Episode 4 - Jan Sorensen, Our Corporate Zen Monk in Life.

Show Notes: 

  1. Can you tell us a bit of your journey in becoming a corporate Zen Monk. 
  2. Was there a shift in lifestyle or your perspective in life that led you to where you are now? 
  3. What does an average day look like for you? Any morning routines, night routines? Daily eating and training habits? Daily mindfulness or reading/learning?
  4. Have you met anyone who also carries the same set of views and values in the corporate world so far? Many people would argue that its a clash of lifestyles, what’s your take on that?
  5.   Why do you think finding balance is important to a lot of people nowadays?
  6. What are somethings you do to help you get over obstacles in your life? Do you train, do meditation? Or anything to help you overcome mental barriers?
  7. How do you find a balance between the corporate world a and all three? Your family, your career and spirituality? I can tell that your career requires you to travel a lot. How do you make sure that you don’t neglect the other two? 
  8. I saw that you’ve started a Facebook page called “Trying Something New”, would you mind sharing with us a bit on why you started it? 
  9. During your travels was there any major experiences that really changed your outlook on life?
  10. Was there one thing you learn and you feel the most imperative one during the journey so far?
  11. Was it like a big leap of faith or any adversities you faced that led you to this shift? 
  12. Bonus Materials
  13. Summary
  14. What's next? (Next Episode Mentor Reveal)

Meraki means; to do something creative with soul, or love. To put a piece of yourself in your work.
— Meraki

PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION

 

 

Jan: Absolutely, so, I moved, as an expat, to Asia, to Singapore specifically in 2012. And I was just fascinated about everything in Asia, the culture, the sports, the food and the way of lifestyle, mindfulness and so on. And I decided to dig deeper, into specifically Zen. So I started studying a lot, books around Zen and so forth, and then I liked the idea that I’m in a corporate career, I work in a blue chip company, and that’s very corporate, and sort of, my life on the side is a little bit like a Zen monk, I try to do things that balance the other… My job is all about finance, economy and leadership and stuff like that, then on the side I do Martial Arts and I study Zen, and I meditate and I do other things, I teach children, and so on. So and then that’s how I came up with the corporate Zen monk. So it’s been a long time in the making, in a way, because it went all the way back to when I, actually back to 2010 when I did an MBA. Where I started meditating and so on, but then it really changed it when I moved to Asia in 2012. And since then, yeah, it’s gradually, as I trained more and more martial arts and became a formal Zen student, I spend more and more time on these things in my spare time.

Saphira: So that considered, like, it was a shift in lifestyle, right? Did that, like, shift your perspective in life that leads you to where you are right now? Anyone major event, or a manifestation over time?

Jan: Uhmm, yah, yes and no… I think my change or my transformation in terms of thinking about health or thinking about spirituality and things like that happened slowly as I studied more books, I met more teachers, both on the Martial Arts side, I met some very inspirational people at Kali Majapahit here in Singapore. That helped me on my journey and I’ve met Zen teachers that have helped me on my spiritual journey, so that’s been progressive over time. But then I had, in 2015, out of nowhere I was diagnosed with cancer, throat cancer. And at least, for about six days, I thought I would have one or two years left to live, and that changed my perspective, mainly on time, and what time actually means for us as people, how we spend our time, how we balance life. So, I think I was on a journey already and then that happened in 2015 and really rocked my boat and changed the way I was thinking. So it was both, it was a progressive journey, and then a sudden event that really made it even more significant, you can say.

Saphira: So after that incident is there any sayings or ideologies you lived by, like, how often, and what situations do you remind yourself of these ideologies that you hold by?

