11 Reasons Business Executives Must Reinvent Themselves as Fierce Leaders

Over the last few decades there has been an accelerating growth in self-centred, exploitative management and dehumanisation in the corporate workplace. Recently there has been a silent revolt against this unprecedented epidemic as evidenced by the astronomically high levels of corporate disengagement, particularly amongst the newer generations entering the workforce. How can leaders reinvent themselves and adopt a more humanistic management ethos to counter this epidemic? It requires nothing short of becoming a fierce leader: creating an embodied practice of management that includes qualities such as respect, empowering leaders to influence for better rather than worse and ultimately this will create a magnetic attractor for top talent who reject outright working in degrading environments.

What does it mean to be fierce as a leader?
We know it when we see it in action: when I stood on the Grand Parade in Cape Town as Nelson Mandela gave his presidential inauguration speech in 1994 my eyes filled with tears. He embodied fierce leadership in every fibre of his being; his presence and poise in the face of decades of dehumanising behavior was unforgettable. But we also know it when we see it in the mannerisms of a board member or the attitude of an executive running a team meeting: they are fully in the moment.

The four critical elements to being a fierce leader
Fierce leadership requires us to train our minds.  This training creates a formidable practice so that we can deal with modern day business and our susceptibility to the following situation: as a result of being constantly subjected to the 24 seven pressures of work and despite our best intentions, our resilience can break down even in noncritical situations and we can revert to bad-management-autopilot.

However, there are four critical elements to building a fierce leadership practice that help prevent this type of autopilot from kicking in. We do need to constantly tend to our practice by nurturing and supporting these elements.  We should see these elements as both aspirational and practical and use our best efforts to work on being stronger at each one individually as well as together.

1. Altruism and humanity –
Seeing beyond our current office and role and being aware that we are part of something bigger than ourselves and our organisations gives us a capacity for much deeper understanding. It also increases our capability to take a serving stance through which we treat others as human beings rather than exploiting them as objectified resources.

2. Lucid clarity –
Dealing with what is showing up in the moment, what is here now as opposed to what happened in the past (“this is the way we’ve always done things around here”) or what is projected to happen (“if we can close this deal we will sell our products and more parts of the world”).

3. Imaginative openness –
Considering all angles and holding diametrically opposed points of view in our heads as we work through the implications of the choices we make is crucial. This requires both a highly developed imagination and ensuring there is sufficient spaciousness in our minds within which to explore, over and above all the clutter of a busy daily executive life.

4. Core focus –
Determining what we want to focus our attention on and maintaining that focus despite a myriad things trying to take us off task.

The benefits of a fierce leadership practice
As our practice grows we find ourselves:
* influencing more often for better than worse in not only the big impactful decisions we make, but also every minute of every day;
* becoming more focused and this lucidity of thought gives us the opening to deal innovatively with situations based on our efforts to deeply understand what they mean for us and others and compassionately realising the consequences impact of our choices;
* shifting our stance to lead by inspiration rather than expectation;
* finding ourselves considering others in their positions with more openness and respect
* becoming aware very quickly when thoughts aren’t true to ourselves and having the ability to redirect before we react
* more often exuding qualities that engaged people look for such as kindness and humour, and being more highly communicative – as fierce leaders we do this despite these qualities not necessarily being reflected in our organisational KPIs;
* finding ourselves getting more stuff done because we are more confident, have increased emotional intelligence, are more collaborative and have a greater ability to influence others;
* rejecting the negative narrative we may form around not being on 24 seven and being able to control when we communicate to only those times when we can be more actionable, considered and effective – this in turn frees us up to be more present in our daily non-work related activities such as exercise and family time and also frees up our people from following the bad precedent we were setting by, for example, emailing them at 11h30pm and expecting an immediate response;
* more able to be resilient and pause in any situation, no matter high pressured, and check in with ourselves how we are feeling about that situation before reacting – are we subject to any biases, is our response going to have unintended consequences, are we being mindful of all the variables at play;
* and at times of uncertainty when it feels like taking any action would be like stepping off a cliff, we are able to comfortably take that first step because we are capable of listening to our inner wisdom and trusting more completely in the unfolding without needing to always control or force what will happen.

Individual fierce leadership can also rapidly activate a culture of being fierce across an organisation which creates a strong magnetic attractor for top talent.

In subsequent posts I will go into more detail on how to build a fierce leadership practice and realise its benefits.

How to Find Universal Truth through Emptiness

This is a spiritual contemplation on rebooting the ultimate universal program. Find a quiet space to read through it slowly, breathing deeply and slowly and let a feeling of deep peace come over you.

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The challenge many of us face is that we know too much to see the universal truth: the transcendent, fundamental and spiritual reality.

In order to be able to receive this reality we need to clear out our systems; we need to empty our minds. Using the analogy of a room, our windows have become murky with ego-induced fog and the dusty grime of past knowledge. To see the truth we need to open these windows and let the breeze empty out our memories, presumptions and thoughts; in modern technology terms we need to clear our cache and wipe our entire operating system before rebooting ourselves with the ultimate universal program. Only once truly clear can that same breeze gently carry the truth into us.

For many of us, our logic states that knowledge is truth: absolute knowledge is absolute truth. However, when we observe how we acquire knowledge we start to see the flaw in this logic: knowledge requires us to firstly observe something; secondly we need to understand what we are observing; and thirdly we commit that observation and understanding to memory and classify that as knowledge.

What we are then able to recall from our memories on any given topic is what constitutes our knowledge of that topic.

The challenge with this logic is that a memory by its very nature is from the past. Knowledge stored in memory is a recollection, it cannot be of the present. We start to see the fatal flaw in this logic when we realise that there can be no memory in the present, yet the truth cannot exist in the past. The truth exists only in the present; the truth flows and pulses continuously; the truth cannot be grasped and converted into knowledge.

