Until the very end of his life, Steve Jobs was an innovator. At the tech leader and Zen Buddhism practitioner's funeral in October 2011, friends and family received a meaningful parting gift: A wooden box containing a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda's spiritual memoir, a story of awakening and self-realization.
"That was the message: Actualize yourself," Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who attended the funeral, said recently at the 2013 TechCrunch Disrupt SF conference.
"If you look back at the history of Steve and that early trip to India ... He had this incredible realization that his intuition was his greatest gift," Benioff said. "He needed to look at world from inside out ... His message was to look inside yourself and realize yourself."
More and more business leaders in the tech world and beyond are following Jobs' lead, tapping into their intuition through meditation, a practice that's been linked to lower stress levels and boosts in cognitive functioning, creativity, productivity and even empathy.
Here are eight business leaders who say practicing meditation has improved their work and their lives -- and sometimes led to game-changing innovation.
While working at international computer technology corporation Oracle, Benioff took up meditation to manage work-related stress. He's stuck with the habit ever since.
"I enjoy meditation, which I've been doing for over a decade -- probably to help relieve the stress I was going through when I was working at Oracle," Benioff told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2005.
He gave a nod to his meditation practice again last week at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco during his discussion of Steve Jobs' leadership.
"Meditation is a major part of my life," Benioff said. "It's been that way for a couple of decades and that is something that I am in line with Steve Jobs on."
After Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini broke his neck in a skiing accident, he spent a year taking painkillers -- until he found natural pain relief through yoga and meditation. Bertolini now practices mindfulness, which he says comes with the added benefit of better decision-making in the workplace.
He introduced a 12-week mindfulness and yoga program for employees at Aetna, which he says resulted in dramatically lower stress levels and increased productivity among participants. Now he says it's his mission to "bring the mindfulness benefits that [he] brought to 34,000 employees to everyone in America."
LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner spoke at last year's Wisdom 2.0 conference about the importance of managing compassionately, something he calls his "first principle of management." Weiner wrote in a 2012 LinkedIn blog that the Dalai Lama's book The Art of Happiness taught him the principles of compassion and empathy, and has said that meditation can help boost compassion.
The tech entrepreneur has also said that the "single most important productivity tool" he uses is making time in his schedule each day to clear his mind and do nothing. "As the company grows larger ... you will require more time than ever before to just think," Weiner wrote in a LinkedIn blog in April.
Former Columbia Records president Rick Rubin practices Transcendental Meditation, sometimes with Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons. In 2011, Rubin and Simmons led a group meditation during a book talk at the New York Public Library.
"The more we can get in tune with the harmony of the planet, the more our art can benefit from that relationship," the music producer, who says he has practiced meditation since he was very young, told Nowness.com. "The more you understand silence, that's where the balance comes from."
Every business should have a higher purpose beyond maximizing profits, according to Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, author of Conscious Capitalism: Liberating The Heroic Spirit Of Business.
"My search for meaning and purpose led me into the counterculture movement of the late 1960's and 1970's," Mackey wrote in Conscious Capitalism. "I studied Eastern philosophy and religion at the time and still practice both yoga and meditation. I studied ecology. I became a vegetarian."
Nancy Slomowitz, CEO of Executive Management Associates, helped to lower her company's health care costs by offering employees classes in Transcendental Meditation, a popular mindfulness practice favored by the likes of Rupert Murdoch, Russell Brand, Candy Crowley and Oprah. She's been practicing it herself since she was a teenager.
"TM produced tangible, practical benefits in both their professional and personal lives," Slomowitz wrote in her book Work Zone Madness! Surviving and Rising Above Work Place Dysfunction. "The workplace environment soon grew from toxic to harmonious among other positive changes. And surprisingly, the company’s cost of healthcare insurance actually went down due to a reduction in sick claims.”
The co-founder of Twitter's first introduction to mindfulness was listening to meditation tapes by Dr. Wayne Dyer in his early 20s. It was a passing interest, he said at last year's Wisdom 2.0 conference, and during his early days in tech Williams spent his time with his head down in a "constantly computer brain mindset."
But Williams says he came back to mindfulness after launching Twitter as a way to sustain high performance -- both his own and that of his employees.
CNN anchor and Starfish Media CEO Soledad O'Brien began practicing Transcendental Meditation at the urging of her friend, Def Jam co-founder and TM practitioner Russell Simmons.
"I appreciate very much the opportunity to take the time to focus and meditate and it allows me to experience a state of deep rest and relaxation that can be game-changing; and sometimes a life saver in a crazy world," O'Brien said during a 2012 David Lynch Foundation forum. "It helps alleviate stress and pressure when you’re trying to balance life and being a mother."
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Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO, News Corp
News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch recently <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/23/rupert-murdoch-meditation-transcendental_n_3131268.html" target="_blank">tweeted</a> that he was trying out <a href="http://www.tm.org/" target="_blank">Transcendental Meditation</a>, a popular technique developed in the 1960s and followed today by famous practitioners like Oprah, David Lynch and Candy Crowley. The media tycoon <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/23/rupert-murdoch-meditation-transcendental_n_3131268.html" target="_blank">said on Twitter in April</a>, "Everyone recommends, not that easy to get started, but said to improve everything!"
Padmasree Warrior, CTO, Cisco Systems
Warrior, the chief technology and strategy officer of Cisco Systems, meditates every night and spends her Saturdays doing a "digital detox." In her previous role as Cisco's head of engineering, Warrior oversaw 22,000 employees, and she<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/24/technology/silicon-valley-worries-about-addiction-to-devices.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0" target="_blank"> told the New York Times in 2012</a> that taking time to meditate and unplug helped her to manage it all. “It’s almost like a reboot for your brain and your soul,” <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/24/technology/silicon-valley-worries-about-addiction-to-devices.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0" target="_blank">she said</a>. “It makes me so much calmer when I’m responding to e-mails later.”
