They say experience is the hardest teacher; it gives you the test before teaching you a lesson. There are over 7 billion people in the world, which translates into at least 7 billion stories. Every story is an experience – uplifting, heartbreaking, enlightening, or terrifying – and that means it has potential to become a life lesson.
Deepak Ramola’s ProjectFUEL – Forward Understanding of Every Life Lesson – collects stories and life lessons from people of all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life around the world. In 2012, Deepak (25) graduated with a Gold Medal – highest GPA % – in Journalism from the University of Mumbai and has been devoted to ProjectFUEL full-time since 2014.
Shortly after meeting him at the third annual international Youth to Youth Summit in Dubai, UAE in April 2017 and barely a day before he set out on a month-long tour across India to spread the message of ProjectFUEL, Deepak told shared his story with me.
How and when did the idea for Project Fuel come about?
It started out as a personal project. My mom grew up in the 1960s and was pulled out of school to help the household financially. Nevertheless, the fact that she had never gone to school just didn’t match the capacities and resourcefulness she has been demonstrating on a daily basis. I often wondered how she had learned it all. She would tell me she was simply paying close attention to everything that life was teaching her. I realized that life is our teacher every day and that it would be fascinating to hear what others have been learning on their journeys. As a budding teenager, I started asking people about their life lessons and at seventeen I decided to found ProjectFUEL.
What is unique about ProjectFUEL?
Using fundamental human wisdom as a tool to learn more and grow more in life. There are seven billion people so the world contains at least seven billion lessons. What untapped potential!
Where and how do you look for life lessons?
It really doesn’t matter where you start, because everyone who is breathing and living right now is part of the process. Interviewing anyone will inevitably contribute to the larger pool of information.
Over the years, my process has become more structured as more communities come into forefront to share their stories and lessons. For instance, recently I have chosen distinctive communities, including daughters of sex workers, army officers, college students, etc. to learn from.
What does a life lesson look like?
A life lesson is a simple piece of advice that stems from one’s own understanding of their reality and experience. It looks like a quotation; it is meant to be real and personal but doesn’t have to sound philosophical, present an earth-shattering revelation or be spiritually uplifting. It can be a useful fact like “don’t keep liquid near the things you love” or “don’t put a glass of water next to your laptop or a drawing you are making.”
Where did the already shared life lessons come from?
Truly from all parts of the world. Most of them are from India but I have gotten life lessons from other countries as well. I have received life lessons on the Internet; after all, we live in a digital age so people can come across my TedTalk or the website and that’s how they choose to reach out and share their lessons. We also have volunteers in different parts of the world who document life lessons and send them to us.
In what format and with whom do you share the life lessons?
I work with people of all age groups, from age 4 to 96.
I share these life lessons with people from all walks of life generally in the format of interactive workshops, talks, social events and meet-ups, which are essentially designed as curriculums. For more information, you can follow our blog posts on the website and social media: http://projectfuel.in/blog/2016/05/15/12-life-lessons-from-a-man-who-has-seen-12000-deaths/
What does a sample workshop look like?
Every workshop has a theme, for example communication in business world, staying human amongst all the statistics, or social integration. A workshop theme can be as simple as romance, team building, leadership, forgiveness, or having fun. One workshop usually consists of around 10-15 life lessons presented as activities. Once the activity is complete, I ask the participants what lesson they have been learning throughout and then comes the big reveal: whose life it is based on.
What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership happens when one shines so bright that his/her light becomes someone else’s spotlight. Also, a leader must be able to turn ideas into action no matter what the obstacles, failures, and difficulties.
Do you see yourself as a leader and/or an entrepreneur?
I see myself as a curious soul. Most days I am an educator and innovator, some days I am a lyricist or interviewer/conversationalist, and other days I am an interviewee.
I do believe I have certain qualities of a leader. I feel responsible for the work I do and undoubtedly that’s how a leader should feel. I enjoy experimenting and growing, which I think makes me an entrepreneur, too.
What is the best aspect of having founded ProjectFuel?
I love to teach, I love to talk, I love to travel and ProjectFUEL allows me to do all of this. The greatest perk is that it allows me to meet some amazing people and solve my own problems. Sometimes, these life lessons provide solutions before you even have the problem. Someone’s life lesson is often a solution to what I need.
I see ProjectFUEL as the beginning of a culture in which people respect each other’s and document their own wisdom.
What would you say to someone who has an idea for a project or an organization but is afraid of failure, humiliation, insecurity, uncertainty, instability, or lack of followers?
I said it at Y2Y as well: Your talent is your responsibility. If you know you can start something and you aren’t starting it because of the fear of outcomes or failure, you are lying to your responsibility. If you have a talent and you aren’t using it, you are living the responsibility but not fulfilling it. Start small. Come with one instrument and build your orchestra later.
What is your favourite life lesson/quote that has come out of ProjectFuel?
This is always one of the toughest questions I have to answer. I read new life lessons every ten minutes but this is the one I share with people the most: OWN YOUR STORY! BE PROUD OF WHAT YOUR STORY IS INSTEAD OF DENYING WHERE YOU COME FROM, HOW OLD YOU ARE, WHAT YOU KNOW, WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE , etc. EMBRACE IT, OWN UP TO IT!