Eric Kaufmann
Being Zen While Leading

It's a complex world. We're diving in and out of chaos; leaders need tools suitable to this complexity.

Eric Kaufmann
Listen Now
Show Notes

Taking his Zen practice off the bench and into the real world, Eric Kaufmann(@Eric Kaufmann) has dedicated his life to educating and integrating. His books The Four Virtues and Leadership Breakdown are impactful guidelines for the emerging leaders of this complex world. Eric is a Fellow and Thought Leader at Harvard’s Institute of Coaching and a speaker for TEDx. Dedicated to mentoring and coaching CEOs and executives, Eric strives to impart the impact of embodied wisdom, love, and power. 

“The work of a conscious leader is a place where an unrelenting commitment to results combines with an unyielding regard for spirit. “

-Eric Kaufmann


Key Takeaways:

  • Ego-myopia: Transcending ego-myopia demands practice, awareness, and unwavering commitment. Expert Eric Kaufmann identifies three fundamental human needs: the craving to be right, to be liked, and to possess might. Leaders must undergo emotional maturation and pursue vertical development to effectively dismantle the ego, enabling them to engage and operate from the realms of wisdom, love, and power.
  • Humility: Humility is to be grounded, of the earth, and fundamentally human. Humility is not a skill to acquire but a state to embody. Grounded in the essence of humanity, it signifies acknowledging equality with others, standing eye to eye and shoulder to shoulder without claiming superiority or inferiority.
  • Showing and Opening Up: In leadership, embracing Ken Wilbur’s Integral theory involves the imperative to wake up, grow up, clean up, and, notably, show up. Central to this is opening up, a vital aspect of awakening to the present moment, integrating past experiences and fostering genuine connection. Opening up entails engaging the heart, enabling leaders to perceive situations from diverse perspectives with discernment and detachment.
  • Conscious Leadership: A transformative journey from self-centeredness to life-centeredness. Our identities become more porous as we evolve, shifting from a singular focus to embracing multifaceted versions of ourselves. In navigating today’s complex world, characterized by agility and innovation, leaders succeed in transcending ego-driven resistance, fostering a more porous and spacious mindset that enables adaptability, innovation, and compassionate collaboration.

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Hi, this is Mark Divine Show and I’m your host Mark Divine. Thanks so much for joining me today. Super stoked to have you here. On this show I explore what it means to be fearless. I speak with some of the world’s most fearless and compassionate and courageous leaders. I talk to Stoic philosophers, top CEOs and entrepreneurs and people bringing conscious leadership to the world such as my guest today, Eric Kaufman. Eric combines an unrelenting commitment to results with an unyielding regard for spirit. He’s the product of 40 years of Zen practice. And he’s seamlessly woven that into three decades of business leadership, as a leader and as a coach or advisor to other leaders. He’s an appointed thought leader at Harvard’s Institute of Coaching, designed and taught coaching for professionals at San Diego State University. As the author of The Four Virtues of a Leader and more recently, Leadership Breakdown. Eric has lived and worked on three continents, managed and led fortune 100 firms, and he’s a clinical hypnotherapist and master scuba diving instructor. In his early life, we’ll talk about this I hope, he lived off the grid in a mountain cabin he built by himself as a Zen practitioner. Eric’s been married for 25 years., and he’s the blessed father of two reMarkable young women who know how to navigate the matrix. Eric, super stoked to have you here on the Mark Divine Show.

Stoked to have you here.

Eric Kaufmann  1:17  

I’m stoked to be with you.

Mark Divine  1:18  

Yeah, I’m just sharing about my experience present. And you were about to mention you started at 19 Your beat me by two years.

Eric Kaufmann  1:27  

Yeah, I started I started at 19. Because I had sort of a, how big as my father put it, I had fucked up my life already. I’d come to America as an international student. And I got after my first semester, I got a note saying you’re on probation. And I sort of ignored it because I was having too much fun. And after the second semester, they said, you’re disenrolled. And I was like, oh, crap. I’m 19 years old. I’m disenrolled from University. I’m here as a student, that means I have to leave the country. I didn’t want to leave America. And so I had to do this real fast discovery process of how does a human being get a grip on their life? And so I was in Southern California it was the mid 80s. It was all these wonderful offerings. And, you know, it was meditation in the Zen tradition, and then living in a spiritual community for what ended up being 13 years that uh…

Mark Divine 2:14



Eric Kaufmann 2:14

Yeah, was a very disciplined…


Mark Divine

Where was that in San Diego?


Eric Kaufmann 2:18

We were on the border of Mexico down deep in Chula Vista. 


Mark Divine 2:20



Eric Kaufmann 2:21

We got, you know, multi acre property and a bunch of homes, there were 50 people living there and…


Mark Divine 2:27



Eric Kaufmann 2:27

We lived with our teacher and help every morning at 5:30, meditate, do the you know, whatever your chores are in the community breakfasts and people would go to school or work or whatever, and come back and meditations and practices in the evening and..