Our minds are unable to comprehend this universal truth until we empty them of all structural layers; until we deconstruct the self-created constraints and societal barriers; until we cease our incessant striving to acquire more or to be something or not be something.

When our minds become empty, the silence creates the space for the universal truth to be revealed: the truth becomes comfortable within us when we are not trying to hold onto it and convert it into knowledge; by letting the truth be and allowing it to achieve equilibrium it becomes as comfortable within us as it is without. We become one with the universe.

To contemplate further on the delicate dance between emptiness and universal truth, I am sharing this beautiful piece by the Tibetan monk Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche, as translated by Erik Pema Kunsang:

The Mirror of Essential Points
A Letter in Praise of Emptiness

I pay homage at the lotus feet of Tenpey Nyima,
Who is inseparable from lord Longchen Rabjam
And who perceives the natural state of emptiness
Of the ocean-like infinity of things.

A letter of advice I offer to you, my noble mother Paldzom.
Listen for a while without distraction.
Staying here without discomfort,
I am at ease and free from worries
In a state of joyful mind.
Are you well yourself, my mother?

Here, in a country in the west,
There are many red and white-skinned people.
They have all kinds of magic and sights,
Like flying through the skies
And moving like fish in the water.
Having mastery over the four elements
They compete in displaying miracles
With thousands of beautiful colors.
There are innumerable spectacles
Like designs of rainbow colors.
But like a mere dream when examined
They are but the mistaken perceptions of mind.

All activities are like the games children play.
If started, they can never be finished.
They are only completed once you let them be,
Like castles made of sand.

But that is not the whole story.
All the phenomena of samsara and nirvana,
Although thought to be permanent, do not last.
When examined, they are but empty forms
That appear without existence.
Although unreal they are thought to be real.
But, like an illusion when examined, they are found to be unreal.

Look outward at the perceived objects.
Like water in a mirage
They are more delusive than delusion.
Unreal, like a dream or a magical apparition,
They resemble a rainbow or the reflection of the moon.

Look inward at your own mind!
It seems quite exciting when not examined.
But when examined there is nothing to it.
Appearing without existing it is nothing but empty.
It cannot be identified, you cannot say, “that’s it,”
Because it is evanescent and elusive like mist.

Look at whatever appears
In any of the ten directions.
No matter how it manifests,
The thing in itself, its very nature,
Is the sky-like nature of the mind
Beyond the projection and the dissolution of thought and concept.

Everything has the nature of being empty.
When the empty looks at the empty,
Who is there to look at something empty?
As it is illusion looking at illusion
And delusion watching delusion,
What is the use of many classifications
Such as `empty’ and `not empty?’

Whatever you do is all right.
However you rest, you are at ease
In the effortless and sky-like nature of the mind,
The vast expanse of awareness,
The natural state of all things.
This was said by Jetsun Padmasambhava
And the great siddha Saraha.

All conceptual thought constructions
Such as duality or nonduality,
Leave them to be spontaneously dissolved in themselves
Like the waves on a river.

The great demon of ignorant and discursive thought
Causes one to sink into the ocean of samsara.
But when freed from this discursive thought
There is the indescribable state beyond conceptual mind.

Other than mere discursive thoughts
There are not even the words `samsara’ and `nirvana.’
The total subsiding of discursive thought
Is the suchness of dharmadhatu itself.

Not made complex by complex statements
This unfabricated single sphere
Is emptiness, the natural state of mind.
Thus it was said by the Sugata.

The essence of whatever may appear,
When simply left to itself,
Is the unfabricated and uncorrupted view,
The dharmakaya mother of emptiness.

All discursive thoughts are emptiness
And the observer of emptiness is discursive thought.
Emptiness does not destroy discursive thought
And discursive thought does not obstruct emptiness.
The mind nature of fourfold emptiness
Is the ultimate of everything.
Profound and quiescent, free from complexity,
An uncompounded, luminous clarity
Beyond the mind of concepts.
This is the depth of the mind of the victorious ones.

In this there is not an object to be removed
Nor something that needs to be added.
It is merely the natural
Looking naturally into itself.

In short, when the mind has fully severed
The fetters of clinging to something
All the points are condensed into one.
This is the tradition of the supreme being, Tilopa,
And of the great pandita Naropa.

Such a profound and natural state as this,
Among all the different kinds of bliss,
Is the one known as the wisdom of great bliss.
Among all kinds of delights
It is the king of supreme delight.
Among all the tantric sections of the secret mantra
It is the supreme fourth empowerment.
This is the ultimate pointing out instruction.

The view of samsara and nirvana as inseparable,
And that of mahamudra, dzogchen, the middle path and others,
Has many different titles,
But only one essential meaning.
This is the view of Jamgon Mipham.

As an aid to this king of views
One should begin with bodhicitta
And conclude with dedication.

Through skillful means, in order to cut off
The fixation of ego, the root of samsara,
The king of all great methods
Is unsurpassable bodhicitta.

The king of perfect dedication
Is the means of increasing the root of virtue.
This teaching is the specialty of Shakyamuni,
Which is not taught by other teachers.

More than this is not necessary
To accomplish complete enlightenment,
But less than this will be incomplete.
This swift path of the three excellencies
Called the `heart, eye and life force’
Is the approach of Longchen Rabjam.

Emptiness, the wishfulfilling jewel,
Is unattached generosity.
It is uncorrupted discipline.
It is angerless patience.
It is undeluded exertion.
It is undistracted meditation.
This emptiness, the essence of prajna,
Is the meaning of the three vehicles.

