Spreading Happiness, Mental Health, Stoicism, Happiness Hacks and more with UN Happiness Ambassador and Entrepreneur Mario Chamorro

The Longevity & Lifestyle podcast

The Longevity & Lifestyle podcast

The Longevity & Lifestyle podcast

Episode 104

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Performance coach, detail-loving educator, big-thinking entrepreneur, podcaster, mama, passionate adventurer, and health optimization activist here to help people transform their lives, and reach their highest potential! All rolled into one.

“Happiness is a lifestyle to be at ease.” - Mario Chamorro, UN Happiness Ambassador and Entrepreneur 

In celebration of the International Day of Happiness, my guest is Mario Chamorro, an international ambassador for happiness who has spread smiles across three continents and swapped stories with politicians, former guerrilla combatants, and countless community leaders. 

Mario was part of a group of happiness activists that created the international Day of Happiness at the United Nations which falls on March 20th each year!
Mario is currently working on making mental health journeys easier through his new startup. 
Before July 2021, Mario was the Head of Coursera Latin America where he grew Coursera by 16M users and developed an enterprise business with more than 250 organizations using Coursera for Enterprise from the region. 

In the past, Mario served as a VP of Marketing for SOMA messenger, where he secured 10 million downloads within 30 days of launching the app. It became the fastest-growing messaging app in internet history. 

Mario’s work has touched millions of lives in the private and public sectors. Mario has presented at TEDx events internationally, given a talk at Google Headquarters, spoken before a U.N. panel on happiness, built workshops for socially conscious corporations, coordinated major grassroots activations in the streets of cities worldwide, and mobilized student groups and universities around the globe.

His work has been featured in press including Fast Company, Forbes, and Harvard Business Review, among others. As of today, Mario's initiatives have touched the lives of +45 million people in +33 countries.

In this episode, we cover:
  • What it was like to create the UN International Day of Happiness
  • What Mario’s daily DOSE of happiness hormones looks like, and how to plan your day accordingly 
  • We talk about Stoicism, growing up next to a volcano in Columbia
  • Reaching for your dreams
  • Not letting no stop you
  • Solving for the mental health pandemic 
  • The joy of being happy and spreading happiness
  • And much more! 

Please enjoy!


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Show Notes 

(1:04) Learn about Mario’s view on happiness and what that means to him and how this can be applied to others
(3:10) Mario talks about his journey being apart of a group of happiness activists who created the United Nations International Day of Happiness. (8:35) Check out how the International day of Happiness is celebrated
(9:50) Learn about the scientific and biomedical effect of happiness, smiling, and serotonin
(12:14) Mario discusses his daily to-do list to ensure that he is receiving his daily “DOSE” (Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins).
(16:27) Learn about Mario’s journey from childhood on how his interest in joy started
(19:16) Mario talks about how we can democratize education to all parts of the world. How technology can help us get to this point where its accessible to everyone. Habit building and how certain habits can help with success and happiness
(23:31) Hear about the incredible gift Mario received from his wife
(25:44) Mario shares who the first person that comes to mind when he is thinking of the word successful 
(27:26) Mario discusses his morning routine to start his day for success and how he incorporates meditation in to his daily life
(28:22) Mario talks about his meditation silent retreat, Vipassana, and his biggest “take-aways” and learnings from this retreat 
(32:29) Mario shares his unusual habit that he loves 
(33:35) Mario shares how failure has set him up for later success
(36:11)Mario shares his favorite quote that was game changer for him
(37:17)Learn about a behavior and habit that has improved Marios life
(38:16) Check out Mario’s understanding on mental health coming out of COVID 
(40:28) Mario talks about his plans on his new start-up space 
(42:19) Learn about the mental health stigma in Latin America and how Mario plans to use strategies seen in the US to challenge this issue
(43:01) Learn about Mario’s view on what separates a good leader from a great leader
(43:56) Mario shares his most exciting purchase in the past 6-12 months  
(44:45) Catch some ideas on particular books that Mario suggests
(45:55) Mario shares his strategies on becoming better at saying no to invitations, distractions, and realization that have helped him 
(46:48) Mario shares his message for 1 billion people if he could
(47:22) Mario shares his advice to smart, driven, high school students about the next phase of their life and what advice they should ignore 
(48:24) Learn more about ways you can connect and reach Mario


“Happiness is important for me because I believe it's a good way to live our lives. When you prioritize happiness, you develop habits in your day-to-day that equip you to be in a happier mood.” - Mario Chamorro, UN Happiness Ambassador and Entrepreneur

“Happiness is a lifestyle to be at ease. And when you think about a lifestyle, that means it's a sum of different habits, and to be at ease means just to have tranquility.” - Mario Chamorro, UN Happiness Ambassador and Entrepreneur

“I build my weeks based on three things. A lifestyle means a bunch of habits. So the habits that I build on a weekly basis are: One, habits around health, which means mind, body, and food. The second one is relationships, which means, the first one is relationship with myself, the second one with my partner, and the third one with friends and family. And the last one with work. First one is our 9 to 5, which is our main job. The second one is our side projects and the last one is to learn.” - Mario Chamorro, UN Happiness Ambassador and Entrepreneur

“We believe success is to live life on your own terms.” - Mario Chamorro, UN Happiness Ambassador and Entrepreneur

“Stoicism is a very powerful tool, and it's a philosophy that is really pragmatic. So I love the practicality of it.” - Mario Chamorro, UN Happiness Ambassador and Entrepreneur
“Ignore the naysayers.There always are going to be naysayers. There always are going to be bullies. There are always going to be divas. Take no as a powerful force, as a leverage, not as something bad.” - Mario Chamorro, UN Happiness Ambassador and Entrepreneur

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Claudia von Boeselager: Welcome to another episode of the Longevity and Lifestyle Podcast. I'm your host, Claudia von Boeselager. I'm here to uncover the groundbreaking strategies, tools, and practices from the world's pioneering experts to help you live your best and reach your fullest potential. Don't forget to subscribe to the podcast to always catch the latest episodes.

