Choosing the Warrior’s Path with Jeremy Hunter, PhD

1 Nov , 2021 podcasts

Choosing the Warrior’s Path with Jeremy Hunter, PhD

Warriors Path


To take the warrior’s path is to learn from your shortcomings. You have to look inside yourself and embrace your inner trauma and pain. It’s not easy to do, but it is the best way to achieve personal development. Join Katherine Twells as she talks to Jeremy Hunter about his warrior’s journey. Jeremy is the Founding Director of the Executive Mind Leadership Institute and an Associate Professor of Practice at the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management. Discover how Jeremy dealt with his inner struggles to solve his external problems. He has gone through so many challenges. Be inspired to that take the warrior’s path today!

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Choosing the Warrior’s Path with Jeremy Hunter, PhD

Changing The World By Changing Yourself

In this episode, we are talking about the warrior’s path. This show is fundamentally about leadership and our connections with each other. As we think about that, the choices that we make affect each other. As each of us strives to learn, grow and evolve, we elevate the whole. My guest is going to talk a bit about that and how our inner work can transform our outer world. Jeremy Hunter is not only an amazing human but a true pioneer and living example of the power of conscious leadership.

He is a global authority on mindfulness and leadership. Also, interestingly enough, the great-grandson of a sumo wrestler. He serves as the Founding Director of the Executive Mind Leadership Institute, as well as Associate Professor of Practice at the Peter Drucker Graduate School of Management. He leads the Mindfulness for Effective Leadership Certificate for the Weatherhead School of Management’s Executive Education Program. He is the Cofounder and Partner of Transform LLC in Tokyo, Japan.

It has been many years that Jeremy has been doing this work. He has worked with countless leaders to develop themselves while still retaining their humanity in the face of monumental change and challenge and that is certainly true for all of us now. He is primarily concerned with the quality of human experience and how to live a meaningful, engaged and effective life. He has worked with so many organizations that aspire to greatness. He has designed and led leadership development programs for the Fortune 200 aerospace organizations, Fortune 50 banking and finance, as well as the arts and civic nonprofits. This type of work transcends all domains.

These programs have led to both positive professional, personal and financial outcomes for all involved. He has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, the Financial Times, the LA Times and NPR’s Morning Edition. Something you’ll read us talk about is that his work is informed by his own experience of living day-to-day for seventeen years with a potentially terminal illness. When faced with the need for life-saving surgery, more than a dozen of his former students came forward as organ donors and that says a lot about who he is.

He also hosts the podcast Untaught Essentials and is co-author of Transform Your Results: The Drucker School Self-Management Class. His PhD is from the University of Chicago and he also holds degrees from Harvard University and Wittenberg University. Jeremy is truly a transformative person who is passionately dedicated to being in service to others to help us all slow down, look inside, think about how we’re moving in this new world we’re creating and join together to make a meaningful difference. Without any further ado, I hope you’ll enjoy my conversation with the amazing Jeremy Hunter.

Jeremy, welcome to the show. It is such a pleasure to have you with me.

Thank you, Kathy. It’s good to be here.

The reality that you see in front of you isn't all there is. There's always more. Share on X

Jeremy’s Origin Story

There’s so much to talk about. I don’t think we’re going to have time to do it justice, so we’re going to dig in because we got some good stuff to go through. Before we dig into the passion of your work now and what you do, we want to know where it all began. We want to know a little bit about the origin. I always start this show with the origin story because that makes us who we are. Can you share a little bit about how it all began for you?

There are a couple of different entryways. First, I’m half Japanese. My great-grandfather was a sumo wrestler. I’m trying desperately not for his body to become mine. I grew up in a small town in rural Ohio. I have been going back and forth between these two very different cultures all my life. I can remember being five years old and realizing that people in this place cared about and thought about and made central to their lives things that people in the other place had never even heard of. It was like, “They’re different worlds we live in.” That set in motion the realization that the reality that you see in front of you isn’t all there is and that there’s always more.

Going to school, finishing my second year of college and going to the health fair for whatever reason, I thought, “I’ll go to the health fair and have my blood pressure checked.” I’m watching the school nurse check my blood pressure and then I see both her eyebrows go up fast. That’s not a good sign. I thought, “What’s happening?” Six weeks later, I’m on a doctor’s table at the Cleveland Clinic. He was telling me that I have this incurable autoimmune disease attacking my kidneys and that the prognosis is a 90% chance of organ failure within five years.