Jan: So, one thing that I take very much to heart is the idea that I don’t think people stay the same, I think that people either improve in an area, or they get worse. So a lot of people, including myself, used to think that, like, let’s not do sports right now, because I’m okay, but I don’t really have the time. And the idea is that I stay at the same level, I stay at the same physical level, and I guy like me, in my early forties, if I don’t do sports, every day I get worse. I get in worse physical condition, I get less healthy and so on. And the same with diets, if people say, ‘look, I’ll start my diet after New Year’, or something like that, until then, it will be the same. But it will not. Every day you get more and more unhealthy, so either you are on an upward trend, improving yourself, or you’re actually on a downward trend. There’s nothing in the middle where it will be the same tomorrow. No, everything changes. So this is very important to me, so I know that I need to improve, in my sports, or in my family life, my balance, in my work, or whatever it is. And when I spend too much time, let’s say, at work, I wanna balance that. Like if I’ve been business traveling a lot, I want to balance that with my family, or I want to balance that egotistically, or selflessly a little bit, on my sports or on my hobbies. Cause I know that if I neglected that for a while, it’s actually going down, it’s not staying the same. So that’s one thing that I spend a lot of… I mean, really use as an ideology. Another thing that I believe very strongly in is that it’s very important to meet and spend time with people that are very different from you. I think it’s important to meet people from different cultures, from different age groups, from different careers and walks of life because that’s how you learn a lot about yourself and how you learn about others. The fun is actually that you find out how equal and how similar we all are in many ways. But at the same time you also find out what it is that maybe you’re missing in your balance, like, obviously I am a corporate person, working a corporate job and has a finance position, so I speak about money every day at work, so it’s very helpful for me to go an meet spiritual people and training with people in, let’s say, Martial Arts or Parkour or whatever it is I do. To stay healthy, to keep young, both at heart and in the body, and I really feel that it helps, and when I meet people like you, we are, well obviously I’m twice your age, but I feel like we spend time together, we have fun, training parkour, and then we can talk about your business and I can give you advice on that and you can give me advice on something and we all learn something from it, and we all have fun. And I think it’s an amazing way of spending time with each other, and we learn from that, and we grow from that.

Saphira: So I figured, like, you know, because your job requires you to travel a lot, during your travels was there any major experiences that really changed your outlook on life?

Jan: From my traveling, I think it’s been more, it’s been more the training and Zen, and more the training in Martial Arts. I have to say, I really, really… for the traveling part, have had some extremely, let’s say, awakening is probably too much, but, fascinating trips to Japan a lot, I think I’ve been there eleven or twelve times, and at least four to five times I was in Kyoto. And that’s been an amazingly spiritual experience for me, and the same also going to Cambodia, to Siem Reap and seeing the Temple of Ruins in Siem Reap, it’s just amazing. Angkor Wat, and then Bayon temples, it’s an amazing experience, so these places have for sure affected me, but I wouldn’t say that there was one incident where it really changes everything, but I do believe that by travelling, you get a lot more flavour to your life, if people stay in the same place for ten years, I think they’re missing out on life, I really think so.

Saphira: It’s like, so I also saw that you started this FaceBook page called “Trying Something New”, right? Would you mind sharing with us a bit what it’s all about and why started it in the beginning?

Jan: Yeah, so, while I was lying here in Singapore in my sick bed, in the hospital bed after my surgery I did, according to the doctor, record recovery of only four, five days, and then I actually went skiing after the cancer surgery. But I was lying there thinking, like, ‘How should I use this experience to change the way I live?’, and I made some ideas of what I wanted to change, and one of the things was that I wanted to learn new skills, I wanted to try something new, I wanted to visit new places, because I think I was starting to do that a little bit, but I wanted to do it even more. And then, to put a little bit of pressure on myself, I sort of made it public, or saying to my friends and on FaceBook that I would do one hundred and four things in one year, so two things every week, that was significant, new things, right? So I took up kite surfing, rail surfing, I learnt to juggle, I cut a stone in half with a karate chop and I trained for three or four months then I went in the ring and did a boxing fight in front of three or four hundred spectators, and things like that. So quite significant things that I had to do, and in all, I managed to do the one hundred and four, and then it sort of, after that, became… I made a blog on FaceBook and then I keep doing it now, I don’t do one hundred and four every year now, now I do maybe thirty a year, because it takes some energy, and it’s fun, but you cannot do it all the time, but I think it puts a lot of flavour to my life, and I think I learnt a lot from it, I meet intreresting people, I challenge myself to find something new to try, as much as possible, and I really like that. And the reason why I stopped with it, I have had so many private messages from people saying, ‘You are really inspirational’, and, you know, ‘by you doing this I want to try freediving’, or, ‘I want to try boxing now’, ‘I want to get in shape’, ‘I’m same age as you, I’m in the forties, and it looks like I can also do this’, or whatever it may be. And I think that’s great, I’m not there… I’m not showing off the one hundred and four to show off anything, I just think it’s great to inspire people to do something simliarly, they don’t need to do one hundred and four things a year! But if they do once a month, then I think it’s great, I think it’ll help make their life more interesting.

