Interview with Dr. Srikumar Rao


Srikumar Rao is one of the kindest, intelligent, and most inspiring people I’ve ever had the privilege to interview. His words have stuck with me ever since.

Client: Mindvalley
Date: April 5, 2018
Services: Editing, Copywriting, Content Production Management

We Learn To Be Unhappy – How Srikumar Rao Teaches The World To Unlearn This Unwanted “Skill”

There’s a gap in today’s educational system. Schools teach us many skills that are valuable to contribute to society or our economic system but they fail to teach us how to live meaningful, joyful, and purposeful lives.

Author, speaker, and former business school professor, Dr. Srikumar Rao, is one of the people that decided to do something about this – and is very successful in doing so.

He teaches his students extreme resilience with which, regardless of their actual circumstances in life, happiness is always available to them. Always.

In fact, happiness is our natural state of being and we have learned to be unhappy. But there is a way to rid ourselves of these unwanted lessons and Srikumar Rao has taken on the mission to make that happen. And to help people live their lives with a deep sense of purpose, joy, and gratitude.

There is unlimited joy in the world. All you have to do is tap into it.

– Dr. Srikumar Rao

How Dr. Srikumar Rao Bridges The Gap In Modern Education

In 1994, Dr. Srikumar Rao, Marketing Professor at Long Island University at that time, introduced an entirely new program in academia called Creativity and Personal Mastery (CPM). It was designed to help Business students discover their passion and show them how to live deeply fulfilling lives.

Shortly after, his program moved to Columbia Business School and it became a huge success.

Due to popular demand even skeptical faculty members, who did not yet understand the value of learning how to live with purpose at a business school, couldn’t deny its value.

“Word got around and soon students from Law, International and Public Affairs, Journalism and other schools were applying in droves. Then I started hearing from alumni and from persons unaffiliated with the university. They wanted to know if the course was offered elsewhere or if they could ‘sit in’ on classes,” says Srikumar about the onset of the program.

CPM was constantly oversubscribed and soon migrated to London Business School, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley.

Srikumar was not surprised by the positive receipt of his course. The missing elements in education – programs that are focused on well-being, relationships and purpose – are becoming ever more discernable.

Srikumar Rao taking the stage at the Freedom at Work Summit by WorldBlu

Staying Calm And Peaceful – Even In Turbulent Times

Since 2005, the global prevalence of depression has risen by 18%, according to the World Health Organization. And the percentage of people that suffer from stress, anxiety, and addiction is equally alarming. In addition, higher standards of living, as measured over time especially in Western civilization, have not proven to be the determining factor to increased levels of happiness.

“There is greater uncertainty than ever before. There is economic anxiety. There is uncertainty about our relationships and as a result of all of that, people are feeling unsettled”, says Srikumar.

And the uncertainty people experience is increasing every day because of globalization, the rapid changes that are happening, and because of technology.

What I show people is that even in the midst of change, it is possible for you to retain an even keel.

Surfing The Waves Of Life

The metaphor Srikumar Rao uses to explain the mental model that he teaches, is that of a tsunami:

“There is a tsunami coming, and when the tsunami comes you have basically two choices, you can drown, or you can surf on the waves and say ‘how wonderful this experience is.’ I think it’s much better to surf on the waves and see how wonderful this experience is.”

And if the “tsunami” is already happening, and you’re already in the midst of turmoil, Srikumar advises you to wait for it to pass – because it will.

In the meantime, hunker down and hold on to something:

Just keep alive until the tsunami goes, and then gradually in bits and pieces build your life back and learn how to surf.

“When a tsunami hits is precisely the time you can’t learn to surf. You have to learn to surf on the 2-foot waves. My course is designed to help people learn surfing so when the tsunami hits, they are ready.”

Why Resilience Is A Learnable Skill For Everyone

When we listen to Srikumar Rao, it becomes evident that we have to unlearn more than we have to learn when it comes to our ability to be resilient and joyful.

Resilience is available to us by default. It’s the behavior we all demonstrate when we’re learning how to walk: we all fall down, and initially we cry. But then our mothers or fathers come by and console us, kiss the spot, and make it well. So after awhile we stop crying. We get up and try again. And not one child gives up.

“It’s exactly the same in life,” he says.

We’re going to fall many, many times. You don’t have to cry. You don’t have to get depressed. That’s part of the journey. Pick yourself up, brush yourself off and keep going. It’s a learnable skill.