Emptiness is the natural state of mind.
It is the nonconceptual refuge
And the absolute bodhicitta.
It is the Vajrasattva who absolves evils.
It is the mandala of perfecting accumulations.
Emptiness is the guru yoga of dharmakaya.

To abide in the natural state of emptiness
Is the `calm abiding,’ shamatha.
To perceive it vividly clear
Is the `clear seeing,’ vipashyana.

The view of the perfect development stage,
And the wisdom of bliss and emptiness in the completion stage,
The nondual great perfection,
And the single sphere of dharmakaya
Are all included within emptiness.

Emptiness purifies the karmas
and dispels the obstructing forces.
Emptiness tames the demons
And accomplishes the deities.

The profound and natural state of emptiness
Dries up the ocean of passion.
It crumbles the mountain of anger
And illuminates the darkness of stupidity.
It calms down the gale of jealousy,
Defeats the illness of the kleshas
And is a friend in sorrow.
It destroys conceit in joy
And conquers in the battle with samsara.
It annihilates the four Maras,
Turns the eight worldly dharmas into same taste
And subdues the demon of ego-fixation.
It turns negative conditions into allies
And turns bad omens into good fortune.
It causes true and complete enlightenment
And gives birth to the buddhas of the three times.
Emptiness is the dharmakaya mother.

There is no teaching higher than emptiness.
There is no teaching swifter than emptiness.
There is no teaching more excellent than emptiness.
There is no teaching more profound than emptiness.

Emptiness is the `knowing of one that frees all.’
Emptiness is the supreme king of medicines.
Emptiness is the nectar of immortality.
Emptiness is spontaneous accomplishment beyond effort.
Emptiness is enlightenment without exertion.

By meditating on emptiness
One feels tremendous compassion
Towards the beings obscured by belief in a self
And bodhicitta arises without effort.

All the qualities of the path and levels
Will appear naturally without any effort,
And towards the law of the unfailing effect of karma
One will feel a heartfelt conviction.

If one has but one moment of certainty
In this kind of emptiness
The tight chains of ego-fixation
Will shatter into pieces.
This was said by Aryadeva.

It is more supreme to meditate on emptiness
Than to offer all the infinite buddhafields,
Filled with the wealth of gods and men,
To the sugatas and their spiritual sons.

If the merit of resting evenly,
Just for an instant in this natural state,
If it would take on concrete form
The element of space could not contain it.

Shakyamuni, the peerless lord of the Munis,
Threw his body into pyres of fire,
Gave away his head and limbs
And performed hundreds of other austerities
For the sake of this profound emptiness.

Although one fills the world with huge mounds
Of gold and jewels as offerings,
This profound teaching on emptiness,
Even when searched for, is hard to find.
This is said in the Hundred Thousand Verses of the Prajnaparamita.

To meet this supreme teaching
Is the splendid power of merit
Of many aeons beyond measure.

In short, by means of emptiness
One is, for the benefit of oneself,
Liberated into the expanse of the unborn dharmakaya,
The true and complete enlightenment
Of the four kayas and the five wisdoms.
Then the unobstructed display of rupakaya
Will ceaselessly manifest to teach whoever is in need,
Stirring the depth of samsara for the benefit of others
Through constant, all-pervading and spontaneous activity.
In all the sutras and tantras this is said
To be the ultimate fruition.

How can someone like me put into words
All the benefits and virtues of this,
When the Victorious One with his vajra tongue
Cannot completely elucidate them all, even if he speaks for an aeon?

The glorious lord, the supreme teacher,
Who gives the teachings on emptiness,
Appears in the form of a human being
Though his mind is truly a buddha.

Without deceit and hypocrisy
Supplicate him from your very heart.
Without needing any other method
You will attain enlightenment in this very life.
This is the manner of the all-embodying jewel
Which is taught in the tantras of the great perfection.
When you have this jewel in the palm of your hand
Do not let it go to waste meaninglessly.

Learning, like the stars in the sky,
Will never come to an end through studies.
What is the use of all the various kinds
Of teachings requested and received?
What is the use of any practice
Which is superior to that of emptiness?

Do not aim at many disciplinary costumes,
Such as carrying a staff, wearing braids and animal skin.
The elephant is already in your house,
Do not go searching for its footprints in the mountains.

Mother, meditate on the essence of mind
As it is taught by the master, the vajra holder.

This is the quintessence of the essence
Of all the eighty-four thousand teachings.
It is the heart substance of a billion
Learned and accomplished ones.
It is the ultimate practice.

This advice from the core of the heart
Of the fallen monk Jamyang Dorje
Is the purest of the purest essence
From the bindu of my life blood.
Therefore keep it in your heart, mother.

These few words of heart advice
Were written in a beautiful countryside,
In the palace of the spacious blue sky
That competes with the splendor of divine realms.

To the devoted Chokyi Nodzom,
My dear and loving mother,
And to all my devoted students
I offer this letter of advice.

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Surfing: An Altered State Inducer

I’ve been surfing for over 40 years and still love it. To me it is a fantastic way to build up brain waves conducive to entering an altered state of consciousness and especially acts as a trigger for getting into a state of flow.

It’s even been shown that just 5 weeks of exposure to surfing can dramatically reduce Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I wanted to share with you this fantastic video shot at one of my favorite surf spots in the world, Wategos Beach in Byron Bay on the far north coast of New South Wales, Australia. I hope it inspires you as much as it does me and I look forward to seeing you in the line up!

MCTAVISH TRIM -FURTHEST UP THE BEACH 2017 from McTavish Surfboards on Vimeo.

Transcendent Near-Death Experiences : Key Learnings for Leadership and Engagement

Imagine for a moment what it would be like working in an organisation that is under huge pressures to grow, to transform itself and to beat the competition; an organisation that is mandated to do more with less and to do more differently rather than following the status quo. For many of us this is a daily reality. We can palpably feel the sense of urgency these pressures create.

