Silence isn’t just the absence of noise. It’s a presence that brings us energy, clarity, and deeper connection.
Justin Zorn and Leigh Marz take us on an unlikely journey—from the West Wing of the White House to San Quentin’s death row; from Ivy League brain research laboratories to underground psychedelic circles; from the temperate rainforests of Olympic National Park to the main stage at a heavy metal festival—to explore the meaning of silence and the art of finding it in any situation.
Golden reveals how to go beyond the ordinary rules and tools of mindfulness. It’s a field guide for navigating the noise of the modern world—not just the noise in our ears but also on our screens and in our heads. Drawing on lessons from neuroscience, business, spirituality, politics, and the arts, Marz and Zorn explore why auditory, informational, and internal silence is essential for physical health, mental clarity, ecological sustainability, and vibrant community.
With vital lessons for individuals, families, workplaces, and whole societies, Golden is an engaging and unexpected rethinking of the meaning of quiet. Marz and Zorn make the bold and convincing argument that we can repair our world by reclaiming the presence of silence in our lives.
Rebel HR is a podcast for HR professionals and leaders of people who are ready to make some disruption in the world of work. Please connect to continue the conversation!
And so we found our environments with all this urgency, all this importance really compressing and doing and saying more gathering more data, scrambling, pressing our calendars more full with meetings, and zooms and conferences without even a moment to take a beat or breathe or meet anybody else or even have some kind of a different type of conversation we had. And we started to come to the same intuition that maybe the answers to some of these more complex and intractable problems might come from somewhere else. Maybe the solutions weren't in more thinking or talking. Maybe the solutions can be found in the silence.Kyle Roed:
This is the rebel HR Podcast, the podcast where we talk to HR innovators about all things people leadership. If you're looking for places to find about new ways to think about the world of work, this is the podcast for you. Please subscribe my favorite podcast listening platform today. And leave us a review. Rebel on HR rebels. Welcome back, rebel HR listeners extremely excited for the conversation today with us we have Lee Mars. She is the co author of the new book with amazing reviews golden, the power of silence in a world of noise. Welcome to the show, Lee.Leigh Marz:
Hey, thank you for having me.Kyle Roed:
Well, extremely excited to have you here. Also excited to have Molly Pradesh joining us.Leigh Marz:
Hi. Welcome back, Molly. Thank you.Kyle Roed:
So really excited to dive into this topic. And I just mentioned before we hit record that, you know, when I saw the title of the book, my first thought was silence. What's that? We don't get much of that, especially in human resources. And so I, you know, my first question is, what prompted you to invest the time, energy and devotion into writing a book about the power of silence in a world of noise?Leigh Marz:
Thanks for that question. Really. desperation, I would say is what prompted us, we came to this book from a place of despondency. And maybe sometimes we'd like to think it's something, you know, some gorgeous, golden thing that drew us in actually, we were at a loss of what to do. We were both working in high stress environments. Justin, my co author that you mentioned, Justin Zorn, working in US Congress had been a legislative director for three members of Congress. So a very loud environment is no doubt you know, and I've been working with a lot of cross sector coalition's working on climate change, working on removing toxic chemicals, things that feel very urgent and are very urgent. And so we found our environments with all this urgency, all this importance really compressing and doing and saying more grant gathering more data scrambling, you know, pressing our calendars more full with meetings, and zooms, and conferences without even a moment to take a beat, or breathe or meet anybody else, or even have some kind of a different type of conversation we had. And we started to come to the same intuition that maybe the answers to some of these more complex and intractable problems might come from somewhere else. Like maybe the solutions weren't in more thinking or talking, maybe the solutions can be found in the silence. And so we wrote an article together for Harvard Business Review, implying some of those things, testing out some of those things, particularly focusing on audible noise and, and silence. And in that realm, we'll get into more about what we're covering, when we talk about silence in a bit. But that article that we wrote for Harvard Business Review, went viral. And then that gave us pause me this step back and think like, what's going on here? Why is this resonating with people? Is there something to explore? And we just started following the cookie crumbs, doing interviews with neuroscientists and you know, all kinds of professionals and politicians and artists and the man incarcerated on death row and a whirling dervish and of Grammy winning opera singer, all sorts of people, amazing people, and asking them the question, what's the deepest silence you've ever known? And it's their answers that really took us on this journey for silence and our own devotion to as workers in the world as people we're really passionate about our work is that that that would include looking at ourselves as individuals looking at family life looking at work life and looking at the society as a whole. So yeah.Kyle Roed:
