There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why.
– William Barclay
I found myself embarking on my “What is the Good Life?” investigation after an unforgettable conversation. The unexpected conversation challenged my ideas on the best life I could achieve. Since then, I have been interviewing outstanding individuals and taking part in amazing experiences around the globe. From this quest, I hope to paint you a picture of “The Good Life.”
My Good Life investigation started after a long day of classes at Yale. My next-door neighbor invited me to join her and some of her friends from Yale’s MBA program at her home for desserts. When you are a graduate school student with no source of income, you learn to never say no to free food, especially the type that is served at Yale parties and get-togethers. I also thought that hanging out with business students would allow me take a break from my studies about God and religion. Sometimes, it was helpful to talk about less dense things like stocks, news, and events going on around Yale. However, I was unable to avoid talk about religion when someone asked me, “So what do you study?”
When I tell intellectual people that I enrolled at Yale Divinity School to study how religious faith shapes modern life, I usually get two reactions. The first being, “Oh, you must be one of those crazy religious types who believe in a superstition that should have died out centuries ago.” The other reaction is positive one that comes about from the open-minded attitude at places like Yale. They usually find it very interesting that I’d want to take a couple years of my life to study life’s hardest questions, even though I have no desire to become a priest or work in a church. Fortunately, the reactions that night were more of the latter. The business students saw their Ivy League degree as an investment to give them success in the business world; they saw my studies as an investment for me to succeed in the game of life.
Others in the room wanted to move on from talking about religion, but one named Harsh wanted to hear more on my views of my faith.
“Sorry, your name is, Harsh?” I asked this young man from India who looked my age.
“Yes, just like the opposite of kind.”
My first impression of Harsh was he would be the type who’d be a cruel boss who would demand a lot from his employees. While he may be like that in the business world, I learned that this was far from the case with his true personality. He is not only a kind, considerate person, but he also shares my interests of wondering if succeeding in life is something that is accomplished through religion, introspection, making money, relationships, social interactions, or a precise combination of all these.
That night we mainly talked about our views of religion. He explained that he had grown up as a Hindu in his hometown of Calcutta, India, but had been exposed to a variety of religions in his undergraduate studies at Duke University. He was very interested in religion, but he admitted that he had never had the opportunity to study it on a formal level as I was doing. Noticing that our conversation was something no one else in the room was particularly interested in, I asked Harsh if he would be free the next day to talk more. I always love sharing with others how my faith has changed my life
Because it was such a beautiful day in Connecticut, we decided to forgo sitting down in a coffee shop and decided to walk around Yale’s historic campus. What was supposed to be a 30-minute appointment on my schedule turned into a 2-hour walk during which we talked about life and how we are to succeed in it.
Experiencing success was not something new to Harsh. At 22 years of age, he had already started two businesses in India (an IT firm and a shipping company) one of which is still in operation. Before graduating college, he had made more money than what many of his countrymen make in their lifetime. In business terms, Harsh has already proven to be a success at the tender age of 22 years old. With the help of Yale’s MBA, he is sure to be a great business leader for the rest of his life. But even though he has so much going for him in terms of business, he admitted that he felt like there was something more that he needed. He felt that he would not be ultimately fulfilled if he were just to continue his career path and make a billion dollars or appear on the cover of Forbes Magazine by the end of his life.
The rest of our conversation led to discussing more topics that lie at the heart of the question, “What is the Good Life?”. We asked, “What is the standard for determininggood?” “Is there a universal standard that we can agree upon?” “What is more important: happiness, security, or success?” “How do we define things like happiness and success?”
I include my discussion with Harsh at the beginning of this book because it highlights a theme about the Good Life that I wish to make clear. Harsh is someone from whom I unexpectedly learned a lot about life – he is younger than me, works and studies in the business field, and comes from a completely different religious system – yet I have been able to learn a lot from his perspective.
As someone reading the reflections in this book, I do not want you to agree with all the worldviews of those I interview, but I hope you approach them with an attitude of wanting to learn from them. I have learned that no one has a complete understanding of The Good Life, so what I am hoping to do with future chapters is to give you different perspectives on it. These various perspectives should help you paint your own picture of The Good Life
I was early taught to work as well as play,
My life has been one long, happy holiday
Full of work and full of play,
I dropped the worry on the way
And God was good to me everyday.
– John D. Rockefeller, Age 86
It is one thing to wish to have truth on our side, and another thing to wish sincerely to be on the side of truth.
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