Every moment of every day such an organisation is very likely to be under real existential threat: existing competitors are trying to grab our customer base and startups are gunning to make us irrelevant with disruptive solutions. Now imagine that your leaders not only fear organisational irrelevancy and death, but also fear their own professional and actual death:  these leaders are caught between the need to change and charge ahead and the paralysing fear of not existing.

Two main questions arise from this all too common situation: firstly, how can such leaders lead well when they are stuck like deer in existential headlights worrying that they could drop dead at any moment; and secondly, how can a person survive and thrive when they are working in such a company for such fearful leaders; how can people be expected to find purpose and meaning in their work; how can they remain engaged when they are working within such an environment of existential fear?

The short answer to both questions is that they cannot and the workplace surveys reflect this: big time. There is a paucity of purposeful leadership: by purpose I mean a goal that is bigger than our company’s results or share price. There is also a massive breakdown in staff engagement within the corporate universe.

To tackle this problem leaders need to be able to overwrite their fears; alter their reality and reinvent themselves; they need to be happier with greater overall life satisfaction, more in tune with a higher purpose and completely devoid of their previous fear of death.

This is not a trivial problem to solve for and the two overarching questions that emerge are: how can we as business leaders find a solution to this paralysing and very real corporate pandemic; how can we help our executives to deal with their fear?

The answer lies in confronting that which we fear most: no matter how uncomfortable it may feel, we need to stare death in the face. On the face of it this may not seem possible: how can we truly confront death without dying ourselves? Surely that would defeat the purpose?

There is an elegant solution: exploring death through the eyes of people who have been there and come back, exploring death through people who have undergone a near-death experience. Why them? Many NDEers no longer fear death.

In a study published in 2004 on near-death experiences and their impact on the  temporal lobe, Brown University’s Willoughby Britton made a startling discovery: people who had transcendent encounters during life-threatening events scored exceptionally higher on tests of overall life satisfaction than people who hadn’t. She referenced thirty years of research to show that while most people were negatively impacted and traumatised by their near-death experience, a subset who had experienced some form of transcendence had an atypical response: they exhibited off the charts happiness and life satisfaction, including feeling that their lives had meaning and a higher purpose.  By transcendence I refer to some experience that has the quality of being beyond the normal constraints we feel: linear time collapses; the well-defined sense of self dissolves; there is unity between the internal and external senses; there is reconnection back into a larger, collective otherness than the present life experience. Not all NDEers experience this transcendence, but a great many have.

Further research has demonstrated that this is not a one-off feeling that dissipates in the short to mid term. People who have undergone a transcendent NDE have had their brains permanently rewired so that they do not fear death. As long as a decade after such an NDE, those who have experienced it feel the same level of happiness, reverence and lack of existential fear.

Three years after my own transcendent NDE I can personally attest to this: yes, it took me a while to deal with the shock of my sudden cardiac death, there were moments of emotional turmoil along the way; yes, it took me a while to recuperate from my illness as only another major operation 10 months laterremoved the arrhythmia that had caused my cardiac arrest; but yes, I have absolutely overwritten and have no fear of dying whatsoever; and resoundingly yes, I have completely reinvented my life and have off the charts life satisfaction as I pursue a far greater purpose than my own selfish success or that of one organisation.

It would be impractical for organisations to only use transcendent NDE survivors as their leaders, but I would encourage dialogue with people like myself who are open to sharing our experiences and key learnings; people who are focused on improving leadership skills and helping executives to reinvent themselves with many of the traits that transcendent NDEers exhibit such as deeper compassion and wisdom.

There is also greater understanding of how to create an on tap emulation of the effects of a transcendent NDE and I encourage you to follow this growing activity more closely.  It is an area we are exploring at EXOscalr. There will be a lot to gain from having first mover advantage in being able to recreate altered states of consciousness.

How To Successfully Reinvent Ourselves

Do a google search on the phrase reinvent yourself and you quickly realise that this is a pervasive and perennial question: google tells us that related searches include how to reinvent yourself at 30; it seems we are still looking a decade later as another related search is reinventing yourself after 40; and again ten years later we want to know the answer to how to reinvent yourself at 50; and finally we ask the question how to reinvent yourself at 60?

Many people dream of a future that is radically different from their present: they want to quit the big city commute and live close to the beach; they want to get off the corporate treadmill and build a passion business as an entrepreneur; they want to move back to or away from family and where they grew up; they want to write novels rather than conduct endless business meetings or they want to leave a loveless relationship.

The challenge, though, is that getting to the point where they are fulfilling this dream can be tough. There are significant forces that contribute to this inertia and which can prevent reinvention. For example, we tend to exert more energy dealing with issues closer to hand: immediacy wins out over future concerns and dreams; we find it easier to simply deal with the day to day than plan for and progress towards achieving future-oriented goals. This is exacerbated when the future we dream of is very different from our present.

We may see a misty, day-dream-like version of ourselves doing something else, but we may have very little understanding of what it would take to actualise this dream. The stark reality is that we are likely to end up in an alternative, less fulfilling future before we know it: if we don’t achieve absolute clarity on where we are at today and where we want to be in the future ; if we don’t also implement an operating system that empowers us to crystallise goals, set clear objectives for achieving them and generate results-oriented data that ensures we are on target.

We all undergo some level of modification of our identities, both personal and professional as we traverse our lifespans. But there can be an underlying angst for people who are not fulfilled in their lives. They may want to make a radical change, but for whatever reason hold back on doing so. This increases their level of angst.

“What if I leave it too late?”

“I’ve been a software programmer for 30 years, it’s all I know, how can I now expect to become a musician?”