Legal Disclaimer: Please note, to avoid any unnecessary headaches, Longevity & Lifestyle LLC owns the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of The Longevity & Lifestyle Podcast, with all rights reserved, as well as the right of publicity. You are welcome to share parts of the transcript (up to 500 words) in other media (such as press articles, blogs, social media accounts, etc.) for non-commercial use which must also include attribution to “The Longevity & Lifestyle Podcast” with a link back to the URL. It is prohibited to use any portion of the podcast content, names or images for any commercial purposes in digital or non-digital outlets to promote you or another’s products or services.


Claudia von Boeselager: Are you as happy as you could be? I'm your host Claudia von Boeselager and in celebration of the International Day of Happiness. My guest on the Longevity and Lifestyle Podcast today is Mario Chamorro, a United Nations Ambassador for Happiness, who has spread smiles across three continents and swapped stories with politicians, former gorilla combatants, and countless community leaders. He shares on why it's so important to get your daily dose, d o s e of happiness and how to do it and so much more. Please enjoy.

Welcome to the Longevity and Lifestyle Podcast Mario, it's such a pleasure to have you on today. 

Mario Chamorro: It's my pleasure to be part of your podcast. I have it in my background. 

Claudia von Boeselager: I can see it there, Thank you. Mario i'd like to start with why happiness is such an important passion project for you, or way of life, I should say, and why happiness, um, in your view is also so important for longevity.

Mario Chamorro: Happiness is important for me, because I believe, it's a good way to live our lives. When you prioritize happiness, you develop habits on your day-to-day that, uh, lead you to be, in a more happier mood. And I would say, like for me, happiness is mostly tranquility. For me happiness is about being super optimistic. Happiness is a lifestyle to be at ease. So that's what happiness is to me. And to build this lifestyle on a day-to-day basis is one of my priorities, because by doing that, it's how I find meaning in my life, and that's why happiness is important to me. The second part of your question is, longevity is because by building a lifestyle where you prioritize, happiness, that makes you do things such as build habits around, taking care of your health, taking care of your relationships, and doing work that matters to you. And when you have balance between those three, you have a better longevity. So, for instance, one of my goals is to climb, the volcano for my hometown, for my birthday, number 80. I am 41 right now, and I just climb the volcano probably like four months ago.
I know like I need, uh, to be in shape in order to do it, that's why by prioritizing this, I can reach my bucket list goal of, going to the volcano on my birthday number 80. 

Claudia von Boeselager: I love it. And part of my goals is to be the 90 year old that goes skydiving. I think I want to also maybe climb Kilimanjaro, but maybe climbing a volcano would be fun as well.
And just having tons of fun because I think when people think of longevity, they think like, oh, I don't wanna be, in ill health and sitting on a sofa for another 20 years, that's not interesting. Actually, what I want is to live really well, right? So it's increasing health span of the healthy years, so you can do cool things like climbing a volcano or jumping out of airplanes or whatever it is that you might wanna do, or just even playing tennis or something, maybe a little bit more normal. Mario, you were part of a group of happiness activists who created the United Nation's International Day of Happiness march 20th.
Can you talk about how this came to be and what was the idea behind it? 

Mario Chamorro: That was a fun experience. which started, back in year 2010. when I walk into a bar, this is not joke 

Claudia von Boeselager: That's the typical joke opening right 

Mario Chamorro: in Boston, and then I saw a lot of people who were sitting in this bar were kind of sad. You have couples on tables that were staring at their cell phones, weren't talking to each other. so then I ask a friend of mine like, Hey, what do you think makes these people happy? And she say, Hey Mario, you always have, post it notes, right? Like this one and you always have sharpies. So why you don't go and ask them to write anything that makes them happy? So I said, that sounds fun, I went to every single table in that bar, like, Hey, my name is Mario. Can you please write anything that makes you happy? and um, and hopefully if, uh, someone is listening to us right now they will write actually, Claudia, if you can also like write something that makes you happy, that'll be fun.

Claudia von Boeselager: Sure. Um, oh, I have a long list. How many things should I write? 

Mario Chamorro: Oh, as much as you want. If you want one so you can share with your audience. 

Claudia von Boeselager: Okay. So on my list I've got my kids being silly, sunshine, the ocean sunsets, laughing friends. Um, and that was the beginning of my list that I just did in however many seconds.

Mario Chamorro: Great. So, Sunshine, friends. Um, 
Claudia von Boeselager: It's laughing, uh, being silly cause I like to be silly. . 
Mario Chamorro: That's good. obviously important. 
Claudia von Boeselager: Yeah. Don't take myself very seriously. . . 

Mario Chamorro: That's good. So by asking that simple question, couples start holding hands and start having conversations. So when I saw all that impact of just such a simple thing, my friend turn back to me and say, Hey, how about if you collect, 3000 of this positive notes and built an art installation?

So I said, really fun project. So the following day I went to the Boston Commons. Boston Common is kinda like the main part in Boston, and I start asking the strangers to do the same exercise of what makes you happy and then to take a picture of you. So I collected 3000 positive notes in two weeks.

I had my first art installation, and, uh, I'm not an artist to be fair and to be transparent. but during that installation, like people start interacting with that installation. So it was really powerful to see people just writing their message of happiness. So I build a website and I start doing that exercise almost on a weekly basis. Long story short, in a year and a half, that project went to 30 different countries.

so we had, people doing, asking people on the street, uh, on things such as in Tahrir Square during harvest Spring in Egypt. A woman was doing that project, asking people what makes them happy, or a seven years old girl in Saudi Arabia or an artist in Kenya. so that was really powerful. So in one of these exercises, I was asking, people in the streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts. I met, this guy who, his name was Nema, and he was the advisor for the King of Bhutan. So he asked me like, what are you doing this? And I said like, you know, I, I believe in happiness. So he shared the story about his king, how the King of Bhutan, asked people of their, you know, their country of Bhutan, what makes him happy, and that's how they build the gross national happiness.

