The Mindful Entrepreneur

At Virginia Tech yesterday, 4/6/09, I heard management and organizational consultant Michael Carroll speak, author of The Mindful Leader: Awakening Your Natural Management Skills Through Mindfulness Meditation.

Here's the quote from the program description that called me to attend:  "“As organizational leaders it seems that we are always trying to grow the business, meet the deadline, close the deal, and finish the project. And the speed and pace can be intense – getting it done faster, better, cheaper and smarter,” says Carroll. “Such a style of leadership with all its ambition and energy has its benefits no doubt, but it also has a profound blind spot: in our relentless pursuit of ‘success,’ we too often forget to live our lives."

The last lecture I attended at Virginia Tech as a student was in 1983, so I found myself quite moved to be back at my school and entering an unfamiliar annex to the Donaldson Brown Center, but seating myself with the seeming same group that had attended every guest lecture I had as a grad and undergrad – a complex mix of students, faculty, and staff, from locals to internationals, in jeans and three-piece suits, all come together to learn.

What I appreciated most about Michael Carroll was his "I am somebody and you are somebody, too" presence.  He sat rather than stood, spoke rather than lectured, thoughtfully shared his expertise and experience rather than pontificated about his way as "the way," and let the same audience member ask two questions, not just one, at first checking to see if someone else wanted a turn, but open to another's burning desire.

I would be the one asking two.

My second question was this:  "I was a lot more open to meditation when I had a salary.  Now that I'm an entrepreneur, I'm responsible for everything – the profit of the company, the success of the company, paying contractors, paying service providers.  How can I meditate when everything depends on me?"

I think Carroll is brave because he has taken on explaining meditation which is like explaining love – or these days, cloud computing.

As an entrepreneur, Carroll noted, if I set myself the task of getting from point A to point B as quickly, efficiently, and profitably as possible, I will make no space for myself to innovate.

"I'm not saying you won't feel disoriented," Carroll said.  "I'm not saying it's not uncomfortable."

Carroll points out that much in the current economy is broken and toxic. 

"As an entrepreneur," he said, "you open yourself to learning key skills for the next economy – adaptability and flexibility."

I felt heartened and strengthened by Carroll's talk.  While I hope he writes a book entitled The Mindful Entrepreneur, while I wait, I can be making space to innovate.

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