Hello and welcome to this special episode of the Career Success Podcast. I’m Jason Connolly. If you’re a regular listener then it’s great to have you back. And if you knew, welcome to the show in this series. Everybody we speak to the biggest names in business all across the globe. We talk about their career stories, the lessons learned, how they overcome obstacles and challenges, and what success habits they practice. Practical advice to help you in your career if you have a passion for business then this is the podcast for you. In this special episode titled How Mindfulness Can Give You The Edge over your opponent.
I’m joined by Neil Seligman from London, former civil barrister. Neil is the founder of the Conscious professional and a pioneer of the Mindfulness and Conscious Leadership Movement. As a sought after International Speaker, Neil delivers programs for companies and global law firms such as DLA Piper, Netflix, Hogan, Lovells, Ascension. RBS Linklaters RPC and Pinsent Masons, as well as commenting and regularly appearing in both the national press and on television. Neil speaks at international conferences such as the Mindfulness India Summit in Mumbai, where he gave a keynote in November 2019. Neil is the author of two books, Conscious Leadership and 100 mindfulness meditations. Neil thanks so much for joining me on this special episodes. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thanks so much for having me Jason. So in this episode we’re going to talk. Obviously, it’s titled How Mindfulness can Give you the edge over your opponent. But before we kind of come on to that and you introduce us to mindfulness, tell us a bit about your career and how the how you’ve got to this place of what you’re doing now. Now, absolutely, so it’s a bit of a odd story, I suppose. A few different pathways that came to bring me to where I am right now. I was barrister for about 8 years. So graduated law from Bristol went on to study at the Inns of Court School of Law. And then was called in 2001 and practiced. Well, had my tenancy first my pupillage rather at 12 Kings Bench walk and then was lucky enough to take tenancy there. So that was sort of the start of it for me. I was really, you know, on track as a lawyer. As a barrister and it was really the things that interested me in the background which just very gradually sort of took. Took over and became much more sort of central passions too. Whatever is really wanting to do in the world, so maybe a bit unusually, I become a Reiki master in my late teens, which is a type of sort of energy healing type of modality and that had come across my path quite randomly. I was doing that sort of exchange program thing that you can do where you could go and work in a kids camp in America and that yeah, after I left school I went out to the States in upstate New York. And actually met an Australian guy from Melbourne who was a Reiki master. And just so happened that you know he was talking about it a lot and I had to go and it. It was really sort of quite a pivotal experience in my life when he did break your me and tell us about what I’ve never had Reiki done to me. But I am someone who does believe in kind of spirituality and take me to Glastonbury on a day out and I I’m loving it every moment of it. Tell us a bit more about that well. The key is it’s a energy healing modality. People have sometimes come across it an inspires or you know it’s sort of a treatment that you could have. But when I came across I had never heard of it, and but he was offering to sort of give me a go at it and my actual experience was that I I just felt things and so things that I’ve never felt or seen before, and I say seen, I mean sort of in my mind’s eye had various visions and things, and it felt like almost like another. Dimension was opening up in my experience, and certainly there was enough there that I thought, wow, this is. This is really interesting. Like it, it’s opening up to something that feels real and I just wanted to understand more about it. So over the course of you know we were at camp for about two months. He ended up training a few of us about three of us in the first 2 levels of Reiki, and then I trained with him another year and took the third degree, which is kind of the master. Master degree so yeah, it became quite a sort of central aspect even when I was a barrister I had a little business on the side called the holistic life practice where I was offering Reiki healings and ended up doing some coaching and teaching meditation. So I do that after court and at the weekends and things like that. Testing, but even odd, odd, but no, I’m fascinated already. I’m wondering more about what were their vision. How could you articulate the visions in the other dimensions you were seeing? ’cause I already, I’m kind of interested. Thinking what’s that all about? Yeah, so? I mean it’s quite a sort of personal experience, isn’t it? These types of things, I mean, the way that I would describe it, is that I felt like I was seeing myself in sort of other times and other places. It felt like I was seeing. Other sort of energetic beings, and which I’ve never experienced anything like that before. Physically I could, you know, really feel heat coming from this Reiki Masters hands and at times I felt like my body, you know, felt different than it had before. Like at times I’ve felt like I was levitating and or wasn’t, but just it was really, you know, it was sort of a multi dimensional sensory experience, an anonymous sort of 18 or 19 at the time. So it kind of blew my mind. You need to learn something like that. It seems to me, yeah, I mean it was. It was really, I guess. Who knows what is by chance, but it’s not by chance. I mean, it