An interview with Kevin Davis, founder of Kevin Davis Insurance
Mindfulness is the practice of cultivating non-judgmental awareness in day-to-day life. Mindfulness develops the potential to experience each moment, no matter how difficult or intense, with openness and clarity. Mindfulness can be used to strengthen business skills, enhance well-being and build resilience.
Mindfulness has been gaining acceptance with business professionals as a technique for developing concentration, improving emotional resilience, and mitigating the stress of work. Without it we continue to see the world through a distorted lens, filled with biases, habits and wishful thinking. Mindfulness allows us to see things as they are, not as we want them to be.
Kevin Davis, founder of Los Angeles-based Kevin Davis Insurance Services, a Worldwide Facilities LLC company, and a managing general agent of community association insurance, is a mindfulness facilitator, trained at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.
Kevin has worked in the insurance industry for more than 30 years focusing on community associations. He started Kevin Davis Insurance Services in 2000 and has grown from two employees to over 50 employees.
His journey into mindfulness practice started almost 10 years ago when Davis says his stress levels were so high it was affecting his relationships, at home and at work. He heard about mindfulness and decided to check it out.
I asked Kevin a few questions about this journey and why it is so important to him.
Sherry Branson: I know that you say stress made you decide to try mindfulness. What type of stress were you dealing with?
Kevin Davis: We had a very successful D&O program for community associations. We went from zero policies to 30,000 in a 10-year period. From the outside world it was great but for me the more successful I became the more concerned I was about the future. Was it sustainable, was it going to fail or collapse? When you have to make these kinds of decisions about the future, you second guess yourself and mistakes happen.
And then we began to face some economic challenges in the office. This led to several lay-offs and the loss of some key individuals. And then, on top of that, I had two children about to go to college and I had to help out my elderly parents.
My stress levels were so high that I was setting myself up for disappointment at work and at home. I began to expect the worst; and with that came missed opportunities, you start to doubt that you are able to live up to the expectation that you set for yourself.
The good news is that I learned it was possible to deal with the stress; with mindfulness techniques. Through mindfulness, I was able to quiet the mind and look at workplace challenges with clarity thereby making better decisions when a difficult situation arises.
‘For me, it was like life made sense to me for the first time. It went from a black and white world to a world full of vibrant colors.’
Branson: Did it help you and your business?
Davis: Mindfulness has literally changed my life. My wife and I, together, took mindfulness classes and soon after, everything changed, things began to finally make sense. That’s how important mindfulness is. I was calmer, I was less reactive, and things started to get better.
And more importantly, one of the best benefits of mindfulness to me was it reduced my stress levels significantly. For the record, it doesn’t mean that my mindfulness practice reduced the number of phone calls and e-mails, but rather how I reacted to them.
Branson: Can you explain how to do mindfulness?
Davis: Mindfulness focuses our attention so that we can connect directly with what is happening at the present moment. Without it we continue to see the world through a distorted lens, filled with biases, habits and wishful thinking. Mindfulness allows us to see things as they are, not as we want them to be.
There are two main ways to practice mindfulness — there is a formal practice and informal practice. A formal practice is called meditation. Meditation trains the mind the way going to the gym strengthens your body. It only requires a few minutes a day to receive the full effect. It allows you to push the pause button, to do nothing for a short period of time. It can be done sitting, standing, walking or lying down.
An informal practice is how we approach our everyday life. We focus our attention on the situation we are currently involved in and we stay aware. Mindfulness trains our minds to help us to be calmer, happier and more peaceful.
When we find ourselves being mindful throughout the day, we are informally practicing. We may notice that awareness spontaneously appears in our mind, or the thought to apply mindfulness in a given situation appears and we act on it. That is an informal mindfulness practice.
An example is when eating. Currently, we do not pay attention to how we eat — to the point we cannot remember if we ate or not. However, by being mindful the food tastes better, you eat less of it and you remember what you ate.
‘Through mindfulness, I was able to quiet the mind and look at workplace challenges with clarity thereby making better decisions when a difficult situation arises.’
Branson: How did that go?
Davis: This is what turned my life around. Our brain operates to keep us safe and whenever we feel unsafe that fight/flight mechanism kicks in and the need to do something to keep us safe activates.
Mindfulness steadies the mind and allows us to focus our attention on the task at hand and not worry about your fears. The more we practice mindfulness the easier it is to let go of these fears. Instead of reacting, you take a moment to pause and reflect on why we feel the way we do and then proceed.
I remember a time when I was very upset with my sister because she said I was not helping out enough with my elderly parents. I live in California and they are in New Jersey so most of the burden falls on my sister’s shoulders. By being mindful, I was able to use a very important mindfulness technique called RAIN to deal with the anger I was feeling from the phone call.
My favorite tool, RAIN, means R, recognize, A is Accepting, I is investigate, N means “not Identify.”
First, you recognize by becoming aware of the kind of emotion you are having. Just this simple act of recognizing it can be helpful. A is Accepting, can you let this emotion be here? Is it ok to have this emotion? Can you accept that all emotions are ok? It’s what we do with them that can lead to problems.
Investigate: you need to get curious about your emotion. What does it feel like, particularly in your body? Can you feel it in your chest or belly or maybe shoulders? Investigate does not mean find the root cause but to deal with the sensations that occur as a result of the emotion. I realized that my anger caused me to feel tension in my shoulders and as a result I was able to soften and relax my shoulders causing the emotion to diminish.
Not Identify: As we use this tool, we will naturally begin to take this emotion less personally. We begin to see it as it is, just an emotion, or energy in motion passing through us.
To not identify is simply not to attach yourself to the emotion. If you’re sad or angry, you’re not a sad or angry person. You’re just feeling those emotions at this time.
‘Mindfulness steadies the mind and allows us to focus our attention on the task at hand and not worry about your fears. The more we practice mindfulness the easier it is to let go of these fears.’
Branson: Have you noticed a change in the employees at your company since you started using mindfulness?
Davis: About a year ago, we introduced to our company a “Mindfulness Stress Reduction Program” where we learned how to reduce stress in our daily life. The program dealt with how to manage stress, decrease burnout and increase your emotional resilience.
For example, at times, communicating with others is the most challenging part of the job. Due to the constant demands, we get distracted and it is easy to shut down communicating with coworkers because of their stress so it takes mental awareness to not get emotionally entangled in the situation.
So, the class taught them that instead of reacting based on someone’s stress level, you take a moment to pause and reflect on why they feel the way we do and then proceed to respond with more kindness.
To help improve office communication, they were taught whenever you’re on the phone give that person your full attention, do not check emails, social media or any other task you need to get done. We recommended that they turn off all the alerts to eliminate all those distractions to stop you from being more effective.
The thing about mindfulness is that you can make ordinary things interesting. When we truly pay attention, we recognized that no two moments are alike. So, the next time you lose interest, pay more focused attention to the task at hand.
Branson: If I’m a business owner and wondering how can I do this, how do I get started?
Davis: I would start by using Google and search mindfulness or UCLA MARC program. They have free downloads. If you’re very adventurous, consider a silent retreat.
Once you start, you’ll see a remarkable difference in a few weeks.
For me, it was like life made sense to me for the first time. It went from a black and white world to a world full of vibrant colors.
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