284: Boosting Your Work with Mindfulness Practices with Dr. Leah Weiss

By April 9, 2018Podcasts

 

Stanford instructor Dr. Leah Weiss discusses how mindfulness training can translate to tangible results in the workplace.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to practice the intentional use of your attention
  2. Pro tips for taking productive breaks
  3. Handy tools for setting your personal purpose

About Leah

Leah Weiss, PhD, is a researcher, professor, consultant, and author. She teaches courses on compassionate leadership at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and is principal teacher and founding faculty for Stanford’s Compassion Cultivation Program, conceived by the Dalai Lama. She also directs Compassion Education and Scholarship at HopeLab, an Omidyar Group research and development nonprofit focused on resilience. She lives in Palo Alto, California with her husband and three children.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Leah Weiss Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
 Leah, thanks so much for joining us here on “How to be awesome at your job” podcast.

Leah Weiss
Thank you for having me.

Pete Mockaitis
 Well, I’m excited to talk to you. And it seems like of all Americans, you have a special connection with the Dalai Lama. Can you tell us a little bit about the story of how that relationship evolved?

Leah Weiss
Well, I think for me, he’s been an inspiration since I first encountered his speaking and writing when I was a teenager and I’ve had the fortune to work closely with interpreter, Thupten Jinpa for the for the last seven years or so of my career. It’s been a great opportunity to get to work in ways that are supportive of the Dalai Lama’s vision for secular effects in a world where we all bring the values and compassion to do our lives and our work.

Pete Mockaitis
 Do you have any sort of fun facts or any thoughts or exchanges that leave to mind when you reflect on time with him?

Leah Weiss
I have the opportunity to fly across the country with him when I was nine months pregnant with my second child and that was amazing. I was also concerned that I was going to go into labor, which luckily, I did not. But when he saw that I was pregnant he started telling stories about how his mother had told him that he used to kick a lot when she was pregnant with him, which I really enjoyed hearing. And you know, just any opportunity and even brief moments or being part of a large group, he’s still so inspiring and I think on point. Imagine people in the audience, you’ve read or seen something of his, he just fosters that connection wherever he goes. I remember the secret service on the plane with us were talking about how their lives were changed by being on this assignment.

Pete Mockaitis
 That’s awesome. So, well, can you tell us then a little bit about the story behind your course at Stanford when it comes to compassionate leadership? How did this get born and what does the student learn when they’re enrolled in this course?

Leah Weiss
So, I’ve been teaching this class for about six years now and it’s always white listed. It’s evolved over the years. I think the quickest snapshot is what I teach is really captured in the book. The book was an attempt to share their experience to the broader group of people that I have worked with at Stanford and in organizations. But really what it boils down to is learning the skills that fit within our emotional intelligence quotient that are mindfulness and self-awareness and purpose and ability to forge strong connections even with people we dislike and are irritated by our workplace. And it’s really … and so it brings together research from all across positive psychology and combined with the long contemporary practice traditions and including my own training. I spent most of my twenties doing 100-day and six-month meditation or treats. So I’m really distilling that down into what I learned in those retreats as well as the research.

Pete Mockaitis
  Well, I’m so fascinated. What do you do over the course of 100 days of meditating on a retreat?

Leah Weiss
Well, the Tibetan curriculum as you’re doing a lot of different things and it follows a trajectory. So from the first year, you do a set of practices, visualization, some of their practice would be physical and some would be more along the lines of what you might think of when you hear the idea of meditating. Then the next 100-day retreat does a lot more with the Tibetan yogas which are different than what most of us probably think of when we hear yoga. It’s a different system not unrelated in goal but approached differently. When you’re at Tibetan up in the mountains and you’re doing yoga, one of your primary concerns generating heat and so there’s a whole way of approaching our bodies and actually researchers have fascinated by and have documented changes in our metabolism and our ability to increase the body temperature.  From there there’s different in depth visualization worlds basically that you learn to create in this mantle to learn how we reconstruct our reality in day-to-day lives. That’s kind of the sampling and a lot of looking into how perception happens. So it’s more active than you’d think and more varied than you would think there’s a lot of different types of practices.

