All posts by: Thane Ringler

UAC 129 | Power Of Perspective

 

The simple act of sharing what you have can be a huge platform that can trickle down to a bigger effort with a bigger impact. For Head Resident Director at Master’s College, Siona Savini, he ensures that any platform can be used in the best way possible regardless of race and even age group. In today’s interview with Thane Marcus Ringler, Siona shares his observations on different generations, the importance and value of truly listening to others, and the power of perspective and emphasis. They also talk about faith and how it has shifted over the years, leadership and what it entails, and embracing change.

Listen to the podcast here:

Fellowship Ft. Siona Savini: The Power Of Perspective, Emphasis, Platforms, Leadership, And Change

Siona Savini, welcome to the Up and Comers Show.

Thanks. I appreciate it.

I’ve been thinking about having you on ever since we started the show. I’m glad it finally worked out before we go our separate ways soon. We have quite a history. We’ve probably done ten years of life together so far. Some of those were a little bit tumultuous.

You’re a lot different than you were years ago.

I first met you in the Hotchkiss dormitory at the Master’s University, which was formerly Master’s College. What was your first impression when we met? You were the RD, Resident Director, of the dorm, so you were already friends with some of the golf guys. I don’t even remember the first meeting. Was it when the RAs and the freshmen were up in the dorm in an arm-wrestling competition or something like that?

I don’t remember. Maybe vaguely generally thinking, “These golfers.” They were the popped-collars back in the day. I don’t recall other than there were quite a few of you that were on the team.

I remember being somewhat intimidated by you because you’re Samoan. What do people need to know about Samoa?

There are two Samoas. One is an American territory and the other is independent. They have the same culture, people, language, customs and food, but different governments. It’s been like that for about 100 years now.

What are you most proud of in being Samoan?

This sounds corny and cheesy but it’s true. Samoans have a lot of heart. They go all in with everything, from laughing to eating, loving people, and respect. You don’t want to get yourself caught in an alley with a Samoan, even the passion and anger. We’re extreme people. Generally, the culture of people are welcoming and hospitable. I love Samoa and Samoans.

I can affirm that. It’s very real. I’ve experienced that. I have several questions from an anonymous guest. One of them is a great question. Over the years, what has become more important to you and what has become less important to you?

Thinking of opportunities and platforms as tools or resources that others might not have access to is huge. Click To Tweet

For me, it’s the need to be heard and the need to listen. It’s Important to be heard. I would like to say that valuing what people have to say, what joys they have or even struggles. It’s important to hear people. I’ve been a part of a job in a ministry that’s required so much talking from me, as well as having to listen and bear other people’s joys and burdens. Many years ago, I didn’t feel listening was even a thing. It was just, “Who are you? What do you have to say?” I’m not thinking of that as a tool to bear with people. I think that’s huge. That’s not a self-deprecating thing for me at all. I want to think I value people’s opinion more now. There are many other things too. I still hate watermelon.

In one of our episodes, I shared three lenses that can help shape the New Year. One of them is the difference between hearing and listening. Often, we can hear things but listening means you are paying attention and you’re engaged with it. It’s active. As an example, if I’m working or reading or writing in a cafe, the second that I move from hearing the background noise to listening to a conversation, I get zero work done because it’s engaged. Now, I’m paying attention.

The same is true in conversations with people. Unless we have microphones in front of us, we’re not going to get a lot done if we’re not going to be as engaged with what people are saying because there’s so much noise. Society has become overwhelming to where we feel like we are constantly distracted by whatever it is that’s going on in our mind. We don’t listen to people and they’re not heard, which is a core need that we all have like being seen, heard and understood. It’s the cheapest gift we can give to every single person we come across, just hearing and listening.

It has so much value. It’s a wonderful gift to give people. I haven’t always been good at it at all. I understand too. Within the last years, it’s been good to learn that there are certain capacities that are different in every human being like learning to understand what people can and can’t handle.

How would you describe those years you spent as an RD? What was that job description like? What was that experience like? Give us an overview so people can relate.

It’s a full-time job as a Resident Director. There’s anywhere between 80 to 96 college students and you live in the apartment that’s in the dorm. You’re able to live life with students day in and day out while they’re attending classes, figuring out who they are, and learning more about their faith. This is in a Christian context. It didn’t always seem so Christians. One aspect is that I’ve got to make sure the building doesn’t burn down and people get out if it does burn down. On a more relational side, there was some counseling.

There’s some interaction with them as tenants and me as somewhat of a landlord. There are rules to abide by and guidelines from the school that they agreed to live by. That’s generally what it was. It’s 24/7, nine months out of the year. It wasn’t an easy job. It required a lot day in and day out. There are aspects to it where you want to be a good neighbor and in some senses, a good brother. From season to season, you become more or less. That was taxing. You’re like a camp counselor in a dorm. There are great aspects and great opportunities to that. There’s another side to it that was a little too much.

How long were you in that position?

Thirteen years.

You’ve got to see almost a full generation of individuals. You went from that position into a position where you’re teaching younger students. What were the ages?

Seventh through twelfth graders.

UAC 129 | Power Of Perspective

You’ve had experience with quite a few generations. What would you say those experiences were like? What insights or observations do you have about those different generations in your experience from your different roles within it? Do you have anything that stands out in the sense of general observation or things that have been interesting to you?

They’re two different contexts. One was not academic with the RD position. It was like living in a neighborhood. You had your neighbors come back to their home and find out if you want to have dinner or whatever. You chat here and there. Whereas in the classroom setting context, it was nice that they could go home. Realistically, it was a platform. The dorm was a platform as well. Every student in between 7th and 12th grade year, they too need to be heard and listened to. I think about my students in that classroom context and it was awesome getting to know them. They have great insight.

Seventh to twelfth graders think deeply about things. A lot of it is having the opportunity to be able to use your platform to dive in. They have joys and burdens that, for whatever reason, aren’t being listened to. I’m not saying that they didn’t have faithful parents or a community that didn’t listen to them at all. There were specific opportunities that I had to be able to get to know the students and care for them not just academically, but otherwise.

I love the idea of jobs and roles as a platform. A lot of times, we think about platforms as something that’s maybe haughty or prideful. On the other side, the goal is a platform. I don’t think either of those is not a bad thing or a good thing. It can be a helpful perspective of saying, “Your job as an accountant is a platform. Your job in X, Y or Z is a platform.” Everything can be a platform. Your trip to the grocery store is a platform if you want to look at it like that. That helps us realize that it matters. It brings meaning to it. Asking, “How can I view this as a platform?” could be a helpful tool.

When you have access to things, opportunities and relationships as a believer, you can’t help but think of that accessibility to platforms that are beyond enjoying it for yourself. You can enjoy those things, but what about others? What about the joy in sharing or using platforms for the sake of others? In a Christian context, that can sound cliché and cheesy. If I have a plate of food and you’re hungry and you’re right there, why not share it with you? Even taking pure joy and delight in the food and saying, “Have some. This is so good.” Thinking of our opportunities and platforms as tools or resources that others might not have access to is huge, living in this world.

That connects well to something that I’m curious to hear from you, which are cultural differences. A lot of my goal, aim and work is to people that do have access and survivability. They’re surviving like that’s taken care of. Surviving and needs taken care of is a platform. Now that you’re surviving, you have a base and a platform, what are you going to do with that? It’s not there for you to consume and be full of yourself in. How can you use that for others? There’s a lot of people that don’t have that. Growing up, you were in a much different environment and culture. I’d love to know the differences in culture from where you grew up to where you’ve lived many years and some of the tensions within that for you.

God is taking good care of my family. Relationally, what I didn’t have access to was a father. Before we make quick assumptions about, “Here’s another sappy story about a single-parent home,” and it could be that, but there’s another side to that as well. I had a hard-working mom. One of her aims was to provide access for us like food, clothing, and shelter. You can’t assume those things in life. We tend to because we have easy access to food, clothing, and shelter in our culture in this country. There are people even in this country, for whatever reason, don’t have or haven’t tapped into the accessibility of opportunities and platforms.

I grew up around that. I was fortunate to have siblings who worked hard for me to have more access and opportunities than they did, spiritually, relationally, financially and even academically. It is possible to provide more access for people who don’t have it or choose not to take it. One of the questions that I’ve been thinking about is, “What do I do with people that don’t want it?” Are they worth and valuable enough to stick around? Maybe you’re the platform for them relationally. Maybe they need someone who will listen to them and not have the issues like financial, neighborhood or education. Maybe those things don’t need to be fixed. Maybe they need a good neighbor or a good friend.

That’s more powerful than fixing because fixing gives you the power, not them. If you try to fix something, then you are the reason it was fixed, not the thing that was fixed. That’s almost more demeaning than empowering. You can be a platform yourself and not allow someone to stand on top of you. That’s a powerful thing to think about. How can I be a platform for someone else, especially for those that don’t have anywhere to stand? Sometimes, people don’t even have any foundation to stand on. How can you provide a foundation for them to stand on by loving them and being there for them? That’s way harder because we don’t get the intrinsic benefit of saying, “I did this for this person.”

Honestly, there are many crossroads to that. There are many dynamics and nuances that are hard to consider when you come across them. For example, you have a neighbor in a neighborhood where there aren’t as many accessibilities to platforms. What I’ve been conditioned to think is, “Get a job. Go out there.” I don’t know the years of someone looking for a job and not being able to get hired or they get hired in these side jobs. There are many success stories that I don’t want to sideline at all. Those stories are awesome. There are few stories that you come across with people that aren’t working.

What do you do when a father, grandfather, mother or single mother is trying to look for a job? It’s like, “My neighbor and her family don’t have food. What do I do as a good neighbor? What I do as a good Christian?” Of course, she knows she needs a job. There are many layers there that could be the case but what do you do in that moment? Hopefully, an option to a solution at that moment is to make them a meal. Invite them over or take it to them and eat with them. You could also give it to them, go back home and pray for another opportunity to provide access. You might be the access. There are layers to that thinking that’s challenging as Americans.

What is goodness to one neighbor could be completely different to the next. Click To Tweet

I love the quote, “For every complex problem, there’s a simple solution and it’s always wrong.” These are complex things. There’s some mentoring we did in East LA with formerly incarcerated youth. It was challenging because the stories of these individuals where you’re growing up in a deck is stacked against you. How do you overcome when the deck is stacked against you or the house is playing against you? If you are a person without a home, how do you get a job when every job application needs an address? That’s a real problem and there are solutions. There are both sides of the coin but it’s helpful to not be naive and think that these are easy fixes or self-imposed.

We’re all born into something we don’t control. Some are born on third base like I was. Some are born on second and some are born first. Some were born on the bench. It’s helpful to humble ourselves and say, “I don’t know. What I do know is I can be a good neighbor.” I can care for someone. Maybe it’s one person. Maybe it’s giving someone something on the side. In LA, there’s always a chance to give something to someone on the side of the road. That has a small impact but it has an impact. A much bigger impact is having one person that you see regularly, that’s in that position that you consistently come alongside. That’s a much more challenging thing because it doesn’t have that quick value of, “I just helped that person.” It’s like, “I don’t know if I’m helping this person but I’m going to walk with them.” That’s hard.

To that statement, that’s the life that we live in. Life is hard. Life is difficult when death is around the corner and you don’t know it or there’s some disease that hits one of your family members or yourself or their financial issues. There are issues with your neighbor or at work. In LA, when you have to drive on the 405 Freeway every day, and I don’t speak from experience, that’s a real thing and it’s hard. The LA traffic is ridiculous. I don’t bear that every day. What can you do when you know a neighbor is coming home? Maybe you’re that neighbor or that person. Learning where people are or finding out what their context is at least gives you data and information about, “How can I meet them where they are?” If that’s important to you and if that’s not important to you, then I don’t know.

We started this group called Neighbor LA. Part of the heart and intention is that we all know what a good neighbor is. It’s a pretty easy concept to understand and it’s attainable by everyone. You can be a good neighbor. How often do I go into Trader Joe’s for groceries with the intention of being a good neighbor? It’s not that often. Usually, when I don’t is the time when someone wants to be a neighbor to me. I’m like, “I don’t feel like it right now.” It’s just humbling. If every person made a commitment each morning to be a good neighbor throughout the day, it would be fascinating to see what differences in society there would be and how much more supported we’d be by each other.

As a believer, it’s important to communicate the eternal motivation. Everyone can have their reason for being a good neighbor. There are a lot of people who aren’t from the Evangelical Christian circle that are better neighbors than we are. To communicate to the Christian audience, we already have a motivation that’s the best motivation. Why aren’t we better neighbors than we are? A huge part of it is theological. We understand that we’re not getting neighbors naturally because of ourselves. How does a society function with neighbors that are Christian and non-Christian? You appeal to what’s good for the whole, for the neighborhood, for society. You function in a way that can offer goodness to mankind. That’s the conflict. What is goodness to one neighbor could be completely different to the next.

I love how Jesus addressed and lived that. The most fascinating and poignant story of being a good neighbor is the Good Samaritan. He was a good neighbor and all the religious people and the people of power or authority in that time in that parable that Jesus told were the ones that weren’t good neighbors. His point was that just because you’re religious or a part of a community of faith, does not mean you’re naturally a good neighbor. In fact, you’re usually not. Piety and hypocrisy go hand in hand with religion. It’s natural for us as humans. We have to fight extra hard even in those spaces to be good neighbors.

Jesus ultimately lived the example. He flipped all the cultural norms on their heads and said, “I’m going to show you the way by the life I live.” He illustrates beautifully what that looks like. It’s laying down your life for another. If you read through the New Testament, especially the Gospels and say, “What type of life did Jesus live? What was His example?” This is the clearest picture we have of what God has for us.

Back to the Good Samaritan story, it’s interesting that Jesus was speaking to a generally Hebrew-Jewish audience. He’s pointing out that the “hero” in that parable isn’t a Jew or a religious person. It’s a Samaritan, who Jews culturally would despise, hate and look down on. In some sense initially, because they were the other nation and they weren’t God’s nation. Much like the Jews, we too will take something that God gives us and completely corrupt it and turn it for ourselves. That’s what happened that led to years and generations of hatred from the Jews to the Samaritan. Jesus comes along. This good teacher, this Messiah of the Jewish heritage both culturally and by faith says, “All of our people didn’t stop.” There was a priest. The guy has got to go to the temple.

That goes to the point that faith doesn’t make sense. Faith isn’t responsible. It isn’t logical. Faith isn’t saying, “I have to be there so I can’t stop.” Faith is saying, “I have to stop even if I need to be there.” That’s what Jesus constantly showed too. The people of most faith were not the Jewish people. They were the people that were the poorest, most destitute, the ones that desperately needed help and knew that He could provide that faith, regardless. The people that lacked faith were the disciples following Him and the Jewish people that didn’t even believe in it.

We’d be right there.

I do not want to sound like I’m speaking from a platform above anyone. I’m with everyone in this.

UAC 129 | Power Of Perspective

I know that we would both affirm that.

It’s easy to talk about but hard to do. That’s where Jesus lived it. He wasn’t going to say anything that he wasn’t doing. It’s a good challenge for all of us. In the realm of faith, one of the things I was curious about is how has your understanding of faith shifted throughout the years? What do you believe now that you didn’t believe before? How has that shifted in you?

One of the things I’ve been challenged by are these two areas of perspective and emphasis. In life, in relationships, even as I read the Bible, what perspective have I been blessed with and been trained by? What other perspective, even in reading the Bible, do I not know that’s there? How have I been boxed in a particular perspective and have believed that and communicate it that that’s the only perspective? On this issue of faith, I’ve always known that it’s a gift. I’ve been trained in the scriptures that it is. Theologically, I wholeheartedly accepted that it was.

To know it and to believe it, maybe there are some nuances there that are different now than they were. I know that sounds vague but it’s a gift. I didn’t purchase it. I couldn’t afford it spiritually or otherwise. It was given to me at the cost of another. Finding out and learning who that other is has been amazing. For a long time, I’ve tried to work to try to keep that. I’m not saying there isn’t any work at all in the life of a Christian. I think the emphasis is different. The perspective of it as a gift given to me is also being taken care of by the giver.

What do I do with it? That’s the natural question. What do I do with this faith? What do I do with this gift? I share it. I treasure it. I don’t always treasure it, so what do I do? I know this giver and He says, “I’ll help you.” What? You give me a gift. You do all the work to keep it for me. I find out who you are and I want to know who you are and there are times that I don’t. You tell me that you’ll help me even with that? That changes motivation. It changes perspective. It puts things in an emphasis where I’ve emphasized other things. There’s good work for us as Christians. I’ve made the good work as the platform to make sure that I keep this gift of faith from God. The other emphasis is that I have it and I get to share it with others. I get to tell other people about it.

It speaks to some of what I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last couple of years. While there’s a gift, there’s also a continual gift. The Trinity is that Jesus is the gift, but the Spirit is a continual gift. Why do we work so hard to keep something that is constantly being given to us? That goes to even one of the lenses I shared, which were fear and love. That also ties into scarcity and abundance. The scarcity mindset is saying, “I need to keep this. I have to protect this. I have to keep this from being stolen, abused or whatever it may be.” That’s a scarcity mindset. It’s saying, “This is all I have.”

In some senses, that’s true. In other senses, the one who gave it to you is in control of everything so why do you have to worry about it? The idea of the Kingdom being here now, being the Kingdom of God is present and at hand. Jesus came to usher that in. There’s a kingdom come, but there’s a kingdom now. I’m going to live in that kingdom now. That’s where I’m called to. That’s a place of abundance and love. I work a lot less hard to keep it and more to live in it, which means I’m actively promoting it because I’m within it. It’s been a different perspective than I had before.

There’s one verse in Colossians 2:6 that says, “Therefore, as you have received Christ, walk in Him.” How did you receive Christ? You believed that He came into this world to save sinners. Now that our eyes have been open about who we are, failures, sin, joys and capabilities, that is all in Christ. How do we receive that? How do we walk in that? We believe in what we received in Christ, which is the gospel. That walking by faith has completely been I’m alive in Christ now so I live. I do stuff. I breathe, walk, talk to people, share the gospel, don’t share the gospel, and go to sleep. All of that is because I’m alive. I eat because I’m hungry. How are you hungry? Because I’m alive. It’s important to understand that that’s why there are many parallels to the way that Jesus taught about this kingdom that’s here in everyday living like a parable about the coin, a treasure, a lost sheep. There are many illustrations that He gave as a gift to people to strengthen their faith perhaps.

There’s much to go on. Even understanding the Bible as a narrative and understanding as Jesus teaching in narrative and story. We are impacted ten times deeper by a story because we relate. If someone tells you information like a lecture, it has a 1% impact. A story has 50% impact. Why are movies so popular? Why are TV shows so powerful? Because they are narratives that we associate ourselves with. Through the story of Jesus and the stories that he taught, we see what living in the Kingdom looks like. We get to try and follow and create that story within ourselves with His help. It’s not our own for sure.

I love those two points you brought up. Perspective and emphasis are probably two of the things that we should always ask whenever we hear anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s within faith, news, or personal conversations. What perspective is this person coming from and what are they emphasizing? In our current cultural context with news and politics, everyone is looking at something from a specific perspective and placing a specific emphasis that drastically changes the message. For better or worse, not right or wrong, it’s the reality. A helpful question is what is the perspective and was the emphasis? We can apply that in many places.

We’ve got a few more I want to touch on with you. One of them is leadership. I think leadership is a funny topic. It always feels good talking about it because you feel like, “I’m a leader.” At the same time, we always have a long way to go. There’s never a place of arrival. It isn’t what people think it is. It isn’t some lofty place. Usually, it’s not glamorous. It’s not sexy or fun. It’s more excruciating than joyful in any context. As you see it from the different leadership positions you’ve held and as you’ve grown through those experiences, how would you describe or define what effective leadership entails and what that even means?

There are times when a platform is difficult and maybe not as good when we constantly are pressured. Click To Tweet

I don’t know. I guess it depends on what perspective you’re coming from, either as a leader or someone who is following a leader. What are you expecting from your leader? How do you evaluate whether or not that was effective for you? As a leader, what objectives or goals are there? I’m thinking in terms of formal settings. There’s been many conversations, seminars, and teaching classes about leadership that I still have a lot of time ahead of me to sift through all that. There’s been so much on this topic. You could say character qualities like humility and boldness or even things to personality traits like humor. I like funny people. If a leader is funny to me, then maybe I’ll stay in it long enough to entertain what method he’s leading us in to accomplish a particular objective. It’s hard to know and narrow down to a few things.

A more specific version of it would be what have you had to learn often by failure or through experience that helps shape how you view leadership for yourself just to make it personal?

I interned for Keller Williams for summer a few years back. One of the takeaways from that time was an emphasis on failure and not being afraid to fail. In a culture like America and then the subculture of Christian context in the church and within families or friendships, people are afraid to fail. With this message of hope that we have, we’re not good at helping each other understand that or being patient enough when people do fail. I fail in being patient with people who fail. Even aspiring leaders in a particular context, whether it’s business, in the church or at home, we have this almost unreasonable expectation for someone in leadership to not fail. I don’t think that’s good in building up leaders.

I don’t know where I stand with whether or not someone is born a leader or if there are attributes and strategies that people can learn to be a better leader. I do know that people are afraid to lead because they’re afraid to fail. Generally, as people, we’re not good at being gracious with people who fail. I’m the youngest in my family so I’ve watched my siblings fail. I learned a lot from that. Looking back, I know why I stayed to myself for a long time. I was shyer growing up because I thought, “I’m not going to fail. I’m not going to do that. I’ll look like an idiot.” I had a great season in high school and college. I had a lot of fun, but I wasn’t going to put my hat out there in terms of leadership. The first leadership position I held was a captain of a volleyball team. I was like, “What? Me?” It was fun to lead your peers in that way, especially doing something that you love with people that you love.

In college, I went to a smaller school. I was in a different culture, learning a lot of great things with a lot of great people. I wasn’t going to be in leadership. Why? Because they’re better at it. “That guy’s an idiot. He failed,” that sort of thing. We may never say it, but that’s the culture that I grew up in and lived out until God forced me in some positions that I had no idea what I was doing and failed a lot. Many years removed from that, it’s good to fail. It’s good to see weakness. It’s not fun all the time. When your perspective changes, your emphasis changes as well. I’m sure everyone can agree with this, but there are still areas that I don’t want to fail in. I retreat and that’s a process of learning and growing.

What you said is interesting, “When your perspective changes, your emphasis changes.” I would say vice versa too. When your emphasis changes, your perspective changes. I was talking with my fiancé about editing a blog that I wrote. We were talking about grammar and where a comma goes. Because she’s been helpful on some of my grammar, but one of them is a rule that can apply in different ways. What I realized in that small example is that where you place a comma changes the emphasis of the sentence, which also changes the perspective.

Going back to the failure piece, even on small things like going to the gym and doing a lift. If I’m doing a lift like the bench and the pressing and the overhead, I don’t enjoy failing at a lift. I don’t enjoy going to a failure. I’d rather go until I’m hurting but I don’t want to fail, but I would benefit so much more if I went to failure. Even in the small things, I don’t like to fail, let alone the big things that “matter.” We all have a natural aversion to failure that we have to overcome. I don’t think you’re ever born that way. Some people naturally based on the environment they’re born into, can be quicker to overcome that, but we all have to go through the process of overcoming it.

You think in light of a perspective of performance, no one wants to fail at a performance. I’ve been playing piano for decades now and there are many mistakes that I noticed. I know I hit the wrong note. You come off the stage and someone’s like, “That was amazing.” “What?” That’s fine that you appreciated and enjoyed that. You have to get over it at some point, but there have been moments when people are like, “That was amazing.” I’m like, “That was the worst I’ve ever played in my entire life.”

This perspective of performance. Going back to the illustration of platform, that is a good thing. Maybe on the flip side of that, there are times when a platform is difficult and maybe not as good when we constantly are pressured, even if it’s self-inflicted pressure to feel like you’re always performing. Inflicting that onto others and wanting them to perform a certain way. In friendships, I expect you to perform as a good friend, “Go ahead. No, you failed, next.” Why do we do that?

It also talks about what you said about being gracious with those who fail. It always starts with us being gracious to ourselves when we fail. Allowing ourselves to be gracious when we do fail. Because if you don’t ever allow yourself that, you’re never going to allow yourself to fail, which then you’ll never allow anyone else to fail and it’s a downward spiral.

It’s interesting in a world where we have to define terms. I wouldn’t say I’m talking about being gracious in terms of tolerance like, “No, that’s a wrong note you hit.” I shouldn’t harp on someone. It’s interesting in many ways that we do that. It’s not just tolerating a mistake, a sin or whatever. It’s acknowledging it and being gracious. The power comes in when you do acknowledge that, “That was wrong but we’re good.”

UAC 129 | Power Of Perspective

Power Of Perspective: You’re going to disappoint people, but that doesn’t mean you’re failing.

There is power in that and it always starts with us. We have to be able to do that for ourselves before we can do that for others. That’s a missing piece that we overlook a lot. If we aren’t able to be gracious with ourselves, we’re never going to be gracious with other people. That was something that I had to go through a lot. I was so hard on myself that I would spill over and be equally hard to others. I wouldn’t set myself up for success and then you get in a place where you can succeed if you like.

You’re 100% right that it’s not tolerating, but it’s acknowledging that that’s a part of the process. It’s like, “That’s a part of growth.” Part of growth is you fall down and then you get back up. You got stronger because you got back up. I think that’s totally how God has designed the world. That’s why when you get stronger, you’re breaking down your muscle, and then it gets stronger by building itself back up. It’s a part of life. It’s the process of life in a lot of ways. There’s a lot of freedom when we say failure isn’t fatal, it isn’t final and it is a part of the process of growth.

The last thing that we want to touch on is what we’re both experiencing, which is change. It’s true that if you’re not changing, you’re not growing. In some senses, we have to constantly be embracing change because life is not stagnant. Life is constantly ebbing, flowing and moving. Change always takes effort, but it’s always going to be a part of life. You can’t eliminate it. There’s no homeostasis that we can always find an equilibrium. You’re in the middle of moving to a new city, new environment, new position job and all things that you’ve never experienced at this scale. What has that process been like as you’ve been working through how to embrace change or experience change within a pretty large scale?

I don’t know what it’s like for other people. This is a long process for me. It’s been good to evaluate and assess my reasons for wanting to make this move or wanting to make this change. I’m sure there are many nuances that I have no idea that are going to hit me as the next season of change also happens. Maybe there are two parts to it. There’s the beginning and the leaving process, and then there’s the moving, settling and the establishing process side of it. That’s going to take a while.

I’ve been internally ready for that in my mind. I planned to move to Northern California for another opportunity for the last few years. That came to a head when this other opportunity in Texas came up. There was a lot of thinking, planning, assessing, and evaluating. There’s been asking and answering questions, talking to people, seeking advice and counsel, and praying. There’s been some testing in that, “Do I want to leave? Do I want to go there? God, what do you have for me there? What do you want there?” I’ve had to strip away a lot of things and narrow it down to, “What can I do there that I want to do anywhere? Who do I want to be there that I want to be anywhere?” It helped a lot with preferences. Laying aside certain preferences and keeping certain preferences. Moving to a different state and culture. There’s a lot of thinking, assessing and narrowing it down. This is going to be a good move. It’s going to be hard in a lot of ways, but it’s going to be good as well.

Was there any recurring fear during the process?

Maybe it was timing for me this round with this particular situation. I knew earlier that this was probably going to be something that I wanted. It wasn’t until later that I found out that the opportunity there also wanted me. Within that was trying to figure out, “Do I leave right away or do I leave in a few months because I’ve had a year commitment to my last two jobs?” I didn’t want to fail in making the wrong decision. If I choose to go now, I might be disappointing people. Maybe the fear was disappointing people. I naturally don’t struggle with that. I don’t struggle with what people think about me but that came up. “I’m going to disappoint my family. I’m going to disappoint my pastor or my community.” Their responses have been the complete opposite. There were a few weeks where I was afraid of failure and disappointing people. That’s not always the case. You’re going to disappoint people, but that doesn’t mean you’re failing.

Decisions and failure are similar. There’s a fear behind both of them because they both feel final and they’re not. A decision doesn’t mean that that’s set in stone for life. You can change your mind and make a different decision or you can pivot and go a different direction. You’re not locked in for life once a decision is made. It’s just been made. You can make another one. It’s the same with failure. It doesn’t mean that you are a failure and your life is a failure, it means you’re going to pick a new path or a new direction or you’re going to try again. That reality is there’s no finality in this, it’s been made, now move on. Accept it and move forward and it frees us up quite a bit. If you were living your final day on Earth. What one song would you want as a soundtrack to your day?

It’s Thugz Mansion by Tupac.

You are from Carson.

It puts me back into the days of the garage when the garage was mounted up by bucket, and it’s 2:00 in the morning. You’re kicking it with people and Tupac’s playing in the background, Thugz Mansion.

What new habit or belief has most positively impacted you in your life?

There’s been a lot of talk about identity, even in the Christian realm where you emphasize identity in Christ. That’s become a surface-y cliché you throw up there, but union with Christ, my unity with Him has completely changed my perspective and my emphasis. I’m completely set and I know that’s going to scare some people when I say that. In the Gospel, I’m set. I’m set because my life is hidden with Christ and God. That’s changed a lot of my motivations to do things because I’m not scared. I’m not scared and there was more fear in me than I had ever realized. It’s been comforting. When you’re comforted in this life, when you have support, and a motivation that’s promised to you that’s eternal, you could do anything and you want to do anything.

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

I’d say The ONE Thing by Gary Keller. I still have some desires to pursue a real estate license, so we’ll see. I love that book. The other is this book called Law and Gospel. I don’t remember who the author is. That’s been super helpful in thinking about the parameters that I make up for myself so that I can perform perfectly, rather than being more motivated by the Gospel and what Christ has done and resting in that. That being the motivation to do anything.

The last question we ask every guest is, if you could send a morning text reminder to every up and comer out there, what would you say and why? They’d get this text message from you each and every morning.

There’s forgiveness and there’s hope in this life and not just for the life to come, but there is. There’s a place for guilt and shame, and it doesn’t have to be placed on you.

This has been awesome. Where is a good place for people to connect, reach out and find out more about you if they want to keep up to date or even say hello?

On the social media platform, I have Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. I’m trying to assess those platforms. Totally reach out on that, Siona Savini or Chief Savini.

Until next time, thank you.

Thanks. I appreciate it.

I’m grateful for you. For all of you, we hope you have an up and coming week.

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UAC 128 | New Year's Resolutions

 

It’s easy to forget one’s new year’s resolutions, but there are certain principles you can follow to make sure your new year is much better. It’s all in the way you view you life and the actions you create. Thane Marcus Ringler discusses the different lenses through which you can make decisions and actions for the new year. Hoping to make a change in yourself, but it doesn’t feel like it’s sticking? Take charge of your life today!

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Three Lenses For Shaping The New Year

This is all about learning how to live a good life, which we believe takes having intention in the tension. Life is filled with many tensions and daily, we have to live in the middle of those. We believe intentionality is the key. Thanks for tuning in and being a part of the Up and Comers community, this Up and Comers Movement. We’re glad you came. It is the new year and it’s a new decade. It’s been a sweet time of reflection. Looking back at the last year and the last decade and looking ahead at what’s to come and even what’s to come in the next ten years. I know it was a lot of fun for me to sit down, journal, think, reflect, project and dream about it. I hope that you got to do a little bit of that.

UAC 128 | New Year's Resolutions

 

If you didn’t get to tune into episode 127, it talks a little bit about my process, what I wanted to do and what we went through in wrapping up the last decade well and in starting a new one well. Before we get to this episode, there are few things I’d love to remind you of. One, if you want to help out the show, the best way to do that is by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. It takes about one minute of your time. It’s such a great way for us to be found by more people. The second-best way is to send this episode or one that you enjoyed to a friend or several people in your community. If you wanted, a personal text is always the best. If you wanted to post it online, we’d also love the support that way.

Finally, if you want it to give financially, we do have a Patreon account where you can donate monthly to help us keep the lights on and keep the show going. We are also actively looking for partners, so if you want to partner with our show and support our mission as we support yours, definitely reach out at TheUpAndComersShow@gmail.com. We are an all the socials, @UpAndComersShow. Tune in and send us a shout out. This is going to be a solo episode sharing a few thoughts for the new year. One of the practices I love doing that my sister got me started on over a few years ago was picking a word of the year. A word of the year is often an easier thing to hang onto than a resolution or something that can often slip our minds and not happen longer than a month or even be thought of longer than a month into the year.

UAC 128 | New Year's Resolutions

 

Word of the year is a great way to have a simple objective or idea about what the year ahead holds and also see how it shapes and shifts as we go through the year ahead. I can’t recommend it enough. If you want to hear what my word of the year is, go check out the blog I posted called Why I Write (and My 2020 Word of the Year). I’ll leave that as a little teaser. I get to share what my word of the year is and if you enjoyed it, I’d love to hear from you and hear what your word is so send me a little note.

UAC 128 | New Year's ResolutionsInstead of talking about resolutions or even what word of the year to pick, I thought it might be helpful to start the year thinking about some helpful lenses for the year ahead. Our perspective is so much like a lens and talking about the different lenses that we can wear to help guide, shift and shape our perspective so that we can better support one another is a worthy use of time. Part of the challenge in our modern society is the lack of support that we receive or feel from our fellow humans. While we are more connected than ever before, we are also more disconnected in human to human interactions, which is also known as real life than ever before. This leads to the three core needs that we all have as human beings, which is being seen, being heard and being connected to something larger than ourselves.

It leads to those three core needs not being met on a consistent basis and sometimes not even met at all. The way change start is always with us on an individual or personal level. One of the tools we can use to help us grow individually in this area is to improve our awareness and our perspective on the daily interactions of life. This is where I believe the three lenses come in and just like sunglasses, there’ll be situations where one may apply better than the other. Let me share the three lenses.

The first lens is the self-assessment lens of fear versus love, also known as scarcity and abundance. As you may remember in episode 107, I shared the two core emotions that we operate from on a daily basis. It’s either fear or love. Every other emotion will stem from one of these two places. Fear stems from a place of scarcity whereas love stems from a place of abundance. This is why this distinction can also be framed from the question of whether I am operating out of scarcity or abundance. When we are operating from a place of fear, we cannot truly or fully love the other. Instead we ended up resorting to closing ourselves off from them, on one hand, often seen through avoiding them or we try to control them through some form of power. Neither of these paths is helpful for ourselves or for the other individual.

When we are operating from a place of love, we are able to see others and strive to love them as we would want to be loved. Click To Tweet

Fear Versus Love

When we are operating from a place of love, we are able to truly see the other human and strive to love them as we would want to be loved. Love in my definition is simply preferring the other, which means putting the needs of another before our own. We cannot remind ourselves enough of this lens throughout our days, even since recording episode 107. I’ve often forgotten about this helpful distinction and this helpful rubric for examining why I’m doing what I’m doing and whether or not it is helpful. The better we get at pausing to ask ourselves, “Am I operating out of love or fear in each situation, conversation or decision?” the better we will be able to support one another as we strive for growth and good in the world together. The first lens is fear or love. Am I operating out of love or out of fear?

Observation Versus Judgment

The second lens is a distinction between observation and judgment. I wrote a blog post about this titled The Unifying Power of Observation. The goal of this blog post was helping highlight the small but powerful distinction between a judgment and an observation. The question I posed was, “What would society look like if we made less judgments and more observations?” Some of the reasons we tend to default instinctively to judgment are that either we like to view ourselves as better than the other because we crave control and we love security. Because it is the easier path to take and it allows us to avoid the need to change. It’s easy to instinctively default to judgment.

