Last Updated on October 15, 2020 by Paul Farrell, MRP, JD, PhD
Successful business leaders are often know for their tough exteriors. Meditation and spirituality aren’t highlighted in their job description. Yes, it is okay to attend Sunday church services, even serve meals in a skid row soup kitchen on Thanksgiving. But when you’re negotiating a merger, closing a big sale, appeasing disgruntled investors or disciplining a key employee, you better be focused, disciplined and tough. Let your guard down and the sharks will eat you alive.
Public Service is a Natural Meditation-In-Action!
Executives often show their softer side in other ways, especially such as public service, through volunteer work in charities and civic organizations. They balance toughness, compassion and service for the greater good, and often find that it’s good for business too.
One example was reported in Fortune magazine, in an article about Hank Paulson, CEO of Goldman Sachs, a $45 billion Wall Street investment banking powerhouse with 20,000 employees worldwide. Having worked for his arch-rival, Morgan Stanley, I was especially intrigued by Paulson’s ability to balance business and public service.
Paulson is not only a tough executive – “carved features without a hint of softness … a really, really ruthless competitor” – he has “another equally intense existence, as a lover of wildlife and protector of the environment.” He also serves as co-chair of the $3.3 billion Nature Conservancy, the world’s largest nonprofit environmental organization.
As a young man Paulson wanted to become a forest ranger. Today he’s living that dream. His travels take him and his supporters in the Conservancy to Indonesia’s rain forests, China’s mountain reserves, the coral reefs of Palau in the Western Pacific, and other endangered areas of Asia.
Paulson says: “It isn’t like I’m trying to do good, this is really fun for me.” And yet the guy is doing a lot of good, driven by a deep conviction that saving the environment is a “race against time, the ultimate global issue.” Meditation? Yes, a life filled with such intense focus and passion at work and in public service is a perfect meditation.
Making a Difference in the World
Tex Gunning, president of Unilever Bestfoods Asia is another example. Gunning is an economist by training according to an article in “What is Enlightenment?” magazine. Early in his career he became a “restructuring” expert – a corporate hatchet man. But in midlife, he decided he no longer wanted to “keep sacking and keep restructuring and keep cutting costs.”
Gunning had an epiphany: “I didn’t want to live a life creating an illusion of meaningfulness while deep in my heart I knew that every five seconds there is a child dying.” He decided he would “make a difference in the lives of unbelievably poor children in Asia. Their suffering is just unimaginable. I said to myself, I have no choice” Unilever backed him and since then he’s started profitable food businesses in fifteen countries.
This is meditation in action, different and perhaps more effective than retreating into a monastery.
About the Author
Dr. Farrell is a Behavioral Economist. His books include The Millionaire Code; The Millionaire Meditation: Stress Management for Wall Street, Corporate America & Entrepreneurs; The Zen Millionaire; The Winning Portfolio; Expert Investing on The Net; Mutual Funds on The Net; and The Lazy Person’s Guide to Investing.
He also published 1,643 columns on DowJones-MarketWatch and for years was their #1 traffic-generating columnist. Before the Internet, he edited & published FNX: Future News Index, a financial newsletter for stock market traders. Earlier he was a Wall Street investment banker with Morgan Stanley, Executive Vice President of the Financial News Network; and Associate Editor of the Los Angeles Herald Examiner.
He has a Doctorate in Psychology, Juris Doctor, Masters in Regional Planning and Bachelor of Architecture. He worked on the Esalen organic farm and served in the U.S. Marine Corps as Staff Sergeant in aviation computer technology.