All posts by: Thane Ringler

UAC 153 | Ugmonk

 

A brand focused on creating and curating thoughtfully designed products, Ugmonk was launched in 2008 as a creative outlet to design products that Jeff Sheldon, its Founder, wanted to wear and use. Over a decade later, Ugmonk continues to expand its collection of well-designed products and clothing and attracts a passionate following from around the globe. Jeff joins Thane Marcus Ringler on the show today to discuss his advocacy and illustrate what it takes to run a small business successfully and do it sustainably.

Listen to the podcast here:

Jeff Sheldon: Keep Showing Up: Stories Of Small-Scale Growth From A Designer By Trade And An Entrepreneur By Accident

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I’m excited about the interview that is dropping. It’s been a while since I had done an interview and it was such a fun time to get to do this interview with Jeff Sheldon. He is a Founder and Designer of Ugmonk, a brand focused on creating and curating thoughtfully designed products. Jeff launched Ugmonk in 2008 as a creative outlet to design products that he wanted to wear and use. Over a decade later, Ugmonk continues to expand its collection of well-designed objects and clothing and attract a passionate following from around the globe. I first came across Ugmonk back when my sister, Court, had bought a t-shirt for me from him that had the infamous slogan, “Never Settle On It.” If you know me, you know this an integral part of my work and my brand now as my rally cry for others is to take ownership and never settle. I have two of those shirts and they’re probably the shirts I wear more than any other shirt I own because I love the message that it stands for.

Jeff is a great advocate for this message and a great story, illustrating a small business and what it takes to run a small business successfully and do it sustainably. We cover a lot of ground in this interview. Things like coffee habits, looking at the details of life, what fuels creativity, our human ability to adapt, being proud of the work that you do and create, how consistency is everything returning to the reason why you started something. The different phases of business growth, what it takes to launch products well, the lows of running your own business, caring for your family alongside of the business, integration of faith and work, sourdough bread, and so much more. It was such a blast to have this conversation with Jeff. I learned a lot from him as I know you will. It’s a great look into the life of an entrepreneur and the highs and the lows and everything in between. Without further ado, please enjoy this interview with Jeff Sheldon.

Jeff Sheldon, welcome to The Up and Comers Show.

Thanks for having me on.

Thanks for being here. One of the things I learned in some research is that you’re a fellow coffee aficionado. What is your morning coffee routine or do you have any favorite coffees that you’re brewing right now?

Coffee is a big part of my life. I don’t know how many years. It was maybe a few years ago. I never ever drank coffee in my life. My parents didn’t drink it. I thought it smelled great, but I tried it and it tasted terrible. My taste buds were open to the world of Third Wave Coffee and all of the intricacies of what coffee should taste like versus the gas station coffee that’s so bitter, you’ve got to chug it down. Since then, I’ve gone deep into the coffee world. My usual daily routine is a pour over with the Kalita Wave. My wife and I each have a cup in the morning. As far as roasters go, there are so many good roasters these days. One of the things I love about coffee is that it can be roasted anywhere. It’s not location-based. It’s not you have to be in New York City or LA to be a good coffee roaster. Our latest find is a place down in Mission, Texas called Jitterz Coffee. The stuff that they’re roasting is some of the best coffee I’ve ever had in my life. You’ve got to check it out if you’re into it.

I have not heard of Jitterz. I’m excited to check them out. Do you have a most memorable cup of coffee that you’ve had from them?

The Ethiopia Idido that they’re roasting. I bought one bag. Immediately after my first cup. I went back and I was like, “I’ve got to get three more bags before this is out of season again.” It’s like a perfectly balanced cup.

I’m drinking a Colombian from Qorvis. That was a Kalita Wave brew. It’s one of the simple pleasures of life. If we didn’t have coffee, life would be a little less bright.

UAC 153 | Ugmonk

My wife and I always joke. We’re lying in bed and be like, “I can’t wait until we get that cup of coffee in the morning.” It’s the thing you look forward to, especially we have young kids. We’re getting up at the crack of dawn. The coffee is the one thing to look forward to that early.

I’m excited to hear more about your family, but before we get there, another thing I’m curious about is, do you still mow your own grass?

No, which is funny. I don’t know if you did any research or you’ve heard me on other podcasts. I used to mow lawns. I bought my friend’s lawn business in high school. He was going off to college and I bought the business from him. I didn’t think of myself as an entrepreneur like one of those kids that were always trying to build businesses. It was the control. I got to control my own destiny with it. I bought that and mowed lawns for several years, part of the way through college too, and come home and make that money. It’s hilarious now because I am not mowing my lawn. One, because my lawnmower broke. Two, because the time that it takes to do it and the stage that I’m in with a 2 and a 4-year-old, it’s like I’d rather have that 1.5 hours back on a Saturday to go out and kick a soccer ball with them and play with them than mowing.

One of my best friends growing up also had a lawnmowing business. One of the things we joked about all the time was the lines. How are the lines? When you drive by the lawns, did they do a good job or not? It’s a sweet business for that age and that stage of life. I know once you have done that work, it’s probably hard to let it go. When you have a 2 and a 4-year-old, that definitely takes the priority.

It’s not something I mind when I have the time. It’s funny because it’s come full circle. I’ve sold the business to my brother, who ended up selling it to friends. I am moving to the neighborhood where I used to mow lawns. It wasn’t my own neighborhood. Now that it’s come full circle and they mow the lawns for me, some high school and college-age guys. I had 12 or 13 lawns when I bought it. I grew it to about 30 or 35. My brother took it to 45 or 50. I don’t know how many they have now. They have this entire neighborhood. It’s ironic.

I’ve heard you self-describe as designer by trade, entrepreneur by accident. When you describe Ugmonk, how do you describe the brand and the business or even in introductions to people you meet in daily life?

Ugmonk is a hard thing to describe because it doesn’t fit into one category. You have to drop down this stuff to what type of business do you run? There’s never a category that it fits into other than retail because we sell physical products. It’s a design-driven company. We’re focused on making high-quality products and things that I personally love and use. That’s the filter. My taste and my enjoyment of things or my need for certain things is the driver of why I make things including this latest product called Analog. Everything has come from this personal want and need rather than me going out, seeing a product and thinking like, “I have no interest in that, but I see a business model for it.” It’s the flipping it on its head and it’s all about obsessing over the details of how exactly I would want it and then attracting other people who share similar tastes in design coffee, music, etc.

I feel like that’s such a more sustainable model. One of the things I’m excited to dive into with you is that slow growth model. In your childhood, did you have some weird things or things in your childhood that you obsessed over the details like you do now in your business?

I was the kid that was coloring, drawing and making things. Craft time, art classes, those were all my favorite things. Even as a young kid, my parents would say I would collect rocks, but they were all gray rocks and pebbles. I would go around and specifically pick out certain ones and categorize them. I had this whole system about the way they looked and the way they feel. I always thought that was normal. You find out I was that weird kid that was into detail or even on car trips, as a kid looking out the window. I love to take in the details, look at different things and see what’s going by. That is what has stayed with me and the thing that’s in my DNA. That’s part of who I am that is taking me to the place where I am now. The common thread from being a kid who loved making things, and I always loved doing that, to a place now where I’ve been running a business for over a decade where I’m still making things and matured at a little bit past the rock collections.

I also heard that you and your brothers were pretty adept at Lego creations. What was the thing as a kid that you were most proud of creating?

It’s every type of building toy imaginable. We had Legos, K’Nexs, Tinkertoys and every other version of things. I’ve got to say the thing that we made, we took videos of it. I wish we still had a video I could post. There was a K’Nex ball factory like a Rube Goldberg thing where the balls go up and do different things. We built the one out of the box and followed the instructions. It took a few days. We took all of the pieces we had from all the other sets and made this crazy thing that had 26 different ways where the balls would jump off and loop through.

Not every person should slowly work their way up the ladder; it’s not a linear path. It's okay to work on which rung you want to be on. Click To Tweet

We all gathered together and put our heads together. My younger brother is an engineer and then my older brother is a software developer. You can imagine it got pretty intense nerding out on K’Nex. We had a lot of fun. I feel like that’s something where I hope my kids enjoy the same thing, get into the tangible building and creating things. One of my favorites was Hot Wheels and building the Hot Wheels tracks. I remember I had one. We had a basement. It would go all the way down the hall, down the stairs into the basement. It was a three-day project. Mom would get a little annoyed by the end of it because it’s in the way of everything, but those were the best days. 

UAC 153 | Ugmonk

 

What was it like being a middle kid? Do you see that being the middle child influencing you in one way or another? I’m the youngest of two so I see ways that shaped me and even led into this overachieving mode to try to keep up with my older sister. What have you seen from being the middle child?

Maybe not the typical like middle child gets left out of everything, the overlooked one. My parents did a good job of finding each of the things we were interested in, supporting us and helping us nourish those interests. All three of us, me and my two brothers, are all very driven. We don’t like to sit around. We’d rather be doing things whether it’s using our brains or using our bodies. There was definitely a little bit of, “I’ve got to keep up with my older brother because he is way smarter than me, picks up on things fast and is good at solving problems.” He’s a software developer so he can think through that lens. I’m more on the art and design side and I don’t quite see things as easily or I get stuck on things. He’s my business partner now. My older brother who’s running his own startup, he’s also been a key part of growing the business. We’ve put our heads together. We’ve all stayed close. We had a unique relationship where the three of us generally got along, but we did challenge each other when it came to sports or whatever it was that we were doing.

What did your parents do when you were growing up? What impact did they instill on you? It’s so unique to have parents that help foster and bring out the best in you. Parenting is more an art form than it is a rigid structure. It’s what I’ve experienced, but from what I know of it. What parenting things do you remember from your parents that even you’re instilling now as a father?

I was and am extremely blessed to have parents that supported me and were there backing me and still backing me to this day. My mom still is my employee who does all of our shipping and fulfillment. It’s come full circle, but the thing that’s cool is they saw something in each of us. While they did push us to do well educationally and all of those things, they sacrificed and invested a lot for us to be able to do that. Whether it was taking more summer art camps or whatever it was to give us the platform to explore things that we wanted to do. Also being you can’t paint pictures for a living and giving us a grounded view of what we needed to do and how to steward those tasks to use them. Looking back now, as a parent, I realized how much they sacrifice and put our interests in front of theirs specifically to make sure that we were on a path that we could excel at those things.

What did they do for work?

My dad was a landscape architect and has been in sales for a while. My mom stayed at home with us and now she’s employed by me. It’s been fun to keep it a true family business. Every part of the family has somehow gotten roped into it at one time or another.

Have you ever had your design interest bleed into the landscape architecture side and what is it like? Did you have that be any part of your own passion or was it like, “I don’t want to do what my dad is doing?”

There wasn’t a lot of crossover there. Architecture is something I was interested in. Trying to figure out what I wanted to do with this artistic passion and I still greatly admire architecture. If you get any of my five things emails, I’m always highlighting these incredible structures and houses all over the world. The part of architecture that I learned is it’s a lot less creative and it’s a lot more technical when it comes down to it. I wanted to be the guy sketching out the renderings and doing all the fun stuff, not like, “This can’t be made.” I would say that I pulled things from my mom. She wouldn’t say she’s an artist or she’s creative, but her mom is a true artist. My mom definitely inherited some of that, even though she won’t admit it. There’s an art gene on that side that I pull from. My dad’s side is much more analytical, super detail-obsessed. When he was working as a landscape architect, I’m sure it was dialed into the tee.

I fell into this bucket as well, but how much of that, “I’m not creative,” is simply a self-limiting belief? How much of that is a self-fulfilling prophecy more times than not with people?

A lot of people don’t want to admit they’re creative and they also only think of creative as being a visual thing. I get asked and hit up by all sorts of friends and be like, “You’re creative. You should know this.” It’s like this lump thing where creative is almost the worst term because you’re painted with such broad strokes. Everyone is creative in certain ways. People that work in spreadsheets all day are creative. They’re using different parts of their brain and it may not be visually creative, but problem solving is creative. Doing things, being a mom, being a dad, you have to be creative and you wouldn’t stop and say, “I feel super creative.” When you step back and you look at how you’re able to work through issues, how you’re able to see things, how you’re able to look back and analyze things. There’s creativity in everyone. People don’t like to lump themselves in as an artist because they may think, “I can’t draw so I’m not creative.”

UAC 153 | Ugmonk

 

It is sad that those terms have become synonymous when creativity isn’t everything. What have you seen or what are things that you think maybe it could be generalizations or it could be specifically for you are the things that fuel creativity within people?

We’re wired for it. Think about even now, we’re adapting through this whole pandemic and all of the things that were going on. We have to quickly adapt as humans, unlike any other species, because we didn’t do things this way. In a couple of weeks, everything got flipped upside down and we got to get creative. We are driven to that as a core means of survival, but also adapting to things that you put a different lens on to see things through. Whether it’s a problem or what we’re going through now where every small business in the country has got to get creative and is driven by that to succeed, to stay in business. At the core of it, there’s that driving force that’s part of our DNA and our nature.

I’m curious to hear more on the small business side in the middle of the pandemic that a lot of people can relate to, but speaking of putting a different lens on, that’s such a powerful concept of being able to see something from multiple perspectives. As you think about even your children and the world that they’re growing up in now versus the world that you and I grew up in, looking at details throughout your childhood and that being such an inspiration, how do you see that impacting your children now with the world we live in? How do you see them developing in that way and how do you help foster that creativity even in a different environment?

It’s crazy to think about how things have changed in our lifetime and how quickly things are changing. You look at the technology. Growing up, technology was a single computer for us, which we were fortunate to have. It was very limited time, no internet in the beginning. When we got our first phone line and we’d dial up and email was all new. Now screens are so prevalent in our lives and in our kid’s life that I feel like it’s going to be weird. It’s going to be interesting to see how that evolves as a society and how we’re watching it unfold right now as far as screen time. One of the things that’s easy to say as a parent until you have kids. Before you’re a parent, it’s like, “My kids are never going to be sitting in front of the TV. I’m going to limit the amount of screen time and all that.” You have kids and you’re like, “I need 30 minutes to send an email. I’m putting Paw Patrol on and they’re going to watch that. They’re going to love it.”

I can see it’s a slippery slope where you’re like, “I’m going to stick them in front of a device all day because it’s tiring to keep up with it.” The intentionality of saying like, “We’re going to go outside now. We’re going on a hike. We’re going on a walk. We’re going to be doing those things. We’re going to get out the rock collection or we’re going to get dirty with our hands.” It has to be this intentional thing now. It’s not an automatic where it’s weird. My neighborhood has tons of kids in it, but I don’t see them much at all. It’s rare to see kids out. It takes work and because we can default to being consumers of all these things, even on a kid level where they can watch YouTube shows or whatever all day. That’s one of the things that I’m not doing a perfect job of it. Being proactive and thinking about how does technology shape them and in all the different ways.

It connects to how I first came across you and your work. My sister has been more of the artist growing up and more of the creative. Now I’m telling myself I am a creative as well and that’s been helpful. She introduced me to some of your t-shirts and ended up buying me one. It was the Never Settle tee. That was the inspiration for the mantra that most of my work is around, which is take ownership and never settle. That’s probably my favorite t-shirt of all time. I’ve got a couple of them and I love it. I’d love to hear a little bit about the background of even that piece itself. Along with that, what other mantras or phrases or even principles are your business and work built off of?

Maybe we’ll do a re-release of that shirt because it’s no longer in print right now. Maybe we’ll bring it back on our new tees that we’re making and in LA, in your backyard. The Never Settle shirt and a lot of the phrase-based shirts that I was doing did come from things that I wanted to instill in my own life. A lot these phrases can be taken in different ways, but when I’m going to put together a product, I’m going to design something, I’ve got to get it to the point where it’s never perfect. There’s no such thing as perfection when it comes to design or art, but it has to be to the point where I’m proud to attach my name to it.

If it’s only 90% of the way there and I’m like, “Let’s ship it. This is fine. No one’s going to notice that this is unbalanced or the typeface isn’t spaced and turned properly.” The idea of never setting is going that extra 10% or even that 1% or 2% to get things to a point where you’re proud to say like, “Yes, I did the best I could.” It sounds a little bit cliché, do your best when you’re playing a sport or whatever. To truly give it your best effort, we all know when we kick back and get lazy and be like, “This one is going to slide through because I don’t feel like putting in that.” This isn’t to put myself on a pedestal like I do this perfectly, but I’ve got to keep telling myself that. Otherwise, the slope to mediocrity and being like, “No one’s going to notice.” How many times have you said, “No one’s going to notice?” The fact is they do notice these details and they notice a difference. That’s where that was born out of. People attach different meetings and different personal stories to it.

UAC 153 | Ugmonk

 

I love what you had said about defaulting. We always will default unless we infuse intentionality into what we’re doing. Whether or not we consciously know, we subconsciously know. Everyone will subconsciously pick it up even if they’re not even aware of picking it up. That’s why I love that phrase and that concept because we’re all capable of doing it and we all suck at doing it. We had to build the muscle of doing it. What are some of the other concepts or things that you have to remind yourself of consistently or want to infuse in your business and your work?

I had a shirt and a print that said this. We discontinued a lot of these. Maybe we’ll bring them back. It was, “Slow and steady wins the race.” At the end of the little slow and steady wins, there’s a little turtle, the reference to the tortoise and the hare. People look at what I’ve done and they want to build it in a day. They want to build it in the weekend. This goes into my mentality and also the advice that I give to other people building businesses is the ten-year overnight success of what I’ve done. It’s putting one foot in front of the other, slowly building on what I’ve done, learning, falling back, getting back up, doing it again.

That consistency for me is everything. I would rather be walking slowly and course correcting on the way than this rocket ship fuel-based thing where I’m scaling up 10x, 20x every year, building a huge team, things are getting out of control. Product quality and customer service are all over the place. There are so many other things that can happen that aren’t necessarily good other than the top-line revenue number. Consistency is showing up every day and trying to improve, trying to treat people the best you can and put out the best quality work is the mantra that I’ve been doing for several years, which is crazy.

The only way to actually learn something is to go through it. Click To Tweet

It’s on your website or it may be on one of your blogs, I’m speaking to the slow growth model. You had said, “Another value that we’re carrying forward is our commitment to quality over quantity. It’s tempting to want to raise money from investors scale quickly, build a huge company with big budgets, but we’ve realized that’s not the core of who we are. We’re not looking for hockey stick growth and mass distribution. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. In a disposable world where most things quickly become outdated. We’re doubling down on producing the best products that will stand the test of time, selling them directly to you fewer better things.” I thought that’s such a rare stance to take in this world. How do you overcome the temptation of what most businesses or business owners or even startups want to try to embody this hockey stick growth, this scalability and growth at all costs? How have you overcome that temptation? There have been moments where you’ve been like, “Maybe I should.” What’s that process been like as you’ve thought through it?

There’s a lot to say in that. Going back to the reason I started Ugmonk was because I loved making things. I love creating things. The fact that other people like them too and people want to pay their hard-earned money to wear these t-shirts that I was creating and now use desk organizers, leather mouse pads and that like all of the products, take the money out of that equation. Money is the fuel to make that all happen, but it was never like, “How can I work the least and make the most money?” What is the way I can outsource everything, sit on a beach someday and have everybody working for me? To be honest, I’d be bored in the first two days. I can hardly sit on a beach for one day. My mind is going and I want to make things. I want to do things or at least be in the ocean swimming or something.

Going back to the scale thing, my eyes have certainly gotten wide sometimes where I’m like, “I could make this huge.” People put a little word in my ear. They’re like, “You should be huge. You could easily get this.” I get hit up by investors. We get VC firms and stuff reaching out blindly like, “Do you want to sell your business?” To me, “If I sold my business, first of all, I would start up another one probably.” The cash out of doing that and losing this passionate following and community of people that I’ve built to me is not interesting.” This is where I divert from the typical business world. Especially the startup world is I’d rather be doing this for as long as I possibly can. Hopefully not when I’m 80 or 90, but still doing something. I’d rather be doing that than try and flip businesses that I don’t care about.

The creation process, the storytelling, the launch, everything, all the way to full circle, to shipping the product, is rewarding for me as a designer. I’ve been approached by people and a lot of friends that I have scaled businesses and they’ve taken money and they’ve done it well. To me, scaling a business is not that exciting and motivating. I don’t get out of bed to be like, “I wonder how I can 20x, 10x this,” and spend my life working on that. I’d rather keep making products and layering them onto each other, serving the community that follows me and then build it that way. I don’t think there’s a right or a wrong, but it’s knowing I might be miserable if I was trying to run a $20 million company because I don’t want to do that. I don’t necessarily want to lead a huge team of people.

What I seem to be hearing is that there’s so much more power in looking internally than externally at what we are wired for. A lot of times we look to others for direction and advice and some of that’s good. We need to learn from others. We need to get wisdom and experience and glean that from other people who have gone the path. It’s so much more powerful when that’s combined with the internal seeking of what am I wired to do and what brings me life. I love the question you returned to like, “Why did I start this in the first place? What is the reason for even doing this in the first place?” Inevitably over several years, you’re going to have times where you have to go back to that and be like, “This is why I did it. This is why I’m going to keep doing it.”

Knowing the differences of where you fit within a business or running your own business. I don’t tell everyone to start their own business because you can do whatever you want. You can set your own schedule because some people aren’t wired that way. They’re better working with a team of people or under someone else. We have this weird ladder where you’re supposed to work as a junior level person. You work your way up to become a manager. You no longer do the thing that you excelled at and studied. You work your way up past that. You become the CEO who manages things. There are a lot of personalities that can do that and can lead a company, but not every person should slowly work their way up this ladder. It’s not a linear path. It’s okay to find which rung you want to be on if that rung is satisfying and that ladder for you to stay at. It doesn’t have to be in this advancement of always getting more.

With that returning to the foundation of why you started, there’s also a necessary component of iterating, adapting and changing. Over several years, inevitably a business will change. What have you seen as the different phases of Ugmonk and how it’s shaped and shifted over those several years?

In the early years, it was straight up like a side project. I have no clue what I’m doing, making it up as I go, which I still feel like I’d say that all the time. I’m still making this up as I go. Half this stuff is DIY ethic. “Do a lot with a little,” that’s another phrase that I’ve used. How can we make this look like the pros and use the equipment we have? The early years were like we’re going to see where this goes. It was never supposed to be a business. It was supposed to be a little side project that I was passionate about. As things grew, it started with t-shirts and then I was like, “I could apply the same design mentality to other things.” I started to expand, which meant more money into inventory, which meant more shipping supplies. All of the parts that grew with it, we had to get a real customer service application. We had to slowly grow into these versus a business plan set up or even a framework of where we wanted it to go.

If you had asked me in 2011 where I would be in 2020, I don’t think I would have said, “Selling face masks and note cards.” The evolution of it is part of the fun. I’ll plug another one of my designs called Enjoy the Journey, which is the same thing. This weaving path of where Ugmonk goes and where I am now, where I was several years ago is part of the fun. It’s certainly not all highs. Trust me, there are plenty of lows and plenty of times where I’ve thought about throwing in the towel. You don’t necessarily see that all on social media or not necessarily writing about the lows of business. The enjoyment has to be in the process. It has to be in that path of pivoting, adapting and changing. If I was to stick to one thing, I’m never going to break from that. I’m only going to do this. Maybe it was sticking to t-shirts. I wouldn’t be where I am now.

When you’re in the middle of moving through different phases of Ugmonk, each phase, the complexity compounds. With that, the risk compounds. It probably feels a heavier load when you go from 100 people to 1,000 people. You’re now shipping not just shirts, but all these inventory and parts. How have you been able to adjust within yourself to handle more risk and more exposure or this more complex thing that you’ve built?

I have taken on more risks. We’ve taken on more of everything. There’s more overhead, more expense. At the same time, I’ve kept the business as lean as I possibly can. I’m right now in a bedroom in my house. We’ve kept our actual overhead minimal as opposed to growing in because we’re growing up, we need X and X and we need this fancy office and all this. Part of it is, how do I take away as much risk as possible from that standpoint? Not necessarily like investing $100,000 in a product idea and then throwing it out there and saying like, “I hope this works.” Doing it in the opposite way where I’ll start as small as I possibly can, which might be $5,000 on product development and start talking to my audience about it. I start telling a group of friends, other designers, my family, and working my way up to the point where I’m ready to launch something.

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It may not be guaranteed, but it’s not, “I’m pivoting completely. I’m going to shut this all down. I’m going to start X idea and then I’m going to go all in.” That’s part of my personality too is people think I’m maybe a little risky because I quit my full-time job in 2010, the economy was terrible. It wasn’t a risk because I’d already been building Ugmonk on the side. I was already doing some freelance work. My wife was working. It’s a calculated risk versus, “Let’s jump off a cliff and build a parachute on the way down. I hope we have enough material.” I don’t operate that way. You need investment for a lot of things and for a lot of types of companies and technology companies. The way that I’m building it, it’s the opposite of that. What can I do with the small amount that I have working on a cash basis to make my next thing and layer it onto each other to get rid of as much risk as possible so that I’m not stuck in a hard place?

“How do I take away as much risk as possible?” That’s a good question in any pursuit, let alone business. How do you vet designs or ideas or projects that are to come out? Ideas are a diamond dozen. We all think they’re good when we first have them, but what is your process for vetting out what’s worth pursuing versus what’s a fanciful idea?

This is another tricky one too. It’s a gut-level decision where there’s not necessarily a formula or a litmus test to say it passed these three things and it’s going to work. The best test is to get the product in people’s hands or show it in person and be like, “What do you think of this?” The key is showing it to people that are going to give honest feedback. You’re going to have friends that are going to love every idea and then you’re going to have friends that’ll hate every idea. Where’s the balance between who’s going to give you the real critique to say, “No, this isn’t worth pursuing. Stop. You’re crazy?” For me, the last part of that, which is the key filter is like, “Am I passionate about it? Do I like this? Would I use this?”

The product that I launched called Analog has something that I’ve used versions of for several years. Taking it from I’ve used this thing so long and it works for me that I keep coming back to it. It keeps doing something for me that it’s going to work for other people. I had a bunch of people would be like, “I don’t know. You’re selling index cards.” It’s like, “I get it, but that’s great.” Balancing all these things, but for me when I come back, I’m like, “This is the one thing that keeps me centered and productive every single day.” I’m going to see if it works because at a gut level, I’m like, “There’s something to it that I have to get out there and I have to test.” Not like a science experiment, “Let’s put all these things in a bowl and see what comes out. This is a good product. This isn’t.” This is more of like working through and being true with yourself.

I want to hear more on Analog. What is Analog and to get into that, you said several years now. I’m curious to hear about the different phases that Analog is going to take in over the years.

Analog is the product that I launched on Kickstarter, which is why things have been so crazy for me and trying to schedule everything. Analog is what I’m calling the simplest productivity system. It’s a physical card-based system to help you get things done. At the core of it, it’s notecards and this wood holder where the cards sit and live. Beyond the surface level of seeing what the cards look like, it’s a whole way of thinking that I’ve pulled from and been inspired from other productivity experts. There’s bullet journaling. There’s getting things done. Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work and all these principles of like, “How do we focus? How do we put constraints in our life?” James Clear’s Atomic Habits is another one, setting a cue to start a habit to set your day on the right course.

What I’ve done is I started with regular index cards because of the small size. I’m going to put up to 5, 8 things on there that I want to get done in that day. Every time I open up my task manager on my phone or my computer, I’m like a squirrel, I’m all over the place. I can’t focus. I can’t stay in the zone. How am I watching YouTube videos again? I was supposed to be looking at what I was supposed to do. What I would do is I would copy down this task onto a card in the morning, have that card sit right below my monitor, in my face, no notifications to swipe away, no nothing.

It’s right there. It’s not on a digital device. That system has worked so well that I came up with the idea of developing an actual design and the cards themselves, and then pulling in other things like the bullets where you can mark things as in progress or delegated or completed and pulling all those things together, but doing it in an Ugmonk way. In an aesthetically pleasing system that cohesively works together versus do I have any more cards or scraps of paper laying around? It’s been probably the last. Last year, I’ve dedicated a ton of time towards finalizing that design the concept, the launch, the story.

The original deal was a few years ago that maybe this could be a product. It’s too simple. I don’t know that it’s going to be anything. It’s been interesting to see how it’s gone through stages of being a note card to more of a system dividing things up into today cards, the next cards and the someday cards. This is how I work and this is how I think. I’ve been testing it with friends and seeing like, “Does this resonate with other people?” and seeing where it goes. Here we are shortly after launching this is going crazy.

It’s inspiring too because it is this concept of mastery being the simplicity on the far side of complexity and how all these great thinkers from Einstein and Churchill to Steve Jobs have affirmed that far side simplicity is the prize pearl that you pursue. That’s a great testimony to even the success so far of Analog, which is this is the beginning of it. That it is something we long for, the most simplest, purest form of something that is helpful and that we know is grounding and foundational, but furthering what we’re able to do. You’ve nailed it with Analog. It seems like it’s resonating deeply with people. That simplicity has a lot to do with it. One of the things I’ve learned about you is that your desk is almost more famous than you are now. Did you ever see yourself becoming a productivity designer or lifestyle designer in this way?

I’ve probably seen a photo of my desk somewhere, whether they know it or not, because it’s like hundreds of millions of times it’s been downloaded. I had collaborated with Unsplash to give out a free high res stock photography. It was more of like, “I’ll give them some images that people can use.” It’s been passed around all over the place. People’s portfolios, they’re using it as like their home office and stuff. I’m like, “That’s a little odd.” I get emails or messages from people, “They’re using your desk photo.” I’m like, “It’s all good.” People are allowed to use it as open source. The workspace thing was weird because starting as a t-shirt designer, the workspace has nothing to do with that.

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If you trace all the steps, I wanted to make these leather journals. This was way long ago. I thought, “Let’s make a leather sketchbook.” It’s probably 2009 or something like a year into it. Let’s see what does it look like to do my first non-apparel project. I found a lady on Etsy. We’re working making batches of twenty of these little leather journals. She was amazing and the journals were amazing. As I was learning more about leather and the vegetable tan leather, the way it darkens and gets more beautiful with use, it’s like, “It would be interesting if I use the mousepad that way.” Instead of using these crappy giveaway freebie ones you get at conferences, they have big logos all over them.

Your insurance agent gives you and you’re like, “I don’t know if I want that on my desk.” I was like, “I wanted something nicer.” I started using like a little square of leather that she had sent essentially a mousepad. It started to wear in and start to get cool. I posted a picture of that. We ordered ten because I was like, “I don’t know if anyone uses a mousepad or anybody wants them.” They sold out instantly and now it’s one of our bestselling items. It started to open his door into designing not just a productive workspace, but aesthetically pleasing, productive workspace. On Instagram, it’s become a thing and everyone’s designing the spaces. To me, the space can be beautiful, but if it’s not functional or comfortable to work in, it’s a photo for Instagram.

You’re putting cool lights up and doing a lot of stuff. I want to be able to get work done in this space and bringing in tools, bringing in things, building the monitor stand that I built, bringing in Gather, which was the desk organizer that I launched a few years ago. These were all things that helped me to be more productive and design things through that same lens that minimal lens that I’ve established for Ugmonk. Seeing it take off and we now move into even the productivity space, even the mental organization of ideas, that winding road, that journey. I would never have said that I would be launching a product like Analog even a few years ago because I wouldn’t consider myself a productivity guru or expert. I need to get work done so how am I going to do that? That’s the story of how things have come to where they are. We still sell t-shirts. T-shirts are still one of our bestsellers. At the same time, moving into this workspace aesthetically pleasing functional items.

Speaking of Gather, there are some other interviews you’ve done where you get to share more of the hardships along with Gather especially and going the Kickstarter route with that. How would you compare your experience thus far with Analog versus your experience with Gather? What have you shifted or changed in your approach based on what you learned with Gather?

Gather took on a life of its own and was the biggest successful product that I’ve ever launched. We raised over $400,000 on Kickstarter. I did not anticipate that. I tried to take out all the risk I could. I did put a lot of money up front to invest in product development, figuring out all the pieces, shooting a video, but I didn’t know it was going to go that huge. What happens is when something goes big, that means the larger success, the larger the problems. The harder it is to fulfill at scale, the harder it is to manufacture. There are a lot of things. Someday I’ll write a book and people will be like, “You’ve got to write a book about all of this.”

Maybe I’ll come back and listen to some of these podcasts so I can remember some of it and chronicle the whole journey. Doing something at scale and then seeing like, “This could be my business.” Gather essentially felt like it was going to be my business because it was going so big to the point of, “We’ll get into big box stores. We’ll get into boutiques.” I had a call from the associate casting producer at Shark Tank. They wanted me to come on. All these crazy things where I’m like, “This is nuts,” and that’s the opposite. Our eyes got big. I’m going to scale this thing up, get rich, then sell that off. I don’t know what I’ll do next. What happened was there are a lot more problems involved with producing it, manufacturing it and even shipping it. Doing things at scale that it became a nightmare essentially of trying to get this all to work.

The product itself is great. People still love it. We still sell them to this day. It’s very successful, but managing a company and managing growth like that out of nowhere was like, “I wasn’t ready for the big leagues.” If I did want to go huge with it, I wanted to get in every big box store and do deals with Target or something like that. I have to spend most of my time working on that, not designing more products. I thought a lot of that stuff would happen organically automatically. It didn’t. We were manufacturing at scale on Kickstarter and then sales trickled down.

What I learned from that, to go full circle, is that with Analog, I’m manufacturing it locally. I’m doing it all in the US. I have complete control over the process, be able to QC everything. We’re going to do all the shipping ourselves even if we’re already up to thousands, like 1,700 to 1,800 packers right now. We are you going to do that. It’s going to be a big chore. It’s going to be a lot of work. It’s not the cheapest way to do it. It’s not the easiest way to do it, but I’m going to take all that back in-house to have control over the whole process. We don’t run into a lot of the customer service and shipping and all of the issues that we faced with Gather.

When did it feel like Gather was finally resolved? Meaning how long did it take for you to feel like, “Gather is fully resolved. The pieces of the puzzle are now in place. The problems are solved. It’s not cruise control, but cruise control with it?”

There’s still fallout from some of that stuff. Some inventory and stuff that we never got refunded for and issues that we’re dealing with. It took at least a year, almost maybe two years after we launched that, back and forth with issues. Me physically going into warehouses and spending days inspecting product and getting people to repack things, the manufacturer made right on it. Send us new parts and we repack everything. There are issues with quality with certain Gather sets. We had to go through each one. You think of the number, 4,000, 5,000, 6,000, it sounds manageable. That’s two shipping containers worth of product. It blew my mind too.

We were shipping t-shirts and small items. The amount of effort it took to go through that, by the end of it, it was like, “What am I doing here?” I wanted to work on Analog. I wanted to work on other things. I had to put Analog and other things on the back burner for a while to focus on resolving that stuff, making sure everyone was completely satisfied, sending customers free replacement sets, anything that was covering all the issues. At the core of my brand, I want people to stick around. This isn’t a one and done, quick sale and then we’re done cashing out. I want people to be interested in the next thing we were making. There were many months and horror stories of like, “Should I quit now?” It almost crushed me.

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During that time, what were the reframes or how did you shift your perspective to be able to see maybe the opportunity versus the disaster that it could be? What was your mindset or process in that?

We learn through experience. The only way to learn something is to go through it. Trial by fire. Being in a classroom is fine. Being on the road and having to sell something is totally different in the real world and going through some of that. A lot of the reframing was around like, “What can I take away from this? What can I learn from it? I never want to be doing this again.” How many times have I said that to apply to the next thing? On the flip side, reframing it, there are thousands of people in 80 countries or something that have a Gather on their desk that love and use it, that send me emails and being like, “This thing is great. I didn’t even know I needed this until I have it. When somebody moves it off my desk, I feel out of sync.”

Thinking about the positives, thinking about the product itself still being successful and people aren’t necessarily walking that path of the terrible times and seeing how hard it is. People saying, “What else have you got? I want to see what else are you going to design for my desk. I can’t wait to see the next thing.” That picks me back up and it’s like, “I’ve got to be there for them. I’ve got to deliver.” Having the passionate, real people behind it, not just numbers, but engage people that want me to succeed is how I reframe it.

It’s so cool too. People are way more powerful than numbers. We get lost in the numbers so much. We forget that it’s a real human being behind a single number. That’s where the inspiration, the motivation and the support that we feel comes from. Numbers will never feel like support even though we may get excited about them. It’s a big difference. As you mentioned before, you’ve been focusing on taking control back, manufacturing locally, starting to get things where they’re more controllable and manageable. One of the things you’ve done is moving your t-shirts and being manufactured in LA. I know that cannot be an easy process, but how did you go about finding, sourcing and vetting a manufacturer for t-shirts is the main part of your business?

Finding good manufacturers is hard, especially at a smaller scale where I’m not producing several hundred thousand units of everything. A lot of people are like, “Sorry, we can’t work with you.” Finding people domestically in the US where there are not a lot of factories left. There’s a stat that I read that was in 1980. Eighty-plus percent of our clothes were made in the US and now it’s less than 2%. There’s almost nothing left. LA is one of the few places that still makes apparel and clothing. Your choices are already narrowed down. There’s a reason why everyone has basically gone overseas because it’s way cheaper. We wanted to move from buying readymade t-shirts off the shelf from some of the larger companies to making our own and making it better.

I have this constant thing and my wife always teases me like I always want to optimize. As soon as I’m done on one thing, it’s like, “How can I make that better?” That’s my constant thought to the point of like, I need to learn to be satisfied with things sometimes. I had this idea of what if we could make the shirts even better? What if we could make them locally? We could tell the story of that. We could show who’s making them. We shot a video there in the factory, the real people behind it that are hand making the shirts and dyeing them and everything. Moving us to that level to be able to sell the actual garment itself rather than the design, because a lot of the blank companies and the wholesale companies that we’re working with, the quality has started to decline.

It isn’t the same as it was several years ago. It pushed me to say, “What if we can make that even better?” That’s where we got to making our own shirts. It’s been fun. It’s definitely not like, again, the cheapest way, the highest margin way. If they run a similar sized company and look at our margins and stuff, they’re like, “How do you do this?” It’s the mentality of like, “I want to deliver the best product I possibly can.” We’ll figure out how to cut the overhead or cut the expenses on the other side so that we can still sell it at a reasonable cost.

With the place in time that we find ourselves in and going through a pandemic and the nature of uncertainty that we all face right now, what has that been like for you as a small business owner going through almost a crisis of like, “I don’t know what’s going to happen?” I’m curious to hear your experience through COVID and what you found especially with this big buildup of launching a product you’ve been working on for years and years of time.

I was going to launch Analog back in March 2020 and then COVID happened. It changed the plans of everything and everyone. If we had done this in March 2020, it would be a different conversation. I’d probably be a lot more stressed and a lot more unsure of what the future looked like. Working through COVID specifically has been interesting and here’s like a quick snapshot is first, I sent a personal email as COVID was starting to get intense here in the States. I sent a personal email and be like, “This is who we are as a company. We’re a small company. We realized not everybody needs desk organizers, t-shirts and all of these things right now, but we’re going to muscle our way through. We’d love to keep producing these things and making them for you.”

We have a lot of workspace items, everyone’s setting up working from home. We’re like, “Let’s do a work from home sale. Let’s put together a collection of all desk related products and do a special sale on that.” Not pleading for people to save us and donate money to us. How do I get set up on my kitchen table while I’m home? This was when we didn’t know we were going to have to be at home this long. The response to that was incredible. It goes back to real people being on the other side of these emails that wanted us to succeed. I got messages and messages from people who’ve been like, “I can’t buy anything right now, but I’m pulling for you as soon as I get money. I want to help you.” That felt unbelievable. That was like, “We have a lifeline here. We’re going to make it.” What happened after that was the face mask, which we joked about at first like, “Maybe we should sell masks,” and no one was selling masks.

People were online that we’re selling them are getting yelled at like, “You capitalist. I can’t believe you’d sell a mask and profit off this pandemic.” I was like, “I’ll stay out of that.” I did not want to get involved in the back and forth of that. It became like, “COVID is serious. We need to be wearing masks. This is mandated. We need to protect ourselves and others.” At the same time, the t-shirt manufacturer in LA had reached out and been like, “We got a permit to reopen our factory by making masks.” They had to shut down completely. He was like, “Do you think you want to sell them through your site?” I was like, “I don’t know. Let’s try it.” We started ordering face masks through him. Little did I know they would be like the world’s greatest face mask. He had designed it and specked out the fabric. It’s super soft, breathable. We want to sell them at a reasonable price. We put them on our site for $10, printed a logo on them, which is another side note, which kept the screen printer.

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The one guy in the building that does the screen printing kept him in business by giving him an extra little job and started selling them. Here we are and it’s been unbelievable to see how many new customers have come through the door. We’ve sold more of them than any other product probably I’ve ever sold of anything. You would never have predicted in January 2020 that this is what it would look like. What’s interesting is even though we’re not making a lot of money on the masks, we’re bringing in all these people and introducing them to the Ugmonk brand. They’re coming back and being like, “If your masks are this nice, I bet your t-shirts are nice.”

They come back and they’re buying a t-shirt or they’re buying something else. What a roller coaster it’s been to walk through that and then to launch a Kickstarter. I didn’t know if I should launch a Kickstarter right now with everything going on and delighted again when all of the George Floyd murder stuff was happening. To focus on the Black Lives Matter, give that space and not to try and launch something amidst that. I launched it and here we are selling masks and Analog cards and everything else. Business is good, but talk to me in a month or a week and maybe I’ll be back on the low again.

It’s a cool testimony to the rhythms of life and of business and how it ebbs and flows. There’s so much to momentum and there’s so much to going through hills and valleys. I appreciate your ability to talk about both. I know you’ve had some incredible lows amidst these highs, but what is consistently some of the hardest part of owning and running Ugmonk and going this path?

For me right now, this has nothing to do with business, but it has more to do with life. It’s being a dad to two young kids and being a husband when you have all day to work in your business. I don’t know what I used to do with my time, but I spend it all working on Ugmonk. When you’re limited in time, mental space, emotional space and actual physical sleep, it’s definitely been some trying times with how am I going to keep doing this? Understanding what does it mean to delegate and bring people in. My sister-in-law has taken over all of our operations and has been a huge help in a million different areas.

Growing out of me, doing it all, strapping on my back and be like, “I’m going to muscle through this because I physically can’t anymore.” I don’t have unlimited time and going through the lows of the frustrations of trying to balance all of those things and excel in all of them. I’ve dropped the balls more than once. Juggling all the balls there is to run a business and the many different parts, it’s not simply recording a podcast. It’s not simply writing a book. You’ve got to keep all of these things going and 39 other things and no one ever sees behind the scenes.

What is being a husband and what is being a father? Have those roles changed you or even taught you about life and yourself?

I’m super vulnerable. The honest side of it is like it’s brought out a lot of ugly parts of myself. I want success. I want to be working. I want to be doing these things more than I want to be loving my kids or being there and being present with them. It’s so hard to not whip out the phone when I’m outside playing baseball or something, playing a little wiffle ball and check my phone and check an email and fully focused and present with them. I’m a work in progress when it comes to that. I have a long way to go. That’s part of like growth, understanding those things and being aware of those, but definitely balancing all of that stuff. Keeping their priorities in line and putting family first, not putting work first is the hardest thing for me. It’s a struggle.

I relate to that as well. I got married and it’s such a sweet mirror to see yourself more clearly and to realize sometimes we do value things more than we should, like success or work. I’m grateful to have a partner that is quick to remind me of those things and help me see more clearly of like, “Is this important?” It’s like, “No, it’s not.” We trick ourselves into thinking that all the time.

I’ve got to give my wife a lot of credit because she’s like the reset centering force. She’s always been super supportive of what I’ve done with Ugmonk. She even encouraged me to go full-time with it when things were crazy and not stable at all. At the same time, she does a good job pulling me back from this alternate universe. You can live in this online world and be obsessing over things that don’t matter to be like, “Snap back into it,” and teaching me to be present with our kids and be present with her. Left to my own devices, it would not be pretty. I would certainly probably be a workaholic.

Are you an Enneagram guy at all? Are you familiar with that? What is your Enneagram number?

I’m a three wing four.

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We share that. I’m the exact same.

We dove into that. When something’s talked about a lot online, to the point of I didn’t want to hear about it. It’s beaten to death. You’re like, “Can everyone stop with this Enneagram stuff?” I was a big naysayer for a long time. Finally, through a series of friends challenging me and opening my eyes to what it was, that’s been the single biggest tool for me becoming self-aware of a lot of these motivations and stress and where I turned to even in my marriage and in friendships. It’s been a huge tool for growth. If anyone’s reading to like “Enneagram, why does this thing keep coming up? Can people shut up about it?” It takes work and it’s hard. It’s not simply assigning yourself a number and being like, “Cool. I know I’m this number.” It’s been a way for me to see myself because I’m not great at stopping to look in the mirror. I keep going.

What are the resources or tools that you’ve used with it? There’s a million now related to the Enneagram, but what have you found to be most helpful resource-wise? As a fellow three, I want to hear some more about what you’ve found to be healthy and unhealthy within how you express yourself.

As far as resources go, The Road Back to You is probably the starter book for everyone. If you want to learn more about it, figure out what your number is, figure out what that means, it’s not a super deep book, but it’s a great way to get a framework of what the Enneagram is teaching. You’re learning about yourself. This isn’t like a 30-minute thing where you do the study, you get your results and you’re on your way. That’s the difference between why I was fed up with people talking about Enneagram numbers, whether it’s like a joke or a meme about certain numbers. I don’t get this to doing the hard work and introspective work and being honest with yourself. There’s a podcast called Typology by Ian Cron.

