Legendary Robin Sharma, author of the No. 1 International Bestseller, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, shares the key habits of building a successful, fulfilling life and business.
Robin Sharma is the man to talk to if you’ve been looking for that missing manual on life, success, and happiness.
Robin’s literally written The Guide to Greatness and The Mastery Manual. His book, The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, which documented his decision to change careers and go on a 10-year spiritual journey to transform his life, became the No.1 International Bestseller
He’s considered one of the top five leadership experts in the world, but the thing that makes him unique is that he’s studied both with spiritual masters and business titans. All of which are based on the knowledge that the same habits that will make you a better person are the same habits that will make you disciplined enough to find success and change the world.
We were able to sit down with him for an exclusive interview and hear about his own journey to success, the best personal growth practices, and the habits of every real-life hero.
An Interview With Robin Sharma
Mindvalley: How did you become one of the world’s leading leadership advisers?
Robin Sharma: I come from very humble beginnings. I grew up in a small town of about 2,500 people, no silver spoon in my mouth, didn’t really fit in. My grade five history teacher was one of the first people to see a spark of potential in me. Her name was Cora Greenaway, and she passed away a number of months ago.
Fast-forward, I got a biology degree, and then I decided to go to law school, and not because I had a great passion for the law, but because I sort of got seduced by the hypnosis of society, which is if you become a doctor or lawyer, you’ll be successful and your life will work out. You know the program.
Robin Sharma: So I did that. The only thing is… I became a successful litigation lawyer and I had a lot of nice material things, but I would wake up every morning and look at the person in the mirror, and I didn’t like the person looking back at me.
I was successful in the world, but very empty inside. So I started my quest, and I started reading about what makes great men great men, and what are their mindsets.
I really transformed myself and I decided to write a book about my process and my journey.
The book was called The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. I self-published it in a 24-hour photo and copy shop. My mom was my editor. My father helped me sell it at public service clubs while I was still a lawyer. In the first seminar, 23 people attended. Twenty-one of them were my own family members, so I started from ground zero. The book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari just exploded through word of mouth around the world.
That brings us to today.
The book has sold many millions of copies, I’ve sold 15 million books, and I work with a lot of the Fortune 500, Nike, Fed Ex, the Coca-Cola Company, IBM, General Electric, Microsoft, NASA, Yale University, etc., and I run Personal Mastery Academy, which is my peak performance event. I teach leadership to people who want to play a bigger game.
Mindvalley: In what ways are you the same today?
Robin Sharma: Well, in big ways I’m fundamentally different from who I was in my teens and 20s because I really worked relentlessly on my interior life.
I believe exterior empires, whether those are empires of entrepreneurship, empires of creativity, empires of productivity, or empires of impact, all come from your interior empires. So I believe working on your mindset, your heart set, your health set, and your soul set — working on your character — is fundamentally the game-changer.
And yet in many ways, I’m the same.
My driving cause is being in eternal service to as many people as possible. I’ve been in this field of leadership and personal mastery for 22 years, and I have more fire in my belly to serve humanity than ever before.
I just really, really, really want to teach people the mechanics and tactics of elite performance and genius, so I deconstruct these things.
Mindvalley: Could you tell us about the moment you realized The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari is going to change your life?
Robin Sharma: You’ve heard this a million times, but I don’t think there was a moment. When I look back, it clearly has changed my life, but every extraordinary performer falls in love with the process versus the reward.
I believe your days are a life in miniature. I call them micro-wins.
If you focus on 1% improvements every day, over time that leads to revolutionary results.
So I monomaniacally focused on making progress every single day, around the book, around my message, around my impact, around the craft, and over time the days slipped into weeks, the weeks slipped into months, the months slipped into years, and I built a movement of millions and millions of people around the message.
But it didn’t happen in a moment.
Mindvalley: Okay. So by what criteria do you evaluate success after the accomplishments that you’ve experienced?
Robin Sharma: Is the question how do I measure success? Is that really the question?
Mindvalley: It’s to evaluate your personal self-growth and accomplishments. You’ve described it for everyone else, but we haven’t yet reached your level. How would you describe it for yourself after achieving so much? Does that make sense?
Robin Sharma: It’s such a great question. I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that in all the thousands of interviews I’ve done. You’re very thoughtful.
You’re very gracious to say to me, “Well, you’re so high level,” but a top of one mountain is the bottom of the next. I get to one piece and I go, “Wow, I’ve been working on that one interior piece,” this fear or this false belief or this “struggle” and when I master it, I realize life sends me the next pieces to work through. It’s this ongoing process of self-excavation and self-mastery.