UAC 128 | New Year's Resolutions

 

Not all forms of judgment are hurtful. The helpful kind of judgment is when it’s kept to the realm of specific situations and is based on a higher authority than the individual who is making the judgment while also resisting the temptation to make broad, sweeping conclusions on the person or situation as a result of that judgment. I am afraid we are all well acquainted with what the hurtful form of judgment entails. I will spare the examples for now, but in summary, it entails a judgment that is usually preferential, personal and based on the individual’s authority. It draws conclusions that aren’t fair to anyone or anything especially yourself.

I love the quote by William Ury. He said, “Statements generate resistance whereas questions generate answers.” The more helpful question to ask ourselves in light of this lens is, what would happen if we all became better observers? To make it more specific, what would happen if you become a better observer? As I mentioned, judgments can be helpful or hurtful and more times than not they are hurtful. I find this to be especially true in the small circumstances and interactions of daily life. Judgments tend to classify and sort people out based on our own personal conclusions and standards, which inevitably creates an us versus them environment instead of a we environment, an environment of shared humanity.

UAC 128 | New Year's Resolutions

 

Morgan Housel has one of my favorite quotes also 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.” What I’m not advocating is to remove all judgment from our lives and from society. What I am proposing is the idea of actively replacing our daily momentary judgments with observations. Observations mean that we simply see the thing for what it is. An observation is all about being a better seer of things, not a better judger of things. By actively replacing judgments with observations, I believe we will become more unified, empathetic and humble people in a time when those traits seem to be rapidly disappearing. That is the second lens, the lens of observation versus judgment.

Hearing Versus Listening

The final lens that I would like to propose is the distinction between hearing and listening. Hearing versus listening. Sounds of all types can be heard and can also be listened to. We often use these terms interchangeably because they are so close in meaning. The distinction is so important that I believe it has the power to radically change our relationships and our ability to effectively love and support one another. Many times, I’ve gone to a cafe to work or write or read which is one of my favorite things to do. When I do, there’s a major difference in my productivity when I’m simply hearing the background noise versus listening to it.

UAC 128 | New Year's Resolutions

 

Every now and then my intention may shift and latch onto a nearby conversation. When my interest is piqued, it shifts from simply hearing the voices to fully listening to them. As you can imagine, zero writing, reading or work gets done when I’m listening. That’s the point, listening is an active engaged form of hearing. Hearing is often both passive and disengaged. In our daily conversations that we have, how often are you listening versus hearing the other person? With how distracted our minds have become due to the incessant noise of the culture and world we live in, our default has become to simply hear what’s being said. We may not be paying much attention to it, but we’re still listening or so we say.

In reality, we are rarely listening to what’s truly being said. Listening does not entail simply listening to the words that are being voiced, but rather to the message underlying those words, to the things that aren’t being said but are being implied and communicated. Often, we fail to say what we truly mean. If the other person isn’t fully listening and instead just hearing our words, they will miss what we’re trying to communicate entirely. One of the greatest gifts that we can give someone on a daily basis is an active listening ear. By being engaged with what another person is saying, we are showing them that they are of worth and value worthy of our time, energy and attention. The power in something as simple as this cannot be overstated. The more consistent we can become at priming ourselves to listen instead of just hearing, the better we will be able to love, support and care for one another. This allows us to be the change we wish to see in the world. That is the third lens, hearing versus listening.

Judgments can be helpful or hurtful, and more times than not, they are hurtful. Click To Tweet

The three lenses again are fear and love. Am I operating out of fear or am I operating out of love in this situation, circumstance, conversation or decision? It’s also known as scarcity and abundance. The second lens is observation versus judgment. How can I make an observation instead of judgment in this situation? How can I be curious about what’s happening? The third lens is hearing versus listening. How can I prime myself to tune in and actively listen to what’s being said so I can truly understand and love the other person? These are three lenses that I think can drastically improve our love, support and care for one another as human beings. There’s no greater mission to get behind it than that. It is a worthy cause, a worthy practice, a worthy discipline for each of us to embrace. As we move into 2020, this new year and this new decade, I want to challenge each of you as I challenge myself to be mindful and carry these three lenses with you as you go about your day. It will make a massive impact. Thanks for tuning in. Until next time.

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UAC 127 | Remembering Your Year

 

Yet another year has nearly passed, so what better time to do a self-evaluation than the present. Remembering your year gives you an opportunity to see what worked for you and what didn’t. Host Thane Marcus Ringler teaches on how best to look back at your year to maximize the potential for growth in the next. Each of the twelve months of a year is an opportunity for growth, and you have to be able to look back and see where it went right. The annual tradition is a gift to humanity in that it forces us to be reflective – a time of endless possibility and opportunity that can also lead to so much growth.

Listen to the podcast here:

Endings And New Beginnings

This is all about learning how to live a good life. We do that unpacking what it means to live with intention in the tension, which our catchy mantra that I think does a good job of talking about the daily experience of life. There are tensions that we live in and the best way to live in the midst of those without picking sides or going to the black and white, the dualistic thinking is to live with intention, intentionality. That is what we unpack each and every week through sharing the experiences of others and of ourselves on this journey called life. If you wanted to help us out, we need your support and there are three easy ways to do it.

The first is a rating and review on iTunes. I’m going to read one. I haven’t read one in a while, but we’ve got quite a few. We’ve got 78 five-star reviews and ratings and there’s a lot more of you, so if you haven’t yet, that is such a quick and easy way to help us out. We had a review that is titled Incredible Podcast by Johnnysyou. He said, “Uplifting, practical, and it will stir your curiosity. Thane does a great job asking intentional questions and interviewing inspirational individuals.” Thank you Johnnysyou for that review. If you want to join him and help us out, that’s a great way. Another awesome way is by sending this to a friend or two in your community or maybe even sharing it on the socials and tagging us @UpAndComersShow. We’re on all the socials. You can find us there. You can also go to the website, TheUpAndComersShow.com. The last way to help support the show is by Patreon. If you wanted to be a monthly donator, that’s a great place to support us financially. We are also looking for partnerships to help keep the lights on and to support us with what we’re doing, but also have support you in your costs for your business. Reach out to TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com.

UAC 127 | Remembering Your Year

 

I wanted to share a few thoughts as we wrap up 2019 and we look forward to 2020. I title this Endings and New Beginnings just because that’s what each year is. Each year we get the blessing of a reset. It is the closing of one chapter and the beginning of another. This annual tradition is I believe such a gift to humanity in that it forces us to be reflective, to look back on what transpired, the lesson learned from the past year, while also looking forward to the hopes, dreams, goals, and desires of the year that awaits. It’s a time of endless possibility and opportunity to. I believe that this time is crucial to us living and leaning into our full potential. It is a rhythm that we all would do well to utilize. I want to share some ideas on what this may look like by sharing what I’m planning to practice myself. You can take it as a list of suggestions and I’d encourage you to pick and choose the questions or journal topics that resonate with you the most. Because this is less about achieving something and is much more about sitting with what is and adequately processing what’s transpired and what’s ahead.

That’s a little bit of what we’re going to do. First, I’d love to get a recap of this year on The Up and Comers Show and mention a few highlights from the year. We did have 47 this year, which has sweet accomplishment. We’re up to 127 with this one. The most read one of the year was 103 with Gabe Conte. If you haven’t checked that one out, it’s definitely worth reading. He’s an inspirational young man, creative dude and awesome guy. He’s a good friend of mine. The runner up was Kait Warman, another good friend, on number 96. Those are both stellar interviews and worth a read if you haven’t. A couple of other conversations that stood out to me. I loved the interview with Allison Trowbridge, number 88. It was an awesome connection with a fellow author and kindred spirit in many ways.

UAC 127 | Remembering Your Year

 

Chad Masters was a fun fellowship interview, number 99. It was a good bro talk, talking about life and different creative pursuits. Nate Neven also was a great fellowship, number 105. I loved his perspective on expectations versus reality and going into a career and what he had hoped and then experiencing the reality and how experience always informs our ideas about our thing and also wisdom around that thing. That was a helpful conversation. Kara Elise in number 112, we also were synced on a lot of things, engaging interview. She has a fascinating story. Houston Kraft is an amazing speaker in number 114. It was a special time. He had been a sweet speaking mentor to me and I appreciate his heart and that was a fascinating interview.

Lanny Hunter, number 117. 83-year-old Lanny Hunter had some amazing perspectives and so much of a treat to have someone of his age, wisdom, accomplishments and experience on the podcast that was special to me, and still is one of my favorites of all time. Kenishaa Francis in number 121 has a heart-tugging story that is an amazing story of resilience in the midst of a lot of hardship. Charlotte Cramer, number 123 was about fellowship, which we got to dive into a lot of the science and cognitive psychology, which is her field and something that I’m also interested in. That was such a fun conversation. Number 124 has to be one of my favorites of all time as well. It was the second interview with Peter Peitz, my grandfather who’s 82 and that was incredible. I feel blessed to be able to record some pieces of him and share them with you. It made me happy. Please take a look at that one for sure.

There are always tensions in our life, and the best way to live in the midst of that is to live with intentionality. Click To Tweet

Definitely doing the solo ones has been a lot of fun too for me. Unpacking ideas, sharing things I’m thinking about and learning and trying to empower and encourage others with that. Self-awareness and the process of developing self-awareness in number 89 was a framework that I think can be powerful for people and has been for me even. This whole process of ending and beginning is a great tool in that self-awareness practice. Talking about rest, number 97 and the importance of a Sabbath and how that’s been a game-changer for me in my life. That’s definitely been one of the most important things that I’ve incorporated.

Number 107 talked about the two core emotions in life. This is another game-changing concept that my grandfather Peter Peitz first introduced me to. It’s the two core emotions of fear and love and everything flows from those two. It’s astounding. Definitely check that one out. Number 110 was all about powerful choices and how powerful change comes from powerful choices. It’s something that I get to talk about with high school students around the country through Character Strong and it’s a concept that I think can unlock our ability to see the small daily interactions as important choices. That can be powerful and they can create a lasting impact on people. That is a rundown of some of my favorites, but there are a lot of great interviews and conversations. Definitely check that out.

UAC 127 | Remembering Your Year

 

I forgot to mention this, but we are going to have a two-week hiatus with holidays. There are 127 now that you get to check out. If you haven’t, which I’m sure there’s a few you missed, definitely go back. Another highlight was having a teammate come and go. We had Oksanna Shulgach. She came on as a socializer. I had such a fun time having her help support the Up and Comers community and what a gift that was. Shout out to Osi. That was a great time. Another highlight is that we began partnerships. We started partnering with companies to support them as they support us. We have had I think half-a-dozen already. We’ve partnered with Compassion International. We partnered with The Giving Keys. We partnered with Fyt and all those companies are amazing causes and you can check them out on our website, TheUpAndComersShow.com, on the homepage near the bottom.

We also started support ship ads, which are companies that we support with raising awareness. Some of those were Saving Innocence, Good City Mentors and DoSomething.org. They are all amazing companies are trying to make a great impact on the world and the community. It’s worth checking out the work that they’re doing. That’s a little bit of a look back. I’m excited for the year ahead and the continued growth both personally and as a community, as up and comers. There’s so much that happens in a year and having these are a great way to document even my own growth.

UAC 127 | Remembering Your Year

 

I know I’m a little bit ashamed to look back on the early ones because of the amount of growth that I’ve experienced personally, the shift in my own perspectives and views, and also the skill that I’ve developed in interviewing have made a world of difference. It is a wild thing to experience. Talking about Christmas time and New Year’s, I think one of the beauties of this time is that it creates endings and new beginnings each year. Similar to the concept of the Sabbath, which is a weekly form of rest, detachment, adding perspective, adding a time of reflection. I think the end of the year provides a great space to do that same practice on a much more macro level, a bigger perspective and a bigger picture of that same practice that hopefully we can practice every week.

I think the end of the year is such a crucial time and the beginning of the year is such a crucial time for us becoming and being healthy humans. One of my favorites with this end of year and start of the year is something my sister, Court Roberts, got me onto called word of the year, having a word of the year. I believe we talked about this. Having a word of the year is a great way to come into a year with a theme or a topic or an idea front of mind and then carry that word with you throughout the year to see how it shifts and changes and the different nuances that a whole year brings to even a single word. It’s small enough to be able to take with you and remember throughout the year, but it’s also broad enough that it can be applied in many different ways.

Ask yourself what you want to do more of and what you want to do less of. Click To Tweet

My word of the year was open and it had many different layers of meaning and nuance to it. From opening up myself to emotions, to love, to different feelings, being more human and not as much of a robot and to opening up the floodgate of possibilities as I strive to build upon what’s the foundation that’s been laid. Even opening up the floodgates to growth and change, that has definitely been a part of it. Even opening up my mind to be more open-minded, to be more curious, to be more interested in new things and new perspectives. All of those have been definitely present and highlighted.

I wanted to give some suggestions on things that you could incorporate at your end of year and beginning of year practice. One of those great things to incorporate is a word of the year. If you haven’t developed or how to word of the year before, I would encourage you to take some time, sit with it for a few days, maybe a week, and see what word God may bring. What word would be important for you to hold onto and carry with you for the year ahead? For the end of the year, here are some suggestions that I have that I’m also going to incorporate in my own life. For ending the year well, what is a good practice for ending the year well? The first one is evaluating your word of the year. If you’ve done one and seeing how it shifted throughout the year and the nuance that it brought. I’m excited to sit with a journal and be with that word and all that transpired and see all the different layers that were unpacked throughout the year with the word open for me.

UAC 127 | Remembering Your Year

 

Another great practice that I love is remembering the year. Working through the highlights from the year, sitting down to journal and jotting down, maybe even sitting with a calendar so you can remember, or go through your photos. That’s a great way. Go through your photos on your phone to see the highlights from the year and the things that were memorable, special, and important that captivated your mind or your attention and jotting them down and recognizing them. I think it’s also along with that important to work through and remember the low lights, the times that were especially hard, the seasons where you were in a valley and it was a struggle. I think that both the highs and the lows, it’s to be able to recognize, to remember, to recall. Also, remembering the things that you learned from both of those is such a helpful practice at the end of the year.

I came up with some good questions that I will be considering and I encourage you to consider. There’s going to be quite a few. I would pick several. Pick 1 or 2 or 3 questions that hit with you and sit with those this time of year to reflect and flesh out what transpired. Here are some of the questions that I’m going to be considering. What areas did you grow most in? What new skill or strength did you develop or improve? What has been the most persistent struggle for you? What are you proud of? What are you disappointed in? Where did you make an impact? What new habit or belief has most positively impacted you or your life? How was your life different one year ago? What are some things that used to intimidate you but don’t anymore? What changed?

UAC 127 | Remembering Your Year

 

Finally, probably the hardest question is where in your life are you not maintaining integrity? That’s more of a current picture. You’re not being the person who you say you are or want to be. Those are some questions to take with you to sit down with, to journal about, to reflect on as you close out the year. As we look to new beginnings, I think it’s helpful to think through and pray through a new word of the year. That is a much easier, more attainable practice than New Year’s resolutions, which are commonly prescribed. Thinking through and praying through a new word of the year is a great start.

I also think about revisiting goals from last year to see how you did and then creating new goals for this year: financial, relational physical, spiritual, emotional. There are a lot of different subsets of goals we can create, but it’s sitting down and casting that vision for the year to come. Along with that, I love mapping out a 5-year, a 3-year and the 1-year goals that go with that. You can even break down the stepping stones to get there even to the one-year goals. It’s a great practice to get your mind around these things.

UAC 127 | Remembering Your Year

 

There are some other questions I like asking. What is one skill or strength I would like to develop this year? What impact do I want to make this year? Another one that’s fun is less, more and none. What do you want to do less often, more often and not at all? What one small change can I make that if I made it would change everything else? Meaning what’s the force multiplier in my life? What does that one change? Another fun one is what the most absurd thing I can do this year is? What are the most likely sources of pain in my life over the next year? How can I prepare for or prevent them? What is one thing you can remove from your life that would improve it? What is the most neglected important area in my life? Finally, on a macro scale, what should you do more of this decade? What should you do less of? It is the beginning of a new decade and I am excited about the year to come. It’s been such a sweet ride and there are many things to be grateful for. I’m especially grateful for all of you reading and for this community that God has brought about.

It’s been 127 episodes and something that I never imagined doing, but I am grateful. Working through the process of growth and hopefully sharing with you in that process. We are all on that journey in life. We are all up and coming and in the process of becoming. It’s such a joy to do it with each other. It’s a hard journey that it’s not well-traveled alone. We must have each other and that’s the heart, the purpose and the intention around this show. Thank you for making it possible, for being a part of it. If there’s anything that you’d like to suggest for the next year, any questions you have, any ideas, any people that you’d like for us to talk to or even questions for Adam or for me, let us know at TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com. We always love hearing from you. We appreciate your support. I hope you have the most blessed and merriest of Christmases ever and that the New Year is as promising as I know it can be. I hope that you take the time to reflect and close the year. I hope that you take the time to sit with the possibility of 2020 and what may come. Thank you for being a part of this community.

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UAC 126 | Following Creative Pursuits

 

Pursuing a career in the arts, unfortunately, does not guarantee the kind of financial stability we need to survive in this world. This is the reality that filmmaker and writer Jordan Leach continues to face. Having found stability in a 9 to 5 job, Jordan was able to follow his creative pursuits. Now, he has multiple accolades to his name, published the sci-fi, time-travel thriller called Echo, and currently producing his feature film, The Odyssey. In this episode, Jordan shares the journey of how he finds the balance between peace and stress and develops the mental and emotional resilience needed in today’s world. He also talks about his creative pursuits – the process of writing a novel, becoming a filmmaker, and finding a way to make things work. Sharing a load of wisdom, pick up some great life lessons from Jordan as he takes us across the changes of his perspective over time and more.

Listen to the podcast here:

Fellowship ft. Jordan Leach: On Creative Pursuits, Filmmaking, Resilience, Perspective Changes, And Faith

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 walk through daily and intentionality is a thing that we believe allows us to walk forward. Thanks for tuning in and being a part of this community and the Up and Comers movement. If you want to learn more about our show, go to TheUpAndComersShow.com. That’s where all the information is about us. Let me remind you of a few easy ways to give back to us. We release new episodes every Wednesday morning and have been doing so for a few years. It’s been an awesome journey, but we can’t do it alone. We need your help in three easy ways. One, leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. It takes about one minute of your time and it’s all that we ask. You can drop us a five-star rating, leave a few comments on review and that’s such a great way to have us reach more people and get more people engaging with our content.

The second helpful way is by sharing this episode either with a friend or two that you know that could be encouraged by it or even on the social media channels. Tagging us, @UpAndComersShow, is an awesome way to spread the word. Finally, if you wanted to help us by supporting financially, you can do so at Patreon where we’re accepting monthly donations and we’re also actively looking for partners. Reach out at TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com if you are interested in any of those avenues. Thank you for your help. We can’t do it without you. I appreciate you.

This is a fellowship episode which is more of a peer to peer conversation, a little shorter than the deep dive interviews where a guest and I get to talk about a range of issues and topics that we’re facing in life. Our guest is Jordan Leach. He is a filmmaker and author from Waukesha, Wisconsin. With multiple accolades to his name, Jordan published the sci-fi time travel thriller Echo and is in production on his feature film, The Odyssey, set to be released late 2020. He now works with Crooked Jaw Productions and has produced several feature films both in Hollywood and in the independent markets.

Now transitioning to novels, Jordan’s talents began at the age of six, writing short stories and dabbling in animation. Soon after, he took up theater and vocal performances, finding all his skills culminating into a film. With a father who works as a videographer, Jordan helped cultivate the film production course at his high school and that ambition on to this day. Jordan recognizes that his gifts are God-given and he seeks to use him solely for his glory. While creating unique, exciting stories spanning multiple genres, he ensures the message points the audience to God speaking the truths and teaching of his love. Jordan hopes in the near future to turn his passions into a viable lifelong career, serving God and entertaining the world. You can find him on the socials and his book is now available on Amazon. In this conversation, there’s a wide range of topics we cover, including his diverse skillset and background.

We talk about the balance of peace versus stress. We talk about storytelling and different creative pursuits. We talk about developing mental and emotional resilience. We talk about the process of writing a novel, of becoming a filmmaker and finding a way to make things work. We talk about how perspective changes over time, the difference between openness and specificity and much more. It’s a fun, wide-ranging conversation. Jordan has many talents and has a sweet heart. We had a blast. I’m getting to talk about life and sharing where we’re at. There are a lot of helpful and practical relatable insights that you’re going to connect with from this conversation. I will stop talking and let you get to it. Please enjoy this fellowship episode with Jordan Leach.

Jordan Leach, welcome to the show.

Thank you very much.

It’s fun to be here. It’s fun to be chatting with you. LA is such a funny place because many times people are like, “What do you do?” I feel like your answer would be pretty intriguing to a lot of people.

It’s a harder question to answer than you would think especially out here in LA. When people ask me what I do, the toss-up is do I tell them what I do to make money or do I tell them what I’m pursuing? That’s how it is for a lot of people in LA.

Most people err on what they’re pursuing and trying to pretend that’s making them a lot of money. Tell me about your 9:00 to 5:00.

I would never have thought that this would have been the case a few years ago, but I work as a manager at a pest control company here in LA, which brings in quite a bit of business out here.

There’s such a need for that especially here or anywhere, but it’s a great business. It’s undeniable. Give me a little bit of scope from what you were doing even in the college years to where you are now because that’s always a fascinating journey.

In college, I always knew I wanted to pursue film and filmmaking. I started dabbling in that in high school and ever since then, I was on a straight forward trajectory. I was like, “I’m going to go into film.” I got some training. I went to university out in Florida and came out here to California pursuing that. I knew what I wanted to go for and so that’s what I was doing but that doesn’t always pay the bills right away. Once I moved out here to LA, I started bouncing around a little bit from job-to-job, a lot of part-time work, a lot of inconsistency, working nights, weekends, overnight shifts, a lot of different things that I was trying to feel any career in order to make some money while I was pursuing a career in film.

Eventually, one of my good buddies who work in marketing was working at different companies doing marketing and research and creating websites for them. One of the places he was working at was a pest control company. He was like, “They’re looking for a manager. I know that you’re good with management, organization, scheduling, that stuff. I should refer you to this job. He got me in. This is a small mom and pop place, but it’s a fast-growing one because the way that they organize and structure their business is employee-centric, which I like. I got the shoe in that way and it was a perfect fit, to be honest. I would never have thought that I was going to crave a 9:00 to 5:00 job.

Constantly trying to pursue more is definitely stressful, tiring, and taxing. Click To Tweet

Isn’t that fascinating? I face that tension now even as I think about the future and having a serious girlfriend and planning on now, not one, but two. Thinking about how to provide and the tension of having that stability of a 9:00 to 5:00 is now in the front and center of my mind. There’s always this lurking feeling of, “I don’t want to sacrifice the pursuit of X, Y or Z for this.” There is some narrative around this that is not true. Talk to me more about what surprised you about that 9:00 to 5:00 stability or what it’s brought that you didn’t expect.

At first, I thought it was going to be monotonous. I thought it was going to be boring. It was going to be locked in which are elements to the 9:00 to 5:00 but what I love is that there’s consistency in it. I’m able to get nights and weekends off and that gives me more consistent time in order to pursue these other things. A few years ago, not only did I not expect to be in pest control, I did not expect to be working a 9:00 to 5:00.

How did you work through that in your mind or in your head when you’re going through even the applying or interview process and thinking about is this is what I want? What was that thought process like for you?

Honestly, I was looking for anything that would give me stability at the time. A lot of that came down to having worked many part-time jobs and jobs that have fluctuating hours for so long that I needed that stability. I was craving it at that point. I would never have thought that was the case. I’ve worked at fast-food restaurants. I’ve worked in retail. I’ve worked in security. Finally, I was looking for anything and everything that was available to me and that popped up.

What is the daily life and times of a manager at a pest control company like?

It depends on the company. This one specifically definitely the management of the actual technicians and employees that work there. It’s a lot of scheduling, maintenance, dealing with customers and dealing with sales. It’s an ongoing process. You would think that it would get monotonous. It is as a management, a desk job, which I know is not for everybody. Some people can’t stand sitting behind a desk but as a writer, I don’t mind it as much.

It’s fun too to figure out what’s best for us and not just have other people say or be influenced by what other people say. Many people say, “I don’t want to be a desk job,” but do you really? Maybe that is good for you or that’s truly how you’re going to be best supported in what you’re trying to do in life or what you feel called to do. It’s funny how I let the culture or the people around me influence who I am, whether or not that’s truly me. It’s pretty interesting. As you look at it now, how has this experience as a manager, not only how’s it grown you as a person, but also how has it improved, benefit or even hurt your other career pursuits, the other goals that you have?

There are a couple of different things that I’ve learned in this position. First of all, I constantly have to remind myself how much of a blessing this job is. I don’t think it matters what job a person is doing. We can easily start to take our blessings for granted. This position, this job that I have, came to me at the perfect time. It very much is a godsend position. There are things that it provides me that I would never have gotten anywhere else. Not to mention that it gives me the ability to pursue my career on the side, which is also quite difficult at any other job. That is one thing that I have had to remind myself of. Not much the job itself as it is, my heart and the need that I have to try to pursue more constantly. I wonder if that is something that’s a little bit cultural, that if we’re not positioned in the place that we want to be, we never find satisfaction in that.

UAC 126 | Following Creative Pursuits

Echo

That is a fascinating point, the need to pursue more. It’s something that most people in LA face because it is a hyper achievement culture. America is a culture of achievement, but city centers like LA or New York or other big cities are often hyper forms of these. I feel that a lot. Are you familiar with the Enneagram? It’s an ancient self-diagnostic tool that’s been getting a lot of buzzes. There are nine different archetypes that are your personality or your natural dispositions. I’m a three, which is the achiever. I already have a propensity towards that. Being in a place like LA amplifies that even more. This is a question that I think about quite a bit is the need to pursue more, what’s healthy and unhealthy in that. How do you evaluate that for yourself?

Now that you’re mentioning it, those nine archetypes, that sounds familiar to me. I was able to see something like that about a year ago or so. Going back to your question, how do I review that for myself?

The point you brought up with, the need to pursue more is something that I face a lot and I know a lot of people do in LA or anywhere. If you’re trying to accomplish things, there’s pressure to do more and more and accomplish more and more. Some of that is good. Some of that is not good. It’s healthy and unhealthy depending on where we’re at in the spectrum. In your own self-evaluation, how do you process that when you feel those pressures?

Some of it comes down to a level of peace, a level of stress. Those two things are constantly at odds. By constantly trying to pursue more, it’s stressful, tiring and taxing. There are things that we can neglect and you definitely can see not a mental but a physical toll. You’ll have an internal longing for peace. Naturally, we have this pole in us that is pulling us one direction. If we go too far in that direction, we’re going to pull back a little bit. It’s this pendulum dance. It happened naturally. God has ingrained that in our souls that we are created to work, to pursue, to build, to create, but at the same time, He also has built it in us for rest, for peace, for Him.

It’s funny there’s a quote that is good on change and basically, I’ll paraphrase it. It talks about how change and consistency are the two weights that God has patterned the world and he’s given us the means to enjoy them both. It’s constantly this pendulum swing between change and consistency. There is such a rhythm to that and a pattern to that in life. What you mentioned too as the key is recognizing where we’re at in that. It’s the biggest point, all of it. If I can’t see clearly where I’m at in that pendulum, I won’t be able to give myself what I need at that moment. If I don’t see it, the level of stress is beyond what’s helpful. I can’t give myself the necessary recovery to get back to that piece. I love what you mentioned, “Is there a level of peace or a level of distress within this?” Not all stress is bad. The you stress is good. It’s a good form of stress and we need that exertion, but we need the necessary recovery after that. It’s a funny dance. The more we try to remove the dance, the more harm we cause. We need to embrace the dance and see it as beautiful.

It’s the same with change too because change can be a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing. You don’t want to change everything for the sake of it. You want to be able to hold on and preserve the things that are worth saving and preserving while changing things that need to grow, need to change and all that stuff.

Change for itself isn’t worth it, but change for a greater purpose. Change just to change isn’t necessarily good. Change for growth and progress in a helpful way without discarding where we’ve been or where we’ve come from is more of that foundational importance in that chain. It’s funny because even that has such a pendulum. We can be all of our progress that we forget the necessary sustainable components of cultivating what we have. I love how Andy Crouch put it in Culture Making. It’s a great book. If you haven’t read it, you have to read it. He talks about our creational design being from God as creators and cultivators of culture. We’re both creating like Adam named all the animals. He gave him a job of creating to name all the things.

He also gave him the job of cultivating the garden, keeping what was there and that’s the sweet dance. That’s where our tagline, intention in the tension, it’s a sweet depiction of that. Both are true. It’s a both-and and where you are in the tension. I want to underscore what you said that I love so much is reminding yourself of the blessing that it is where we’re at. That is such a helpful practice. When I don’t do that, it’s hilarious how much lack of fulfillment, discontentment comes and creeps in instantly. What other things like that have kept you grounded or kept you grateful or present? What are some of those practices for you or those cornerstone habits?

Our culture is one that tries to tell us that we always need more, that we should not be satisfied, that we should not be content, that we need to keep pursuing and striving. That’s a little bit of capitalism in a sense, the competition sense. The balance, some of that is good. At the same time, if we’re constantly trying to get more without realizing what we have, we’re never going to find happiness. We’re going to find fulfillment. It doesn’t matter how much we achieve. We’ve seen people that have been able to achieve the world and still don’t find happiness, contentment and any of that. That was a humbling experience when I found that I might not have everything, maybe might not have that much, but what I do have, I can find contentment in.

At the end of the day, if I have God, I already have everything. That is a sobering and humbling reality that is contrasting to what the world is trying to tell me. As far as trying to constantly remind myself of that, a lot of that comes down to constantly immerse myself in the word, in God’s truths. Keeping a relationship with Him is crucial to reminding these simple truths that definitely helped to steer my life in a better direction because so often can I get self-destructive. Can I try to compromise and do things that are destructive for me out of the pursuit of progress?

If we're constantly trying to get more without realizing what we have, we're never going to find happiness. Click To Tweet

It’s such an anchor too. It’s the thing that keeps us grounded because it’s always there. It’s never changing and it’s something tangible. The spirit is a force behind it. The word is also like the clarity that helps guide it. It’s that combination, that one-two punch that makes it powerful. We have to have it. It’s so fun because we can read our whole lives and new things are constantly coming out of it every single time. It’s mind-blowing. I’m always surprised and I’m like, “I’d never read this that way or I never saw this before,” and that happens so often. It’s funny because many things like that are simple, but by that nature that they’re not novel, we lose our love for it, which is funny. It’s ridiculous. Going back to a little bit of your background, you grew up in Wisconsin. You went to Florida for school and come down to California. Did you ever see yourself living in LA? What was that journey like culturally?

My dad was born and raised in the Long Beach area. I’m familiar with this area. I came out here and visited every once in a while when I was growing up. I always had a love for the city. Now I do know that LA is not what it was during my dad’s time. That’s interesting seeing the change in culture and the city as a whole out there. I always had this pursuit of getting away from the cold for one. It definitely can get cold in Wisconsin. The average per winter, I would say it can get with the wind chill around negative ten. There is a lot of snow, which you think it’s nice to have seasons, but having to wake up every single morning to scrape ice off your car and black ice on the road, it gets a little daunting after a while.

That’s true. Every place wears on you in different ways. We had to recognize it for what it is. It comes back to that same thing. Are we seeing it for what it is and seeing a blessing in it because each place does provide a blessing if we look for it hard enough. The film was always at the heart of what you felt called to in many ways or was it film and writing? What were those early longings? What is that dream that you’re pursuing now?

I started writing short stories when I was around six. I was homeschooled at the time. I had all these imaginative characters and all these stories in my head. I started to write them down on the page and back then they were not good, but I had a lot to tell. It was a fun little thing that I was constantly pursuing. I would get into animation and draw cartoons. I would get into theater eventually. All these different artistic dynamics eventually came together.

Do you still have any of those short stories?

I still have a couple of them in there. I look through them every once in a while and they’re pretty silly.

That’s got to be a trip to go back and read those.

I’ve written stories where I had an imaginary friend named Rick and we would go on these adventures. It made absolutely no sense. My dad was a videographer at a sports station. He got me interested in the camera side of things. All these artistic things from writing to drawing, animation to acting, theater, directing and camera work came together and geared me towards the film. Thankfully, I was at a school in high school that had a film program that was starting up. I helped cultivate the whole process at the school, which has now been booming. I got my shoe in that way. I was like, “This is what I want to do. This is what I want to pursue.” The funny thing is that in school growing up, the worst things that I remember having to go through were group projects. Those are definitely a struggle to get through. Film is the ultimate group project. There’s a humbling factor in that as well.

UAC 126 | Following Creative PursuitsI want to hear a little bit more about this because this is something that was true for me as well. Golf is an individual sport. I was competitive. I wanted to win so bad that I gravitated towards golf because I felt like I control all the variables more and “guarantee success.” It was naive and ignorant of me. Regardless, how did you walk through that tension as a kid? Even learning how to work as a team or what that process was like?

I had to first come to terms with the fact that there’s always going to be at least one person in every group project that will not do the work. Once I accepted that and I’m willing to take on that extra work because I know that I’ll put the work in and get a good product out of it, I was okay with someone else taking the credit. At the end of the day, it wasn’t about me. It was about the final product. That’s how I always saw it. Thankfully, film, I would think more so than it would be in school, almost everyone involved is trying to create a good final product. That isn’t necessarily the case in all films, but the vast majority of the people that are working on it are trying to do their best work, which is cool as far as a group project goes.

In regards to what you were saying about wanting that control and having that ability to have the final product come out exactly as you see it, I’ve always struggled with that. That’s also why I was interested in writing a book as well. I’ve had all these stories in my head. Some of them are quite sizable as far as scale goes, the scope of it. I know that when it comes to a couple of these stories, they’re not stories or films that I could create as of right now. It would take a long time, a lot of influence and money. I didn’t realize that with some of these stories, the scope is only limited to someone’s imagination. Given that I have written prose and short stories in college and whatnot, I was like, “Why don’t I start pursuing writing a book, taking some of these stories and letting people’s imaginations run wild a little bit?” Not only would I be able to see that the final product came out exactly as it’s intended to do, rather than getting watered down from a bunch of different perspectives, viewpoints and ideas, that I’d be able to see that these stories come to life.

I want to underscore a couple of things. First, what you said about everyone trying to do their best work is such a revolutionary concept for all of us to latch on to. Even in an argument or a debate or a disagreement, the understanding that we all think that we’re right. We’re operating from a place of thinking that we’re doing our best or whatever for our greatest good and the world’s greatest good. That’s the place that pretty much 99% of people operate from. If we can remove our defenses saying, “They think they’re right. I think I’m right. Let’s have a conversation.” That’s helpful in personal relationships and conversations.

Even on the teamwork side, we’re all trying to do our best work. We’re trying to do what’s best for us sometimes too, which is a different question like, “How can we make that the same thing as what’s great for the team too,” and merging those? I love what you highlighted there and I think it’s true for all of us in life. I love the other thing you brought up, which was making things not about our self. I find that so much for me, even like a recipe for disaster is when I make something about myself that shouldn’t be and a lot of things shouldn’t, most things shouldn’t. It’s not about me. The world doesn’t revolve around me. Thane is not the center of the universe. We can all agree with that, now act in accordance to that. It’s such a practice of that. We have to all fight to not make it about our self. That’s huge. The other thing I want to hear more on now is that scope is limited to our imagination. That is such a powerful idea.

How do you think about that? Give me a little bit more of your thoughts on what the implications of that are. There are many self-limiting beliefs that get in the way in every arena in life, not creative endeavors, but maybe it’s in the gym, the weight you can lift. Maybe it’s within your job, the responsibility you can take on or maybe it’s within a relationship and what you’re able to sacrifice for another human being. All of those things we have self-fulling beliefs and the scope often is limited. What are the implications of that, the scope is limited to your imagination? How does that flush out for you or what are the implications of that for you and your own life?

