The Mindful Entrepreneur: Reinvention, Transcendent Leadership, Altered States, Compassion, Leadership Coaching, Transformation, Personal and Business Strategy, Disruptive Innovation, Performance and Growth.
Sometimes life just sucks. You are totally bored with the everyday drudge of commute, work, commute. Your boss doesn’t get you. You don’t get the company. The same route to the office, day in, day out. And the weather. I could go on.
Life would be so much better if you could just escape for a few weeks: go some place warm; go some place where you can find peace; go some place where you can shut out everything that is causing you anxiety and stress.
But here’s the thing: you take your anxiety wherever you go. There is no escaping it.
You will be in a constant state of anxiety: when you try to get away from the things causing you stress; when you hold tight to the things that make you happy.
It is far more practical to relax with the things that are stressing you out; to relax with your life as it is, right now.
The immediate benefit of relaxing into your reality will be an overarching sense of ease in your life.
The path to peacefulness is counterintuitive. Instead of running from your current life, run toward and into everything.
You will discover that peace is not found at some exotic location.
Peace is right here, with you. And as a bonus: you can return to it anytime you like.
I want to highlight an article in the NY Times about the Big Sur, California-based Esalen Institute reopening. Why this is so interesting is because its new mission is “to help technologists who discover that ‘inside they’re hurting”.
Entrepreneurs and business leaders, particularly from the technology industry are starting to get one of my key messages: “Technology without meaning is like work without fulfilment: purposeless noise.”
As Ben Tauber, the new Executive Director at Esalen, puts it:
There’s a dawning consciousness emerging in Silicon Valley as people recognise that their conventional success isn’t necessarily making the world a better place. The CEOs, inside they’re hurting. They can’t sleep at night.
Another nearby centre, 1440 Multiversity, which lies nestled in the California redwoods near Santa Cruz, has a similar message in its goal: to recognise that the blazing success of the internet catalysed powerful connections, yet did not help people connect to themselves.
1440 was founded by Scott Kriens, Chairman and former CEO of Juniper Networks, with the rationale that there is “great power in immersion learning – setting aside daily urgencies and dedicating uninterrupted time and energy to focus on our more important, but often more elusive, priorities.”
One of the key questions technologists are starting to ask themselves is whether they are doing the right thing for humanity. It’s all very well building a highly addictive, behaviour changing piece of technology, but if it doesn’t progress humanity in some way then what is the point?
Before heading up Esalen, Ben Tauber had created a real-time celebrity geo-stalking service called JustSpotted and then joined Google as an acqui-hire. He then decided his work was causing harm. “I realized I was addicting people to their phones. It’s a crisis that everyone’s in the culture of killing it, and inside they’re dying.”
As former Google chef Bodhi Kalayjian, who now bakes bread at Esalen says, “Everybody’s got a soul. It’s about finding it.”
The article also quotes Gopi Kallayil, Google’s chief evangelist of brand marketing. He has been wondering about the impact of his work and said that many of the people who came to him had floundered this year.
Ultimately, it’s about finding meaning in your work and ensuring that what you invest your precious time into is something that you can feel proud of.
Mindfulness is at the forefront of the ‘science of the human mind and heart’: it has helped people deal with chronic pain; it has eased the anxiety of veterans dealing with post traumatic stress.
Mindful stress reduction programs are mushrooming in our classrooms and across our companies, but Jon Kabat-Zinn’s message is that it urgently needs to be harnessed in the most ambitious way yet: it needs to challenge the way the world is run and he wants to inject mindfulness into global politics.
Called the godfather of modern mindfulness in a recent piece in The Guardian, he says that: “People are losing their minds. That is what we need to wake up to.”
His current message is that mindfulness could change the world. He “vibrates with an urgent belief that meditation is the ‘radical act of love and sanity’ we need in the age of” [pick your modern woe – political, environmental, health or disaster-related].
Mindfulness is not some wishy washy fad. It works. It is powerful. As the Guardian article points out, if you need proof just ask NBA basketball champions, the Golden State Warriors. Mindfulness is now one of the team’s core values.
Jon’s concerns today echo his words from 1969, “We are approaching a critical unique point in history. We are approaching an ego disaster of major proportions – overpopulation, pollution of every conceivable kind including mental.”
