Happiness Vs. Success: Happy Children, a journey to oneself
Interview with Gabriella Laszinger
Success means different things to different people. Climbing the ladder of success starts long before launching a dream job. Ultimate success in life cannot be predicted but subtle emotional experiences are critical to the final destiny. Do you remember how big a table seemed to be when you were still crawling?
Learning to walk is a process that we experience at least twice in a lifetime: the first time as a baby and second as you become an adult. The second time round involves all the imaginable and unimaginable setbacks and struggles to achieve success and put a roof above your dreams and aspirations. Those dreams and aspirations, eventually grow to become a new reality and the process of putting your name on success is known as “Climbing the ladder of success”.
What happens after climbing the ladder of success? Are high achievers happy after becoming successful? We came across hundreds of stories from around the world and today we choose to share the very first extraordinary story from the series “Happiness Vs. Success”.
Gabriella Laszinger is a philanthropist, a Life Strategist, Keynote Speaker, coach and author who started her “ journey into oneself” two decades ago.
After climbing the ladder of success in Switzerland, Gabriella left her corporate life behind and founded two orphanages in Nepal. In the last two decades she parented over 200 children, freed them from poverty, hopelessness, child labor and modern slavery. Her work has been recognized by the German President and honoured in 2010. Gabriella organizes trips to Nepal for high achievers who, just like her two decades beforehand, are seeking life changing experiences, to find a way back to their true self, after climbing up the ladder of success.
Born in former Yugoslavia in the 60s, Gabriella’ s family immigrated to Germany but the little shy girl had big dreams of making a better life for herself and others. Her grandmother’s generosity was hard to understand, as she was giving away her last meal to homeless people who often turned up on her doorstep. One day her grandmother told her: “Ella, your life means nothing without helping others”.
As an ambition child, this was her first real lesson about success.
“At first, I did not want to understand that generosity makes you abundant; all I wanted was to achieve success and become wealthy. At that time I had no idea what type of wealth I would have one day. Definitively not the one I imagined at that time.
My path to success was covered with stones. As a teenager I became pregnant: first love, first intimacy and my dream came to an abrupt end. My parents dispelled me and in order to be able to finish my college, I had to work to get money for food and nappies. While this being the darkest part of my young life, I learned resilience and how to never give up.
Later, after my university studies and a successful career in Switzerland as a coach and trainer, I pretty much had a good life. I was well known and my services well sought after.
I was on holiday, sitting in a café in Italy and while sipping my tea, wearing an expensive red dress I just bought from a splendid boutique, I started to wonder: “ Is this it? Is this really all there is to be? The success and happiness I wanted? Surely, not! It cannot be!” The thought depressed me.
I had to find the answer and set out for India, which at the time I believed was the most spiritual country I could go to seek out answers. Surely, I would find what I was searching for here, but what was it that I was even searching for? My happiness? My soul?
When I arrived to Varanasi at the Ganges, I found it to be an awesome and interesting destination. But the cultural shock and all the people constantly trying to grab me was disturbing. I wanted to feel the peace and tranquillity at the Ganges in the morning, at sunrise, but all I had were beggars and hawkers around me. It was an adventure and I hated it. I felt so empty and disappointed….
The mysticism, the holy men, ascetics, Buddha-feeling, monks and religious rituals, spirituality, the radiant colours – all was in front of me, but I had not found what I was looking for. What was I actually looking for?
I was so desperate and so anxious because all the beggars and people touching me constantly, that I ran to the first travel agency to book first flight anywhere, just to be out of there! This first trip outside my comfort zone made me embark on a pursuit of happiness, going into a deeper search of my true self. Before reaching my next destination, a small country this time, I could see from the airplane all these small houses, like shoe boxes. I was now in Nepal!
Helping people is the most natural thing in the world. Working for lasting change is however possibly even though, it is the most challenging work in the world.
The seeds of my true story were sown back in 1999, when I landed in Nepal.
Again it was a breathtaking experience: meditating with monks up in the hills, chanting with ascetics with their long dreadlocks covered in white ashes and painted faces, even participating in mysterious shamanistic ceremonies with holy men. But once more, the feeling I was looking for, the connection I was craving for, did not reach my heart. I almost gave up and decided that I had to go back to my life; I already travelled to the two most spiritual countries, where should I go next? To the moon?
With all these questions in my mind, I lost my way and ended up in the slums in Kathmandu. There suddenly, something magical happened: I saw three starving boys and realised in that very moment, I am here to do something! I could not fly home just thinking: “Well, I cannot do anything. I am going back home” but do what ? I was not even able to find myself so how could I possibly impact the life of others, so far away from home, in a completely different culture?
And then…I got a whole lot more than I bargained for, in every way imaginable. You see, the thing is, local children’s dreams are quite different to the ones I had as a child. Here they dream of a handful of plain white rice to put in their mouth and try to imagine how wonderful it would smell and taste. Nepal is enchanting but there is a lot more from close up. Amidst all the vibrant colours, sounds and smells in this beautiful but one of the poorest countries, there’s also an undercurrent of desperate misery and poverty. You simply can’t overlook it and remain true to yourself at the same time.
I could not turn my back on these three children, forget I ever seen them, I could not let them die. When I’ve met Ashik, seven years old, Ashok , five years old, and Abinash, a one year old baby boy, that moment changed my life and changed their lives too. I did not just want to talk about making an impact but make the impact in these innocent children’s lives! Near the slums in Kathmandu I found these three little boys who touched my heart to the core. Hundreds of people were passing by. Nobody even cared to look at them. They were clearly outcasts. Not for me! The boys were lying on the street in the blazing heat. Their big, sad eyes and their stony faces were quietly screaming for a drop of water and a spoon of rice.
They were lying on the ground, almost naked, only covered by small vests. Completely undernourished they could hardly move and it was impossible to guess their actual age. Maybe other people could justify their misery and despair simply with the word ‘Karma’, but I couldn’t. There is a point where you know that you must do something.
Most people hesitate to help because they don’t know WHAT to do. I saw their suffering and the fear on their little faces. I was suffering for them. Somehow there was a bond between us. Somehow they weren’t just any three little boys in despair in Kathmandu. I wanted to give these children a chance! My soul gave me no other choice. There was no more hesitation.
“Somebody who doesn’t believe in miracles is not a realist.” I believed in miracles that very moment.
The two children’s homes I founded are home to 200 children and many more get support outside our homes.
As a backpacker searching for my own happiness and sense in life, I did not plan on starting a grand social project to care for the children in Nepal! However, my entire life changed fundamentally in a blink of an eye.
A dream came true. 200 children are no longer forgotten by the world, they don’t live on the street anymore and they have learned to smile.
Now they have a future. This started with an urge to help, a single drop which became a river. Out of a holiday a passionate life mission was born.
Let us never wake up from this dream.
Let’s change the world, one child at a time.”