You know it, I just think it's a really powerful. Question. Two, just to think about that. I mean, you asked that question, and I struggled to think of an answer.Leigh Marz:
You're like, you're not alone in that, but I'd love to hear any thing that you and Molly have to say about the deepest silence you've ever known without necessarily the pressure of it being the deepest, but maybe what comes to mind when you hear that question. I mean, of the bad that we don't know the answer to that, not at all. Not at all,Kyle Roed:
I think the deepest science that I've ever known, so I've, I've been going down a mindfulness journey and meditation journey, but primarily because of the urging of a podcast guest. So thanks for that, Sam. And I, I would say was probably, you know, in the midst of a of a meditation session where there was literally nothing, you know, and that and that was the whole point. But it took I think it took me about eight months of consistent practice before I truly was able to quiet my mind enough to feel some of that silence and it lasted for about two seconds.Leigh Marz:
To memorable seconds, I might add to your back end of your life, you've probably Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, that's actually not surprising at all. And actually, you point to exactly what we wind up really focusing in on a talk about audible, auditory, silence and noise, but also informational that which is often coming to us. So out of auditory coming to our ears, informational, coming through many, for many of us our screens, but this is also just about the mass proliferation of mental stuff available to us these days. And then focusing in on internal silence and internal noise, which is what you were describing Kyle, and those couple of seconds, so quiet. And really those interviews kept pointing us to places and times that weren't necessarily auditorily quiet at all yours was, but often it can be, you know, they would talk about running the perfect line through rowing rapids, or the 4am mark on a dance party. It is a dance party all night dance party, or being on a mountaintop, with we know winds and weather and all kinds of you know, who knows birds all kinds of noise, you could say or sound, actually more more to be more exact, but quiet, internal quiet. That many described as a place where maybe our smaller egoic selves fall away our sense, our story, the story we tell ourselves about ourselves falls away and a sense of connection to something larger than us comes in. So we become smaller and larger at the same time. And that's a very quietening experience.Kyle Roed:
That is, yeah, I'm just reflecting I'm taking that silence to reflect. I think that's a really powerful concept. You know, we think about silences sound. But yeah, there's Yeah. I think one of the biggest challenges, and I'm assuming, Molly, you probably agree with me in our day to day, is we've got so many different things going on that the thought of even silencing our thoughts, or trying to resist the egoic pressure to have the right answer or to figure something out or to like, solve someone's problem is so strong, that it's, if I don't know, I don't know about everybody else. But when I feel like I'm not doing that I feel guilty. Like, I feel like I'm not doing my job if I'm not, you know, constantly thinking about problem solving, and you know, how to improve?Leigh Marz:
Yeah, totally. It's hard to do. Yeah, well, when it when of what we're really what we're talking about here is staying engaged in the work of the world. And you know, just the we we lead very full lives, both running families are really involved in our communities as well. And so this isn't about kind of escaping to do that work necessarily, although that can be a great way for us to learn. What we're really interested in this book is how do you weave these moments of silence throughout one's day, and they can be really tiny, little moments, but what we suggest is that you drop into them as deeply as you can. So even if that's just an inhale and exhale before the next Zoom meeting, or stepping outside, even for just a hit of nature, if you will, you know, just to listen to the birds for a second or hear the wind in the trees to just use that as a little refresh. And it may be that we're tapping into those deeper experiences of silence we get in any of the ways that we get it. This is what we call a non meditators Guide to Getting beyond the noise because both Justin and I are lapsed meditators at best. Good on you, Kyle, for your meditation, and that may be your way to silence which is awesome. It's been our way in the past but That's really not