Thoughts on Leadership: Lead Like a Monk

By: Gino Blefari

This week my travels found me at home, starting Monday with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I participated in the Berkshire Hathaway Energy weekly executive team meeting and on Wednesday and throughout the day today, I joined the HomeServices of America CEO Leadership Teleconference, where topics ranged from budget guidelines and culture-building activities to key brokerage metrics like recruiting and retention and per person productivity. 

In these blog posts, I often share what I’m listening to and reading, in case the topic might inspire you on your leadership journey. This week is a departure from my usual, and in my recharge time, I’ve been listening to a really interesting book called “Think Like a Monk.” It’s by content creator and award-winning host, Jay Shetty. In 2016, Shetty launched a YouTube channel that four years later amassed more than four billion views. Bottom line: When he speaks, people listen. His ideas apply across industries and generations. Good ideas are like that though, they transcend time. Here are a few of the concepts Shetty explains in his book that might be applicable to your business or life: 

A monk’s mindset can always apply. The premise of the book (as you might have guessed) is to think like a monk. Shetty explains how to apply these tenets to create a framework for overcoming negative thoughts and building greater purpose in your life. They are lessons that apply whether you lead a team of one or 1,000.

It’s not easy to see who you truly are. Shetty compares people to mirrors covered in dust. It’s often impossible to see who you truly are unless you dust off your mirror and look. The dust-off process is far from easy; you’re removing layers that have accumulated over years or even decades to get to your essence, but a clear sight to your reflection, to yourself, is key to happiness.

We must all determine and define our values in order to avoid feeling lost. Think about a method actor like Daniel Day-Lewis. When he takes on a role, it becomes who he is completely. For the sports drama, “The Boxer,” Day-Lewis prepared by training for three years until he achieved the necessary skills to compete at a professional boxing level. But as Shetty points out, actors who embrace method acting often feel lost after filming is through because they have no grounding or values for who they are; they just know who they were as the character they embodied. The same applies to us all. If we don’t have core values, those ideals that are absolute and unchanging, we risk feeling lost and like we have no purpose. Values give us purpose. Values are guiding forces in our lives. 

The pursuit of values includes finding higher values. Not all values are the same. There are certain higher values like gratitude, service, compassion and truthfulness that bring meaning, joy and a hearty sense of fulfillment. Gratitude has always been a higher value in my life. Each morning, I send a text to my gratitude partner and write down what I’m grateful for that day.

Sights have powerful effects on our mindset. What’s the first thing you see in the morning? For most people, it’s their phone screens but Shetty urges us to make our first sight something more meaningful. This could be a picture of your family, an inspirational quote, or even a vase or book that holds particular sentimental value. When you control your first sight, you can control your first waking thought and gain a stronger hold on starting the day with positivity. That’s why I start every morning with some quiet time then read “Seeds of Success” by Og Mandino and the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling. (See attached to download.) 

So, what’s the message? Your attitude is contagious. You can have a positive attitude or a negative attitude. Think about whether you want to spread negativity or positivity into the world. A negative mindset is draining, a positive mindset is the pathway to success. If you can spot negative thoughts as they arise and be proactive about choosing optimism and gratitude, you’ll be well on your way to thinking with the purpose, passion and positivity of a monk. 

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