I first learned how much I have to grapple with my own limitations because I spent a few years in the military. One thing I had to learn quickly was that I can always take more than my mind thinks I can. I think that not only it was true there, but it’s true in every walk of life. You’re talking about working out at the gym, sometimes I’ll get tired, but I have to fight through that mental block and tell myself, “I can take more, I can do more.” There is a limitation to that as well because sometimes we’re pushing ourselves so hard that we end up hurting ourselves in the long run. A lot of it comes back down to that balance that we keep talking about, keep bringing up. That’s like we should know and understand that we can do more. We are only as limited as we allow ourselves to be but at the same time, we do have to reflect on that and keep ourselves in check.

It is a constant checking in the process too. We all have to be forced to that place of like, “I can do more, take more than I think I can.” I slept in a little bit and ran over to the park. I was planning on getting a workout in. I didn’t get one in, but I ran over to the park and did some park workout stuff for 15, 20 minutes. I was running back. I was thinking, “Thane, you’re starting to be easier on yourself than you used to be,” which is natural. I was forced as a professional athlete to not ever do less than I can and to always push beyond what I can because that was my job. For you in the military, you were forced to do more than you thought you could and to prove to yourself and to those around you that what you’re capable of and what you’re required sometimes in service. We all have to be forced that place to understand that from an experiential level, otherwise, we’re never going to understand that. You have to be forced to. Even then, you have to keep forcing yourself too in a healthy way and have others do that too, which is the importance of accountability in a lot of ways. What were the few years in the military like? Where did you serve? When was that in the timeline?

There was an interesting process. I was in Wisconsin at the time, starting out college. I felt like it was a good career path to pursue for a couple of years. I never wanted to pursue it long-term, but it was something I wanted to pursue. I had a couple of buddies who were in it, talking me through it. That was definitely an interesting process because not only did it strengthen me mentally, it’s strengthened me emotionally as well. Before that time, I was taking for granted the life I was living. I liked to be comfortable. A lot of us like to be comfortable no matter where we are in life. I wasn’t pushing myself in any one direction. I had my own dreams and pursuits. If I was doing anything that was outside of my own personal dream, I didn’t care so much. Discipline was something that was ingrained in me through the military. I had to be in basic training down in Georgia for a few months. Basic training in Georgia is already brutal. Georgia, that whole state, the border traps in the most amount of humidity you will ever feel in your life. Having to carry 100 pounds of weight fully clothed from head to toe in 110-degree weather was brutal.

When we hear about strength, we always first think physical. Sometimes we think mental, but rarely do we think emotional, which is interesting. They’re all important facets. It gets harder to train, the more you get done. Physical is probably easier than mental and mental is probably easier than emotional. The most crucial is probably the emotional side to be able to handle the toll of life that will inevitably come. Death is an inescapable part of life and that is an incredible emotional tool. Hardship and suckiness are present everywhere in life. If we aren’t strengthened emotionally to endure that, we’ll break. That’s a growing problem too is how do we do a better job of strengthening the next generation, the generations to come, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally?

Sometimes, we're pushing ourselves so hard that we end up hurting ourselves in the long run. Click To Tweet

That’s why I feel so blessed too to be a Christian, especially now our world is getting harder to live in. It’s not harder physically, it’s harder emotionally, economically and spiritually. Being a Christian, being able to find that strength in God, there is never going to be a limit to that. That’s definitely a blessing that I do not want to take for granted is that I’m able to withstand the world because I have gotten.

I’m reading through John 8. It’s amazing to see as the example we’ll get to follow in Jesus because this dude was a normal guy that lived a couple of thousand years ago and yet he came and flipped the world on its head, of showing, “You think you want this great heroic power and I’m going to come to lay down my life.” That’s what it looks like. That’s what power is. It’s laying down your life. What killed Jesus was religion and power. The religious people and the people with power were the ones that ended up executing Him, which is fascinating to think about. In John 8, the religious rulers are completely ignorant of what he’s saying and not accepting. There’s a lot of boldness that Jesus displays, that we get to live with boldness from too. We get to see the example and yet it’s a boldness that’s all grounded in love. It’s based in love, which is what changes the world, that type of love.

The one thing that got me, my wife and I were reading through 2 Samuel and in that story, David was king, anointed by God and through his trials, his flaws and failures, he ended up killing Bathsheba’s husband and taking her in. His family was completely broken apart. There was a section that we came upon that humbled me where he was fleeing Israel. He left his throne and left everything. He had a couple of companions and his friends with him. His son has created a conspiracy and taken over. In his journey into the wilderness, completely losing everything, he came upon a man named Shimei, who had a lineage with Saul, David’s old rival. During this time, David is in the desert. He’s exhausted. He’s starving. All of his men are on edge. His throne has been taken from his son.

This man, Shimei, starts cursing him, starts throwing insults at him, and starts throwing rocks at them. He’s literally hitting David with dirt and rocks. His men turned to David and said, “Should we kill this man? Should we take him out? We don’t have to deal with this.” David said, “It’s possible that his cursing is coming from God, that this might be a test, that God is allowing this man to curse us and throw these rocks at us and allow us to feel punishment for my sin.” It’s possible. David wasn’t saying that this is the case but he’s saying it’s possible. I reflected on that when it comes to everyday life and trials that we’ve faced, driving on the road, someone cuts you off, having to deal with little nuisances throughout the day.

Somebody gets in your way at the grocery store, all these little things that build up and are uncomfortable that we take them personally. These little things that build up throughout the day and we harbor that in our hearts and allow this to break us down a little bit. That section in the Bible changed my perspective on a lot of that where it’s like, “It doesn’t necessarily mean that this is a test from God, but possibly I’m in this position because God is trying to test me, build me and grow me. That possibly what is happening right here, God is trying to better me as a person, strengthen me emotionally and spiritually.”

It redeems everything in that sense. There’s nothing that’s not redeemable in that perspective, which is so beautiful and that gives us the resilience and the strength to endure things that are hard to endure. That’s what faith is all about. It’s believing in what you can’t fully see. It is built over time. It is given at one point in time. It’s a both-and. It’s a crazy journey. I love that story. I would love to hear a little bit since you were pursuing film for quite some time and you’ve had quite a few endeavors with a film. What has been the career path or trajectory for you as a filmmaker and the projects you’ve done and what those have taught you? What have those experiences given you?

Starting out here in LA, I did get a couple of positions in jobs, working freelance on some bigger pictures. That was a pretty interesting process to see how Hollywood and the big elites created film and how that works. That was interesting. On the flip side, I attached myself to some people that I knew from film school. We created a production company and we’ve been working on stuff for the last several years, short films here and there. We ended up working on a feature film. As of right now, we are working on my first feature film that I have also written. I’m directing and producing that one. There are a lot of different hats that everyone has to wear when you’re working on a smaller production, not to mention you’re working with smaller budgets too. The question becomes, how much can we make this money stretch? How much can we do with what we have? What resources do we have at our disposal that we can use? The game completely changes depending on where you are in the industry.

What’s a typical budget size that you’re working with versus when people think of feature-length films? What is a typical budget for the ones that most people reading would expect?

The production company that I’m with, we are willing to work with any amount we’re given, to be honest. We’re quite resourceful in that fact. I know I’ve met a lot of up and coming filmmakers who don’t have the same mentality. That mentality is unique to us, which I appreciate. I don’t want not to be able to do something because we don’t have money or resources. We have creativity. We have a drive. We might as well try to find a way to do it. The first feature film we made a while back, I wasn’t much involved in the creative process as I was the production side. That one was a horror comedy and that one we were given a budget of $15,000, which for a feature film is next to no money.

UAC 126 | Following Creative Pursuits

 

What is the typical budget for a feature film that would go to the big screen? What is the average budget for that?

Here’s the thing. A low-budget feature film that could possibly make it into a few theaters is $5 million. It’s hilarious to think about a couple of different things. The first Star Wars film back in ‘76, if you take inflation into account, you could’ve made that movie for about $76 million. The average big-budget blockbuster film nowadays is getting made for $150 million, twice that. It’s hilarious. I was also thinking about Howard Hughes back in the ‘20s. He was putting gobs of money behind projects that people were like, “You can’t put this much money behind a film when it’s hilarious.” If you account for inflation, he’s putting maybe $30 million behind a movie. I’ve seen some great films in the last several years that were made for only $40 million, $50 million, which sounds like a lot, but when you take into account all these other films that are being made, it’s not a lot.

It’s honestly on the lower end, which is why I don’t believe that you need a ton of money to make a great film. Hollywood gets a little bit frivolous with their money. They are willing to show a lot of these funds out to try to create the best product possible without much thought process behind using it wisely. We see films that get made for $200 million and even more so. That’s the thing too because you have the actual budget of the film, which might be $150 million, but you don’t account for marketing and distribution. That could be another $100 million right there depending on the film. There are a lot of different factors at play and there’s a ton of money going behind it. Having worked in the studio system, I also do know that when it comes to the big studios, a lot of the times, they are banking on 1 to 2 films throughout the entire year to make back their entire budget hopefully. They’ll be putting out 10, 15, 20 films a year, but they’re hoping on maybe two making back a profit.

It’s the same as the startup world, unicorns and how all these hedge funds or VC firms. They’ll make 100 investments, but they want the 1 or 2 that are the icing on the cake that makes everything else happen. The $15,000 is basically like someone handing you $5.

It was a taxing process too because on that production, I was credited as a producer. I came on as a first assistant director. The first assistant director is responsible for scheduling contracts, basically all the paperwork. I’d never loved doing paperwork no matter what the job was, but I’m good at it. I’m good at organization. I’m good at scheduling all that other stuff. I had to take this $15,000 and be able to distribute evenly throughout the production to make sure it was going where it needed to go and also be able to schedule all these different crews and cast members. What we ended up doing was filmed an entire feature film, which runs around 90 minutes or so over the course of one week, which as far as timing goes, very few productions can film one movie in one week. We went to a cabin up in Idyllwild, California for a week. Many people got sick, myself included and even though it was incredibly exhausting and a lot of people were putting a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it, it was an experience that I’ll never forget.

What are you most proud of from that experience?

It’s the fact that we accomplished it given such a minimal budget, which I do not take for granted. The fact that someone gave us $15,000 is a lot of money and I appreciate that. We took that amount of money and be able to bring all these cast and crew members on and be able to film an entire feature within one week completely. That’s a huge accomplishment. Not only that, but everyone came out on the other side still in love with each other. We were a total family by the end of it, which we definitely had our ups and downs. It was a trying week but it was a great accomplishment.

It’s like it’s going to battle. You create those bonds that are tight-knit. When you think about film and that genre, that lane that you’re in, what is the long-term vision for you? What do you aspire towards in that?

My perspective on that has changed. Perspective is an interesting topic that we might be able to come back to. As far as what I hope to eventually accomplish is whether it be film or writing, I would like to be able to turn it into a viable career. I’d like to be able to make a living doing that, given that I believe this is something that I was called to do. It is a gift that God has given me and I do believe that he has given me these gifts for a reason. I would definitely love to be able to turn either film or writing or something creative into a career where I’d be able to do this long-term and be able to put all my focus on this one avenue.

While we are only as limited as we allow ourselves to be, we do have to reflect and keep ourselves in check. Click To Tweet

In your current outlook on that, what is your estimation on a timeline? We didn’t even know a timeline and that’s not great to predict, but as you see it now, what is that back of mind number of years to get to that place?

I would love to say that within five years that I’ve stabilized myself. That first feature that the production team I’m with, the one that we created, the marketing and distribution of it was a huge learning process, not the creating of the film itself, but what we did after we created it. We’ve learned much through that process that we’re able to do it correctly this time. That’s going to play out in our benefit in the near future. I would like to say five years I’d be able to figure something out.

I want to come back to perspective as you mentioned because perspective is everything. I love this quote from Richard Rohr. I thought it was one of the better ones I’ve heard. He said, “Every viewpoint is a view from a point. The more ways of knowing what we use, the closer we come to an understanding and yet the full picture will always elude us. In this way, the mystery is endlessly knowable.” I thought that was a beautiful picture of how our perspective will always be changing and never be full or complete. How have you seen your perspective shift and change?

This was a life-changing moment a couple of years back. Having come out here to LA pursuing these careers, the careers that I believed were God-driven, God-focused, it was a life-changing and humbling experience to realize where my heart truly was at. How I perceived my life and my future, I’ve been finding is quite common amongst our age group that we have this idea, this perspective of what our future needs to be. If we do not achieve that specific image, that picture of our future, if we don’t constantly strive towards that one perspective, that image, then we are not going to be fulfilled or happy.

I had this image several years back that in order to be content and happy with myself and my career, I would need to become a successful filmmaker. Get myself involved in the studio system, be able to purchase land and home out here in LA. There are specifics in this picture that I truly believed this was what I needed to do. I’ve been finding that there are other people like me who are coming out here pursuing dreams and their dream is a specific picture and that they’re holding onto that one picture. If they don’t achieve it, they start to fall apart a little bit. I know I myself fell into depression because I felt like that dream was slipping away. What I had to learn was that when it comes to happiness, joy, contentment and what life is, it’s not about specificity, it’s not about fulfilling this one specific dream. God can take us at any one moment, bless us and make us feel content in that.

I’ve stopped trying to control my life and my vision for my future. I started to accept that God is going to use me however He is going to use me. All I can do is try my best and do it for Him rather than for myself because if I’m striving to fulfill this one specific picture for my future, I’m doing it for myself and not for Him. That was a huge moment that broke me down as an individual where I had to accept that I wasn’t going to achieve this ideal future and that I had to give up this control and relent to God basically.

I definitely can say at that moment, that dark moment, I felt like I was being abandoned by God, that he had given me these gifts, but he wasn’t allowing me to use them and it confused me. I can now see that he was breaking me down to bring me back to him. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what I am doing, it’s all about Him. Our lives are not about us. They’re about Him and praising Him and being able to have a relationship with Him, drawing closer to Him and I was missing that for a long period of my life.

I love hearing that. We could read that over and over again because that is crucial. It’s interesting when we think about depression or anxiety, depression is geared more towards the past. Anxiety is geared more towards the future, but both of them entail this control aspect of controlling the ideal and reconciling the difference between ideal and reality. That specificity versus the openness of receiving whatever it is, is the key. What you said, “Stop controlling, start accepting,” that’s such a hard thing to do. I don’t think we can overstate how hard that is, but I don’t think we can also overstate how crucial that is and that’s what frees us up to live lives of joy, abundance, peace and blessing or whatever that looks like. That looks like a lot of different things. It’s not what we think it looks like but what it actually is.

UAC 126 | Following Creative PursuitsThere’s another quote, “Love is accepting what is.” I was like, “That is good.” We all struggle with this. We all have a small view of the future and what we want it to be. We all think, “This is who I am now. This is who I need to be in the future. I need to do everything right so that I fit into that little tiny picture that I have is the ideal.” We don’t know. None of us know the future and we shouldn’t, we can’t and that starting to accept what is, it’s the practice that frees us up and releases us from the bondage that these other things can produce. I fall prey to this too. I err on the side of stress versus peace when I start saying, “This is where I need to be. This is what I needed to do. This is how I need to make money and this is how I need to provide because these things are unknown. If I don’t do X, Y or Z, my worst fears are going to come true.” I have to do the practice of letting go of control, accepting where I’m at, seeing the blessing where it is, affirming what I know to be true and taking another step regardless of the outcome. It’s such a human practice.

That specifically is why I wrote the book that I did, dealing with time travel. It was a personal story. Like you were saying, “Depression is about the past, the fear of the future and trying to control it,” and that’s something I wanted to explore. I wanted to break it down and evaluate myself, my internal struggles and put that into a story. I found that storytelling for me personally is definitely a cathartic experience. I’m able to learn and evaluate myself and my struggles, my flaws, my failures through storytelling.

It’s such a human thing. We learn from story. We don’t learn from information because we put ourselves in the story and we experience it in a visceral and tangible way versus this intellectual head speak, which I’m guilty of more than anyone else. The book is Echo. Tell me about where this book came from and a little bit of an overview of the process from start to end.

I’ve read your book as well and it’s two completely different worlds when it comes to books because yours is self-help, more of an inspirational, informational one. Mine is completely fictional, more on the narrative aspects of storytelling. I wrote this a few years ago as a screenplay. I have all these ideas and I do write fast. I don’t read fast. Reading is a whole process for me because I’m such a visual learner. I wouldn’t say I was good at school growing up because I needed to translate everything that I was receiving on the page into an image in my head. For that reason, when it comes to reading, I usually have to reread paragraphs over and over again in order to retain what’s being said. However, when it comes to writing, I already have the images in my head, now I just need to translate them to the page.

Is that true too for fiction when you read fiction versus nonfiction?

It’s true for both. I need to know and picture what I’m seeing.

Do you say you prefer movies over books for both entertainment and learning?

Yes, it’s a struggle when it comes to books that have been turned into TV shows or movies. I will automatically be tempted to want to watch the movie or the TV show more because it’s much easier to consume. It takes a lot of patience and discipline in order to read a book, but it’s definitely rewarding. I wrote Echo specifically as a screenplay as I’ve written with all my other stories. I knew that this story has a scale, a scope to it. If it was going to be told in the near future, it had to be told in a book. Given my personal struggles in years, this was the one that I was like, “This one needs to be told.” This is an important one, not for me personally, I think this is what God wants me to share. This is what people need to hear. It’s an entertaining story because that’s something to me as a storyteller. This is something that I’ve always tried to do is that I want to tell God’s truths. I want to say something rather than have a cool story. While I’m saying those things, these truths of God, I want to be able to entertain the audience as well. I want the story to be iconic and memorable and have a lasting impression on the reader.

When you were in this process, you have a lot of these different narratives and stories that you’ve created and come up with that are all promising in your mind. How did you decide to take the first step with this one? Anytime we start anything, we know that it means you can’t do other things. There’s a limitation that’s scary. There’s this opposition to taking the first step. How did you take that first step in starting it? How did you end up choosing this story out of the other ones?

There was a period where I started to see that self-publishing was a viable option. When I had written it as a screenplay, there were some things that I knew I wanted to do with this story. Things like telling the story out of order, things like changing different formats, specific things that traditional book publishers usually don’t allow. If I was going to create this story, it was going to be self-published. I knew that already. I was being introduced to this idea that self-publishing was becoming not a viable option, but it was growing in popularity. I also was not ignorant in knowing that writing a book and marketing and publishing all that other stuff, it is a completely different world than filmmaking.

Our lives are not about us. They're about Him, praising Him and being able to have a relationship with Him. Click To Tweet

If I was going to pursue it, I was going to have to research every aspect of it. It was going to be a lot of work. I went in knowing that. It was interesting too because I started this process in 2018. It’s been about a twelve-month process at this point between writing and editing and publishing and marketing. It was interesting because when I did the research, I researched everything while in 2018, all of the formalities and policies when it came to self-publishing completely changed. I had to re-research everything. It was an interesting process too because we had talked about filmmaking being a group project and then me going into writing a book thinking that it was a self-project. I would have more control over the final product and yet through the process, I had to learn how much of a group project it is. You need other people for the final product to come out. Thankfully, I have some amazing people in my life that were willing and excited to help out with this project. I met some great people in the process, through the editing and the creation of the cover. On the marketing side of things, to the promotional side, creating the website and all these other social media pages, everything goes into the process and it’s something that you can’t do alone.

We always underestimate what goes into anything, all of the decisions, pieces, components and people that are teammates that are needed. It’s shocking. Even me, when I went into it, I was aware that was a common reality. Because you’re aware of something, that doesn’t mean it’s still not going to be hard and different than you experienced or thought before and it was so true for me too. You’re like, “There are many pieces to this puzzle.” The writing is one small piece of that. What are you most proud of with this book? What are the things that you’re grateful for in this process, what did it teach you and what are you most proud of in it?

First of all, I am proud of how the final product came out. It’s interesting because I would say a few years ago, I started to research storytelling as an art form and trying to better myself as a writer and something in me clicked. Even though I wrote this story a few years ago, it is leaps and bounds over what it was originally between the characters, story, plot beats and plot twists and all of these different things that would not have reached its full potential a couple of years ago. God specifically put this on my heart at this moment because it was going to reach its full potential right now. I’m proud of that. I am proud of the cover. I’m proud of the marketing campaign that has been behind it, basically the whole process. I am proud of how everything has turned out. I can’t speak to how it’s done financially. I think I’ve given all that up to God. I’ve done my part and I’ve said, “God, I want this to be about you. I’m going to give it up to you.” The process of getting there, God has definitely been driving me through that. Honestly, I’m looking at it now and I’m a self-published author, which I don’t want to undermine that and that’s a cool thing. That’s not me trying to brag but that’s an accomplishment. That’s something that God has allowed me to do.

It’s owning the blessing in that and being proud of that. Being proud of that is not a simple thing. It’s a good thing. Being proud of the work you put in, the efforts and the final product and knowing that you did your best work with it and that’s such a rewarding thing. That’s such a God-honoring thing. A lot of times in the Christian world, we have a lot of angst about, “I need to be humble,” but also need to be proud of the way God’s gifted us and using us. We struggle more with that than being humble part a lot of times, so I love that. You should own that. It is such a sweet thing.

I am such a believer that if you want to write a book, you should. Not everyone can, but if you have the space and the time where you were willing to sacrifice to make the spaces, then we should regardless of what comes. It’s going to be rewarding from seeing it through to completion, having something you’re going to hold and something you can always look back. You’re going to learn much from the process of doing it that it will be worth its weight in gold regardless. The financial return isn’t important. That’s not what it’s about. If that’s what it’s about, don’t do it. Who is this book for? Who are the people that should read this?

It definitely caters to science fiction, fantasy and spy thriller. Those people will get a kick out of this story. However, I would also say that there is a true emotional center to the book. Anyone that’s looking for truth, looking for clarity in life, this has a human element to it that speaks to all of humanity and not specifically to a niche market. I know that a lot of times, science fiction as a genre can cater to a specific audience and alienate people that aren’t in the genre. I tried to look at science fiction from a practical, real-world sense. I tried to look at people like Stephen Hawking and other scientists like Einstein. I look at what their theories are when it comes to elements like time travel. I was like, “I want to bring that into this story.” I’ve tried to open up the audience a little bit that way that I’m bringing the real-world aspects into it rather than try to muddle it with technical jargon. I tried to bog down with too much fantasy behind the time travel, give a little bit of weight and foundation to it. The heart and center isn’t the time travel itself. It’s the characters, the journeys, the growth and the arts that they’re experiencing, the trials and the situations that they’re confronted with. That is what’s going to speak to people the most.

From what we’ve talked about, as a teaser for people reading, there are some cool creative pieces that he’s inputted into the book that you’re going to love. I can’t endorse that enough, a few one-offs. We could keep talking forever, but the day is getting away from us. A few one-offs and we’ll be done. The first one is what question do you ask yourself the most?

I would say what I ask myself the most is, “Am I doing what’s right?” Even subconsciously, I’m always thinking that. I know I’m not always doing what’s right, but it’s always in the back of my mind. There is something inside me, probably the Holy Spirit who’s constantly wanting me to do what’s right and constantly questioning that.

UAC 126 | Following Creative PursuitsIf you could teach a class for a semester, what would you teach on in one?

It’s got to be creative writing. I took a couple of creative writing classes in college. I absolutely loved them. I feel like I’ve got some good insights and practical insight that would help a lot of up and coming writers.

What age would you want to teach on that?

College would be a good one. I don’t have a doctorate.

This is the last question and we ask every guest this question. If you could send a morning text reminder to every up and comer out there, what message would you send and why?

I would say wake up reminding yourself of all the blessings God has given you. That is the best way to start your day. If you’re starting out thinking about God and everything that you do have and everything He’s blessed you with, the rest of the day gets so much easier.

Jordan, this has been awesome. Where are good places for people to find the book, find you, reach out, what are all the places to connect?

The book right now is on Amazon in paperback and eBook versions. As far as where you can find me, I’m on Facebook, social media, Instagram, those are the best places to find me. Facebook, it’s Facebook.com/jordanmichaelleach. On Instagram, it’s @JordanLeach_Author. Those are places you can find and reach me. I’m definitely and willing to reach out and talk more about different story ideas and questions you may have.

Until next time, thanks so much for coming on and sharing some insights.

Thank you.

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About Jordan Leach

UAC 126 | Following Creative PursuitsJordan Leach is a filmmaker and author from Waukesha, WI.

With multiple accolades to his name, Jordan recently published the sci-fi, time-travel thriller “Echo” and is currently in production on his feature film “The Odyssey” set to be released late 2020.

He now works with Crooked Jaw Productions and has produced several feature films, both in Hollywood and in the Independent markets. Now transitioning to novels, Jordan’s talents began at the age of six, writing short stories and dabbling in animation. Soon after he took up theater and vocal performances, finding all his skills culminating into film. With a father who works as a videographer, Jordan helped cultivate the film production course at his high school, and that ambition continues on to this day.

Jordan recognizes that his gifts are God given, and he seeks to use them solely for His glory. While creating unique, exciting stories spanning multiple genres, he ensures the message points the audience to God, speaking His truths and teaching of His love. Jordan hopes in the near future to turn his passions into a viable, life-long career, serving God and entertaining the world.

You can find him on the socials and his book is available on Amazon.

Connect with Jordan!

@JordanLeach_Author – Instagram

Facebook.com/jordanmichaelleach

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UAC 125 | The Path To Mastery

 

From Here to There conveys mental models or frameworks to help you travel down the path to mastery more efficiently and effectively. In this episode, personal development guru Thane Marcus Ringler gives you a taste of his book by revealing his experiences as a professional golfer and some practical applications for turning the information into action. Discover nuggets of wisdom about simplicity, purpose, and why success is not equal to mastery.

Listen to the podcast here:

From Here To There: A Quarter-Life Perspective On The Path To Mastery

In this episode, I wanted to share something special with you. The first is to say that if you are ever in need of help either in a transition you’re making or in getting unstuck in life, in stopping, spinning your wheels and getting to the place where you want to go and not thinking about it. I do have a development and performance coaching practice and I have some openings in the roster for potential clients. You can find more about that work at ThaneMarcus.com. I’d be happy to have a conversation and see if it would be a good fit for you. The second that is even more near and dear to my heart is what this episode is all about. This episode is me sharing two chapters from my book, From Here to There: A Quarter-Life Perspective On The Path To Mastery. I finally got my audiobook recorded and launched. It took way longer than I had wanted it to, but that is the nature of most things in life. Things are usually harder and longer than we want them to be. That was the case, but it happened to come out about a year after the book had officially been released, which was a cool celebration of the one-year anniversary to get the audiobook out.

I wanted to share both the preface and the first chapter of my book, From Here to There, as a teaser to the audiobook to give you a good taste of it. If it’s something that you enjoy, you can find the full audiobook on any audiobook platform, including Amazon, Audible, iTunes, Google and there are probably about 30 different audiobook platforms. It will be on any of those if you search From Here to There: A Quarter-Life Perspective On The Path To Mastery or just From Here to There. I hope you’ll enjoy the preface. It is giving a snapshot of what the book is about. The first chapter is all about the topic or general idea of mastery. They both can be useful and helpful for you. I do hope you enjoy this shorter episode with the first two chapters of my book, From Here to There.

Overview

Preface: What the book is about. The initial goal for this book was to write about how golf teaches you about life and how it makes you a better person in life. Throughout the process of writing, it became clear that this wasn’t what was needed to be told. It wasn’t the content found deep in my soul. What unfolded over the six months of writing the initial draft was both incredible personal growth and a major shift in life. There are two resounding themes this book represents. One, the path of mastery and two, transitions in life. Both of these themes were represented in my own life journey from the lifelong pursuit of golf, and then in the ensuing transition from golf into new career endeavors. While these themes have distinct differences, they both revolve around the underlying theme of development and more specifically personal development.

Personal development is what’s at the heart of the phrase, “From here to there.” Figuring out how to move from here and how to get to there is something that can only be done in two ways. One is having someone else tell or show us how to do it or two, figuring it out on our own. The best route is to use both options in order to get there fastest. It’s a constant lifelong process because once you get to there, there will always be a further there to reach what the path looks like. There’s more to come on the concept of mastery itself, but it will be helpful to gain an understanding of the flow of the development process. One of the most powerful equations for the pursuit of personal development, the path of mastery, is a simple three-fold process: simplicity, complexity, simplicity.

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From Here to There: A Quarter-Life Perspective On The Path To Mastery By Thane Marcus Ringler

The structure of this book follows a parallel flow as we move from simplicity into complexity and eventually back into simplicity in the path of mastery. Also, we are going to move through the same pattern with the concepts presented in this book. Chapters 1 to 3, Mastery, Commitment and Learning, make up the first stage of simplicity. They are the core concepts that form the foundation from which the rest of the structure is built. Chapters 4 to 6A, Teachability, Fear and Systems form the ideas within the complexity stage where the layers of information and complexity are added and the sifting and discerning begin to take priority. Chapters 6B to 9, Systems, Momentum, Failure, Perspective, create the second stage of simplicity, the beginnings of simplifying all the information into what’s of utmost importance and the application for the situation or circumstance at hand.

Layout of the book. While the major motifs are seen in the overall flow of mastery and the individual topics covered in that path, within each chapter, I have divided the sections into three parts: my story, concept and application. This structure is meant to provide the reader with a real-life example of what I am sharing, a clear understanding of the concept presented and some practical ideas about how to incorporate it into life. The reason for providing general themes for each chapter is to help you use this book as a future resource, to be able to return to the sections within each category, to revisit the ideas provided for application. This is the dual responsibility for personal development. Using the tools and advice given by others while taking ownership of your own life and the proper use of the information given.

The end goal. The end goal is two-fold. First, I want to provide insight into this process from the personal experiences I’ve had and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Second, I want to offer practical ideas for implementing these concepts into your life in a meaningful and helpful way. Without application, these ideas will forever remain words on a page. Without insight, they will never be seen with childlike eyes that produce real vision, real learning and real understanding.

My encouragement to you is to use it as a resource, as a reference, as a guide. Each chapter provides its own mental model for thinking through important frameworks within the path to mastery: mastery, commitment, learning, teachability, fear, systems, momentum, failure, perspective. As you move through the words ahead, be sure to take stock of where you are in the path and what the context is within the big picture of the entire journey, not just the path of mastery and the road of self-development, but also the process of life. Use this book as a tool, as a resource, as a guide but application is only as useful as its context. Right application in the wrong context equals the wrong application. Read this book in light of where you are in life and use it accordingly. Let’s begin.

Mastery

Phase 1: Simplicity. Chapter 1: Mastery. “If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all,” Michelangelo. My story. I began my golf career when I was four. At that time, I saw the fame, glory and dollar signs awaiting those who gained status on the PGA Tour. I knew that I could eventually get there. It was just a matter of persistence and time. Confidence was never a problem for my four-year-old self. The game was simple: see the ball, hit the ball and sometimes miss the ball. For me, this was not a delusional pursuit. There were many adults telling me that I had a natural swing and a real knack for the game. In my mind, the only question that remained was, “When would I finally breakthrough?” Do you believe me? I wouldn’t, and no one should because at four years of age, I was barely conscious of life itself.

What concerns us at four is chiefly learning about the new things daily life throws our away and being fed when we’re hungry. That’s about it. I never picked up a golf club thinking that this was my destiny. It was more akin to the new shiny object that caught my eye sparking interest when the sun rays danced off its steel shaft. If I had to guess, and it is a guess since my memory fails me, I would say I picked up golf solely because my dad played it, which made it an obviously fun thing to do at that age. There comes a point in life when the clichés start to sink in and the rubber meets the road. This is when you decide what life will be, what opportunities you will pursue, what habits you will form and whether you will lead or follow. These crossroad moments are the doorframe that your life hinges on.

The question is, are you going to walk through to see what’s on the other side? The point is this. Four-year-olds don’t set out on the path of greatness, but 24-year-olds may. As I didn’t set out to become a professional golfer when I picked up my first golf club at age four, I also didn’t set out to become a writer when I began my professional golf career at age 22. This highlights the reality that rarely do we make the conscious decision to arrive at where we end up. That’s not to say that goals aren’t important. It’s more to say that the future is uncertain. With uncertainty, there’s one component that has the largest effect on our ability to cope: information. Information is empowering. With it, change is possible. Without it, despair is probable. Full information is rarely available, but having even partial information may be all that’s needed.

Rarely do we recognize the value of information until it is taken away, that is. I traveled through an international airport that will go unnamed when I was met head-on with this reality. Of all the mornings for the TSA to go on strike, it had to be the morning of my flight. Already running behind, I knew I’d be cutting it close to making it through the many check-ins and security points standing between me and my gate. With stress levels already heightened above normal, I speed walked my way toward customs. That was when I saw the line.

Living informed is always a better alternative to a life of ignorance. Click To Tweet

Typically, there are duty-free, also known as tax-free stores situated well-before customs in order to allow all the travelers to fill their retail therapy before returning home from their travels. I immediately knew something wasn’t right when a line of people mysteriously appeared in the middle of the duty-free zone. I thought to myself, “Surely this isn’t a line I have to join.” Surely, it’s for some random gate with a large flight attached to it. As I continued walking farther, it became more and more apparent that there was very little chance I would escape this monstrous queue. Thankfully, there were several airport attendants and some workers from the various airlines who were near the front of the line directing traffic and informing all the bewildered travelers why there was such a massive line and why they had to go back and stand in it.

Without these attendants explaining the situation, things would have deteriorated rapidly. Even with their help, there was no shortage of yelling and cursing with dozens of passengers steadily moving closer to hysteria and rage. While the story ended like every great superhero movie, the good guy wins, the bad guy loses with the flights waiting until their passengers made it through the gate before taking off. It left a lasting impression on me about the power of information, especially on a large scale, but its power isn’t reserved for only the group level. It is just as important on an individual level if success is to follow.

The purpose of this chapter and this book as a whole is to share information. Living informed is always a better alternative to a life of ignorance. Making informed decisions always trumps stumbling blindly down life’s path. Smart people learn from their mistakes. Wise people learn from the mistakes of others. While information can’t fully replace the power of personal experience, it will help guide us down our journey for a smoother ride. This relates to how I think about wisdom. Wisdom is defined simplistically as the proper application of knowledge. In my current place in life, the path of growing wisdom involves accumulating both knowledge and experience. Neither part can be replaced or moved. There are no cheat codes to circumvent their necessity. While there is more to defining the full scope of wisdom, discernment, judgment, circumspection, knowledge plus experience is a good place to start.

Mastery is a subtype of wisdom. It’s the application of wisdom acquired in a specific field or skill that enables your highest potential output and exceeds the ability of the majority in that field. Mastery is a quest, a journey that takes patience, persistence and practice. This concept is best summarized by Peter Brown when he said, “Mastery, especially of complex ideas, skills and processes is a quest. It is not a grade on a test, something bestowed by a coach or a quality that simply seeps into your being with old age and gray hair.” The point being, mastery doesn’t happen by chance.

Concept. Knowing what mastery is, what it looks like and what it entails is necessary and important, but information is merely that information. Knowing doesn’t equate to believing. There’s some power in knowing. There’s great power in believing. We must believe that the pursuit of mastery is a worthy endeavor and we must understand why. Why should you pursue mastery? Why push for excellence? Why work towards being the best you can be? Why does it matter? We all fall in different places on the spectrum from idealism to cynicism. I’ve been blessed with a healthier than normal dose of idealism and I wish the same was true for everyone. Idealism helps us understand why the pursuit of mastery is important because the pursuit of mastery is an idealistic endeavor. It’s pushing beyond our current reality to what lies beyond our grasp. It’s believing we can accomplish the impossible or at least the improbable. It’s tackling the daunting tasks despite the odds of failing to be high, but why? Because human and societal progress depends on it.