There’s something about that moment where you realize this life you have been living has now taken a dramatic turn towards a terrifying unknown. At the same time, I can remember leaving the hospital with my father and looking up at him and saying, “Dad, I guess a 90% chance is good news because somebody has got to be in the 10%.” I decided I was going to be in the 10%. I had this very naive notion that somehow because, at that time and still even, the medical treatment couldn’t help me that maybe I could turn it into a spiritual challenge.

In those days, Joseph Campbell’s mini-series The Power of Myth that he made with Bill Moyers was the PBS fund drive special. I watched it 5,000 times. I didn’t know what any of it meant, but I realized I had some intuition that this idea that the hero’s journey or hero’s adventure applied to me and that I could see this health diagnosis as not just a medical fact but an internal challenge that it was asking me to learn something about myself that I didn’t know.

I approached it from that point of view. It forced me to work with and better understand what was happening inside me and all the fear and anger. How was I living my life in this Type A, overachieving, maniacal way that was stressing my body out so much that it wanted to destroy itself? I had been the president of my class three years in a row. I was the editor of the newspaper. I had done so much stuff and there was so much activity. At some level, I burned myself out and my body was signaling that. Seeing this as an internal challenge gave me something to do. I went back to school.

I went to a wonderful little private liberal arts college in Southern Ohio called Wittenberg University, where I was an East Asian Studies major because I wanted to know more about Japanese culture. I was having a conversation with one of my professors, who is still, many years later, a good friend of mine. He was a professor of Japanese Religion. He pulls out from his desk. I tell him, “What’s going on?” He reaches into his desk and pulls out this book, The Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau, which was the first book in English to teach Westerners how to do Zen practices.

It’s important for readers to know that in Japan, Zen didn’t come from California. It was the warrior’s practice, not some loosey-goosey thing. Why it was so attractive to the warrior class was that part of it was that it cultivated this intense presence and focus in the face of mortal threat. That’s what I needed. These practices gave me something to do with my mind with all the fear, rage and anger because I was twenty years old and I hadn’t made my life yet. I could have very easily gone down an angry path and it would have been totally understandable.

Warriors Path

Warriors Path: What’s happening to you inside impacts how you see and make sense of what’s happening outside.


I think I knew that I could do better than that, at least out of respect to my parents, that I wasn’t going to throw my life away, that it gave me a place to put my energy and focus to build a life, however short that might have been. In fact, one of my personal rules is that, “Attention needs somewhere good to go.” You need to be able to focus your attention on what’s life-giving, energizing and growth-oriented in order to create a life and so I did.

I ended up living another seventeen years after that. I went on all kinds of journeys to Asia. I studied Buddhism in Burma. Eventually, I got a misguided degree in Public Policy from Harvard, which was a two-year waste of time. My mother got the diploma. It’s hanging on her wall, so it’s okay. I ended up at the University of Chicago working with a man named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who at that time was one of the few social scientists in America that were interested in what the good life was and talking about flow. What he was talking about in Flow, “In order to have the flow experience, you needed to be able to control your attention.”

I had been practicing that for nearly a decade and I realized that’s what kept me alive, was my capacity to control my attention and focus it in places that were life-giving. At some point, I had wanted to become an urban planner, which is why I went to Harvard and I realized, “I was much more interested in the inner environment. Making a city that’s livable is interesting, but it’s more interesting to me of how do I transform my inner environment because that I can control. I can’t control what building gets put up over here, but I can control to some degree what’s happening inside.”

In Chicago, which is where Csikszentmihalyi was at that time, we got a grant in the late 1990s to study “successful professionals” who are also long-term mindfulness practitioners. At that time, it was a different world and to tell people that you were a meditator was like telling people you were a leper. People kept that very quiet. Through the good graces of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, which still exists, at that time, founded and led by Mirabai Bush, who is a fantastic human being, we found these people.