He interviews all different people, all different numbers, all different types. He’s an amazing interviewer. He does a great job of pulling things out of people. What I learned was when I heard some other people that were also a three talk, I was like, “That’s me. I was saying that yesterday,” or that kind of thing. It gave me a framework to start to verbalize things. I’m not great at being introspective or understanding the way that I think. When I heard other people talk about it, it helped me and have this framework to overlay, to give things a name, to talk about what was happening. The second part of your question is, how is that expressed in me as a three? I’m very driven. We’ve been talking about all the things that I like to do and enjoy doing. I love to optimize things. I’d like to make things more efficient.

If there’s a better way, I’m going to try and do it. I don’t like to half-ass anything. I want to get it to the point where it’s like, “This is so good.” That can be anything to the point like annoying people where I’m making sourdough bread. I’ve obsessed over it probably a little too much, but I enjoy that. I enjoy this process of taking a simple thing and doing it the best I possibly can. There’s this self-competition versus me being competitive with others. It can look different ways for different personalities, even within the number three on the Enneagram. I don’t care to compete with you or compete with other entrepreneurs, but I compete with myself and I’m always trying to level up myself. If I know I can do it better, I want to keep doing it better. That can be a great thing if it’s channeled. That can be a terrible thing if it’s in vain trying to prove myself and show everyone else how great I am.

I relate to that in deep ways. What type is your wife?

She is a nine. We don’t have to get super deep in this because it won’t make sense for a lot of people that aren’t familiar with it. It’s like, “What are they talking like this language?” As a three, when I’m motivated and healthy, I’m doing things, I’m achieving things. I’m getting a lot done. In unhealthy, I go to a nine, which is more complacent, more indecisive, more could be considered slothful or lazy. When a nine is healthy, they go to a three. We flip flop numbers. When a nine is healthy, they’re moving more towards a three and they’re getting things done and taking the lead and doing that. There’s this interesting tension. What it’s done is it’s opened both of our eyes to each other to be like, “This makes a whole lot more sense because you’re normally going to gravitate towards being a nine. I’m normally going to gravitate towards being a three. There’s a lot of tension that can come from that.” I would say anyone that wants to learn more about themselves or their partner, their friend group, their employees. It’s been helpful.

A lot of people will relate to the hesitancy and the annoyance of people that are throwing around the Enneagram mindlessly. As I’ve heard it described, John Mark Comer does a good job of this, but he talks about how it’s a great tool for understanding yourself. It’s not great to project onto others. That’s an important key.

You’re not your number. Your identity doesn’t get zapped out of you and you become your number. It can almost be used as an excuse like, “I can’t help that. I’m a three, I have to be this way.” What it does is rather than assigning necessarily like some of the other personality tests assign you character traits. You are a good leader or you’re good with people, you’re a good team player. That’s fine, but that’s basically telling you to do more of that. Where the Enneagram is telling you, “Watch out. If you’re wired this way, you’re prone to do this, which is not the best way to grow, but you should be growing towards these other numbers.” It gives you like a path to not change your DNA or change yourself, but to be self-aware, to grow towards and stop and think about it. It was either Ian Cron or one of the authors that have read, they called it the rumble strips in life and the Enneagram is the rumble strip. As soon as you’re getting off course, it’s like, “I’ve got to be self-aware. I’m doing that again. I’m being the bad part of my number.”

I like the idea of, “Am I healthy or unhealthy?” That’s the spectrum that we’re always moving to one side or the other. The goal is to be trending in the right direction or aware when we’re not. How has your faith impacted or informed your work or the decision-maker or even how do you integrate faith into the facets of your business in life?

Learn how to be still and enjoy the simple things. Click To Tweet

It’s had a huge impact on my entire life, what drives me and even what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. Stewarding the gifts that God gave me is a huge part of it. Doing things with excellence is not just to prove myself, but I do believe we’re called to do things that way and do things the best of our abilities. The way that the company operates, Ugmonk is not a Christian company, but the company itself, I want to reflect the same principles of treating your neighbor like yourself, working hard, being humble and all of those things that are not necessarily achievable. Our principles of we’re not going to take shortcuts. We’re not going to try and scam somebody out of something.

We want to do honest work. We want to do it ethically. Those principles have to be the paramount of everything that we’re doing versus the quick, easy fix, getting off base and where money is the driving factor. You see some of that in the motivation of what I’m doing. It’s not necessarily explicit. We’re not hiding Bible verses in the bottom of our shirts or something. The idea is I want to do things well. I want that to be a reflection of God. I don’t think I do it perfectly, but that is why I’m trying to operate a lot of the things, the principles that we’ve talked about, that’s why I’m doing it.

That integrity piece is so huge. It does stand out. That’s what’s cool is letting the work speak for itself. It’s powerful versus words. Maybe what’s behind the words it doesn’t always back that up. That’s a great way to go about it. One of the things I’ve also seen that you were part of was supporting a charity through your business. I’m curious to hear where that came from and what that’s brought for you personally.

We work with a charity called Rice Bowls and they feed kids all around the world, specifically orphan kids, who otherwise wouldn’t have food. The way they do that is they support the orphanages with the food budget, which is 80% of what it costs to run a home. All of these children’s homes that they support were able to support through Rice Bowls and they do the actual on the ground work to get them all set up. We’ve been working with them for several years. It was more of a personal choice to not to be a Toms shoes where we’re giving one for one and necessarily be a socially good company that makes all the headlines for that. It was more out of on the personal side, what do we want to do?

How can we give back with some of the success that we’ve had and help other people? That’s been cool too. It’s eye-opening being able to connect with Rice Bowls grow our company and being able to increase the number of meals we’ve been able to provide. We’ve had hundreds of thousands of meals that we’ve been able to give because we’re able to give from some of the profit that we make. Being able to travel. We’d been down to Central America and Honduras and Nicaragua, and got to see the kids, hang out, play soccer, spend time living at their home for a couple of days. See where the money is going and complete the circle, not for the social media picture and not the wave as a banner. Every time you buy a product, it goes here. To be able to fully realize that has been cool.

That’s tangible, real impact, which you can’t substitute. It’s got to be a fulfilling feeling. That’s awesome.

It makes us more passionate about it too because when you’re there, it’s not simply writing a check to a charity and I don’t know what happens. We’re seeing the food being delivered as we were there that we had contributed to. We can’t travel now, but I would encourage anyone that wants to get involved to go and be present to wherever the charity is doing the work because it makes it real.

I want to start bringing this to a close, but as you mentioned before, one of the things that we also share a love for is sourdough. I have not dived into creating my own. I’d love to experiment with that eventually, but I’m curious what your best sourdough is. Do you have any extra flavors or ingredients you put in? I don’t know anything about making it, so I’m ignorant. The second question is how do you like to eat your sourdough?

Sourdough bread, it’s been a thing that I was introduced to Tartine, which is a bakery in San Francisco. It’s still there. My friend took me there and I couldn’t believe how good a single slice of bread tastes. This is mind-boggling good. It was a slice of toast with butter, maybe some jam on it. Since then, I’ve learned more about Tartine. I’ve watched all the videos and all the processes and been intrigued. I didn’t know anything about what sourdough was. I’ve been saying for years, “Someday, I’m going to try and make my own sourdough.” Between kids and work and everything else, it’s still crazy right now. Through the baby stages, I could not even think about doing anything.

I finally got all the tools for it. I was like, “I’m going to give this a shot.” Going back to my obsession of deep diving into any topic to the point where I’m neck deep into it. I started this in January 2019. I’m starting to learn the ins and outs of what does it mean to make sourdough. It’s a several day process where you take the starter and then you’re feeding the starter like a living little pet. You’re giving it flour and water every day, twice a day. I follow a blog. Everything that I’ve learned is basically from this one blog called ThePerfectLoaf.com. Maurizio, who runs it, is phenomenal. He explains things in great detail.

He’s also a software engineer or developer. He’s able to break things down practically, but also, he writes in a cool way that it’s understandable. Sourdough is flour, water and salt. That’s all that’s in it at its core, and then the bacteria and the yeast that grows naturally. It’s like taking three elements and making something great. I’ve done all sorts of things. We’ve done sourdough pizza, regular sourdough bread and versions of it, sourdough donuts. I’ve tried every variation of it and I’m having a ton of fun with it. It’s something that’s not in front of a screen. It’s something you get to all enjoy, have friends over, eat together as a family. It’s been a fun hobby.

UAC 153 | Ugmonk

Ugmonk: We don’t have unlimited time. Learn to delegate and bring people in.

Have you ever heard of Messenger Coffee and Ibis Bakery in Kansas City?

I’ve definitely heard of them. I’ve friends that live in Kansas City, but I’ve never been to either.

It’s like the Kansas City version of a Tartine. They did a great job. It’s the simple pleasure of life, some bread and butter. I’m set. I’m like, “Thank you, God. We’re good.” It’s been a good day.

If it’s fresh out of the oven, cut a slice and slather on some good butter and you’re golden. That’s all you need. The bread is so good.

Looking ahead, what do you see for Ugmonk in the next 5, 10 or 15 years? What is the vision you have now?

I’m good at casting vision and have too much vision. It can drive my wife crazy because I’m always thinking about what’s next. At the same time, for Ugmonk, I feel like the vision is a bit nebulous. It’s a bit ambiguous because I know where I want to go, but I feel like it could easily change based on how quickly things change and how we adapt. If I was describing it right now, I would say it’s more physical products around making a better productive, well-designed office desk set up space. You’ll see me focus more on that. Gather and Analog are hints at that. We’re working on some other stuff in the background to continue elevating that idea and the same audience that’s attracted to it. Ideas around productivity and getting things done, but also well-made physical products.

I love to have a handful of one-off questions and you can go as short or as long as you want on these. Less, more, and none. What do you want to do less often, more often and not at all?

It’s probably a lot of things. We all have bad habits. I’ll say less often, probably be consumed with what I do. Working can be an obsession and can be an escape for a lot of us. If there’s anyone else that’s running their own business, they know that can be the thing. Less stressing over that because in the end, our time is short and these things don’t matter. More of, I say more sourdough. Living in the moment, living in the now, it’s like these phrases get thrown around a lot, but it’s true. I have such trouble stopping, pausing and enjoying and being grateful for what’s going on. The good things that are happening because I’m so quick to go onto the next. I want to learn how to be still and how to enjoy the simple things. For not at all, I don’t even know. I might have to come up empty on that one. Maybe cheering for the Patriots or something. That’s a deep answer. As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, I can never cheer for them.

Do you live in Philly?

I live outside the city about an hour from there.

What do you believe to be true that you wish everyone else believed?

Everyone is gifted and is more creative and has more abilities than they'd like to admit. Click To Tweet

That everyone is gifted and is more creative and has more abilities than they’d like to admit. That people would believe in themselves more, that they wouldn’t give up and fall into the rat race of what everybody else tells them they should do. We have more choices than we realize.

If you could spend a year studying one person dead or alive, who would that person be?

Dieter Rams is a designer that I have always been a big fan of and is an icon in the industrial design space. I’m intrigued by his work, by his design principles. If you look up the ten principles of good design, a lot of what I’m doing, I’m nowhere on his level or close to his level, but I’m fascinated with the way that he saw things. The way that he tied in design, not as a decoration, but as this simplifying and this process of enhancing life through simple objects. I’ve probably read and watched everything about the guy. He’s still living in. It’s fascinating to learn from people like that who had considered a true master at their craft.

What book or books have had the biggest impact on you?

I don’t read as much as people might assume or I don’t know. Some friends are like, “I’ve read three books this week.” I’m not a huge reader. I have read a lot of nonfiction, a lot of things revolving around psychology and business and things like that. The earliest books that had an impact was Seth Godin. Pretty much everything that Seth Godin has written was the thing that opened my mind to this whole world of building a brand. Having permission marketing was his idea, his concept that he coined. It’s the idea of talking to people when they want to hear from you versus spamming them and throwing ads in their face. He wrote a book called The Purple Cow, which was about standing out and doing something different. All of these concepts that are pretty much common sense, he distilled it down into a unique way. Those were all things that were highly influential in where I am. There are other books. Essentialism is a great book. I think I need to reread that every six months or something. Getting rid of the extra, focusing on what matters from a business perspective, from a life perspective. That’s had an impact on me too.

I remember hearing an interview with Greg and I’m impressed with him and his work. Just a few more. What question do you ask yourself the most?

“Am I doing the right thing?” It’s probably the question that I would ask myself. Going back to the Enneagram three and the vulnerable side of a three is the impostor syndrome. The people know that we’re all faking it until we make it. There are times where people look up to me and they’ll ask me questions like I’ve figured this all out. I still feel like I’m figuring it out. None of us have done this perfectly and we’re all a work in progress. It can be hard to admit to some of that, but the doubts are always there. No matter what level you’re at, everybody will doubt themselves.

If you could teach a class for a semester, what would you teach and why? It can be whatever age group you think.

Probably like a high school group on what it looks like to build a design-driven brand. Maybe not even design-driven, but what does it look like to build a company or a small business and show them what I’ve done through doing it and opening their minds to, “You don’t have to do this. You don’t have to necessarily follow this path.” If you want to be a CPA or a doctor, that’s great. There’s this whole other world that I feel like at that time in your life you’re not necessarily exposed to. You start to realize like, “I can do these other things.” For me, the earliest thing that I remember being completely enamored with was Johnny Cupcakes, who started a whole t-shirt company based around putting cupcakes on t-shirts.

He created these bakeries where they didn’t sell anything baked. They sold only t-shirts. People would come in looking for cupcakes and they’d be selling them t-shirts. He’s making a living. A friend told me, “This guy is selling t-shirts for a living?” That’s insane. You can’t sell t-shirts for a living. Here I am several years later, still selling t-shirts for a living. Going back to what I would teach them, we have our blinders on so tight and through education and these things, we’re not exposed to the endless possibilities that you can do as a career. It would be interesting to see what that would look like. I don’t know anything about what high schoolers are like or into. I’m so far disconnected from that. It would be a fun thing to do. I have to learn more about TikTok and what all the cool kids are in.

The last question, the one we ask every guest that comes on is if you could send a morning text reminder to every Up and Comer out there, what would you say and why? This would be a short message from you via text every morning.

UAC 153 | Ugmonk

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable

Keep showing up. One foot in front of the other. There are going to be days where you’re looking down and you’re not ready to push through. Whatever it is, whether it’s working a career or building your own business, to keep showing up and keep giving it everything you’ve got.

Jeff, this has been a pleasure. Thanks for taking some time to come on. Where is a great place for people to connect with you, to find stuff about Analog, Gather and all your work?

My main site is Ugmonk.com. We are the only Ugmonk out there so it’s easy to find. You can always google it. I am @Ugmonk on social media. You can hit me up on Twitter, Instagram and then the Kickstarter for Analog. It’s at Ugmonk.com/analog. That will forward you to the Kickstarter.

I’m kicking myself for not asking this sooner, but what is the origin of Ugmonk?

I was surprised he didn’t get to that since it seems like you did a good bit of research on me knowing a lot of depth on my story. I’ll give you the short version of this. When I was starting was now called Ugmonk, it was this side project of designing t-shirts and trying to get them out there. I didn’t have a name for it. I didn’t plan on starting a business. It wasn’t like I was registering paperwork or anything. In fact, I didn’t have any texts, no stuff set up, because it wasn’t supposed to be a business. We haven’t disclosed where the origin of the word Ugmonk came from. The way we came up with it was trying to get clever with different design words. Looking up in the thesaurus and trying to come up with the things but they were all lame.

My brother and I were chatting probably on Yahoo or AOL instant messenger back then. We were saying, “Why don’t we do something weird, something that doesn’t make any sense?” We started looking up URLs because it’s so hard to get a URL. We threw Ugmonk out there. There were no results. We were like, “It’s short. Let’s go for it.” We got to define what Ugmonk is. If you google the word Ugmonk, I don’t know what it is. There are 300,000 results. They all come back to our sites. It was a happy accident, but we didn’t do any naming studies and focus groups. We defined what Ugmonk is.

Be sure to send Jeff a shout-out and support his work. Jeff, thanks again for coming on and sharing your story with us.

Everyone is gifted and is more creative and has more abilities than they'd like to admit. Click To Tweet

Thanks for having me on. It was fun.

If you would like to get a curated list of all the content I’m learning from, whether that’d be books I’m reading, podcasts I’m listening to, quotes I’m pondering or even some sermons I’m enjoying, In Thane is a monthly newsletter that brings vetted content that I know you’ll enjoy. Just go to ThaneMarcus.com/inthane to sign up and you’ll be sure to receive the very next one. Each edition of In Thane is released on the first Sunday of the month. This is a once a month newsletter that I hope you enjoy and benefit from as much as I have. Here’s to learning and growing one day at a time.

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UAC 152 | Entering The Race Conversation

 

In this cultural moment that we are in right now with the Black Lives Matter Movement, it is not anymore acceptable to stand idly by and remain silent. If you are willing to join in on the fight but not sure how, then Thane Marcus Ringler has the episode for you! Being helpful, he provides three suggestions for entering the conversation on race, justice, and unity. He shows how we are all capable of stirring up change in the world. And while the change may not happen overnight, never get discouraged and continue to engage in these important conversations. Start with these three things Thane shares in today’s show.

Listen to the podcast here:

Being Helpful: 3 Suggestions For Entering The Conversation On Race, Justice, And Unity

This is a show all about learning how to live a good life. We believe that it takes living with intention in the tension. Life has many tensions that we get the chance to live in the midst of daily. We believe the best way to do that is by infusing intention and intentionality into all that we do. Thanks for being a fellow Up and Comers joining us in this process of becoming, and that is hopefully the process that we’ll be in our whole lives. If you are new here, there are a couple of easy ways that you can help us out. The first is leaving us a rating and review on iTunes or Apple Podcast. That is still a great way to support the show. It takes about one minute of your time. We’ve got almost 100. It would be sweet to crack through that triple-digit mark. Drop a five-star rating and leave us a review.

The second easy way is by sharing an episode that you enjoyed, maybe it’s this episode, with a few friends or family members or people in your community so that you can spread the word and spread what it means to be an Up and Comer. The third way is by supporting us financially. If you wanted to support us financially, we do have a Patreon where you can go and give monthly donations to help us keep this show going. It is not a free or cheap endeavor. We would love your support in that. If you have a business and you’d like to partner with us, definitely reach out to us by email. TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com is where you can find us. We are actively looking for partners who align with what we’re all about. We’d love to support each other that way. You can always find us on socials @UpAndComersShow and send us a shout out. We’d love to hear from you there or always feel free to send us an email if you have thoughts, comments, concerns, other ideas or topics to cover.

This episode is all about being helpful. This is going to be a shorter episode where I share a few things I’ve been thinking through in my own life about this concept of engaging in helpful ways. We’re doing a series on race, justice, equality and unity in America. Speaking to this cultural moment in this conversation that needs to be had. I entered into the conversation on Episode 149. I have been trying to engage with it ever since. I’ve had several friends on. I’ll keep having more people on to discuss what unity looks like, how we can grow, how we can change and how we can fight the systemic injustices and racism that is embedded in our country’s history. It’s something that we can’t avoid. We can’t pretend anymore it doesn’t or hasn’t existed. It’s been enlightening for me and helpful. I want to love, serve and support my black brothers and sisters through this time and going forward.

I want to chat about the ways we can be helpful and engaging in the conversation, which is why it’s being helpful. In talking with a brother, he highlighted the fact that this conversation around race, justice and unity is one that seems both infinitely complex and nuanced. At the same time, it seems profoundly simple. It’s the idea of treating each human as God sees one another and of having infinite worth and value. Each human being is created in the image of God, and all being of the same kind with no one being better than the other because of the fact that we are all sinners or fallen or not perfect in any way. We all have flaws.

Racism and inequality are, at its core, a human issue. Click To Tweet

As I shared in the introduction to this series, my heart is to learn, listen and grow. I have undoubtedly done that in the past months. I’ve been encouraged through the personal relationships and conversations I’ve had with people on all sides of the spectrum and from all walks of life. Coming away from that, I truly believe we are more united than divided. If we separate from each other as a result of the news or the social media bottomless pits or the extremists on all sides, if we can separate ourselves from those things, we will see that there’s far less division around these issues than we may expect.

UAC 152 | Entering The Race ConversationWhile there’s less division, there’s still much change that needs to happen. This change will not happen overnight. One of my favorite quotes on this idea is from one of Tim Ferriss’s mentors and teachers, Ed Zschau. He said, “If you’re going to make a difference in society, changing the world for the better, you better be prepared for a long journey.” He went on to say, “You don’t get a quick return creating value for the world. You get a quick return doing something that doesn’t matter.” He makes a point powerfully that we all need to buckle up for a long road ahead. It takes belief that the road is possible, which is also known as hope.

A fun fact or a teaser for you. I’ve got an eBook that is launching soon. It’s all about the power of hope and how to catalyze more hope in our lives. Something that I believe we could all use more of. It’s a little teaser for you Up and Comer audiences. First off, it takes belief that it’s possible, but it also takes a blend of patience and persistence. Along with hope, patience and persistence, I want to share a few perspectives that have been helpful for me and ones that I hope can be empowering for you as well. There will be three perspectives I’ll share.

Anti-Politics

The first is the idea of anti-politics. Let me explain what I mean. One of the phrases I’ve been learning more of is the idea of anti-racist or anti-racism. What I’ve come to learn about it is that it isn’t just saying the fact that “I’m not racist,” but rather it is actively and proactively engaging in conversations and actions to help work against racist tendencies, systems, structures or even people in our world and our lives. Similarly, it’s comparable to the idea of antifragility in Nassim Taleb’s book, Antifragile.

UAC 152 | Entering The Race Conversation

 

In order to be anti-racist and to embrace that idea in our individual lives, we must also posture ourselves to be anti-politics specifically on this issue. This does not mean I am anti-government or anti-politics in all things. It means that I’m separating the core issue from the surrounding noise and extraneous issues that come with it. Racism and inequality at its core are a human issue. When we get distracted and confused from the political discourse and agendas surrounding it, we lose focus and an ability to impact the core issue at play, the issue of human rights, equality and unity.

What this may mean for you and what it has meant for me is that you may need to disengage with the political discussion in order to be more helpful towards the essence of what matters. The question to ask ourselves is, are we being discouraged, distracted and deterred by engaging in the politics of the issue? Are we being more divided or united? For me, the answer has been simple and clear. In this realm, I need to be more anti-politics in order to be more pro-human and anti-racist. That is the first idea, separating the politics and agendas from the core issue, the essence of what’s at play.

Embracing Conversations, Removing Debates

UAC 152 | Entering The Race ConversationThe second idea speaks to how we engage with this issue with one another, with how emotionally charged and for good reason, this issue and time is, and the deep-rooted and systemic hurt that has taken place. Many of the discussions between one another can turn from a conversation into a debate. This is something we need to actively work on changing. To understand why, let’s first compare the two. In a conversation, both sides are being heard. It is often an open dialogue. There usually isn’t a prescribed agenda and is either casual or curious in nature. In a debate, typically both sides are pitted against each other. There is a winner and a loser. It is often true that making a strong case is much more important than listening or hearing the other.

Usually, it ends up creating more division or more animosity. Then comes a question for self-reflection. How many of my interactions were more characteristic of a debate instead of a conversation? I’ve increasingly come to believe that debates aren’t helpful in everyday interactions. This is why I’ve been asking myself, how can I better facilitate conversations without falling back into debates? This is asking the question, how can I promote uniting conversations instead of dividing debates? What we need right now is unity, not winners and losers. I want to be known for healthy and helpful conversations, not discouraging and dividing debates. That’s possible for me just as much as it is possible for you. The second perspective is how we engage with each other around this issue, embracing more conversations and removing debates.

If you can't lead yourself, there's no way you will be able to lead others. Click To Tweet

Self-Leadership

The third and final idea is the concept of leadership. One of Tim Ferriss’s interviews was on George Raveling, who is an 82-year-old black man, former basketball coach and Director of International Basketball at Nike. He’s an incredibly inspiring man. I’d encourage all of you to check out both of his interviews on Tim show. One of the things that Coach George pointed out is this vacuum of leadership in our country and in our world. He asked the audience and Tim if they could think of the top three leaders in our world that aren’t in the corporate world. Crickets. This was surprisingly profound.

I do believe that we are experiencing some sort of a systemic lack of leadership. A type of leadership that unites, empowers, and is respected by all. These are men and women of character, resolve, commitment and integrity. We need more of these people in our world now and always. It was a unique question that caused me and us to consider, where are the leaders that we would want to look up to in the world? That’s a big question. Coming from and out of that question always is, what can we do? This last call to action is the cry for self-leadership. If you can’t lead yourself well, there’s no way you will be able to lead others well. What we need now more than ever is for myself and each one of you reading to take up the call to action of leading ourselves well and of becoming leaders. There’s always a demand for good leaders. We always can start with ourselves.

What does it mean to be a good leader of self? I believe it’s incredibly simple. It’s choosing to do what you know is right for yourself and others. It means taking ownership and never settling for less than you’re capable of. It means living and being the person that you say you are or as a person you want to be. It means swimming upstream, taking the harder path, choosing to go down the long road because you know that in the end, it’s worth it. We all have a choice and we can choose it daily. Am I going to be a good leader of myself so that I can eventually be a good leader of others?

UAC 152 | Entering The Race Conversation

To bring this to a close, let me repeat the three ways that I am striving to engage this cultural moment in helpful ways. The first way is understanding the core, the essence of the issue. Thus, being anti-politics, meaning removing myself from the political discourse and agendas so that I can be more focused on better loving, supporting and uniting my fellow humans in life.

The second is by proactively engaging in unifying conversations and not allowing myself or others to denigrate into dividing debates. Third, by daily choosing to live a life of leadership for myself first and then hopefully, for those around me in my life.

These are things that I know you are capable of because I am capable of them. We all are. It all takes a choice. It all takes infusing intentionality into our daily lives. That’s what we’re about here as Up and Comers. Thanks for being here. Thanks for being part of this conversation and engaging with me as I try to engage with others in helpful ways. Let’s continue walking forward together, pursuing unity, justice and equality for all. We hope you have an up and coming week.

Following up with one last thing to note, if you would like to get a curated list of all the content I’m learning from, whether that be books I’m reading, podcasts I’m listening to, quotes I’m pondering or even some sermons I’m enjoying, In-Thane is a monthly newsletter that brings vetted content that I know you’ll enjoy. Go to ThaneMarcus.com/inthane to sign up and you’ll be sure to receive the very next one. Each edition of In-Thane is released on the first Sunday of the month. This is a once a month newsletter that I hope you enjoy and benefit from as much as I have. Here’s to learning and growing one day at a time.

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Follow us on the Socials!
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UAC 151 | Race In America

 

We are currently facing one of the significant moments in America, one that will continue to live on in history. The Black Lives Matter Movement has finally grown and is getting the recognition that has long been overdue. Furthering the conversation on unity, race, equality, and justice, Thane Marcus Ringler invites Barry Moore, the Director of Church Partnerships at Children’s Hunger Fund and the man behind To Work & Keep. In this episode, they talk about living in a multi-racial family, what’s different about this moment in time, not choosing a side, building the muscle of empathy, bondage versus freedom, the importance of leadership, and the Black Lives Matter Movement. Follow along in this encouraging conversation to learn about the pressing issues during this pivotal moment in history, rethinking what you can do for the cause.

Listen to the podcast here:

Unity Ft. Barry Moore: Exploring Conversations On Race In America; This Cultural Moment, Not Choosing Sides, And Living In Freedom Instead Of Bondage

This is the second installment on a series around unity, race, equality and justice, in this moment we’re facing in America. The conversation features Barry Moore. He was featured on The Up and Comers Show early on. I think it was Episode 41 a few years ago. You can go back to that if you want to learn a little bit more from him. Barry Moore is the Director of Church Partnerships at a great organization called Children’s Hunger Fund, where they deliver hope to suffering children by equipping local churches for gospel-centered mercy-ministry. He and his wife, Whitney, have accepted the call of God to help plant a church in the heart of downtown Ventura, California. You can learn more about that at his website, ToWorkAndKeep.com.

Barry is originally from the San Bernardino, California area. He received his BA in Biblical Languages from The Master’s University and is pursuing a certification from the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. He has been married for years to his beautiful wife, Whitney. They have a baby girl named Tahlia. He enjoys photography, building, creating, tinkering, and all things handmade. He loves to cook and experiment in the kitchen. Anything that gets them closer to the ocean is a good thing. He loves Christ church, and with that comes a deep desire to see men and women live lives that are radically transformed by the power of the gospel. This transformation is needed to work and keep the garden that God has given us to his honor and glory. That’s what it’s all about. You can find out more of his work and his thoughts at ToWorkAndKeep.com.

In this conversation, we talked through living in a multiracial family. We talked through what’s different about this moment in time. We talked through not choosing a side, building the muscle of empathy and bondage versus freedom, the importance of leadership, Black Lives Matter, and much more. It was an encouraging conversation. I came away learning a lot from Barry and I appreciated his knowledge, his heart, and his voice. I hope that you can learn as well. I hope you sit back, relax, and enjoy this unity conversation with Barry Moore.

Barry Moore, welcome back to show.

Thank you. It’s good to be back with you.

It’s my pleasure. We were just reminiscing. It’s been a while. I want to start by asking, how are you? I think that’s an important question.

I am doing well. It’s been interesting. That conversation in the last handful of months, beyond even some of the things we’re going to talk about going back to March when COVID hit everywhere. My wife and I have been living in this tension. God has been blessing us in this season. We haven’t felt the pinch that many people have been feeling. That’s been a weird train to navigate because you don’t want to say the wrong thing to hurting people. You also want to rejoice in whatever God is doing. We’ve been towing that line having to acknowledge that God is working in our lives. He is blessing us in many ways. He is caring for our physical needs in ways that we haven’t been expecting. At the same time, there’s brokenness. Overall, I’ve been doing well. Our family is well. I had a kid since I was on the show. I’m a few months into marriage when I was on that first episode. We had a little baby girl in January.

Telling others what you're against doesn't tell them who you are. Click To Tweet

All the cliché things that people say about having kids is true. You don’t sleep and all those types of things, which is funny too because you hear all those cliché things. You grow up hearing clichés and you’re like, “Maybe I’ll feel that way. Maybe I won’t feel that way.” It’s been true. Even so, you began to fall in love with this person who wasn’t here months ago. Your attitude, demeanor, and view on life does take a little bit of a pivot. I won’t say like for some people, maybe it might be a little dramatic. It wasn’t devastating or anything like that, at least in our experience. It definitely was pivoting where we could no longer live, act, move, and be the same way that we were before she entered the world. She’s an absolute cutie and she’s going to have some attitude problems when she gets older. We’ll have to see how we navigate those things. I’m doing well. My wife is sad. Since COVID hit March and she had a baby in January, she hasn’t left our house in months.

Speaking of being a parent, I see a little book called Good Night God. That’s amazing. Is that a good one? Is that a keeper?

I haven’t read that one. This is her room that I’m in. It was my COVID office during the time when I was working from home. Her little space, which we transitioned to getting her to sleep in here. It is a whole other endeavor. Good Night God, we look forward to reading that to her one day.

We may need to do a whole other episode on parenting and child raising because that is a monumental endeavor, but worth its weight in gold. We’re doing a series on race, justice, unity. We’re entering and engaging in a conversation here. We had a conversation leading up to this to talk about framing it and how to approach it. As you’ve shared, you wrote a post on your blog, which is pretty epic called To Work and Keep. The post was What Can My White Friends Do?. It was helpful. I would recommend people reading through that in addition to this. You’ve mentioned even in the conversation nine-plus years of engaging in this conversation as someone who is a man of color and is involved in a lot of predominantly white communities. You’ve been a spokesman or liaison on this issue for many years. What have you gleaned from that time? What is different about this moment or what have you noticed about this moment in time?

I’m only 30, and nine years is 1/3 of my life. Those years have been professional. The other third of my life, I was dealing with it as a child, just living in the world and dealing with some of those things. The first third of my life, I was carefree as a kid. I can remember to my early teenage years navigating various conversations and things around the race topic. Coming from a mixed family, my mom is as white as they come. She’s all the way Irish. My dad’s from the backcountry of Tennessee. Having that dynamic growing up and my dad’s side of the family versus my mom’s side of the family. My grandma and grandpa on my mom’s side wasn’t like the family on my dad’s side. It’s a long time of navigating this conversation, and then the last almost a decade, doing it more in a professional capacity has been a roller coaster of emotions.

I’m dealing with some of my black friends who are entering into the conversation for the first time. From maybe “professional standpoint,” they’re making statements and that kind of thing. I see their passion like my passion years ago. It’s a little bit hot and angry. I understand it, I get it. I see myself nine years later. A phrase that I hold on to is, “Value added movement.” I think about old dudes. They don’t have a lot of energy most of the time. They’re going to move with moves that count. They’re going to throw punches that count. I’ve tried to glean from that and utilize it specifically in this conversation. Even the question in relation to this conversation of how I am doing, the answer is I’m doing well because I’ve had the privilege and time to process these things. I’ve had the ability to think through where I stand and what my convictions are. I’ve had a lifetime of processing many of these things. For some people, this is the first time that they’re being confronted with in a tangible way.

UAC 151 | Race In America

Race In America: Black privilege is being able to have both sides of the story because black people had to live in the white structure created in America.

 

I’ve had a lifetime and then another specific season of professional conversation around this. I’m able to process it quicker. You get muscle movement in development, and your muscles get faster the more you work them out. I’m able to sleep well at night because I know who’s in control of all things and because I’ve had time to process my emotions. In terms of where we are, this one does hit a little bit differently. Even if one didn’t understand why I would say turn on the television, this is a different time culturally and the way that the world is responding. Thinking back to the first conversation that I had on The Up and Comers Show, it was around these things. It was related to this topic. That was a few years ago. The conversation hasn’t changed.

The feelings and emotions for the most part haven’t changed. The reach is very different in this season. Even though people in this one, specifically with George Floyd, that was this new catalyst. I think catalyst is an important word. He wasn’t a martyr. He was a catalyst for something. There’s the opposition that was there with a lot of the other ones. Even though people try to bring up, “He was a criminal. He was a substance abuser.” We have all these things come up. It wasn’t the same as even the things that we’re trying to discredit some of those in the past because we literally had to view injustice. It’s not in a quick video where there are a few bullets that were fired. It was a long and grueling video to see, to put an exclamation point on and lament that, specifically the black community, I would say even activists over the course of history have been singing.

This one hit a little bit different and the image that was burned in a lot of people’s minds was one that you can’t get rid of. In a sense, how do you justify that type of action? Everybody has said it. No one’s contesting what the officer did is not defensible because it wasn’t defensible. It started getting people to be like, “Maybe let me think about the other one. Let me think through all the other things that have happened.” To the point where you got Germany, France, Spain, and countries coming to rally around this idea that is not new. I know we’ll touch on that. This chant of Black Lives Matter might be new in the sense of the technology and hashtags that we use, but the concept and the heart behind the idea is not a new development. It is a cry that has been shouted for many decades, generations.

Overall, we could say social media plays into why it’s different. Everybody has access to information. That’s the difference between Katrina in 2005 and the earthquake in Japan in 2011. Even in that short span of time, it was on my feed. It was on people’s feed. We knew what was going on when that tsunami hit versus Katrina, we didn’t hear a whole lot because technology wasn’t the same in 2005, just the way that phones were used, and social media was posted to. We didn’t have the same type of real-time information from people. We can definitely say that’s why it’s different being in 2020 and the way technology is. I would say even the beast of social media and what it is for its negative realities. In this case, it united the globe in an idea, an ethos, and ethic even that has been highlighted over a long period of time. Social media brought a voice together. I think that plays into it too.

You highlighted some beautiful things there that speak to what we’re seeing and experiencing. I want to come back to a couple of things you mentioned before we touch on Black Lives Matter. The first was being raised and living in a multiracial family and living in those tensions growing up. Even living in a multiracial marriage. As a kid growing up, and even as an adult, that is probably a tension or an experience that I can’t relate to because I haven’t had that. How would you put words to that experience? How do you see that as shaping who you are?

It shapes me in a lot of ways. I say it from this perspective often. I know what white people eat and I know how to cook it. I know what black people eat and I know how to cook it. Part of that is the receipts that I have. It’s the experiences that I have. I know how to talk to a white grandmother versus how to talk to a black grandmother. I know how to navigate those conversations. I think my siblings had a unique experience that some mixed children don’t have, which is we never had an identity crisis. I would say, I never have a true identity crisis. We all had moments of, “Who do I want to be?” It was never, “Who am I?” We all were very comfortable with the fact that we were mixed children, that we were both black and white. It wasn’t something that we felt we had to choose.

Part of that is the privilege of where we grew up. There was an array of diversity. Where we grew up, our culture didn’t make us choose which side we were going to be on. There were a lot of mixed children in the schools that I went to. That was a privilege and our parents never made us choose. Even though my mom and dad got divorced when I was eight years old, my parents did a good job of honoring each other. My mom never made us feel like our dad was less than. Our dad never made us feel like our mom was less than. That was beneficial to the way that we view ourselves. That also influences me because I have learned how to be on both sides of the conversation. I have a lot of empathy and patience with people that is unique to my experience. I default towards wanting to understand, to empathize, and to get down to a solution.

Supremacy is caring more about being right than about meeting others as a human. Click To Tweet

I do credit that to my upbringing and having the ability to know what white people eat and what black people eat and being able to relate and enjoy both of them. Being able to have that experience and privilege is shaping who I am. Even the texture and the timber of how I move. In general, I’m a calm person. A lot of that does have to do with the way that I had to navigate conversations. At the same time, I have wrestled with I’ve never been half whiteberry. I’ve always been half blackberry because there’s no such thing as a whiteberry in the fruit world and there is such a thing as a blackberry in the fruit world. That has been something that’s always been noticeable that black people relate to me as black, and white people relate to me as black. Not many people relate to me as white. That’s been an experience growing up.

If my parents didn’t do such a good job of making all of us not feel weird, I might feel some type of way about that. I am fully hugged and accepted in the black community. They’re not always sure what to do with me in the white community. That varies, some people embrace me with open arms. I had a friend that asked me one time, “Why do black people have a problem when white people talk ‘black’ to them?” My answer was, “Because they don’t need you to do it. They understand you just as you are. The opposite is not true.” My mother-in-law express that reality of like, “When you’re talking to Steve,” who we both know Steve but a friend of mine, she’ll say, “I can’t track what you guys are saying.” Me and Steve have no problem tracking with each other. That’s because we’re talking a little more colloquially towards one another.

I won’t talk to my mother-in-law like that because she won’t understand me. I want her to understand me so I talk in a way that she’s going to understand me. On that conversation to my friend, it was like, “I don’t need you to talk to me like that because I understand you.” Understanding comes from, in some ways, growing up in a white culture. Having white grandparents that not only did they grow up in a different era of time. You had to speak to them in a different way. The respect that someone that grew up in the ‘20s and ‘30s would have instilled in them, but they also were white. I wasn’t going to talk to them like I would with my black friends back home. That’s a unique experience growing up in a biracial home.

It highlights one of the benefits of this moment. One of the cries for action that we can make is education and seeking to understand. What you mentioned on several fronts there is when you are raised in a white culture, which America predominantly is a white culture. When you’re raising that, everyone understands that regardless of what color you are because that’s what’s predominant, what’s talked about or educated, the system, whatever it is. The opposite isn’t true. Thus, there’s an imbalance in the understanding of each other. One of the best ways we can help in that individually is by educating. One easy way we can all take action is read some books. This is something I’m excited to do too. I’ve got a list of books. I’m excited to work through them and understand more. Be able to understand the culture, so that we can understand someone who’s talking to us and they don’t have to adjust to us. The other thing that you highlight is the empathy building from your upbringing is such a benefit that you’ve had from facing that tension early on. It’s a muscle that we can all exercise and erring on empathy and on trying to understand. Especially to my white brothers and sisters, how can we err on empathy and build that muscle more?

I was thinking about this on my drive way home, this idea of privilege. As a Christian, l understand privilege very well. I’m privileged to know Jesus and I view it through that reality. I was thinking about, what is black privilege? It speaks to something you said there. Black privilege is being able to have both sides of the story because black people had to live in the white structure that was created here in America. They had to learn how to talk white language, how to speak, and understand white culture. I can’t remember who said it, but someone once said, “You can’t graduate high school without learning white history, but you can get a PhD and never have to learn anything about black history.” That reality is jarring. That’s very true. You could become a PhD in anything and never have to learn about any other culture or perspective other than a Eurocentric culture and perspective. That’s a baffling reality.

I was playing with this idea in my mind, but you see some of the angry responses from many in the white culture towards even the idea of white privilege. That phrase makes white people cringe because of whatever it could mean to the person who’s saying it. Inversely, the idea of black privilege, of being able to know both sides of the conversation and calling white people to start paying attention to the other side of the conversation is making white people upset. It is an ironic thought to me where it’s like, “You’re upset at privilege because we’re calling you to acknowledge that we as black people in America have had to learn a wider body of knowledge of American life than you have. We are privileged in that sense because we know more than you. You’re upset because we’re asking you to understand more, to empathize more.” In that similar vein of the reality of white privilege as the phrase goes, it could be any other word there. The white individuals who get upset at the idea of them having privilege and black people are upset that they have privilege. It’s like, “We’re not mad, just acknowledge it. Admit it that you have this privilege.” That’s a tangent to the whole point.

One of the thing that you brought up in that whole segment was the idea that one of the unique parts of your experience is that the culture you’re a part of and your family that you’re a part of didn’t make you choose which side you needed to be on. That was such a powerful point because many people haven’t had that experience, unfortunately. Also, similarly in our cultural climate, you see this inability to not choose a side. Everyone feels almost forced to pick a side or find a camp that they’re with. That’s robbing people of owning their story and finding their place in it.

UAC 151 | Race In America

Race In America: This chant of Black Lives Matter might be new in the sense of the technology and hashtags that we use. However, the concept, the heart behind the idea, is not a new development. It is a cry that has been shouted for many decades and generations.

 

The idea of robbing somebody’s story is the problem. It is true for some in the black community as well. You can rob a white person of their story because you’ve pegged them as something that you might generally know to be true, but you haven’t given that person an opportunity to tell you their story. You’ve assumed it. That’s a powerful reality. I remember when Donald Trump first got voted in, a girl we both went to school with posted something that made me pause. It’s because I knew her and I had a good relationship with her. I knew she was an empathetic person. I knew she cared about people. She shared this story about her dad who is a horse vet in Northern California. It made me understand. I’m way more similar to her dad than dissimilar in this moment. What he wants to do at the end of the day is put food on his table for his family. He felt that voting this way was going to enable him to do that.

In that moment, whether I disagreed with the ideology that was presented at the time. I knew her and I knew her heart. I even knew a bit about her dad. I knew he wasn’t a monster. He is a family man and wants to provide for his family. That relationship and that knowledge of her and the friendship that we have was able to make me pull back and be, “Let me pause some of my aggression or feelings that might be welling up inside of me and appreciate my friend.” I still don’t have to agree but I can appreciate my friend and where she’s coming from, where she’s representing her family, and where they stand. At the same time, know that by and large, they don’t have a malicious agenda to ruin the world. That came out of friendship and relationship.

As I was thinking about this, I want to hear your thoughts on this too, not just the recognition, but being anti-racist is the cry and rally of a lot of this acting in opposition to. One of the ways that I’m trying to think about that is in this issue, in this context being anti-politics. What I think is going on, at least what I’m seeing from my perspective, is that so often the conversation is muddled by politics, agendas, postures, and stances that we think are important. We think that if we say this first step here, then that means the tenth step there. I’m not even going to take that first step, even though it may be a good step.

I’m almost in the place of saying, “How can I be anti-politics?” I’m not anti-government, the government’s important and needed. It’s not full of all scoundrels and all the worst people. The system is pretty broken. There are corrupt people in it, just as much as there are good people on it. I can’t make too many assumptions because I don’t have personal relationships with them. What I do know is that this isn’t a political issue, this is a human issue. How can I remove politics from this and focus on the essence of the human issue at play?

I’m glad you said it, because I didn’t want to sound like I was correcting you or anything like that. I do think the way to be anti-racist and the way to be anti-political is to be pro-image of God. It’s to be pro-human. Finding dignity and ascribing, not contrived dignity and value but actual dignity and value that human beings have because they’re created in the image of God. The way to be anti-racist fundamentally at the core of it is to be pro human or pro-image of God. Both are the same thing. That reality is crucial in this conversation, whether it’s being anti-racist or being anti-political. You’re doing that because your motivation is being for humans. I even was going to say that because I’ve been so big on this idea of bondage and talking to my friends.

Bondage is always focused on something that is negative towards you. I always try to pivot towards, “Let’s not dwell on what we’re against. What are we for?” If you’re against a bunch of stuff, you’re not for something. I want to know what somebody is for because that tells me more about who they are. Telling me what you’re against doesn’t tell me who you are because you’re clearly telling me those things don’t influence you. I want to know what influences you, what are you for, what makes you drive and move forward? I do see bondage and people being in bondage because they’re so stuck on what they’re against. They don’t know what else to do but to continue to be against something. Instead of living in freedom and being for, what are you for? If you’re for it, be free and be for it. Don’t be in bondage towards something that you’re against.

I love that because that hits on each person’s responsibility to not live in fear but to live out of love. Bondage versus freedom is how you can correlate those two. The other thing that you brought up is so much of the emotion of this moment and our own misunderstandings or assumptions tends to lead towards this engaging in debates and not conversations. By being in freedom, by operating on a freedom and by not being in bondage, we can stop having so many debates, which has winners and losers. It has this competition. It has this identity at stake feeling to it. We can shift back to the freedom of saying, “I want to hear you. I want to understand you. How can I learn from you? How can we have a conversation so we can both walk away better understanding each other and hopefully, better understanding our role in life?”

