Tada Yamamoto

Tada Yamamoto, a member of the 11th Honors Cohort at Fisher, shares insights and reflections on how a unique global experience changed his outlook on business and life. Yamamoto (BSBA ’09, MBA ’17) is an associate at McKinsey & Company in Cleveland.

Thinking about your to do list on your drive into work or class? Considering how to react to a client’s aggressive tone in a meeting? Reflecting on a past presentation and considering the things you could have done better?

These are some common thoughts that run through the minds of many of us as we navigate our careers in business and otherwise. We might even consider these good thoughts and practices in preparing for our day, reacting well in client meetings and identifying opportunities for improvement as we move forward in our careers.

As an alum of Fisher and its Honors Cohort, I’ve attributed my ability to multitask, to painstakingly reflect on criticism and to make quick decisions to my success. At least that’s what I believed and continued to pursue in my career.

However, a global experience prior to starting my most recent consulting position led me to consider an alternate view of these practices and changed my perception of this constant retrospection.

Tada Yamamoto

Becoming a monk

In June 2017, I took the first steps to become a Buddhist monk in Thailand. Initially, I had pursued the idea as I learned it was a way to honor and “make-merit” for parents (especially mothers) in the Buddhist tradition. Moreover, it was fairly commonplace for Thai males to take some time to be a monk. Unlike other religions, such as Catholicism where a pledge to become a nun or priest is expected to be a lifelong commitment, Buddhist monkhood is not always a lifelong calling. While some monks do spend their entire lives heeding the call, it is common for many to enter and leave the monkhood as they continue along individual paths of life.

Rather than delve into the daily life as a monk, I will share my reflections on how the mindfulness and philosophies I learned as a monk are changing the way I think about the choices I make in my business career. I will discuss how the strengths we develop as business students can also expose us to potential weaknesses that may lead us to living our lives in a less fulfilled way.

This article isn’t meant to be an extensive look at the research that has been done in this area or convince you this is the only perspective. Instead, I will just share one business person’s view on how to respond to the voice in our mind that tells us to drive forward.

Tada Yamamoto


Starting as a monk, I focused primarily on learning meditation, a practice that has gained traction in the West as a health benefit. An American Heart Association study found meditation to be a potential low-cost methodology for reducing risk of cardiovascular disease. A Journal of the American Medical Association article indicates that meditation has a moderate positive effect on anxiety, depression and pain. Mindfulness is even beginning to find its way into many bestselling self-help books and company-sponsored wellness programs. These facts alone made it something I was curious to pursue, especially as I was entering a job I expected to be quite stressful.

My initial attempts at meditation resulted in frustration and more mosquito bites than I care to discuss. Sitting cross-legged on the ground for extended periods of time was not something my body was used to, and keeping my mind clear… well, that was pretty much impossible. As I sat and tried to focus on my breathing, thoughts of “what will I do next” interrupted by pangs of “my legs are falling asleep and I need to stretch them” followed by “stop it, focus on your breathing” kept entering my mind.

This, I was taught, is normal for the beginning of meditation practice. The idea isn’t to ignore the thoughts in your mind but to assess them for what they are as just one opinion. Too frequently we are controlled by that voice in our mind to react or take action based on what that voice says. That voice often undermines us, questions our abilities or tells us to do things based on visceral reactions to stimuli. We tend to grant it too much influence in governing our actions. The idea again isn’t to ignore those thoughts, but rather to give them only one seat at the table in our decision-making processes.

Still, some people say, “Well, my thoughts are me and reflect my opinions.” Others say, “I’ve found trusting my gut generally works.” Still, aren’t there times when you know that voice or thought you have in your head is wrong? When that voice tells you to eat that huge piece of cake, but another voice tells you to stick to your New Years’ resolution to reduce sugar intake? Which voice is really you?

The key concept I took away from the experience is that meditation attempts to bring order to the cacophony of these voices and thoughts in our heads — not to ignore or repress them, but to consider them what they are: simply an additional thought or opinion.

Tada Yamamoto


I was taught mindfulness is a greater focus on the present — being in the here and now. I had heard this “meditation-guru talk” before, but as I spent more time in the temple and meditation center, it began to make more sense to me.

I had spent a significant amount of time during my business career reflecting on my past and trying to plan for the future. I had always done this, and it was what helped position me at the front of the pack so many times.

Quotes such as “failing to plan is planning to fail” and “a goal without a plan is only a wish” flooded my mind when the head monk told me to focus on mindfulness in the immediate things that I was doing.

While I still do think of the future and reflect a bit on the past, the key message I was getting is that we live life not in the future or in the past but in the present. Not focusing on how we feel in the present robs us of the ability to maximize all that our planning was intended to accomplish.

It is in the present that we realize the gains of our planning and reflection. We cannot impact the future, except through the present, and spending too much time thinking about the future is like spending all of your time focused on a business plan and no time on execution. I’m not negating the value of planning or reflection, as I still do it, but giving it less of your mindshare and thinking of the present may be more important than we allow for in our lives today.

Tada Yamamoto

Closing thoughts

I am still very much in a learning phase and my opinions and understanding about meditation and mindfulness will continue to evolve. What I hope you take from this is an understanding from one alumnus’s experience in a unique environment and open yourself to considering the consequences of acting according to that voice inside.

Too often do high achievers focus on planning for the future and reflecting on the past. While we all know we should “stop and smell the roses at time”, at times it may seem this action will cause us to fall behind.

By exercising control over the voice in our head through meditation, we can begin to become more mindful and present in our daily lives. We can give “less” to the “thinking” that focuses us on things we cannot control and clouds our attention, and give more to the joy and beauty we see in the here and now.