Wisdom all over

Last weekend I attended my first Wisdom 2.0 conference. What an experience!

I was really looking forward to it and I was not enchanted. I warmed-up during the week with the lunch with LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner on monday and the Facebook-hosted workshop on social interaction on wednesday (more information in my previous post).

As most of you may have heard this was the fifth and biggest Wisdom 2.0 conference, sold-out at 2000 attendees. The event was not a typical event for me – I am used to developer events. In contrast this one had many women, few engineers, neuroscientists, psychologists, professional coaches, HR executives, CEOs.

While you can watch recordings on the conference website I wanted to share my own thoughts and notes in this blog.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading it.

Soren Gordhamer, who founded Wisdom 2.0 5 years ago, kicked off the event on Friday, welcoming the crowd and sharing his passion and excitement for the wisdom movement that this event has become a proof of. The first Wisdom 2.0 conference was held in a small place in Mountain View and had about 300 attendees…

Arturo Bejar from Facebook was the first presenter. He did a similar presentation as 2 days before during the Facebook-hosted workshop. He explained how Facebook are using the latest from the sciences of emotion and interaction to make their platform more humane. You can already witness improvements with the Facebook emoticons and the handling of those posts and pictures that someone may not like, for whatever reason.

Based on their platform popularity with teenagers and adults and the role it now plays in human interactions, Facebook ought to make sure they become a catalyst of mindful communities. Their work with UC Berkeley and the Greater Good Science Center are quite exciting and promising.

Lisa Kristine, professional photographer shared her Reflections on Presence from ancient cultures. She compared our cultures with ancients’ cultures. She said that a big difference lies in the fact that our cultures do not like and accept loneliness. We fly away from the present although rushing toward the future, not enjoying “this” moment. Ancient cultures recognized and enjoyed the power of silence or the charm of stillness. She encouraged all of us to fight to remove obstacles to stillness. She talked about Awe as an emotion everyone of us should cultivates as it expands openness and diminishes impatience. She recently consulted with several ancients, i.e. people who are +100 yr old, about their advice on how all of us can best help our world. Their response was:

“Help one another”.

Presence or being here in this moment, ready to help could be the ultimate tool for peacemaking. She finished her talk with this profound statement:

“Every moment we have a choice: generosity over greed, connection over isolation, awe over boredom, presence over all.”

The interview of Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame was touching. He seemed to want to make every possible effort to make Rwanda wiser and bring the country out of poverty. To Soren’s question “What do you expect from the US and other countries?”, I heard him say that he wants that Rwanda leads its own transformation and is looking more for partnerships with other countries such as the USA than for foreign interventions to bring Rwanda out of poverty.

Psychology professor Larry Rosen talked about The Great Human Experiment: Technology and the Brain. He talked about the pace of technological change and the impact that digital technologies have on our brains.

He presented the results of a recent study that he conducted about Focus. In this study he and his team studied how students study. It consisted in observing 279 students while studying. The students were either middle school, high school or college students. Each student was observed for 15 minutes. Every minute the observer reported on whether the student was on-task or off-task and what was on the computer screen. The results were quite interesting and scary as research shows that key predictors of school performance are attention and distraction. See for yourself:


Why can’t we pay attention? Science says that the biggest detractors are sensations and emotions. 67% teens check their phones every 15 minutes, sometimes addicted, sometimes obsessed. How can we focus better? He recommended to take technology breaks where we can use technology, for example 1 minute technology breaks every 15 minutes. He also recommended the following practices to reset or calm our brain: meditation, nature, art, exercise, laughter, hot bath, talking live, talking a foreign language, etc.

Remember his method, the ABC method: be Aware of the options, Breathe (and reset your brain), make good Choices!