Pete Mockaitis
 Okay. Well, that’s cool. So, let’s talk about some of these skilled development elements. First, could you share with us? So you’ve got the course and then your book, how you work sort of lays out for a broader audience how to develop these skills. Could you maybe first make a bit of the case of the “why” behind these skills in terms of just in case we were to have a hardcore skeptic, “Greed is good. Cash is king results” to our paramount listener? And we’re usually nicer than that character, but if do have such a listener, could you paint the picture for how do these things tie into performance, results and that sort of thing?

Leah Weiss
Absolutely. Well, I love getting into it in a practical mentality. Because I think if we can’t understand where the rubber meets the road then what is the point of doing this work? So I’d say the starting place I would have is if you’re interested in productivity, you’ll know that the first place that we are challenged in our productivity is in our ability to pay attention particularly in this day and age whether there’s information overload and technology designed to grab our attention. And in this chronic time, people don’t understand, one in three people could tell you what their job is, meaning two in three people can’t actually tell you what their work is and why.

Pete Mockaitis
 That’s fascinating.

Leah Weiss
So, of course they can steady on point and be productive, right? I mean, that’s terrifying and that means if you employ six people that four of those don’t exactly know what they’re doing or why and you could scale it up for there.

Pete Mockaitis
 Could you zoom in on that just a little bit? That’s boiling my mind. I can understand how sometimes people are like, “Oh, my gosh! It’s complicated. I don’t want to get into what a python framework is and how I’m coding.” Blah blah blah software code talk, but you’re saying to two of those folks just cannot master the sentences for this is what I do.

Leah Weiss
Yeah, I mean let alone like getting in the weeds with, here’s with type language from coding and why it was selected, but like here’s why we’ve created this program and our end goal to serve our company or our customers rather is, they can’t answer that question.

Pete Mockaitis
 Oh, the “why” is where it’s tricky. It’s like, well, I filed these reports. I can tell you that but the “why” where.

Leah Weiss
So, what their role is there for.

Pete Mockaitis
 Okay. What their role is there for.

Leah Weiss
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
 Okay, understood.

Leah Weiss
So even if you know what you’re there for, you’re going to be challenged in paying attention. So, and which is why people are describing our time now and the business world is the attention economy because everything comes back down to our ability to prioritize and make good choices for our ourselves, for our team and for our organization. And you know, mindfulness is not like some hippie dippy thing that we’re just doing in California. It’s a 1.1 billion dollar industry and 22% of companies in 2016 had mindfulness programs and that number was projected to double in 2017 and they’re still analyzing the data from that period of time. But the reason people are investing in it isn’t because the hippie movement is back on the rise. It’s because it directly translates into dollars and hours spent in productive ways. Company like … measure it that, 62 minutes per employee of additional productive time per week, $3000 per employee a year of increased productive time when an employee has been through mindfulness training.

Pete Mockaitis
 Intriguing! So then you define, what is mindfulness and how do we train it?

Leah Weiss
So my preferred definition of mindfulness is the intentional use of attention. So we can do that anywhere, there’s nothing in that definition that says close your eyes and meditate or do it during your break or lunch time. It’s we should be doing it right now while you and I are talking and whoever is in the audience listening. It’s so simple but if you start to pay attention you notice that you’re way more distracted than you ever realized and quickly that becomes the impetus for people to say, “Wow, this is a big problem. I’m super distracted and everyone around is as well. What can we do about that?” And then the good news is you can do a lot actually.

Pete Mockaitis
 So I’m intrigued. So the intentional use of attention, and we had at Dan Harris on the show some time ago talking about 10% Happier and Meditation and such. So he used an interesting analogy for meditation that he said, “It is like a bicep curls for your brain.” And so I’d love to get your take when we talk about the intentionally use of attention. Because I’m thinking I cannot quite intentionally use my attention nonstop for nine hours. So how do you think about that sort of the dynamic between intentionally using attention verses hey, chilling out and taking a break? And does taking a break mean let your mind want or whatever the heck you want? I’d love if you could frame that up a little bit in terms of this notion of intentional use of attention. Is that like a muscle or does it have effort that gets tired? How do you frame that up?

