People often say that human beings — especially entrepreneurs and business leaders — feel great dissatisfaction in life mainly in two ways. Either they’ve yet to hit a massive goal they’ve always wanted to achieve and they feel dissatisfied until they do. Or, they’ve just hit a massive goal they’ve always wanted to achieve and they feel dissatisfied immediately after, saying, “What next?”
I have fallen prey to both throughout life — most recently, on the heels of our latest book, Gratitude Through Hard Times, which came out in June 2022. Leading up to the launch, and with the hope that it would become a great bestseller, I realized it was very likely I’d become massively dissatisfied in the months after a multi-year-long project. I wanted something to look forward to and boost my ego after the launch to calm the dissatisfaction. This is a feeling I’m sure other entrepreneurs and creatives can relate to.
Months before launch, I called my friends who run my hometown’s TEDx event and offered to connect them with great potential speakers if they also gave me a spot at their TEDx event this November. They agreed, and I was slotted to give my second TEDx Talk just five months after my second book would come out. It was going to be another great thing on the résumé — not to mention a boost to the ego — and all would be good in the world. But then, the minute we hit No. 1 on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list, I actually felt like a hypocrite.
By worrying so much about the book’s reception and my ego, I was focusing too much on people knowing me and not enough on making myself worth knowing. I was too focused on accolades and hitting that big bestseller list, instead of staying committed to the work, for the work’s sake — for the integrity of it. That’s not to say I’m not proud of the book, but my perspective on it became skewed. I began to despise the fact that I put more effort into rushing to publish and market the thing, rather than taking my time and being more particular with my writing. After that hate affair started, I started to loathe my upcoming TEDx Talk.
Two months after my book launch, I embarked on a journey to explore massive thoughts on ego and fulfillment. I took a step back to really see where I was feeling this dissatisfaction. I began a multi-week, six-part psychedelic-assisted therapy program at a legal psychedelic wellness center. When used in a controlled environment with proper support, ketamine psychedelic therapy (KPT) can be used to help treat depression, anxiety and PTSD. With the help of integration coaches, I started to dissect the role that my false ego played in my creative endeavors and the businesses I run. Slowly, I started to feel like less of a hypocrite.
Somewhere along this journey, I got invited to the wedding of one of my best friends in Tel Aviv — on the same day as the TEDx Talk in November. I had a choice to make: On one hand, I could go give a TEDx Talk at an ego-fueled, résumé-building event, and on the other, I could attend a spiritually fulfilling, relationship-building celebration in Israel.
As time went on, it became clear: I’d feel like an even bigger hypocrite going through with my TEDx Talk and skipping out on the friends and events I say are important to me. (I already have massive regrets about missing a dear friend’s wedding in Germany last year.) I needed to quit my TEDx Talk.
I was afraid to disappoint the organizers or put them in a tough position, but when I called, they said I did the courageous thing by listening to my heart and letting them know. They appreciated the honesty and stated they now had 15 extra minutes that would help keep things running smoothly at the event.
How many times in life do we avoid having a hard conversation because we think we’re so important that other people’s worlds will crumble if we do the brave things for ourselves? How many times, by not having these conversations, do we rob people of being able to help or advise us and share in our happiness?
In order to be a successful leader, and/or a successful creative, you need to be in complete self-awareness at all times. I didn’t realize until my journeying that my creative work was actually depleting my soul. The act of dedicating my entire life to doing work that I love was starting to drain my soul dry. Now, I’m not saying psychedelic-assisted therapy is the answer here — rather, I’m stressing the importance of taking the time to reflect on the larger picture of your life.
As innovators, creatives and business leaders, we need to take time to re-fill our souls’ creative reservoirs. Take a pause, take stock and really cultivate awareness to gain a broader perspective on life. Start seeing yourself with compassion and care — whatever vehicle works for you. Learn and live from a place of curiosity and creativity. You don’t need to feel like you have to slave away your labor in order to make a quick buck. You have wisdom garnered through years of experience that are valuable to others. You also have this one life to live.
Going forward, approach projects with curiosity, empathy and innovation from a place of integrity to gain greater perspective.