Trying…Losing…Winning

Walking onto the Hilltop for the first time in 2017, I thought: I am excited to come to work. I feel as excited as I did in 2002, my first year at St. Luke’s. Back then, I was driven by goals and possibilities. Today, I am still fueled by results—a thriving community, exceptional teachers, a campus that just keeps getting better, and students who astound me.  

Just before break, Student Council President Porter Bowman ‘17 delivered a Meditation. In it he shares defining moments from the year, including his recent appearance on Jeopardy Teen Tournament.

As everyone who watched Porter’s Jeopardy appearance knows…he lost. But that’s not how Porter sees it.  As he told classmates, this went through his mind after betting and losing it all during Final Jeopardy:

I stood there realizing my dream was ending…Deflated but not defeated in that moment I wanted to shake the hands of the explorers, pioneers, scientists, politicians, leaders and authors whose individual life’s work had helped propel me to that Jeopardy stage. I look back on the years of classes and teachers and memorable moments that fill nearly every nook and cranny of my brain, including my heart and my soul…I didn’t need a win to validate my passion.”

Porter is an authentic leader. He’s genuine, unafraid to be real and vulnerable. He turned what could have been a negative experience into an asset that deepened his love of learning. Then, he had the courage to shine the spotlight on his loss and say but look what I gained. With humor and grace, Porter demonstrated that “taking risks” and “learning from failure” are not lame platitudes but a powerful strategy for growth.

At the State of the School, we talked about having a mission vs. living a mission. As Porter describes his deep love of learning, strong moral compass, and commitment to serve (the confidence to lead is self evident), it’s clear our mission is living, breathing, and playing Jeopardy.

 

 

No Unicorns

Mindfulness is not going to solve your problems. It’s not going to render your life a nonstop parade of unicorns and rainbows. Nonetheless, this is a superpower.

– News Anchor Dan Harris,  Why Mindfulness is a Superpower

I love this statement from Dan Harris. It pokes fun at the “feel good” aspects of mindfulness without diminishing its tremendous potential. The superpower Harris refers to is focus. Mindfulness helps quiet and calm the mind. Sounds simple, but consider the firehose of distractions at work, school and home. Learning to focus, despite the cacophony, is an invaluable skill.

“Meditation—more than anything in my life—was the biggest ingredient of whatever success I’ve had.”  

– Bridgewater Associates Founder, Ray Dalio

I began practicing yoga and meditation about fourteen months ago. I’d read a lot about CEOs—such as former St. Luke’s parent Ray Dalio—who employ meditation to manage stress and improve performance. Dalio was interviewed at Georgetown University’s meditation center and explained that meditation “opens my mind and relaxes me…it gives me an ability to look at things without the emotional hijacking, without the ego, in a way that gives me a certain clarity.”

Like Dalio, Nick and Michelle Seaver had life-altering meditation experiences. You can learn more about their journey in How Meditation Changes a Go-Go-Go Couple and Nick’s TEDx video The Gift of Silence. Nick will co-host the March 5, Fathers & Friends Breakfast with me. Our topic: How Mindfulness Makes You A Better Parent, Partner & Leader will touch on our personal experiences and the growing body of research behind the mindfulness movement.  Register for Fathers & Friends

At St. Luke’s, we’re exploring ways to bring mindfulness into our school day. With benefits that include lower anxiety, greater resilience, and increased focus, incorporating mindfulness seems like a no brainer (pun intended).

I’ll leave you with links to some worthwhile articles. Please share your reactions, ideas, and experiences. Use the comments feature on this page—or send me an email.

 

New York Times: The Hidden Price of Mindfulness

The Atlantic: How Mindfulness Could Help Teachers & Students

CNN: Calming the Teenage Mind in the Classroom

NYT: How Meditation Changes the Brain & Body

TedX: Neuroscientist Sara Lazar on Meditation & Brain Growth

Mindful: How the Brain Changes When You Meditate

Harvard Business Review: Mindfulness Can Literally Change Your Brain

Forbes: Why the World’s Best Leaders Want to Meditate on It

Harvard Business Review: Why Google-Target- And General Mills Are Investing in Mindfulness

Harvard Business Review: How Meditation Benefits CEOs

Bloomberg: To Make a Killing on Wall Street Start Meditating

Mindful: Free Mindfulness Apps

 

Time Well Spent

Here we go. Tomorrow we head out for winter break. Some will travel, some will staycation. I hope all of us will relax.

The arrival of 2016 marks a new year of life. As we sip our champagne or sparkling cider, we’ll reflect: Where has the time gone? Are we spending our precious hours wisely?

I began reflecting early (actually, I’m not sure I can stop reflecting), and was rewarded by research affirming St. Luke’s investment in Diversity and exploration of Mindfulness.

Diversity Makes You Brighter reinforces St. Luke’s commitment to a genuinely inclusive, respectful, school environment for all. No easy task, but worth every awkward, messy, moment and difficult conversation. Worth the frustrations and pain that are part and parcel of this work.  As the professors who authored the piece observe:

Diversity improves the way people think. By disrupting conformity, racial and ethnic diversity prompts people to scrutinize facts, think more deeply and develop their own opinions. Our findings show that such diversity actually benefits everyone, minorities and majority alike…Ethnic diversity is like fresh air: It benefits everybody who experiences it.

On the Mindful front, the Harvard Business Review has me eager to ramp up St. Luke’s early work in this area. How Meditation Benefits CEOs features executives who meditate to hone leadership skills. The author references expanding research suggesting “meditation sharpens skills like attention, memory, and emotional intelligence.”

Mindfulness can literally change your brain, cites a multitude of studies indicating  meditators “demonstrate superior performance on tests of self-regulation, resisting distractions and making correct answers more often than non-meditators.” They also learn from past experience which improves decision-making. The authors continue:

These findings are just the beginning of the story. Neuroscientists have also shown that practicing mindfulness affects brain areas related to perception, body awareness, pain tolerance, emotion regulation, introspection, complex thinking, and sense of self. While more research is needed to document these changes over time and to understand underlying mechanisms, the converging evidence is compelling.

Are we spending our precious hours wisely? Yes, I say gratefully, we are.

Happy Holidays St. Luke’s.

My Best Teacher – A Meditation

I recently reprised a favorite meditation for St. Luke’s Upper School students. I talk about my father and the many wonderful lessons I learned through his life and philosophies. Below is a small excerpt and a link to the full meditation if you are so inclined:

Many teachable moments present themselves in our daily lives and in the opportunity each of us has to influence others through the example of our own life. My dad influenced me more than anyone else.

Listen to the October 11, 2012 full meditation.