Real Leaders

Leaders of Hope: Jay Shetty

“No one wants to hire you when your resume says ‘served as a monk for three years,’” says Jay Shetty, who at 26 years old, was $25,000 in debt and living with his parents. He was directionless, depressed, and confused about his purpose and working 80-hour weeks. He felt like he wasn’t living up to his potential and knew he had more to offer.

Ten media companies rejected Shetty when he pitched them on his mindfulness-based video ideas. Three media executives told him he was unqualified and too old to have a career in media. Now a highly successful purpose coach with more than 3.5 million followers on YouTube, Shetty believes that self-awareness can change how you see everything.

 Despite the global pandemic, lots of things give him hope. “During my monk training, we learned the importance of perspective and not getting wrapped up in the high emotions of what’s happening at the moment,” he says. “There’s a lot of research on storytelling and the brain — that we create stories to make meaning and sense — but it doesn’t take a scientist to understand that we are storytelling creatures. One thing that’s especially useful right now is that this current global story is still unfolding. As Steve Jobs said: ‘You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.’ It’s easy to try and jump to conclusions or to tell a negative story about what’s happening, but we have the power to shape our narratives. Science also tells us something else we know from experience: Generally, change feels bad, even if it’s for the better. But we can choose to see things differently. We can look at many things that are happening right now and choose to see opportunities.”

 A recent article in Forbes pointed to companies showing primary interest in people over profit right now. The author, Adam Grant, reckoned that these companies would do best when economies around the world start to rebound because people — employees and consumers—will remember how they were treated. “Standing by your people and everyone who makes your business successful isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s a smart business decision,” says Shetty.

 Shetty came across some interesting research that shows concrete strategies to perpetuate hope. Brain research from the lab of neuroscientist Andrew Huberman at Stanford University shows that what keeps people engaged in challenging tasks in the long term —whether it’s an extreme endurance sporting event or something like what we are facing now — is to receive little dopamine hits along the way. It balances our adrenaline, which would otherwise have us give up at some point. “What’s fascinating to me from a corporate and from a leadership perspective is that some of the things they’ve identified as helping to administer these dopamine hits are a feeling of teamwork and group cohesion, a feeling of being supported, and a feeling of purpose,” says Shetty. “There are others, including laughter and play, that leaders can
key into, too.” 

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