Saphira: So, like, I’m just going to go a bit deeper and you already mentioned about this, but, how do you find a balance between your family, your career, and spirituality? Because I can tell that your career requires you to travel a lot, like I mentioned before, but how do you make sure that you don’t neglect the other two?

Jan: So, yeah, I think that is difficult. I think for anyone, it’s difficult. If you have a real corporate career and you’re trying to advance the career ladder, I think you’d need to spend some time on work and I have done that for many years, I still do it. But, I think there’s many ways to do it, I see people travelling any time that’s sort of, like, there’s a request for travel as an example, for work. And people leaving, you know, Saturday night or something like that, I really try to strive now to travel so there’s a minimum interferance with my family and then say, every second or third time I travel, I really try to… Like this time I’m in Singapore for a weekend, just before I pay myself everything while I’m here, and I spend it on private sports, and meeting friends, and doing parkour, and Martial Arts and stuff like that. So that gives me some of the spiritual and some of the health part as well as the work part which will be the next two days for me. And then in my day to day life, I took a decision some years ago to say, ‘Okay, I’ve worked really hard for many years…’, and now I still work hard, ‘but I really want to get home, and say have dinner with my family.’, when I’m at home, right? So, when I’m not travelling, I try to make some rules that are pretty simple, and pretty easy to hold, and then I stick to them. Like I will literally put it in my calendar so people cannot book me for meetings there, so I’m not available basically, and things like that. So it’s more if you push it through your life, you can do these things, but I’d still say, having a perfect balance is hard work and I have not learned it myself but I’m getting much, much better than I was… Say, ten years ago.

Saphira: Yes, definitely. So, why do you think finding balance is so important to a lot of people nowadays? Because, like, you know, do you have many opportunities where you actually have to say ‘No’, or ‘I really can’t do it’, ‘I won’t do this’, why do you think it’s important?

Jan: No, but, I think having balance in life is what makes you joyful and happy and I think it has a much bigger chance that you won’t have regrets when you get older, if you had balance in life. I think that history is filled with people who have either became amazing sport athletes, or rockstars, or CEOs of big companies, but they ended up divorced, or unhappy, or maybe with lot of money or whatever, but they didn’t have the balance to see there’s a mental part of it, there’s a spiritual part of it, there’s a health part of life as well, and those things are really, really important. But if you neglect that part, and you just focus on your sport, or you just focus on your career, you won’t have joy in your life and I think you’ll end up with some regrets. So I think it’s very natural that as we progress as humans that we see more now, than say our parents did, because we have an opportunity, we have a possibilty to have balance more than we could, say, twenty, thirty, forty years ago. And I would advise anyone, if you can have balance in your life you can find… It’s so popular to say, you know, to say, ‘You should have a passion for what you do’, and I agree with that, but you could also have a period in your life where you work for five years, maybe it’s not the most biggest passion you have, but it makes good money, and then at the same time you spend your free time with all the stuff that you’re passionate about. Your sports, or your hobbies, or the friends that you want to spend time with.

Saphira: So it’s like, have you ever actually met anyone who also carries the same set of views and values in the corporate world so far? Many people would argue it’s a clash of lifestyles, but what’s your take on that?

