ultimately it’s a feeling, it’s a way of being. And you when you’re in it, you know it.
Mark. Right. There’s no mistaking it.
Kamal. There’s no mistaking it. If you’ve ever been a baby, you’ve been wired for it. It’s just… We’re fundamentally wired for this.
But you’re actually right. The words have been corrupted, and especially when you write a book, you got to be like “okay, what words do I use that actually get through to the person reading it?”
And yeah, you’re absolutely right. Same with meditation, and all this. And it’s fundamentally just… How would you describe meditation?
Mark. Well, I consider mental practices to have a… A) they’re very personal. And what works for one person, doesn’t work for another because they have different developmental levels, different kind of energetic states that need to be addressed, and different states of mind.
And so I look at meditation as it’s used in the West is a toolkit, right? And so then the skillful use of those tools is what’s really important. And the tools themselves have different names. So we use names such as “breath control training,” and that’s really going to address your physiology, and the frequency of your electromagnetic pulses in your brain -like alpha, beta, gamma… That type of stuff. And it’s the bridge between the physical and the mental.
And so we start with the physiology, and get your body kind of de-stressed and the arousal control – the way the SEALs would call that – through breath control.
And a lot of people think breath control is meditation. But no it’s breath control.
Then the next step is kind of that – you mentioned the term monkey-mind – a lot of people fail meditation cause they sit down and they think.
And they’re thinking from their rational mind. And they don’t know how to get out of that. And it’s not helping them. They’re actually obsessing. And they fail.
That’s not meditation, either. That’s thinking.
And so the next thing to do – and I learned this through Zen, which is like boot camp for meditation – is to learn how to concentrate. Like narrow your focus to one thing. Then learn how to hold your focus on that one thing for extended periods of time. And then learn how to interdict and redirect back to that one thing when your mind wanders. And we call that “attention control.”
Concentration and attention control are two sides of the same coin. They’re different skills, but they’re linked as you can see.
And then the next… Once you can learn how to concentrate, now you can start to turn that awareness around, and flip it, and practice mindfulness or the being more mindful of what quality quantity and directionality of thoughts are occurring in your mind when you’re not trying to control them and focus on just one thing.
And so that would be more akin to like traditional mindfulness or Vipassana practice. So that would be the fourth step in this continuum.
And then what I call meditation is more like the Tibetan insight meditation, where you’ve dropped all structure, you’re not focusing on your breath, you’re not concentrating, you’re not practicing mindfulness, you’re not interdicting or doing any attention control – you just find total stillness. And you drop into what we call the direct perceiving state.
And that’s where you’re connecting to universal intelligence. You’re gonna have the spontaneous intuition bubbling up from your gut, and your heart. And you’re integrated, but radically present.
And that to me is true meditation. That’s the insight meditation.
And then visualization is a tool that we use to manifest a new memory of a future and to move toward it, or to eradicate a regret from the past and move away from it. That’s a mini-course in Unbeatable Mind right there, by the way.
Kamal. That’s powerful. That’s absolutely powerful. And visualization is something I use. Like, I’ve been using it for my own memories of the experience. Like, I remember just the horror I felt when the blood had built so much, so fast in my body that it was like a soccer ball of blood inside that burst.
Mark. Oh my god.
Kamal. And just the horror of that feeling…
Mark. Where was this on your body?
Kamal. By the lower abdomen. Yeah, so basically to save me they gave me a C-section to get in and go fix that puppy. They had to go in hard, right?
And the horror of the blood spraying out. And I remember the moment, your brain just doesn’t know what to even do. You’re not designed for that. Your brain’s not designed for that.
And so I’ve been going through in my head at times… And look, all the stuff that I do in loving myself – I apply this, but and also like in deeper and deeper ways. Where I’m going in and that memory… I’m actually starting to cover the memory more and more in golden light.
And then almost like hey, it’s a phoenix being born. For a phoenix you gotta burn, you know?
So started to like reframe the whole thing in my head. So when the memory comes, it’s more like a golden light. And it’s more of a rebirth, and a powerful rebirth, right?
Mark. Now you just described a really powerful practice to eradicate any negative energy from a past regret or trauma, right? If you identify the trauma, you can go back and re-examine it, relive it…
And then recontextualize it, and change the energy. And change the darkness to light. And that way anytime the memory comes up again – like you said – then you’re gonna have new associations to it. New physiological and psychological associations to it. And it’s a very powerful way to forgive and to move on.
