Creating Conscious Leaders

Zur Genosar,
Co-Founder & CEO at Hoffman-Kofman Foundation

"My life has been  full of dramas, tragedies you can say - but this is not my inner experience."

Zur’s first year of life began with turmoil, when his parents divorced. He started as a younger brother to Shahar, and later on became a middle child when his father remarried and had two more sons. At the age of 14 his brother Shahar was killed in Gaza during his army service, and he became the eldest brother. The dramatic trajectory did not end here, because at the age of 27, Zur’s father passed away after a decade of dealing with cancer, which started after the death of his brother. His father, the late Yossi Genosar, was one of the heads of the Shabak, and mediated the peace talks between a number of prime ministers and Yasser Arafat, and as Zur shares: "wet kisses from Arafat weren’t uncommon for me and my brothers."

When I asked Zur how he deals with all this complexity and difficulty from such a young age, he shares  

"It builds muscles - like in Stoic philosophy, there is the mantra that says - the obstacle is the way. And thank God there were many obstacles along the way, and they basically built me ​​up. There are definitely some that I would willingly forgo and give up the muscles they built, but I truly believe that without the mess, the trauma, the flower would not have come out. In my opinion, our choice in life is very limited - in the end, as Viktor Frankl says, our ultimate ability is to choose our position and our reaction to the things that happen to us."

Zur did not go on a classic “post-military” trip. Instead, he took some ties from his father and flew to New York, and for a whole year he was dealing in real estate there. Then he returned to Israel, and at the age of 26, in the middle of his law degree, he caught himself and realized that he was missing the “post military” trip experience, so he traveled abroad for six months, and returned straight to exam season - which was his best semester grades wise. 

This trip did not only help him in his degree, because that’s when he also met the teacher who would accompany him throughout his life. Through meeting with him, he started practicing Brigho Yoga, which deals with the inner, mental side, similar to mindfulness, with the goal being to unify body, speech and mind. There he learned how by practicing our minds we can sharpen our introspection ability. 

To this day, 20 years later, he practices these exercises every day -

"It very quickly became like drinking water. When I delay practicing, I usually have a bad day, even if it’s just for later in the day. In my thoughts it goes without saying - what? I will not drink water today? Of course I will drink today. It's the same with practice."

Our breathing is the mirror of our mental state. Through this, Zur explains how it is possible to have the reverse effect, and use breathing to return to our center. A breathing exercise that Zur recommends is to bring in the breath for X counts, hold the air in - 2X counts, and exhale for 2X counts, for example: 4 seconds inhaling, 8 seconds holding and 8 seconds exhaling.

After years of working in real estate, oil, and desalination businesses in Israel and around the world, he decided it was time to do other things. Something that would give back, and since then he began a new journey. He shares -

"There are no recipes for these things, but what worked for me was the intention - an intention devoid of details. I knew that I didn't want to completely disconnect myself from doing business on the one hand, and on the other hand to bring my inner world into my work, and also to be surrounded by good people. The field was less clear." 

Together with Yaakov Lehman and Shari Arison who contributed generously, they created the "Wisdom 2.0" conference in Israel, which talks about wisdom in the new world of business.. It was there that the relationship with Fred Koffman, the VP of LinkedIn, started. First as a friendship and later turned into a long partnership that still exists today.

Sometimes we have to trust the process - because at the beginning we have no idea where we will end up. We have no idea what will happen, how the market will react to the product, how we enter a new business world that I don't know - this spark in your eyes is what's important, it's what drives us to know. Beauty also resides in discovery. Each part opens up and breaks down into many small parts, and many possibilities that we didn’t even know to predict, open up to us. Only in retrospect will we know that this point from the past was significant - like this conference was for Zur. 

"There is a business approach called- ABZ. The A is where you are now, the Z is where you want to get to, and the B is what the next step you need to take along the way. Overall, you know where you want to get to, you don’t or should know each step that will take you there."

A big goal can cause a lot of anxiety and stress - the process of breaking it down into parts and smaller tasks turns this huge thing into something that we can contain - suddenly it becomes possible.

It should be noted that many initiatives along the way did not work - a mindfulness application that failed, lectures he gave to organizations about mindfulness that he realized were not suitable for marketing, experiments of various programs. Between the conference and the establishment of their non-profit he spent 4 years searching.

In the middle of those four years he went on a desert retreat alone to think with himself, go through a filtering process, and come back more focused on what he wants to do.

From time to time, when you feel overwhelmed or confused, I (Gali) recommend you to take a simple white A4 page, write down all the things that are on your mind/ life projects in circles - and examine: What still interests me, excites me? Where do I have more opportunities? What no longer serves me? 

In addition, under each circle Add - who are my partners in this. In the different parts of the business, at home, in different projects. Who is there holding my hand to get things up and running and invest in it. These partnerships create something that is much bigger than us, and it is important to find them and nurture them. 

Fred Koffman, who is also an economics professor who taught and became one of the leading mentors in Silicon Valley in the field of executive coaching, invited Zur to come visit him on an island in the Caribbean, to create something new. They spend a week together in a boat, searching for a common vision, and while they were searching Zur also learned how to free dive.

In January 2020, their non-profit was established - a leadership program that uses mindfulness tools, and teaches a wide and applied variety of content. Their teaching method takes things from the intellect to emotion, and from theory to practice. To truly understand and internalize, it is not enough that we learn about ideas - we need to talk and find where these ideals and values ​​meet us in our lives, where is the gap between the ideal and where we are now, and what we are doing to change it. 

"In every program, we touch not only those who are in it, but also everyone who he/she manages or will manage in the future, and those who will be around them. There are three generations of programs that mentor each other, share information and continue to give back. In our vision, it is really a social experiment to create a wave of real change."

In the coming months, another cohort of the program will start. You can find the registration link in the comments. I highly recommend that you join this journey.

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