Former agency executive Linda Bjrk, a.k.a. "The Meditating CEO," knows how to use mindfulness and mind skills to unleash leadership success and bottom-line results beyond your wildest imagination. Her inspiring stories and transformative program will have you know:The difference between a gassy stomach and a gut feeling How an imagination train is better than a gravy train How to focus and what to focus on (thats actually a biggie) How kindness is one of the sharpest choices you can make How you are the boss of your life (like, completely) How you can be, round figures, 100% more intelligent How to stop being exhausted all the time - and other mind-skills for inspirational leadership in our transparent, ever-changing world.
You will also be introduced to Mr. Stress, Mr. Ego and Mr. Autopilot, and how to best deal with the lot of them. All this from a CEO who has been meditating since 1996 and still believes in deodorant, having fun at work and making great profits.
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About the Author
Linda Björk, a.k.a. “The Meditating CEO,” is a former Creative Director in Corporate America and a decade-long CEO of what she built to become one of Scandinavia’s largest design and branding agencies. She is now dedicated to teaching meditation and mental skills to business leaders worldwide.
As an agency executive, Ms. Björk pioneered using meditation, mindfulness and mind-training to reach new, global levels with her staff. With her experience as a result-oriented CEO she is on a quest to change leadership in the world to embody awareness, grace and inclusiveness. Through speeches, executive coaching and her “inner business” focused corporate programs, Ms. Björk is guiding people from all walks of life to happiness, health and wealth. Clients include media executives, financial analysts, hospitality executives, creative directors and lawyers; even generals from The US Army and luxury fashion designers in NYC are recipients of Ms. Björk’s unique meditation programs.
Ms. Björk lives in New York City with her daughter and has had a daily meditation practice of transcendental meditation (TM) since 1996. If she didn’t inspire people to get their inner business in order, she claims she would be a comedian. No one thinks that’s funny.
Read an Excerpt
Training Your Mind for Leadership Success
By Linda Bjork
Balboa PressCopyright © 2016 Linda Björk
All rights reserved.
A primer in mind training
Progress is impossible without change and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
— George Bernard Shaw
The NYC Subway Sneeze
It's a rainy spring morning in New York City (as many spring mornings here tend to be), and I'm taking my daughter to school.
I go to hail a cab, but my daughter pleads, "Mommy, can we take the sub-way?"
She looks up at me through the raindrops with her big eyes. Though I want to make the executive decision to get a cab, I remember her case of motion sickness on our last cab ride, so we make our way to the subway.
I pout all the way down to the subway platform on 66th Street. I check the train tracker. Four minutes! An eternity for any New Yorker. I continue pouting as I stand sternly on the platform, holding my daughter's hand. I think to myself how a cab would have been so much better.
The train finally arrives. Is it always this loud?
As we step into the car, someone sneezes big and wide.
Disgusting! We just got through winter, and I do not need us to catch whatever that sneeze is carrying. Gosh, people are annoying. Look at them! What are we even doing here, sharing our morning with virus-spreading machines on the subway? What an utterly uncivilized way to travel.
Let me pause the story here and tell you that I am a trained mindfulness instructor. I have had a daily meditation practice for nineteen years. During my ten years as the CEO of a creative agency in Stockholm and New York, I pioneered the use of mind training and mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques with my staff. These days, I lecture about awareness, the mind, what happens in the brain when we are under stress and, most importantly, what we can do to reach our own optimized version of self. I know very well that stressful thoughts produce hormones that compromise our immune systems.
In that moment, on the subway, I was not only an embarrassment to myself; I was at risk of catching a cold, or worse.
I shift my focus to the movement of the subway car. I remember the first time I took the subway to Brooklyn. It was two decades ago, also on the red line, and I was on my way to my first job at BAM. I had never set foot in Brooklyn before and I remember being petrified at every stop.
I smile and cringe as many oblivious "wide-eyed" moments on the subway flash before my eyes. Like the times I took the subway to JFK from Hells Kitchen and to La Guardia from Park Slope. Let's just say that the G-train twenty years ago was not a safe proposition. For anyone! Let alone for Scandinavian girls in mini-shorts with colorful suitcases going down to Miami Beach for the long-weekend. The subway was just brilliantly cheap. It's taken me everywhere.
I remember filming on the train to Coney Island, documenting the obscure observations made by a monochrome painter I assisted at the time. I snicker as I recall meditating on the B-train all those mornings in the 90s. I think about all the important meetings, dates, galas, classes and dinners I have used the subway to get to, as the above-ground reality of New York City has turned mad and congested.