Co-founder of Le Web Loic Le Meur talked about the Rise of meditation in the Tech Community. Five years ago, Loic was super skeptical about meditation. Loic used to be super connected: early twitter adopter, 50,000 tweets so far w/ an average of 30 tweets a day. He started to meditate 9 months ago because he realized that his life was “too much”. He started to meditate with apps. He realized that the more technology we have, the more we need to slow down. He found it funny that people who invented technology that keep us connected are the first ones to practice meditation. For example Ev Williams, co-founder and ex-CEO of Twitter meditates regularly and is now at the head of Medium. Loic just signed up for a 10 day silent Vipassana meditation retreat. He is scared of the silence, which I fully understand as I went through the same fear, but he is impatient to go. He said that he truly feels better now that he meditates. He is “never bored”, really as he turns inside whenever he waits here or there. He meditates regularly. He said that the meditation practice gives him ideas that he never had before, like if he had some “new space in his mind, which he can now access”. He met Mathieu Ricard in Davos. I met with Mathieu 3 years ago at a Mind and Life conference and his glow is transformative. Loic recently started to talk and blog about meditation because he feels that “no one should be ashamed of talking about meditation”.

Because it is good!

Jon Kabat Zin talked about Mindfulness in the world. He said that we’re often caught in our own impulses and emotions. The power of the “bees”, e.g. impulses and emotions, keep us far from ourselves. Meditation is an attempt to bring us back to ourselves, our essence. There is no place to go, nothing to do, nothing to attain. Humanity is much more than thought; we can start to understand its extent by looking inside ourselves. There we can find the most profound aspects of our being.

The motivation for mindfulness is to not miss your life. When your mind is not clouded by unnecessary things it is the best moment of your life…

A panel of Google executives, Karen May, Meng Tan and Bill Duane shared 3 steps to build Corporate Mindfulness the Google Way 

The panel started in a strange manner as protestors jumped on the stage and occupied it to protest against Google’s impact on skyrocketing house rental prices and resulting evictions in San Francisco. It took me some time to understand if the protest was fake or real. After a few minutes the organizers helped the protestors off the stage and the audience calmed down with the help of Bill Duane who brought all of us back on topic through a short meditation.

Karen talked about the importance of adopting a posture of respect at all time. She emphasized the importance of bringing our own practice of mindfulness, wisdom and compassion to our communities.

Meng talked about the importance of skillfulness all along the way to transform companies: at the beginning, in the middle and at the end. For skillfulness at the beginning we need to develop our own practice of mindfulness, wisdom, kindness and compassion. We also need to develop our ability to explain the teachings by understanding the science and its applicability to work. For skillfulness in the middle we need to extend the benefit to the self to others, e.g. individuals, teams and organizations. The holy grail is when everyone in an organization is wise and compassionate. For skillfulness in the end we need to create support for the practice, our own and that of others, using technologies and communities.

Bill talked about the importance of creating support networks in our organizations. He emphasized the importance of identifying who our true believers are. He said that it also helps to connect mindfulness and wisdom with issues that organizations care about, e.g. stress management, ethics, etc. We need to create inclusive communities with all, including the skeptics.

Karen talked about a few concrete practical examples that Google uses and that we could all try:

  • Google executives from People Operations start their meetings with 2 minute meditation.
  • Sometimes they substitute meditation with gratitude sessions or tai chi.
  • They share their experience with others and make that experience available for others to experience too.
  • They created several videos of guided 2 minutes meditation that they make available.

And of course they have a Search Inside Yourself curriculum that Meng developed and has become famous for.

Jonathan Rosenfeld from Medium talked about the Mindful workspace.

He said that proximity allies to generosity and compassion, which I have really seen and lived at home and work.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent, but the one that is the most adaptable to change. (Darwin).

He said that mindfulness is what makes a great organization. Mindfulness as:

Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, not judgmentally. (Kabat-Zinn)

Science and research show that anxiety reduces productivity. Medium has been trying to create an environment where anxiety is minimal or absent. Medium uses Holocracy, which is defined as:

A new operating system that instills rapid evolution in the core processes of an organization. Holocracy provides channels so anyone who senses tension can process it into organizational evolution. People become the sensors of a conscious organization, driving its continual evolution.

Holocracy requires mindfulness and the practice of holocracy supports mindfulness. Ev Williams describes one of the principles of holocracy:

“…is to make the implicit explicit… People are actually encouraged to bring stuff up…”

I had heard about holocracy not really taking the time to understand what it was. Hearing Jonathan’s talk about it made me envious of Medium employees. Of course it seems much easier to implement in smaller companies than big ones but I will definitely look more seriously into holocracy.

