069 | Coexistence Of Spirituality & Innovation | Qualities Of Successful Leadership | With Avatar Lila Das

Today we have a very special guest with us. His name is Avatar Leela Das. Avatar is an experienced life coach with a demonstrated history of working in the field of spirituality and self-awareness. He is skilled in life coaching corporate events, motivational speaking, leadership, team issues, and public speaking. He has a strong consulting professional background, and he has a masters of engineering from the Indian Institute of Science.

So, Avatar, we are so excited to have you here, and learn a lot about spirituality, self-awareness and entrepreneurship.

Thank you for bringing me here.

Okay, so let’s first talk about this title of Avatar. So, a lot of people in our audience come from the IT world. And as you know, you know, we are geeks and we love the movie Avatar here in North America. It’s called avatar. Can you just explain it to us? What is the meaning of this word?

Actually, it was pretty funny when I was just opening my Facebook account. And I named that I want my username as Avatar. Even Facebook denied that you can’t have a celebrity name. But in the Sanskrit traditions of the Vedic wisdoms, Avatar basically means descent. It is generally used for descent of divinity on this planet. As far as I’m concerned, I’m not any kind of Avatar, but that’s the spiritual name, which is the type of coordination in our spiritual traditions, and that we are servants of God and servants of humanity in service to God. That’s why the whole name is Avatar Leela Das, is more important for you.

Okay, now, let’s dive in. So, in the Western culture, there is a dominant belief that sees tradition and innovation as some paradigms which are in conflict. So what do you think about that conflict? is that real or is that just made up?

Actually, when we talk about growth, especially in a world, which is constantly changing, we need to take both of these things in order to move forward. Tradition and innovation as two rails of a railway track, without both, these rails you cannot move forward. So basically, tradition, as well as innovation both needs to be balanced. Some people just to stick to tradition. And basically, tradition gives you substance, that’s what I talked about. And innovation creates relevance.

If I talk about tradition, we are holding on to the core values which we stand for, but innovation is something which makes it understandable and relevant in this current day and age. Like for example, English is a language which is spoken all over the globe and unites everyone, but if you look at the dialects of English, that so at some point of time, we have we had Shakespearean English and then we had, you know different kind of levels of English. And now we have the spoken English with this problem to be different from what he preaches to stand for. The language is unified languages are still there. So, so tradition and innovation are like that. Innovation basically changes the way we communicate our values. The way we express our belief system, the way we live, our value systems are tradition is something which holds the values. So, let me say, whenever there is a conflict about tradition and innovation, mostly it is about the conflict in terms of understanding the deeper principles, basic conflict of perceptions, basically conflict in the way people perceive innovation as. Sometime people perceive innovation as a deviation of something non-conforming from the mainstream ideas and thoughts, which have stood a test of time. And sometimes people who are nonconformist, they see adherence to tradition as dogmatic, or the stereotype and things like that. So I think, sometimes in the conflicts, sometimes conflicts are good, because they just open up a whole new spectrum of thought process, whole new spectrum of the way things can be understood. And, you know, they can be revisited so that they remain relevant. Like, I would say, there has to be if we want growth in life, if you want to move forward in life, and we want to keep moving forward in life, we need to always constantly balance these two aspects of tradition, and innovation. Innovation will let you go higher, and tradition will keep you rooted in the, you know, the core values.

Yeah, that’s, that’s great. Now, once again, you know, there’s a huge misconception about tradition, and spirituality. People generally relate that to religion, organized religion. And, you know, in some cases, it’s looked down upon, it’s looked upon as backwards, not modern. And as you put it, you know, these are tradition and innovation, they actually go hand in hand, you know, and you need to find strength and tradition, to innovate. So, how, you know, when you talk to people about these concepts, how do you preach them? How do you teach them to encompass both these aspects in their lives?

