I attended the TEDxGotham conference last week at Cooper Union and left inspired and motivated by the wonderful speakers and wave of ideas and new ways of looking at how we work and live. For those of you unfamiliar with TED, it is a nonprofit founded in 1984 devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It began with sharing knowledge and ideas from thinkers in the areas of Technology, Entertainment and Design – and has broadened to a range of topic areas.
One speaker that stood out for me was Rasanath Das. He told the story of his time as an investment banker on Wall Street – a period when he was studying to become a monk at the same time. These two pursuits, which seem diametrically opposed, came together in his life and opened a path for him to share his ideas on how the practice of monasticism and its teachings can help all of us live and work with more passion, thoughtfulness, and authenticity.
He described one key event in which he was the only one in his associate group who failed an important exam. He was embarrassed and devastated by this and did not want his colleagues to know. However as he spoke with the monks, quieted his negative thoughts, and spent time in introspection, he realized that failing the test did not define him and who he was. It was merely a test and a grade. When he came to work the next day and his colleagues asked how he did on the test, he simply said, “I failed.” Later one person expressed their admiration for his willingness to speak the truth and face everyone in a difficult moment. They then had a discussion about some of the teachings and ideas that helped him through.
Imagine if we all could cast aside our worries of acceptance, our need for control, and our focus on perceived image, and instead look inward for guidance? Imagine the peace we might feel, and the greater effectiveness we might realize. We can. As leaders and managers, we can challenge ourselves to practice introspection and yield the results.
Rasanath believes in the power of introspection – a practice we discuss in our Thoughtful Leadership competency. The ability to shut out the “negative voices in our head” and the distractions of what others say, think, or do, and find the inner wisdom we all possess. He offered one challenge to all of us – take 15 minutes each day to sit in silence and listen to your heart and connect with your self. I have found that my silent 15 minutes gives me tremendous clarity, resolve, and insight to matters that heretofore seemed too difficult or tiresome to address. Stepping away from distractions and other energy zappers helps me to take a “clean slate” approach to solving problems and making decisions. I’ve found it is a great way to begin or end my day – and also helps in the moments of hectic franticness in the middle of the day as well.
Take the challenge, share the challenge, and share what experience you have in your moments of silence and what you’ve learned. I’ll share what I learn as well.