Mindful Leadership: Byron Kan Shares his SIY Experience

September 20, 2018

Are you curious about what it’s like to participate in a Search Inside Yourself program? Thanks to one of our partners—Octave, an organization with a network of wellness centers throughout China—here’s your opportunity to hear about SIY firsthand. Octave interviewed SIY participant Byron Kan, the general manager of Shanghai Centre, a multi-use complex comprised of the Portman Ritz-Carlton Hotel, a world-class 1,000-seat performance theater, premium office space, Shanghai’s largest luxury-serviced apartments, a modern retail plaza and more. Under Kan’s 17-year tenure, the complex has become one of the most visited destinations in Shanghai.

Kan took part in last year’s two-day Search Inside Yourself program at the Living Room by Octave and shared his thoughts about the program:

What compelled you to take Search Inside Yourself 2-day workshop in the first place?
Like most business professionals, I focus way too much on developing hard, concrete business skills. I often hear of the benefits of being able to understand, interpret and tap my inner strength. But it’s so easy to use the “I don’t have time” excuse to delay giving myself the opportunity to explore this aspect. I finally took the dive by joining the Search Inside Yourself two-day workshop in Shanghai last year—mainly due to the endorsement of one of your Octave folks, Margie Chiang, who took the workshop in Malaysia in 2016 and has been actively practicing since then.

What are the benefits you felt from the SIY program?
It facilitates the yin-and-yang balance for guys like me. Although I believe I have a slightly higher-than-average EQ [emotional intelligence] than most business-minded individuals, my academic grounding is in engineering. As such, I really rely on empirical knowledge (evidence, facts and data) to understand the world around me. Therefore, it is refreshing and balancing for me to interact with people on another level that SIY has led me toward—one in which I am fully present with myself and the other person I am interacting with. I still rely on empirical knowledge—my left-brained approach remains intact—yet I consciously layer my interactions with mindfulness.

Is there any change in your life or work since the workshop?
A few topics raised at the workshop really hit it home for me: focused attention, noticing more, self-compassion. For example, now when I speak to a stranger for the first time, I make an effort to find something special or interesting about that person—color of her fingernails, clothes he wears, what she’s passionate about, etc. Doing this actually helps me remember the person’s name, which I used to be really bad at, or engage in ice-breaking talk with him or her. (“Those are really cool colors on your fingernails!”) In essence, I make a conscious effort to simply stop and be aware of myself and the other person before I start speaking. It just takes a moment for me to collect myself in this way—to leave what I was doing a moment ago and show up fully with the person I am with.

How do you practice what you learned from SIY?
Two exercises that I continue to do after the SIY sessions are “whole-body breathing” and “noticing more.” [The latter is explained above.] I’m in the business of people. I interact with people all the time: my team, tenants, vendors, colleagues, government etc. By practicing the breathing and noticing, I’ve become more conscious of the way I talk, listen and interact with others. The workshop has definitely made me become aware of my interactions within myself and with others. Has this helped me with my work? Certainly—as I believe my interactions with others are more clear, concise and genuine. The dialogues are beyond transactional and more relational.

How would you describe this program to a fellow colleague?
One must try not to judge the SIY program from the first one to two hours. You really need to stay open minded. For people who are used to structured learning and lean toward the left side of the brain, this program will initially seem “airy fairy” and impractical. But as you start doing the exercises and start interacting with the people around you, you will begin to learn nascent skills that you never knew you possessed.

I would label the first day as “discovery” of your inner self and the second day as “enhancement” of your inner abilities, which can positively shift your communications with those you interact with, not only at work but also in your personal life.

What would you advise new participants who are enrolling for the December 2018 SIY?
Please refer to what I sad above. In addition:
1) Put your phone away. You can’t search inside yourself when you’re searching for a business email inside your phone at the same time.
2) Avoid the temptation of groupthink by not sitting with your colleagues and friends. Find someone who doesn’t seem to have much in common with you (age, race, type of work, etc.). 3) Do the suggested exercises! Practice, practice, practice—again, for me it was “whole-body breathing” and “noticing more.”

We are partnering again with Octave to bring the fifth Search Inside Yourself program to Shanghai on December 7-8, 2018. Register now.