That was the very early beginnings of the gross national happiness. for those who doesn't know what is the gross national happiness is. so every single country, measures success based on gross domestic product, G D P, which is the amount of services and product that a country produced within 12 months, within one year.
So in Bhutan, they had a different vision. So they believe in happiness, and it should be a more holistic measurement. It's not only like the amount of goods and services, but it's also to take things in place such as, the environment, time with family and others. So this country, is only like 1 million, habitants the population country, but became very famous because they managed their economy based on happiness.
So when he shared that example, I got really excited and that's how he ended up inviting me to the first, summit on happiness at the UN back in April 2012, where ministers from, or secretaries from 65 different countries gathered to talk about how to implement happiness and public policy.

So my friend Nima, he said, Hey Mario, it will be good if you share your, project with this group of, you know, like policy makers. So during that summit, I shared this project that I just shared with you. And at the end of this summit, one of the ideas about what to do together as a group of, you know, like optimism, happiness, activists, was to create a day happiness.

So that's how I ended up, getting involved with other individuals on the creation of the international day of happiness. So I remember partnering with Jamie Elian, who was probably the main, spokesperson and also with, uh, the ambassador for Iraq, Hamid al-Bayati. He shared with us that his commitment with happiness was very high because, uh, when, he was part of like the regime of Saddam Hussein, he got tortured by Saddam Hussein and he said like the only thing that helped him to survive and to overcome those challenges was his thoughts about happiness. So that's why he felt in debt with happiness. And so he helped us and, uh, we convinced, 83 countries who sign up this proposal. So that's how, March 20 became the International Day of Happiness under Ban Ki-moon's, uh, regimen. 
Claudia von Boeselager: Such an incredible story. 
Claudia von Boeselager: how is it celebrated? what is the typical celebration for the International Day of Happiness? 

Mario Chamorro: I believe a lot in social movements and social movements need things such as one, a powerful story. Two, you need, ways how to connect, one member with another member or with a movement itself. And three, you need a lot of, either, uh, I guess like colors or things where you can connect with each other. Kind of like it's part of the tribe or it's part of the, of the community, right?

Claudia von Boeselager: Yeah. 

Mario Chamorro: So we thought that yellow was kind of like the color of this particular community. So we lit up the whole Empire State Building in yellow. I remember Pharrell Williams was there, and also we laid up the Coit Tower here in San Francisco in yellow to do kind of like a cross pollination happiness, yellow illumination, and the tallest building in Bogota as well to complete the triangle.

But other than that, We built a lot of activations on happiness, like in several countries. There is a very creative organization in the UK called Action for Happiness. They became the leaders on creating all these activations, during the International Day happiness. So yeah, UK was extremely important.

Claudia von Boeselager: I love it. So Mary, can you tell us a bit about the scientific and the biochemical effect of happiness, smiling, and we know about serotonin, but can you just dig in a little bit deeper why physiologically also happiness is so important? 

Mario Chamorro: Sure. So back in days we call it like the happiness DOSE, D O S E. D comes from dopamine. O comes from oxytocin. S come from serotonin, and E comes from endorphins. So those are like the four main chemics, that, are part of our brain that give us this feeling of joy or happiness. Dopamine, it's interesting, but can be activated a lot with, things such as, a text message. That's why kind of like the cell phones have been developed to release, uh, dopamine which is really bad. It's also like the sense that we have when we finish a task. So that's why for instance, every morning on my morning rituals, like, write. I don't know, like the three important things that I want to do during the day.

So for instance, today swimming was one of them. So when I completed swimming, you know, I felt good. So that's dopamine. Oxytocin, it's more external because it can be activated for instance, when you hug someone. So when you hug your kids or your partner or your friends, try to give a meaningful and very present hug. And S come from a serotonin. I think that also is related to more the exterior. For instance, um, let's say your daughter just, graduated from kindergarten and you felt so proud about her, right? So it's not related with you directly. You didn't finish kindergarten.

But it's someone else achieved something and you felt this sense of like, you know, good. So also like things such as, thoughts of gratitude are super important, and again, it's not only about us, but it's also like about people, either that we know them or we don't, right?

So if you close your eyes and like think about like things that you feel grateful for or kind of like, how do you feel proud about others. That's how you can activate it. And the last one is endorphines, which, comes from, kind of like running, walking, working out.

so those four are, some of the key chemicals that are in our brains that help us to activate happiness. And we can practice them on a daily basis. Again, I just give you a list, you know, like dopamine, make a list of things that you want to do. Oxytocin, go and hug someone. Serotonin, close your eyes and just feel, uh, like pride for someone that you love and endorphines go and for a walk or just do five pushups or something like that. 

Claudia von Boeselager: I'm curious, Mario. is your daily to-do list based on the DOSE? So do you have to take a D and a O and S and an E each day?

Mario Chamorro: that's a good one. Actually it's funny, but I was just thinking about it. I do, build habits based on three things on health, relationships, and work. So, not very voluntary basis, I ended up activating the four of them. So again, this morning, you know, like dopamine, the first thing that I did this morning was to write, things that I want to achieve during the day. On oxytocin I went for a walk with my wife and we hug for like five minutes or so because we always do morning affirmations this morning was the universe conspires in our favor. just to try to see it, you know, like very meaningfully. And, the S we always do with my wife also. Like, what are the 20 things that you feel grateful for every morning. And endorphines I went swimming, so Yes.

Claudia von Boeselager: Wow. You got your, daily dose of happiness. Amazing. I hear that it also sometimes involves wearing costumes. Can you talk about, uh, a fun story I hear you have on wearing a costume at an important work event,
Mario Chamorro: so I, yes, I, and, and in fact I have a, kind of like an ninja turtle next to me. See I do love costumes. first of all, I believe in a world where whimsy imagination are the norm, or I dream with a world where whimsy imagination are the norm. So costumes is a funny manifestation of that.
so when the pandemic started, the company that I used to work with, uh, Coursera, which is an online, education startup. As many companies, we went to work online, right? we all started working remote, from our homes and kind of like, it's hard to maintain the culture from a place that now that is remote work, right?

