Wisdom 2.0


by Tony Kontzer

A few hundred enlightened souls--or, more accurately, souls in search of enlightenment--gathered at Silicon Valley's Computer History Museum recently for the highly unusual Wisdom 2.0 Summit, a conference designed to ponder the question of how to achieve balance and thoughtfulness and happiness in the era of social media and round-the-clock communication.

During the course of the first day, speakers from the worlds of social media, meditation and neuroscience shared an array of suggestions for reaching a state of technology-life bliss in which one gracefully manages the demands of their devices while maintaining the proper focus on the things that really matter in life.

I thought it would be useful to condense those varied messages into a sort of "spiritual to-do list" for the workplace that, when followed, will help anyone who relies heavily on information technology to orient themselves toward acting, rather than reacting, as many of us are wont to do.

Do these things, and, according to many of the zen-of-technology thinkers at the Wisdom 2.0 gathering, you'll not only be a better employee, you'll be a happier one:

-Be selfish. This may not sound very Zen, but there's a lot of self-empowerment in responding to what's truly important to you, rather than reacting to every email that finds its way to your inbox.

-Make time to ponder and contemplate. It may sound silly, but if you don't schedule time to just think about things--whether they be a project or an important life decision--you'll make more reactive decisions.

-Recognize the value of your presence. That doesn't mean always being visible on your corporate network. We're talking physical presence. It's the greatest thing you can contribute, and you can't give it if your attention is on your device.

-Understand the difference between focused attention and open monitoring. One is zeroing in a la Michael Jordan, the other is taking in everything around you with all of your senses. There's a time and place for each.

-Work yoga and/or meditation into your day. Start small--whether it's for an hour a day, ten minutes, or a single long breath, practicing mindfulness (awareness of the present moment) reduces negative self-views, and improves cognitive and creative capabilities.

-Be conscious of how you're using your devices, and why, in any given moment. Don't let them become more important than the people in front of you.

-Accept. The building will not fall down around you if you don't answer every email. The company will not go under if you ignore a phone call every now and then. The Earth will still spin. All will be as it was.

I found it intensely refreshing to find myself in a business setting in which successful people were engaged in serious discussions on this topic. It seems a movement may be afoot to change the way human beings work, and to use technology not only to intertwine our work and personal lives together, but to do it in a way that makes work--and life--more rewarding.

And to that I say, "Nameste, baby."

Related: Always connected, over-stressed; Nick Carr wades into The Shallows.