maybe was the perfect thing for me at that moment. You know it turned out as we went into the training of it, that I sort of took to it quite naturally and had a real kind of passion for it, and was able to develop a skill with it. So you know, and it’s something that has sustained by interest over many years. And even though it’s not. Healing is not a central aspect of the work that I do right now. It is something that some people do still know me for and occasionally come to me for energy work. So yeah, so it’s you know it’s just a really interesting way in to another way of kind of experiencing the world which you know. For me. It’s sort of this suspicion as a young guy that the world was kind of more about energy than about a lot of things that people were talking about. And this kind of really locked in with that. It was like, OK, well, here’s a kind of physical experience of how to energetically relate to the world and other people. And Rakings gotta really kind of useful aspect to it that it, you know can have people can find it very calming, relaxing, you know. There are sometimes kind of physical aspects to the healing that can occur. Things like that so you know, it just felt like a nice thing to be doing and you know, over the years has kind of just opened up the way in which I suppose I just work through my life, really. Has this other aspect to it, which feels very innate to me now and I’ve been able to kind of tie into the other aspects of, you know, professional excellence. There are aspects in which the way I learned those skills early on has really kind of taught me to relate to the world in a certain way. It’s really interesting. I I’m a big energy person myself, so we’ll have to talk more about Reiki towards the end for people wanting to learn a bit more. So tell us a bit more kind of how your career progression there. ’cause we kind of talked about. You been 19 years old. Obviously this is something that you’ve been running alongside your current business, but it I guess this is very pinnacle to your whole career. Your whole career seems like it’s very much been shaped by that early experience in those early days, and you know, your career seems to have been built around that in some senses. Yeah, kind of, although I didn’t really know how it make a commercial success from that side of my work, it was more a bit of a sort of passion project on the side. And, you know, I was. I was doing quite well as a barrister and so that. You know, certainly seemed like the more likely aspect where I was going to do well, but I then had a chance conversation with a friend from bar school. This was in about I think. And yeah, just walking through the car park, my friend came up to me another barrister and said, hey Neil, get see here. You’re one of the rising stars of the civil bar. Heard something about me and so nobody ever said that to me before so that was a bit of a shock. But actually when he said that to me what I heard in my head. Your star is rising in the wrong field. You have to leave. So it was kind of this insight that landed, catalysed by his comment that railing from that point ’cause it felt so true when that landed in my consciousness that I changed direction entirely, and within a few months I wrapped up my career as a barrister. And so in yeah, I left wow. And why did it kind of go from there so? About to get really interesting, yeah. I mean I’d love to know if there was some sort of you know and then instantly this kind of Newman. Great to have idea arrived and that was the thing that the sort of you know. This is kind of funny talking about this or reflection. How it all kind of happened in the timeline there. I think if someone actually went into detail with me about my background type it would be, you know, quite the tail. Yeah, I mean, journeys never make sense when you’re in them, do that. It’s only when you sort of towards the end of the journey you can look back along the path and be like, OK? That’s what was going on there. Yeah, no, no again, but I think especially recently I think we’ve all had a lot of time, yeah, so I mean literally it took it took three years for me to come up with the idea that was going to, you know, form the next chapter of my life and career. And very Luckily I’d met just before this kind of insight landed. I’ve met my meditation teacher, who I’ve been must be working with now for about. I said working with that as her student for about 14 years or so, and. And so during that three years I was, I was very much kind of going back to you. Not to nothing but going back to a very sort of reflective stage of what all the questions I could really consider them again. You know what? What am I meant to be doing? What does my you know? What does my energy want to be doing? Where does? Where do I want to spend my energy in this lifetime? And I took quite a spiritual kind of way to explore that. And then again 2012 in a meditation. I had this sort of download at that. The business was going to be called the conscious professional. I saw the logo and I heard that it was going to be centred around mindfulness and that that clarity just sort of landed one morning and there it was. So interesting, yeah. So what story OK? And then that’s when kind of this. All this movement started for you and then ’cause obviously you’ve worked for law firms that DLA Piper places like Netflix Hogan levels the list just goes on and on. How did it go from that point to being what it is? And how did you pitch this to see if that’s even the right word picture using you in that way? Great questions. And so it’s 2012. got this clarity but I do question it like in my mind like mindfulness like. Nobody knows about mindfulness in 2012 like