anymore. And so what we're interested in with this book is, what are the many, many, many routes to quiet into silence one can find. And for me that's now on the dance floor teaching dance, really focusing in a flow state. So flow states are super universal, very common to many. And those can be big active flow states, like, you know, skiing down some mountain slope, or, you know, dancing in a studio allowed studio, mind you. Something like that. They could also be micro flow, moments where you're just doodling are doing crosswords are reading deep breathing. So flow states are one of those places, moments of awe where you really connect to the beauty of this life. And that can be like looking at the Grand Canyon, but it could also just be watching a bumblebee do its work, it's pretty amazing. This world says life is pretty amazing. When we can connect to those moments, however, quickly, they they come and go, or if and make more space to them. We feel that we can be much more present to the work we're doing that person who walks in your door that needs that answers. And those questions and your full presence can come much more easily to you. If you've just taken that little bit of time to be with yourself. As I'm reflecting to me, some of like a sense of you being content in where you're at what you're doing what you're feeling in my kind of on the right track here. I love that. I love that framing. Absolutely. Yeah. To just really take in this moment. Absolutely.Kyle Roed:
So So I think I love how you put that the flow state moments of Ah, yes, I think that's really a love that visualization and, and I think it's really easy to get disconnected from that, you know, just in the in the busyness of everything going on, especially in the workplace. So why why is there so much noise? today? What you know what, why, as a society do we like, like, foster this? Because I feel like it's probably not in our best interest. Yeah,Leigh Marz:
well, that's certainly what we found. So we look at auditory noise, and that is on the exponential rise. We look at emergency sirens as a proxy indicator. So emergency vehicles need to pierce through the surrounding den to get our attention to do you know, to get off and meet whoever they are to meet and you know, to cut through all that traffic. So the sirens from emergency vehicles have gone up six fold in the last 100 years. So there have been high high decibel levels where it's, as you've probably in your listeners, no doubt have noticed, damaging to be too close to those sirens for too long. Also, the National Park Service estimates that noise pollution increases two to three fold every 30 years. So yeah, it's getting much louder on a Sonic level. Europe does a much better job measuring their decibel levels in urban scapes and about 450 million people. 65% of the population live with decibel levels that are thought to be harmful to their health, according to the World Health Organization. So that's the auditory area looking informationally. In 2010 Eric Schmidt, the then CEO of Google estimated that every two days we create as much content as we did from the dawn of civilization to 2003. every two days, we can't recreate as much content as the dog civilization. So we are swimming in information. And another study suggests that we take in about five times the amount that that in the United States five times the amount that we did just a generation ago. So that's a lot of information more and more of it is grabbing for our attention as you now no doubt have noticed. So audible auditory is measured in decibels information is measured in bits and that all that has everything to do with attention which is a very limited resource. The Hi chick sent me high grade Hungarian American Psycho psychologist estimates that we need about 160 bits of information are we have at our fullest capacity is about 160 bits of information. So that's a conversation with one two people at at most and then if other things are going on being gadgetry buzzing this that you know. So our capacity for processing information has not increased exponentially, you know, evolutionarily, but the demands on our attention has increased exponentially. So you see there's a there's an attention problem right now and you No data felt that. And then we argue that that leads to an internal area of distress. You know, Ethan Krause, the professor of University of Michigan, who wrote a book about chatter, looks at our rumination or worry about the future, our anxiety levels and depression levels, he estimates that we listen to something like 320 State of the Union addresses of internal compressed speech every day. So the auditory informational and internal landscape is raucous and loud, our entire economy is measured in gross domestic product, you know, GDP, that's that headline indicator of how we're doing? Well, that values for example, the not the pristine forests, but the pristine forest harvested and cut up into lumber and Sold at Home Depot. And our attention is much like that. It doesn't value our pristine attention or attention for our children, to our, to our, you know, lives to art, whatever, that's zero, that's measured at zero, but our chopped up attention