Who would have ever thought the Chairman of Ford would share the stage with Buddhist monk and spiritual guru Jack Kornfield? Or a leader from Twitter would interview Jon Kabat-Zinn about the role mindfulness plays in modern day work and life? Or a start-up leader would stand in front of a few thousand people, share photos of his communal living space, and lead a short, guided meditation about smiling at the bus stop? Or a technologist turned artist would comfortably strut barefoot across a stage at a “business” conference and talk about her journey as a human being?
This was the essence of Wisdom 2.0 – a multi-day gathering in San Francisco bringing together a diverse group of spiritual leaders, business leaders, technologists, academics, body workers, seekers, and overall interesting people to explore “living with mindfulness, wisdom, and compassion in the technology age.” I loved the time I spent at the conference and walked away feeling professionally inspired, personally grounded, and encouraged about the promise of a better world. I’ll share more specific, actionable ideas this week, but to start, here are a few broader themes/ideas that inspired me:
- Shifting from doing to being. There was a lot of talk about doing “other people’s work,” versus work that rings true to who we are. This is much easier said than done (involves the daunting question “who am I?”), but I think a greater emphasis on “being” could help people work smarter, make a bigger impact, and more naturally integrate work + life. There are some simple ways to start to make this shift happen in everyday life…things like asking people “how are you?” or “what did you do today” instead of “what do you do?,” and showing up at work the same way you show up outside of work.
- Moving from me –> we. This was the main theme of a presentation by Justin Rosenstein, co-founder of Asana, but it came out in lots of different ways throughout the conference. It’s the simple idea that mindfulness combined with compassion may be much more powerful than mindfulness alone. It’s about looking inward for grounding and energy…and then directing that power outward to help our neighbors, our society, and our world. The most powerful way I heard this message was in a lunchtime conversation I had with a young designer who shared her (extraordinarily evolved) point-of-view that “if you live a life of service, everything just falls into place.”
- The power of intention. No surprise, as Buddhist teachers were abundant at Wisdom 2.0, there was a lot of discussion about intention, and how intention can bring focus and meaning and efficiency and fulfillment to everything we do. It’s a simple concept to integrate into our everyday lives….we can wake up every morning and set an intention for the day…we can be clear about intentions for conversations in our lives and meetings at work. For me, writing my wellfesto helped guide my intentions. It’s a loose reminder of broadly how I want to live that helps direct everyday actions. It’s far from perfect, but it’s a start.
- The present moment versus our “narrative.” In his talk, Jon Kabat-Zinn talked a lot about living in the present, summing it with the simple question, “when will there ever be another now?” (Again, easier said than done.) But the way he talked about this resonated with me. He discussed how in our professional lives, we’re always striving to tell a cohesive story about who we are and how we got to where we are (our personal narrative). We’re taught to do this as children, in college admissions essays, in job interviews, etc. Without a doubt, there is a place for narrative (it’s how our world makes sense of things), but it’s dangerous to focus so much on our stories that we lose sight of the moments that make them up. It’s about striking the right balance, essentially, between doing and being.
- “Perfection is not of this world.” Arianna Huffington closed her talk with this quote, and I loved it. It was a simple statement that we need to love ourselves and other people more, embracing effort and not perfection, and finding as much value in failure as we do in success. We need to celebrate life’s journey for what it is, which is a collection of perfect and imperfect moments and experiences. And it also infers possibility that another world lies ahead of us, something I struggle to understand but hope more than anything is a universal truth.
I realize that San Francisco may be a bubble when it comes to comfortably talking about things like love and compassion and intention as they relate to work, but you have to start somewhere, and I’m grateful to live in a place where I can be part of it. The challenge after an event like this is to bring it into the everyday…to keep a sense of perspective…to remember to look inward and outward…and to seek and share the amazing things in our world. More to come this week, but in the meantime, here are a few questions to think about:
- How do you focus on being versus doing your own life?
- How do you use your knowledge and gifts to make someone else’s life just a little bit better?
- What role does intention play in your life?
- How do you balance the personal joy of staying in the moment with the reality of a world in which linear stories define us?
- How do you embrace both failure and success in your life equally, seeing life as a journey?