So basically, when we talk about spirituality, it’s sometimes misunderstood. But someone was asking me, can you explain spirituality in one sentence, and I told him spirituality is all about moving from selfishness to selflessness. Different traditions in the world today, which has stood the test of time is practically you know teaching the same principle, but different details. When we are seeking the essence, it is easy and more when you say organic to actually harmonize. But when you start focusing just on the little, then we see conflicts happening. So when we talk, even religion and spirituality, when people sometimes look at religion as some old stereotype activities, which are handed down from tradition, without understanding you know, the principles behind it, or what they’re exactly trying to teach us, what they are exactly trying to help us in our lives, then they start doing commanded. But I’m seeing, like dealing with teenagers a lot in India, on way, I see that many of them are very open minded, and they want to stand logic and the reason behind what we do, why we do, and therefore I feel that when we are relevant in terms of explaining these concepts, in terms of how it applies to them in their personal life, they’re very open to understand them. Instead of just explaining to them the rituals and the externals, which are important at some stage of life. But what is more important is to understand why we do what we do. And the wise is where the spirituality is rooted.

Great. Yeah. So, are you implying that we can be spiritual we can practice spirituality and be self-aware and still live a modern life and, you know, have an entrepreneurial mindset and in a way and hope to earn, you know, lots of money and make progress? And so, these do you think can coexist?

Yeah, basically, spirituality is like, is like the ATC for an airplane. Modern systems and modern technology and modern way of living or the way of doing business, the ambition is like a speed. So, it’s only relevant as long as and especially when you are at high speed, and I always use the relevance of ATC becomes even more important. So, when we talk spirituality, it actually gives us direction gives us a sense of purpose, it gives a sense of a meaning to why we’re doing what we’re doing. running a problem. Point is, why are you running and running for. So, then you can definitely, you know, these two aspects can coexist in terms of spirituality as well as our ambition. Ambition becomes challenging, when it crosses the line of ethics and enter the line of greed. That’s what. Spirituality actually provides the sense of direction, the sense of purpose.


Awesome. Alright, so we were young talking about, you know, these paradigms can co-exist, but do you think being spiritual can actually enhance your ability to innovate and, and be more ambitious?


Yes, because creativity is a function of non-selfish hearts. Certain experience in my life tell as well that, you know, the best of the ideas, that creativity actually springs up, when people are thinking of others more than themselves. So basically, helping people grow their talents in a way that they become more relevant for the world and do something contributing and sustainable. More outside of ourselves, and therefore creativity begins.


That’s great. That’s great. And now let’s talk about your TED conference. In your TED conference, you said something like, your I interferes with your why. So, will you like to share what you mean by that? you know, why, why and how our I interface with why?


I was just talking about, as I said, spirituality is about moving from selfishness to selflessness. And many times, what happens is our own personal interest comes in way of our purpose. Many people who go out in the world who wants to do something for the world, and when the success hits them, they start becoming self-conscientious. And they start thinking, I’m not saying self-thinking of self-preservation, and self-gain is anything wrong. But when that is the central principle then you start compromising on your purpose. To make money, and initially, they want to make money because they want to do something good for the world. And then we start thinking, Oh, then, you know, let me do something for myself first, and then we’ll think about being good for the world. So the way you know, as the, as the famous book also goes, ego is the enemy. So you know, ego becomes our enemy right? when you are trying to tread your path and also, while you’re trying to be successful,

Great, great.

So, there’s the I which interferes with the why.

Awesome. Now let’s talk about your journey. So how, how did you go from being an engineer to becoming a spiritual being, and, you know, getting this, this new name of avatar?

Actually, that journey began, almost two decades back. And so I was still a student and came across spirituality and I started exploring it with a very skeptic mind as a teenager. And but I found a lot of meaning a lot of sense that was coming out of it. And I continued my education, I continued to do my Masters, IISc and then moved on to do some, join some international companies and was exploring my whole life. And then I began to realize that if I want to really make some meaningful contribution to the world, and probably the way that I would like to choose on is an exclusive dedication to this path, understand this path, and then come forward in sometime in future to share this model the world make people’s lives better. So I took almost a decade to understand spirituality deeply and then taking scholar probably has more to do life and share his wisdom with the world.