our eyeballs on a page and clicking this and clicking that and consuming things, isn't what it values. So it's not just that we're not doing a good job here that we're not, you know, trying hard enough, although we have lots of things for us to do there is there is a sphere of control here, I want to assure you. But I also want to assure you that everything is really driving towards more noise making more noise these days in our current system, and set up and so we look in this book at all of those things, what we can do as individuals, what we can do as families as co workers to support one another. And then what of course we need to do and want to do as a society. So tension is something I really struggle with. But I appreciate you saying they're from control that can happen. How do I do that? Well, how do you find out your sphere of control? Yeah, yeah. Well, so we have a teacher come in. In the middle of the book, his name is Jarvis J. Masters. Jarvis J. Masters is a man who's incarcerated on death row for a crime that the preponderance of evidence suggests he didn't. And we certainly believe he didn't commit. He's been on death row for 32 years. He in that time came across Tibetan Buddhism, as a practice, kind of very reluctantly, who closes their eye and eyes in prison and meditates he joked, you know, if you don't do that, you gotta be crazy. But he did come across mindfulness meditation, he also finds his quiet, working out in his four by nine cell and studying astronomy, and all kinds of other practices, writing letters, he has a beautiful penmanship, writing letters to friends and people who reach out to him for support. So he's a man who's in a cell, 23 hours out of a day, and we turn to him to tell us about sphere of control, because, you know, seemingly would seem he'd have, you had no control, you know, he's in a cell all the time. And yet, he does find quiet, even in that very, very loud environment, which I'll just describe for a second, because it's all cement and metal. And guys hollering all the time, called hollering each other's names are just on a rant. It's extremely loud, auditorially environment, plus the reverberations of fear and trauma and concern about people's cases. And you know, all those things, he COVID, when, at its peak, it was very stressful. But he quiet the noise by quieting his response to the noise, he says, which is a super advanced concept. And he's an advanced teacher at this point in Buddhism, but he finds his sphere of control and how he reacts to things. And so we turned him to look at our sphere of control, what is it what we can do with ourselves generally, within our sphere of influence, I'm assuming this will be somewhat familiar to your audience, and then what's outside of your control and you just don't sweat that you just let that go? You focusing on your sphere of control and your sphere of influence? So the answer, of course, deep, different for each of us about that. But the point is, there is something something within your sphere of control and influence. Yeah. Yeah.Kyle Roed:
We know those, those terms. But, but interestingly, not It's not typically in the context of silence, or clarity, necessarily, it's more about forcing something to get done. Or forcing your reaction to not be, you know, the normal reaction at least that's how I kind of interpret some of that, you know, that advice. So, so, how you know as HR professionals and you know, I think I don't think anybody's going to argue with the fact that it's too noisy. And that it's it's hard to, it's hard to operate effectively in that in the noise, both auditorily. And internally, as we think about that, in the context of the jobs we do, and the workplaces that we support, how do we foster this in our culture and others and making sure that that, that people have the space to, to have silence support their needs?Leigh Marz:
So I do you think so I'm an organizational coach and a leadership coach, I do some of that. And I really do feel like there's a lot of parallels with the way I need to keep my, my temple clean, if you will, my do my own work in order to really show up for my clients. I think there's a what you all do is so important, it is so steadying to what can feel like a really tumultuous and sometimes can get quite toxic environments. I mean, I really have the deepest respect for what you all do. So I think, you know, one thing we need to do is make sure we're doing our work. And I don't mean that in any kind of a shaming way, I mean that in a full permission kind of way. And finding the quiet that is truly your quiet. So that isn't like a finger wagging. You have to do it this way. Like you have to meditate as an example, we were finding a lot of our, our, our friends and colleagues were shaming themselves for not for not meditating. Okay, that might just not be your way maybe it's more like you run you dance, you but to really honor that time and the quiet it brings you so we spoke with a professor of bio behavioral health and medicine, Joshua Smith, who said quiet as what people think quiet is quiet is what you experience quiet to be. So that is really tuning into the signals in you that you are maybe overloaded