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Lift Your Legacy: Finding inner calm with Simple Habit founder and CEO Yunha Kim and Rabbi Jacob Rupp

Meditation has changed my life. As a CEO, friend, daughter, I am more focused, more compassionate, and more energized than I’ve ever been. Meditation helps me think clearly and respond to problems with better solutions. Contrary to what many people think, you don’t have to sit for 30 minutes with your eyes closed to meditate. […]

Meditation has changed my life. As a CEO, friend, daughter, I am more focused, more compassionate, and more energized than I’ve ever been. Meditation helps me think clearly and respond to problems with better solutions. Contrary to what many people think, you don’t have to sit for 30 minutes with your eyes closed to meditate. I meditate wherever and whenever I have a spare 1–5 minutes

Yunha Kim is the Founder and CEO of Simple Habit, an award-winning app for daily stress relief.

With more than 2,000 sessions based on situations like sleeping, morning anxiety and lack of focus, Simple Habit offers a practical solution for modern lifestyles. Busy people rely on Simple Habit’s short meditations and audio therapy sessions from world-class experts to reduce daily stress.

Founded in 2016, Simple Habit is now the #1 rated meditation app in the App store and 2018 Google Play Award Winner for Standout Wellbeing App. The app boasts 38,000 five-star reviews. Simple Habit has raised $12.8 million from investors including Foundation Capital, Y Combinator, New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and many other prominent CEOs in Silicon Valley including Dropbox’s CEO Drew Houston and Gusto’s CEO Joshua Reeves.

Kim began her career in investment banking and built her first startup Locket when she was 23-years-old. Kim began to meditate to help manage the stress of startup life. The idea to build a more diverse, practical meditation app came to Kim when she was pursuing her MBA at Stanford. She dropped out of Stanford after one semester to build Simple Habit into the leading meditation platform for busy, stressed-out people. In 2017, Kim was honored by Forbes 30 Under 30 and Marie Claire’s New Guard.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you please share your “backstory” with us?

Of course! I started my first company Locket when I was 23. Over the course of 3 years, I was working seven days a week and got burnt out. I decided to try a bunch of tools (i.e. essential oils, going to the gym) to manage this stress and eventually turned to meditation. It changed my life. I am able to focus better at work, sleep better at night, and felt more present and happier in my relationships. I started power using other apps but got pretty tired of hearing the same voice over and over again. It got me thinking….I don’t get a new app to listen to each of my favorite artists, and artists like Justin Bieber don’t create an entire app to share their music. Instead, platforms like Spotify make it possible for musicians to access a bunch of listeners and vice versa. When I started talking to meditation teachers to see where they were sharing their content, I realized there was a void in this space. So, I set out to create the Spotify for meditation — focusing on 5-minute meditations that busy people can use for any situation or mood. Our vision has since evolved to be even bigger as and learned about our users.

What role did mindfulness or spiritual practice play in your life growing up? Do you have a funny or touching story about that? 

I was raised Christian. Growing up, I thought you had to be Buddhist to meditate. When I hit my all-time low with stress, I decided to give it a try. I was surprised when I tried meditations that were super simple and even secular. At Simple Habit, we want our meditations and therapy sessions to feel inclusive to all, no matter a person’s religious or spiritual background.

How do your mindfulness or spiritual practices affect your business and personal life today?

Meditation has changed my life. As a CEO, friend, daughter, I am more focused, more compassionate, and more energized than I’ve ever been. Meditation helps me think clearly and respond to problems with better solutions. Going to a therapist or gym are amazing resources for managing stress, but they’re time intensive and can be expensive. For me, Simple Habit (and our bitesize audio therapy and meditation sessions) is a more accessible resource for my mental health. Contrary to what many people think, you don’t have to sit for 30 minutes with your eyes closed to meditate. I meditate wherever and whenever I have a spare 1–5 minutes — before a meeting, in a Lyft on my way to an investor pitch, on my walk home from work — and yes, we have sessions for all of these! This allows me to take advantage of down time to reset mentally and physically.

Do you find that you are more successful or less successful because of your integration of spiritual and mindful practices? Can you share an example or story about that with us?

