I'm joining Service Space because ... I want to practice being the change
A good day to me is when ... I have done an act of kindness.
My hero in life is ...Gandhi.
My favorite book is ...Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse
One thing I'm grateful for is ... opportunity to serve.
Aug 22, 2017, 1 comments, 4 smiles [Post Charlottesville events, a friend emailed me various existential questions around his social service work on inclusion. Below was my response.] We can fundamentally organize our solutions as triangles (hierarchies), circles, or mobius. Hierarchies are optimized for efficiency (e.g. transactions) but they are very narrow and brittle. Circles are optimized for many-to-many possibilities (e.g. relationships) but as they mature, they centralize and create exclusion (in-circle and out-circle). In ServiceSpace, we speak of "mobius strip" as a more suitable metaphor -- where the outside is in (at times) and inside is out (at times) -- like the conveyor belt at an airport. In any context, how do create a mobius strip? That's a very pertinent design question. ServiceSpace approach has been to be leverage technology for efficiency, leverage circles for resiliency, and implement creative constraints to ensure mobius. For instance, in an Awakin Circle, we don't filter people who walk in; we minimize rules (for ... Read Full Story
Jun 09, 2017, 5 comments, 18 smiles "If you had a billion dollars to give, what would you do?" It's a great question that we often ask our interns. In this week's NY Times, best-selling author David Brooks articulated his response after being inspired by the recent letters of Giving Pledge signers. And it seemed like a page straight out of the ServiceSpace handbook. "Only loving relationships transform lives, and such relationships can be formed only in small groups. I’d seed 25-person collectives, a group of people who met once a week to share." Just like Awakin Circles. He spoke about local retreats, quite in the vein of Moved by Love. In fact, he even explicitly referenced the Hands, Head, Heart framework, as the "pressure points required for personal transformation." Brooks further added how "each collective would have a curriculum, a set of biographical and reflective readings, to help members come up with their own life philosophies, to help them master the intellectual [foundation of] virtues." Sounds ... Read Full Story
May 15, 2017, 9 comments, 30 smiles Last couple days, I participated in a TED-style event in France -- L'echappee Volee. In a gorgeous setting in Chantily, the event brought together entrepreneurs, innovators and investors for an idea-filled, 3-day event. This year's theme was Exponential Happiness. Most of it was in French, but there were various English speakers as well. It turned out that Emmanuel Macron was also invited, but he texted saying he was a bit busy, considering that he had to deliver the President's inaugural address. :) The speakers had a very Singularity-esque flavor of technology solutions for society's progress. One speaker spoke about curing humanity of "disease of aging", another gave a live demonstration of "AI replica" to communicate with someone as if they hadn't passed away, another spoke on hacking someone's memory to make them forget past experiences, another on colonizing Mars. Most of them had companies dedicated to the cause. Although all their ... Read Full Story
Aug 04, 2016, 1 comments, 19 smiles As a part of our 10-week summer internship, we had two bright lights join us this summer -- 15 year old Jacob and 14 year old Saheli. Every week, they would select one value, have readings and videos, reflection questions, personal practices, and local volunteer projects. It's like a Laddership Circle for youth. :) All along, they were mentored whole-heartedly by Amit, Audrey and Pranidhi with weekly 1-on-1 and group calls -- and infused with guest speakers from around the ecosystem like Zilong, Pavi and Vinit. Needless to say, it was a powerful summer for everyone involved. While the mentors were prepping ways to thanks the interns, in the final call, our two interns preempted their surprise them with this stunning video ... On the call, they each gave a "Ted Talk" on -- "If I had to choose one value to practice over the next 365 days, it would be ..." ... Read Full Story
Jul 04, 2016, 18 comments, 41 smiles [Below is an email I just received. It absolutely made my week. --Nipun] Hello Mr. Mehta, I apologize for this long email, but please if you have some time in your busy day can you please read it. My name is [Vinny] and I have had the privilege to listen to you and converse with you in Southern California and in Atlanta. I was inspired by your words then and I am still now. Whenever I am stuck in a sticky situation I remind myself to "Be the Change". I remind myself that kindness is the only universal language that people understand. Those guiding principles have helped me through life so far, and especially during my senior year in high school. At my school, there was a school shooting and there also was a girl who had committed suicide. The morale among the student body was at its all time low with suspicion, anxiety, ... Read Full Story