They were CEOs, world-famous architects and travel writers. They were also therapists, college administrators and people who were living a quiet but successful life from everywhere. I would ask them the question, “What do you think your life would be like if you didn’t have this practice?” Without hesitation, a third of them said, “That’s easy. I would be dead.” Sometimes they meant it literally like, “Here’s my medical profile. I had emotional habits and dietary habits that were killing me. I’m sure I would have been dead by 50.”

Some people talked about it metaphorically like, “I was living a cardboard life. I was living the life that I thought my parents wanted me to live. I had two cars in the driveway and a nice house in the suburbs.” At some point, one day, I can remember this fellow saying, “I woke up and I realized I hated all of this. This wasn’t me and it’s not what I wanted.” That’s what started him on his own journey of exploration. I realized at some point, “This shouldn’t be just confined to a meditation center, temple or something like that. Everybody should know this.”

At that point, we had moved from Chicago to the Drucker School of Management. As you well know, Peter Drucker is considered to be the founding father of the Discipline of Management. He also collected Japanese paintings and had a very intimate relationship with Japan. He collected Japanese Zen ink brush paintings. He had certainly this awareness of the inner life. In fact, he talked about, “Managers can’t manage anything if they can’t manage themselves first.” I read that and thought, “That’s exactly what management schools don’t do. We teach managers to manage everything but themselves.”

Making Mindfulness Practice A Part Of The Curriculum

Even before that, in the school system, where it’s like, “How do we teach kids?” I think about my adolescent teens like, “How do I teach them how to understand this world and make sense of it?” We teach the IQ and not so much the EQ.

The inner world is a mystery to a lot of us. What I realized is that this should be part of any curriculum. You need to know how your insides work because what’s happening to you inside directly impacts how you see and make sense of what’s happening outside and then how you take action on it and then eventually the result you get. If you’re making decisions out of fear, anger and frustration, first of all, that’s going to narrow your point of view about what’s possible because we know that if you are locked in a state of survival reaction, your perception and creativity narrows. You don’t usually end up making a good decision.

Attention needs somewhere good to go. You need to be able to focus your attention on what's life-giving to create a life. Share on X

How even at that point do you manage that moment? Later, especially in a world that is changing so quickly and as intensely as ours is, how do you generate options that aren’t the ones you’ve always done? That’s something we don’t necessarily teach people. That ended up becoming my career. Now, all Drucker students get some exposure to mindfulness practice as part of their first year. I’m sure we are the only business school or the school of management in North America that has that as a feature.

When you say that, it is astonishing. When you think about the fact that the research, neuroscience and understanding of the impact on business have been out there for many years. This is not a revelation of the last couple of years. The fact that it’s not embedded in management and leadership is so surprising to me.

I don’t think there are more than a handful of places around the country that do this. Case Western is another one that’s very rare. It’s a special place like the Drucker School. It shows you how out of step most business schools are in the world. Why shouldn’t everybody learn how to do this? It’s not like we don’t know, as you say. With the crises of 2008 and then our most recent one, learning how to manage your mind sometimes is the only choice you have. For me, an illness was the only thing I could do. The treatments that doctors had were not effective. In fact, they would have made things worse. Sometimes when you are pushed against a wall, the only thing you have is your own mind. That is something we need to teach people how to do.

This is interesting as I have been listening to the origin story. It’s a remarkable one, everything that you’ve experienced. Even when you think about the dynamic of these two different worlds, the Japanese heritage and small-town Ohio, how in this place in the universe does Jeremy Hunter end up in this place to shape who he is to become? For most people, if they heard, “You’re going to find out you have this rare and deadly autoimmune disorder and you’re twenty years old. Let’s do a life plan for you. Would you like that to happen at twenty?”

What Do I Want Right Now?”

My guess is 98% of us would say, “No. I don’t want that,” but look what these things do. I had my health scare at 29 and as I think about the trajectory of my life from that. If it hadn’t have happened and it hadn’t had forced your hand to go on the warrior’s path, you did accept the call and go on the warrior’s path. Look at the beautiful things that those seeds have created. It’s such an interesting thing that we almost have to die to ourselves or this false expectation of what life is supposed to be to uncover so much more about it.

