You were born to do this. The great gift of being human is our capacity to see the world anew, invent new solutions—and then use what we know to transform our lives and change our world. Culture isn’t static. It lives and breathes, made by us in real time in the flow of life, meant to change as our world changes. So, let’s do it! It starts at home, with you. Your life, on your terms. – Vishen Lakhiani
I honestly didn’t plan on including CodEx (the book’s nickname) in the list, because I felt it’s really not quite fitting. “Just another book on success,” I thought. Besides, I’ve been a long-time student and follower of Mindvalley (became a founding member of Soulvana) and fan of Vishen (featured his “Theory of Awesomeness” in The Path to Awesomeness book), so he’s probably saying the same thing, only without his Indian accent and animated gesticulation (Vishen’s extraordinary secret weapon!)
Good thing I somehow got an intuitive hit to take a peek at the table of contents, jumped over to Part 3: Recoding Yourself (the book has 4 parts), turned to Chapter 6: Bend Reality, skimmed over a few pages, and I was hooked! Not particularly to Vishen’s insights, but to his story. Raw. Funny. Inspiring. Extraordinary.
That’s what I found truly unconventional about CodEx. It’s not often that you’d find someone who’s check-marked all the worldly definition of success, yet credits much of it to spirituality. Success and gratitude? Success and forgiveness? Success and love? Success and having fun?
Yup! Add to that the insights from luminaries Vishen got to spend time with and interviewed. The likes of Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Tony Robbins, Arianna Huffington, Michael Beckwith, and Frederick Espiritu (I know, right?!)
Let’s unlock the code!
Escape the Culturescape
Extraordinary minds are good at seeing the culturescape and are able to selectively choose the rules and conditions to follow versus those to question or ignore. Therefore, they tend to take the path less traveled and innovate on the idea of what it means to truly live.
What’s “Culturescape”? They are the conventional rules of society for how we “should” live our lives.
What happens when we follow these rules? As Don Miguel Ruiz tells us, they become agreements that we live by.
Vishen also points out how powerful language can be. If a word doesn’t exist in our vocabulary, it also doesn’t seem to exist in our world.
Take blue for example, a color that an ancient tribe called Himba, in Namibia, has no word for. The Himba have many words for different shades of green but no word for blue.
When a research team showed them a circular pattern of squares (all colored green, except for one, which is blue), the Himba found it hard to locate the blue square. Not having a word for it made them colorblind.
Vishen says this implies that our language shapes what we see.
In one of his Agape talks, Michael Beckwith dropped this truth bomb: “You don’t really see what’s really going on. You see what you’ve been taught… Your mind has been taught to see the world in a certain way.”
We use Brules to categorize things, processes, and even people. Brules are handed down by our tribe – often our family, culture, and educational system. Many of our most formative rules about how to live come through others. And these rules are tightly bound to ideas of what is good and bad, right and wrong.
When we look at them closely, we often find that Brules were imposed on us for convenience. To question and dissect these Brules is to take a step into the extraordinary.
How would we see these rules once we’ve escaped the culturescape? “Bullsh*t,” says Vishen. So now we call them “Bullsh*t rules.”
But many would argue that without the rules, the world would go haywire. Well, isn’t it already?
Or maybe they’d say people would turn rebel. Hmmm, aren’t those rebels who shake up the status quo the ones who change the world for the better?
Vishen encourages us to put those Brules to test by asking these questions:
- Is it based on trust and hope in humanity? Is the rule based on the idea that human beings are primarily good or primarily bad? Ponder the question Gary Zukav poses in The Seat of the Soul: “An evil person can be arrested, but can evil be arrested?”
- Does it violate the Golden Rule? Is the rule granting some while restricting others, such as those based on skin color, religion, sexual orientation, or any other subjective criteria?
- Did I take it on from culture or religion? Is the rule based on dogmatic beliefs? Culture is like water. It’s meant to flow. When it doesn’t, it stagnates and becomes poisonous. Limiting beliefs are like stagnant water.
- Is it based on rational choice or contagion? Is it a rule just because everyone else is doing it? Or because it’s the way it has always been?
- Does it serve my happiness? “Right” won’t necessarily make one happy. If a rule suggests that being happy makes you a “wrong” person, it’s a brule!
Consciousness engineering isn’t just about being happy – though happiness is a wonderful by-product. It’s about getting to human 101 and beyond and striving to be at the highest level of human development we can be, so we can fulfill our highest potential and, as the saying goes, leave this world a little better for our having been in it.
Picture yourself as a computer. You have your models of reality (hardware), which are your beliefs about the world; and systems for living (software), which are your habits based on your beliefs.
And just like a computer, you need to constantly upgrade it for optimal performance.
Enter “Consciousness Engineering” — the CodEx tool for fulfilling our highest potential as human beings, aka Awesomeness; named as such since Vishen has a computer engineering background, so he applies his hacking skills for optimizing human “operating system.”