America is not the same for everybody because everybody's experience in America is not the same. Click To Tweet

That is at the root of a lot of this. I won’t even say white supremacy, but it is an attitude of supremacy, “I want to be right. What I stand for is the truth.” That attitude works for some people. It doesn’t work for me. I don’t keep it going. What you’re saying is, “I care more about being right than I do about meeting you as a human, meeting you as a person.”

Talk to me a little bit from your experience of what are the chief obstacles to engaging this conversation, to making progress and furthering unity and equality as a nation, specifically to white brothers and sisters.

There’s a brother named Mark Charles who is a Native American brother of the Navajo tribe. He talks through this concept of lacking a shared history. Being a Native American, history is very important for them. He’s a bit of an authority in that reality of understanding what it means to have a shared history and being a people that have a shared history. That’s at the root of it. America is not the same to every person that’s here. You can say that about a black American. You can say that about a white American. You can say that about an immigrant who has migrated here. You can say that to someone who migrated here and became a citizen. America is not the same to everybody because everybody’s experience in America is not the same.

In the context of this conversation, that is the root of the problem. I would say the privilege that black people have as they have the whole history, and the unfortunate reality for a lot of white brothers and sisters is they don’t have the full history. They did not have the privilege of growing up in a diverse area. They didn’t have the privilege of having those relationships and experiences that would shape them and make them more full of a person to be able to recount experiences and conversations that would shape them to be more of a holistic person. At the root of it, what white brothers and sisters need to do is educate themselves.

One of the things that I say in my blog post on the education reality is that everybody in America has been educated poorly when it comes to black bodies. That’s black people and white people, and everybody who takes American history in America. The first time you learn about black bodies is in a negative context. I would even say to the point that we learned about the pharaohs in Egypt, but we don’t talk about that in an African concept. We talk about Egypt as if it’s this weird continent all by itself, where these great people were there, but that’s an African continent. Those are dark-skinned people that would have been living in that land. Whether they were black or they were bronze, they weren’t white skin.

One of the miseducation of America is not celebrating the beauty and the advancement of black bodies. You then drive into that conversation and you ask, “Why is that?” Whenever the expansion in the westward conquering began to happen, there was no one to tell those stories. The historians that were going on these boats and picking up these stories were telling it from a Eurocentric perspective. They weren’t going there to venerate. They were going there to destroy, conquer, or take whatever they could have. You lament the reality of a loss education that many black students experience. They don’t learn about black history until they go to college and they enroll in a black humanities course or whatever.

Part of that is this education. It’s not just black history. I love that Mark Charles also talks about native American history. Every city and every town that people live in should learn what native American tribe used to be there. What their life was like, what their land was like, and realize that every time you go to the grocery store, you are benefiting from a wicked reality. That doesn’t happen. You go to the grocery store because ignorance is bliss if you don’t have to deal with that stuff. If you don’t have to reckon with the pain that people experience on the soil that you walk in day-in and day-out.

UAC 151 | Race In America

 

Listening is a part of it because you can’t learn if you’re not going to be a listener. It’s the education piece because you don’t know what you don’t know. If I were to take a tangent and encourage my black brothers and sisters to find the courage in you to be patient with white people who want to listen and be willing to educate them because they don’t have access to the stories. They don’t have access to it like a black person would. At the same time, they do because a lot of black people had to read a book. I learned about their culture, their heritage, and the many inventions that black people have made to contribute to America. I was reading about the only black-owned car manufacturer in the late 1800s, early 1900s. It’s things like that where that piece of black American history is lost in the story of Henry Ford and of all the other things that might have progressed over time.

I do think for white brothers and sisters, it is taking the posture of a learner and pursuing to be educated about American history. The black contribution to American history has been sterilized and marginalized, but it’s a huge part of American history. Literally, America wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the slave labor of black people. There would be no super power America without the free labor that was being utilized in the time of slavery. Just that reality that there is no America without black people is a first reality to accept. From there, learn the positive things about black culture. That’s the other hard part for the black community.

If you turn on the news and you read all the history books and all you saw were stories of Thane Ringler murdered or Thane Ringler in bondage, you would almost get to the point and be like, “Mom, dad, have you read these books about this dude named Thane and these people named Thane? Why did you name me Thane?” That analogy happens for a lot of black people where you see it over and over again, where your skin color and the people who look like you are not displayed or portrayed as beautiful, smart, and advancing. You begin to internalize some of that and not know who to look to.

It broke my heart when I was watching this documentary that was talking about these two young black girls who got into trouble when they were young. They ended up in a juvenile correctional facility. The interviewer asked her, “What did you want to see yourself doing?” Her answer was, “I wanted to be a prostitute because they were the ones who were living a successful life.” That’s wild. That’s what she aspired to because that was the image that she saw for herself. You then go back to what she’s learning in school. Wasn’t she learning about Rosa Parks? Do you mean the woman who was mistreated because she was black and didn’t want to get off the bus? There were more black women in history who did such and such. Who are they? They’re not in the history books that she’s learning. It becomes this reality of she doesn’t have anyone to look up to. She’s not going to be necessarily a superstar or as someone who’s making money in the mainstream. That is a different conversation of why that’s terrible.

That’s where a lot of white brothers and sisters need to begin. It’s to educate. You don’t know what you don’t know. There’s a lot that American black and white do not know about black history, black culture, black American, and exceptionalism. We celebrated the anniversary of Black Wall Street. I didn’t learn about Black Wall Street until I was an adult and having to learn and understand what was going on there. Maybe there was a little blimp in high school. The best thing that white brothers and sisters can do is take the posture of a learner, but not learning their story, not learning their history. This is white American history too. If you’re an American, this is your history and becoming educated on your history.

That goes down to what happened with redlining in the real estate market. Why did the association of realtors have to write laws in the ‘50s that spoke against the segregated housing that they were espousing? Why did black families move into these areas where there was work and then those factories began to move into the suburbs? Now there’s no work in what became predominantly black areas because the black people didn’t have cars. They couldn’t travel to the place where work was and so on and so forth. Those are all aspects of American history that are facts. Those things happened in American history.

What white brothers and sisters have to do is begin to reckon with that and ask themselves, “How does that fit into my story? How does me educating myself with those things fit into who I am and where I insert into the story in my lifetime?” In that conversation, “I never owned slaves. You never were a slave.” It’s like, “That’s fine. No one’s necessarily saying that you did.” Realizing that slave owning is a part of your history as an American is lamentable. White Americans will view that differently than black Americans because the sides were different. Acknowledging that slavery is a dark stain on our nation’s past is worth owning.

You can't learn if you're not going to be a listener. Click To Tweet

What struck me about what you said is let say it’s a football game. When you win a championship, the winner comes away and they’re riding it out. They celebrate it and they spend the month celebrating. They then get back to work, “Let’s go and get it again.” They’re motivated. The team that’s on the losing side are like, “We’re going to get revenge. We’re going to get payback.” It’s carried forward into a much deeper burn, a motivation to come out on top. What you brought up is that when you’ve been on the opposing side of oppressor or you’re the oppressor in this situation, you don’t feel the emotion that the oppressed has over those years. It hasn’t built up and it doesn’t lend itself to the same experience or understanding at all, even if you can intellectually understand it.

That’s a great point of feeling to wrestle with. What does it feel like to be the one who is winning versus the one who is losing all the time and how the emotion is different?

What you spoke to is the systemic nature of this and how many layers are involved in the systemic part of our shared history in this. What we talked about even before is what the implications of that are, what’s required of us is then leadership. I remember listening to a podcast where the guy being interviewed said, “Can you name me the top three leaders in our time that aren’t in Corporate America?” He’s saying like, “I don’t know if I can pull up three names of renowned leaders of our day and age that are leaders we aspire to, that aren’t in a corporate executive role that would be more noticeable.” It speaks to this almost vacuum of leadership that starts with leading yourself well. It also bleeds into spiritual leadership. How do we lead our brother and sisters well in this race of running towards Jesus? What is needed for leadership in this realm?

From the Christian perspective at some level, it is an education and acknowledging of Christians culpability. The Christendom, the Christian worldview, it’s culpability and bringing us to where we are. That’s something that the American Evangelical Church has not grappled with well. There is no slavery without Christianity. That’s a hard pill to swallow. It was these European monarchs in the name of Christianity who were going on and conquering these lands and going to disciple the heathen. You can read accounts of priests who are on the boats going to Africa and into the Americas and wrestling with the theology of some of these things, “These people look like men, but are they men?” You go down and you look into the papal bulls that were written by the Pope’s of what they were talking about the heathen.

The heathen was an unregenerate person who had less dignity. They weren’t seen and valued as human. That’s what a heathen was. Going to conquer the heathen world was to go and conquer those who would not submit to Christ and the crown. That was what they were going out to accomplish, to call people heathens, to repent of their sin, and turn to Christ in the crown for salvation. That is a part of Christian history that has to be owned, reckoned with, and wrestled through before the church can ever have a leading voice in this. You think back to even 50 years ago with Martin Luther King, who wasn’t necessarily a CEO. He was a social leader across the board. He was a social voice that was speaking out towards these kinds of things. He had that context, that understanding, and that conviction. Malcolm X had that conviction and that mindset. He just had a different approach than Martin Luther King did.

That conviction, that knowledge, and that understanding was there. For specifically the evangelical world, before the Christian church can have a voice, it has to acknowledge its past. It has to acknowledge its place and culpability in history. I’m a big advocate of you’re not going to change the world in an instant. It’s going to take conversation after conversation, person after person, relationship after relationship. You changed the world over time with many people. From that, advocating for leadership has to be consistent and it has to be others-oriented. If I were to speak to a non-Christian who was asking this similar kind of question, you can’t drive your own personal agenda. It has to be others-oriented. I would say the same thing to a Christian who’s wanting to grapple with these things. You can’t push your agenda. You have to become a learner.

What are the people dealing with? What is your community wrestling through? How do you be a voice for the voiceless in what they are wrestling with? Do it with righteousness and do it with equity. That’s what I would encourage people to do. Coming back to that, you don’t have an agenda. You don’t have a five-year plan. You don’t have an ideology that you’re trying to push, but you are listening to the people that you’re serving to be able to rightly stand as a voice before them. That’s what Martin Luther King did. That’s what Malcolm X did. They were amplifying the cry of people. That’s what made them strong leaders that they listened to those they were representing and going before. That was rooted in them being able to have the understanding of where we’ve come from, where we are, where people want to go, and then being a voice for that. Leadership is much more an avenue of advocacy before it is an avenue of promoting an agenda.

An avenue of advocacy. This has been so helpful already. Speaking of that, if we tried to remove agendas. I want to know your perspective and how you’ve been thinking about the rally cry of Black Lives Matter. It becomes the Malcolm X, the Martin Luther King rally cry of this uprising and this justice movement in some sense. Tell me how you thought about the concept or the phrase or even the idea of Black Lives Matter.

This one is a little bit complicated. It’s complicated because people are uneducated. It’s rooted in some of the things we’ve already talked about. How I see it, Black Lives Matter was not created a few years ago. There was a little pound sign that was put in front of that phrase and it became something on social media. That’s the total influence of social media and the monster that it is. You can’t control it. You put a hashtag on something and it goes. The reality of Black Lives Matter is the words. The words are what most people are hanging their hat on because a lot of people are becoming sensitized to the fact that, “People have been saying that for a long time. That’s what Harriet Tubman in the Underground Railroad was talking about. Black lives matter and we shouldn’t be enslaving them and we should be letting them have freedom.”

UAC 151 | Race In America

 

That’s what was being advocated for in Black Wall Street. That’s what was being advocated for in the Marriage Rights conversation that we celebrated. That’s what was being advocated for in the Voting Rights Act. That’s what was being advocated for during the crack epidemic in the ‘80s. That’s what was being advocated for when policing started getting brutalized in the ‘90s under Bill Clinton and all those things. This cry for Black Lives Matter has been a consistent cry of black people and many others for quite some time. The only thing that has changed is maybe we’ve said it succinctly in those three words, then we put a hashtag in front of it. It gets more complicated when somebody went out and bought a domain name and started pushing an organization. It’s difficult for people who are behind the ball.

People who are undereducated and don’t have an attachment to the history of this cry, which would not be most black people. They have an attachment to this cry of Black Lives Matter because it’s been a cry that has been shouted for decades and generations. Those people who are becoming agitated by the sentiment that is being spoken of. They’re like, “What is this Black Lives Matter? What does this mean?” Unfortunately, the only thing they’re going to google is Black Lives Matter, and you’re going to be taken to this website. They associate this historical cry with this dot-com domain. A lot of white people think a lot of black people are dumb. They don’t know that Black Lives Matter, the organization, is not for black people. Black people know that. My timeline is filled with black people who know that Black Lives Matter, the organization, is straight garbage and they do not support them. They do not advocate for them, but they will never stop saying black lives matter because they do.

It’s unfortunate that the organization that bought that dot-com is associated with that phrase. There’s no reason to not uphold the phrase. I was thinking about this conversation. For me, from an evangelical conversation, it would be more like the Mormon church using the word justification. They’ve hijacked it to mean something different. They have an agenda that they’re pushing that is not the evangelical agenda or definition. By all means, we better keep using the word justification. We’re not going to bend to them using it in a way that we don’t think holds to the biblical narrative. The same thing is true. Black people are not going to let go of black lives matter, the words, because they believe in those three words. The words are important. The words are necessary for the black consciousness. For many years, black people have not felt like they matter.

Now you have a phrase and a hashtag that makes them feel seen. They want to continue to be seen. My encouragement to people is when it comes to that phrase, posture yourself as a learner. If you see someone using that phrase, enter in the conversation and ask them what does that mean to them. How does that phrase empower you and let them tell their own story. You’re then going to know whether or not they’re promoting the dot-com or if they’re promoting the life-giving chant. There will be people you’ll come across that are supporting the dot-com and that’s why they’re saying it. There are a lot of white people that are supporting the dot-com. They don’t even know why they’re supporting them.

The reality of black lives matter, the words, is not always what some people think the effect is. When you think about words, you have actual words that get strung together, and then you have the intent of using those words. Then you have the effect of those words on the person who’s listening. We all operate from the assumption that everybody understands my definition of the words that I’m using. That’s not always true. It would do us well to define terms and understand people before I assume I know exactly what they’re talking about or where they’re coming from.

When it comes to the phrase, black lives matter, you’ve got people who are responding, “All lives matter. Blue lives matter.” You’re not even cognitively processing what you’re saying. You’re reacting to something that you don’t like, which is fine because we would come to an agreement at the end of the day that we both don’t like the organization, the dot-com. The business that has been started in the name of black lives matter that we don’t stand for. We both stand in solidarity in that regard. You absolutely better believe I care about black lives and they do matter. It’s a difficult conversation for a lot of people to have. It’s somewhat of a nuanced conversation and people’s inability to have it is rooted in their miseducation.

They haven’t been confronted with a narrative of many people saying black lives matter. Black lives matter inside the woman and outside the womb. Black people do care about the abortion rate. There are plenty of black people who are advocating for abortions in black communities. There are plenty of black people who are advocating for black on black crime in neighborhoods, on blocks, and in places like that. There are lots of them that care about the holistic black life. It’s unfortunate that we’re stuck with a dot-com that promotes ideology, that is anti more than it is for something. Black Lives Matter is a slogan, a phrase that has been upheld and felt by black people for generations. It’s definitely an unfortunate thing. I would encourage people to not assume they understand what somebody’s meaning when they say Black Lives Matter and engage the person at the person level and say, “Help me understand how does that phrase empower you.” I’m not prescribing that, “Barry said, let me use this phrase.”

Acknowledging that slavery is a dark stain on our America's past is worth owning. Click To Tweet

The ethic of what I’m saying is hear that person out for what black lives matter means to them. If you’re dealing with the person that’s like, “I stand for everything that dot-com organization stands for,” you already know where you stand with that person. For most people and for most evangelical people, they’re not even thinking about the dot-com. They’re thinking about their neighbor, their friend, their brother, or their sister. They’re thinking about the people in their lives, their sons, and their daughters who are black. They do believe their life matters. They acknowledge some of the history at where black lives weren’t honored in that way, black bodies weren’t honored in that way. They could care less about the dot-com. They’re not going to the dot-com for information or as a source. They are convicted that black lives do matter.

That is a nuance realm. I appreciate you shedding some light and perspective on that. Barry, this has been a treat. I’ve learned so much. I’m excited to keep learning. It’s been a pleasure getting to know your perspective and the good word you brought here.

I’m glad to do it. My blog, the idea of leaning in is a two-way street. When I’m asked, “Can I lean into a conversation?” Yes, I want to talk, listen, understand, and educate myself and those things. I’m always happy to be a part of the solution.

Where do people find you, connect with you, reach out? What’s a good place to find you at?

I’m at ToWorkAndKeep.com. I try to write as often as I can. I have a podcast that’s going to be out. I’m beginning having some of these conversations, inviting people to share their stories, and how they are working in keeping the spheres that they have. Drop on by and say hello.

Thanks again. Until next time. It’s been sweet. We hope you all have an up and coming week because we’re out.

Following up with one last thing to note. If you would like to get a curated list of all the content I’m learning from. Whether that be books I’m reading, podcasts I’m listening to, quotes I’m pondering or even some sermons I’m enjoying. In-Thane is a monthly newsletter that brings vetted content that I know you’ll enjoy. Go to ThaneMarcus.com/inthane to sign up and you’ll be sure to receive the very next one. Each edition of In-Thane is released the first Sunday of the month. This is a once a month newsletter that I hope you enjoy and benefit from as much as I have. Here’s to learning and growing one day at a time.

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About Barry Moore

UAC 151 | Race In AmericaBarry Moore is the Director of Church Partnerships at a great organization called Children’s Hunger Fund where they deliver hope to suffering children by equipping local churches for gospel-centered mercy-ministry. He and his wife Whitney have recently accepted the call of God to help plant a church in the heart of downtown Venture, CA. You can learn about more of that here.

Barry is originally from the San Bernardino, CA area. He received his B.A. in Biblical Languages from The Master’s University and is pursuing a certification from the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. He has been married for two years to his beautiful wife Whitney and they have a baby girl name Tahlia.

He enjoys photography, building, creating, tinkering and all things handmade. He loves to cook and experiment in the kitchen. Anything that gets him closer to the ocean is a good thing. He loves Christ’s church and with that comes a deep desire to see men and women live lives that are radically transformed by the power of the gospel. This transformation is needed to Work & Keep the garden God has given us to his honor and glory – and that’s what it’s all about.

You can find out more of his work at toworkandkeep.com

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UAC 150 | Racial Reconciliation

 

The racial divide in America reemerges into the spotlight again with the recent turn of events. It is becoming essential for us to move towards racial reconciliation to achieve unity as a people. Josh Goertzen brings this message of unity in this conversation with Marcus Thane Ringer as they explore the issue of race in America, being a better neighbor, and how distance breeds indifference. Josh is a 25-year-old pastor from Hutchinson, Kansas. Making the big move to urban California with his wife, Erika, he is passionate about bringing the Gospel to poor communities in the inner city. He sees beauty in diversity and believes that unity can be achieved by celebrating it as a gift from God and connecting with different people with love and compassion. As we struggle for social justice, we should never forget the greater ministry of reconciling ourselves to God and each other.

Listen to the podcast here:

150: Unity Ft. Josh Goertzen: Exploring Conversations On Race In America, Being A Better Neighbor, Considering The Other, And How Distance Breeds Indifference

This shows all about learning, how to live a good life. We believe that it takes living with intention in the tension. Life has many tensions that we are faced with daily. We believe the best way to face, overcome, and live in the midst of or go through those tensions is simply by infusing intentionality into all that we do. That is our goal and mission for this show. It’s about the process of becoming which we are all in this journey called life. It is a lifelong process and we hope to be lifelong learners. This is a great outlet to do that. Thanks for tuning in and thank you for being a fellow Up and Comer on this journey of life. We are glad to have you as a part of this community and this movement.

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Distance breeds indifference. Click To Tweet

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This is a new series that I’ve been stewing on and thinking through. It’s a series on racial divide on racial reconciliation, and on the social justice movement that is happening in our country, the uprising we are experiencing and facing in day-to-day life. I want to do a series of conversations with people from different backgrounds, perspectives, and points of view, to help further the conversation and engagement with this important time and issue that we have been facing. It’s not new. It’s been around for 400 years. Hopefully, this brings more awareness for each of us reading and hopefully more unity and equality. That is the goal of these episodes.

We’re starting out with a good friend of mine, Josh Goertzen. He is a 25-year-old pastor from Hutchinson, Kansas. For the last few years, Josh has served as a young adult pastor at his local church and started an outreach ministry that serves a marginalized area within his community. He and his wife, Erika, have made plans to move to Richmond, California in order to receive seminary education and experience with Inner City Ministry. Their desire is for Jesus to be known and loved in the Inner City by planting and multiplying church among the urban poor, where there’s no gospel presence.

That was a short snippet of what Josh is up to. Josh had been a lifelong friend. We had him on the show. Josh is a dear brother and a good friend. He’s had a powerful transformation in his own life. His perspective has been shaped and changed by these personal experiences he’s gone through. In this conversation, we get to dive into some of those experiences and how they’ve shaped and informed his worldview and his perspective on people from different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, and how we have relationships with people who don’t look, talk or think like us. We get to dive into a lot of the different nuances within this.

UAC 150 | Racial Reconciliation

Racial Reconciliation: Different cultures reveal different parts of God’s image. The Gospel brings people together because of the love of Christ.

 

I love so much of what he talks about. One of the big points that he brings up is that “Distance breeds indifference.” The more distance we are from something, the more it breeds indifference. He went on to say that relationships are key and we have to move towards people. He talks about the theme of being a better neighbor and moving toward minorities in relationships, not just to check the box, but to establish an actual friendship and relationship. There are a lot of beautiful things that he says. He’s a humble man and he’s also lived powerfully. The examples of what he shares are he lived that out in his own life and he’s cared for people, especially in hard places and of all backgrounds and ethnicities. He’s been a constant challenge to me simply by the life he’s lived, not by the words he said but in this, we get to share words. I pray and I hope that this conversation can be encouraging, challenging, thought-provoking, and then it can be a spark for further conversations within your own life and within your own community. That’s all I have. Sit back, relax, and enjoy this important conversation on race with my brother, Josh Goertzen.

Josh Goertzen, welcome back to the show.

It’s good to be back. It’s one of my favorite things to do.

We had a good time on the previous episode. As we’re coming in this conversation, what feels weird to you about being here right? What feels weird to you about this moment? Is there anything that feels surreal or weird?

I would say that we’re both newly married and I don’t think we’ve been in this basement since we’ve been married. It’s funny.

That is weird. It’s bizarre.

Is that what you’re thinking?

That’s part of it. There are a lot of things that are surreal. Seeing who we were in high school and seeing who we are now and all that has happened since and that we were both married, that we’re both going to have moved or moving into new places. There are a lot of wild things that life brings.

We’re both in the same phase of life. That’s funny. There are so much transition and change.

Can you give people a snapshot of what’s ahead in your life?

My wife and I have a huge heart for the Inner City Ministry. Our heart is in church planting. We want to church plant in an unreached area among the urban poor. We’re heading out to Richmond, California to go do some seminary, but also be a part of a small church that is in an Inner City area so we can be mentored and have an opportunity to learn and grow and also serve the community there. That is so we can be equipped to go to church plant someday. We’ll leave Kansas for the first time in my life and that will be exciting.

Born and raised in Hutchinson, Kansas. Have you ever lived outside of Hutchinson?

I was born in Salina, but I moved here when I was eleven months old. I’m in Kansas my whole life. That’s all I know.

You have been able to travel and have some. You’ve had experiences but it’s the first time living in a different environment.

I’ve lived in South-Central Los Angeles for 2 or 3 months but besides that, I’ve always lived in Kansas.

That’s a huge milestone to be moving to a new city for the first time. This is a substantial long-term move.

We’re going to move out there for around maybe 3 or 4 years, then hopefully look to plant a church, but a lot of that is in God’s hands. I haven’t gotten a lot of time to think about it because we’ve been busy, but when I think about it, it is pretty wild.

Before we get to the topic, what is it that helps you in the midst of change in such a massive shift, many moving pieces, a completely different environment, people, and community? What have you found helpful in facing change well?

It’s easy to get stressed out. There were a lot of moving pieces, leaving people and relationships, the new life coming, school and all these things. What always helps me is understanding the ‘why’ of things. It helps me and focuses me. To me, waking up understanding why I’m waking up in the morning, why I breathe, and why I do what I do. To understand the purpose of why we’re moving to California, and why we’re leaving behind people that are precious to us because that’s hard. I don’t want to say goodbye to these people, but I have to put that ‘why’ in front of us. That’s something that’s been helping me living off of conviction.

It is inexcusable for us, Christians, to distance ourselves from our minority brothers and sisters. Click To Tweet

The purpose is huge. That is a thing that allows us to live with integrity in our identity of who God’s called us to be regardless of the environment. If we have that ‘why’ that we’re able to align with every morning, that’s what gives us the consistency of the drive and motivation that’s internal, not external. It allows us to live more consistently in alignment and attached to where God is leading us. That’s a sweet word. We find ourselves in an interesting time in America. We’ve had a pandemic going on. We’ve had quarantines and shutdowns everywhere. We’ve also had somewhat of a revolution and uprising, highlighting the racial divide in America. Coming into this time, the church that I’m part of in Denver United, they’ve done a great job of entering and engaging the conversation early. I want to do my part. I want to engage in this conversation, learn, listen and talk to people. I want to engage with what’s going on and try to do it better. This is a part of it.

This is the first of a series of conversations on racial reconciliation. What does that look like? What is needed? What do we need to listen? What do we need to hear from? How do we need to think about these approaches? I by no means haven’t figured out. I never will, but I want to learn. That posture is helpful. I know as you already stated, a lot of your heart and calling is to urban ministry, the places that people have been dealt a harder hand. It is a different experience than you and I have faced. I’m curious when this transformation in your own life started? I know you mentioned that for several years, I’ve changed your perspective a lot. Can you paint a picture of how that’s changed your perspective as a whole, but also in related to this issue?

I echo what you said about learning and hopefully, what I say comes across in a humble way and I’m searching for some of the answers here. I’m wanting to be humble and come alongside people and learn as well. I’m 25, so I don’t have all my ducks in a row by any means, but I do have some unique experiences that God’s given to me. Long story short, I ended up in South-Central Los Angeles at an Inner-City church there helping out with a kid’s summer camp called Love LA. South Central is next to Compton. Maybe that might help some of you understand where that’s at. Dr. Dre, NWA are all from South Central, the Rodney King riots happened in South Central. I knew it was in Inner City Ministry, but I’d never been outside of the context of a suburban area. I didn’t have a category for that in my mind. I remember pulling up in this city and I walked in the grocery store. For the first time in my whole life, I was a minority. I looked around and I was the only white guy out of probably a couple of 100 people in the whole store.

One of the cash register ladies came up to me and she was looking out for me. She asked me if I was lost. I’m thinking, “I think I am lost.” For the first time, I was thinking in my mind, “I’m a white guy here and I felt like I had to represent all white people.” I was immediately being introspective of how I was acting my body posture, what I was saying. I had never, ever in my life had that even ever crossed my mind. I felt incredibly uncomfortable and I didn’t know why I felt uncomfortable. It was that summer fleshing out some of these things in this community that changed my perspective and changed my life. Especially as I began to hear people’s stories and this is something that is huge.

It’s important to put on someone else’s lens and understand where they’re coming from and the experiences they’ve had because distance breeds indifference. I grew up and I went to a predominantly white school in a white neighborhood at a white church, and that’s how it was. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. That was demographic. The distance bred indifference because I didn’t know and I didn’t care. Out of sight, out of mind type thing. When I was placed in this community, I started to love these people and they loved me and they served me. It was incredibly humbling. That was the start of me realizing some of the racial injustices in our country.

I want to touch on a few things there. That experience of being a minority for the first time is powerful and it is true. Most people have probably experienced that in the moments. There are times where you are in an environment where you are the minority. It could even be something as simple as an environment you’re not used to. If you’ve never been to a Country Club or been on a golf course, you’re like, “I don’t belong here. How do I fit in? What do I do?” You’re self-conscious. You’re examining everything you do. It could be any type of environment, but especially when you were clearly different-looking than those around you. Even the last place I lived in Glendale, I was a minority in Glendale. It was the Armenian community. I heard more non-English than English walking down the road and that was a beautiful experience for me. I’m like, “I am an anomaly in some ways.” Recognizing those times when we are those experiences and realizing that for some people that is more of an everyday experience.

The second thing is that distance breeds indifference, it is so true. I’ve looked at even demographically cities, Hutchinson, Kansas versus LA or Denver. The difference in those environments is that one, you have more distance and the other, it’s in your face. There’s something about it being in your face where you can’t hide from it that forces you to face it and understand what’s going on. There’s more comfortable when you have distance because you don’t have to face it as much, but it does breed indifference because of the comfort. It’s time we got uncomfortable.

It’s a biblical command because when Philippians 2 says, “Look out for the interest of others,” that’s what humility is. Humility is looking out for the interest of others and regarding them more important than yourself. We don’t have an option to be indifferent. There is some ignorance in play there. Sometimes people don’t know and they don’t know. I understand that to an extent, but we have to move towards people. We see that throughout the Bible, “Jesus is moving towards people.” I was reading the story about the leper. Jesus healed ten lepers by saying, “You’re clean now.” He didn’t touch them. In one of the instances, He went and touched a leper and that would have shocked people. That example of Christ of moving towards people in humility, as Christians, we don’t have an option, but we have to move towards people and hear and listen to them. I don’t think we can make the excuse of, “I’ve never experienced that,” and put distance between ourselves and our minority brothers and sisters. I don’t think that’s an option and it’s acceptable as Christians to do.

Speaking of action from this point, was it about years ago with Love LA?

Yes.

From this experience that was transformational in itself, it wasn’t a one-time hit. It caused the action. It led to a complete shift in your life and also continuous action towards that. What’s been that action or give us some of the stories since then?

After Love LA ended, I was wrecked and devastated that I had to leave this community because God put a great love in my heart. I came back to Hutchinson and talked with my pastor. We ended up starting a similar kids camp, which turned into a year-round program and a weekend program and a kid’s camp. My wife and I got married and moved into an area of poverty in our city. We started to have real friendships with people who didn’t look like us, whether it was socioeconomically or ethnically. We started to have relationships with people and hear their stories. One of the guys who serve with us on our team is a black man and a UPS driver. Listening to his stories of the racial comments he gets all the time. People write them up and say, “He stole our package,” just because he’s black or they’ll even put the N-word in a write-up. That is incredible things that are happening every day but I wouldn’t know that if he wasn’t my friend and I didn’t ask him. If he wasn’t burdened and didn’t talk to me about it like, “Pray for me. This was going on.” Relationships are key.

We must strive for unity, not uniformity. Click To Tweet

If it wasn’t for that, I know I wouldn’t care because it would be out of sight and out of mind. Sharing these stories, having relationships with kids that are immigrated from Mexico or black kids hanging out in our house, we care for them and thinking about them in their future. These young, black men about wearing hoodies, the haircut they have, and all these things that people will naturally stereotype them. These are things that we all have to think about as people who are leading ministries with these kids because we care about them and we don’t want them to get shot honestly. It’s sad. All that to say, if we didn’t have relationships with them, we wouldn’t care. I don’t think I would care.

Before we get to what causes people not to care or to care about this topic at hand, and even the racial divide we see and experience, what has having diversity in your personal relationships giving you? I wrote about this in a blog post, we’re drawn towards uniformity. We think that uniformity is the way. It needs to all look the same way. I remember as a kid, I was like, “If everyone could be like me, it would be a place.” It’s foolish, childish and ignorant but I want everyone to be like me because I was the best. I quickly came to realize that was foolish, but that doesn’t necessarily change, molds or shifts into new things. Then we ended up becoming friends with people that share interests that look, act or talk like us. We live in communities, go to church or work in a place with people that are like us. We have this natural disposition towards uniformity because it’s easier. It’s easier and more comfortable. It feels more fluid and makes us feel better. It confirms what we already believe or what we think is right.

There are a lot of factors that play, but the only way that we can be together as a people is through unity, not uniformity. Unity amidst diversity is only possible through love. That’s the only way. We had to say different is better than sameness. I’m curious with you personally, in addition to what you’ve already mentioned as you’ve been on this journey, what have you found from having diversity in your personal relationships of people that look way different, talk different, from different places, or think differently than you?

That’s something that is easily overlooked is this beauty of diversity within relationships. When I say we’re going to do Inner City Ministry, some people think that my mindset is to go and we’re going be the savior of the inner city. That’s not the case by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, one thing I’ve learned living in the community that I live in is we have benefited massively from other people, loving and caring for us. People look out for my wife and me. They care about us in this community. We’ve learned about loyalty, compassion, relationships and hanging with people. From where I come from, people give up a little more easily on people and they write them off. I’ve learned about grace and patience. I talked to some of these people and the things they deal with for so long, they’re gracious. Even some of my black brothers and sisters who have been bearing with these issues have now come to light for so long and they’re tired and exhausted and yet, they’re giving grace to people who are realizing how serious this is. They’ve had to live it their whole lives.

There’s beauty and diversity because we get to see so much more about the character of God revealed as God has given these people to be image-bearers of himself. Different cultures reflect different parts of that. You go to Brazil, people are wild down there and there’s no time schedule but they’re incredibly warm, generous and familial in the way they are. Every culture has beautiful things that reflect the character of God that we can praise and also things that aren’t. When we look at our own, we have to acknowledge what’s good and what’s not good. As you said, the beauty of the gospel is it brings people together because of the love of Christ. Because of that, we get to enjoy the spectrum of the character of God that’s bared in us because we’re image-bearers of him. It’s a beautiful thing. I appreciate you saying that because we are the benefactors when we step into a diverse relationship.

UAC 150 | Racial Reconciliation

Racial Reconciliation: We become more polarized when we make assumptions about each other instead of listening to each other.

 

I would say that I still interpret or view things in the Bible from a white American lens. That’s how I read it because that’s my culture that’s where I grew up in and that’s what I like. Imagine it’s hard to put it in a different lens. The only way we can do that is partly by visiting those places and living there and being among them in different environments or having relationships with someone. Having someone over for dinner, having a conversation, learning about their life, their experiences, and understanding what it’s like to live in their shoes. The way that the revolution, and it’s another social justice movement, hopefully, this is the most significant one. It’s bringing to light this issue that is not new and has been there for 400 years, and that more of us like myself are becoming aware finally. There’s still a large divide even in that. What do you see is creating maybe disbelief or unbelief, especially in white brothers and sisters like you and me?

One huge thing is that whole proximity thing. When you’re close in relationship with people, you’ll see it more. As you have a close relationship and love someone and you care about, “I don’t want my black brother or sister to be shot because they’re wearing their hood up at night.” I wear my hood up all the time. I love having my hood up and I’ve never once thought about that. I’m not quite sure how to word this, but we became so polarizing as a country. I’ll speak to believers because I care about this. We’re quick to make things with black and white. When I started doing this work, I have people started calling me like, “You’re a social justice warrior or whatever,” all those types of things. I’m thinking like, “What? Come look at what we do.” We’re quick to write people off into one camp or the other. I know this is something you’re big on, and it’s important. You have to be comfortable living in the tension. Just because someone goes to a protest doesn’t mean they’re far left-liberal, and they believe that we should eradicate the police department. That doesn’t mean they think all white people are racist. That’s not at all helpful. We become so polarized and we make assumptions about each other that we’re not willing to stop and listen to each other to progress these types of issues. We want to write people off.

It’s sad because that prevents any progress in this area. What’s sad about it is people suffer and we lose a platform for the gospel to speak into people’s lives because we think it’s all right and left in America. I don’t know if you watch CNN or Fox News, but it doesn’t matter. It’s not helpful. It can become an idol. If you see someone saying that racism is an issue and you automatically think they’re a Democrat, politics is an idol in your life. That’s a biblical thing. It’s not about right and left. We have to free ourselves from America in a lot of ways.

What’s funny is on both sides you see people saying something along the lines of, “This issue isn’t political, but the left always does this.” It’s like, “You made it political.” How can we completely remove any politics from this? Let’s remove left-right. If you mentioned either side, you’re already political. Remove that from the equation and say, “What is this issue? This is a human issue and there’s injustice between humans.” That’s as simple as it is. Who cares about what the left or the right thing? I don’t give a rip.

As believers, we’re not of this world. We are kingdom-minded. We have a different currency and perspective and we work out of sacrifice, love, and humility. Those things have to be marked in the way we view these issues. It cannot be right and left. That cannot be our framework of thinking. It’s sad because sometimes we’ll see it as racism, it’s like, “You hate cop or you hate police officers.” Police officers are incredible and they’re needed. That’s how our minds work, we’re like, “You’re this or you’re this. I’m not listening to you if you’re not what I am.”

It goes back to what’s easier versus what’s more challenging? What’s comfortable versus uncomfortable? What’s comfortable is, “Here are my stance, corner and my side of the fence. Anything that comes up that isn’t on that side, I’m going to discard it. I don’t even think about it. I don’t even engage with it because I’ve got good answers to prove my side versus that side.” That isn’t helpful for you or for anyone else. It’s confirmation bias and entrenched in your belief system. That’s based on a political agenda that is fed to you by what you consume. My wife and I talked about this in the show, but I don’t consume much information on the news’ political standing. It could be almost to a fault.

There was one morning where the people I was staying with, they had Fox News on. I overheard ten minutes of it while I was trying to read. I was shocked at how divisive the rhetoric was. It doesn’t matter which side of the venture on, it’s addicting. It’s an addicting news cycle that feeds you rhetoric that you can go to war with others on. What good does that do? What good does watching either of those ever do for you? It produces more anxiety, worry, anger, fear, and division. None of that is helpful. I challenge anyone reading to sit down with a journalist and say, “What good is coming from me consuming these news channels? Is this adding or subtracting from my life? Is this creating stronger or hurting relationships?”

Is this producing biblical fruits? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are our consumption. Is it producing that in our lives? Is it producing empathy? Is it producing love? Is it producing sacrifice? I worry about that because as a conservative evangelical Christian, my fear is that we’re losing a platform. We’re unwilling to look outside of ourselves and love those around us and bear the burdens of people and not ask them to justify all their painful experiences in their life. My heart and desires are for conservative evangelical Christians to love those around them. It sounds crazy because you read the Bible and to be biblically minded. Sometimes it takes, “I’m not watching the news for a month because I need to detox from the noise in my head and to understand who Jesus was, how He acted, what the Epistles have to say about these issues?” The Bible speaks and the Bible doesn’t fall way conservative and the Bible doesn’t fall way left or way liberal. It’s because the political system is a manmade faulty system that’s trying to come up with morals based on whatever they think morals are and whatever they think that is. God has been kind to give us his word and it’s clear.

UAC 150 | Racial Reconciliation

 

The funny thing is we don’t need one side to win, we need both sides. We need to be conservative and progressive. We need both of those things. If we don’t have both of those things, then we are not following the way of Jesus and what Jesus does. At times, He went away and rested. At times, He left the crowds and went into inclusion. Other times, He turned tables over. He tried to blow up the whole system. He tried to prove people wrong. We need every part of the spectrum because that is what God is. He’s not a side of the fence. He’s everything. As humans, we like to pick what we’re comfortable with. The other thing to point out here is the same is true with social media. If you look at social media and news channels, I would say that both of them are designed for addiction to the best of their ability. They’re addicting people to their platforms, all of them. We need to take an honest look at our consumption of all of these platforms, whatever you’re consuming and say, “Is this helping me or hurting me? Is this uniting me? Is this producing unity in relationships or division?”

Social media is huge. Social media is the culture. You can’t follow the culture. If you do, you’re going to get swayed and lost and your convictions are going to be an inch deep and it’s unhelpful. You have to ground yourself in God’s word. I agree with you, the news culture and social media are all jumbled. It causes us to assume things and not to love people and move towards them. There are things you have to stay informed with, but you have to have a gospel filter.

It is keeping it where it is. There’s a post by James Clare, I am a big fan of his writing, but he’s speaking of relationships in this, but it’s true in general with any current events. He says, “A hidden danger in modern relationships is you can only date or marry a complete human with flaws, but you can follow people on social media and the top 1% of looks, smart, wealth, etc., without seeing their flaws and compare your relationship to them. Don’t judge the whole by one part.” That’s the key. Do not judge the whole of the social justice movement on one part you see online. Do not judge the whole of one side of the argument by one video you see online. These are all snippets that are 1% of the story but we take it for the whole story. 

You see a riot, which is terrible and wrong. I understand people are hurting, but looting is wrong. It’s a sin. Don’t steal. It is what it is, but because you see someone looting, it doesn’t disregard the actual pain and the systemic racism that exists. I get frustrated as I only see people saying, “Looting is wrong, so everything going on doesn’t matter because you’re looting.” It’s like, “What?”

I can understand how you get to that place.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that way of thinking.

I’m not even going to claim to understand. I can empathize with someone who is looting because if I have with my whole life under oppression and it’s gone unnoticed by those who are oppressing. We’ve already been through several social justice movements of no gain, small gain if any, I will be fed up too. I would be saying, “The peaceful protest, those don’t lead to any change. What am I going to do? I’m going to make a peaceful protest, not peaceful anymore because it’s not changing.” I get that. We can empathize with that. That’s a human way of thinking that we would all fall into in the right situation. No one is above that. To recognize that’s a logical place to be as much as the other side of the logical place to be too. The question I always love saying is like, “What would Jesus do in these situations?”

That’s a good question and I think we should ask that thing. I honestly think Jesus would go around and love people as he did and proclaim the Kingdom because that’s what he did. I do think it’s clear that the gospel is the only hope. We do live in a fallen world and I can’t expect our government to pass a law that’s going to end this. I hate that, but that’s where we live in. We can progress and we should progress but until Jesus comes back, His kingdom has perfect justice and He will reign with justice. The gospel has given us the ability because of God’s sacrificial love for us and his Holy Spirit that lives in us. He’s completely changed us and given us another biblical worldview to live by as changed people to become reconcilers. We’ve seen the greatest reconciliation that’s ever happened. We’ve been reconciled to God because of Jesus Christ’s work on the cross.

Now, we live in the world as reconcilers, meaning we share the gospel with people, but there’s a sub-point to that in which The Ministry of Reconciliation that we’ve received, we can reconcile people that crosses racial boundaries. Jesus would do that. There’s a line where we can’t make pursuing justice more important than The Ministry of Reconciliation, reconciling people to God. We can’t make justice more important than us Christians because it’s not the sole reason we’re here. It’s a part of it. The main reason is to make disciples. Justice can never be more important than making disciples, but justice is a huge part of making disciples. It’s standing up for God’s kingdom and it’s living out his values that he’s given us. I’m not sure if that answers the question exactly but Jesus would pursue that because that’s what he did.

He pursued the Kingdom. He preached the gospel and repentance, but he also crossed boundaries that people were in awe of. Whether it was a religious boundary or a prostitute woman crawls on her knees and washes Jesus’ feet and all the Pharisees that are thinking, “What are you doing?” Whether he was touching a leper who couldn’t touch anyone, whether it was going to Samaria, this ethnic boundary that people wouldn’t cross, he went there. He did do those things and he did blow up stereotypes that people had in their preconceived notions of what a Christian should do. He did that. All while he did that, his main purpose was to reconcile people to God. While we pursue to reconcile people to God, through the gospel, while we’re doing that, we’re caring for the downcast, marginalized, and injustice because it’s what God values. It’s a whole package. I think that’s what Jesus would do.

I would even add that justice and caring for the oppressed comes in order before the other. God can do whatever he wants, but are people change by words? No, they’re changed by what you do. They’re changed by the life you live, acts of service, love, and grace that are done. Jesus did demonstrate that. He didn’t go to someone and say, “This is what you need to do.” He went there and transformed them and then told them. He went there and cared and loved for them like the woman at the well, in Samaria. By Him going there and engaging with her, he’s showing, “I love you despite this racial divide that we’re in. I love you. I’m going to show you that I love you because I already know you,” which is even more scandalous. In the Christian context, we often think about sharing the gospel as the number one priority. If all you’re doing is words, but you’re not living that out and loving the people with it, you’re going to come back empty-handed. I’m talking to myself as much as anyone else here. We have to be people who live lives that demonstrate that the words can then back up. 

That adds to the love and the relationship side of the words. What gives these words power no doubt is the Holy Spirit. He is the one who saves, opens eyes, enlightens, and brings people together. Unity is found in the Holy Spirit, but he works through love, joy and peace. The fruits of the spirit and those fruits of the spirit are only found within relationships. I recorded four lessons that I was sending off to someone. They were doing a kid’s camp and they asked me to record lessons, I did it and I hated it. I was like, “That was weird because I don’t know those people.” They felt powerless. They felt empty words because when I do it in our neighborhood with all the kids that we get together, I know them, I love them. I know their families I’ve been in their home. They’ve been in my home and I’m speaking to them. It’s different if that makes sense because there was a relationship there.

Gospel effectiveness, there needs to be a relationship and importance, a relationship filled with grace. That’s honestly what I’ve learned from stepping into these communities. That goes back to what we were talking about. I’ve been impacted that sermons aren’t enough. They’re needed, but they’re not enough. There need to be these relationships. That’s what impacted me in my life. I can think of a handful of sermons and I’m grateful for the sermons that have impacted my life but I can think of a lot of people and defining moments of my relationship with them that was pivotal in my life.

UAC 150 | Racial Reconciliation

 

That’s a great point for anyone reading and for myself to think about is, “What’s impacted you the most in your life? Who has impacted it? What source of information is it?” As you said, a sermon podcasts, social media posts whatever maybe, if we sit with that for even one minute, we’ll recognize quickly, “How is this person because of their love, the time they spent, the energy they poured out for me or their sacrifice of money?” Whatever it may be, that’s what makes an impact. I know that’s true for my life. Since we’re two white dudes, let’s talk to white brothers and sisters. What encouragement do we have for white brothers and sisters in this moment of in some ways racial reconciliation? How can we further this brings this about? How can we be helpful and not hurtful in this time?