It’s a strange fact of life. I think about it a lot like, “Who would I have been if I had done this?” I probably would have been some bitter professor of History at a small college in Massachusetts somewhere, but it’s true. I think about that a lot, especially the point about having it happen so young because the benefit of that is that it takes a lot of extraneous things off the table. You have to get clear and fast about what’s important to you. It creates very consciously this awareness that time is limited and what you’re going to invest your attention and energy into matters.

In our house, we don’t waste time with trivia in a way, at least in our relationships with one another and what we do every day. It’s very deliberate and enjoyable. We understand life is precious. That’s the lesson we probably all have gotten as a world, “Life is precious and the clock is ticking. What are you going to do with it?”

You start to see when people leave their jobs in droves and they realize, “What I’m doing here in this place with these people is not rewarding to me. I’m going to go find something else.” That’s a signal that people have woken up to the fact that, “How I was living my life to this point is not incredibly satisfying to me and I want something else.”

Warriors Path

Warriors Path: Meditation is good, but you can also use the craziness of your life as a place for you to practice. It’s much more powerful to watch your mind in action.


Let me ask you this because I find this fascinating. Both in my own experience, because I remember when I was recovering from my illness, I remember having a distinct thought. I was in a car and I would look around on the other cars and go, “All these people are normal. I have this thing and I’m not normal,” which is hilarious. There is no normal, but I remember saying, “If I could feel okay, I won’t want anything ever again. I want to feel okay. That was my hierarchy of needs. It’s all I wanted.”

What do you think happens? You start to feel okay. All of a sudden, there’s a new problem. You move up the hierarchy. There’s some other thing or I see this happen in business. People get burned out and something happens. They might have a health issue or relationship issue, something that creates a breakdown.

They move through that crisis. When they stabilize again, they start veering back to some of those old grooves. They’ve learned this, but then all of a sudden, “Now, I’m starting to get busy again and do those things again.” So much of this is a practice. Even in meditation, you lose your focus your distraction. You got to come back. It’s almost like we just have to keep coming back to what matters because it’s very easy to get lost.

Asking yourself, “What do I want right now?” Part of my work is not teaching people right away to meditate because nobody wants to do that, but rather what I do is help people use the craziness of their life as the place for them to practice. I’m not denigrating meditation. I’m just saying, don’t start with it.

I’m like, “I did an interview with a renowned mindfulness teacher who said no to meditation.”

Let’s be clear. Before you write your letters, I’m not saying that, but rather I found that it’s much more powerful to watch your mind in action. It’s like your kid does something and then you’re about to yell and you think, “Is this what I want to do right now?” Something happens in the meeting and anger and frustration move through the room. That’s the moment like, “What do you want to do right now?” That, to me, is a way more powerful mode of working with these practices than going off and sitting somewhere. After a while, you start to see the relevance of it. That builds the motivation on, “How do I go deeper?” One way you go deeper is to have a meditation practice.

When you’re in traffic, I’m thinking about one of my clients. She has a blended family. She is driving the minivan down the 101 and five kids in the back of the minivan and it’s traffic. She looks up in the rearview mirror and realizes she can’t see out because one of them has taken their peanut butter and jelly sandwich and smeared it across the back window. You’re on your family vacation. At that moment, what are you going to do? Are you going to get angry? There goes the fun atmosphere of your family vacation or what?

She said, “I thought about our conversation. I looked up and saw this peanut butter and grape jelly smeared in the back room and the only thing I could do was start laughing. I know that there’s some alternate universe where I didn’t do that. I got angry and yelled at all the kids and the atmosphere really ended.” To me, those are the moments that are the interesting ones to work with and you start to see your mind in action.

Sometimes when you are pushed against a wall, the only thing you have is your own mind. Share on X

Those are the moments that end up in therapy years later when the wrong thing happened. We’re that upset parent who was stressed out, maybe from work or nothing says something at the moment without thinking to their child that is forever in that child. It’s amazing. I also think about, as you’re talking about this, like the people, “I go to church every Sunday.” They leave the church and they’re horrific to everybody.

How are we living every moment, which is never perfection? Because even when you do lose it, because sometimes we’re human, we’re creatures of emotion and there will be times that we don’t keep it together. Even observing that like, “What just happened?” That’s a moment to look inside and go, “What’s happening with me?”

