How a Veteran Used His Connection Skills to Have the Dalai Lama Write His Book’s Forward
Akshay Nanavati is a Marine Veteran, speaker, adventurer and entrepreneur. His new book Fearvana is an actionable guide on how to turn fear, stress and anxiety into health, wealth and happiness. About the book, The Dalai Lama said “Fearvana inspires us to look beyond our own agonizing experiences and find the positive side of our lives.” Pick up your free copy of the book at www.fearvana.com
How a Veteran Used His Connection Skills to Have the Dalai Lama Write His Book’s Forward
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.
From the brink of suicide to the science of Fearvana
Before hitting that low point in my life, I spent 6 years in the Marines and 7 months in Iraq. A few years after coming home from the war I was then diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I struggled with life as a civilian, so I looked for ways to run away from it all.
I went mountaineering in the Himalayas. I climbed Kilimanjaro. I went caving, ice diving, cave diving, and I spent one month dragging a 190 pound sled 350 miles across the second largest icecap in the world.
Ultimately though, when these internal battles in some of the most hostile, and awe-inspiring environments on the planet ended, I returned home to my demons.
Plagued by life in the “normal world,” I found myself in the darkest corners of my soul where for an instant, I lost all hope. When I finally hit that breaking point, I knew something had to change.
Disappointed with outside treatment, I decided to take control of my destiny. I began delving into neuroscience, psychology and spirituality to not only to heal my own brain, but also figure out what does it really take for any of us to live a happy and meaningful life.
That search led me to the idea of Fearvana.
I define Fearvana as the bliss that results from engaging our fears to pursue our own worthy struggle. That worthy struggle can be raising a child, running a marathon, building a business, playing chess, writing a book, anything! It doesn’t matter what the path, as long as we choose one and commit to it. Because if we don’t seek out a worthy struggle, struggle will find us anyway, as it once found me.
My journey out of the abyss was to take my research, my life experience and the countless number of people I interviewed, and use all of it in service of others. My worthy struggle became writing a book called “Fearvana: The Revolutionary Science of How to Turn Fear into Health, Wealth and Happiness.”
My intention was for this book to be the launching pad of a movement to help people find their worthy struggle and unleash the legend within them.
The birth of a global movement begins within
I felt confident that I had something unique and valuable with Fearvana. However, before I could bring it to the world, I realized that something was still missing within me.
The one thing we all have that separates us from anyone else on the planet is our distinct story that makes us who we are today.
For a long time, I struggled with accepting and owning my story as something worthy of sharing.
I always felt like I wasn’t good enough and I hadn’t done enough with my life, in any way. Whatever category I put myself in, there was someone better than me. As a runner, there were better runners. As an entrepreneur, there were better entrepreneurs. As a Marine Corps Veteran, there were warriors who made far more of an impact than I did.
This kind of thinking held me back from owning who I was. That is until a close friend I met at a Jack Canfield seminar taught me that my story wasn’t just mine. By valuing it enough to share it with the world, I would be able to serve more people. My story was a part of everyone whose life I could impact with it, just as their story was a part of mine.
That transformed my thinking about my own self-worth. I was just one piece within our greater human family.
This helped me realize that those categories didn’t matter because I wasn’t out to beat anyone else. We were all connected and everyone had something about themselves that could inspire someone else. The only person I needed to be better than was the person I was yesterday.
Coming from that place of service and self-belief, I now had the inner resources to connect with anyone and turn Fearvana into a movement.
How I built meaningful relationships that led me to the Dalai Lama
In order to turn this book into something monumental I didn’t want to just write it and put it out there. I knew I needed an amazing team of influencers, mentors, and partners to come on board to support the project.
I also knew that influencers are busy, and connecting with people at the top of their game in a meaningful way takes time. It’s rarely something that happens overnight. So I gave myself about 9 months from completing the book to then connecting with the kind of the people who could help bring Fearvana into the limelight.
This required a lot of patience, but it was absolutely worth it.
The first way I began building meaningful connections with people that inspired me was to invest in their programs and their mentorship. Not only did this have a huge impact in my personal and professional life, it also resulted in some noteworthy endorsements for my book from people like Jack Canfield, Marci Shimoff and Steve Olsher, to name a few.