Mark Divine 2:40

Chores and stuff.


Eric Kaufmann 2:41

Yeah, it went on for a long time.


Mark Divine  2:42  

That’s incredible. Reminds me, when, when I was studying, then it was primarily as an adjunct to my martial arts, we train. We do a long session on Thursday evenings. And then, you know, Mr. Nakamura has encouraged us that you’re not practicing unless you’re doing a daily practices. So I took, I got my little zazen bench, you know, from some mail order catalogs, before the internet, and I started practicing every morning. But I think the most profound shifts games, we would take these retreats to the Zen mountain monastery in Woodstock, the head monk was named Dido, and this guy was a trip like he was covered in tattoos is a former Merchant Marine, who had, you know, transitioned into his monkhood and incredibly interesting guy. 

And so we would spend four days with the in residence monks twice a year, did that for a number of years. And it was profound experience. I love that, just like you said that we’re everything is a practice.


Eric Kaufmann 3:37



Mark Divine 3:37

It’s not just sitting practice, but eating is a practice, doing the dishes is a practice, and gardening is a practice, and play in jumping in the river down this street was a practice, that really helped me understand, you know what practice is or should do, right, the idea that life ultimately, as a practice, and ultimately, all Zen is meant to be off the bench and in relationship and in an everyday experience. 


Eric Kaufmann  4:01  

I mean, that’s beautifully said. Those, those retreats are called sesshins, right. It means intensive in Japanese, sesshins. And the sesshins are however many days long, right. And it’s exactly that it’s an intention of where you’re…


Mark Divine 4:11

That’s right.


Eric Kaufmann 4:12

I put on meditation retreats twice a year in San Diego, I’m not putting them to be a Zen retreat, but it’s in that’s what I’m trained in, rights so it’s a Zen tradition. 


Mark Divine 4:20

I love to come in and those by the way.


Eric Kaufmann 4:22

Oh, that’d be awesome. I talk about as having monk mode, right. The monk mode like, the sesshin is where you go into and you become a renunciate. So what does a renunciate do? A renunciate is giving up the ordinary…


Mark Divine 4:33

Right, stepping off the treadmill.


Eric Kaufmann 4:34

In order to have something different.


Mark Divine 4:36



Eric Kaufmann 4:36

You know, and so, those two shades of you know, but your point is like, and to me, this is like the point of, of all these practices, right is it’s one thing to sit on a cushion on a bench and sort of attain a state. It’s another to be in the boardroom, one negotiation with a vendor or in a conversation with your child or your spouse, your husband or your wife, and be able to hold center.


Mark Divine 4:57



Eric Kaufmann 4:57

To stay in that place of consciousness, right but because it’s like all these little hooks and little pieces are carrying and pulling at our, in our center, and to hold that is the gift that we can bring to the world and to ourselves.


Mark Divine  5:12  

No, I agree with that. And and I think this is missed a lot in the way meditation is taught today is it’s taught, either just for relaxation or health, or almost as an escape, right.


Eric Kaufmann 5:23



Mark Divine 5:23

And so you can have that kind of bypass, spiritual bypass where you escape into the void, and completely disengage from life. Like the term Advaita means not to. So escaping in the void to think, oh, I’m in this, I am one with the universe, you’re missing, the not to part because you are also one with life. So it’s important to be both/and


Eric Kaufmann  5:46  

So when I was 30, I decided I was going to give my life completely to the spiritual practice, I was going to leave the world I was living in the community. I was working at the time at Corning, as a young Marketing executive. It was so easy to kick ass in corporate when I had that level of insane discipline as my regular life, you know, going to work was like the easy part of the day.


Eric Kaufmann  6:05  

But, you know, I was 30, I decided none of this anymore. I’m going to go full time into it. The point about you’re not one two, I ended up essentially taking full loads of you know, devotion and poverty. I gave away all of my money, I shaved my head, I did well in my position, liquidated my 401K…


Mark Divine 6:23

You were all in.


Eric Kaufmann 6:23

All in, went to the mountains of New Mexico spent three months and built a 625 square foot cabin. And I then moved in there they were there was a community sister community of ours in the mountains. And so they would bring me food once a week. So I was cared for. And I went into what ended up being a year long, silent sesshin, silent retreat for a year. And what ended that year was exactly what you’re talking about. I literally had this profound revelation that said something to the effect of you’re going the wrong way. And I was like, what your spiritual life will come more online with wife and children and service and community. And I remember thinking, I do not like this message. I had to like sign off on everything I was done. And here was the message saying no. Yeah, that was that was 20 some odd years ago. 20, it’s 25 years ago, I came back. And these past 25 years have been 25 years of integration and how do I live with my wife with my now 22 and 20 year old daughters with my business with my clients, not in the mountains.


Mark Divine  7:23  

The yogi’s, call it the householder path, and they said it’s the hardest path.


