Michel Dion is a CPA and PMP who spent his life in the business world. He has developed a website on project management, called Project-Aria. The name of the website is a mix between his interest for music and project management. He likes to live life fully and passionately. Yet, someone he discovered meditation and the power of the discipline in all dimensions of his life.
In this podcast we have a conversation about how Michel Dion:
- Got started meditating because of too many thoughts and not sleeping much anymore at night.
- Michel became an “accidental meditator“.
- He is great at solving problems, but it started affecting his family life. He started seeing his friends get burned out by overwork, as well as develop depression. Now in his early 40’s, he couldn’t bounce back from the lack of sleep as much as when he was young.
- He was attracted to start meditating after watching a BBC documentary, Michael Mosley’s Horizon: The Truth About Personality (BBC Two) in which Mosley tries mindfulness meditation based on scientific findings about our personalities. And see if he could influence his more pessimistic and insomnia prone personality. He wanted to see if he could change his brain less anxious. They found that the right side of his brain was more active than the left side, which also created an imbalance. A combination of cognitive training and mindfulness training was used to help him change his brain. See, “Can Science Explain Why I’m a Pessimist?“
- Michel was inspired by these findings, and also wanted to learn this meditation, so he got the Headspace app by Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk.
- He needed to start with guided meditation. Very useful, otherwise he would have felt lost. He doesn’t consider himself spiritual.
- He also noticed more and more projects as he grew in his career, and he was never in the moment any longer. He’d be at work, as well as with his wife, and always thinking either about work or other things. He couldn’t be present any longer. Starting to lose focus.
As a result of a regular meditation practice:
- He found that the meditation helped him be more productive at work.
- Better and more real connection with his wife and kids.
- He found this important enough, that he mentioned meditation, requirement for self-awareness as a leader in the beginning of his book on Business, Project Management, and Leadership, rather than an afterthought. Taking care of yourself.
At the time of this interview..
He still practices regularly using head-space, listens to podcasts (this one, and Tara Brach’s Podcast), and reads about meditation.
- Michel is learning how to meditate without the assistance of guided meditation, or apps. He plans on adding unguided meditation to his practice.
- Michel had to unlearn some preconceived notions and pressures about what meditation is supposed to be like. Typical misconceptions propagated:
- “You can stop all thoughts!”
- “Real meditators are always 100% peaceful and happy!” (as though they are no longer human!)
Michel was a great “multi-tasker” at one time, but learned that this wasn’t working very well.
- He would do other tasks while “listening” to his wife. After realizing this error, he now has a deeper connection and conversation.
- Another challenge he has is with long-distance running. At some point his mind is, “no longer in the moment”. It’s not physical pain that’s the problem after 2 hours of running, but his mind. He is going to read the book by “conscious runner” Lisa Hamilton (former guest on this podcast).
How his meditation affects his work, and leadership role?
Very much, as a leader you can be agitated, “do, do, do, more, more!” But people are more likely to follow a leader that is calm. Then a leader that is helps give their team confidence of success. Comfort zone does not mean it’s easy. You get greater results with a team with greater self-awareness.
Authenticity and honesty are often lacking in leadership.
In business you can master something. Michel studied classical music when he was younger and you can master that as well. He feels it’s different with meditation, you can’t say you have 100% self awareness. You can do this for 30 years and you will still discover something, so it’s never completed. There is a level of being comfortable in the unknown.
Michel talks about developing more knowledge of the self, which is part of executive leadership development program. Meditation and modern science is bringing it to the western world from a different angle.
We discuss how meditation is sexy or trendy, and the potential issue if the leadership and executives don’t practice meditation themselves, and use it to squeeze more productivity out of employees, or put them into smaller cubicles to save money, without thinking of the triple bottom line.
Michel talks about the blind spot of leadership, the privilege and rank of leadership, and the problem if you just have false relationships around you. It’s his job to create a relationship where the employees feel comfortable talking with him.
- Why it’s a problem to be over identified with your job (and Michel sees this more in older generations).
- It’s better to have a life also outside of work.
- Why it’s not always the best if someone is 100 % dedicated to their work life, doing 60-80 hours a week. You don’t have as much motivation to be efficient, if you’re just making work for yourself, “looking busy”.
- The mind needs some break
- If you invest all your thoughts into one thing, the day it succeeds, you’re extremely happy, if it does not succeed, everything is crashing.
- The intensity of reactions at work, are like for a nuclear plant, small problems are turned into big dramas. It’s not like your two kids are dead!
- It’s rare that someone will crash their career over an intellectual issue, it’s more the emotional side of life.
- If you want to maximize you need to have an authentic holistic view of human.
- We talk about too much drama when there is an issue at work, taking our titles and roles too seriously.
- Michel talks about an example of a stressed out employee who was thinking she needed to spend the night fixing things, and he just told her to go home and watch a movie, and sleep on it. Sure enough, the next day, the employee came in refreshed and was able to solve the problem easily.
When do you have your sitting meditation during the day?
- He seems to meditate best when his mind is tired.
- He also likes long distance hiking, he likes how nature calms him. We talk a little bit about nature-deficit disorder.
- He puts his device on airplane mode to keep from getting distracted. When it’s on, the mind stops checking. He finds that better than a technology fast or rejection.
His book is for folks leadership, the most powerful powerful part of leadership is to lead yourself first, before leading others.
Never have only your career as defining who you are.
Michel would feel more lonely without technology, to find other like-minded persons. That is an example of where technology supports personal growth.
- Ajahn Brahm, from the BuddhistSocietyWA in Australia https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USC5MJVZLy8
- BBC documentary, Michael Mosley’s Horizon: The Truth About Personality (BBC Two)
Michel’s book: Leadership Toolbox for Project Managers: Achieve better results in a dynamic world. Click on the image above to purchase or go to Amazon to purchase.
Discover his website at: www.project-aria.ca
These are the bighorn sheep mentioned. I’m still uploading the video, will be here tomorrow.