Tech moguls regularly turn to philanthropy or social change initiatives after leaving the daily grind of the companies they created; Bill Gates has the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation while Steve Case has his own Case Foundation.
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Scott Kriens, the former CEO of Juniper Networks, made that leap in 2010 with the 1440 Foundation, an effort he's since expanded to include a ritzy wellness and learning center, 1440 Multiversity, where meditative types can get centered while advancing their careers. PCMag spoke with Kriens by phone from his office in Northern California to find out more.
Few tech titans are embracing actual retirement. Is golf not the game of choice anymore?
(Laughs) I'm not sure retirement has same the appeal it once had. I think people are being drawn to pursuits we can derive meaning from. This doesn't mean we don't enjoy taking a break—the leisure trip isn't going away, but I want to spend my time in generative activities—those that create more energy than they consume.
One of those generative activities is 1440 Multiversity. Firstly, what does "1440" mean?
1440 is the number of minutes in a day, and the foundation carries that name to remind us that there is more time than we think, if we pay attention. When my father passed away in 2004, the question that loss left me with was: 'What really matters?' We all have such a limited time here. His passing brought that home in a way that was much more real than before.
And that inspired you to set up 1440 Multiversity?
Yes, it's part of the answer to that question. It's a 75-acre campus offering transformative, short-study courses in a gorgeous setting in the Redwoods just 30 minutes from Silicon Valley, that's not like any other school that we know. People are coming to the Redwoods for a weekend or five days to take programs with preeminent faculty from across the world, leaders who bring proven approaches to mindfulness, authentic leadership and professional/personal development.
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It's clearly not your regular corporate warrior weekend retreat. Sounds like an extension of the quantified self movement, coupled with helping Silicon Valley dwellers to de-frag their cerebral hard drives before cracking up?
It's true that we've seen, particularly in the tech culture, that more and more people are having their midlife crisis in their 20s, where they're looking ahead and saying, 'I don't have to work until I'm 45 to realize my life's purpose is not found in the corner office. But if that's not my goal, then what is?' I think there's a move afoot to bring this question to the surface long before the age in which I did, when my father passed away.
So it's not just about turning off the cell, exiting the cube, and twisting into a pretzel on a yoga mat?
Not at all. The whole frontier around untapped potential is now being informed by discoveries in technology, biology, and neuroscience on the power of the mind. We are getting brand-new, evidence-based data through tools like functional MRIs, which in turn is accelerating how we understand the mind, how it works, and how we can potentially shape it. This is not just another section in the bookstore—it's a real movement—because the carnage of just grinding away in corporate culture is evident, and people are coming to the realization they want more from their lives.
Indeed, there have been several well-publicized flameouts in Silicon Valley culture in recent months. 1440 Multiversity has some very tech-type nomenclature in your programs, including "Playing the Matrix" and "Reboot and Recharge."
Our approach is not to try and fix the consequences of the behavior, instead, why not develop a way of making better choices first? We want to bring upstream solutions to the world's problems. The innovation happening around this space is really exciting.
You've also made several high-profile investments in startups playing in the quantified-self space.
Yes, particularly in consumer-facing technology, which measure quantitative growth and development, such as wearable brain-sensing headband muse and meditation app Headspace, and also in a Boulder, Colorado, company called gloo, a cloud-based learning management system for personal growth inside organizations.
Let's go back to your time as CEO at Juniper Networks, where you integrated many companies through buyouts—including Peribit, Redline. You've written about telling the radical truth in all-hands meetings; sounds like you've been thinking about organizational development for a while.
In growing and particularly integrating disparate companies, it's really all about the cultivation of relationships and how you learn to be a healthy, strong participant in your organization, especially when you're working with somebody maybe not like yourself. How do you learn to listen better, investigate your assumptions, and explore the meaning behind what's being said or felt? It requires the same kind of willingness to set aside your judgment and understand the other person or company. I think that's the formula for success.
Final question, how will you measure success at 1440?
Part of our mission at Multiversity is to support, via scholarships, those who we can serve with this work and who otherwise couldn't afford to come here on their own. For example, we're running Service Week [from Sept 4-8] where 85 different nonprofit organizations are invited to spend a week here for free—learning about creating good governance, building strong teams, bringing resources to bear and use them wisely, and building more sustainable and better-run organizations. So the more successful we are, the more people and programs we will underwrite to reach communities who may need this work most.