Self-transformation is the DNA of business and life transformation. Your outer life never rises any higher than your self-identity.
So you can work on your marketing and your product and your team and your company and your branding, but as I think Jon Kabat-Zinn said, “Wherever you go, there you are.” It’s not until you work on yourself and the way you see the world and the size of your bravery and the openness of your heart and even your spirituality.
People go, “Why would spirituality matter in business or in the world?” Well, if your ego is screaming so loudly you can’t hear your mission, then how will you transform your business into a movement?
Mindvalley: Could you describe the fundamental principle that drives you every day?
Robin Sharma: The first is OAD, obsessive attention to detail. The majority don’t sweat the details because they don’t think they’re important. But if you look at every great athlete, how they set up their days and their performances, if you look at Cirque Du Soleil, if you look at Ferrari, if you look at Apple under Steve Jobs, what made greatness was a monomaniacal focus on getting the tiny details right.
The second driving part, NSI, never stops improving. Relentless iteration and optimization on everything you touch.
Number three, ridiculous levels of focus. I’ve pretty much automated most of my lifestyle so I protect my bandwidth for just a few priorities I build my life around.
Then another core value is that fitness is the game-changer. People say, “When I’m successful I’ll spend more time on my health.” Well, if you’re dead you can’t change the world. Dead leaders don’t have a high impact, right? To make the point dramatically. So energy is more valuable than intelligence. You can have a great strategy and a great project, great opportunities, but if you can’t execute because you don’t have any energy, you can’t get anything done.
Mindvalley: I love the way you think. What are the thoughts that keep you up at night?
Robin Sharma: I do sleep well, but the thing that keeps the fire in my belly is I see so many victims out there. The victim is so stuck in their story they can’t see their story, but you see so many people making excuses. “Here’s why I can’t afford an online course. Here’s why I can’t read a book. Here’s why I can’t go to a seminar.”
You have people who say, “Well, I can’t build a business or I can’t be world-class in my career,” spending seven hours a day surfing online.
Mindvalley: I can speak for my generation. I agree. Yes. It’s frustrating.
Robin Sharma: Well, it’s frustrating because people are built to be geniuses.
If you install the right conditions your brain automatically triggers a type of brain cell called oligodendrocytes, which then release a fatty tissue called myelin, which wraps around the neural structure. That’s the secret of exceptional performance, and it happens through deliberate practice, huge amounts of practice every day, and isolation.
We all can be geniuses.
Could you imagine if the whole world understood personal mastery, understood the neurobiology of greatness, and if the whole world started using these rituals I’ve been teaching for 20 years like the 5:00 a.m. Club and the 20/20 Formula, the 90-90-1 Rule, the Two Massage Protocol, the Second Workout?
All of these tools that I teach are working for millions of people, but if we don’t do the right rituals, if we don’t install the right conditions, if we don’t start thinking and practicing the core beliefs of world-class performers, then we’re going to live mediocre lives.
It’s not because we couldn’t live great lives, it’s because we didn’t do the right things.
Mindvalley: So when was your last memorable learning curve?
Robin Sharma: Yesterday. I’m always learning.
I’ve gone through a lot of difficult seasons in my life, and those are the seasons that the ego wants to say are bad. One of the best lines I’ve ever heard is, “A bad day for the ego is a great day for the soul.” It’s in those difficult times that I’ve grown the most because those are the times I’ve learned…
So my biggest growth curves have happened during the storms. Haruki Murakami is a Japanese novelist. Do you know him?
Robin Sharma: He said, “The person you are when you come out of the storm is not the person you were when you went into the storm. That’s the purpose of the storm.”
Mindvalley: How do you deal with that lingering, creeping thoughts of doubts and fears?
Robin Sharma: I try my best to become more and more aware of them because when you bring your shadows into the sunlight, they start to dissolve and they lose their power over you. I do that through prayer, meditation, journaling, and reflection. I also realized that growth happens when you’re intimate with your fears.
You grow by pushing yourself to the jagged edges of your potential so that you actually face fear in the face, and then you keep on going.
I teach a concept called Strengthening Scenarios. I consciously ask myself where are the places where I’m scared? And then I set up experiments to do those fears.
So the more you do your fears, the more you take your power back from your fears. All change is hard at first, messy in the middle, and gorgeous at the end. If you look at warriors, They go into battle, they’re afraid, and they keep on going, and that’s how they become heroes.
No one’s born a hero, we earn heroism.