Interview with Author Ben Feder

Take Off Your Shoes: One Man’s Journey from the Boardroom to Bali and Back is Ben Feder’s brutally honest and revealing journey of self-discovery. And, here’s our interview with Ben. We highly recommend his book. 

What made you make the life-changing decision to take your family on an 8-month sabbatical?

It was my wife, Victoria’s, idea. Throughout our marriage, we thought about taking extended family time away from work. Then, when my oldest kid was entering high school, l realized that if I didn’t seize the moment, it would pass and never return. It became clear to me I was living my life so conditionally – when this happens, then I will do that – but the conditions are never quite right. No situation ever ripens to perfection. So I decided to invest in family and my relationships in the way I invest in businesses. If you don’t invest, eventually the wheels come off the bus. I didn’t want to risk that with my family. Somehow, I also felt deeply in my bones that I needed a long break and decided to take myself out of the game temporarily to explore and renew.

How did your time in Bali change your family relationships?

The book I wrote, Take Off Your Shoes, is about all the changes that my family and I experienced. It’s a story of personal transition and transformation, spiritual and otherwise. It was not just the spirituality of Bali, or the positive influence Bali’s Green School had on my children, though they both were a big part of it. It had a lot to do with taking the time to recommit to the relationships that matter the most, to redeem, renew and rewire the way I interact with the world. Everyone in my family, including my wife, Victoria, and our four children, believes that sabbatical was a seminal event in our family life because it was an adventure, experience, and set of emotions that we experienced together. It’s a story of creating deep connections set in a world awash in digital interactions.

What were the biggest takeaways from your time in Bali?

The biggest takeaway is the power of living deliberately. We all get tunnel vision when wrapped up in our daily routines and it’s only by stepping out of it that we begin to open ourselves to possibility. Even when the stake don’t seem to be terribly high, it takes courage to see past the day-to-day and make a courageous choice to try something new. I happened to have used my time to learn certain skills, like meditation, and do a lot of self-inquiry. But courage, creativity and freshness can take many forms. As for sabbatical I do believe it’s possible, even fo those with modest means, to take extended time off without losing their money or their minds.

You explored meditation in Bali, but initially found it difficult to connect to the practice. How did your opinion change, and have you been able to maintain your meditation practice?

 I am a striver with a burning desire to succeed in the business world. Initially, had someone talked to me about mindfulness and meditation, I would have listened politely and moved on. It was all too weird and out of reach.

Then, waiting for a flight one day, I picked up a copy of Joyful Wisdom by the Buddhist meditation master Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. Rinpoche grew up with self-diagnosed severe anxiety disorder in Nepal, where there was a lot to be anxious about, basic things like food and shelter security. When he finds his way to the U.S., he discovers people who live in relative wealth – people who really lack for nothing – yet drive in shiny cars with their teeth clenched and their shoulders up around their ears. So he tries to find the causes of all the fear and loathing and offers both insights and an antidote — namely, mindful meditation. I found it compelling.

So I made it one of my goals to learn how to meditate when, a few months later, my family and I decamped to Bali for a sabbatical. I had many false starts. I couldn’t connect to it. In the end, I turned to the written word, mostly books, to educate myself. I read widely about meditation, the science of brain plasticity, and the ability to change our lives by changing our minds. I began by simply sitting still, focusing on my breath and watching my thoughts and emotions. I sat for two minutes, then five, then longer. It wasn’t easy. It’s hard to be still, especially for an urban professional used to stimulation coming from all directions. There are still days when it’s hard to sit still. But I stick with it, and I find it helps me focus on the present and be positive, too.

What was the biggest challenge in reintroducing yourself into life in the US?

If you follow mediation, especially of the Buddhist sort, to it’s logical conclusion, it leads to a monastic life. That’s obviously not me. At the same time, following the capitalist life to its logical conclusion is not, in and of itself, a recipe for wellness. So the biggest struggle was synthesizing these to worlds into a cohesive lifestyle. Said another way, the challenge is to both be and do simultaneously. It’s been a bit of a trick but I think I have arrived at a good place.

What’s next for you?

I’m really enjoying my work and family life at the moment and am not thinking too much about what’s next. At some point, though, I’d like to show my paintings. I don’t know why; I’m just proud of the work and want to share it.

Where can readers find your book?

 Take Off Your Shoes is available May 1 wherever books are sold. You can find more information on the book and my journey at my website,

The former CEO of Take Two Interactive, publisher of the monster-hit video game, Grand Theft Auto, Ben Feder’s hard charging, high-performance business life was seriously impacting his personal and family health. That’s when he made the bold, audacious, and potentially career-ending decision to travel with his family to Bali on an eight-month sabbatical.

In his new book, Feder asks and answers the question: Could he—could anyone—find a way to live a harmonious and balanced life and simultaneously achieve substantial success?

Illuminating and inspiring, Take Off Your Shoes is Feder’s heartfelt attempt to find personal fulfillment and rebuild family relationships before he loses them forever.

Sharing his experiences on changing a life of doing to one of being and meaning, Feder narrates how he deepened his connections to his wife and children; improved his physical health (moving his stats from the red zone to normal levels); tackled life’s challenges in new ways, seeing differently through the practices of art and yoga; became a better father, offering his children a broader worldview and freeing them from unnecessary stressors, so they could engage, play, and create; and gained a fresh perspective on corporate life that he applies daily, returning to his life in New York City a better, more thoughtful leader.

Witty and wise, Take Off Your Shoes provides insightful guidance for anyone facing change, making a tough decision, or weighing a next step in life.


Filed Under: Blogs


About the Author: Tania Van Pelt is the creator of Happiness Series. She is a writer and content creator, working in film, tv, and online. She wrote the popular lifestyle book "Ageless Diet," published in late 2015. And she is currently working on her next book. She also developed a sitcom pilot set in the restaurant business called "Employees Only TV" and is developing another web series comedy about Denver.



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