Leah Weiss
Yeah, I mean, I think if you want to play with that metaphor or since it’s valuable of looking at meditation like a way to train your mind, which is the wrap is returning your attention to what you’ve chosen them to your anchor. So you can increase your strengths meaning you can do it for longer and you can do it better. But just like following on this training metaphor that doesn’t mean you go to the gym and you start doing bicep curls around the clock if you want stronger biceps. You need to train properly, which includes a different kinds of exercise and learning how the complimentary muscle groups work. And that’s how I think of responding to your question around what about rest, and I couldn’t do it for nine hours. No, nobody could focus in a formed a kind of way for nine hours. What I recommend to people is to use permadrols or setting an alarm for different style for 25 minutes bursts of multitasking than having a break. This is recognizing how attention works so that we can leverage it. And I do think that there’s a lot to be done with improving how we take our breaks and doing them in ways that are relaxful as opposed to just a distraction or kind of false break.

Pete Mockaitis
 Okay, Yes. Well, so I’d love to hear then, if we’re talking about doing reps or training, what are some of your favorite prescriptions in terms of enhancing our ability to have intentional use of our attention?

Leah Weiss
So I think you need to have clarity on what your goal is in any period of time. So if you’re approaching your day, you need to be aware of what the priority is and also defacto what the priority is not. You need to know what your likely distractions are going to be. This is all consistent with the best thinking on behavioral change.  You need to know where you’re going and you need to know what’s likely to make you not get there so that you can preempt. So you want to structure your time if your goal from the day is to get focused or work done, you’d approach it differently than if you’re at a networking conference and you want your goal for the day is to connect with as many people as possible. You need to have your targeted outcome. So if you are moving through a number of different activities, you would want to structure your day work with how your habit or focus work. So if you’re like, I know I’ve got four hours for this work to get done and I’ve got some calls I’ve got to make. Then I’ve got just a bunch of tasks that don’t take a lot of brain power but they will take time. Then create the plan based on how our attention functions so that we do the bursts, the focus energy interspersed by the breaks of the less high maintenance kind of tasks and we’re aware that we’re not calling ourselves multi-taskers along the way, that we are uni-tasking and taking breaks or we are switching intentionally in between tasks. Because as we know from the research, there’s no such thing as multi-tasking. There’s only task switching which has costs. You can’t actually be on a call and emailing both at the same time. You’re moving your attention back and forth between them doing neither of them particularly well.

Pete Mockaitis
 Understood. So that’s kind of clever when it comes to the alternation between intense focus, task and then tasks that does not require intense focus. And so I’m wondering, if all of your tasks require this focus, what’s sort of the best practice in terms of taking an optimal break?

Leah Weiss
Yeah, I mean, I definitely live in that world where it’s writing, it’s grading and it’s a lot of highly focused work. So the way that I structure my time is knowing that I need to not fall into habits of thinking that social media is consumption as a break. That’s not a break. Getting up, moving, taking a walk could be a break, getting a drink could a break and taking the 20 minutes. Today, I have my grades due tonight. So there’s just like a lot of reading and backlog. So it’s making the decision that instead of having 15 minutes of unproductive time, I’m going that take a real break for 20 minutes and do a quick workout. And what I see in people who are performers is lots of time with great care. They know when they’re having their calls, they know when they’re having their emails and it’s like they’re architects of their time in a very proactive sense and you don’t hear the same overwhelmed from them that you do from some many other who are kind of approaching their calendar like happening to them rather than they’re making choices about how to structure it.

Pete Mockaitis
 That’s a great distinction. So social media is not a break, I think that is a rallying cry. Can you expand upon that for the skeptic?

