Declaring an Open Masters in Mindful Leadership

When I was started thinking about university in my teens, the decision was simple: Wesleyan University. My brother, who is 5 years older than me, had attended Wesleyan and I had visited multiple times a year. I was always so sad to leave, and so excited for the next opportunity to visit him. While my brother and I had very different experiences in college and post-grad, we have both followed paths that are grounded in the same values of love, compassion, mindfulness, family, and conscious leadership.

So, it is not a surprise that I am following in his footsteps again. On a recent family beach trip, my brother told me about Open Masters: a self-designed, self-directed, and self-declared Master’s degree in the subversive educational tradition of Danish Folkschools and Chautauqua Circles. I had never heard of the concept but it stuck with me. When he told me that he was designing his own Open Masters in Mindful Leadership, I felt the call to do the same.

What I’m presenting below is my effort in mapping my journey to now, my plan for my journey from now, and an invitation for how to join me along it. My goals in this Open Masters are to:

  • Bring a deeper level of intention and focus to my learning
  • Find meaningful connection with people in my community that are interested in these same topics
  • Create space(s) for people to learn and teach about these topics to those that are interested
  • Bring mindfulness practices into the business environment

A little about me

I’m passionate about raising the consciousness of individuals by creating, nurturing, and leading communities and teams founded on the principles of mindfulness, learning, and belonging. As the son of a spiritual leader and a business strategist, I have been practicing mindfulness and leadership for my entire life and have been actively studying it for over a decade.

In my privileged experience, mindfulness and leadership have always been connected and I’ve been given the opportunity to explore these topics in practice both professionally and personally.

In college as a dance major, I choreographed and produced more than a dozen post-modern dance performances. Post-modern dance posits that all movement is dance expression and any person is a dancer regardless of previous training. This type of movement is grounded in mindfulness of the body, being fully present of where you are in your environment, what your body is doing, and how it is reacting.

I taught and practiced mindfulness of the body through more than 1000 hours of rehearsals and coursework. Leading a group of dancers through a 4-month semester to create and perform a piece of work requires being in your body fully and leading others to do the same.

Following graduation, I had the opportunity to bring mindfulness into professional environments. I’ve built marketing teams from the ground-up at multiple technology companies by investing in people, process,  my own study of mindfulness and leadership, and learning from mentors that have done the same. Every experience has allowed me to grow as a leader, learner, and teacher.

In the past year, I received my certification in mindfulness teacher training, which required 300 hours of meditation practice, lecture, and retreat. I currently lead a marketing team of seven extraordinary people at Artsy, where I lead mindfulness meditation practice in the office and strive to regularly introduce new leadership principles and frameworks to my team.

I believe that if every community of people, no matter how big or small, adopted mindfulness principles and practiced compassion and lovingkindess for themselves and those around them, then we would truly build the world that we all want to see.

I’ve been given incredible opportunities in my life to learn and teach. Every conversation with my family broadens my perspective and abilities and my liberal arts education taught me to adopt a lifestyle of continuous learning. My mentors have encouraged me to embrace opportunities that arise and apply everything I know to build the communities and teams that I want to be a part of.

As I’ve gotten further and further away from my college years, I’ve found that continued learning requires more and more intention. Perhaps it’s the constant bombardment of media stimuli or the increasingly rapid-pace of everyday life, but I’ve found that the best way for me to continue to learn is:

  • to declare my intention
  • create a plan or pathway forward
  • leverage my powerful community to support me in following it
  • take the next step

Thank you to everyone who has already been a part of this journey with me and I hope you can join me for the rest of it.


Open Masters in Mindful Leadership

While I have studied mindfulness and leadership practices for over a decade, this declared Open Masters program began for me in January of 2018. The program outline below includes what I had completed prior to starting this course (or prerequisites), concurrent practice + requirements throughout the program, courses, additional readings, and capstone guidelines.

An important part of this program is to create spaces to discuss these topics and connect with my community on these topics. There are a few ways to join me on this journey that I have outlined below and I am very open to hearing your ideas for more ways to connect!



There is no predefined timeline for this course. I started this program in January 2018 and plan to complete the following by the summer of 2021.


my prerequisites

Below are practices and experiences that I had completed prior to starting this program, which I’ve included for the benefit of others looking to follow a similar path of study. I believe these are fundamental before pursuing a study of mindful leadership.