nobody’s heard of it. So I just start sort of pitched in the idea to a few learning and development people that I know kind of on a personal level will have Contacts with and say look, I’ve got this idea. This is another thing I’m going to do and pretty much everyone said no, we wouldn’t buy that. That does not sound like something that we’d put our lawyers. You know, in front of everybody doesn’t sound like the ordinary, but yeah. So I was getting like how do you get it from that point? Well so the mindfulness peace seemed to be the scariest piece of it. So what I ended up doing was creating a course called Professional Resilience and happening mindfulness as a module within that course and this appeared to be more palatable as a sort of set of words for lawyers and I’ve got my so I remember this insight has happened in 2020. You wanted to do that course at that point or was you wanting to expand on that section but you thought hang on a minute I need to give them a. Small dose of this first of all, to show them the value of this good. And yeah, it was almost like you know, I just need to package this in the right way so that somebody will give it a try and that the mindfulness meditation. Peace doesn’t feel too scary or central so it’s like, OK, well we’ll do a course and we’ll talk a little bit about stress. Will talk a little bit about emotional intelligence, will talk a little bit about digital well being, personal well being. And then we’ll introduce mindfulness briefly. You know, so that was the sort of package, and so this was, you know, because lawyers work hard and, you know, stress is always something that you know we’re looking at new ways of. You know, how can we support people around that idea that was more palatable and so I’ve got my. My first client was in 2014 and that was Pinsent Masons and then just very gradually it grew from there. So yeah, so no overnight success, very slow organic growth. Sort of 1 firm. A time and so on. And you know, just kind of just being really clear that you know, I I really trusted that this is what I was meant to be doing and just kept going with it. Absolutely fascinating, and I think that brings us really nicely onto the actual title of this episode. How mindfulness can give you an edge over your opponent? Can you give us kind of entryway into this topic that we’re going to discuss today and about this special episode that we’re making for people? Give us a nice entryway into it now, so I think this is a lovely junction, but we’ve arrived. I also got to talk about the real meat of what we’re getting down to today. Definitely, so the mindfulness piece for me. You know, I’ve always been more interested really, rather than just telling people what it’s all about and introduce and starting to, you know, guide people to feel comfortable in a kind of mindfulness experience. The even more interesting piece for me is like what is the outcome if we can bring more of a mindful presence into our everyday? Inner environment it just you who we show up as what becomes possible as a result of that and one of the things that I talk about a lot is that mindfulness is really offering the map to allow us to explore and feel more comfortable with and more in control of our inner world of thoughts, emotions and sensations. So this kind of internal consciousness that we all sort of operate through on a day to day. And it really occurred to me. And this is one of the inspirations really behind my business. That’s the degree to which my peers and lawyers and myself and the people that would come into contact with the degree to which they were able to navigate their kind of external surroundings, their work and show up with you, know, such a precise expression of excellence in those arenas was not always matched by their experience of navigating their inner reality, and it occurred to me that you know, there’s a lot of professionals that are doing very well in a very successful there. In a reality or their kind of inner experience of that, their life is sometimes quite stressful, frenzied, chaotic, anxious, not across the board, but it seemed like you know this. This was the sort of problem piece. It wasn’t that people couldn’t do the work, it was that they weren’t necessarily having fun. The emotion you arrived at throughout the process of doing it, and at the end wasn’t maybe tide to what the actual success look like. That yeah, their experience of expressing excellence. Was not necessarily fun for them and in turn he the internal differs from the external. Yeah exactly so, and I think a lot of professionals that I’ve talked over the years have kind of identified with that idea of kind of the Swan. You kind of calm and serene on top, but then the legs kind of pummelling away underneath and there’s that slight feel within some of these professions that ask a lot in terms of pressure and time and hours and client care and all the rest of it. They ask a lot of people. You know, not just in those kind of physical aspects, but it’s sort of emotionally as well. And from the perspective of retaining balance and well being in perspective and all of those good things, and for me, mindfulness kind of offered this way into the inner experience of our world. Our consciousness with this map, where if we can become more familiar with that map, we actually have a bit more control over how we navigate the day and what is our experience of navigating. Today you could call that stress resilience, call it building self awareness. You call it mindfulness. You could call it emotional intelligence for me. There they’re already linked, but the capacity for any human being to start to navigate towards a quiet space of being is quite fundamental to just