But of course, this method gets expensive and it requires a lot of commitment in terms of time and energy.
The next best way for me to connect with those that made an impact in my life was an in person meeting. But this required a big ask of people who are very busy, so I decided to hold off on this until I built more of a relationship first.
Inspired by my friend Gail Lynne Goodwin, I realized the next best way to create a deeper connection with anyone was to shoot them a personal video.
I wrote down a long list of people whose work literally saved my life and began reaching out to them.
In this video, I told them about my journey, I thanked them for the impact they made in my life, I asked them if I could send them a copy of my manuscript for their consideration to endorse it and then shared the grander vision for Fearvana. I only shot this for people who had genuinely affected me in some way. It wasn’t just a fake thing to get endorsements for my book. This is a very important point, cause I believe it will come across as phony if it’s not something genuine.
A personal video stood out far more than words in an email. It allowed people to connect with me without me asking them for an in person or virtual meeting. It was an easier ask of them to watch a 3 to 4 minute video and I am sure they appreciated the effort.
This technique was invaluable in acquiring many noteworthy endorsements for my book. More importantly though, it set the stage for a long term relationship with amazing human beings.
Sharing my story with vulnerability, authenticity and a genuine desire to serve people also led to a foreword for my book from His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
In the video I shot for Him, I didn’t even ask for a foreword. I only requested an endorsement. I firmly believe the only reason I was blessed with a foreword was because I was very open about my struggles and because I truly did come from a place of pure service. Among my desire to serve people with the content of the book itself, I am also giving away 100% of the profits of the book to charity.
A practice I took on to create that intention before I shot these videos was to watch scenes of courage and sacrifice from war movies like Black Hawk Down and Hacksaw Ridge. This reminded me all that matters is the men and women next to us. This worked for me, but you can just visualize yourself helping others before you connect with anyone.
Finally, I reached out to an amazing marketing and PR team who helped me build a lot of meaningful connections in the media space.
I also made a conscious effort to reach out to people on my own. I just shared my story with them and the grander vision for what I wanted to accomplish with Fearvana.
I didn’t want these people in my life just to help me promote the book, so I always went above and beyond to connect on a more meaningful level. I helped make other introductions when I could. I would thank podcast hosts with a gift card after our interview went live.
Everyone works really hard to write articles or host a podcast or run a business, so I always made sure to acknowledge them for that. As a result, many of these people are now lifelong friends of mine.
What can you do with all of this
For starters, you need a good product. I must have trashed about 100,000 words worth of work to create my book. That is months and months of work. But it was worth it. Now I am truly proud of what I have created and the feedback has been tremendous as well.
Be clear about your larger vision for what you are doing. What is the impact you want to make? People will know and recognize when you come from a place of genuine service.
The next step is to build a list of people that have affected you in some way or people you want to connect with.
Then start reaching out. Shoot them a personal video. Just thank them for their hard work. Trust me, getting acknowledged means a lot to anyone and everyone. Share the larger vision for what you are doing as well. Almost always, leading influencers want to make a positive impact in the world, they are not just in it for the money. If you have a compelling vision and are able to articulate it effectively, people will appreciate it.
Finally, accept and embrace that this process won’t always be easy. You will get people who say no. More often that not, people are nice about it, but not everyone is. However, patience and persistence will ultimately pay off. I got a lot of no’s, but I also got more than enough yes’s to justify all the effort.
Your next action step
Shoot a 3-4 minute video for just one person who has made a difference in your life. Tell them the struggles you went through and share how their work helped you succeed. Thank them for everything they are doing in the world. That’s it. Don’t even ask for anything the first time you do this.
In the comments below, tell us the most important lesson you learned from this and who you will reach out to. I will be sure to read every comment and respond to any questions you have.
P.S. If you want to learn how to improve your connection skills like Akshay and create your “Dalai Lama” moment, be sure to check out our flagship course, How to Connect With Anyone. We’re launching our next class in early September; get in before it’s too late!
To be nice, we’re extending our $397 price for the class through the next few days. It will be going up to $497 at 11:59 PST on September 5th and closing a few days after so the class can kick off. Unfortunately, due to high demand, we won’t be able to make any exceptions on timing. Are you ready to change your life for the better?