People 10 October 2016
Here at SWAAY, we want to figure out exactly how our entrepreneurial role models, like Dina Kaplan, attain their objectives and find success. You may have heard of Dina Kaplan and The Path because of articles you’ve read about “the happiest man in the world.” The Path represents a synergy between the inner peace and mindfulness of meditation, and the energy emanating from a vast network of creatives, founders, and influencers. Kaplan was able to make it happen because of the chain reactions that occur as direct effects of her “friendliness,” says Matthieu Ricard, a French writer and Buddhist Monk who is also a TED speaker. Already a huge fan of Ricard, she wanted to hear him speak, so she invited a new friend that she had just met to accompany her an event Ricard was hosting. That new friend happened to be the person responsible for Ricard's social media.
With respect to Kaplan, two key ingredients have fueled her success: social and mental agility.
Let’s start with social agility. Although it may seem like it, social agility is not networking. Although Kaplan admits that networking played a large role in her success, she careful to make the distinction. “Network” implies that you’re speaking to someone above you and your conversation is goal-oriented, and Kaplan is nothing like that. Throughout her life, Kaplan says she has acted on her genuine desire to meet and learn about new people. She likes to call it being friendly, but she also admits that being friendly doesn’t always work.
Photo Credit: Christopher Michel
Kaplan shares a story to highlight the difference between networking and social agility. After her two-and-a-half year trip around the world where she conquered literally every physical fear she had, Kaplan had a layover in Los Angeles on the way home to New York. When she met up with friends, she told them about her idea to start a community that made meditation accessible. Both friends, independent of each other, told her to get in touch with Charlie Knoles, a well-known meditation instructor. She followed their advice and next became Kaplan's business partner, with the goal of bringing their mutual love for meditation to the masses.
A bit after that, also in Los Angeles, Kaplan asked a favor of an executive at Paramount – to get her a pass to the set of her “favorite show of all time,” Glee. She did this through some networking on Facebook and LinkedIn. See the difference?
Social agility gets you lifelong friends; networking gets you a temporary contact.
It was social agility, not networking, that Kaplan credits to her rise into the role of COO at Blip.TV. She also cites social agility as the magic behind how she became one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women in 2010. However, it is important to remember that social agility isn’t everything. Equally important is finding a balance between work and personal mental clarity. Despite managing six departments by herself, Kaplan was afraid to ask for help, and thus kept managing her busy life on her own.
“I’d been really bad about asking for things that were just good for me. People have this perception that I’m very outspoken, but I’m only good at that in business. There’s a perception that I always get what I want, but inside I’m frustrated because I don’t have the confidence to speak up.”
Eventually, Kaplan says she was so afraid to go to work that she would attempt to make eye contact with people as she was crossing the last intersection to her office, hoping that the fleeting connection they made would be enough for them to catch her if she suddenly fainted. She was relying on her social agility to save her, but only after she hypothetically passed out during another panic attack did she realize that her ostensibly perfect life wasn’t worth the crippling anxiety she had developed to maintain it. She didn’t know what was wrong or what was happening; she just knew she had to get out.
“I knew I had to go across the world, but I didn’t know why. That moment was pivotal in my life.”
So, Kaplan she quit her job, and she booked a one-way ticket to Bali, Indonesia. Mostly alone, she traveled the world, participating in exhilarating physical experiences that scared her even more than crossing the street to work did. By conquering every physical fear she had, such as scuba diving, zip lining, and bungee jumping, she was able to return home knowing that she could live her life being emotionally fearless. How was she able to do this? It was meditation that helped Kaplan refine her mental agility.
Meditation may seem like yet another spiritual trend that will disappear as soon as it arrives onto the scene, but no, there are proven benefits. Meditation has been reported to improve both mental and physical health, and even has business effects. It is said that Steve Jobs invented some of Apple's game-changing products after mediation sessions.
Those who have never meditated often hesitate to try it because they fear that it may silence their creative voice, but that is far from the case. Silencing that voice in your head, like building muscle, is a skill you must master by exercising your muscles (physical or mental) consistently, and Kaplan did just that. After having meditated throughout her trip and having spent over a week at a silent retreat, Kaplan was able to strengthen her mental agility. When she finally came back home, Kaplan began working on her new project: The Path. She was hoping to make meditation accessible to the masses, but she also understood that there would be some hesitation among the Type A members of her network.
She lured people in through the promise that meditation will literally makes you better at your job. “On the days I meditate, I’m 90 percent more efficient,” Kaplan says. She and co-founder Charlie Knoles are self-proclaimed meditation “addicts,” who feel the difference on the days they don’t meditate. She chooses her mental response on the days that she meditates, but the choice is not as clear on days that she doesn’t. “Meditation helps because you become very clear on what you want,” Kaplan adds, revealing that this is why she wholeheartedly feels that meditation is the best negotiation tool. “When you calm down things in your head, you can input people’s nonverbal signals, and you have a lot of power and tools.” In fact, Kaplan believes in the powerful effects of meditation so much, that she has actually said, “meditation gives you too much power. It’s dangerous for someone with bad intentions to meditate. Your path has to begin with values.”
