How Meditation Makes Me a Better Leader

I don’t say this lightly — meditation has transformed my life. I started meditating two years ago, and it’s the single-most important aspect of my day.

If I were to NOT meditate on a given day, then that day would be fucked. Period. There’s days where I don’t have time to do my normal AM routine, but I always find time to do an abbreviated meditation because it’s essential.

Meditation has a lot of stigma around it. Before I started meditating, I was skeptical. I was curious about it because many of my friends had dabbled with meditation but I had the follow three preconceived notions that are completely untrue:

  1. Meditation is sitting in silence for a long time.
  2. Meditation requires enough discipline and focus to NOT get distracted.
  3. Meditation is only for monks and people who live in L.A. (maybe this is kinda true).

After meditating for two years, I’ve learned that meditation is a refocusing exercise. Through meditation, I’ve learned to refocus on my breath, on things I’m grateful for, and on positive mantras (i.e. I’m enough) when I become stressed and overwhelmed. This has become second nature, and this positive stress management technique has been ingrained in my DNA through meditation.

I used to be someone who would get too emotionally invested — the ebbs and flows of the day would dictate my mood. More recently, I’ve noticed that these ups and downs are only heightened as a founder — the highs are higher and the lows are lower. And meditation has introduced a state of equilibrium even though my environment has become more chaotic.

My current 20-minute meditation routine:

  • Fire breathing and mantra (30x fire breaths, say mantra 10x (i.e. “I’m enough) — repeat 3x with a different mantra each time).
  • Articulate 3 things I’m grateful for.
  • Say a quick prayer.
  • Articulate and visualize 3 goals that will come true in 2017 (i.e. I will launch a brand that I’m proud of in September for Panacea).

Plan B meditation (this is an abbreviated, 5-minute meditation routine for those mornings where I don’t have the luxury of my normal AM routine):

  • Mantra (state three mantras — I’ve found it helpful to repeat the same mantras daily to further ingrain them).
  • Articulate 3 things I’m grateful for.
  • Say a quick prayer.
  • Articulate 3 goals that will come true in 2017 (i.e. I will make a million dollars).

*You’ll notice that I used action verbs like “articulate” and “say.” It’s important to say these things out loud, not just in your head. There is power in verbal affirmation!

It’s hard to introduce a new habit to your daily routine. Meditation is no different. This is how I got started:

  • I downloaded the Headspace app and followed their 10-day guided meditation.
  • It’s 10 minutes each AM. I did this for 21 days before I got comfortable doing it on my own.
  • It’s important to note that I’ll occasionally use the Headspace guided meditation on those mornings where I’m feeling lethargic and not wanting to meditate.

Meditation has made me a better leader in three ways:

  1. I’ve learned and experienced the power of visualization. The ability to articulate a clear vision for your company is one of the top three responsibilities of a startup CEO. I would argue it’s the most important of the three (the other two responsibilities are building the team and raising/allocating capital). Specifically, the visualization part of my meditation has taught me the power of verbal affirmation and visualization. When I articulate and visualize 3 goals that will come true in 2017, I create a complete mental picture and add dimensions so it feels like it is happening. For example, one of my 3 goals is to launch with a brand that I’m proud of in September for Panacea. I’ve visualized everything — from our first customer order (it’s a friend who will order the entire set), to the investors I’ll pitch for a follow-on fundraise, to the # of orders and $ revenue we’ll do our first month, to the press headline in specific media outlets. I can go on and on. It’s already played out in my head — now it’s just about enjoying the ride :).
  2. I’ve learned to maintain a state of equilibrium through the ups and downs. Life is stressful. Startup life is more stressful. Startup life as a first-time founder is 2x more stressful. I definitely didn’t choose the easy path. The only way I’ve survived to fight another day (and will continue to fight) is leveraging meditation as a stress management technique. I’ve learned to proactively identify the onset of stress — my physiology changes first (i.e. my body position slumps, my breath quickens, my communication cadence accelerates, etc.). When I feel this happening, I try to immediately stop and fix my body posture, take deep breaths, and slow my communication pace. I then close my eyes and refocus on my breath and give thanks for 3 things I’m grateful for. It’s important to note that it doesn’t make life easier. I don’t coast through life without challenges. Rather, I have confidence that I can weather anything life throws at me.
  3. I’ve learned to maintain perspective. In an indirect way, meditation has taught me perspective — I’m not in control. This was incredibly eye-opening as a type-A, control freak. I have a natural tendency to try to control things that are outside of my control (unrealistic I know haha). Meditation has taught me to let go. It’s provided perspective to focus on only the things that are within my control (i.e. my breath, being grateful, visualization) and be OK with the things that are beyond my control (i.e. Am I liked? Will Panacea be successful?).

In closing, I’m incredibly bullish on meditation and am sharing this because of the profound impact it has had on my life. If you haven’t tried meditating or you’ve dabbled but it hasn’t become a consistent, daily routine, I’d encourage you to give it another shot. Feel free to reach out with any questions — happy to share any insights from my journey.