Dealing With Others, Yourself, And Challenges

Everyone has been talking about Ted Lasso. It’s a big TV show. He had that big scene with Nate. For anyone who doesn’t see it, it was a big conflict scene. He goes, “What do I need to learn here?” When we continue to say, “I’m learning,” we’re a bit more self-compassionate when we fail because the warrior’s path is not, “I’ve got it all figured out. I’m a master and I don’t ever fall.” It’s using the falls to advance.

It’s a way of refining your mind. I like this idea of what you say about the warrior’s path. One of the things that drive me nuts is the phrase, soft skills. I think, “Come on.” First of all, a computer can now do all the “hard skills.” There are what I call the harder skills, which is like, “How do you deal with other human beings and yourself?” That’s harder. Why do we as a culture denigrate that? Usually, it’s denigrated by people who don’t have them, I’ve noticed because they’re the most essential skills we need to have to navigate our own lives and one another.

Another thing you mentioned is the idea of being visited regularly by a challenge. One of the things is you start to be sure of the things you know. One of the things that I’m sure that I know is that challenge is good. As you mentioned, having illness early gives you a sense of the reality of what life is. It helps you clarify what’s important but also the necessary role that challenges play in life.

Many of us want to have an easy life and I realize that’s not always such a desirable thing. The challenges are what provoke us into the next stage of our development if we navigate it well. I have a whole course on that like, “How do you navigate these challenges? What are the steps you need to take?” When challenges come, what’s the mind that we bring to it? Is it fear and resistance? Which it probably will be and after we get through that, now what do we do?

Oftentimes, it means looking at how things are going and asking, “What am I going to let go of? What belief, habit or way of being in the world am I going to let go of so that I can figure out what the next thing is?” If we do that well, there’s a regular upturning or a regular up-spiraling where the next version of us gets more sophisticated.

We get more complex as time goes on and that’s how we develop as humans, which isn’t always a given because adults don’t necessarily want to do that. Especially in this time and going forward, learning how to let go of what is not working so that you can be better prepared to meet the needs of what life is serving up to you at this moment is an absolutely necessary skill.

Warriors Path

Warriors Path: It is your responsibility, as a leader, to have an honest look at yourself. What is the pain inside of you that you are trying to avoid?


It almost feels like that the first part of our life, we keep accumulating knowledge, things and status. We reached this point where we want to start releasing that, letting go of who we think we are from identity and surrendering to the changes that are happening to us. Ideally, that happens throughout all of our life. If you do get interrupted, as we’ve been talking about, it was something quite dramatic, a plot twist that’s quite dangerous like health issues young, then you’re forced into that surrender narrative a lot sooner, but for some of us, not so much.

We keep talking about the warrior’s path because to be with yourself in the silence or as the witness takes a lot of courage. I can sit down with a glass of wine, binge-watch Netflix and feel good because, let’s face it, sometimes we just don’t want to go there. As I look around the world, you mentioned 2008. Clearly, in this pandemic, there have been all these stages that we’ve been going through from initially adapting.

We have social justice. There are very emotional dynamics happening with that and prolonged issues with the pandemic. Now, we’ve got political lines. We have finger-pointing. We have different stories and narratives. This has always been important but why would you say to everyone in this conversation, “This work is more important now than ever?”

What I have observed is that the leader’s blind spot, like the part of themselves they are not willing to look at, will almost always manifest itself as a management problem. I used to be much more timid about talking about it. This is what’s happening. It’s our responsibility as leaders to have an honest look at ourselves, “What is the pain inside that we are trying to avoid?” That avoidance takes on any number of different outward behaviors like seeking status and wanting attention.

I know a leader who dealt with profound issues of self-worth and would plunge their organization into doing these projects that would create enormous chaos. The hope was that if we could create some new thing like, “Look at what I have done,” and get attention, it was coming out of this person’s need for some kind of affirmation. To me, it was as clear as day. I was like, “Why don’t you take care of the affirmation of what is unrepaired in yourself so that you don’t regularly plunge the organization into these things that it doesn’t have the capacity to do?”

There’s always a relationship between what is going on inside you and how it is expressed outside you. That’s something we don’t teach people. The hopeful sign is that you can do this. After you do this process of looking at what pain inside you is not yet repaired like, “What trauma is yet unhealed? What do you need to take care of inside your own house?” The positive aspect of that is then you become capable of doing things you couldn’t have imagined before.