I see. And so during that decade, did you explore the spirituality deeper with a mentor under some guidance? Or did you do it on your own? How, how was that journey?


So, mentors just guided me in which direction to date and begin part I began my own. So, mentors were there whenever I got confused, but more likely, and I would say spirituality is a lot of it’s a journey of internal exploration. You can take knowledge of an experienced personality, who has done that job successfully in his own life. But the hard work has to be done on your own. Yes, there were mentors at some point of time but they did not influence me. They just help in the direction I should be moving, when I needed their guidance in order to understand which direction I should be moving.


I see. So, if somebody wants to adopt this path, and again, you know, I’m not saying that they need to renounce the world. But let’s say they want to explore spirituality and go deeper, will you recommend? Is it possible to do it on your own? Or is it better to do it under the guidance of a mentor,


I would say both the things are important. one is your independent explanation is also critical. And at the same time, you also learn from the adepts of that particular field. Because if you have independent exploration you will land up doing something which you may not be wanting to. If you don’t have a mentor to or an experienced, to guide you, you might land up doing something which you think is a spirituality, but is not. So therefore, you need both. we all need a mentor who is is involved in his wisdom, at the same time helps you in express and explore yourself.

Great, great. And so, on this on this journey of yours, did you encounter any obstacles?

There are many obstacles which are generally and the obstacles could be external, could be internal. But the obstacles on a spiritual path are simply any kind of path actually, whether it is a spiritual or in our own regular life, obstacles are meant to help us grow. I think I think as Henry Ford once said, that obstacles is what you see when you take your eyes off the goal. That has always inspired me. So if you’re focused on the goal, then it’s not really an obstacle, it’s just an opportunity to become more stronger.

Got it. But once again, you know, in this world where there is so many stimulus around us in this environment, so many, you know, so many things are being thrown to us at every instant, how do you maintain that focus? How do you make sure that you don’t get distracted?

So a very very interesting question. And especially actually, anyone who’s trying to do something disciplined and want to attain something meaningful in life, one of the most important aspect in their life is to maintain consistency. To move forward with discipline and perseverance,that becomes a challenge over a period of time because people walking on any kind of disciplined path, they have to face a lot of internal struggles. So what has always helped me is my regular practice personal spiritual practices, and my personally spiritual growth you know, because of reading certain spiritual books, interacting with the spiritual adepts, and also interacting with the world. So when you lead a life of purpose, and are constantly reminded of that purpose, it is easy to stay focused. This is basically a sign that you’re losing focus on the purpose. So I use even when I get distracted in personal spiritual journey, I use that as an alarm to actually healing myself internally, the problem is in focus. So you said that, but again, as I said, this is what distractions is what you see when you take your eyes off the goal. So when you are totally focused on your purpose, then it’s easy to deal with them.


Okay, okay, great. And now, let’s talk about some of the negative, you know, aspects of humanity, they can be, you know, they can be negative in certain sense of the world, but in the in the field of entrepreneurship, things like arrogance and pride and, and bravado, they are considered good qualities to have for entrepreneur. So what do you think about that? Are these behaviours congruent with, with the folk with the target of a being successful as entrepreneur? Or are, you know, these are going to be obstacles?