So I remember, just missing that culture of like, uh, whimsy that Cousera had and, you know, it was fun and it was quirky and, so we had, all hands meetings or town hall meetings, twice per month with the whole company. So, as a joke, you know, one day I start putting actually I always have here, kinda like I have my Mario hat, right? because my name is Mario So I came out like that and uh, and then I turned and I found a mustache. So I became kinda like Mario, right? 

Claudia von Boeselager: You're just missing the wheel . 

Mario Chamorro: Yeah. So then, I got a lot of like, internal messages, like, oh my God, that's really fun. Uh, you should have another costume next day and next, uh, town hall.
So I did that and I had ended up having a different costume and then starting feeling all this you know, like the culture that we have at Coursera, so I ended up having more than 40 costumes. Um, yeah. It's funny because actually, okay, I have a picture here.
So it, it became a thing at Coursera. So then, you know, like, uh, I, we had our own like channel and people were, you know, like sending me ideas about what customers should wear. 

So the office in India one day, they say, Hey, you know, like we have Gandhi Day. It will be very meaningful if you dress up like Gandhi. So I shave my head and I became Gandhi. And just by doing that, then I start, you know, like having, emails from, uh, coworkers that I never knew. I ended up speaking for five minutes to 1000 people, right, in different costumes. Very serious comments or very serious questions. But people used to come with their kids, you know, and, uh, just to watch, kinda like why Mario was gonna dress up like that day. So that became, um, kind of like a family traditions. So my wife helped me to do the makeup or, and my mom was always like, what's gonna be the costume for next week? And . I think like that helped us to navigate the pandemic in a more whimsical way. 

Claudia von Boeselager: How amazing Mario to be such a spreader of joy. I mean, just think of the ripple effect that you had a thousand people on the call, but then their families were involved, they were bringing their kids. I mean, you became like the highlight from the company town hall to check out which outfit you would do. I think the more people who wouldn't take themselves so seriously and be out to have a bit more fun, I think we would all be, laughing much more of the time, I love your attitude and Mario, where did all this joy, I should say start, were you the happiest baby in Colombia? Maybe you can talk a little bit about your childhood and growing up beside a volcano in Colombia and your journey to where you are now, and if there were any particular learnings or insights that most impacted you along the way.

Mario Chamorro: Yeah. one of my mentors, uh, I mean, sorry for what I'm gonna say, I'm gonna curse, but, uh, he used to say that even pretty flowers grow from shit, I think like a lot of difficult moments, built character that is me, right? But as you said, I come from like a small town in Colombia, called Pasto. And my mom was always very kind of like work oriented. My dad was more, like the loving guy that used to walk on the street and everyone hug him and just love him. So I have like this weird combination of, you know, like hustling, working really hard towards your goal, with this, heart with legs that always, walks around and just smiles.

And I think as a result, it's me. so I developed this huge entrepreneurial drive thanks to my mom and her love to do good for the world. So she used to work with unprivileged kids, and I think she was very purpose woman still, and my dad was just mostly kind of like, be silly and just make fun of yourself and just enjoy life.
So I think that that's part of me. I moved to Bogota when I was 16. I went to, did my college share, against all the different odds and funny things. I moved to the US in 2004. I didn't speak English at all, didn't have any money and didn't know anyone and I'm really good by making friends. So I ended up making friends and they persuade me to apply to Columbia University. And then I ended up working in Wall Street, until the financial crisis happened. Then I moved to Boston and in that moment, it was 2009 and I start building one of the happiness projects that I just was mentioning earlier. because I thought, especially after the economic, crisis, I say like, Hey, you know, it's important to, find purpose. I remember staring at the buildings in Wall Street, uh, saying, Hey, how's possible that all these, you know, like larger organizations are only related to either finance or consulting or oil or stuff like that. When would be the day where an organization that is devoted to do good for the world will be also financially important. So I had that thought back in 2008 and just five months before, Coursera, where the company that I used to work, which again, the main mission of Coursera was to democratize education, which means to make education from places such as Stanford, Yale, Columbia University, so on to available to anyone, went public.
so that was a really powerful moment. I said, you know, like, it took me probably like 12 years to get there, but it was a really good sign of the world is changing and it's possible to live well by doing good. 

Claudia von Boeselager: I love that. And I love your vision of having the most successful, or a very, you know, successful company that is, just doing good, all day, every day, and that to be one of the major global leaders. So maybe in our lifetime, what do you think, how long is it gonna take for that to happen? 

Mario Chamorro: Now with access of technology that we all have. I believe it's gonna happen sooner. I mean, again, Coursera was a B Corp, which is this standard in the US of companies that are like really strong, uh, social standards, that went public. And that already happened. And as well as Coursera, there are many companies that are doing financially super well, with a very social mission. So I believe access to technology is the game changer. Technology and the internet became the game changer to make this ideas of doing good, living well by doing good.

Claudia von Boeselager: Let's talk about habit building. You touched on it before, how you structure your day and certain habits for success and for happiness. Can you talk a bit about that? 

Mario Chamorro: Sure. I think I like have some good example here. So I build my weeks every week, based on three things. Again, at the beginning I mentioned that it's, for me, happiness is a lifestyle to be at ease. A lifestyle means a bunch of habits. So the habits that I build on a weekly basis are three. One are habits around health, which means, mind, body, and food. The second one is relationship, which means, the first one is relationship with myself, the second one with my partner, and the third one with present family. And the last one with work. Which is, first one is our 9 to 5, which is our main job. The second one is our side projects, and the last one is to learn. So every Sunday at the end of the day, my wife, Laura, and I, we sit for probably 30 minutes and we plan the whole week around these, three buckets, health, relationships, and work.

So let me show you like, this is for instance, how my schedule looks like. So, it's very key to be super intentional because if you're not intentional with the things that matter to you, it's really hard that they're gonna happen. So in order to be intentional, the system that helps me, is to place activities on my Google calendar, because I know if they're in my calendar is very likable that is gonna happen. So with Laura, we do like, as you see like in this picture here, uh, we put it on a living room, on a calendar that we have, and then we put it on the Google calendar. So green is health. So you can see like the different things that I have in green, such as meditation, running, biking.