feeling calm and confident in oneself. And we don’t feel like we have access to quiet within our world, because either the mind is so. Visio in a distracted or jumps from thing to thing or you know our inner world is characterised by anxiety or holding on tightly to make sure nothing gets dropped then that can be exhausting. Yeah I agree. And so let’s kind of just go into this a bit further so I’m someone who’s thinking yes this is me. I’m feeling those emotions. Yes OK, I’ve got a lot of I think this you know so many of us at the moment. We’re not having a particularly great time. It is harder than usual to do your job. I will be working from home and I think a lot of what you said earlier about communication in these current times is even more difficult. So tell us how we get. How do we get into mindfulness and how is this something that we can start practicing identifying, relating to and using that to our advantage? Don’t we’re talking about over what one’s opponent here, but you know, let’s talk about ourselves. First of all, yeah. So the thing with mindfulness at this point is that the you know such a proliferation of apps and books and teachers and so on. That can be a bit overwhelming in terms of well, where does? Where does one start and my advice is always just to you know, start with one thing you know. Maybe somebody recommends book by the book and read it twice. You know that would be a mindful thing to do. You know if you found a teacher that you like, go onto an app like Insight Timer where there’s a lot of free meditations from wonderful teachers all around the world. What was that website? It’s called Insight Time, so it’s both an app and website and you know, just even I’m writing it down. Search for that teacher. Haven’t looked through their meditations find one or two that you like and start doing them. You know regularly and when I say regular it doesn’t have to be everyday or twice a day regularly. You usually say you know if you want to get into meditation. Start by meditating more than you are now. So if you’re not doing it at all, try once a week. If you already meditating occasionally, try you know morning practice Monday to Friday. You know just edge yourself. Gradually towards it, it doesn’t need to be 20 minutes a day. Start with five, start with really small little moments that you gradually start to build into your day into a week into your habits. An overtime you know even very small interventions like that can leave us feeling in quite a different space than when we don’t have them. So start where you are. Start with something, don’t be overwhelmed and you know. Keep it simple. Keep it focused. I think that’s really great advice and kind of talking about mindfulness and how it can make you better. What’s the kind of journey that you think that you know some of my experience having not done it to doing it and how he’s that kind of individual to each person or tell us a bit more about the journey that people can go on using this and what that might look and feel like to them. Yeah, absolutely. So you know the mindfulness experience for each person is going to be individual and you know the skills that we’re learning. Free mindfulness, quite simple. That doesn’t mean that easy to learn, but really what we’re learning to do is to witness our thoughts, emotions and sensations, which is kind of all there is in kind of the world of experience. And to relate to them in a slightly different way, and so in mindfulness we learn to witness the experience of our inner world without necessarily commentating on it. Trying for it to be different than it is, we start to practice with intentions like practicing acceptance, practicing gratitude, learning how to open to our experience, whether it be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. But opening to it from a space of self compassion and overtime. Really, we’re just learning to relate kindly to ourselves, and it sounds like a such a simple thing, but if you think about young children, you know it takes quite a long time. For children to learn how to relate kindly to one another, you know there’s a lot of tantrums or fights. There’s a lot of you think of toddlers and so on, but we gradually learn out, you know, this is how we relate to other human beings. We can be friendly with them. We can be kind to them. They can support us. They can form part of our community, and you know, we can feel nurtured by it. And yet sometimes our experience with self never went that through that same education. And certainly most people of my generation. You never got any sort of mindfulness training or emotional intelligence training school, and so you know we ended up being really good at navigating our external reality and not so great at navigating our internal reality. It should be something that really gets tall to people quite young because I like to think that I’m very emotionally intelligent, kind of maybe comes with iOS. Six people with the kind of counterbalance. I’m an emotional person, but I understand emotions and how to navigate, and I think that’s what made me successful in. Working in the people’s business, but surely a lot of these skills in these life skills. What? Why are these not all so it is changing? So a lot of these things are being taught now wherever they been talk. So in schools. And yeah, yeah, so you know, there’s a there’s some fantastic programs out there for children the dot P dot B program, the pause be program. You imagine a lot of parents who are listening probably heard of those because there. The children you know well we end programs like that you know, had the opportunity to speak in different countries, and sometimes you know I’ve done a piece on mindfulness