Have you ever come across a fable so captivating that you decide to leave the life that you have been accustomed to and sell all your prized possessions? Could a fable be so persuasive? This book summary is about one such fable. A fable so powerful that it can change the way you look at life.
The book “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” has been written by Robin Sharma. Robin Sharma has perfected the art to use fiction to get a non-fictional message across to his readers and this might be the reason his books have got so popular over the years. This book is a self-help classic, published in 1997, that follows the journey of a fictional lawyer Julian Mantle. Julian Mantle was a seven-figure-making workaholic who had a Ferrari. After a collapse from a heart attack, he sold everything including his Ferrari and his mansion and ventured into the Himalayas in India for a spiritual retreat. There he met the “Sages of Sivana”, through Yogi Raman, who taught him seven virtues for life. This trek out to the Himalayas is where Mantle finally has a reawakening and finds his soul. This book is written based on a dialogue that Julian Mantle had with one of his former colleagues, John, after returning from the Himalayas.
Here is a short version of the story, followed by the seven virtues.
Imagine you are in a beautiful green garden filled with serenity and tranquillity and multicoloured flowers blooming in the garden. At the centre of this garden, you notice a red lighthouse, as high as six stories, marking its towering presence. All of a sudden, at the base of this lighthouse, a nine-foot-tall sumo wrestler weighing over nine hundred pounds appears and strides into the garden. He is naked with only a pink wire cable to cover his private parts. While wandering about the garden, he happens to find a shiny gold watch. He looks at it curiously and then slips it onto his hand. He falls unconscious to the ground as soon as he wears the watch. After a while you notice that the fragrance of the yellow roses surrounding him brings him back to consciousness, filled with seemingly boundless energy. After waking up, he looks around to his amazement; a path covered with millions of sparkling diamonds lies to his left. He takes that path and something tells you that the path will lead him to eternal bliss.
This whole story is an allegory, with each symbol involved signifying a virtue. The following are the seven virtues, along with the techniques to achieve them.
Virtue #1: The garden is your mind, cultivate it.
We can improve the quality of life by protecting our garden i.e. our mind, from negative thoughts and cultivating it by improving the quality of thoughts. The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your thoughts. While you are working on your mind, there are no mistakes – only lessons.
Techniques: Sharma equips us with three techniques to train our minds to focus on nothing but fulfilling thoughts. The first is The Heart of the Rose technique whereby you try to focus on the centre of a real rose in a quiet space, for an increasing amount of time every day. This helps the mind become more disciplined. The second is Opposition Thinking, whereby you train your mind to actively replace negative thoughts with positive ones. The third is The Secret of the Lake, whereby you sit outdoors, ideally next to a lake, and visualise how you really want your life to be.
Virtue #2: The lighthouse shows you the way: live a purpose-driven life.
The Sages of Sivana believe that while we are here on earth, every human being has a mission to complete. To be able to realize our life’s purpose, we need to set clearly defined goals for ourselves. Only if we have a destination, can we reach it.
Techniques: There are two techniques. First is that of self-reflection, and the second is a five-step method to achieve this virtue. The first step is to create a mental image of whatever the outcome of your goal is. The second step is to put some pressure on yourself (a great way to put a healthy amount of pressure on yourself is to tell others about your plan). The third step is to create a timeline for your goal. The fourth step is the Magic Rule of 21 (the idea that it takes doing an action for 21 days in a row for it to become a habit). The last step is to just enjoy the process.
Virtue #3: The sumo wrestler represents self-improvement: practice Kaizen.
Kaizen is an ancient Japanese art, which aims at continuous and never-ending learning and improvement. We must take part in every activity which we think can help improve our life. For example, you may cultivate the habit of reading, because books are the best mentors.
Techniques: For this virtue, the sages created ten steps known as the Ten Rituals of Radiant Living. These are to be followed daily. First, spend some time in solitude, secondly, exercise and breathe properly for some time, thirdly, take proper diet, fourthly, try to learn, fifthly, reflect on your behaviour, sixthly, wake up early, seventhly, listen to good music, eighthly, creating your personal mantra to inspire you and chant it, ninthly, improve your character daily, and lastly, simplify your life, try to be a minimalist.
