The Meditation Styles of 5 Highly Successful Entrepreneurs
And How You Can Practice Each Style
Claiming Back My Sanity
I used to have this “thing” — call it a down time or a period of uneasiness — that would creep in every few weeks. For as long as I can remember, I would start feeling depressed, lonely, anxious, and lost once every couple of months. It was inevitable. It was cyclical.
When I later started working on my first business, this pattern began to occur more often and with higher intensity. Negative mental chatter, self-doubt, and insecurity related to my business contributed to increasing my tendency toward depression and anxiety.
One day, a friend suggested that I tried meditation; it had helped her get over a bad break-up, and had helped one of her friends grieving the loss of her father.
“It’s strange. It’s a bit like magic. I can’t explain it, but you just feel better. You feel lighter and happier. You should try it,” said my friend.
I had nothing to lose. That week, I attended my first meditation class.
Right after the class, I felt a bit more relaxed, but nothing particular happened.
In the following days, however, I did experience noticeable changes: I didn’t feel as restless, helpless, and lonely as usual. I felt more “stable” inside. It was like having a cleaner mental space, or as if my brain could “breathe” better.
I decided to go back for another class. And another. And another. For several months, it helped me keep my sanity in both my personal and business lives.
The benefits were so important that a few years later, I even ended-up becoming a certified meditation instructor.
We, Entrepreneurs, Need More than Anyone Else to Meditate
“More than 80% of the world-class performers I have interviewed have some form of daily mindfulness or meditation practice. It’s the most consistent pattern. It’s a “meta-skill” that improves everything else.” –Tim Ferriss, in Tools of Titans
I understand that meditation can appear intimidating at first, probably a little boring, and perhaps even counterproductive; aren’t there more useful things to do with those fifteen minutes?
Why Should You Bother?
Meditation will help you save time, both in the short (daily) and longer (a year + period) terms. Your ability to concentrate on a task will improve, as will your capacity to stay focused and avoid distractions — you’ll save time by being less distracted.
Better focus also contributes to reducing anxiety; you’ll feel more in control of your work load and more confident in your ability to attain your objectives.
Your intuition will also sharpen: you’ll become more acute at sensing your “gut feeling”. This ability will help you make the best decisions, faster — an invaluable quality shared by the most highly successful entrepreneurs.
Simply put, meditation makes up the 20% of all actions that can have a positive impact on 80% of both your personal and business lives.
Science has shown that it’s one of the best mind training tools available, and one of the most effective ways to improve mental, emotional, and physical health all at once.
Are you still hesitant to allocate it those 15 minutes?
Five Entrepreneurs, Five Meditation Styles
There are many studies you can read online about all the benefits of meditation on health, cognitive functions, and overall well-being.
I thought of writing about something different; the preferred meditation techniques of five very successful entrepreneurs (and intrapreneurs).
After all, isn’t it just as motivating — if not more — than science to know the methods our mentors use to attain incredible levels of success?
In this article, I’ll also explain exactly how to practice each meditation style, so you’ll be well-equipped to begin your meditation practice using the style that best suits your needs and personality.
I hope that you’ll find this useful. So here it goes…
1. Steve Jobs
At Steve Jobs’s memorial, all attendees were given a copy of the book Autobiography of a Yogi. This tells us much about the spiritual nature of the co-founder of Apple.
At the age of 19, Jobs went on a trip to India and learned about the ancient traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism. He then went on to practice meditation on a consistent basis. His meditation style was Zen Buddhism.
“If you just sit and observe, you will see how restless your mind is. If you try to calm it, it only makes it worse, but over time it does calm, and when it does, there’s room to hear more subtle things — that’s when your intuition starts to blossom and you start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. Your mind just slows down, and you see a tremendous expanse in the moment. You see so much more than you could see before. It’s a discipline; you have to practice it.” ― Steve Jobs, in the authorized biography written by Walter Isaacson
How to Practice Zen Buddhism Meditation (Zazen)
Find a quiet place. Sit comfortably on a cushion, crossed-legged, so your hips are slightly higher than your knees. Keep your spine erect. If you’re not comfortable sitting cross-legged, sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor and legs uncrossed. What matters is that your back is straight.
Your eyes can be half closed with your vision directed at the floor in front of you. Relax your eyes with an unfocused gaze. It is recommended to face a wall to avoid being distracted. You can also close your eyes, if you prefer.