Kamal. Yeah, it works. And I’ve done this… And I’ll just say that, because in my book, I shared exactly how I’ve done it – I’ve done with childhood stuff, because single mom, because my dad was a very abusive guy.
And then I was talking to someone… Like “man, check off the boxes of the shit you can go through as a child – except for maybe civil war – and I’ve been threw them.” and yeah, so I lucked out. Yeah, civil war would suck.
But all these, what I’ve done is I’ve taken the loving myself practice, and I go there and in those memories I go there and I basically redo the memories. Or I go there with love. And basically, that’s what the child needed. That’s what the child’s been craving all along. And the child comes up in all sorts of unhealthy patterns. In mental patterns.
So I noticed that I’m doing it more and more. And the more you do it, the less those patterns come up anymore on their own. Because you’re shifting the memory, you’re shifting the emotion. There is the emotional imprint of the memory where I go as an adult and I give love to that child.
And look, it’s me giving love to myself in a very interesting way. There’s visualization, there’s a meditation component, there’s a pure feeling component. And it does rewire the memory. It really does.
So now like when these memories come, they don’t have the emotional impact they did. And they have a positive association almost. Like it’s really interesting what we can do with our mind.
Mark. It’s transmutation, right? That’s the word I like to use. You’re transmuting what is a negative energy – which is going to hold you back. Because negative energy – we know through kinesthetics – weakens us, right? And positive energy strengthens you. And the test to that is that test where you put your hand out and say “push my arm down.” and if you’re thinking a positive thought, it’s impossible.
But if you start thinking a negative thought, it’s very easy for someone else to push your arm down. It’s really uncanny.
So we’re doing that. We’re strengthening ourselves by creating positive association with what would have been a formally negative event. Which is weakening you. You could almost trace this to disease, and of course food and environment also. Different forms of negativity.
But the worst form of negativity, is childhood trauma. And I think I love your work because in a sense I’ve become a little bit almost repetitive in this on these podcasts – but I really think that everybody on this planet has some form of childhood trauma. And that if left unaddressed it’s gonna hold you back from your fullest experience of life.
And it might even hurt other people, so why not do something about it?
Kamal. Yeah, and I think most of our unhealthy patterns come from there. At least that’s what I’ve seen with myself. Like I have been thinking a lot about addiction, because I’ve lost friends – military friends – to addiction. And look, addiction is often lack of purpose. You no longer on a mission, right? So it’s an escape, you have nothing.
But also like even what I realized with myself when I was suicidal… Suicidal thoughts are an addiction. Once you’ve tasted that hit of to be or not to be, it’s a primal hit, right?
Mark. Yeah, ultimately the most power you have is to take your own life.
Kamal. There’s a fundamental beauty in that hit, I’ll tell you. When you’re really in it. The ultimate victimhood…victimhood has a hit to it. It’s there’s something inside… I won’t be popular for saying this… But something inside wants it. Feels good with it. So you gotta treat it as an addiction.
Mark. Right. I agree with that. And a lot of people are stuck in that cycle. They wanna be the victim.
Kamal. Yeah, so basically, like one things I’ve come to believe – and I write about it in the book – is that you got to become the hero of your story. Like, when you watch a movie with a hero – like watch Indiana Jones – he’s constantly being beaten up, he’s constantly having his treasure taken away… But he gets up and he chases and goes after it.
Looking at it differently, that’s a victim – I mean he’s constantly having shit thrown at him.
But – by choices that he makes – he is who he becomes, who he’s being is how he becomes the hero of the story.
Mark. Right. And I love that. So a lot of people want to pretend they’re on the hero’s journey without doing the work.
Kamal. (laughing) No, you gotta do the work. Heroes aren’t born, no matter what we believe. Heroes are forged. And you can forge your own… And ultimately we forge ourselves. And it all starts within. You forge it, and then the outside, the actions and stuff, just take care of themselves. Because that’s where you come from. You approach life from that place.
Mark. I agree.
Are you involved in a start-up – I mean you invest in startups – but do you get involved with the leadership teams at all? And do you bring any of these practices to them?
Kamal. Yeah, I advise companies. Like I’m actually pretty chased after as an advisor, because part of my advising is actually just helping the CEO stay sane, and build stuff, and not make stupid decisions.