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Jan: In my earlier years, working in the corporate world, I didn’t see so many people that are living like I do today, but I think now it’s getting more and more popular to, you know, to have women and men doing yoga several times a week, you have people doing extreme sports, Iron Man, training for Iron Man and stuff like that. And I think it’s very similiar to my way of thinking, I just do it in Martial Arts and I study Zen, and Buddhism and so on. But they find the spiritual part, say, in yoga, or doing long solitude sports, like in Iron Man, or something, it takes extreme mental, spiritual and physical endurance to do something like that. So I think I see a lot more people like that and I also think that in order to get to the top, even today, it’s… Before the financial crisis you could be, you know, playing golf, and drinking every night and being the big boss, I don’t think you can do that anymore, that’s not how the business world works anymore. You need to be in good shape, you need to be aware of both yourself, and your teams, etc. So, yeah, I see a lot more people thinking in this way now, in the corporate world.

Saphira: So given, that being said, what are some things you do to get over obstacles in your life, do you train, do meditation? Or anything to help you overcome mental barriers especially?

Jan: Yeah, so I meditate every morning, I mean, sometimes I might skip for whatever reason, but I try to meditate at least fifteen minutes every morning, and it’s very dear to me. And it’s really changed my thought process, and the way that my mind fills up with thoughts, and the self-talk, we all have a voice in our head, who’s sort of warning us about something, or sometimes being negative about what could go wrong and things like that, and that voice has totally changed after I started meditating. It goes like six months, or something like that, then it disappears, or it becomes more of an encouraging voice in your head, so that’s been a big part of it. I think eating properly, getting enough sleep and doing physical training, whatever it may be, for me it’s Martial Arts, but it can be most sports as well. It’s making your body to be able to work at peak performance levels, and when you do meet stressful situations or obstacles I think you’re much more ready to counter them, and do something about it. So I think that’s the best way to do it. And then one way, if I’m really in a situation where things are really bad, or I think that this could go really wrong, I usually sit down, control my breath, and then think about what is the worst thing that could happen? I mean, can I survive if this goes in the worst direction ever? Right? And if I, after that, you know, maybe this will make me look bad, maybe this will make me look, you know, not the way I want to or maybe people will see me as a loser if this happens, or whatever, and then I think about, ‘Could I live with that?’ afterwards. And if I think, in most cases that’s the case, you think, like, okay, that will be a bad situation, but it’s not worse than that, then actually you can just move through it and you don’t even think about it afterwards. Of course if you’re doing a sport and you know that if you step to the right you will fall twenty meters and you’ll die then you’ll have to think a little bit different about it, and then that takes even more mental stress, and you need to be even more ready for that.

Saphira: Because I think most people they tend to, they worry so much about what people think and I think that’s a big… that’s the biggest mental barrier on top of that, because it just doesn’t work, you know? People…

Jan: But that’s back to the voice in the head…

Saphira: Yeah

Jan: …we all have that, and I think it doesn’t dissappear if you meditate, but you control it in a different way, and you’re not worried in the same way. But I also have to say that, you know, from being, without sounding like a very old man, I mean as a teenager I knew it, early twenties, you’re more aware of this, it’s just that part of your life where you really are thinking what does other people, especially maybe the opposite sex are thinking about you. And that’s important to you and that’s what life’s experience changes a bit. But I have to say, if you don’t get mentally strong, or if you don’t get spiritually, figuring out there are more things to life than material side of things, and whether or not you are attractive at a certian point in time, or whatever, then I think you will really never get over it. You can keep it way in to, you know, you’re retirement age, right? It is something that you can work with, and you can change.

Saphira: So you mentioned, you know, on top of that, that you do meditations in the mornings and stuff like… And I want to know a bit, what does an average day look like for you? Any, like again you said, morning routines, you do meditation. Night routines? Maybe daily eating and training habits, mindfulness or like, reading and learning? What does your average day look like?