Place your left hand on top of the right one, both palms facing up. Let the tips of your thumbs touch each other. Your hands should rest on your thighs (if sitting cross-legged) or on your lap (if sitting on a chair).
Rock your upper body from side to side a few times to find your balance and be ready to settle into the position.
Now, focus on your breathing — on how the breath feels: warm, cold, the sensation as it passes through the nostrils, etc. Let your breathing be relaxed and natural, and let your belly inflate as you inhale.
Meanwhile, if thoughts, images, and emotions arise, let them float away without engaging with them. Observe impartially, without judging or pursuing the thoughts. Whenever you notice your mind wandering, bring your attention back to your breathing.
Start by practicing for five minutes and build up from there. Fifteen to twenty minutes is usually necessary for significant results.
2. Bill Ford
Bill Ford is a business man and the executive chairman of Ford Motor Company. In a talk he gave along with Jack Kornfield, he advocated the use of compassion in business.
“At the end of the day, every business is about the people.” –Bill Ford
It has also been said that he developed a compassionate attitude through the practice of Loving-Kindness (Metta) Meditation.
Loving-Kindness Meditation could be the most effective technique to release and prevent anxiety.
The reason for this is simple: you step out of your ego self and your personal problems. Your focus shifts from being self-centered to be placed upon the well-being of all beings. With this technique, you also develop compassion and a better acceptance for yourself and others. There is a lot of research demonstrating this.
How to Practice Loving-Kindness Meditation
Find a quiet place. Sit comfortably on a chair or a cushion. Keep your back straight but relaxed. Place your hands on your knees or lap.
Take a few deep breaths — this will oxygenize your blood and calm your mind. Then, turn your attention inward and begin Metta Meditation. It goes as follow:
The phrases below are to be repeated at each step:
· May I/you/they be well.
· May I/you/they be happy.
· May I/you/they be at peace.
· May I/you/they be free from pain and suffering.
Step 1: Compassion for Yourself
Mentally repeat the phrases above, using “I” — May I be well, may I be happy, may I be at peace, may I be free from pain and suffering. Feel much love and compassion for yourself. Accept yourself just as you are, and understand that you’ve always done the best you could with the resources you had — knowledge, emotional state, experience, etc.
Step 2: Compassion for a close one
Repeat the same phrases, using “you” — may you be well, etc. — and think of a person close to you — for example, a family member or a friend. Think of this person and feel much love for them as you mentally recite the statements.
Step 3: Compassion for someone neutral
This can be a co-worker you don’t know very well, the cashier at your local store, or anyone you aren’t bonded to emotionally. Repeat the same process, always trying to deepen your compassion toward the person.
Step 4: Someone you dislike
Repeat the same process, but this time thinking of someone you dislike. Remind yourself that they also have always done the best they could with the resources they had. Wish them well. It’s the most difficult part, but it’s important.
Step 5: All beings
This includes all humankind and all living beings. Repeat the same phrases, using “they” — may they be well, may they be happy, etc. Feel much love for all beings and try to develop a keen awareness for the interconnection of all beings.
You could also place one hand on your heart during this meditation; it would help to shift your attention from the mind to the heart — from reasoning to feeling.
Voilà! It’s one of my favorite meditation techniques and I sincerely hope you’ll give it a try.
3. Chase Jarvis
“Every day, I put 20 minutes aside when I wake up in the morning and before dinner at night to sit quietly and just be still. It’s made the single biggest difference in my life’s ability to perform at a high level and run the kind of gnarly schedule that I run. What’s the effect? Clarity. My ideas are clearer than ever before. I find it 100x easier to get into a creative “flow state”. –Chase Jarvis
Chase Jarvis — a world-class photographer, host of the Chase Jarvis Live show, and co-founder of Creative Live — practices Transcendental Meditation (TM). In fact, TM is the preferred method of many high achievers, such as Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Seinfeld, and Russell Simmons.
The object of concentration for this technique is the mental repetition of a mantra (word or sound).
You get initiated to TM by attending a course, which can cost over $1,000, but you can practice mantra-based meditation without getting initiated, using universal words/sounds. I’ll explain…
When you get initiated into TM, the initiator gives you a specific mantra. But since you probably haven’t, you can use a universal mantra such as Om. It works just as fine. After all, it’s instructed in the Vedic scriptures (the most ancient spiritual texts of Hinduism) to meditate on the mantra Om. Om is the cosmic sound; one that encompasses all other sounds.
