Thank you for choosing to join me for my second interview in this month-long series of interviews with a few of the people who inspire me to “be excellent”: play big, explore, and experiment.
Today, I am delighted– thrilled beyond words!– to share energetic space with Raam Dev. In life, I am a “feeler” and he is a “thinker”. His thoughts and ideas and the way he chooses to express them and to live them fascinate and motivate me to not only to consider the concept of exploration, but to apply what he shares within my own life.
When relating, mainstream tends to believe that we bond through our similarities; what I learn from knowing Raam is that the treasure is in opening beyond the comfort of your similarities to connect through the exploration of your differences. Following his global vision and journey has allowed me the opportunity to expand beyond my “borders” which has been transformational and life enriching. It is my pleasure to share a bit of Raam’s work, and his personality, with you!
He writes about our growing planetary social responsibility
and explores the fundamental principles that make us human
J: I am drawn to your work because your online presence is one of integrity and quality. You don’t just write words on a page to captivate us, the reader, you live those words as you share them. Whether I am joyfully creating something new and different within my life– or feeling discouraged because my path is unconventional and I am lacking support–I can visit your site and your latest essay or thought is inspiring, affirming, motivating. May I ask, what motivates and encourages you as you create and explore?
R: Life motivates me. The fact that I’m a conscious, sentient being, capable of free thought and creation, that’s what motivates me.
When I walk through the world, I do so with an eye for what’s natural. I think my early fascination with science allows me to easily differentiate between what’s natural and what’s manmade.
A simple table seems pretty boring at first glance, but if you look at that table asking, “how far from its natural state is that table?”, then suddenly you realize the incredible volume of human ingenuity that went into the creation of that simple object.
When I look to the sky and I see an airplane flying above me, I’m dumbfounded every time: a giant piece of metal, carrying hundreds of human beings, soaring across the sky. That’s incredible!
We humans have accomplished so much, and what’s even more incredible is how much we have yet to learn. Our potential — the potential of life — that’s what motivates me to explore. That’s what drives me to continue creating.
That and an ever-present awareness of my mortality.
J: While my perspective tends to be quite local/ community oriented, your perspective is global. How was your perspective shaped and how do you continue to cultivate the global aspect while living here in the States?
R: I’ve always been fascinated by the seemingly endless variety within the human species. I can remember taking road trips with my parents and staring out the window for hours, watching thousands and thousands of cars go by.
Who were all those people? Where were they going? What were they doing?
When I turned those questions on myself, I realized that some of those people could be thinking the same thing about me. Who is that little boy staring out the window? What’s he thinking? Where’s he going?
I quickly began to realize that despite the immense volume of uniqueness and variety, we human beings are very much alike. We have many of the same cares and desires. When I traveled abroad for the first time in 2010, those assumptions became reality.
There I was on the other side of the planet, talking to human beings who will probably never see or know the people or places that I’m so familiar with. And yet like me, they all have mothers. They all require food and shelter. They all experience pain and sadness, joy and pleasure. They all aspire towards something better.
Cultivating a global perspective is, for me, about cultivating a human perspective. To recognize what makes us human and relate on that level. To ignore relating on the level of class, or belief, or geographic location, and rather relate on the fact that we all share something in common: we’re human.
J: As you know, I recently took a professional risk within my own life–rather than rebuild upon something that I had “outgrown”, I choose to close my previous site to create this new site. You were highly instrumental in facilitating my decision–you continue to push past your own boundaries as you explore and you constantly create new and different within your life. A few questions then:
You recently completed a redesign on your own site. This includes a paid journal subscription. May you share with us a little about the prompt for a redesign?
R: My site has literally undergone hundreds of redesigns in the past ten years. For the first few years, I had a nearly permanent “under construction” note somewhere on the site until I realized that, like myself, my site is subject to evolution; it’s not static; it will always be ‘under construction’.
One rule I live and work by is that of ‘eating my own dog food’. In other words, I should enjoy reading my own writing and browsing my own site. If doing either gets boring — or feels difficult or uninviting — then I reevaluate what I’m doing and ask how I could improve.
I recently felt that several areas of my site were confusing, uninviting, and quite honestly getting boring. So I asked myself how I could improve that. I thought about the purpose for each page and asked what could be eliminated or added to better achieve the purpose of that page (much like I do in my own life). Then got to work implementing and experimenting.