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Jan: Yeah, so, I don’t really because I travel quite a bit, and I do different pieces of training and stuff like that, so it’s hard for me to describe an ‘average’ day I guess, but I mean something would be like, trying to get quite early up in the morning, I’m a relatively morning person. I used to while I was in Singapore, I felt it was easier to get up really early, so sometimes I’ll get up really early, five? And spend the first few hours before I went to work, both meditating, training, and also writing let’s say… I still do that today, a journal. Which is not really a full journal, but I write down, every day, three things that I’m grateful for. So like today would probably be, one fo the things would be this PodCast, and it would be the time we spent together today doing parkour. And, so, it doesn’t become like every day it’s about, you know, I’m grateful for my kids and my family, and things like that, but it’s actually about that day I’m grateful for. Because then it becomes both a little bit of a journal, but at the same time it also reminds me of all the things we can actually be grateful for, on an every day Monday or Sunday, right? So, I do that every morning as well, I always get a solid, healthy breakfast, and I always do that with my family and my boys, I have two sons, and that’s important to me. And then I go to work, and I started doing it in Singapore, taking the MRT here, and where I live now I take the bus. And I actually have a company car, but I don’t drive it, my wife drives it, so I like that, and it makes me feel good that I use public transport as much as possible. And then I have a full work day with, you know, meetings, trying to spend as much time with my team as possible, to coach and mentor them, in making sure that we are moving in the right direction. And then I try to get out of the office five thirty (PM), about that, so I’m really, really pushing myself to put that as a limit, sometimes, I cannot. If there’s a meeting overrunning or something, but I really trying to get out of the office because I think it’s wasted time afterward, to just keep sitting there and doing work. Because in principle, my work never stops, so I could work forever if I wanted to, but that doesn’t really work, right? And then five thirty-ish I take the bus home, and I try to have dinner with the family, unless they’re doing sports, and then in the evening I would do either kick-boxing training or Kali (Majapahit) training, or almost always some Martial Arts, of course, not every day during the week, but three or four times a week, then some days, I also teach. So I teach up to six hours a week, children and adults, in Kali.

Saphira: Is there anything you’d say to really reach out to people to make people understand, you know, like, okay, if they really wanted to do something and they want to change something about their life, what is one thing you say… Let’s say, actually, I wouldn’t say like, ‘advise’, but you would share with people that they can do, and look forward to.

Jan: Yeah, so I think we’re back to my, you asked what kind of ideology or thinking that I felt was very important, I think this idea that you don’t stay the same is very important. Because I think people have this weird idea that they stay the same, but they don’t. They get worse. So if they don’t do anything they actually get worse. So if you have that starting point that you want to improve something in your life, and you want to be on an upward trend rather than a downward trend, then the most important thing you can do is a little at a time. So whether I train parkour, with you guys, or I do Martial Arts, you know, you don’t start as a white belt and start punching people in the face, right? I mean, it just doesn’t work like that, so, you take it easy, and you do a little step at a time, you get in better physical shape, you start becoming more flexible, and so on. And it’s really about deciding first, that you don’t want to be on the downward-ing trend, you don’t want to get worse tomorrow than you were today. Because that’s the fact, you are not as healthy tomorrow, as you are today if you don’t start eating healthy, and you don’t start using your body for something, right? So when you have that in your mind, then you start to do something, and then you just take it easy, because most people want to have… You know, they want to lose ten kilos in a week, they want to get a black belt in a year. And it doesn’t work like that, and it just doesn’t work, but that’s also fine, when you start the sports, seriously, you will find people who are similar to you, and you will like it and you will have fun, and maybe it becomes your passion, right? And then maybe it takes five to six years to get the black belt, but it’s so worth it, that’s Martial Arts. It could be something else, another sport, right? But to start where you are, and then take one step at a time, and make realistic goals, but just keep going. But would be my, you know, cause I think this idea that we totally over-estimate what we can do in a month. But we totally under-estimate what we can do in a year. If we have people training in Martial Arts after a year, they’re extremely fit, they’re extremely… They’re completely different people, right? And I started parkour almost in my forties, and I’m not good at it, but I’m so much better than I was a year or two ago, and I don’t even train every week, I just train from time to time when I have the possibility. But I take it slow, I don’t do something crazy, so I don’t go and break my leg the first time. So that’s how I think you can progress, yes, I’m never going to be the world champion, but I don’t have to be.

Saphira: So the important thing is, you start?

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Jan: Yeah! So get started, then make realistic goals and then keep going, right? But I think again, what stops a lot of people from starting on Monday, is they have this idea that if they do nothing, they’re still in the same shape.