One way is moving towards minorities in the relationship, and not to make yourself feel better, not to check the box of, “I’m not being a racist because I have a black friend.” That’s not the point. The point is to share life, to love and to have an actual friend that you care for. Not just about these injustice things but about everything. You care about their family and how they’re doing. You hang out with them, you have a game night with them. You go over to their house for dinner, they come to your house for dinner. It’s a normal friendship. Develop something like that. Reading is helpful. It causes introspection and you don’t have to believe every single thing you read because there are a lot of helpful things and not a lot of helpful things.

Even within the Christian world, you have to be discerning about what you read but reading is helpful. Being willing to step inside a culture that’s not how you grew up or what’s comfortable to you, and be willing to see the beauty in it, that’s important as well. I would be cautious of stepping into some of these relationships, especially right now. Don’t become a friend of a minority to make yourself feel better. Stepping to those relationships to love and share the love of Christ and to receive. I’ve said it because I’ve received so much and I’m grateful for the relationships that God has brought into my life and how dependent I know I am on these people and what they’ve meant to me. That’s two helpful things.

Work hard to not let CNN, Fox News, Facebook, Instagram, or the culture to shape how you think, but let the Holy Spirit through his word, shape your mind and give you a biblical worldview and perspective on how you should live your life. That’s hard and that takes work, but it’s good to work. At the end of the day, it produces fruits of the spirit in our lives. We know when we’re venting about something that we saw on the news. You look at the Bible and you’re like, “Where in the spectrum is that?” Some of those things can be helpful and there are things we can start doing.

The only way we can be together as a people is through unity in diversity. Click To Tweet

You can live within the tension and you can have a category for someone who acknowledges that there’s racism that respects police officers. Be thankful for their work that understands some need to go. There needs to be better screening, that doesn’t think we need to eradicate the police department. That people can believe that racism exists and not be far left and believe in abortion. Work to have a category and work to listen to people. It’s helpful. I see God working and I’m encouraged by what God is doing. I’m on the journey too. I’m trying to learn here and be a better neighbor. As the Bible says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” A lot of this comes down to that and to put it in biblical language, loving your neighbor, caring about them, looking out for the interests of others, and not yourself.

When I hear my friend, DJ, talking about teaching his sons when they get their car, “This is what you need to do when you get pulled over.” I can’t imagine that it was my kid. I can’t imagine that and letting that impact you and grieve you and to continue to move towards people in love and not to lose the gospel and everything. The gospel is reconciliation us to God. In the end, we can’t expect God’s kingdom to be here until He comes back and it’s going to be broken. It’s going to be messy, but we can love our neighbors in the meantime and anticipate God coming to establish his perfect kingdom, where justice and peace reign and we can look forward to that. We live in the tension between the now and what’s to come. We are going to live out of Christ now.

What’s funny is that I got pulled over and did get a ticket. I was with my wife, and I sat there when we were waiting on the officer and I said, “I cannot imagine how different this would be if I was different skin color.” To be honest, it was the easiest ticket this guy ever gave and I’ve ever gotten. It was a two-second interaction. It would have been different if I was indifferent skin color, and that’s a real reality. Any person of color that you talked to will tell you that they’ve had conversations or had conversations given to every single one of them, and it’s something that we’ve never had to experience. That’s sad and humbling. I love what you shared there. Moving towards minorities in relationships, not just to check the box but to pursue actual friendship or relationship is the key to loving people well that aren’t uniform to how you think, look or act. Reading is helpful with both the sermon, stepping inside a culture for many years, being a better neighbor. That’s a great way to summarize. How can we be better neighbors to everyone?

The last thing that’s been on my mind is engaging in conversations in ways that are helpful. There’s a tendency we have to go with two sides of the fence, one to avoid all conversations, shutdown, do not engage. Two, to get engaged with everyone on those conversations. Both of those are losing strategies. If you looking at the example of Jesus, the woman at the well. When he got to the well, he sent the disciples ahead. It was Michael Todd who said in the sermon, “The disciples weren’t ready for that.” There’s a big reason why Jesus sent them to the city and get food. They’re not ready for him to be engaging with a Samaritan woman. They probably would have gotten away. They’re probably like, “Let’s get out of here.” They weren’t ready to receive that. They came back and they were shocked and even asked him because they were shocked they were like, “This is scandalous, we don’t even want to ask him about it.” They see the fruit of it and that’s the point. The Pharisees with Jesus, he didn’t even tell them the answer. They said, “By what authority?” Jesus was like, “Let me ask you a question. I’m going to tell you.” Jesus was clear about not engaging people that wouldn’t be helpful on. We do well with that as well. If someone’s not in a place to hear you out on this, how can you love them in a way that maybe opens up the conversation? How can you wait until an opportunity presents itself? Being mindful in engaging with this conversation, but not being afraid to enter into hard conversations because it will be hard. It will be messy. This has been fun and helpful. I pray that it is helpful because that’s our heart in it. We have no idea, we’re just trying to learn.

I hope people understand that when they’re reading this, there’s no way we can tie every loose end in this conversation and address everything. I hope you read with a sense of grace in a way.

With a curiosity that engages in further conversations from this because the point of this is to be a spark for more conversations and actions by ourselves and by those who read.

That would encourage me if that happened from this conversation.

If people want to follow along or even support you on your journey, I know you’re going full-on support, you’re an in-state missionary in a way. Where do people go? Where do they find the journey?

My name is Josh Goertzen. It’s a good way to look me up on Instagram. Send me a direct message if you want to know more about this topic. If you need helpful books or resources, and if you’d want to partner with us in this church planting ministry for the sake of Christ being known and loved in the Inner City, we would love to have your partnership. We know we can’t do this on our own and we love the church. We’re giving our lives to the church and we’ll continue to because Christ died for us. We’re a bunch of messed-up people but there’s beauty in that. I’m @JoshGoertzen on Instagram or JoshXGoertzen@Gmail.com. Reach out and I’d love to connect with you.

UAC 150 | Racial Reconciliation

 

These are a series of conversations on race, divide, and reconciliation, and what our role is in that. Josh, thanks so much for coming on. It’s a pleasure to think through hard things with you. I love seeing what God’s done and what he’s going to do with you. It’s the sweetest.

Thanks. I appreciate you having me on.

Until next time, we hope you have an Up and Coming week because we’re out.

If you would like to get a curated list of all the content I’m learning from, whether that be books I’m reading, podcasts I’m listening to, quotes I’m pondering or even some sermons I’m enjoying, In-Thane is a monthly newsletter that brings vetted content that I know you’ll enjoy. Go to ThaneMarcus.com/inthane to sign up and you’ll be sure to receive the very next one. Each edition of In-Thane is released on the first Sunday of the month. This is a once a month newsletter that I hope you enjoy and benefit from as much as I have. Here’s to learning and growing one day at a time.

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About Josh Goertzen

UAC 150 | Racial ReconciliationJosh Goertzen is a 25-year-old pastor from Hutchinson Kansas. For the last 5 years, Josh has served as a young adult pastor at his local church and started an outreach ministry that serves a marginalized area within his community.

He and his wife Erika have recently made plans to move to Richmond, California in order to receive seminary education and experience with inner-city ministry.

Their desire is for Jesus to be known and loved in the inner city, by planting a multiplying church among the urban poor where there is no gospel presence.

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UAC 149 | Fighting Injustice

 

History has not changed as much as some of us would like to think. The overarching fact that injustice is real and has been present for over 400 years is proof of that. We see a resurgence of a cry for justice before our very eyes, a fight against injustice in our world. In this episode, Thane Marcus Ringler enters the conversation of the cultural moment being experienced in America today. He highlights what is true, what is helpful, and what we still don’t know about the systemic injustice and racism certain races are experiencing.

Listen to the podcast here:

149: Entering The Conversation

This show is all about learning how to live a good life. We believe that it takes living with intention in the tension. Life as we know it has so many tensions that we’re faced with daily. We believe the best way to face those tensions is by infusing intentionality into all that we do. That is this show. It’s all about hearing stories from others on their own process of becoming because that’s the process we’re all in hopefully our entire lives. Thank you for being an Up and Comer, for being a part of this community, for reading as we journey together through life. If you want to find more about our show, go to TheUpAndComersShow.com or find us on the socials, @UpAndComersShow. We’d love to hear from you. We’d love to get a shout-out from you. If you want to send us an email, you can always contact us at TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com.

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UAC 149 | Fighting Injustice

Fighting Injustice: The overarching fact is that injustice is real and has been present for over 400 years.

 

Entering The Conversation

I’m excited and a little bit nervous about this show. I’ll be honest. I wasn’t sure what this looks like, what entering the conversation looks like, but I want to and I know I need to, so here I am with you. Now entering in the conversation of this cultural moment of what we’re experiencing here in America. We’re seeing before our very eyes this resurgence of outcry against injustice in our world. I want to start by saying I want to humbly enter this conversation. What I mean by that is I want to first start by apologizing and saying I am sorry for my own ignorance. I repent of it, first to God and then to my black brothers and sisters. I’ve been ignorant for far too long and I’ve been silent for far too long. I do apologize for that now because I don’t know what it’s like.

What I do know is that when one part of the body is hurting, we’re all hurting together, especially in the body of Christ as believers. If you’re a Christian, a follower of Jesus, this is especially true of you. When one part of the body is hurting, we’re all hurting. I hurt with my brothers and sisters in this. I want to apologize for my own ignorance and say that I don’t know it all. What I do know is that when one is hurting, we’re all hurting within the body of Jesus. One of the concepts in this conversation is a privilege. As a kid, I approached my life wanting not to be privileged. I grew up in a family here in Kansas in the middle of nowhere that was upper-middle-class. I had friends that were not an upper-middle class. I was quickly aware that I had more resources than most that I was surrounded by. Because of that, I had a deep desire to not be privileged. I had a deep desire to not be some stuck-up brat. I had a deep desire to not come across as someone entitled to more than I ought to.

A Game Of Chess

One of the quotes that I’ve said and this was a deep motivation for me to work even harder so that I wouldn’t be seen as that is, “I was born on third base and thought I hit a triple.” I relate this a lot to when I speak or write. I was born on third base and thought I hit a triple. It’s taken me a long time to realize that I was born on third base and I was privileged. What I’ve come to realize now, even with all that’s going on is that the game was predisposed in my favor. It was saying, “Because of you being born into the skin color that you have, into the position you have in your family, and that doesn’t all have to do with skin color, you’re going to be predisposed to favor.” That is still true in many ways, which is crazy to think about, but it is the reality. I want to share something that will be helpful. It was helpful to me when I read it. It’s from a friend of mine, Houston Kraft, Episode 114.

He put up on social media this analogy called A Game of Chess. This is what he said, “I love a good competitive game of chess. It’s especially exciting when the stakes are high. Let’s say for this example that the stakes for this game are financial security, an equal shot at quality education and my life. Let’s say just for this example, that I am playing with the white pieces. With so much on the line, wouldn’t it be nice if for some reason the odds were stacked in my favor? Fortunately, when I sit down at the table to play, I breathe a sigh of relief. There’s a 400-year-old note next to the board from my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather that just says, ‘Don’t worry. You’re going to love the rules we came up with.’ As the game begins, I learned that I can move the black pieces wherever I want. ‘That’s convenient,’ I think to myself. ‘This makes this way easier.’ Not long into the game, my opponent has to give up some of their pieces so that only 3/5 of what they started with remain.

As I read the rules a bit closer, I learned that for the next few turns, I can make my adversary move pieces for me. I don’t even have to get up from the chair. Three-quarters of the way into the game, the rules state that the player playing with the black pieces has to play from a totally different room. They can barely see the board. The room I am assured is “equal to this one.” It seems odd, but with so much on the line, I’m glad to be winning. Near the end of the game, my opponent makes an error. It’s a common mistake, one I made earlier in the game with no consequence, but for some reason, the rules state that my opponent needs to be imprisoned for the exact same slip. The person who comes in to take them away kills him instead. What a game. I had nothing to do with these rules, but I sure am grateful they helped me win. I think, not for the first time, this game doesn’t seem fair.”

Having a conversation is always the first step. Click To Tweet

Things That Are True

I was struck by this analogy from Houston because it paints a picture of the reality we face here in America and coming from the perspective of a white man. To enter into the conversation, my goal is just that, to enter the conversation. I want to highlight a few things. I want to highlight some things that are true, some things that are helpful, and some things I still don’t know, which is arguably the biggest column. The first thing is some things that are true. First, injustice is alive and well. It’s present in all areas of our culture and society. Injustice is everywhere. It is rampant but is highlighted especially in the color of skin. Systemic injustice has been experienced more by certain races than others. This is true since the beginning of time. This is nothing new in that sense either. It’s definitely not new here in America, even though we’re seeing it much more available right now in our context.

Some examples of this, if you look in the Bible is people of Israel in Egypt. They were slaves to the Egyptians. They were oppressed. If you look at Jesus’ time, the Samaritans were the half breeds as they were called, who were despised and hated on by the Jews. Likewise, the Samaritans hated the Jews. There’s always systemic injustice that we see within the world, especially the one we live in now. What we’ve seen over the past month are some horrific videos of this injustice taking place, which has all led to the present outcry. Another thing that’s true is that silence and ignorance are not helpful and are no longer options, which is something I’m thankful for. Silence and ignorance never do any good.

The other thing that’s true is that having a conversation is always the first step. This is especially helpful when the primary focus is on listening. The goal is understanding. The goal is listening. The goal is engaging with the conversation by seeking to understand, by putting yourself in the shoes of another. Those are some things that are true. There’s a lot of question of what’s true? What’s the side of the story? What’s helpful? What are the facts? That’s a very common thing to say. The overarching fact is that injustice is real and has been present as we heard from Houston’s posts for over 400 years. There’s been a history of that within our country. That history hasn’t changed as much as some of us would like to think.

Things That Are Helpful

What are some things that are helpful? The first thing that’s helpful is understanding that shame is often what keeps people out of the conversation, especially someone like me who’s a white male. Shame is the thing that will often keep me out of the conversation because I feel shame or guilt for this injustice, even if I haven’t perpetuated any of it. By it being there and by me being who I am, I feel that shame. That’s what keeps me silent. That keeps me out of the conversation. What’s helpful is the church that my pastors were mentioning is that dignifying others comes from just having a conversation. You can dignify someone else as a human by getting into the conversation, by engaging with the conversation. It helps them realize that you see them. You are striving to understand them.

Another thing that keeps us out of the conversation is that we feel like we aren’t racist, so it isn’t our fault. I can relate with this. I don’t feel like I am racist in any way. I don’t feel like I have a lesser view of someone because of the way they look. That keeps me out of the conversation. It keeps me from engaging because I don’t struggle with that. One of my pastors also said, and I thought this was so helpful, “What we’re experiencing right now, this is not your individual fault most likely. There’s a high chance that this isn’t your individual fault. This is our collective problem. What that means is we can’t pretend that it isn’t happening. We can’t pretend that change will happen by chance. It doesn’t. Change never happens by chance. Nothing changes by chance. We cannot pretend that it isn’t happening, that it hasn’t happened.” I heard that over 50 years ago, a black male or female could not marry a white male or female. It wasn’t legal. That was only 50-some years ago.

The final thing that I’ll mention that I believe is helpful is having relationships with people of all colors, of all backgrounds, and of all beliefs is what helps us overcome our own individual biases. We all have biases. We all have them. What helps us overcome that is hearing other points of view from people with other life stories, with other experiences, with other backgrounds, even with other beliefs. That is what helps us see ourselves even more clearly. That’s what helps us try to gain some objectivity on these things. It’s what helps us expand our worldview and our horizons. It helps us realize that a lot of what we think isn’t often true or isn’t helpful. We all are subjective in our own thinking. Objectivity comes from many different points of view. Having relationships with people of all colors, all backgrounds, all beliefs is so helpful for this because it is an individual experience, even as much as there’s a collective problem.

UAC 149 | Fighting Injustice

Fighting Injustice: Actions are more powerful than engaging in a conversation with people that aren’t ready for it.

 

Things We Don’t Know

Those are some things that are helpful. Understanding that shame is often what keeps us out of the conversation. Understanding that dignifying others often comes from just having a conversation. Understanding that we may feel like we aren’t racist. It isn’t our fault, but it isn’t an individual fault. It’s our collective problem we are facing. Understanding that having relationships with people of all backgrounds, colors, and beliefs is what helps us overcome our individual biases. Lastly, there are some things I still don’t know, which is a lot. I don’t know what it’s like to have the deck stacked against me in society or systematically and even systemically. I don’t know what that’s like. I haven’t experienced what it’s like to enter into life with the deck stacked against me. I don’t know that. I haven’t had that experience. I’ve had the opposite in many ways.

I don’t know what it’s like to be sat down by my parents and told how to interact with police when you get stopped or pulled over. I don’t have to have that same conversation with my own child one day. That is something that I don’t know. I’ve never experienced that. Every African-American friend that I’ve talked to has experienced that either from their parents, their grandparents, their uncle, their aunt, whoever it is. They’ve had that conversation. They’ve had to have that with their kids too. Another thing I don’t know is I still don’t know the “full story” from any angle. What I do know is that my brothers and sisters are hurting and thus, I’m going to sit, listen, seek to understand and lament and grieve with them at this time. As we heard from James Bowie in Episode 147, lamenting and grieving is something that we are bad at here in America, especially as achievers. Sitting in the sorrow, the sadness, and the outcry is so helpful for us to truly understand, but also to truly support one another.

Job in the book of the Bible, he was in a horrible place. The best thing his friends did was they came and sat for seven days and grieved with him. We need to get better at that. I need to get better at that. I’m speaking to myself. I want to lament. I want to grieve. I want to sit with it. Another thing that I don’t know is I don’t know what will bring about change that lasts. I don’t have answers. I wish did. I wish anyone did, but I do know that I want to play my part and love and support others in bringing about a change that justifies, that edifies, that empowers the oppressed. If there’s anything that Jesus was for is about empowering those who are oppressed. That was his bread and butter. One thing my grandfather has mentioned several times to me now is that is up to our generation. You Up and Comers that are reading, it is up to our generation to bring about the change that our society needs.

These systemic implicit biases that we are facing become more and more ingrained in our subconscious the longer it persists in the society and culture around us. It’s natural. The longer you carry a disposition that’s subconscious, the harder it is to get that disposition or bent or implicit bias out of our system. This is why my grandfather believes that both his generation and even my parents’ generation are not going to be able to rally enough motivation to bring about the change that we desperately need. He cites this example in Germany, East versus West Germany, and how after 25 to 50 years of the Wall being down, it still hasn’t brought about the unification or the equality that the original goal was in Germany.

Reconciliation

He’s talked to many people on the ground floor, and this is what they have said as well. This is why he believes and why I believe that our generation is likely where the tipping point will come from, the tipping point for change that lasts. As a result, I believe we must remain open and active to how God wants to use us and how he wants to partner with us in his ministry of reconciliation here on Earth because that’s what he prayed for. Remember in the Lord’s Prayer, he says, “Your kingdom come here on Earth as it is in heaven.” That’s what we’re praying for. I’ve also heard several sermons on this topic. The illustration that was used was Jesus and John IV with a woman at the well.

There are a few things that you see in the story. If you aren’t familiar with it, Jesus separates himself from the crowds that he was beginning to have. He’s journeying from the South to the North. On the way is this a city called Samaria, and Samaria was filled with the people that were “half breeds.” They weren’t fully Jewish. Because of that, there was this animosity and strife between the two people groups, the two races you could say. They hated each other. They despised each other. They didn’t engage with each other at all. In fact, Jesus uses that as an example in the common parable of the Good Samaritan because it’s so shocking that this Samaritan man would stop for his enemy, for this man that was facing injustice. He stopped and served him.

Jesus was speaking this to a Jewish crowd. This was a slap in the face to them. Back to the woman at the well. Jesus is journeying, sits down, and engages in conversation midday after he sends his disciples away to this woman who comes to the well to draw. She’s a Samaritan. He’s clearly a Jew. If you are familiar, go ahead and read it in John IV. It’s a great story and great parable, but what Jesus displays is that first, he goes to the issue. He doesn’t let it come to him. He meets her on her own turf. He goes to the issue. Second, he proactively engages in the conversation. He doesn’t wait until someone engages with him or brings it up to him. He proactively engages in the conversation with her.

What you also see is that he leads with compassion and love. Jesus knew who this woman was. He knew her background, and it would be scandalous for him to talk to her because she had been married five times and was now living with her boyfriend. All of these things were against Jewish law and against the way of Jesus. Because of that, it would have been scandalous if he knew that to be engaging in conversation with her as a religious leader at the time, but he did it. It was counterculture. He led with compassion and love because he already knew that and he engaged with it anyways.UAC 149 | Fighting Injustice

 

Lastly, what I think is it came from some of the sermons that he entered the conversation with those who were ready to engage with it. He knew that they were ready to engage with it. As a result, the whole city came out after she went back and shared her testimony with them. He also knew that his disciples weren’t ready to engage with it. He let his actions demonstrate the life that he was calling his disciples to, even if they weren’t ready to hear it at first. What did he do? He got to the well, and he sent his disciples in to get food. He sent them away so that he could have a one-on-one conversation with this woman. He knew that they weren’t ready for that conversation.

When they came back with getting food, they saw it, they were shocked but they didn’t say anything. They didn’t bring it up to him. They were blown away. They had no idea why he was talking to her. They thought it was scandalous, but they were too afraid to ask. That shows they weren’t ready for the conversation. What happened was Jesus’ actions demonstrated the lesson, and actions are always more powerful than engaging in a conversation with people that aren’t ready for it. That is the model that I want to follow. That is a model that we all would do well to follow is to lead with compassion, with love. To lead with anger sometimes is justified.

Engaging Proactively In The Conversation

As they say, be angry but do not sin. That’s in the Ephesians. Anger is a healthy emotion, but the fruit of it is what we have to look out for. How can we lead with compassion and love as Jesus did? How can we engage proactively in the conversation? How can we ensure that we’re engaging or at least be intentional about the people we engage with it, but let our actions demonstrate what we are about the change we want to see? Actions are what matters. Words are cheap. This word right now that I’m saying is pretty cheap. It’s doing something. It’s taking action. It’s taking a step, reaching out and listening that can bring about the change.

A few questions that I’m sitting with, the first is, “How can we lead with humility, compassion, and love right now?” That’s a question I’m asking. The second question is, “How can we fight against injustice as Jesus would? How would Jesus fight against injustice?” At times, it was pretty passionate, going through the temple, ripping apart the tables, and showing his just anger. Sometimes it’s listening. Sometimes it’s proactively engaging with the conversation. Sometimes it’s going away and being by yourself and praying and meditating with God. There are a lot of ways that Jesus did, but how can we fight against injustice as Jesus would? That’s something I’m sitting with.

Having relationships with people of all backgrounds, colors, and beliefs is what helps us overcome our individual biases. Click To Tweet

Finally, “How can our generation bring about lasting change that builds up the edifies and that reunites humanity, regardless of race or background? How can I lead with humility, compassion, love? How can I fight against injustice as Jesus would? How can I help bring about lasting change that builds up edifies and reunites humanity, regardless of race or background?” These are the questions I’m asking now. Ultimately, I’m here to listen. Thanks for reading. I hope it has encouraged and challenge you. I’m here to listen. Until next time, I hope you have an up and coming week.

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UAC 148 | Being Informed

 

In a world where information is right at our fingertips, where do we draw the line between taking in all that we can and exploring for ourselves what we could know? Do we outsource our thinking and simply accept what we’ve read or heard as the truth? Have we lost the ability to say “I don’t know”? In another Couch Conversations episode, Thane Marcus Ringler and his wife, Evan Ryan Ringler, ponder on these questions and dive deep into the idea of being informed—what it means now, what good it does, and how it can be bad. Going through the COVID-19 pandemic, they then talk about depression, which is undeniably more felt in this time of quarantining and social distancing. They discuss the ways social media has made us feel small and how we can take that back. Imparting practical advice to help us grow in these areas, Thane and Evan then end with the importance of open-mindedness, of listening to others in full awareness and humility.

Listen to the podcast here:

148: Couch Conversations With Evan Ryan Ringler: On “Being Informed,” Depression, And Open-Mindedness

This show is all about learning how to live a good life. We believe that takes living with intention in the tension. Life is filled with tensions that we get the chance to interact with daily. Thus, intentionality is the best way to do that. That’s what we believe and this is what we’re about. Thanks for being an Up and Comer, being a part of this community and movement. If you’ve enjoyed your time being a part of this community, we’d appreciate your support. An easy way to do that is by subscribing. If you listen on Spotify, iTunes, Google Play or wherever it is, you subscribe to the show to make sure to never miss an episode. Beyond that, if you wanted to leave us a rating and review, that’s such a helpful way. You can do that on iTunes or Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen.

I’ll read a review that was left by RubyWoo87. It’s titled, Entering in with Curiosity, “This is what Thane does. He enters into each conversation with a sense of curiosity and generous listening, ready to engage his guests where they are as they are. The Up and Comers Show is proof all of us still have things to learn, no matter if we are a CEO of a Fortune 500 company or a waitress at a bar. It reminds us of the value in showing up, doing our best, being curious and learning what we can in every circumstance.” She gave us a five-star review. Thank you, RubyWoo, because that is what we’re trying to do here. Be curious and stay curious about where we’re at in life and where we’re going and what other people have learned from their experiences.

If you’d be so kind to leave us a rating and review, that would help us so much. If you want to support us financially, you can do so on Patreon. We have a place for monthly donations there. You can also reach out to The UpAndComersShow@Gmail.com. If you have a company or business and you’re interested in partnering together, we’d love to start a conversation. As always, if you have any thoughts, comments, or concerns, reach out to us by email and find us on the socials @UpAndComersShow. We’d love to have a shout-out and tag you as well. That is it for the housekeeping.

This is another episode with my amazing wife. This series of episode will be the first of many with her. We’re entitling them Couch Conversations because that’s where we have them, right on our couch here in our home. These are going to be great times with my wife where we get to sit down and talk through what we’re been learning, what we’ve been processing as a couple individually and in life. If you enjoy the first one, you’re definitely going to enjoy this one. The first one was episode 142, go back and check that out. Evan is the best and I’m so grateful to be married to her and to be living life and processing life with her. This conversation revolves a lot around the idea of being informed. Is it good to be informed? What is helpful or hurtful about “being informed?” Is it actually possible?

This is a lot of the conversation we’ve been having in the last month or two with ourselves and with our community. It’s an important conversation to expand to all of you listening and to your communities as well. We also talk about depression and how with COVID, we felt more periods of that and getting out of bed can be hard sometimes when we feel like we have lack of purpose or identity. We also talk about what practical things we can do to grow in these areas, which focuses on an open-mindedness in conversations and in listening to others. I think you will really enjoy and benefit from this episode. I know I was stimulated and encouraged a lot by my wife. I’m excited to share this conversation with you. Sit back and relax and enjoy this couch conversation with my wife, Evan Ryan Ringler.

Evan Ryan Ringler, welcome back.

I’m glad to be here.

I think I’m going to have to make this a more regular appearance. It’s too much fun to get to talk with my wife. It’s the best. We are sitting with the door open at 7:50 AM. We had a nice morning flow. We walked to local café. I got a decaf latte and some brewed coffee. Maybe we start with that right there, the fact that we just had an early morning. That’s been a hard thing to do, especially in this quarantine time. It’s funny and we’ve noticed that’s a very common theme for most people.

Ranging actually from all of life, ages and demographics. I’ll speak for me personally. It has been a harder season to get out of bed and I’m such a type-A go get things done person. It’s been a little counterintuitive as far as counter to who I am at my core. In the last two weeks, I’ve been working on just setting times and saying, “For these five working days or Monday through Friday, I’m going to get up out of bed at X time.” I think my first week was I’m going to get out of bed before 7:30 AM and then last week was I’m going to get up out of bed before 7:00 AM and then this week we woke up at 5:30 AM.

Social media is a neutral substance that can be used for good or evil. Click To Tweet

We set the alarm for 5:00 AM, but out of bed at 5:30 AM. It’s interesting. It is a common theme that more people are facing right now. There’s a lot of factors involved. I’ve felt it in small doses as well. It’s not like, it’s only a female or only males. Everyone feels it in different ways. The loss of identity, lack of purpose or to the things at its core that we feel more in this time than others because we’re stripped away of typical roles, titles or relationships in daily life. That leads to this weird period where you wake up and you think, “What am I even doing? What do I need to even do now? I don’t even know what my purpose is or what my plan is.”

“When this will lift and I can get back to my rhythm.” I feel like we’ve been stripped of our hurry. Now more than ever, it’s like, “Why am I hurrying to get this done, to get to the next thing when I have ample time or when deadlines aren’t as pressing?” That was a tangible way I feel to combat that or try to get back to the rhythm that I want for my life. I love morning times.

It’s funny because what often is associated with this is feelings of depression, feelings of, “I feel down. I feel in the dumps,” and those are real. That affects all of us in different capacities in ways. It’s hard because sometimes that is debilitating and other times, we can fight through it and discerning which is hard to know.

Allowing grace in those moments, I think we in one sense could have grace for ourselves. What I’m trying to say is there’s joy in feeling depression because we can better understand the moments we aren’t feeling it. Not to minimize it at all because it is a real thing and a lot of people experience it to far greater degrees than I ever have. A little taste of it helped build our empathy, help us to better understand and not just dismiss it, which we’re quick to do with things we don’t understand.

We’re quick to prescribe. We’re quick to tell what to do versus just sit with like, Jobs’ friends. To their credit, they sat for seven days with him and that’s good word. We talked about that with James on an episode. Sitting with the grief, sorrow and sadness. Those are really important practices in America that we’re pretty bad at, with myself included in that, being an achiever. I think, we need more work in that regard. It’s a common thing. It’s a fun opportunity for us to say, “Interesting. What’s going on here? What is leading to this? What are other factors that affect it or influence it? What is good about it? What is bad about it? How can I show grace to myself?”

We can busy ourselves out of any feeling for some amount of time and now it’s almost forcing people, myself included to say, “What is going on internally?” I would like to say I try to do regular checks, but I feel COVID, it’s been a nice pause to say and evaluate what is going on and what rhythms I want to keep when things start to lift. We were talking on our walk back home about how we can be choosy about what we’d let back in and trying to safeguard our solitude and time alone to read or reflect. I think that’s a beautiful part of this time.

We’ve gotten so accustomed to it with it being prolonged now for quite a bit of time that we start taking this time for granted a lot more. When it first struck, a lot of us were excited, “We get extra space. We can slow down. We can do things like read more and write more and be present more,” and the tables have turned a little bit to where people are, myself included, getting more antsy and wanting to get back into things. We start taking this time for granted. It’s a cool reminder like you just said, of how can we not take this time for granted and appreciate it no matter how long it is and then be intentional with what we reincorporate. It has been fun to think about. I’m excited to protect the schedule more. Before COVID, I would say yes to way more things. That’s different too between being single and being married. That will be a new fun.

It’s not that being married is a drag and you start to say no.

It’s not a drag. It’s a different reality.

Saying yes is a beautiful rhythm too. I remember my aunt had a shift and said, “I’m always saying no to things. No, I don’t have time for this.” There’s a balance without anything of allowing things into your life and being open-handed.

I’m excited about that because we were talking about on the walk. We are like, “We are blessed by this time and space to have like a long honeymoon in a sense because it’s just been us and that’s been the sweetest.” I can see that if it wasn’t for this time, how busy we would be with getting plugged into new church, new community, developing new friends, exploring, trying in a restaurant, doing every hike and all the things, which are great, but it can become distracting too.

UAC 148 | Being Informed

Being Informed: Being informed is positive. We are expanding our frame of thinking that could help us engage in conversations with people, potentially leading to action.

 

It takes away from the beauty of those “mundane things.”

We had depth in our dating time in long distance because we were forced to. Now, we’re having depth in our marriage time because we’re being forced to in a different way, which is the coolest thing. One of the things we’ve been talking a lot about that we both thought it would be fun to talk about here is this idea of being informed. We’ve been talking a lot about this with each other and with our community. It’s been a couple of week long conversation and it is worth having a conversation on air and then hopefully further conversations with other people in other spaces and even on here too. Maybe we come at it first by this idea of what it means to be informed and why it feels so important.

I would start with in theory being informed is positive. We are expanding our frame of thinking where that could help us lead to engaging conversations with people. It could potentially lead to action. That would be the ultimate good from being informed and then we’re continuing to learn and being curious which are all beautiful things. That speaks to the essence but to define being informed, you could say it’s to be in the know.

This is how people often think about it. I was thinking about the history of it of what was it like to be informed many years ago. It probably meant you read the paper, you talk to your neighbors and you tried to maybe go to city meetings. You subscribed to the right journals and had conversations about what’s happening with the people in your daily life. That was many years ago, which isn’t that long of time and before that it was really localized.

It’s word of mouth. I feel that’s way back but that’s how stories were retold.

Within the last several years, it has compounded and amplified 100 times at least.

When did the iPhone come out?

Several years ago.

It was in 2006 to 2010 or somewhere in there.

The best people to converse with help you hear yourself better. Click To Tweet

The iPhone came out, smartphones came out, internet was accessible, not just on computers but on your phone and then it blew up. The information exploded.

One of the pastors that I listened to has said before, “Isn’t it the worst when a know-it-all has an iPhone with Google on it?” Because then in someone we can say, “I don’t know about this,” and they’re like, “I think I’ve heard something,” and they Google it. It’s so true and we do that, and how often do we reach for our phone.

According to The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, it was it 26,000 times a day.

It’s something in the twenties.

It’s a pretty relatively new phenomenon of having the ability to, “What we will consider be informed.”

Be readily informed with this person.

With that comes what we’re seeing now and what we’ve been talking about. Some dangerous results or outcomes that we aren’t even necessarily conscious of.

We can all fall victim to.

We all do fall. No one’s immune to this and we all have fallen into this and you will. The beautiful thing that our pastor said, Rob Brendel of Denver United was we need to stop outsourcing our thinking. That’s where the rubber meets the road for being informed. At least what I’ve seen for myself and for others as I’ve reflected on this, that is what the core of what’s happening is we’re outsourcing our thinking to where we don’t even have a thought process about these things. We get fed by something and then whatever we’re fed with, that’s the capital Truth because we’ve been fed it and there’s no other way.

UAC 148 | Being Informed

Being Informed: We tend to get angry around ideas that if someone were to come and challenge the way we think or believe, a lot of times, our first reaction is anger.

 

That can look like many different things in many different avenues. To me, when I think about sourcing my thinking, I think of repeating something I’ve been told in my depth of that topic is the sentence that I say to someone. If anyone were to say, “Tell me more about that,” which no one usually does because everyone wants to get out what they think, they want to know. I wouldn’t know what to say. I’d probably have to make something up or say, “That makes sense,” and try to rationalize what I said.

Isn’t it funny that we’ve lost the ability to say, “I don’t know?” It’s a phrase that has lost touch with our conversation.

One way I’ve tried to reincorporate that practice of not knowing is just saying it. I try to do it a lot of times with words. If I’m reading something, I’ll ask.

I’m very proud of my wife in this because I’ve learned a lot from her from this practice.

My grandpa taught me this a long time ago. He used to have a dictionary with him whenever he would read to look up words or think like, “There’s a better word for this word that I’m trying to say.” It makes communication clearer and it helps your thinking. Things have become clearer in my brain when I get clearer on words. I’ll ask, “What does this word mean?” “What do you mean by that?” I try to put on humility and say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” or, “I’m not familiar with that. Can you say more?” That’s been a humbling practice but also, I learned a lot. I feel like I’m benefiting.

You ask me all the time what a word that you come across means. I’m like, “I know what that means,” and then I try to define them and I’m like, “I really don’t know what that means.” I think I do, but it’s an educated guess and I couldn’t define it. Now, I need to know. I get to learn alongside, which is the coolest thing and that means I probably need more humility.

With that, it could be because the original question was, “Why is it so hard for us to say, ‘I don’t know?’” I think there’s comfort in knowing. Ego is wrapped up in it. What other factors do you think it could lead to?

I think it’s identity. If we say we don’t know, then people think we don’t know anything. It’s like we jump to the tenth step on all these things. If I give one step away, then that means I’m giving 100 steps and that never is true. There’s a lot of self-ego and worth tied up in that and then we’re lazy. It’s a huge part of it. We default to the easier path of like, “I know that,” when we don’t. We’ll agree and we’ll move past it.

Also shame because that’s dismissing that person. We are like, “I don’t care to know what they are saying.”

Marriage is a never-ending quest of getting to know your partner. Click To Tweet

“It’s not worth my time.”

It’s saying, “I’m already deciding I don’t or won’t agree with whatever that person’s saying,” and not engaging.

Which is huge again, because that goes back to being informed and what that produces is ultimately closed-mindedness. It’s saying, “I’m not going to listen to what this person is saying because I’ve already determined what box they live in or operate out of, and as a result I can discard it.” That’s outsourcing our thinking. That’s saying, “My narrative is already made up,” “This narrative isn’t aligned so I’m going to discard it.”

That speaks to it being easy and comfortable. We talked to someone we love dearly who said, “They think they know you when they can put you in a box,” and that happens. Social media is a perfect example because you can scroll, “I know everything that’s going on in this person’s life. They’re probably really happy and they’re having their third kid.” “This person is sad and we need to pray for them.” That’s so shallow. I’ve been off of social media for a while for those reasons because I found myself getting in those tendencies of, “I know these things about these people. I never really check in on them.” With that, I think being able to put things or ideas in a box helps us feel in control.

I want to touch on that too. Here’s and interesting to think about social media. Before social media, which is only a few years ago, Facebook was earlier, but the widespread use of social media, before that, the people you stayed in touch with. First it was writing or in community, then it became texting and calling phones. With texting and calling, you could have a decent idea of what’s going on in someone’s life. When you’re seeing snippets of moments of their life and all the best, how can you have any idea what’s going on? Your idea of what’s going on is a projected image of reality. It’s not even reality itself. It leaves room for your own interpretation of it times infinity. What’s dangerous? It’s not all bad. Social media, I love the quote, “Every great cause begins as a movement, turns into a business and then degenerates into a racket.” That’s same as true with social media in a sense.

It was a great cause connecting your loved ones that you don’t get to see that much. It turns into a business. Now, we’re making money off it. There are profit schemes, ads, algorithms, followers, influencers, and then it turns into a racket. It’s a game. The dangerous thing is not recognizing that. You can put the right boundaries in place. You cannot be on it. There are lot of ways you can set it up to where it can still be helpful. If we’re not conscious about the ways it’s dangerous, then it’s going to cause harm, especially to others. When someone is following another person and they get this facade that they actually know what’s going on in their life, but they haven’t communicated within for years. They’re going to have a skewed perception of who this person is because they’re forming that off of what they see online versus the actual human interaction they have with them.

In social media, it’s a neutral substance. It’s like money. It’s like any neutral substance that can be used for good or for evil. That’s what is so beautiful about it is it is neutral. We get to decide what our part is and are we going to redeem it for good. I would also say that I’ve found something we like when we try to be informed. With the social media example, we get on there and I know this to be true for myself. We can get on and confirm our biases, “That person’s doing this.” Control them and keep them in boxes in our heads and then measure ourselves up, “I want to be more like that.”

Maybe, “I’m missing the mark with this person.” “I feel a little bit better than those guys.” It’s been proven again that ample amounts of time on social media can lead to depression and loneliness. I think that’s what it does. Even if we get on and get those hits of dopamine of, “I love that person. It’s so good to see them.” That’s genuine and that’s real and then you start to feel bad about yourself because your family doesn’t look like this or you don’t look like that. We get on and we have this certain narrative that’s running through our mind and then we cater information coming in to the said narrative.

UAC 148 | Being Informed

Being Informed: Curiosity lends itself to questions and vice versa. The more questions you ask, the more curious you are.

It takes away curiosity. What you hit on earlier is really huge because it stems from a desire for control and that ties directly into being informed. We want to be able to control not only our lives, but the situation, the circumstances surrounding it and have a grasp of other people so that we can control how they affect us. If I’m afraid of being hurt by someone, I’m going to control them so that I’m not hurt by them. If I’m intimidated by them, I’m going to control them so that I can come out on top.

I’m not going to let them in or see this side of me.

What’s funny about that is that we have zero control. The only thing we have control over is really our thoughts, interactions. That’s it. Even that is less control than we think we have.

We’ve been talking a lot about the monkey mind. Meaning how quickly our mind and brains can jump to things that aren’t helpful. It almost feels like not any fault of your own and how distracting that can be. That’s why time of meditation and mindfulness is so important to try to sit in quiet and just be. I am a class right now. I’ve been learning a lot of things. One of my teachers said and I love this, “We’re afraid to lose the control that we think that we have over the life that we think that we’re living.” It points to, if we can grasp this life and keep it in all of these nice neat little boxes, then I feel okay about life. When people say, “How’s life?” I say, “It’s really good,” because I know what’s going on. I throw anything at me. I’ve got it under control and as you said, none of us are in control.

It’s hard to let go. The core of it is letting go and practicing that daily. What’s cool is that’s the way God set it up in His world and design. It’s a humbling practice because we then have to admit and realize that we don’t have control. It’s also a grounding practice because we are back on the ground, the level ground with all of humanity. It’s a uniting practice because it’s helping us connect better to our fellow humans by saying, “None of us have control, you don’t, I don’t.” What we see as semblances of power. The things that have power here on earth, they really actually don’t have as much power as we give them. We just watched The Irishman, which is a pretty dark movie and long. What I thought poetic about it at the end was that these mafia men, they die like everyone else. They end up old and decrepit and barely able to walk just like everyone else. How much power they have then? Zero. It’s all gone.

I’m taking an online class through the Center of Action and Contemplation on St. Teresa of Avila who is a 16th century of mystic. It’s been a heavy journey and I been in the weeds a lot and it’s made me more aware than ever at our own mortality. Something that I’ve been learning and linking with that is how angry we can get around ideas. Meaning, if someone were to come and challenge the way I think or believe, a lot of times our first reaction is anger. I wonder, why are we so angry? I think this is prevalent with COVID and etc. These are really unique times. With that said, I see now more than ever, people angry about politics and the way people do things. They’re acting that way because they’re a conservative or they’re acting that way because they’re liberal.

It’s like, “Maybe they’re just acting that way because they believe that’s what’s best.” With that and us being mortal beings, it makes me really sad to see in myself how angry I get about certain topics or why don’t people think this? It’s helped me get into this process of, why am I angry? Am I even angry about that topic? I’m angry that because I’m scared? I don’t want to be challenged. I don’t want people to say, “No, you’re wrong.” With that, something that has been helpful to me is thinking of what conversations I like to be in. We heard a quote that, “The best people to be in conversation with help you to hear yourself better.” How beautiful that is when someone is sitting here with you saying, “I want to hear you.” They help clarify your own thoughts.

It’s Yahia Lababidi who said, “A good listener is one who helps us overhear ourselves.”

I think that this posture needs to be emulated. It needs to be copied. The point is if I can sit here and say, “Here’s what I’m thinking. I’m not sure, but this is what I know from experiential self-knowledge to be true. This isn’t what I know from prayer. This is what I know from humility.” Humility, self-experiential knowledge and prayer can be three hinges or ways to experience growth. With that, when someone hears me, I am much more willing to hear them. If we can hold that passion for other people, that’s the first step in that growing.

Do not be dismissive of others' experiences. Click To Tweet

When you think about conversations we have, when you’re done talking, someone immediately jumps to what they want to say, did they even hear you? We already subconsciously assume they didn’t. Whether or not we’re aware of it, we’re assuming, “They didn’t even listen to me because they’re saying what they want to say.”

Probably more subconsciously and then in the conscious level where like, “What’s my next point?”

How can I get my two cents in and it’s a downward spiral versus an upward spiral?

I just listened to this podcast. Homebrewed Christianity is what it’s called. The person talking was saying how hard it’s been for him to have conversation with his parents since he’s undergone growth and transformation. He said, “I noticed sitting there with my dad that he has a zero to negative 10% chance of changing my mind. There is no way he’s getting in there to change my mind.” Why would it be any different? Is that the point to gather all this information and then put your stake in the ground and be like, “I’m independent?” There’s no growth from that. There’s no curiosity in that.

One of the reasons is why did Jesus talk in parables? I think a big part of that is because debates never changed anyone’s mind. I don’t think anyone has changed their mind from a debate. If you think about social media conversations/arguments, big news channels and what their programs provide, these short snippet debates, nothing ever changes from that. You just entrench. If you’re going to debate with people, how did Jesus debate? He asked questions and he left it open. He said, “If you can’t answer me, I’m not going to answer you.” Jesus is paving the way for us of saying, “This is how you do it.” You don’t change people’s minds or hearts by a debate. You change it by life you live with questions posed. I love Rainer Maria Rilke. A poem I read said, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.” It does take patience. There ought to be things unsolved in your heart. Those questions are good. They need to be asked.

It’s the mystery. There are two things. One, I read in Mark 11, the Pharisees come to Jesus and they’re like, “Who gives you this authority?” He’s like, “Who John the Baptist authority?” They didn’t know what to say. If we say, “We’re going to make people mad if we say one thing,” and they didn’t say anything and Jesus is like, “I’m not going to tell you where my authority comes from.” The thing is we as humans would be so quick to be, “This is where my authority comes from and XYZ.” That was something that it made me think of and then you said the Rilke poem. Can you say that again? I think it will come back to me.

Be patient toward all those unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves.”

I was talking with a dear friend who was saying how in marriage it’s a never-ending quest of getting to know your partner. The minute you wake up and say, “I’ve got Thane figured out,” that dismisses Thane and your partner. You’re not interested, you’re not curious and you’re not helping foster growth in the other.

