Matt Tenney

Lessons from 5.5 years of Prison Confinement

Lessons from 5.5 years of Prison Confinement

Matt Tenney

CEO at The Generous Group and author

About Matt

Matt Tenney works to develop highly effective leaders who achieve extraordinary, long-term business outcomes – and live more fulfilling lives – as a result of realizing high levels of self-mastery and more effectively serving and inspiring greatness in the people around them.

Matt is a social entrepreneur and the author of “The Mindfulness Edge: How to Rewire Your Brain for Leadership and Personal Excellence Without Adding to Your Schedule” and “Serve to Be Great: Leadership Lessons from a Prison, a Monastery, and a Boardroom”. He has been teaching mindfulness in various capacities since 2002. He is also an international keynote speaker, a corporate trainer, and a consultant with the prestigious Perth Leadership Institute. Matt’s clients include Wells Fargo, Marriott, Keller Williams, The Four Seasons, and many other companies, associations, and universities.


Take home these learnings

1) The story of 5.5 years of confinement.
2) How does mindfulness show up in a business setup?
3) What is the most significant skill for a leader.
4) The connection between serving others and business outcomes.

Listen to the specific part


Episode Transcript:

Intro// Have you come across someone who attempted a fraud against US government knowingly or unknowingly or consciously or unconsciously? What does being confined to prison for 5 and a half years mean to you? What according to you is the most significant skill for a leader? Welcome ladies and gentleman, welcome to the podcast the xMonks Drive. My name is Gaurav Arora and our today’s guest is Matt Tenney. Matt is the CEO at The Generous Group and author of two books including "Serve to Be Great" and "The Mindfulness Edge"​. He has been teaching mindfulness in various capacities since 2002. He is also an international keynote speaker, a corporate trainer, and a consultant with the prestigious Perth Leadership Institute. Let’s hear from Matt, how at times, the biggest failure of our life can become a reason for us to lead a purposeful life. Outro// My key learnings from this episode are: If you're not comparing the present moment with your thoughts of the past or the future, the present moment is perfect, just the way that it is. And the second one is: How well are leaders meeting the needs of employees? How well do they listen? How invested are they in the future growth of those employees? BTW- what are your key takes aways…. Would love to hear your learning, reflections and insights from this episode. Also, please do rate this podcast and leave a review. It will help me get better. I look forward to meeting you again next week with yet another interesting conversation. Till then, take care and stay tuned. 00:02 Gaurav Hey, thank you so much, Matt, such a pleasure having you on this podcast, The xMonks Drive. How have you been today? 00:11 Matt So far? Great. How about you? 00:14 Gaurav I'm doing very well, thank you. God's been very kind. You know, Matt, this is really interesting. Because every time when I have to introduce someone, I go through the profile, and I pick up the nuggets about that person. And while I was going through your life, I could not point my finger on where should I begin from an author and entrepreneur, a family member, somebody who's in love with his family, the kind of work that you do, the philosophy that you have the journey, that you have gone through the ups and downs, few years in the prison. And then starting your own journey, there's so much that I could talk about. And I know I will not be able to do justice, to your introduction. So, here's my first question to you, let's say if you were to introduce Matt to an audience of entrepreneurs? 01:22 Gaurav And if you were to introduce Matt, as a third person to a group of teenagers, how would you introduce him? 01:30 Matt So, the first one was to a group of entrepreneurs. 01:50 Gaurav The second one is a group of teenagers. 01:53 Matt Okay. So, to a group of entrepreneurs, I think I would, I would say, Matt, is a person who helps entrepreneurs, business leaders solve the most critical problems of running a business. His focus, although, you know, strategy is certainly a key component of running a successful organization. Matt's focus is on the execution of that strategy. And enabling entrepreneurs to build teams and organizations that more effectively execute on strategy, with a core focus on really taking care of team members and setting team members up for success so that they can thrive both professionally and personally, which he believes is what creates the conditions for sustainable high-performance culture, that's going to allow an organization to execute very effectively on the strategy. 02:55 Gaurav To a group of teenagers, 02:58 Matt To a group of teenagers. I think I would say, Matt is a person who believes that life is very simple. It comes down to two basic components. Do you have peace of mind? And are you kind? Do you love others? Well, do you serve others? And Matt has learned through his life experiences that those two things are ultimately all that really matters. And that they're also very interrelated. So, if you can be consistently kind, you'll find that you're much more satisfied in life, your life is more meaningful, more fulfilling, and you're happier. And on the flip side, if you have peace of mind, then you're much more able to be kind consistently because you're not consistently caught up in your own mental turmoil. So, those two things are very, very interrelated. And so, putting energy into one helps the other and vice versa. And Matt, believes that, really, ultimately, this is what we should be really focusing on in our lives. Everything else should be secondary, to cultivating peace of mind and being able to be more consistently kind. 04:21 Gaurav It's so interesting. On one hand, you're talking about business strategy. On the other hand, you're talking about kindness and peace of mind. One question is for sure that I'm going to ask you what is the connection between kindness, serving others and the business outcomes and the performance based on which you are evaluated in the corporate culture that we are a part of, but before that, I'm a firm believer. When we are talking about values, like kindness, when you're talking about serving others, either you are born into that context or you come across situations in your life, when you realize that there's nothing more important than the peace of mind. Which one is true for you? Were you born in a context where you were taught that kindness and peace of mind is paramount? Or you came across situations in your life where you had this insight? Ah, peace of mind is above everything. 