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Presence: Keeping Your Business Relevent in Changing Times

Stop doing. Now. Yes, you heard me, stop doing whatever it is you are doing right now (except, of course, reading). Whatever you are doing, is completely, patently useless, unless you are wholly, completely present - in this moment - right now. I would like you to trust me and take a leap into the unknown for just a few minutes, with the possibility that your life, your business, might just never be the same again.

Power Down
Turn off your cell phone. Close your laptop. Turn off your computer. Close your office door and blinds. And disconnect. Remove your shoes and sit in your chair, feet planted squarely on the ground. Sit comfortably (but not rigidly) upright. Do your best to clear your head of any immediate thoughts, deadlines, worries, and just be.

Observe and be Objective
To help in quieting down your thought process, imagine visualizing yourself from a birds eye view within your room. Continue to follow the inhalation and exhalation of your breath. Do not try to control it. It is impossible. Do not try to fixate on it. Just gently observe it. If it seems rapid or irregular, do not apply any judgment to it, like, “I must really be wound up.” Or, “I feel short of breath.” Just follow the inhalation and exhalation of your breath. Pay attention to your natural senses. Feel the coolness (or warmness) on your skin. Listen to the sounds around you, without reacting or attaching to them. Simply practice being an observer.

As you sit in this quieted state, be receptive to whatever comes to your awareness. Do not attach to any one thought, just gently acknowledge it and then release it from your thinking. Thoughts will continuously stream into your head or there may be external stimuli that will attempt to break your quiet reflection. Just practice acknowledging the thoughts.
Try to keep up this exercise for at least 10 minutes. When you are ready, gently bring your awareness back to this article.
Now that I have you in a settled state of mind, we can begin looking at what it means to be present and how this can positively affect your lives and your businesses.
Today is an invitation for you to become more aware of every single aspect of your life. For, if you are able to master the art of being present in all aspects of your personal and business life, I guarantee it will ultimately be your most prized and valuable asset, unlocking enormous potential for success and prosperity. By mastering your ability to be present, you will be able to use this space to make every creative and strategic decision for your business. This, in turn, will automatically keep your business perpetually relevant, since the world is constantly changing.
We will get into what it means to be present in just a moment, but I will preface things here by saying, it has sometimes been difficult to approach subjects that, in the past, were relegated to the fringes of new age rhetoric or lofty metaphysical guru speak. But as fate would have it, we are, in fact, smack dab in the dawn of a new age.
It is also important for you to understand that what I am ultimately suggesting here, is not meant, in any way, to take the place of your current set of beliefs, be they religious, spiritual, or otherwise. In fact, as you will quickly come to realize, what I am proposing about being present is entirely compatible with and (in most cases) greatly enhances whatever you may believe in your heart or mind to be true, just, and righteous.

My experience with many, many businesses, from the individual small business owner on main street to Fortune 500 companies, is that fear is the primary motivator for business functioning on all levels. It originates at the executive level and trickles down into the managerial level, who, in turn, pass it on to their subordinates and vendors. Talk about paying it forward. Fear of obsolescence, fear of not making forecasts, fear of failure, fear of offending your customer, fear of missing the mark, the list goes on and on. So these fear-driven companies make the misguided assumption that ultimately this single re-active emotion will drive them to make changes and to stay relevant. They have been greatly misinformed that fear, in this way, is a good thing, it motivates and keeps you on top of your game. A fearful perspective is one which looks both in the past and the future for making decisions, not the present. A fear-based action plan constantly looks to past performance and future forecasts as a way to make current decisions based on changing times. But case after case has shown us that fear is a destructive, reactive, regressive action. The fear of not being able to adapt to rapidly changing times forces both people and organizations to resort to emotional reactions which, ironically, create solutions that circumvent change or forego it altogether. Note the prefix ‘re-’ in the word ‘react’ here. The prefix is common in words which define regressive (backwards) actions: ‘re-verse’, re-tract, re-coil’.
Change must always be a movement forward, a progression to transcend what was and to evolve into the new (as painful as it may be sometimes). This method of perpetual transformation not only is your obligation in life, but it is a human necessity. Our world depends on it. Some may argue that fear can be a positive motivator in some cases, for without it, we may be cheating our inherent drive to survive perilous situations. But this is a matter better handled by our biological fight or flight mechanism - which (most of the time) is triggered deep within the most primal parts of the brain. What we are talking about here, is getting first to a personal place where clear decision and clear intent can be born and from which, all of our creative and strategic decisions flow. This, is the goal of presence.
Being present means your ability to be mindful in this moment. To be mindful is at the heart of what it means to be reflective. As you have witnessed yourself earlier on in this piece, being reflective means having the capacity to be open, to observe, and to be objective. It is in this space of reflection where we achieve clarity to make decisions not based out of fear or reaction, but out of a place of acuity, keenness, insight, and wisdom. This is where you will gain an enormous edge over any competitor or any external hurdle.
Earlier in this piece I walked you through a simple exercise of settling the self to prepare you for establishing the space to make creative and strategic decisions from. Let us breakdown the components of being present (mindfulness):