It’s easy to fall into that. I’ve seen that with myself in you. I’m sure you’ve seen that with you in me that if we get annoyed by something or we see something play out, then we’re just like, “This is how it’s always going to be, this is the narrative, this is why, this is who they are.” All of that isn’t fair or true and we have to fight that on a daily level because we are human.

UAC 148 | Being Informed

Being Informed: Rest in knowing that God does have our best interest in mind and does love us.

Our collectively as human motives are not always ill-intended. In that example specifically, I think about, “I know Thane reacts this way sometimes. In these situations, I can do this to help.” That does lend itself to that narrative of, “I’ve got it under control. I know it happens here.”

The other quote I love was James Clear, the best newsletter around right now. He said, “Knowledge is a compound interest of curiosity.” It speaks again to the importance of questions. Curiosity lends itself to questions and vice-versa. The more questions you ask, the more curious you are. I want to go back to what you said about self-knowledge which is similar to experiential knowledge.

It’s specifically knowing for yourself.

To go to the realm of experiential knowledge in general, the other danger of this day is being informed society and culture is that, grandpas have both talked to this. You can be so knowledgeable with the information of anything today because there’s so much readily available that you can become a “knowledge expert” without any experience in that subject field or skill. It’s half-baked because you haven’t lived it, experienced it or flushed it out in real time by the actions of experience. I think that is a danger for all of us. None of us are immune to that of what this idea of knowledge and information without experience.

I would caution us to not be dismissive of others’ experience like, “They can’t know this because they’ve never experienced.” We don’t know their experience. We can’t judge that, but I do think that it is helpful and great.

Even back on what you were talking about too. I know you’ve got some more things that you’ve been thinking through. What you mentioned before with your journey through this idea of mysticism and how it’s led you to a better understanding of mortality, which can also show at times how angry we get. That mortality and the anger comes from being scared, which comes from being fear. That comes from a semblance of control or leads to a semblance of control again. Fear and control are tied together that we want to have control because we’re afraid. We’re fearful. The ultimate fear is death. That’s the thing that’s hanging over everyone’s head and all of it ties together.

That’s where even from a worldly standpoint, stoicism had such a resurgence because we need to accept the fact that we are mortal. We need accept the fact that we’re going to die and be okay with it. In that acceptance comes freedom because now we’re not living in fear. That’s of course what God brings through Christianity. Understanding that this semblance or want to be controlling comes from fear and that God is love. Perfect love casts out all fear. As followers of Jesus, we can’t run our lives around fear if we’re going to follow Jesus, especially in the church. When the church is built on a fear-based narrative, it’s going to lead towards guilt and control versus freedom and love.

It’s beautiful and necessary. For me, that’s a little overwhelming. I don’t know what happens when we die. Who does? The practical piece is, and what’s been helpful because it isn’t helpful to camp out in the mysticism camp or the fundamental Christianity camp. We have to have both open-handed curiosity of, “This is necessary and beautiful.” With that, Jesus does care about this life too. He created it. It’s beautiful. There are details in every part of the creation. I see this most went on hikes 14,000 feet up. People have never even come across. It’s not to say I’m an adventurer. I accidentally came off the trail and found this. There are beautiful flowers where some people will never lay their eyes on them, but they’re still there.

All of that to say, I think we can rest in this life is beautiful and necessary too. We can say, even though I don’t know what happens in death, I trust that. How much more God. I hope that we’re with everyone we love and we get to explore the creation tenfold and more, how much more God? My little finite brain can think about it in that extent. I rest in knowing that God does have our best interest in mind and loves us. We are created out of love and we are existing because of love. To tie in a little mysticism, James Finley, the teacher for the course has been talking about, “If the endless, infinite love of God who is loving you into existence, could stop loving into existence at any point.” I love being in that flow of like, I am being loved into existence and so are you, and so as everyone around me.

We are created out of love, and we exist because of love. Click To Tweet

We play a part in that. That ties another quote you sent me. Paul Tillich said, “The first duty of love is to listen.” By hearing someone, we’re loving them, seeing them and bringing them into existence because of that. The three core needs are to be seen, to be heard and connected.

I thought it might be helpful to think through other ways of, why we like to be “informed?” Partly, it is a routine. We come home, we turn on whichever news channel we get our news from and mindlessly listen or numb out. We could jump on social media and mindlessly scroll. There is a mindless component that we of just like numbing. It’s not having to do anything. It doesn’t feel like work. Another piece that I think is helpful is confirming our own biases, our narratives. I feel it’s detrimental to you and I’ve seen it in my own life because then I become close-minded. I become angry that people aren’t the way that I am and don’t see things the way I see things. I felt my eyes have been open to a posture of humility first and then just the posture of, “I don’t know,” and, “That’s why I’m letting you know,” and, “Here’s a little bit I know and how I’ve experienced Jesus in my life,” or, “How I’ve experienced these truths.”

It’s interesting how we truly do not see each other as humans in those moments. It’s where we’re emotionally invested in a stance, idea or place in the political, current events and in the religious views landscape. Whenever we put our self and put our stake in the ground in a place and someone else’s at a different place in that spectrum, we don’t view them as a fellow human being. We view them as an enemy and we view them as lesser than ourselves and that’s not what God wants. If we have God’s worldview and perspective, He sees every single human the same and it’s not putting one above the other or on a weighted scale. That’s the thing that I get most frustrated with, especially on a political landscape of news outlets and what “being informed” is the anger that comes from it divides humanity. That’s the worst outcome of it.

I learned that Jesus saw God and all that you saw. There were great examples used of He saw God in His mother and in a prostitute. The same good God, He saw in the prostitute and in His own mom. He saw God in his disciples and in His executioners. There’s one more, a flower and a bird and how different those two are and then a wedding and a funeral. To me, we can look at the least of these which I love how Paul is like, “If I can be a Christian, so can you,” and that’s such a beautiful posture to say, “I’m just doing the best I can here too.” Paul used to kill people, but all that he say, “I think we can look at the least of these in our eyes, which most times isn’t us. For most of us, we look at other people as lesser than ourselves or leaders as fallen evil people.” There is evil in the world too. My challenge would be that Jesus probably sees God too. That’s what were called to as Christians is to see that.

I think what you pointed out too with the ways we are informed and why, you hit the nail on the head when we numb out or mindless about it. If we’re going to see God in others, we have to be mindful and intentional about it. We can’t be mindless. If you’re mindless or if you numb out, you’re go towards comfort and safety and security.

Back to your own narratives, it’s mindless numbing.

Just because we’re saying this, it doesn’t mean we don’t fall into this. We do every day.

I feel that’s the only reason we can talk it, is that we know.

It’s the experience. We’ve done this and we still do this. Even when I’m telling myself, “Thane, enter this space or this conversation with a curiosity and an openness.” I feel that boiling up within me of this emotional investment in something against whatever, and then I revert or divert back to my old ways. It’s not like an overnight switch, but we can get better at it. That’s the beauty of growth is that we can get better even if we don’t feel we’re making much progress. The fact that we’re trying is progress.

UAC 148 | Being Informed

Being Informed: The three needs of any human being: to be seen, to be heard, and to be connected.

Another good quote I learned is, “Admitting means you’re admitted.” You’re in the club if you’re able to be like, “I don’t have it all figured out.” What’s helpful?

The first thing to say with all this, because when people hear close minded versus open-minded, they start getting fidgety like, “I don’t want to be open to whatever.” The quote that I always want to say is, “An open mind is not an empty one.” Just because you’re open-minded, it doesn’t mean you don’t have beliefs or convictions and things that you hold on to. It’s saying, “I can entertain other thoughts, ideas, perspectives, views and consider them. Not just dismiss them.” Because you’re open minded about something, it does not mean you forsake all that you think or know to be true. That’s not the point.

What’s been helpful for me is this process of unknowing. It doesn’t mean, “Everything I’ve learned up to this point is meaningless,” but I would just say holding that with open hands and saying, “This is what I think I know to be true. How has Jesus showed up to confirm that,” or, “Have I experienced that in my day to day life.” Being open to deconstruction and I think that’s a scary term. It’s basically blowing up boxes and turning your life upside down, which is uncomfortable and scary because it takes away your comfort of knowing. I would encourage you, if you do lean into that process of remembering how much more God, because He is a loving God and the reason we’re even here, looking at each other is because He’s loving us into existence. That has been such a restful place because it is scary. I don’t want to lose people I love and people I love that hurt me, etc. The process of unknowing and being curious could be a first step.

We can ping-pong this, because the practical thing for me has been not consuming. I don’t consume news hardly at all. For you, it was not consuming any social media for me. I don’t see any practical purpose in my life for that. A lot of people are you, “You need to be informed.” The point is, is that being informed? Are fifth hand accounts of information really being informed? That’s a helpful thing for us to realize is that what you see in the news is fourth or fifth hand. It’s not even firsthand or second hand. I want to know information first or second hand if possible. If not, I’ll eventually find out about it.

Do I need to hear it immediately? Does it have any impact on my life? Will I have any impact on it? Those are helpful questions to ask. For me right now, consuming news does not have an impact on me or I can’t have an impact on it in a helpful way. Because you enjoy staying up-to-date, I get to learn about my news from you, which I would rather learn about it from you than to read it myself. It’s not that I’m choosing ignorance, but I’m putting boundaries in place to help me not fill my mind with unhelpful things.

I would want you to clarify on that if you’d want to, that you’re not choosing ignorance. You’re still getting information. We know the ordinances in place around COVID in our city and in cities we go to, etc. We’re not naive. We don’t need to hear the same newsreel over and over.

In national news, it’s been so divisive. National news is such a wide, broad spectrum that what happens in a different state, we have zero control or impact over. It’s important to find sources that you trust and that can have helpful information, but even then, you still have to hold that with an open hand because each source or outlet you go to has some agenda, whether or not they’re aware of it. How can you even consume that with an open hand? Let’s say, this is their perspective on it and I’m going to evaluate it as fairly as I can.

It’s not practical to be, “Everyone’s not listening to the news.” People are still going to tune it, but maybe one practice of curiosity could be, “I’m going to log in to Fox News every morning because that’s my main source of news and that’s what I like.” After that, I’m in a log into CNN. It’s the same exact stories, different perspectives. I’m going to log into BBC as my last one. The same exact stories again, different perspective and outside of our country too. Trying to be curious about someone else’s perspective could be a helpful tool.

I mentioned this on our first podcast, I’m not sure. A toll that’s been helpful to me is a book by John Mark Comer. He was a pastor out of Portland, Oregon. He wrote this book called The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry and there were so many practical tools that I took from it. It helped me take a couple steps back and how you get those average reports of your daily phone usage. Mine came up and said 2 hours and 30 minutes. There’s a lot of people that are more than that. There’s a lot of people that are less than that. For me, personally, that is fifteen hours a week, times that by four. That’s 60 hours a month, times that by twelve, that’s 7,200 hours. It’s a lot of phone usage a year. I don’t want my last to be defined by that. I don’t want this major chunk of my life to be, “I was responding to the messages.”

Ideas and concepts don't mean anything if you aren't actually going to do something. Click To Tweet

The practical tools were, he suggested eliminating email, social media and news from your phone. Deleting the apps, eliminating all of that from your phone. Essentially, turning your phone into a dumb phone. He even went as far as taking off the notifications on his text messages because he was like, “If someone really needs me, they’ll give me a call.” Having a set time each day, “I’m going to check my texts at 10:00 AM and I’m going to check them again at 4:00 PM.” If I need to jump on and say, “I was thinking about you.” Talk disparately. It’s having set times. My uncle is where I first heard the email thing of having to set times for email because then it’s not controlling your life.

You’re setting the boundaries of, “I’m going to get on respond to these things.” I’ve loved that. I turned the notifications off. Nothing pops up on my screen. I can still see the tag on my messages. To take it further, if and when you do want to check social media, news, email, you have set times for that. Maybe in the morning and then afternoon and doing computer things on your computer. Many people do the thing of, “I’m on my phone eight hours a day because I’ve worked on my phone.” “Are there ways to not?”

Those are great and very practical and actionable things. A lot of what we’ve talked about is Siri, but how can we take action on it? That’s the most important thing because talking about ideas and concepts is great. It doesn’t mean anything if you aren’t actually going to do something. That takes discipline and it’s hard, but it’s possible, attainable and helpful. If you’re listening to this right now, take action. Start with one thing. You don’t start with five, start with one. Whatever it was, it pricked your conscious today or brought some thought or conviction of like, “That would be great to do.” Take action on now.

I want to be that person. I don’t think any of us look in the mirror and say, “I want to be an angry person who stands on all these hills.” I’ll end with a quote that I learned that says, “Transformation takes honesty and humility.” I learned a new definition of humility, because it’s been a harder concept for me. I still do think of humility as being confident, but being humble and not being too confident, but stay humble. It’s like, “Is it helpful when the word is in the definition?”

The other side of that too is a lot of times in Christian circles, humility is self-deprecation, which is equally as bad.

It’s not helpful. I would equate my version and definition of humility in my experience of humility as self-deprecation. “I’m not good enough yet,” or, “I have to do these things and then I will earn this.” Transformation takes honesty and humility. The definition of humility that I’ve come to love is humility is total freedom from shame. Humility could look like, “I don’t know, but I know.” What I mean is I know these things to be true and I’ll give it from a faith context of, “I don’t know if it happened that way, but I know that it’s true.” For me personally, I’ve experienced Jesus personally to know that he is who he says he is and how much more God.

That’s a great place to bring this to a close. I hope it was thought-provoking that the idea of being informed may not be as helpful as we think it is or may not be what we actually believe it to be. The goal is to stop outsourcing our thinking. Take ownership back of our thought process, our minds to stay curious and to realize that we don’t know, but we do. We would all do well to embrace these mindsets and being an Up and Comer, we required to. It’s ongoing and this conversation will be too. There are more to come. Thanks so much for coming on.

Thank you too.

For all of you reading, we hope you have an up and coming week because we out.

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UAC 147 | Human Interaction

 

Human interaction can be a messy endeavor if you don’t know how to play your cards right. To James Bowie, it is always about being humble and aware of the other person so that you can understand the way they view things from their perspective. An accountant by trade, James works as the Assurance Senior Manager at Ernst & Young, a global professional services firm. He joins Thane Marcus Ringler on this fellowship where they talk about awareness and humility, questions and invitations, rhythms, lamenting, and the open door policy. James and Thane got in touch because of James’ open-door policy, where he lets friends and friends-of-friends stay with him when visiting New York. These connections with other people instilled in James a deep understanding of human nature and relationships which he brings to this conversation. Listen and take part in this deep dive into the human experience and learn more about human interaction.

Listen to the podcast here:

147: Fellowship Ft. James Bowie: A Conversation On Awareness, Humility, Questions, Rhythms, Lamenting, And The Power Of An Open Door Policy

This is a show all about learning how to live a good life. We believe that it takes living with intention in the tension. It’s a catchy way to say we need to infuse intentionality into all we do if we are going to learn how to live a good life and that is a journey we’re all on the process of becoming. Thanks for tuning in and being a part of the Up And Comers Community and family. We are grateful you’re here with us. It has been a sweet journey so far and it’s only begun. If you’d like to send us a shout-out, you can always find us on the socials @UpAndComersShow. If you want to send us an email, you can go to TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com and send us your thoughts, questions, comments, whatever you may have.

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This is a fellowship episode with none other than James Bowie. Who is James? He grew up in the suburbs of Detroit and slipped off to college in Tulsa, Oklahoma where he started his professional career there. Although James works as an accountant, he sees his real role to help people solve problems and get where they want to be. That’s ultimately led him to fifteen years and a variety of experiences at EY also known as Ernst & Young, a global professional services firm and a path that is a little less traditional. The path would take him from Tulsa to Dallas and Houston and brief trips to Melbourne, Australia, and a couple of places in India before sending him ultimately into New York City where he resides. Throughout his career, in addition to his more conventional responsibilities, James has been responsible for creating experiences from designing two-day office visits, interview sessions with 120-plus interviews, multiple panel sessions to developing and delivering training sessions for people at various levels in their career including spending a month in India to teach sector-specific content and improve cross border teaming.

He has been a frequent speaker, host or panelist at trade events and these experiences have led him from boardrooms to ballrooms. He has been responsible for producing an internal webcast targeting an audience of 1,000 professionals across the US. Most importantly, it created opportunities for him to learn more about working with people and helping them to develop toward their own dreams and has given him resources to help people in different ways along the way. After moving to New York, James started an open-door policy to make it easy for friends or friends of friends to stay with him and experience the city. That has led to a whole new adventure of its own and created new connections that continue to change his life. In fact, it is the chain reaction that ultimately put James and Thane in touch, yours truly.

He is an incredible man, a great friend and I have only known him a short time, and that tells you how loving and caring this guy is. The open doors policy is truly how we met and I’m so grateful to him for that and to Chad, our mutual friend for setting us up. You’ll find James as an easygoing, well-spoken guy who thinks incredibly well and paving a path for us to think well. In this conversation we talk about his open doors policy, good questions, unconscious bias that we all have. Also, we’re painting in broad strokes and why that’s often convenient but not helpful, fundamental attribution error, American “success” cultures, futuristics, the five whys, rhythm, lamenting and so much more. I know you’re going to enjoy it. Sit back, relax and enjoy this fellowship episode with James Bowie.

James Bowie, welcome to show.

Thanks for letting me be here. It’s good to be here.

It’s been a long time coming. The first time we hung out, I knew that I wanted to get you on the show and have a conversation with you because you’re a man who I’ve enjoyed every single conversation I had with you starting in the cafe in New York with my mom. Where are you at?

I am hunkered down in Brooklyn near the Barclays Center for those who are familiar with where the Nets play, a couple of blocks away from there, hiding from everybody and everything. That’s the thing that we do.

I decided to do a little research before this. I found out you’re a famous person. Apparently, James Bowie is affiliated with the Alamo. You’re living your second life.

My last name is Bowie. Only people in Bowie Maryland and Texas know that because in Texas, you had Jim Bowie who died in the Alamo and he’s the one guy who had pneumonia. He was dying and they decide they’re going to do this big thing to hold down the Fort for the Alamo and he’s on a stretcher. He has them carry his stretcher across the line of the people who are going to stay. At least that’s the lore behind it all. He stayed and fought while he was sick and dying.

You are a legend.

UAC 147 | Human Interaction

 

I have a legend to live up to.

Was David Bowie really Bowie then or was he David Bowie? Is that why everyone says Bowie instead of Bowie?

I don’t believe his actual last name. He came up with his performer name and he said, “Bowie.” Whenever I’m anywhere else, I say Bowie and people spell it right. If you say Bowie, you get Bui or Buoy, you get all kinds of things, but you don’t get the right spelling, so I tell people Bowie. My brother heard me do this once and I got the most shade that I ever could have imagined. He’s like, “You know our last name is Bowie, right?” I was like, “Yes but I know they’ll spell it right if I say Bowie.” He was like, “You’re a traitor to our family.”

I didn’t realize that either. You got it right. It was David Robert Jones who was an English singer, songwriter, an actor, not David Bowie. That was his stage name.

My cousin is David. I always tell people I am in fact related to him but I have nothing to do with him.

Out of all the people I know, you have to have some unique way that you engage or meet people for the first time. When people meet you or get to know you, it doesn’t have to be unique, I was curious what your elevator sales pitch, which is funny that meeting people are sales pitches now. What is your introduction when you meet people?

I feel like every time I meet people, I’m insecure about it because I’m thinking, I know people who know how to ask all these powerful good questions. I’m not sure that I have a good answer other than I enjoy meeting people except I am an introvert. I don’t get out there and find people necessarily the way I should. Every once in a while, I’ll dare myself. I took a secret trip to South Africa. The first night I was there, I was like, “I’m going to dare myself to meet three people while I’m here,” which is a big deal for me. I made a new friend. I have a friend in the London area. He was asking some questions about a sushi place I had gone and it turned into a new friendship. I ran to him later in the trip. We went out to the Wine Country and hangout one day before I was headed off somewhere else. It changed the experience and it keeps reminding me. I’ve had a couple of things happen like that where I’ve gotten to do some travels or else I have this policy I call open doors. I don’t know if we’ve talked about this before.

I was going to ask about this because I was curious. You mentioned it and I’d love to know more about it.

It’s not a way of meeting people. Let me say this, because this is going to sound almost a little creepy and there are some rules to it. I grew up in Detroit. I lived in Oklahoma. I had an opportunity to come to New York for work and it was a sweet deal. I was thinking about whether I would do something else with my life and it was like, “If you want to we can get you up to our national office and we’ll help you move, find a place, get plugged in, and figure out what it is to live in New York.” I’m like, “I have to do that. I can’t think of a reason not to.” It was incredible. What I realized was once I got here is not everyone has that. Getting to this place and getting a chance to hang out in New York, New York is expensive to visit.

I decided that if God had given me such a positive way to be here that I was going to be willing to share it somehow. I had this idea, I called it open doors, which is if I knew the person or if they were one person removed. If I knew one person who knew them, who could vouch for them then I would be willing to make my open to someone who wanted to stay for a few days while they’re trying to visit New York. I have had my life changed by doing it. To change my life wasn’t the goal, my goal was to be thoughtful about the way that the resources that I had available to me that wasn’t money. What are the resources I have? What are the ways that God’s blessed me? What are the ways that I have and the means I have that I could use to help others? I decided to do it. I’ve made several new friends that way that I now have across the world including our mutual friend. I know you because of this policy.

It’s a mutual friend that connected us and here we are. What a sweet policy. That’s one that I’ve been thinking a lot about. My wife and I are considering ways that we can be generous with our lives. In certain seasons, you can do that financially, you can do that with time and energy, it can be with your location, house, or in phone calls. It could be in expertise or knowledge and there are a lot of ways to be able to give especially in the Christian world, we get pigeonholed and I need to give 10% of finances. There’s helpful rubrics that were never a law given by God. Thinking about it in a way that’s helpful, practical and personal is an awesome habit to get into. This open-door policy is such a beautiful example of that. Something that my wife and I have been talking a lot about displaying in our own lives. I love that you instituted that and have continued practicing that because it is a sacrifice.

It can be for sure. Have you thought of different ways that you all are thinking about doing that now? Have you come up with ideas?

Does feeling good for doing something good corrupt your gift? Either way, it shouldn’t keep you from giving. Click To Tweet

It’s one of those things where we’re being spirit-led in it. For instance, there’s a girl that my wife works with and she’s got a rougher background and is a much different type of person than we are. She’s someone though that has been on Evan’s heart that could use some generous unconditional love. The thing that we’re planning on doing is having her over for dinner. We’re waiting on God to open the door in that conversation. Evan doesn’t go into the office that much. When she’s in there, they’re both working together, and it comes up naturally so it’s not intimidating for her, we’re going to have her over for dinner and it’s going to be awesome. We have some neighbors down the hall that same thing. We met them passing by in our building complex and we don’t know anyone in this building.

It’s sad. We got to meet them, talk with them for a few minutes. She had the great idea of making cookies for them. We made cookies, drop them off on Easter and it meant so much to them. It’s something super simple and now we’re wanting to have them over for dinner so we’re going to try and figure out a time to have them over for dinner. We’re moving into a new complex and we’ve thought about ways that we can utilize that space. It’s going to be a bigger space which is going to be nice. We’re praying about whether we get a one-bedroom or two bedrooms. The two-bedrooms are more expensive.

If we get that which is going to be God wanting us to be more generous with opening up our home likely and that would be awesome. If we don’t get that then we’ll still be able to do dinners and that kind of thing. One thing we’ve had the idea of is becoming community liaisons for the building complex. It’s a twelve-unit complex which is smaller. How cool would it be to organize and facilitate community within those twelve units in a way that’s unique and special? If people are honest with themselves, we all long for that. It’s putting in that initial effort is awkward, it’s weird, clunky, and not normal culturally which doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Facilitating an opportunity for people through that would be sweet.

When I first moved into my apartment in New York, I was in actual Manhattan in the Upper Westside and that was in a relatively small complex. I got the idea that some people might be like I was who not know everybody around. I wrote Christmas cards. It was a basic simple Christmas card like a $5 Starbucks card because there was a Starbucks right under the building I lived in. For Christmas, I slipped it in everyone’s door. I ended up meeting 3 or 4 of the neighbors in the building as a result of that. It changed things a little bit and it was an intentional choice of I want to do something to engage. I don’t do it all the time because it’s overwhelming. You also can’t buy gift cards for everybody all the time. It is interesting to see how those things turn around. You can never predict what the outcome of that’s going to be. If you go in without the expectation of an outcome, I’m doing this because I want to show generosity and love for people because they’re people who have value and they have value no matter what they do with this then there’s only wins out of that.

The no expectations might be one of the hardest but most important things in that. It’s amazing how expectations ruin our interactions or perspective in a lot of ways. To be able to do something without expectations is such a freeing thing for us to love someone as they deserve to be loved, which is as a human.

There are two pieces that happen in that. One is I’ve talked with people. When you go in with expectations, are you loving somebody because now what’s happened is you’re investing toward an outcome? The question is, are you trying to get from that other person with some of your own values? If you’re satisfied with who you are, the relationships that you have, who you are in Christ, and who you are as a human being, you don’t need anything from that person, you can freely give with hands open. When you start giving with the expectation to get back, it’s because somehow you need the validation on the other side of it.

The other thing that happens is if you’re on the inverse side of that, if you’re the receiving end of somebody with expectations, this has been a struggle in my friendships. I’ve had some friendships where I ultimately felt like I owed them my behavior and a certain response. The thing was then as somebody who wants to be generous and giving, sometimes it’s my faults. I could never give again because everything was fulfilling an obligation. There was never a gift and a gift could never be received because I was always fulfilling the expectation or fulfilling the obligation. I couldn’t ever think forward about how do I be generous anymore because I’m always trying to make up ground.

That’s something we can all fall prey to. It’s funny, sometimes people don’t even recognize that’s what they’re projecting onto you. If we dive too deep into this, it’s the book, Strangers To Ourselves, by Professor Timothy Wilson. It’s all about understanding the adaptive unconscious mind, the subconscious versus a conscious. He points out that the deeper you dive into that, the more you realize that we are not in control. We’re operating 95% from our subconscious. Underlying every act of service is a subconscious condition of like, “I’m going to feel good after this because this makes me a good person.” That’s honestly how God has wired us. He’s wired us to derive joy, benefit and blessing internally from serving and loving others. That’s how he designed us. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but we do have to be honest with our conscious selves especially. Sometimes our subconscious, what is the underlying condition that I’m prescribing or someone else is prescribing? How can we try to remove that as much as possible?

I studied Psychology but undergrad, so I’m no deep knowledge here. We did spend a significant amount of time on altruism and the question is can you ever give a gift without expecting something? Even if it is that self-feeling of feeling good. The thought I always had around it was just because you feel good for doing something good, does that corrupt every gift? I think it can corrupt because all of our desires can be turned sideways. I don’t think it should keep us from giving or think that we’re doing it solely because there is a good feeling on the other side. It should challenge us when we don’t get the response we expect them to be still grateful for the opportunity to give and to use that to identify our own unconscious bias toward. I expect people to be thankful for what I do.

With that, what are some practices for yourself personally? We all struggle with that. When that isn’t a part of a relationship or that isn’t received or that’s been projected on you, whatever it may be, what are the reminders or self-talk you use to help facilitate some of that within yourself?

There are a few things. One is if it’s that somebody reacts to me, not in a way, I asked myself, “What did you expect to get out of this?” I try to pause at that moment and say, “Before you get upset about this, where you giving a gift or an obligation? If someone never sees or never receives it, can you still live with the fact that you’ve done this?” I gave somebody an apple or something one day. Someone was letting me know that this person tends to abuse gifts of other people toward alcohol, drug use, and other things so I had to be careful about what to do. You’re like, “Did that person then rob me if I gave somebody a gift?” On the flip side of this, that I feel like I’ve got to give things to people because it proves how good a person I am.

There are times you have to check in with yourself and be honest. One of those things is acknowledging that is the case. We did this thing at work, we have these periodic check-ins where people do different types of coaching around management leadership, things like that. Someone came in and did this discussion around unconscious bias and showed us in a quick anecdotal way what was already demonstrated by the research, which is that we have unconscious bias. We have tribes, in groups and outgroups, it is human and we will not ever fully get rid of them. One of the first things that we can do is acknowledge that they do exist so that we can be on the lookout when we might be behaving in accordance with one of those things. Awareness in and of itself and the humility to check in with yourself is one of the best defenses.

UAC 147 | Human Interaction

 

Awareness and humility to check in with yourself is a great way to summarize that because both of those are attainable. I love that question, “What did you expect?” It’s been a short season of marriage so far but it’s been cool. One of the best blessings for me has been having that mirror that reflects onto me. That question what did you expect out of this is something I’ve found asking myself more because we can be affected by the littlest things in relationships. We have to be like, “Why am I affected by this? What did I expect out of this and why? Why should I expect that? Why is it best not to expect that?” That’s a powerful question to hone in on for people reading. I would encourage everyone to sit with that one a little bit more, myself included.

One thing that comes to mind too on the other side of this is how to deal with it when you feel something has happened where you are being set up with an expectation or something disappoints you about it if you’re going to deal with it or “confront.” It is to think about in terms of invitation rather than accusation. What happens is when something happens to us, we feel empowered in a good way that we should deal with it. The way that we want to deal with it is by telling people what they did, accusing them of their intent and their behavior. When you do that, you set everyone up on the defensive and you’ve already presumed what the outcome is. On the flip side of that, you can have an invitation and you can say, “This thing happened. This is how I took it. I don’t know what’s going on. Are you okay? Is this okay?” “I felt this way when these things happened. Can we talk that through?”

Someone pointed out once that there are some places that people build fences to hold in the cattle for example and you put the boundaries in place so you’ve defined it this way. In other ranches, they put the watering hole in the middle of the property. Because the watering hole was a place where the animals want to be because they want the water, nutrients and resources, they don’t go and try to explore where the fence might be and there’s no need for a fence because the invitation is to a place where they want to be instead of trying to hold them back from a place they’re trying to get. They’ve set up the environment to be one that encourages you to come back to the center. We can do the same thing in our lives. Rather than trying to put boundaries and perimeters that we push on people or we hold them to, sometimes if we invite them, we can create that away where people say, “I like this place, I want to go back to.” They do it on their own accord because it’s a place they prefer to be.

That’s empowering versus crippling sometimes when you make statements or commands. That’s more crippling because people aren’t developing those muscles themselves. There’s a great quote, William Ury who wrote a book about negotiation. He said, “Statements generate resistance whereas questions generate answers.” That’s a great contrast too. It was like, “Invitations and questions need to be the focus, not accusations and statements.” Think about as a whole, each individual put a little bit of focus and intention around how can I change accusations and statements to questions and imitations more in life on an everyday basis especially if you look at Zoom into modern times with this COVID crisis we’re facing.

It’s been such an interesting social experiment. It is a pandemic and there are hard things and confusing things and all of that. We’re going to put that to the side but interesting from a social experiment standpoint of saying, “Here’s a situation, there are two opposing sides that are portrayed, thought about and experience from people. Let’s all interact with each other on a daily basis and see where the shakes out.” It does show the power of, if we ask questions or if we invite people into things versus accuse others or make assumptions and accusations, the difference that plays out in these human interactions is widespread. You see the fruit of both sides immediately in that process.

I sometimes wonder too, if you start taking it on that scale and you ramp it up to be something that is around two entire “positions.” I wonder if it’s also convenient to be able to paint people with such broad strokes and say, “If you are in this camp then you must be these things.” I can accuse you and not listen because it’s messy to listen to people. It’s messy to understand. I would say that the real things that are going to happen and the way we’re going to bring about change is at the dinner table. It’s going to be when we sit and recognize each other’s humanity and that everyone’s view is complex. Even though it might align more or less with mine or with some other group, everyone sits in a unique place in it. For me to love that person, I have to get to know them, that’s messy, complicated, and hard. It’s easier to paint in those broad strokes. What happens is we have a message we want to get out. Is it Covey that has seek first to understand than to be understood? The same thing happens is we’re like, “I demand to be understood. I must be understood. If you don’t understand me then I got nothing for you.” It’s inverted and it’s a challenge.

One of the things that the core that I’ve been thinking and talking about a lot is this question of why is it important to be informed and why is it important to consume the news? It comes down to a core of control. We have this semblance and need for control. By being “informed” and by consuming the news and what’s being portrayed, we thus have controlled the situation because we know and we don’t have to engage or think critically about it. We don’t have to admit that it’s a complex issue as much. We get to rest in our own control of it when it’s the worst place to be because it’s a fake semblance of control. The fact is you have zero control and being “informed” doesn’t give you any more or less control. In fact, it makes you more blind to your lack of control which may be more harmful. The other side of the argument is that maybe it is helpful so that people can have more safety and security even in an insecure time. It’s an interesting thought. What are your thoughts on that idea?

I was going to ask you, how do you manage the consumption of news and information? How do you balance the amount? General awareness is probably worthwhile and there’s a whole lot of other information out there that’s hard to assess. I’m curious about what you use.

My posture towards it is I get my news from other people, meaning my wife, family or friends. Hearing things from them is a lot of how I get news vetted. I may see a few headlines every day but that’s about it. I don’t read any news articles. I don’t watch any news channels. That’s been freeing for me because I’ve found that I have zero effect or impact on those topics or issues. What I do have an effect or impact on is my own life and the people that are within my life daily. I want to focus my attention solely on that, on the day-to-day, the interactions of where I live, people that I know, and where I can tangibly be making an impact. It’s minuscule what I’m consuming. I found a lot of freedom in that. It’s interesting I was with some people, Fox News was on in the background, and I hadn’t consumed any news for a long time.

I don’t care what side of the fence you’re on, whether you’re at CNN or a Fox News person, if you take a week where you don’t consume any of that, don’t listen and don’t read any of that and then you come back to it. You’re going to be a little bit surprised with how loaded all of that is. It’s loaded with a lot of underlying animosity and agenda regardless of where side you stand on, it’s going to produce stances and closed hands versus open hands because that’s part of the drug of it. It’s like candy or sugar produces this rush and then it becomes addictive because it goes away, so you keep consuming it. It was interesting to experience that and see it from a different light than I have before. The way that I’m approaching it is to what I do consume to try and take it with an open hand to know that it’s a view. What Richard Rohr said that every view is a view from a point, there are many different perspectives of that point, and there are many different points in time. To understand that helps us take it for what it is, but don’t take it as everything but as a practice.

Fourteen things came to mind about all of these different perspectives while you’re saying that. One of which is the news or whoever. Even if they report completely unbiased, let’s for one brief second assume that all the media and news outlets themselves are unbiased in the way that they report. There still is what’s called a gatekeeping function. They choose which stories to tell because there’s news happening all the time, but only certain stories can be told. The mere fact of choosing which story introduces an opportunity for bias. When you tell that story, the angle that you take on telling that story introduces another possibility for bias. That’s what we were talking about the idea of unconscious bias, whether conscious or unconscious. To your point, everyone comes from somewhere. Everyone who’s going to report an article, everyone who’s going to edit, everyone who’s going to gatekeep how that’s reported has a perspective that’s informed by their entire experience that is going to lead to something that is likely going to have some level of bias to it.

It’s almost inhuman to assume that we could do something without bias. The first place we can come as a place of humility to say, “Whether it’s me or somebody else, there’s going to be bias.” There’s this notion called the Fundamental Attribution Error. It’s like if we’re driving and somebody cuts me off trying to get to an exit, my first thought is that person is a jerk. I make a character assessment of that person. On the other hand, if I’m driving down the street and I need to get over to get to an exit and I’m about to miss it, I cut across and I ended up cutting somebody off, I explained the circumstances to myself that led to the behavior.

It’s almost inhuman to assume that we could do something without bias. Click To Tweet

It’s not who I am, there are some poor choices that I made but I attribute that to the circumstances and conditions. We extend that to our ingroups and outgroups. Those that are in our ingroup, we assume positive things, our character traits, and negative circumstances are the result of circumstances when somebody that is on the outside, we presume that negative things are their character traits and the positive things are a result of circumstances. The more that we’re aware that we do that, the more we can short circuit our own process which everybody has. The ability to say that about ourselves and acknowledge it gives us a chance to behave differently.

Nassim Taleb talks a lot about that especially in Antifragile, which I’ve been working through. One of the things you brought up reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Morgan Housel who said, “Your personal experiences make up maybe 0.00000001% of what’s happened in the world, but maybe 80% of how you think the world works. We’re all biased to our own personal history.” That’s a great illustration to help us be more curious. When someone has a posture, perspective, or stance on something, how can we get curious? I wonder what this person’s life has been like that has led them to this place. How have they drawn these conclusions? How do they see the world based on what their experiences in life have been? Those questions open up a world of possibility that the most important effect of it is that unites versus divides. It helps us see we’re all human, we all come from somewhere, we all have a story, and we’re all operating as if we’re right. Every single person thinks they’re right. That is a novel thing for many people.

The thing is that we may have to make assumptions that we assume are facts about how things work. I think it’s CS Lewis who talks about that there’s the ancient mind, the modern mind, the ancient classic, modern, and postmodern. Each of them makes fundamental assumptions about how even the world works. For example, the mindset that we live in now tends to have as ascendant the scientific method. There are pieces of true reason that were more important back in ancient traditions. We take for granted that those are the things. Even in the US, there are Americans constructs of what it is to be successful. There are American constructs of what relationships should look like. The level of independence and the level of autonomy that we should have. We assume that those things are the way that humans should be.

I always like to meet people who are different from me and who come from different backgrounds. I would say like, “You don’t know what color of air you’re breathing until you encounter somebody who’s breathing different air.” That’s the very first opportunity you have to make a new choice is, “If I’ve always been breathing the same air, I don’t know it from anything different.” I encounter somebody who breathes, let’s say green air and I breathe blue air. I start seeing there’s green air. I sit down and I think about it as having a dinner conversation is I have a conversation with someone and to get to know. I start to understand where their view comes from and why they breathe green air. I’m now aware because of their green air that I breathe blue air. That’s the first time I have the ability to choose and say, “Is blue air what I want to breathe?” What an important, powerful moment to have to recognize your own assumption and then choose whether it’s one you want to continue to operate under.

That’s an empowered choice. The other thing that made me think of is a question I’ve often had is much of our perspectives have been broadened by our blessing and luxury of being able to travel and see the world in many different places. There are tons of people that have not had that luxury. If you haven’t had the luxury in your world is the city of 20,000 people that you grew up in or whatever the situation is and that’s the extent of your worldview. Can you facilitate a similar experience without the luxury of travel or broadening horizons through different cultures? While you’re talking, I was considering that a little bit. The first obvious point of entry would be books and reading widely or consuming a wide range of information from people from different backgrounds and experiences.

That’s a great option. It’s not the same as lived experiences but what you brought up is the thing that does create more of a powerful impact. That is inviting people into your life that are in your community, that have been out of your community, have seen different things, or have a broader perspective and have dinner, conversation, and be curious. The thing none of us can argue with his personal experience. I can’t argue with your experience because it’s your experience and you’ve had it. I have to accept that just like you can’t argue with my experience. We can argue with our interpretations of that experience and all those things. That’s why I love Galatians. Paul makes his whole argument based on experience and we forget that Paul is saying, “This experience happened to me. This is real.” You can’t argue with that. I think what seems unattainable is still attainable to an extent by those human interactions infused with curiosity.

I don’t know why I get hung up on this. I think it’s having lived in New York for a while. The one thing that I always want to be cautious of in that train of thought is I get around people in New York and they think that because they live in a cosmopolitan environment that they now have the leg up of everybody else. They’d give the West Coast some thought but those that live in the middle, they don’t have the experience in life to have an informed opinion. I call it a Gnosticism of a sort because I travel, I encounter these cultures and these things, I’m now better. I know better than you what it is to be tolerant, informed, and how X, Y and Z should operate. In fact, it’s amusing to me in some cases because it becomes an urban mindset and it writes off the rural, for example, and yet people who live in rural environments have different experiences. Those experiences are as valid as you’re saying.

They’re as valid experiences as the person who’s traveled forever. We need all of those to have an informed view. There are people who are in that rural environment that are reading and experiencing what it is to have to raise animals, livestock who are dealing with the effects of what is it to have to rely on mother nature in a way that in the cities you don’t necessarily experience. There’s this entire other body of knowledge and how it is to interact with the world that’s important to understand. I always want to be cautious because sometimes people get this urban travel mindset if, “Because I’ve traveled, I therefore am better.” This is a story that resonates with me a lot which is the woman at the well, the story in the Bible. There’s this woman and she’s a Samaritan, it was the Israelites, they had been conquered by Syria. As part of that, they had interbred. That was one of the ways that when you conquered a country you did stuff.

She’s a half-breed and the Jews looked down on this group of people. Jesus encounters this woman and they have some of the history of the Jews and of the Israelites but not a full understanding. All the Jews lorded over them. If you’re second class citizen, you’re nothing and you don’t fully understand all this stuff. When Jesus encounters her and she’s like, “We’ve got all this history and stuff, why do you look down on us?” He’s like, “You worship a God you don’t know. The Jews worship a God they do know and like that they know more about but the time is coming when all these things are going to be made equal.” It’s not a celebration of ignorance but we can get so caught up in knowing. I’ve read this many books, I’ve read this particular book, and if you don’t have this knowledge, then you can’t possibly have an understanding of who God is and your place in the world.

One of the things that He challenges is the fabric of that ascendant thought of like, “I can know this so much better than I can write other people off.” He invites her and says, “Even in the thing that you have that you don’t know all that well, there is something. I’m going to acknowledge it and give it credit and breath.” In the knowing that people have on the other side, sometimes that knowledge gets in the way of the truth. Neither one of these things is the be-all, end-all. It’s leading back to someplace with the center.

I love that perspective and that helpful reminder. It’s funny how regardless if it’s urban or rural, enlightened or simple, you have these different opposing places and the danger on both sides of them is to think that that’s the best. Say that’s it, that’s all there is. Where did you grow up?

Sort of Detroit, Leavenworth, and Tennessee.

UAC 147 | Human Interaction

 

It’s funny because in the Midwest, we’re in a small town, you look down on the people in the city centers or on the coast because that’s a natural default. You can easily look down on the coast and say they’re crazy, progressive, liberal and all these things, whatever it may be. Wherever the story or narrative is, and it’s lesser to them. The city centers on coast look down on the Midwest of saying, “They don’t know about life. They’re in culture and all these things.” Each side, whatever it is, has a tendency, a natural default to think that they’re better than and to look down on others that are different.

That’s a human condition. At the end of the day is we love putting ourselves on a platform above humanity so that we can look down on them because it makes us feel better and more secure. Each side has a tendency to do that. I love your reminder that it’s in the center and it’s with a human. The worldview that God gives us that all humans are equal and created in the image of God, and sinners. It means everyone has divine worth and value, but no one’s better than the rest of us. That helps us so much come back to that center regardless of where you’re from. Honestly, there are immense tradeoffs to both always. It’s not complete.

I’ve tried to figure out why do we do this? Why is this innate in us? There’s this concept and I might go to say it wrong but it’s called heuristics and it’s the study of how humans make decisions. I’ve thought that together with this book, Thinking Fast and Slow. It takes incredible mental resources to make conscious decisions. We only have so many resources. I was thinking of it as we have 72 hours of decisions to make every 24 hours and we want to sleep for eight hours if we’re lucky. I have to find ways to shortcut as many decisions as possible. I choose which decisions I’m going to use those resources to consciously choose and then I’m going to come up with a bunch of shortcuts. One of my shortcuts is I’m going to paint with a broad brush.

I can create ingroups and outgroups so I can make fundamental assumptions about those people in those groups whether that they’re fundamentally good or bad. I’ve taken a whole host of decisions off the table that I have and we’ve cut off twelve hours of decisions I’d have to make by having to listen and engage people. Number two, we think we identify who we think are credible authorities and we submit our judgment to their credentials. That’s good too because we can’t all spend time fully researching ABC topic and becoming experts on those topics. We subordinate our decisions to those authorities and that makes sense. Sometimes we go too far in doing that where we don’t vet the person who we’re going to trust or the source. All of these things are part of, “I’ve only got limited resources and I may prioritize picking which set of shoes I want to buy over which person I’m willing to listen to.” Those are choices that we have to make on a day-to-day basis. Eventually, we get good at shortcutting it that we don’t even realize that we have shortcut decision-making altogether.

That is the essence of the limitations of knowledge because the more that you know, the more that your brain circuitry discards as already figured that out and don’t need to think about that. The deeper we dive into things, the more we miss the core or the essence of what matters. That’s the practice of how do we come back to what is the essence especially for people who do enjoy thinking or diving deep as we both do in the sense. We have to remember that we have to come back to the essence of the thing not this complicated, complex, convoluted, all these different facets of that thing.

That goes back to even the idea of mastery being simplicity on the far side of complexity, which I love and wrote about. It’s one of those things that there is beauty in not diving in the weeds, keeping it simple, and not even having to go there. We look at our society and there’s progress has been made, advances in technology, information, and knowledge but is it really in advance? You see a picture that it’s almost a full sense of advance. It’s almost a facade that we are more advanced than the ancient culture. There are a lot of arguments that we’re digressing in some ways that are critical.

It’s interesting because I think about it sometimes in terms of the whys. As you were saying if we go into this and we feel like we’re going to make all this progress, what is progress? Why am I doing this? One of the things about scripture is it’s in Timothy that Paul says, “There are all these people who try to figure it all out and they get into endless wranglings about genealogies and who did this and what. The whole point of the whole thing is love from a pure heart, a clean conscience and a sincere faith.” Whether it comes to my faith, what I believe about Christianity or whether it relates to how I’m engaging the world broadly, I like to think about that thought process, which is why am I getting into this endless wrangling? Why am I getting into the depths here? Why am I trying to figure out this development? Is it because I’m trying to prove that I know? Am I trying to prove that I’m somehow smarter than the next guy? What’s the real end game here? Have you heard the Five Whys?