Eric Kaufmann 7:27

I assure you, there, there right. 


Mark Divine 7:30

They are right. You know, I’ve been my wife and I’ve been listening to this great audio series from science true by a guy named Bruce Tift. He’s a Western trained psychotherapist, marriage family therapist who’s also trained in Vedanta Buddhism, from Rinpoche, Chodran, who’s a very famous teacher. So he was able to kind of braid, the Western path of striving to improve the conditions of one’s life to clear up trauma and shadow, you know, all this kind of like, yang style of grasping, needing to get somewhere that’s not here. With the Eastern model of fruition or practice of everything is already here.


Eric Kaufmann 8:11

As it is, yeah. 


Mark Divine 8:13

As it is. Anyways, so what I loved about one of the things he said is that in the Western world, especially, maybe, let’s say America, but western world in general, he’s found that relationship is the most profound path for spiritual awakening. Because in relationship, everything comes out, if you want the relationship to work, and you’ve got to take a look at, you know, the emotional healing and the shadows, and those things that tend to be skipped over, when someone just does the headspace type meditation, right, seeking kind of non dual and even the psychedelic movement is victim of this because you can have these profound experiences is kind of non dual mystical experiences, and completely bypass any of the emotional or relational work. And so then, over time, that doesn’t work so well on the ego kind of co-ops, that sense of dreadful specialness, right. And so we see a lot of that even, especially here in California, there’s a lot of people feeling very special about their spiritual progress. 


Eric Kaufmann  9:13  

It’s been true, I mean, even though I’ve lived 13 years with the teacher and a community… marriage, so you know, my wife and I are now 25 years married, our kids 22 and 20. And it occurred to me after I sort of digested this message, right, because it just was like a download, you know, you must go do this. It occurred to me that it’s the next level up from my spiritual school, you know, from the community that I lived in, because there was still tolerance and variability, right, I could still hide but in the way that I wanted to be married and the way that I wanted to raise my kids it was going to be everything was going to be wide open and that it’s going to profoundly maturing as a human and spiritually evolving experience.


Mark Divine  9:53  

So when you had that epiphany that you needed to re engage in. be in the world did you have clarity around kind of your mission? Or, like what that would look like, where did that come afterwards?


Eric Kaufmann  10:05  

The mission for me was I wanted to integrate spirituality and business. You know, that was the mission. So I had to sort of leave in my secure location as well, right. My biggest fear at the time I was in my early 30s, was that I would go into the belly of the beast right, of the world as we know it, and that the beast would digest me, right, I would just be digested into more fodder for the beasts, you know, and…


Mark Divine 10:27



Eric Kaufmann 10:32

And so, it’s taken real continuous spiritual practice, you know, I couldn’t bring spirituality into business, if I wasn’t living spirituality and business, I can’t hock something that is, you know, sort of oozing out of my skin as my own beingness. And in a way that has guaranteed my own spiritual practice, right. If I didn’t want to get digested by the beast. And if I want to remain authentic and my expression, then I would have to continue to practice because by the way, the expression I’m 56, right, the expression of the 56 year old man is not the same as an expression of a 35 year old man, with all due respect to my ancestor, my previous self, I’m not him.


Mark Divine 11:10

Respect to the ancestor.


Eric Kaufmann 11:12

And so keeping it alive is kind of the trick. And that’s what’s cool to bring to other people, right. How do you stay in this, authentic isn’t a mode, authentic is a state, it’s a state, you know so that’s the implication.


Mark Divine  11:23  

I too, am a coach at one level, right, I’m an author, like you, and I’m a coach and I run a couple of businesses in a nonprofit, we have a lot of similarities there. But the fact of being a coach, trainer, teacher, you know, the different manifestations of kind of this expression, that you’re talking about it but authentically giving, bringing yourself through your mission to others to help them in some way, the deeper I’ve gotten into it, the more important my own practice has become. So that I’m worthy of what I’m asking, or what my you know, my mission is asking of me. And so for that reason I prioritize every morning, you know, I don’t, unless something really important, I don’t take any appointments before 10am. And I use that time practicing with my wife and myself. And we do a variety of practices that bring us joy and peace, you know, our meditation and our contemplation and our readings and our yoga and then we workout together in our sauna and our cold plunge.


Eric Kaufmann 12:16



Mark Divine 12:18

I gotta tell you, it’s pretty awesome. I feel pretty blessed. Anyways, my point is practice is everything when it comes ultimately, I think all executives and leaders will come to this realization. This is the piece that they’re missing. We’ve pretty much mastered the yang, doing, strategy, tactics, hack, biohacking. You know, everyone’s trying to find the latest hack or supplement or something that’s going to improve them. And it’s, they’re looking like you are looking in the wrong direction, they’re looking in the wrong direction. So turning the inner eyes inward, finding that inner guru and guide and being able to sit in silence and receive that spontaneous knowingness. That’s the next phase of leadership development in my view.


