Lessons Ayahuasca Will Teach You That Harvard Business School Never Will

Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all. — Aristotle


Three years ago, I participated in my first ayahuasca ceremony. I have since participated in nineteen more. Each have been among the most transformational experiences of my life. My work with this sacred plant medicine has had a profound effect on my personal and spiritual growth, which I chronicled in my first article, Lost on Purpose. But what effect can it have on business?


For those new to ayahuasca, it is an ancient plant medicine born from the Amazonian jungle. It is brewed into a tea containing two plants, ayahuasca and chacruna. The tea is a psychotropic compound that can induce altered states of consciousness. This naturally occurring substance is capable of creating powerful psychedelic experiences, often mystical in nature. People around the globe use it for physical, emotional, and spiritual healing and expansion.


There has been much written on the medicine’s ability to awaken higher levels of consciousness and overall life fulfillment. There has been little; however, written on how it can impact business. As an entrepreneur, I have built some large businesses in the past. I became curious to explore the lessons the medicine has taught me about business.


As I started looking deeper, I saw how ayahuasca can help to shepherd in a new era of business. I saw how it can help create a shift towards an era of conscious, collaborative and collective business models. To an era where entrepreneurs find peace and fulfillment while building ambitious companies. And, an era where employees, customers and the world all benefit. These insights led me to launch a retreat, with my best friend and business partner, that will bring 50 leading entrepreneurs together with the medicine in Costa Rica.


We are members of a vast cosmic orchestra in which each living instrument is essential to the complementary and harmonious playing of the whole. — J. Allen Boone


Five lessons the medicine will teach you about business:


#1 | Competition is an illusion — This lesson goes against every text book we’ve ever read on business. If you’ve yet to drink ayahuasca, it’s may be hard to see. One of the clearest messages for virtually anyone who has drank the medicine is that we are all connected, all one. This message led to the name of my new company 1heart.

From a business standpoint, this means that if you are focused on beating the competition, you are inherently not focused on maximizing company value. Short term there are certainly competitive tactics that can lead to greater profits. Long term you are not creating new value.

Instead, when we focus on solving problems, we unlock far greater value. It’s this value that truly makes a business sustainable and successful throughout the years. Focus on making the pie bigger for all, not stealing someone else’s slice. You’ll be amazed by the difference.


#2 | Leaders protect those they serve — As entrepreneurs, we are in a position of power. And as Spiderman so wisely expounds, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Many entrepreneurs are not ready for this responsibility and are simply managers — not leaders.

The medicine has spoken to me often on this subject. But, one of my Shamans during many of my journeys stated it better than I could put to words. When asked what makes a great leader after a ceremony, he remarked:


“A great leader takes care of all his charge, his employees, and their families. He knows all their names, their spouses names, their kids names and what’s going on in their lives. A great leader never asks an employee to do something he himself wouldn’t do.”


Imagine the world we would live in if all our managers acted as leaders. Imagine if our President ran our country this way. It may seem far fetched but it is our natural order. Only fear and scarcity keep us from it.


#3|What you put out amplifies — Many of us are familiar with the butterfly effect. It is the idea, with scientific validity, that when a butterfly flaps their wings on one side of the world, it can trigger a hurricane on the other.

The concept of karma is also fairly well known. What often is not realized is that karma is not one to one. One good deed does not trigger one positive outcome. Our actions are multiplied many times over. In practical terms, if you are a company and piss off a customer, that customer is likely going to take it out on someone else on the road. Then on their family when they get home and then the clerk at the grocery store… And now, those affected people will do the same with those they encounter.

As entrepreneurs, we have the potential to reach hundreds, thousands or even millions in a day. Think about the effect you can create by the smallest tweaks to how you treat your employees, customers or our world. It truly is infinite. Choose wisely.


#4 | It’s a dance, not a marathon — Business is too often described as a marathon or some ten round prize fight. We are taught that pushing through, slugging it out and taking the punches is the only way through. Sure, every business will face adversity. Nothing meaningful is just handed to us.

Perhaps the biggest shift I’ve started making from the medicine is that life is not about the push, it’s about the pull. I spent my career believing that if I worked harder and wanted it more than anyone, I would succeed. And while I found financial success that way, I didn’t find fulfillment.

Fulfillment is found by being conscious and aware enough to feel the pull. What is your heart telling you? What is your soul’s purpose? When we answer these questions, success begins to appear in much more powerful ways then we ever imagined. So dance through life, don’t slog through it.


#5 | Trust overpowers fear every time — This message is central to the ayahuasca experience, as it is to life. When we operate from fear and scarcity we limit ourselves. When we come from a place of trust and love, the world becomes limitless. Perhaps this makes me sound like a hippie, but nothing has been made more clear to me throughout my recent journey.

The implications for business are profound. As an entrepreneur, think about how many decisions you’ve made because you were afraid. You are running out of money, your competition is trying to take you out, your customers aren’t buying/using your product… This is not to say that any of those things should be ignored. But, when you think of the reactive decisions you’ve made as a result, most likely they were not amongst your best.


When we trust the universe and understand that all the challenges we are facing are here to teach us, we can achieve far more. When we operate from a powerful place of trust and love, we can see the entire board instead of merely the impending danger. Trust yourself, trust your employees and trust the process. You’ll not only enjoy your life a whole lot more, but you will achieve true success.

Love gives us in a moment what we can hardly attain by effort after years of toil. — Goethe


As entrepreneurs, most of us have deeply exercised our analytical minds. We’ve found opportunities, created ways to exploit them and used business models and research to scale companies. While these skills are all valuable, they often overshadow our true power. This lies in our hearts.

When we can come from our hearts and build businesses that reflect our personal passion and collective purpose, magic truly happens. We live more inspired lives and escape the daily grind that most of us face. And, when what we create comes from this place, we create true value that transforms the world.

*originally posted on medium


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