05:25 Matt Yeah, I mean, I think throughout life, I got little snippets of why being kind is so important, and why serving others is so important. Not very much on the peace of mind side, I think, particularly in the West, we conflate the idea of happiness and peace of mind. And there are two distinct things now peace of mind can bring about very sustainable happiness. But a lot of what people in the West think of when they think of happiness is experiences that bring joy. And unfortunately, all of these experiences in the joy they bring about are temporary. So, it's a very fragile foundation upon which to build the notion of happiness. Whereas peace of mind, the idea is, you can experience anything that happens in life and face it with courage and equanimity. And so, you're okay with what's happening. It doesn't bother you, it doesn't create emotional upset to a significant degree, or if there is upset, it's very short-lived. And I think that's the distinction. So, I didn't get a whole lot of that. And where I was really introduced to this was actually as a result of the greatest failure of my life. So, I mean, it would be great. If I could tell you that "Oh, yeah. You know, I discovered this, you know, training with some guru in the mountains, you know, or attending some Ivy League college" but it was actually I just made really bad series of decisions and I attempted a fraud against the US government. And in an attempt to make a have a shortcut to success, so to speak. Gaurav You said, 07:14 you attempted a fraud against US government, is my understanding, right? 07:20 Matt Yes, yeah. So, I tried to take a shortcut to success and attempted a fraud against the government when I was in my early 20s. I think I was 24-24 and a half, something like that. Around this time. And so, this is quite a while ago, this is 20 some years ago. And 07:41 yeah, so as I didn't actually go through with the attempt, I didn't try to actually take anything from anybody. But I had taken enough steps to be guilty of an attempted fraud. And as a result, I ended up spending five and a half years confined to prison. And about six months into my time there, I started learning about- I'm sorry, is about a year into my time and can find it. I started learning about mindfulness. And, you know, I kind of had this intuition that, wow, you know, that there must be a reason why I'm here. Other than being stupid, and doing some incredibly selfish, stupid things. I thought there must be some purpose you know, I started answering this question like, "What should I learn from this? And how is- what I'm supposed to learn going to help me to be of service in the world?" And it occurred to me that, you know, this is a wonderful opportunity to train the mind. And it was almost like, just out of nowhere, it was that was right when I started learning about mindfulness. And as a way of training the mind. And it made so much sense to me. Just this very logical premise, which was, the idea that really struck me actually came from a book written by Thich Nhat Hanh he's a famous teacher of mindfulness. And he made he just offered this simple suggestion, you know, that "If you're not comparing the present moments, your thoughts of the past or the future, the present moment is perfect, just the way that it is." And for what I could easily see that this was true, right? It is our thinking that creates the problems around our experience. It's not the experience itself. And so, but I could extrapolate and I could realize, well, okay, so if I could just be brushing my teeth, then there's really no prison. It's just brushing the teeth. How is brushing my teeth in prison any different than brushing my teeth at my house, or in a five-star hotel in the tropics somewhere? It's just brushing the teeth, right? There's no difference, as long as the mind isn't caught up in comparison. And I thought, well, if I could be free in a moment while I'm brushing my teeth, then I could be free while I'm making the bed, while I'm getting dressed, while I'm doing any number of things throughout the day. So, I really went at this practice because it just made so much sense. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel right away, which was, if you can be frequent comparative thinking in a large number of moments in a day, then you're free a large number of moments during that day, whether your prison is the physical prison that I was in, or if your prison is just the one that many people create for themselves right now, based on all of the thoughts we have in our heads. So, it was after about six months of practising mindfulness that I realized, "Holy cow, I'm actually thriving in this place" In one of the most stressful environments in the world. In fact, I was actually happier, right there in a prison with nothing than I'd ever been in my entire life. And so, this inspired me to go deeper with the practice, you know, and I've been learning principally from monks. And the ideal of the monastic life just really appealed to me, which was, you give up all of your own short-term self-interest and just devote oneself entirely, to training the mind, to have peace of mind and to be more kind. So, it's a life that's completely devoted to serving others. And this completely transformed my experience of confinement into the most meaningful experience of my life, I ended up ordaining as a novice monk along with another person who was confined there, and just living and training exactly as monks live and train. And it became very clear to me through meditation and through reflection, that I was actually having a significant impact on the world, not just inside of the prison, but outside of it, just from right there. And here's why, because when you're walking around in a prison, and you look like this, every single day, people ask you what's going on? They say, what type of drugs are they giving you? Right? And I wasn't taking any drugs. So, every day, I had the opportunity to help people who wanted to know how can I have peace of mind in this place, too. And I realized, "Well, if I help them, they're less likely to commit a crime when they leave. If I