meditation: Mind Over Money: This global country leader believes in a simple rule to stay calm

“A very simple lesson I learned from the spiritual reading is ‘Karmanye Vadikaraste’ i.e. you are only entitled to action and you are not entitled to any fruit” , declares Aarthi Ramakrishnan, Country Manager – India and Middle East, Kristal.AI.

In an interview with ETMarkets, Ramakrishnan, who has over 20 years of experience with leading global institutions, said, “If you really keep this in mind and try to practice it, your effort, the mental focus will move towards your effort, with reduced attachment to your outcome,” edited excerpts:

With over 20 years of experience as an investment banker and private investor, how do you stay calm, especially when making crucial decisions?
This is an excellent question, and all the more relevant to us in financial markets as markets are, by their very nature, volatile and unpredictable.

I started my career in investment banking, which was basically transactions. And transactions, as you know, are just as unpredictable. And when you mix the two, transactions and financial markets, you wake up every day not knowing what is going to happen that day. I started my career as an analyst, in a global bank, and your emotions tend to go up and down with that every day, don’t they? So the day your deal ends, you’re thrilled.

The day you work really hard but can’t negotiate, or your model doesn’t look like it should, you’re deeply disappointed.

I think it takes quite a few years to go through these cycles of elation and disappointment before you realize that it’s part of the journey, that you can’t control, right?

When you realize that there are a large number of uncontrollable factors such as a change in client strategy, or the client no longer wants to do business in country X, or a change in management, and the new CEO now wants to focus on organic growth and does not want to do M&A.

I kind of started isolating these controllable and uncontrollable factors. And I picked up the ones that aren’t checked and I said, ‘Let’s put them on a shelf’, I can’t do anything about it, can I? So don’t waste a minute worrying about it.

Most early investors, investment bankers, private equity and people will share a similar story. But I think the mental work brings a certain balance.

Do you practice a specific type of meditation?
I think meditation really starts in many professional lives because you feel the need to control that mind. It’s a mental gym exercise. Like you go to the gym and lift weights to build strength, meditation is the same for the mind. It’s a balance sheet, basically.

And luckily, or unfortunately, it doesn’t get enough attention and a lot of us end up going to the gym – I don’t know how much we do this workout.

I myself had a lot of difficulties. But I accidentally went to a few meditation sessions and spiritual sessions, and realized that it really made a difference.

Even 5 or 10 minutes can make a difference. I follow a few very simple rules.

Rule 1: Simplicity
The first is to keep it extremely simple, the more you complicate your meditation routine, the more you will want to run away from it. So not too many rules around that.

Rule 2: Short session
I keep the sessions short, 10 minutes of meditation is fine, even five is fine. I would say regularity rather than depth or magnitude. You could try doing the routine for, say, 45 minutes a day, but you’ll end up doing nothing.

Rule 3: Use a guide
I use a guide. It can be a guided meditation app, which is very useful, especially when traveling.

Rule 4: Meditation Space
If you can keep the physical space where you meditate a little separate from where you work, that’s very effective. Keep part of your bedroom, home, office as a separate space, because the minute you are in that space, the mind psychologically shifts from its work mode to a slightly quiet mode.

How do you manage to cut out the noise and focus on the goal?
You may be able to reduce the noise if you do a reasonable amount of spiritual reading. One could skim through the teachings of the Gita or the introduction to Vivekananda, especially his discourses.

A very simple lesson that I learned from the spiritual reading is “Karmanye Vadikarasthye”, ie you are only entitled to action and you are not entitled to any fruit.

If you really keep this in mind and try to practice this, your effort and mental focus will shift to your effort, with less attachment to your outcome.

It’s very hard to do, because when you want to win that ground, and you put your heart and soul into it, and when you don’t win, you feel disappointed.

It takes a lot of practice to be able to control the controllables. Do your duty, you have no right to control the results, and this world does not give you that right.

Are you a citizen of the world? To what extent do the styles of mediation differ from one country to another?
I worked in a Japanese bank for seven years. I ran Mizuho’s investment bank here in India, and used to be in Japan almost every quarter or two months.

The Japanese love meditation and mindfulness has its roots in Mahayana Buddhism, what we call Zen meditation. This meditation really focuses on being mindful.

The Japanese incorporate spirituality and mindfulness into their daily lives. So it’s not really about the 10 minutes or 15 minutes that they meditate, but it’s really about putting that into practice in modern life.

How important is meditation for a leader? What is your position on this?
Meditation is a conscious practice. It’s a way to achieve mindfulness, probably the most effective way. For a leader, mindfulness and awareness are essential.

You can’t be a good leader without being aware of it. And, when you say you are aware, you are being aware of yourself, aware of your emotions, your reactions, and also aware of your surroundings.

Mindfulness is focusing on your breath or on an object. It’s trying to shut out everything else and become aware of your inner self.

When you’re able to do that, I think as a leader you’re much more productive. And second, you are much more empathetic.

Empathy is an underrated skill, but I think it’s very necessary as a leader for your team, colleagues, clients, peers, you really need to be able to add value to them in order to to be a successful leader.

Meditation clearly creates a measure of mindfulness and prolonged productivity and balance, which obviously adds to the ability to be very empathetic.

(Disclaimer: The recommendations, suggestions, views and opinions given by the experts are their own. These do not represent the views of Economic Times)

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