Dina Kaplan was hoping to make meditation accessible to the masses, but she also understood that there would be some hesitation among the Type A members of her network
Kaplan credits “ The Path” to her friendliness, but it’s more than that. Kaplan’s alluring personality and mental agility, that has been fine-tuned through her daily meditation practices. The Path is now known as the pioneer of mindful networking. No longer invitation-only – The Path provides anyone the opportunity to experience the confluence of mental strength and physical calm. Kaplan started the meditation trend, and now there’s at least one meditation hub in every city where you can learn to choose your reactions throughout the day and exercise mental agility.
Photo Credit: Christopher Michel
4 Min Read
A Black, 14-year old, female, middle school student is tackled to the ground and handcuffed by a resource officer because she wanted to go to the school's health office.
A white teacher assigns a slave trade enactment as a class project, assigning Black students to the role of being slaves.
A teacher insults Black students and their parents in front of the entire class, causing Black students to tell their parents to not come to the school.
These instances of antiblack racism are happening in schools across America today. Over the summer, the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmad Aubrey, and others have shined a light on longstanding antiblack racism in the US and, more specifically, in education.
Although there have been significant gains in improving Black students' education, there are still persistent opportunity gaps for Black youth. For instance, the rate of graduation for Black students has risen to 92%; however, Black students significantly lack access to honors, advanced placement, and/or gifted and talented courses (United Negro College Fund).
Does the classroom/school library include Black authors? Do the posters and bulletin boards reflect students' culture and lived experiences?
Also, while there has been an increase in Black college-going, most of this increase has been in under-resourced institutions, which creates student loan burdens for many Black college-educated adults. And, in light of recent over-policing, it's important to note that Black students are punished more harshly for the same behavior as white students, often for nonviolent offenses. The punitive nature of schooling for many Black students further isolates them from schools, resulting in higher dropout rates and higher risk for incarceration and other risky behaviors.
So how do we save Black students in schools that have a long history of antiblack sentiments and racially unjust policies and structures?
First, educators need to take an antiracist approach, which is actively eliminating racism through the acts of challenging and changing systems, organizational structures, policies, and practices that perpetuate systemic racism and racialized education outcomes. As part of this approach, educators must acknowledge that even well-intentioned teachers may be practicing racism without being aware of it. All educators are victims of being miseducated about issues of race and racism and now, they must be re-educated.
Celebrating the contributions of African Americans to US history enhances self-pride and models resilience for Black students.
The Center for American Progress delineated three ways in which educators can fight systemic racism in education: advocate for equitable funding, advocate for less policing and surveillance of students, and advocate to end de-facto segregation through school and district boundaries. Essentially, antiracist educators must be aware of and challenge policies that can potentially "push out" Black students. Examples of push-out policies include zero-tolerance discipline policies, special education identification policies, grading policies, standardized test policies, and attendance policies.
Second, educators need to become more knowledgeable of the history of racism and antiblack sentiments in the US. Professional development for educators should include content from African American and/or Black studies (including Critical Race Theory), sociological theory, and other literature relating to the experiences of Black people in the Diaspora from slavery to the present.
The 1619 Project, an ongoing project directed by Nikole Hannah-Jones in the New York Times Magazine, is a wonderful source for educators who want to become knowledgeable about slavery. Educators must examine how racism was the outcome and the ideological support for slavery rather than the cause of slavery. Just as important for educators to examine are the many contributions of Black people to US history—from Robert Smalls to Angela Davis to President Barack Obama. Celebrating the contributions of African Americans to US history enhances self-pride and models resilience for Black students.
As part of this approach, educators must acknowledge that even well-intentioned teachers may be practicing racism without being aware of it.
Third, for Black students to thrive, it's important for educators to fully embrace culturally responsive strategies in the classroom. According to Ladson Billings (1994), culturally responsive teaching (CRT) is a pedagogy that recognizes the importance of including students' cultural references in all aspects of learning. CRT requires that teachers encourage students to draw on their prior knowledge, to make learning meaningful and timely, and to ensure that the classroom reflects students' culture/race.
Does the classroom/school library include Black authors? Do the posters and bulletin boards reflect students' culture and lived experiences? Recently, a group of teachers in Massachusetts formed a Book Club to learn more about culturally responsive teaching, decolonizing curricula, and Abolitionist Teaching. The free, online "Abolitionist Teaching Book Club 2020" grew from a 30-teacher webinar book club chat into a 10,000-attendee five-day teacher conference in a matter of weeks.
And last, it's most important for educators of Black students to build meaningful relationships with their students to ensure they feel respected, valued, seen, and loved. In Dr. Bettina Love's book We Want To Do More Than Survive, she emphasizes the need for Black/Brown students to matter. She defines mattering as "building a community where people love, protect, and understand Black and Brown children."
Recognizing the humanity of teaching is the foundation of Love's concept of Abolitionist Teaching—which promotes teachers' utilizing protest, boycotting, and calling out racist, homophobic, etc. ideas and practices as a major component of their role as teachers.
All in all, it's essential that we ensure Black students have access to antiracist, respectful, historically-informed, engaging, loving teachers to thrive. However, this task is too important to be relegated to some educators. If all educators don't ascribe to this antiracist approach, we will continue to perpetuate the problem. We can no longer passively accept racism in classrooms and schools—Black students deserve more.