It’s a very interesting question, actually it needs a deep thoughtful introspection. When we talk about our arrogance, when we talk about ego is only talking about talent, normally, they do bring success in the short term what they fail to do is they can’t sustain their businesses in the long run. This is interesting, because there was a research done at Harvard, a couple of you know, we just had almost 20 years back in 2014, I believe. Talk about what makes you happy. And in that, you know, it was discussed that the one thing that makes people happy over a period of time is investing in deep, meaningful relationships. I think when people are arrogant, when people are engaged, and people are using the under hands to get success and all those things, they’re harming their potential of maintaining deep, meaningful relationships. So, success hits them, after they become successful., the second stage that happens is they become lonely. Yeah, that’s the biggest problem on the planet. And it’s a problem of prosperity. People who are successful, they’ll end up becoming lonely, because in the pursuit of success what happens is , the tools that we’re using, are probably harming our very core essential being of loving the desire the need for love, and to be loved , the value system, which every human being has, and we use all these kind of tools for them behaviourally, or organizationally, or managerially, we’re actually harming our own future. And I have come across cases, where recently they had an unfortunate case of someone a big CEO of a very big company here, and landed up ending his life in a very mysterious manner. So, we are getting to the epitome of success per se, maybe still be unknown to some great buddy.

Yeah, no, that’s, that’s a pretty famous case. And, in fact, I just learned about another entrepreneur, he was not as prominent as the one you were referring to, and he also committed suicide, because of you know, lack of success or lack of the success as perceived by that person. So, so, to your point, this is very valid point, you know, once you make all these qualities, they are actually going to harm you in the long term. Now, let me ask you the reverse as well. So do you think being very humble and being very kind , can you be a true leader, because at many instances, you have to be a little bit stern with your subordinates or, you know, you need to be more, you know, you need to be more expressive in terms of what you need your team to do. So how can you balance that humility and kindness versus your authority?


Very, very nice question manuj. Actually, sometimes people misunderstand that humility is about being timid. It’s not about being timid humility is about that we are not focused on our own selfish gains, but we are focused on the focused on the welfare of a larger sense of service. So when when you have personal humility, and fierce determination, they basically do maximum impact in the world. A humble person is someone who actually respects the individuality , at the same time they focus on the goal that is needed to be achieved. So and believe me, this is very, you know, its kind of a very deep in human psychology, but people don’t respond to what you tell them. People respond to how you are being towards them, when you tell them what you tell them. People are deeply humbling. They are not getting any respect from others and recognition, benefit, but they’re simply thinking of the welfare of the larger society, as well as the person to whom they’re trying to guide and help, people will understand intention. So its a humble leader who actually can drive inspire than will push. now what happened, corporate world I see, people, there are two kinds of leaders, you know, leaders who motivate because of manipulation. And leaders who will do it because of insecurities. And manipulation works for some time. But then again, it’s not sustainable. It’s been something that people want to work with you not because they’re scared, but because they’re motivated, they feel themselves to be a part of something larger, something bigger than themselves, and indeed inspired to do things. So when people are under humble leadership, a humble leader actually makes each individual subordinate, so valued and inspired and being a part of this larger picture. But there is sometime a need to force them to work because they’re inspired to work with such a personality, we use them so much level actions. Of course, it is not easy said than done. And, you know, the market situations and we know, hardship situations may sometimes push you to take, you know, strong step like a given example, when Thomas alva , you know, he landed up is he actually got when he was in the process of that invention. And he was totally accepting that particular thing that happened within the factory, and he asked his son, he said, he said, Son, come here, look at that all the rubbish and all the mistakes that we had done is all know, burned off. And then surprise, he did not kay off any of his employees. Yeah, any of his employees, he totally trusted them, and that these employees felt so trusted, that they worked without payment to rebuild the company and rebuild the factory in a very short span of time. So, so that’s, that’s the, you know, humility may not show immediate results, but in the long run, that’s what survives. Just going back to this, you know, sometimes you see this huge palm trees, huge coconut trees, and stand so tall, and they are still not be uprooted by storms, because the roots go very deep. Similarly, humility is a quality which every leader has to have, in order to survive the storms of unruly weather, which is beyond our control.