So on relationships. we have like a biweekly date with my wife. Yes, we live together and so on, but we do space for like really, really meaningful connection. Uh, or we also have, okay, this week we are gonna spend time with friends, and work, you know, it sounds important. That's how I build habits, on a weekly basis.
And when I start asking myself about which habits should I build, is, basically things that are really matter to me, is a combination between the things that matter to me with, things that I can control. And in the middle is where I am really focused on because again, probably 98% of things that happened to me are totally outside of my control. So being aware of that is really important. So I really focus on things that matter to me and I can control. So, as a result, for instance, you know, like during the pandemic about this habit building and health, I challenge myself with my wife to walk 10,000 steps per day. So we have our Garmin, you know, watch or any watch. So we started doing the 10,000 steps. that helped us to connect more, to spend more time together, but also to be away from our cell phones, our computers. And thanks to that, uh, some days I was running out of my 10,000 steps, so I needed to run and I hated running, but I started running and then I fell in love with running.

So then I started running half marathons and so on. so that's a like whole compound effect, right? 10,000 steps can sound a lot, but maybe it's not a lot. But thanks to that you can like start building beautiful habits. 

Claudia von Boeselager: 
I love that. And I think for people to also realize it's a springboard, right? Because people think, well, oh, you know, I'm never gonna run a marathon. But it's like, no, you don't need to run a marathon if you're mainly sedentary, you know, start with 10 or you know, even a thousand steps, and you build up the strength. You build up the momentum, and then all of a sudden the half marathon is possible. And then, who knows, you might even go for the marathon. And at 80 years old, you're, climbing a volcano, right? And it, it's becomes more and more realistic and you're like, you know what, actually I can do it. And it's exciting because you're achieving these really big goals that you previously never thought possible. Mario you celebrated your 40th birthday last year, and I heard you got an incredible gift from your wife. Can you tell us a bit more about that? 

Mario Chamorro: Yeah, she surprised me a lot. I don't know if it's called like the midlife crisis or so, but I was thinking a lot about, Hey, turning 40 my goodness. So I remember that I even did, um, presentation to my board of directors. I always have like a personal board of directors, so I use forest lights, each slide, it was for every single decade in my life. So I have like from zero to 10 and to 20, 20 to 30 and so on. So I had, um, key learnings, so highlights and lowlights for each decade actually, and then I was telling Laura, hey, it's crazy to think that. my life can be summarized in four slides, so probably I only have four more slides and that's it.
You know, I'm out . Suddenly Lara came out of my birthday day with this beautiful song, called 'Cuy coracao grande.' Cuy is a guinea pig, you know, it's, like this guy. So it's the main animal in my hometown, and a lot of friends call me Cuy. She partnered with another good friend of mine who's a fantastic musician, Juan Andres Ospina. And they grow to this beautiful song that summarizes life in the song in instead of like four slides, summarize my life in four minutes or three minutes. 

Claudia von Boeselager: Yeah. But I mean, it's now there for eternity right. This beautiful song about your life. So that's really beautiful. 

Mario Chamorro: That's what I told my friend. He made me immortal. 

Claudia von Boeselager: Immortal. Exactly. In 200 years, they're gonna be wondering, who is this, Mario? Or, well, you're, you're already famous with your international day of happiness. So let's see when the next years will bring you. 
Mario Chamorro: Uh, so I cry a lot when I hear that song. And I, probably cried like 25 times and actually my 41 birthday was only like two, three weeks ago. And, uh, I went to spend my birthday with my family. So we played that song and we blast that song and we dance that song with my parents and my in-laws like many times, so that was really fun.

Claudia von Boeselager: Oh, you made it back then to Colombia? 
Mario Chamorro: Yeah it was my bucket list to get together with my in-laws and my parents after the pandemic, and that was very powerful, very special. 

Claudia von Boeselager: And have your special song playing as well. How beautiful. I'd love to jump into a few rapid fire questions, Mario. Thinking of the word successful, who is the first person who comes to mind and why?

Mario Chamorro: One of my friends and mentors, his name is, Paulo Calieron. We call Dumpa. For me and for my wife, we believe success is to live life in your own terms. So this guy Dumpa, he's brilliant. I mean, he has, on the science point of view, he has a PhD, blah, blah, blah. but then he also found out how to, very early, to discover like cryptocurrencies, and he has been doing great on that field, but most importantly, he lives life in a very simple way, in the middle of nature in Colombia and his daily or weekly projects are things such as, I'm going to grow to harvest, uh, like 1000 trees. So, uh, that's what he did, like with his own hands.

He planted 1000 trees, with an indigenous community or so those are kinda like his kinds of projects and he writes every day, poetry and so on. And he has a beautiful heart. So it's this beautiful combination between heart, brain and being very present. So, uh, yeah, that's to live your life in your own terms.

Claudia von Boeselager: I love the combination of the cryptocurrency. So in essence, because of, I guess financial markets are, you know, feared and, and crypto, right? But then the contrast with the pure nature and poetry, it's so interesting, but yet makes total sense I think as well. And then just him finding his peace in harmony as well. So, I'd like your definition of success, and I completely agree with you, the ability to say no to the things you want to say no to and have time for the things that really matter to you. So, thank you for sharing that. Mario, do you have any particular morning routine to start your day as a success?
I mean, you mentioned some of the things you do with your wife, um, are there any other particulars that you do every day? 

Mario Chamorro: For me, mornings are the one that I love the most, because it's kinda like Mario time, and, i'm truly convinced that, uh, If I'm able to do those two, three hours of morning routines, I will be way more effective at work, at everything that I have to do. So, um, I try to wake up at 6:30, so I meditate for 30, 40 minutes. actually, I just came out of the vipassana like this, 10 day silent retreat. It gives you this really powerful technique. So meditation is the first thing that we do.

Then we go for a little walk with Laura. we live, uh, next to a mountain. So we go there for another 20 minutes. During our walk to the mountain, we don't talk about work. We just talk about things that we feel grateful for. Uh, and we do one day affirmation, one to three day affirmations. On our way back, I start movement, so I either go running or swimming or biking or anything. And then I just prepare an amazing breakfast. And I have my beautiful coffee. So 
Mario Chamorro: yeah. 

