Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard has a message for managers like Mohamed El-Erian, the Pacific Investment Management Co. chief executive officer who said this week he’s resigning: time to chill out.
El-Erian’s decision to quit shows how too many business leaders are pushing themselves to the breaking point, said Ricard, who’s leading early-morning meditation workshops at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“What’s the point if you don’t have a sense of the quality of the moment passing by?” asked Ricard, a French citizen who founded the Karuna-Shechen humanitarian association. “It doesn’t have to be blissing out under a mango tree, but some kind of joy.” Ricard’s been easy to spot in the cavernous Davos convention center this week, thanks to flowing robes of red and yellow fabric complemented by an Apple iPad.
Allianz SE, the parent of Newport Beach, California-based Pimco, this week said 55-year-old El-Erian would resign after six years at the firm. He was viewed by investors as the heir apparent to co-founder Bill Gross, who said he was “shocked” by El-Erian’s resignation to “recharge the batteries.”
The departure comes as the global financial elite gathered at Davos are urged by organizers to pay more attention to stress and mental health. An unprecedented 25 panels on health and wellness are planned throughout the week, including a seminar on meditation led by actress Goldie Hawn and sessions on the effects of constant technology use on the brain.
El-Erian won’t get the benefit of those sessions. He told Bloomberg Radio last year he avoids the 2,600-delegate event because he’d “rather read about Davos than be there and run around.” He declined to comment.
“I don’t blame him” for resigning, said billionaire Denis O’Brien, chairman of Hamilton, Bermuda-based Digicel Group Ltd., the largest telecommunications company in the Caribbean. “That’s an impossible job. Those funds are just so big, you never get any sleep at night. It’s really hard to move the needle, and you’re constantly worried about things you can’t control.”
Gross, 69, is a fan of many of the de-stressing techniques being advocated in Davos. A devotee of yoga and meditation, Gross particularly enjoys standing on his head to clear his thoughts, he told the Washington Post in 2008.