Progress is up to you. Life is not meaningless. As a Christian, I believe life has eternal value, not just for us but in God’s eyes. Regardless of your faith, life is endowed with meaning from our ability to love and care for each other. Helping those in need fills our hearts with joy and gives our lives meaning that will never be achieved through self-centered goals or pursuits. The world we live in is filled with problems yearning for solutions. It’s not hard to see. In fact, it would be incredibly hard to miss. Every day we are faced with real-life examples of these problems waiting for answers. Solutions are never handed to us. They are always fought for. Mastery matters because people matter, because you matter. Pursuing your highest skill, knowledge, ability, that is what will lead to growth, first on the individual level and then on a collective societal level.

It always starts with you. “Be the change that you wish to see in the world,” said Mahatma Gandhi. Mastery matters. What is mastery? What is true mastery? How does one achieve it? Is it achievable? These questions have been asked and pursued for as long as competitive sports or competitive careers have been around. There is no shortage of books, videos, online forums, conferences and think tanks mining the depths of how you develop superior skills. From the view of a dictionary, mastery is defined as comprehensive knowledge or skill in a subject or accomplishment, possession or display of great skill or technique, skill or knowledge that makes one master of a subject. Beyond simply defining terms, one of the best ways to understand something so lofty is by looking to those who have illustrated its beauty for us.

Frédéric Chopin is considered to be Poland’s greatest composer. Mastery is unquestionably attributed to his skill and works. Here’s what he had to say about mastery, “Simplicity is a final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is the simplicity that emerges as a crowning reward of art.” Before discussing his observation, it is important to mention that human capacity varies. Chopin’s level of natural skill, talent and proficiency does not equal mine, nor does it equal yours. Each individual person has individual strengths and weaknesses. Each person has been given greater or lesser opportunity than someone else. The point isn’t the final level of mastery. It is to reach your level of mastery. While it is possible to find a standard that’s accepted by the majority, it is far more helpful to think about mastery on a different level. Mastery should be and can be an individualized pursuit and that is why beginning with the end in mind is so important. Choosing a path that is aligned with your predisposed strengths and talents is a wise path to take.

UAC 125 | The Path To Mastery

Back to Chopin. Within his words, mastery was not present in form but rather in spirit. Chopin states that simplicity is the final achievement. He’s saying that the final achievement from the pursuit of excellence is simplicity. A few years ago, I heard a phrase for the first time, “Simplicity on the far side of complexity.” It was a thought-provoking phrase and it revealed a lot about the process of proficiency. After sitting with the phrase, I began to realize several things. The first thing I realized was the underlying assumption present in the phrase. The point is to look at the far side of complexity and the assumption is that we already know what’s on the near side. It quickly became clear that simplicity is both the treasure found on the far side of complexity and the foundation upon which that complexity is built. The second observation that stemmed from the phrase was that this is an extreme oversimplification of the journey to mastery, which is the point.

Simplicity

An idea, task or skill is one of two options: simple or complex. If simplicity is what creates a foundation for complexity, how can it also be found on the far side of that same complexity? Mastery, like wisdom, is a proper application of the amassed skill or knowledge you have in any given subject or field. It comes from having learned the foundational elements, the simple building blocks in the early stages of new learning than waiting through the depths of complexities, amassing more and more information and accumulating layers upon layers of skills, ideas and concepts. All before becoming a master of said subject or skill, meaning you were able to know which one small detail out of the ocean of possibilities is most important and most applicable to the specific situation or scenario in front of you. The simplest solutions to the most complex problems, that is mastery. That is simplicity on the far side of complexity.

One glaring example is the device held in the hands of a majority of Americans now, the iPhone. Apple is a brand built on simplicity. From product design to branding and advertisement to functionality and user interface, it all screams simplicity. This is not by mistake. The late renowned cofounder of Apple, Steve Jobs stated, “Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple, but it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” That he did, creating a legacy that continues to thrive even in his absence. In the midst of a rapidly advancing field of complexities, simplicity still triumphs over all.

Simplicity, complexity, simplicity. An easy way to visualize this process is within the categories of beginner, intermediate and advanced. To help illustrate the path, I’m going to use golf as an example, but any skill or job can work. Simplicity, beginner, this is starting from ground zero. You were coming to a topic, endeavor, occupation, a career or a hobby with very little understanding of the working parts involved. You go to the driving range with a bag of weird-looking sticks and start trying to hit a tiny white ball. Hopefully, there’s a little more context but you get the point. This is a phase when you are learning the fundamentals of the activity itself from laying the foundation for motor memory within the body to experiencing all the different facets of each skill and component to learning about the different tools and the situations when you use them. In golf, this begins with learning how to hold the club, how to stand in relation to the ball, what the swing should look like, what the swing feels like, what to focus on, what each club should do.

In this stage, the best advice is the simplest advice. Keep your head down. Keep your eyes on the ball. Don’t swing out of your shoes. Rotate with your body. As you progress through this stage, you move from being a complete novice to feeling more like a regular member of that broader community. In this example, as a golfer, the focus for this phase is largely repetition-based. The more reps, the better to train the body in what it needs to do and to gain the level of skill needed to be a consistent producer and competitor within the space you reside.

Complexity, intermediate and advanced. As your experience grows, you will start to recognize which areas of your toolkit or skillset are stronger or weaker than others. You’ll begin to engrain both mentally and physically the overarching principles for success that are widely preached and accepted by your field at large. Some common examples of this in golf are, “Par is a good score. Play to your strengths, be patient, drive for show, putt for dough.” Building good habits is a must and as you gain confidence and aptitude, the pressure will start to be applied through competition, deadlines, expectations and responsibilities. This pressure refines your understanding of where your skill level lies, enabling you to further refine your skills, knowledge and habits for further development.

Being taught by a mentor, senior co-worker or coach is also very important in this phase as you continue adding layers of knowledge to your base foundation. This step is by far the largest in terms of scope and the longest in terms of duration. In any field, career or sport and especially in golf, as you dive deeper, there can be an endless depth to its facets and complexities. The more you know, the more you begin to realize how much you don’t know. After I’d finished my first year of college, I honestly couldn’t fathom how I had ever played golf as a junior not knowing what I knew now. The same experience took place after my first year of playing professionally. The layers build and build upon each other until there’s a mountain of experience and knowledge to pull from.

In the midst of a rapidly advancing field of complexities, simplicity still triumphs over all. Click To Tweet

Simplicity, expert. This phase of simplicity is greatly desired but rarely acquired. As Steve Jobs stated, it takes a lot of knowledge and skill to cut through the crap and distill the gold of simplicity in the midst of an informational tsunami. When you build a mountain’s worth of information, experience, skill and knowledge, finding that one piece that you need becomes a much more difficult task. The needle in the haystack is only as difficult as the size of the haystack. Characteristics of the stage include the establishment of mental models, a framework to operate off of, a deep familiarity with personal mannerisms and your internal wiring, the ability and discipline to not be confused or overcome by complexities, confidence without ignorance, which is a very difficult thing to accomplish, keen discernment of the core principles underlying various concepts and an awareness of and focus on remedying root causes, not merely their symptoms.

In golf, this looks like becoming a master of your mind, discovering and committing to the best system for your game, being comfortable in every environment, dictating your emotions instead of the other way around and doing the fundamentals extremely well. It’s having enough experience to know what each situation and circumstance leads to, what type of shot to hit as a result and not only knowing, but also believing that intuition and on and on. The point to understand this phase is that it takes a long time to get there. Usually, when you think you finally arrived, you’ve only just begun. “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning,” Louis L’Amour.

Roadmaps

I remember the first time I came to LA. Moving from a small town in Kansas to one of the largest metropolitan city centers in the world is undoubtedly daunting. Fortunately, I was blessed with perfect timing. The year I moved, 2010, was the year I got my first smartphone and with it a personal portable GPS. What a savior. Roadmaps are essential to getting where you need to go in the least amount of time possible. Roadmaps lead to efficiency. This is similar to books. Every book shares similar characteristics: a title, a summary on the back or on the cover, a table of contents, maybe even an intro and a preface. In order for us to be motivated to read a book, we need to have a base understanding of what it’s about. Without a roadmap, reading a book would be a complete guessing game. We can always improve our discernment of which books are helpful to read and which are a waste of time, but that takes accumulated experience and involves much more than a simple back cover analysis. The moral of the story is that roadmaps make a difference.

This chapter is about roadmaps. While the rest of the book is more focused on the best practices and mental models to use once a quest has begun. Not only roadmaps, this chapter is also about goal setting. Beginning with the end in mind, starting with why, living a purpose-driven life. It doesn’t matter how you say it, the truth remains. If we are going to be successful, then we have to know what that means not just theoretical but also personally. It doesn’t matter what that means to your mom, your neighbor, your boss, your best friend or your role model. It matters what that means to you and because it matters, it needs to be defined personally. Beyond personal meaning, the path doesn’t have to be paved anew every time it’s traveled on.

Those who came before have traversed this road already, which allows those who follow to have an already established path to take. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel at the turn of every century. At the end of the day, a wheel is a wheel and down the road it rolls. There’s so much to this concept which makes it difficult to distill into a digestible form and that itself is an important indicator of mastery. Can you understand a concept fully enough to hold an intelligent conversation with other experts in the field while also maintaining the ability to explain it so that a six-year-old can understand? “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself,” said Albert Einstein.

This is that six-year-old version of the roadmap: simplicity, complexity, simplicity. While mastery is the implicit focus of this book, it is the explicit purpose of this chapter. Understanding what mastery is, what it entails and why it’s worth pursuing is vital to living life well. It is a non-negotiable in becoming your best for the world’s greatest good. With this, the order is important. There are five reasons why beginning with an understanding of the roadmap is crucial for success in your quest. If you don’t know where you’re going, then you will never get there, purpose. If you don’t know how you will get there, then you’ll never arrive, preparation. If you don’t know the order of steps to get there, then you will waste precious time running circles around yourself, process. If you don’t understand the approximate length of the trip, then you’ll never reach your destination, patience. If you don’t have an awareness of the inherent obstacles, then you won’t have the tenacity to overcome them, persistence. Before getting to the practical application of these five signposts needed for any journey, we need to take a look at one of our greatest weaknesses, the longing for shortcuts.

The Shortcut Mindset

In modern society, get-rich-quick schemes are all the rave. They have been re-branded in many different forms including the infamous fill in the blank hackers: life hackers, biohackers, growth hackers. If anyone is a big fan of these trends, it would be me. I always love a good shortcut to success and if it works, then what’s the harm? At the root of this inner tendency is a war wage between short-term gain and delayed gratification. On one side, shortcuts lead to eating the cookie sooner. Fulfilling the desire that begins welling within our taste buds the moment we smell them coming out of the oven. On the other hand, delaying that impulse allows us to say no to something that is so good at the moment, yet produces unwanted results in the future. Taken to the extreme, diabetes, obesity, etc.

One of the biggest dangers with the shortcut mindset is a way we begin to train ourselves to think. It is forming the habit, the discipline of giving into our impulsive desires, which is not as dependent on whether the desire itself is helpful or hurtful. The other problem that comes from shortcuts is the re-branding of success. Success begins to turn into getting to X, Y or Z faster than anyone else, no matter the cost. Burning bridges is rarely the answer. A quote my grandpa shared helps clarify this, “Success is a road, not a destination.” Shortcuts, success hacks, alternative paths, all can be a good thing. On their face, these mindsets are a good thing, but success does not equal mastery. Arriving at a destination only means that it’s time to either get to work with where you are now at or pick a new destination to push toward.

UAC 125 | The Path To Mastery

When we zoom out to a broader perspective, sustained success occurs when simplicity is achieved on the far side of complexity. Steve Jobs could have settled for a company that solely strives to produce a percentage increase of revenues each fiscal quarter but instead, he remained incessantly and unwaveringly committed to the best possible product above and beyond the call of duty, all for the prize of elegant simplicity. While there are no true shortcuts or at least shortcuts that deliver on what they promise, that doesn’t mean the length of your travel will be the same as your co-worker, your competitor or your friend. The point is the path at its core remains the same, but the amount of time it takes to travel down that path is up to you. The purpose of this chapter is to help you travel down that path a little faster by gaining an understanding of the purpose, preparation, process, patience and persistence that are all job requirements for the road we are on, the road to success, the road to mastery.

Application. The purpose of this book is not merely to share information, but also to properly apply the ideas presented. Why apply? Because without application, information is useless. Just as our bodies need to process the food we eat in order to turn it into fuel and then discard the waste, so too our minds need to process the information we consume in order to turn it into action for the service of our world and those around us. By discovering what the quest for mastery looks like, the goal should be to use that information to inform and assist our decisions on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis. Our perspectives are shaped by the ideas we’re taught and the events we experienced throughout our lives. Now that you have a base understanding of mastery as a concept, how does this idea inform your current perspective and your future direction? Hopefully, it provides an awareness for which stage of the journey you were in and patience for the process of development that always takes longer than you want. Just because you had the right information doesn’t mean you will know the right application.

This is why in each chapter, my aim is to provide you with a list of practical ways to apply the concepts given as suggestions for ways to put the information into action. Even still, there are many times we face or experience anxiety from an inward lack of clarity. This is amplified by the image portrayed in others and their seemingly put togetherness. Why do you feel hopelessly lost and forever behind all your peers who seem to have their life’s plan plotted out with bullet points, shiny resumes, vast networks and connections and sparkling teeth to boot? The fact is we are all in that place of anxious unknowns when transitioning from one stage of life to the next or from one stage of mastery to another. Yet that doesn’t mean we have to suffer along the way. Our goal should be to thrive regardless of the situation, circumstance or stage of life we’re in.

The Five Ps

To help us thrive, let’s take a further look at the five Ps in the path to mastery. Number one, Purpose is the foundation of all foundations. This is the concrete that once poured will forever remain as a base upon which you build your house. You may need some remodeling or maybe even a complete demolition and reconstruction. Whatever the case is, that concrete foundation will remain. Even if you happen to move to a new city with a new home, a new life and a new you, the process still must begin by pouring the concrete and solidifying the rock on which you stand. As a Christian, the underlying foundation for all I do is the hope I have in Jesus Christ and the faith I’ve placed in him alone. As a result, my life is built on him as my rock and all I do is for the base purpose of glorifying God.

What that purpose is for you may be drastically different or similar or maybe even the same. It is important that you clarify what your specific purpose is. If you build your house on a foundation of sandy soil, then it’s liable to be compromised the instant any storm comes your way and the storms will come. We need reminders, whether it be for items from the grocery store or the infamous to-do list or for your grandma’s birthday because you should give her a call and sing. With how distracting life is, reminders help us elevate above the noise of everyday life to make sure we accomplish the priorities. The ultimate priority in beginning our journey toward mastery is our foundational why and we must remind ourselves of that foundation. Life will never automatically attach itself to our purpose.

It is often said that success doesn’t happen by chance. As a writer, James Clear stated, “Inspiration only reveals itself after perspiration. Optimal lives are designed, not discovered.” Due to the entropy in life, stagnancy leads to decay. If we aren’t moving forward, then we will be moving backwards. If we aren’t strengthening our identity through reminders of our purpose, then we will be drifting further and further away from the anchor that holds us steady. The waves of life, also known as momentum, is constantly moving and disturbing our ship, bringing us up and down through the peaks and valleys, pulling us away from the path we’ve set to sail. There are a handful of things we do every day that keep us alive. Breathing, drinking, water, eating food and sleeping are the normal requirements within our everyday lives. While there are basic hygiene practices and other rituals important to functioning as a 21st-century human. The daily foundation of our life itself includes those four fundamental pieces: oxygen, hydration, nutrition, rest and rejuvenation.

After reading this chapter, you need to add a fifth, the daily practice of purpose setting. Just as with goals, setting your purpose at the beginning and the end of each day will enable your daily work and activities to always remain anchored to your why. This is as much of a non-negotiable to the path of mastery as water is to life. Water is essential to survive. Purpose setting is essential to thriving. Simply put, we need it. Begin each day by aligning yourself with your ultimate purpose, setting it as the umbrella under which all your work resides.

Number two, Preparation ensures a better trip. From professional athletes to business executives, to store managers, to culinary chefs, to creatives, to college students and beyond. All can understand the benefit and need for proper preparation. When taking a road trip, there’s always a mental checklist to run through: money, gas, snacks, water bottles, clothes, weather reports, miscellaneous items, and directions. If we don’t go through this process, then it’s almost guaranteed we’ll end up forgetting something, ruining or at the very least, drastically altering the entire trip altogether. In the journey of mastery, we need to be prepared for each stage of the process. Having an understanding and awareness of the steps and cycles we’ll face helps us recognize where we currently are and what we specifically need to work towards in the next phase of the process. The esteemed Greek poet, Archilochus, aptly stated, “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.” Make sure the journey forward isn’t wasted. Be well prepared and aptly trained so that you can make the road ahead count.

Without application, information is useless. Click To Tweet

Number three, the Process is the series of steps needed to reach your goal. An old adage says that two lefts don’t make it right, but three do. If all you know is that you need to take a few left turns, then you could end up driving in circles, never reaching your final destination. Seeing a bird’s eye view of the general process needed to reach our goals can be a game-changer. The thing to remember is that this view is a general image of the process, not a specific snapshot. The actual steps, actions and skills needed to reach your goal are going to look much different from my own as a professional golfer. The general theme is the same, but the specifics will differ. Clarify the direction, understand the steps and trust the process.

Number four, Patience is never easy especially when it comes to chocolate chip cookies. Imagine being a four-year-old child and being given the option of having a cookie now or waiting twenty minutes and receiving two cookies. What would you do? Many years ago, psychologist Walter Mischel of Stanford University and his colleagues conducted a study called the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment with over 600 four-year-olds on whether they could resist the temptation of a marshmallow for fifteen minutes in order to get two of them instead of one. The results showed that only 1/3 of the children were able to delay gratification long enough to get the second marshmallow. Since we have the benefit of being both older and wiser than four-year-olds, shouldn’t we have better results? Theoretically, yes, but when we examine our social media usage, our sugar intake, how much water we drink versus soda, alcohol or coffee, then the results are often more dismal than we would like to admit. Just because we should know better doesn’t mean that we do.

Patience is never easy, but knowing how you will benefit in the long-term will help you delay gratification in the short-term. How does this relate to the path of mastery? Seeing and understanding the 10,000-foot view of the path ahead helps us understand that patience is needed to reach our final destination. Mastery is a long and arduous journey. Without patience, it’s a journey that will quickly be forfeited or forgotten. Patience is all about perspective. This will be a theme throughout this book. It is needed in every aspect of this journey and in every aspect of life.

Number five, Persistence is always required. No guts, no glory. If anyone understood this truth, it would have been Winston Churchill, who is known for his role in providing a unifying and motivating voice that Britain so desperately needed to withstand the war machine of Nazi Germany during World War II. As one of the world’s most prominent and cherished historical figures, he had this to say about the merit of persistence, “Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking our full potential.”

I love the word tenacity. It carries with it such a feeling of grit from the sound and verbal structure of it. This is precisely what Sir Winston is talking about. It’s that tenacious spirit that never stops pushing the boundaries of what we believe to be personally possible. There is not a human on this planet who wouldn’t want to be described as a tenacious person, doggedly determined and resolute both in their work and in their life. Words are easy to share, but titles must be earned through the institution of hard work. Hard work does not mean one day or one week but multiple weeks, months and years. It’s the kind of hard work that persists. Persistence is not for the faint of heart.

How does the overview of the path to mastery relate to the big picture of life? Think back on your own life. Remember that time when you spent several weeks or months or maybe years away from any type of weekly exercise or physical training. We’ve all had those periods in our life. Laziness is a global malady. In the back of your mind, you know the ship needs to be righted. Slowly but surely you build up the inner resolve and after multiple failed attempts, craft a way to trick yourself into entering the gym and getting your sweat on. How did that end up? Horribly. The feeling can be described as incentivizing an early death. Everything about it was awful, from your diminished athletic capacity to your apparent and inadequate level of endurance to your ghastly whew, revealing how close you came to lights out. That’s just during the workout, but it doesn’t end there. For the rest of your evening, all your energy goes to deciding if the desire to eat food outweighs your desire to raise your limp and lethargic body off the floor where you lie. Then comes the day after. You know exactly what I mean, lactic acid for days.

UAC 125 | The Path To Mastery

 

This can be a traumatizing ordeal for anyone and everyone, but tenacity is the cure. It’s not just any tenacity but an informed tenacity. We all have certain capacities and propensities. Some have a higher natural ability to muster up inner strength, to do what they don’t want to do, but know that they need to do. Others don’t have that drive. Whether you have it or not, knowing the path and the associated battles that will inevitably come provides needed and welcomed assistance. That feeling you experience during or after that first workout never goes away, but our preparation for the impending hardship will improve with experience. The more we encounter the Sufferfest of a Virgin workout, the better we become at aligning our expectations with the reality we will shortly face. This pre-awareness is a game-changer.

Knowing that it will be grueling, draining and seemingly unbearable allows us to prepare the inner troops of resolve, grit and obstinate determination to be prepared for the onslaught ahead. The path of mastery is no walk in the park. Anything worthwhile is hard to get. As the apostle Peter wrote in the Bible, “We must gird up our loins and prepare to fight the good fight.” If we go into this journey with the expectation of achieving it within a calendar year, then we expose the immaturity of both our understanding and our experience. Bill Gates, a living example of mastery, poignantly said, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten.” It’s the lack of purpose, preparation, process, patience and persistence. This is not a mastery hack. This is a roadmap to where you are heading, giving you both the directions of how to get there and an increased awareness of what the path will entail. Both the good, the bad and the ugly, because they will all be there. There are no shortcuts in life. There are just those who run the road faster and smarter. This is that journey. Hope for the best, expect the worst and let’s start running.

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UAC 124 | Wisdom In Applying Knowledge

 

His wisdom in applying knowledge, his ability to analyze things from a different perspective, and his ability to affect and cause change are just a few of the ways people in the community describe Peter Peitz. In his lifetime, Peter lived, learned and worked in four countries. Today, as an 82-year-old businessman, banker, philanthropist and bicyclist, he shares how America helped his dreams to come true and tells of the hazards along the way. Don’t miss this episode as host Thane Marcus Ringler talks with his grandfather about his 50 years in Cotter, Arkansas. As they dive into looking inward versus outward, they also take a look at why it’s important to be silent and still. They also differentiate bending versus breaking as well as fear versus love. Furthermore, Peter shares some tips on viewing risks properly, and his views on the dangers of success, the importance of commitment, employee as partners and associates, and much more!

Listen to the podcast here:

Peter Peitz (rd. 2): Wisdom In Applying Knowledge: Assorted Cliff-Notes And Stories On Living A Good Life

This is a show all about learning how to live a good life. We believe that the best way to learn how to live a good life is by having intention in the tension. That is our mantra and that is what we’re trying to do is live with intentionality each and every day in the messy middle of the dance of life. Thanks for reading and joining our community and The Up And Comers movement. It’s great to have you. If you wanted to support us, we would appreciate it and be so grateful to you. The easiest is leaving us a rating interview on iTunes. You can drop a five-star review if you want and maybe a comment that helps us get seen by more people. Another great way is passing an episode along to a few friends and sharing something that you think would be helpful to them. If you want to support us financially, we are on Patreon and you can support us monthly there. If you have a business that would like to partner with our show, definitely reach out TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com. We would love to hear about that opportunity. You can follow us on the socials, @UpAndComersShow.

I am so excited to share this interview with you. It is the first repeat guest we’ve ever had and I can’t think of a more fitting repeat guest than Peter Peitz. Who is Peter Peitz? As a boy, Peter grew up during the second World War in Munich, Germany. In his lifetime, he lived, learned and worked in four different countries. As an 82-year-old businessman, banker, philanthropist and bicyclist, he shares how America helped his dreams to come true and tells of the hazards along the way. Peter lives in Cotter, Arkansas with his wife, Jan. More importantly to me, Peter is my grandfather. I have felt so blessed to have him in my life and I’ve benefited so much from his wisdom, input, love and care on my own. I am honored that I get to share a piece of that with you. This isn’t something he’s too keen of. The fact that he was able to come on and share a little bit of his life with me and with you was such an honor and I don’t take that lightly. I hope you won’t either.

When I do background research of people that know them, here are a few ways that he was described by people in his community. In a few words, when they’re asked to describe Peter, here’s some of the words they said. “Inspiring, impactful, no-nonsense, empathy, integrity, loyalty, socio-economic, very good economically and very good socially.” Finally, one said, “My hero.” When asked what his superpower was, one of the ones was his ability to affect change and cause change, whether in the life of an individual or in the life of a business. Another said his ability to analyze things from a different perspective than anyone else. Another said that he can look at a scenario in business and tell you in a very short time if you’ll make a profit.

Another said, “It was his wisdom to apply knowledge. He is definitely one of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet in your life. He puts so much intention and care into everything that he does,” which includes this interview. The amount of prep that he did and thinking through topics, meditating, studying and preparing himself for sharing some thoughts that he thought would be helpful was above and beyond what anyone else has done. It was a joy to do that with him. I feel so blessed to have him as a grandfather and I am grateful to share a piece of that.

Grandpa Peter Peitz, welcome.

Thank you very much. I’m glad to be here.

This is round two. This is not your first rodeo. You’ve been in the saddle before.

If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t do it.

I feel honored to have you here. One of the occasions that has brought us back together in the lovely, beautiful home in Cotter, Arkansas, is an 80th birthday celebration for Grandma Jan. What brought me to Cotter a few years ago for the first recording was actually your 80th birthday celebration. It’s a pretty neat parallel there.

It was fun then. With her, we had to upscale that a goodly number of times lasting from Friday, Saturday and half-day Sunday.

We had to go big. We went pretty hard for years, but you just had to go to another level. First off, one of the things that I heard you mentioned that I hadn’t heard before during the time with our family celebrating her 80th was three core agreements between you and grandma in your marriage. I’d love for you to share that because I hadn’t heard that before and I’d love to know them again.

As time changes for us and as we are getting older, it’s important to have a motto for us that we talk about daily. The first one is that it’s opposed to talking about long-range and what all is to be done, that we are concentrating on living the experience of the day, focusing on the day. Part two is that we live joyfully. We have a choice every day as to how we’re doing, how we operate. The glass is half full or half empty. As you have little aches and pains as you get older, you have a tendency to say, “I wish I could. It was used to be so much better.” We don’t believe that. We simply say joyfully, whatever it is. The last and the most difficult for us is to live more gently primarily towards ourselves whereby, instead of being hard on ourselves with all the list of the days and what we need to accomplish, who we need to see, who we need to invite and all of this, that all of it becomes a little bit more moderate and more gently living, which is more appropriate for our day and age.

It’s beautiful and something that I aspire towards in many ways. Even having the intentionality of coming together and making some mantras or mottos to live, especially with your partner. It’s such a clarifying thing. I need it for myself. With two people, I can imagine being that important and the living gently one. I know we were talking about that, I can see that being such a challenging thing regardless of the season that you’re in. Something that we did wasn’t so gentle. I don’t think many people get the chance to say that they went and worked out with their grandfather in the gym. I had all the motivation I needed because I didn’t want to be shown up by my grandfather.

I think that was a special experience, to see my grandfather putting up the weight that he did. One-hundred and fifty pounds and that was his fifth set, is something that I’m extremely proud of. It was quite remarkable to watch. Not so gentle, but goes with the course. That helps you live a gentle life. One of the other things I love about being here with you is there’s a story behind everything. Every time I’m with you, I hear a new story and there’s so much of your life to share, especially with living so many years. I love the intention behind everything you do, but also everything that’s part of your life. I was curious in talking about some of those memories and some of the pieces of art in the different parts of your home you have. I was curious if you have one in particular, a favorite object or a favorite painting or thing that you have at home that is the most poignant memory that comes to mind every time you see it or serves a special role. I know they all do, but if there’s any that you had to highlight, if there’s one that came to mind, I’d love to know it.

It’s a goodly number of them because I built the home and I’ve lived here and we have lived here for 50 years. We intentionally wanted to create a home that is truly representing us. Most people used to move every four or five, six years. I read in the journal that it’s thirteen as of late, which is better. The point is if you intend to stay somewhere permanently, you’re much more willing to make investments into the house, into the circumstances, into the paintings, into the various components that you say have been very carefully selected. Most of them represent a portion of my life. The one I like that is the most stunning and the one that is on my mind is in my study. I see it daily. I have a painting that has got a gold that was produced in the Soviet Union. It has a 200-year-old gold frame around it. Around that, a 400-year-old wooden frame that I put together because what I only got was the painting itself. I was doing consulting work in the city of St. Petersburg for the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, or very shortly thereafter. It was terrible poverty. The people were unemployed and the system had broken down. My job was to help a group to close the newly-formed police departments of Siberia that had never been the police department, the KGB, as well as the military, took care of all of those duties.

Now, that was no longer functioning, they’re needed to be a creation of normal police systems and there were all specialists and I was the man in charge of the textiles. I had the chance to look at some paintings and one in particular I thought I absolutely have to have, it is the face of an elderly man that has tremendous expression, depth in the eyes, wisdom and expresses a sense of completeness that I thought that I wanted that. Especially once I learned that it was painted by the general in charge of the ballistic missile system of the Soviet Union, then I was carried away. That someone who was officially the man in-charge of the destruction of the United States, to have that depth and skill to paint was an indication to me that was overwhelming. I brought that home and it is hanging in my study.

Being made in the image of God means that we are permanent, that we are eternal, and that life keeps going even when we die. Click To Tweet

About several years later, as I was showing it to you and telling the history and the background. The man I was telling it to says, “Peter, when I was in the service in the CIA, I was in-charge of the destruction of St. Petersburg, where you came from. I had five ways of the atomic destruction through waves and through explosions.” I ended up here in the little town of Cotter, having the blending of two people that had the extreme power to be destructive in a place that is the very place where I was. In the United States, the final decision to make a nuclear attack is by the president. In Russia, it is the general in-charge. The reason I got that is because the military had not been paid for over a year, and that was a way for him to try to earn a living.

I love that story. Knowing it is remarkable. It is a beautiful painting. When you speak of depth, I know we had talked a little bit about this before. I think you mentioned it beautifully that there are three components of human beings and how we put our focus on different parts. A lot of times, we can emphasize the detriment to the others. I’d love to know a little bit of your perspective, it could be within those three components of human beings or it could be elsewhere, but where that depth comes from and how it can be helpful.

First of all, one should know that when I came to this little gathering, as I was on the way in, I normally do talk to my partner, the Holy Spirit and say, “We’ve got a job to do here. Be sure to guide and counsel me. At the same time, let me act so that we can bring the human part and the godly part in a way that it ought to be.” Previously, I shared why I have chosen through extensive periods in foreign countries of being totally alone, taking up on what the Bible offers in the Holy Spirit, a counselor or somebody that advises, somebody that works with you, somebody that helps you. I badly needed that help. Ever since then, he is my partner in daily life and the decisions that need to be made. That is very helpful to me because I know that I then am acting within the Christian frame that I want to act.

As to the components of the human being, we have three parts fundamentally. One is the body and the other one is the mind and the third one is the soul, also called the spirit, also called the psyche. When we read who we are as people in this world, we were told that we were made in the image of God. Being made in the image of God means that we are permanent, that we are eternal, that life keeps going but we also know that we die. It is the body that we step out of after our life on this Earth and with it also the mind and they’re gone. The portion that survives and is eternal is the soul.

Over the years, humans focused more and more on that which is immediately visible and also helpful, which is the body and the mind. We train it, we feed it, we care for it, and we do more than everything to have this body in perfect condition. From the water we drink to the pills that we take, to the health exercises that we do, it’s always the body. In another portion is the development of the mind. When in reality, this is the shortest part, which is the most important, our development of the soul so that we can eventually in our journey to God to return to him closer than we were when we started, somehow gets lost because it isn’t obvious and it takes a lifetime to do.

At the age that Jan and I am, it is important for us that we see that our journey to God is getting more developed so that we do the things that we are prepared for what’s important. That is easier than in the second half of one’s life than in the first. Because in the first half, there is so much that needs to be accomplished in terms of the basics of Maslow’s triangle and five stages. Initially, there needs to be the food, the clothing and the shelter for ourselves. Eventually that for the children, wife, family and education. When we get to middle age, we need to start shifting over into focusing on what’s important in life because the essentials hopefully have been taken care of, yet a good portion of humanity never gets there. That means they never get in Maslow’s self-actualization level because the lower levels aren’t completed to a degree that they can step up to that. Jan and I are exceedingly grateful that we can.

What gets in the way? It’s completing versus not completing some of the levels you mentioned, but what would you say are some of the other components or factors that maybe stand in the way of moving into more of the soul work?

It has been known for a millennia that very few things, if anything, is it’s valuable to self-development as silence. We do anything and everything to prevent silence because we don’t want to look inside. We just want to float on the surface and bubble, so that it doesn’t reach down. It takes courage and with the courage of looking inward, not for self-proclamation, but to see who we are and the talents that we have given, and to what degree we use them and what risks we are taking to use them. That is generally where the approach-avoidance comes from and that one needs to overcome. If you do, the amount of joy, peace and steadiness that comes from it is what life is all about.

UAC 124 | Wisdom In Applying Knowledge

 

When did that start becoming a consistent part of your life?

When I grew up as a boy in Germany, we were six children and my parents were long-term businessmen for generations. They had lost everything and had rebuilt and then finally lost again in the second World War. My parents were convinced that their children need to be somewhere other than Germany because there was a huge threat of the Soviet Union dominating and overrunning Europe, which would then have made it the most powerful entity on this world. That’s why the US stationed 350,000 soldiers there to prevent that and make sure that it doesn’t happen. The point is, in a very young age, I was less than eighteen years old, I had finished high school and my father forced me to learn a trade as he did all of our children. We were not allowed to study until we had learned a trade. There was a good reason for that. There were six million to seven million people that were mostly educated. They’d lost their lives after the World War II was over. They lost it to starvation. Their services weren’t required.

If you were a plumber or had a farm, you had something to trade, a service to give. If you were an attorney, you had absolutely no business at all and the results were disastrous. I became a tailor. My parents said, “You need to be out in the world and earn a living with that and also earn yourself an education.” I did. To give you the core of it, I was eighteen and I got a letter from my father that was written in French. I didn’t speak French. I had Latin and I had Greek, but I didn’t have French. He said, “You need to go to Western Switzerland. I’ll give you a one-way railroad ticket and you find yourself a job. Since you don’t know what to say or how to speak, this letter introduces you, what your skills are, your education and find your way.”

He would always underline it in the end and say, “Peter, the way things are here in Germany and the way it has been, you will either bend or you will break.” Out of that, then came a very soon extended period of solitude. I couldn’t communicate. I didn’t speak the language. I had to work and I had to try and learn. At the same time, I had lots of time to look inward and look as to what life needs to be all about and what things are like in other countries. That’s when all of that started to say who am I and what’s important?

It’s the fundamental question. Even my own journey, I feel like the professional golf years were definitely a piece of that for me and having to go out. It was almost a Lone Ranger-type experience of trying to find a way in a much different scenario than yours, but similar components in being alone a lot and sitting with yourself and trying to figure out what you believe. I love that perspective. I love what you brought up too about your father, either you bend or you break. It’s interesting thinking. There’s a blog post that I haven’t written yet, but on the concept of healthy opposition, it is when you can bend but not be broken. Sometimes it seems like we don’t have a choice in that. How do you think about that even in either people that work for you or that have worked with you in the past as a leader or as a manager of people and running a company? Do you have any thoughts on healthy opposition on that concept of bending but not breaking as you’ve experienced it?