I look at my daughter and smile widely as I think about that big BRIO stroller I schlepped around the city when she was a baby. Up and down the subway lines to get a hold of her special formula. The countless people who've lent a helping hand in the stairs. I squeeze my daughter's hand a little tighter.
I look around at the people in the subway car. Some of them seem to have been traveling far. Perhaps they are heading back home after a night shift? Or are they going to work? Visiting someone in the hospital? Catching a new break? I don't know. But wherever they're coming from and wherever they're going, they couldn't do it without the subway. Just like me and millions of other people, they depend on this subway system to make their lives work. From Far Rockaway Beach to 242nd Street ...
The doors of the subway open. "Wow, we're already at 96th Street! Time to get off, Honey!"
We exit the subway car, and I'm convinced, knowing what I know about mind-body connections, that I have just saved myself from catching whatever virus was in the sneeze.
The Speed of Stillness to Global Greatness
Although I have personally kept with a daily meditation practice most of my adult life, I never intentionally set out to use meditation as a tool for my employees. It started when I asked myself an important business-oriented question back in 2007, when I was still relatively new at being a CEO:
How can I prepare my staff to achieve global greatness?
As a CEO of a branding agency, I had already committed to my personal three-part vision. I was determined to crack the code that would:
see our agency make great money
have us create great work, and
make us all feel great in the process.
I wanted our agency in Sweden to go global, and I needed the staff prepared for that to happen. I knew that an advanced business English class was not going to cut it; neither would enrolling in yet another management course. I needed something powerful — something that would make my staff fearless and creative. I needed them to be big thinkers, comfortable deal-makers and pleasant people.
What I needed was for them to meditate.
Yes, you read that right. Meditate. You might have a preconceived notion about meditation being reserved for hippies who don't believe in deodorant.
But as it happened, meditation would become one of the most important answers to my strategic question.
The New "It" For Business Success
So here's for a fun question: What do Oprah (no last name required), Russell Simmons and Arianna Huffington have in common?
How about NBA Legend Phil Jackson, Rapper 50 Cents and Congressman Tim Ryan?
They keep with a daily meditation practice.
And they are pretty busy people, which means that, if they can find time for meditation every day then so can you and I. (Bummer. No such excuse to hide behind. And we're only on the first few pages here!)
In the last couple of years, meditation as a means to reach a higher level of business success has made front-page news of one respected magazine after another. Meditation is truly a modern day "it" factor of success.
From my own business success as a CEO, I can personally attest to the remarkable effects of keeping with a meditation practice in the workplace. And my achievements are utterly modest in comparison to many impressive business leaders in the creative industry and beyond. Steve Jobs, Google engineers and the U.S. Army are diverse examples of global top-performers who've used meditation for stress-lowering and mind-expanding benefits. More and more companies are joining the movement that Time magazine calls "The Mindful Revolution." These companies, by the way, include Twitter, Apple, General Mills, Intel and Time Warner. CEOs of these companies understand the value in having employees with relaxed minds.
Ray Dalio is the founder of Bridgewater, the largest hedge fund firm in the U.S. This is a guy who has made his billion dollar fortune in one of the most high-pressured industries you can imagine. (Caveat: I am not saying that the stress levels in the financial sector are necessarily higher than the stress levels that a mid-western high-school teacher experiences. Stress is always relative to your own life, and stress is not choosy in who it visits and who it leaves in peace.)
Bridgewater is, however, the utmost symbol of modern power. It operates in the lions' den of a money-making machine, impacting the balance of the world economy. This is where things get interesting: The same guy who created this impressive power emporium from scratch is a committed advocate for meditation. Actually, Mr. Dalio credits meditation as the biggest factor for his success.
Meditation more than anything in my life was the biggest ingredient of whatever success I've had.
— Ray Dalio, billionaire Founder of Bridgewater, the world's largest hedge fund firm
When you start your meditation practice, you will discover, as Dalio did, that calming your mind and training yourself to be more in alignment with yourself — and possibly a higher creative force — invites success far beyond what you thought was possible. Mr. Dalio says that "meditation has given [him] centeredness and creativity" and that "it's also given [him] peace and health." These are no small words about meditation coming from the master of the universe of money-making.
