“I trekked in the Himalayas for two weeks in May 2009. Normally, people do this in large tour groups, but I ended up doing this alone with a guide named Prakash. Prakash and I got to know each other very well hiking for 12 hours a day and since I was on my own, at nights he would take me into the homes of various Nepalis and Tibetans who lived in the mountains to tell stories, drink rice wine/whiskey, and laugh … a lot.
I learned that Prakash and I were the exact same age at that time, 27 years old. But while I was in the middle of a trip backpacking around the world, Prakash worked in the mountains 7 days/week so he could make enough money to send home to his wife and two kids in Kathmandu. Near the end of the trip, as we were descending, Prakash mentioned to me very casually that I was lucky. I asked him what he meant, and he said that I was lucky to be doing what I was doing.
Immediately I got defensive. I explained to him how hard I had worked to save enough money to be able to do something like this. He said I didn’t understand, and that I was lucky to be from where I was from. I got even more defensive. I explained to him that my parents came from very little and that my father studied and worked very hard to earn a full scholarship to study in the US and worked very hard to give myself and my siblings more opportunity than he had. Again he said I didn’t understand. He said I was lucky to have been born in the US. We never resolved our argument and I left Nepal thinking about his comments and why he was wrong to presume he knew my life.
Some time later, I was watching an interview with Warren Buffet. The reporter was asking him what he attributed his success in life to. Was it his upbringing, education, work ethic, intelligence, etc.? Buffet said it was none of those things. He said he could attribute most of his success to the fact that he was born in the US. And that had he been born in a 3rd world country in poverty, he would never have achieved close to what he was able to achieve based on where he was born. I finally knew what Prakash was trying to say to me.
Arguably the most important thing that happens in our lives (where and to whom we are born) is due to chance and something we have no control over. I think about this fact all the time, consider it with everyone I meet who has had a different life experience than me, and am always thankful for how lucky I’ve been.”
About Raaja Nemani
Raaja is the co-founder and CEO of Bucketfeet where he oversees the company’s growth and development. Founded in 2011, Bucketfeet is a footwear company that collaborates with a global community of artists to design limited-edition shoes with the goal of sparking meaningful conversations to create a brighter world. Alongside co-founder Aaron Firestein, Raaja is focused on empowering a community of 40,000 artists from more than 120 countries to share their stories and perspectives using the universal language of art and the shoe as their canvas.