One that is faced by every corporate leader and also in many other ways. I stayed with corporate leaders is the harshness that you need to present and be when it comes to the achievement of the organizations they have to achieve. At the same time, the kindness and warmness to allow them, and to promote them to grow and to become more than what they were. I like it to maybe a football coach who is tough as nails, but at the same time has nothing but the very best of interest of the players and needs the best of interest of other players for them to be successful. It’s a routine almost every day, playing back and forth in the contrast between caring for and demanding for achievement.

There’s one thing that even just in talking to background references and context is so beautiful about what people have said about you and I have experienced personally from you. If you think about the picture of a father and a father’s love, there needs to be firmness and hardness to it like this is a reality. It’s always caged in the love of being for their best interest and bringing that about in the right manner and the right time. That’s what the relationship is like too. The one thing I wanted to circle back on the silence that you brought up was the ability that silence brings to look inward. I know we’ve talked about in the past of looking inward versus looking outward. The question would be more in our society combining with silence about how important is it to look inward and what does that produce versus looking outward or what the culture may produce in us and in that difference of those two?

I think there’s a question that each person needs to answer for themselves, “Do I just want to get through life as easy and as best as I can?” Or in the conflict that you mentioned, does a person want to use the life to maximize that which they are capable of? I believe that the majority of people do not. They’re saying whatever is easiest, what gets me by. I want to avoid problems. I want to avoid fear. I want to avoid danger. It needs to be smooth, easy and have a good life that way. Yet in the reality of it, that’s not a very good life. There is no bottom to it. There are no roots to that tree. That is a weed that is growing on the top surface.

When we get to the second half of our life, our journey to God is getting more developed and we start shifting and focusing on what's important. Click To Tweet

When the wind blows and the winter comes, they keel over and are not prepared for it. That’s less of a development than I believe God gave us, with the opportunity that gave us to develop that which we’re given and maximize that. As you know, Thane, it is from straining, hard work and pushing the very best you can where the heart of satisfaction is. You have tried your best and achieved or even failed, but you have given it the best. That gives a sense of saying, “I gave it the best I could.” To allow one’s self or to force one’s self to take time to look inward and to study and see what one could do, out of that find a vocation and say, “I’m going to commit to make this better.” Even if it’s a regular employment job, by giving it the best, you get the best self-satisfaction. Self-satisfaction is part of the quality of life.

That’s something that I definitely have experienced even early on in life. It brings so much fulfillment and literally pushing yourself to the edge of your capacity to see and then fall on your face a lot of times and then get back up and try and do a little better the next time.

In that category, I’d like to insert that while so many feel that failure is something that’s negative and needs to be avoided, let me say two things. One is success has benefits and it’s also exceedingly dangerous because success breeds pride and pride is one of the worst things that can happen to a person. To foster one’s self’s ego, pride and success causes that often. If all we would need to do is look at people that have been successful, how difficult and egocentric they are. That’s the flip side of the coin, that’s your contrast. Equally, with failure, it brings a sense of modesty and a sense of humility that we so urgently need to lead a good life.

It is like a two-edged sword in many ways. In light of that too, you mentioned that briefly. What do you see in the people that have that spin into a life that is filled with success but is ultimately drowned out by the pride and ego? That is what most people see and it’s a downfall. It takes away from a lot of the impact of their success versus the people that are able to infuse that success with the modesty, humility and also the practicality to not just sit in it but provide benefit to others. I know you don’t want this show to be praising you. I will say as your grandson, you’ve done that incredibly well. I’ve been blessed to see that. What do you see as the differences in allowing people to express one way versus the other? Between the people that experienced success and go through the downfall of success versus experienced success and use it for the betterment of those around them. The difference between getting stuck in the pride and ego versus being able to get through that into the beneficial type of success.

When we take the last 2,000, 25,000 or 3,000 years of Christianity, in our initial recordings, the development of the average human being, the skills, knowledge and ability to read and do math was minimal. It was a very primitive society not only then, but until the 1800s to 1900s that were a human life had practically no value. During that, in the Old Testament, God was very clear, very loud and very definite saying, “Here’s what you need to do and not do it.” We know all of those stories. Eventually, I believe that the development of a segment of the world, namely in Israel and etc., Christ was born and Christ led a totally different life and said, “We are done with all of the rules. Now, I’m going to demonstrate you beyond the question of a doubt that one can live better and the people around them better if we act out of love rather than fear.” The result in the old days was everything had to be fear. If you don’t, then you will. If you do, then you get praised. It was a very external system. Christ changed that and he says, “No, do it through love.” If you remember in the early days of the church after Christ died, people would combine into communities, help each other and promote Christianity. Then 300 years later, we legalized church and with it, we re-introduced fear in an obscene way and very damaging.

I think it’s part of the cause that all of the religions are losing members because of the history and what they also promote, which in many ways is fear. If you don’t, then this will happen. Yet God said, “You do have a choice.” If my choice is either hell or do what I’m told, it’s not a choice. If we then are in the position because we have further developed in the sense that the human being has a much higher value than ever in the history before, then that person with that value can also say, “I need to demonstrate what Christ said and deal out of love, deal out of respect for the next human being. Praise God, but be helpful to your neighbor. With that then is where I grow my soul for my eternity.”

It’s turning what is intuitive or natural up on its head and make it counterintuitive. The way is by flipping the triangle on its head almost. That’s what Jesus did. He turned the whole system up on its head.

I do believe what we have done in the 300s was the beginning of what we know is the human condition. Everything is sinful, everything is negative, we are not worth anything. It came out of that period and Christ never said that. Quite to the contrary, he says, “You’re like me. You are my brother.” We minimize that and say, “George, if you don’t do this, then you go to hell.”

UAC 124 | Wisdom In Applying Knowledge

 

That’s one of the most powerful concepts honestly that we’ve talked about and I’ve shared some. I’ve talked with so many people about this concept of the two core emotions that we have as human beings. It’s funny how blatantly obvious this should be, but how little we see it and think about it. I’d love to know you explain a little bit more of the way you think about these two core emotions and how it applies to life because it’s been so impactful even from my own life.

There’s an old saying that says, “When fear comes through the door, faith goes out the window. When faith comes through the door, fear goes out the window.” In the sense of saying they’re mutually exclusive. The fear we also know is handicapping. Fear is what creates the most difficult situations, not only individually but it is fear that starts wars. It is fear that a nation might do this or that that creates the military, creates armaments, creates defense systems. All of it out of fear. It has nothing to do with love. At the same time, if I’m going to prepare a breakfast for Jan because I have to, and she says, “Why didn’t you prepare? You’re late.” She’s my partner here in life and I want to do that, that task becomes no task at all. It’s a matter of joy. It’s a matter of pleasure. It’s a matter of liking it. That multiplied all day long creates then what is the joyfulness. That is what makes life worth living because you express that and usually it is like an echo. What you sent out, it comes back the same way. You saw Jan on her 80th. People were coming by the dozens and saying how she has impacted their lives and made it better and how she has helped out and how I have tried to help out.

All of that comes out that says, “What do I do with any of the situations? Am I going to be fearful because it might go wrong?” I’m not going to do that as an answer because if I fail, that helps me in the way of humility and helps me in the way of modesty and keeps my feet on the ground. Particularly when you’re successful often, and I have had the great fortune of being that, then it’s very important that you get knocked down and say, “You are just a little while here on this Earth, then do something worthwhile and get ready for bigger things that I have prepared for you.”

For you in this season of life, where do you see fear still showing up in your own life? I’m sure that we get a lot better at recognizing and striving to be in love, but we’re never arriving at the destination. What does it look like for you as you process it for yourself in life between those two core emotions or what do you have to remind yourself of even within that?

I would think that the great majority of people my age are afraid of the end of life, painful illness, hanging on for months and not living or existing but not being allowed to die. This is an uncontrollable and it is in front every day. With every day that you get older, you get closer to that. You have the hope and love that God will call you and prevent you from suffering. On the flip side of the coin, when you look at America, America was built by people that came that first of all, took an enormous risk in arriving and then furthermore took continued risk to develop the world. There’s the country, the travel, getting eventually to the West Coast and all of the history is a matter of fortitude and willingness to achieve things and take risks. When you go, we avoid risk at all corners. You can’t buy a vacuum cleaner in the first fifteen pages or warnings of dangers. Young people are taught, “Be careful. Don’t do this. No, don’t do that either.” It is a prevention of risk and in my humble opinion, a way of minimizing a person and not allowing that person to grow to what they can be because all they do is being self-protective, “I’ve got to make sure that I’m safe.”

It is interesting how much of an epidemic it is. Similar to what you talked about, it seems to be so limiting because where the real growth comes from is that bending or breaking at times and rebuilding. If we never have any risk, if we assume then we can’t grow, just like you at the gym, if you wouldn’t have gone for 155 on that final rep, that’s a risk. You may not be able to get up. Obviously, there was someone spotting, but the point is it’s still a risk. You don’t know. It’s not a guarantee.

It’s a risk to go on the road. It’s a risk to say, “I’m going to go Christmas anyway. I’m going to see my family. I’m going to take a job away from here and will I like it and will I have a problem finding an apartment? Will I like this? Will I like that?” All of that is fear motivated and it’s a huge handicap.

One of the areas that I’ve experienced fear and love probably most as I’ve thought about it in my own life is with relationships with other people. I err on either side of the coin. Sometimes I’ve put myself on a pedestal above others and then operate out of fear because I’m trying to protect my created position above them and putting the pride of I’m more valuable than someone else. I opted out of fear trying to protect that position. On the other token, sometimes I’ll put an individual above myself for the rest of the community and operate out of fear to what that person thinks of me and do things to impress them or gain respect from them. I experienced that even playing golf with certain people that I respected their abilities. I wanted to play better so that I could impress them and they’d respect me. I play worse because of operating out of fear.

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Thane, if we know that God created this world and convinced of that as I am, then comes the question if God created all, why did he create fear? I believe that he demonstrated that it is love and love only. His first two commandments are all about love. If we don’t have a standard of comparison, then nothing is evaluated or can have a sense of meaning. If however we have fear and we all understand that fear is negative, then you can compare the love to the fear. There is the base of saying fear has its right. It is the comparison to love. I can have a choice in many ways, sometimes not, but fundamentally have a choice out of which do I operate. If God created this world and tells us over and over, it is love for the neighbor and for you, the Lord yourself, then why would I choose if I can, to use the counter slander that tells how much I’m on the love side versus the fear side?

You have to have both. I read a quote one time from Dan Hylander who said, “God gave us the freedom to love because without the ability to say no, there’s no meaning to saying yes.” It loses meaning and value. It’s fascinating. One of the things that you mentioned briefly that I thought was an interesting question is a question of is God passive or active or proactive? This is a whole can of worms. In light of this thought behind having fear in love and having a choice, how have you thought about God being passive or proactive or active within our lives and our workings? That question could spend a whole lifetime searching into honestly.

At the end say, “I don’t know.”

We started where we’d end.

For me, there is no question that God gave us a mind, talent and the body that’s well-functioning for us to do things, to see need and to act accordingly. I take as an example, and it is in many stories in the Bible, when Christ is ready to be sent back to heaven. He says, “Now I have my disciples and I have also my apostles.” He didn’t design a master class where they are being educated, where they’re being formalized, where they’re being methods of travel being created or anything. He says, “Take your walking stick and go.” That must have been out of faith and belief that they have the talents to do that. They also got the Holy Spirit’s help, which I always ask for.

I think that is part of our fear and part of our not having courage, which is a sister to fear, we say, “I’m going to hang around and see what God has in mind for me and he hasn’t told me yet and I’m expecting to hear any day. I’m going to lay low until I get the insight, I get the great blessing of saying, here is what my task is.” That is a waste of life because we certainly can see immediately within hours of more need that we can possibly address. At the same time, we do have talents and we also got time. We have the need, we’ve got tools to do something about it. Why would we say, “I don’t understand any of that, let’s just sit back and wait?” I say, “Let’s get on with it. Let’s do something. Let’s use my talents and if I fail, it’s fine. Let’s get going because it is more fun to do. It’s more exciting to do. You lead a better life and you prepare your souls better for eternity.”

It’s all connected. It’s funny how there’s a through-line through all of this. A lot of times, it’s easy for all of us as people to avoid problems or danger of being risk-averse because we have a fear of failure and that limits our ability. At the same time, if all you do is look inward and trying to figure out, “What do I need? What’s best for me?” you never take action to move outward. In the midst of that, you also have all of this noise and confusion and all of these options. If you never have silence, you won’t be able to know which option to pick out of the million options. It’s interesting how it’s all connected, but I think one of the most important fundamental aspects of any human being and something that I know you’ve mentioned before too is being able to pick a path and then be committed to it and see from that. I’d love to know more of your thoughts on commitment itself because I think the time we live in is unique in some ways and not unique in other ways.

Humans are humans. In society and culture, there are probably more than ever before, at least in America, options or paths to choose. There seems like limitless options many times in some aspects. That creates greater indecision, especially for younger people coming up through college. The career path has changed and that’s usually not a vocation for your life, but a career for now or a job for now. There are many factors. I think that the core commitment seems to be one of the greatest needs. What is the importance of commitment in your mind?

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If a part of ourselves is to lead a fulfilled life and for me, it is very important to do rather than just exist, then comes immediately the question of, “What should I do? How do I best use my talents?” I first sidestep in and say that choice is a little similar to let’s say as an example, a person that’s in high school and is in good shape and has the choice of multiple sports, also maybe play in the band and all of these options. He tries this, tries that, tries to next one and then the end of it, chooses none of it or just halfheartedly pursues. Out of that then comes dissatisfaction, comes emptiness, can come depression. I find this to be so problematic. My little understanding with soldiers coming back, they had a very definite purpose. They were being told morning, noon and night what the purpose is and what’s up next and the steps to take and they come home to absolute emptiness. They have the side effects of what they experienced in the military. To then say, “Here is the career that I’m pursuing. I choose to appear.”

In some sportspeople that are paraplegics or quadriplegics, they make things happen in a very positive and give speeches and talk because they have chosen to be committed to something in their case to just be healthy or function like they were healthy. To forever wait, try and find the thing that totally fulfills me is much less important than choosing an activity and it might not be for lifelong, but pursuing that with all energy because out of that comes the satisfaction again. If you ask ten people and one is a good soccer player and you ask, “What would you like to play?” “Play soccer.” The tennis player wants to play tennis because they have learned, they have put the effort into it and have a skill and they enjoy that. If you never learn any of it, then you just wander around aimlessly and say that this life has nothing to offer me. I’ve had literally thousands of employees over my lifetime. They’re not an employee, they’re associates. Those that stood out and those that were the happiest were those that committed to whatever that job was, try to do it exemplary well and with not only what’s good for them, but good for the company. Out of that came promotions, out of that came bonuses and out of that came respect from the others. It’s not so important what you choose, but what you do with it.

I’m curious too on that. What do you see that gets in the way of people choosing that from your experience? Because you see the results of it, yet it’s by no means the norm to choose, to have that level of commitment that produces the joy, the satisfaction and the fulfillment from that work. What do you see are common obstacles that prevent people from that commitment?

I think most likely the largest component is self-discipline. The discipline to say, “Whether I like it or not, I am going to give this my very best.” The essence of saying, “I will drive forward. I will get it done. I will achieve what I am after.” Even if that’s a very small thing. Take a person that is mentally retarded. I’ve got one living across the street. Very small things are important and full of pride. The pride or the joy of experiencing is maybe a very different item, but the joy is the same as it is for me when I do something. Self-discipline is not a very modern word. It’s not something that is being preached often. Most everything is it needs to be easy. You need to not be straining too hard, you might hurt yourself. As opposed to say, “I’m going to go after it.” Take the great people in this country or any other country. It is the people that have the self-discipline and say, “I will learn this so that I can do as opposed to I want to do.”

If you were walking alongside people in that process, what is the process for developing self-discipline?

A need to achieve whatever your goal is. If you have no goals, you don’t need to achieve, you don’t need self-discipline. If you set out, it might be money, but it might as well as get to date a girl that is up the street that you would like to meet or marry. All of that is a desire. It is a need to achieve and keep money out of it. Even so often, it plays a role but often it doesn’t. A great musician, it isn’t money. A poet, it isn’t money. People that give public service, it isn’t money, but it is a real desire to commit to something that is the stimulus of self-discipline or your parents beating you up for that matter.

I also love what you had mentioned when we were talking that money is not the success, money is a measure of success. A lot of times, self-discipline is the fulfillment that comes and brings things to the fruit of it. It isn’t the goal in itself. The foundational component of even commitment to anything is a level of self-discipline. It’s something that often has to be fought for whether you’re forced to or whether you choose to. You’re right, it is somewhat of a misnomer in today’s society. It’s shunned away from and avoided. It’s probably because it’s this fear of doing something hard, something you don’t want to do.

It’s what discipline takes. If that isn’t there, then you don’t do it. If you don’t want to do it in the first place, you don’t need self-discipline. If you want to achieve money, money to most people is the ultimate result. Out of that comes the saying that money is their god. I believe that to be a fallacy. I understand it and respect it fully. When we are at the lowest level of the Hierarchy of Needs of Maslow, because you’ve got to have money to have food, clothing, eat and water and all of that, money becomes totally dominant. Once we reach a higher level, then the first level and we get into the area of respect and we get in the area of belonging, which are various parts of the tier, then we need to see that we pursue the goals that we have set for ourselves. If we do those well, money follows.

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If you look at the great achievers in the last several years, they’re all very young. They started out doing an intellectual exercise that eventually made them multimillionaires or billionaires. They didn’t do that to become that. They had other goals. In my company life, I had four goals and the money was important earning a good life, but it was the fourth one. It wasn’t the first three. I knew if I do the first three, then money will automatically follow. If I do them lousy, then obviously it won’t. If I had focused initially how do I maximize my earnings, then it wouldn’t have developed in the first place because my energy would have been on the wrong place.

It’s interesting that you use energy. I remember the book I read called The Power of Full Engagement. It talks a lot about the resource of energy versus necessarily time or effort. I thought that was a helpful way to think about it. I have to ask with money being the fourth, what were the first three goals?

I had learned a trade when I was a qualified journeyman tailor, which means I had a skill and some knowledge that very few in America have. The second thing was I spoke languages. Also, I had an excellent education. I had tools that were good. Once I was here and I bought this company with ten employees, I realized that what they were trying to do but were pretty ill-qualified was to produce clothing for what I consider the most downtrodden segment of our population. This is the mentally retarded and the mentally ill who often and generally were in some confined status. What happened to them is they were at the government’s expense. Therefore, government programs and government-specified clothing that was very drab. It was not only drabbed but it was also ill-designed, it was the wrong materials and all of these things. I thought that if I could, as a major contribution in my life, make that population live a little bit more joyful life, and get them to smile because there are things that they think they look good in. At the same time, live within the extreme confines of government bidding and the lowest price, then that would be very much worthwhile.

Part two was that the community of Cotter was originally a railroad community, and had fallen by the wayside because there was no longer around the house and there were no longer many services that Cotter provided. They were no longer necessary. There was the diesel engine as opposed to the steam engine. The community was deteriorating and had deteriorated. Eventually, most of the buildings that we bought over a period of years had been condemned because they were in such terrible shape with falling in roofs and broken out windows. Part three was that if I’m able to create that market and design products that are helpful, then we should get orders. If we have orders, we can employ people. If we can employ people and pay them a decent wage and also allow me to use what I had always thought that they need to be partners and associates. I’ve lots of background having worked with labor unions and negotiated contracts in Missouri, Utah and in Kansas. That I’ve thought if we, from day one, have a team as opposed to workers and management, then that will be a tremendous goal. If I do all of these well, it makes me enough money to live well.

I love that because it’s three things of helping and loving others and one of yourself. You mentioned this and I was so intrigued by it because I haven’t heard much on this, but in thinking about your desire to have employees, not just be employees, but have them be associates and partners. You mentioned that you formed a trust when you incorporate it. I’m curious to know in that way of thinking because it is a very non-traditional way of thinking. How did you come about approaching that, trying to accomplish that community of people, not just being an employee but being associates or partners in what you’re building?

The day we formed the corporation, we also formed the profit-sharing trust, which has been replaced by other forms of participation. What I wanted to instill is to say, “We are going to work together and we’re going to work together for a long time.” We were going to get a report every quarter with our associates and share with them and tell them what we could do together. If we win, you also win. You not only win by still having a job but if we make some money, we can afford to give money into the profit-sharing trust. Not only that, but we’ll invest and by investing, then it will grow and you might be able to send a child to colleges.

To tell you how well that worked, Thane, we also had full health insurance and it was with Blue Cross Blue Shield. We wanted to keep our monthly fees low, and you can talk about it, but you can also maybe do something about it. What I did, I negotiated with Blue Cross Blue Shield and said, “We would like to have our monthly cost not go up, stay steady. What do we need to do so that we can do that?” We were self-insured as a company. The answer was, “If you use no more than 70% of what you pay in, then we will give you the first two months of the next year for free.” By having associates, not just management, but all of us, I would speak once a month at the various factories and gave reports and updates. I said, “This is what we can do. Let’s see if we can keep those costs under control.” Thane, it was within three or four months, if somebody went to the emergency room, the other workers would say, “Why did you go there? Just because of that little thing, you went to the emergency room?”

Lo and behold, we did for about three years, the opportunity for others to be engaged in what is meaningful, we did. There came a time the fourth year and we were told that Blue Cross Blue Shield had changed the system somewhat and we can no longer be an independent company. We need to be part of a group of four companies. At that time, we also said, “We can no longer do that. We can’t keep you out of the pot. You need to be part of the pot.” I announced that also. Within three months, our usage go up dramatically.

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What a sweet accomplishment to have those years, the buy-in and participation, it makes a lot of sense, without an incentive to be contributing the greater whole. I think we all struggle with viewing ourselves as part of it if there aren’t reminders of that or some engagement with that. One of the things you’d mentioned was that there was a variety of factors that led to you being here in Cotter, Arkansas. I’d love to know a little bit more on the thought process that brought you to this town of could be 900 people. It is popping and with lots of fish. I’d love to know a little bit of that story and the decision process that went into that.

I came to the United States as the third part of my education. My parents and I had agreed that I ought to be an international businessman. As for international business, I needed to have lived in the countries wherein some of them at least I need to speak languages. I needed to understand culture. I needed to understand behavior. I eventually came to US. I entered New York University at the sophomore level. It was a huge university and I had the chance eventually to head the foreign student body, which was about 20,000 students. With that, I had some great exposure in doing recordings that were particularly made for going to East Europe. They were propaganda-type things. When I started working, I was the guy that made the most money when we graduated from college because I had some unusual advantages and things went well.

I ended up on assignment in Kansas City working for a New York Fifth Avenue company. While I was there, one day I got a letter from the draft board of New York City that I need to show up for induction. I wrote back and said, “No, you got that wrong. I’m a citizen of Germany and I plan to work in the United States for a little while and then return to Europe.” That was exactly the truth. There were no thoughts ever of staying in the US. It was just like being in England or being in Portugal or being in Switzerland. However, when I said, “No, you have got that wrong,” they very quickly responded, “No, you have got it wrong. Because when you signed up to be a student at NYU, you also signed up in your deck of forms that you sign as a student that if you earn $1 before the age of 26, you have a military obligation in the United States.” I said, “What to do now?” Think about how my parents sent us out into the world to avoid military and then suddenly came the question, “Will my parents allow me to go into military service for one of the enemies of earlier days?” Not very good for my mother. My dad and I contemplated.

I went to an attorney at the advice of the president of the firm that I was doing consulting work for and asked, “Is that true?” He says, “I don’t know but I’ll check it out.” When I got the report back, he said, “You have two choices. You can either leave and return to Germany as you have planned anyway, or you can serve in the military. If you do go back to Europe, the likelihood that you will get a visa entry and you want to do business with America will probably be denied.” My friend eventually said, “Try it and go.” I did. However, I filed an objection because they wanted to draft me for Laos as a foot soldier. I had been sportscar racing in Kansas City and had a lot of friends in Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base, and they said, “We’d love to have you in the Air Force.” I objected too. I wrote to my Congressman. I used Hollingsworth of Missouri and wrote them a letter and said, “I believe that if I, as a foreigner, am going to have the obligation to serve, I should have the same authority and responsibility as any other citizen. I should not be separated out as different.” That went to the US Congress.

The file got thicker and thicker because New York was continually driving. I showed up. They made me fly to New York and have an interview. Five hours later, they said, “We didn’t get to it, come back again.” That was multiple times from Kansas City in those days to fly to New York. Eventually, General Hershey, who was in charge of the selective service system in the United States said, “Peitz is right. He should have and so should anybody else, have the same right if they have the same obligation and he can choose.” I did choose the Air Force. He said, “You have 30 days to sign up,” so that I’m not using it as an excuse and New York would not release me. They released me on the 30th day in the 11th hour. It was that mad that I beat the system. By serving in New York, the company that I was serving in Kansas City at Richards-Gebaur, the company that I was doing consulting work for, offered me to do a job on and become an officer of the company. They knew I had to be in the Kansas City area because I had to live within 180 miles of the base.

In that role, I was vice president in charge of manufacturing and product development and other things. I was very young, 26 or 27 maybe. Because I was the chief technician, I did most of the labor negotiations because I knew what the people wanted. I didn’t do the cost part, but I know the things from a management point of view that we should accept and not accept. In that role, I had always been coming from a commercial industrial family, always wanted to become self-employed and it never worked because I didn’t have any money. In those days, I didn’t think about borrowing. You’ve got to pay it. Now, it’d be easy.

One day, I was working and I had a visitor from Winthrop Rockefeller who then was the head of AIDC, Arkansas Industrial Development Commission, with a group of men saying, “You’re an excellent firm. We would like for you to locate a point in Arkansas.” That’s got me started. Eventually, I did. I bought a plant as an employee. I built another one in PB and built another one in Batesville. He became governor. When he became governor he said, “Would you be willing to help us get the prison systems in order?” The products they produce, nobody wants. Yet by law, government agencies have to purchase them, but they find ways around it because it’s so shoddy. I accepted that and in for a couple of years would spend time and energy and goodwill to do that. Eventually, it got done. I got back up on Petit Jean Mountain and having dinner with the governor and a little honor deal, I got a fishing pole, a thank you and great and all that, “If you ever want to be a guest of this state, go way up North, almost in Missouri. It’s very small and undeveloped. It’s very pretty. It’s called Gaskins. Would you like to go there sometimes?” I said, “Yes, I do.” I did. That was my introduction here.

I liked it well-enough that I said, “If I could ever earn a living, that’s where I want to be.” It’s a great place to raise a child, two children or three children, whatever it might be. It’s a great way also to get out of the hustle and bustle when I travel and sell and work. That’s initially how I got to Cotter. The Arkansas Industrial Development Commission then found a place in Cotter where the man wanted to sell and we got in contact with each other. After about a year of going back and forth, that’s how I got here.

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That was quite the journey. Out of all the places you could have ended up, it’s in Cotter, Arkansas and it’s been 50-plus years.

I came in September 10th, 1970. I can tell you, particularly those that knew me in industry and I was on the technical advisory committee of the United States apparel industry and had lots of contacts say, “What on earth are you doing?” It was a great move. They all think, “It was a brilliant foresight. You live great. Look at these. Look at the river. Look how the house, they’re all wonderful. You must have known it.” I didn’t but it was an opportunity to become self-employed. It was an opportunity to be in an area that was a good place to live and it has developed beautifully.

What was it initially that you loved most when you first visited? What were the things that captivated you about the area or the place?

It was and it is a fabulous place to come back to. When you travel and I did for years and years flew crisscrossed the United States and our company had three airplanes for long time. Just because you can’t do business from here, you can also not do commercially because you take a day to get somewhere and they want to come back on Friday night. You have got three days in between and that doesn’t work economically. For me, I’m coming from Chicago, I’m flying, it is busy and it is Friday night, I go through St. Louis Center, lots of chat going on. It then becomes a little quiet and finally I touchdown in Arkansas. The guys says, “Peter, good to see you back.” That was worth it.

I’ve always felt that too when I’m here or even when I go to Kansas versus in California. You feel much more grounded, settled and human. There’s some real beauty to that. One of the things also, speaking on some references that I thought was a fascinating thing and also speaks a little bit to what we’re talking about. This person had said that you’re a man who lives within his means. If it’s not something that will fit your budget or lifestyle, you live without it. That’s a philosophy. You’re also extremely generous when it comes to sharing and not expecting anything in return. Finally, you could afford a lot more than what you practice or live. I think it was interesting knowing those perspectives of not living frivolously and doing things just to do them, but also making choices to intentionally not separate, but to be involved with all types of people no matter where you’re at. That’s one thing that we talked about. Being able to live next to ordinary people and to have an ordinary life with them.

I don’t want to be exclusive. I don’t want to be locked out by being in a gated community, but keep the feet on the ground.

What is the thing that has been most beneficial for you in the 50 years that you didn’t expect? A lot of it probably wasn’t expected. What stands out to you of 50 years in the place and how this living in Cotter has impacted you as a person?

I’ll give you two examples. One, when we were operating White River Industries, we were 97% women. That was great that way, yet at the same time, one of the side issues of that is these women were generally also the caregivers in the family, for parents, for children, for sisters and brothers. There’s that middle age woman that reaches out in all into all areas. Like anywhere else, we had multiple cases of cancer. Not necessarily that person, but it is the mama who has cancer. We had no facilities here in our greater area that take care of us. They had to go to Little Rock or Springfield 2 to 3 hours away. They needed to be there weekly. That means they miss work. That means they miss pay. Out of missing pay, then it became more and more difficult to even buy the gas. At the same time, mama had to be in Little Rock and eventually there was bankruptcy. Often bankruptcy or simply no longer show up, the wheel didn’t turn. In 1989, a few others and I was saying, “We need to do something for people to get cancer treatment here.” We set out through the hospital and didn’t know exactly what to do, it’s a great hospital to help us and we helped them. We had a first fund drive that ever happened in our county and it was for the purpose of having a cancer treatment center.

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I remember that when we were six or eight sitting there as to how well could we do, the guests were somewhere between nothing and $60,000. We had the opportunity to hire because some of us knew Helen Walton and I did to get a fundraiser that they employ to build the airport over in Fayetteville to help us. He came and when he looked us over and asked questions, he says, “I don’t want you to do anything except what I tell you to do.” He realized our total ignorance. We set out, we worked, we were overwhelmed with joy because in 92 days, we raised $1.3 million. That facilitated that we could start and we could do that. We collected 97% of it, which is also a very high number. We had it done and there was a cancer treatment center. Having a cancer treatment center then facilitated back again to my associates that they had ways of not having to end up in bankruptcy. In the year 2000 or 1999, what can we do to help those that are being diagnosed with cancer? We created what we learned. My wife, Jan, was a nurse and initially in charge of all of the surgery suites and the directing. She wanted to take on this task of building a cancer support house. That was for the purpose of once a person goes into for diagnosis and saying, “You have breast cancer,” or some other cancer. What do you do? Of course, there is havoc. It’s life-changing, it’s everything for the family.

By that time, I was financially capable and I said, “I’m going to fund the house that is needed and the items that are needed within,” because they need wigs, bras and educational materials. In addition to the things that have been accomplished, we have also a form of guiding and helping people not only to be diagnosed and get treatments but also be cared for. Jan then did that for a goodly number of years. The hospital said we could expect maybe 600 to 700 people. It is now over 6,000 to 7,000 people annually. I see that as one of the real unexpected achievement. The one that I think is greater than that in sense of her life and looking back that when Jan ran that and operated that, people didn’t know that we were dating. Over several years while she was there, there was never one negative remark made by former employees about what we did at White River Industries and me. I see that as one of the main parcels.

That’s such a sweet gift to be able to have that affirmation or encouragement and see the impact. A lot of times in what we do, you don’t see that fruit and the impact that it creates. To see some of that and the vastness of that is remarkable. To be able to do that here in a place like Cotter is so sweet too. I’m grateful we’ve gotten to do round two because I think there could be about 100 rounds and there would still be 100 left. To have another chance to sit down and to dive into more stories. You’re the first repeat guest and I couldn’t get for a better one to have. What book or books have had the biggest impact on you in this season of life?

The one that has had a lot of impact on me is a book called Unstuck. It is a book that tells about waning churches and the cause of them and what needs to be done to rejuvenate. Using that and using the drive of getting things done is to build a new vision, new mission statements and with it all programs that supported. It’s going to be introduced to the church population as a whole. It has gotten the approval of the various places, authorities and hierarchies so that we can rejuvenate the church. That has been very powerful in me. I have also read the three books of Conversations with God, which is altogether different but very insightful. It’s the deep in the roots, not up in the leaves. That had been very helpful and fulfilling because if you travel these journeys and travel many of them alone, it’s nice to find compatriots. Since religion is a matter of faith rather than fact, therefore we have so many different beliefs and so many forms of Christianity and 34,000 denominations.

I’m always testing and seeing whether my beliefs are well-based. I know for them to be in that degree, the core, which is the church of Resurrection up in Kansas City. Minister Hamilton wrote a book on what he believes the Bible is about. I finished it and I feel very close to and very much in line with. He is somewhat of a reformed or thinking and working in ways of saying that when we read the Bible, we need to read it so that what was written was written for people then, and we need to see it as such and also interpreted as such. That keeps us much better in line with making the overarching what Bible is all about, much stronger than hanging on the various individual details.

What is a belief that you formally held that you no longer believe to be true?

I was more directed to the right than when I was younger and felt that the labor unions were a drag on society and there was no need for them. I believe that was correct then. In the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s, we in America so dramatically changed by removing most of the governing laws from airlines to whatever, controlling and managing these things that we now have a very small segment of the people that has gotten exceedingly wealthy out of all proportions and many others have been bypassed. I have become much more liberal. I have been much more inclined to say what we have done wrong over the last 30 years needs to be put back in balance and needs to be corrected. I was at one time a committed Republican and I’m now a left-leaning centrist.

What question do you ask yourself the most?

Always test and see whether your beliefs are well-based. That keeps you much better in line with what the Bible is all about. Click To Tweet

I’m not in a position to influence or have an answer, but I consider that what Rupert Murdoch that when he bought Fox and the political influence that he had, that he got the regulations, the laws changed with the FCC that allowed to no longer represent both sides of a political report, but to be one-sided. Until then when it goes back, you would understand it would not be edited towards a particular view, which means automatically, every action has an equal amount of reaction. It has caused immense division in our country. I think it is one of the most evil things that has happened to the United States because at all levels, it’s to the degree of violence by continually using propaganda to make the points. I was born in Germany and I learned and studied the man who was in-charge of propaganda. He had seven Doctorates and he raised fear to an unbelievable level and allowed Germany to get into conditions and actions that are unforgivable. I think that we are moving in not the same directions but certainly, the most negative things that can happen, namely divide and conquer. We are dividing ourselves. What could we do? I’m hopeless by age and position.

If you could send a morning text reminder to every Up And Comer out there, what would you say and why? It’s a text that they would get as a recurring reminder from you each morning when they wake up.

I would most likely share with them the ASK triangle. One side being Attitude, the other one being Skill and the third one being Knowledge. Those three together form the triangle and within that triangle is the mass that is you, that is me. It is a job for you to have a good life, to expand all legs of the triangle at an equal amount of growth so that it remains a 180 triangle and make that your business and make that the business of your family.

Grandpa, thank you so much for giving me the honor of sitting together again and sharing some thoughts. It is so sweet and I’m so grateful.

You’re most welcome. I told you, you now know me better than almost anyone except maybe Jan. That’s good because after all, you’re my grandson.

I feel very privileged and blessed to be called your grandson, so thank you for that.

Thank you too.

For our audience, we hope you have an up and coming week.

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About Peter Peitz

UAC 124 | Wisdom In Applying KnowledgeAs a boy, Peter grew up during the second world war in Munich Germany. In his lifetime, he lived, learned and worked in 4 countries.