Right. That’s great. Thank you so much for sharing that. Now let’s talk about habits. So, you know, all these qualities, they need to translate into some sort of action in our daily lives. And, you know, they these actions become our habits. So how important our habits for success


Okay, interesting, actually, habits, if you look at our life 40% of the things that we do every day is just habits. And habits can be physical and habits can be emotional, mental all’s Yeah. So, when we talk about habits, especially for leaders and entrepreneurs, habits have to have a very permeating effect is special in the way we think, the way we evaluate the way we just the way we perceive this world. So, in order to have right kind of habits, we need to do hard work, change our way of thinking, change your way of behaving, change the way we interact with people that may be see them. These are all habits. Human beings are simply carrying out their habits. And if we cultivate the right kind of habits, if we look at all successful entrepreneurs not just entrepreneurs’ successful people in all walks of life, they had kind of habits, which are part of the core value system. So, habits are definitely very, very important part of life, and some people are to, we all need to actually invest in the right kind of habits, both physically as well as emotionally and mentally in order to chalk out success in life.


Okay, and how I mean, can you give any practical advice, let’s say, you know, somebody wants to cultivate some good habits, or let go of some bad habits, what, what are some of the actions they can take to do that?


Interesting! Actually, habits, if you go to the whole science of habits, there are N number of books which are available on the web, that actually talk about them. And one thing, which is very common in all these books, which talked about habits, is that habits are very difficult to break. And they are very difficult to form, especially the good ones. When we talk about forming habits, we need to understand the way our brain functions, the way our brain gets, you know. And the good thing is, brain, because of this neuro plasticity and all that stuff, it has the ability to learn new habits pretty quickly, if the, if the incentive is very interesting. One of my mentors actually suggested me a book by this entrepreneur, Stephen Guise, he talks about, mini habits, where he talks about this principle where if you want to perform a new habit, don’t pick a big chunk, start something small. So it gives an interesting thing, which I found very helpful even in my personal life.It was giving an example that if you want to start doing workout, on everyday basis, so many people want to do this every day, 40 minutes, 45 minutes. He said, when he wanted to do that, he began with just one pushup a day. So many habits is about doing something. We’re doing some stupid small things, which are too big to fail. And he was giving this example that how when it is just one pushup a day, sometimes you’ll be so busy that it’s just the end of the day. But you remember, I need to do one pushup a day. He’ll do it on his bed. People went to sleep and go to sleep. But that one thing, started flipping his mind get the courage to start forming a new habit. And eventually, you saw in a span of one year or so he started seeing himself consistently doing exercise for 30 minutes or 40 minutes. What we do is, when we want to create a big new habit, we take a big chunk to eat. You need to start small, somewhere, the area where we want to improve, take some really stupid small steps, which are impossible to fail and see our determination walking up the ladder and our habits getting formed.


Thats so that’s a great, great way to form habit. Thank you so much for sharing that. Now let’s talk about storytelling. So in today, business storytelling is prevalent. And it’s, you know, a lot of people are paying attention to that, to get more sales, to get, you know, more attention to their companies to their products. And you, you know, you obviously are a master storyteller. So how do you develop this skill? How did you develop this skill? And what do you have to say to people who want to develop the skill of storytelling?

Actually the credit of me anywhere, if you feel that I’m any kind of good storyteller, the credit goes to my, my spiritual teacher. He’s personality who weaves very complicated, complicated philosophy, teachings, in very sweet way of explaining through, you know, what happens in his storytelling, the science of art, you know, it basically interacts with the emotions of people. And in my observation of my spiritual mentors, I’ve seen that when you actually experience a story personally, that’s the time to keep your emotions in them and explain it to other people as well. So storytelling is not about facts and figures, and just the sequence of events. But if you feel strongly about something, deeply internal it has touched you, you can actually make an impression on other souls while you explain to them. Otherwise, attend one of those, some of the best sequels can be very boring, because the person speaking is not so interesting. And if you’re not passionate about something, you can’t infuse passion about it in someone else. I think I generally speak things which I truely get inspired by. And by and therefore probably, as you were saying, I don’t know, as you’re saying, it might be helping people grasp this phylosophy.