Because I’ve seen it enough, I’ve done enough of them. I do very much like – when I can – mentoring veterans. Especially special forces operators, because just by hanging out with Brandon, I get to meet a lot of them. And I just see how talented and how much money was spent on these guys. Literally, the amount of money that was spent to train them, and then they let go…
Mark. And then they kick them out the door… Well, they’re getting better now…
Kamal. Now, but like there’s a lot of guys out there working over trauma that’s unresolved. And so like a lot of them – like I met this one Green Beret, who was telling me about how he was like… Before he got out, he was in Iraq just riding around with just rebels… I don’t know what rebels, but just him and these guys for like months at a time, right?
And he said “I get out, I think I can do anything. Six months later I’m packing boxes at Walmart.”
And I think, what a tragedy – if you think about it – for our country. Because how much money was spent training this guy? Millions?
And I would love for this guy – if I was building a company – to work for me. You don’t need to know how to code or write into a spreadsheet, but you need someone who can just… If someone can train rebels in Iraq on his own…
Mark. They can make the decisions and build a team, right?
Kamal. Yeah, so that’s something I’m quite passionate about. That I like to do on an individual basis.
A friend of mine who’s an F-18 pilot, he’s leaving and he wants be an entrepreneur, and he’s like terrified. It’s just funny, right? He showed me videos of him bombing ISIS, right? His missile fighters. It’s just amazing to have the pilot show you that.
And a really sweet, thoughtful guy. He’s a true gentleman. The military is actually full of a lot of gentlemen – especially these officers… These pilots and the gentlemen officers. And really thoughtful about telling me about the mission, and making sure that no civilians were hurt. And showing me…
But also cool to see gun cam footage of like ISIS motor positions of taking our civilians. Him taking it out. Which is like all of us are cheering.
But he’s terrified of being an entrepreneur. So I’m kind of guiding him, and it’s more like just steering people’s mindsets, and showing them what’s possible. So I do enjoy that.
Mark. Yeah. Me too. It’s one of our missions. We started a foundation a couple years ago called the courage foundation. And we’re putting cohorts of vets 12 at a time through integration training, with 18 months of follow-on coaching and mentoring. So that might be something be fun to have a follow-up conversation about.
Kamal. I would love to.
Mark. We’re pretty early in the game, so we’ve only done one cohort, but the success has been extraordinary. I think like 75 to 80 percent of the guys – a couple of them kind of fell off – but the rest are really, really transforming.
Kamal. Yeah and the work they’re gonna go do in the world, is gonna be amazing. Cause these are men and women who’ve been tested. Who’ve had to stand, right? Who’ve been on mission, have been on purpose…
And that’s something actually I realized recently really hard. And I’ve written about this before.
When I came out of surgery, and when I was in the hospital I was in an insane amount of pain. If your body bursts, because of all the blood pooling in… It burst out… You’re gonna feel pain, right?
Mark. It’s like the alien coming out of you.
Kamal. (laughing) It was literally like that, man. So walk away to tell the tale to Mark Divine…
And so once I got out of the hospital, I was on significant narcotics. And the physician said – the surgeons – I had multiple surgeons – are like “look, if anyone qualifies for these it’s you.”
So I’m on them and a lot of people are emailing me saying they’re scared because I’m on a significant amount and they’re highly addictive. And I gotta tell you they’re good, they work. There’s a reason why everyone likes them. And they numb you out. You care less about the pain. Which I think is their draw.
And then one day, I just stopped. Because I had this book coming out, and this book is special to me. I’ve seen what the first version’s done, and I’ve actually gotten the feedback of what the second version is doing. Which I wrote on purpose to actually resolve all the issues that still people had after reading the first version.
And I was getting the galleys, and only the author – or only myself as the author – is obsessive enough to really care about did the comma get placed right? Did a word get moved?
And you can’t do that when you’re on heavy narcotics. Or you can’t do it 100%. So I just went off them, because I had to work on this book.
And so I remember posting about this on Instagram. And I got a lot of flak for it. And I said “look, purpose is bigger than pain.” I’m like “I went off the narcotics because I am on purpose. I have a purpose. This book is important. The first one saved lives, changed lives… This versions gonna just blow it off the charts. I owe it to this book to go off…”
I just went off cold turkey. And let me tell you, physically I was in a lot of pain, but I didn’t care. So when you have like when you get purpose, when you have your purpose like the veterans I see that all the time – it’s like you’re no longer on mission. You’re no longer on purpose.