Maintain a daily meditation practice for 3 months

Maintaining a daily meditation practice is fundamental to this program. There are many types of meditation, but I recommend starting with Samatha, mindfulness of the breath practice. It is important to maintain this practice throughout the course of this program.

Lead a team of 3 or more people for at least a year

Part of this program requires experience and opportunity to put these principles into practice. The goal of any mindfulness practice is being able to apply it to your everyday life. It is important to have the opportunity to apply what you learn in a “real life” setting.

MBA, equivalent management education (MPP, MPA, MSM) or equivalent job experience

While I did not receive a traditional MBA, I have learned many of the core areas of business strategy, management, project management, and marketing through my job experience building teams in technology startups. As part of this course, I am including areas of the MBA that I have not experienced as part of my work experience, like some of the more technical components of business finance and accounting.


concurrent practices + requirements

The practices below are to be completed throughout the course of the program.

Maintain a daily meditation practice

Leading a work team

Find and build a relationship with an experienced mindfulness teacher/mentor

Part of this program is working with a teacher or multiple teachers that provide guidance and mentorship in my journey. Bringing mindfulness into any space is something that needs to be done with immense care and respect. It is important that anyone that plans on teaching mindfulness to have someone in their circle that can guide how to bring mindfulness learnings into a leadership practice and to make sure you are ready to implement those learnings in a safe way.



3-5 courses in each of the following areas (15-25 total courses)

*Note about MBA-level coursework: Part of the goals of this program, for me, are filling a few of the holes that I have from not spending 2 years (and a lot of money) getting a traditional MBA. If you are using this open masters plan for yourself and also chose not to pursue an MBA, I recommend connecting with someone who has received one and has worked with you in a professional setting. They can help you assess what areas of the MBA you should include as part of your coursework.


Leading People

(Communication, Negotiation, Leadership)

Visionary Leadership – Macquarie University

Communication – Wharton Business School

Leadership Communication: Storytelling – Northwestern University

Negotiation Fundamentals – Essec Business School

International Leadership and Organizational Behavior – Bocconi University


Managing Organizations

(Operations, Finance, Accounting, Economics, Law/Business Ethics)

Introduction to Financial Accounting – Wharton Business School

Corporate Finance I: Measuring and Promoting Value Creation – University of Illinois

Macro and International Economics – MIT Sloan

Global Impact: Business Ethics – U of Illinois

Operations Management: Strategy and Quality Management for the Digital Age – U of Illinois

Introduction to Operations Management – Wharton


Ways of Being

(Mindfulness, Ethics, Philosophy, Religion)

Buddhism and Modern Psychology – Princeton University

Ethical Leadership through Giving Voice to Values – University of Virginia

Intellectual Humility: Practice – University of Edinburgh

Success – Wharton Business School

Corruption – Wharton Business School

Love as a Force for Social Justice – Stanford University

Mindfulness Teacher Training Lectures – MNDFL Teachers


Science of the Mind

(Psychology & Neuroscience)

Influence – Wharton Business School

The Science of Well-Being – Yale University

Psychological First Aid – Johns Hopkins University

Consumer Neuroscience & Neuromarketing – Copenhagen Business School

Game Theory – Stanford University


Paths of Exploration

(Electives exploring connections to other areas)

New Models of Business in Society – University of Virginia

New Venture Finance – University of Maryland

Business Strategies for Social Impact – Wharton Business School

Managing Social and Human Capital – Wharton Business School

Private Equity and Venture Capital – Bocconi




An introduction to the many schools of mindfulness and meditation

Living in New York City, I have the privilege of access to many mindfulness communities of teachers and practitioners. Part of this course incorporated a 6-month teacher training course led by multiple teachers in New York City, curated and led by MNDFL. I started this course with a many years of experience meditating, but this course gave me a broader understanding of the different lineages and schools of practice.

If you do not have access to a mindfulness teacher training with a defined course curriculum, I recommend educating yourself on the various types of mindfulness and meditation. Below is the reading list that I used. Find what speaks to you and explore additional texts, teachers, and authors that speak specifically about that practice.


