"My life has been full of drama. Some may call them tragedies you can say but this is how I relate to them."
Zur’s first year of life began with turmoil, as his parents got divorced. His parents had him and his older brother Shahar, and later on, his father remarried and had two more sons. At the age of 14, his brother Shahar was killed in Gaza during his army service, and so he quickly became the ‘eldest’. The dramatic trajectory did not end here, because, at the age of 27, Zur’s father passed away after a decade of battling cancer, which started after the death of his brother. His father, the late Yossi Genosar, was one of the heads of the Shabak and mediated the peace talks between several prime ministers and Yasser Arafat, and as Zur shares, "Wet kisses from Arafat weren’t uncommon for me and my brothers."
When I asked Zur how he dealt with all this complexity and difficulty at such a young age, he shared, "It builds muscles – like, in Stoic philosophy, there is the mantra that says: The obstacle is the way. And thank God there were many obstacles along the way because they built me up. There are definitely some that I would willingly forgo and give up the muscles they built, but I truly believe that without the mess and trauma, the flower would not have bloomed. In my opinion, our choices in life are very limited. In the end, as Viktor Frankl says, our ultimate ability is to choose our position and our reaction to the things that happen to us."
Zur did not go on a classic “post-military” trip. Instead, he took some of his father's ties and flew to New York and worked in real estate there for a whole year. Then he returned to Israel, and at the age of 26, in the middle of his law degree, he found himself longing for that “post-military” trip experience, so he travelled abroad for six months, and returned straight to exam season– which happened to be his best semester (grades wise).
This trip did not only help him in his degree but life, as he met someone who was going to be an influential teacher to him throughout his life. Through meeting with him, he started practicing Bhrigu Yoga, which deals with the inner, and mental side, similar to mindfulness, with the goal being to unify body, speech, and mind. There he learned how by practicing this, our minds sharpen, and our introspection rises.
To this day, 20 years later, he practices these exercises every day. "It very quickly became like drinking water. If I delay my practice at all, I usually have a bad day, even if it’s just for later in the day. I think about it like drinking water– just as I know I will drink water; I know I will practice."
Our breathing is the mirror of our mental state. Through this, Zur explained how it is possible to have the reverse effect and use breathing to return to our center. A breathing exercise that Zur recommends is to bring in the breath for 1x counts, hold the air in for 2x counts, and exhale for 2x counts, for example, 4 seconds inhaling, 8 seconds holding and 8 seconds exhaling.
After years of working in real estate, oil, and desalination in Israel and around the world, he decided it was time to do other things. Something that would give back, and since then he began a new journey. "There are no recipes for pivoting, but what worked for me was the intention – an intention devoid of details. I knew that I didn't want to completely disconnect myself from doing business, but on the other hand, wanted to bring my inner world into my work, and also be surrounded by good people. The field which I would do that in was less clear."
Together with Yaakov Lehman and Shari Arison, they created the "Wisdom 2.0" conference in Israel, which focused on wisdom in the new world of business. It was there that a relationship with Fred Kofman, the VP of LinkedIn, started. First as a friendship and later turned into a long partnership that still exists today.
Sometimes we must trust the process because at the beginning we have no idea where we will end up. We have no idea what will happen, how the market will react to the product, or how we enter a new, unknown business world. The spark in your eyes is what's important, it's what drives us to succeed, learn, and grow. Beauty also resides in discovery. With each new challenge comes new opportunities; they open up and break down into many small parts, and all of a sudden, many different unexpected possibilities open up to us. Only in retrospect will we be able to see which part of the journey was a momentous one– in Zur’s case, the conference.
"There is a business approach called ABZ. The A is where you are now, the Z is where you want to get to, and the B is the next step you need to take along the way. Overall, you know where you want to go, but you don’t or shouldn’t know each step that will take you there."
A big goal can cause a lot of anxiety and stress. But the process of breaking it down into parts and smaller tasks turns this huge task into something that we can manage, and suddenly it feels and becomes more possible.
It should be noted that many initiatives along the way do not always work. In Zur’s case, a mindfulness app failed, lectures he gave about mindfulness that he realized were not suitable for marketing, and experiments of various programs all saw their failures. Between the conference and the establishment of their non-profit, he spent 4 years searching.
In the middle of those four years, he went on a desert retreat alone to have a think; to be with his own thoughts and go through a filtering process. The goal was to come back more focused on what he wanted to do.
From time to time, when you feel overwhelmed or confused, I (Gali) recommend you take a simple piece of paper and write down all the things that are on your mind/ life projects you are embarking on and examine: What still interests and excites you? Where do you have more opportunities? What no longer serves you?
In addition, under each section write who your partners are in these areas. Both for business-related things, home life, other projects…Who is there holding your hand to get things up and running? These partnerships create something much bigger than us, and it is important to find and nurture them.
Fred Kofman, who is also an economics professor who taught and became one of the leading mentors in Silicon Valley in the field of executive coaching, invited Zur to come to visit him on an island in the Caribbean, to create something new. They spent a week together on a boat, searching for a common vision, and while they were searching Zur also learned how to free dive.
In January 2020, their non-profit was created– a leadership program that uses mindfulness tools and teaches a wide variety of content. Their teaching method takes things from intellect to emotion, and from theory to practice. To truly understand and internalize what we have, it is not enough that we learn ideas – we need to understand where these ideals and values meet us in our lives, where the gap between the ideal and where we are now is, and what we are doing to change it.
"In every program, we touch not only those who participate in it, but also everyone who said participant manages or will manage in the future, and anyone else who is and will be around them. There are three generations of programs that mentor each other, share information, and continue to give back. In our vision, it is really a social experiment to create a wave of real change."
In the coming months, another cohort of the program will start. You can find the registration link here. I highly recommend that you join this journey.