I particularly liked the concrete practices that Medium uses such as special language, skillful communication and physical proximity.

James Flaherty of New Ventures West & Fred Kofman author of Conscious Business talked about the role of Coaching and the Central work of our lives.

I really enjoyed their dialogue.

James explained what he thinks is the central work of our life:

Life is a gift to us that we should not hold on to but a gift to give.

James reminded us that we tend to forget that people we meet are unique beings; most of us have an issue with what makes us legitimate. We worry if we please our customer, our boss, our team, etc. As we believe we are legitimate by others, we tend to forget ourselves. But all of us are inherently legitimate, whoever we are, wherever we are. As a coach James considers everyone legitimate, to help people be themselves.

For Fred  the central work of our life is to be happy. How can we be really happy vs unreally happy, i.e. happy about unreal things? Reality is what we make friend with vs what we search for. When searching for something we become very narrow and our sense of reality distorted.

What matters when we play a game is the values that we exhibit while playing, not the win or loss.

There was a funny exchange about American attitude in sports. James said that in America we tend to think that:

When we play a game, if we’re good and true to ourselves we are going to win… If I don’t win then we think that there’s something wrong with us…

Fred said that this illusion that if we do everything well we’re going to be rewarded and win is a disaster. Because then if we lose we feel there is something wrong with the universe or that we did something wrong.

Then there is our social disaster: we tend to protect one another from the truth. We prefer to be untruthfully happy than truthfully unhappy and we do that to others too… Especially in corporations. Or we take the opposite attitude where we jump at the throat of people saying to people:

You have a problem.

I liked the discussion about empowerment. Who is powerful enough to say “I empower you to do this or that.”? The right approach is to make people feel empowered by allowing them to be themselves, fully.

The problem is not selfishness it’s idiocy: for example companies focusing on making money or people focusing on being happy.

If what matters is love, relationships, etc. everyone, every company should go for it and get out if this ego thing…

Peter Deng from Instagram talked about Applied Mindfulness

After the haha moment that makes us decide to bring mindfulness to our life, how do we find ways to practice? How to stay present during hectic days?

Peter shared a few practices that help him.

The first one is Mindful planning. Before work, do calendar scan and ask the following for each task: what is the context, what are the goals, what should I prepare? For the day: am I missing anything?

How do we surround myself with like minded people? We can’t change people. Language creates shared space. The second practice is Intentional language. We ought to identify opportunities to be more thoughtful, with pauses, questions about our intention, usage of the right words and actual speeches.

Peter shared a funny story of a meeting room that used to be named “umadbro”. He changed its name to “this moment”. That made funny reference to presence, e.g. “Meet me in this moment” or “I am here in this moment”.

The third practice is compassion. How may we practice more compassion every day? How may we open our heart to everyone? Peter talked about Brandon who created the Humans of New York page on Facebook. After losing his job, Brandon ended up starting photography. He visited multiple cities and started to take pictures of people and write their stories. He then shared them on Facebook. He quickly realized the power of real stories of others. People “liked” his postings, by tens, hundreds, thousands and soon millions. The Humans of New York page has now more than 3 millions likes. This illustrates the power of connection!

I visited the Humans of NY page after Peter’s talk and it is truly powerful. It made me start to look at people around me differently and wonder what is their story.

Everyone has a story.

Ariana Huffington talked about The third metric: Redefining Success beyond Money and Power.

She started her talk saying that:

2013 was the year CEOs came out not as gays but meditators: Marc Benioff, CEO of Aetna, etc.

Many people, even famous billionaires, have been falling off the stool and have realized that success is more than making money and being powerful.

There is indeed a 3rd metric beyond money and power. That metric has 4 pillars: well being, wisdom, wonder, giving.

She shared her concern that Corporate America is not working for women, men, polar bears… Therefore we have to change. Our business world is not sustainable.

She asked the following question:

What is it that we spend so much time on our resume vs our eulogy?

Indeed have we ever seen eulogies that praise people’s work, money, power? Instead they are all about love, relationships, generosity, etc.

Science tells us that life is shaped from the inside out. It changes everything if we start to apply it. The place inside ourselves is a place of grace, gratitude, compassion and love. She suggested that :

We live life as if everything is rigged in our favor.