The good news is that it is never too late to reinvent ourselves. With sufficient intensity and resolve we can undertake significant positive change at any age. That being said, we do need to acknowledge that reinvention can take time. Learning a whole new discipline may take us years and we need to make allowance for the time it takes to get up to speed with our new goals. Being on the path to achieving such life changing goals will us new meaning, which in and of itself is a major benefit. After all, reinvention is more journey than destination.

Jim lost his son to an aggressive form of cancer and was then retrenched from his executive position at a multinational company. Instead of jumping back on the corporate treadmill, he drew inspiration from the fight his son had put up before succumbing to the cancer that ravaged his body; Jim decided to realise his passion for storytelling and wrote his first novel. Three years later he has published eight books and is well on track to publish many more.

There are four steps we can take that will help us achieve a successful transformation:

1. Finding Passion

In order to truly reinvent ourselves we need to find our passion. This requires a process of self-inquiry or self-evaluation: the aim is to determine our underlying drivers, strengths, fears, weakness; we cobble together our narrative, our story; we find out what intrinsically motivates us; we discard the blinding, extrinsic indicators of shallow success. We focus on what really drives us at the soul level: which unlocks a much higher probability of fulfilment, ensures we are less depressed; builds our resilience so that when things get tough and distractions and obstacles arise we can still achieve our goals.

2. Slogging It Out

And things will get tough. We have a tendency to be overly bullish about the future, overrate our abilities to make the necessary changes to reinvent ourselves and underrate the amount of effort this will take. We may think about the future for over 10% of our waking hours, but putting this into action is not something we necessarily excel at.

3. Connecting Before Committing

Once we know what area we will focus on in our reinvention we need to make a point of getting to know people in that space who are already achieving the kind of results we aspire to achieve. What do they see as the challenges, how would they go about entering that space if they were to do it again. Be inspired and then go ahead and commit.

4. Building a Reinvention Operating System

As we embark on the journey of reinvention we should implement a system that helps us change our habits, set objectives, track our behaviours and results so that we can determine how we are progressing. This can be a multiple year journey and it can be far from linear, we need to ensure we have the right practices and tools to assist us.

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How To Change Our Relationship To Negative Feelings

I want to share with you some thoughts around how we can change our relationship to negative feelings through meditation.

Our aim in meditation is to form a different relationship to things we are feeling or experiencing. Initially this is true for us while we are in practice, but over time our objective is to expand this relationship into our everyday lives. Take for example a feeling of irritation we have at somebody for something they have done or failed to do.

What is your relationship to that feeling?

Are you stuck with that feeling, is it replaying over and over in your mind? This constant replay is a form of reinforcement. Neuro-plasticity works both ways.

Can you step back from that feeling? Start by recognizing it, deconstructing the various elements of that feeling into its constituent parts.

Can you now start to change your thinking about that feeling? Hold back your initial, troubled reaction to it and replace that with a sense of calm, a sense of spaciousness.

Does this create a space between their act of doing or not doing and your feeling towards it?

Does it help you separate out the act and the emotion it initially gave rise to?

We want to get to the point where we are no longer reinforcing the negative and instead are linking a difficult feeling with the deep well of open, untroubled awareness that exists within us. This leads to a relaxation of the need to react to a negative feeling and immediately disempowers that feeling.

We find ourselves less controlled by such feelings; we find ourselves less in fear of being in situations that may give rise to them and therefore less likely to avoid such circumstances. This is at the heart of being fierce.

And when we are more relaxed overall we find ourselves being less fatigued, more productive, more emotionally intelligent and we make more strategic decisions:  this is at the heart of being better leaders.

When we arrive at the understanding that we can change our brains through our minds, we empower ourselves to transform our lives.  

By peering mindfully into our lives when we meditate we can start to establish patterns and see what is transpiring in our personal, societal and work relationships. This leads to us seeing, sometimes for the very first time, when we are thinking negatively and inviting chaos by reacting emotionally to similar situations that repeat themselves at regular intervals in our lives. For example, we may find that at around two years into a personal relationship our voice of doubt gets louder and we become jealous and react in a relationship-destroying way, or we may find that there is a time frame in a job when the honeymoon is over, we become bored and we start negative behaviors that are career-limiting.

A Guided Self-Awareness Meditation

I’d like to finish with a guided meditation that focuses on embodiment: a great way for us to quieten negativity. In this exercise I will ask you to connect to a mindful awareness of your feelings both at a mental and physical level. I will ask you to go deeper and deeper into this awareness and lower any barriers that exist. I want you to feel that you are in a safe place from which you can delve further into this awareness and lower any barriers that exist.

The aim of this practice is to increase your awareness of the full range of embodied feelings that may arise and to be comfortable with them even if some of them feel uncomfortable. The stretch goal of this practice is to open your heart to feeling the strong connection that exists between all of us and the universe.

I suggest having your computer read this out to you at a slow speed. Alternatively, you could record yourself reading it out slowly and then when you are ready to do the meditation play the recording back.

Find a pose that is both comfortable for you and that also feels uplifting and relaxed.  If you can sit cross legged with ease that would be ideal. If not, try sitting on a cushion or bolster so that your body is slightly higher than your legs. Kneeling is also a good position.

If you prefer to remain active while meditating then go for a slow walk, preferably in a place that is relaxing to you. The aim is to come into some posture of stillness that doesn’t feel contrived. You are inviting your body to settle.

If you are stationary you can close your eyes to go more inward for this moment. Alternatively, and especially if you have chosen to walk, keep your eyes open, but shift your eyes downward to soften your gaze. There will be nothing visually important or interesting happening around you and by closing your eyes or dropping your gaze you will have more of an opportunity to connect to the imagery that may arise during this practice.

Gently start bringing your attention into one place.

