Epic Stuff is for Yuan Lu, Shaolin master and director of the Shaolin Centre in Schorndorf, the result of focus. Even though in the end only the actions count, in the beginning there is focus and concentration. Therefore every endeavour we want to succeed at deserves our full attention.
Shaolin Master Yuan Lu has been living and teaching in Germany for 12 years. He runs a Shaolin centre in Schorndorf, in the State of Baden-Württemberg. We meet on a hot summer weekend. My wife has accompanied me to Schorndorf, and the three of us look for a shady spot embedded in nature. From here we have a breathtaking view over a picturesque valley. Yuan Lu’s orange robe glows as brightly as the sun. He gives my wife and me a bottle of water for a gift. The label on the bottle reads: “Flower of life – love and gratitude.”
What a wonderful start! I thank Yuan Lu for the water and ask him for a short description of himself. It is neither the first nor the last time he shows his subtle and very warm smile. Then he says, “I grew up in China and went to the Shaolin temple 23 years ago to experience and learn the Shaolin arts at the monastery. All in all, I lived in the monastery for nine years and underwent hard training there. That mental and physical education has changed my life. I’m proud of what I’ve learned. My life was not easy. But what I learned has helped me to master every challenge along the road and to finally make a life for myself in Germany. Now I’m here enjoying my life, the peacefulness, my friends and being together with everyone I encounter in everyday life.”
Yuan Lu radiates an incredible serenity while speaking. I explain to him that in the end we’re doing a business book here – not an ordinary book but rather one that is about the people in corporations and the mindsets that make them achieve big goals. I also tell him a bit about the fact that today many companies want to practice more humanity and achieve their goals on the basis of appreciation. They try to get employees involved and help them focus even when they are flooded with all kinds of information every day. Therefore, I think, you can no longer separate your individual thinking from your attitude towards business. One will automatically affect the other. That’s why leaders can learn something from those who are, so to speak, experts in mindfulness. So, first of all, I am interested in what mindfulness, what focus means to Yuan Lu personally.
“Mindfulness in the here and now will shape your future. The way we think, what we do, and how we deal with people and things will determine the future.”
“Mindfulness in the here and now will shape your future,” Yuan Lu says. “We need to be mindful in everything we do now: the way we think, what we do, how we deal with people and things. The current moment is crucial for the future. The future will reflect everything we think, how we talk and interact with each other right now. That’s what I think.”
I want to know why it is so important to focus while doing so. Can’t I just do everything at the same time? “No, I can’t,” Yuan Lu says. “There is energy, there is the mind, and there’s the body. I can invest 100 per cent of energy only into one thought at a time. That thought with that energy will then go into your body and into the outside world. We can reach our goals with that one thought that is filled with energy. Otherwise we always have just 80 per cent or 70 per cent or even less. Then we waste energy. In the end, that will result in mistakes. The Shaolin monks have this saying that ‘We always give our best in what we’re doing right now.’ That’s very important.”
Yuan Lu (l.) in the car with René Esteban (r., Author of “Do Epic Stuff!“) and Melanie Esteban
Do the Shaolin Monks themselves achieve their goals by being mindful in any given moment and with the focus always on only one thing? “Yes, because that applies at any moment and in every area. We can only succeed if we’re focused enough. Success is the result of a high degree of concentration, of mental training. Of course we also act, we can’t just talk; we have to do a lot more than that. Only by doing can we build the future and improve things for the future.” That makes sense. Actions are what matters in the end. But focus and concentration are at the beginning of the chain. It interests me how Yuan Lu personally focuses on something. “In every move, in everything I’m doing right now, I go right into my every thought,” he explains. Well, that sounds easy, and yet it is probably something you really need to master! Is there anything else? “I always give my best,” Yuan Lu says. And I sense that when he says “always”, he means always. “I also don’t give up that quickly either,” Yuan Lu continues. “I believe that our thoughts are stronger than our bodies. If our thoughts are powerful enough, our body will do what we’re thinking.”
“Everyone knows that if you want to do pushups, you do pushups. You can’t jump at the same time; that won’t work.”
In my opinion, what Yuan Lu has said so far can be transferred very well to daily business. Each one of us has only one mind and one body. People in business are constantly overtaxing themselves because they do a thousand things at the same time and think everything was equally important. Then there’s always a new project that is absolutely essential, and then this and that and the other. It never stops. Work, work, work until all the energy has been drained from mind and body. Instead of focusing their energy on one thing and making it good, they pour their energy into far too many things simultaneously. Nodding, Yuan Lu says, “I agree. If you have too many projects, it can’t work. Every project, every thing we want to be successful requires the necessary energy and mental concentration. If we always do a lot of things at once, we are constantly distracted. Our thoughts are here and sometimes there and sometimes somewhere else. But when we have three things on our mind at the same time, then all three will fail in the end. Everybody knows that when it comes to physical exercises. Everyone knows that if you want to do pushups, you do pushups. You can’t jump at the same time; that won’t work.”
But when it comes to our thoughts, we believe simultaneity can work. Yet your thoughts go into your body and into the material world, as Yuan Lu has already explained. “There’s a tension between body and mind,” he explains. “If we want to exercise our stomach muscles, we also focus our thoughts on our stomach. This is the only way the exercise will work. It’s the same with a project. Of course it’s always better for the boss at the top when 10 or 20 people, instead of just one person, are doing something. That saves time and money. But in the end, quality is jeopardized and the human existence is threatened. Everything breaks down and we have nothing left.” Many managers think: More is more. Yuan Lu shakes his head. “That’s a bad idea. I’m good at Shaolin. But I can’t be good at everything. I’m good at what I’m concentrating on. Because everything needs experience and the time to develop and grow. You can’t be successful in many things at the same time.”
Okay, if my readers now say, That’s true, that makes sense to me, I want to focus more: Where should they start? “Definitely at home and not at the office,” Yuan Lu suggests. “These days parents are talking to their children but nothing happens, the children don’t respond. That’s because the children’s full attention is just not there. Sometimes parents don’t even look the children in the eye while talking to them. That’s just an example. You should always be mindful in everyday life: who you are talking to, how and about what. It’s best to keep asking myself all day long: What am I doing right now? What’s my goal? That question is like a tool. You should always know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. That’s how mindfulness comes into play. Then things can develop. At some point the concentration keeps getting better and better and the future becomes clearer.”
I wonder why there are not more people who are taking that road. Yuan Lu has seen how many people feel pressured and are unhappy today, even his own students. The master is more than happy to help them, but everyone must change their way of thinking and their focus themselves. For the monk, contentment is the key. We often expect way too much. And Yuan Lu is convinced that the more we expect, the worse the result will be. “We can be happy to be here and now,” he says in conclusion. “Enjoy our thoughts, our body, the moment. Just like we’re sitting here right now. We meet at this beautiful place, sit here, relaxed, do an interview. That’s really a wonderful moment. We’re enjoying what’s happening right now, and that’s more important than what’s going to happen later.” I totally agree with him. Contentment in every moment and gratitude for what we have. Yuan Lu nods. “Gratitude, yes, that, too, is important.”
About the book
This interview is an excerpt from the book „DO EPIC STUFF! – Leadership after Change Management”, published by Campus Verlag. Transformation expert René Esteban explains together with senior leaders of today’s business world how to achieve challenging goals together. Learn more about the book and order it directly.
About the author
René Esteban is the founder and CEO of the consulting company FocusFirst GmbH. With his team he supports executives in the global corporate environment to achieve their most challenging goals with focus and inspiration – and at the same time to develop the corporate culture towards more empathy and humanity.