with noise for me that's like tight jaw, tight diaphragm. Looping thoughts, like lack of focus, you know, sounding familiar, all these things, right? Yep. And then, but then, alternatively, really, to also really tune into when am I actually feeling quiet and calm? Oh, I, you know, I'm there's an emptying of the brain that that that's what happens when I dance I could make up but that's like not? I don't know. Not something enough? I don't know. Yeah, I don't know what to say like, but it is what brings me quiet. That's just the truth of it. And with this professor, he found a guy in one of his studies, he does large scale stress reduction studies, he carved, here's a chainsaw Carver, he carved large chunks of wood. And in that flow, state of absolute focus and concentration, he was as quiet as he could be. That was his deepest silence. So don't get all judgy about what your quiet is just, you know, make more time for it honor it more. It's like crossword puzzles. Like I said, it's making your coffee with real mindfulness in that process, whatever it is, whatever it is petting your cat, your dog, whatever. Really, to honor that and give it time. And then for once you've really been living in that to also encourage your workers to do the same that people are coming to you to do the same. And to figure out what are the ways we can do that throughout the work day? Are people getting enough breaks? Is everything back to back? Are people getting even a moment to prepare or reflect? Can that happen inside the meeting? Can we learn about sharing silence? You know, for example, sometimes I'll just have people start the meeting with why, you know, what's the purpose here? And what why is it important? You know, to get through this together, let's just take a minute to let the road dust settle from wherever we came from. And focus on why this is important. I love that advice. I think so often we were busy. It's like a badge of honor. Oh my goodness, yes. They if we can change that culture by you know, knowing what to say no to taking the time for and encouraging our team to do that as well. That's some HR rebellion right there. Molly. Yeah. HR rebellion? I I know a lot of people like that. Do you feel like there is such thing as being addicted to that noise? Absolutely. In fact, we have a little section in our that talks about the convenience addictive addiction. There's so much going on about that badge of honor. I mean, that was certainly the culture in DC when Justin was working there to have TVs blasting and that have the gene or instant reply to everything basically being the standard so you can see like, if you're trying to make really important strategic decisions, how in the world can you do that? How can the world can you be taught in touch with what you've heard from your constituency, what you've heard, what you know, to be true all these things in that kind of noisy environment, it's going to be reactive, we're never at our best when we're reactive. So there's, it's really, it's of the utmost importance. And then to challenge that busy as you know, badge, I think it's really important. That's also definitely buying into things Cal Newport is the one who talks about a convenient convenience addiction, no doubt you've come across his work, which is super important. He's, he's the one who brought this great term deep work to us is his concern is we're not doing any deep work at all, in this environment, especially the one with instant, you know, response being, you know, an im being all the time and all these pinging and all this stuff going on. So we lack the the ability to disk to make we lack the clear metrics, if you will, that tells us that group email to everybody, you know, it's well, but now everybody knows, well, did everyone really need to know? Do we really know? It's just the way we form our our communication? Is that if it does any good, it's good. Well, that is just not true. We have, like I said, very limited attentional capacities, we are cluttering up each other's worlds like that. And HR can one of the places where we really model something different, that would be rebellious that I could get behind, for sure.Kyle Roed:
Well, now you're knocking on my corporate communications email, so you made them don't want all those emails? Okay. Fairly. Wait, take. I do think it's interesting, you know, and it's, it's so often throughout our day, it's like when there isn't auditory silences, it's off putting, right like, when the radio is not going, or a podcast isn't playing, or, you know, or you're, you're actually in a room and nobody's talking and somebody feels like, I have to fill the silence. You know, and I think virtual meetings are a great example of like, you know, when nobody's talking, somebody thinks something's wrong. But in all actuality, you people could just be thinking about what was said, which is actually the whole point of the of the meeting, potentially. It's like getting comfortable with that is just, it's uncomfortable to get comfortable with that.Leigh Marz:
