How Meditation Program Helps MBAs Overcome Fear Culture - Nina Godiwalla

In Chapter 11 of 14 of her 2010 Capture Your Flag interview, Wharton MBA graduate and "Suits: A Woman on Wall Street" author Nina Godiwalla answers "What prompted you to create Leadership at Lunch and expose MBA students to the benefits of meditation?" Godiwalla shares how she overcame the business school fear culture and peer pressure by using meditation. Godiwalla goes on to create a six-week "Leadership at Lunch" meditation program to help classmates find clarity in their ambitions and actions while earning their respective MBA degrees.


Erik Michielsen: What prompted you to create Leadership at Lunch and expose MBA students to the benefits of meditation?

Nina Godiwalla: So before I went to business school, I had been exposed to meditation probably maybe it was about five years before I went to business school and my exposure to meditation was really crazy. I was visiting my parents and I always like to try new things and they were going away for the weekend and I had my sister drop me off at a meditation retreat not realizing it was a very, very intensive retreat for advanced people which means you couldn’t talk to anyone, you couldn’t do anything for the entire weekend, you couldn’t look at a word, you couldn’t make eye contact, I literally took my contacts off and just walked around in like this blur. And I found it very frustrating because I’m a go, go, go person, let’s get something done.

My first few days was just quite miserable to be honest and by the third day I just found -- I didn’t find like peace and happiness in the whole world but there was something I just felt like there’s something to this. I found a sense, a little bit more sense of clarity, a sense of clarity and then from that experience when I went into business school I felt like it was the exact, there was a bit of craziness to it, there was like I said people put on their resume ‘this is what I’m going to do’, not on their resume their application, it’s almost like the first day we got there people were moving towards that goal, I mean it was a very, very fast pace and I felt I was losing my sense of clarity while I was in business school.

I wanted to just step back and just say ‘Are we clear about this? Are we clear about what we’re all so anxiously trying to go towards?’ and what amazed me is and it’s not just me, research has shown that there’s a lot of fear culture in that world, in business school, at times. And a lot of it is, you know, that person coming up to you is like ‘did you go to that meeting? Did you catch? Did you see that company that was here? Cause if you missed that meeting they’re not going to invite you to the next interview.’ And I feel like there was just a lot of that going on constantly, you know, ‘Did you get this on the exam, did you see the previews?’ and that mentality started to -- I got sucked into it and I was coming from a place where, I was coming from a liberal arts masters degree where it wasn’t necessarily that way.

And for me, I just thought ‘Can I expose people to something that I’ve found valuable’ and I created a program, it was a six week program where we lead a meditation and we brought in some experts from the area as well and a lot of people had never tried it, they didn’t know what it was but people, some people had that curiosity of ‘Huh, I wonder what it is’ and that’s exactly how I started when I got exposed to it and if someone got something out of it, beautiful, that’s all I could ask for.