You can’t go wrong with Om. So why complicate things?
How to Practice Mantra Meditation
Find a quiet place. Sit comfortably on a chair or a cushion. Keep your back straight but relaxed. Place your hands on your knees or lap. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths through your nose.
Then, keep breathing smoothly and rhythmically, and start mentallyrepeating the mantra. Breathe in… and as you breathe out, mentally chant the sound Ommmm (or Aummm). It’s a long OM — with an emphasis on the Mmmmm — that lasts for the whole outbreath.
That’s it. Whenever you notice your mind wandering, simply bring your attention back to the mantra. Mantra meditation is usually practiced for 20 minutes, twice a day.
4. Arianna Huffington
“One of the best — and cheapest — ways to become healthier and happier is through mindfulness exercises like meditation. Stress reduction and mindfulness don’t just make us happier and healthier, they’re a proven competitive advantage for any business that wants one.” –Ariana Huffington
I am not sure what meditation style Arianna Huffington — co-founder of the Huffington Post — practices on a regular basis, but as she mentioned mindfulness and stress reduction as being important, I’ll now explain one of the most popular meditation techniques nowadays: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
It’s a method that was first developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn to help medical patients heal and relax, and which uses a combination of mindfulness meditation and body awareness.
How to Practice MBSR Meditation
There are many ways to practice MBSR Meditation, but one of the most relaxing and simple is the Body Scan technique.
Sit comfortably on a chair, feet flat on the floor, your back straight, and arms and legs uncrossed. Take a few deep breaths to start calming your mind and then slowly turn your attention inward.
Take a moment to settle and be aware of your body being seated. Then, observe your breath for a couple of minutes. Feel the breath.
Now, begin exploring the sensations in your body more deeply. Start at the top of your head, and gradually and very slowly, move your attention down through each body part, all the way to your toes.
Notice the internal sensations — your organs, blood flow, digestion, pulse, your lungs and belly inflating and deflating as you breathe, etc. — as well as the external sensations — the temperature on your skin, the contact of your buttocks with the chair you’re sitting on and of your feet on the floor, etc.
Have the intention to relax each part of your body, every muscle, as you scan it from head to toe. Take your time. You can easily do it for fifteen to thirty minutes.
5. Tim Ferriss
“If I could only choose one exercise for the mind, it would be 10 to 20 minutes of meditation at least once daily. Meditation helps you channel drive toward the few things that matter, rather than every moving target and imaginary opponent that pops up.” –Tim Ferriss, in Tools of Titans
In his book Tools of Titans, Tim mentions practicing meditation almost daily. He practices both Transcendental and Vipassana meditations (in a 60/40 split). As we’ve already explained the Transcendental (TM) method, I’ll now develop on the Vipassana technique.
How to Practice Vipassana Meditation
Note that Vipassana is popular for the free 10-day meditation retreats held everywhere in the world. It’s also a very similar style to Zen Meditation.
Sit comfortably on a chair or on a cushion. Keep your back straight but relaxed. Place your hands on your knees or lap and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths (always through your nose), letting your abdomen arise at each breath.
Relax, and start gently moving your awareness around your body. Observe how your body feels, without judging or engaging with the sensations.
Then place your attention on your breath, and on the point just below your nose and above your upper lip. Whenever you notice that your mind has been wandering, simply bring your attention back to this point and to your breath.
Very easy 😉
No one technique is better than another, just one that suits your needs and personality best. If you’re very anxious, I would recommend that you try Metta (Loving-Kindness Meditation). If you have a lot of difficulty staying concentrated, especially at the beginning, Mantra Meditation might be the best suited for you.
Start with five minutes and build from there. Twenty minutes is usually a good rule of thumb. What’s important is to be consistent, so you must first install the habit and soon you will start noticing the benefits.
The Easiest Way to Install the Habit
The best advice I can give you to easily install the habit is to anchor your practice to another habit that you already have, such as brushing your teeth or starting the coffee machine in the morning.
Attaching your meditation practice to another habit that is already part of your routine is called anchoring, and it’s the most effective and fastest way to create a new habit.
I hope you found this article motivating enough to start a meditation practice. I really wish this for you because it’ll impact not only your life but the lives of everyone around you as well.
When you meditate, you become an even more agreeable person to be around. You become more grounded, compassionate, and yes, more performant.