Thoughts may continue to come from all over, they may continue to pull you in multiple directions, but start centering on your breath. Feel the passage of air entering your lungs and then leaving them.

When thoughts do pull you away, return gently to your breath and to the felt experience of being alive and present in your body. Feel your embodiment: in your legs, how you are sitting, the arch in your back, the angle of your head and through your hands.

Shift your mind from feeling your body conceptually to really feeling it at the physical level.

Gently allow yourself the pleasure of feeling your breath and your body as tactile physical sensations that are always in motion, rising and falling.

When your mind wanders, gently, yet fiercely, bring it back to your breath and your body, again and again.

Allow yourself to feel all the sensations that arise, both pleasant and unpleasant, familiar and unfamiliar; feel the movement of your breath; feel the rising and falling of your chest; feel the movement in the air around you and feel the air crossing the skin just below your nostrils; feel your skin and its contact with your clothing; feel the heat or cold; feel the dryness or humidity in the air; feel your contact with the ground.

Deepen your curiosity about your own experience and allow yourself, in this moment, in the now, to feel the full range of whatever arises: this may be pleasurable or it may be painful; this may be comfortable or it may be uncomfortable.

While you are allowing these sensate feelings to arise at an increasingly deeper level, keep bringing your attention back to centre.

The barrage of thoughts may start to slow, but they may also be sparked off in different directions by your physical feelings.

Continue deepening your felt presence, breath after breath, moment after moment.

Start to really feel your embodiment at a much more heightened level.

Allow other sensory perceptions to arise as you go deeper: feel your heart beating; notice your emotions; notice your overall mood – contentment, frustration, happiness, sadness –  and if you are around others feel the overall mood and emotions that are present in your home, in the office, on a train, on a plane.

Purposefully exclude nothing; opening your mind further and further and dropping any barriers that were in place or that instinctively arise during this meditation.

You are alone with your thoughts yet you are at one with the universe, you are in a safe place.

Feel everything that arises; feel the innate beauty in everything; feel the innate beauty in our humanity: in every possible emotion, sensation and thought; feel our shared humanity.

Go deeper still and feel our greater connection to the universe. Stay at that level and feel the wholeness that exists all around us. Exclude nothing, allowing yourself the deepest permission to just be, as you are, in this moment.

And now, bring your attention slowly back to focus only on how it feels to breathe.

Notice what is present for you are we conclude this meditation. Make a conscious choice to reengage with this present moment and the rest of your day.

Namaste.

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Three Ways To Become a Better Leader By Waking Up To Your True Self

Design your own wake up call and become a better leader.

Design your own wake up call and become a better leader.

I want you to join me in an exercise in expanding your mind and opening your heart. The objective of this exercise is to help you become a better leader so it is worth your while to play along.

Imagine with me for the next few minutes that you are someone else entirely.

Your name is Sam.

You’ve spent the last few years in the web of a double life that has finally caught up with you.

Last week you were sentenced to 15 years in jail with no parole for smuggling drugs into the United States.

You had realised that your life had two sides to it, but it is only now that you have been delivered a huge wake up call.

You realise that your actions will devastate your colleagues, but more importantly, your family as well.

What do you do?

How will you survive one and a half decades in prison?

Would you turn to violence? Would you play the blame game, seeing yourself as a victim of circumstance?

This is an exercise in fantasy for you and me, but for one young person it was far from that. It was reality: at the age of 24, convicted of drug smuggling and destined to spend part of the 1980s and 1990s in a US federal penitentiary.

For the sake of consistency let’s call him Sam.

As he did his time Sam came to understand that there are three key things he could do to survive and thrive in this situation:

1. Completely owning your experience
2. Catalysing your awakening
3. Reclaiming your inner wisdom

I believe that this is also a pathway to becoming a better leader and Sam’s approach fits with my mantra of being fierce, removing our masks, tapping into our innate capacity for compassion and taking heroic action.

Completely Owning Your Experience

Sam realised that the only way to survive, the only way for him to finally walk out of this nightmare was to completely own the experience. He accepted that he was at fault and that his destiny was of his own making.

He decided to transform his life through developing a practice of meditation and deep contemplation. He went on to have a major impact on the lives of many prisoners by advocating for and providing access to mindfulness practices. Since his release from prison Sam has widened his work to influence people all around the world.
During his time in prison he came to see the world and his place in it for what it truly is.

He realised that if we simply allow ourselves to live an unexamined life we find ourselves on the evolutionary path with our mammalian drive for survival overriding everything. In this way we set ourselves up to follow fear based, habitual, mechanistic and survivalist lives. Layered on top of this we co-create a culture and set of institutions that are also blame and fear-based, habitual and mechanistic.

Even the most highly functioning of us are susceptible to and have the propensity to live unaware that we have condemned ourselves to follow such a fear-based, mechanical path.

You live your life in quiet desperation; you wait for a light bulb moment that never comes; you never really deeply examine your situation and you don’t realise that you are roving like a hungry ghost, finding fleeting security in whatever confirms your existence or your sense of worthiness; finding home in external confirmation of your ‘success’: your bank accounts, your job, or your relationships.

You  haven’t really done the internal work necessary to find your true place, which has been residing within you all along yet has been cloaked by your an evolutionary override and peer-based cultural mask. You have an innate basic goodness that saturates and permeates through you. You can tap into this goodness through your tenderness and your vulnerability.

Catalysing Your Awakening

Finding yourself in a highly charged situation, facing your version of 15 years in prison, you have a choice. You can condemn yourself to continue living a habitual, fear-based life.

Or, preferably, you can use that moment as a catalyst to awaken yourself, increasing your compassion and becoming even more vulnerable. In choosing this awakened path you open yourself up to living a life of service to others, which is one of the highest things we can aspire to do as human beings. By doing so you not only give your life exponentially more meaning and fulfilment, but you also turn your compassion inwards and satiate your hunger for external confirmation.