[Topic] Book/Reading Author

[Meditation 101] Start Here Now Susan Piver

[Theravadin Buddhism] Living Dharma Jack Kornfield

[Zen] Selected readings from Dogen, Robert Aitken, Bernie Glassman

[Shamatha] Quiet Mind: A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation Misc authors

[Tibetan Buddhism] Indestructible Truth Reginald Ray

[Insight/MBSR] Full Catastrophe Living Jon Kabat-Zinn

[Vedic Meditation] Lecture broadcast Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

[Hindu Meditation] Urban Monk Pandit Dasa

[Christian Meditation] Reveal Meggan Watterson, How To Love Yourself Meggan Watterson, Gospel of Mary of Magdala Karen L. King, Meaning of Mary Magdalene Cynthia Bourgeault

[Kundalini] Intro to Kundalini Guru Rattana, PhD, The Aquarian Teacher Yogi Bhajan, PhD, The Roots of Kundalini Yoga Yogi Bhajan, PhD

[Jewish Meditation] Being-ness Your God Yael Shy, Everything is God Jay Michaelson, This is Real… Alan Lew

[Mystic Meditation + Divine Healing] The Six-Step Spiritual Healing Protocol Robbins Hopkins



Managing The Nonprofit Organization – Peter Drucker

The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz

Radical Candor & the Radical Candor Podcast (23 Episodes) – Kim Scott

The Art Of Gathering – Priya Parker

Tribal Leadership – Dave Logan, John King, Halee Fischer-Wright

The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership – Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, Kaley Warner Klemp


Leading While Being

Dare to Lead – Brené Brown

Daring Greatly – Brené Brown

Man’s Search For Meaning – Viktor Frankl

The Tao At Work – Stanley M. Herman

Meditations – Marcus Aurelius

The Reboot Podcast (~50/100+ Episodes) – Jerry Colonna



How To Love – Thich Nhat Hahn

The Art Of Communicating – Thich Nhat Hahn

The Disappearance Of The Universe – Gary R. Renard

Rising Strong – Brené Brown

Letters To A Young Poet – Rainer Maria Rilke

The Power Of Now – Eckhart Tolle

The Art Of Presence – Eckhart Tolle

A New World – Eckhart Tolle

Super Soul Sunday (~50-100 episodes) – Oprah



Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Daniel H. Pink

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – Malcolm Gladwell

Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts – Annie Duke

Tribe: On Homecoming And Belonging – Sebastian Junger

Made to Stick – Chip & Dan Heath

Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else – Laszlo Barabasi


capstone guidelines

Many masters programs include either a thesis/dissertation or a capstone project. The purpose of such a project is to integrate all the new skills you’ve gained and demonstrate your mastery. For a capstone for Mindful Leadership to truly use all these skills, it should be something outside my comfort zone that pushes my ability to be mindful as a leader. I plan to work with my close mentors and inner circle to design a capstone project or multiple projects that I feel will give me a sense of completion for this program.


how to join me

Please join me on this journey! I will be reaching out to several mentors in my network for specific ways that I am looking for support throughout this program.

If you have read through this and feel inspired or motivated to learn more about mindful leadership, here are a few ways that we could do that together:

  • Complete a Coursera course together and schedule some time to discuss what we are learning in the course.
  • Read a book or several chapters from a book in the reading list and plan a time to discuss it.
  • Join me for a meditation.
  • I’m an extrovert and process things just by talking about them! If you’re just interested in discussing a topic about mindful leadership, I’d love to have coffee/phone chat etc.

As part of this program, I may create some kind of more regular group meetup/conversation. At the very least, just reach out to me and let me know if you’re interested in being kept up to date on future opportunities to connect! I’ll send an email out every month with the courses/books I’m planning on taking that month so that you can choose to join as I go. You can reach me @devonhopkins on Instagram, text (if you already have my number), Slack (for Artsy colleagues) or email


Learning from Your Pain

I’ve been thinking this past month about learning from pain. Pain has showed up recently in my life in a variety of forms, both emotional and physical.

Most people are taught from a young age that pain is bad. Pain is something to avoid at all costs. When we feel pain, our first reaction is to figure out how to numb it. Take an ibuprofen or Xanax, suck it up, and keep moving.

The problem is that numbing pain numbs everything else. You can’t numb pain without also numbing joy and love.

I’m learning that pain is a warning signal. Pain shows up in your life when you need to pay attention to something you are ignoring. And it will keep showing up if you keep ignoring the thing that you know deep down you need to pay attention to.

So how do we deal with pain? With love and compassion.

It might seem counter-intuitive, but love and pain go hand in hand. All love eventually ends in pain and all pain is an opportunity to cultivate even more love.