Eric Kaufmann  13:03  

That’s exactly where I’m at. And that we’re the same page 100%, I think, you know, the point you made about your own practice. And at some point, I mean, we refer to practice for lack of better word in English, but it’s not your practice and feel like we’re calling it practice, but it’s the way you living your life. And I think one of the most sort of elemental things, you know, for the two of us who are actually in the realm of coaching and working with people to bring about what’s possible for that, we can take people where we’ve gone. So we have to keep going places where we’re inviting people to come along with us. And then if we if I think of my CEO, clients, or executive clients, in much the same way, if they’re asking their people to show up in a particular way, they have to be able to be that, right, you can’t manifest a culture that is distinctly different from who you are as a person when you’re the chief executive. So if you want a culture that is inclusive, or that is innovative, or that is safe for people to experiment, so that you continue to grow and then beat the odds, you have to be that person, you can’t outsource it, the HR, it’s got to be the person.


Mark Divine  14:08  

Right, let’s talk about humility. I think people often mistake humility also as like a tactic or as something they have to do. And you know, to your point, but it’s actually just the essential nature, right. When one is tapping into their essential nature. It’s just raw humility, right. The ego is completely set aside. And I think that can only be found through this life practice that you and I are talking about, about just, you know, learning to not have to be right, in this constant search for some perfect form or state, to end the judgment even toward yourself. I think humility is probably like the master key for leadership. Everything you just described earlier about showing up as safety, to create safety. Showing up as abundance to create abundance. It’s kind of like the still pond metaphor. It all flows from the still pond, this still pond is humility.


Eric Kaufmann  15:02  

Sure, I’d love to go there, and that and you may know I mean it’s part of my piece in my new book right, The Leadership Breakdown, I talked about humility is one of the key pieces in there and just linguistically there’s some really interesting clues about what humility is right. So humility comes from the root humus, right. Which is the same route that the word human comes from, which is the actual, the humus which is that that dark earth right,you’re talking about humus. Humility is to be grounded, to be of the earth and to be fundamentally human. You know, fundamentally humility, humus, human, Earth, it is fundamental. What it means to be humble or to have humility is basically to say, I am not better than anyone else, nor worse than anyone else, right.

I am eyeball to eyeball, shoulder to shoulder, level on the level, with every other human being. When I was younger, my teacher would talk to me about my false humility, which I think is something you’re describing, my false humility. It was ahh shucks, you know, no, I didn’t I didn’t have anything to do with that. Or, you know, that thing that didn’t take anything. That’s false humility, the real capacity for humility comes from, to your point, the sense of confidence that transcends my accomplishment. It’s a confidence that comes when the what I call ego-myopia. So that’s my term for the real challenge, ego-myopia, not being able to see and manage our ego. When we can correct that ego-myopia and recognize our basic ordinariness, right humus Earth human ordinary, then we can begin to really allow the special sort of manifestation of the life force that is flowing through us as this unique being at this time, come forward without a whole bunch of distortion. So we can be humble and incredibly talented and powerful and charming, there is no limit of what you can be when you’re being humble. It just fundamentally means that I am grounded in my sense of ordinariness. I’m not better than anyone, or worse than anyone. And if we can bring that into a room, then what the leader does is you’re not just holding space, but you’re shaping space, you’re shaping a space where other people can come into their greatness. What the hell, you know, you do that, and now you have extraordinary performance from folks who are aware of how ordinary they are. That’s the conundrum. 


Mark Divine  17:11 

Yeah, I’ve often looked at it like the, you know, consciousness is flowing through these body minds that are conditioned, right. And all that conditioning from birth and karmic, you know, and memories and experiences becomes a sense of identity. And of course, the basic Zen practice is to investigate that and realize that there’s nothing there. It’s insubstantial, right, is the terminology. So, so then you’re like, Okay, if that’s not me, if I’m not those memories, and I am not, you know, the basic I am, I am practice, I am not that, then who am I? You get into Ramana Maharshi’s, and that jnana yoga path is like, Oh, well, I am consciousness. But it’s also not unrealistic to say, I also have this body, which had these experiences in this karmic energy, but just don’t place my center of gravity, in that, be playful with it. See that as the character in the play, that is in this drama of this world, that you get to create. And a big part of that creation is to clean up the miscreations, when you know, for the bulk of your life, or big chunk of your life that you did identify as that ego Mark, and you ended up dropping a shit ton of grenades and blowing stuff up. And I don’t mean on the battlefield, I mean, in life, you know what I mean. I have a considerable amount of cleaning up to do.


Eric Kaufmann 18:27

Yeah,  all the maimed and injured people around. 


Mark Divine 18:29

Oh totally. I mean, it’s devastating the damage we can do with when you’re living just purely from ego. I went off a little tangent there. But tell me more about Leadership Breakdown. That’s an interesting title. And you talking about breaking down the ego and getting through to the other side to where you can show up like we’re talking about?