Leah Weiss
Yeah, I mean, I think for the skeptic, I don’t think you need to believe anything, skeptics. I think what you should do, this is my humble opinion is pay attention when you try different things like if you’re not sure if you believe that then try it. Take your breaks tomorrow and have them be breaks on social media. Then the next day say my brakes are not going to be on social media, they’re going to be getting up and taking five-minute walks a bunch of times through the day and see how you feel.  You don’t need to believe anything including me or the research. What you need to do is pay enough attention to what happens when you experiment and take that data and trust that data and that’s very much what I encourage my students to do. I’m not a big believer person. I’m just a person who has tried practices and seen that they work. And also some of them don’t work for me, but then I figure that out, put them aside and go with something else that does. So I encourage all of you to do the same.

Pete Mockaitis
 All right, thank you. Well, let’s talk a little bit about self-awareness. I have seen some research, which I think I do believe as we were talking about what we believe and don’t with regard to most of us are not as self-aware as we think we are. So could you pack a little bit of what you mean by self-awareness and how can we get more of it?

Leah Weiss
Self-awareness is such an interesting term. So one of the ways we talk about self-awareness often is when we hypothesize about what we would do in a given situation. We say, well, you know if I were in that fill in the blank from a newspaper article we’re reading or movie we’re seeing or just a friend situation we’re hearing from our imagination about what we would do. So our take on who we are and how we would behave is notoriously wrong. It is like completely the choices we think we would make are not the choices we actually make when we’re in a situation. So that’s one big way in which we don’t know ourselves and there’s a lot of ways to unpack that, sentiments the perspective of condiments work that he won the Nobel Prize for understanding that there’s fast and slow thinking and that there’s responses that are rational and that there are responses that are emergent or intuitive or embodied.  There’s a lot of different ways you can describe that. So this is one of the places where economic theory breaks down if you want to say that we are all rational actor. We are people who make post hoc descriptions of our choices in rational ways but those were not the actually drivers. So I think that’s another way where mindfulness practice relates. Because we can actually get much more clear on the emotional kinds of drivers that are influencing in our behavior and the behavior of people around us that we are most likely to overlook otherwise.

Pete Mockaitis
 Okay, so are there any particular practices that you recommend in terms of getting a boost in terms of getting mindfulness?

Leah Weiss
One that I think is really simple and really powerful is to start getting clear when we are analyzing and interpreting a situation. How much is data that’s observable and much of it is conceptual overlay or interpretation that is highly subjective? And those tools that I write about in the book where I talk about how you can go about doing this from like take a piece of paper and say an event that you’re thinking about or meeting you had that went sideways and you’re trying to figure out what happened. So on one side of the paper literally writing out like things that happened and on the other side of the paper, the interpretations you made about all the things that happened. And it sounds so of simple but we bundle those together and when we do then we’re very quick to say, well, she coughed and that was an indicator that she didn’t like my thinking. It’s like, well, maybe what we know here is that she coughed. We don’t actually what that meant, but we do these projections and conceptual overlays so quickly and then we react to what we’ve constructed. And often its misinformation and incomplete information and it leads us down the path of interpreting another person behavior and reacting in that behavior and all these ways that are just wonky. So what I recommend is just getting back to the basics like what do we actually know? What is the interpretation? If its interpretation, is there another possible interpretation? Can we get ever more precise and then bundling this mess that we can make when we’re projecting motives when we don’t actually know what they are?

Pete Mockaitis
 I like that. Thank you. Will you likewise share some of your favorite tools for hitting the purpose side and the connections with the other side?

Leah Weiss
So one of the ways that I’ve really fallen in love with thinking about and training in it comes from a student I had at Stanford Business School an officer in the army and he comes from a military family. His father with a General of the Engineering Corp. The metaphor that he brought that I’m in love with comes from his father, which is something that they grew up with and what it is, is pretty simple. It’s a puzzle and a puzzle box top. But the story behind it, I love and why it is so helpful I think is really powerful. So the story behind it is from the time they were little they would do puzzles as a family. As they got older the puzzles would get harder and as they got even older and there were about to leave the home their dad would take away the box top. So they had to try to figure out how to solve the puzzle without having that clarity about what they were building.