and the lawyers or professionals have come up and say, Oh my, my kid told me to take it mindful moment the other day when I was stressed out because they’d learned it at school. Yeah, so there is lots of really good thing, but that’s that. Is the idea that realize that was that had been introduced. Yeah, used to me, it’s not everywhere and it’s, you know, it’s not every school. But it’s becoming more and more widespread, and this great training programs for teachers who were then able to, you know, actually pass on these skills. And you know that that the mindfulness in Schools project is the one that I did my training with for the for the children’s program. And yeah, it’s a fantastic training. Really can’t recommend it enough. Is there kind of a common thing that you tend to find, but when you go into a business, is there something that you tend to find out? This is a usual thing that always comes up again and again. This is something that businesses don’t do right or. AG5, there’s a typical set of circumstances that you tend to arrive at when you go into these environments that you’re being paid to consult for. I would say probably stress, you know, is the sort of number one thing that you know will. Looking for new ways of allowing people to feel confident around their stresses and mindfulness you know is a great intervention for that, so you know the mindfulness based stress reduction program, which was the one developed in the 70s by Jon Kabat Zinn and it’s become kind of the gold standard of. Mindfulness courses, you know there’s a reason why it’s called mindfulness based stress reduction. It’s because mindfulness allows us to relate to, you know, the things that we find stressful in a in a new and different way and if we can have more control over our stress. Reactivity which gets triggered so often. You know, in a work environment you know it used to be triggered in tribal times when a Tiger walked around the rock, but now it’s triggered by scary email from our boss aura. No rude email from a client. You know we go into a sort of fight or flight state and then as we as we come to the journey of mindfulness, we get to kind of be the witness of this reactivity within the body, in the mind and overtime we can. We can find new ways to remain grounded, to remain connected to ourselves, to be able just to take another breath before going into the habit of. Gearing up for panic or, you know, going into action so resource is us in a different way and we’re kind of coming to the end of our time together. I think what you said is really interesting. Your offer of two books, conscious leadership and one hand. So 100 mindful meditations tell us about those books and what led you to write them and what you were. What was the kind of mission for food publishing those books to kind of bring out there to the wider world? What’s your message, yeah, so the first one that I wrote it’s called 100 mindfulness meditations and that one. Was published in 2016 and I wrote in about six months after having tried to write a book for about four years and failed, and then I had this brand new idea for a book. Did you fail the other times I’m inviting, I think because the book wasn’t ready yet. I was just say I wrote a lot of stuff, but it just never turned into a book. But this idea came along and it was to write like a recipe book of meditations and it really appealed to me ’cause I I really like variety in my meditation practice. Personally, I like to, you know, try different things in it to be related to. I’m going through the day and if I’m trying to be creative, do you want for that? If I’m you know, working with some difficult emotions, meditate around that and so I wanted to put together. You know this kind of recipe style book of meditations and to act as kind of inspiration to meditation teachers, but also inspiration for anyone who’s you know regular practitioner just to inspire their practice. OK and tell us a bit about conscious. Leadership and how that came about and what’s the message? Work the message for people there. Yeah, say the conscious leadership. One is really the journey of mindfulness applied to the art of it’s more self leadership really. So in the book. In the beginning you know I sort of talk about how everyone is a leader because you know you are. You’re the person who is responsible for your thoughts, actions and behaviours and overtime that translates into a sort of degree of mastery of the human process. And as we moving through our journey, work, or you know, even in all sorts of different kind of scenarios where we are impacting upon others, it’s about bringing more self awareness to that journey, learning the skills of self maintenance, self development, self realisation and so it’s really sort of harmonic journey of how do we step into becoming all that we are. So I kind of just wanted to make a really practical guide and summarise quite a lot of the. The main points that are teaching the courses with my corporate clients and make it accessible through a book as well to two others. Absolutely fascinating, Neil. Everything you said made perfect sense to means you know, I found myself frantically writing down things you were saying there. If people want to find out more about you, where can they go to sotheconsciousprofessional.com is the main website of my business, and LinkedIn, Instagram, all of the socials. My public site is neilseligman.com. As well, so you’ll see books and retreats and events and things listed there. Thank you so much for joining me on this special episode, titled How Mindfulness Can Give You The Edge over your opponent. That was Neil Seligman, I’m Jason Connolly. This was the career Success podcast until next time goodbye.