That’s great. And now, let’s, let’s talk about yourself. So you are, you only, you know, are you basically a spiritual leader? Or are you an entrepreneur as well? Because, you know, a lot of people have this perception that spiritual leaders are basically they have renounced the world. But what is your reality? Are you an entrepreneur as well?


So if you look at an entrepreneur in terms of innovation, or if you’re looking at an entrepreneur as someone making money, so definitely as we are more available for society as voluntary services. We don’t like to earn money, we don’t like, you know. But in terms of innovation, Yes, if I innovate I find a way to make this message as possible to people in general. So if you take the person as entrepreneure as making money, then ya I am not an entrepreneur. But you take that person, as an entrepreneur, as someone who’s innovating, then yes, I am.


That’s great. And how do you define your success?


I would say still the work in progress. And success is more of an experience of the journey than a destination according to me. Whenever I, whenever I help somebody and bring some more value to my to his life, that’s success for me. Whenever someone comes up to me and he feels as he or she feels that the problem is resolved, that’s a success for me. When someone watches a small snippet of my video and they give a comment that this has changed my life, has helped me, thats success. So we need to redefine also success in the way, not somewhere we want to achieve or arrive or reach. The journey itself is an experience of success, every moment can actually give us an experience of small success. So I would say I’m still work in progress. But God has been kind and he has been blessing me with very nice discipline on encouraging me. And I would say the every deep meaningful relationship I form in my life is a milestone. That is much more important for me.


That’s great. Great. Now, is there anything else that you would like to share with our audience today?

I would say we are living in very interesting times in the world, the world is opening up like never before, in terms of ideas, in terms of opportunities, in terms of, you know, resources being available to all, and therefore there is a great opportunity to make our dreams get fulfilled, and at the same time, a great opportunity to contribute to the world in a manner which you like. In life, we are not remembered for our achievements so much, but we are remembered for our contribution. And I strongly believe that there is no problem in going high in life, provided we are deeply rooted in the ground, deeply rooted in our core values, and want to do something meaningful for the world. The world has already been sufficiently exploited in various ways. Now it’s the time , generation has to probably changed the course of action, and probably , start thinking more about how we can rebuild the world, how we can bring more meaning and value to life, and its only possible when each and every individual lives a deep sense of purpose, which is as selfless as as possible.

That’s a great thought, but but in your opinion, from what you see in the world, do you think we are moving towards that or we are moving away from, from that goal of, you know, selfless living and meaningful living?

There are some people who have begun to realize the importance of it. And they have begun to move in that direction. And I say that it’s just the beginning, and a lot of work needs to be done in order to help guide people. But in my experience, a lot of people are questioning the direction in which we’re moving. and if we out there, give them the right kind of suggestions and directions and answers and, you know, you know, our views and experiences, I’m sure that a lot of people who want to do something meaningful work, just that they may not know how to do it. A lot of work needs to be done, and I think we are beginning and at least some people in the younger generation have begun to think the validity and the sustainability that has to happen today.

Awesome. That’s great. Well, thank you so much for being with us today and sharing your message and, you know, giving us hope. And it has been a tremendous conversation. Now, before I let you go, can you tell us how people can reach out to you if they want to, you know, do you know, reach you reach out?

I’m there on all social media practically, Facebook, LinkedIn. Right? and Instagram. Anybody can just search for my name. And I’ll be there. And I’ll be more than happy to connect with you.


That’s great. Well, thank you so much. Once again, I think this has been one of the most profound conversations I’ve had. So, I would love to bring you back if your schedule allows that and learn from you.


Thank you Manuj, thank you very much. And thank you everyone who have been hearing this podcast. Extremely grateful for receiving this message. And I hope and pray that you will you achieve your dreams and do something meaningful for the world. thanks.




Links & Mentions From This Episode:

Avatar’s social media handles: @avatarliladas

TetraNoodle consulting services: https://bootstraptechstartup.com

TetraNoodle professional training: https://courses.tetranoodle.com

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