That’s the bargain that gets made. You feel a little pain upfront. The return on the other side is a sense of renewal, rebirth or stepping into a higher order of operation that, as a culture, we don’t talk about, but that’s the reality. That’s the whole meaning of this hero’s adventure. It’s about the hero at the end of it is capable of doing something that the hero at the beginning of it wasn’t capable of doing. In this particular time where the challenges are so multifaceted and intense, that is what is being asked of us.

It’s a very powerful conversation. This has played out in the movies. We see the hero’s journey where the hero, you think they’re dead and gone. Somehow, they come back and transform because it’s a story of transformation, which is an individual process, but it’s a collective process because we’re all doing this together and bumping into each other together.

Challenges are what provoke you into the next stage of your development. Share on X

In leadership, if you’re doing this work, the ripple effect you have. You mentioned the organization that was a projection of this leader’s inner self-worth. It’s affecting all of those people. If that leader shifts, everything changes, which is amazing. I know you not only are passionate about this conversation, but you keep creating and putting tools in the world around this. I know that you created the Executive Mind Leadership Institute. I want to read the vision to that because it shares what we’ve been talking about.

Manifesting The Warrior’s Path

The vision is, “To live in a world where it is taken for granted that leaders continually develop and refine their inner qualities to better manage their outer challenges. Such leaders live generative lives of meaning and purpose while supporting the growth of others and the well-being of society.” That says everything. There’s so much there because it talks about the seed of this work of this warrior’s path and what can be generated the more people that do it. How can we manifest this quicker, do more and create this sense of passion towards this path in more people?

Joseph Campbell had a saying, “Vital people vitalize.” You have this amazing story as well. Look at what you’re doing. You’re doing this show, which then allows these ideas to reach a wider audience. It’s a perfect example. When you’re living from this place of growth orientation rather than in defense and protection, then other people feed off of that energy in a good way that such a person inspires others to do the same. Like fire, it spreads.

How do you do that? One is asking, “Let’s start it from a positive direction. What are the things that you love? What are the things that give you energy? What are the things that are nourishing and nurturing to you? How do you have a regular relationship with that, so you don’t fall into these cycles of depletion?” I’m working with a law firm that practices in a difficult and painful aspect of law.

Early on, it became clear to me that all of these attorneys are deeply traumatized. Before we start with any kind of “management training,” what we started with is, “What I want you to do is attune yourselves to what is good in your world,” because they see so much ugliness and pain that the risk to themselves is that they fall down into that hole.

In order to counter that, we do practices like, “Find what’s beautiful in your environment and spend time with that so that your nervous system can experience something else besides the pain that you have chosen professionally to engage with and help.” All of these people are beautiful humans. They’ve dedicated themselves to helping. They don’t need to sacrifice themselves to that.

That’s where we started. One is grounding and rooting yourself in the goodness of your life, which is always there. In my journey of illness, there were times when it was objective hopeless. If you looked at all of the lab results, it’s like, “Where is the hope in the story?” The hope in the story is something I had to go find and look for.

I suggest starting there and deeply appreciating what is good and beautiful, making a list of all the people in your life who have supported you in some way and understand that you have these resources available to you. That adds fuel to the tank. From there, ask yourself, “What are the things that I know that I’m not looking at?” I had a student, in the twenty-plus years of teaching, who most resembled an action hero. He is a good-looking guy. It’s like, “You’re an action figure somewhere, right?”

Warriors Path

Warriors Path: Attune yourself to what is good in your world. So many people see the ugliness in pain that they risk falling down into that hole.


In our conversations, it was revealed that as a child, he was abused by his father. This is a guy’s guy. He wasn’t going to show up on a therapist’s couch somewhere. We had a heart-to-heart about it. I said, “How do you think that experience shows up both in the management of the company you own and in your family?” He said, “I realized I can’t stop ignoring this.” I hooked him up with somebody, an effective person who is skilled at healing this kind of trauma.

He did the work. It was amazing to see him face the stuff that he had been carrying around since a small boy and the shift that happened in him. He lost bitterness, resentment, anger and the sense of being put upon by some of his clients who were difficult people. His own natural goodness stepped forward. It was a transformation and a beautiful thing to watch. That’s the journey all of us, in a way, need to go down.

