If you are unhappy with the game you’re playing, stop playing it. At the end of people’s time, most folks realize that what they needed was more connection and meaning in their lives -not more material things.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stefan Weitz.
Stefan Weitz is on a mission to make Americans healthy again. His first step? Founding Jetson, a new company helping people lead a healthier life through high-quality, affordable, scientifically backed, and seasonally formulated probiotic products.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path? Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
One time while I was at Microsoft, I was competing with Chris Sacca from Google to try and provide free internet using WiFi across cities (this was before 3G and LTE was widespread!). We would literally be flying to cities across the US, oftentimes days apart, to try and negotiate with cities for rights to access their light poles to hang our equipment. In one meeting, in an unnamed city outside of Detroit, it turned out the poles were ‘controlled’ by a ‘family’ of ‘italian’ descent that I ended up sitting down with to negotiate for rights. There was the older gentlemen, a guy who sat just behind him and didn’t say anything, and his son who he strongly encouraged me to hire. I drank a couple of gin and tonics that night.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
- Be Transparent: one of my managers at Microsoft, Yusuf Mehdi, was amazing at walking through the nitty, gritty detail of how we were doing as a group, where we were winning, and where we were losing. He would actually go through the presentations he gave to Bill and Steve with the whole team — no one could claim they didn’t know what was going on.
- A growth mindset: I picked up this book by Carol Dweck over 5 years ago and it immediately resonated with me. Granted it was a hard mindset shift — especially since early Microsoft was all about being the smartest guy in the room and PROVING it every day. Turns out it’s a bad idea — you can’t learn if you aren’t vulnerable and real about what you don’t know. Being able to say “I don’t know” doesn’t make you stupid, it shows you are willing to learn.
- Authentic: Being silly, tough, fun, aggressive — but being honest with who you are and what you represent. That passion and reality comes through to your customers.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Besides the Growth Mindset mentioned above, I love “A Bone of Fact” by David Walsh. It’s an absolutely riotous look at a life well lived — starting from absolute humble origins to become one of the wealthier people in Australia. The lessons one learns by reading it — especially around stopping to see patterns when others see chaos — are really helpful in dealing with times like this.
The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz is also critical to read right now. In essence, when you are confronted by too many choices, you often make none. Speaks to breaking down the complex into things that people can absorb and take action on.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?
Being mindful is all about truly being in the moment. Whatever it is you’re doing — really be present and aware of how the situation is unfolding around you, how it is impacting you, and how you can impact it.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?
Some of the key benefits of mindfulness for me?
- I become less emotional in my responses to stressors and focus on the now — what I can control and what I have to accept. This is pretty critical right now as things change by the day.
- I become less focused on the past and more on the present. Looking at the past, you can become regretful or sorrowful of things that didn’t go your way and you become a victim of circumstance or conditions. When I am mindful and present, I can take control and do things rather than have them done TO me.
- Able to get into flow: When you’re mindful, other distractions are like a leaf falling from a tree when you’re on a walk through a park — your unconscious may notice it, but it doesn’t rise to the conscious level of being.
- Physically, I can feel my heart beat slowing when I am mindful of my present. I can take deeper breaths, And I can smile more.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
- Spend 20 minutes each day meditating. 40 if you can do it. Meditation focuses and centers you and forces you to be in the moment. And it’s one of the only things that has been proven to grow the gray matter of the brain.
- Build a plan — or a plan for a plan. Don’t get stuck if you are unable to detail out every step you need to take to go from here to there. Even a plan for how you’re going to get to a plan is helpful.
- Build a network of people with whom you can laugh or be inspired once a day.
- Get out into nature if possible. Even 20 minutes a day has been shown to reduce cortisol (a stress hormone). https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/04/190404074915.htm
- If you are unhappy with the game you’re playing, stop playing it. At the end of people’s time, most folks realize that what they needed was more connection and meaning in their lives -not more material things.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Listen without trying to solve. Just hearing people can make a massive difference.
- Encourage healthy behaviors — whether eating right, being outside, or sleeping enough.
- Encourage boundaries — with negative people, technology, and the news.
- Learn something new with someone — focus your attention for an hour a day on a new skill or hobby
- Daily appreciation of things that are RIGHT right now. Encourage a gratitude book for people to fill out daily.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
- Attend a Transcendental Meditation seminar (virtually now of course!)
- The app 10% Happier
- Fitness Blender on Youtube — a healthy body leads to a healthy mind
- Crisis Text Line if things go too far astray
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
Gotta be the Stones: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might just find you get what you need.” What a great life lesson — stopping the pursuit of what I thought was so vitally important materially to focus on what can generate meaning for my life — getting America healthier.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I’d love to get people to recognize the connection between what they put into their mouth and their health. I see it literally every day — the pain and joy that can be triggered by a simple decision on what to eat on a given day. Food is literally medicine and I wish that both people would truly absorb that and that companies would stop making products that are killing people every day.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!