J: As a subscriber to your journal pages, I notice that your writing style is a bit different– you seem to open from your heart and share your innermost thoughts. May you explain to us what is your general goal with your journal and does the process of creating within it differ from the process as you create for your site?
R: The process of creating in my journal definitely differs from that of my free essays. The essays are always a bit more refined, polished, and otherwise made more generally applicable.
Unlike many writers, I don’t have a specific ‘audience’ that I write to; I write for human beings. So when I write my essays, I work hard to eliminate anything that doesn’t assist conveying the core message of that essay.
While this often makes for easy-to-read and widely applicable writing, it also removes a lot of the more subtle thoughts and ideas that may have led to that core message.
My intention with the Journal is to share those deeper pieces of myself with the hope that they will inspire and encourage others to conduct their own inner exploration.
J: May you share with us your latest professional “risk”?
R: For the past two years, I’ve relied almost entirely on freelance work for income (WordPress and blogging related work) but I recently decided that for 2012 I’m going to stop pursuing freelance work.
This is risky in that it means I may not have income to support myself if my other business ventures don’t work out, but I think this is a move necessary to focus my energy in the right direction.
J: What techniques do you use in pushing past your own boundaries?
R: My primary technique is that of recognizing how many boundaries and limitations are self-imposed. We are essentially limitless beings. The greatest barrier we will ever face is ourselves.
I also think about the people who came before me who overcame much greater challenges or who accomplished a great number of things simply because they put their mind to it.
I remind myself that I’m essentially no different than people like Mahatma Gandhi or Albert Einstein in terms of potential. Thinking that way always gives me a renewed perspective on whatever barrier I’m facing.
In fact, with all the advances we’ve had in technology, I’d say we have, all of us, a far greater opportunity to realize our full potential than those who came before us.
J: You often mention fear of stagnation. May you speak a little about this?
R: Stagnation to me represents unreality and untruth. The one constant in this universe is change, so stagnation doesn’t really exist. But we can still fool ourselves into believing that change isn’t necessary or that it’s not happening.
When I feel stagnation in my life, I’m immediately reminded of the limited amount of time my physical body has on this Earth. No matter how stagnant or unchanged my life may be, time continues marching forward. Stagnation then represents a lack of appreciation for life, a lack of respect for our human potential.
This isn’t just about physical movement. I believe we should be in a constant state of learning and exploration, which could even mean sitting down, closing our eyes, and exploring our inner universe.
J: As I was creating this new site, I chose to ignore the opinion’s of others despite my own doubt. Instead of creating a site, I put my heart into it and created a vibrant community. The wisdom and clarity that you reflect through your work allowed me to consider options I might not have otherwise. I wonder: when you are creating and doubt surfaces, what resources do you rely upon as you continue to create.
R: I’d say the resource I rely upon more than anything else is my own intuition. I’ve learned trusting my intuition nearly always leads me in the right direction and that it’s only when I doubt my intuition that I find myself creating the wrong things.
Besides that, there are a seemingly innumerable number of other creators who are sharing bits of their soul online and creating through their intuition. When doubt surfaces in spite of my intuition telling me it’s the right thing to do, often all that’s needed to get me back on track is to be open to what others are sharing.
Somehow, the right thing always finds me: A TED talk, a blog post, an email, a comment, a tweet. Sometimes it’s as simple as a bird flying overhead that triggers the inspiration I needed to get back on track.
I could attempt to mention the people whose work has helped remove my self-doubt at one point or another, but the list would probably be about as long as this interview.
I think what’s more important is recognizing that our self-doubt is often the result of feeling alone. Whenever I realize I’m not alone, my confidence is immediately restored.
J: If I may ask, what would you consider is the source of your power?
R: Much like the first question about what motivates and encourages me, I would say that my source of power is quite simply life itself. I am eternally inspired by existence.
My source of power seems to come from the universe. I’m alive. I exist. All that exists is somehow right here, within me. I was born among the stars. I was created from the same stuff that makes up everything else that exists in the universe. What immense power!
J: I am captivated by the fusion of your intelligence, integrity, and your quietly powerful voice. You are known as one who prefers not to contribute to noise; in a world where “fierce” and “loud” is equated with power, you model that one may be quiet, yet heard; one may create from a place of integrity and enrich others in big ways. May you share with us a little about your philosophy; how did you find your voice and how did this fusion come to be?
