Andrew has the rare, and perhaps unique distinction of being a former Buddhist monk and a Wharton MBA. He has spent more than 10,000 hours in intensive mindfulness training and trained for more than 25 years, (eight years full-time) in monasteries and retreat centers throughout the world. Beyond that, he spent fifteen years working in private banking and wealth management at firms like Morgan Stanley, UBS, ANZ and Bank of Singapore. With this background, he is able to empower clients and colleagues with an approach to mindfulness that is deeply grounded in the reality of the business world. Andrew continues to develop his own mindfulness practice through regular periods of intensive silent retreat and through teaching at some of the world’s most innovative organizations.
Wharton Magazine Article (click to link)
DHAMMA MOMENTS; Where you least expect it
18 August 2006
What's one of the most interesting aspects of the Wharton School? Vipassana meditation
'At The Wharton School MBA Program, University of Pennsylvania, I learned many interesting things, but the one that I value the most was something I never imagined I would discover at one of the world's most respected business schools - recognised in particular for its hard-core financial prowess. That thing was meditation!"
The speaker was Matthew Chapple, the general manager of Mead Johnson, a major local consumer products company, itself part of a large international group. And the meditation thing he was talking about, and on which he would later expand with much enthusiasm, was Vipassana meditation.
The reputation for The Wharton School for most people is the effectiveness of its financial curriculum. In fact, I'm quite surprised to know that Vipassana meditation is available as part of the curricula of this most prestigious of business schools. If it was not for the recent occasion that I was invited to share my thoughts and experience with 400 of Mead Johnson's management and staff at a mid-year conference in Bangkok, I would not have discovered this knowledge.
With rising enthusiasm Matthew explained, "The school has a wonderful leadership programme under the guidance of Professor Michael Useem who is known for his innovative methods which, among other things, include taking a group of students to theHimalayas each year on a quest for personal awareness and self-discovery. The half day mindfulness course I attended was part of this programme.
"I went along suspecting that meditation might be something that could help me develop some genuine inner peace and calm to enable me to more adequately cope with the increasing pressure of corporate life and, more importantly, to be a good father and husband.
"The session I attended was led by young business graduate Andrew Scheffer who had earlier spent several years as a Theravada Buddhist monk. I was captivated from the very start of the session by the simple, practical idea that life should be lived 'in the present moment' rather than spent dwelling on the past or anticipating the future. Andrew led us through a basic mindfulness meditation technique and I experienced a rare sense of calm. I was hooked."
Here's another interesting account of the same programme:
"With self-awareness as its main theme, the event sought to develop new methods for participants to hone their inward focus in order to become more effective leaders. Meditation was the primary practical skill emphasised to develop self-awareness, the benefits of which - the ability to observe one's behaviour, recognise the impact of one's actions on others and reduce stress - strengthens a leader's abilities to motivate others and work with teams."
In his much appreciated keynote speech, Bill George addressed the current crisis in corporate leadership frankly, by drawing a connection to a lack of inner balance and well-defined values among the current vintage of senior leaders. Questioning the philosophy championed by Gordon Gecko, "greed is good," Bill George challenged the audience to examine their own motivations in the business world and develop long-term goals which do not segregate work and life into two exclusive categories. Bill also encouraged the audience to develop their own "authentic" leadership style as opposed to emulating the popularly touted styles of existing executives. He brought in several examples from his work and personal life to highlight the key messages and drive home various points. Bill closed by challenging the audience to be part of a new wave of corporate leadership to replace the current bankrupt generation.
"A new wave of corporate leadership." Now that's something this column would certainly encourage, providing such a new wave is driven by "hard-core" (as in fundamental) Buddhist principles based on the Five Precepts and motivated by Loving Kindness and Compassion.
Loving Kindness and Compassion in the cynical and sometimes brutal world of business where profit rules supreme and being ruthless is seen as the prerequisite for success? Yes, why not? Recent high profile scandals and corporate failures surely suggest that the "Nothing personal, it's only business," approach doesn't work. So it's great that some businessmen whose feet are already on the beckoning rungs of the corporate ladder should be encouraged to discover their "inner selves." It's even more important, though, that they do it for the right motives and not see their new found meditation skills as just another addition to their corporate success bag of tricks.
Here's what the Dalai Lama had to say recently to another group of business students as he urged them to avoid seeking happiness in wealth and power, and instead to have compassion and a wide perspective, for then "no matter what you are, rich or poor, it creates a very warm atmosphere."
One of the main problems in this world of 6 billion people, the Dalai Lama said, is the false concept that we are independent from one another.
"The concept of 'we' exists, so does the concept of the destruction of 'them,' the destruction of the other side," he said. "It is very important to promote that we are all from humanity. It is very important you make an effort to understand that your future depends on others; that the individual future depends on society." To find true happiness, one must have genuine compassion for "all creatures," and to see other human beings as "brothers and sisters," he said.
Matthew Chapple for one seems to understand the importance of getting it right.
"At our business here in Thailand we have begun in a small way with company assisted meditation retreats built into the personal development plans for some of our key talent. We also incorporate meditation into our team meetings as team building activities to help develop mindfulness and give people a taste for new techniques and tools that can help them in their business and personal lives.
"The principles align nicely with the type of business I want to be a part of and the way I want my team to operate. Things like compassion, perspective, concentration, focus, self awareness and steadiness are key tenets of truly great leadership and consistent with what the top business schools and leadership experts are teaching."
Here are a final few words of encouragement from His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Matthew Chapple and all those other potential students of meditation from the world of business.
"If humanity is to survive, happiness and inner balance are crucial. Otherwise the lives of our children and their children are more likely to be unhappy, desperate and short. Material development certainly contributes to happiness - to some extent - and a comfortable way of life. But this is not sufficient. To achieve a deeper level of happiness we cannot neglect our inner development."