Sometimes it’s in small ways. It’s very easy if you’re reading this to say, “That’s a lot. I don’t have the time or maybe I’m not ready.” It can be small. You can start small and do little things. You mentioned the spiral because there isn’t such a thing like, “I do this work. I’m done. Here we go. I checked the box. I got my Girl Scout or Boy Scout badge and life is good.” The spiraling process is a new understanding that lifts us. Oftentimes, we step back because something happens to challenge us again.

It’s All About The Journey

We talked about this continuation of the challenge. All of a sudden, we thought, “I thought I worked on that. Maybe not so much. Let’s cycle around again,” but every time we cycle, we learn more, grow more and go deeper. We don’t always feel like we’re elevating, but we are because we’re doing it through the journey. It’s all about the journey. What would you say to someone reading that says, “I don’t think I can, I don’t have the time or I don’t know where to start?”

First of all, you can do it. If I can do it, anybody can do it. That’s the other thing. It’s important to know I’m not naturally good at any of the things I had to learn. I had to learn it. It was killing me. I was so bad at it, honestly. That’s one thing I want to say. The second is, if you have trauma in your life, my wholehearted suggestion is to find a somatically oriented trauma therapist. If you want one, write me. I’ve got a bunch because you need to find a good person.

Talking about trauma does not heal it. What needs to happen is the person needs to release from their body the places where the trauma is stuck. That’s what is effective. There are all kinds of different schools that can do this, but somatic experiencing is one thing, which you can look up online. A somatically informed trauma therapist would be a good place to start.

Somatics, in general, I find this very interesting, especially in the world of business and certainly in the US. There are people that read this globally, but in the US, we have this frame of values of achievement, work, move and go. Sometimes we can be very much in our heads. We walk around. We’re analyzing. It’s the voice in our head. It’s problem-solving. It’s the to-do list.

It’s revisiting the argument yesterday or worrying about what’s going to happen tomorrow and it’s a flurry. Often, what does happen is our body is the one to say, “This is not working.” Something slows us down, but there’s so much wisdom if we can learn to listen to what our bodies are telling us and we operate as a whole being in that. Whether it’s specifically to trauma or understanding your own triggers, that somatic work is so valuable.

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I teach a class in Japan to Japanese social entrepreneurs. In the class, there were about twenty people, with three young women probably in their mid-twenties. Each of them had a hard time making a decision about something. When I asked them, “What if you ask your body what it feels?” None of them could give an answer. I realized they live separate from their body. Because they live separate from their body, their body can’t give them a gut response because they can’t hear it.

It made me realize how oftentimes young people, but especially women, are separated from what their bodies are telling them. In that process, they’re separated from their own innate power and wisdom. Right then and there, we set up a yoga class just for the three of them to be able to reconnect to the thing that’s carrying them around in the world.

Heavy baggage is not good to carry that around. We think about how it is if you were to physically be carrying some rock around all day long. It’s like, “Why are you carrying around that rock?” Energetically, we do the same thing. Why this conversation is so powerful in the business domain is this show is about leadership and connection.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through my own leadership journey and certainly in these conversations, is all of these conversations are a human conversation. Humans run the business. There may be lots of computers and the company name and you mentioned computers could do a lot, but humans have this ability to have empathy, feel, imagine and create. We have these superpowers as humans.

In the business domain, these conversations we’re having about taking this journey, doing this work, opening up and unlocking, there’s so much more power and beauty within our work. I know we share the passion that this should be continued in the business domain because we live so much of our lives there in our work.

Ideally, it’s a source of fulfillment and energy when it happens well. The pandemic has done something and people are turning towards their own need for well-being in a way that wasn’t true before. I know myself. I don’t want to have the lifestyle I had before in January of 2020 for 3 or 4 consecutive years of 100,000 flight miles. At some level, that wasn’t enjoyable. The best organizations will capitalize on this in a very positive way, but you’ll see people wanting to rewrite the rules of how they work together.

