What I Taught at AirBnB & Google

There were three lines in a book that changed my life, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” As simple as this advice may sound from Victor Frankl author of Man’s Search for Meaning — it is arguably the most profound, life changing advice I ever received. Not only did I read those words on the page, I put it into action in my own life.

As such, I changed the trajectory of my life, a life fraught with violence growing up, and now to one of success. A life I designed, and implemented on my own terms.  I chose my own attitude in any given circumstances I found myself in, even on those cold Winter days sleeping on the city streets of Johannesburg, homeless, after my abusive alcoholic Mother kicked me out of the house.


“I loved how Rodney King weaved his life story, and together with his martial art practice, was able to succeed and win at the martial arts of everyday life.” Naveen Jain Billionaire Entrepreneur & Founder: Moon Express, Viome Inc & BlueDot


Fast forward to today, I now find myself on the global stage, in front of some of the smartest and sharpest minds in the world. Many of these amazing people work in some of the most innovative companies, like AirBnB and Google.

Recently, I had the good fortune to coach at both these companies in Singapore. But here is my realisation, just like me, even the smartest and brightest have an inner critic that holds them back, that inner opponent that tends to trip them up from time to time. And just like me, they were never taught how to manage their inner opponent more effectively. The truth is knowledge will only take you so far, when it comes to performing at ones best, in that very moment when it matters most, all the knowledge in the world doesn’t mean much if you can’t take action.

To overcome this obstacle, both in myself, and to help others in organizations do the same I developed a program I entitled the EmbodiedMBA. It has gone through many iterations since the first time I taught it to special force military operators in the Slovak Republic a decade ago. But it is clear, no matter if you are a special force military operator on the battlefield or an account manager, everyone can gain greater performance in their role, by bridging the gap between knowledge and action through inner management training.

Through a fun, fast paced action oriented experience, I taught some fantastic people at Google how to take on the martial arts of everyday life and win. Focusing on four key principles throughout the two and half hour session, they punched their way to inner success, while learning how to right hook their inner opponent.

“I’ve done many courses about mindfulness and meditation, but I was amazed by Rodney’s different approach. It’s a very practical training directly applicable in daily life. Thank you for all the tools and techniques. I recommend anybody to take this course: newcomers to Mindfulness as this is very enjoyable as well as more advanced mindfulness practitioners to discover a new path.” Thomas Bossy, Google, Finance

Here is What They Learned

Zen Mind, Warrior Body – Thinking isn’t inherently bad, but what you focus on can be. Reflecting on past mistakes, or planning for the future are crucial for long term achievement. But when it comes to performance, in the moment, when it matters most, past and future can get you into trouble. When your thoughts are moving into the past or the future, you can easily get caught up in a mental vortex, and spin out of control. Most importantly you lose contact with the present moment, the only moment you can fully respond with clarity. In this section of the workshop I taught participants specific thinking drills and strategies that enabled them to harness the power and clarity of the present moment.

Attitude Embodied – How you hold your body, not only changes your physiology, it also changes how you think and feel about yourself. How you show up in the world then, matters more than you ‘think’. Scientists have discovered that some very simple gestures, such as how you shape your mouth, can affect your mental attitude. Bottom line, the fact is while our minds and bodies are different, they always go together. In this section of the workshop I introduced participants to attitude embodied, and why it is essential for peak performance in any endeavour.

Mindfulness-in-Action – In this section of the workshop I introduced participants to mindfulness-in-action. Mindfulness is a state of being where you are able to just be present without judging the outcome of your experience. It involves not becoming attached to negative thinking and emotions, and the stories that have always held you back from achieving success in your life. The outcome is the ability to be fully present, which then leads to what we call the fluid mind. This is an embodied state that will allow you to take on the martial arts of everyday life and win!

Breathe –  Breathing shouldn’t only be seen as something you do simply to stay alive, but rather, and equally important something you need in order to act. More and more, the medical community is realising that sympathetic dominance (fear/aggression response) underlies many modern-day maladies, including anxiety and hypertension. While all the variables of the root cause of sympathetic dominance are not completely understood, one root causes is, in fact, suboptimal breathing. In this final section of the workshop, along with participants, we looked at how to speak to your nervous system so that you can better manage those moments of intense stress.


Sounds interesting? Do you feel this may be an experience your team, company or organizations may want to host? Feel free to contact me directly at [email protected] or check out the EmbodiedMBA website @ www.embodiedmba.com also, I have written a book about these concepts, strategies and ideas. You can get a copy here.


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