Tales in Possible

Meditate Possible

MBA student Jonathan Cook explores mindful leadership in Stern's Mindfulness in Business Initiative.

To lead a meaningful life with a rewarding career, family and friends, you need the ability to live in the moment and react with compassion – and that’s exactly what a mindfulness practice has to offer. - MBA student Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook is not your average MBA student. Before securing a spot in NYU Stern’s full-time MBA program, Jon earned a bachelor’s degree in movement science, a master’s degree in kinesiology and a PhD in physiology. A science lover and self-described “curious type,” Jon taught high-school chemistry and biology in Salem, MA, through Teach For America before considering a career shift away from science and research.

Committed to helping others, Jon was determined to find a path that would allow him to effect positive, immediate and measurable change in organizations and communities. Eager to study business, Jon found what he was looking for at NYU: “Stern’s strength in the area of social innovation and impact was a big draw for me.”

Now at Stern, Jon is building his business acumen and specializing in strategy, finance and business analytics. This past summer, with support from Stern’s Social Impact Internship Fund, he applied some concepts and frameworks from b-school classes to a social enterprise in Haiti. Through the Clinton Foundation, he lived and worked alongside a local family who started Caribbean Craft, an artisan group specializing in papier-mâché, metal and stonework items that are sold to several large retailers, including Crate & Barrel and West Elm. Over the course of 10 weeks, Jon saw firsthand how the organization’s commitment to providing food, income and health care to its 500 employees had a positive ripple effect on nearly 4,000 Haitian residents.

After seeing the powerful impact of skilled leadership on a business and a community in Haiti, Jon sought to develop his own leadership skills, including strategic analysis, problem-solving, analytics and prioritization. In that spirit of self-improvement and discovery, Jon recently signed-up for a mini course on “Finding the Space to Lead,” which was introduced this spring as part of Stern’s Mindfulness in Business Initiative. Led by Janice Marturano, Esq, bestselling author and former senior corporate executive at General Mills, the course explored simple, practical ways to train your mind to stay focused, see clearly, make better decisions, be more creative, embody compassion, and lead and live with excellence.

“Meditation was completely new to me,” explains Jon, “but the applied leadership component of the course immediately grabbed my attention.” Reflecting on what makes a good leader, Jon emphasizes the importance of having clarity and focus during stressful decision-making moments. “How I choose to lead during high-pressure situations will define me as a leader,” he says.

“During Stern’s mini course, we walked through several meditation exercises, applying new techniques in each class and then sharing individual experiences and feedback.” When asked if he sees any changes after just three short sessions, Jon doesn’t hesitate: “I observed a noticeable ‘reset’ – a lifting of any foggy-mind feelings – right away.” He also underscores how mindfulness is particularly relevant for future business leaders: “My classmates and I are entering a fast-paced work environment that is filled with distractions, competing ideas, objectives and never-ending to-do lists. To lead a meaningful life with a rewarding career, family and friends, you need the ability to live in the moment and react with compassion – and that’s exactly what a mindfulness practice has to offer.”

Jon plans to keep up the exercises and work his way up to twice-a-day for 10-minutes: “Integrating a mindfulness practice into my routine will be hugely beneficial to my professional life. In fact, I’m already seeing a positive impact on my contributions to group projects and interactions with fellow students and colleagues.”

After graduation, Jon will be joining the Boston Consulting Group in Washington, DC.