Virtue #4: The pink wire cable represents discipline: be disciplined.
It might be a small thing, but without that underwear, the wrestler will be naked, and that really won’t be a pleasant sight. This cable thus represents self-control and discipline. It is made up of every small thing that we do in our life. Be it waking up early or eating healthy. But why self-discipline? Sharma gives five benefits; you will worry less, you will be healthier, you will have more energy, you will have more self-respect, and you will be more productive
Techniques: Firstly, have a personal inspiring mantra as in virtue #3, secondly do things that you don’t like doing (to overcome your impulses), and thirdly have a vow of silence for an entire day every once in a while.
Virtue #5: The golden watch says – respect your time
Every human being has only twenty-four hours in an entire day. But the way we utilize these twenty-four hours is what makes us happy or sad, rich or poor. The Sages taught Mantle that mastery of time is the mastery of life. They view hourglasses as a reminder of their mortality and live by the belief that they should always live to the fullest. Planning how to spend your time is also as important as actually spending it.
Techniques: The first technique is The 80/20 rule which says that only 20% or less of what you do actually contributes to 80% or more of your outcomes. Find that 20% and put even more effort into it. Second is The Deathbed Mentality, which prods us to live with as few regrets as possible, thinking about how we want to feel on our deathbed. Thirdly, say NO more often, even to your friends and family. We can be generous and help other people, but we must not overextend ourselves.
Virtue #6: The yellow roses: selflessly serve others.
There is a famous saying in China – “a little bit of fragrance always clings to the hand that gives you roses”. Similar to how Mantle collapsed at work when his responsibilities became too much for him, the sumo wrestler in the fable also fell to the ground unconscious. However, the sumo wrestler reawakened, full of energy, because of the scent of the yellow roses around him. The yellow flowers here signify selfless service. Whatever heights we may reach in life, the satisfaction of helping others is priceless. Money is not the only thing you can give, your time and energy are more precious things that can be given.
Techniques: Firstly, practice daily acts of kindness, secondly give to those who ask, and thirdly cultivate richer relationships.
Virtue #7: Walk the path of diamonds – live in the present moment
We have socially constructed our minds in such a way that we tend to get disturbed thinking of our past and worrying about the future. We never really focus on living the small happy moments like playing with our kids in a nearby park or maybe spending some quality time with our partner. These small moments are the diamonds. The Sages of Sivana had figured that happiness isn’t actually the destination, but the journey itself. Nothing is more important than ‘right now’.
Techniques: Practice gratitude daily, live your children’s childhood, and grow your destiny i.e. do something that you are meant to do.
My favourite quotes:
“Everything is created twice, first in the mind and then in reality.”
“The secret of happiness is simple: find out what you truly love to do and then direct all of your energy towards doing it.”
“We are all here for some special reason. Stop being a prisoner of your past. Become the architect of your future.”
“How can you care for others if you cannot even care for yourself? How can you do good if you don’t even feel good? I can’t love you if I cannot love myself.”
“On an average day, the average person runs about sixty thousand thoughts through his mind. Ninety-five percent of those thoughts were the same as the ones you thought the day before!”
“I have had dreams and I have had nightmares. I overcame the nightmares because of my dreams.”
“Luck is nothing more than the marriage of preparation with opportunity.”
“There is nothing noble about being superior to some other person. True nobility lies in being superior to your former self.”
“In our society, we all too often label the ignorant as weak. However, those who express their lack of knowledge and seek instruction find the path to enlightenment before anyone else.”
“Happiness comes through good judgement, good judgement comes through experience, and experience comes through bad judgment.”
Published over twenty years ago, I find the ideas in the book timeless. It’s a really inspiring fiction-non-fiction fable and you will definitely have some amazing takeaways from it. If Robin Sharma’s ideas inspire you, also see the summary of his book “The 5 AM Club” here.
Sourav Kumar Sharma