I hope they do because I mentioned before that slow inertia back into old grooves. I even think about seeing in my sphere, company and health, “We’re back.” Everyone is starting to migrate back to that same pace that we had. It’s an interesting time of observation because you mentioned people are leaving jobs. I had a conversation with one of my leaders about how much he used to love travel and now he feels so differently. I call it dynamic when she says, “Something has crossed over me and I can’t go back.” You have those moments where you’re like, “I don’t know. Something has changed.”

It’s going to be very interesting. We’re in a time of huge transformation because the pandemic and all of its challenges, stress and difficulty have also forced a little bit of this hero’s journey into all of us and created some revelations. We will now invent from here. People call it the new normal. As I said, there is no normal, but how are we going to create a more beautiful world?

Warriors Path

Warriors Path: Talking about trauma does not heal it. The person needs to release the places in their body where the trauma is stuck.


Where To Start

That’s up to all of us, whether it’s environmentally with the planet, with each other, with our ability to come together in unity versus judgment. It’s a critical time for us to do this. As people are reading this and hopefully saying, “I see why I maybe need to do more of this,” where could people start? What are some resources that they could go to if they want to get deeper here?

There are a couple of things. First, I developed a talk/workshop/course, depending on the needs, to help organizations have these conversations. We don’t necessarily know how to navigate transitions well. I developed some processes to help organizations have these conversations inside themselves, which I’m glad to talk about. If you want, they’re all kinds of things.

I lead a Mindfulness For Effective Leadership Certificate at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western, which we offer every year. It’s about how do you apply these in a very practical way to your environment. I have a SoundCloud account if you want some guided practices. I have a podcast called Untaught Essentials, which is about all the things you need to know about being a leader that you were never taught in school.

If you want to come to the Drucker School, please feel free. If you own a family business, we have the Global Family Business Institute that will give you this kind of training. There are a lot of different ways and then also my website. Feel free to link in with me and or send me a note. [email protected] is the easiest way to get ahold of me.

It’s a very exciting time we’re living in and that there are a lot of possibilities. There’s always the reality that you see on the headlines and then there’s the reality that you don’t see on the headlines. There are a lot of things happening, especially in the world of business around transformation, climate and the creation of more ecologically sound ways of doing business. You won’t see them on the front page, but understand that it’s also a reality.

My own personal rule is, “Attention needs somewhere good to go. Focusing attention on what is good in your life gives you the energy to create the next step.” Oftentimes, you don’t do it alone. You have to do it in concert with other people who are doing it and they’re around. We could talk for another three days, I’m sure. You’re such a fantastic interviewer. I have to say, you’re top-class. This was an enjoyable conversation to have.

It’s a shared passion. Your level of generosity of resources and living your passion for sharing this work is so evident in everything that you do. I hope that people will engage in whatever way that makes sense for them. I want to thank you for being a model for leaders and for being someone who is transforming things purely by who you are and your essence. Thank you for spending the time with me and for all that you are.

Thanks, Kathy. It was a pleasure.

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About Jeremy Hunter

Jeremy Hunter, PhD is a global authority on mindfulness and leadership as well as the great-grandson of a sumo wrestler.
He serves as the Founding Director of the Executive Mind Leadership Institute as well as Associate Professor of Practice at the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management. He leads the Mindfulness and Effective Leadership certificate for the Weatherhead School of Management’s Executive Education Program and is also co-founder and partner of Transform LLC in Tokyo, Japan.

For nearly two decades, he has helped leaders develop themselves while retaining their humanity in the face of monumental change and challenge. He is primarily concerned with the quality of human experience and how to live a meaningful, engaged and effective life.
He works with healthy companies that aspire to greatness. He has designed and led leadership development programs for a wide variety of organizations, including Fortune 200 aerospace, Fortune 50 banking and finance, the arts and civic non-profits. Program impacts have led to both positive professional, personal and financial outcomes for participants.
Hunter has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, The Financial Times, the Los Angeles Times and National Public Radio’s Morning Edition.
His work is informed by the experience of living day-to-day for 17 years with a potentially terminal illness. When faced with the need for life-saving surgery more than a dozen former students came forward as organ donors.

He hosts the podcast Untaught Essentials and is co-author of Transform Your Results: The Drucker School’s Self-Management Class.”
Dr. Hunter received his Ph.D. from University of Chicago. He also holds degrees from Harvard University and Wittenberg University.

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