Today, as an 82-year-old businessman, banker, philanthropist and bicyclist, he shares how America helped his dreams to come true and tells of the hazards along the way.

Peter currently lives in Cotter, AR with his wife Jan.

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UAC 123 | Dopamine Fasting

 

Setting goals, dopamine pathways, advertising and marketing, culture and society – these are some of the interesting things we are going talk about today as Thane Marcus Ringler interviews CRACK + CIDER Co-founder Charlotte Cramer. Charlotte shares so many interesting things including her path through advertising and marketing into behavior change, and how we listen to the mind more than the body, and vice versa. Thane and Charlotte also talk about dopamine pathways and dopamine fasting, which is similar to the art of noticing in many ways. Learn from Charlotte’s interesting brain as she shares her insights about the current workforce, what the culture and society are producing within organizations, and so much more.

Listen to the podcast here:

Fellowship ft. Charlotte Cramer: Behavior Change, Dopamine Fasting, Engaging With Your Work, And Not Setting Goals

This is a show all about learning how to live a good life, the process of becoming and we believe the best way to do that is by living with intention in the tension. Life is filled with so many tensions and we get the chance, the opportunity to live in those daily. We believe the best way to do that is with intentionality, infusing intention into all that we do. Thanks for tuning in. If you’re new, welcome. We are glad you’re a part of the Up and Comers community on joining this movement. If you wanted to give back to our community and our show, the best way is three different options. The first option takes one minute of your time and it’s leaving a rating and review on iTunes. That is such a gift to us. We would appreciate it so much if you did that. It helps other people find us and that’s a sweet way to help support our show, movement and community.

The second way is by sharing it on the socials or with a friend or a couple of people in your life that you know could benefit from it. Tag us at Up and Comers Show. You can find us on all the socials or pass it along through a text. That’s an awesome way to spread the word. The last way is if you wanted to give financially, we do have a Patreon and you can support us monthly on there. We also are actively looking for partnerships. If you have a company or organization that aligns well with what we’re about, please reach out to TheUpandComersShow@Gmail.com. That’s the best way to connect. Thanks for that.

We have a fellowship episode with Charlotte Cramer. Charlotte Cramer is an LA-based strategy consultant leveraging design thinking and neuroscience to create products, experiences and communications, which results in measurable behavior change. After working in advertising in London selling Kit Kat bars and Krispy Kreme burgers, she shifted her career to address the social and behavioral problems advertising was all too often perpetuating. Charlotte works with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles’ Innovation Studio where she leads strategy on solutions addressing a variety of challenges including opioid misuse, medication adherence and emotional resilience.

Prior to joining CHLA, she lived in San Francisco working with brands including Facebook and Google and was a strategy director of Plant B, a TV show and digital platform starring the Jon Stewart of the Middle East, Bassem Youssef. The show has inspired and enabled over ten million Arabs to decolonize their diets by eating more plants. She also Cofounded the award-winning nonprofit, Crack + Cider, which has provided essential items to over 40,000 homeless people in the UK and US. Charlotte enjoys speaking and writing about the subjects of design thinking and behavior change strategy at the likes of Cannes Lions, South By Southwest, Rock Health, HIMSS, University of the Arts London and The Huffington Post.

She is pursuing a Master’s degree in Applied Neuroscience. There are a lot of great things going on and I absolutely loved this conversation with Charlotte who also goes by Charley. This conversation was pretty wide-ranging. There are so many great insights and a fun conversation. We talk about her path through advertising and marketing into behavior change, which is interesting. We talked a lot about psychology and how we listen to the mind more than the body and how we need to reverse that. We talked all about dopamine pathways and dopamine fasting, which is similar to the art of noticing in many ways. We talked about the current workforce and what the culture and society are producing within organizations. She had some helpful thoughts on it that I was struck by deeply. We also talk about setting a goal and she being in a season where she’s not setting any goals, which is cool to hear her perspective on that too. All that to say, this is going to be a thought-provoking conversation. I’ll let you get to it. Please enjoy this conversation with Charlotte Cramer.

Charley Cramer, welcome to The Up and Comers Show.

Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.

The pleasure’s all mine. We met in 2018 and the first conversation we had after we met, my mind was already thinking about how awesome it will be to have you on for a show. I’m glad that we finally made it here.

That’s very kind. I passed the first interview.

First off, I’d like to hear how you came to the name Charley off of your original name.

I thought it was cool and I thought Charlotte sounded so posh and I was picked on at school for being posh. It’s nice that in America, I don’t get that people say, “I love your accent.” Whereas when I go back to London or I meet people from the UK, that’s the first thing they say. Now they say, “You have an American accent.”

That’s the worst. You get made fun of now probably more back there than here, I’m guessing.

Yes, although I picked up the phone on a team call and my coworker thought it was an American coworker. She was like, “You’ve been here too long. I thought you had an American accent.”

How long have you been here?

I moved to San Francisco in 2016 but I’ve been in LA for a year.

Give a little bit of overview of the last 5 to 6 years of your life and where you’ve been, what you’ve done.

A few years ago, I was working in advertising in the UK and running a nonprofit with my friend Scarlet. I moved to San Francisco to move away from advertising and towards tech. Rather than the output of my work to be communications, I wanted to think about how you could create products that people want rather than creating communications to make people want products. I moved to San Francisco and after about 1.5 years, I realized very quickly that we were using the same techniques and understanding of neuroscience and psychology and behavioral economics. Rather than getting people addicted to a product like candy or burgers, we were getting people addicted to their devices. That didn’t sit very well with me. Shortly after that, I spent about a year working on a nutrition campaign for the Middle East. It was the first PSA on nutrition for the region.

They’re seeing about 75% of their population are dealing with obesity and the related co-morbidities. I advised a team on how they could change behavior in the region and change people from eating these absolutely delicious but ultimately deadly foods towards eating the foods that are grown in the region. That’s what their ancestors ate. Following that, I wanted to focus on health and thinking about how could I use my expertise and behavior change and improve people’s health with that. Now, I’m working with the Children’s Hospital in LA and I’m studying neuroscience to try and deepen that expertise.

UAC 123 | Dopamine Fasting

 

I know that kindred spirit-ness that we feel at night. I loved that the initial conversation was around that desire for thinking about behavior change in a way that will benefit society versus harm society. It’s fascinating even in that short description of how your experience within different spaces and the growing disenchantment with each one along the way of seeing, “There’s something bigger at play here and it’s actually not that helpful.” What sparked the initial desire for behavior change for you?

I think it probably comes from having a mother who’s a psychologist, who every time I did something, would try and understand why I did it and how she could make me do something differently. It was also seeing the dynamic between parents and people around me with that lens of psychology applied to it, realizing that the way you get someone to do something isn’t by telling them to do that thing. There are 100 other ways that you get them to do that thing. Working in advertising cemented that even further. I’m fascinated by the fact that there are so much energy, attention and money being placed on getting you to do things that are for the benefit of other organizations or other people. It means that oftentimes we’re doing things that we don’t even want to do. Most people will wake up and if you ask them, “What do you want to do now?” They’ll say, “Eat healthy, go to the gym, see my friends, call my grandparents.” Is that what they’re doing? No. The reason they’re not doing it is that there’s so much energy put into stopping you from doing those things and doing other things that are ultimately harming you. I’m fascinated by thinking about how can we apply all of the knowledge and science and understanding that organizations place on getting you to do things that benefit them to help you do stuff that benefit yourself.

It is such a massive thing. Even hearing you talk about it now, it’s something that I think about constantly too because that’s my emphasis and line of work as well. You’re 100% right, we have to learn this usually early on, that it’s not about telling people something. It’s about creating an environment for them to come to those conclusions that will benefit themselves. That is a complex dynamic environment that takes a lot of strategies and a lot of facilitating to get there.

You seem like a very disciplined person. Are there any times that you do stuff that isn’t in line with what you planned to do that day?

Yes. I am human. For example, this is a funny story but willpower has a diminishing nature to it, meaning throughout the day it diminishes. That’s real because it takes energy to make conscious choices and we can train our unconscious choices, our habits and get those dialed. They still take energy to do, especially when it’s going upstream versus downstream. For example, my sister and her business partner had a party. I remember going and it was fun. It was later at night I left and for some reason, they had a bunch of Trader Joe’s sheet cakes there. I can’t remember why they had them, but all the guests could leave with a Trader Joe’s sheet cake. I was like, “Sure,” and I left. I get back home and it’s like 11:30. It was 11:00, I had to load up all my coffee stuff for the event the next day at church and I got done loading up and that sheet cake was sitting there and I was like, “This is so good.” I sat down at 11:30 after all the work and I ate half of this sheet cake.

At least you didn’t eat the whole thing.

I felt horrible. I was regretting it. I was like, “What are you doing?” To answer your question, yes, there are undoubtedly times where discipline isn’t what I would like it to be in my mind, but you bring up an important point that self-discipline is one of the biggest myths. If you look at the fundamentals of what’s missing, that’s probably one of the number one thing that have been slowly removing from each person’s lives. It’s not a personal thing. It’s a societal thing that our world is geared towards grabbing and holding our attention versus creating environments where we can foster our own ability to do that. Golf is a thing that gave me such a gift in that because I was forced to develop as much discipline as I possibly could. It was a requirement because golf is such a mentally-challenging sport. I had no other option. What do you think about the concept of self-discipline within our society? How do you see that being facilitated? How do you see it in your own life?

In my own life, I’m sure it’s the same as everyone I know and love. It’s so challenging and I feel like I go through phases of being super disciplined, so proud of myself, crushing it, doing everything I want to do and then I’ll eat the whole sheet cake. I don’t know why that’s happening and I genuinely struggle with it. For someone who studies behavior change in neuroscience, I am baffled by the fact that I can’t crack this for myself and I definitely want to spend the next few years focusing on how I address that.

When do you find discipline being the hardest? What do you see as the things or the obstacles that stand in the way?

Saying no to food in partnership with someone has this deeper ramification of rejecting someone's love. Click To Tweet

Definitely the time of day is real. It’s easy to be disciplined at breakfast. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten an unhealthy breakfast unless I’ve been hungover, which happens once a year. In the evening, it’s true. It’s diminishing. It’s genuinely a hormone and it diminishes throughout the day, so that’s real. Otherwise I find social interactions make it much harder. It’s something that we talk about a lot when it comes to smoking or drinking, social drinking, social smoking. We don’t talk about social eating. That’s real for me. It’s something that I talk to my partner about a lot. When you’re brought up in a culture, and this might be true for most cultures where food isn’t about sustenance and nutrition, it’s also about sharing love in a sense, camaraderie, community and conversation. You build that bond over food. That’s something that is innate to humans. Food in itself represents your relationship. Saying no to food in partnership with someone has this deeper ramification of rejecting someone’s love or something that’s intangible that I don’t think we’ve truly explored the extent of or the impact of on health.

It is true. I love that you brought that up because growing up in the Midwest and being there, the difference between living in LA versus living in the Midwest on what you eat is massive, it’s not even funny. It shows the power of culture and the environment we are shaped by. I say this all the time, but I would not be the person I am now if I hadn’t lived in California for the last several years, for better or worse. There’s no right or wrong about that. That’s the reality. People in Kansas where I grew up, if they hadn’t lived in California, they aren’t going to act or think the way that I do because they haven’t lived in California. I wouldn’t either. That’s a cultural, environmental thing.

It is an intentional conscious design or at least intentionality around your environment and trying to shape it so that it helps us live out who we want to be. It’s that integrity piece. I think there is a measure of grace needed. There is beauty in chocolate cake. It brings joy and brings a lot of pleasure and that’s a good thing in moderation. Those are things that we can celebrate with. I’ve erred on those too far at times. It has become this robotic, self-deprecating thing that you’ll never give yourself anything that you want. That’s not living either.

It all comes down to loving yourself. Honestly, the times that I find it the hardest are when maybe for a period I’ve eaten healthily, I’ve been working out, I’m sleeping the right amount of hours, doing work, and then it comes to a point where I break and I realized that I’d been doing all of those things. There’s this voice in my head saying, “You’re ugly, you’re stupid, you’re not working hard enough. You’re fat, you need to do this, you need to do better.” Ultimately at some point, you’ll break and want to rebel against that negative hating voice in your head. I’ve been trying to recognize that and think about how can I eat healthily with love for myself rather than hatred.

That is flipping the thing on its head. That’s a complete 180. This is such a sweet thing that you brought it up because self-love is something that is trending to talk about now. People sometimes roll their eyes at it. There’s this weird response to it, but if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s the hardest thing to do. Loving yourself in a way that’s truly loving and sometimes love is hard. You love things that you don’t want. Love is not just a feeling. It’s a choice in that and loving yourself is the hardest thing to do. The easiest path is beating yourself up or giving in to the temptation of whatever it may be, but truly loving yourself, I don’t think it can be overstated how important that is and also how hard that is especially when it comes to food or any category.

When you eat out of that place, then it’s redeeming of it. It brings the true value to it. It’s funny how counterintuitive it actually is when you’re in the moment. This is fascinating because the book, Antifragile, by Nassim Taleb, he talks about this too in the realm of eating that fasting is a way to create antifragility within us. It’s saying, “I’m not going to eat so that I create a body that operates better in the midst of all the change,” because now it can adapt and be present and primed in either environment. That’s another thing that in America has been left behind. Have you done much with fasting?

I haven’t and I’ve been thinking a lot about it. I have a friend who did a ten-day fast I believe in Siberia or Russia. Maybe it was two weeks without even water, which no one thought was possible. Obviously, since then I’ve become incredibly interested in it. She’s in Santa Fe doing a fast. You might know her. Another friend is suffering from severe digestive issues, so I started researching whether fasting could help him. I believe in the benefit of it. When you think about the way that our ancestors ate, they definitely didn’t eat three big meals three times a day. Our bodies genuinely do need that time to direct that energy to other parts of your body. It makes sense on a very simple level.

With that in mind, there’s something else that I’ve been thinking about and testing. It hasn’t been successful, but there might be something in it. It’s basically based on this premise that our brains are dumb. Our brains are designed to help us survive in an environment that we lived in thousands and thousands of years ago. They are not adapted to live in this environment. However, our stomachs are better at telling us for example, when we need to eat or maybe even when we talk about gut feeling or having a sense of something. I’ve been thinking in relation to food. I use this example because it’s easy for people to relate to and understand rather than listening to your brain when it says, “We should be eating now. I want you to eat,” it’s to listen to your stomach and only eat when your stomach is rumbling.

It’s talking to you, telling you that you need to eat. Often, I will eat because it’s 1:00 PM. Some people fancy a glass of wine because it’s 6:00 PM or 7:00 PM. Rather than listening to our brains, listening to our bodies can help. Fasting probably helps you reconnect with your body. I have also become fascinated by the dopaminergic system in your brain. That’s the pathways in your brain that release dopamine and they’re related to reward. On a simple level, the pathways help you do things that sustain your survival, eating, drinking water, having sex, hanging out with friends, anything that helps you and your population survive. Every time you do it, your brain says to you, “That was good. Keep doing that thing.”

UAC 123 | Dopamine Fasting

 

We have a certain number of receptors that hear that dopamine, but unfortunately organizations, businesses, corporations have created a product that releases an unnatural amount of dopamine. Rather than, let’s say the 10% of dopamine that we would get from natural things like eating a plate of vegetables or hanging out with your friend having a hug, your brain is releasing 10x that. The result of that is suddenly that plate of vegetables or that hug doesn’t feel that great anymore because your brain adapts. Your brain physiologically adapts to reduce the number of receptors to the dopamine so that your brain is not overwhelmed because dopamine is toxic in your brain and it then doesn’t feel the same pleasure when you do those things. You have to seek out more and more. I’ve become interested in the idea of dopamine fasting or dopamine deprivation to help reevaluate or restate the things that we should have a positive relationship with. I have a feeling that fasting probably does the same and can teach us to reevaluate our relationship with food and enjoy human amounts of normal, natural foods in the way that our brains are designed for us to enjoy.

It made me think of a quote by CS Lewis because it relates to novelty. He said that novelty is of all things the most susceptible to the Law of Diminishing Returns, meaning you get that more and more novelty for it to be novel itself. It’s true for dopamine. In that sense, it is a novelty. It is a novelty that your body is experiencing in some capacity, but you have to have more and more for it to continue being novel. That dopamine fasting, I love that concept. I subscribed to a newsletter called The Art of Noticing. It’s an awesome weekly newsletter. This guy wrote a book on it. I can’t remember even the guy’s name now, which is horrible. I wish I could plug it, but I can’t because I can’t remember the name.

It’s all about finding beauty in the mundane, noticing the simplest of things and rewiring that dopamine pathway of finding the reward in the mundane, beautiful, simple things. It’s a fascinating newsletter. One of the times it was this concept of subway restaurants and what it’s like the most, mundane, designed subway restaurant, plain building you’ve ever seen in your life and you’re like, “Was this by intention or by chance?” It’s fascinating. There’s something beautiful in that and it’s going to take a lot of work because everything is the complete opposite of that.

I do think that on a physiological level, it’s the deprivation and the fasting from dopamine. We need to change those pathways. There is so much benefit that can be gained from appreciating and noticing, but we need to extract ourselves from this dopamine overload to reconfigure our brains. The research says we can do that in a span of nine days. I have no doubt that you will be able to book a dopamine detox vacation. It’s going to be the most boring vacation of your life, but that’s the goal because when you come back, everything is going to be amazing.

It’s true. It’s a family thing, but I’m going with my family on also a technology detox. No phones or computers and it’s being present in this cabin in the woods for four days, not quite nine days.

You’ll get 50% of your receptors back.

I’m excited for that. Honestly, every time I make space to meditate, my body, my mind and my soul thanks me. That’s was interesting. You were talking about, the brains are dumb, but the stomachs are much more the trusted guides in a lot of ways. I think you’re onto it there because there is so much coming out about the brain-gut connection and how much dysfunction in that connection has caused many issues for so many people and it’s super destructive. My grandfather and I were actually talking about this. In modern society we put much emphasis on the brain, the intellect and in the scientific theory and understanding things, which again is great. It’s not to say that’s a bad thing. Those are awesome, but if all our emphasis is on the brain and in understanding, we lose the intuition, we lose the feeling, we lose the connection to our gut which is probably the most trusted guide there is.

I’m excited to see the research that comes out in the next 5, 10 years on that relationship. It’s going to be fascinating.

It’s already started. It’s already begun, but there will be much more that we’ll know soon hopefully. In light of where we are as a society, if we’re pivoting back to the self-discipline side and all of these are a part of that, if we look at a parallel vein of that, the current workforce and in light of the culture we’re in has a hard time being engaged with their work. That is less personal as it is cultural and societal, so it’s not an individual problem as much as a cultural problem. What do you see as other contributing factors to that that eliminate our ability to have self-discipline or engagement in what we’re doing and also reduces the quality of our work?

The concept of working from nine to five was designed for very formulaic, process-driven work. Click To Tweet

At a simple level, our jobs were very much designed for factory work and the way that we work has not evolved much since the invention of Ford’s 9:00 to 5:00. It has to. We are doing very different work. I know a lot of organizations have shifted away from that, but the majority still stands. The concept of working from 9:00 to 5:00 was designed for formulaic, process-driven work. Right now, the real value that most of the audience can contribute to the workforce is in lateral creative thinking. That does not happen between set hours, so you have a problem there. On top of that, we’re hiring managers or promoting people to managerial positions without giving them managerial training or responsibilities.

You have people who were good at the job in managerial positions and people under them who aren’t being given the tasks that they should be given to grow. This happens because it is not in a manager’s best interest to delegate work because they aren’t being judged on their managerial capabilities. They’re being judged on their outputs. If you are a manager, what is the incentive to give the biggest projects to someone who’s underneath you, who hasn’t done them before, who might mess up? If you have a project that you have an opportunity to prove yourself or to do something great, you’re going to take it on yourself. That ultimately means that unless you’re at a managerial level, those projects that will stretch you and that will help you reach your potential aren’t being given to you.

The biggest knock-on effect of that is the fact that it’s counter-intuitive. As humans, we feel our best when we’re terrified. We’re scared of messing up because the risk is there. Also, when we do our best work is when we push ourselves. From working out, you don’t grow bigger muscles if you’re lifting weights that are easy for you even if you’re lifting them every day. Nothing’s going to change. If anything, your muscles will diminish. You have to lift weights that literally tear your muscles and it’s only in the repair that your muscles grow. It’s been proven through research that the same is true intellectually and in the workplace. Managers are not giving their staff projects that tear those intellectual muscles. They’re being given too easy projects. People are not scared at work. Managers are scared that engagement is at an all-time low because there’s too much work on people’s plates. They’re overburdened or they’re working too many hours, they’re getting emails late at night. You can think about it not in terms of breadth or quantity of work. It’s the quality of in-depth work that we’re missing. That’s preventing our generation from growing and reaching our potential. It’s a huge loss.

Lack of depth, that is partly to blame for the culture that hasn’t been created from the startup world. It’s about the meteoric rise as fast as possible, which removes the foundation that sustains the depth. Maybe it’s a different model. Maybe that’s fine that the first movers always crashed and burned and the people that come behind them do it in a sustainable way and that’s the point. It’s interesting because one thing I’ve been thinking about is how much do we think about sustainability in this? The depth of work is much more sustainable than the scale of work, and one’s going down and one is going up in a lot of ways.

One of them is going to make you better over the long-term and over that long-term be able to optimize your output and quality of the output. Whereas if your job is to make a thousand-item long list of easy tasks, which has the experience of most people in mid-level positions, then you’re never going to get better at doing that. You can only write an email in so much time and computers will do that for us very soon. Gmail is already pretty good at guessing what I’m going to say. We need to be intellectually-challenged and deepen our expertise there. For the foreseeable future, for the next 10, 20 years, at least the rest of our careers are things that humans will have an advantage of a machine.

It’s interesting because even coming back from a trip, I had a long list of to-dos and I end up leaving feeling like I didn’t get that much accomplished because I got a lot on my task list then, but I never moved the ball forward. It’s funny because when I’m planning it out, it seemed like it makes sense. While I’m doing it, it seems like it makes sense. Looking back on it, it only makes partial sense. These needed to get done and I got them done, but what did that accomplish? Not that much. It’s humbling to think about that. It applies to all of us, whatever the role, whether you’re self-employed or you’re within the organization or you’re managing other people. What you mentioned was profound on all levels. I love all the points you brought up. The 9:00 to 5:00 framework, to start there, it’s funny. To think that something has been in place for that long because it’s always been in place. It is mind-blowing and we all assume that it’s correct nationally.

I can’t remember the name, but it was interesting to see the organization that’s trialing the four-day workweek in Japan. Is it Google or Ford? I don’t know but they’re trialing a four-day workweek in Japan and they’ve seen an increase in productivity of 48%.

I saw a stat on that too. Think about how much productivity is found when you instill things like siestas. The reason why they have an afternoon siesta, part of it is that their ultradian rhythms are facilitating that. Our bodies are wired for a rest period between 1:00 to 3:00 PM naturally, so it’s not even rocket science. It’s more physiological science.

Listen to your body.

UAC 123 | Dopamine Fasting

 

It’s not that hard to think differently about this. It’s an understanding that that can be changed. You’re going upstream so it’s going to be hard to do that in light of your peers or your other organizations that may be in a similar space. I get that there are obstacles, but I do think that is a very outdated thing and does need to be changed. I love what you brought up the lateral creative thinking and that only comes when there’s space to do it. It goes back to the task list again.

The reason I moved to LA is primarily that I felt as though in San Francisco, there was no space for creative thinking because people who are earning $150,000 feel broke. That has an impact on the mental space that you feel in your day-to-day to think outside of the tasks that you have to accomplish in order to survive in that city. It has such a knock-on effect on culture. Whereas you feel in LA, there’s physically more space, but there’s also more space mentally to be creative and the creativity here is phenomenal. It gets mind-blowing.

In the same sense, it is completely different than when I’m in the Midwest. It is probably a ten-step down function of load that I feel in the Midwest versus here from the pace of the environment, the inputs, the noise, the stressors, the financial stressors, the time pressures, all those things are reduced much lower and it’s amazing how much more clarity even there I have. It’s a different environment in the sense of it reduces the urgency that facilitates a lot of the creativity out of here, but it creates even more space for the lateral thinking, which is interesting.

It brings up two things. Firstly, maybe I misstated this about solely mental space days, creativity. I think you also need input. If you’re in a place that you have mental space, I don’t even know if that’s a phrase that other people use but we’ve been talking about it a lot and intercept it with input from as many diverse sources as possible, then that’s where creativity is fueled. What was the last thing you said?

It was about the pressures, the noise, attention, the load that’s on you in versus in LA versus the Midwest comparatively. That space creates more room for lateral thinking, but it is different in that there’s not the sense of urgency that is out here. It’s interesting because there are trade-offs in all of that. When I think about the Midwest, while I do have the lower load, lower stress and lower inputs and I have more room to think and more peace and clarity around that, I also have less desire for it. You’re also actually having to work harder in some senses because it is counter-cultural to think progressively or to act and create things that are new versus going with what’s in place.

Back to that dopamine story, if you’re not getting rewarded for investing in creative thinking, then you wouldn’t do it. Maybe that’s our third factor, you have to be rewarded.

That’s real. One of the things that you mentioned too, the lack of managerial training, that’s fascinating. It’s partly because of the transiency found in the workforce, there’s no longer this big vocational pathway. It’s hopping from here to there. That’s not good or bad. It’s the way it is. It provides straight-offs again but because of that, we’ve lost the understanding that a position of management has very little to do with the actual functions of the role itself and more about human management, human performance and understanding how humans are wired and then bringing the best out of them in. We’ve lost that process because it’s not as much of a ladder anymore that we’re going up.

To the same point, I didn’t think it’s rewarded. You’re rewarded much more by culture and monetarily by your organization for executional work rather than the management of people. It’s treating people like humans and understanding subtle cues and working with them, promoting them. That’s exacerbated by a broader, very individualistic culture.

Have you read High Output Management by Andrew Grove? I read it and it’s been highly recommended by a lot of people as a staple. It’s one of those staples for management. It’s written by a person who was the Intel CEO for a while. It’s a beautiful description of what a manager’s role is and how to think about it in a complete but simple way, which shows mastery in many ways. What you hit though is so important is that it’s all about incentives. There’s a podcast I heard on Tim Ferriss’ podcast with the guy and he was talking about how in companies, there’s a CEO and COO, there should then be the CIO, the Chief Incentives Officer that is completely focused on strategically using incentives to leverage humans because that’s what we need. Incentives drive us. If we aren’t optimizing it, we’re losing a lot of potential within our whole workforce. A lot of times this is not like, “If you do this, you get a bonus. It’s a weak incentive.”

Genuinely taking a moment to take a step back and processing at a different brain level what's going on around you can be very helpful. Click To Tweet

It’s a terrible incentive. We know it doesn’t work. According to Dan Ariely’s research, he found that it’s more effective if a manager sends you a text message in the evening to say you did good today rather than guessing a 10% bonus at the end of the year when you look at productivity. That research was done in a Nissan factory. Take that with a pinch of salt, but that shows that the way that we incentivize doesn’t reflect what we know about human behavior. I would be interested in evolving the idea of an incentive officer to a motivation officer and understanding what is an individual’s motivation in accomplishing a particular task and thinking about how you can improve upon that intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. It’s thinking about what someone wants for themselves and is driving them to mastery, but then also thinking about some of those extrinsic factors, whether it’s a free lunch, a text message or a pizza party.

The order is super important because if you don’t understand the intrinsic, there’s no way that extrinsic matters and it has to be connected to it. It always has to start with the intrinsic motivation. That’s something that I’m working on too in the company. It’s a program around engagement and creating intrinsic motivation within individuals because I believe that part of the problem is we’ve lost our ability to understand what we’re motivated by it in the first place. That’s self-awareness. It’s seeing ourselves objectively enough to know this is what’s motivating me to do this and putting the dots together so then we can start having some conscious thought around it versus being unconsciously controlled without us even knowing.

Why do you think we’ve lost touch with our intrinsic motivators?

Overstimulation can be number one. It’s the wiring of our dopamine system that’s hacking the system for financial gain or harm to us, which goes into overstimulation in many ways. At the end of the day, it’s noise, which is the simplest way to say it. There’s a great quote by Wynton Marsalis, “The difference between noise and music is that noise is two sounds not related to each other and music is two sounds related to each other.” That’s such a small difference. The only way we can create music within ourselves and within life is if we first eliminate the noise so that we can start understanding how to create the music. Once we eliminate the noise consciously and start sitting with ourselves and understanding ourselves, we can then create music out of that. There is a lot of fear that people have around that silence, around the process of sitting with themselves and understanding themselves because there are always things that we don’t want to see in that. What are your thoughts on what is keeping people from understanding their intrinsic motivators?

I think it’s probably the same as what you said. There are so many extrinsic motivators that give us short-term gratification that we forget about what the more long-term impact could be and how good that feels over time. Going back to the beginning of our conversation, the short-term gratification of your sheet cake is much better, more accessible and easier than the long-time gratification of feeling not bloated and feeling great when you wake up the next day. Why would I make a decision for my future self? I want to make a decision for me now. There are so many easily accessible solutions that address you now.

That’s the individualistic society too, the autonomy of self, that’s a real downside of it. There have been benefits of it for sure, but that is a thing that is as a society is probably one of the greatest detriments to our nation and to our society as humans. It’s the loss of a sense of a connection to a greater whole. We’re one piece of the puzzle that is America, the UK or whatever it may be. That you have a role within the larger whole to preserve and protect it and provide for the future. It’s not just about our generation. What about the five generations to come or 120 years down the road? That changes our way of thinking, but we’re so in the now and we’re so focused on the self that we lose what’s ahead of us and what we’re preserving for others in that sense.

Something that’s helped me and it’s not something that I’ve used often, but there are moments that it can be powerful is to answer the question of what could we potentially do now that will still have an impact 100 years down the road. It’s something that I picked up from some architects who were talking at South by Southwest and they said they love being architects although it’s a huge responsibility because what they create will potentially or has the potential to be that in 100 years. The stuff we make, we never think about that. We never think about our industry in 100 years because we’re not going to be there. There are other cultures that are more connected with that intergenerational narrative who do think about what they’re providing their great-great-great-grandchildren. In my last job in advertising, we had an extensive conversation about what will be the impact societally of the advertising industry in a hundred years. Do we want that to be a good thing or a bad thing? We have it as a decision that we have to make now in order to determine what’s the answer to that in a hundred years.

It brings more responsibility to it. I wrote a blog post on this, that taking on responsibility is one of the greatest keys for being an intrinsically-motivated person because ultimately what that is saying, “This decision doesn’t just affect me. It affects those around me or the people depending on me or the people to come.” We’ve lost our emphasis or desire on taking responsibility and seeing responsibility as a good thing and also instilling that in the younger generations from a societal level. College doesn’t accomplish that. It probably prevents that or prolongs that. Things like inserting a couple of years between high school and college to either work or be in the world to figure out who you are, what you’re about and how the world works is so helpful. Israel does it with military service. That’s actually helpful for discipline. There are a lot of ways to do it. It’s hard to change the system that’s in place always.

That reminds me of one of my favorite ads. I hate to say ads because I’ve been telling you about leaving advertising, but it was in a swimming pool. I used to be a swimmer. I used to compete. It was in a swimming pool and in the lockers, they had a sticker from Speedo and it said, “Swim for the person in the lane next to you.” The interesting thing about swimming is that your personal best is always going to be tied to the person who is swimming in the lane next to you. There’s such a tangible ramification of the speed at which you swim, having an impact on the people around you like what you were talking about. I loved that.

UAC 123 | Dopamine Fasting

 

That is a beautiful framework of thinking and it’s so true. I say this all the time, but I was born on third base and thought I hit a triple. It’s an understanding that we didn’t choose the family we’ve grown in, the place we are born, the people that were in our lives, the opportunities we were given, those were given to us. I interviewed this guy, Lanny Hunter. He brought up the bootstrapping myth that we pull ourselves up around bootstraps and that is a complete myth and a lie. You never do. There are always people that facilitate that from top to bottom. We are never our own maker of anything. It’s always supported by those around us in that process, whether we’re conscious of it or not. It takes a level of humility that is foundational for building something that lasts and that isn’t helpful for you, but for those around you. The last thing to mention before we’re done is last time we talked, you talked about being in a different season in life and it’s this period of rest where you’ve consciously stopped obsessing over goals and creating goals for yourself. I’d love to hear you share a little bit more about how this came about and what it’s brought.

It was interesting. You’ve probably got some feeling for now of this anti-capitalist sentiment. I think that’s founded upon like this background in advertising and ultimately recognizing that what we are doing through selling you something is saying that right now at this moment you are not as great as you could be. You are not enough, but if you buy this thing or do this thing, you will be enough. You will be closer to being your best self. I had this realization probably on a drive or swimming, which is where most of my realizations happen, that setting goals wasn’t dissimilar. There’s a part of setting a goal that is saying to yourself, “I’m not happy in the moment, I’m not enough right now, but once I accomplish this thing in the future and once I’ve checked these things off my list and once I get press coverage in this newspaper or landed this interview on this show, I’m doing it, then I will be enough. I’ll be happy and then I’ll have accomplished the thing.” We all know what happens as soon as you have accomplished that task, you don’t even take a moment to celebrate it and you move on to the next thing on your list.

I felt this sickening frustration with that, always having a goals list and what I wanted to do next. I looked around and I thought, “I am lucky and happy to be where I am and grateful. I want to take some time to enjoy where I am now rather than focusing on what’s next or what potential goal I could accomplish.” It was challenging because a lot of that thought process involved me questioning whether maybe I’m doing that because I’m being lazy. Maybe this is a cop-out because I am scared of accomplishing my goals. These were conversations I had but I have to say after maybe three months of consciously forcing myself not to set goals, not to think about what was going to be my next interview I would do or panel I would speak on, which is ridiculous, but to enjoy life as it is and being in LA, working at the hospital, studying, seeing friends, making deeper relationships with those friends.

Interestingly, it was in that period that I felt like I gained the most clarity over what I want to do next. That was powerful for me. It wasn’t something I planned. I didn’t think I need to take a step away from this that I gained clarity, but it came by accident and it was around not obsessing over it. I recommend it. Stop setting goals. Enjoy what you’re doing now. You probably got to this place by setting lots of goals there. Maybe take a break, look around, get off the train. You’re halfway there. Enjoy it.

That’s the best advice there probably could ever be given. It’s funny as it goes back to what we were talking about is that there’s the self-critic versus self-love. The self-critic is the voice in the head saying, “I’m being lazy. This is a cop-out.” It’s funny how that starts speaking when we’re often on the right path. That can almost be a good indicator that we are on the right path if we’re hearing those louder like, “I’m on the right path. These are trying to get my way.” We know when we’re being faithful and that’s the key. Are we being faithful? That’s a much different thing than, “Are we achieving, accomplishing, acquiring something?” I don’t think that’s the point. It’s about being faithful to what’s in front of us, to taking that next step, to doing the best we can with where we’re at and what we’re given. That’s always within our grasp. That’s always something that we can do.

This echoes a lot of the conversation that we’ve had. Someone said to me, “If you’re finding something difficult, slow down. That sounds simple and ridiculous. How is that a piece of advice? When you think about it on a neurological level or a personal growth level, it’s so powerful, even in appreciating those moments on a neurological level. I’ve seen it on your bookshelf, so I know you’ve read it. For the audience, if you’ve read Thinking Fast And Slow by Daniel Kahneman, you understand the neuroscience basis of that advice. Genuinely taking a moment to take a step back process at a different brain level, quite literally what’s going on around you can be very helpful. I’ve decided to slow down a lot in life. It feels good. It’s scary because I’m like, “Should I be going faster? This is much nicer.”