In short, this means keeping an open mind to whatever comes into your awareness - and that means the good and the bad. The hard part is not reacting, especially to the seemingly negative events that can occur in your life. We often have deeply patterned, automatic negative reactions to apparently negative events. Your practice should be to not attach any judgment to events that occur throughout the day. Do not expect things to be the way ‘they should be’. Predefining, prejudging events automatically forfeits any positive outcome. Most of the time, there is almost always a positive outcome. Be receptive to all of the situations, events, and circumstances that happen to you each day. Do not try to manipulate, shape, or conform them to your preconceived ideas or expectations. This just creates more tension and more re-action. This sort of ill-logic, propels you backwards, not forwards. It never ceases to amaze me how the very second I drop my personal resistance to what would otherwise seem like a negative situation, a positive solution manifests almost as instantly. Openness, in general is an extremely wise trait that invites adventure, newness, variety, and contrast into your life. With an open mind, you can have a rich life. It does take diligence and a lot of practice. You must practice open mindedness every day, as often as you can. But the results are instant and positively affect those around you just as quickly. Watch the observable cascade of positive events around you.

Observation is your ability to “see yourself” objectively (not subjectively) in any situation as you are experiencing an event. For example, if you are at a store opening, a press event, new product launch, or just in the checkout line at the grocery store, imagine yourself there, in the crowd of people from a bird’s eye view. This larger, more omniscient view allows you to see a broader perspective of the life you are living without branding it in any way. It helps you detach from your perception of yourself, which is almost always entirely different from the way others see us. What is so great about this is that when you see yourself in this way, you see the reactions, the old emotional outbursts or patterns but do not have to engage in them. Hence, you are given a very special opportunity to correct and alter this behavior. You just observe, with no attachment.

Objectivity allows you to have a thought or feeling, recognize it as just that, but not attach any label to it or judge it in any way. This is a difficult one for most people to grasp as there appears to be an endless stream of thoughts that arise and fall away in any given moment. Try falling asleep after a hectic day and notice how much chatter comes and goes, and how hard it is to turn off. With objectivity, we feel like we do not have to own any of these thoughts or emotions: Fear, anger, resentment, disappointment, hopelessness. All of these are not representative of your true self. They are fleeting and temporary.
It is absolutely important that you be diligent in your practice of being present. If being present, is as I suggest, your business' most valuable asset, then you should devote as much time to its cultivation as possible. This is an investment worth pursuing.
There is much more to pursuing the art of presence and applying it to your personal life. It is important to continue the dialogue and to connect with others who have practiced the art of presence as you begin this self-exploration.
Let the notion of being present be at the heart of all of your business dealings. Let it be the underpinning of your core business philosophy and value set – I guarantee you will quickly welcome in great peace and prosperity in your life.

Excerpted from the lecture: Presence: Keeping Your Business Relevant in Changing Times by Kai Kaden. Kai Kaden is the founder and managing partner of KADEN, a New York based integral creative services agency specializing in the development and marketing of global beauty brands. Over the past decade, KADEN has worked on brands such as Armani, BMW North America, Time Magazine, MTV, Nikon, Sony, And1, Artistry and E. Funkhouser™ New York. KADEN’s integral-studies approach to brand building and marketing using unique, process-driven strategies and freeform, authentic creative engagement, have helped his clients transform their brands and business practices using ground-breaking creative work. For more information e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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