Reclaiming Your Inner Wisdom

How do you get to the point of making such a choice, particularly if you are really struggling with the situation you have gotten yourself into?

You need to use self agency to break the conditioning so that you can start being more than a victim of this conditioning and the world you and society have constructed around you.

You need to use this self agency as a springboard for self empowerment. This will heighten your level of awareness and empower you to reclaim your inner wisdom, your innate goodness.

No matter how much the world seems to have conspired against you and convinced you of your unworthiness, you know, somewhere way back inside of you, you know this is all a mask and that you are innately good, you are innately wise.

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This post was initially sent out as part of the EXOscalr Be Fierce newsletter. If you don’t want to miss out you can subscribe here: http://eepurl.com/bxGzD1.

 

How to Increase Engagement With Compassion, Purpose and Positivity

Horizon

We live in an increasingly narcissistic world in which more and more people are suffering from depression and killing themselves. Suicide rates have increased 24% in the last 15 years.

That is a huge number and my first instinct is to ask, “How can we, as business leaders, help turn this situation around?”

It is possible to take on a higher purpose AND make a profit.

That may feel like a question for foundations, for charities and others not focused on turning a profit. But that impression would be very wrong. It is possible to take on a higher purpose AND make a profit.

In fact, if your business only focuses on profit you are likely to lose a rapidly increasing part of your workforce. A greater number of staff are millennials today and their numbers will continue to increase as older generations cycle out of the work environment. As many as two thirds of millennials would rather earn 50% less salary so long as they work in a job that has impact. 76% of them want their organisations to change their stance around engagement and making a difference. These statistics can be layered onto the current corporate canvas in which 70% of people at work are either not engaged or actively disengaged.

And yet business is the most logical vehicle for making positive change happen in the world. We cannot rely on the not for profit sector, nor can we rely on governments. In addition, people are not finding social connection in their lives generally, their workplaces (where they spend a predominant amount of their waking time) should be providing that. Over 100 years ago Emile Durkheim presciently pointed out that as people become increasingly disconnected from their families and societies they will become more depressed and this will lead to greater numbers of suicides. He posited that the workplace was the logical place to find a replacement for our innate human need for connection.

Business is the most logical vehicle for making positive change happen in the world.

A person’s occupation, their place of work, should be integral to building a healthier lifestyle and overall health and well-being. Ideally a person’s role purpose should align with that of their team, their company and their community. It if does, this can increase their overall purpose in life and lead to not only increased longevity, but also from a corporate point of view it will ensure they are more deeply engaged. One study has suggested that having a low purpose in life is equivalent to smoking up to 3 packs of cigarettes a day!

I want to highlight what three companies are doing to make a difference in this area.

Finding Heart and Soul

Kellogg has created a corporate responsibility strategy designed to form the backbone for their growth as a business. This heart and soul strategy drives them to see themselves as more than a business.

Kellogg Chair & CEO, John Bryant says, “We are a company with heart and soul. We care about nourishing people with our foods, feeding those in need, nurturing our planet and living our founder’s values.”

They have set out to align their vision (to enrich and delight the world through foods and brands that matter) with their purpose (nourishing families so they can flourish and thrive) and create a culture for growth so that their people become a diverse and inclusive community of passionate people making a difference.

Part of this difference making is to ensure they undertake responsible sourcing of the ingredients that go into their foods. They have quantified this commitment by pledging to help improve the livelihoods of 500,000 farmers over the next 15 years.

Chief Purpose

PwC recently appointed a Chief Purpose Officer. Shannon Schuyler’s responsibility is to activate the company’s purpose (building trust in society and solving important problems). Their hypothesis is that a purpose-driven organisation is far more likely to have its staff doing what they do with an elevated sense of meaning, understanding and really wanting to lift society in a different way.

One of her challenges is filling the gap between why leaders and employees think purpose is important. Leaders feel that purpose helps drive innovation, product development and ultimately revenue. By contrast, employees think purpose is important because it brings meaning to their jobs and delivers value to society through the work they do. So far she has rationalised this down to there being different layers of purpose – a continuum that spans organisational and individual purpose and that also includes a nuance between personal and role purpose.

One of the important problems PwC is tackling is the shift to a freelance culture. By 2020 almost half of the workforce in the United States will be freelancing, many by conscious choice. How do they retain their 240,000 staff in such an environment? They are starting to experiment with hiring millennial staff for four month stints that coincide with peak client demand. This strategy has lead to more engaged millennials who prefer to work hard for a condensed period and lead a balanced life the remainder of the year.

The average tenure of a millennial in an organisation is 18 months, because it’s usually at that inflection point that they put their head up and ask. “Is this all there is to what I’m doing at work?”  And then they constantly change jobs because no one is helping them to figure out what is missing.

PwC is taking people who have been at the company for two years through a week long program called Discover which helps them find their purpose. They work with a personal coach and take the time to figure out why their job is important, why what they do is so fundamental to who the company is and to the success of society through their skill set. Through this process their coach also helps them figure out what values and behaviours will help drive their success.

Hiring Compassionately

Many times you can feel the culture of an organisation within seconds of walking into one of their offices or talking with their staff. There is either a palpably positive, and contagious, energy or the very air seems toxic. Leading organisations recognise the importance of having a positive workplace and actively undertake to make sure their people are confident, optimistic and resilient. Companies that take this seriously incorporate this approach from the very first employee touchpoint – the hiring process.