It’s like being a two-year-old on steroids. It’s like, “I’m going to go do this. Why?” “Because such and such happens.” “Why?” “Because if we don’t do this then this happens.” “Why?” “Because of this.” “Why?” You get down to it and because of this two-year-old mentality, you get to the deeper meaning of why things happen. We don’t necessarily do that to ourselves and ask ourselves those questions often. There’s a practice called the Five Whys of trying to get to the heart of what’s motivating you toward a particular action. Asking yourself the five whys, why that, and getting a clear picture.

I’ve thought about that concept a lot especially in coaching because that’s the point of coaching. It is somewhere between 3 and 5. I’ve always thought about in 3 but it’s probably closer to 5 more like it. One thing that we talked about before this conversation was even in the midst of where we are now with a lot of the lockdown, shutdown, stay-at-home, quarantined life where we’ve been facing. It’s an interesting period of change. There are a lot of aspects to it, but the one that I was curious to hear more of your perspective on is you speak to well and I’m always encouraged by is that the tension between this American ideal of achievement and thinking we need to use this time well versus being where we are, accepting it, showing grace, and coping with the situation. How do you sit with that tension for yourself or even think about those opposing motivations or desires?

I feel like everyone is like, “We’re on pause. How do I make the most of this? How do I come out of this better, stronger, fitter? How do I have my whole life worked out?” I’ve got all these things I’ve got to be productive with and there’s all this pressure. Even behind all of that might be almost a sense of FOMO, a Fear Of Missing Out on what this opportunity could be and seeing it as here is this chance that you have to come out of the gate stronger, better than the next guy. There’s almost a competitive element to it. In the US, I don’t know all the Enneagram and all this different stuff, but people say like, “If you can think about a culture, the US would be a three. This need to achieve, to succeed, and to be the best.” Our culture has inundated that with that. That’s the American culture, but it’s not the only way of looking at the world. In fact, there are ideas of rhythms, pause and Sabbath.

There’s this old notion that you would even take off a significant amount of time to refresh. There’s also the idea that some people may be grieving. Some people have not lost someone to this disease. It’s awful for those people who’ve lost someone or for people who are living with the uncertainty of having to go out into it every day and not know people who are more exposed that are dealing with that. People who’ve lost jobs. There are significant things that people are facing. Some people are facing less significant things and they feel like, “I don’t have a writer, a space to grieve the losses that I do have, my normal way of life is gone. I’ve been struggling with having no private time.”

People feel guilty about having grief about those things and having to spend time coping because they’re busy trying to be productive. It’s unfortunate that’s where we end up sometimes because we then have this need to achieve. It’s good if you want to do something. Going back to the first thing we were talking about, it shouldn’t be coming from an obligation. It’s a gift you give yourself is that you want to work on X, Y, and Z as you say, “I want to use this time for some of that.” It’s also a gift you give yourself if you say, “I need to rest and be present. Not always in the future trying to make the future happen but I need to be present and be aware of that. That’s the gift that I get myself here.” Shifting it from being the obligation to do something, to make an intentional choice about what is best, not what does everyone else has measured but what’s going to be my own.

You don't know the color of the air you're breathing until you encounter somebody who's breathing different air. Click To Tweet

You hit the nail on the head especially for most people reading this. In America, we are such an achievement-based culture that we’re all affected by that more than we’d even like to admit. One other thing that we’ve talked about in past conversations is I’d love to hear more from you on, which is this idea of lamenting. It’s such an under-practice thing in America because of our achievement mentality that is go, move past things, don’t move through things. Don’t let it hold you back from accomplishing what you set out to. Grief, sorrow, lamenting and even rest, Sabbath and sabbatical things that get thrown to the wayside because of that achievement mentality.

Before you share, I want to read a little bit of what you wrote and email to me because I thought it was beautiful. This is speaking to lamenting a little bit, you said that, “Often we may create shame because in reality, human beings grieve and experience loss. There are things we don’t understand and as smart as we get, we will never stop being human. What Christianity offers us is a path to go down, tools to use, or a companion to go with us. It gives context to the struggle. We need to be able to be mad at God and ask hard questions without trying to answer them. We need to open ourselves up to the real losses we experience and not mask them with scripture and platitudes.” That speaks to the tendency of the American Christian Church to fall into the achievement mentality of more scripture, more platitudes, more of this and that, prescribe versus sit, experience, and lament. What have you been learning about lamenting in this time?

I’ve been learning that we don’t do it. I grew up mixed between the Episcopal Church but more in the charismatic, nondenominational church. I feel the same way about lamenting as I do about confession as I do about grief. We have this notion or at least I was and I don’t know that it was intentionally trained this way so I’m not trying to put it on someone but I think there was this undercurrent of, “If you have faith, if you get to know God, then you won’t experience these things. You’ll graduate past grief.” You’ll be caught up in the fact that this person is living eternally with Christ in heaven that you shouldn’t grieve. We’ll have a celebration, everyone’s going to be happy, there’s no sorrow and no tears. Terrible things are going to happen in the world but you are going to know that God is going to use it to a greater purpose. He’s doing something, he’s going to redeem it, he’s going to change it, everyone’s going to come back better, and it’s going to be incredible to the point of being self-deceptive about the fact that awful things happen but we’re not going to acknowledge those.

In fact, taught at some point don’t believe and listen to a bad report. You have to say something else. You don’t accept the fact that there is a tragedy. I’m not saying that’s exactly what was intending to be taught and that I’m capturing it all correctly but there is a piece of that. That even grew into confession like people wouldn’t be willing to admit when they were sick or ill when they had a physical handicap or when they were struggling with something whether it’s a behavior that’s not positive. What’s funny is it turns us into Stepford people. We become unattainable, unrealistic, and plastic because we’re faking it. Everyone’s trying to fake it until they make it because the reality is by virtue of being human, we experience loss and grief. I got upset about this, not at anyone but both of my parents have passed and I went through a grieving process and it was helpful for me.

One of my cousins, she lost her mother, my aunt. She was in this environment where I watched throughout the whole service where she was trying to be upbeat, positive, “scriptures,” and all this stuff. I talked to my other cousin that is looking out for her a little bit. I was like, “She needs the chance to grieve. She needs to be able to be sad. She has lost her mother. She needs to be able to go through that.” If we’re not careful, we try to train ourselves that negative doesn’t occur or that we can undo the negative by being Christian and that we now can say the right things to undo it. What happens is all we do is bury and suppress and we become less real, not more. What we need to do is to be comfortable to experience our grief and to know that it’s normal for every human being to do it, to go through it the way that they go through it, and to know that then you can take that thing to God and you can lament. Lament is sometimes calling on the character of God and saying, “This awful thing is happening. This is who I understand you to be. These are completely incongruent. Where are you?”

Instead of trying to answer that for God, you are not God, I am not God. I can’t always answer those things but the fact that I bring them to Him means that I still believe Him. I can sit in that uncertainty, lack of knowledge, not try to explain things away for Him, and be completely vulnerable in front of Him. What amazing thing might exist because we are totally honest and transparent and how God might answer or even in the not answering, sit with us. We think God is going to turn everything around and explain it. I feel like life is a sitcom. You’ve got to be strung up in the background and all of a sudden, we’re going to like, “Here’s the resolution of this event, here’s how it all plays out and here’s how I’ll be different tomorrow.”

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works but what we do get to is a place where we have a transparent vulnerability and what God does instead of trying to use every opportunity to explain somehow Himself is He uses some of those opportunities to be with us. I went to a church, they lost these couple of kids. Someone had a medical issue or whatever and they ended up laying on the gas pedal, plowing through a sidewalk, and these kids were tragically killed. I went into the service a year later when the families came back in, they’d been sequestered from everything for a while. The church there was this sorrow, grieving and no attempt to try and turn that into, “Here’s what God is going to do to make this thing wrap up in a boat.”

It was weird because the spirit of God was present. All He was doing was being with everyone and mourning with them for loss. Not trying to explain it, turn it, challenge people, nor pull them into whatever but just saying, “I love you, I grieve with you, and I’m here with you. I’m not going to try to explain it, but I’m going to be your comforter.” We don’t realize that is part of what our relationship with God looks. If you’ve seen the movie, Inside Out, sometimes in Christianity we’re unwilling to get to the end of that movie.

I love all that you said that, and I don’t even want to add anything to it because it was beautiful. I do want to put a bow on it and saying that lamenting as you mentioned was all over the Psalms. It’s people crying out without an answer. The Book of Job is beautiful and God doesn’t give an answer. I’ve been convicted even hearing you for myself, I’m like, “I am bad at this.” My wife is better than I am at this. When I sit in the American cultural and even my Enneagram 3 Achiever mindset, I look down on those traits. I looked down on those inefficient, ineffective, annoying, cumbersome, and all these things that I can put to them and why I don’t want to be like that when that’s a weakness and it’s hurting me. I did a video on social media about this tendency to avoid obstacles or opposition. Lamenting and grief are often viewed that as an obstacle or it’s an opposition to what I’m trying to accomplish. I try to avoid it or go around it, but the path is always through it. God wants us to go through it because it’s being human. If we don’t, it produces that plastic and fake people. The most reprehensible thing in Christianity is plastic fake people.

It was interesting you said something earlier, you were talking about how people come from a perspective and they’re looking at this thing from that perspective and if they’re looking at God. When you go through something like grief, sorrow, lamenting, what if that’s an opportunity for you to change your vantage point? You’re still looking at the same thing, but you’re looking from a different vantage point and that’s one opportunity you have in your own life to see God through a different lens. A lens of that experience too. You talk about even the idea of your experiences are like this and 80%. If your experience truly is only 0.00000001% of everything, why would you rob yourself of part of even that in the way that you approach God in life is to rob yourself of something that is part of the depths of what it is to be human.

I always think that there’s an infinite number of experiences, but we have a finite number of emotional lenses through which we view them. Why would you cut off some of those finite numbers of lenses and ways that you can identify with other people? There’s a humility to this. Humility is a trade I want to work on. I was in Peru on one of these trips. This guy was on a train. We’re on our way back from Machu Picchu and I had this incredible time. This guy was there from Brazil. He spoke Brazilian Portuguese, I spoke English but I speak a little Spanish. That guy spoke a lot of Spanish. There was a Peruvian guy on the train with us.

We ride along and this guy starts into this story. Do you have that sense of groundedness sometimes that another human being carries with them that it’s a gravitas, a weightiness but it’s like a groundedness? We’re in this train going along and I’ve rarely encountered someone who was so connected to the ground underneath them. What happened was this guy was talking about his battle with addiction to nicotine. He’d been a smoker all his life. Years ago, he had a significant health event and he is now clean. The way that he was talking about to this guy that was across the way which was a smoker and he was talking about his experience, the humility that this guy brought of acknowledging his weakness, struggle and also the victory that he had for years but the way that he went through that was not more plastic, it was more real. It was more grounded and it was incredibly powerful.

UAC 147 | Human Interaction

 

We sometimes think if we admit those things that we’ll find ourselves being robbed of our power, testimony, or whatever. The reality is that when we bring those things to light, when we bring them out, we face and deal with them, when we go through it and on the other side, we’re a little bit more grounded. When we encounter somebody else when we were on that train, we have this sense of being more grounded. When someone encounters us, there’s power. That power is the humility. That’s one of the reasons humility is such a powerful trait. There is a groundedness to it and it creates open arms because I no longer have to defend my existence and my value. I can be at the lowest part of who I am and know that God has a signed value. I can acknowledge that lowest part and then be more complete and because I’m more complete, I can more easily identify with somebody else and they can more easily identify with me. I’m not afraid to be present.

That’s why humility can’t be manufactured. It’s developed and grown by experience, loss, being human and failing. Failure and loss are two things that make us most human and they add up over time which is why it’s a lot harder for younger people to express that or live that out. A lot of times when you’re younger, you haven’t experienced a lot of loss. You haven’t experienced as much failure and you haven’t seen the consequences of that yet. That’s where humility is developed through the living and experiencing life. It carries with it a weight that is not a guarantee by any means, but that’s how it comes about.

One thing I try to do on that front is I keep going back to these Bible stories. There’s a story where Elijah has had this incredible moment. He thinks he’s the bee’s knees. He has gone up and there are all these prophets from Baal. He’s like, “You call down fire from heaven and see what happens.” Nothing happens then he calls down fire from heaven and God has this big thing. All of a sudden, there’s this woman, she has a bell and she’s like, “My eyes are on you. I’m getting you.” She is going to chase him down. Elijah runs off and encounters God and he’s like, “God, why aren’t you here for me now? She’s going to kill me. Life’s awful. I’m the only one left. Look at all this stuff I’ve been doing for you. Without me, there’s nothing. You owe me this.” God deals with him in a cool way. One of the things He does that I have started to try to take to heart as He says, “By the way, you think that you’re the only one, but I have 7,000 other prophets who have not bowed their knee.”

I remind myself, there’s not just 1 or 2, there’s not one person who’s figured this out better than I have. It’s not two people who have a closer, more honest relationship with God. It’s not that there are five people or a dozen that have figured out how to be honest with all this stuff. There are 7,000 and I remind myself of that. It’s not necessarily that that’s the specific message. I try to say anytime you think you figured something out, anytime you think that you’re walking in it and you’ve got a place to be proud and arrogant. You have a place to think that you have it figured out, there are 7,000 people doing it better. You better find that your worth and your value is how God has seen that in you. You better find that you don’t think that you’ve achieved or arrived and that there are people who are beneath you because as soon as you see someone beneath you, there are 7,000 people above you. You will never win on that scale. I found that to be helpful toward a practice of humility.

Even as young people still run into things like YouTube or Instagram, here are these people who have done more than I’ve done. I experienced this potential for comparison and it doesn’t sound like humility to say this, but humility is also saying, “It’s okay for them to have succeeded in this way.” For me not to have lost my worth. I don’t need to judge them, find ways to judge and find them at fault, or to judge and find myself at fault for not achieving on that status. I need to find my humility, my actual worth somewhere else so that I can be present whether I’m at the top or the bottom of the pile. It’s Paul who says, “I can do all things through Christ.” I look at it as a response to Ecclesiastes. In Ecclesiastes, you’ve got Solomon who’s trying to figure like, “I’ve been on top of the world and I’ve been at the bottom of the world. I’ve been enriched and I’ve tried to think about what a poor person would do. I’ve tried to drink everything away and I’ve tried to be honorable.”

All of it is vanity. It’s all vapor in the end. Paul’s approach in the end when he’s talking about how to be a base and learn how to abound. When he says, “I can do all things through Christ,” what he’s saying is imagine those things are drapes or it’s easy to look at them but the real thing is to pull them to one side or the other and to look through to Christ. The reason is then we find our value and our worth in Him and the rest of it is a circumstance. Whether I’m at the bottom or the top, in or out, have or I don’t have, that’s not the thing that I’m going to use as a measure of my worst because I’m looking through to something else.

I like to think of that as Paul’s response to Ecclesiastes. The point is when you’re looking at A versus B, when you’re looking at whatever success is or what failure is, the problem is you’re looking at the wrong thing altogether. It will always disappoint you. Success will never be enough. You can’t accept enough failure. That’ll lead to despair. Whatever it is that the metric is that you’re using if that metric is not that you have been signed fundamental worth by God. If it’s fundamental worth by creation and then reaffirmed by redemption and the fact that Jesus came, no matter what you do with Him, He has assigned value to every single human being. You start saying, “I don’t need to earn that from somebody else.” I can go back to the same posture we talked about the beginning of giving rather than expecting because I don’t need it from somebody else.

It’s such a beautiful word on identity too. It’s something that we’re all faced with on a daily basis, now more than ever before with its social interconnectedness. I’m going to end with a few one-offs, but we’ll probably have to do a round two because there’s so much that we didn’t get to that I want to talk about. You can answer these as short as long as you want. The first one is what new habit or belief has most positively impacted you or your life?

The simple one is I’ve been trying to do this for a little while and there are these talks about making your bed. I’m in a studio, I find that my bed or my sink demonstrate my emotional level at the moment. If my sink is overflowing with dishes and things, I often do check in with myself and I was like, “Something emotionally is going on and you feel something is happening if your dishes aren’t done.” It’s not because I’m a neat freak because I’m not. You could ask a lot of people I have a lot of flaws in that particular area, but I notice it because when that is disheveled, it’s usually because something inside of me is disheveled and it causes me to check-in. I’d say that habit because it causes me to check in on bigger things.

If you could dedicate a year to studying one person in their life, who would it be?

I don’t know that much about this person but there’s something about Mother Teresa. It’s an easy cop-out answer, but the reason is she came from such a privileged background. When you talk about the way that she had a relationship with God and the way that she lived itself out through her life and other people, there’s something in the undercurrent of that. I think it would take at least a year to try not to know about her, but to get to understand how she developed into the person that she was. Also, into the views and beliefs that she had, and how they practically carried themselves out. I feel that’s one area that I fall woefully inadequate, how I live out my beliefs, and let them change society.

That would be a great person to study. What books or book has had the biggest impact on you?

By virtue of being human, we experience loss and grief. Nothing good ever comes out from suppressing it. Click To Tweet

I cry every time I read Where the Red Fern Grows. That’s what has the most impact on me. It certainly has had an impact. It’s funny, I read that as a kid and I would read it again and again. Other than the Bible, it’s the book I read the most.

How has it impacted you? What has it done for you?

It’s a story of love and loss. I read it as a kid and then as a teenager. I still remember crying through the end of it like literally tears. Something about that being okay and thinking about the way that this kid loved these animals, the way the animals loved him, and the way they loved each other. There’s something about it. It was emotionally freeing. It was okay to experience any who have gotten so attached to what was happening in that story.

Finally, the question we ask every guest on the show, if you could send a morning text reminder to every up and comer out there, what short message would you say and why? This would be a text they get from you each and every morning.

Not every risk, but there are risks worth taking. I gave you 6 or 7 of these things, so I’ll have to give you a snippet for later.

UAC 147 | Human Interaction

 

The second installment will be much more of lessons learned from working fifteen years as an accountant and also being a creative guy. The differences in lifestyle that we both live in that sense are interesting. I’d love to dive into that. Until that next time, James. This has been such a blast. Where’s a good place for people to connect or reach out and say hi?

I’m on Instagram, @JamesBowieKnife. My email is James_Bowie@me.com.

There are risks worth taking as a well-said word. Thanks for coming on and riffing. I can’t wait to do it again.

Thanks for having me. It’s good to catch up.

For all you Up and Comers out there, we hope you have an up and coming week because we out.

Following up with one last thing to note, if you would like to get a curated list of all the content I’m learning from, whether that be books I’m reading, podcasts I’m listening to, quotes, some pondering, or even some sermons I’m enjoying. In Thane is a monthly newsletter that brings vetted content that I know you’ll enjoy. Go to ThaneMarcus.com/InThane to sign up and you’ll be sure to receive the next one. Each edition of In Thane is released on the first Sunday of the month. This is a once a month newsletter that I hope you enjoy and benefit from as much as I have. Here’s to learning and growing one day at a time.

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UAC 146 | Start Your Podcast

 

Podcasting has been a booming market for more than half a decade now, and it shows no signs of slowing down. For host Marcus Thane Ringler, starting a podcast is just a matter of doing it. Of course, you do need to pay attention to certain technicalities, such as hardware and software, launching platforms, and others, which Marcus details in this episode. However, the most important thing is to really connect with your “why” and start doing your thing with a clear sense of purpose. If you are looking to have your voice heard by starting your own show, this episode is a must-listen.

Listen to the podcast here:

Podcasting Essentials To Start Your Own Show

This is a show all about learning how to live a good life. We believe that it takes living with intention in the tension. Life has many tensions that we get the chance to live in the middle of daily and we believe intentionality, infusing intention into all that we do is the best way to face those tensions and we get to do that together as a community. Thanks for reading and being a fellow Up & Comer. We are glad you were here. I am excited to share some thoughts with you about a common question that I get and that is, “Thane, how did you start a podcast?” That is what we’re going to be talking about.

Before we get to starting a podcast, I want to encourage you to help our show and there are three easy ways. The first is leaving a rating and review on iTunes. The second is sharing the show or an episode of the show with your community through the socials or by texting some friends. Three, by supporting us financially through Patreon or reaching out to us at TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com and seeing if a partnership may make sense. We love supporting businesses that align with what we are about so reach out if that’s on your radar.

UAC 146 | Start Your Podcast

I wanted to read a rating and review left by MLWoodward. It says, “Encouraging and Uplifting,” as a title. MLWoodward says, “I love the interviews that Thane has with his guests. Each episode is well-crafted and gives the readers the encouragement to the journey they’re on. I also love that the show has changed up to include different styles and stories. I can’t wait to check out more of the show.” Thank you for that sweet review, MLWoodward. If you want yours read on air, head over to Apple Podcasts or iTunes as it’s formerly known and leave us a rating review. That’d be a sweet way to help us out. Thank you for that.

How To Start A Podcast

The topic of the day is podcasting, “How to start a podcast?” One of the most frequent questions or inquiries that I get is, “I’m thinking of starting a podcast, I’m looking for some advice or direction on how to do that and what it takes. Can you help me out?” I love helping people out, but when you have the same conversation over and over again, it’s usually a good sign that you might want to record that and share it a little more broadly. That light bulb moment comes on, that was especially for me. Podcasting has been in growing space for the past few years. The boom isn’t slowing down either with over 32% of Americans over the age of twelve are tuning into shows. What I love about that statistic is that it shows there is still plenty of room for growth and a remaining large portion of the population who hasn’t joined the movement quite yet. This is why I always recommend and encourage others who are thinking of starting a podcast to do it.

UAC 146 | Start Your Podcast

Similar to Chandler’s advice on writing a book, you can see the previous episode number 145 featuring Chandler Bolt, whose whole business is based on helping people write books. Starting a podcast will bless not only you but those who listen to it. It may be a rough go a bit at the start, but the best way to learn about something is by doing it. Along the way, you are sure to learn a lot about yourself, about communicating well, about the topic at hand and much more. I always encourage people to do it. The same with writing a book like Chandler says, “The majority of people want to write a book. That’s something on their bucket list.” Having gone through that once I gained so much by going through the process that I would recommend it to anyone. If you want to write a book, do it. If you want to start a podcast, do it. You’re going to gain by the process of doing it. Regardless of what the fruit or result of it is, it will be a blessing to you and hopefully to others.

The natural question that follows is, “How do I do it? How do I start a podcast?” What I like to always start with first is, why are you wanting to do a podcast? What is your purpose or reason for starting a show? These are the all-important questions that provide the underlying foundation and motivation to push us through the inevitable obstacles found in any journey, but especially in one that you’ve never traveled down before. Some possibilities, is it for the purpose of self-learning and discovery? Is it to share a piece of yourself or your knowledge with a community of friends, fans or interested listeners? Is it to get to meet other inspiring people and unpack their stories through interviews? Is it to make money or is it to attract a large following?

UAC 146 | Start Your Podcast

There are lots of reasons people are motivated to create and produce a podcast and all have worth and value. The important thing is to find what’s valuable to you. Since you are the one who’s going to be putting in the work, how you answer the first question of why determines which path you take. Nowadays, there are podcasting companies similar to media houses, book publishers or TV streaming providers who offer a slew of podcasts and are able to capture larger portions of the market right out of the gates due to their notoriety. Their marketing capacity, their quality of production, and the size of listenership they already have and the size of their budgets. Some examples of these are Wondery or Gimlet, even NPR, etc.

DIY Podcasting

Pitching shows to bigger conglomerates like these is not a bad strategy, if you’re looking to reach as many people as possible or land a job doing what you love. This will be highly competitive and without a unique or compelling hook or selling point, it won’t likely produce the fruit you were looking for. The other route that Adam and I chose is to go the DIY path, the Do-It-Yourself path. This is a great path to take and here in 2020, there are many more tools and resources that you can use and leverage to help you get up and running for low costs and with ease of use.

Starting a podcast will bless not only you but also those who will listen to it. Click To Tweet

To get started, there are only three things that you need, one, a microphone, two, a host and three, some type of editing software. The fourth optional one is a website. Let’s hit all of these briefly. The first one is the microphone, what I recommend if you want to operate on a minimal budget is to start with a USB mic. The one that I use and have since the beginning is the Blue Yeti microphone. It’s about $130, and it does a great job of getting good quality audio at a low cost and is efficient and easy to use. Anybody can figure it out and plug it into their computer and it’s easy. Check that out. We also have use the Blue Snowball and that one is a little bit lower price point. It’s around $60 or $70 on Amazon, not quite as good of audio quality because you can’t adjust the settings, you have to do it from your computer. That’s a downer, but still a good option if you want to go even cheaper. You can go all the way up to thousands of dollars. I have some friends, Chad and Gabe, who had the Røde, you’ll know the brand I’m thinking of, but they have a sweet setup. That includes a whole audio board that’s easy to use and it comes with four mics. It was a great setup if you have more money to spend. I enjoyed getting to record one on that. That’s a good option. Tim Ferriss has a lot of resources on the microphones that he uses. If you have a bigger budget, I would look into that.

The second thing you need to get started is a host. A host is simply a site that will house and distribute the episodes that you produce. There are many options on this front as well. The one that I am most familiar with and that I’ve used since the beginning is the OG in the space. It’s titled Liberated Syndication. It’s called Libsyn, you can google them and find more about their website and they have all the information there. Simply put, they allow you to pay a monthly fee anywhere from $5 or $10, up to maybe $50 depending on how big of a show you have or how much data you’re uploading each month. We started at the $15 one, now we’re at the $20 plan, which gives us 250 megabytes of audio to upload each month. After that month, it is automatically archived. You don’t have to pay for storing. They store it indefinitely for you. It’s a great feature there. They do a great job because they distribute to all podcasting platforms.

If there’s a platform that plays podcasts, whether it be Apple, Google, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, you name it, there’s a lot of them out there and Overcast is another one. Whatever the platform that plays podcasts, Libsyn will distribute the episode to each one of those. That’s an important part of having a podcast. There are other options. I wouldn’t be familiar with all of them because I haven’t done a lot of research this year or the last year. It’s been years since we did ours. Look up Libsyn, a great Google search would be, “Libsyn competitors, Liberated Syndication competitors,” and compare pricing and storage. The thing you want to look for is how much storage can you upload? How many megabytes or gigabytes can you upload each month? It will take a little bit of figuring out how much you produce content-wise with your podcast and then look at does it archive it and does that cost. Also, look at where it distributes to. Those are the keys to look for a host.

UAC 146 | Start Your Podcast

The fourth point that you need to get started that’s optional is a website. Sometimes if you don’t have a website, you can pick a host that will offer a free web plugin page to host, not only your podcasts but have a website front for it. Libsyn for sure does that, I know other companies do as well. That’s something to look into. If you already do have a website, the other thing to look into is, does your host connect to that website well? That’s another avenue to explore. The third thing you need to get started is some type of editing software. If you are an Apple user like myself, you automatically have GarageBand. GarageBand is a great place to edit podcasts and that’s what I used for the first couple of years when I was still editing all the episodes. It’s a great tool. It takes a little bit of time to get familiar with anything and once you get accustomed to it, easy to use and understandable and it does a great job, giving you the tools that you need to edit your show.

You can also do a lot of research on different audio levels and settings within that, but to simply edit it and make sure you can cut out what you need to cut out and keep in what you need to keep in, GarageBand is a great place for Apple users. If you’re not an Apple user, one of the programs that are recommended the most is probably Audacity. You can download it for free. If not, it may charge a small amount, but it’s another great comparable option to GarageBand, especially for non-Mac users. As I mentioned before, that’s great for editing, clipping, trimming and moving, and all the things you need for your audio with an introduction, outros, music or whatever you have. You may want to look into the best levels or audio settings to adjust the sound so that it sounds professional. Raw is not a bad option, but there are always ways to level up your sound quality.

One of the programs that I like using while I was still editing for the first couple of years was this website called Auphonic. They offer auto leveling software. You upload your audio and they’re able to automatically level your sound levels and apply some cleaning up to the background noise to eliminate it and make it sound cleaner as a whole. It’s an affordable option. They give you a certain amount of free each month, which isn’t much. You can pay for a lump amount, which is what we did, and then go based on how much you use or you can pay for recurring amounts. It’s an affordable option if you don’t want to mess with figuring it out yourself or hiring others to help with cleaning up your sound or audio.

How you answer your “why” determines which path you take. Click To Tweet

That is the baseline, the three things that you need, a microphone, a host and some type of editing software. That’s it. The rest is the legwork you need to get started to figure out the different ways to upload your different rhythms and practices along with producing your podcast. When we launched our podcast back in 2016, iTunes was the main podcasting platform. As a result, the ratings and reviews were a big deal and they still are. If you haven’t left a rating and review yet for our show first, go leave one now. It does help us a lot and it takes 1 to 2 minutes.

In the podcasting world, there are numerous podcasting players from Apple to Google, to Spotify, to Stitcher, to Overcast, iHeartRadio and all these options and more have reduced the impact of ratings, reviews, and the impact they can have through the Apple system, even though they’re still important. Apple, in particular, has a New and Noteworthy section that allows new shows with lots of interests to be found by new listeners, and typically this is a 1 to 3-month window and it’s important to capitalize on if you want to grab a larger swath of the market.

Why The Launch Is Important

For our show, we didn’t do a good job of doing this when we started and it’s one of the things I regret not hitting harder. This is why the launch is one of the most important times for listener acquisition if you want a business term. What is recommended for the launch is starting with three episodes at once for when the podcast goes live and then having several more in the queue. If you can have about five episodes recorded before you go live, this will give you a nice start with a little bit of cushion and that’s what I would recommend for most people.

The one caveat to this is what you determined for your frequency of episodes. There are two main subdivisions of podcasts, either seasonal or periodical. Seasonal podcasts are shows that have a set number of episodes in each season with the option to do as many seasons that you’d like. Season one has twelve episodes per se and then you take a break and if you want to another season two with twelve more. This is a great option for those who want to do the show for a time but don’t want to have it producing episodes indefinitely.

On the other hand, periodical podcasts are the shows that release new episodes every day, every week, maybe every two weeks or every month. This is what our show is and we have gone back and forth a bit with it as well. In the beginning, we shot for one episode a week, and then we ended up moving to 1 every 2 weeks, a biweekly rhythm. We have since followed a once a week rhythm. We’ve flip-flopped a little bit but we’ve always been periodical. That’s another thing to think about when you’re launching. Do you want to go for it in the long run, which would be more of a periodical route? Do you want to stick with seasons to make sure that you are forecasting well for what you want to do and what you need to do?

We have covered a decent amount of ground but we’ve only scratched the surface. My hope for this episode is to give all of you who have considered starting your podcast a simple overview, foundation, and framework that you can work forward from. It can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. You don’t need that much to get going. It takes some blood, sweat and tears. As Amelia Earhart famously said, “The most difficult thing is that the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” It comes down to you. Do you want to make the decision to act? Do you want to start a podcast? My advice is that if you have a powerful enough why, then do it, you won’t regret it. If you have other questions, feedback, thoughts, comments, always feel free to reach out to me at TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com. I love hearing your feedback and questions. If you send them over, maybe we’ll take another episode to answer them. Thanks so much for your time. I hope you have an up and coming week.

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UAC 145 | Publishing A Book

 

If done the right way, publishing a book about your learnings and experiences has the ability to impact so many people out there. Publishing a book changes lives – not just yours, but your readers’ as well. Chandler Bolt is the Founder and CEO of Self-Publishing School, as well as the author of six bestselling books. Drawing on his experience in the self-publishing field, Chandler speaks to Thane Marcus Ringler about what you need to remember when you’re considering publishing a book. There’s a lot you can do for people out there who can learn from your experiences, and one of those things is putting out a book that may be able to help them get through whatever they’re going through.

Listen to the podcast here:

Chandler Bolt: How Books Change Lives: A College-Dropout’s Journey To Becoming A Business Leader

This is a podcast all about learning how to live a good life. We believe that it takes living with intention in the tension. Life is filled with many tensions and we get the chance to live in those daily. We think the best way to do that is by infusing intentionality into all that we do. Thanks for being a part of this community and being a fellow up and comer in this journey. We are glad you’re here. If you haven’t yet, there’s a great way that you can help our show out. If you want to help out our show, there are three easy ways to do it.

One way you can help our show is financially. If you want to go to Patreon.com, you can become a monthly donator through that and that’s a great way to help us keep the lights on, as they say. If you have a company and you’re interested in partnering with us, please send us an email at TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com. It’s a great way to support and would love to have your support that way. A second way to help is by sharing this episode or another with a friend or two. You can also take a screenshot and post it on the socials. If you tag us at @UpAndComersShow, we’d love to have a shout out and we’d love to hit you back with that. Thanks so much for that.

The easiest way, the third way to help us out is by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. We are nearing the triple-digit mark. We would love to break through, to crack through 100-rating and review a mark. We’d love to have you do that. It would take a minute or two of your time. Speaking of interviews or reviews, let me read a recent rating interview from Rockhard543. It’s titled, “Can’t Get Enough of the Up & Comers.” It says, “Thane does a masterful job of interviewing guests and hearing what is said. His interview style allows listeners to hear more from the interviewee than the interviewer done with skillful intention. If you’re looking for a podcast that explores life and people’s experiences in it, you found it.” Thank you, Rockhard543. That’s very kind. If you want to get yours read on air, definitely drop one in and we can give it a shout-out on the show.

I’m excited to dive into this interview and it is with none other than Chandler Bolt. Chandler Bolt is the CEO of Self-Publishing School, SelfPublishing.com and the author of six bestselling books including his book titled, PublishedSelf-Publishing School is an Inc. 5,000 company two years in a row as one of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the US. Chandler is also the host of the 7 Figure Principles Podcast and the Self-Publishing School Podcast. Through his books, podcasts, YouTube channels and Self-Publishing School, he’s helped thousands of people write their first book. Regarding Self-Publishing School, it is an online education company that teaches people how to write and publish a book in as little as 90 days. We transform the lives of purpose-driven individuals by helping them write and publish a book.

Their mission is to help 100,000 people publish their book by 2029, thus impacting 120 million people’s lives through leveraged impact, which he explains in his TEDx Talk. It is an Inc. 5,000 company for two years in a row and recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in California ranked at number 172. There are a lot of great things going on with their company and with his career so far. It was a shorter interview, but a fun and fascinating dive into his story. When I was writing my book, From Here to Thereone of the resources that I dove into quite a bit was his Self-Publishing School Podcast. That’s how I first got connected with Chandler and a great resource with a lot of information from different authors or people in the space to help give guidance and counsel to writing and publishing books.

I definitely benefited from that by diving into the podcast. I can imagine that the school being immensely helpful. In the show, we talk about how sports teach us about life, we talk about leadership lessons from coaches, opportunity costs, how books change lives, leveraged impact and burning the boats, which are a great concept. We talked about his journey into entrepreneurship, coaching practices and questions, and much more. Thanks again for tuning in. Please sit back, relax and enjoy this interview with Chandler Bolt.

Chandler Bolt, welcome to the show.

It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.

I am a golfer and I spent a lot of my life golfing. I hear that you got the chance to visit the golf course and might have learned a few lessons. What did your outing to the golf course teach you?

Is this a golf course or tennis?

It may be tennis. The reference or resource that I had mentioned golf but it may be tennis.

Honestly, it’s the same fundamentals. It’s close. What you’re referencing are the three lessons I learned about leadership by getting my butt kicked in tennis. I’ve learned some things about playing golf too. My two best clubs are my foot wedge and my racer. What was happening is I’m getting my butt kicked and I remember thinking to myself, “Stay in your toes, watch the ball, swing through.” On my way home, I did that and then I rallied, came back and beat my buddy who I was playing. I’m very competitive. I was feeling good about that. The question was, what’s something similar that you could apply to leadership?

That’s a question I started thinking about like, “I wonder what that might be for me as a leader for my team.” The first one is to be positive and encouraging, celebrate wins no matter how small. Number three, always see more in others than they see in themselves. Those happened to be some of the three hardest things for me to do as a leader is to take time to celebrate the wins, is being positive versus jumping to what needs to be fixed, and others than they see in themselves. You have flashes of that, but it’s very easy especially when you’re leading to see shortcomings and see like, “I wish they would improve there and there.” Instead, seeing what they can be and encouraging them towards that. Those are the three fundamentals.

UAC 145 | Publishing A Book

 

Isn’t it beautiful how much sports teach us about life and the business? It’s a beautiful thing.

I’m a huge Clemson football fan and I’ve learned more from watching Dabo as a leader, their head coach than anyone else around leadership. It’s watching how he runs that team, how he shows up as a leader is crazy. I did this interview on Self-Publishing School Podcast with Jon Gordon. He’s written a bunch of leadership books, The Energy Bus and The Power of Positive Leadership. He has coached Dabo for ten years and he comes and speaks to the team every year at training camp. We were talking about books and all that stuff, but then we got on a 10 to a 15-minute tangent about why Dabo was one of the top three leaders that he’s ever met and what makes him such a good leader. I love that you threw that analogy because it makes me feel better about watching all of the Clemson random videos year-round because I know that I’ll pull out these little things about leadership and so it helps me become a better leader.

If you had to highlight one of Dabo’s strengths in that, what comes to mind that separates him from other leaders or even other football coaches?

He’s so positive and encouraging always. Right behind the computer here is one of my favorite quotes from him, it’s a picture and framed on my shelf. It says, “To be an overachiever, you have to be an over believer.” Back to the leadership principles is always see more in others than they see in themselves. He’s not afraid to hold people accountable to that standard, but he’s good and encouraging. His passion, his positivity, his encouragement, all that stuff. He’s world-class in creating an environment that’s conducive to the family but also conducive to you to succeed. It’s a unique philosophy. Everybody says that they have it, but it’s unique to them and that’s why they’re so successful. It’s interesting to watch and see him because I try to model a lot of what I’m doing at Self-Publishing School after what he’s doing. My family and I got to go tour the facilities. It’s back with Brent Venables who is a defensive coordinator. He’s inspiring and unbelievable as well. It was cool to see that come out and see all the little touches. I was peppering him with questions all day about recruiting, leadership, and all that. It was cool to see the inner workings.

I’m curious for you at being a young leader of an organization, when did you first see yourself or view your own self as a leader?

My parents, especially my mom, always gave me a hard time growing up. She called me Boss Man Bolt. Even as a little kid I was bossing people around, which there’s a difference between bossing people around and being a leader. Early on, I was in high school, I had businesses and I would employ people. I had my friends working for me, so I was in a way leading them. In college, I ran a business through student painters. It was my freshman year and everyone that worked for me was older than me. That was hard. That’s what is interesting as a leader is when you’re young as a leader. I have a video of this on my 7 Figure Principles Show, which is what to do when you’re young as a leader. Most of the time it’s in your head. You think that everyone else is thinking about it but they’re not. It’s not something that a lot of people think about. I was in my head about it and then it moved into this phase where if people would bring up leadership, it would be like, “Let’s talk about a bunch of other airy-fairy stuff that doesn’t matter.” Management matters.

I didn’t see the value in it. Finally, I read this book called The Weekly Coaching Conversation and it’s great. It’s one of my top five leadership books of all time. It’s a fable, He suggests that instead of looking at yourself as a leader, you should look yourself as a coach. That shifted for me because when I heard leader, it was like, “What does that even mean?” For not much less, what does that look like? I didn’t even know what it means. You have an idea but it’s like, “What it means, but what does it look day-to-day and what does it truly mean to be a leader?” Switching that to the coach, that’s when I started learning so much from Dabo, is I said, “I’ve got a good idea of what it looks to be a coach. What if I showed up in every interaction as that?” You start to see yourself like that because you can identify it and say, “I can be a coach.”

I started to identify there then you start to realize that one of the most important things in business is leadership. It’s not only how can I become a better leader, which I think about every day. I’m reading two books right now about leadership but how can I become a better leader? How can I develop leaders within my organization and my leadership team? We always talk about internally at Self-Publishing School is leadership. It’s not a title. It doesn’t mean that you have people report to you. It’s, do you make the people around you better. Trying to encourage everyone in Self-Publishing School is like, “Are you being a leader by making the people around you better?” If you can’t lead yourself and you can’t make the people around you better, then who cares if somebody reports to you because even if and when they do, it’s not going to go well.

It made me think of a proverb that I heard once or a quote that, “When one teaches, two learn.” It’s the point that the teacher is as much learner to someone else and it doesn’t differentiate you. If it does, then you’re in trouble. It’s a beautiful way of thinking. One of the things I also learned in some calls was a business practice you have of weekly coaching calls. How you incorporate that into your work. What was the impetus or what made you instill that as a business practice and what have you seen as a result of that?

It’s part of our meeting rhythm. I used to do it biweekly, but I switched it to weekly. I had biweekly one-on-ones with my direct reports and coaching calls. We have our weekly team meetings and then we have the daily huddle and that sort of thing. One-on-ones are where the rubber meets the road and it’s where you help develop your people. We revamped the structure for those. It’s important to get on the same page to help coach them up to all those things. We’ve got a standardized process now. Previously, my one-on-one structures sucked. It’s unconscious incompetence. I didn’t know they were bad until I saw a new way. It was a way that a couple of people on my leadership team were running theirs. I saw that because we were learning as a leadership team. We had this leadership off-site or virtual offsite. How can we standardize and improve our one-on-one structure was one of the things? We start going like, “What do you do?” It’s all over the place. There was a through-line then I started adopting those. Week one, it was like, “How was I not doing this before?”

It’s a very simple structure. It’s, “How are you? Where are you at like results-wise?” We’ll look at job scorecards, KPIs and stuff like that. I’m attaching the conversation to the main KPIs or Key Performance Indicators that they’re measured based on in their role. What’s the number one most important thing when making everything else easier and necessary? You’ve got your one thing to solve and that’s the core of the conversation. Right after that, if there’s any one-off feedback from the leader or a thing or two that I need to run by them, tell them, inform them or whatever. What was the number one most helpful thing from this call? That’s a feedback mechanism. You understand what was helpful and also how they learn.

The last thing is the two-way feedback. As a leader, you’ll say, “Here’s one thing to work on.” Ask the question like, “How can I become a better leader? How can I lead you better or lead the team better?” You get feedback as well. It’s a two-way feedback mechanism, but that’s the process. It’s simple, 30 minutes each week, I batch them back-to-back. It’s 2.5 hours. I’ve got five in a row and everyone’s aligned. I helped try to clear their path and we keep moving and it’s been awesome.

You mentioned earlier your first business was at a young age. What was your very first business endeavor and how old were you? Give us a little taste of the young Chandler Bolt.

My mom would say my very first business, the first that semblance of a business, I was in the Scouts growing up. She sent me to Scout Camp and she sent me there with a bunch of snacks and drinks. I came back with a bunch of money and a switchblade knife because I sold all the snacks. That was the first inkling that “This kid is wired a little bit differently.” We had a canteen at school through my entrepreneurship class in high school. It was called Papa Ponchos. We would serve snacks during lunch. I remember we made $8,000 in three months. It was crazy. It was a kid’s dream. We’d go to Sam’s for $400 in an envelope and then you’re going and you’re getting M&M’s.

You’re getting all this crap food that people will buy. I remember making $2,000 in a semester, I’m like, “I got paid to go to high school. This is the coolest thing ever.” Landscaping lawn care and pressure washing business. It was through Student Painters, a house painting business. This internship, they teach you how to run a business by painting houses. That was the early progression of a bunch of different types of businesses. I got the confidence, “I can do this. Why am I at school learning how to run a business from professors who have never run a business?” I dropped out and then started Self-Publishing School.

What year did you drop out? Tell me a little bit about that. Obviously, doing an unconventional path like that designed it to break away from the mold, takes a lot of courage and there’s going to be a lot of opposition internally and externally to that. What was that dialogue like within yourself and when did you decide to finally make the shift?

I dropped out at the end of 2013. The big thing for me was I had a friend, we came back from a conference and he said, “Chandler, when are you going to drop out?” I had always said, “I’m here for the education, not the degree.” To be an entrepreneur, you don’t need a degree. For me, it was that I’m here for the learning and if for some reason, if my business is doing well and whatever, if I need to drop out, I’ll do that. There’s a distinct in saying like, “I do that.” When he asked me that question, and it was a very challenging question, I’m like, “I don’t know. What if I doubled down and finished early?” That was the question for me because I was like, “I would be miserable.”

My mom would always call and I was running the business with Student Painters. I was a full-time college student. I was a young life leader, all this stuff. She’s like, “Chandler, you need to stop working so hard.” My response will always be, “Mom, the stuff outside of school is what’s giving me life. If you took away that stuff, then I’d be miserable.” When I asked the question, what if I doubled down and finished and then I was repulsed by those ideas? That sounds miserable. The following question is if it’s not worth finishing early, why is it worth finishing it all or is it worth finishing it all? That was what flipped for me. I said, “No, I don’t think it is.”

I talked to a lot of mentors and got feedback from a bunch of people, prayed about it, and then finally I came to my parents and I said, “I’m dropping out. What do you guys think?” It was like, “The decisions have made.” They pushed back a little bit. Once they realized that I’d thought this through and this wasn’t like I had a bad day or a bad week, they said, “We’re fully supportive.” They were fully supportive and then I have all these other people in my life. I haven’t talked to these people in ages and they’re calling out of the blue like, “Chandler, it’s a bad decision. Don’t do it.” I was like, “Thank you for sharing your opinion. I am not going to listen to it.”