Saphira: Yeah

Jan: But that’s not true. But people can… If they really understood that, I think they’d get started tomorrow. And you really feel that. I mean, I have a lot of my friends and colleagues that say like, ‘Ya, I really feel now I’m in my forties and I really should get started with some sports’, right? And what they feel is actually in their thirties, their health, or at least their fitness levels has gone down. Because every day it goes down as you get older, but if you start training you either keep it straight or you even better, let’s say you train two, three times a week, you actually improve your health. And we all see that we have plenty of people who we meet who are in their fifties and they jump around like… They look like… Teenagers, right? And we know that, and we think it’s incredible, but the difference between them and us is that they train four, five times a week. But maybe we don’t need to do that, now I’m talking about myself, maybe I don’t need to train four to five times a week, maybe two or three times will be enough just to have me a nice upward strength in my health and fitness level.

Saphira: Because, yeah, at least you’re moving towards somewhere, rather than not doing anything.

Jan: Yeah, exactly, which will make me a completely different person, compared to the person who doesn’t do anything! The ones who use Netflix, and the sofa, and pizza…

Tom: I think something that was interesting, was that, like, the question asking, ‘Do you know anyone in your field who’s interested in the work-life balance?’, the , originally, when we wrote that one it was asking whether you meet anyone in the corporate world who’s interested in the Zen stuff, do you find any spiritual people in the corporate world?

Jan: No. Very few, yeah. Yeah, there’s very few. But when I saw that question, I really felt like I wanted to give a compliment to the people who… Because again, you have, for like every ten people you have at my age, you have two people, or something, who do yoga, and train for iron man or marathon running or something like that, and then you have seven people who don’t do anything. Right? And I wanted to actually reach out and say, those two or three people, without actually saying like that, they’re doing the right thing, but then you have the seven other people who still thinks like, ‘Yeah, I can start on Monday’, or, ‘I can start next year’, you know, we go to Mexico next year, and I want to look good in a bikini, so then I start running in six months, right? But it’s complete lunacy, right? I mean why wait six months? And then you just… You’re still going down, right? You might not be going down like this, but every day you’re getting more sick, in principle, it’s almost like the sickness, you get slowly sick.

Saphira: What about people who… They want to start, but they’re very fearful, and they do not know how to identify, you know, what they’re scared of, they just don’t know where to start, and then they say that ‘Oh, maybe I could start doing this’, and then they’re just scared. Some people are scared of, you know, they need like, validation, some people need permission when you really don’t clearly don’t need one, like what would you, like, you know…?

Jan: For me when I wanted to start a sport again in my late thirties, I utilized the fact that, you know, today you can get a free lesson, or a trial lesson, or at least for twenty dollars, or ten euros, or whatever. And tried a lot of different things to try to figure out, you know, should I do spinning? Should I go to the fitness centers? Should I go kayaking, or should I do marathon running? Or whatever, right? And, just, after testing a lot of different things, there were a few things I really liked, but the Martial Arts just hooked on me. And I think you just need to find… Some people need to try to do sports where they’re in a group, and they need that group pressure, other people like to be a little bit more individual, and like, fight against themselves, and the flexibility that they can do it five o’clock in the morning, by running in the morning or something like that. Then maybe, you should train to run ten kilometers first, or five and then later ten, and then later one day maybe you want to run a marathon! If you’re into running, right? But I actually wanted to run a marathon for a while, right? And I moved towards it, and I went up to run twenty-two kilometers - half a marathon - but then, I didn’t have the patience to keep running at the right pace so I ended up injuring myself. And that was sort of funny because it ended up being more dangerous for me to go through one marathon than to do Martial Arts! Because I mean, you have to do it in the stages that’s natural for your body, right? But you also have to find something that you like. I loved every four years of my time in Singapore, I loved walking from work and going for that lunch lesson three or four times a week at Kali Majapahit. And enjoying meeting friends, and training together and pushing myself, taking a shower and going back to work again. It was an amazing way to get fit, and having fun, and growing myself. And so that worked for me, but for other people maybe badminton is better, or maybe kitesurfing is better, right? If it has to be fun or adrenaline or whatever, we’re all different. But if you don’t do anything, that’s the problem, it doesn’t matter what it is that you get started.