For example, LinkedIn selects staff based on compassion. Interviewers use questions designed to illustrate the value of compassion in an answer. Here is an example:

Imagine you are a business partner visiting Seattle from Mountain View for a very important meeting with top managers in the global sales organisation. You step out of the meeting to use the restroom, and one of your managers stops you on the way, saying…
“One of my employees in California just had a baby. The infant is in the ICU at a hospital that is an hour away from her home. Is there anything we can do to help her?”

How would you answer?

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This post was initially sent out as part of the EXOscalr Be Fierce newsletter. If you don’t want to miss out you can subscribe here: http://eepurl.com/bxGzD1.

Breaking Through Control And Ego: Shifting From Fear To Empowerment

Breaking Out!

Breaking Out of Your Trance!

After my sudden cardiac death I remember feeling sad as I lay on a hospital bed in intensive care. I was sad at the thought of never being able to glide through the water on my beloved stand up paddle board. I was watching the sun rise at the start of a pristine summer’s day and yet I felt that life wasn’t co-operating. This sadness bordered on anger. Underlying this feeling was the emotion of fear. I was caught up in my separate self, consumed by my problem. I didn’t feel like I had a choice in how I related to this situation; I was a victim; I was oppressed; ultimately, I was disempowered.

What I really wanted to do was to control things. I sensed that my health situation meant I wasn’t going to be able to do what I loved; my life wasn’t co-operating and so I grasped for control of my health; I also became a victim of my circumstance and tried to take control by judging myself. In doing so I was entering a trance.

DISRUPTING CONTROL

You can enter this control trance through any number of things: losing your health; someone you love gets sick; your financial situation drops off a cliff; your relationships unravel. Common to all these circumstances is a grasping on your part to try control all aspects of your life in that moment.

You feel disempowered and insecure and this fear leads you to grab for control.

You feel disempowered and insecure and this fear leads you to grab for control. This has a negative effect on other parts of your life and can cause a downward spiral; it leads you to hurt others; it results in you ruining both personal and business relationships.

The challenge is to see this trance for what it is; to see that any solution you try to secure when in this state will not work.

You need to wake up from the trance and do a complete reversal.

You need to wake up from the trance and do a complete reversal: counter intuitively shifting from insular and controlling to open and trusting; shifting from seeking power to tapping into the source of all power. By connecting to the universe, by plugging into the source, you can replace your grasping and insecurity with profound awareness, love and deep security. By breaking this trance you empower yourself; you become free to choose your attitude, to choose how you respond to whatever is going on, no matter how disruptive that situation may seem.

GET THE FULL STORY

The brain is our search engine – using a universal algorithm it indexes the world according to our limited human capability. Over time we build up an ego, which uses a secondary set of algorithms to filter the indexed world according to our unique context.

The ego determines how we see the world and ourselves.

The ego, as gatekeeper, provides us with manageable information it deems most relevant to us. The ego determines how we see the world and ourselves. Our context is determined by the experiences we go through and how they shape us.

Our actions are mostly determined in other parts of the brain than where the ego resides. This means that even though we are led to believe by our ego that it is determining our path through life, much like the distinction between story and plot, other parts of our brain are providing the plot, the what and why we do what we do, while the ego presents us with the story, how we are doing it.

Your greatest challenge is to break out of the trance your ego has created.

Your greatest challenge is to break out of the trance your ego has created. Your ego filters the world so that your awake awareness is only comprised of what it predetermines is good for you. As such you have been living on automatic, in a reactive mode, grasping for control when life doesn’t seem to be co-operating. To break the trance you must bring into awareness aspects of the world that have been hidden by the story your ego has created for you.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO BREAK OUT OF BOTH THESE FORMS OF TRANCE?

In trance many of your energy centres remain closed up; you find power from within your sense of separate self; you operate from a very limited and contracted place; you are within the illusion, the fairy tale, that has you grasping for power and fulfilling a false need for control. When you break from the trance you enter universal flow; all your energy centres open; power comes through the universe to you and it is unlimited; you access your innate super powers of compassion and love; you achieve full empowerment.

3 Ways to Boost Your Energy and Immune System

Health Tonics

Last week I shared with you a method for creating meaningful behavior change. This week I want to share some further practical advice, this time around boosting your energy and your immune system.

All three of the tonics listed below are designed to keep your body in balance and ward off stress-induced illness. Add them to your daily routine and enjoy the benefits that come from having more energy.

Daily Squeeze

Squeeze up to half a lemon’s worth of juice into a mug. Add a teaspoon of honey and fill the mug up with boiling water. Have this as you first drink of the day. It is a great anti-inflammatory.

Turmeric Tonic

This is another, more powerful, anti-inflammatory and immune system booster. Have a small glass of this daily. Note that your body absorbs turmeric better when ingested with black pepper so sprinkle some ground pepper into the glass.

Add 50g (quarter cup) sugar, or preferably honey, and 60ml water to a pot and heat on medium until dissolved. Remove to cool.

Pour the mixture into a 1 litre bottle or jug and add 180g (three quarter cup) of squeezed lemon and 500ml of cool water.

Use a juicer that can masticate and grind an unpeeled, chopped 5cm piece of ginger. This should yield 2 teaspoons of ginger juice, add to the bottle.

Do the same with 12 x 5cm pieces of turmeric root to yield 120ml (half a cup) of juice. Add this to the bottle.

Screw on lid and shake the bottle well.

Chia Fresca

This is an energy booster and your body will slowly absorb the chia throughout the day. The best time to have this is at the start of the day before going for a run or gym session.

Combine 1 teaspoon of dry chai seeds with half a glass of cold water. The seeds absorb 9x their weight.

Stir the mixture a few times over 10 minutes to ensure they don’t clump together as they swell up. After 10 minutes they should form a gel that has the consistency of yoghurt.

Add half a lime’s worth of juice (2 teaspoons) and 1-2 teaspoons of xylotol or agave syrup to sweeten. Drink immediately.