Akshay Nanavati is a Marine Corps veteran, adventurer, and entrepreneur. After overcoming drug addiction, a diagnosis of PTSD after the war in Iraq, and a battle with alcohol that pushed him to the brink of suicide, Akshay has since explored the most hostile environments on the planet and built a global business helping people live limitless lifestyles. His work funds his nonprofit, the Fearvana Foundation. Combining years of research in neuroscience and psychology with his life experience, Akshay wrote the book “Fearvana: The Revolutionary Science of How to Turn Fear Into Health, Wealth and Happiness.” About the book, The Dalai Lama says, “Fearvana inspires us to look beyond our own agonizing experiences and find the positive side of our lives.” To learn more, please visit Fearvana.
What are 3 things or experiences that bring you the greatest sense of fulfillment in life?
1. Pushing my mind, body, and spirit beyond their limits.
2. Spending quality time with the people I love.
3. Exploring new places and connecting with new people.
What are the small things you do every day to be happy/fulfilled?
Exercise, meditate, and engage in meaningful work that helps me make a positive impact on the world.
People often find they don’t have enough time. How do you make time for those?
I always look at every moment from the perspective that when you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to another, and vice versa. All it takes to make time for the things you want to do in life is to exercise a high level of awareness and consciousness about what you are saying yes or no to.
What health habits do you stick to no matter what?
Green smoothies, vigorous exercise, and meditation.
What’s your best relationship tip?
Bring people into your world while being willing to enter theirs with an open heart and an open mind. That means being vulnerable about your struggles and also being proud of your successes. It also means learning how to listen and approaching life from the perspective of an “empty cup,” one that is always ready to learn more.
You seem to balance both happiness and success. What’s your secret to being happy and productive?
Turning struggle into a fun and enjoyable challenge.
The largest study on happiness by Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi concluded that “The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
Being productive to accomplish anything in life is not easy, but that’s what makes it worthwhile. Happiness is not a destination to arrive at. It is not something waiting for us out there somewhere. It is in the here and now, in the pursuit of a meaningful challenge worthy of who we are and who we want to be.
When we find that challenge and learn to smile in the face of it, that is the secret to a happy life because if we don’t seek out a worthy struggle, a far greater struggle will find us anyway.
What – in your opinion – is the best way to spread happiness and fulfillment to others?
Lead by example, be extremely generous with your knowledge, and give others the tools, resources and insight to smile in the face of suffering.
What is a quote you live by?
“I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.” — Vince Lombardi
An excerpt from Akshay’s acclaimed publication, Fearvana, which draws from his personal experience as a war veteran and the latest research in psychology and neuroscience, to provide a framework for transforming crippling fear into positive success:
“The graveyard is the richest place on earth because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or be determined to carry out their dream.” —Les Brown
From the Brink of Suicide to the Science of Fearvana
I lay sprawled out on the sofa, gazing into the barren expanse above. My arm dangled off the edge. Below it rested an empty, one-liter bottle of vodka. The sound of a TV echoing in the background shielded me from an army of demons lingering at the gates. They waited for the inevitable: a single moment of stillness to storm into the emptiness of my soul.
The sun’s rays pierced through the pale, white shutters, disrupting my lifeless slumber. Awakened from my daze, I mustered a herculean effort to wrestle my feet onto the ground. Hunching over with both hands pressing against my skull, I saw the bottle of vodka glaring at me from the abyss—an excruciating reminder of the depths to which I had fallen.
As I looked up to get a glimpse of the outside world, the light stole my attention away from the noise, robbing me of my only comfort. A deafening roar of silence descended upon me. Exposed and vulnerable to the chaos of my consciousness, a week of nonstop binge drinking finally took its toll. This pattern will never change, I thought to myself. I will never change.
Entombed within this pit of despair, all hope faded away. What was the point of going on? For the first and last time in my life, I contemplated the unthinkable. The severity of such a thought infiltrating my mind shocked me out of my stupor. How could I even think of taking my own life? Forcing myself upright, I stared back into the light. This time, it became my ally, illuminating a way out of the darkness.
The Single Most Important Skill You Need to Succeed at Anything
“Adversity is the diamond dust Heaven polishes its jewels with.”
I am guessing you picked up this book because you, too, have gone through challenges in your life, and at this very moment, you still have obstacles to overcome. You have probably figured out by now that it is impossible to live without some degree of hardship.
The good news for you is that no matter what has stopped you in the past or what is holding you back right now, it is not entirely your fault. As my friend and mentor Jack Canfield once told me, we all do the best we can with the level of skills, abilities, knowledge, and awareness we possess at any given time.
Allow this to really sink in. You can relax and stop beating yourself up. Any time you might be feeling confused, lost, or scared, it is not your fault. Section 1 will show you why that is and how accepting this comforting fact is the first stepping stone to transforming your life.
My goal is for you to finish this book with a new level of awareness and a clear set of actions that will enable you to achieve mastery over your most valuable asset: your mind. The mind is the machine that controls everything in your world. How you respond to any event and how you navigate the obstacles standing in your way is all dependent on your ability to direct your mind—instead of it directing you.
When you become the director, you will have the superhuman ability to boldly face any challenge that comes your way, whether it be training for a marathon, raising a child, finding the perfect career, building your own business, recovering from a traumatic event, or figuring out your purpose in life—anything!
If you put the systems in this book to use, the event itself will become irrelevant. By the end of section 3, you will know how to transform fear, stress, and anxiety into your allies, regardless of the context that creates them.
In life, you cannot predict the next wave that will hit you on your voyage to greatness, but you can develop the habit of braving the stormy seas, no matter how many waves crash into you. This is the most important skill you could ever learn.
After decades of research, in what has become the largest and most important study on happiness, professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, bestselling author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, concluded, “Of all the virtues we can learn, no trait is more useful, more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge.”
Teaching myself this trait brought me back from the brink of death.
Excerpted from FEARVANA. Copyright © by Akshay Nanavati. Reprinted by permission of Morgan James Publishing.