So this becomes the metaphor for leadership. That is our job and there is no box top out there. We view it as leaders and aspiring leaders need to be awesome at clarifying what we’re doing and why and continue making sure that everybody is clear on that. And then this is where I think it gets even more useful is if use that metaphor then that means we ourselves, we work with our instrumentals towards that vision because you can’t solve the puzzle with just one piece. That won’t work. You have to actually value the role of the other pieces. So I think when leaders take a metaphor like this, it is inherently causing them to take a more strength based approach to understanding the people around them, lifting them up and building stronger relationships and building their own career in the process.

Pete Mockaitis
 Yes, so in practice if there is no box top you’re continually reflecting and reiterating the vision of what we’re up to here.

Leah Weiss
Exactly. Every time you make some sort of change, people need help updating it and making sure that they’re up updating in a way that it’s systematic with the rest of their team in the organization. So this becomes an ongoing aspect of leadership that we need to take really seriously, not waiting until like the retreat next year when we talk about the purpose. But this comes closer to what we were talking about with crazy highly engagement epidemic and the lack of engagement that we have. It comes back as purpose. There’s no box top and so without that box top 2/3 of your employees don’t know what they’re building.

Pete Mockaitis
 Right. And I’m wondering, if you find yourself in a box-topless world and you’re maybe not the leader and you would like to get a clearer vision and purpose connection to what up to what we’re up to. What are your tips for the person those shoes in terms of asking the questions or maybe even formulating your own purpose?

Leah Weiss
I love how you just framed that. Actually those two clauses in your question are exactly what I work with my students on that your ability to ask questions actually differentiates you as being valuable. I can’t tell you how many times CEOs visit my class. We just had Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn come in a few weeks ago. One of the things that students were talking to him about is, what can I do if I’m not like you and I’m not running this company? What I heard him say in response to that was you prove yourself valuable by showing the inconsistencies and by asking the questions. That’s you any good leader wants to surround themselves with. So it’s actually a great way instead of trying to be “the know it all” be the person who’s asking me the real question in surfacing what is not known but needs to be known. So that’s piece of it and then you exactly alluded to how I would refer to cultivating purpose.

No matter what the box top is for the organization, you also have to have your own individual purpose and you need to have clarity about how it’s fitting together with your organization so that you can be in the situation ideally where it’s a calling or at least a career for you. And it is a meaningful trajectory because what the organization sees you as valuable for providing is also valuable to you. So you need this as continual work that needs to happen. And I think the good news is, it’s doable work and it’s actually really inspiring work. You know, this is one of the reason. I think when I’m going and doing off-sites with organizations and working with teams. More and more them are recognizing the need to spend time together really understanding what makes each other tick so that we can work well together particularly when things get stressful, which they will.

Pete Mockaitis
 And I like that, I think it is a pretty powerful reframe there from Jeff Weiner in terms of, we need to ask those questions. It’s helpful and a great leader will want that. I think that maybe there’s just a lot of not so great leaders or there’s a justified fear that if someone’s thinking, I am kind of curious how this connects, how this helps a customer, how this ties into our strategic plan or vision or whatever. But I’m concerned that asking that question could put on the defensive like, “Oh, he’s trying to torpedo what I just talked about” or make me look dumb like, “Oh, I’m apparently not sharp enough to connect the dots on my own” or it would just be annoying because this meeting has already been going too long and we want to wrap it up.

So that’s intriguing because I think any number of these elements of doubt or resistance can creep in. It’s so encouraging to hear that at least one person’s take that no, no asking such a question is highly valuable and does not make you a pain but makes you look awesome.

Leah Weiss
Well, and you to have to be smart about it as your point is exactly getting to like you don’t want to do it at the all hands meeting when everybody is like, just been told the department is shutting down. You have to be sensitive to context and when and how but creating those opportunities, seeking them out and getting more comfortable and just experimenting with it, I think goes along way so we can take the risk to ask a question certainly where we’re on the fence about it and see what the responses.