Tom: It’s funny that you say that because, like, when we walked down, through that corporate area you see people with a big pint of beer sitting on their table for lunch and…

Saphira: Lunch! For lunch, yeah…

Jan: And I mean, it was a huge difference, right? Like, when I lived here, I mean, I was not expecting to do this, it was such a fantastic experience to suddenly find out that I could train Kali every lunch, you know, it was almost three or four times a week was training, right? So when I was not traveling in the rest of Asia, I went for those lunch training, and then sometimes I did on Saturdays, sometimes I did in the evenings, and later on, after I trained for three or four years, I started to be the assistant teacher, and stuff like that. So it was just amazing, it worked really well for me. But the fact that you’d do something like that, instead of… Because in Singapore, you have this saying in the corporate world, which is like, ‘Work hard, play hard’. Right? So you work until seven or eight o’clock, and then you go down and you drink a couple of beers and you do whatever, and then you go back to the family at nine o’clock in the evening. I think that’s the worst balance you can have, you work too long, you put crap in your body, and you stay away from your family, right? So it sounds good, or some people think it sound’s good, like, ‘work hard, play hard’, and I guess it does, but I don’t think it’s a healthy lifestyle.

Saphira: Because you know, what I think about, it’s also your capabilities of understanding where or how you would approach things, like, okay, ‘I know that today, I am going to do this’, like, yeah, okay, I’m gonna be good if I decided to pursue this habit or this hobby, you know? And some people just have bad judgment as to what they can do with themselves. Because if you’re not confident in what you’re doing, you just fail.

Jan: Yeah and that’s true, but then the point is, you gotta… I mean, have you asked me… I always found Martial Arts fascinating, but ten years ago I was also like, I’m probably not the kind of guy that’ll want to get punched in the face. And now, one of the things that I find most liberating is sparring, not heavy sparring with people just punching like crazy, but like, really good sparring a couple of times a week, I really enjoy it, and it really helps you get fit, right? But, it has to come gradually, again, you don’t start as a white belt doing something like that, right? You train, and then you make yourself ready for the next level again and again. And I think it is about trying different sports and find out where you’re hooked, and most people have something that they’ve always wanted to try, then why not try it? Go get a free trial in fencing or go try parkour, or trampoline, or kite surfing or whatever it is, you might actually like it a lot, and then do it once or twice a week, then get in shape, and have fun! Because you don’t need to start and be the best, but it goes back to your comment about, that people are worried about how they look, or what do other people think? And, yes, when you come the first time, yes, you’re not going to be the best. But I mean we have all… All instructors have tried, when you’re an instructor, let’s say, again, in Martial Arts, you know how it was to be a white belt, it’s only, what? Four or five years ago, I was a white belt. I know coming into the dojo, not knowing if I should bow or nod, or where I should stand, or what I should say. And, we know that. Everybody knows that the new person doesn’t know much, but we’ll take care of that person and train the person up and after a week nobody sees that person as a new person anymore. But it’s just being brave for a day or two, then afterward you’re gonna have a lot of fun.

Saphira: Hence, like remember what we were talking about, you know, being comfortable looking like an idiot…

Jan: For a few minutes! Right? And I think that’s what life is about, because nobody is naturally great at anything, like, nobody. So I think, years ago, there was a class between, let’s say, having a corporate career and, then, having a spiritual and healthy lifestyle on the side. But I think what I see today after the financial crisis is that you almost need to have a healthy balance, you need to have a healthy body, you need to be able to withstand, you know, a lot of business travel and stressful work and things like that. So, today I don’t necessarily think there is this clash, and you see a lot of leaders today actually spending, you know, quality time with their family, to re-energize themselves going on long vacations, trying to detox from social media or communication in general. And they spend time on staying fit, you have all these people doing Iron Man, and marathon running and stuff like that, right? So I think it’s less of a clash then… Let’s say it was ten years ago. But does that mean that everybody does this? No, that’s far from it, and I think if we look into the real spiritual side of it where I started to move into really becoming a Zen student and studying Buddhism than that’s quite far apart. I don’t meet so many of those kinds of people who are so interested in that, I think I don’t see it anymore as a clash of lifestyles necessarily, I think actually it can be really a perfect match to be a corporate leader and having a healthy, balanced lifestyle.