R: I find my voice by following the path to my heart. I’m constantly asking myself, “does this feel true to me?” If something I’m doing doesn’t feel true to me, I ask, “what are my motivations?” If I’m motivated by anything but a desire to learn or share, I pull myself back and reconsider what I’m doing.
I take Mahatma Gandhi’s advice, “be the change you wish to see in the world”, to heart. I truly believe the best way to change the world is to change ourselves. If we’re being loud or fierce externally we might get lots of attention, but we’re not necessarily changing the world.
I believe the strength in silence comes from an aura of confidence. Everyone looks to those who are confident, even if they’re the quiet ones. And I don’t think confidence is about appearing to know it all, but rather about not looking for approval.
If you release the need for approval and validation, then suddenly you’re free to create without compromise, to learn without arrogance, and to explore and share without expectations. You gain confidence because your motivations are pure.
Integrity is rooted in believing in ourselves, so we should start there. What do we believe, and why? Who are we, and why? Without being at peace with ourselves, we cannot expect others to be at peace with us.
J: As we look to the new year, what projects are you currently working on…what may we expect online from you in the near future?
R: I tend not to project myself out more than a few weeks ahead, so it’s difficult to say what to expect. I also don’t usually differentiate between ‘online’ and ‘offline’; I feel that creates an unnecessary duality. They’re both part of life, so I treat them as one in the same.
However, since you asked I will share what’s on my mind for the next few months: I’m currently working on my annual transparency report, where I share and review my income and expenses for the previous year. I also have another ebook called ‘Reflections’ that I will be releasing.
My primary focus online will be in continuing to share through essays, journals, thoughts, and notes on my site. I’ve also had lots of interest in how I set up my publishing platform, so I will be working on a series of smaller ebooks and videos to share that knowledge.
Finally, my ‘offline’ project (see next question) will be closely linked to my online work.
J: And, of course, we would love to know what is your next adventure offline?
R: My next big adventure is about reconnecting modern life with nature.
I’ve always had two clear passions in life: nature and technology. The problem for me has been combining the two: I could play outside in the mud or I could play inside on my computer, but mud and computers generally don’t fit well together.
Abandoning technology isn’t an option: I believe that technology represents the ultimate expression of human creativity. It represents our innate desire to understand and shape the world around us, to take what we know of the world and create from it something that did not previously exist.
I also believe that technology enables sustainable human progress; it represents the answer to our planet’s need for sustainability. Without technology, without exploring our innate desire to create, human progress would stall. But with technology, we can eliminate waste and work towards sustainability while still quenching our thirst for progress and exploration.
However, I believe there’s a danger in becoming too engrossed in our creations: we can forget who we are. Without finding a balance, we’ll expend our natural resources and our relationship with nature will deteriorate. We’ll lose touch with what it means to be human.
I want to understand how we can create a balance between living connected and empowered by technology while still cultivating a relationship with nature. My next adventure will be an exploration into developing that balance.
For six months I will be hiking the Appalachian Trail with my laptop, a mobile data card, and a solar panel. The goal is to spend the entire six months outdoors using renewable energy while maintaining an online presence and even holding an Internet-based job.
Will it work? What challenges will I face? What will I learn about myself and about the current state of technology? Is creating that balance within reach? What’s missing from our relationship between nature and technology? Those are some of the questions I plan to explore with this adventure.
J: It has been an honor to share energy with you in this space, thank you for allowing us a glimpse into your world. In closing, is there anything you would like us to know about you, your vision, your voice?
R: If I may, I would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to go on an adventure of your own, to, as Seth Godin would say, ‘poke the box’ a little.
Ask yourself what you believe about yourself and about the world around you. Now poke those beliefs with a strong stick. Are they solid? Why are they solid?
Challenge those boxes and break free of them. Challenge the status quo. Challenge what you know to be reality.
Raam has so generously gifted this site with one complimentary lifetime subscription to his journal.
Each reader who leaves a comment addressing the question below will be entered into a drawing. The winner will be randomly chosen Sunday, January 22, 2012 at 9pm (PST) *January 23, 2012* update: Raam is very scientific about this process; he put all of the reader’s names into a random name generator and the “winner” of the drawing is Molly. Thank you to Raam and to all of the readers who participated in this interview! It is a pleasure to share energetic space with you all!*-Joy
May you share one currently held “limitation” that you want to challenge and then describe how you will challenge it?
Thank you, Raam! Thank you, dear reader! *Excellent* indeed:)
Much peace and abundant love,
Reminder: Experiment. Explore. Experience.