There’s a reason that Bill Gates meditates 3 times a week, that Michael Jordan hired a personal meditation coach, and that Tim Ferris is a staunch believer in meditation. The reason is simple: meditation has the ability to improve your physical health and your work performance, even if you’re a complete beginner.
Let’s be honest, when you picture meditation, it’s probably someone sitting in the lotus position with chimes playing, incense burning, and endlessly repeating the word “om”. Even Rocketbook co-founder, Jake, shrugged meditation off as “hocus pocus and a waste of time”.
As it turns out, though, meditation does have a wide breadth of steadfast benefits.
Plus, meditation is super simple to do. There are many versions of meditation, but the most popular version is mindfulness meditation in which you simply focus on your breath. Basically, if you can breathe, you can meditate.
Yet, only 14% of people in the US meditate which begs the question: why aren’t more people meditating? Can heavy breathing for 10 minutes a day really boost productivity? Are chimes really not involved?!
To get to the bottom of these mysteries, we ran an experiment to monitor the meditation experience of a complete beginner. We recruited Jake (you might remember him as the guy that deemed meditation “hocus pocus”) and forced him to meditate twice a day for a week. Unsurprisingly, after just one week Jake’s perception of Daily Meditation has already started to change…
What were your expectations going into this trial period of forced daily meditation?
My expectations were low when I started. To be honest, I put meditation in the “waste of time” category- or not a waste of time, but just something to be used for relaxation and stress relief.
Have you tried meditating before?
Not in earnest. My only experience with meditation before was maybe listening to a podcast about it, and I was like “hmmm…that sounds like a waste of time”.
What method of meditation did you use for this experiment?
My limited understanding is that there’s a few different types of meditation, and the method I tried was mindfulness meditation. It essentially enables you to focus on clearing your mind and just being present. As opposed to other types of meditation where you chant things over and over, like I don’t know what that’s all about.
How did you learn about mindfulness meditation?
Joe [Rocketbook’s CEO] actually gave me a pretty good five-minute overview. He explained that mindfulness meditation is super simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Another big thing was that he also recommended the book “Wherever You Go, There You Are” by Kabat-Zinn, which explains why you should meditate and the benefits of it. It’s also a great audiobook too because there’s chimes and things like that in the background.
What are some of the benefits they list in the book?
There are some hokey things in there like “find your inner mountain”, but there’s some really insightful quotes in there too. One message that really resonated with me was the idea that “sometimes to get somewhere, you need to let go of being anywhere at all”. I liked that because the act of trying to clear your mind shoos away all of the bullshit that’s cluttering your mind. It’s like in school when you take a break from trying to do a math problem, which seems counterintuitive, but you’d walk around the library, come back and realize “oh, that’s how I solve this problem.’’ That’s the productivity angle of it that surprised me: that it can actually be used for problem-solving.
What benefits did you discover from meditating? Did it impact other parts of your day/life?
For me, it was great as a focus mechanism in terms of giving your mind a break and coming back fresh. The perfect analogy is comparing my mind to Netflix in that I’m always trying to fast-forward and rewind to find the spot where I left off. And that can be work or home stuff, like “I need to make a doctors appointment”, “I forgot to send that email”, “I should’ve said this in that argument” and I kind of just float around the past and future. Even right now I’m thinking about a million things, like I’m talking about the podcast in the past and thinking about how you’ve got to write this up in the future. So even though I think I can juggle 18 things in my head, I realized the value of pressing the play button for a while and just being present.
I also liked using it as a threshold for splitting my day between work and home. I have a kid at home, and everyone’s got family stuff going on, so by doing it right when I get to work, it acts as a threshold.
Any re-occurring thoughts? Difficulties? Stresses that kept popping up?
The hardest part and thought that kept coming back is just “oh this is great, I can’t believe I’m meditating”, but of course as soon as you think that you’re no longer doing it.
You’ve previously called meditation “hocus pocus”. Now that you’ve tried it out, do you feel it increased your productivity?
I do. Really, I would definitely say it increased my productivity because it helps you focus on the things you need to chip away at as opposed to flailing wildly.
Now that the experiment is over, do you think you’ll continue meditating once a day, or even once a week?
Yes, I’ll definitely keep doing it. I think the biggest thing will be finding the right time and for me which is probably the morning because no one’s around to watch.
[Note: after checking in with Jake one week after this interview, he has in fact continued meditating daily.]
Any advice for someone who’s interested in trying to meditate, but who’s hesitant like you were?
The most important thing for someone starting out to understand is how brain-dead simple it is to do. That’s what I didn’t understand because I was intimidated, but under the surface all you need to start is to have eyelids. The other helpful thing was the Kabat-Zinn book to explain to you why it’s worth doing.
Jake self-experimented with Daily Meditation as a part of The Betterment Experiment, Rocketbook’s podcast where co-founders Joe and Jake test out a different extreme life hack every episode and share their findings.
Hear more about how Joe and Jake’s experience with meditation and learn how it surprisingly affected their parenting skills, by listening to The Betterment Experiment podcast anywhere you get your podcasts.
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