help the guards, they're going to be more likely to treat their friends are their spouses better when they get home." And I could see how, just from right there in a prison, there was this ripple effect of making change in the world. And so, I just never really let go of that ideal. So ever since then, my focus has been, what can I do to cultivate those qualities in myself? So, I've basically trained in some way, like a monk ever since, with the focus on how can I cultivate those qualities in myself? High levels of peace of mind, the ability to be consistently kind, so that I can be of greater service to others. Gaurav Yeah, Matt. This story that you're narrating right now, with so much of ease and peace, where we are talking about mindfulness will not have been that easier. Help me understand, when was that moment in the initial six months to a year where you felt "Shucks, man, what the eff have I gotten myself into?" 13:08 That happened pretty fast. The first, within a week or so the kind of the shock wore off, and the reality set in, I'll never forget this conversation I had with the military attorney who was- I was in the United States military at the time this happened. And I had an attorney who was in the military. And I was placed in what was essentially solitary confinement. So, I was in a six by nine cell alone, on an average of 22 hours per day, I was let out to go eat and I was let out to go play on the rec yard by myself. So, that was still alone, but it was at least that was outside of the cell. But I remember this day, when this attorney, you know, came and sat outside my cell, and we're talking to each other through this little feed tray, you know, it's about this big. And I asked him, you know, "How long do you think I could be here?" And, you know, in my case, it started off in the federal system. And it was very clear I would, I would be confined for 18 months or something, I would probably be in a camp with no fences because this was a paper crime that I didn't even complete. But in the military, there was they didn't follow the same rules. And my attorney just looked at me and said, "Well, Matt, you know, based on the charges against you, you could easily spend 70 or 80 years in the cell." And that just that made the reality set in pretty fast. And there was a good probably two weeks or so where I just had suicidal thoughts just running through my mind, you know, continuously and never tried to actually do it. But I just I would have these visions of just doing things to end my life. Just over and over and over and it was hard to get them out of my head. 14:49 Gaurav Yeah, yeah. So, on one hand, you spoke about that you had suicidal thoughts? What the f have I gotten myself into what's going to happen? 15:11 Gaurav So, what was it on the other side that kept you sailing through these tough times? 15:18 Matt There was nothing on the other side. In fact, that was, I think, what, when I knew that there was a significant degree of freedom in the mind was after I had been confined for about three and a half, four years, I realized that if I had to spend the rest of my life in that place, it wouldn't bother me at all. So, there was no longer distinction between inside of the prison and outside, I realized that the only prison that is real, is the one that we create, with our thoughts. It's not that I would choose to stay there, I mean, I knew that there's plenty of good things I could do in the world. But if someone told me that I had to be there the rest of my life, it wouldn't affect me. Whereas when I first got that news, it affected me very, very severely. And then, of course, just the thoughts of all the suffering I created for friends and family and people that I worked with, you know, that just added to the self-loathing, and, you know, just being so disappointed in myself or letting people down and not living up to who I thought I was. So, yeah, there was a lot of disappointment early on but as a result of the practice, of just training the mind to be free from the identification with thought and being caught in the prison of comparative thinking. Yeah, in fact, it actually happened, where, towards the end of my confinement, I was in what's called a trustee camp, where there was no fence, you know, you're just kind of on the honour system to not leave. And I was accused of violating a rule in the prison. And so they brought me back inside, and I was placed once again, in solitary confinement, and this is I only had about nine months left to go before I would, would likely to be released. So, this meant I could lose all of my good conduct time. And I might end up spending another four or five years there instead of just another nine months. It could mean that I spend it all of it inside and never have the trustee unit again. And there was really no problem was, I just said, "Oh, well, I guess this is, this will be a good opportunity to train the mind more, I guess more diligently" Because living in the trustee unit, I would go to work like everybody does with a day job. And I would I would do my meditation in the morning in the evening. But if I'm in solitary confinement, I could just do walking and sitting in meditation all day, which is what I did. And then it later turned out that I had not actually broken a rule, I was falsely accused of breaking that rule. And so, I was sent back out to the trustee unit and left as I was scheduled to, but it didn't bother me when they said "You might be here much longer." 18:01 Gaurav You know, as I'm listening to you. On one hand, here is Matt, who's totally surrounded in the dark clouds, metaphorically. A couple of accusations and no hope of getting out of that. But at the same time, something good was happening, right? The life was conspiring something for Matt. I believe that life is always conspiring something good for us, life happens for us, to us, provided I'm willing to pick it up and willing to see it. In those clouds that you were enveloped into how did you manage to grab that opportunity and say, "Hey, I would like to get introduced to silence I would like to get introduced to mindfulness. I would like to introduce to serving others." 