If you give them purpose, you create purpose… People just step up. Human beings are resilient, they’re amazing…
Mark. When they find purpose, cause I don’t think you can give anyone purpose. They have to find it inside
Kamal. Fair enough. I
Mark. But the point is well taken. And that’s what we found too. They don’t know how to find purpose, because they’ve been so dedicated to that military mission and serving their country. And they’ll characterize it in different ways.
But you’re right, when they get out, that’s gone. Their team is gone. The support structures that told them basically how much you’re gonna get paid, what uniform you’re gonna wear, where you’re gonna go… I mean, if you spend 20 years or even half that in a system that is that rigid of a system, you’ve begun to rely on all that stuff, right? Becoming an entrepreneur would be terrifying.
I experienced the very same thing. I was only seven years into my SEAL career – and I had a little bit of business background before that. But getting out of the navy – where one day everything was defined for you – and all of a sudden the next you have this tabula rasa. It’s like holy cripes. Talk about staring down the wolf. You got to create your reality, moment to moment all of sudden.
Kamal. But man, when you do it on your own, that’s real growth. Like, you grow in a way that you just haven’t before.
And in the end it’s who you are. We all fall asleep in our own heads, we wake up and as I learned, you die in your own head. I mean, I came that damn close. And inside is what you got.
Mark. That’s right. Inside is what you got. So you better love yourself like your life depends on it.
Kamal. Because you do it that way, your life just really starts to work. At least it did for me and a lot of people who read my book and applied it. It really does…
Mark. When does this actually come out?
Kamal. January 7th.
Mark. Perfect. Right around the corner. Yeah.
And do you have it up for pre-order?
Kamal. Oh yeah, it’s up on amazon all those. I’m not doing any pre-order specials or anything, just cause my energy levels are still pretty limited. I lost so much blood I’m still heavily anemic, so my energy levels are low.
So what I decided was I’m just gonna go and be on podcasts like yours, and share what the book is about, share my life – and the rest is “hey man. It’s in bookstores. Go get a copy.”
And my email address is in the book – email me you got any questions.
Mark. It’s terrific. I love that. And you mentioned Instagram – what’s your Instagram handle?
Kamal. It’s just my name – @Kamalravikant. And same with twitter. I like twitter, because I’m a writer – but even Instagram, when I post a photo, there’ll be a long piece I’ve written about it.
Mark. Right. I have a team that helps me with all that stuff, but I am not a social media guy myself. I don’t know what my aversion is, but…
Kamal. I think social media is interesting because it can eat up a lot of your time. So I just use it as a place to share things I write, things I learned. And whether I post once a month, or once a week, or once a day… I really don’t care.
I have no content strategy. My only content strategy is to create great content. And then put it out. Literally.
Mark. (laughing) I love that. I’ll steal that from you.
Kamal. Yeah, it really is. It’s like… I’ll tell you one quick thing, I was watching this talk with Oprah once, this interview – and someone was talking about her brand. And she said “look, I never knew what my brand was. People call it the ‘Oprah brand.'” she said “I wouldn’t sit around thinking about the Oprah brand. The only thing I was trying to do is just be excellent.”
“And if there’s anything gonna be my brand, that’s gonna be my brand. Be excellent at what you do. Be excellent at what you put out.”
She said you do that, your brand takes care of itself. It becomes the Oprah brand.
Mark. That makes sense. Awesome.
Well, Kamal, this has been a really pleasant conversation. I super appreciate you and all you’re doing. And I’m gonna literally finish this book this weekend – if not tonight. And integrate some of your practices, so I appreciate you for putting it out there, and I know it’s going to help a lot of people.
And the more people who can love themselves like their life depends upon it can only make the world a much better place.
Kamal. Yeah, yeah. It really is. It’s the ripple effect. When we’re better, those around us are better, the world is better… Simple, works.
Mark. Yep. Simple, but not easy. But worth it.
Kamal. Worth it. Definitely.
Mark. Yeah, all right. Thank you, my friend. Take care now. Hooyah.
All right, folks. That was Kamal Ravikant. “Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It.” go check out the book. Trust me on this one. It’s very good and then you’re going to want to share it.
So that’s it for today’s episode of the Unbeatable Mind podcast. Stay focused and be unbeatable.
See you around.