Category Archives: School

Progress Report: Daily Meditation

After taking Columbia Business School’s Personal Leadership & Success, I started regular practicing meditation to improve my ability to focus, become more mindful, and operate more efficiently under stress.  Around the same time, I incorporated a daily exercise routine and began making healthier decision around food and alcohol.    I’d give myself a passing grade on the fitness changes, but I’ve been having trouble this last week making time to meditate. 

We had friends staying with us last week, and to be honest, I felt slightly embarrassed and selfish about taking the personal time to break-away and from our friends and my son to focus on myself.   Additionally, my apartment was full and there wasn’t an ideal place to unplug  and collect my thoughts.  In hindsight, I should have a back-up location to use, and I recognize that my  insecurities aren’t doing me any favors.

There haven’t been many immediate results or from the meditation as of yet, which could have contributed to my recent inconsistency. In fact I’ve actively noticed that I’m just as forgetful and clumsy as I’ve always been.  It’s slightly discouraging, but looking on the bright side, perhaps meditation has helped me become more aware of these behaviors as the first steps toward personal growth.  Regardless, I know better than to rely on short-term results for validation in this long-term pursuit.

Lastly, I thought I’d share some advice about mediation that I received from a classmate, who struggled as I did.   It’s a given that novices will be  distracted by thoughts, ideas, images etc.  in their early attempts to clear their minds.   When this happens to me, it feels like I am failing.  However, my classmate suggested that  meditation is actually all about the process of pulling your mind back to center after each ‘distraction.’  He compared it to doing curls in weightlifting: you don’t get stronger by just holding the dumbbell up by your shoulder.  You build muscle over time moving through the natural resistance.

This perspective shift has been encouraging to me, so I hope it’s relevant to someone else who’s having a difficult time keeping-up a steady routine.

 

Business School!

photo

Yep.

Actually this was a simulation we ran in “Organizational Culture Demystified” designed to help us understand the challenges, pitfalls, and best practices of bringing two distinct and national cultures together.

I was on the team on the floor of the balloon blowing factory in “Randomia.”   The other team were trainers from headquarters in another made up country.  Us Randomians were given a set of rules and behaviors to follow that made direct communication with our trainers difficult.  In order to get any useful information from us,  the other team had to learn and adapt to our preferred method of communication.  They didn’t, however, know that this was the underlying purpose/lesson of the exercise

As you can see from the photo, it didn’t go very well for the trainers.

The key insight–as always–is communication.  Lots of communication.  The trainers visited the factory for ~10 minutes at a time, and  had set breaks to convene privately in a different classroom and share their observations.    I think they would have been more successful if they found opportunities to discuss what was working and what wasn’t while they had the chance to experiment and try new ideas in real time.

In some ways, designated time for communication (ie. weekly team meetings, daily reports, etc.) can actually discourage employees from communicating openly and sharing insights at all other times of the day.

The exercise also that reaffirmed something I’ve noticed and applied on my sales calls, which is that it’s always ideal to have someone riding shotgun your meeting whose responsibility it is to observe the conversation as carefully as possible.  As a presenter or primary communicator, it’s hard to ‘perform’ and be totally in tune with ALL the nuances of the listener’s demeanor and how your message is being received.  Of course a strong presenter should be able to “read the room” and adjust their style accordingly.  Nevertheless, with an additional person in the room, he or she can focus 100% on the audience, and add a key points here and there when the audiences appears in need of a little bit more info for clarification.  The wingman can also give you candid feedback afterward, and help you brainstorm next steps.   It’s a win-win.

In the Randomia Balloon Factory simulation, the trainers may have been able to uncover the detail of how to communicate with us had they established dedicated observers, responsible for recognizing and sharing these details.

There were a lot of other interesting insights from the exercise, but these are what resonated with me the most.  Sure, blowing up balloons in business school is a little bit different, but I’ve always found that simulation is the most effective way to drive home an important lesson.