A trip to better management skills?

AuthorDror Feuer, Nili Goldfein and Gali Weinreb
Publication Date15 Dec 2020
"About three years ago I turned 50 and decided to give myself a present, "says Eyal, a senior executive at a global corporation. "I took a month off from work and decided to go on a two-week retreat with a famous shaman in Peru - to encounter all that I thought I would be and hadn't fulfilled. When I arrived, I saw no white people, except me. A tubby, pleasant person took me to a hostel where people from all over the world had already gathered - all business people who want to connect with themselves. For some of them, this was not the first time.

"The next morning, we set off by car and by boat down the river. Six hours later, we reached a nature reserve. There, for 12 days, we ate very little and drank liters of herbs. Each of us had a single cabin in the jungle, and there was almost no contact with the other participants. The goal was to work on yourself.

"Every two days, we participated in a ceremony. We would sit, evenly spaced, in a circle around an altar with stones, candles and various objects, such as a fan made of plants which the shaman used to banish evil spirits. An elevated silence reigned. The shaman brewed ayahuasca tea for each of us, and his assistant sang ceremonial chants reminiscent of Hindu mantras. He was the only one allowed to speak or sing. His English was broken and he sang in local languages or in Spanish. The feeling was like that of a temple and a holiness unspoiled by anything from the world I came from. As the days passed, the connection to the jungle, nature, to myself and my higher self, led me to me understand once more what's important to me, what's important in general, the place of the other people in my life, my mission, and the mission of the organization I head.

"I came back nine kilos lighter, and with more compassion, attention, understanding and wisdom. But everything felt noisy to me. It took me weeks to get used to the excess verbiage that characterizes us all. In the jungle everything moves slowly - there's no diary, secretary or clock. When there's no time dimension, looking inwards is more significant. Suddenly the crazy race to get things done made no sense. Only after a few weeks did I manage to reset, and I realized what great gifts I had received.

"People have told me that my ability to listen has increased, that I'm don't shout as much. The level of tension at the organization has gone down. I have sparks of new ideas that seem to come out of nowhere but are actually my brain rewiring, connecting experiences and insights that I just hadn't given enough time before to assimilate.

"I was sitting in an executive management meeting, in the most splendid room on our floor, when suddenly the memory of the ceremony came to me, and I had a burst of compassion for all those present - how hard it was to chase after results, the need to stand out and excel in front of others. I just loved them. I had never used the word love in a business context. I felt that I'd received a gift to see them beyond their suits and their facade."

Along with Eyal are many other Israeli managers, some very senior who, when they need to get real answers on important managerial issues, don't turn to a rabbi, guru or psychologist. They take psychedelic drugs.

And they're not alone. After Steve Jobs and Bill Gates revealed, decades ago, their experiences with consciousnesses-altering substances, their use has become routine in Silicon Valley, with tour companies specializing in organizing high-tech trips to the jungle and back. It turns out that, in recent years, Israel, too, has developed a vibrant psychedelic scene at the highest levels. Senior executives, women and men, from the military, academia, high-tech and the legal, health and education systems - take such drugs, emphasizing all the while that these aren't recreational and not just for fun. They are the best way, they claim, to improve management and leadership skills.

It should be noted that the names used in the following interviews are pseudonyms.

Dana, Human Resources Manager

"The workload today on CEOs and managers in senior positions is huge in terms of the quantity and quality of decisions, external oversight, pressure from above, from below. The wear and tear is enormous - and Covid-19 has altogether taken it to an extreme," says Dana, a human resources manager at a large company who has been using consciousness-altering substances for several years. "Anyone willing to relax a little, to surrender themselves, and to listen to themselves, will do things much better, and help themselves and the organization.

"As a human resources manager, I recommend it to anyone who wants to make a change in their life and is willing to take responsibility. I come to each session prepared, as if for a work meeting, with a notebook and agenda. I...

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