It’s a bunch of people who I like, but I didn’t respect their opinion because they didn’t know the context. They were giving me advice through their worldview without even asking what my decision was. There’s this weird interim period where you dropped out of school and you’re guilty until proven innocent because until you do something meaningful, you’re a loser in everyone else’s eyes. There was this weird period where people would ask me what I’m up to and I’m like, “I dropped out of school, but I didn’t flunk out. I’m not a loser. I’m working on this business.” I had this five-minute-long speech, which I was overcompensating. I’m thinking like they’re judging me and thinking I’m an idiot. That was a weird time. The business started going and then people started to think, “This guy isn’t so crazy after all.” By the time my buddies were graduating, we did seven figures in revenue that year. It was definitely worth it.

Sports teach us so much, whether about business or about life. Click To Tweet

In the last episode that came out with Cody Burkhart, he brought up the difference between criticism and critique, how critiques are very helpful. They become unhelpful when we internalize them and make it a self-criticism. A lot of times, we all know what criticism is. It’s flat out, ugly, and means like a lot of times. Critiques are helpful and we can use them as such but a lot of times we get stuck in her head especially at that pivotal age like college where we’re trying to figure a lot of things out in life. When you have this overwhelming noise from people saying, “That’s a dumb move.” It takes a lot of willpower and determination to withstand the onslaught that can come from that. What were some of the motivation for you to keep pushing forward even into the unknown in that?

I felt sound in my decision and there were many little things but it was talking to mentors. It seemed like everyone said the same thing. They said, “For everyone else, I wouldn’t recommend this but for you, I think this makes sense.” I was like, “I kept hearing that.” I also remember the big thing was from Tim Ferriss’ book. I forget what he calls this, but it’s saying that most people overvalue fear, overemphasize worst-case scenarios when they’re making big life decisions. His whole thing is, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” I evaluated that. The worst thing that could happen, it totally bombs, I come back to school in a year and maybe I am not eligible for some of my scholarship so I lose a bit of a little bit of scholarship money but a year.

In the grand scheme of life, what is that on a scale of 1 to 10. It’s a temporary three. It’s not going to impact my life that much. What’s the best-case scenario? The best-case scenario is I’ve got a two-year head start and the big thing was considering is what’s the opportunity costs? Everyone was channeling you’re an idiot. I can finish my degree for $7,000 in total which people were like, “That’s so great. Why would you not do that?” For me, I was looking at the opportunity cost and I’m thinking, “What are those two years’ worth?” People don’t think opportunity costs which is what you’re giving up to choose that thing. They would look at the $7,000 and then it was the worst-case best case. In the best-case scenario, I’ll get a two-year head start and make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year or $100,000 a year or whatever. In my mind, I’m thinking, “That two-year head start should be worth at least a couple of hundred grand in my life at a minimum.”

From a scale of 1 to 10, that’s a permanent nine. Tim Ferriss’ whole thing is people give up permanent nines because of temporary twos and threes. When I shook it down like that, it was, “I’m not going to give up this permanent potential nine for a temporary two. I’m going to also burn the boats and whatever.” I have no choice. Failure’s not an option. That’s something I do frequently is I’ll proclaim and tell people what I’m going to do because you’ll look like an idiot if you don’t do it. I dropped out of school and I moved across the country to Des Moines, Iowa into an entrepreneur house. I almost failed at dropping out of school which would have been embarrassing but it makes it to where failure isn’t an option.

One of the things that have been most powerful for me when I think about that is that consistency bias we have that if we say something, we want to be consistent with what we say so much so that we’ll go to irrational extends to make it happen. That is such a great thing to leverage to our advantage by proclaiming it. I love doing that. If I have something I’m procrastinating on, I’m going to throw something out in the world on social media or to friends and family and say, “I’m getting this done by next week.” I’m like, “I just said that. I better do it.” It’s a great tool to leverage.

That comes from one of the best marketing books of all time, Influence by Robert Cialdini, commitment, and persistence. We use that when we’re helping people writing and publishing books. There are two things. We have them sign a contract to myself. It’s saying, “I’m committing to doing this as part of their orientation when they get started.” We asked them to print that out and hang it up where they can see it so you’ve made a commitment to yourself. The second thing we ask them to do is there’s a blank sheet of paper that says, “Future published author. My rough draft will be finished by,” then there’s a blank date. They write on the date, take a picture of it and post it to social media. All of a sudden, they’re holding themselves accountable. Commitment and consistency are the same things.

What was this first entrepreneurial endeavor? The follow-up question to that is why writing?

The first entrepreneurial endeavor dropping out of school was off the back of one of my books. The book did well and it was about productivity which said, “What if I create a productivity course? I violated one of the fundamental laws of entrepreneurship which is, “Until you have sales, you don’t have a business, you have a business idea.” We help people turn their books into courses and launch courses and stuff like that. We’ve got a program called Course Building for Authors in Self-Publishing School. We run into this all the time and this is fundamental to what we teach. Sell then build. Pre-sell so you’re validating the idea and then build the thing that people have voted with their wallet that they want. I didn’t do that. It totally bombed. I don’t know if we’ve sold a single copy of that course to this day. Meanwhile, people were smacking me in the face.

Somebody can only smack in the face so many times before you turn it on and look and then you turn it on and look people kept asking about books, they kept asking about it. I’d get on the phone with them for an hour to be a nice person and tell them everything I knew about writing, publishing a book, and then say, “Good luck. I hope your book does well.” I wouldn’t charge them anything. I was being nice. Finally, you think, “I should be charging for this.” That became ultimately what we started, which was what we called, in the beginning, the Bestselling Book System, and that morphed into a Self-Publishing School. I believe that books changed lives. Books change the lives of the author and reader. I believe in what we call leveraged impact. The ability to do work once and crystallize your knowledge into a single book.

That’s going to live long after you’re off this Earth and that’s going to help tens of thousands maybe even millions of people. It’s crystallizing something into a book and then that book has the ability to impact a whole lot of people. That’s what I talked about to my TEDx Talk is the concept of leveraged impact. I’m passionate about it. I went from someone who’s a C-level English student, a college dropout who hated reading and writing to now I’ve written six books myself and I’ve read a book a week because it’s the best way to. The smartest and most successful people on the planet have crystallized what they learn into a book. All you have to do is pay $15, spend a few hours and you can learn from them. I call it a $15 mentor. People are always looking for mentors but there’s the opportunity there. If you spend $15, buy their book, read it, and learn.

UAC 145 | Publishing A Book

Publishing A Book: There are some people you like even if you don’t necessarily respect their opinions. They’ll give you advice through their worldview without knowing what you want.

 

I’m curious about this transition going from a C-level English student dropping out of college. Reading and writing wasn’t a priority before. What created that shift for you? What opened your eyes, helped you see the value, motivated you to even dive into writing your first book, or even valuing something like a reading practice?

At some point, you realize that your message is bigger than the mechanism. The mechanism was the book and I didn’t necessarily even want to do that, but I knew that I tripped and fell into it. I had a message that I could share that was going to help a handful of my friends. Me and my coauthor at that time, we said, “We could write this in PDF.” We did that. One day we said, “This is getting good but what if we put this on Amazon and see what happens?” We don’t do anything halfway. We gave a good promotion push, ask for reviews, and did a bunch of the fundamental stuff that we now teach. The book started selling and it started doing well.

When people hear your story and what you’re able to do at such a young age and impact you’ve been able to make. To speak to that impact, there’s a sign that says leveraged and it has a plus impact and then it has equals. One of your mission statements I heard from the TEDx Talk, which is 100,000 books leading to impacting 120 million lives. Give me a little bit of where this mission or vision came from and why it drives you.

There’s a much longer story about that. I tell that in the TEDx Talk too about a friend that passed away. It was a tragic accident and it crystallized for me what was important. He had attended one of my random webinars and started writing his book. Through the help of some friends, after he passed away, I didn’t even know this at that time that he was working on that. After he passed away, we were able to publish the book. That was a very meaningful experience for me. That kickstarted all this stuff. You get down into that journey and you start seeing like, “These books change lives.” This is something that is I wholeheartedly believe in. When we said, “What’s a crazy goal?” Our big hairy audacious goal if you’re a Jim Collins fan. If we can help 100,000 people, write, and publish a book, that’s going to impact at least 120 million lives through leveraged impact. We’re a couple or a few thousand. I don’t know the exact number right off hand but we’re a couple or a few thousand books down the road. We had 53 books published. We’re at about 50 books published. That’s yet to come. We’re going to keep publishing books and keep changing lives.

We want to be consistent with what we say so much so that we'll go to irrational extents to make it happen. Click To Tweet

Your TEDx Talk, it’s definitely worth watching. It paints a beautiful picture of that tragic event with your friend. What I was getting at the question before is that we don’t randomly get to where we’re at by chance and you don’t one day wake up and turn into a successful entrepreneur or have the motivation to do that. Usually, we’re refined through fire and hard things in our life. It could be the same example. It could be a different example if you’d like, but what would be some of those low points, some of those points where it doesn’t look so optimistic. What are some of those dark moments for you?

That’s the biggest one. Outside of that, buying out my business partner, showing up to one of my company off-sites, and finding out from one of my employees that my business partner was trying to kick me out the business. Going through mediation and negotiating multiple six-figure buyouts, going into the largest debt in my life, borrowing money from my parents’ retirement, and my brother. That was when it was like, “There’s no option.” Once again, talk about burning the boats like putting yourself in a position where there’s no option to fail. There are many examples. Leaders are born when the times are tough. This is something I’ve been telling my team with all the COVID stuff going on is this is when we earn our paychecks. Anybody can lead when things are going well. It’s like, “Things are going up into the right.” That’s an easy time to lead. The leaders are born and made when the times are tough. Those are two from the journey. Too often people see where you’re at and not where you’ve been. There are many more low points, way too many dimensions.

How many years into the business were you when the discovery of this partner trying to finagle his way in?

It’s about a year of massive success early. It’s a long, convoluted story but with the Bestselling Book System, there were three of us. We had a disagreement with one partner and then we said, “This is not going to work out. We’re going to go recreate this. We’ll create the whole thing from scratch and best of luck.” The two of us went out and recreated it as Self-Publishing School and launched it as a publishing school. That we went from $0 to $1.3 million to $2 million that year. We kicked off the next year and that’s when I found out. It was a crazy time.

When you’re withdrawing from your parents’ retirement fund and burning the boats, what keeps you grounded in the midst of that storm? What were the anchors for you in getting through that bleak situation at that time?

I had a good support system, my parents, and my team. I had people who were very loyal to me and who believed in me. Oddly enough, the fact that I had my parents’ retirement fund on the line, in general, kept me very grounded. I’m like, “Blocking and tackling. We’re not going to overcomplicate this. Are we making more money than we’re spending?” I had to make tough decisions. Right when I bought the company like, “We were in not a good spot.” The mediator looked at me and was like, “I feel sorry for this kid.” I was 23, 24 and I paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy the other half of this business. I think I need to go back and talk to him because he thought that I was getting taken advantage of. If you looked at the way the business was, it was not good. I immediately had to come in and start firing people and find a bunch of people, now it’s was hard. That’s what kept me grounded is like, “I’d rather make a tough decision than lose my parents’ retirement.”

Give me a little snapshot of what the vision is for 2020 in the midst of all the changes going on. What’s the focus right now?

UAC 145 | Publishing A Book

Publishing A Book: “Leveraged impact” is the ability to do work once and crystallize the knowledge you’ve gained into a book that has the ability to impact a lot of people.

 

Right now, the focus is getting back to the basics. Does it get students signed up? The students are what we call customers. Does it get student’s results? If it’s not one of those two things, it doesn’t matter and it shouldn’t be done. We’re focused relentlessly on those two things. We’re rolling out new products, PR & Speaking for Authors. We’ve got our Author Advantage Live Event happening in September 2020 after all this the COVID craziness dies down. I’m very excited about that. The goal was 600 to 750 people there. Our first event in 2019 was about 300 people. That was a lot of fun and growing. We had one of our best months ever in the midst of this. We broke a record and there’s still time left on the clock from a breaking records perspective. The best is yet to come. We’re building and trying to help more people.

Imagining your 50-year-old self, what advice do you think you’d give your current self?

Make tough decisions sooner.

Speaking of writing, what book or books have had the biggest impact on you?

Is there a specific area right now that you’re saying, “I want to grow in this area?”

I would say top of the list, any area.

Extreme Ownership is one of my best books of all time. Both leadership books and general.

It was what I framed my book off of in format because I love what he did so much with that. The last question is one that we ask everyone that comes to the show. If you could send a morning text reminder to every Up & Comer out there, a text message they receive every single morning, what would you say and why?

I would say get your butt out of bed and stay focused because many people run down rabbit trails. The reason our businesses have grown so quickly is that we’ve stayed focused. I’m ADD and I’ve run off on rabbit trails, but it’s a constant reminder of how can we relentlessly focus on what’s right in front of us?

Chandler, thanks so much for coming on and taking some time. Where’s a great place for people to connect and learn more about what you’re up to?

Leaders are born when times are toughest. Click To Tweet

Personally, I’m on Facebook. Nothing else, no other media. In Self-Publishing School, go to the Self-Publishing School website. We’ve got a pillar post about how to write a book. That’s the one place to get started. We’ve got a book outline template generator there. That’s pretty cool. You can find a free copy of my book published there. There’s free training, a lot of good resources here on SelfPublishing.com.

Until next time, Chandler, thanks so much for coming on and keep pushing that leverage impact. I’m excited to see what comes from it.

Thanks so much for having me.

We hope you all have an up and coming week because we’re out.

Following up with one last thing to note. If you would like to get a curated list of all the content I’m learning from whether that be books I’m reading, podcasts I’m listening to, quotes I’m pondering of even I’m some sermons I’m enjoying, In-Thane is a monthly newsletter that brings vetted content that I know you’ll enjoy. Go to ThaneMarcus.com/InThane to sign up and you’ll be sure to receive the next one. Each edition of In-Thane is released the first Sunday of the month. This is a once a month newsletter that I hope you enjoy and benefit from as much as I have. Here’s to learning and growing one day at a time.

Important Links:

About Chandler Bolt

UAC 145 | Publishing A BookChandler Bolt is the CEO of Self-Publishing School, SelfPublishing.com, and the author of 6 bestselling books including his most recent book titled “Published.”. Self Publishing School is an INC 5000 company for the last 2 years in a row as one of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the US.

Chandler is also the host of the 7 Figure Principles Podcast and the Self Publishing School Podcast. Through his books, podcasts, YouTube channels, and Self-Publishing School, he’s helped thousands of people write their first book.

Fun fact: Chandler’s brother Seth Bolt plays in the Grammy-Nominated Band NEEDTOBREATHE. See them on Rolling Stone here.

Link to latest book (use this for interview/story):
Published. The Proven Path From Blank Page To Published Author
Send to this link → self-publishingschool.com/published
Also available on Amazon.

You can also send them to the Self Publishing School podcast and/or the 7 Figure Principles Podcast. 🙂

Self Publishing School Bio (40 Words):
Self-Publishing School is an online education company that teaches people how to write & publish a book in as little as 90 days. We transform the lives of purpose-driven individuals by helping them write and publish a book. Our mission is to help 100,000 people publish their book by 2029 thus impacting 120M+ people through “Leveraged Impact. (I explain this in my TEDx talk here: https://youtu.be/sHfrvpgDsaw)

Self Publishing School is an INC 5000 company the last 2 years in a row as one of the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the US (2018: #2,699 and in 2019: #1,483). We were also recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in California and ranked at #172.

Contact Information:
Email: chandlerdbolt@gmail.com

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UAC 144 | Antifragility

 

Resilience is being able to adapt to existing conditions. Antifragility goes beyond resilience by getting better and better with each exposure to stressors. Joining Thane Marcus Ringler in this episode is Cody Burkhart, a human performance specialist and the PSION Lab Chief at NASA. Cody and Thane talk about antifragility and how it relates to teaching children. Drawing heavily from his experience as a father, Cody gives his take on the prevailing paradigm in education. He suggests a better model for learning that teaches children how to recognize patterns, attain situational awareness, and think efficiently – all geared at raising good humans who are antifragile and have the ability to thrive in an uncertain world.

Listen to the podcast here:

Cody Burkhart (Rd.2): Neuroscience And Behavior: A Conversation On Growing Good Humans, Patterns, Situational Awareness, Significance, And Antifragility

This is a podcast all about learning how to live a good life. We believe that it takes living with intention in the tension. Life is filled with tension. That is our catchy mantra, which means we believe intentionality and infusing that into everyday life is the best way to face the tensions that we all experience. That is our show and our mission and what we are about. We get to unpack that through solo episodes where I share some things and learning through fellowship episodes which are peer-to-peer conversations and through interviews. To find us more about us, you can go to TheUpAndComersShow.com or find us on the socials, @UpAndComersShow.

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In this episode, I’m excited to get into our interview. It is another round-two. There are very few people I’ve had round-twos with, but I knew from the get-go that this was a guy I’d want to have a round-two with. This is Cody Burkhart. He is a father, husband, reader, thinker, weaver, and nerd. He spends most of his time attempting to understand the nature of perception, our definitions of reality, the nature of the human condition, and the core duality of our immense significance and insignificance. That’s the important stuff. The rest to follow is nothing more than context. That context is he holds BS degrees in both Aerospace Engineering and Mechanical Engineering with a minor in the Art and Practice of Leadership from the University of Colorado Boulder. He is working to complete a Master’s in Neuroscience and Behavior from the University of Houston – Clear Lake. He also serves as the President of the Neuroscience Student Organization at the UHCL, University of Houston – Clear Lake.

Within NASA, Cody serves as a Lab Chief of the Physiology-Sensing Intelligent Optimization Nucleus or PSION Lab, developing advanced exercise and human performance systems for long-duration space travel with an end goal of being an immersive, biofeedback, resistive and assistive exosuit. He’s a Project Manager of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device, ARED, the crew strength and conditioning asset aboard the International Space Station. He’s a Project Manager of the Knowledge Reaper Asset in a Kinetic Network, KRAKN is what that’s called. It’s a multi-modal data management system for the health and performance monitoring of the ISS crew. He’s a Head Mentor for the Flight Systems Branch interns and pathways programs. It includes up to eight interns, undergrad, graduate, and Doctoral. He’s the head of Strategic Partnerships and Collaborations for the Flight System Branch. He’s a grant development specialist.

Beyond this work, Cody has served numerous roles in diverse areas including the Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle and the Active Response Gravity Offload System or ARGOS. He has also spent numerous years developing skillsets in high-performance athletic training. His work has included all levels of athletics from owning and operating a grassroots gym, servicing the general population through to high school, collegiate athletes, professional athletes, Olympic athletes, and special operators. While the process may have been shared though, the accolades remain entirely theirs, as he says. In the end, it’s less about the roles and the jobs and more about the meandering journey that compels us all forward. Stay safe, stay well. That is a piece of Cody Burkhart. That might have whetted your appetite a little bit as we are about to take a deep dive with my friend, Cody.

UAC 144 | Antifragility

We got connected through Unscared, Inc. back in the day when I was playing professionally. He was my trainer and developed a sweet friendship and relationship with him through that. He’s a wealth of knowledge, ideas, and an incredible thinker. I was so excited. We dive into many things in this interview. We talk about critique versus criticism, the misleading of intuition, patterns, and true learning. We explore some of the new theoretical models that he’s testing. We talk about curiosity versus control, process versus outcome, presence versus future-oriented. We also talk about specialization, generalization and so much more. If you want to find more about Cody, you can go to TheUpAndComersShow.com/cody/2. If you want to connect with him, shot him an email. He is always down to dialogue. Please enjoy this deep dive, wide-ranging interview conversation with my friend, Cody Burkhart.

Cody Burkhart, welcome back to the show.

How are you?

I’m doing well. It’s a pleasure to be back with you. It’s been a couple of years since the first installment, but I couldn’t be more excited about round-two. We don’t have too many repeat guests so far, but to have you back is definitely a privilege and honor. I am grateful for your friendship.

I appreciate you and thank you for inviting me. It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to do an interview. I’ve always appreciated the conversations we’ve had. People don’t get to have the early conversations that have happened beforehand but they’ve been nice. It’s been good to catch up with you. Congratulations to you and your wife and your bright new future.

Thanks, it’s been a sweet journey. It’s something we were chatting about before we hopped on here and we’re going to get to that. It’s how we change and progress as humans. Before we get there, I thought it would be fun to loosen things up with a couple of one-offs here, and these can be as long or short of answers as you’d like. The first one is less, more and none. What do you want to do less often, more often and not at all?

I would like to be angry less often. I would like to be patient more often. I would like to say stop wasting time being concerned with things that I cannot control. It seems generic but those are real struggles I face every day.

What would you say is the biggest time-waster of something that you can’t control?

The biggest time-waster in my life is my self-critique. The ways I try to analyze a plan or chop myself down is wasted space.

The better we think that we're predicting, the worse we are at it. Click To Tweet

Isn’t that funny how counterintuitive it is that we think it’s productive to critique ourselves incessantly in some shape or fashion? It’s almost like a default reality that we fall into. There is a half-truth in that because it is important to evaluate, critique, and analyze but to what end?

We’ve talked about it previously and my kids can attest. I’m an immediate feedback critique person, very blunt, and very critical. I think immediate reflection is necessary. The problem is when that perturbation spirals towards non-beneficial critiques. Also, the idea of critique versus criticism. People need to let go of the word criticism. Criticism is someone being rude and they’re trying to attack you. Critique is what we all get and if you don’t like it and you call it criticism, that’s not criticism. Take honest information and resolve that. It’s when you get stuck in some of those emotional flexes of a critique that allowed to feel like criticism and we make that criticism of ourselves and you can’t get out of it. My wife will show me an email and she was like, “I feel like I was offensive here.” My response is like, “I should start thinking about how I write my emails.” She’s over here losing it like, “I am in so much trouble. I can’t believe I wrote this.” I’m like, “That’s nice. That was really sweet. You were nice and that prompt is to the point. I don’t see what the problem is.” That critique is necessary. It’s required.

I love that distinction too. That’s one that’s not often understood or known that the negative critique is not a criticism. There’s a big difference between a critique and criticism like you said. My wife is like you to Logan in that sense. I don’t do a good job laying down the truth regardless of how it feels. I sugar coat things a little bit more. I’m a little bit more conflict-averse and my wife has helped me in a short time and says it how it is. Let the cards fall as they may but be honest about it. Critique can be helpful and that change of view is beautiful. As you said, the two results are beneficial and not beneficial critique. Understanding that can also be a helpful rubric for us.

I always lean back towards this general metaphor. It’s the Chinese farmer at the end of the day, good or bad, hard to say. The things that you do, you don’t know if it is going to be good or bad. You don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing that someone’s telling you. To give the value of that essential nature early in the process is dangerous. We want to try and assign a weight to say this is a plus or minus in my bin of life. I know I’m guilty of it. I say that if I don’t do something to the level of my expected outcomes, then I have failed. I’ve immediately given it a negative sign before whatever critique I have afterward. That’s hard because it limits you.

That speaks to what you mentioned a lot in the first installment a couple of years ago. People should go back and read that even though some of the material might be outdated as we’ll get to. That proverb of good or bad, hard to say. It’s something that I still use and my wife can attest to it. It is a helpful mantra to return just to reset our perspective. That judgment of good or bad is hard to say because it is a subjective judgment more times than not. There was another quote that I love about this. I can’t remember who said it. It was an ancient Buddhist who said, “When someone criticizes you or praises you, respond with, ‘You’re only partially right or that is only partially true or half correct.’” I thought that was a beautiful balancing weight because it is on both sides of the spectrum when it’s a praise or critique. Taking everything with a grain of salt is helpful for us to not internalize it too heavily in an unhelpful way at least.

The nature of rationality versus what we’ll call emotionality. When your limbic system kicks in, it’s very interesting because we as humans make decisions based on a lot more intuition than we think. That intuition is very wrong. One of the books that I finished is Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow. With respect to that, he focuses on what he calls system one and system two operations. System two operations are these ultra-critical, cognitive, and rational choice truths where you have to have some thoughtful argument. Your system one is reactive and the piece that is extracted from that is a line that he talks about often which is that your brain likes to solve hard questions with simple answers to other questions.

Not simple answers to that question, but simple answers to other questions. If somebody asks you something technical like you asked me about fasting. I gave you a very not direct answer. That’s how your brain works. One of the examples he talks about is botulism versus car accidents. If you were to tell somebody, would you rather be in a car accident or have botulism? The comparison here is like, “Botulism is awful. I’ve heard about that. That will kill you.” Car accidents do too, did you forget about that? You did because anchoring says, “I’ve gotten in my car 100 times this year alone and I’m fine. I haven’t had botulism but I can tell you if I get botulism, I’m not going to be fine.” It’s a probability game. We still have a million-plus people that die in car accidents every year, whereas botulism doesn’t kill that number of people.

UAC 144 | Antifragility

 

Our brains still solve the question faster and it goes, “I don’t want the terrible thing I’ve never had and I don’t understand.” That’s what it answered. It says botulism is worse, but that wasn’t the answer he was providing. That’s an interesting concept when you consider that that’s how your body chooses to decide its reality and perception. It’s answering some questions very rationally with very high detail. Other ones it’s like, “I don’t care.” Your whole psyche is built on a bunch of mess versus some hards. You run into a bunch of people who have varying mess and hard and then suddenly it’s where the puzzle pieces line up. When you have a bunch of mess where someone’s hard knowledge, you lose that argument. The question is do you or do you continue to hammer until you find some way around? It’s an interesting dynamic.

That’s the world we live in. It will be fun to get to some of even the current events we’re facing with that and how we approach or handle that. Before we get there, as a segue, one thing we talked about and prepping a little bit was a book that I’m about to finish by Nassim Taleb on antifragility. It’s been a concept that I’ve enjoyed and been captivated by. The Power of Persuasion by Robert Levine talks about some of this as well. They all are pointing out to what you’re saying that we don’t have that much conscious understanding of our subconscious behaviors. Taleb makes a point that we are horrible at predicting. The better we think that we’re predicting, the worst we are at it. His whole point of the book is you are horrible at predicting. You won’t get any better at it because impossible to, so get better at your resiliency which is we often think what antifragile means is resilient.

What he points out is that resilience is only halfway from fragile. The full-stop opposite of fragile which is antifragile is something that benefits from the chaos that grows from when that fragile box has shaken, the thing inside grows or benefits from it. That’s what he’s trying to foster within himself and propagate that idea so that we can also flourish in the disruption. The first question I have is, why is this idea often missing in preparation for being good humans? One of the ways in society that we prepare the next generation is to be good humans, to know the right answer, be informed, be prepared, be able to predict or forecast outcomes. It’s almost the opposite. I’m curious what your perspective is on that?

First and foremost, you mentioned the iconic classic image that it gives. For those reading, the idea of a fragile thing, a robust thing, and an antifragile thing are if I were to put china inside of a box and shake it up, it breaks, therefore it’s fragile. If I put hammers and I shake them up, they’re metal, they’re not going to break. They’re robust. The idea of antifragile is whatever I put into this unknown box if I were to shake it and then an example would be diamonds. The more destruction and pressure I put on a diamond, that carbon turns into that diamond so it is antifragile. The piece of the fact is that I haven’t read this book. I do follow Nassim. He is one of those people that I mentioned to you previously from a Twitter standpoint. The intellectuals they follow just to see the ideas. When I look through what I’ve looked through about antifragility, it is what we know about from training. We’ve already seen this ecosystem which is your work out, you hurt your muscles, they figure out that they need to get better. They then develop themselves to be better so that next time they don’t face the same problems that they faced before. They become antifragile from the standpoint of that definition.

A lot of it is the definition of the word. We have concepts for it and I love the person he works. As the first segue like my children’s names. The middle name for my newest one is essentially this awesomeness and amazing relationship with the power and depth of the universe. That is a word that is five letters long but it has so much meaning. Nassim lays out a name for it to start packaging a lot of these things that we’ve known, these tools, mechanisms, strategies, paradigms, and puts them into what seems to be a single word. He gives five letters, in this case, more than five letters. He gives that statement to give you an idea. It is the opposite of fragile in a sense that it is not damaged but grows so you get a clear image of it. I would say we needed to be teaching kids this. We do, it’s just now there’s a term for it. If you want to be able to say you’re teaching your kids to be antifragile, but as you mentioned, it’s patterns and a lot of other things.

Segue number two, when we started talking about patterns is a conversation that we had. I was wearing a shirt that was what I called dark aqua green and she’s like, “Your shirt is blue.” I was like, “It’s dark aqua green.” She was like, “He doesn’t know what dark aqua green is yet. He’s still working on blues and greens. This is close enough to blue. When he says it’s blue, it’s right.” I go, “No.” The reason I say no is because I then say, “If I only gave you eight basic emotions for you to measure your world by, is that enough?” I can mix R, G, and B together and make infinite combinations, so I only need these three things, but I still have this infinite possibility. There’s this essential knowledge of teaching something how broad something is and how complex it is. Even with that broad nature and complexity, there’s still some core simple nature to it. That’s what I take from this antifragility piece.

At the end of the day, there are still these core parameters that help control a system. It seems a good mathematician. It’s a math equation. This is not just a philosophy for the sake of philosophy. It has a mathematical bias. If I were to look at perturbations of systems, I am going to see systems that increase in response rates “to my values” of saying success based on what I’m looking at. That’s where we sew these two parts together. There’s an interesting dynamic with antifragility that’s already wouldn’t seem as identified that you can’t predict. I find that to be interesting. Are you saying that you can’t predict yet you’re trying to convince people to become antifragile with a list of metrics that you’re defining our success? You don’t know what success is. You’re predicting success to something else. This is where I’ll say that you hinted at opinions and feelings changing. This is my antifragility, I think.

Increasing in the way that I want to see the world has not caused me necessarily to hone in and dive in on the things that I knew were effective or that were working. It’s more so trying to assess and say, “Where do I think the trajectory of society and culture are going? That way, I understand the technology needs that are meeting the personal developments and stresses of the world so that I can start to change myself to respond well in that ecosystem. We have to remember that one of the coolest parts about being human is that you can put us anywhere including in space. We could figure out a way to survive the tools and means that we have by working together. If you can adapt to that kind of crazy environment, you’ve attested to the fact that your success criteria can change. What I’ve caught out of the antifragility is that two things matter. One, your metrics of success. Two is the timeline within which you look at it.

If I’m looking at muscle growth and I look at a day, it doesn’t look good. It looks really bad but if I look at a week, it looks better. If I look at months, it looks better. Whereas other systems don’t behave that way. I see initial responses at your eyes adjusting to the dark. When they come back out of it, I can light a match. Once your eyes are adjusted to the dark, all of your night vision goes away instantaneously, it’s that quick. It takes another 20 to 30 minutes depending on who you are to get back to the night vision again. If your phone pops up a text message, that’s enough to make you “blind” in the dark again. That’s crazy. That system could be defined as not necessarily being antifragile but it all depends on what its goal is. If your goal is to immediately switch to a vibrant, highly technical background, sensitive, cone-based argument, which is what your retina wants to do for high acuity, that was great.

You spread some things around but I feel that the hit that you make is on patterns. Identifying patterns, teaching children to identify those patterns and everything. What we have is a family and we’ll get into a conversation. Our goal is that we strip it down to the logical conversation. That’s at least what I aggressively try to push. As an example, our son runs every day and he’s been doing Run Club for school. Now that we’re home with COVID, every morning we wake up and he still has to do his run and get his run time in. He’s got to run for 25 to 30 minutes at the beginning of the day. He’s tired. He’s been doing it every day for years. He doesn’t want to do it anymore. We’re like, “This is life. Sometimes you don’t want to do it but you do it because even in hard times, it’s still healthy for you.” It is a stressful time. The parameters have changed. If we’re having this conversation about running and how we believe the health of running is, we’re going to have a various certain opinion. If we strip it to the logic and we say that Nox has done activity A every day for a year, Nox no longer wants to do activity A. What do you suggest Nox do?

That logic is to do activity B or not do activity A for a day. It’s small but when you examine that logic then you start to understand it from Nox’s point of view. Logan and I are looking at it from the years that we’ve had at fitness and health, all the research papers that we’ve read, and all that we know. We know that it’s important for Nox to continue on a schedule, to get up every day, to get his butt out of bed, to get himself warmed up, to get himself on the shoes, get himself down the road and get himself back into the house. He doesn’t know that. Right now, he knows that “I don’t want to run every morning. I want to go on a walk with you and the dogs because that looks a lot more fun for me.” It’s this nature of, can we get Nox to recognize patterns?

Can we then say, “Your argument is right? Activity B could replace activity A.” In the case of our conversation, we want you to recognize that let’s assume that activity A is beneficial to your health and requires consistency. Activity B is not necessarily good for your health and can be erratic. When you have that conversation, I give some new terms to my topics and that logic, but now we’re getting better at having that conversation where we can fairly have it as a general statement as opposed to a case-by-case basis. There’s going to be some that you can’t attend to like candy and ice cream. You’re not going to logically work that one out but if you work out things that you like, things that you appreciate and things that make you happy. That’s a term that kids can understand and that pattern is more successful like math. That’s why Nassim’s antifragility has more strength. It’s because there is the math behind it. There is a logical argument that people can then apply to other systems.

What you mentioned there with patterns is sweet because at its core, teaching children to identify patterns is teaching them how to learn. Education isn’t teaching us necessarily how to learn, it’s teaching us how to remember facts, data, and things that are told to be important. If we’re handicapping ourselves by getting good at the regurgitation versus the actual acquisition by ourselves then we’re never going to learn. In society now, with information being a few clicks away on anything, then learning becomes that much more important as a useful skill for being a good human, but also a separating skill for those who can adapt and thrive in any environment, but also make their way especially in a new environment which is going to be unfolding in the years to come always.

I have a very particular opinion on what you mentioned about education. Have you seen the lecture I gave to the university students?

I still haven’t watched that one.

It’s all about my opinions on education. It’s focused on mastery, but I also then take the stabs. The stab here is that it’s like a straight hallway. School is designed to show you the way to the door. The problem is that when you open that door, it’s like a forest with a bunch of trees, no pathways and light shining through everywhere. You’re like, “What?” You’re looking for another doorway. You’re looking for somebody to give you another hallway to get into which prevents you from seeing an awful lot of life in reality. To me, there are definitions of education and there are two of them. One of them is a systematic application and the other one is an enlightening experience. I always ask the question of do you think your education is a systematic approach or an enlightening experience?

We know that systematic approaches aren’t bad. These are things where if you asked me this question a while back, I’m always going to get you enlightened. It always is an enlightening experience but I’m not going to say I haven’t learned. What I’ve learned for instance is like psychomotor skills. When we start talking about motor skill learning, it is one of those things that you subjectively can apply the pattern from base-level skills, not high-performance skills. I can tell you to squat again and again and correct, and you will get better. I don’t need it to be enlightening to teach you that skill. That being said, when we talk about education, we’re not talking about, can I teach my kid how to squat? I do want them to learn things like how to write well or how to do arithmetic.

UAC 144 | Antifragility

 

The problem that we have in the design that we use and arguably this is an American system issue, and I say that there are other countries that have it, but we are stuck in an outcome-oriented policy. You need to score well on the test and to do that, you help them procedurally learn how to successfully apply those skills that are going to be seen in that test. It’s like you learn the pattern for being able to recognize that five plus three equals eight. It’s not because you know how to add three things to five things necessarily. Because you know that when you see the number five plus three, that pattern looks like eight in your head because your body has seen it many times. It just says eight. If you’re reading a piece of paper and it said you have seven times fourteen people, what did you do? You made it 28 people and you moved on because you didn’t need to think about that.

That procedural is good for certain aspects but if you look at the Japanese system, they let every kid solve the answer on the board and put all their answers, right or wrong, or different. They let them defend them as they work through why those thoughts were wrong. What they’re asking is not why is your process wrong, but what were the initial thoughts that put you down this pathway that caused you to use these tools that were ineffective. Let’s all get on a conversational tone as to which kinds of parameters and initial conditions we have to have in our logic to solve it and use the right tools.

That’s what you need because that’s what happens in real life and this hits back to the antifragility point. According to Nassim’s push is that you should be able to be in a position in those environments where you can face an unknown. That’s the difference between resiliency and antifragility. I’m assuming from what I’ve read, please correct me if I’m wrong. What he’s hammering is that antifragility is the unknown whereas resiliency is previously known conditions. If we’re trying to make our kids capable of the unknown, which is the majority of what they see, you have to think about it differently. As an example with my son, COVID changed schools. The teachers give certain assignments, but they can’t give high-level assignments. They’ll ask things like, “Read this paper.” In this case, he read the paper on the Statue of Liberty and he had to answer three questions. The three questions were like, “Why could you see the Statue of Liberty from far away? Was it a gift or a birthday present?” The other one was, “Why was it important to the people that run it?”

He said, “It was a gift from France and it’s a symbol of independence.” That’s when I realized he doesn’t understand. He read a book that talked about this cool little thing that’s inside of New York, but when he thinks about travel, this is where you have to start asking yourself, who is the person? What does my son think about travel? He thinks about travel on planes. He doesn’t think about the idea of being on a boat for that long with nothing, hoping, and praying that you’re going to survive with your family to get to the other side for a chance of freedom because you’re oppressed and being killed from where you came from. You finally get around the corner after that long ride and you see this thing standing there as a symbol of you’ve made it and you’ve done it. He doesn’t have that context. The answer to the question is this, can you contextually find information and apply it and put it down here?

We’re talking about important things. How do you get somebody to ask what’s happening? How do I get him to move in a timeline back into the past and into the future? Those are the necessities of dealing with someone that you’re dealing with. Just like we talked about in our conversations. You’re talking to me knowing who I was in the past. You have to have some room of error bar flexibility as to who I might have become since our last conversation so that you understand how to work with me. If you get into a situation where I may have faced trauma or an issue between now and then, I may be dynamically different. Your ability to assess that has to be in real-time. You have to be able to put me back where I was before where I am now and still be able to have conversations with both of those people to have a conversation with the person you’re now talking to. You have to be able to go back to timelines where they were that person without offending the person they are now.

There is a mandatory assessment but we as humans suck at that. Instead, the world has seen it right now. We apply whatever rules we have to everything and every timeline forward and backward. That’s wrong. The reason that we do that is that it’s what we’re taught to do. We’re taught to use the tool in front of us to answer the question and get it done, not think about a better way to answer the question, is there another way to answer the question, or is there enough information? I’ll summarize this as to what I tell my interns and what I believe. Einstein’s quote is, “If you give me an hour to save the world, I’ll spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes solving it.” How do we get kids to spend 55 minutes thinking about problems and five minutes solving instead of jumping straight into “I need a solution?” That’s why they do the things that you mentioned. My son’s going, “Alexa, what’s five plus three?”

There’s so much here that I want to hear more on. I love this line of thinking. A lot of what you brought up there is a difference in outcome-oriented versus process-oriented. It’s not that they are mutually exclusive and they’re both important and needed. You can’t do away with outcomes as a measure of improving both the process and steering in the right direction. If all the emphasis is on outcome-oriented, then we’re not teaching kids or grownups alike how to improve. A lot of that is the questions like you said in the 55 minutes on the problems. I’m curious even your own life now, for you, where do you get in trouble with the outcome-oriented side? Is there a place where you find yourself airing too far on outcome-oriented thinking?

It’s a very advanced policy to apply this to simple things. When your wife gives you a look and you’re like, “Is everything okay?” She’s like, “I’m fine.” Suddenly, you’re running through the entire day trying to create this ecosystem of what might have bifurcated her to this moment where she might be thinking or what she might be postulating. You’re starting to run it more than likely as to all the things that you could have done that made “fine” be the answer and it could be something entirely different. That’s a super simple example of it. If you’re thinking about the outcomes and you’re thinking about the response trees, you can be missing the simple fact like, “She’s bummed because you once again left your shoes to where they should not be. It’s something silly. It’s a thing you could have checked off instead of trying to think about her deeper feelings and emotions. You just needed to listen to the simple things and follow the process.

Even so much as your daily job. I’m not asking you to reinvent your workday. For a lot of people, that’s impossible. You need to have like, “At 9:00 to 9:30, I do this. From 9:30 to 10:30, I do this. From 11:00 to 12:00, I do this.” That’s not how my day works. I can’t have that conversation. I wouldn’t survive if I had to live that way. However, I raised my son that way. I teach him how to create that discipline because Jocko Willink’s Discipline Equals Freedom does it. If you’re structured and rigid in some of those things that don’t need to be flexible, that doesn’t need to be outcomes-oriented, that is a process deliverable, “Work requires you to finish this form, do it.” Most of the time, that’s the way to do it. What happens by doing it that way is you end up at the end of the day with some extra time. The question is how are you going to take that time that you’ve now created? That’s where you can then start to apply outcomes more intelligently.

You’ve finished the process pieces that you need to do and you can start to think a little bit more high level. As you get comfortable with that process, you start injecting that into the flow. You think about outcomes when you can because you know you have a general time. Instead of being multi-tasking, it’s multi-procrastinating. It’s the idea of saying, “I’m going to do something that I know I can do at this moment well because that’s where my brain is right now. I’m going to follow the process of my brain and then I’m going to inject in high levels of outcomes based on the fact that that’s where I’m at.” It’s hard because if you have 50 things that are due, I could grab the thing that’s at the furthest end of priority. It might be the thing that I’m jazzed to do, so I insert my time in there which can be very disorienting.

You’re everywhere all at once and it takes time to get good at it. However, when you think about the way our world is built, it’s almost designing it for you. The number of times that you randomly break thought process to pick up Instagram to check a few swipes, you’re already getting good at being able to shift your attention and resources. Attention is one of those mechanisms that help control the general flow of your ability to do something right, which is your bandwidth. If you give something and focus attention, it’s going to take extra resources. If you let it be an automatic process like when you’re driving a car, if you think about every turn, it can be emotional. If you don’t, you can text. It’s not a good thing, but people do it.

I want to come back to some of the COVID and the parenting stuff. Before the segue, one other caveat is with what you mentioned earlier in learning their systematic application in line with experience, a lot of times we’re outcome-oriented. If we approach every situation like a nail and we got a hammer then we miss the point and we don’t learn from it. I heard this metaphor for it in a book by Andy Crouch, Culture Making. He talked about postures and gestures. I thought it was a cool picture of we can easily confuse gestures with postures by saying, “If my posture is good, then the gestures can be good from that.”

If we start thinking these gestures that are situational for this moment or this person or this idea that gesture and how you respond to that like shaking someone’s hand, that shouldn’t be a posture. Once we assume that to be our posture then we’re going to be off-balance with our gestures. I’m not sure if I’m explaining as eloquently as I’d like. How do you think that applies to what we’re talking about with postures and gestures and how we approach situations, especially in that dynamic environment as you’re teaching your kids? You can’t go into this by saying, “The gesture to take a break may not be a bad gesture, but to have the posture of a functioning healthy child that needs consistency, we’re going to make this gesture instead.” Talk to me a little bit about what you think about that.

I’ll try to at least put it in some different terms and maybe that will help me have my layover. If I were to take what you say about postures and gestures, I would try and say that postures feel like the initial conditions. I would consider the posture of you walk into a room and it’s on fire. That’s the posture of the room versus you walk into a room and it’s empty and dark. The gesture I will say is with perturbations or the functional movements. It almost seems like we’re talking about your structural and you’re functional. That speaks well when we started talking about the brain because we know there are structural tendencies of your brain that are based on genetics and epigenetics, things that can physically change. We know there are functional changes or changes that are based on those structural modifications as well as paradigm-based changes.

In comparing those, we’re talking very similar concepts. I’m saying that you, for instance, with saying kids, if we keep it on that note. You’re trying to teach a kid to be able to assess the room before they execute it. There is a key thing that has been thought about 1,000 times for most people, but few people have spent the time reading deeply into it but situational awareness. Situational awareness breaks this into three phases. The first phase is let’s say this is my desk. I walk in and phase one is a coffee mug, microphone, laptop, and water. The second phase is you go, “What is all this? This is my desk. We’re sitting at the desk.” The third phase is what are we doing with it? Part of that information was the things in front of me. I’m projecting that in the future that I’m going to be talking to him.

That’s the situational awareness aspect. If I consider that, then in the case of walking into a room or a situation or a relationship, be able to quickly diagnose those initial conditions, be able to ask the questions, and be able to recognize the postures. When you start even talking about postures from a standpoint of physical representation, if I think about somebody who has MS, that general posture structure of their overall body might be different than mine, whereas their gesture of excitation may look less excited than mine but might require more work to produce that gesture of excitation. Suddenly, the elements of that initial condition, the posture that you’re recognizing is super important to understand the value of the functional application or the gesture. How hard was it for that outcome to exist? That’s important because that is you.

One of the coolest parts about being human is that you can put us anywhere and we could figure out a way to survive by working together. Click To Tweet

If you and I walk into a golf tournament, you’re kicking my ass. That’s it. There isn’t a hope in the world. The only hope is I catch you when someone’s not looking with a nine-iron on the back of your hamstrings. My ability to succeed may be the best game that I have ever played. It may be my peak performance but that critical measure of success that the global reference this is giving identifies as a failure. Our initial conditions don’t just become important for determining how we’re going to operate, but they also become important for how we’re going to choose to compare our reference frame to the global reference frame. That’s the part that people miss.

That’s the question I have next. Looking at modern society, it feels like situational awareness is on a decline. I’m curious if you had any thoughts on what posture to come into situations with that would unlock people’s abilities. If we made it simple and practical, is there any posture of approaching situational awareness to where we can be more aware or attuned to the environment so that we can respond in a helpful versus hurtful way? With the rise of the social interconnectedness and the global world we live in, this has become a growing problem that creates a massive division that’s unhelpful. I’m not saying that division can’t be helpful in the sense of finding who you’re of like mind with, but the lack of ability to be around anyone that’s not like you is also unhelpful. Is there any posture or approach that we as functioning humans and adults can even grow in if we had to simplify it down into its core? What is that essence that helps us have greater situational awareness?

