My name is Dev Singh, and for most of my life I've been on a mission that I don't remember signing up for: A mission to find a greater purpose and meaning to my existence, and to make a difference in the world that transcends the limitations of my own being. It’s the kind of feeling that buzzes around your head like a fly, just above your eye-line. But just as you waive your hand to swat it away or catch it, it disappears before you even see it.
Along the way, whilst waving my hands around my head for several years, like a maniac who may be doing a very conservative but suspicious form of Bollywood dancing, I’ve ended up working with several hundreds of leaders, all around the world, to help them get a glimpse of their own buzzing and hovering phantom menaces.
I’ve helped entrepreneurs, executives and professionals figure out their own mission and exponentially improve their clarity, confidence, productivity and results. It’s been one hell of a ride and I’m very proud of the adventures, stories and relationships I’ve collected on this journey.
As an understandable byproduct of this, I've also been accused of many things. One of the most frightening being that I “have shit figured out”. I used to think this was a nice enough idea to buy into, and I started believing this about myself as well.
You may be wondering, “What’s so bad about that, Dev? Surely it’s just a sign of self-esteem and confidence, for one to believe that one has their shit together and figured out?” Well, sure, it could be at times. The problem arises when we get seduced by the validation we receive for our own self-edited and subtly glamorized image.
You see, for all my experiences of success and accomplishment, I've also failed more times than most people I know. I've been confused, lost, hurt, betrayed, and have made countless mistakes. Anecdotally speaking, more mistakes than most people my age, and even older, make. I've had my heart broken multiple times, and have lost thousands and thousands of dollars in my career.
The past 15 months in particular have quite possibly been the most interesting of my years and as this one comes around to a close, it’s natural for many of us to start stoking gentle embers in the fireplace of our mind, reflecting upon the year (or perhaps lifetime) gone by.
My reflections started burning up a few weeks ago, when a culmination of the past few months made me realise I had lived through one of the most challenging quarters of my young life. Several things I cared about very deeply seemed to have been fatalistically ripped away from me, with a violent and cruel coldness that carried an endless echo of painful silence into the tiniest pieces of kindling, provoking the fire to burn harsher still.
You might be wondering at this point, “Well sucks to be you, Dev, but why are you telling me this?” Allow me to explain.
My pity party, in all its noisy glory, ensued for about two to three days. I threw around emotional junk food, copious amounts of cheap, idea-alcohol, and played trashy emo metal and rock, that would make Bieber sound like Bach. On the outside, of course, it was all a steely and seemingly-resolute quietude. This party was just for me, rocking away somewhere inside the grimiest dockside warehouse of my soul.
When I eventually started opening the doors to see if anybody else wanted to join me (because let’s face it, pity parties aren't actually fun alone), I started noticing a stark reality that was bitter-sweet, humbling and also uplifting in a morbid kind of way.
My life wasn't nearly as messed up as I thought it was.
All around me, people I cared about were fighting their own battles. Prior to this point, some of these were battles I chose to ignore with the condescending attitude that they were petty compared to mine. Others I selfishly accepted, only to fuel a sense of pride in my own resilience, and to feign compassion as an alternative distraction to the endless dramas I could lose myself in on my favourite television series.
And whilst this didn’t offer all that much relief from the pain of my own wounds, it did offer me a lot in the way of licking them clean, picking myself up, and transcending my suffering to carry on with life in a more empowered manner than I had in months.
After having fallen into this particular pit of pointy rocks, I was seeing these battles that weren't my own, glaring in my face, for what they really were: provocations to look within myself for lessons I had been refusing to confront and take on.
It was these very lessons that would make me realise that I had not fallen upon these pointy rocks to my death; it was actually more like a divine chiropractic adjustment to straighten out my back.
But wait! If you're thinking this is a classic tale of young man feeling sorry for himself until he realises that there are others who have it much worse than he does, you'd only be partly right. There’s more to this story. Stay with me.
During the holiday season in particular, it can be easy to look around in any public space and only see, amidst the brightly flashing ornaments, lots of smiling shoppers buying pretty things, laughing children playing with fresh toys, and beautiful young couples walking hand in hand (those insensitive bastards!). We can succumb to feeling like everyone else in the world is revelling in merry sunshine and jolly rainbows pouring out from their backsides in disgusting abundance, whilst we’re left picking up pieces of our broken hopes and dreams, alone.
The reality however is that we're never really alone, until we decide we really want to be. Or at least until we feel that it would be safer to be alone and our heart fortified, than to be in loving company and vulnerable.
And whilst the gloss and glam of the holiday season, largely hyped up by media and advertising, can often be about as deep as a kiddy pool mixed with a hint of toddler urine, it still offers ample opportunity and encouragement for us to celebrate, if nothing else, an opening up of our hearts and arms to welcome our own learnings, and those who care enough to share those moments of hope as well as hopelessness with us.
Over these past couple of months, it wasn't just witnessing the pain and suffering of others that eased my own — that would be almost sadistic, wouldn't it? — but the more I shared my painful experiences and reflections with others, the more I came to see that neither were my own battles under the surface really that unique, nor were the lessons just meant for me.
Sharing my pain, and what I had learned from it, transformed the inherent wisdom from mere rhetoric to bona fide therapy — for myself and whoever I shared it with.