James Dean once said, “Dream as if you’ll live forever — Live as if you’ll die today.” But that’s easier said than done. What does it really mean to dream big, strive for greatness, and live like there’s no tomorrow? What does that look like in today’s world?
My guest today is on a mission to find out. Ravi Patel has made it his quest to travel the world and ask those universal questions. Is there a right way to parent your children? What is the ideal work-life balance? How do we find happiness? These are questions we all face, but the answers can be elusive. Ravi is determined to find them.
I’ve had the benefit of becoming friends with Ravi over the past few years, and I’ll tell you that there is no one more curious or more loving. I love talking with him, and I’m excited to bring him back to the show for a second time. His first interview on The School of Greatness was awesome, but I think this one is even better.
In this episode, Ravi and I dive deep into some of the most essential elements of happiness. We talk about what he’s learned from the differences between American and Indian culture, how to handle conflict within a marriage, why therapy is essential, especially for men, and the importance of listening to each other and being open-minded. There is so much powerful stuff in this episode — you don’t want to miss it!
Ravi Patel is an actor, writer, and director famous for the autobiographical film Meet the Patels, which chronicles Ravi’s journey to find an Indian wife. This documentary, which Ravi co-created with his sister, Geeta Patel, won the Audience Award at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival. Ravi and Geeta have both enjoyed greater acclaim since the film’s release, but unexpectedly so have Ravi’s parents. And according to Ravi, they’re dealing with the fame just fine:
“I mean, what a unique experience as a family that most people never get to experience. My parents were really the stars of that, and people come to them in airports like as if they know them and they love them. … My parents are so good at being celebrities because they’re everyone’s parents. … My dad’s Facebook status is ‘Actor.’ … They’re hilarious.” – Ravi Patel
More recently, Ravi has been hard at work on a new series on HBO Max called Ravi Patel’s Pursuit of Happiness. In each episode of this documentary series, Ravi and a friend or family member travel to a new part of the world, seeking answers to life’s biggest questions and uncovering new secrets of happiness. They explore what it’s like to grow old in Mexico, parenting (and over-parenting) in Japan, balancing work and life in Korea, and the effects of diversity and immigration on a country’s happiness in Denmark. It’s fresh, entertaining, and a joy to watch, and it contains so much of Ravi’s signature curiosity and humor.
In addition to being an inspiring actor and filmmaker, Ravi is also a co-founder of This Saves Lives, a nonprofit organization dedicated to feeding children who are impacted by food scarcity and malnutrition worldwide. For every granola bar sold, This Saves Lives donates a food packet specifically designed to treat malnutrition to a child in need. If you’re interested in getting involved, definitely check out their website.
Ravi Patel is an inspiring person. Whether he’s working for a nonprofit or writing his next hit film, he’s always approaching life with genuine curiosity. As a result, he’s accumulated a lot of wisdom. Let’s get started!
One of the biggest differences between Ravi’s family’s culture and ours here in America is the emphasis on family and community. Of course, Ravi was mostly joking when he said that his parents “are everyone’s parents.” They know they can’t literally parent everybody. But they do come from a culture in India that strongly values community and family relationships.
“I actually empathize with my parents in a way that I never have before because when you’re a father, you obsess over this kid, and you just love the kid so much, and you want the kid to love you back. And I realized that my parents had felt that way about me for 40-plus years. … Because of the way society is set up right now, we all live further apart. We’ve increasingly individualized, private. … I feel like parents today are very much the victims of a society that lives much further apart.” – Ravi Patel
Family relationships — especially between parents and their children — are a key facet of happiness for Ravi. There’s just something special about the relationships between family members that you can’t find anywhere else.
Of course, that’s not to say that everything about the way we relate to our families in American culture is bad. I moved out of my parents’ house when I was 13 years old, and that was definitely a positive choice in my life. I met a great group of kids and found some truly impactful teachers, coaches, and mentors at the boarding school I went to, and they contributed a lot to my happiness in life. But by talking with Ravi, I’m reminded that our relationships with our families are essential, and we have to nurture them to be truly happy.
As important as those close family relationships are, they’re not always easy. In fact, sometimes they’re extremely hard, and nowhere is that more true than in marriage. I’m not married yet, but I hope to be someday, so I was grateful to hear Ravi’s perspective and advice as someone who’s experienced conflict in a marriage relationship.
According to Ravi, conflict, trouble, and even fading attraction aren’t reasons to get out of a relationship. And while not all romantic relationships are meant to last forever, if two people have committed to being married, the most important thing they can do is throw away their principles and choose to empathize with each other. Ravi’s definitely found that to be true in his own life:
“True love is actually — in those moments [of conflict] — finding a way not to be principled. … A sense of justice for yourself is something that, as Americans, we’re taught that we need to have. … In your mind, logically, everything I’m saying makes sense, [and] everything you’re saying is irrational. … But actually, principles only serve you if they’re serving you, and more often than not, we’re principled at our own expense. What you need to do when you love someone is throw out principles.” – Ravi Patel
Have you ever been in a situation where you’re in an argument with someone, and while you care deeply about them, they seem totally irrational? Ravi says from experience that the best thing to do in those moments is set all of your principles aside and just purely love that person. Remember that they’re a human, that you love them, and that the relationship is way more important than any of your principles.