Tom: Because I think some people would… If you want to be Zen in a corporate world, then you’re not down to earth… You’re not like…

Jan: Well, true… I tend to agree with that but at the same, time this is something I spent a lot of time with my Zen teacher about is that, you can be Zen anywhere, right? Like it’s, you could… So his point, because one of my questions was, so, I have for many years worked really hard, and I created a relatively affluent lifestyle and I could buy a sports car if I wanted to, and maybe I actually will at some point, again. And then I said like, ‘Is that bad? Is that not Zen?’ and he said, ‘That’s nothing to do with it, I mean, Buddha was a prince, and he decided to move away from it-‘, but it’s like, he made this comparison, he said like, ‘You have to see your world as a…’, and it’s funny because we sit here, we could almost, also record this,  but, ‘You have to see your life as a hotel room.’ And some people, they live and grow up in a one-star, and some people live and grow up in a five-star, but it’s how you use that, and how you… If you get attached to it… because one day it will not be there anymore, nothing else on the day you die, you cannot bring all this crap with us, right? So you should try to simplify your life as much as you can, but you should not feel bad about it if you happen to have a sixty-five inch flat screen and a Ferrari in the garage, it doesn’t make you a less Zen person, but if you’re attatched to it and you need that, in order to identify to you as “Jan”, and if you don’t drive your Ferrari, but you drive your taxi, you feel bad now because you’re not in your cool car, then you have a problem. Because “Jan” or “Tom” is not who you drive, we’re just “Jan” and “Tom”, right? We’re the same. Doesn’t matter. And I think thinking like that about your life and… because eventually, I mean, either you will find another thing to do, or you will make a lot of money on your film company, but hopefully won’t change really who you are, in reality, it will not change, but your ego inside your head will change. But that’s the one we need to fight because I feel sometimes, you know, I hate this idea that if I drive my company car and it’s a nice BMW, that you know, ‘Ugh, what a shit car’, right? I don’t think like that, but if I get just a little bit of that notion in my brain, I really tell myself, ‘That’s the ego talking, that’s not Jan talking.’ That’s the ego that wants to… We all want to-

Saphira: -we all want to be the best.

Jan: Also when we tie the black belt we feel good about ourselves, right? But, I mean, we’re still white belts in our mind in many ways. We still need to learn, there’s so much. I mean, when I train with Fred (Fred Evrard) or with  Ben (Ben Boeglin) I can still see I’m so far away from being the best.

Saphira: The beginners' mindset!

Jan: It’s the beginners' mindset, right? And it's the same as, you know, if you do it for the right reasons, if you drive a nice car to have fun and you enjoy it, that’ fine. If you drive it because you want to be better than other people and want to feel more important, that’s bullshit and that’s definitely not Zen style.

Saphira: Shoshin (Beginner’s Mindset in Japanese)

Jan: Yeah, but what I… And this is directly from a Zen master, is like, it really doesn’t matter if you live in a five-star hotel or you live in a one star, you can be just as much a Zen monk like that. You don’t need to renounce everything and say, like, you live on a dime and eat rice every morning and that’s it, right? That’s not the only way to become awakened, or being a Bodhisattva, as I would call it, right? Actually, some of the stuff we’re doing now is being a Bodhisattva, right? It’s like, trying to inspire other people to be better people, that’s what the Bodhisattva Is all about, right? It’s to help other people try to see the light. There is another way to live. So for the corporate people out there, maybe there is another way to live.


For Soundcloud Users: 
https://soundcloud.com/saphira-n-idayu/episode-5-jan-sorensen-our-corporate-zen-monk-in-life

For iTunes Users: 
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/project-meraki/id1334589255?mt=2

Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/saphira-n-idayu/project-meraki?refid=stpr

For my friends who are out of SG, you can listen to them on Google Play Music as well!

Google Play: https://play.google.com/music/m/Iz24sijh2s7fgupi27zhi3yncny?t=Project_Meraki

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