And I think you’re exactly right, it doesn’t mean that the group is there to serve our needs. We need to make sure the way that we are asking the question is of service to bringing the group along. And I think we can all tell when other people are doing that, that’s the difference between a good question and someone being really annoying.

Pete Mockaitis
 Oh yeah. Isn’t it true that this thing I know makes me awesome?

Leah Weiss
Totally. Yeah, like that’s what not to do because that’s not actually trying to get at your organization or your role or purpose or your team’s function. That’s just going to irritate people, don’t do that. But find a way to ask a question that will be of service and there’s an honest question. We have really good sniff tests for when people are being authentic. So if we really want to understand and being aware of our environment, I think that it’s a good risk to take and see what happens. You’re not going to get fired for asking a question. You might get better at when and how, those are learnable skills and way better than be learning them than to just throw the whole exercise out the window.

Pete Mockaitis
 Very good. Thank you. Well, Leah, tell me, anything else you really want to make sure to highlight before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Leah Weiss
I love your questions, even asking you’re good at this. You’re clearly a pro.

Pete Mockaitis
 Oh shucks, thank you.

Leah Weiss
Yeah, I think the one thing I haven’t really talked about over that might be helpful for the skeptics is understanding and let’s talk about a topic like compassion again for a second. It might sound, “Oh, that’s so soft and we’re here to compete and we’ve got beat everybody else out.” Worrying about this just seems like a waste time. Look at it from the perspective of organizations are groups of people or people have challenges. We suffer, we have families who get sick, we have illness ourselves and we have things that happen in life.

So it’s inevitable in our organizations that the challenges of life are going to come in. When people see not just that their own challenges are met with compassion but the challenges of the people around them are responded to, they increase their royalty to the organization, they become more engaged. And this could is following on the research, this isn’t just my opinion. They miss less days of work, they stay with organizations longer, and they are more invested while they’re at work.

So I think there’s an important way of understanding that it’s an organization’s need to respond to the human element and that we can also do that in small ways even if we’re not at the top of the work chart or if we’re just a person working in an organization. We can still create within an our team and department an environment where we understand what’s going on at least to some basic degree in the lives of the people around us and demonstrate that we care. That will improve our relationships and will make it easier when we need to get stuff done. People will be more likely to help us if they know that we demonstrated care for them.

I think there important way of framing this that I would want to share with the listeners to think about and reflect in your organization what you’ve seen happen in terms of responsive to suffering and challenge. Often times an organization fails on that, what does that end up doing to morale and retention and all those things?

Pete Mockaitis
 Sure. I think that’s powerful because just the innate human experience and need for reciprocity that just sort of baked into to us as well as suffering really can be kind of kind of mild. I remember one time I was working late and someone asked me if I wanted a milkshake from Pot Bellies. It really did alleviate suffering and I thought that guy was the coolest for having done that. So, that’s awesome.

Leah Weiss
Great! Just like we would in relationships outside of work. I love that example, it’s so human. Like you’re working late, you’re hungry or just having someone care about you as a person that it would make you feel delighted to have this shake like that is a very human moment in the thick of it and it couldn’t have been like a company policy. It had to happen because this person saw you and cared about you as the person and wanted to make you smile. It was sincere, it was customized and it was appropriate. They didn’t like buy you a car.

Pete Mockaitis
 I’ll take that too.

Leah Weiss
It could’ve been cool.

Pete Mockaitis
 You’re having trouble getting around Pete. Here’s a car. Excellent! This is fun. So now, can you share with us a favorite quote that you find inspiring?

Leah Weiss
The quote that I love and come back to again and again is from Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning in he wrote about out his experience in the concentration camps in the holocaust. He says, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” If he can say that about the concentration camps, the thing I love about that is then I can deal with that annoying co-worker. I can remind myself why I’m there, why we’re are both there even they’re chewing with their mouth open or the interrupt me when I don’t like it. If I can get really clear on that common why, that goes a really long way. So that’s one of my favorite inspiring but also highly practical quotes.

Pete Mockaitis
 Excellent! Thank you. And how about a favorite study or a bit of research?