Claudia von Boeselager: I'd love to jump into your, the retreat you just did, the silent retreat. Can you talk a little bit more about that? 
Mario Chamorro: Silent retreat means no talking. at all. no cell phone, no reading, no writing, none of that. it's a very powerful detox, because we are hyper connected right now. And it's basically to learn a technique, called Vipassana, which doesn't have to do anything with religion is, mostly a technique. But it's very powerful and it's also, it is donation based. So the whole business model is really beautiful. At the end, you just pay what you felt that you want to contribute so someone else can do the retreat after you.

In a nutshell, it was kind of like a, an Ironman, but for meditation, it's intense. if you go there, don't think that you're going to spa relax. No. . It's intense. 

Claudia von Boeselager: What information do they actually give you to prepare for it? I actually, I've never done something like that. I know a few people who have, I'd love to just dig into to your experience a little bit, sort of your expectations before you went, and then how that journey during the 10 days was, and then what were your biggest ahas, um, and learnings from those 10 days.

Mario Chamorro: I didn't did any preparation to be fair. You know, I was told like, Hey, you know, if you're gonna meditate for 11 hours per day, you should start meditating at least for like 30 minutes. And I didn't. I guess again, like the physical part was intense because again, you're sitting meditating for such a long period of time, which I'm not used to.

I think nobody's used to, unless you are a yogi or a big meditator. But I think, uh, it is available to anyone. You don't need to have like, any level of expertise. You don't need to be, you know, like particular age or gender. No, it's pretty open to everyone.
What did I learn? so again, like this technique is meditation technique is really powerful. So when I left I was kinda like, oh, I do feel like, you know, good. But, um, days or weeks later, actually now that I was visiting my parents, at the end of my visit, my mom came to me and said like, 'Hey, you were really tolerant this time and you were really patient this time. Thank you so much for being tolerant and very present and loving.' And that was kind of like, okay, that was the result of, Vipassana, right? kind of like used to, you know, like make you react really strongly before, um, now it's a bit different. So I think that that was a beautiful gift.

Claudia von Boeselager: Did you say you didn't have any meditation practice before jumping into 10 days Vipassana? 

Mario Chamorro: Well, I mean, I have like the regular headspace that you go once in a while, or you know, kinda like five minutes, 10 minutes, but, uh, not a very disciplined practice of, you know, like, one hour per day or something.

Claudia von Boeselager: And is this something you think you would continue? I mean, just to keep the benefits? Are you kind of addicted to it now? 

Mario Chamorro: Not addicted, but, it definitely grounds me a lot, so if I sit for an hour to meditate, or for 30 minutes, my day is different. I feel it. And it's a technique that is based on listening what you feel instead of what you think. It's not kinda like guided meditation, it's just like you and your feelings and just learn to feel, because we, as humans, we were trained to think from our brain, so we rationalize every single thing, right? From like, oh, that's green, that's blue, or one plus one is equals two. But now we, haven't been trained on feelings, so when you're like, oh, this is a feeling okay. and it's not good. It's not bad. 

Claudia von Boeselager: And not judging it as well. And it's an area I find really interesting. I've never done 11 hours straight. But, you know, I think sitting for an hour, it's sort of after the 35, 40 minutes when the real magic happens, right? that's when you get into this kind of attune state. And it's so powerful, as you said yourself, what your mother commented, the sense of being more intuitive, the presence. Dr. Mark Atkinson has a great, expression that you're not in the cave, the prefrontal cortex, you're actually in the ocean and so the body is just so wise that there's so much knowing there. So, yeah, it's an area I find really fascinating and, I'm also on my journey to discovering more and more. So thank you for sharing that. Mario, is there an unusual habit or absurd thing that you love? 

Mario Chamorro: Hmm. Nature, going to the mountain is, so powerful. Like when I was, I don't know, like 12 years old, I remember this story that my mom shares that I went to my mom and say like, Hey mom, stop paying my high school because I lost everything. I should not go back to school. And then my mom said, ' how about if you go to your mountain with your dogs and when you come back we'll make a decision. I say like, yeah, let's do it. So I went to the mountain and again, since I've been 12 years old, you know, like I go to the mountain and it grounds me and it teaches me, and then I come back with a different mood.

So, I really try to go to the mountain, I don't know, like three times per week at least. And when I'm feeling lost or I don't know, like over reacting or so on, I just go to the mountain. So yes, going to the mountain or going to nature is a habit that grounds me and I love. Other than that, customs is funny. but I think nature is amazing. 

Claudia von Boeselager: It's a big thing. Yeah, exactly and to ground and also the movement, right? So you're releasing hormones and things as well. Mario, how has a failure or an apparent failure set you up for later success? And do you have a favorite failure of yours? 

Mario Chamorro: Many, a lot. a story, it was December 24th, 2004. I was parking cars in Boston and a lot of friends were trying to persuade me to apply to a master's program at Columbia University and I thought, my self believes was like, Hey, you know what, this is for rich people. This is for smart people. That's not for me. So I keep parking cars, and when I was parking cars, a car came to the restaurants that I was in the vallet, and they had a sticker on the back that said Columbia University. So I always tend to share my dreams with a stranger. So I told the driver, Hey, my dream is to study in that university. So he look at me and say, Hmm, my daughters go to Columbia University. I don't think you can make it. So in that particular moment, I, I say, what, I think I can do it. So that day I built, the confidence to really put serious on learning English and to apply to this school and so on. So I applied and few months later I got accepted. I found, uh, the same guy probably like four months later or five months later in the same restaurant because I was keep parking cars there. Uh, and when I saw him, I thank him because, I told him, if you weren't told me that I wasn't able to get into this university, I wouldn't build the confidence to do it. So thank you so much. so that's a, that's a good story that I remember about like the power of no and how a failure can, you know, like basically give you lots of leverage, but I could easily, have taken them such as he's, right. That's not for me. And I mean, don't pursue my dreams, but, I'm glad that I had a different attitude.

