Former Microsoft Malaysia CEO and business coach Alex Butt Wai Choon believes that there are ways in which spirituality can have a positive influence on the business world. In an interview with BFM’s Raise Your Game On Enterprise, he cites his personal experience leading him to this conclusion.
“A year ago, I had gone through a major transformation; I became a monk for 44 days. I wasn’t a religious person, so being a monk was a major change. I wanted to just empty everything in my life and look at things from a very different perspective,” he explains.
After his experience of being a monk, Alex started writing a self-help book, drawing on his experiences as a CEO and entrepreneur as well. Having finished his first draft within a month, he then reworked the book as a fictional narrative after a meditation session gave him an inspiration.
“One day I was in Prague, around September; I woke up at 5am and meditated, and a story started to form and play out in my head. Of course it messed up my entire meditation, and I stopped and started writing.
His business friends, as well as his editor, both preferred his reworked book. “The editor read my first chapter and said, ‘oh, that’s interesting; that’s not your profile,’ and he said ‘write two more’. I submitted two more, and he said ‘write the rest of the book’,” Alex recounts.
The result was ‘A CEO, an Entrepreneur, a Tourist, and the Monk: Finding the Balance Between Success and Happiness’, a fictional narrative featuring conversations between the main characters – Charles the CEO, Antonio the entrepreneur, and Toby the tourist – and the monk.
“What is the real priority in your life?”
Alex notes that the characters personify the things in life that detract from happiness and success. “For example, the CEO personifies greed and excessiveness – the way we keep doing and wanting more and more and never knowing when to stop. The entrepreneur represents desires; the things that we want and makes us feel alive; climb a mountain, run the marathon, and that’s ‘oh, this is great’, but that is looking outward for stimuli to make us feel alive.
“In many cases, it could also be anger; that we are not happy with the imperfection of the world. The tourist represents delusion. We think that everything we do today is going to make us happy; and in many cases, they’re not.”
While spirituality is a major theme of the book, Alex stresses that it is not religious in nature. “It is a way to practice what I call ‘spiritualism’; the things that are not material and not physical, and so spiritualism is not religious. It is about love; it is about compassion; it’s about being kind. Don’t be jealous. Don’t be envious of others. Rejoice in the success of even your competitor.”
Even as a work of fiction, however, Alex added some real-world tools and methodologies.
“The ‘life inventory’ was introduced as more of a life priority-setting exercise. Often we go on with life – either knowingly or unknowingly just trudging along. But what is the real priority in our life? How do we sort out what it really means to us?
The exercise is one I’ve run with many groups; it asks you what you own; what you like to do; what relationships you have; and what kind of roles you have been playing in your current life. By asking people to narrow their priorities down to 3, it helps them really discover what is most meaningful.”
Another big theme in the book is mindfulness, according to Alex.
“Actually, mindfulness by itself has no meaning. You have to associate mindfulness actually with an activity. Then there is context to the meaning of mindfulness, which is being aware of what you’re doing, and being conscious that there’s impermanence in what you’re doing. And so if someone is mindful of something they’re doing, then there is awareness of the object of mindfulness, the feeling it invokes, the interpretation of it, and the process.”
To know more about life’s lessons, please visit The CEO Monk.
The book is available at the site and plus Amazon (printed) and ebooks on Kindle, Apple iTunes and Barns and Noble.