Then you have your “Twelve Areas of Balance” (apps):
- Love Relationship
- Health and Fitness
- Intellectual Life
- Spiritual Life
- Creative Life
- Family Life
- Community Life
Vishen tells us to think holistically, strike a balance in all areas so we don’t end up winning in one area and losing in another.
Extraordinary people don’t just have extraordinary models of reality. They strive to ensure that their systems for living – that is, DOING what they do in the world – are well defined, structured, and continuously optimized.
There’s a three-step method we can apply for upgrading our systems for living constantly and effectively:
- The Discovery Process – it’s like browsing the App Store; you constantly seek resources for upgrading yourself: books, seminars, or online courses. Again, the key here is awareness. Vishen says it’s the essence of discovery. You stop doing and doing, step back, and discover new ways of doing something better.
- Your Refresh Rate – how often you upgrade your systems: How often do you read a book? Attend seminars? Sign-up for online classes?
- Set Points and Measurements – Is your current system more efficient than the previous one? Set non-negotiable set points, or the bare minimum threshold you won’t go below. While goals pull you up, set points help you maintain what you have.
We then apply these system upgrades to the twelve areas of balance so we can improve every aspect of our lives.
Extraordinary minds are able to bend reality. They have bold and exciting visions for the future, yet their happiness is not tied to these visions. They are happy in the now. This balance allows them to move toward their visions at a much faster rate while having a ton of fun along the way.
Vishen talks about the four states of human living in regard to happiness:
- The Negative Spiral – not happy in the now, nor do you have a vision of your future; (-) present, (-) future
- The Current Reality Trap – temporary happiness (short-term pleasures), but no long-term happiness and fulfillment that come from the need to contribute, grow, and do meaningful things (see “The Minimalist Equation” from Make Space); (+) present, (-) future
- Stress and Anxiety – you may have big goals, but your happiness waits on the attainment of those goals; (-) present, (+) future
- Bending Reality – the ultimate state of human existence (aka “The Flow”); you’re happy where you are and you have a vision for the future that drives you; there’s both enjoyment and growth; it’s about the journey and the destination as well; (+) present, (+) future
You can be surrounded by pain. You can be empathetic and feel for others, but ultimately the discipline of bliss allows you to help spread more bliss in the world. That is the highest expression of the extraordinary life.
Blissipline – the discipline of daily bliss, a requirement for learning to bend reality
What is it for? First, research in psychology and science is showing us that our ability to control our happiness level is one of the key things that help us function optimally. Vishen cites the work of Shawn Achor (author of The Happiness Advantage) saying, in a nutshell, that happiness fuels success, not the other way around.
Vishen had this game-changer insight: “Have big goals – but don’t tie your happiness to your goals. You must be happy before you attain them.”
Thus, he came up with three systems on the path to blissipline:
- Blissipline System 1: The Power of Gratitude
- “Reverse Gap” – instead of dreading the gap between where you are and where you want to be (“Forward Gap”), appreciate how far you’ve already come
- Daily list of 3 to 5 things to be grateful for in your (a) personal life and (b) work life
- Blissipline System 2: Forgiveness
- “Forgive into Love” – part of the CodEx forgiveness exercise; ask yourself: “What did I learn from this?” Because every person that comes into our lives, even those who’ve hurt us, acts as a messenger to teach us important lessons.
- Blissipline System 3: The Practice of Giving
- List all the things and ways you could give to others: your time, skills, wisdom, financial help or any other means. Then take action.
End Goals vs. Means Goals
End goals are about experiencing love, traveling around the world being truly happy, contributing to the planet because doing so gives you meaning, and learning a new skill for the pure joy of it.
End goals speak to your soul. They bring you joy in and of themselves, not because they confer any outward label, standard, or value attached by society. They are the experiences that create the best memories in our lives.
There are four hallmarks Vishen lays out to distinguish “the means to an end.”
- Means goals usually have a “so” in them.
- Get good grades so you can get into a good college
- Get into a good college so you can get a good job
- Get a good job so you can make lots of money
- Make lots of money so you can afford a nice car, a nice house, etc.
- Means goals are often about meeting or conforming to brules.
You might think you should get a college degree to have a fulfilling job. Or you should get married to have love in life. But what you really want is to be in beautiful loving relationships, to have opportunities for growth and learning, and to have freedom. They come in many different forms.
- End goals are about following your heart.
- Time flies when you’re pursuing them
- When you’re working on it, it doesn’t feel like “work”
- You don’t need to step away to get “recharged.” Working on it recharges you.
- End goals are often feelings. Happiness is in the pursuit. Love is along the journey.
