For too long society has idolized over-achievers. Khe Hy wants to change that mentality. Now an entrepreneur, but once in hedge fund investments, Hy has had to learn to challenge negative mental thoughts that he’s not doing enough. He shares how he avoids comparing himself to others, the questions he asks to lead a richer life, and how people can go from “doing” to being:
YouInc: How do you find rest every day?
Khe Hy: I try to sleep for seven-and-a-half hours each night. I used to be one of those annoying people who'd say dumb stuff like “I'll sleep when I'm dead,” and brag about taking red eyes. Now though, as a solo-entrepreneur and writer, I've realized that creativity never emerges from a state of fatigue. I'm able to rest my mind three other times during the day via two meditation sessions (20 minutes each) and a brief 15- minute online yoga session, usually before bed.
I used to have a very execution-oriented job in the financial services industry. While many of the tasks were high stakes and complex, the workflows tended to be pretty tight and there wasn't too much intellectual context switching. Now, no two hours, let alone two days, are the same. It's well documented that context switching is mentally exhausting, so ironically as an entrepreneur I need even more sleep. Oh, and there's the small fact that we have a three-year-old and a second one on the way.
YI: How do you challenge unproductive mental habits that creep up from being Type A?
KH: There are two habits that creep up. The first is social media and email distraction. I've been influenced by two thinkers when it comes to managing distractions, Tristan Harris and Cal Newport. I have a variety of hacks on my iPhone to make it less tempting, but the two key ones are a long password with TouchID disabled and setting my iPhone screen to grayscale. On the email side, I use BatchedInbox to deliver my email three times a day at fixed times.
The second is a bit more personal and involves the tendency of comparing myself to others. Buddhism talks of the “comparing mind” and I try really hard to escape that mental trap. This is particularly hard in New York City, where there's an overachiever lurking at every corner. As part of a regular journaling practice, I've crafted a personal success statement. This document is a living reminder of our family's definition of success and incorporates lifestyle, flexibility, nature of work, and the type of father and husband that I strive to be. This helps ground me, particularly when I get sucked into the more traditional markers of success such as money, “stuff,” or recognition.
YI: Busy has become such a boastful word. How do we get people to understand that they don’t always need to be “doing” to be content with their work and lives?
KH: The Good Morning America correspondent and author Dan Harris has a great saying, “With one foot in the future and one in the past, we're pissing on the present.” I like to use the word living deliberately which requires us to ask good questions--a lot of “why,” both in our professional lives and in our work. There is a default mode where we just accept things as given, whether it's a career path or an existing process, particularly since it requires a lot of energy to continuously question things. Tony Robbins has a great quote on this “The quality of our lives is measured by the quality of our questions,” and we see that in children, who keep wonder and curiosity. As adults, we harden away from this curiosity and stop asking the questions that can lead us to a richer life.
YI: How would you describe Khe at rest for your daughter?
KH: Some of my favourite moments is when I'm fully immersed with her. I'm effortlessly conversing, watching, and just being with her. My phone's far way and my mind isn't wandering towards to-do lists and emails I need to respond to. It's surprisingly hard, particularly since small kids don't always require full engagement. They can be sitting there wondering, day dreaming, or engrossed in some tiny detail. There's a constant tension in those moments, as I have a tendency to think that she doesn't want or need me around at that specific moment. Yet I find the most joy when I'm able to surrender into that moment.
YI: What has been the best part of your journey?
KH: One of the most liberating parts of my journey has been my evolving relationship with fear. I used to think that fear was controllable, escapable, or deniable. I think Type A-oriented individuals have a false illusion of control, and fear is perceived as just one of those other things one can work on. And it's true, but not in the way of doing exercises or taking a class. It's really the uncomfortable process of looking within, sharing vulnerably with peers, partners, and professionals. It's counterintuitive, but I've found so much joy in this uncomfortable introspection.