19:07 Matt Well, I mean, I think it was just a result of the practice, it's kind of a natural outpouring of as one starts to train the mind. You know, there, I think what inhibits us from having peace of mind than from consistently being kind is if there's one root cause to this, and it is identification with our thoughts as being what we are. You know, we have these thoughts going through our mind all the time, right? Some of them are visual images, some of them are is the inner voice that's talking to us all the time. And we feel as though we are that voice or that we are the images going through our head we identify with them very strongly. And to the extent that we believe that that's true, then we believe our thoughts and our thoughts control our behaviours and create emotional impact for us. So, this is what can prevent us from being having peace of mind. And from being consistently kind to others. It's this, it's we become very self-focused if we're identified with this very small sense of self, which is just the thoughts that exist in here. That's a very tiny version of ourselves. It's actually quite easy to see that we're not our thoughts. And we can do it right now with a thought experiment, right? So, you know, let's imagine that you're, you're sitting here, wherever you are in the world, or standing or walking. And just imagine for a second that your mind was completely empty of thought. So, there's no images going through your mind. Inner Voice is completely silent. And then, and a thought arises about, you know, I would like to have my favourite dinner. You know, today in maybe it's Palak Paneer, let's just say, which happens to be one of my favourite foods, and I imagine it's very popular in many parts of India. So, let's say that this thought comes up about "Oh, I love Palak Paneer, I cannot wait to have that." And then the thought goes away. And the mind is completely empty once again. So, here's the question I would ask. You were there, you existed experiencing the world through your senses, even when there was no thought you were there, as the thought arose about Palak paneer, seemingly out of nowhere, you had no control over when that thought was going to arise. And then you're still there's that thought vanishes into nothingness. And your mind is empty once again. So, what does that tell you about thoughts? They're clearly not what you are, right? They're things that arise and pass away within you 21:49 Gaurav Just transient. Temporary 21:52 Matt Yeah, they're almost like clouds in the sky, if nothing. So, if we use the sky analogy, it's much more like, we tend to identify with ourselves as being these little clouds all bundled up in thoughts when in reality where the sky and the sky has a lot of room in it. And there are no problems in the sky, the sky doesn't mind if the rain is coming out of the clouds, the sky doesn't mind if there's lightning happening. The sky accepts all of that, just as it is and is okay with all of it. This is actually our true nature in terms of the mind. So, we all have the capacity to be this spacious awareness that is much like the sky that isn't bothered by the temporary ups and downs of life or the thoughts we have about those temporary ups and downs. And it is when we start to spend more time being that spacious awareness that we become much less caught up in the tricks that our mind likes to play on us. And that's what facilitates having peace of mind. And it's what facilitates being able to be more consistently kind. I mean, it's kind of obvious, right? If we're suffering a lot, and we're really focused on ourselves, how likely are we to be consistently kind to others? I mean, the answer is not very likely, right? But if we're if we have peace of mind, if we're not bothered by things, we're not very, you know, self-centered, by definition, we're going to be more self-less more likely to be of service to others to be to bring happiness to the people around us. 23:24 Gaurav Yeah, as I'm just listening to you, for me, it's a pause moment, by the way, and especially when you mentioned that we are spacious awareness, we are not our thoughts. Now, you can operate from that space only when you are at peace with yourself. But Matt, Matt was imprisoned, 23:46 Matt I think, I don't think that's true. I think you can operate from that space, anytime you like. It's a very simple proposition. 23:54 Gaurav When you're going through when you're going to the harsh realities of life that you were going through, you know, in fact, I wanted to ask you a question, how did you deal with that bitterness and resentment that you were into? That you had? And from that space, how could you give birth to spaciousness? How could you give birth to, as you mentioned, spacious awareness? 24:16 Matt In some ways, it's actually easier when there's a significant impact in someone's life like this or a significant event. And here's why. Because let's just use me as an example. So, prior to this experience, I might have read a book about mindfulness. And but I was so caught up in entertaining myself. You know, I did surfing, I did golf, I did Brazilian Jujitsu, I had a girlfriend that I spent lots of time with, we ate out all the time. So, I might have read a book on mindfulness and said, "Oh, that sounds nice. Maybe I'll try that one day or I'll think about it." But if you're in a place where you're suffering a lot, it's kind of like you say, "Well, what better should, what better thing should I do, then learn how to how to be with this suffering or deal with the suffering." And this is actually very common people that tend to advance along the path very quickly in terms of being more free from their thinking. It's usually when people have some significant problems that they're dealing with. And part of it is just structurally in life where you're more likely to want to deal with problems. If you're not distracting yourself all the time. Or if the problems become severe enough, you realize the distraction's not working, I think that's maybe a big problem in the West is that we have so many, and in many places in India, as well, where we have so many luxuries to distract ourselves, that we never face the true issue, and we never face the true problem that's preventing us from having a happiness that doesn't depend on anything outside of ourselves. And that is, who are we? You know, are we the thoughts in our head? Or are we something a little bit beyond the thoughts in our head? And we all know, we all have this intuition that we're something beyond the thoughts in our head. But we never take the time to explore that reality. Whereas if you were in a place where you're just really bound up in problems or suffering, you're much more likely to say, "Okay, maybe I should deal with this. Maybe I should