(RNS) — While pursuing her careers as a banker, a broadcast journalist and now a consultant to business startups, Mandeep Rai has collected an MBA and a Ph.D., as well as a master’s degree from the London School of Economics. But she is above all a collector of values: As she has traveled the globe for work, she has observed communities and cultures and above all individuals, learning what guided them in the toughest moments.
Rai has consolidated her wisdom into a new book, “The Values Compass: What 101 Countries Teach Us About Purpose, Life, and Leadership.” Though it can be found on the business leadership shelf, the book draws heavily from the spiritual teachers she’s met and her intense textual study of religious wisdom, particularly the Guru Granth Sahib, the sacred scripture of her Sikh faith.
I chatted with Rai about her work, the book and what she hopes people will take away from it. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Can you tell us a little bit about how the idea for this book originated?
Before my children were born, I made the commitment to be as present in their lives as I could during their formative years, starting when they were in my womb. I knew I would be laying the foundation for their entire lives. I was trying to embody the values, feelings and emotions that I wanted my children to be formed with. And that’s when I decided to read the Guru Granth Sahib from front to back for the first time. I read one page a day and tried to understand line by line as much as I could. Once I did that, I really started to explore it in terms of values.
I used to think I would write this book when I retired. But when I was pregnant, I remember asking myself what I would give my child, and I knew that the answer was wisdom from another world. And that’s when I started collecting these observations of values.
So that’s the experience this book is built on, but I didn’t want it to be just that. I don’t believe these ideas are restricted to Sikh teachings: Love is not just Sikh love or Christian love or (limited) to any one group. Love is universal, and there’s a greater universal message throughout the book, whether we’re Baha’i or Muslim or whether we belong to a faith or don’t.
As you traveled, did you look to find resonance with the Sikh values, or did these values reveal themselves to you?
As a reporter and in my studies, I just observed the cultures I was visiting. It’s just what we all do naturally when we’re in a new place. I found myself especially attuned to the specific cultural values that stood out in each of the countries I visited, such as the power of solidarity in Madagascar or the power of faith in India or respect in Japan or loyalty in North Korea. I didn’t create a list of what I thought universal values were. I wasn’t imposing my own expectations on these other communities. These are just the observations that struck me as the jewels and gems of each of these places as I visited them.
Honestly, I wasn’t even looking for values. I would just report from different countries, and everywhere I went, I would write an email back home with some of my observations. I started this practice in 1999 and every time I would send emails out, someone would say, “One day, you need to collect these as a book.”
What do you hope people take away from your book?
Publishing this book at the beginning of the decade was a strategic decision. We need reflection points and it’s hard to bring those into our lives. But New Year’s and a new decade is one time when everyone around the world has the same intention of good wishes toward each other and toward themselves for bettering their own lives. As we’re wishing one another peace or happiness or prosperity, we are also thinking about how to bring these into our own lives.
What I offer through my book is a practice for bringing fulfillment, happiness and success into our own lives through a tool — this book — that can help you identify and prioritize your own personal values and then help you create practices around them. I want to help people systematically take what’s in their subconscious and bring them into their consciousness.
If we can do that, then we can figure out what’s really important to us, what do we stand for, and how we are going to spend our time so that our lives reflect what we believe.