My meditation practice has made me more resilient, patient and calm in tough moments. I pitched Simple Habit on Shark Tank in 2017 and experienced a few intense moments with Mark Cuban and Richard Branson where I was asked tough questions and also challenged on parts of my business. I meditated about ten times before I went on stage, and I believe this allowed me to remain calm, focused and intentional when choosing how to respond. Regardless of the hurdles that I need to be cross with my team or as a leader, staying mentally resilient has helped embrace problems with a growth mindset, bounce back more quickly, and ultimately, get to where I am today.

What would you say is the foundational principle for one to “lead a good life”? Can you share a story that illustrates that?

Invest in yourself. Self-care is critical. When you’re building the life or business you desire, you are the number one resource you have. You may have to juggle a lot of responsibilities, work long days, and cope with unexpected hardships, so it’s important to take a little time each day to step away, breathe and reset. I learned this the hard way with my first startup where I experienced burnout. Now, I meditate at least once every day. As a boss, leader and team member, I am more alert, focused and equipped to handle the hundreds of unexpected fires that happen at a startup. I recommend kickstarting your day with the Simple Habit Good Morning session or the Simple Habit One Minute Breaks are a super quick and easy way to step away when your day gets crazy.

Can you share a story about one of the most impactful moments in your spiritual/mindful life?

When I started meditating heavily, I thought I had to become a master. I remember signing up for a silent retreat, and once I was there, feeling miserable. I left feeling defeated and questioned whether meditation was truly meant for me. But then I realized, it’s not about meditating for hours each day or reaching a level of mastery, it’s about finding what works for you. This notion continues to drive the vision at Simple Habit, to build the destination for mental wellness where users can explore and create their own, custom mindfulness experience.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Tom Bedecarre. I met Tom while he was at AKQA. He invited me to speak at his event. He was the one that suggested that I go to Stanford GSB! Tom has been so helpful to me as I make major decisions in my life ranging from starting a company to selling my previous company. I’m fortunate to have found a mentor like him.

Can you share 3 or 4 pieces of advice about how leaders can create a very “healthy and uplifting” work culture?

  1. Build Healthy Habits Into Your Business. At Simple Habit, we start both weekly and bigger team meetings with a one-minute meditation. By incorporating meditation or even a quick gratitude practice into your team’s schedule, you can help foster a happier, healthier, more productive environment for the whole office. You could also set up a daily time and invite your team to group meditations.
  2. For Leaders, Be Open and Lead With Your Actions. Leaders have an opportunity to lead through demonstration — whether it’s taking vacation or even just taking a midday mental break. In my experience, you can make workplace meditation more commonplace simply by opening up about their own practice. Take time to meditate at work and be open about your need for breaks. This helps your employees to feel more comfortable (and inspired) to do the same.
  3. Create A Space. When we moved into our new office, we created an entire space in the office filled with meditation pods where people can go to take a mental break. In our previous office, I used our office couch to meditate and encouraged our team members to do the same. Some of our employees prefer to use one of our conference rooms to have more privacy and stillness. Regardless of what you want to offer your team, create known spaces where people can comfortably take a moment to themselves. As mindfulness becomes increasingly more common, some offices also offer rooms dedicated to meditation. Ask your office manager to help you find a set space for your team’s new daily habit.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am doing that right now! Every day, we are beyond humbled to receive stories from our users about how Simple Habit is helping them. Recently, I heard from a woman who was diagnosed with cancer and now uses Simple Habit to cope with the pain and stress of treatment. She says it is one of three things that is keeping her strong. We’ve heard from foster parents who are using Simple Habit to help their kids cope with anger. We’ve heard from thousands of millennials who are less stressed and happier than ever before. At Simple Habit, we are working to create a world where every human can live life feeling happier and more connected. It’s these stories that humble me and remind me to keep pushing.

How can people follow you and find out more about you?

Download Simple Habit for free on iOS or Android or visit www.simplehabit.com to learn more. To see our open roles, visit https://jobs.lever.co/simplehabit. To read about our company and occasional updates from me, visit our blog at https://blog.simplehabit.com/.

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