start working with how can I uproot these causes of all the problems that I'm having." But in a more, that's kind of structure in our life circumstances, right. But even from the perspective of the practice, what tends to result in the biggest insights, not result, but I guess something that facilitates a powerful insight is a lot of energy in the mind. So, if the mind is, has a lot of energy in it, and that could be positive energy or negative energy. And that energy is applied to building up this stability of awareness, all of a sudden, we can have this very powerful insight, where we just see as clear as a bell, oh, I'm not this bundle of thoughts that I always thought that I was, I can't name what I am. Because it's, it's just not something you can talk." I mean, other than saying spacious awareness, that's not true. That's just the closest words we can come to describe in this. But you can certainly be what you are. I mean, you're it. It's so all of a sudden, you realize, "Oh, I'm not, I'm not this bundle of thoughts. And poof, you get the sense of, oh, this is what I am. And this, what I am is always at peace." 27:39 Gaurav I loved it when you said that before that I was so busy entertaining myself. And when using the word entertaining, what I mean is that all of us are trapped in this vicious circle of entertaining ourselves. It could be feeding our egos, feeding our insecurities, and the inadequacy is the imposter syndrome that most of us deal with. Now, interestingly, in the book that you've written 'Serve to be great.' And the second book that you've written is the 'Mindfulness edge.' You have accentuated on a fact that mindfulness is a key to liberate yourself. Matt, just curious, how do you define mindfulness? 28:26 Matt That's a great question. So, there are, this word is. So, it's been used so much in so many contexts, that it's almost meaningless at this point. So, I think it's good to let's give this a good definition. Now, this is not, I'm not saying this is the definition by any stretch. This is just how I define it. But I think it's very important to define mindfulness into two separate components. So, we have what does it mean to be mindful? That's one component of mindfulness. And then we have the other component, which is, what are practices that facilitate the ability to be mindful more often? Let's start with the first component. So, the first component is what does it mean to be mindful? Very simple. It's not easy. Maybe the hardest thing in the world to do, but it's very simple. Being mindful means that we are aware. So, you know what's happening, it's coming into your senses with one minor caveat. And that is that you are not identified with your thoughts while you're being aware. So, you have a present moment awareness, you know what's happening, but it includes awareness of thoughts. So, you're not only aware of your five senses that we normally think of as our five senses, we also have this other sense this awareness of all there are thoughts arising and passing through the mind. So, in any moment that we are not identified with thought, but we see our thoughts as objects that arise and pass away in awareness. We are being mindful. And just before we move on to the second component, I would like to point out this isn't magical or mystical, in any moment that you're being mindful, you may not get a sense of tremendous joy or freedom. What I guarantee you will notice, though, if you really pay attention is that there are no problems, there is no suffering. In any moment that you're being mindful, there's peace. The reason for that is because the problems don't exist outside of the thoughts that we have in our heads, this moment is just fine, just the way that it is. Gaurav Any problem that we are talking about, right? Matt Any moment. Now, obviously, people would argue,"Oh, well, what about if you're being burned alive in a car accident" Of course, that's, that's pretty terrible. That's a longer discussion, you know, maybe we talk about that I actually do talk about it in the Mindfulness edge. But let's just come back to reality for a second, which is 95% of your life is just simple moments, like having a conversation with your wife or your husband, standing in line at the store, eating food, brushing your teeth, very mundane, simple moments, only about 5% of your life is very, extremely pleasurable, or very, extremely painful. Again, that's a separate discussion. But let's just talk about 95% of your life, which oftentimes we rush through to get over with so we can get on to what's exciting and seems better. All of those moments, those simple, mundane moments, have the opportunity, present us with the opportunity to realize perfect peace. And if we can practice in a way that allows us to realize the peace during those moments, it enhances the moments that we have, that are more pleasurable by nature, like having interactions with friends, or eating good food, and it develops the capacity for being more free from the really painful moments. 31:49 Gaurav I'll just say, I would choose peace, not even perfect peace. 31:56 Matt Yeah, there, I guess that's redundant because peace is inherently perfect. That's the definition. There's just nothing wrong. There's, this is perfect. And that's the realization. So, in any moment that you're being mindful, that peace is there. But the mind tends to skip over it and say, "Okay, yeah, but what about the real, I've read about these experiences of, you know, great joy and bliss." And so, we immediately started looking for something else, and we lose the peace. 32:25 Gaurav So, as you mentioned, for as long as I'm not comparing myself with what should be there instead, in the future, or how this is not as peaceful as I have experienced in the past, for as long as I'm not comparing myself with any other moment, I can actually opt for, and I can choose peace in this moment. 