Engaging Mind and Heart

Randy Komisar - Menlo Park, California
As heard on NPR’s Weekend Edition, October 26, 2008
Randy Komisar

As a young, ego-driven lawyer, Randy Komisar ran a number of technology companies. He was successful — but increasingly unhappy. Then Komisar studied Eastern philosophy and discovered how to use his heart and mind to help other entrepreneurs succeed.

Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe in the transformative power of belief itself — that we express our true nature based not upon what we know, but what we believe in.

The stronger my beliefs, the less there is of me to get in the way. The less there is of me, the more room there is for everything else in life.

I work closely with young entrepreneurs to help guide them and their ideas. My earlier career was typical Type-A: an ambitious Harvard lawyer on the rise who moves to Silicon Valley during the go-go years to help start and run a succession of companies. It took plenty of ego to persevere, and I was up to the task.

But something strange happened along the way. I tripped. I realized I was all head, no heart; all drive, no passion. I was on the fast track to who-knows-where, but I was increasingly unhappy.

So I parachuted out of a perfectly good company and started down a different path. I began by looking for where I had mislaid my passion. I studied with a Zen teacher and started an odyssey of self-discovery which continues today.

And I reinvented my work around creativity. I love entrepreneurs and innovation, and I decided to piece together a new role working with entrepreneurs to help them create the future.

This of course was a challenge. I was used to the story being about me, but now it was about them. I was most successful when I faded into the woodwork and my protégés took the limelight.

This seemingly small nuance turned out to be the door that let in the whole world. It was not just making room for the people I worked with, it was making room for everything — my family and friends, a dog’s bark, a warm breeze, the crackle of lightning.

Certain Eastern philosophies interpret the world as a blend of Form and Emptiness. Form is the world we know through our five senses — the world of struggle and suffering. But Emptiness is not what it seems. To the senses it is a void, but when the senses retreat in confusion, Emptiness illuminates with compassion and insight.

In truth we live in both worlds and I believe that it is the ability, the willingness to bridge these worlds until they are one — to engage both mind and heart — that makes this life so precious.

For the longest time I was skeptical that seeing was believing. But now that I understand that the seeing is done with eyes closed and heart open, I am a true believer.

And I take comfort that we are what we believe because it means I can change. I am not the person I was 20 years ago, or last year or yesterday, so long as I make plenty of room in my life for the rest of the world, and allow my beliefs to evolve with my experience.

For that I am eternally grateful.

Randy Komisar is a partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and a consulting professor at Stanford University. He is also the author of "The Monk and the Riddle." Komisar lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and dogs.

Independently produced for NPR by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with John Gregory and Viki Merrick. Photos courtesy Joel Simon Images.