She shared her belief that mindfulness, meditation and sleep transform our life for the better. The wake up call before anyone starts to think about turning inside is in general not a line of poetry. She shared her own collapse of exhaustion in 2007 and her daughter’s drug story in 2012. The beginning of her journey started with her collapse. It took her a while to realize that despite money and power her life was not successful. Now she knows that she was missing her life, despite money and power.

What makes it hard is that the world tells us everyday that we need to climb, earn more, etc. We are pushed to forget ourselves and pause. Bu the good news is that the impulse is within ourselves. We have to find it and let it come out and say “No, this is what is important for us: sleep, love, anything that is truly important for us, inside”.

If we live our life for money we’ll never have enough, if we live our life for power we’ll never have enough time.

The secret of our life is inside.

She concluded her talk with the following request:

Take the teaching to the world! Upward, outward and -more importantly- inward!

Alanis Morrissette and Dan Siegel discussed about Conscious communication in the Digital age.

Monologue to monologue is the American way of communication. What does conscious communication mean? Neural integration is at the root of consciousness. Integration is at the basis of wisdom, health, kindness, compassion. Therefore conscious communication requires parties that are “well integrated”.

With digital technology, we can live a life far from ourselves and far from anyone else. This is the danger.

Dan said that if the internet could be the catalyst of integration, it would be fantastic. He asked all of us to think about:

How might the internet support a better integration? (Challenge #1)

How might technology help us to spread empathic joy around the world? (Challenge #2)

We have to stop believing that:

The self stops at the boundary of our skin. The self is both a me and a we. Once integrated it becomes a mwe.

Tony Hsieh talked about Zappos and Downtown Project

Hearing Tony Hsieh speak was my top motivation for attending the event. I deeply admire what he did at Zappos. His story of how he became who he is is truly inspiring. He seems to be this continuous learner, trying, analyzing, learning, trying, etc.

After having read his book “Delivering Happiness”, which I highly recommend, I took notes about the Downtown Project and the following Q&A session.

Downtown is about Community; it is about reframing “Community” for a better world. He starts with transforming downtown Las Vegas.

His objectives with Downtown Las Vegas are:

  • integrate live, work and play;
  • create the most community focused large city in the world;
  • make LV downtown the co learning and co working capital of the world.

The four key principles are to increase collisions, co-learning, connectedness, density.

He measures progress and success with monitoring two unusual measures: ROC (Return On Collision)… And ROL (Return On Luck).

Check his Celebration of Life in October with the Life is Beautiful Festival!

His biggest learning last 15 years:

Nothing turns out the way you think.

Two books he recommends:

His biggest edge:


How he nurtures the company culture at Zappos:

With the power of awe and storytelling. For example they brought a real horse in the office for Chinese NY.

Holocracy – self organizing system – will be rolled out at Zappos this year with all 1500 employees.

How he describes Holocracy:

In Holocracy the 3 org charts are the same. The 3 being: official, actual, wannabe.

His motivation:

To solve the puzzle of making customers happy, employees, supplier, community, etc. Altogether.

He confessed that it is very hard to protect a good company culture. Every employee needs to talk to it. Zappos recruits and fires employees for the culture.

He simply amazed me and I can only finish this blog with notes from his talk.

I hope you enjoyed the reading. This is not a comprehensive report of the conference, but rather notes and thoughts about the sessions that I attended. I missed many sessions, including all those on the 3rd day of the conference – I decided to run in San Francisco instead.

Per Ariana’s request this blog is my first attempt at bringing the teaching outward. I hope to see you next year!

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3 Responses to Wisdom all over

  1. Mike says:

    Thanks, Anne. One aspect that really “struck a chord” with me was the notion of stillness. As Lisa Christine noted, “We fly away from the present although rushing toward the future, not enjoying “this” moment. Ancient cultures recognized and enjoyed the power of silence or the charm of stillness.” I am amazed by how many of us try to remained plugged-in in some of the most insanely great and beautiful surroundings (e.g., the high mountains), as if there is something unsettling about remoteness and quiet.

  2. Steven says:

    Great blog! Sometimes I really do wonder how technology enriches our lives. I think sometimes I was far happier without social tools (or phones).

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