Of course, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t have healthy boundaries — those are important too. But if you’re married to someone, it’s way more important to fight for the relationship than against each other.
Relationships, especially with our families, are a vital element to our happiness, but the truth is, we can’t build true happiness if we’re not working on ourselves. That’s where therapy comes in.
“I don’t know that therapy necessarily means that you’re a happier person, [but] it is one of the tools that can be there to help you become a happier person.” – Ravi Patel
Ravi often recommends therapy, especially for couples and for men. Therapy really helps people in relationships to talk things out before they can build up resentment, and it gives individuals the opportunity to check in with themselves, consider their personal growth goals, and talk through any issues they may be having. Ravi likes to use the metaphor of a board of advisors at a major company:
“You build a board for a company because the stakes are so high, and you need a place that you can go to manage the big picture. … It’s aspirational, and the board meeting is there to track how you’re doing on your goals. … Is there anything more high-stakes than your own life? For some reason, we’re not taught to manage the most important business that we’ll ever be a part of, which is us, ourselves. That means: Put a system in place where … you’re having a board meeting for yourself … where the only focus is to talk about your goals and how to improve them and track them.” – Ravi Patel
Just like it’s a good idea to have a board of advisors for your business, it’s great to have a board for yourself. When you meet with your therapist, you’re getting valuable input to help you level-up your personal growth. And that will significantly increase your personal happiness.
Later on in our interview, Ravi and I got into a topic that I think is definitely a hot-button issue right now. How can we communicate with people who have different political opinions than we do?
Right now in the United States, we’re in the middle of election season. Our political conversations tend to be filled with a lot of anger, hate, and bitterness — And to be honest, it doesn’t feel like they’re often very productive. What perspective should we be taking into political discussions with other people?
First of all, let’s take a minute to be glad we have this problem. We have a lot of voices speaking at once, and it’s a sign of good progress that so many groups who have historically been underrepresented are finally being heard.
“One of the reasons why we’re going through this moment in our country is because we are so diverse. We do champion individuality in an awesome way, and we’re fortunate enough where the underrepresented communities actually are getting enough voice where they can raise a ruckus.” – Ravi Patel
Our diversity is truly what makes us great. But it also contributes to the frustration and real hate that flies around in our conversations. Is it possible to have a conversation with someone on the other side of the political aisle without devolving into insults and anger?
I think it is. I often have people right here on The School of Greatness whose perspectives, opinions, and ideas are different from mine, but I still believe we can take value from those conversations. When I approach the interview with an attitude of, “I want to try to understand this person’s ideas,” I have the opportunity to expand my knowledge and at least have an interesting and respectful conversation, and I think that’s a valuable experience. Ravi agrees:
“I think if the person that you’re having the conversation with represents a viewpoint that a lot of people have, then I think you’re not giving them a platform, you’re actually giving your audience a point of access. … People should be allowed to disagree. People should be allowed to be wrong. … It should be allowed to make mistakes. And that’s how we learn, and we progress together.” – Ravi Patel
In your conversations with others — no matter their political perspectives — do your best to remain open. Allowing yourself to become angry and hateful doesn’t make you happier — That just hurts everyone around you. Instead, commit to being open, inclusive, and honest.
This interview was one of our most powerful yet! Ravi Patel is a wealth of wisdom, perspective, and incredible life advice. I’m so grateful for his generosity and willingness to join me on the show today.
The last time I had Ravi on The School of Greatness, I asked him the “Three Truths” question. Here’s what he said then (he actually gave me a bonus answer!):
#1: The more love you give, the happier you are.
#2: Family above everything.
#3: Focus on what you have, and let go of the still you don’t have.
#4: You will only do as well as the work you put in.
That was a great answer, but I wanted to see if Ravi’s perspective had changed at all. I wasn’t surprised to find that he’s just as wise and even more concise today than he was then:
“Laugh as much as you can. Be interested. … Have a great day. … God, that sounds cheesy!” – Ravi Patel
It may sound cheesy, but those are wise words. Laughter, listening with genuine empathy, and striving to make each day great are sure ways to live a happy life.
Thanks so much for joining me today, friends! If you loved this episode, please share it with your friends on Instagram! Tag Ravi, @showmetheravi, and me, @lewishowes, and share your biggest takeaways from the episode.
And don’t forget to check out Ravi’s new series on HBO Max, Ravi Patel’s Pursuit of Happiness. I know you’ll find it inspiring and uplifting!
And finally, remember to check out the full episode. If you’re ready to discover the secrets to happiness, you do not want to miss Episode 1,009 with Ravi Patel!