32:45 Matt Yeah, in fact, and I will take it a step further. And it's not a choice at all, it's just, if you can do it, as you said, and we let go of looking for something better, or let you know, comparing to the past, or the future. And we're just simply aware, allowing things to be as they are the peace is there, you don't have, we don't have to choose it. It's just it's already there. And the magic is that you can, if you start to let go of any aspiration for something better while you're doing the practice, it does start to really permeate experience more and more. So, that's the first component is being mindful. And then the second component are mindfulness practice is, which and this is what most people refer to when they say, mindfulness, they're talking about practices that do one of two things, they either help you wake up to that being mindful, or they help you to rest in that being mindful for longer periods of time. And all of these practices, this is where there's a problem with many people thinking that that is, the goal is that these practices are just skillful means. So, a lot of teachers will teach someone to direct attention to the breath for a certain amount of time. And it's very easy to think that "Oh, freedom and peace is about me, directing attention to the breath." That's not, that's just a skillful means to help you wake up to mindfulness and learn how to stabilize it, so you can spend more time there. Actually, being mindful doesn't require to direct attention anywhere. It's just waking up from the identification with thought and this can happen instantly. Just as soon as you know what's happening if you use your inner voice skillfully to note, just sitting here talking to Gaurav, right there, there's awakening happening 34:36 Gaurav And without any attachment without any personal referential element attached to the entire scenario. 34:43 Matt Yeah, I'm just plainly stating to make it more simple. Let's say you're doing a practice while walking. You could use your inner voice to just simply state just walking. Right there. When that voice first goes silent. You kind of notice I just became the listener, I just listened to that voice. And the voice goes silent. And now there's just walking, there's just a human being walking. And you might notice for a second or so there's just a perfect balanced awareness. If there are thoughts, it's okay. But you see them clearly you don't feel as though you are those thoughts. So, there's just walking, and there may or may not be thoughts happening. Either way, it doesn't matter, you're being mine. And then mindfulness practices are all just skillful means that allow us to wake up more often, to this perspective of being mindful, and to allow it to have longer periods of duration. 35:40 Gaurav You know, Matt, I'm 200%, in sync with what you're talking about. At the same time, you do a lot of work in the business environment. How does mindfulness practices play or show up in the business scenario, or in the corporate scenario that you work in? 36:05 Matt Well, that is a very long list of I try to make it as simple for people in the business world to understand. Not that I think we need it to be simplified, but just for the sake of the shorter discussion. If I were to ask you, Gaurav, you know, what is the most important skill that a leader, particularly a business leader can develop? You might come up with a variety of things that you list, right? And then eventually what we come up with, and this has happened with almost every conversation I've ever had, is we realize self-awareness is the most important skill that a leader can develop, right? And it's very obvious to see why, in fact, so oftentimes, people don't come up with this as the answer. But once you start talking about it, they realize "Oh, no, that's it. Yeah. Self-awareness is it." Why is that true? Well, because self-awareness is what's called a meta-skill. If you improve your quality of self-awareness, everything else improves. So, self-awareness is the foundational skill of emotional intelligence, which some research suggests drives 90% of business outcomes is leaders’ emotional intelligence. Self-awareness is what allows us to make good decisions, right? If we understand our own thought processes and our own cognitive biases, we can be a little bit more free from those and make better decisions. Self-awareness is what allows us to know our own strengths and weaknesses so that we can focus on our strengths and hire people around us who are good at where we're weak, right? So, the list goes on and on and on. And, and I think it's, it's very clear to see why it's because self-awareness is what enables us to be free from our very limited thinking at the root level. It's, it's about optimizing the mind, if we have a very high level of self-awareness, then we understand ourselves very clearly, which is what produces freedom, we know that all these thoughts, this is just all conditioning. It's not what I am. And that insight becomes deeper and deeper as self-awareness develops. You know, so here's, kind of an aside from the self-awareness, but just thinking about strategic thinking, you know, if you think about how skillful people generally are in creating strategy, the answer is not very, right. And it's not that they don't know how to do it, or that they couldn't be good at it. It's that many entrepreneurs and business leaders find themselves in the business all the time. And if you're in the business, you're not thinking about how to work on the business, you're not thinking about high-level strategy and connections. So, what do we do? We take a retreat once a year, right to have a strategic planning retreat, we get out of daily operations so that we can see the big picture and, and create a good strategy. And I would suggest that that's not absolutely necessary. Actually, if you have a solid mindfulness practice, you can get that 30,000-foot view, pretty much whenever you want to, you know, it's kind of like, you could have a really busy day being in the business, take 15 minutes to train mindfulness. And it's almost as though in perhaps if you train well, and for long enough, it gets to the point where it's just as good at creating the 30,000-foot strategic view as if you went on a retreat someplace and got away for a week to do nothing but strategic planning. So, it's just a very long list. But those are just a couple examples, Gaurav, of how this working with the mind at edits, edits in the most important way, which is around self-awareness is very, very helpful for being an effective leader. Whether it's business or otherwise, 39:55 Gaurav it's so beautiful because as I was just listening to you the question that I'm asking myself, am I in the business? Or am I working on the business? And reminds me of what Ronald Haifa talks about in adaptive leadership, that you can always be on the dance floor, dancing, or you can be at the balcony, watching yourself dancing. And as you are talking about how often do I go to 30,000 miles above ground, to see "Hey, how's it