Eric Kaufmann  18:46  

So, it’s intended as a double entendre, right. So it’s the leadership breakdown. You’re watching these breakdowns right. On a, on a personal level, right. Somebody’s beset by imposter syndrome. And so they’re kind of having to work extra hard and burn themselves out to prove something. So they just break down. Or there’s a conflict between two executives, you know, the CFO and CEO, oh, we’re not getting along, and their teams are following suit and just detaching from one another, so there’s breakdown, or at the organizational level. 

So that’s one the other is you can break down so you can break through. And to me at the core of that, and this is what the book and what my work and what my effort is sort of matured into over these couple of decades, right, is what I’ve come to call ego-myopia, the inability to see and manage the ego. And very much to the point you just made, which wasn’t a tangent at all. I think it’s so central to this conversation is that when the ego-myopia is corrected, so I don’t actually have any conversation Mark about destroying the ego, or killing the ego, having no ego, because I don’t know how to experience that. So I haven’t experienced that, I’ve experienced an untold number of altered states, bliss states, one states, you know, somebody’s consciousness, and every time I come back as Eric, you know.


Mark Divine 19:54

There’s Eric, there’s Mark, right.


Eric Kaufmann 19:56

Slightly shifted slightly shifted, slightly shifted, less, less. But so for me the conception has become, I think we have this ego structure that becomes more what I call more porous, and more spacious, right. So the ego identity becomes more porous, right, more things can move through it, they’re not quite as fixed and more spacious, I can contain more possibilities. And when we can be in the world with this more porous and spacious sense of self, then we’re in that Zen practice on a daily basis, right, where things move through rather than become solidified. And Leadership Breakdown was an invitation for leaders to understand how to practically grasp some of that, right. How, what is the ego? What is it getting away, and when I have these three constructs, that if you integrate them, sort of awaken and integrate these three elements, that’s sort of the journey towards a healthy ego.


Mark Divine  20:44  

Now, the way you’re describing in the Eastern traditions, and Zen talk about this opening, with a heart opening and a mind opening, ultimately, like we use in our training the term Kokoro, which means heart, mind, heart and mind merged into your actions; Jhana, Bhakti, and Karma. You know, the descriptions of the experience on a meditative path, right. Is it more openness, more inclusiveness, moving beyond ego and even into this more spacious inclusiveness of all, right. And that lines up with the Western stage model in development psychology, right. So there’s a real kind of almost like, where the western model ends, the Eastern model kind of picks up talks more about the transpersonal. Whereas the Western model is talking about the personal adult development. And this even been taken as you’re aware into leadership development by the likes of Bill Torbert, and some of the other vertical theorists, vertical developments was one of the things that we’re working with, with our company Unbeatable. 

So anyways, like the experiences of the post conventional stages of self awareness, self transcendence, and then getting into the unitive, right. So these are all Western terms that are talking about the same thing, right. As an individual grows up through these successive stages of adult development, then they become more inclusive, they transcend the former version of themselves, like you said, the earlier version of Eric and, and I’m on version probably like 4.0 of myself, or maybe, depending on how I want to slice it. 


Eric Kaufmann 22:11

I’m sure it’s more than that. 


Mark Divine 22:13

Yeah probably. Yeah, and so then you just become the ego gets softer. Like you said, I love that idea of porous, it gets it, you just get less identified with it, you start you know, for me, I’ll speak my personal experience, I do see it as there’s a bunch of memories and experiences. But there was this essential beingness that I can identify, threaded throughout my life. I can see it in myself, at four years old standing in the garden, of my mom’s friend’s house, just standing there, just like watching the butterflies. And, of course, that age, like the mind is still kind of forming. But that essential nature that I can experience right now with that memory was the same as I experienced right now as a sixty year old Mark. And that’s because over time, I’ve been able to kind of like, diffuse my attachment to that ego as the center of my being. And to allow the center of my being to be this life, flowing consciousness through me, right. And so I love how the Western and the Eastern kind of marry up there, right with that stage development into the conscious studies. 


Eric Kaufmann  23:14  

And you know, we didn’t practice this in advance, but your language and my language has a lot of similarity beside described a movement along that vertical development, right. So a lot of people would be happy to arrive at like, self-authorship. For many folks, that would be a meaningful accomplishment, right. Self-authorship, I’m no longer in kind of victim mindset. I’m now in self-authorship.