Tony Schwartz, Founder & CEO, The Energy Project
The Energy Project CEO Tony Schwartz has been meditating for over 20 years. He originally started the practice to quiet his busy mind, <a href="http://csp.org/practices/meditation/docs/schwartz-meditation.html" target="_blank">according to his book <em>What Really Matters: Searching for Wisdom in America</em></a>. Schwartz says that meditating has freed him from migraines and helped him develop patience, and he also advocates mindfulness as a way to improve work performance. "Maintaining a steady reservoir of energy -- physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually -- requires refueling it intermittently," <a href="http://blogs.hbr.org/schwartz/2011/12/how-to-accomplish-more-by-doin.html" target="_blank">Schwartz wrote in a Harvard Business Review blog</a>.
Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company
The Ford Motor Company chairman is a big proponent of meditation in the business world, <a href="http://www.inc.com/articles/201110/more-and-more-entrepreneurs-meditate-how-and-why-you-should-too.html" target="_blank">according to Inc. Magazine</a>. At<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soren-gordhamer/bill-ford-on-compassion-i_b_2781129.html" target="_blank"> this year's Wisdom 2.0 conference</a>, Ford was interviewed by leading American Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield. Ford<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soren-gordhamer/bill-ford-on-compassion-i_b_2781129.html" target="_blank"> told Kornfield</a> that during difficult times at the company, he set an intention every morning to go through his day with compassion. And to lead with compassion, Ford said he first learned to develop compassion for himself through a loving-kindness (<em>metta</em>) meditation practice.
Oprah Winfrey, Chairwoman & CEO, Harpo Productions, Inc.
An outspoken advocate of <a href="http://www.tm.org/" target="_blank">Transcendental Meditation</a>, Oprah -- recently <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/dorothypomerantz/2013/06/26/oprah-winfrey-regains-no-1-slot-on-forbes-2013-list-of-the-most-powerful-celebrities/" target="_blank">named</a> the most powerful celebrity of 2013 by Forbes -- has said she sits in stillness for 20 minutes, twice a day. She's also brought in TM teachers for employees at Harpo Productions, Inc. who want to learn how to meditate. After a meditation in Iowa last year, <a href="http://www.oprah.com/health/Oprah-on-Stillness-and-Meditation-Oprah-Visits-Fairfield-Iowa#ixzz2XoJNWPAR" target="_blank">Oprah said</a>, "I walked away feeling fuller than when I'd come in. Full of hope, a sense of contentment, and deep joy. Knowing for sure that even in the daily craziness that bombards us from every direction, there is -- still -- the constancy of stillness. Only from that space can you create your best work and your best life."
Larry Brilliant, CEO, Skoll Global Threats Fund
Larry Brilliant, CEO of the Skoll Global Threats Fund and former director of Google.org, spent two years during his 20s <a href="http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/commencement-2013-larry-brilliants-address/" target="_blank">living in a Himalayan ashram</a> and meditating, until his guru instructed him to join a World Health Organization team working to fight smallpox in New Delhi. In his <a href="http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/commencement-2013-larry-brilliants-address/" target="_blank">2013 commencement address</a> at the Harvard School of Public Health, Brilliant emphasized the importance of peace of mind, wishing the graduates lives full of equanimity -- a state of mental calm and composure.
Arianna Huffington, President & Editor-in-Chief, Huffington Post Media Group
In a <a href="http://www.vogue.com/magazine/article/arianna-huffington-the-connector/#1" target="_blank">2011 <em>Vogue </em>feature</a>, Huffington described early-morning yoga and meditation as two of her "joy triggers." Now, Huffington has brought meditation into her company, offering <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/media/2013/06/8530708/her-cooper-square-hq-arianna-huffington-goes-even-bigger-yoga-meditati" target="_blank">weekly classes</a> for AOL and Huffington Post employees. Huffington has spoken out on the benefits of mindfulness not just for individual health, but also for corporate bottom lines. "Stress-reduction and mindfulness don't just make us happier and healthier, they're a proven competitive advantage for any business that wants one," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/corporate-wellness_b_2903222.html" target="_blank">she wrote in a recent blog</a>.
Ray Dalio, Founder & Co-CIO, Bridgewater Associates USA
In a 2012 conversation at the John Main Centre for Meditation and Inter-Religious Dialogue at Georgetown University, Dalio <a href="http://vimeo.com/50999847" target="_blank">said</a> that meditation has opened his mind and boosted his mental clarity. "Meditation has given me centeredness and creativity," <a href="http://vimeo.com/50999847" target="_blank">said Dalio</a>. "It's also given me peace and health."
Robert Stiller, CEO, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc.
There is a dedicated <a href="http://www.gmcr.com/continuous-learning.html" target="_blank">meditation room</a> at the Vermont headquarters of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc., and CEO Robert Stiller himself is a devoted practitioner. "If you have a meditation practice, you can be much more effective in a meeting," <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aR2aP.X_Bflw" target="_blank">he told Bloomberg in 2008</a>. "Meditation helps develop your abilities to focus better and to accomplish your tasks."
Russell Simmons, Co-Founder, Def Jam Records; Founder of GlobalGrind.com
Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has long practiced Transcendental Meditation, speaking out about the benefits of the practice and sitting on the board of the advisors for the <a href="http://www.davidlynchfoundation.org/" target="_blank">David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace</a>. "You don't have to believe in meditation for it to work," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/russell-simmons/why-i-meditate_b_474689.html" target="_blank">Simmons wrote in a Huffington Post blog</a>. "You just have to take the time to do it. The old truth is still true today, 'God helps those who help themselves.' My advice? Meditate."