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My book review this week is on Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day, by Jay Shetty. Shetty spent three years living in an Ashram in India but returned to the secular world, finding his mission in teaching people, particularly those in the business world how to embrace some of the skills that Hindus use in a monastic life. In short, life in an Ashram includes considerable time in your schedule for focusing on your own spirituality – meditation and reflection. Shetty believes all of us would profit from more of this time, rather than the rat-race that many live today. Some takeaways that I thought were helpful in the business and project world, include:
  • Ask yourself if you need to be right, that is, to win the debate. Or do you want to make progress? This need to be right, or win, is a function of “your ego’s unwillingness to admit weakness.” (p. 187) Remember you can be right, or you can move forward. Try detaching yourself from the debate to move forward. It can be liberating to share a problem with your team and let them help you own it, instead of believing that you are the only person who has a voice that matters.
  • “Redwoods best thrive in groves, interweaving their roots so the strong and weak together withstand the forces of nature.” (p. 223) From my perspective, this was a liberating thought, suggesting we don’t all have to be strong all the time.
  • “Most people are accustomed to looking for answers. Monks focus on questions.” (p. 73) Focusing on the right questions is an extremely important challenge for project managers.
  • “Location has energy; time has memory. If you do something at the same time every day, it becomes easier and natural. If you do something in the same space every day, it becomes easier and natural.” (p. 140) Yet, I have found that changing up the location of where I do something and the time of the day that I do it, can be very helpful. New ideas come to mind. This may make the case for the use of a project room where the team typically comes together to work, and at the same time, and then, taking a break from the confines of that project room.
  • There are four different kinds of trust that executives and project leaders need to find on their teams. They include:
  1. Competence – for us to build teams that work well together, the people on the team must be competent.
  2. Care – to work well with a group we must know that everyone cares about us, and by extension, the work that we are doing. We cannot work well with people that we don’t trust to “have our backs” as the expression goes.
  3. Character – “Character is especially critical when we are in an interdependent partnership (a relationship, a business partnership, a team). These people practice what they preach. They have good reputations, strong opinions, and down-to-earth advice. They are trustworthy.” (p. 226)
  4. Consistency – surround yourself with a team of people who are consistently reliable, available, and there for you during the good times and the bad times.
  • “Just as Mandela believed people were born to love but taught to hate, monks believe that we are born to serve, but the distractions of the external world make us forget our purpose.” (p. 258) This quote beautifully summarized two major themes from my book, Herding Smart Cats – that of building mindsets of love and service on your teams.