Mark Divine 23:33



Eric Kaufmann 23:34

That’s only like halfway, right. And along the journey, and the way I conceive of it often is sort of moving from being self-centered to being life-centered. To your point, you know, there’s a circle and adopt, we’re switching from being focused on the data being focused on a circle, you know, make a move from self-centered to life-centered. And that is when you know, when the ego is more specious and porous. You’re still identifiably Mark. I’m still identifiably Eric, I’m also on version probably, I don’t know, 6- 8.0, something like that. There are various versions, and each one of these versions of stack like babushka is right inside of me, informing but not deciding anymore. And so the identity doesn’t go away. I’ve long abandoned that. I mean, the idea of having no identity is like, that’s not the human aspiration. But to your point, we can actually as a human being as a husband, to my wife, as a father, to my kids, as a CEO of my business, I can be completely Eric, but not only Eric. That’s the beauty. And that’s where I think this conscious leadership invitation is as, and here’s sort of the piece of context for me, right, is that the world we live in what the experience of the world we live in, has shifted from once it was a simple world, where you can see cause and effect and it became a complicated world where a bunch of people could solve for it. Now it’s a complex world. We’re diving in and out of chaos, right complexity. And so in the complex world, you can’t really lead or function like you did in the complicated world. It’s not just cause and effect, it’s agility and innovation, which we hear about all the time, not just because those are fashion consulting words, but because that’s what’s required to deal with complexity. And these states of being more porous and spacious. I mean, why do so many change efforts fail, it’s because of people’s egos. I don’t want to do this this way. This is the way it’s got to be. This is the way I prefer, this is convenient for me. And the ego is fundamentally wrapped around safety. So if we can be more porous and spacious, we can handle risk better, we can be more innovative and agile, and we can absolutely be more kind, connected and collaborative. That’s my pitch for doing the work, you know.


Mark Divine  25:38  

I completely agree that I love that, you know, the image of the Rorschach nesting dolls, because Ken Wilber uses the term transcend and include. So you don’t give up, when you evolve, or transcend, or have one of those moments where suddenly like everything’s different, but you’re not sure why. It’s not that you’ve ditched those prior identities, but you’ve transcended and included the positive aspects. And ideally, you’re also doing the emotional work, so that you can eradicate any of the shadow or negative aspects of those former versions of yourself to avoid the spiritual bypassing, yeah. Ken said, like he added something to his wake up, grow up, show up terminologies like after waking up now, now we got to work on the growing up, and that’s the stage development. And then you would show up as a fully integrated human being. And then he said, no, it’s actually opening up, this is what we added. And I think there, you open up, because you can wake up and all be in your head, but you have to open up the heart and open up to your intuition in that view. But then there’s also cleaning up. So just a few years ago, he started talking about cleaning up. So yeah, it’s not enough to just do the mental work, in the spiritual development work, you also have to do the emotional work in order to be whole. So you don’t drag those kettlebells that regret and judgment along you, and lack of forgiveness. 


Eric Kaufmann  26:53  

And it took me years to sort of recognize that when I had spent all this time in my training, and then I’d spend this time in the mountain in the cabin, and then I had this message I would get out, you know, go do your thing. I didn’t realize until I was probably in my 40s that I was spiritually so tuned in. But I was kind of an emotional moron. In that my inner wisdom, and my inner compass was orienting me towards growing up, right and it is, it is. And but if I if I may, there’s something you said about eradicating the shadow or something to that effect. I think you said, my experience is really more about integrating than eradicating, I have not been successful at sort of like exercising something cutting out ditching it. I’ve been successful at being able to sort of come to be reintegrated, right, because the shadow element of those are those aspects of us that are you know, shunned pushed away unacceptable for whatever reasons. And this is like, right, the high state of the Zen practice, right is the all one. 


Mark Divine 27:50



Eric Kaufmann 27:50

Tom Tom, as it is, right, all is included. And so this capacity to integrate those shadow pieces, and then, you know, be gentle itself.


Mark Divine  27:59  

I love that too. And I but I do think that there is a practice that can eradicate ultimately. And that is forgiveness. And so forgiveness isn’t you know, just like the light dispels darkness, right. The reason it’s called shadow is because it’s suppressed or negative energy that you know that the undeveloped child doesn’t have the capacity to deal with. So it creates these neurotic patterns that make it safe, that then as an adult, you’re still those patterns are still playing out. So yes, it’s important, I agree with 100% Eric. It’s important to be kind to yourself and to begin to integrate those, but through awareness, by bringing awareness that to them through therapeutic processes and forgiveness. It’s like turning the light on. And dispelling that darkness because it’s all energy, right, we’re just energetic systems. And so ultimately, my experience is that that trauma has been radically released. And there’s this sense of just absolute lightness when it’s gone. So I think that forgiveness practice is a really powerful way to when done with real earnestness, it can get rid of some of that.


Eric Kaufmann  28:59  

Well it back to the humility too, right, because forgiveness requires a sense of you know, being very accepting, you know, not of the whatever was done to you, but of yourself of the conditions. I mean, there is a tall order spiritual practice, to earnestly forgive. It’s easy to say, oh, no, no, no big deal. I forgive you. But it’s a different thing to let that charge evaporate. 


Mark Divine 29:22

I found the Course of Miracles to be very helpful in that regard for that one, practice. It’s all about forgiveness. We have a few more minutes, but, The Four Virtues of a Leader, is that your most, more recent book? 