The potential inside a higher functioning mind is still largely an unexplored corporate business development opportunity. Meditation — as a means to effectively handle stress, calm the mind, and expand our intelligence — is a sustainable way to increase your company's bottom-line, your workers' effectiveness and awareness, and everybody's wellbeing, as well as finding meaning and belonging.
The more I learn about the brain, the more I feel like shouting, "Help, somebody call somebody!" It's just crazy! There are certain parts of our brains that we need access to in order to figure things out, connect the dots, get a feel for people — you know; to be smart! If you think the brain is good to go as it is, think again.
First of all, left to its own devices, the brain is incapable of distinguishing between real and perceived threats. So, we end up experiencing stress reactions from things that aren't actually happening and that prevents us from thinking clearly. It happens a bit like this: we think about something bad that could happen and we react with feelings of stress to that very thought and have effectively impacted our brain and bodily system to believe we are in peril; our primitive amygdala lights up like a Christmas tree and dumps stress hormones through our bodies like a mean Santa Claus. It's like a big, red stress alarm button that gets pushed by the sheer work of our own thoughts and feelings. And here's another cruel joke: if the stress button is pushed in for too long, it gets stuck in emergency mode! But it doesn't stop there.
The brain apparently has a "narrative mode" set to default. Now, it would be nice to think that when we don't focus on anything in particular, the brain could enjoy some R&R. That it would kick back, relax a little, be calm, be quiet, and be still. No-sir-ee Bob. Instead of relaxing, it starts chattering away to itself like a deranged squirrel. By default! Didn't I tell you, somebody should call somebody! Too bad that both stress and mind-chatter make it so much harder for us to use the executive parts of our brains. You know. The magical place where everything from decision making and learning to emotional intelligence and intellect happen. Sigh.
This, my friend, is where meditation comes in. The brain's little super hero, helping to remove the blocks and speed bumps standing between you and your executive brain. Meditation and mindfulness, you see, have been proven to straight up make the amygdala smaller, ease up on our stress reaction alarm mode, and make it easier for us to, even in stressful situations, access our executive part of the brain.
Where there is peace and meditation, there is neither anxiety nor doubt.
— St. Francis de Sales
By now, meditation as an all-around wellness strategy for a company has been scientifically proven to increase your ability to focus, raise your awareness levels, and train you to keep calm under pressure. It's no wonder that it is so vital for business results and reaching creative heights. Meditation as a part of corporate culture really should be considered a possibility for any organization.
Not to say that implementing meditation into my organization wasn't always ... ehm ... easy. Some employees jumped at the opportunity of an eight-week mindfulness program, and others were, mildly put, dead against it.
Luckily, I was already considered weird and goofy, yet good at delivering results. A combination that bought me a little space with most skeptics. Still, I had two self-proclaimed non-starters. With a good argument, I would let them off the mindfulness hook. As much as it sucked, I concluded that I couldn't force my employees into self-development.
Nay-sayer One argued that the only objection he had was that he did not feel comfortable sharing personal information in a room with other employees, and, although no personal information needs to be shared in mindfulness, I could understand his point. I said fair enough, I will sign you up for an intensive mindfulness course for leaders instead, which he at that point couldn't turn down. I told him he could complain about it in hindsight though, which was an opportunity he couldn't resist. (BTW, knowing about the reality of how people function in the workplace is why I choose to mix my mindfulness teaching with hands-on mind-training tools. There are just too many escape hatches for our egos to prevent personal development if mindfulness is the only tool.)
Nay-sayer Two begrudgingly joined the lot of us for our weekly mindfulness course but sat with his arms sternly crossed over his chest the first couple of sessions. He then told me that it was ridiculous to call this mindfulness. This is focus training! he exclaimed. And from that day on, with him within earshot, I called it focus training. If a different name than "mindfulness" would make him show up, be open, and reap the rewards, I was all for it. I felt confident that results would unfold, whatever we called it.
Before we started taking care of our inner business at the agency, we had zero global accounts. When I decided to leave the company a few years (and many mind-training and meditation hours) later, we had five.
I told you, I like results.
The only real mystery is, why aren't all CEOs making meditation a part of their workday? Why aren't all companies making mindfulness and mind- training part of their culture? Don't they know?
The thing about meditation is: You become more and more you.
— David Lynch
This book is going to teach you how to not only awaken and embrace your own inner business (more about that in a minute), but it will also give you the tools you need to get your staff working mindfully, and helping you all to meet your personal and professional goals. Can you imagine knowing how to handle stress, how to get unstuck, be present and have your life working for you? Pretty great, yes? Now imagine everybody in your company knowing that same stuff.
