Lily Ong discovers how the charismatic edupreneur Vishen Lakhiani connected the dots of his past to form his own belief system and a world-class company
Vishen Lakhiani, Dato’ Normah Ibrahim and Nacho Figueras share their inspiring stories
Vishen lakhiani is not content with being just an entrepreneur. “Someone who designs logos on Elance or builds million dollar companies can be entrepreneurs. The spectrum is too wide. What defines me is what I stand for as an individual,” says the founder of Mindvalley—an edu-tech company. Only five minutes into our chat and Vishen was already aflame with passion, telling us about what he believes is his mission on earth. Growing up in Kuala Lumpur, he was picked on because of his appearance during his public school days. And while he admired his mother’s work as a teacher, he knew it was not feasible to pursue education as a career thanks to the state of the educational system at the time. So instead, he chose computer engineering and went on to study in the University of Michigan, where he then secured an internship at Microsoft in the United States. “My parents were so proud of me for landing a great job. I did what society wanted, but it was not what I wanted. One day, Bill Gates invited the company’s interns to his home for a barbecue. Everyone was having fun, except me. I couldn’t bring myself to shake his hands, because I hated my job. I left eventually, because I knew I chose the wrong path,” reflects Vishen. As he pondered over what to do next, he joined a non-profit called AIESEC, which allowed him to travel the world to foster cultural understanding between countries. Helping others rejuvenated him, although he knew he was on borrowed time. After that, he set his sights on Silicon Valley to seek his fortune. Unfortunately, this was when the dot-com bubble burst in the US. “My timing sucked. I couldn’t find a job for a while so I lost my savings and ended up renting a couch to stay,” he says. Vishen was eventually hired for a dial-for-dollars job, which meant that he only gets paid when he closes a telemarketing sale. It was a tough period in his life, as he recalls, “One of my colleagues was fired because he could not make a sale, and subsequently could not pay his rent. The company found him sleeping under the desk at night. Morale was low.” Desperate for ‘hope’, he went online one day and stumbled upon a meditation class in Los Angeles. Without thinking, he signed up for it, looking for a reprieve from his mental stress. “The experience changed me. I doubled my sales exponentially after I returned. I was using abilities in my mind that I never learnt about in school: heightened creativity, intuition and empathy to connect with people. I could visualise my goals and go into a peaceful state of mind. I was promoted to director of sales and moved to New York to start an office at the age of 26,” he relates. Even as he thrived in New York, running a sales floor was unfulfilling. “I believe we are born on this earth for a reason. When you divert from that reason, the universe kicks our butt to realign us in the right direction. And that’s when I remembered my interest in education during my youth, and from there, I knew I could make a difference,” he says. To find his next path, Vishen connected the dots of his journey thus far and the result was the conception of Mindvalley.
“Nelson Mandela once said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ But the schooling system globally is flawed; they teach us how to achieve success through the amount of money in your bank account, or the title on your business card. The truth is there’s more to life than that. School doesn’t educate you for issues you face in life, like stress and anxiety, marriage, relationships, parenting and so much more. I recall my experience with my meditation class and realised I needed to pass this message along. Mindvalley was created to fill in that gap,” he explains. Together with his wife Kristina Mand, he started Mindvalley in the United States. After the 9/11 attacks, Vishen faced difficulties continuing his business there and moved the entire Us-based company to Kuala Lumpur. Despite naysayers questioning his decision to do so, he was adamant he can build a world-class company in Malaysia and pursued this goal with his signature single-minded determination and intensity. Under Vishen’s leadership, Mindvalley carved a niche in the self-development field. The company offers education on multiple disciplines through various mediums, with the help of modern-day gurus like Robin Sharma, Eric Edmeades and more. Programmes are conducted through large-scale events and conferences such as A-fest, online courses available through the Mindvalley Quest digital platform and its re-imagined form of higher education, Mindvalley University. Due to the radical ideas that Mindvalley advocates, Vishen faces criticism from those who question the presence of New Age and ‘occult’ elements in their programmes. A freethinker, Vishen lets these comments roll off him like water off a duck’s back, choosing to help those who are open-minded enough to tap into their potential within. “If humans are like iphones, our hardware is our belief system. If we choose to do so, we can upgrade our system. Most people are not conscious about what they believe in. I am fundamentally conscious about mine. I question every single one of my beliefs even those instilled in me as a child,” he says.
“School doesn’t educate you for issues you face in life like stress and anxiety, marriage, relationships, parenting and so much more”
Being a father to a son, Hayden, and daughter, Eve, Vishen shaped Mindvalley with their future in mind. “I live by something I call The Eve Principle. My daughter Eve is a mixed race kid. Off the bat, you won’t be able to accurately guess her heritage from her appearance. I want a future for her where she can thrive and be happy despite her ethnicity or nationality. Everything I do, I ask myself, will this make a better world for her?” he expresses. Truly a noble goal, which will bring about some positive change to the world.
VISHEN-ARY Together with his wife Kristina, Vishen grew Mindvalley globally