His aim is to help political leaders “maintain a degree of sanity and recognition of the fears and concerns of those who do not see the world the way we do. The temptation is to fall into camps where you dehumanise the other, and no matter what they do, they are wrong, and no matter what we do, we are right.”
“The human mind, when it doesn’t do the work of mindfulness, winds up becoming a prisoner of its myopic perspectives that puts ‘me’ above everything else,” he says. “We are so caught up in the dualistic perspectives of ‘us’ and ‘them’. But ultimately there is no ‘them’. That’s what we need to wake up to.”
We are at a “pivotal moment for our species to come to our senses … mobilising in the mainstream world … the power of mindfulness”.
This is a powerful message and one all leaders and aspiring leaders should take heed of. As I point out in my book, Fierce Reinvention:
The only way we can make a difference and start healing ourselves and our world is to take personal responsibility for our actions, and to live in the now by mindfully and purposefully focusing on the present moment as it unfolds, without dwelling on what we have done or dream of doing. It is up to each and every one of us to step up, take more responsibility and assume a higher level of leadership.
I grew up among sickness and death. My father was a veterinary surgeon, and I’d accompany him on farm visits and regularly visit his animal hospital.But I noticed that our relationship with death was different when it came to people. The adults didn’t talk much with us children about the passing of a family member. And when my sister was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of six, we were shunned by many former friends in the community.
Death is taboo, an obsessive morbidity that can’t be healthy for us—or so our culture seems to say. It’s OK to bring it up briefly when someone we know has died, and we recognize grieving, but not for too long. For a few weeks after a loved one dies, we’re offered condolences. We respond with a polite “Thanks,” and then the topic of conversation quickly moves on.
Let’s make impermanence our friend
But death is all around us. By denying aging, death, impermanence and sickness, we set ourselves up for a life of fear and reactivity, and a meanness of spirit. When we do break through the death barrier, we find that we relax into our lives and our place in the universe. We pull back from the acquisitive, busy, controlling mentality that formerly held death and our fear of it at bay. We feel a wave of relief wash over us, and we shift into a more honest and real relationship with ourselves and the people around us. We become more present, more aware and more compassionate.
By denying aging, death, impermanence and sickness, we set ourselves up for a life of fear and reactivity, and a meanness of spirit.
In society, we often measure success by what we own and what we do. So, at a young age, we start to acquire assets: watches, cars, jewellery, property. We also allow our workplace to define us. And we struggle when all this stuff is taken away from us due to happenstance, ill health and ultimately, death. We grieve the loss, and rue how impermanent life is, but these feelings often come too late to give us much comfort.
We’d be far better off making impermanence our friend and death our mentor at a young age, by creating a daily practice of recognizing that nothing is forever. This daily practice could include the following three steps:
Reflect on your health and remind yourself that it’s in our nature to become sick.
Reflect on your life and remind yourself that it’s in our nature to die.
Reflect on what you have and remind yourself that everything will eventually become separated from you.
Instead of being shocked when something departs our world, it’s best that we instead recognize the loss as natural and wish that person, relationship or thing well on its journey.
My father’s gift to me
My father was always strongly independent. And yet, as his cancer spread, he became weaker and more reliant on others. Through his realization that he wasn’t in control—and perhaps never had been, in his life—he was giving me the gift of a stronger perception of impermanence while allowing me to connect with and care for him more intimately.
When my father was in the final few weeks of his battle with cancer, he turned to me one morning and asked, “What do other people do?”
“Do you mean other people in your situation?”
“Does it really matter what they do? You need to dance to your own tune and not worry about what is a socially acceptable way to die. It’s your time. There’s no right or wrong way.”
It was hard hearing myself say that. This was my father. This was the toughest man I’d ever met.
“All I ask is that you keep breathing. Relax into this part of your journey and breathe. Don’t let social pressure or fear control your behaviour.”
Life is a series of unknown moments
While it’s useful to create a practice to help us deal with our own death, this is no guarantee of how we’ll face it when the time comes, nor will being prepared necessarily reduce the anguish for those around us or lead us to dying in a serene state.
