Having just launched its beta, this TED-like education company is looking to bring the original purveyor of betterment wisdom to the growing popularity of the corporate mindfulness culture
First impressions of Yaakov Lehman – decked out as usual in his Fiddler on the Roof vest and short Hassidic sidelocks tucked behind his ears – do not call up the image of a corporate change and mindfulness expert that his tittle connotes. However, Lehman didn’t always look like this.
Then again, the Mandarin speaking, globe trotting, globalization major with a crown of dreads on his head version of him six years ago, didn’t look much the part either.
Ancient, paradoxical success
But that’s Lehman for you; a study in paradoxes, which as far as image goes, bundles well with the message he’s pushing; positive change in the self and at the corporate level through the marriage of ancient Jewish wisdom and the tools of the modern, digital age. And how does one bring about such positive change? According to Lehman, it’s accomplished by achieving self mastery and self annulment simultaneously. Like I said, paradoxes.
Confused yet? That’s to be expected, just so long as you’re also curious. Because Lehman would probably be thrilled with confusion being the jump off point on your educational journey to mindfulness and a better you, startup, corporation, whatever. And your journey can begin with a simple tour of Lehman’s Wisdom Tribe beta website.
Just to oversimplify what you would be diving into, Wisdom Tribe professes that through the discovery and understanding of one’s own gifts and talents, combined with a fostering of childlike curiosity, one can identify new opportunities where they can personally effect change for the better, simultaneously being affected for the better themselves.
I know, it all sounds like castles in the clouds, but Lehman assures me many big tech players are throwing some pretty grounded personalities backed by loads of tangible cash investments into the space.
Where’s the wisdom in that
Case in point, the Wisdom2Summit 2015 had on its speaking roster, among others: LinkedIn CEO – Jeff Weiner, Pandora Founder – Tim Westergren, Co-Founder of Indiegogo – Danae Ringelmann, Co-Founder and President at Eventbrite – Julia Hartz, Director of Product at Instagram – Peter Deng, Director of Mindfulness Programs at SAP (yes, they actually have a Mindfulness Director) – Peter Bostelmann, US Congressman – Tim Ryan, a host of wisdom coaches, artists and authors, and no less than four representatives from the land of the Googlers.
Lehman attended the Wisdom Summit and was taken aback to find zero representatives of Jewish based wisdom at the event. This, despite the fact that many of the speakers and event organizers hailed from his ancient, wisdomy people.
He set out to change the unsettling statistic, actually starting a straw poll to have Rabbi and Lord Jonathan Sacks – Chief Rabbi of England and well respected lecturer, to be drafted as a presenter at the event. Lehman’s poll was rejected, though not before putting up a solid effort, heavily supported by some fairly influential people in the the industry, including Google’s Bill Duane – Superintendent of Well Being and Sustainable Performance Learning at Google.
According to Lehman, “Duane supports my work bringing a Jewish contribution to the mindfulness movement because, although he himself is a Buddhist, he fears mindfulness may be falling into ‘cryptobuddhism’ and alienating many people the movement could help.”
Join the Tribe
Battles for the big fish of summits aside, Lehman has been anything but inactive in the mean time:
He’s held a ‘Wisdom Shabbos’ advertising a ‘Digital Detox’ along with a Le’Chayim and Sushi co-hosted by CEO of Digital Detox, Levi Felix and attended by CEO of Mindful Investors, Stu Ruddik, among others.
Then there was the Southern California Bay Sessions exploring how to “Catalyze Creative Consciousness,” as the billing put it, where Wisdom Tribe launched its global presence and featured performances by Billboard’s Top 10 neo-Hassidic band, Zusha.
The Israel based Forest Sessions were particularly immersive, featuring 9 top Jewish Thought leaders exploring ‘Chochma‘, or power, and all you can imagine such sessions would entail, and probably a bunch that you couldn’t.
Most recently, Wisdom Tribe’s beta site launched with multiple samples of educational media in the form of videos, original artwork, infographics and other wisdom based consumables. In tandem with the website launch, Wisdom Tribe kicked off an Indiegogo campaign (is that allowed, using the word ‘Kick’ with reference to Indiegogo?) to help bolster the site. Lehman informs us that three new pieces of content will be uploaded every day for the next 2-3 months till Wisdom Tribe can break out into its primary market trajectory.
And just what will this trajectory look like? The near-term business plan calls for far more than websites, videos and Sushi. Think TED Talks, and all it does aside for its globally respected sessions. Corporate accounts is where Lehman sees his first venture into profitability, with a $2.3M earnings projection in 2-3 years time and another $8M in the longer 5-7 range. After that, skies the limit, believes Lehman.
There’s no question forward thinking corporates are shelling out money for this sort of thing. Equally undisputed is the wealth of wisdom that Judaism can bring to the table. The unknown lies in whether or not corporates will buy into the package, both literally and conceptually speaking. If Lehman’s struggle to get a Wisdom Tribe-styled agenda/speaker to be part of the Wisdom Summit this year tells us anything, it’s that there will be some resistance in some quarters to overcome.
East of Eden
But Lehman not only believes Wisdom Tribe is up to the task, he’s been convinced by others that there’s a massive market out there which would be very receptive to Jewish wisdom, and far closer to home than the Western market he’s so far been targeting – namely, the East.
Wisdom Tribe’s New Asia Ambassador out of Harvard Asia Center, Samuel Kim – President of Asia Leadership Trek, has first hand knowledge of the high regard Asian’s hold for Jewish wisdom. Although Asia hasn’t quite jumped onto the new age bandwagon of mindfulness as a ‘Thing’, it’s probably more due to the fact that traditionally Asia has invested significant amounts of time and money in education of this sort for their workforce as part and parcel of its corporate culture since its inception. Kim sees South Korea as an ideal launching pad for Wisdom Tribe into Asia and will no doubt be working on that aspect of the biz dev strategy.
So there you have it. Mindfulness is here. Whether its here to stay is another question? Come to think of it, if the Mindfulness movement would like to endure beyond the state of some corporate fad, it would probably do itself well to latch on to the phenomenon that is the ‘Eternal People’. In this regard, it might be mindfulness, and those who push it, whom need the Wisdom Tribesman of the world, more so than the other way around.