One photo a day until I meet Jonathan Harris

23rd May

An unlikely trinity: Gary Vaynerchuk, Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche and Rick Ross.

You might not think these three guys have too much in common, but following events over the last few days, I'm having trouble telling them apart.

It all started a few months back when I discovered that the TED conference for 2010 had already happened. Hoping to be able to discover the next Jonathan Harris before hearing about it from somebody else, I decided to look at their site. It didn't seem like the 2010 talks were posted yet, but there was a title that took my fancy - a talk by Gary Vaynerchuk (another difficult to pronounce name that frankly would have been easier to just ignore). Out of curiosity, I clicked on the link but found I was only able to watch about 5 minutes of the talk. While entertaining as a hyperbolic example of over-the-top American motivational speaking (so unforgettably caricatured in the opening scenes of Little Miss Sunshine), after just a short time his hyperactive delivery began to grate on my nerves and I had to switch off.

In the days that followed however, I found that I couldn't switch off. Something that Gary had said kept coming back into my head: "Stop crying and just keep hustling. 'Hustle' is the most important word... ever!" This would usually be followed by a mental rendition of the opening bars of Rick Ross' 2007 summer hit "Everyday I'm Hustling". Rick Ross?! What does he have to do with any of this apart from writing a catchy song? Granted, the particular hustling that Rick raps about seems to involve moving large amounts of cocaine across international borders but nonetheless I seemed to be able to relate with the "hustling" I was doing in my own life. It made me think just how universally human the activity of "hustling" is. It doesn't seem to matter if you are a farmer growing food for your family to eat, a Siberian Yupik melting ice for drinking water or a high flying wall street stock broker, it seems everyone can share and exchange tales of hustling.

Life went on with Gary's words and Rick Ross' song becoming a quiet accompaniment to most things I did. Then just a few days ago, an unexpected event brought these themes back to the fore of my attention. P.A.'s mother encouraged us to attend a lecture by another guy who's name I couldn't pronounce, remember or spell. Apparently he was the 19 year old re-incarnation of a very enlightened tibetan buddhist teacher. Again, I went along out of curiosity and for the opportunity to ogle a real-life golden-child or "chosen-one". The lecture was amusing and accessible at first. Kalu Rinpoche (as I later learnt how to spell) still spoke like any teenager, often mumbling and using the work "like" a lot. His rambling monologue was inspiring in that it made you think "well if that's what it takes to be an enlightened chosen-one, surely anyone could have a crack". But suddenly a lot of what he was talking about started to sound familiar. He began to express a contradiction which I've always had trouble with. He said "Don't envy me. Don't wish that you were in my place, being loved and adulated by all these people, because its very hard work. At times I wish there were 5 chosen-ones so that we could share the work and I would have a least a little time to practice meditation!" To me it sounded bizarre, he had been telling us for over an hour already how one can be happy, how all one has to do is practice the "dharma", and yet here he was admitting that he was unhappy and overworked. This paradox grated on me until I recalled that Gary Veynerchuk had something very similar.

Thinking I might have been on to something, after Kalu Rinpoche had finally finished talking I raced home and watched Gary Veynerchuk again - this time right through until the end. It seemed incredible, one was talking about karma and the other was talking about business and money, and yet the talks were virtually identical. Both stressed that one shouldn't envy them, that one should care and show compassion for people and perhaps most importantly both stressed the importance of hustling (in Kalu Rinpoche's words "hustling everyday" was about the personal struggle to "practice dharma").

So what is the moral of the story? That between a buddhist, a business man and a star of gangster rap one can find enlightenment? I don't know, but maybe the next time I see a hard-to-pronounce name I should ready myself for the unexpected.