Life is a series of unknown moments that are strung together by our minds to create a narrative. What’s important to remember is that each and every moment is not only unknown, but unknowable. Our death is but one such moment. Contemplate that, explore the unknown, become comfortable with infinite unknowables, and your fear of death and dying well will diminish. Replace your anxious mind with a curious mind.
Building a strong practice of meditation is particularly helpful for creating a heightened level of comfort with the unknown. In meditation, we release our biases and preconceptions and let every moment arrive abundantly unknown.
Death can teach us so much about living life to its fullest—without delay, without fear and without masks—so do your best to let yourself embrace it.
You want to step up, but something always seems to hold you back. Could it be the intensity you bring to achieving your goals? There are ways you can ratchet up your intensity level and achieve extraordinary greatness.
First off, the greater intensity that is required for extraordinary greatness is encapsulated in the mantra: “being fierce.”
In a nutshell, being fierce involves:
coming from a place of truth,
ultimate authenticity, and
being totally present in all that we do and think.
Let’s not forget though that being fierce is not about smashing it, owning it or any other form of faux aggression.
It turns out that consciously seeking and saying the truth involves knowing and working on our weaknesses. Constantly improving and stretching ourselves and our teams is a key element of being fierce and making the shift to extraordinary greatness.
Here’s the secret: extraordinarily great leaders are fierce with the truth. They never let a good story get in the way of telling it as it is. For example, if their business, venture or project is slipping on a deadline they don’t cover this up to the board, investors, or stakeholders. They speak plainly and this empowers their people to do the same. The result is a much more aligned organization that can rally around the problem areas and collectively make that deadline.
And get this: authenticity is Intertwined with fierce truth. We’ve all seen this situation play out: someone in a power role is disingenuous and manipulative with the truth. They may end up getting what they want in the short term, but along the way they lose followers. Inauthentic behaviour is deeply offensive and as humans we disassociate ourselves from it.
The fact is that when we are totally present we are more likely to both be more truthful and to appear more authentic. Again, we’ve all seen this situation play out: you are standing in your manager’s office at work and they aren’t listening to what you are saying. They could be thinking about something important to the business, like achieving the quarter’s looming targets, but you feel that you are being disrespected and made to feel insignificant. It is hard to remain engaged when your manager treats you this way.
But what if you flipped this situation around? Remember how you make your people feel by being fierce with yourself in their presence. Giving them your undivided attention, asking them how they are doing, and watching the beam on their face when they realise that you care about them, as people.
Discover more in my new book, Fierce Reinvention: A Guide to Harnessing Your Superpowers for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Success ($11.99 digital, 15.99 print (USD), October 2017) is available from Amazon.
Form a pathway to journey on and do extraordinary things.
Hey, it’s Rand,
Over the last 30 days, I’ve provided you with the mindset and tools to kickstart your journey of reinventing yourself.
I encourage you to build on this knowledge base and create your own fierce practice.
Exactly how fierce you are, and how much of a reinvention you undertake depends entirely on you
Will you be fierce?
Will you be fiercer?
Will you be your fiercest self?
The intensity level you choose comes from a place deep inside you: it comes from a place of truth; a place of ultimate authenticity; and a place where you are totally present in all that you do and think.
Being fierce is not about smashing it, owning it or any other form of faux aggression.
There is no ferocity in being fierce only truth.
You should consciously seek and say the truth; you should work on and know your weaknesses; and you should constantly improve and stretch yourself so that you can make the shift to extraordinary greatness.
You don’t need anyone’s permission to make this shift, but there are pathways that can ease your way think of these pathways as being signposted by breadcrumbs, or morsels of permission.
These are the small parts of possible that appear in different places; these are the small parts of possible which appear at different times; and they can be easily missed.
You need to be hyper-aware and mindful of them. You need to assemble them like a puzzle, so that, like magic, these seemingly disparate pieces form a pathway on which you can journey and do extraordinary things.
Making the shift to extraordinary involves granting ourselves and others the permission to shift from doing things in a linear, constrained way.
It involves approaching apparent dead ends with this mentality and the results will be the opening up of new paths of possibility.
I wish you well on your journey of reinvention, and I extend to you an open invitation to engage with me. Keep me up to date on how your life changes and on the incredible things that happen to you as your progress your practice of being fierce.