Claudia von Boeselager: Yeah, exactly. And that, gave you the motivation. Two questions from that. One is, why Columbia, why was that? And when you were in Boston, right? There's Harvard, there's, there's amazing universities in, Boston as well. So one is, I guess to understand why was Columbia so fascinating or why were you focused on that? And then two, what did the guy say , when you told him that you had applied and actually got in. And thank you for telling me I wouldn't get in because now I got in. What was his reaction? 

Mario Chamorro: So why Columbia, I was very interested on the energy markets back then. Uh, and I found this program at Columbia that combined energy markets with policy making, which was two of the things that were close to my heart. And also because he was based in New York and I was very curious about New York City, and what this guy said, he was speechless. He was like, oh, I'm sorry. So 

Claudia von Boeselager: Don't be sorry . 

Mario Chamorro: Yeah, no, no. I, I was, really casual, like, thank you, thank you, thank you. Um, yeah. 

Claudia von Boeselager: Really cool. Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice received that was a real game changer for you? 

Mario Chamorro: Yes. The obstacle is the way . that's, uh, that's a good quote. Uh, I think it was coined by Marcus Aurelius. So what stands the way, becomes the way. I believe that's a good quote that I'd like to remember. Because we'll find obstacles in every single aspect of our lives, in our relationships with our partners in our work. I don't know, like when we're trying to develop any habits, you want to go for a run and then it's raining and you're like, ah, okay, I'll do it tomorrow, or anything right? So I believe like the obstacle is the way, so whatever stance in the way becomes the way. So, uh, I think that's a good reminder. 
Claudia von Boeselager: I love that quote. It's also, facing the fear and going through it, you know, Joseph Campbell's work, I'm sure you know the hero's journey. It's, pushing through it exactly, and I think even Tony Robbins has a thing that the biggest challenge you're facing is actually the most important one. That's the thing you need to focus on the one thing and not just push it aside. So Marcus Aurelia summed it up very nicely with the obstacle as the way. Mario, in the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

Mario Chamorro: Habit that has improved my life. I would say that 10,000 steps. It could be, you know, like, could be 5,000 steps, but, uh, that helps me to go out and walk and that walk brings me to nature or brings me to conversations or brings me to reflection or brings me to, important things.

Claudia von Boeselager: Just the 10,000 steps. I like that. Because now you said you're running half marathons because of the 10,000 steps. Is that right? 

Mario Chamorro: Mm-hmm. , 

Claudia von Boeselager: Wow. So one step it started and then 10,000 and now marathons. I love it. Let's talk about mental health Mario, you've now made a move on to a new startup in the mental health space.

Can you talk about your view, and especially coming out of Covid, where I think honestly that's the biggest pandemic we're going to have and are having is, mental health issues that so many people will and are suffering from. Can you talk about your experience with mental health coming out of Covid, and why you decided to do a startup in this space?

Mario Chamorro: Sure. So mental health, I believe right now we're in the. mental pandemic, the pandemic basically accelerated the impact of mental health around the world. So we can see. You know, like dramatic numbers, such as 800 million people committing with suicide per year, like 300 million people suffering of, severe depression in the world. in Latin America, the consumption of antidepressants have tripled down. so there's a lot of very dramatic impact of mental health. And I believe the problem is not going away. The problem is just getting bigger. so you can see also, uh, like different conversations, you know, on politics about it, on media.

So there was the record number of articles in media about mental health in history happened just like two months ago, but also you can see market reactions. So, on the first quarter of this year, like 900 million dollars were invested in newly startups on mental health. So I believe definitely we're in the mental pandemic and, um, it's time for governments, companies and universities, organizations and individuals to really, really, really pay attention on mental health.

So, uh, even if the size of the problem is as big as I just described, one of the very challenging parts is really hard to talk about mental health. Uh, it's hard to talk about it with your family, with your friends, with your coworker. So the level of a stigma is very high, uh, and to breakthrough that stigma is something that is really challenging.

So yeah, in a nutshell, I believe it's a big challenge that the world is facing right now, and it's a cultural time right now just to, to do something about it. But on the bright side, I also believe, that opened up lots of conversations. And I believe, you know, like it's crazy to think, Claudia, that there is no one word that defines that you're healthy on mental health or neither in English or Spanish. So if I ask you, Hey Claudia, are you healthy? You say like, yes, but you're referring to your physical health, not to your mental health. Right? It basically affects all of us. So, it's, it's, it's a good challenge. but I see a lot of hope there. People are paying attention to their mental health. 

Claudia von Boeselager: That's amazing. Are you able to talk already about what you're planning on doing with your new startup in this space?

Mario Chamorro: Yes. So that's a beautiful problem or beautiful challenge to solve, and I want to be able to create a platform that can democratize the access of mental health starting in Hispanic America or in Latin America. And then moving across other geographies. So right now, I left my last job at Coursera, like three months ago.

And we are in our journey to build a model that can help us to democratize mental health access, as well as we did at Coursera, with education. I want to do it now with mental health. So putting together, media, because I believe, again, stigma is a big challenge. I believe media is a big tool, a powerful tool to influence behaviors and that's combining really good art and design. And on the other hand, technology, using technology by combining science and engineering to be the, to build a good solution. So hopefully, in couple of months I can, you know, like share this platform with you, Claudia, and with your audience and just to see hopefully that will help you or any of your audience.

Claudia von Boeselager: I would love that. Such a worthy cause and so important as well. And I think to your point around stigma and especially depending on which country and culture, but I really feel it's so important for people to talk about it. I mean, I had, phases also with postnatal depression and things like that as well. And I grew up with, you know, you have to put on a brave face and you don't talk about things. And I think that the more you open up, the more other people realize it's actually okay to talk about it. And by talking about it in essence, a problem shared is a problem solved, um, I could imagine in Latin America, that you know, carry more stigma maybe than in other places. So you have maybe a bigger challenge than other places to discuss it. But are you using some of the strategies and tools that you've seen in the US or, or how is your strategy on helping, you said using media, and is it courses or how are you going to structure this? 