Jun 03, 2016, 2 comments, 26 smiles [I got this note from a friend: "Close to my Dad's heart, and the way that he has lived his life, has been our religion and faith, Zoroastrianism, which, simply asks us to do three things: think good thoughts, say good words and do good deeds. For his birthday, could you do something that falls under those categories -- either think a really good thought for yourself, someone else, or the world; pay particular attention to speaking kind, good words; or do something special - tiny or big - for someone else." Below was my contribution, earlier this week.] On the way to a meeting today, I saw a blind woman who looked a bit lost. I wanted to reach out but was a bit hesitant since I didn't want to sound patronizing. In my heart, I wished her well, and lo and behold, right as I crossed her, she blurts out, ... Read Full Story
May 28, 2016, 3 comments, 29 smiles Yesterday, I gave a commencement address that felt very special to me. Just during the processional I got teary eyed. It was special in part because it was an opportunity to (more formally) express my gratitude for people and context that have inspired me for many years -- Rev Heng Sure, Marty Verhoeven and the larger City of Ten Thousand Buddhas community. It was the graduation for DRBU's Masters cohort of 2016. Here's a bootleg transcript :) ... Let's Make Virtue Viral The ceremonies were held at Sudana Center (photo below), with a very inspiring story behind it. The crown prince of Yebo, Sudana, was so full of compassion that he could refuse no boon asked of him, great or small, from beggar or nobleman. The king, his father, possessed a white elephant that was powerful enough to defend the whole kingdom from enemies. So what did his enemies do? They bribed some wandering ascetics ... Read Full Story
Apr 18, 2016, 6 comments, 25 smiles Just this week, the video of late February’s TedX talks came out: Unlocking Multiple Forms of Capital. It had me reflecting on some recent events, what's been resonating most, and what I've been learning. During the slide rehearsal for that talk at Penn State, a volunteer in the back casually asked me, "What are you going to speak about?" I gave him the title of my talk. "Capital? Really?" "What do you mean? Did you expect me to speak on something else?" "To be honest, yes." "Really, on what?" "I don't know, something like love or peace." "Really? How did you figure that?" "I don't know. You just have this energy." We both had to part ways quickly, but that unexpected encounter touched me -- because I've always felt that our values are most deeply communicated without expression, and I would always hope that I'm living the change I talk about. For ... Read Full Story
Mar 23, 2016, 6 comments, 26 smiles [Last week, about fifteen of us had a breakout call with some visionaries of World in Conversation and Laddership Circles, around working with volunteers. Below is some of the Q&A that emerged, on the call and afterwards.] Our efforts attracts many volunteers, but we don't use them effectively. What do you suggest? The most fundamental design principle is our mindset. Typically, volunteers are used as a means to an end -- this is our mission, we need this stuff done to achieve our mission, and you can help us do these chores. ServiceSpace doesn't work that way. For us, volunteer experience is an end in itself. We believe that if a volunteer has a transformative experience, it will naturally ripple out into the world. With that mindset, everything looks different -- it makes all our processes very relational, and conducive to leveraging volunteer in a unique way. (Reference: Spirit of Service) What motivates volunteers? Sociologists tells ... Read Full Story
Jan 29, 2016, 6 comments, 38 smiles Hitting a state of equilibrium is a mystery. Many elements have to come in balance. In a lab setting, perhaps you can control the circumstances to replicate some kind of equilibrium but when you're all out in the open, it's a completely different story. Each moment of equilibrium start to feel more like a moment of grace. About ten days ago, Ram posted our financials for last year. We spent about $3K more than what we received. It wasn't much of an issue, but it was the first time we had that situation (mostly because we started paying for email, a 30% budget increase). Soon after, Ram went on a meditation retreat, but wrote me a sweet note saying, "Maybe we should start writing thank-you notes to our donors." :) Two days later, since Ram was away, I checked our mail. We had two donation checks from random, first-time donors. Fifteen thousand ... Read Full Story