Eric Kaufmann 29:33

Yeah, The Four Virtues of a Leader, was was published by Sounds True, actually, in 2017 Yeah, 2017, and then Leadership Breakout came out earlier this year and 2023. What I’m keen then this could be a whole other conversation, not with the few minutes that’s left in, but, but essentially, I’ve boiled down kind of the path of this correcting ego-myopia. So ego- myopia as I come to see it and study it and teach it, you know, based on these three needs that we have; the need to be right, the need to be liked, and the need to have might. You know our ego is kind of wrapped up around these three needs, right. Assuming safety is a given, it’s like, I need to be right, and all the things that come with that. I need to be liked, and all the things that are, you know, come with that. And I need to have might, I want to have some control. So there’s a maturity talk about vertical development, right. So corollary to that, as it were, are the elements that we can switch on, I refer to as wisdom, love, and power.


Mark Divine  30:25 

That’s like Satchitananda, by the way.


Eric Kaufmann  30:26  

Satchitananda, right, so it’s not coincidence that there’s three of them. And there’s a lot of there’s a lot of correlates and traditions, yes. You’re seeing right through my ploy, but yes, there you know.


Mark Divine  30:39  

It’s yoga, you’ve done it good job.


Eric Kaufmann  30:41  

If you’re gonna call it right up like that in public, go ahead, I was gonna be real slick about it. And to kind of put it on the back door you know, but, okay. But yes, it’s wisdom, love and power, right. Wisdom, so the capacity to see and understand and dive below the surface and beyond the obvious. Love, this capacity to give without expectation, right. And power, the ability to show up unapologetically, as when we can activate and integrate wisdom, love and power. We’re now living a conscious life and as a leader as a conscious leadership experience. That’s what my work is now.


Mark Divine  31:15  

Right, so when you work with executives, as a coach or with teams, how do you help them unlock wisdom, love and power? 


Eric Kaufmann  31:22  

That starts with some cognitive foundations, right. So context of what wisdom is and isn’t, was isn’t. You know, we have assessments now that can show kind of where you are on those dimensions I have, like for example, we look at what blocks wisdom, right. So there’s the states that are called the barriers to wisdom. So you’d like anger and prejudice and denial. You know, those are things that are not wisdom oriented, you can see their contracting, contracting, contracting in anger. You can see, you know, I’m fierce and I’m very myopic. Denial, you know, so how do you cultivate self-awareness and curiosity and mindfulness, right. Those are ways to help activate wisdom or, or power, you know, and oh, my god, Mark, and you probably know this better than many, but we are so twisted around the axle of power in that world. It is, it is a pandemic of its own, the level of disempowerment, the desire for power, the fear of power, we are so wrapped around the axle, but I would say that…


Mark Divine 32:19

Misuse of power.


Eric Kaufmann 32:19

Misuse of power is rampant, but on a personal so this innate power, for example: anxiousness, leaks power, people pleasing, leaks power, blaming leaks power in buckets of the buckets, and then we have ways of helping them integrate that into their personal practice and into their team practice and the organizational practice. So that there can be wisdom, love and power. And all the benefits that come up.


Mark Divine  32:45  

How do you find people to work with? You know, like we do similar work, and it seems like I mean, generally with us, I have an individual who comes, you know, who’s a leader of an organization or a team, and they work with us for a year or two, and they’re, like, experienced the transformation, and they’re like, I gotta bring this back to my team. And whenever we’ve tried to actually sell this to an organization is finding a little difficult.


Eric Kaufmann 33:07

Well that’s a bummer? I hate when, inaudible, reality.


Mark Divine 33:11

I was hoping you’d have a secret sauce for me.


Eric Kaufmann  33:12  

I was hoping you’d have the answer Mark. The, you know, I just had this conversation with somebody yesterday on my team, and they were like, well, you know, do we sort of blast it out to everyone or the people have to self select? I think there is a certain self selection process. But you know, the podcast, a book, sort of putting the message out there. For two decades, I was much more concerned with just kind of doing the work. That’s much more recent than I actually want to, you know, maybe because I’m older, maybe because I’m an empty nester, and you know, maybe because it’s a life change. And I’ve arrived at a certain point, but the sort of the call to teach and engage with more people has switched on in a way that I haven’t felt it in a long time. And so doing what’s on me, and what’s on you, to sort of invite folks into the conversation. And then if I’m coaching a CEO, to your point, before long, they’re like, okay, you know, the realization for them is that I even as the CEO, people have a misconception about CEOs power, by the way. Because to be the CEO puts you in the role of dependent like never before, because anything that you’re going to accomplish for which you’re accountable, and about what you’re excited, has to be with and through other people. So the level of dependence becomes remarkable even though people think, oh, CEO has all the power. Yes-and, and so they recognize that they want to bring this to the team so that they can create a better vessel to bring forward what they’re, you know, conceiving and responsible for. So that’s, you know, it’s a fun way to do it. I don’t know about mass market, though, that, that’s your question.