Here are Vishen’s for example and inspiration:
- To be able to travel to exotic countries and beautiful locations around the world
- To be able to travel with kids and expose them to unique learning opportunities
- To have friends from all around the world – amazing people driven by humanity-focused values and doing big things in the world
- To meet business and personal growth legends
- To be able to teach personal growth models for the world
- To have spectacular fun
What happened? This happened:
Vishen writes this advice for us: “So, don’t choose a career, lest you end up in a mind-numbing occupation. Nor should you just declare that you want to be an entrepreneur – lest you turn into a stressed-out, bored one. Instead, think of your end goals and let your career or creation find you.”
The Three Most Important Questions
I’ve found that all end goals fall into three different buckets.
The first is experiences. No matter what you believe about humanity’s origins, one thing is clear. We’re here to experience all the world has to offer—not objects, not money, but experiences. Money and objects only generate experiences. Experiences also give us happiness in the now, a key component of the extraordinary life. We need to feel that daily life holds wonder and excitement to sustain our happiness—which fuels our movement toward our goals.
The second is growth. Growth deepens our wisdom and awareness. It may be growth we choose or growth that chooses us. Growth makes life an endless journey of discovery.
The third is contribution. It is what we give back from the wealth of our experiences and growth. What we give is the special mark we can make on the world. Giving moves us toward awakening, the highest level of happiness, by providing meaning in our lives, and it is a key component of the extraordinary life.
Think about these three essentials framed as questions.
- What experiences do you want to have in this lifetime?
- How do you want to grow?
- How do you want to contribute?
Apply them to the twelve areas of balance:
Experiences: (1) Love Relationship, (2) Friendships, (3) Adventures, (4) Environment
– If time and money were no object and I did not have to seek anyone’s permission, what kinds of experiences would my soul crave?
Growth: (5) Health and Fitness, (6) Intellectual Life, (7) Skills, (8) Spiritual Life
– In order to have the experiences above, how do I have to grow? What sort of man or woman do I need to evolve into?
Contribution: (9) Career, (10) Creative Life, (11) Family Life, (12) Community Life
– If I have the experiences above and have grown in these remarkable ways, then how can I give back to the world?
To be extraordinary is to be connected to this spiritual aspect of yourself and to feel it move you to create, change, invent, and rattle the world.
Extraordinary minds do not need to seek validation from outside opinion or through the attainment of goals. Instead, they are truly at peace with themselves and the world around them. They live fearlessly—immune to criticism or praise and fueled by their own inner happiness and self-love.
Unfuckwithable – when you’re truly at peace and in touch with yourself. Nothing anyone says or does bothers you and no negativity can touch you.
To be extraordinary is to be spiritual. Not just spiritual, but as Vishen beautifully puts it, to be “spirited” — filled with forward-looking energy and the courage to push humanity forward.
How do we become unfuckwithable?
- We must have self-fueled goals – something you have absolute control over. No object or person can take it from you. “To be consistently in love” is self-fueled. It may be with yourself or with life. You choose to be in love regardless of the object of your attention. “To be madly in love with your crush” is not, because your being in love depends on your crush.
- Realizing we are enough – nobody else can fill the hole within. We must fill it ourselves so we become whole. Vishen says “There is nothing more attractive than a person who loves himself or herself so deeply that their positive energy and love spill over to others and to the world.”
- Mirror Work for Self-Love (see Louise Hay’s tips)
- Self-Gratitude (for appreciating yourself) – practice “What I love about myself” exercise. (Before I go to sleep, I say many “Thank you(s)” to myself for everything I’ve accomplished for the day, or any positive act I’ve made, no matter how insignificant it may seem)
- Becoming present – focus on your breathing (or choose among various mindfulness practices we’ve learned)
Live Your Quest
Extraordinary minds are motivated by a quest or calling—a drive to create some positive change in the world. This drive propels them forward in life and helps them to gain meaning and make a meaningful contribution.
Mindvalley is Vishen’s calling. But did you know how he started? At 18, he was a TV commercial actor (now we know why Vishen is so charming in front of the camera!); At 19, a stage actor, then a dishwasher; (Don’t worry Vishen I won’t spoil everything); Got unemployed twice; Failed start-ups twice before becoming Mindvalley CEO at 35.
The quest isn’t a straight line. Vishen also busts the brules that you have to be an entrepreneur, or you should follow a career path because extraordinary people don’t have a career. What they have is a calling.
Vishen writes boldly: “Your true greatness comes when you focus not on building a career but on finding your quest.”
You were born to live your quest.
If you’re waiting for the call, this is it.
Your time has come.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
VISHEN LAKHIANI is one of the most influential personalities in personal growth today. A computer engineer and entrepreneur in education technology, he is the founder and CEO of Mindvalley, a 200-person-strong company that specializes in learning experience design and creating digital platforms and apps that power the education revolution. Mindvalley’s curriculum focuses on personal growth, mindfulness, well-being, productivity, and more. He is also a member of the Transformational Leadership Council and sits on the Innovation Board for XPRIZE Foundation. Lakhiani’s mission is to revolutionize the global education system through new models for enhancing human potential and building a school for Humanity 2.0.
Visit him at VishenLakhiani.com