3 practices for conscious leadership

My friend and mentor, Ron Laurie, shared something with me a few months ago that I’ve continued to think about since. It’s a great white paper written by Barrett Brown, of Meta Integral, about the Future of Leadership for Conscious Capitalism. The whole paper is excellent and talks through many ideas about how more conscious leadership is developed both by leaders themselves and by external actors upon those leaders. For this post, I wanted to share just a simple snippet of one set of tools used in that process.

From the paper, emphasis mine –

“(Leaders) also all had a suite of personal, vertical learning practices to cultivate their own awareness and expand their thinking. This included meditation, journaling and coaching. They used all three of these tools regularly to reflect, take a balcony view, challenge the stories they were telling themselves, and find as deep a perspective as possible.”

I’ve been coming back to this simple advice often since reading the paper. It’s very simple, yet very powerful when applied consistently. The challenge, as always, is to apply it consistently.

Any thoughts about this post? You can message me to chat at cotap.me/stevehopkins

Agassi, the ego-less story teller

I was reading this article in The Age a few days ago, which discusses the pros and cons of Victoria Azarenka’s controversial time outs in the Australia Open. It quoted Andre Agassi in it, and his words and approach have been resonating with me since.

With regards to the discussion about the time out, he has this to say:

”You’re asking me if the crowd should believe her or not. We’ve all seen our share of disappointments from people we believe or [don’t] believe. I can’t judge somebody I don’t know,” he said.

”We’d only be speculating, and everyone has that right to speculate, but I can’t speak for sure. Take it for face value is how I would do it.”

I thought that was a fantastic comment. We all get so absorbed by the emotion of the event sometimes that we forget to step back and realise that we’re most often not in a position to really comment, or judge, the people involved. I thought it was an inspiring piece of ego-less commentary.

Then, Agassi followed on by sharing a story of how important it was that the timeout remain in the game of tennis, by retelling a time when his opponent could have died.

”I was playing David Prinosil here one time [in 2001] and he took a medical timeout on one of the hottest days that I’d played here at 7-6 after the first set,” he said. ”They [trainers] walked out on the court when it was 3-0 and they checked his heart rate and it was 180 beats a minute and he wasn’t even breathing that hard.

They took him into the locker room and stuck him on bags of ice and got an IV in him and quite possibly saved his life. I’m on the other side of the court, I wasn’t trying to kill him, but I’m thankful that somebody else was monitoring it. So medical timeouts are important.”

In about four paragraphs, and probably nothing more than five minutes worth of interview time, Agassi ceased the witch hunt against Azarenka and then followed up by providing guidance as to why the rule allowing time outs should remain, with a very visual and engaging story.

I thought this was a fantastic demonstration of leadership, without the bias of ego.

People that are indifferent to success…

I was having a conversation with Ross today about Yvon Chouinard because Ross had found a book of his and begun reading it.

He’s an interesting guy, Chouinard…One trend I’ve been seeing a bit lately is how people that are indifferent about success almost end up becoming successful despite themselves. CHouinard ‘never wanted to be a business guy’ and yet here he is, running a huge business.

It’s interesting. I guess it’s just what you stress about and what you don’t. He stresses about being able to go surfing at any time and letting his staff do the same. He doesn’t stress about being the guy to run a big company one day.

Coincidently, Julien Smith also spoke about this today in a long post of his titled How to Change Your Life. Here’s a snippet:

“The goal is not to succeed. It is just to sit and do it. As I’ve said before, ugly is just a step on the way to beautiful. If you sit down and expect anything, you will freeze up. So just sit down with no expectations. Like the gym– the goal is just to go and do your best, not to deadlift 500 pounds, but to lift just a little more than last time. And even if you failed at that, it’s fine, because you’ll be doing it again next week. No rush. Just sit down and begin.

Perhaps people like Julien and Yvon experience what we (I?) define as success because they just do what they want and need to do. Instead of trying to build a huge business and be a ‘business guy,’ Yvon set about making really good climbing utensils for his friends.

What looks like indifference to me is actually just focus on an area I don’t naturally define as ‘successful.’

So the lesson? Don’t focus on the success you want. Focus on the thing you need to do everyday to be happy.

What are you going to go deep on?

There’s a good video interview of Kevin Systrom, by Kevin Rose, over on YouTube. In it, he talks a lot about where he has come from and where he’s looking to grow Instagram next.

Towards the very end, he spoke really well about ‘going deep’ around their core vision and what that means to the development work they do everyday. Here’s some of that part of the interview.

“I think in too many startups, the goal is to maximise features. I had one VC come up to me recently and say:

‘You guys haven’t really launched any features in the last year. Is that a problem?’

‘I was like, dude, do you know much work we’ve done on the product to make it scale to where it is today?’

The things you launch that end up making the difference are not yet another feature that nobody is going to use. It’s what you can go deep on. What we went deep on was scaling to over 15M users, which in retrospect is hopefully the tip of the iceberg. We added hashtags, that was a huge thing that didn’t exist…We added new filters. We made our filters fast.

We asked; what do people love about the product and how can we make it even better.”

In the long run, you have to build a company. That’s a lot harder than writing a few lines of code and releasing a product. It’s a very different mindset and a very different set of skills. Our biggest competition is ourselves, because we’re building a company now.”

I really like this point of view. I am seeing it more and more at the moment, from Warren Buffett’s distaste for tech companies and stocks because he’s never ‘got it’ to Jeff Bezos and his focus on only improving what won’t change in Amazons business in the future. What are you going deep on?

Fly Fishing and Zen in Business

I’m in San Francisco at the moment, spending some quality time with the rest of the Yammer crew and chatting about what we think might happen over the next year. It’s nice to be back. Thanks to Rav, we headed to Yosemite today to see the amazing sights and breathe in the crisp air out there. It was stunning and well worth the extra hours on the bus to make the journey.


On the bus, we had a guide who explained one story which really spoke to me. He talked about the Valley Cong, a group of six friends that essentially reinvented the sport of rock climbing in the 60’s and 70’s in Yosemite. The thing which struck me about this was that out of this group of six, two of the members have gone on to found the companies Patagonia and The North Face. I love the idea that these six people, through their love of good craft and rock climbing, reinvented how their sport worked.

The founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, has been especially fantastic to listen to since I got back and loaded up a couple of YouTube videos. I liked this short video below, where he speaks about the patience and zen approach required for Fly Fishing.

“What I love about fly fishing is it’s the zen way of fishing. You don’t focus on the end target, which is catching a fish. In fly fishing, you have to look at a river and learn to read it like a rock climber assesses a rock face.”

“It’s not about catching a fish, it about adapting yourself to where you’re worthy of catching a fish. It’s not about you catching the fish. It’s about the fish catching you, really.”

It’s great to apply those lessons he speaks about to the world of business, which is what he himself tries to practice with Patagonia.