To begin with the situational awareness, I agree that there have been fewer discussion points on it. Arguably that has a lot to do with the general research dynamics around where we’re focusing on trying to create new models. I only say that because sitting behind me in this whiteboard is the thing I’ve been trying to pour myself into, which tries to look at some of these things. What I would say from considering that model that I’m working on and answering your question is, if you are to consider how something responds as a system, I can visualize a system and watch it over time spontaneously. Imagine that I have a building and I want to see how strong this building is. I can watch it for 1,000 years to see how it behaves and where things degrade. I can perturb that system and see how it responds based on the models that I’ve visualized it. I created this visualization of building and how it will respond when I hit it with a hammer at this place and with all the sensors that I have throughout it. What do I see?

In a building, we don’t have as many sensors oftentimes as we would like to have. Luckily, you as a human have a crap ton. You are this bubbled object that’s trying to keep alive all of your sensing tools so that they can feed your brain to give it an idea of your experience of reality. When you consider this nature of you being a sensing tool, I’m less concerned with how that person at that moment is going to respond because I can’t control that. What I mean in that sense is to say if I’m mostly for sense, then everything that I’m doing, saying, and feeling is being communicated in some way. I can’t help it because the other thing across from me is a sensing object. Its job is to sense. When you start asking the question of, what do you do to be able to be most approachable on those postures? Imagine that the thing across from you is like you. It is sensing everything in you. It is looking at little adjustments to your hips at how your Duchenne marks on your eyes move if you’re faking a smile or not like the ones that we’re all used to hearing. How much your pupils dilate?

Some of the stuff we’re doing is sampling eye frequencies over 200 Hertz, which is above the Nyquist frequency for saccades which is your rapid eyeball shaking movements. We can see new parameters of your eye and how it reacts. Even on this small level, your body is echoing all of these responses. If you take that and ask yourself that question then your solution becomes either you’re entirely there to serve, to provide stimulus to those sensing pieces for the sake of applying it, or you’re entirely there to absorb, to allow them to use you as a reverberation. What people do when they come to talk to you is they’ve decided that they’re looking for some information and this is my opinion. Even if you don’t say anything, they’re going to get information. It’s all over you. Oftentimes, the best thing that you can do is truly allow them to get everything out of them so that they can see all of the things that you respond with. They have a clearer picture of the general tone of how you’re giving them an identification.

If you go to a therapist, they’re not going to ask you two questions and then try and give you an opinion. They’re going to ask you more and more. They’re also looking to see how those questions cause you to react. That person is probably doing that to you. They’re trying to see that conversation. When you consider that way, the posture has to be that you’re not coming in it with the desire to fix it. You’re not coming into it with the desire to change it. You’re not coming into it with any desire because if you don’t want to make a change to the system, your existence already negated that presence. You’ve already changed it by existing. You exist in their life to a point where they think that they can reach out and talk to you, which means you have enough value in this situation to matter. You can’t entirely remove yourself but you can at least try and remove your inability to ask the full story first before you start preparing those counter-arguments.

In the simplest layman’s term, it’s curiosity versus control. If we approach a situation with curiosity versus control, those two are diametrically opposed to each other in the sense that by coming in with curiosity, we’re opening ourselves up to being sensing beings. By coming with control, we’re closing ourselves to only sense one thing. Are we in control? Are we winning? Are we right or whatever that case may be? The other thing you said that was beautiful too is that one of the most helpful things is to imagine others just like you. They’re sensing beings like you. They’re human beings. Meaning, they have worth and value like you do in this situation because you are inevitably changing each other by your presence and what comes from that interaction.

Those two things are worth its weighting gold by saying, “Others are like you so you’re on the same playing field.” Second, the only way you can understand something is by being curious about it versus trying to control it. Those two things could unlock so much within us especially as a species. I wonder what it’d be like to adopt more of that. It’s hard for all of us to say that too. Without the intention to do those things, we’ll default into not doing those things. Would you agree with that? 

Humans are weird. To say that X, Y, or Z is going to happen about the general populace. It’s proven hard. It is an excruciatingly difficult interrelationship. We’ll say COVID here. Take COVID for the standpoint of looking at what happens to the earth as a much larger unified living organism. When we stop even what would seem like insignificant parts. For example, stopping illegal drug trafficking, guns, materials, property, and we’ll say Foakleys or your fake Oakleys. I remember these from spring break Cancun. Those Foakleys are important oddly enough to the entire dynamic of the successful system. It’s creepy to look at that, but when you start looking at some of the breaks in supply chain dynamics, there are illegal activities that are broken that are now reducing the effectivities of good activities. Because now there are resources and personnel and people that aren’t affecting those places and stimulating those economies to create those environments.

That’s an important recognition because when we start talking about control and curiosity as you’ve mentioned if you’re controlling certain facets of it, you have to recognize that curiosity still has its inevitable want and needs. You may be controlling certain facets but the world is curious and so environments become curious within each other. It’s almost a personification of nature but when you stack people together. Stacking people together into a subgroup oftentimes makes it feel like a larger organism. This is precursor hive mind argument stuff. As I started to operate more in those natures, I will arguably push or pull people into or out of my circle or push and pull into other areas that I don’t necessarily belong in. I don’t necessarily think that you can say that everyone’s going to follow one path or the other if you let it go. We’ve let it go in many different ways.

A lot of us try and say that we’re going to find new ways to control this, or my other new method is going to be the best, and it’s going to arguably change the world. Mindfulness, sleep or breathing are the way. These are all great things. I believe in all of them. I don’t sleep wonderfully but I do believe in its effectiveness. The global issue becomes if you recognize that everything is naturally a part of this flowing ecosystem. It’s less about how your method works and more about trying to understand how relationship and communication dynamics work. How does energy flow? How does mass transfer? It’s my opinion that everyone should have a strong background training in chemistry, physics, math, history, and art. The first four years of college should be more of what high school was but deeper level stuff. Not because I’m saying that’s a failing process but I’m trying to say get a good understanding of all this stuff so that when you have to answer a question or when you have to participate with somebody, you’re able to understand the dynamics of that engagement.

You know the depth of the responsibility of the choices that you’re making. It will prevent you from making the shortcut thought of saying X, Y, or Z is mandatory. This is how the world has to be and how the world is unpredictable. For instance, the way that I’m trying to examine with my model that I’m working on is imperceptible. I want to ask general questions. I don’t want to force a metric. I want to watch it like a human. How can we sincerely watch and this is what’s going on in the world? Your browser, your search history, the words that you stay in front of your phone, the patterns of where you walk to, the restaurants that you go to, and the things that you buy. All of these things are being tracked and they’re creating a version of you because imperceptibly you are who you are.

One last little piece on this is Instagram as an example. They’ve discussed taking away likes. I find this interesting. We are concerned saying society feels bad because of likes and people have found themselves sticking to those likes. Is that the case or is it that Facebook has a lot of data now that they can get other ways and they recognize that you don’t like everything that you like? Liking is in and of itself an interesting relationship with what you want to tell people about yourself so that they can see. Likes aren’t a valuable piece of information to Instagram.

When it tries to operate with society once and society says, “We don’t want to have likes anymore because it’s damaging,” Instagram/Facebook goes, “We’re paying attention to where you stare now more often than anything else because we can record that metric and that’s more important to us.” That’s a conversation that people have to have. When you start recognizing that the company’s looking at all the imperceptible features of you, care less about what your opinion is and more about what your general nature of tones and responses are or where you frequent yourself, it’s information you should recognize and apply.

It’s fascinating because that’s the subconscious that takes the action that we aren’t even aware of sometimes. If we can’t see it but they can see it, then we can be manipulated in a negative sense, but strategically use in the positive sense to purchase their items and that’s the point. It is interesting. That’s a great perspective on that. You’ve mentioned a couple of times so I want to get to it which is that whiteboard behind you. It’s beautiful. It’s got every color in the rainbow, arrows pointing everywhere, we’ve got clouds, we’ve got nice drawings and we’ve got stars. It’s got everything you’d want in a crazy scientist whiteboard or a normal person. This is early on in your pursuit of this new model that’s in tropic design is what we talked about as the working title. I’d love for you to take a stab at communicating the early stages of what led to it and what it is in this working nature. I love what you already mentioned about general questions and not necessarily focusing on a metric or outcome but looking at reality and asking general questions. This would be a good exercise too. How would you package this new model?

The one I’m talking about has come from a lot of other conversations previously. I’m a firm believer that none of this is necessarily my thought. Ideas are rarely brand new. It’s trying to collect all of the brilliant thoughts that are around and trying to distill them into something that might help move something forward like wiggle the needle a little bit. I created a process. We’re trying to package this. I call it a narrative which is the network, aptitude, resiliency, and adaptation as transient vectors. It’s a mouthful, but what I’m trying to say is an aptitude, what is your come-in role? If we were starting to talk about this whole conversation of antifragility, resiliency being the true resiliency. How robust is your system to respond? I’m using adaptation as not necessarily in the sense that it’s being used for the antifragile examination where adaptation is a small change to known circumstances. This is saying adaptation, you’re changing in general. Good, bad or otherwise, you’re modifying yourself.

In considering those, I have broken down we’ll say, “How do I think about you as a precursor? How do I think about you as initial conditions to use the conversation we had before? What is your structure and then what is your function?” In the case of the easiest way to try and assess these relationships. What I mean by these relationships is your brain versus your body versus what we’ll call the consciousness or your emotionality, that psychological wrapper. There are parts of you when you start, that matter compared to the environment that you’re in and then working on a task.

If I can see how you do on a task, something that I know has a specific output. I can compare you to me to somebody else, I can get an idea of how your general composure works. Where do you verify yourself? When I start to think about how I would do that, I imagine a three-dimensional space. I said if I define each axis as a part of that functional conversation, and I draw a vector based on the score that you perform in that step or that measuring point, I can draw a line. This line would have a direction in existence. At the end of that vector, I’d have the next one, then the next step of the test, and so on.

Theoretically, when I start thinking about a task, I could wrap almost a spheroid like a balloon or an egg around that location. In my case, I’m now discretizing it to the positive quadrant. For the sake of conversation, let’s say you’ve got this giant sphere and you’ve got this line that’s moving inside the sphere, the idea of that sphere would be whenever you breach the sphere, you would have finished the task. The model is trying to adjust itself to know where that breach point is and it’s trying to understand how long it took you to get there. It’s doing what’s called a path analysis. The reason that that’s important is to say what did you end up doing? If I think about a point mass moving through space. Space has no friction. It has no other forces that are going to apply onto it besides these gravitational forces, at least in the example that I’m giving. If gravity is pulling these forces one way or another, what I’m learning then is that there’s something that’s pulling you in this direction. Making you stronger in this way.

Can we start to understand some of these densities of yourself? Some of these response features of yourself so that we know, “Thane, you’re a more of a cognitive performer. We see these kinds of natures of you.” The way I’m trying to break that down is to say things like, where is situational awareness effective? I referred to it as a situational presence. I’m not saying that situational awareness is not what I’m using. I’m using situational awareness but rather than confuse what I’m trying to use it with other features, I’m calling it something new. At the same time, I’m still trying to use these core principles that we know. Things like situational awareness replace the idea of your mental workload. The reason I did so is that your workload is based on your opinion situation. You opinionatedly decide if you were good or bad. That’s hard to understand your workload if I am only trusting your opinion rather than looking at purely how did you function.

The things that I’m now trying to assess are neurological, what are your eyes saying? What is your brain saying? How do those perturbations respond? How much motor control do you have? How accurate are you with that choice tree? If we were to then package all this down into a quick summary, the narrative model is designed trying to say, “If I know a lot about who you are, your personality type, your span test, how good you are at memorizing numbers, what your genes are like literally know everything I can about your initial condition and I insert that into a testable place. How do you respond?” Trending that response not by saying, “I want you to be put into a little box that allows me to give you a one score answer that says, ‘You did a 99.’” What is a 99? How do you determine a 90 versus a 99? What happened? Was that your failure? Was it the environment’s failure? Was it the task failure? Was it a team failure or other organizations? Being able to assess that one metric isn’t good enough. It tries to give you a multidimensional look at how your performance changed.

With this approach and this pursuit, what would be the hope that it would produce? If you get to outcome-oriented, what is your hope that this model will help the show and lead to as a result of?

I don’t have necessarily a goal to say I want to do X as far as an effect. I want it to be that sponge. I want it to be capable of understanding how you respond as an individual like a purely unbiased observer. Someone who’s trying to check the model based on the parameters that are there. There’s a lot of imperceptible information as to how we attack the world. I think that some of the information that’s being collected is being collected with a lot of thought as to how it’s going to be used less than with how it is just you. It is not X, Y, or Z. It’s the responses that you have.

The reason that I want to have that is that the stuff that I’m trying to do at work is we’re trying to make Ironman, that’s the best way to describe it. We’re trying to take what we know about advanced exercise for space and mount that into what we know about telerobotics and merge that into this new world of telesensing, which is the idea of being able to sense at a distance. If I’m going to create a program that allows you to train in deep space without a trainer, I don’t get to bring the internet. I don’t get to bring your medical records attached to the cloud. They need to be there, which means my system has to be able to access all of them.

It has to be able to glean through them what is important and what is necessary to make the best choices for recommendations on your training. It’s going to need to be smart enough that it goes, “You need a break based on your responses. We’re going to change this from an output of 400 watts to an output of 200 watts. Take a break.” It needs to be that smart because we can’t make mistakes. We don’t have the flexibility of wanting to feel like this is the right choice. To do that, the only way that that’s going to be trusted is in a model that truly goes unbiasedly towards determining who you are as an individual. That’s hard. I’m not saying that this model that I’m going to work on is going to be finished at the end of my Master’s, and the praise. Everything is wonderful and that’s the success. I’m not saying that it’s going to solve everything. I’m not trying to argue that, but what I am saying is that it’s a conversation starter. It’s the nature of saying, “Can we be a little bit more thoughtful with how we choose to grab this data to allow ourselves to recognize some more basic features of human performance instead of trying to sell more, be more and drive more?”

UAC 144 | Antifragility

 

Correct me if I’m wrong but as I hear it, it makes me think that it’s trying to understand the range of individual humans, not so much with the goal of proving or un-proving predictability in any way. More so understanding the differences in ranges or even the breadth of the range of a human in different environments, situations, and reactions just to better understand. It’s like what we were talking about earlier. The more broadly you learn, the more you can get to the core of what it is or the base principles that are matter or are important without getting lost in the weeds as much. Would that be a decent stab at it?

Something that you brought up that works out well is you talked about this variance of the person. I used to think that people were a lot tighter to who they were because we always say like, “Don’t anticipate somebody to change.” That’s true but when you think about it, the world has a high propensity to provide you with what I will call an ambiguous trauma, a blow to the head, a breakup, a loss of a family member, a tough day at the job. At the same time, trauma is also beneficial. A comedian who leads you down a path and then suddenly bifurcates to another direction, you laugh but that’s trauma. Your whole paradigm was broken at that moment. You’re like, “I can’t believe I let that happen.” There are all these traumas, micro-traumas, and macro-traumas that occur to you, but we don’t know how massive that impact is and that’s interesting because it, therefore, starts to make me recognize it. As I was talking to my wife, as we’re raising our sons, we want to do well. We want to prepare them.

We want them to have this beneficial life. However, there’s so much that’s going to happen that their error bars are humongous. Meaning that if after twenty years of being with us, Nox was drilled down to be this perfect machine of a human being. That sounds ridiculous about the way we’re raising him, but if he was dialed. Everything about him was on point. He’s being raised at nine years old while two parents are going through Masters in Psychology. It’s an emotional moment for him. If he survives that and he’s this resilient, antifragile, dominant creature and someone breaks up with him that he loves, he could be an entirely different person. I wouldn’t even be able to recognize him. It wouldn’t matter what I would say or do. Suddenly, this becomes an impactful conversation. How do I figure that out? That bothers me because as a parent, I look at my life and there are times when I’m afraid that I’m crazy, that I’ve lost connection with reality because the places that I’m going with my thoughts are so deep that they result in the detachment from reality.

Therefore, I know that my sons are going to face those moments. While there are times that I sit in the shower and weep to myself while I’m trying to get through it, I’ve learned to handle rejection and those traumas. What if they’re not ready? It doesn’t absolve me as a parent, not at all. It doesn’t tell me that I should not care. It says to me as a human being if I’m going to have the greatest effect size for my children, the way that I raised them may not necessarily be my best use case. What could be my best use case is trying to ask deeper questions as to how I might be able to create resources that help them understand themselves in the future so they can use those to more effectively handle life. Most of their life is outside of here. By the time they’re 18, 19, 20, bye, peace, adios, let’s go. How did my work, life, and value to them have substance if I’m not thinking longer than eighteen years?

In being a father in parenting and in trying to grow boys into men as the journey you’re on, how has it grown you as a human or changed you as a person?

Infinitely. I’ve had this conversation with my wife. When I had the first one, it was one of the biggest changes in my life. It brought me from an unguided sense of chaos to a directed sense of chaos. That was more than likely the most impactful thing that ever happened in my life. It wasn’t like I was 30 before I had a kid. It caused me early in my life to say that everything that I’m going to do is not about me. You have to be unselfish almost instantaneously and if you can’t, you don’t survive. I’ve seen the other side of that and what it looks like. When I got number two here, he brought with him a reminder that intense chaos that I was directed out into the universe that I forgot that it was supposed to be here. It aimed at the universe but that ray of its lift should come through my family first. They’re very different. Nox is very in-tune with his emotions. He’s very sensitive, caring, and compassionate. Ever is a behemoth. He’s a juggernaut. He will climb to anything, smashed anything, and beats you randomly in the middle of the night.

By having the two of them, I can now understand and appreciate that. I used to think that there was a lot more involved in what a parent did and how your children turn out based on how you parent and it’s not. I got to precursor this with athletes like when you deal with an athlete. It’s not you and you can say things and you’re trying to find a way to communicate them the way that you think so they can process that but it’s still them. It’s still their journey. It’s still my son’s journey and that’s part of what I have now recognized that we are trying to do. A lot of people look at the COVID situation and I’ll say that it’s damaging. I’m not going to sugar coat that at all. There are a few people who think about how the fact that when you close these schools, you’ve sent kids home with families that they shouldn’t be with. You go, “That’s so terrible.”

You have people who, you can say it’s through the audacity but however they choose, they remind you that Steve Jobs was an orphan. They remind you about all of these people. Einstein had left home at 15 or 16. They remind you of these things. What I’ve noticed is that you don’t do that much to change who they are as much as you give your children as many opportunities to explore who they are. It’s hard because you’re like, “This is the thing that you should do.” You think that because you’re an adult and to survive in our society, you must do X. That’s the last piece that being a parent has forced me to think about better is the future. I haven’t become a better futurist because of my children because now I’m having to assess the questions of saying, “What is my nine-year-old interested in? What are the technologies? What are the things that draw his attention and his friends?” That’s going to matter with where they exist as a society by the time, he’s old enough to mature into adulthood.

As a general problem from all previous generations, everyone tries to advise parents for the generation that they’re in. Those society has changed considerably between those generations and so the outcome is a group trained for the wrong circumstances. It would be like training a bunch of seals to climb a tree. That’s not what they’re built for. When you end up giving them water, these seals that are built for swimming have no idea what to do because they’ve been told that seals climb up trees. That’s what’s happening for all of us. We are born with these changes, these “evolutions,” these improvements that our genetics has decided, this is a good combination to take because we think it’s going to be successful with what you’re about to face based on the stresses we anticipate. It’s a good strategy.

We train it with the software on top of hardware that’s not meant to match it. That’s the last piece is that by asking that question and saying, “What are my children going to face?” I suddenly go like, “What am I going to face?” When my son turns twenty, I’m now going to say, “I’ll only have one kid in the house.” In a few more years, I’m alone. All these patterns have to engage with the world that I’m going to be running into. Do I seclude myself? Do I do what we see from a lot of high-end leaders who bury their heads in the sand and say that they’re going to attack it from the way they’ve always seen it? This is hierarchical institutions at its finest where you don’t necessarily know how to handle a brand-new situation like COVID that you’ve never seen before because we don’t entirely understand it. Not enough people were playing the futuristic game of saying what if. That’s the final part that parenting garnishes.

When some of these people say like, “Parenting limits your ability to think and be creative.” You have no idea. When you’re thinking about how to survive for your family, it’s something different than how to survive for yourself. When you’re thinking about the mandatory nature of how those people reflect to you and will need you, and you start doing the diagnostic views of saying like, “Look at my father. My father is in his 60s. He adopted with my mom too, my sister’s three kids. Levi, my now brother is twelve. My dad’s going to be almost 70 by the time he gets out of school. By the time he’s 30, he’s 80. By the time he’s 40, he’s 90. That 30 to 40, I’m sitting in the middle of it and I need help. I’m looking at my dad asking questions about things that I’ve never faced before trying to get information who’s Levi going to turn to?” You get this diagnostic of thinking more globally forward instead of just in the moment.

I’ll say that there’s a long conversation that we can have about the moment versus thinking in the future that is a poignancy but ignoring that for the moment. It truly is this conversation of, if I have kids, what are all the various dynamics that are going to impact them along the stretch of time that is their life? Sometimes we don’t give ourselves that individually. We don’t think across the general cross-sectional view of our life, we instead think to the next major goal. We only think that far ahead. We fret, worry, and compel ourselves towards that goal and then we try and throw another tether. The better strategy to go back to what you had said at the beginning, how do you approach that posture? What is your go in? That antifragility statement is, “Am I walking into this environment willing to let the patterns give me information first? Am I willing to anticipate, predict, understand, and contemplate before I ever act?” We always hear it.

I hate it because you hear from people like, “This is the lesson I’ve learned as a parent. This is the lesson you’re going to learn.” Don’t do this and you do it anyway because you think that you can figure out the problem in a different way. It is about your ability to control your reactions because your reactions are pattern responses. They are automatic processes that you have trained. The last example of this would be if you find somebody that every time that you talk to them, you get upset. I have somebody at work. I sent her a message apologizing to her. The reason that I’m upset with her isn’t that I’m upset with her. It’s because every time that we engage, it’s because there is a priority effort. There is something due, behind, or over cost. Our typical engagement strategy is one of contention. It has nothing to do with our personalities not clashing right now.

Teaching children to identify patterns is ultimately teaching them how to learn. Click To Tweet

It’s stressful and there are a lot of new changes but it’s coming down to the fact of that very nature. I feel like we don’t do enough of that. We don’t do enough when we’re individuals of understanding how the patterns of responses changed the dynamics of the relationships around us because we don’t get to see this almost instantaneous reminder of as your child slowly picks up new skills that you don’t like, where do you think they got them? When my son is like, “Just saying, dad” or “I’m just saying,” I’m like, “Excuse me, that’s me.” I’m the one that says that. I’m mad at my damn self. It happens all the time. They say things and they do things and you’re like, “That’s me.”

Speaking to that, one of the things that I’ve been most convicted about is that common truism that which you get most upset with others is most present in yourself. Kids are the daily visual experiential reminder of that.

They are and it’s hard for whatever damn reason for almost every single human being to turn it around and say, “What do I need to do?” It’s always this reverberating, “I’m rubber and you’re glue thing that I’m going to deflect.” Most of the time we have every reason to feel fault in the things that upset us because there are choices that we’ve made that have created those faults. Another example is Skype, so using teams. One of the things that people forget is that when you share your screen, it shares everything if you don’t pick a window to share. When I’m having a dialogue with my team and one of my team members sends a message privately to somebody else, it pops up on their screen. When they’re irritated with what I have to say, it pops up on their screen. Why should I be upset? If they’re irritated as this individual mentioned, I would have shown you with body language when I said, “By the way, I’m not upset because I know our relationship. As a reminder, not everyone will be as flexible, careful when you send a message because this person doesn’t hide their message tree when they’re showing screen.”

The response from the gentleman was like, “Crap,” but that’s okay because I don’t have a problem with it. I recognize why he was upset with me. I was asking, “Are there things that we can do to get around it is the very inflexible process?” He was saying, “No, there’s not.” I was like, “I bet there is.” He’s going to be annoyed with me. I can’t be upset with that. When he finally says like, “Will he just shut up?” If something like that were to come out of his mouth, I shouldn’t get offended. I should be like, “You’re right. I get it.” We don’t do it. Even as parents, you get these kids, they’re reminding you of all these bad things and you stare at them and you still go, “Why don’t you change?”

I’ve only gotten half that dose in stepping into marriage now. The first step before kids is with a partner and a spouse. That’s been a fun, humbling exercise for me and I love it. It’s so great. I want to underscore what you said about parenting. You don’t change who your kids are, rather you give them opportunities to explore who they are. That’s something that I would love to adopt in the future if I’m blessed with children. That perspective alone, that approach would unlock some sweet opportunities for parents out there. I applaud you for that. There are a couple of things I’d be remiss if we didn’t touch on.

The two things, one you mentioned from your end and one that I’ve thought a lot on my end. They’re two different tensions between what seems to be opposing forces. First, what you brought up which is thinking at the moment versus thinking in the future. The other one that I’ve been thinking a lot about is being a generalist versus being a specialist. I don’t know how you want to talk about these. We can start with what you brought thinking in the moment versus thinking in the future. When you said that initially, my first question was if you had to assign weight or percentages to one or the other, both are necessary for many ways. There are many situations that will shift and change. There is a lot of variance in that. The better question is, how do you think about assigning weight to that first situation? This is a massive topic, so I’m curious about your thoughts.

I have been arguably one of the largest forward planner type people. I have always been that way. This idea of living moment to moment has bothered me. How can you live from moment to moment? It’s so ridiculous. At the same time, when we started talking about let’s say Buddhism and a lot of these conversations with reaching this state of Nirvana. These ideas of the enlightenment. They always talk about this process at the moment. It’s becoming realized. I interestingly watched one of those Explained things on Netflix and they’re talking about meditation. They bring on this Buddhist monk and they prove it with what they register in the brain. He’s saying that he has a relationship with pain such that he experiences and they experience pain at a higher level for a shorter period of time and then have less afterward.

Whereas we would experience the pain having a longer reach. At the same time, hold that in your mind. Someone who’s meditating on pain, who wants to have a relationship with pain, who’s good at controlling pain, the people who can get to a point where they can be on fire and still have a calm disposition. They’re experiencing extremely high levels of pain, but they’re honest with that. They’re having an honest instantaneous relationship with it. You look at colonoscopies, it’s a weird one. These colonoscopy tests where they measured how painful you thought it was going to be. At every so many minute along the process asking you how painful it was until you were done. What they found was that the score of pain wasn’t even the most painful thing.

It wasn’t about how long it took or how bad it was, it was the difference between the highest-paid and the last pain that they felt. The resultant now is this average performance. That doesn’t meet well with the other one. If I look at pain as a summary of my process but then I put it back to my monks and I go, “That makes sense. The pain isn’t so bad because by the time they’re done with it, the pain is zero because they had an entire relationship with it.” The best that it could be is half as painful as whatever you’re giving it. Most of the time, half as painful is bearable. What I now consider this from a standpoint of the moment to planning. I have a moment that is important. Everything around me, all the things I’m sensing, all of the necessary architecture and framework that resolved to produce this instant are still here. I’m then trying to use those to intelligently make choices into the future. That’s where this honest relationship of significance versus insignificance stems from.

You start to recognize that you are both entirely significant and entirely insignificant to the general flow of things. If you’re trying to predict into the future, you recognize that if you disappeared now, it doesn’t matter. You can be replaced as easily as you existed. It will cause damage but you can be replaced. The general earth will continue. However, at the moment when you’re not present, you give away everything. Your significance at that moment is the most important because that is the moment when your child is asking you for their love or time. If you give that to them, you’re being a significant matter because your perturbation can change all of their outcomes in the future. Every single situation that you get into, every good and bad one will and should haunt you because you should be able to use those. That’s where I get mathematically. It is less than they are 50/50 and more that they are quantum. When you measure one, you’ve impacted your ability to measure the other like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

The relationship is like yin and yang. They need to be pure. You need to be both thoughtful of exactly everything that you’re taking from this moment, collecting, and listening to it. I ask people all the time, “When was the last time that you felt the wind?” Not felt the wind intentionally but you were so aware of the general nature that you pause to reflect on the wind because that small perturbation was enough to get you out of your system. That’s an important reflection point because if you can’t feel the wind, if it never disturbs you unless it’s aggressive, and you can’t enjoy the gentle breezes and what those mean, then you’re so bolted into this either futuristic or past tense mantra of yourself that you aren’t living in the moment. Therefore, you can’t be changing based on the new information you’re given. You’re reassessing old information with plausible intuitions and projections of the future, which are still based on information that’s not new. The only way to get new and better information is to constantly allow yourself to live in those moments while remaining tethered to this nature that there is a progressional significance to what you’re doing. That real draw of significance and insignificance is hard for most people.

UAC 144 | Antifragility

 

For each person, it’s different which end that is too in their demeanor or personality. I even think about correlating it to giving an interview like this, I need to be fully present with what you’re saying so I can try and keep up but I also need to be able to steer well so it’s going in some logical flow so people aren’t like, “It’s a circus.” It brings up the metaphor I like using is it’s a dance between the present and the future. The only way you get good at dancing is by dancing and recognizing that you’re dancing. If you don’t recognize that you’re dancing, you’re not going to dance very well but it’s a beautiful dance.

There’s a book and if you haven’t read it, I would recommend it. It’s called Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality by Anthony De Mello. He’s a Franciscan priest but something along that line. He worked in India for most of his life. His whole premise is you need to wake up because most of us aren’t awake and unpacks the logic behind that. It’s a beautiful flow to and he’s shouting at you the whole time, which is fun. It is this awareness that allows us to value and be shocked out of our system that there’s some wind blowing and then we can get curious about that and stop trying to control it. We get to enjoy the dance for what it is. That also leads to us being more antifragile, which connects the whole piece together which is cool.

You’re talking about the dance-like what you’re trying to do with this and back into antifragility. That’s the nature of what that relationship is. What you’re having to do to stay active with this conversation to provide value to the people that are reading should be the way that you try to provide value to yourself. You shouldn’t be having a scattershot with no cohesion necessarily. You should be trying to find ways to re-implement and re-provide. That’s like going through school. What I recognize is the difference between myself and a lot of other people. My immediate goal is whatever I have heard, I will take things from this conversation and immediately apply them into things that I do. The entire point is treating each day like you’re trying to stay prepared for the conversation. You’re trying to stay attended to those conversations. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you will stay attended to everything but you must be able to allow yourself to recognize inflections and perturbations that are not characteristic.

The only way that you do those, this is taking advantage of the instinctual system, are you don’t smell your house. When you walk into somebody else’s house, you smell it. The reason you do that is that it’s not advantageous to smell your crap, but it’s advantageous to smell someone else’s crap because it’s in your turf and it’s in your place. You should be at a level of yourself where you’ve asked enough of those questions. This is where the groundwork takes place. This is why it’s not easy to wake up one day and be like, “I’m going to change it.” You have to go into this groundwork of saying, “Who am I at a core sense?” With my example, it takes a person to do that. I had a mentor who broke me. You find something, some way to get that dosage, but that dosage has to identify with you that your version of reality is skewed. It is always capable of lying to you and for you to lie to yourself and willingly accept it without care. If that’s capable of being done and you don’t understand who that person is that’s lying to you, from a standpoint of the movie Split. That’s given Patricia a lot of the ownership of the flow and that’s scary.

That mindset and approach of each day staying prepared for the conversation is another beautiful approach. We’d do well to embrace that. To end with this idea of specializing versus generalizing, arguably when people hear what you’re involved within the introduction and all of the things that are currently on your plate. The case for being a generalist is valid and can be made but it’s also specialized in a certain field. It’s a little bit of both ends especially for my outlook on your life. I’m curious to hear, I know this has been something that I’ve thought of a lot in my own life, where I’m at in my career, and what I’m working towards and on. I’ve gotten advice primarily from older people that air on specializing, picking a very small niche, and burrowing deep.

That’s something that I did do with golf. I spent my whole life playing golf and burrowed deep. From that deep burrowing, I’ve spread the net wider and had more of a broad generalized approach. I’ve done a dance between the two. Now, I’m generalized but in a specialized way. Some of it could be true for where you’re at even though further down the road. One thing that you did mention to tie in earlier too is that our world is arguably geared towards the generalist approach more so than the specialized approach because of how we act on a daily basis with what information we’re receiving. With all that being said, how do you view the modern world and even using you and I as specific examples of this specialized versus generalized approach? What path is maybe more advantageous to walk down?

One of the things that if you’re looking for a book, for anyone who likes reading on a general notion of application of generalism in our society, it’s Range. That book expresses what else are the general tendencies of society now. Let’s take some chunks. The first chunk is when we started talking about the advancement of the state-of-the-art technology and science, we are at the greatest time ever. Ninety-five percent of our science has happened in the last 100 years or something like that. We are crushing it and our ability to keep up with all of the brand-new information that’s coming out is impossible. There is way too much going on from too many places instantaneously. The only way to grip that information is going to be some hive mind relationship.

From that hive mind relationship, you started to ask, why do we need generalization now? There is a lot of stimulus. There’s a lot of available information and one of the things that it’s created as a part of that state of the art is the existence of the internet. As it has been said for many people, one thing that we know about human species is that when we started technology, we don’t stop it, no matter how terrible it is. The internet is going to be here which means that we have decentralized the notion of where you get your facts. They are not in your library down the street. They are not in the books on your shelf. They are anywhere you can pick up service. That means where you used to have to wait all day long to be able to answer something, you can now answer it immediately. This is where the application changes. We make fun of this movie that we saw where one of the characters goes like, “Let’s not know.”

To answer your questions. I was like, “What’s the answer?” He was like, “Let’s just not know.” I was like, “Hell no. We are going to know.” What that means is that you could do that. You can know and you can know the right answer for a lot of things. You can get a lot of bias and a lot of opinions, but having that access to information now says that you don’t have to have many years of significance in an area that prevents you from having to go look for information on how to get better and faster quickly. You don’t have to spend another twenty years trying to learn this new technique. You can watch a couple of YouTube videos and start practicing them immediately. That’s important because it changes the evolution speed of your ability to bifurcate the environment. Arguably, it starts to justify why specialization becomes less sensible.

If you are already the best at that thing and you find your flow, you’re in it, and you want to spend every single waking moment from twelve-hour days, every single day of your life sitting inside the lab and specializing the activity, by all means, do it. I’m not saying don’t, but if you’re trying to ask yourself where is the general investment? It’s in between buckets because you have these curves that are so high that if you want to touch the tip of them, you have to be a brilliant individual, highly specialized and trained by the best in the world to succeed there. Whereas if you understand the general logic of how things relate together, you can find those individuals who are specialists and you can interpolate between them. The issue that you see resultants of this is that each of those is important. Catching where I was versus where I am. I’ll tell you that generalist all the way, a specialist is a terrible person, don’t do that.

I tell all of my students like interns or stuff that like, “If you’re going to get a graduate degree, wait and make sure. I don’t think getting out of Master’s programs means that you are a master. I have very discrete criteria that define a master and it’s a very long process.” From that conversation then it says that what you had mentioned when you talked about using us as examples, we have established a general flow. You find something that you’re interested in after you’ve sampled for a while and you invest yourself into that thing and you use it. Here’s the important part. The differential is that if you can use your specialization, the thing that you get into to help teach you about life, use it as your metaphor. That is something I’m trying to become more attuned with. The things that we like to do and the things that we’re interested in, the art that we produce, the way that we communicate, and the job that you do, those are your ways of communicating your relationship with the logic of the human condition.

This is what I know to be how I think life is. If that’s what you’re trying to do with it, and you ask those questions along the way, you’re able to say, “What am I learning from failure at golf and how does that apply to failure in life?” If you focused on golf and say, “I’m a crap golfer.” That doesn’t help you because you’re not a crap golfer. You know you’re not. More so, you’ve learned again that resiliency, that antifragility of handling those abuses and moments where they don’t go well. When you’re sitting there and somebody hits you with something random and bad, you don’t break because you’ve seen it.

This notion of the specialist has helped you create an earnest relationship rather than trying to bounce around in the sample. Even bouncing around in sampling can allow you to sample life. It’s just, do you ask yourself still, is this how I want to communicate with reality? Is this how I feel that reality anticipates communication? The second part is important because this will get really theoretical. We zoom in far enough your energy and that’s why when I talk about the model I’ve been building, I am also trying to say, “Can I build it with the thought towards energy as a system going to that entropic piece?”

The point of that analysis is to say, “If I am moving energy and I am contributing to this idea of spreading chaos, which means the Second Law of Thermodynamics, trying to expand the universe. If I’m investing myself in those things, how does that system respond?” Does it respond better when I do so with a very precise knife to areas of my particular interest? Do I find that I get more effective when I look in between the gray spots when I am less focused and more open? Those are questions for a human to answer to themselves, to be flexible and allow it to change based on where they are in life.

The only way you can really understand something is by being curious about it rather than trying to control it. Click To Tweet

I happen to lean towards the way that society is right now. Knowing the kind of information that we can offload to a small and very limited set of specialists means that for all of us to be more effective, if we can be generally better and capable of seeing between the lines, then we are aiming towards what is the evolved form of intelligence. Either you mount yourself to a computer or you mount yourself to all the other humans. You can’t necessarily completely over tap the brain. I can give you Adderall and I can get you to zone in. I can give you alcohol and start to depress your system. I can change it with drugs but I can’t continue to do that long-term without abusing it and breaking it because it wasn’t meant to do that.

The notion of offloading, that is family. That is the budget that you’re sharing with other people. You are offloading responsibilities onto them and to everyone. When we look at this world as it becomes more interconnected, it starts to tell you. Reality looks less like a bunch of few isolated groups creating massive growth and then suddenly realizing that they also exist with other groups across the country. Instead, everyone is growing together. If we’re growing together, I would assume then that reality is asking for us to have toolkits and methods to engage with it that lean towards that general nature so that we can be more effective as a group at handling that responsibility. Do you want somebody who knows everything in the world about an electron but has no ability to have a conversation with you about life or someone who can talk to you all about life but can’t do math?

The math is important. Don’t get me wrong. Everything about the electron is important. I’m most certainly not saying that physicist is a bad example. Most physicists who get deep into the weeds also have a good understanding of life because there is a lot of philosophy in that edge of physics. You get what I’m saying. The world is anticipating that you’re going to be trying to find connectivity immediately or find information quickly. It’s creating systems that are designed to work like that. If you can work the way those systems are designed, then you can operate most effectively within there.

It almost speaks to the growing importance of EQ over IQ because that’s what brings the glue to IQ. The reality that knowing information isn’t what changes, it’s the experience of that information that changes you as a person or grows you as a human. I’ve been thinking a lot about that too because it’s so addicting to want to learn, gain as much information as possible, and have this amazing conception of an idea or area of study. What is that without the experience of living? What is that without the day-to-day reality of being human that connects you to every other human? It loses its value quickly, which speaks to both ends. We need both and there are varying degrees but you bring up a good point with the nature of our world. It makes a lot of sense for being the glue between the specialized masters that are the tip of the iceberg.

There’s so much of them. We’ve seen these gigantic growths. While they’re into the motif, those people are dialed in and they’re creating this amazing stuff. They don’t have the bandwidth to see outside those horse blinders. They need to be in the zone. That’s where they are best and where they execute. You have to start getting good at being able to see all of these wonderful things that are being created around you and how you can use them to help improve your life because there are things designed for you. It will require you to be uncomfortable to figure that out. You have to recognize that even some of the things that you start with, you may not like them. You may think they’re stupid. They’re called scaffolding. I don’t build the pyramid without something to help me move things up and down. Maxwell was popular for this. Maxwell’s equations which give us all the background of electrical and magnetic fields from a very basic arithmetic background. He had no skills and he generalized these things with scaffolding first before finalizing these bigger and bolder equations. That’s where we have to be. We’ve got to put some scaffolding in to get yourself moving, and then you can figure out where to go from there.

It’s a great mental concept too. The view of what those preparing phases wherever we’re at in life as providing scaffolding for the overarching building that you are building metaphorically within yourself, which is a great tool for helping us embrace each season as important. Cody, it never fails. A conversation with you always stimulates so much thought and humbles me in what I aspire to know. Thank you. I want to end with three more one-off questions to end with before we’re done. The first one is speaking of the future versus the moment, imagining your 50-year-old self, what advice do you think you’d give your current self?

Less of it matters than you think. If I can look back, there are a few things.

This one’s always an interesting question and very challenging. Which of your current views or beliefs are most likely to be wrong?

Arguably, all of them. Every last thing that you have read could all be just crap. I could have been misinterpreted. Somebody else could give me new opinions and new pieces of information that changed the way that I’m willing to look at it. I would be lying from the standpoint of the way that I’m saying to live life if I don’t agree to that functional capability of change. If anything were to be the most wrong, it’s at least been showing how much I think you have to. What does hard work mean? Hard is a weird concept and it doesn’t look an awful lot the way I used to think it. I don’t disagree that you shouldn’t have a time in your life where you sleep very little and it feels overwhelming and everything feels it’s going to fall on top of you to shake you out of some of those moments. I don’t think you should be living in that. That’s one thing that I still do. I don’t get enough sleep. I live at 900 miles an hour and I think that I can overwork and I will, but at what cost?

UAC 144 | Antifragility

 

Finally, what we ask every guest if you could send a morning text reminder to every Up and Comer out there, what short message or reminder would you send as a daily morning text?

I’ll say what I end my emails with which is, “Stay safe, stay well.” There are a lot of things that we could try and save people to get them to shake out these moments but right now, a lot of it is, what is safety? How do you feel safe? How do you define that? We are in a position of asking a lot of those questions moving forward and staying well. Not just well physically and healthy but stay and be well. Try and find yourself in these times when it feels like your being perturbed because this is the system check that’s going to give you an idea of your resiliency and antifragility.

It’s going to give you those tools to define where you should take those next steps unless you are entirely focused on the overwhelming nature of it. It’s overwhelming. I’m not going to sit here and come to you as one of the people sitting in the high castle who doesn’t do everything. We have two boys at home that we have to teach every day. We have two people going through a Master’s school and we both have work. Every day looks like this constant combination of organizing times, schedules, blocking things off, you put the kids down, and then you work some more. It’s hard. If you can remember to stay safe and stay well, that gets you going.

I appreciate your generously giving time for us.

That’s not what that meant at all.

I wanted to make sure and say that because I genuinely do appreciate it. Life is full and that’s such a great reminder to stay safe and stay well and a great focus for us. Cody, thanks again. Where can people find more about you, your work, and say hi or connect?

First and foremost, thank you as well for the time. It’s always a good time and I have lots of notes for myself and things to go take a peek at and books to read which is great. As far as getting ahold on me, I’m poor at social media. You can google my name. There are some videos, some podcasts and things like that in case you’re interested. My Instagram has a lot of the things I’ve written. I haven’t done a lot because life has been extremely busy. I don’t do the joke of the shirtless pics of all my fitness routines. That’s not what you’re going to find on my page. You’re going to find kids making robots out of boxes and weird things like that. You can also email me by all means. I’d love to have conversations. If you’re looking for some scientific, technical, or any of those things related to some of the work that I do for NASA, hit me up on LinkedIn. My email is Cody.Burkhart@Gmail.com. It’s the easiest one to give you out and shoot me a message.

Thanks again. This has been a pleasure and a joy. I’m excited to see what comes from your projects, your models, your work. I can’t wait for the next installment. 

Thanks for the time too.

For our audience, we hope you have an up and coming week because of we’re out.

Following up with one last thing to note. If you would like to get a curated list of all the content I’m learning from, whether that be books I’m reading, podcasts I’m listening to, quotes I’m pondering or even some sermons I’m enjoying, In-Thane is a monthly newsletter that brings vetted content that I know you’ll enjoy. Just go to ThaneMarcus.com/InThane to sign up. You’ll be sure to receive the very next one. Each edition of In-Thane is released on the first Sunday of the month. This is a once a month newsletter that I hope you enjoy and benefit from as much as I have. Here’s to learning and growing one day at a time.

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About Cody Burkhart

UAC 144 | Antifragility

Cody Burkhart is a father, husband, reader, thinker, weaver, and nerd… and he spends most of his time attempting to understand the nature of perception, our definitions of reality, the nature of the human condition, and the core duality of our immense significance and insignificance. That’s the important stuff, the rest, to follow, is nothing more than context.

He holds BS degrees in both Aerospace Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, with a Minor in the Art & Practice of Leadership, from the University of Colorado – Boulder (UCB) and is, currently, working to complete a Masters in Neuroscience & Behavior from the University of Houston – Clear Lake (UHCL). Cody also serves as the President of the Neuroscience Student Organization at UHCL.

Within NASA(Johnson Space Center; Houston, TX), Cody serves as the: Lab Chief of the Physiology-Sensing, Intelligent, Optimization Nucleus (PSION) Lab, developing advanced exercise and human performances systems for long-duration space travel (end-goal is an immersive, biofeedback, resistive & assistive, exosuit); Project Manager of the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED), the crew strength and conditioning asset aboard the International Space Station (ISS); Project Manager of the Knowledge Reaper Asset in a Kinetic Network (KRAKN) multi-modal data management system for health and performance monitoring of ISS crew; Head Mentor for the Flight Systems Branch interns and pathways programs, includes up to eight interns (undergrad, graduate, and doctoral); the head of Strategic Partnerships and Collaborations for the Flight System Branch; Grant development specialist. Beyond this work, Cody has served numerous roles in diverse arenas including the Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV) and the Active Response Gravity Offload System (ARGOS).

Cody has also spent numerous years developing skillsets in high-performance athletic training. His work has included all levels of athletics from owning and operating a grassroots gym, servicing the general population, through to high school / collegiate athletes, professional athletes, Olympic athletes, and special operators. (While the process may have been shared, though, the accolades remain, entirely, theirs.)

In the end, though, it’s less about the roles, the jobs, and more about the meandering journey that compels us all forward. Stay safe; stay well.

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