Leah Weiss
I love Allie Crum’s milkshake study. She now at the Stanford Psychology Department. And one of my favorite studies of hers is looking at what the impact is of our beliefs on our physiology. So she started out asking questions about placebo. And so this study, what she does divides people into two groups, one group gets told this milkshake is healthy, nutritious, low calorie yada, yada. The other group gets told this is indulgent high calorie treat. Depending on the message that they got, their hunger hormones responded in kind.  So if they were told it was the light low calorie shake, they would get more hungry again more quickly and their hormones would actually respond accordingly. If they were told it was the very fattening dense shake, then their bodies would respond in kind. The thing I love about this study is that it shows us how much our beliefs matter. We know the placebo effect has impact but how are we really leveraging that in our day to day lives and the way we’re approaching our work and our relationships so that we can be healthier and happier.

Pete Mockaitis
 Oh, lovely. Thank you. And how about a favorite were book?

Leah Weiss
I’m going to go with The Lorax. I just reread with my youngest child who’s three. And I have to say Dr. Seuss now more than ever, we really need to understand the impact of our organizations on other humans on the environment. Got step it up before it’s too late or we’re going to end up in a… I think we’re already seeing where we could end up. So that book, it’s impactful. I actually wrote a piece on it recently saying why I think this is a vital leadership text for our time.

Pete Mockaitis
 All right, thank you. And how about a favorite tool?

Leah Weiss
I think what I want to go with is knitting needles because I think that it’s really important to have practices. And for me knitting is one of them, of getting back in our bodies and doing something for those of us who are knowledge workers and live in our head seeing something physical that we can build with simple materials and dedication and a plan for me is endlessly inspiring. So I’m going to say my knitting needles.

Pete Mockaitis
 Thank you. And how about a favorite habit, the personal practices of yours?

Leah Weiss
I loved one that I started when in my oldest child was about two, so this is five years ago. She loves making decorations like lots of little kids and I was struggling with transitioning from work to home. I would come home and be preoccupied with what I needed to finish or college just had, you name it. I would come home and I’d be preoccupied with the call I just had or something I needed to get done. And so we would put up decorations on the front door for the holidays and they would constantly be shifting because the holidays would shift and they would grab my attention because they were changing. So it was became my prompt, my cue to notice. I’m coming home I want to be present to my kids and to my family and transition and with care from one of rules to another and dock my technology and take my shoes off and enjoy that precious time with my family. So the decorations on the front door for when I’m coming home.

Pete Mockaitis
 Thank you. And can you share, Is there a particular nugget that you have been teaching that really seems to connect and resonate with students and they quote back to you time after time?

Leah Weiss
We really do a lot with David Foster Wallace’s This is Water and that fundamental idea that he shares in it that if we don’t choose then we’ll fall into our negative default. But if we choose to pay attention to how we’re mentally constructing the world around us particularly the people around us and experimenting with seeing them as fully human as valuable giving them benefit of the doubt, imagining the suffering that they might be going through that I don’t know about that’s driving this behavior that I’m not a fan of in this moment. And the students talk about that and I’m just grading final papers right now and it comes up again and again as reaffirming this commitment to choose to be more aware and compassionate in their lives. And also with the humility of like that’s going to be a lifelong trajectory, but it’s one worth being on.

Pete Mockaitis
 Excellent! And is there a best place that folks who want to learn more get in touch with you? Where would you point them?

Leah Weiss
My website is the best place you can sign up for my newsletter and I share out the most current research and all of that kind of material and lots of tools for mindful meetings and exercises you can do in the thick of it at work and in your life, in your busy life.

Pete Mockaitis
 All right, and do you have a final challenge or call to action you’d issue to folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Leah Weiss
You can influence a lot more than you think if you take responsibility for how you are thinking or talking about approaching your time and your relationships at work. So own that and use that and benefit from that.

Pete Mockaitis
 Beautiful! Well, Leah, thank you so much for taking this time sharing the goods. Please keep on doing what you do in cultivating the compassion and all you’re up to.

Leah Weiss
Thank you so much for having me. It’s been such of pleasure.

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