Michael Chaskalson is one of the pioneers of the application of mindfulness in leadership and in the workplace. He is the author of the agenda-setting book The Mindful Workplace and the bestselling Mindfulness in Eight Weeks. Here is his distilled wisdom.
What book are you currently reading?
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: gripping, tragic, uplifting.
How do you describe what you do?
I try help people discover the rich mechanisms of their own minds; to see how these impact what they see, do, think and feel; and to get more choice around these.
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
A fairly unknown Tibetan lama – Dhardo Rimpoche. He just got on with helping people, wherever he found them. When you were with him, you were his sole focus.
What does success look like?
For me, it would mean the people I work with coming to see more clearly, experience more vividly, feel more in charge of their own lives and become kinder – to themselves and to others.
What is your competitive advantage?
I never intended for it to be like this, but I’ve been a monk; an entrepreneur; a student and researcher of the psychology of mindfulness – and, strangely perhaps, I’ve worked with several top business leaders. There aren’t many of us like that out there.
How do you keep your thinking fresh?
Teaching – really working to catch the lived moment of each student’s issues.
Conversing – with colleagues, students, clients and friends.
Thinking – sitting at my desk, working it out.
Retreating – weeks of solitude each year, letting things unfold and emerge.
Realising that I’ve got so much more to learn.
How much time do you spend travelling?
Too much. But then again…
What is the secret of a great presentation?
Engage. What do the people in front of you most need to hear about at this moment? Be real. Care – about the people you’re talking to, about your material.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
You’ve absolutely got to put in the hours of mindfulness practice. Then read widely, think, talk to others and make connections. Don’t strive too hard…
What is your next goal?
Over the next five years I want to extend my reach – to impact society more deeply.
Describe yourself in three words.
I struggle to answer that, so I asked my wife.
She said at my best I’m:
Open, Energetic, Calm.
We left it there…