Mario Chamorro: Yeah. On the media side, it's definitely using, um, courses, but it's also used creating, really good content on topics such as how to, manage a panic attack or how to deal with a panic attack or how to, or what is depression or how can you prevent depression or how can you deal with O C D or how can you build habits to do X, Y, and Z? So that's part of the content side. So it's about like body, mind, and soul. And, um, on the other side, we are gonna be, developing tools, to address some of those, challenges. 

Claudia von Boeselager: Really exciting. Thank you for sharing that. What in your view separates a good leader from a great one? 

Mario Chamorro: Hmm. Um, I think a great leader is, someone who can, I mean, for me, a leader is just like someone that empowers other people to. do what they're good at. Uh, so part of it is just to even define what are like those superpowers that people have and somehow to give them the confidence and guidance for them to use those superpowers to support any cause that is greater than them. So it's basically to unleash this superpowers or to unleash, yeah, unleash this beautiful skills and powers that people have. So I think that, that's a leader, someone who empowers others to, to achieve like a better version of themselves. 

Claudia von Boeselager: Mm-hmm. I agree. Before we finish up my few rapid fire questions, what has been your most exciting purchase in the last six to 12 months? I love specifics, brands, where you bought it. 

Mario Chamorro: Six to 12 months. Um, I, okay. I'm like, I'm like turning now. I think kind of like my iPad because now I'm like taking lots of notes here and I'm drawing and I'm constantly, you know, like I used to do that on notebooks, which is great but I ended up, lost in all those notebooks, uh, and not having track of like the ideas pages and so on. So I've been using this app called notability and it's amazing. Just kinda like to do drawings, to grab ideas, to take notes. Uh, I think notability probably instead of like the iPad Notability has been the best purchase that I have done over the past six months. 

Claudia von Boeselager: Thank you, because I haven't tried that yet, thank you for sharing. Do you have any particular books, documentaries, or movies that you feel people must watch?

Mario Chamorro: Books, yes. part of my morning rituals, I read, the Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday. So it has 65, daily meditations, and again, it's one page. It's just like, sometimes it's only like one paragraph that, um, like for me stoicism is something that is a very powerful tool and it's a philosophy that is really pragmatic. So I love the practicity of it. So, each meditation gives you one specific reflection for one day and it will take you only like five minutes. But I think I like that so powerful. So that's the book that I would suggest. And in terms of like movies, one of my favorite movies is Big Fish, with Eva McGregor and it's about the relationship of like dad and son and just sharing stories about life in a very whimsical way. And again, I believe in a world where whimsy and imagination are the norm. So that movie kinda like represents that. 

Claudia von Boeselager: I love it. What book have you most gifted? 

Mario Chamorro: The Daily Stoicism yeah. 

Claudia von Boeselager: In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to, like in invitations or distractions and what realizations and or approaches have helped? 

Mario Chamorro: It's hard to say no for me, I have found myself as a, you know, like to have a lot of like people pleasing, challenges. So it's hard for me to say no, but I've been start saying no to things that, that I don't feel good.

I mean, it's not to please people, but if I'm not like really feeling it, I can just say no, and the realizations that I have from those actions are that, you know, we should be guardians of our time. And when we guard our time, it's good because time is the most important asset that we have. I mean, you can buy anything, but you cannot buy time. 

Claudia von Boeselager: Yes, exactly. Such wise words. Mario, metaphorically speaking, if you could get a message out to 1 billion people, say by writing in the sky and a billion people could read it, what would it say and why? 

Mario Chamorro: What makes you happy? It will be a question.
Claudia von Boeselager: Perfect. 

Mario Chamorro: And it's a question that I asked to 200,000 people. So if I can do like the billion. Yeah. What makes you happy? ? Cause I believe people should prioritize things that makes them happy or, you know, things that matter to them, but I don't think nobody will say, like, for me it really matters to have a Ferrari or, to be a big CEO.

Claudia von Boeselager: Agree. Mario, what advice would you give a smart driven, high school student about to enter their next phase of life? Be it college or work? What advice would you also recommend they should ignore?

Mario Chamorro: Advice I should give is probably like read about Stoicism that's a good tool to have. It will help them in their relationships, with their families, with their partners, also at the work, but also at life. and it's all about like to seek virtue to and to seek meaning in your life. So I would say like read stoicism, it is probably like a good advice, something that I would have love to, to find earlier in my life. And the other one was like something that?

Claudia von Boeselager: What, what would you recommend that they ignore? 

Mario Chamorro: They ignored the naysayers. they're always, there are going to be naysayers. There always are going to be bullies. There're always going to be divas. So ignore them. You know, like take no as a powerful force, as a leverage. 

Claudia von Boeselager: Mm-hmm. I agree. and also I see no as a yes later on. So , if you really wanted, you just come back at a better time in a maybe reframed way, and often it turns out into a yes. So I agree. Mario, where can people learn more about what you're up to on social media or websites and what would you like to share with people? 

Mario Chamorro: Um, I think my personal side, which I don't update often. It's called, And the other one is my Instagram is Mario Chamorro. I intentionally deleted Instagram two weeks ago, and it's giving me much more time, again talking about like, you know, the guardians of our time. But when I'm back, I guess, uh, I post things there 

Claudia von Boeselager: Do you have any final ask, recommendation or parting thoughts for my audience Mario? 

Mario Chamorro: I think, uh, you know, I mean, remember like the little graphic that I share about where you can start, you know, like things that matter to you, with things that are under your control. And in the middle is where you can focus, you should focus, I mean, things that are under your control, plus things that matter to you.

Claudia von Boeselager: Thank you so much, Mario, for the time, the inspiration, the incredible work that you're doing, sharing that with us and the world. I really, really appreciate you coming on today. Thank you so much. 

Mario Chamorro: Thank you, Claudia. Appreciate it. 

I’m Claudia von Boeselager

Longevity Coach, detail-loving educator, big-thinking entrepreneur, podcaster, mama, passionate adventurer, and health optimization activist here to help people transform their lives, and reach their highest potential! All rolled into one.

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