October 14, 2019

Vancouver self-help guru James Phu shares formula for happiness

An interview by Vinita Kinra (@VinitaKinra)

James Phu is a Vancouver-based motivational blogger and speaker who is on a personal mission to share the knowledge he has accumulated over the past few years on the subject of self-mastery.  His goal is to help motivate and inspire others to improve their lives. His blog and YouTube channel focus on personal development topics such as building an amazing legacy, finding happiness, and creating and maintaining good daily habits. James Phu also works full-time as a people manager at one of the most prestigious software companies in the world.

James Phu

James Phu

Vinita Kinra: Welcome to Global Asian Times, James. Tell us about your transformation journey.

James Phu: A few years ago, upon waking up each morning, the first thought that ran through my mind was, “I don’t feel like doing what I am about to do today…again.”

The thing is, from an outside point of view, my life looked good. I had an amazing family and job.  Things looked like they were going great.

But from an inside point of view, I felt like I wasn’t living the life I was meant to live.  I felt that I was cheating myself to become the best version of myself.

I had to ask myself the very tough question, “Was I okay living the rest of my life feeling like this, or am I truly willing to change my life so that I fall back in love with living?”

I chose the latter, and with that choice, I began the journey to self-mastery.


Vinita Kinra: What urges you to motivate people?

James Phu: I believe that one of the core tenants of living a successful life is to give back to the world and find a way to leave the world a better place than when you arrived in it.

After doing much soul searching, I came to the realization that I wanted my life to be about inspiring and motivating people to make positive changes in their lives.

To me, there is no better feeling than knowing that I was able to help another person somewhere in the world, through my ideas and stories.

Vinita Kinra: You inspire people to leave their comfort zones to embrace challenges. Do you think people are inherently fearful of seeking new territory?

James Phu: I believe that we are all wired as humans to be naturally fearful.  Fear has allowed our species to survive for a long time because it protected us from inherent danger.  The issue today is that we no longer have to fear the sabretooth tiger that is hiding behind the tree, but rather our fears come out when we face normal day to day situations.

People are fearful to seek new territory because it is unknown to them.  They don’t want to fail, they don’t want to be laughed at, and some are afraid to succeed because they are afraid of what success will bring.  Each time you back down from facing your fear, you allow it to grow within you.

Ultimately, if we don’t seek new territories, we cannot reach our highest potential in life because we place self-imposed limitations on what we can accomplish.

Vinita Kinra: What inspired you to start your Blogs of Wisdom?

James Phu: I needed an outlet and a starting point to be able to share with people the things that I have learnt over the past few years.  Creating a written blog at the time seemed like an easier way to start sharing this information rather than going straight to doing video blogs.

I also feel that creating a website full of good content is a way to forge a lasting legacy in this world even after I am long gone.

Vinita Kinra: Did you have a support group like family, friends or colleagues who believed in your passion for improving others’ lives?

James Phu: I am eternally grateful for the support I have received from family, friends and colleagues.  Without them, I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to continue writing from the heart.

Right from my first blog, it was they who cheered me on, and shared the content in their own networks.  This really kick-started good traffic on my blog.

Vinita Kinra: What is the one book or work that completely changed your perception of yourself and the world?

James Phu: The Untethered Soul: The Journey beyond Yourself by Michael A. Singer

This is an absolute gem of a book. It is about your own spirituality and how to find it. In essence, it tackles very deep problems that exist in our world today such as unhappiness, anxiety, and low energy levels and very simply describes how easy it is for you to get around these issues if you just realize that underneath it all, these problems don’t define who you are. I highly recommend this book.

Vinita Kinra: According to you, what is the biggest obstacle that blocks the road to success and happiness?

James Phu:I believe the ultimate obstacle to finding success and happiness is not fully understanding what success and happiness means to oneself.

You don’t have to look very hard to see that advertisers want you to believe that success and happiness are closely linked with materialistic items such as money, cars, and houses. But research has shown that this is just not true.  Each person has to look deep within to find out what their definition of success is.  Here are somethings to think about when defining your own success:

  • Your inner mind – What is the quality of your thinking like?
  • Your family relationships – Are you a good father/mother/son/daughter?
  • Your career – Are you deeply engaged and contributing at high levels at work?
  • Adventure – Are you leaving plenty of time to have fun and enjoy life?
  • Legacy – How will others remember you when you are gone?

Vinita Kinra: What lifestyle changes do you recommend for adopting a positive attitude towards life?

James Phu: One of the quickest things you can do to have a positive attitude towards life is to keep a gratitude journal and write in it daily.  Gratitude allows you to see the positives that exist in the world.

Many of us spend too much time thinking about the things we don’t have or things we wish we had rather than look at everything that is already abundant in our lives today.

Keep a journal right beside your bed and the last thing you do before you go to sleep, simply ask yourself “What am I grateful for today?”

Vinita Kinra: In your opinion, can people be trained to be happy and optimistic, or is this inborn?

James Phu: I believe some people are born more happy and optimistic than others.  However, happiness is something that is also directly under our control.  You see happiness exists right inside of us and ultimately it comes down to the choice of whether you want to be happy or not.  If you choose happiness, you must choose it unconditionally, regardless of your situation or circumstance.

Vinita Kinra: Share with us how a windstorm helped you define happiness.

James Phu: Just a few months ago, we had a windstorm in our city that ended up knocking out electricity for approximately 48 hours. I, like most people, became grumpy with the fact that this power outage ruined my weekend.

I turned on the radio to listen to the latest reports of the power outage and heard a story about how the wind blew a tree on top of a mother while she was on a walk with her daughter. Once I heard this story, all of my negative energy disappeared, since I no longer had any right at all to be grumpy, as I was able to zoom out of my own little world and see that my own troubles were small.

From that moment on, I realized that happiness is always under my own control.  I had a choice to be happy regardless of my situation.

Vinita Kinra: Are technological advances to blame for our reduced levels of self-awareness in the modern world?

James Phu: I would say that technology has played a large part in reducing the amount of time we spend in self-contemplation. The best way to increase your level of self-awareness is to spend time alone listening to your own thoughts and getting to know your own mind.  But due to the addictive nature of technology, most of us get too bored when we sit around doing nothing, or we are afraid that if we are not monitoring our Social Media feeds, we will miss out on something important.

It is very difficult to cultivate self-awareness when you don’t spend time training yourself to become more self-aware.

Vinita Kinra: If you could change just one thing in the world, what would it be and why?

James Phu: I would change our current school system to teach children when they are much younger some of the easy things they can do set themselves up for success in the future.  The curriculum today is too focused on teaching things that students can easily find on the Internet, or things they will never need to use once they leave school.

It doesn’t focus enough on teaching kids the life skills they need to succeed once they leave school.  Adding more classes to teach kids things such as meditation, eating healthy, proper breathing techniques, and falling in love with physical exercise for life would arguably be more beneficial in the long run.

Vinita Kinra is a Toronto-based author, editor, speaker and activist, best known for her short story collection, Pavitra in Paris, launched to critical acclaim in 2013. She is also a contributor for India’s largest English daily, The Times of India.

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