How We Work: Live Your Purpose, Reclaim Your Sanity, and Embrace the Daily Grind
March 20, 2018
Leah Weiss brings the lessons from her Stanford course on Leading with Mindfulness and Compassion out of the classroom, and into a bookstore near you.
Leah Weiss teaches a popular course on Leading with Mindfulness and Compassion at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. She is also the principal teacher at Stanford's Compassion Cultivation Program, which grew out of a historic visit to the University by the Dalai Lama. Weiss's new book, How We Work: Live Your Purpose, Reclaim Your Sanity, and Embrace the Daily Grind, carries those lessons out of the classroom and makes them accessible in 272 pages bound in hardcover.
It may be simply because it was the last book I read myself, but I found myself thinking that How We Work is a perfect companion to Jeffrey Pfeffer's Dying for a Paycheck, our Editor's Choice from last week. She cites her Stanford colleague's article, "Why the Assholes are Winning," in the book, and echoes can be found when Weiss cites evidence that "people who work more than fifty-five hours a week have a 33 percent greater likelihood of stroke and a 13 percent higher risk of heart disease," and in her assertion that:
The fact is we wear our busyness like a status symbol, and research shows that such aspiration holds real value—Americans who always say they're "busy" are viewed as more important and of higher social status.
So much for the "leisure class." But the conclusions, while perhaps complimentary, are much different than Pfeffer's. Pfeffer rightly places accountability with employers, and those in leadership positions, and examines what they need to do to make the workplace less toxic to human health. Weiss's book holds a lot of wisdom for those very same people, while acknowledging that "We can't wait for our boss or HR director" to make our workplaces less toxic. She focuses on our own agency and influence in the situation, and teaches the tools of mindfulness to help us work more with more purpose and intentionality, with integrity and compassion. Because, while the assholes may indeed be winning, we don't have to become them to achieve real success:
Mindfulness may have gone mainstream decades ago, but most people still equate mindfulness practice with something done in private. Yet, just as "work" doesn't exist as a separate category opposed to "life," becoming a more mindful, compassionate person is not in opposition to being a successful, respected professional.
Indeed, the evidence is that it is what more and more recruiters are looking for and finding lacking. It is important, in today's workplace, not only to be able to work well with others, but to be able control our thoughts, emotions, and attention in a world that is constantly trying to distract us. Practicing mindfulness, no matter the technique used, increases our self-awareness and control, and enables a literal rewiring of of our brain that will improve our focus, creativity, and decision making, while increasing our capacity to find purpose in the work we're performing by immersing ourselves more fully in it.
There is lot of unnecessary pain and suffering in the workplace. What Weiss teaches us is how to view "the work we do as an opportunity to practice mindfulness, purposefulness, and compassion." I hope that Dying for a Paycheck helps us begin a larger conversation about human health in the workplace that sparks an environmental movement of its own. But, until then, we can help improve our own everyday situation at work by learning to be more mindful in the workplace. How We Work helps us discover how.
We have 20 copies available.