I’ve had chronic shoulder pain and multiple dislocations over the past eight years. After every dislocation, I dove headfirst into rehab, dutifully completing my physical therapy exercises so that I could get back to the gym and back to “100%”. But I never stopped to think what my body was trying to tell me.

I’m (very) slowly learning to love my pain. Pain told me that I wasn’t treating my body the way that I should be treating it. It told me that I wasn’t paying attention to the relationships that I needed to pay attention to. It told me that I needed to slow down, to take a breath, to relax, and to give myself the nurturing that I deserve.

So the next time you feel pain, try to feel the love that’s right there beside it. Love it for telling you something or teaching you something you didn’t know before.

Because isn’t that an awesome gift?

This is what is wrong with your digital strategy.

I’ve read and written hundreds of nonprofit digital strategy documents. As a former consultant for the nonprofit space, “I need to create a digital strategy” was something that I heard almost daily.

The problem is that you don’t need a digital strategy. You need a strategy.

“Digital” has become a buzzword of sorts in the past several years. Google Trends shows steady search growth for both digital strategy and digital marketing strategy since 2007.


google trends digital strategy


With any buzzword comes the flurry of self-proclaimed expert consultants and agencies aligning their products and services to that new market interest.

But you don’t need a digital strategy. You need a strategy.

The problem with creating a digital strategy is that it easily becomes divorced from the organizational strategy as a whole. Today, we can’t look at digital as something separate from the core purpose of your business or organization.

Nonprofits often ask for “a digital strategy that aligns with our broader organizational strategy.”

What you really need is a business strategy enabled with digital tools and solutions.

When you focus on strategy in a vacuum, by domain or medium, you lose site of your end goal. New online tools enchant you and distract you from your real tangible business goals.

So let’s talk a little bit about strategy. When I work with nonprofits to develop a strategy, I run into many of the same problems. You’ve probably experienced some of the same, and hopefully I can help reframe some of these problems so that you can better prepare your organization for success.

Problem #1: You think your audience is the general public.

Maybe Beyonce can claim that the “general public” is her audience, but you cannot. Your audience is not the world.

At the Net2Van Annual Meeting – The Digital Nonprofit 2014 – that was recently held in Vancouver, two speakers from OpenMedia discussed the Engagement Pyramid. The gist of the engagement pyramid is that you’ll have many different audience segments, from the least engaged people (people who don’t know who you are) to the most engaged people (regular donors).

But that least engaged segment is not the general public. It is the group of people that actually have a reason to care about you and your mission. To define this group, you need to understand the origin of your most engaged supporters. How did they find you and where were they looking?

As you begin to collect that information, you’ll start to see patterns in behaviors, demographics, and interests. This group of unengaged people is your “general public” audience. Know them, love them, talk to them.

Problem #2: Your goal is to build awareness.

Every nonprofit in the world wants to build awareness, but often awareness is difficult, if not impossible to measure. The problem with building awareness as a primary goal is that the awareness you are building could have zero impact on your business goals.

Rather than build awareness, focus on driving action. Once someone becomes aware of your mission or cause, what is the next step you want them to take? If people become aware of you but then never take an action, that awareness won’t help you create real change.

Problem #3: You think you want engagement, but you are not really sure what it means

Engagement is another thing that everyone wants; yet no one seems to know what it is. Digital engagement and engagement marketing both have seen steady increase in search traffic since 2007 as well.

I’ve read hundreds of nonprofit RFPs that include “building engagement” as a primary goal. Yet very few organizations define what engagement means for them.

Engagement should be defined and designed. The trick here is that engagement isn’t the same for your entire audience. If we return to the Engagement Pyramid, you have to segment your audience and define what engagement looks like for each segment.

A new supporter likely won’t donate $50, but they may be willing to share a piece of content. Figure out what your Engagement Pyramid looks like and create measurable goals for each step.

Problem #4: You have no outcomes to measure success.

In 6 months, what are you specifically going to look at to know whether you’ve been successful or not? What are you going to look at in 3 months? 1 month? 1 week? You see where I’m going here.

Without measurable outcomes, you don’t know what works and you can’t learn from your experiments. The only way you’re going to scale your impact as an organization is to learn as quickly as you can from your successes and failures. And that’s impossible without measurable outcomes.

Remember, you don’t need a digital strategy. You need a strategy.

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