Mark Divine  34:41  

I have a professor who is also an Amazon in Amazon security. He runs all their physical security, and he’s like, hey, we got to bring you guys in to do some training with us, with my team. So we put together our standard proposal and this team is too risk averse. Like I said, we’re not going to go work out in front of each other. I was like, are you serious? That’s that’s really sad, you know what I mean, that they wouldn’t put themselves out there like that. And these people are running, you know, part of one of the largest organizations in the world. On the other hand, like, we’ve got a proposal into shell now, Shell Oil is a very different type of company than Amazon. And they’re very risk aware, you know, kind of like the SEAL teams, you know, there’s working on top of, you know, these mega five mega ton bombs, every day in the field. 


Eric Kaufmann 35:21



Mark Divine 35:21

So they, they’re really all over it. So, but I agree with it’s not, I don’t think, not yet. But within five to 10 years, I think the type of work that you and I are doing will become…


Eric Kaufmann 35:33



Mark Divine 35:#4

More common. And of course, McKinsey and Accenture will co-opt and be doing most of the work. Hahaha.


Eric Kaufmann  35:39  

I’ll tell you why I think you’re spot on is because the conditions on the ground not only that, they become more complex, but we are living in a form of kind of social reality that is materially different, which is to say, the shapers of human society are executives of corporations. It’s not the government so much, it’s not the church. I mean, look at Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, you know, as examples, right. And so the the mantle of responsibility is on the shoulders of executives. And while some of them don’t want it, it is simply a fact. And so the MBA is going to be insufficient for the level of social, physical, moral responsibility. And so kicking up the consciousness is represent, that’s why I think it’s inevitable.


Mark Divine  36:21  

I totally agree. The corporations have become the dominant institutions. You know, you see the devastation, environmentally, that unconscious leadership has created. So it’s on corporations to clean that mess up, right. It’s not going to happen by any kind of green movement, or the UN or Greta Thornburg, it’s going to be through evolution of consciousness, and these organizations and new organizations cleaning up and evolving. My kind of parting shot when I close up my podcast is, we need to be the change you want to see in the world. But let’s do it at scale, because we can do that now with technology, thanks to Zuckerberg and Musk,right, and podcasts like this. Anyways, man, this has been a great conversation. Eric, what’s next for you? Like? Are you working on another book? Are you gonna focus on growing your business? 


Eric Kaufmann  37:03  

I’m gonna pause on the book for a moment. I mean, this was, you know, it’s the third book. I mean, I have a friend of mine who just published his 45th book, I’m like, Oh, my God, Doug, you’re an angel, or God or something, you know, I’m on my third. But I described the work is a place where an unrelenting commitment to results combines with an unyielding regard for spirit. That’s what I’m about. That’s what my life has been about. That’s what I want the conversations, the actions and the results to be.


Mark Divine  37:28  

Hooyah, to that. And where can listeners learn more about your work and connect with you?


Eric Kaufmann  37:33  

Sagatica.com, s-a-g-a-t-i-c-a.com, Sagatica, this comes from the Latin word sagacigas, or like wisdom, sagacious, or sage.


Mark Divine 37:41

Like, sagacious?


Eric Kaufmann 37:42

So like sagacious, Sagatica.com is my website, Eric Kaufmann on LinkedIn, would be the two great places. Yeah. 


Mark Divine  37:48  

Awesome, well, Eric, thank you for your work and for bringing this to the world. I think it’s really important and timely, and I appreciate your time today. It’s been an awesome conversation. Really enjoyed it.


Eric Kaufmann  37:57  

Same here, Mark, I really appreciate who you are and what you’re doing to the world. 


Mark Divine 38:01

Appreciate that, Hooyah.


Mark Divine  38:23  

What a great conversation with Eric Kaufman really enjoyed discussing matters of the spirit, and how to bring conscious leadership into the world. It’s up to the corporate leaders to be the change now, what they want to see in the world and clean up some of the mess of the past. You can find the show notes at my website, Mark Divine.com. And YouTube is up on my YouTube channel. You can reach out to me at TwitterX at Mark Divine and Instagram or Facebook at real Mark Divine. If you’re not signed up for my newsletter, Divine Inspiration, consider subscribing at Mark Divine.com, I send it out every Tuesday morning. And it has shownotes from this podcast and has a blog that I’ve been working on for that week. It has a book that I’m reading, and other really interesting things and positive things that come across my desk including a weekly practice. And thanks so much for my team of Catherine Divine, and Jason Sanderson and Geoff Haskell who bring this podcast and that newsletter to you every week. And reviews and ratings are very helpful. So if you haven’t done so please consider doing it wherever you listen, it helps others find it helps us stay at the top of the rankings. So thank you very much for that. And thank you for being the change you want to see in your world, for maintaining a positive mindset, and a courageous attitude. Because it all starts with YOU BE THE CHANGE. You are the creator of your world. So make it an awesome one. Till next time it’s Divine out.


Transcribed by Catherine and https://otter.ai



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