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Hedge Fund Manager Daniel Loeb Reveals He Practices Yoga At Panel Discussion With The Dalai Lama

Hedge Fund Manager Daniel Loeb Reveals He Practices Yoga At Panel Discussion With The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama (Serjao Carvalho via Flickr) and Daniel Loeb/ Getty

The Dalai Lama (Serjao Carvalho via Flickr) and Daniel Loeb/ Getty

Last week, the conservative economic think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, held an online event entitled Happiness, Free Enterprise, and Human Flourishing attended by His Holiness the Dalai Lama – who was in Washington to meet with President Obama as well on Friday.

One of the event panels was entitled “Moral Free Enterprise: Economic Perspectives in Business and Politics.” Hedge fund investor Daniel Loeb, who is head of Third Point Capital, was one of the panelists who participated with His Holiness in the discussions. The American Enterprise Institute has been good enough to put up a complete transcript of the session [http://www.aei.org/events/2014/02/20/happiness-free-enterprise-and-human-flourishing-a-special-online-event-featuring-his-holiness-the-dalai-lama/], which was also streamed live as it took place.

By way of introduction the Chairman of the American Enterprise Institute, Arthur C. Brooks, a died-in-the-wool free market guy down to his boot laces, set the ball rolling effectively as follows:

“So here’s the question. Is the free enterprise system still the best system to pursue our happiness, to lead a good life? Have we become too materialistic? Do we need to reorder our priorities toward higher ends?”

We are joined by none other than the Dalai Lama.” “He travels the world almost all year round, advocating for the welfare of the Tibetan people, a noble cause, teaching Tibetan Buddhism, and talking about the importance of compassion as the source of a happy human life.”

Mr. Brooks then said “Tashi deleg” to the Dalai Lama, which he thought meanshello and good morning.” His Holiness corrected him gently saying no it means rather more – “Be happy and well through auspiciousness.”

After a characteristic paean to the power of capitalism to liberate people from hunger and want, by the first panelist to speak, Glenn Hubbard Dean of the Business School at Columbia, which was diplomatically received by the Dalai Lama, it was Daniel Loeb’s turn to speak up.

Loeb then related, in some quite revealing personal comments, how he took up practicing Ashtanga Yoga in 1995 just as he was starting up his new company Third Point. His yoga teacher at the time, one Eddie Stern, told him then to go to India to study it there, which he did for a month with a guru Pattabhi Jois. This even interrupted the start-up of his new company, and Loeb described taking quite a bit of flak from colleagues in the industry for doing so.

However Loeb went on to describe how such regular personal contemplation has helped him in approaching the decisions that he takes every day in business. Then he made a good point about the context for decision making generally as well, “We’re really lucky. As the Dalai Lama said, we live in a system that favors the individual. Not all systems, not all countries give us those choices. So Glenn talked about the dispersion of power. That’s key. Having a system in which power is dispersed and pushed down to the individual makes for a more effective country, makes for more effective organizations, and it’s really important. But you also have to trust individuals to make good decisions.”

Then Loeb switched to a somewhat lengthy, though not quite long winded, synopsis of his own view of the effectiveness of freely functioning capital markets, but came back at the end with an excellent remark on how to bring more individuals within its purview, saying as follows:

“It isn’t perfect, though, and there’re folks left behind. So I just want to close by saying what – Glenn had mentioned like how important it is like we should have a Marshall Plan for this. The most important thing I see out there is education to get people included in the system. And you know, for me personally, my philanthropic energy is directed towards how do we get a broad base of less privileged people, folks that have been – kids and families who’ve been written off by the system.”

“I’ll tell you one thing. It’s a myth that poor people can’t learn and can’t achieve at the same level as white rich kids. We have a school – I’m on the board of Success Academy Charter Schools. We have a school in the Bronx, in the poorest congressional district in the country, where our children just scored number three in New York State out of 3, 528 schools, in math.”

There is process and there is substance, and clearly all the American speakers at this panel, including Loeb, stressed the role of the individual. For his part the Dalai Lama more than once clearly put the stress instead on community, with this example being quite representative of his views:

“Then, these sort of complicated philosophic views, you see, they finally – you see, since the things are heavily interdependence – interdependent, therefore, you see, for your own interest, you see, you have to take seriously about others’ wellbeing.”

“You think taking care more about others is not selflessness. Best thing for your future is taking care about other. Basically, we are social animal. One individual’s future depends on the community. Community now (exists in a) modern time. The community’s future depends on the nation. This individual nation’s future depends on humanity.”

“So you see, use sort of our intelligence. The reality, then not blind sort of selfish way, but see, usually I – since many years, I usually go, you see. We are selfish. It’s very important for our own survival. Without self-care, we cannot survive. So therefore – but that selfish should be wise selfish, rather than foolish selfish.”

I think we can all learn from that approach, including Dan Loeb, who is not wrong either in his own approach. Simply put, we need both.

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