going?" And then come back and operate right? You know, very often in this book Serve to be great, you've spoken about the essence of leadership is all about serving others. Matt? What is the connection between serving others and the business outcome results? You have given examples of next jump, you have given example of Southwest Airlines you have given example, about 10 Different companies? Where's the connection? Would love to hear from you. 41:19 Matt Sure. Well, let's start at the 30,000-foot level, okay? So, ultimately, what is a business? A business is an organization comprised of people. And those people are solving some type of problem or meeting some type of need for other people. Is that not correct? Is that the most simple way? Gaurav With you on that. Matt So, for a business to be successful, it has to effectively serve its customer, right? That's if a business fails to serve its customer, it will not be in business for very long. Gaurav Absolutely. Matt So, right there, we have this connection between service right is a business must be meeting a need. Sadly, in today's world, businesses are just often meeting desires. And I think that's not only problematic for society but may not be the most sustainable business model, because those desires might eventually go away. But if you can meet a need, that's, to me the true definition of entrepreneurship, right? As you find a need, you find a problem that you can solve for somebody else. And a lot of people have that problem. Now you've got a really robust business, right? So, let's think about if I wanted to have an organization that is consistently able to serve the customer and meet the needs of the customers, how would I do that? You could see one route, right? Okay, so we focus on profit maximization, right? So, all of our decisions are based on how do we maximize profit for our shareholders, let's think about what type of effect that's going to have, right? So, if that's my primary focus, now, what's going to happen is, the numbers are the number one thing guiding our decisions, right? And that's going to eventually lead to us neglecting our employees, because if our sales go down, we're going to correct by reducing benefits, reducing training, maybe laying people off. And the extent to which we correct sales numbers with how we're treating our employees is the extent to which they're going to become disengaged, provide poor customer service, lower quality products, they're going to be less creative, more anxious, more likely to leave. So, we have high turnover, it's very clear that it won't be long before we eventually stopped serving the customer well, because the people who serve the customer, if you're a CEO, you're not serving the customer anymore. If you're a senior executive, you're not serving customers anymore. It's your employees who are serving the customers. And if we don't take care of the people who are serving the customers, they will eventually fail to do that well, and our business will die. 44:00 Gaurav Yeah, so just to take a pause here. And to just to reiterate, would it be a fair assumption to make that one of the primary responsibilities of a leader is to take care of his or her team members? Is my understanding, right? 44:14 Matt Yes. Yeah, I think a senior leader, so if you're a senior leader in an organization, whether you're a general manager, let's say, so if you're a general manager of a business unit, or the general manager of an entire company, you have two jobs, right? Create a compelling vision of the future, and create a strategy on how you're going to realize that vision. And the other job is to have created a culture of operational excellence. So, a culture that consistently and effectively executes on that strategy to realize the vision. And my argument is that you cannot have the second you cannot have operational excellence unless your people are thriving. They need to be enjoying coming to work. They need to be doing things that they can find meaning in. So, yes, it's absolutely critical. That's really, those are only two jobs of a leader, if you're seeing now if you're a junior leader, you don't even have to worry about strategy. That's not your job. That's the C suite job. So, every other manager in an organization, your primary job is to take care of the people on your team, give them what they need to thrive, be focused on helping them to grow both personally and professionally. If you do that, you will have team members. And by the way, it's most helpful to do this with no expectation of getting anything in return, we serve our team members, just because we want to help them be the best version of themselves, not for us, not so that we get a promotion or hit the numbers faster, but for them, because we want to see them be the best version of themselves, we want to help them thrive in every aspect of their lives. If we do that, that's when you get employees that go the extra mile. That's when you open up the floodgates of creativity and innovation. And that's where you get a sustainable business. And so, we could, you know, use that to, if we come back to the, we have two roads, right? You can either focus on profit maximization, or you could focus on creating a culture where all leaders are taking care of their team members and team members are taking care of each other. And this is what the most successful businesses do that the most successful businesses over the long term, if you're like, if your game is you want to, you want to create a startup and you want to exit in five years and sell it for a billion dollars, you don't need to listen to any of this, this doesn't apply. You'll do better if you do this stuff, and you'll probably enjoy it more. But what I'm talking about is if you want to build something that lasts if you want to build a sustainable organization that consistently serves customers well, over a long period of time, this is how it's done by all of the organizations. The model is flipped, so, the order of focus is not profit then customer then employee. The order of focus is first, it's take care of our employees, they take really good care of the customers and that takes care of the bottom line. That's what takes care of the shareholders. 47:08 Gaurav So, Matt, what do you think? What are the possible biases that might come that might show up in a leader? That might derail the entire process? 