Yeah, this is really a book about appreciating and growing our appreciation silence and we turn to Japanese principle called Ma Ma, which is the kanji character is a temp temple gate, if you imagine and there's some slats in the temple gate, and there's sunlight pouring through the empty spaces, it's this place. Sometimes it's used as a synonym for silence for emptiness or nothingness. We love the definition of pure potentiality. So it's what's found in Japanese art. For example, a cube on a flower arrangement, the emphasis isn't just on the branches in the petals, it's on the empty space around it, that is part of the piece of art, the scrolls, for example, the calligraphy and so that which is drawn and painted is of equal importance, or rather, the empty spaces around that is of equal importance to the brushstroke. It's in haikus, it's in the theater. It's in conversations, more pauses more time to reflect to actually tune in when someone says how are you know, when I've to speak with my Japanese colleagues, my Japanese colleagues will pause to actually find the answer. And that can be a little strange for us. But if we could put our focus on sort of this wholeness, where that which is said is of aid in that which is unsaid is of equal importance. That time for reflection, as you know, is so important for all of us. But those who are buzzword more kinesthetic, or it's just a different type of processing, where we're or we're introverted, we needed we need more time for us and more introverted reflection versus external processing. You know, this makes room for more thinking more involvement, more participation and ends up democratizing our spaces more and it ends up giving us better ideas, you know, when we add to generate better results in those things, so it's not a constant tyranny of the fastest and the loudestKyle Roed:
tyranny of the fastest and the loudest, I think that's a perfect pivot point for an extrovert like me to reflect and take that space. So we, so we're gonna pivot into the rebel HR flash round as much as I could continue this conversation for another three hours. Yeah, I do need to be mindful of your time. All right. Question number one, where do As HR need to rebel.Leigh Marz:
Yeah, I think we actually hit on it. I think it's about maybe being the, the rather than, you know, I think of HR, many millions of professionals that I've learned are millions, but many, many professionals I've done. I've dealt with and had such great experience, we tend to think it's about the words, it's about the processing, it's about that kind of engagement. A rebellious HR professional, maybe create more space for reflection more quiet and be, I think, a rebel in that way. Less is more, that kind of rebellion. And I'd love to see. Love it. Yeah, actually.Kyle Roed:
All right, question number two, who should we be listening to?Leigh Marz:
No, I want to say we should be listening to the birds and the wind and the bees. And then and the pure potentiality, the nothingness, the we should be listening to the spaces between all the mental stuff. That's where we believe the answers lie.Kyle Roed:
I had a feeling that might be your answer. That might be one of my favorite answers of all of all the hundreds of episodes we've done, I think that's a really powerful, really powerful thing to think about. Thank even that question. Maybe is violating the principle of silence. So maybe we need to rethink the question. I love that youLeigh Marz:
would consider it. Yeah.Kyle Roed:
All right. Last question. How can our listeners connect with you? And how can they get their hands on this book.Leigh Marz:
So our book golden the power of silence in a world of noise can be found at Amazon and bookshop. And anywhere you buy books, I just want to put a plug for the audible book, read by Prentice only me in case your listeners or audit your auditory lovers. He's a brilliant reader, and he makes our book even better. And I just like, if you like reading books that way, do it. So that's where you find our book. And you find us at our website, Australia strategies, that's a STR ea strategies.com. And that's where you'll find contact for justify and all the media, a bunch of articles that are specific to workplaces, like when we published an HBr on creating quiet cultures and one in Fast Company on finding pockets of time in the workplace, in the workday, so a lot of resources there for your listeners. Not only here also on LinkedIn, we're not super surprised, surprised, you know, social media people so you can find us on LinkedIn.Kyle Roed:
Yeah, well, we'll have all those links in the show notes. The book, once again is golden. The power of silence in a world of noise. Lee, it's been absolutely wonderful connecting with you. Thank you so much for sharing this with the world and with our listeners today. Really appreciate the time. It was great to be with youLeigh Marz:
both. Thank you, thankfully.Kyle Roed:
All right. That does it for the rebel HR podcast. Big thank you to our guests. Follow us on Facebook at rebel HR podcast, Twitter, at rebel HR guy, or see our website at rebel human resources.com. The views and opinions expressed by rebel HR podcast are those the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any of the organizations that we represent. No animals were harmed during the filming of this podcast. Maybe