We read two interesting articles today — one in e27 from Andrew Yang on how our jobs are already disappearing, and the other from Karen Tee in The Peak Magazine about 6 new jobs that didn’t exist fifteen years ago.
Andrew’s was an alarming story of automation hinting that the future may be more like Mad Max than Star Trek (William Shatner for the Boomers, Chris Pine for the Millennials — take your pick). Karen’s short article listed new digital-age jobs like Instagrammer, App developer, and Community Wizard. The first job she listed, however, was “mindfulness guru.” What can these articles have in common? Why would it matter to small businesses, entrepreneurs, and start-ups?
On one hand, the robotisation of work, as Andrew describes it, creates opportunity for those agile and adept enough to fill the niches that robotisation is sure to leave open. And five of the six new jobs Karen identifies will at least be ahead of automation because they manage automation, or at least software automation.
On the other hand, Andrew’s article paints a picture of increasing stress and change, where the first of the six jobs Karen describes is designed to help individuals and companies manage stress and change — the “mindfulness guru.”
As a startup, we are very familiar with the stressors and challenges of starting a business, particularly in a relatively new field. Chris had the Asia-beat as head of HR for Pfizer Asia for several years and came to realize that stress is often seen there as a fact of working life, rather than something to be managed.
“I was wondering why our migraine headache product fared so poorly,” he said. That said, in the course of our respective travels and martial arts studies, we also came to understand the yin and yang of managing stress and why so many of our friends and colleagues from the Asia Pacific region seemed to retain a sense of calm when their western counterparts were reaching for the medicine or liquor cabinet.
The good news: The west has begun to institutionalise the practices and habits the east has known for millennia — teaching us what we may have known long ago. The not-as good-news, the east has begun to institutionalise the practices and habits of the west — potentially forgetting what we have known for millennia, particularly how to be instinctively mindful.
Becoming instinctively mindful
As Karen writes, mindfulness coaching has become a US$1 billion industry, and large companies are making significant investments in it. If companies as diverse as Google, Goldman Sachs, and General Mills have invested in it, what does that mean to us as small businesses?
If meditation benefits CEOs, what do we do with that? We who are the CEO, marketing, sales and IT departments, and often our own cleaning services — can we afford a guru, or the time to learn the skills? Can we afford the price of mindfulness?
The price of mindlessness
The better question is, “Can we afford the price of mindlessnesses?” And no, we cannot. The demands on small business owners and entrepreneurs are non-stop, and the stress they bring impacts our creativity, innovation, sleep, relationships, leadership, and our very health.
In 2016 there were 667 published journal articles on mindfulness. In 2006 there were 47. The science about the cost of workplace stress has been in for decades — and now the science behind one of the solutions is catching up.
The good news, as Kevin McSpadden writes, it’s largely in our own hands. The not-so-good news is that not many of us think we have the time or patience to do it.
But here’s a lesson for the small business owner: These are essential business skills, not nice-to-do, selfish, immaterial wastes-of-time. Mindfulness practices are a defined set of skill practices that add tangible value to your business — particularly since you are your business.
Yes, you can train with an expert or coach, just as you learn other skills from other masters or mentors. Unlike martial arts, however, these skills are innate and you can connect with them simply by practicing the forms.
More good news: The internet abounds with wonderful, free resources that provide the forms for the basics – meditation and breathing. If you’re looking for a simple guide to start a breathing practice, you might like our simple guide to mindfulness. As we ourselves practice and have written in our own book, selecting one or two practices for diligent experimentation is the way to start.
One of our favorite books on mindfulness in the workplace is Google’s Chade-Meng Tan’s brilliant book Search Inside Yourself.
Do it for the long term benefits
Just as you know from running your own business, training and persistence through the challenge, or Shugyo, as we like to say in karate, is essential. Some people take up mindfulness practices looking for an immediate benefit — and often quit after a few months. If mindfulness is in fact as valuable as many say, it can only make sense that it takes time and practice to get that value.
As an entrepreneur, you know better than anyone that there are no shortcuts. If you realise you are the business, and consider mindfulness practice an investment in your business just as is marketing or advertising, and if you practice a few minutes a day, you will see the outsized return it can bring.
Chris and Anne Altizer are entrepreneurs and mindfulness coaches, as well as Hatha yoga instructors, Yondan rank instructors of Isshinryu karate, and authors of Mindfully Mobile. Anne is also a certified personal trainer and holistic nutrition consultant and Chris is retired from 30 years of senior, global Human Resources roles. Together they are Altizer Performance Partners, LLC, based in Florida, United States.
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