47:21 Matt Oh, there are many, many, and it's different biases, derail different levels of leadership. And yeah, that that's a very long list of, you know, I think there's an inherent bias in I don't even know if this would be called a cognitive bias. I guess it could be I haven't actually thought of this in this light before. But I think there's just, you know, to give ourselves a break, especially if you've been a leader has been really focused on the numbers. I mean, this is what we've been conditioned to believe our whole lives, right? Is we think, "Okay, there's this whole thing called life. And I think we get it, that it's important to be kind to others and be helpful to others. And then we have this thing called business, businesses about making money. And we've seen so many movies and read so many books and read so many articles, you know, it's all that we talk about is oh, this business sold for that their profit was this. This is the focus." And so, just, you know, to give ourselves some slack, here, it's very reasonable for us to be biased towards this type of focus, for a couple reasons, not only because we've been conditioned to believe that this is what business is about, it's about how much money can you make. But also, because it's the easiest thing to measure, it's very easy to measure how much money that we bring in and how much money that we spend to make that money. But that's, I mean, a fifth grader can measure that stuff that's fairly easy to measure. What's really hard to measure is how well are leaders meeting the needs of employees? How well do they listen? How invested are they in the future growth of those employees? Those are things that are much harder to measure. So, due to being overwhelmed with all the things we have to do, combined with our conditioning to focus on the numbers, it's very natural that we would hesitate to spend energy measuring the things that in my view, matter the most, how well are we serving the people that serve our customers? You know, if we're not measuring that, it's probably not going to get much better. So. that's something that is very, very important, but it's our bias towards the easy numbers that keeps that from happening. 49:31 Gaurav Yeah, yeah, thank you. In fact, I loved the stories that you've shared in this book around the King of Bhutan, how when he was asked, "How are we going to evaluate the performance of the country rather than measuring the GDP?" He spoke about, let's measure the gross Happiness Index, right? And what you are talking about right now is absolutely in sync with what I would have expected from this conversation, Matt. Matt, here's the last question. If there's one thing that you could have added in this book what would that be? 50:08 Matt Yeah, that's an easy one. And it's actually a project that I'm working on right now. Because I see the gap. So, you know, I've been invited to speak all over the world, for the last 10 years on this topic, you know, and I always love seeing people be inspired to do this, everyone wants to do this, there are very few people on this planet that don't want to serve their employees and take care of their employees, they know that that's the very important thing, if not the primary focus, you know, one of the most important things to do. But it's really hard, right? And so, you know, I get this wonderful conversations after speaking or people reading the book. And they're very inspired, and they want to do it. And then you just get back in the busyness of life running a business or running, you know, leading your team. And very little change happens, that some people do a lot, it just depends on the person, some people had hit some if it's the right moment in their life, they just say, "Oh, this is, this is it, I'm going to do everything I can to continue learning and growing in this area." But for very many people, it's just, they're inspired for a little bit and then they get back to work on Monday. And they kind of forget about things. So, if there's one thing that I can add, and this is actually what I'm working on now, is a very simple systematic way to do little bits over the course of a long period of time, developing one simple habit, let's say for every two weeks. So, instead of trying to learn a whole bunch of things all at once, and then really not doing anything, just learn one simple thing, and take two weeks to build a micro habit to get better at that one thing, just meeting one need of another human being. And, little by little over a course of a year, if he did that every two weeks, you have 25 new habits. And I think, from my understanding of how humans learn and how we change, this is what creates change. It's not just this great idea, as much as we would love to thank people listening to this podcast, you know, maybe this will have an effect on them. And it could, that's great. I hope that it does. But I think for people to really change, they need a little bit of help every couple of weeks, and feedback on how they're doing. So, those are the two, that's the one thing that I would change is creating this more consistent cycle of getting feedback and how you're doing having a micro habit to get better at it, and so that you can build a foundation over time, that's much more realistic for the average person. 52:42 Gaurav Beautiful. Thank you so much. I think what I'm picking up is how best I can form systems around me that could help me to live those rituals, those practices on day-to-day basis so that at the end of the year, I have 24 new practices I can operate from. In fact, you know, when I finished reading this book, there's one question that I've started to imbibe in my life. And that question is, every time when you meet a person, ask yourself this question silently. What can I do to help this person? Trust me, having read this book, every time and I meet someone, I asked this question silently. What can I do to help this person? So, thank you so much, Matt, for this gift. It's helping me to walk on the path of serving others. Is it easy? Absolutely not. Because I have my own inner insecurities that I deal with. I have my own materialistic goals to achieve, and I'm no way abandoning them. However, I'm making an attempt to be an even better human being so that I can serve others and I can become great by serving others. So, thank you so much, Matt, for sharing all your wisdom, your experiences was such a pleasure having you 54:06 Matt thank you, Gaurav, it's been my pleasure, happy to help any way that I can.

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