I'm going to assume here for a minute that many of the concepts in this book are going to be unfamiliar to you, so let's get a few things straightened out.
What is Mindfulness?
Let's get it out of the way: mindfulness is not about Buddhism. It's not a promotion of Buddhism, and there are no political or religious affiliations around mindfulness. When we read about mindfulness and read about mindfulness research, we are mostly really reading about Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, also known as MBSR.
MBSR was developed in the 1970s by Dr. Jon Kabat Zinn, a trained bio-molecular scientist from MIT, as an outpatient clinic for medical patients. MBSR is taught as an eight-week program and has been scientifically developed, tested, measured and tweaked to teach people how to pay attention. Relaxation, stress reduction, anxiety reduction, and a host of performance enhancements happen as a result of the practice, but in essence, it is about paying attention; in other words, about being aware and actually experiencing life.
Putting it in briefer terms: Mindfulness is the practice of non-judgmental awareness of the here and now. The present moment. The only moment there ever is.
Some people are able to be in a mindful state without seemingly having to do any work to live there. But for most of us, we need to practice a bit in order to get there. No wonder, as modern people, we are bombarded with information all the time (bring the smartphone to the john, anyone?), and we easily get caught up in thought patterns that clutter our capacity to use our brains effectively. We simply have too many thoughts, and they're all fighting for our attention.
Meditation is not a way of making the mind quiet. It's a way of entering into the quiet that's already there – buried under 50,000 thoughts the average person thinks every day.
For those of us who have to do a bit of work to live life in a calm, alert state — a mindful life if you will — well, we need to practice mindfulness exercises and mindfulness meditation. This is where we teach our minds how to simply pay attention, and we do so through our bodies, our breath, our senses, and anything else that arises in the moment.
As for some nuts and bolts of mindfulness, there are two types of mindfulness practice: formal and informal.
Formal mindfulness practice involves different meditations. Examples of formal mindfulness practice would be mindfulness yoga, walking meditation, body scan meditation, and breathing meditation. A bit of a meditation smorgasbord so that anyone can find a version that works with his or her life situation and character.
Informal mindfulness practice is when we pay full attention to activities that belong to our everyday lives. Like doing the dishes, brushing our teeth, listening to a friend, taking the stairs, drinking tea ... just focusing on the activity in full presence. Nothing else.
When you train your mind through formal and informal meditation practices, you are literally rewiring your brain to do less mind-wandering. As your brain gets increasingly trained to focus on what matters, your so-called "thought clutter" dissolves. The process is a bit like going to the gym, minus the sweat and the questionable gym aesthetics. Every time your mind wanders in meditation and you "bring it back" to the present moment, you are effectively doing a bicep curl for your inner capacity to be present.
No matter how you slice the dice, life is only available in the present moment.
When you can train your mind to "be with it" in presence, in attention and awareness, you're going to notice that life gets quite a bit easier and a lot more enjoyable.
As you adopt mindfulness in your life, you're choosing to adopt a non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. You're also choosing to adopt a few different attitudes. Specifically, there are nine of them. (I'll tell you what they are in a moment.)
As you begin to pay attention to these nine attitudes, you'll notice a real shift in your awareness. This not only bodes for a kinder and more joyful life, but you will benefit greatly in business. (Finally! I thought she forgot that this is a business book! Let's get right to the WIFM and ROIs, why don't we?). Respect man — it's the name of the game, and here we go:
You'll stop wasting valuable time on unproductive thoughts.
You'll be much sharper at cutting to the chase of what you want to accomplish.
You'll spare yourself (and the company) destructive conflicts.
You'll find yourself in a kinder and more cooperative atmosphere.
You'll "level up" as a more aware leader with a more mature way of handling tasks.
You'll become a more awake businessperson, with new eyes for new opportunities.
You'll be far more creative, connecting new dots.
You'll be able to inspire enthusiasm, creativity and innovation in others.
You'll have a new compass to steer your company's health to meet its wealth.
So, what are these attitudes, you ask? Keep reading!
Excerpted from Inner Business by Linda Bjork. Copyright © 2016 Linda Björk. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
PART ONE, 5,
A primer in mind training, 5,
GETTING YOUR INNER BUSINESS BACK, 21,
PART TWO, 41,
The juicy stuff, 41,
PART THREE, 255,
What now?, 255,