Malaysian entrepreneur Vishen Lakhiani says traditional universities fail to prepare students for the real world and help them reach their full potential. Could his company, Mindvalley, provide an alternative?
For the past century, developed societies have ushered each new generation down the same familiar path toward college. A bachelor’s degree has become the baseline for success – the supposed key to securing a good job and a promising future.
But Vishen Lakhiani says the system is broken. All too often, a university degree puts students into severe debt and fails to arm them with the skills and attitude they need to thrive, let alone navigate, our highly digitized, globalized world. Believing our education system can and should evolve, the Malaysian entrepreneur set out to develop a novel approach: Mindvalley.
Headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, the global education tech company is on a mission to provide a more holistic, global education model rooted in personal growth, compassion, connection and giving back to the world.
“Too many of us are running after what we think we want because we have been brainwashed to think these are our needs. We can look at education as the root of many problems,” says Lakhiani, the founder and CEO of Mindvalley and author of The Code of the Extraordinary Mind.
“Traditional education teaches us the wrong lessons and tries to place us in a box. At Mindvalley, we are teaching you the real-life skills you actually need, and in a format where you’ll actually transform. But we have to dive deeper into the science of learning and growth.”
A journey of self-discovery
In his early 20s, Lakhiani was on a fast track in Silicon Valley. When the dot-com bubble burst, he found himself unemployed and struggled to make ends meet. He luckily found a job in software sales and quickly climbed up the ladder.
In fact, he was promoted three times in four months. Lakhiani attributes his rapid ascension in part to meditation. “I stumbled onto meditation when I was 26 years old to cope with the stress of working for a startup in Silicon Valley,” he recalls. “The results I got from bringing personal growth into my work were so stunning that, in just seven months, I went from a junior hire to vice-president of the company.”
Soon enough, he was running the company’s New York office. But after just 18 months with the company, he quit.
Why? To focus on raising awareness about meditation and other personal growth tools. Guided by the wise words of Nelson Mandela: “If you want to change the world, change education,” Lakhiani set out to create a new education company rooted in meditation, unity and self-growth.
In 2003, as global anxiety reached a crescendo following the September 11 attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, Lakhiani began building Mindvalley in a Kuala Lumpur Starbucks with just US$700.
At first, he created an e-commerce site selling meditation programs. This soon expanded and evolved into a broader, more ambitious plan to reimagine the education system. Through his research and experiences, Lakhiani identified flaws in the current model and sought to propose a viable alternative.
Among the many issues, 30% of US citizens do not work in fields related to their college major. At the same time, courses have become prohibitively expensive, leading to US$1.75 trillion in student debt in the US alone. What’s more, many college programs lack diversity — including only students from similar backgrounds and ages — and prioritize grades, test scores and career paths instead of the things that matter most in life, like self-growth and lifelong learning.
Cultivating a community of global citizens
Over the past 20 years, Lakhiani’s vision for a transformational education system has only crystallized: “Education should be affordable, education should teach us real skills and help us elevate each other,” he says.
Offering a “school of humanity”, Mindvalley’s singular model harnesses technology to create a digital learning space complemented by offline experiences and events. On the tech front, Mindvalley uses an AI-based system – called EVE, or “Everyone Elevates” – to build a custom curriculum based on each student’s goals, needs and personality. While each curriculum is personalized, lessons typically revolve around six core areas — mind, body, soul, entrepreneurship, careers, and relationships — “that really lead to human transformation,” he says.
With that in mind, Mindvalley designed its personal growth programs, called Quests, to be small bites of information daily from top experts. “You won’t be overwhelmed, and you’ll constantly be evolving and learning, which is our ultimate mission – to raise human consciousness through global education,” explains Lakhiani.
The EVE system regularly analyzes student behavior and updates the curriculum, and also matches students with entrepreneurs from around the world so they can connect online or offline. Another Mindvalley program, Lifebook, is designed to help students redefine their success in many areas, from health and fitness to intellectual, emotional, character, spiritual, love relationship, parenting, social career, financial, quality of life, and life vision.
Lakhiani says creating a diverse cohort of students is crucial to growth, communication and networking. That’s why Mindvalley’s platform offers a mix of online and in-person experiences, such as three-week-long learning journeys in Tallinn, Estonia and Mindvalley A-Fest, an annual event bringing together changemakers and visionaries driven by a desire to impact the world.
Through his work, Lakhiana hopes to create a shift in human consciousness globally – to create happier and more fulfilled people who work to unify the globe rather than divide it. “I want my children to grow up in a borderless and awakened world with extraordinary education options,” declares Lakhiani, adding that he hopes Mindvalley reaches 100 national schooling systems and every Fortune 500 company over the next decade.
Learn more about Vishen Lakhiani’s vision to upend traditional education at this year’s Global Citizen Forum, where he will join our lineup of global visionaries and thought leaders.
Reserve your tickets for the event in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, from November 16-17, here.