That’s loving yourself. I posted a quote by Beethoven, “To play a wrong note is insignificant. To play without passion is inexcusable.” There are going to be times where we mess up and there are going to be times where we were playing a wrong note. That’s okay. That’s life. Don’t beat yourself up about it, as much as there are times where you go fast and there are times when you go a little slower. To do it without passion or excellence at that moment and going slow is harder than going fast. Going slow well is the point.

Maybe if the world around you is going fast, the most counter-cultural thing you can do is sit and be still. A friend asked me what did I want to manifest for my 29th year? It was my birthday. I toyed between stillness and groundedness. Groundedness turns out isn’t a word, but you know what I mean. I was only allowed one word, so there we go. That feels right and it reminds me of something. You’ve clearly seen photography of someone standing still with a long exposure of people rushing around them probably in Tokyo. It’s about feeling that power and deciding to stand still in one place. That might be more revolutionary than fighting these days.

I have two last one-off questions for you. The first question is what’s a belief you formerly held that you no longer believe to be true?

That you need to eat meat to look hot.

The last question we ask every guest that comes on. If you could send a morning text reminder to every up and comer out there, what would you send and why? This would be a text they’d get every morning as a reminder from you.

Breathe, with no period.

I like it. Let it go. It’s good. Charley, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people find some more about what you’re up to, the work you’re doing or connect?

They can find me on Twitter, @CharlotteCramer, on Instagram, @CharleyCramer and through my website, CharlotteCramer.com.

We’ll love for people to check out and connect with you there. Until next time, we’re going to have round two. This was too much fun. Thank you so much. We hope you have an up and coming week.

Important Links: 

About Charlotte Cramer

UAC 123 | Dopamine FastingCharley Cramer is an LA-based Strategy Consultant leveraging Design Thinking and Neuroscience to create products, experiences and communications which result in measurable behavior change. After working in advertising in London selling KIT KAT bars and Krispy Kreme burgers, she shifted her career to address the social and behavioral problems advertising was all too often perpetuating.

Charley currently works with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Innovation Studio where she leads strategy on solutions addressing a variety of challenges including opioid misuse, medication adherence and emotional resilience.

Prior to joining CHLA, she lived in San Francisco, working with brands including Facebook and Google and was the Strategy Director of “Plant B”: a TV show and digital platform starring the ‘Jon Stewart of the Middle East’, Bassem Youssef. The show has inspired and enabled >10 million Arabs to decolonize their diets by eating more plants.

She also Co-Founded the award-winning non-profit CRACK + CIDER which has provided essential items to over 40,000 homeless people in the U.K. and U.S. Charley enjoys speaking and writing about the subjects of Design Thinking and Behavior Change Strategy at the likes of Cannes Lions, SXSW, Rock Health, HIMSS, University of the Arts, London, and The Huffington Post. She is also currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Applied Neuroscience.

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UAC 122 | Engagement

 

Would your life be better if you can do anything that you want? In this short but sweet solo episode, Thane Marcus Ringler dives deep into what it really means to have a purposeful life. Learn how having responsibilities add joy and meaning to your existence and why being engaged in life makes a difference. Thane reveals his childhood quest to play a role and be proven capable and competent. Discover how a possibility of failure contributes to your success in life.

Listen to the podcast here:

Engagement, Meaning, Responsibility

This is all about learning how to live a good life. We believe that fundamentally, it takes living with intention in the tension. That is our catchy mantra coined by my brother, Adam Setser. It’s what we believe is the key to living a good life. It’s living with intentionality and infusing it into all that we do. That is what we’re about and we get to do that. You’ll see solo episodes, peer-to-peer conversations and you’ll also hear interviews, deep dives into somebody’s story, unpacking the lessons they’ve learned and sharing it with you. That is what we’re here for. Thanks for tuning in and joining the Up and Comers Movement and Community. We’re so glad you’re here.

If you appreciate what we’re doing and you want to help, give back and support us because the feeling is mutual, then there are three easy ways. The first way, the easiest way, is taking one minute of your time and leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. That’s an awesome way to help us be seen by more people. We couldn’t be more grateful to have your support that way. It does help out. The second way is simply sharing this episode with someone in your community, someone that you think needs to read it. Someone that you think that would be blessed by it. You could even post it on the socials and tag us, @UpAndComersShow. That’s a great way to spread the word. The third way is by supporting us financially through Patreon. If you wanted to be a monthly donator, that’s a great place to do it. We are on Patreon. You could also email us with other feedback, questions or if you wanted to partner with us. We are actively looking for partners with our show. If you have a business or an organization that is aligned with our mission, definitely reach out the UpAndComersShow@Gmail.com. You can find us on all the socials, @UpAndComersShow. Our website as always is TheUpAndComersShow.com.

This is a solo episode. I’m going to drop some thoughts for you. I’m going to dive in because there are a lot of words to say. I do hope that this idea and this topic is helpful for you. It’s something I’ve been putting a lot of time, energy and effort into as I’m rolling out a program for different corporations and companies to help with the engagement of the workforce. Engagement is something that has been perennially low in our society and culture. The first thing to say about that is it’s not a personal issue. It’s not necessarily an individual issue. It’s more of a societal and cultural issue at play that affects the individual in a major way. Where does engagement come from? We’re not going to talk about why it’s there. We’re not going to talk about how it’s there, how it’s expressed. I’m more concerned with practically speaking, individually speaking, what can we do about it?

The first question is where does engagement come from? I believe it comes from a few places. The first is having a reason to be engaged. Engagement comes from an underlying reason that motivates us to be engaged with something. This is both the specific reason for the thing that you’re engaged with and your underlying purpose for why you were engaged in anything in the first place. It’s your foundational why and the specific why with the thing you’re doing. “I am washing these dishes because they’re dirty.” That’s a specific why. For the greater why, “I want to be a responsible and effective manager of my household. I want to run a tidy organization, so I’m going to make sure the dishes are washed and to respect my roommates.” The first place that engagement comes from is having a reason to be engaged.

Engagement comes from having a reason to be engaged. Click To Tweet

The second is having the right threshold of personal challenge. If you have an endeavor that is sufficiently challenging, yet not too challenging that it deters your efforts, that is a sweet spot of hard enough that makes it a fun challenge and that challenge is what helps produce greater engagement. The third-place I think it comes from is having some measure of reward or a feedback loop where you get to personally see and experience or learn about the positive impact that is created and produced for the lives of those around you. It’s participating in a greater cause, which is a fundamental need that we all have. We will inevitably have greater individual engagement in a cause that is for a purpose that’s bigger than ourselves. It’s a foundational part of it. There was a great quote on this, it’s from Jonathan Haidt who said, “We may spend most of our waking hours advancing our own interests, but we all have the capacity to transcend self-interest and become simply a part of a whole. It’s not just capacity, it’s the portal to many of life’s most cherished experiences.” I’ve definitely seen that to be true in my life. If we get back to engagement, the other question is where does engagement fundamentally come from?

On the fundamental level, engagement comes from meaning. We’re engaged with things that matter to us or mean something to us in the moment. Meaning comes from responsibility. My entire life, I wanted the responsibility. Ever since I was a kid, I longed for the day when I could be “responsible” enough for the responsibility. This deep longing, as naive as it may have been, is a longing that lies deep within each human heart. It’s a longing for something more. The longing for not just another task to do or another role to play, but rather the longing for what’s behind both task and that role. The greater picture of what it all means. Meaning is inextricably tied to responsibility. We wouldn’t want it any other way.

UAC 122 | Engagement

Engagement: People generally long for ownership over something and be proven worthy by the results that ensue.

 

As a kid, I wasn’t expected to bear responsibility. I was rightly seen to be a child who would often behave in childlike or childish ways. This bugged me as a kid. I wanted to be seen as capable and competent. I want to be viewed as someone who could be trusted with responsibility. I wanted to have ownership over something and be proven worthy by the results that ensued. One of the earliest memories of this longing came in meeting one of the most basic needs in life, cutting grass. As a toddler, I would see my dad pushing the lawnmower back and forth for hours each week as he cut the front and backyard, keeping them pristine and manicured for us to play on. Not only did I desperately want to be hanging out with my dad during this time, I also wanted to play a role.

I wanted to play a part in being responsible for making sure the grass had its weekly haircut. This was important. There are pictures that show my dad leading the charge with his big boy lawnmower and me, following closely behind with my Tiny Tikes plastic mower, making sure that he didn’t miss any imaginary spots. This desire for responsibility was also one of the major subconscious drivers for why I ended up gravitating towards the sport of golf. Along with wanting to be trusted with responsibility, I had a competitive streak that would do anything to ensure victory. I remember in first or second grade, I came home and practice shuffling cards for a week so that I could be seen as the best card shuffler in school. It was a neurotic competitive streak at times. In my young eyes, team sports opened up the door for too many variables and too much-shared responsibility.

Decisions are never harmless. Click To Tweet

I preferred my odds a lot more when I could take on full responsibility and control for the outcomes of win or lose. While this was nearsighted and rather childish, this perspective inwardly prodded me towards the game of golf where I would be the sole determinant in the results that ensued. This is a perspective that came with ample evidence against it. The longer I competed in the higher I strove, I realized that it meant bearing the full responsibility for failures. Over the years, this childlike and starry-eyed version of responsibility was shown to be only partially true. Responsibility was a good thing to be desired, but it was also a weight to be carried. Not only was it an opportunity to play a role and be proven capable and competent, but it was also an opportunity to have weaknesses, exposed and failures to be learned from.

One instance in college helped show the childish ignorance found in my view of responsibility. As a junior in college, I was given the responsibility of being the team captain of the golf team. This was an honor and one that I definitely cherished. My inner child leaps for joy at the chance for another tier of responsibility to be added to my plate as a student-athlete. What I failed to recognize is that this responsibility meant my decisions no longer affected only me. They now affected each of the seven guys on the team and the ultimate success or failure that we would experience in our season. That year, our team was consistently ranked in the top twenty. We were looking to make a good show in nationals thinking that this could be our greatest shot at a championship.

UAC 122 | Engagement

Engagement: Not having any responsibility robs us of the joy of meaning in life. It takes away the human longing for making a difference to ourselves and those around us.

 

We had qualified for the national tournament. We’re on our way to seeing the dream through to potential reality until responsibility showed up knocking on my front door. Earlier in the spring season, I had made some decisions for myself, along with several of my teammates that broke school rules, as well as team policy and not to mention legality. These decisions, like every decision we make, had to weight. This responsibility did not factor in my mind as much as it should have when making those decisions. It seemed harmless at the time, but decisions are never harmless. If you desire responsibility in life, then decisions carry in added weight that can’t be turned on or off like a light switch. These decisions led to a several week period before finals when everything was brought to light. I’m no longer was responsible, this starry-eyed pearl of highest possession that it was when I was a child.

It was a judge on duty staring down the gavel at my childish ways with words of the sentence primed to leave her lips. This is one of the starkest wake-up calls in my entire life. It was the gas-producing splash of ice-cold water in the morning, the jolt of adrenaline that smashes you to alertness when waking up in the opposite lane of the highway. Responsibility is not only an opportunity but also a duty. It meant that each decision in action mattered. Not just for the person making it or taking it, but for all the people associated or affiliated with its effects. These two illustrations help show that responsibility has both a weight and a beauty to it. The beauty is that it brings value and importance to any activity, knowing that others are counting on you to come through for them and for the greater good or cause that you’re aiming for. The weight is that they are depending on you to act in their best interest and in the best interest of the whole. When we fall short, which inevitably will happen, we end up not only hurting ourselves but also hurting those who depended on us.

This is a two-edged sword of responsibility. There’s beauty in both sides of responsibility. Both the blessing and the curse because it means you have something to play for. The only way you have something to play for is if you have something to lose. Without the possibility of failing, there’s no possibility of success. Without responsibility, we won’t grow. If we go back to meaning, the middle of factor, meaning in life isn’t inextricably tied to responsibility. Without responsibility, there is no meaning to your actions. The beauty is in being human, you are endowed with a God-given natural responsibility. You have a conscious choice. Responsibility creates meaning because it gives us purpose. Not having any responsibility, robs us of the joy of meaning in life. It takes away the human longing for making a difference, for mattering in life, not to ourselves but to those around us and more importantly to those that we love. Practically speaking, what does all of this mean? Engagement matters because otherwise, what’s the point in living? If you’re not engaged in anything, then why are you alive? The question is, why meaning matters? Without meaning, what’s the point in doing anything? Finally, responsibility matters because if we aren’t required to do anything, we will opt for the easier path and either self-destruct or self-decay.

The question is, do you want to be more engaged with what you’re doing in life? Universally, we’ll all say yes. In order to do that, we must understand the greater meaning behind what we’re doing, as well as the specific role and meaning that is involved in each specific action. For example, why am I recording a podcast? The specific role is that there’s a schedule. I want to release episodes on the schedule to be responsible, consistent and committed. Also, I want to be faithful to this duty and this opportunity that’s presented in front of me and walk alongside others in their journey to learning how to live a good life. What’s the underlying purpose of that? I believe life is a gift that is given by God. I’m going to do the best that I can in this life to make the most of it. Not for the benefit of myself, but for the benefit of those around me. I believe that is my calling. That is my foundational why it’s given from God.

If you want to be more engaged with what you’re doing in life, you need to understand the greater meaning behind it, as well as the specific role and meaning that is involved in each specific action. If you want to have more meaning in your life or if you want to live a more meaningful life itself, the key is to start taking on greater responsibility with the first step, always being the taking of individual responsibility for your thoughts, decisions and actions. Responsibility is the key to meaning. Meaning is the key to engagement. Engagement is what the world needs from you. Your role matters. We can’t dilly dally around and wait for the world to change for us. It won’t. We must take ownership of our lives and never settle for less than we are capable of. That is our duty. That is our responsibility. Together, we can help create the change we wish to see one day at a time and more importantly, one step at a time.

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UAC 121 | Redeeming Pain And Loss

 

Living in varied cultures allows you to explore the meaning of life deeper, be more appreciative, and motivated for success. Today’s episode is an interview with Kenishaa Francis who is an artist, a singer, performer, dancer, entertainer, radio host, designer, and therapist. Having lived exposed to many cultures, she talks about its differences and how she was able to overcome childhood adversities and redeem pain and loss. As a single child, Kenishaa opens up about her yearning for parental love. She walks us through her interesting life and teaches on how we can use pain for good. She also touches on her wide-ranging career path and some of her future dreams and goals.

Listen to the podcast here:

Kenishaa Francis: Window To The Soul: A Singer’s Cross-Cultural Journey Through Pain and Loss

This is all about learning how to live a good life. That’s our tagline and our mantra is having intention in the tension. Intentionality is what we believe is one of the greatest keys to living a good life and that’s what we’re learning how to do in the process of becoming as an Up and Comer. Thank you for joining our community, being a part of this movement and being a fellow Up and Comer in this journey of life. What we get to do is unpack this process together through solo episodes, through fellowship episodes, which are peer-to-peer conversations and with interviews. I’d love to remind you that the best way to help us out is in three different ways. They each take just a few minutes of your time. Very small amount. The first way is rating and reviewing on iTunes. We’ve got 75. I would love to get up to 100. It’d be so cool. If you could just take a minute to help us out, that would be one of the best ways to help our show and get more people. That’s the goal.

The other awesome way is by sharing it with a friend or someone that could be encouraged by this story. There are people that I’m sure will need to read this and that will be pinged in your mind. Just shoot them a text, send it over there way. You can even post it on your socials and tag us @UpAndComersShow. We’ll be sure to give you a shout out as well. If you wanted to support us financially, this show doesn’t have by chance. It takes an investment and Patreon is a great way to keep donations going and that’s a great way to find and support us on Patreon. If you have a business or a company that you’d like to have us support your message. If it aligns well with our vision, we love to do that by partnering together. Be sure to reach out by email, TheUpAndComersShow@gmail.com.

In this episode, we have Kenishaa Francis. Who is Kenishaa? Kenishaa is an artist, singer, performer, dancer, entertainer, radio host, designer, and therapist residing in Los Angeles, California. She was a finalist of The Stage Season one, a singing reality show in India. She also had her own primetime radio show called Keeping It With Kenishaa on India’s biggest radio station called Indigo 91.9. She represents India with two Latin dancing styles Bachata and Kizomba. She is a therapist and has been practicing cognitive behavioral therapy for several years. She always wanted to give some form of her freely to society and she chose to do that with therapy. That is a little bit about Kenishaa. In this episode, you’re going to get to know a lot about her story. We dive into her background, her childhood and her experiences.

She grew up in Kenya before moving to India and then to America in LA specifically when I got connected with her. She is such a loving person. She has a wonderful heart. She has a hard challenging story, a thought-provoking journey that as experienced immense hardship, pain and loss. Through that all, she has used that to help and bring flourishing to other people’s lives along the way. It’s a fascinating story. It’s a humbling story. We talk about overcoming her childhood adversity. We talk about differences in cultures. She’s lived in three vastly different cultures. We talk about being motivated, earn parental love. We talk about how to use pain for good. She talks about empathizing with others. She gets to share some of her wide-ranging career path and some of her future dreams and goals and so much more.

Kenishaa Francis, welcome.

Thane, thank you for having me.

It’s so great to finally get to do this. Ever since we met, I remember hearing your story. I believe it was in Hollywood in a cafe late at night. I was blown away by the story and the life of Kenishaa. I knew then that it would make for a great interview.

Who would have thought?

There’s always the first time for everything. From what I’ve heard from some people I’ve talked to, there was a fun experience for the first time driving for you. Tell me a little bit about that first experience of driving.

I know who said this to you. I didn’t drive too much before that. Most of my first experiences are with her because she’s the most important person to me. I surprised her with my new car when I got it and I wanted to take her out on a drive and she was frightened. She wanted to get out.

One of the things that I also heard about and very known by everyone that knows you is that you have an intense love affair with dancing.

Who are these people? What are they’ve been saying to you?

What do you love about dancing?

When I first started to understand music and rhythm with my body, the first thing I connected with was dancing, even before I started singing. I felt like actual toxins would release from my body every time I danced. No matter what kind of dance it was, my soul and spirit were ready for it all the time. My best friend Deepthi as well, she’s a dancer. I get to go out dancing a lot more with her and then it just became a part of my routine. At some point, I neglected working out completely because I would dance like a maniac.

It’s a good workout.

Yes, it is. I am always after dancing, no matter what mood I’m in or if I’ve had a tough day or a tough experience. I put on my headphones, dance out for a bit then I’m a new person.

It is such a therapeutic thing. That’s where this whole realm of ecstatic dance is a new therapy that people are discovering. It’s not being discovered. You’ve been there. It’s cool to see the power of dance and how you can be therapeutic. What is your favorite style of dance?

I do love Latin dancing. I love forms of Kizomba, Bachata and Salsa. I also love Bollywood dancing, because when you’re a Bollywood dancing, it’s like the world is coming down. Everyone’s screaming. Your hands are in the oddest places ever. No one cares. Everyone is just enjoying the beat. Sometimes you don’t even know what the singer is saying in the song. It feels home.

I’m a big fan of dance too. I haven’t gotten too much into Bollywood yet, so maybe that’s on the bucket list for me.

I’ve not done a very good job of being a friend of yours or anyone I’ve met in LA right here. I should’ve introduced more Bollywood to you guys.

It’s such a nebulous fray. I think a lot of people in America might just be ignorant. How would you describe Bollywood?

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Bollywood is love, romance, anger, hatred, fun, dance. Pretty much all emotions that you can think of, exaggerated. Bollywood is all about the music. It’s all about the songs that people make in the industry that is so cheesy, cliché, and vulnerable, but people are still like, “I’m a Bollywood fan.” You guys will experience that if and when you’ll come to visit me in India.

Speaking of India, that is next up for you. We’re going to start with the future. What does the future hold for you?

I’m getting into a super big production. God has upgraded me. It seems a lot more light and fulfilling. I’m going to be producing a musical with one of the biggest publishing boards in India. They’ve been around for 700 years. I’ve worked with them in the past, but this time they’re producing a self-script. Something that would be knowledgeable and that’s got a social message and involves diversity. They wanted me to produce it because I do have a background in musical theater. When I got that call I looked at God and said, “I never know your God. I never know what you can do and what you can’t do in a person’s life.” I’m super grateful because I did not want to go back to India ever since I’ve been in LA. This could change so many things for me.

It is crazy how much one thing can change everything in many ways. We don’t even know that things are on their horizon and radar, and then all of a sudden God just puts it on our plate. It’s remarkable.

That’s what he says, “Why do you have to worry?” I realized this concept. Why am I worried when my God is not worried? He definitely knows what he’s doing with me. If I confirm in a God like that, there is no reason for me to worry because he’s got me this far. He’s got me surviving after so many things that have happened in my life. He’s definitely not going to let me fail.

I think that’s a great way to highlight the fact that faith doesn’t happen by chance. It happens by refinement over a lot of trials and suffering.

You’ll never know how strong your God could be in your life when you overcome a struggle. If he’s going to give your ten struggles, then it’s only because he knows you can overcome that and then your bond with him is only getting that much stronger. I’m grateful for that.

I’d love to dive into some of that. A lot of people want to know and I want to know as well a lot on your perspective with different cultures because you have lived in various cultures. You have a decent understanding of them. I want to start with the struggle side. What was your childhood experience like and when were struggles present in that?

I grew up in Kenya. My mom is from there and my dad is from a city called Bangalore. My experience from that side of life was torturous. I would see people outside of our house killing people because there was definite poverty there and famine for sure. Maybe 20% of the whole population in the country that had jobs. It was super difficult. My granddad was a police officer. We never knew any struggles because he worked for the government and we would have fancy meat all the time. There was good food at home. We grew rice and tomatoes in our backyard. We were blessed all the time, but it was so difficult for me as a child or any of my cousins living in the same house to get out there because it was dangerous.

My school would finish at 1:00 PM, which is not ideal for any school because anything after 3:00 PM was going to be so difficult to exist around. I hated that part because I never had that time of my life where I could get out, play with friends, go to the beach, have a good time, unless my whole family walked out with me for safety. Having said that, I grew up in a Catholic family. My grandparents were staunch Catholics. They had a ton of rules, a ton of regulations that were so drilled in us that most of my life all of my understanding or my behavior came from there for a very long time. That was definitely something that I remember from my childhood much until we moved to India where my dad lived and then things changed.

What age did you move to India?

Around twelve years old.

Growing up in Kenya, did that feel like home for you? Was that all that you knew in that sense?

At that point in time, yes. I felt like there was no going away from all of this. If I grew older here, I’m either going to be killed, raped or eaten someday by someone if I went out by myself. That feel was always in us, much until my dad one day just landed in Kenya and he said, “No, you can’t do this to my child.” Both my parents made a decision to move to India though we know nothing about the culture. We didn’t know what we were getting into. It was difficult because when I was in Kenya, I used to speak like one of them. I used to talk like that because I never understood anything else. It was difficult for me to make peace with people in India when I moved because it’s a completely different dialect.

Until then, I’ve never met my dad’s side of the family. I don’t know how they felt about us. Much of my surprise, I didn’t know the story of my birth for a very long time. This is an interesting story. They got married and then they didn’t have me for sixteen years. Everyone in India considered me to be like a miracle child, but they also were like, “She’s born in one of the richest families.” My dad owned half of the city we lived in at that time. There was jealousy. There were conflicts about why I needed to be the only heir to so many things. In front of us, people would be nice and bubbly because my dad’s always helping people out, but my mom and I would always hear things about us. That was the most difficult part of my life to make peace with how someone can be a different face to you and a million other faces behind you. That was when human reality with humans hit me because until then, it never made sense that it was even possible.

I know I’ve heard a little bit before, but I’d be curious to know a little bit more about your parents’ story on that. Because when we were talking, I remember you say, “My parents had a love marriage.” I was like, “I’ve never heard it called that.” That’s a specific thing and there’s a difference, so I’d love for you to tell us a little bit about what a love marriage is about.

UAC 121 | Redeeming Pain And LossIn India, you got three different kinds of relationships. One is the arranged marriage where your family or your peers get two people to meet and they decide who you’re getting married to, no questions asked. You get a few hours with them to see if you’re vibing with them. They pick a date and they get you married and then you start your life no matter how and what that person is going to be. The other one is the love marriage where people fall in love but without the knowledge of their parents or people in their family. They weighed or worked up years together to get their families convinced that they were in love with someone to make that relationship work. Yes, India’s not that backward. A lot of people can find a love marriage, parents always saying, “Don’t put this on us, you go find your own person a let us know. We make sure we counsel you towards having the right person in your life.”

Back then it was a strict no. I remember one of my cousin’s brothers, my big mamma’s oldest son. He was the first one to fall in love in the family. He went thirteen years without getting married to anybody else because he fought every single day that he wanted to marry the love of his life. Nobody agreed to it. My mom was his godmother, she was always standing up for him, always trying to make this work, but it took him thirteen years. The third kind is where people live in with each other without the knowledge of anybody because if people found out, you’re dead.

It was a taboo back then with my parents. It’s the greatest love story. I’m always going to be proud of that. Hence, I will not believe in divorce. My dad was a businessman. He worked with a couple of furniture and he had a lot of real estate so he was super-rich. He owned 40 buildings in the city and every building would have 50 or 60 apartments. My mom, when she was seventeen, she came to India on a charity project because of all the famine that’s going on in Kenya. They wanted money from different countries. India even back then was known to be a globally rich country at the time. She was on stage doing her presentation about Kenya and how they need what they need.

My dad’s a part of the audience trying to write all the checks possible for that day. The first time he saw her, he fell in love and he decided that this was it. When she got off stage, he asked her out and she hadn’t seen love like that. Men tend to be a little distant from you in Kenya because they want to respect your space or you’re not allowed to be in the same room as your dad is or your brothers are. It was always like that. They met each other and had moments for about six months when she was there. He surprised her by getting on the same flight as her back to Kenya.

When she was going home, he went and met my granddad, asks for the hand in marriage and the rest is history. They lived a beautiful life. I’ve never seen my parents eat their dinner apart from each other. My mom would serve her complete plate for her at dinner, and then from that, she would give half to my dad. That was a practice they always had at home. I was always the third wheel in the house always. Sometimes when they wanted to go out and dates, I’d be like, “Ma, can I come with you guys?” She liked, “Can you please not be the third date, this is my time?” They loved each other way too much.

We have a shift to India. At that point, did you speak any other language other than Swahili?

English as well. I went to St. John Bosco School. My English was okay, but not refined.

You’re in a completely foreign environment at 11.5 years old and trying to learn a new language, dialect and culture. That has to have been a challenging experience.

It’s very challenging. What I remember of that experience was before we even got to India my mom would always say, “Never tell anyone that you were from here,” because racism is just about getting better in India. I know of a lot of places where African American people are being killed and in India as well. We had to be hush about it until we can find people who can make peace with that decision. When I first moved there, I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone where we were from, who we were. We tell people that we were from Dubai just to get with people. I was going into a new school with a completely different speech or else people were going to mock me.

I had to go through speech therapy to get my English to British English. That’s the English that most common schools in India use, which took me a while and I also practiced behavior. India is still orthodox in many ways. You can’t do the stuff that you do anywhere else in the world in India. Sometimes when you’re walking on the street with your head held high, they would consider it wrong. They’d be like, “She’s a girl child. How does she like walking with her head up? She supposed to put her head down and walk on the streets.” If you lived in a society, you’re not allowed to look at the boys that were passing by. Boys around the society had all the rights to walk about and do whatever they wanted at any given point.

The girl child is not supposed to leave our houses after 5:00 PM. If dad got to know about it, he would be super upset and he would belt you out. That part of it was definitely difficult for me. I was pretty strong as a child. I think I always had God in me. I always knew that there was this supernatural big man in my life. All I needed to do was stick with him and I don’t need to worry about anyone else. One day I walked up to my parents and said, “I don’t understand what’s going on in this place. Why can’t I get out there when I finish school and play with my friends in the park? I’m still a baby and I don’t want to be sitting at home and watching TV. I don’t like watching TV.”

My mom explained to me at the whole thing and then my dad goes, “Would you promise me that you’re never going to look at another guy or make boyfriends at this age?” I said, “Dad, why would you ask me something like that? I adore you guys. If I’m going to fall in love, even before the guy knows, you are going to know it. What is the whole thing?” My parents and I, I’m grateful we established trust between us way long time with my life. Until the day they left me, they never once questioned me, who was I with? Why was I coming that late? Did I do something wrong? I think that’s the power of trust and love.

That’s a hard thing to do I can imagine as a parent, but it’s so empowering when that happened. What was the thing that you got to miss the most from your time in Kenya when you moved to India as a kid?

The different animals that I’ve eaten, the wild boar, the alligator, and the giraffe. They were such amazing tasting meat. It was a huge shift in India because all we got was chicken and lamb when we moved. I was like, “What? That’s not food.” Now my palette is more like, “I don’t need that thing, just salads. I’m a good child.”

What was the next season of your life there? When did India finally become home for you?

In my sixth grade, we had a singing competition in school and I happened to bag the first place, which I didn’t know I like singing. I became famous in school and everyone wanted to know who Kenishaa was. Everything else faded and I became a part of Indian culture and the people. I’ve always loved having friends. It also comes from me being the only child. You give a little extra to all the people who want to be a part of your life. I went to a good school back in India called the Sacred Heart Girls High School. It’s a Catholic school that promoted much of the beliefs. I got a scholarship into one of the most happening colleges in India as they may say, Mount Carmel. I’ve been famous.

What is the difference between the English you grew up speaking versus having to switch to British? What were the things that were hard on making that transition?

It’s just the vowel sounds because in Kenya you’re more O’s with your mouth. In India or British, your mouth is more wide open. If I had to talk to you in Kenya, I would not talk to you like anything else apart from covering my mouth. You got to understand what I’m saying because that’s how I would speak. When I came to India, it’s different. When I would go to the grocery store to buy a pack of milk in the mornings for mom, first of all, in the local grocery stores, they don’t even speak English. They only speak the multiple dialects that India has.

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I would go to them and say, “Can I have a box of milk?” They would be like, “What? Who is she? Where did she fall from? Go away.” I would be so afraid because I wasn’t making sense to anybody. The speech therapy was super hard for me. My teacher hated me for the first three months. She always thought I’m never going to speak proper English until much later. I had to watch a lot of American movies, a lot of English movies in general to understand the A, E, I, O, U. U was never U for me. I don’t even know how I sound anymore. I know all my accent is. Every time people talk to me, they’re like, “You have an accent, but nobody knows where that’s from.”

You could be from five different places.

Yes, it’s a combination of it because then I studied in London for four years. That is completely different as well.

You said that as an only child you’re always giving more to everyone else. Talk to me more about that experience because I think that is probably more common than not. What was unique about being an own child in that sense that naturally led to you wanting to give more to other people?

I don’t know what was unique about being an only child because I hated it. I still hate it. The fact that I was born pretty late to my parents and they come from a Catholic background, they always prayed to different saints and angels that we want to be blessed with a child. Maybe I think two years before I was born, my mom committed her life to the church. She said, “Jesus, if you gave me a baby, for the rest of my life, I’m going to serve you in church,” which is great but it was bad for me. It was not fair to me. My dad was always off for work. He would leave at 7:00 AM, come back at 9:00 or 10:00.

I’m a child. I’m going to school. I go to bed at 8:00 and I never see my dad, or mostly in the mornings. My mom spent all her life in the church. She would wake up, send me to school and then I would only see her back maybe a few minutes before my dad came back home. As a growing child, when I came back home, I came back to an empty house every single day. I would have my kitchen set at home, no friends trying to play with my own kitchen. I would mono act. I would be 100 different characters by myself just to be able to kill that time. I remember my neighbors bringing me up, feeding me and stuff. I never had my parents do much as a growing child.

I also think because, at some point, poverty struck us because my parents were not careful with everything that they had made. My dad used to be an alcoholic. One day we lost everything we had. We went from eating with a platinum spoon to having one meal a day for the whole family. Sometimes my mother won’t eat even to feed me. It was very difficult to understand why they went through that. The one thing that would have kept us a lot stronger at the time was if we stuck together, which didn’t happen. I always found hope or love in my neighbors or people I met in the park, the kids I met in the park. When I would go to school, I would want to be a part of every group. Your class would have multiple groups, multiple friends.

I wanted to be able to have everyone and I tried so hard. Just from school, I have 45 certificates with the talent club in school. Because I would want to do everything only because I wanted to make friends. Eventually, I got interested in all of them, but at that time it was just to find friendship. When I did make friends, I would bring them sweets every day. I would save my pocket money and buy them candy bars or snack packets every other day just to make them feel like, “I’m such a good friend.” That pattern in me still exists. If I do have friends around, whenever I’m traveling, I’m always buying stuff for them. I’m always thinking about them because they mean a lot to me than family or anything else.

It’s interesting to think about that experience of coming home as a childlike, “I’m going to create a bunch of characters because I’m here by myself.” In one sense, I’m sure that that was a catalyst for creativity you use, even the different gifts and talents you have. As you shared how it led to your commitment and your emphasis on friendships and relationships pouring out, which is a beautiful blessing, but how hard is that to go through as a kid?

It was the toughest times. I cried myself to sleep pretty much every other night. I don’t remember a good night where I’ve been like, “It was such a good day. My parents and I had a great time.” That never happened through my school time. In fact, I remember one particular incident. When my dad lost all the wealth that he had.

How old you then?

I think I was twelve years old. That was one of the biggest reasons why we came back because my dad pretty much lost everything and he needed my mum by his side. There’s this stupid, most idiotic belief in India. They believe in bad omens. It doesn’t even make sense. Just because I was this child who was the heir to all the property that my dad had, my dad’s side of the family was definitely jealous. When he lost it, which was because of him being an alcoholic, they turned it around on me. They said, “She’s a girl child.” Because a lot of people in India back then never wanted to have a goal child. Everyone wanted to have boy children, but it’s better. Because of that, there was so much hatred and they would all tell my parents, “Maybe because Kenishaa was born, you lost everything. She took your luck away.

She took everything away.” I think my parents come to it at some point. I remember during my tenth grade, I was up for five awards in school on my graduation day. I was up for the singer. We had a Nightingale award. We had what was called “The Michael Jackson Award,” for the best dancer. You had the best writer award, the best student and something else that has to do with acting. I was up as a nominee for all of this and I didn’t care about it. All I prayed that night before my graduation day was, I said, “God, my mom’s coming for graduation. My dad didn’t have the time to come, but I just want my mom to feel like I made her proud and not feel like I’m the bad omen. I want her to know that I am going to get out of school and make them rich. I’m going to do everything it takes to make them happy and living a peaceful life.”

I left it at that and went to school the next day. My mom was being herself. If for some reason everyone was treating my mom super special when she walked in like she was the most important person in the room. It didn’t make sense, but after all the gala thing happened on stage, we came to awards. My teachers were announcing the awards and it started with all the smaller ones and I was like, “It’s fine. I was never up for any of that and stuff.” When it came up to all of these awards, I got all of them one at a time. It was scary because I didn’t expect that I was going to get all those five awards. The last one was the best student of the year.

For that, they didn’t invite me. They invited my mom up on stage to give it to her because I got all the other four awards and I crying my heart out. I couldn’t be happier that I was serving a magnanimous God like that because I as a child set the smallest prayer the previous night. When my mom went up on stage, she wasn’t happy for me. She was like, “I know she must be good at all of this. How does it matter? It’s not going to bring me the bucket home.” I think at some point it became too much around how much is she going to be able to help us with in terms of money or finances. I wish it wasn’t that way.

How do you process that in tenth grade? How did you get through that? Because that is crushing.

