This is an excerpt from my latest book Dear Hannah: 70 Methods I Used and Abused to Change Who I Am.

How Meditation Helped Me Launch My Business

Date: March 11, 2011
Age: 28
Location: Austin, TX
Subject: Meditation Is Blowing My Mind

Hi Hannah, my March has been hectic as well. The whole city turns into a zoo during SXSW (The South by Southwest Festival), with beautiful people flying in from across the world, oftentimes weeks in advance, just to have a bacchanal on Sixth street or simply hang out and enjoy the Austin amenities. I usually feel like I’m not doing enough, like I should be starting the next Twitter. All this hype usually makes me want to crawl into my shell, but with meditation in tow, everything’s different.

I’ve been biking all over Austin during the conference, hawking my new site, 3D Porch. I’m like a one-man mobile marketing machine. I have with me two 3D cameras holstered to my hips, along with a pouch for a hundred red-blue 3D glasses. I stopped by the mobile Apple Store, where nerds were lined up around the block, waiting for the iPad 2. So I went up to random people and asked, “Have you ever had a 3D photo taken before? Would you like to?” To which they reply, “‘No’ and then ‘Sure.’” I then take their photo, show them their 3D image floating in front of them, and watch as their faces light up in amazement. I then hand them a pair of 3D glasses and a business card.

I pulled the same stunt during the start-up crawl. At one of the shuttle stops, I was hawking my 3D site, snapping 3D photos left and right, when a lady pulled me aside and said, “Can I ask you some questions?” I said “Sure,” and then she said, “Okay … so I’m with CNN … tell me about your product.” I nearly flipped out. And now 3D Porch is mentioned on CNN’s home page.

But it might not have ended up this way. Without meditation, I probably would have pulled the plug on my product launch. There were a million things I had to do. I had to get a rush delivery of the Nintendo 3DS from Japan, I had to test that you could upload and view photos from the device, and I had to get business cards, T-shirts, everything, all within a few weeks. I remember waking up one day, before the sun was up, laying in my bed, staring at the ceiling like I used to, just iterating, rat-tat-tat, over all these things I needed to do. My throat started to get sore and I felt slightly nauseous. I asked myself, repeatedly, “What are you doing? Just release the site later.”

But then my regularly scheduled meditation rolled around. So I got out of bed, sat down, and set a 30-minute timer on my iPhone. I then closed my eyes and monitored the airflow of my breath near the tip of my nose. Initially, I couldn’t focus. My mind kept running through my to-do list. I would visualize having to order the Nintendo 3DS from eBay, I would see myself calculating whether it would arrive on time, and so on. But every time I got distracted, I would just return to my breath. Not with force, but gently.

After just 10 minutes, I felt what I call a “bottom-dropping” moment. It’s hard to explain, but it’s probably similar to what OCD hand-washers feel when they first push themselves to stop washing. There is this slight shiver, and a ghost of the unwanted thoughts whiff through your mind. But then you swallow the fear, and the thoughts start to ring hollow. It’s like when my dad let go of the bike-seat and I pedaled on my own for the first time. In those moments, you take a deep breath and finally think, “I can do this.”

I’ve been having moments like this every session, and the feeling lasts the entire day. All the energy that used to be set aside for neurotic over-thinking has now been freed up. Now, in addition to launching a new product, I’ve begun dating again! My friends tell me I’m more relaxed, so maybe that’s why I’m getting invited to more outings, or being introduced to more women.

New women, new products, and the hubbub of SXSW. I haven’t been this intensely booked since high school. But instead of pulling out a notepad and staring at my to-do list for hours, I simply close my eyes and breathe.

- Phil

The change stress associated with successful self-improvement has become a new problem in my life. However, it’s a good problem to have, and I’ve learned to meditate my way through these excited phases.

Other letters from Dear Hannah about meditation:

8 Changes to My Life After Just 4 Weeks of Meditation

› How Meditation Helped Me Launch My Business

How I Kept Up With Meditation For An Entire Year

This is an excerpt from my latest book Dear Hannah: 70 Methods I Used and Abused to Change Who I Am.

For Philip’s 14th birthday, Hannah gave him Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, which kicked off a life-long obsession with self-improvement. Over 16 years, Philip wrote 82 letters to Hannah describing every book, pop psych article, and method that he used — or abused. Dear Hannah is either a cautionary tale about self-improvement, or it is a filter for the 10% of self-help that may actually change your life.

PHILIP DHINGRA is a President’s Scholar from Stanford University, where he received his B.A. in Mathematical and Computational Sciences. In addition to authoring books on life change, he develops best-selling iOS apps including Nebulous Notes and The Creative Whack Pack (a collaboration with creativity pioneer Roger von Oech). Philip divides his time between Austin, Texas, and San Francisco, California.

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Philip Dhingra
Dear Hannah: 70 Methods I Used and Abused to Change Who I Am

Author of Dear Hannah, a cautionary tale about self-improvement. Learn more: philipkd.com