My Journey to Conscious Business

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” ~ Mark Twain

As is true for most of us, my birthday is well documented. My second ‘day’ came when I discovered that my soul purpose was to bring light to the corporate world. As this truth emerged, every tragic and joyous event in my life seemed to make perfect sense.

Growth through Loss

For my first five years, I enjoyed an active imagination and mystical curiosity with the support of a loving family. That all ended when my father died in a plane crash. To support my children, my grieving mother threw herself into a business career.

On that tragic day, I lost both parents. For the rest of my childhood, I and my siblings were primarily on our own. Any semblance of a normal family life had disappeared. As an escape, I spent much of my time enjoying my fertile imagination. I found reading difficult while math was fun and easy. Little did I know how important this math talent would become.

Growth through Trauma

By the time I started college, my life had normalized. Then at the end of my sophomore year, tragedy struck again. I remember waking up from a five day coma with a broken leg, a ruptured spleen, and severe neck and back trauma. I had been in a near fatal car accident. I spent a year in the hospital and another year using a walker and crutches. The following year, my mother died of cancer. To survive, I went numb.

I married a man who, like me, was a fun-loving but wounded soul. To escape our old lives, we moved west to Colorado. I felt truly happy for the first time in years.

Soon after our first child was born, my husband had his first grand mal seizure. Over the next 15 years, I focused on raising my children, running small businesses, and pursuing spiritual growth. At the same time, my husband’s seizures became more frequent and his health steadily deteriorated.

I decided to invest in the skills to become the family’s primary breadwinner. As an avid spiritual seeker, I wanted to study transpersonal psychology. Instead, my need for quick employment and the market’s demand for math-based talent led me to pursue an MS in statistics. Upon graduation, I was recruited by a small credit card bank in San Francisco.

My experience in my new corporate environment felt very stressful. The culture was primarily fear-based and to survive, I had to keep a big part of myself hidden. My natural talent in math enabled me to thrive in my role as a data scientist. But my long hours took its toll and my family started falling apart.

After three years on an intense schedule, I transferred to the East Coast where I was able to get support from my extended family. Around this same time, my analytic work was getting acknowledged and I was invited to speak at numerous data conferences.

Growth through Patience

Over the next five years, I worked for several financial institutions that were going through mergers and acquisitions. I began to notice how the poor treatment of employees was harming company performance. Then one morning in meditation, I asked why I was stuck in the corporate world and my second day arrived.

The guidance I received gave my insight into my purpose – to bring spiritual principles to the corporate world. I had no clue how to do this. But I stayed with the feeling and kept reminding myself to ‘Trust the Process’.

I didn’t expect the ‘Process’ would offer me two more life changing experiences. But in May of 1999, I signed a contract with a major publisher to write my first book and I was diagnosed with breast cancer. To keep my focused on the future, I got busy writing my book (Data Mining Cookbook (Wiley, 2001)) and kept up my demanding speaking schedule. This helped my keep my sanity through the surgery (mastectomy and reconstruction), chemo, and radiation.

My new book quickly became a best-seller which fueled the demand for me as a speaker. During keynote speeches I often introduced the principals of conscious business such as the importance of good communication, compassionate leadership, and emotional intelligence. One keynote led to an invitation to write my second book, Business Intelligence Success Factors (Wiley/SAS, 2009), which details the importance of conscious leadership and emotional intelligence in business.

Growth through Consciousness

After my husband passed away in 2001, I began to see how my many tragedies had shaped the person I was becoming. My mother’s business success gave me the confidence that I was an equal in the male-dominated business culture. My health challenges resulting from the accident led to my early interest in alternative healing, organic eating, and holistic body care. My bout with breast cancer taught me to create work/life balance—something I am still perfecting. As a woman in my mid-60s, I have the vitality and energy of someone half my age.

Today, I am working on my 5th book; I host a radio show on conscious business; and I have just launched my own blog on Huffington Post. My passion for bringing light to the corporate world is having an impact.

With solid foundation in both quantitative and qualitative research, I am a unique voice in business leadership today. I argue that to be successful in our high-tech, fast-paced, global economy corporate leaders must take a more holistic approach – one that balances the masculine (quantitative) and feminine (qualitative). My thesis is creating demand for more conscious models and practices that help organizations transition from a single goal of higher profits to a more balanced goal where we all thrive – our employees, our communities, and the planet at large.

Storykeeper: Olivia Parr-Rud

Olivia Parr-Rud is a thought leader, award-winning author, radio host, and a unique voice in the world of business. As a globally recognized data scientist and expert in big data analysis, she is grounded in the theory and practice of business analysis and its ability to drive profitability. Her lifelong passion for cultural evolution and human potential has guided her research into how advances in technology are driving the need for more holistic business practices. Her ground-breaking book, Business Intelligence Success Factors, Aligning for Success in a Global Economy (Wiley, 2009) details her early research into the value of human capital. Her passion for emerging knowledge that can guide business to ‘Do good while doing well’ fuels her future research and writing. She is currently working on a new book that will explore the latest scientific research and how it can be used to simultaneously advance business and human evolution. Website:


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