UAC 121 | Redeeming Pain And LossI think tears were my best friend at the time. For a very long time in my life, I pretty much cried every day. I also remember before I went to London once, I pray to God and I said, “Are you ever going to stop the tears from my eyes?” I feel like I’m a living waterfall. Every time something happens, I’m always crying and because I don’t know what to do. I’m so helpless. I wouldn’t lie. When I was seven years old, I had a personal encounter with God and I felt like I didn’t need anyone else apart from him. He made me stronger. He was always with me. There was always a sense of calmness or stillness in me that reminded me that I needed to concentrate on him and he’s going to have my back.

I would always pray, “God, you’ve given me parents, but they’re not parents. They’re not with me. They don’t love me. They don’t like me. It’s always been you.” At some point, I was dreading my life. I was like, “Is this what my life going to be? Who am I going to have in my life?” Even if I fell in love with someone, what am I going to tell him? That my parents don’t love me? None of that ever fancied me. All I did until I lost my parents every single day was striving to get them to be with me for who I was. That’s it. I didn’t want anything else apart from my parents.

After receiving all of your awards, at the end of your high school, you went to a school to be at.

It’s the hardest college in India. It was called Mount Carmel College. All the hot women went there. All the pretty ones went there. It was an all-girls college. All the ladies in the city called Bangalore would die to get a seat in that college. I did not get a seat in that college because of my education. Mount Carmel College is always known to have a talent quota. If you are good at something, singing or dancing and you have something to prove it, then you’ve got that seat. I had 45 certificates. My name came out on the first list of the college and I was like, “Am I going to go to Mount Carmel College?” If you named that college to people you knew in India, they’d be like, “Really?” There’s this phrase called “Matcha,” which I want to introduce you to.

When you say dude here, in India we say matcha. There are a lot of here boy matchas standing outside the college and they’re always waiting for our gates to open. It’s like violins are playing in the background, pretty girls walking out of the gate and all the men are like, “Which one do I get?” I went to a super fancy college but didn’t get to complete it because I got married, but I live my life being pretty for one and a half years in that college, my prettiest life ever. I would get free chocolates, free Coke, fruit juices, whatever. If I looked at a guy and said “Hi.” He would go like, “What do you feel like eating?” I’d say, “A cheesecake?” I would have whatever I needed. I never needed to spend on it. That’s the power of MCC.

What this brought up is the music side. When did you initially fall in love with music? Was it during those high school years when you first found it through trying to find friends or what was that like?

My music gateway was always my mom. She sang like an angel. She was the angel. Both of my parents sang. My mom sang in the choir for the church. My dad’s also in the choir, but different dialects, so we were always in church. When she was home, she always loved singing for my dad. I don’t know if my dad fell more in love with it or me. Both dancing and singing come from my mom. She always said, “If you want to be honest about how you feel towards a person or do justice in a relationship, just sing to them and you’ll be fine.” I took that up and she taught me most of my singing in my earlier years before I went to do my education at the London College of Music.

She gave me the soul I needed in my music. This is one thing that I’m grateful for, whether she liked me or not as a child when I was growing up, every competition I was a part of. Every stage I’ve taken, the first seat will have my mom. I always only sang to her. Until the biggest things in my life until she left, she would never miss a show of mine or a performance of mine. I always felt that my mom was watching me and my mom validated what I did, I didn’t need anything else. It is the best and I’ve missed that many years, her voice saying, “My baby, you were so good.”

I relate to that too because for me, in golf, it was my arena. My dad was that for me. I knew that regardless of how excited or upset I was about the results or whatever it may be, I knew that my dad would be there for me and support me. Even in my professional career when my dad would caddy for me, he was a good caddy because I knew that he 100% believed in me and had my back. That helps me believe in myself when sometimes I didn’t believe in myself. Having that support of someone that is your family, you can’t replicate it.

I don’t think anyone can take that place.

You mentioned that she gave you your soul. How did she give you soul in music? What was that process like?

It was a painful process because my parents were going through a lot at the time. Still for her to hold on to God and find solace in music, I think that’s where she gets soul from. My dad, every time he heard me sing, he’d cry. His eyes would be red. Everyone remembers that, “When Uncle Francis would see Kenishaa on stage, he’s always crying.” I think both my parents have the biggest hearts. They were bound by so many other emotions in the family that they couldn’t give me. I think they always had it in them. For us, love precedes anything at all. In everything my parents did, there was love. I was never able to hate them, even though I never had them for tools for too long. Most of the soul comes from that. Soul also comes from all the experiences you’ve been through, the pain it gives you. When you sing a line and it’s got something that means something towards your life, it’s already picking up your experiences from the past. It colors the emotion. When you sing it, automatically your soul is getting deeper and deeper. The more your experiences, the deeper your volume is, the deeper your meanings are in life.

It’s so universal too. It doesn’t just involve music, it’s involving everything. You think about educators, preachers, speakers, you think about businessmen or women. You think about all these people. If they haven’t lived life, then they don’t have that much to give. Because living life is what gives you the ability to give to others. That creates the worth of what you’re saying. It’s so funny how that applies to everything. It’s so interesting how it’s highlighted, even something like music. Who do you look to musically that has the most soul? When you think of that soul, who comes to my mind?

I’m black in the heart, so my ladies be Whitney Houston, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, and Rihanna. Also, a tad bit of the Tina in me would love to go with Shakira and J-Lo, but I’ve always looked up to these people, not because they could only sing so well. I could marry Jennifer Lopez because I can give her a bigger ring than A-Rod. It’s possible, but the way they present themselves on stage. They’re dancing and all of that, I love all of them.

They seem like holistic performers.

In India, every time I perform, they call me either the Indian Beyoncé or the Indian Shakira. For some reason, I don’t know why. Maybe because I went to Mount Carmel College. Maybe it’s that I go all out on stage, mostly dancing and enjoying. That’s what I’m referred too.

Honestly, I would say more like say like Beyoncé. I have enjoyed a little bit of singing of yours that I’ve heard and just excited to hear more because it is special. I think that’s something I hadn’t put words to before was that you have that soul and that’s something you can’t just manufacture. It comes from life.

I agree. You have so much soul in everything that you do. I’m sure it comes from everything that you’ve been through and experienced. Because when you talk to me, you change so much in me and my life and you know that. Things that are going to always stick with me. You taught me God in a whole different way. I’ve learned stuff like that with different people, but I’ve never held onto it because it didn’t make beautiful sense. I feel everybody who talks to you or anything that you say or give is also super holistic and super soulful that it’s not going to fade.

No matter what you are going through, when you need someone, never make them suffer for what you are going through. Click To Tweet

It’s been interesting for me and the same is probably true for you, for people that don’t know the full story of who you are, but see you from the outside looking in. It’s very easy for a lot of people and the same with me to think, “They’ve had a great life. They’ve had an easy life. Everything’s just gone right for them.” As much as the cases with me, the same as with you, we’ve suffered a lot. It looks different for everyone. We’re not trying to put weights on this. Life is not easy. You don’t get to certain places by chance, usually it’s by suffering. I think we share some of that and it’s very different for both of us.

I’m sure each story is dredging. We can never compare another person’s experience with ours. What you went through was super tough for you. I wouldn’t be able to go what you went through and maybe you can go through what I went through. Our sufferings are established just for us. When you do go through it and you come out colorful, honestly, at this point in time, I don’t care about anybody else because I have a lot of people who say, “Have you seen Kenishaa?” I do a lot of these college or school motivational talks. When people see me, they go, “Kenishaa; she’s the most fun person. She’s always smiling and she’s always happy. She’s always cracking jokes. I’m sure she’s had a great life.” It’s sad that people assumed so much about another person and they deal with you because of their assumptions. Only when you’ve been through so much, you do feel like you don’t want to give that pain to anyone else because you’ve had enough of it and you don’t want anyone else to go through it.

It seems like there’s a point in time that it’s continual that we have to keep realizing this, that pain isn’t meant to just pass on to others. It’s meant to be born by yourself. It’s not to say you shouldn’t seek support and help from others. That’s important too. A lot of times early on we’re like, “I feel this pain, so how can I pass it off so I don’t feel it anymore or put it onto someone else so that they can experience it that I feel better about myself because they’re in pain now?” That’s always a short-term solution that doesn’t work. We learned that it doesn’t work, I’m like, “I got to do something else.” It is a process. Even now we still have to go through that process. I’d love to rewind back to where we left off about marriage. How did the prettiest of the pretty get married at Mount Carmel College?

I am going to say that my parents got me married when I was eighteen years old because a lot of child marriage was celebrated back then in India. I think it still is, but only in very remote places. It’s getting better. Other times, because my parents had nothing in their life, we were struck down poverty. I was going to the fanciest college in town, but my clothes didn’t seem so. My food didn’t seem so. My ways of transportation didn’t seem so. It was all very difficult. I was starting to get insecure as a girl because there were such fancy people in my college wearing the best brands possible. I would go in all rugged clothes and be laughed at. It was tough. At some point, the idealistic views that my parents had about a girl child also had got to its brim where they didn’t want me to exist anymore.

They got me off. They got me married off to this guy named Gary Michael. He’s also from another Catholic family, but he came from a broken family. I think when they did all of this, nobody dug into the details of the kind of family that they were marrying me off too. It was a tough journey because they did not know that. Another huge belief in India is that when you’re married off to someone, no matter how worse your husband is going to be to you, you have no right to come back home. You’re not allowed to come back home. They’re done with you. That’s the biggest reason why a lot of people get their children married off. I’m saying this as an experience because I’m so happy that things are changing.

I wish I was a part of that change. I wish someone came and stopped the day I got married. Someone came up to my parents and said, “No, she’s pretty, don’t do this to her.” I have not said this to anyone in LA at least. I always wanted to be an IAS officer, someone who worked for the government and signed bills for the country. I’ve always wanted to study and do all of that magic because my end goal was to bring back all the riches my dad lost. For me, nothing was coming in my way. No guy, no pretty boy or nothing fancy or the best food or the best clothes, never came in the way from me. I remember my dad, one of the days in his drunk state of mind telling his brother, “I have a girl child, where is she going to bring me the money? We’re never going to see better days in our life.”

I promised myself that they’re going to live a better life with me. That was important, but I didn’t get to do any of that because they got me married and did not realize that my husband was an alcoholic as well. He was also a womanizer. I didn’t realize that again. I’m allergic to tobacco. If I stood next to someone who smoked, I could literally faint and not wake up. My husband was a heavy smoker. The number of health issues I had at the time was in the numerous, and my in-laws would never take me to the hospital or help me out because they’d be like, “She’s not doing anything in life. Let her just stay at home.” I became the official maid to their house.

I would wake up at 6:00. There were eight people living in that house, including my husband. It was a five-bedroom house, so I cleaned the whole house, cooked for them, make breakfast, and packs their different boxes for work because everyone went out at work. When they came back, I’ll make dinner for them and then get abused until 3:00 AM because all of them would drink. The only thing they do when they get drunk is abusing me physically and mentally. It was the toughest part of my life. Four months of marriage ended with me losing my baby, which you know about. I’ve never been able to rely on a man after that. Men are nice people, but I haven’t met the nice one. I’ve been single since that happened and been pretty maybe not in Mount Carmel, but in my own ways of life, God sprinkling his happiness in me.

One thing as a testament to that is all the people I talked to, they all said that you had incredible joy and that you had incredible energy. I don’t think they’ve ever been around you when you aren’t smiling or wanting to do something. It is not just you saying that is the reality of your life and who you are. I think it’s an amazing testimony to your strength and endurance.

Something that I believe in personally without anyone teaching me this is that I’ve been through a lot of struggles and I’ve had no one to see me out of it. I’ve not had a friend, a cousin or a family member to sit me down and say, “Did you have your meal? Are you feeling better with what happened at home?” I’ve always experienced pain, sat and prayed, then got out of it and said, “It’s going to be fine.” When I do meet people after I would morph myself completely into hiding that sadness, making the sadness disappear once I was with them because I wanted to enjoy that time. From when I was a child, I learned something that no matter what you’re going through, you could be having the toughest or you may have not eaten the whole day, but when you need someone, you never make them suffer for what you’re going through. You never put your pain on anybody else and definitely not hurt anyone. Pain is powerfully painful and if you can’t take it, you don’t want to give it to anyone.

Has there been a point that you felt has been the lowest of low? In your life, you mentioned that it’s almost like there’s never been support there.

Until I met you guys here, we have to talk about that because I’ve never had support like that ever in my life. It was literally God in all of you. Whoever’s going to read this in America or everywhere else, I wouldn’t even be surviving or doing whatever I’m doing if it wasn’t for Thane, Katie, and John and so many more names in LA, Sarah and Hunter. The Legacy church, there are so many people. I felt like when I moved out of India, everything that I’ve given there, God’s given it back to me through your guys, but no one never helped when I was around there.

How do you think about suffering? It doesn’t go away in life; life is hard. What is your perspective when hard times come, and when there are things where you don’t see a way out or it feels like you can’t win? Because that’s an experience everyone faces. What is your approach or perspective or how do you go through those seasons?

I celebrate a God that is incredibly big, strong, mighty, magnanimous and beautiful. I’ve learned that he’s already paid for everything, which I didn’t know until year ago, though I would always pray to him. I feel like anything that I go through is not going to be tougher than what Jesus went through for me. That’s my first realization. When pain strikes me or I have a roadblock, I’ve always wondered, have you ever thought about how many roadblocks Jesus had when he carried the cross to Calvary? He never complained about it. I’m not allowed to. On the brighter side, nobody is going to be in the same situation for more than that couple of minutes that you’re going to be therein. I know the phrase, “You’re going to see to light at the end of the tunnel,” is pretty cliché, but it is the truth.

If you just endure what you’re going through without complaining and cribbing about, “Why am I going through this? Why is this for me? There are so many more people in the world. Why can’t I be happy?” I just went through it. I understood why you went through it because I believe everything that you go through like pain, trauma or anything that you’re troubled with is always coming to you because there is a part of you that needs to change. There is a part of you that needs to learn and be better. That’s why you encounter the experiences you encounter because you do not have the same experiences as everybody else. If something is coming your way, that means it is coming to teach you a lesson. You can be sad and be childish about it and be like, “I hate this.”

Take it up and be like, “Maybe there’s something for me to learn. I want to come out of this as a better person.” I have always used that for me. I have never let anything bring me down because there is nobody else who will lift me up. If I fall, I’m by myself. I have no siblings, I have no parents. If I fall on the street, there’s no one to come and pick me up. I can’t complain about it because I am blessed in so many other ways. I need to know that I have to get up, walk back home, and maybe if I arrested it out, I would know why that happened. That’s the only way I go through whatever comes my way. I’m a huge believer, so I know God’s got my back at every minute. Sometimes it’s so scary that I would think of something and I would ask him and it would be there.

UAC 121 | Redeeming Pain And LossIt’s sweet too, the power of space. As you said, you’re just sleeping it off and trying to get more perspective on it. I think a lot of times we don’t realize how much support we do have. A lot of people reading this probably still have family, they still have community or people in their life that would care or support them. Without that, it becomes such a harder and scarier place. What has that experience been like for you, and when did your parents pass and how long has it been since?

After I lost my baby and my marriage, my parents had realized that they haven’t been the best and this is because of them. They led me up to all of this and then I had to suffer through it. I never punished them for it, but it was a good five years after that I had my mom being my mom. She took time off from church. We would spend time, we were girlfriends, we would go out on the streets checking men out and having a great time. I would have a couple of drinks with my dad. It changed all of a sudden after that experience. They were the best parents ever. In 2013, because I was the only breadwinner at the time, both my parents weren’t working and because they had me late, they were older.

My mom was diagnosed with high blood pressure in 2012, but she never told me about it because she didn’t want to burden me with extra money for medicines. It’s just a couple of tablets every day. She denied that. In September of 2013, she had a fall in the church when she was singing in the choir. She was paralyzed on her left side and people had to rush her to the hospital. I wasn’t there. I was singing at a bar making money at that time. She was in the hospital for a month. She had a clot on the right side of the brain. We did surgery, it cost me everything. I sold everything that I had to help that operation happen.

She survived the surgery, but she had to go through a second surgery after one month in the hospital to just put back the skull bone to her head. She had a heart attack in between that. She died on her birthday. I remember I decked up the whole hospital because we were there for a month. I got hats for the doctors and nurses because we made so many friends there and she was turning 60 that year. She never met her to her cake after the surgery. I lost her then. Because my parents were so in love, my dad developed Alzheimer’s as soon as she passed and it got worse by the year.

On September 23rd, 2018, I lost him. I had to take care of him after that by myself, which I never will regret. It’s true that it’s a huge loss that they’re not there, but the chance that I had or the chance that God gave me to stay around them for 5 or 10 years when they decided to be my parents to be able to take care of them in every sense of the word gave me immense pleasure. I worked ten jobs for the last few years. I’ve done everything possible to pay their bills, to keep them alive for one additional day. I’m sure they’re in a better place, but they would have been at their best place if they were still with me.

It’s such a beautiful story and such an amazing picture of redemption in a lot of ways and unconditional love. I think it’s a powerful testimony of who you are. What were those jobs you were doing to survive? What brought in the bacon?

I used to be a receptionist for a couple of hours. I used to take care of old people and help them. I used to cook. I am a therapist by profession, so I help a lot of people, but that was the only thing I did for free in church and everywhere else. I didn’t want to charge people for that. I used to sing in a bar every day until I got the biggest break in my musical journey. I would dance and act in a lot of projects.

How did you get into being a therapist and what brought you into that space?

My mom. A lot of things are because of my mom. My mom used to be an emotional counselor in church. A part of her service in the church used to involve five hours of therapy for people who came to church. Sometimes after school, if I didn’t have the house keys, I would go to church, sit and shadow her. That happened for a lot of years. When she died, there were 5,000 people in the church. I still have a videotape of it. We’ve never had a funeral mass like that. She did impact a lot of lives. I sat beside her for years together listening to people and their stories. How much joy my mom brought in their lives with the way she spoke to them. When my mom died, they didn’t know where to go. They wanted to talk to me. I was natural because I’ve shadowed my mom. I would say the same things that my mom would say. One of the priests met me one day and said, “I think you should just do a certificate, study it so you can do this for good.” I did my cognitive behavioral therapist associate degree for eight months. Since then I like to talk to people for free and help them.

What have you found to be most effective? Along with that, what do you find as some of the greatest needs that people have?

Love and affection are the biggest. When I see love and affection, I know it sounds like a big subject, but the right kind of love and affection, a lot of people crave it and they don’t get it. I know of a lot of people that have families and don’t have families, have boyfriends or don’t have partners, married and not married. Even though they are in such fulfilling relationships, there is a huge part of their life that’s missing to be happy and joyous about their lives. Most people don’t know why that is. Because even if you have a partner, it’s such a burdening affair. I feel bad sometimes when people are in relationships or have to deal with their parents to bounce off everything that they have.

Everyone has their own life and they love you. They want to give you a part of them, but they can’t give you 100%. You have to be understanding about it. I know of a few girlfriends that have wanted everything from the guy like, “Do not look at anybody else but me and make time for me.” It’s clogging the relationship a lot more. I am a huge believer in space. When you give space in anything, not just in a romantic relationship, space and time heal so much that the human body and mind cannot even try to even. For example LA, I was upset with Thane for a while because they never had time from me. I never made phone calls, nothing. No matcha was available.

When we met, a couple of words along the way and the time that has passed, it’s healed everything. There was no need to sit and grunt about it. I feel like a lot of people that come to me for therapy come because of that. They come to me because they’re not getting the right amount of love, affection or the right kind of understanding from their partners or their parents. They just want to talk to me and make me understand that they’re not doing something wrong and I understand. I wish people in their lives also give them that benefit of the doubt.

There’s something to the power of being affirmed that you’re doing what you think is best. Isn’t it amazing? Can we understand that we’re doing what we think is best? We need the affirmation that because we’re not crazy. We think that is the best path that’s why we’re taking it.

That’s all you can do. You can’t do more than that. Also, the very fact that people make time for you, even if they make ten minutes for you, they’re making it out of everything else they are going through. You rather accept that with humility or complain about the next 24 minutes that they don’t have for you. I used to date this guy a few years ago and we had the best relationship. He is also a traveler. I see him probably once in a month, or sometimes once in two months, I don’t see him. Not a single day has he asked me, “Why are those men around you? Why are you going out with these guys? Why are you so late or neither have I?” We’ve never had anything wrong between each other. When you give trust, you get trust. When you give love, you get love. If you’re in a place that you’re trying too hard to establish that, then that’s just not meant to be.

It reminds me of the trust that your parents gave you. It works even with parent-child relationships and in spousal relationships, dating relationships. I want to circle back to the big break. What was this big break to go from singing in a bar every day to the big stage?

Matcha, this is a big thing. When my mom passed, I was a wreck. I didn’t know where I was going to go. I had no girlfriend left in my life. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. It was terrible. I decided to sing it out. I made a cover of Diana Ross’s When You Tell Me That You Love Me. That was the song my mom would sing me to sleep. I made a cover of that. I put it up online. Suddenly I had one of the biggest producers in the Bollywood industry write back to me on Facebook and be like, “We’re hosting this singing talent show.” You guys have The Voice here in America. There’s like that in India. It’s called The Stage.

He messaged me and said, “I think you should totally audition for this because this is a great color. You want to be on the stage and you have a story. Come on and let’s do this.” I was like, “Reality show? No. It’s so lame.” I did it because my mom always wanted me to be on a reality show and I’ve never done that for her. I went through all the rounds and much before I knew I was on the show, I was in season one. One of the finalists, I was one of the two voices from my city out of 600 people. It was big for me and I had to move to a city called Mumbai and get help from my dad because he still had Alzheimer’s. I did pretty well on that show.

When you give love, you get love. Click To Tweet

Did you win?

A huge part of it, yes. The wins in India are very different. There are multiple wins, multiple people who are getting the same titles or different titles. I was definitely in the top five amongst one of them. Not that I did get anything out of the reality show, but pretty much a lot of people in India knew my name after that, and then life just became about music. Everywhere I’ve walked, people will be like, “You’re from The Stage, I love you.” I could make a career out of my music. I have a band and we started performing around. That definitely helped me and my dad at that time back at least halfway from what we lost.

What has the journey been since then? What has the path been with music specifically and how long has it been since The Stage?

The Stage happened in 2015. I’ve just been around the globe performing. It’s been amazing. I sing in eight languages.

All Indian?

Five different Indian languages, and then Spanish, Swahili and English. Five Indian languages is a lot. It became a part of me, learning languages and singing it around. I would be so happy when I’m on stage. I would forget the world. It was my 90 minutes of happiness at its peak. I’ve had the greatest times. I’ve done a lot of TV shows, I’ve done a lot of songs from movies in Indian languages. I got my degree from the London College of Music. I’ve got an eighth-grade degree with musical theater and pop vocals. My dad had a business that I had to take over because he couldn’t at some point.

His body wasn’t up to getting out and working. We used to make furniture. I got into it and I got the company back to where we needed to be. I lost my dad in 2018. That was a tough process because he just vanished in three days. It was uncertain. It was unnecessary for both of them leaving. After he left, a huge part of me did not want to reside in India anymore because I feel like I’ve seen so much in that country and from marriage to my parents do my child and so many things. I prayed to God that I wanted to get away, then he got me to America. I had a sponsorship with the Musicians Institute here in Hollywood to do a summer program. I came out here and did that. I got an A, which I didn’t tell you.

One of the things that a lot of people mentioned and I would agree with, I think it makes sense in the life you’ve lived and the work you’ve done. A lot of people say that one of your superpowers or gifts is the ability to perceive and sense to perceive other people. Their underlying heart, motives and a refined sense of empathy. They can see beneath the surface. How do you think about that? Do you agree? Do you see that within yourself and how do you experience that with empathy and caring for seeing others truly? What would you say as a contributor to lead to that for you?

Definitely my therapy and my own life. When I went through whatever I’ve been going through as a child, my mirror was my only way to tell how painful I look. The nuances of how people move, behave and how it told me what they were going through because I would do most of it. I know what I would do if I had a bad thought or a good thought. I have always studied that pattern in me. As a child, even when I looked at people, I could just look at them and know what exactly they were going through. It was scary for me, but it was also so easy for me to look at them and feel. I always wanted to talk to them particularly about it because I could see that.

During my college times, I would talk to people randomly and be like, “Are you going through a job problem and stuff?” They would be so surprised that I said something like that because I can see it through their body language. I want to be someone who particularly helps people with what they’re going through at the time because everyone’s amazing, but they always have something that they’re battling all the time. I don’t want to waste time with everything else, but help them with that. I want all the people I know to have a fabulous life. I don’t want to see anyone in pain because it’s not nice. I can’t stop myself from getting to them and getting them out of that, whatever they’re going through.

It is something about taking responsibility. It’s not just waiting for them to figure it out on their own or letting someone else do it. It’s like, “How can I contribute to the betterment of them in society in this relationship?”

I’m definitely not judgmental or I don’t assume things about people. Sometimes you don’t want to tell people that things that they don’t want to hear. I’m very careful about that. The ones that I know and I feel like I can add something to, I try and do that.

That’s a beautiful humility. It’s needed. That’s a great point. Many times we make things worse by saying something we shouldn’t say because not what’s helpful for them or it won’t be received. It’s a discerning in a lot of ways. You’ve been in America for several months. I am curious to know what was your perception of America before and how it has that shifted, changed or obliterated?

I’ve been in London. I love London, but I don’t like the people because they’re so sarcastic there and nobody’s warm enough. I always think that Americans are, but you have to meet the right people. Some people can be like, “No, don’t walk through my door.” Some people can be like, “You have me all the time.” America is a little bit of both, but I did have a culture shock when I first got here. The biggest thing is, at least from where I come from, we’re not even allowed to wear a bralette on the street. People would stone you. When I see people in their bikinis, I was like, “I’m not looking at a guy, I’m not looking at anybody, sorry.”

The first few weeks I had a sweater on all the time, I’d be like, “I’m not showing my stuff. I’m covered.” Slowly I realize people don’t care because everyone thinks that everyone’s got the same thing just in different sizes, which is fine. It took me a while to get to that. The food has no spice, not enough oil. When I moved in I was like, “Where is the oil? Where’s the taste in the chicken, where is the masala?” That took me a while, but I love American food. I love my steaks. I know that I have to get them medium-rare. In terms of the people, yes, it’s been a little dodgy with the kind of people because I’m a therapist. In the first ten seconds, I’ve already cracked into the person. I already know most of that person.

It’s easy for me to talk to them, but I have met a lot of people who would have so many things running in their mind but that’s not the same thing they’re saying out. I wish people were honest. You are getting rid of half of the world’s problems if you’re just honest. Even if you’re wrong, if you’re honest about it, that person is going to feel bad for about ten minutes and then it’s going to be over. When you don’t give them the exact truth of how you’re feeling, you’re letting the other person believe that you’re fine with a certain pattern, which is not. That in turn, making yourself a lot more miserable than giving it to them. That, I feel like I haven’t met a lot of people who could be themselves completely. The fact that I can’t like walk to places in LA.

UAC 121 | Redeeming Pain And LossLA is not a great place for not having transportation, unfortunately. That’s so true that I love what you said because that would solve half the world’s problems. When you have a culture of being more honest, fewer feelings are hurt and more people are on the same page.

What is the necessity to lie? If you lie about something, even if it’s white lies, you’re just trying to push the truth a few days away from someone knowing about it, but when someone gets to the truth, it is so much uglier than the lie. You don’t want that.

LA probably more than other places in America because it is a very surfaced culture. The funny thing is the façade is a lie. That’s something we forget. Pretending to be something you’re not is lying.

People didn’t warn me about it. They definitely said you’re going to LA or New York or any other part. LA has got a lot of artists, a lot of culturally active people. When I would see people going to IHOP and they have lashes worn, I’d be like, “Why? It doesn’t make sense.” I think it’s the whole facade. There’s a lot of fake attitudes and trying to someone you’re not. I used to be very insecure about how I looked and dealt with my own life or the clothes I wore until I came across Jesus’ words that said, “I’ve made you in my own image and likeness.” Sometimes when I think about it, the line is so deep that when you talk about Jesus, when you look up to him all that you’re referring to him is flawless, perfection, such amazing skin, and such beautiful eyes, what lovely hair. If he’s made you like that, that you’ve got everything.

That’s true. It’s so freeing and fun when you realize that everyone is made in the image of God. It’s beautiful.

Your health is great, you look great and doing great if you just believe in that.

Since you’ve probably spent the most time in India, when you compare Indian culture with American culture, what would say American culture would benefit from being more like India or vice versa?

I do know the answer for vice versa. If Indians that have to learn something from here, it would definitely be the whole nonjudgmental attitude. When people are walking on the streets doing their own thing, you’re allowed to be who you are here. You’re not questioned for how you dress, how you move or how you talk. In India, you’re judged for every single thing you do, even the things you say to people, they will judge you upfront for it. The society always has a say in your life back in India, which is not the way it is in America. I have been so much at peace living in America. No one has ever told me like, “Don’t do that. Don’t do this. Why are you doing that?” That’s definitely what India should get better with. With Americans learning something from Indians, it would definitely be a lot more humility. Be more aware of relationships. Be more aware of the people around you.

Be very mindful of the things you say. You never know if you’re hurting someone or not. I feel like a lot of people here are self-centered, which a part of it is okay. When you do not understand that that part of you is hurting someone, it gets out of limit. People in India are very considerate about it. They’re always thinking, “I shouldn’t say something that’s going to hurt another person.” Another huge thing is people in American never make time for friends especially in LA. In India when you have friends, we always do things together every week and we always make time. In LA, people get so busy with their work, which is fine, but everyone’s headed towards monotony. That’s not helping your brain cells. You should make time for newer people. The newer energies you have in your life, the better the learning you’re getting.

LA is one of the worst places for that. It’s a hyper achievement culture. It’s something I’m honestly fighting all the time for myself. I think a lot of people in LA are. Kansas, does a lot better job of that which is good, but you’re right. Making time for fun, for rest, for people, for friendship is needed.

In a couple of years, I’ve lost friends who are my age to just nothing, heart attacks and stuff. You’ll never know how much time you got in your life. While still you’re, just give them whatever you can.

What you mentioned freedom, I thought it was profound because I think in society we see the shift to more judgment and less freedom in individual level of people trying to control what other people believe more. It is a regression. It’s good for Americans to hear that freedom is should be something that you prize and value. We shouldn’t try to put people to conform to our box of what they should be. That’s not helpful for us. That’s regressing and oppressive place. We need to hear that because it’s a good reminder of the blessing.

A lot of people in India get easily depressed because of that. They have everybody else telling them not to do a certain thing when they want to do it and want to be themselves, especially gay marriages and just being gay or celebrating that side of life. Nobody has permission to do that, so I think America is good in a lot of ways.

The humility you mentioned is good too. American pride is celebrated in unhealthy ways.

Not everybody.

Generalizations are generally true. It’s not a prescription. I agree with that. It is great to hear from the perspectives of other people who have lived in very different cultures, very different places to help us know that there are things that we do that are dumb and weird just as much as anyone else in any culture. I’d love to know what your parents left in you. What did your mother and father pass on to you as a person?

My mother for surely has passed on her independence, courage and strength. Humility for me comes from her. Being modest about life. Cooking, singing, dancing, and always being mindful about myself and everyone that’s around me. From my dad, always worked for the money you earn. Never touch the money that you haven’t earned because it’s not going to be yours no matter when. Hard work. Always strive for success. Never try to be number two, but don’t bring down other people just because you want to be number one. Treat your body as a temple. Make sure you respect yourself before you ask other people to respect you. Carry love and light in you always because you never know when people may need it when you walk on the way. Never say no to people that need your help in whatever form or manner you are able to at that point in time.

What is the future goal or vision for you? What drives you and what is the impact that when you think about the ten-year vision of what you love to be used in this world for or had the impact you want to make? What has come to mind?

Soul comes from all the experiences you've been through. Click To Tweet

My childhood dream that I hope I will fulfill, at least when I’m 40 or 45, is I want to open a huge home for old people that don’t have places in their homes, like a home for the aged and take care of them for the rest of their lives. That’s something I want to do. Otherwise, with my passion and stuff, I want to be the biggest artist and sing my heart out, learn more languages and be God’s shining star.

What is the song that makes your heart or soul come alive and most?

“It is well in with my soul.” If I have something that I’m going through, I sing that song out loud and I’m fine.

What section or part or lines that speak to you? It’s all beautiful.

Just to confirm that someone up there always got you. Nothing’s going to go wrong.

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

That I was a nice person. It’s so easy for people to assume, especially everyone in India. Everyone’s always like, “I don’t know what is it about her.” You never know the person and they always have so many assumptions about me. They paint their own pictures about me. I wish they knew me as a person and then painted the picture. I am not a bad person. I wish people knew that.

What are your cornerstone habits or the habits that are parts of your life that keep the rest in place?

Definitely prayer every single day. Thank you for helping me with, Thane. I do morning and evening with the Bible and it’s kept me great so far. For me, affirmations of gratitude go a long way. Whatever happens in my day, I’m always thanking God or thanking the people that have helped me through it. It helps my body, my system, my soul, everything. Definitely workouts because so much toxins are released and it’s such a good place to be when you work out. You’re so confident about yourself. I like to eat a lot of vegetables and eat healthily, so that’s definitely adding to my habits. I am an anti-smoker. It keeps your health super fresh when you’re away from smoking. A lot of hugs, I’m a huge hugger. I love hugging people. I love doing the warmest, biggest hugs, especially when men come my way that is big and cuddly. I’d like to give them at least ten seconds longer because everyone can use a hug. They say six hugs a day is a true cure to depression. I hug all my patients.

What question do you ask yourself the most?

How can I get better? How can I be better than before? How can I have people see Jesus in me every day?

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

I have a lot of books that I’ve read that have personally made a lot of difference in my life, but that definitely The Secret, because it helped me get all my affirmations before I became someone like that. I like Wuthering Heights. It keeps a part of me knowing that I’ve been through pain, misery and a lot of things that I have overcome and revisit it in the nicest ways. It keeps me humble, and the Bible. It is my food every day. Another one is From Here to There: A Quarter-life Perspective On The Path To Mastery by Thane Marcus Ringler.

If you could teach a class for a semester, what would you teach on and why?

I would want to teach people about the whole belief system. In the world, you have too many beliefs and what you believe is what your reality would look like. If you started refining that, better days ahead. What you believe, how you believe in, how you need to get with it.

It’s amazing something as simple as self-awareness and understanding does. It unlocks so much. If you could send a morning text reminder to every Up and Comer out there, what message would you send and why? They get this on their phones every morning from Kenishaa.

It would be, “Love, you’re awake. Be grateful and you’ve got just the best day ahead of you because nobody else has the opportunity that you have. All you got to do is wear your shoes and your best smile. Get out of your house. Believe that this opportunity deserves you more than you deserve the opportunity. When you get to your place to deliver, just be yourself. Don’t try too hard because God has already invested the talent in you, the heart in you. All you need to do is show up and be yourself and people and the world will definitely see how bright and beautiful you are.” You can just come back and put yourself to sleep. I read an incredibly long text. Sometimes it’s annoying, but it’s okay.

UAC 121 | Redeeming Pain And Loss

Redeeming Pain And Loss: Never touch the money that you haven’t earned because it’s not going to be yours no matter when.

 

Kenishaa, where’s the best place for people to find out more about your singing, your music and what you’re up to?

Definitely the socials. I’m Kenishaa Francis on Instagram, Facebook, wherever. I’m more than happy to connect with anyone and everyone through social media platforms. I’m happy to help anyone who thinks that I could add even 2% of value to their life.

Kenishaa, this has been a blast. Thank you so much for coming on.

Before I let you go, you have to give me at least 1 or 2 secrets of my friends have said about me. I’m going to always be like, “I don’t know what they’ve said to you.”

We’ll do a few things. One of the questions I ask is, how would they describe you in two words? Here are some of the words; tenderhearted, impassionate, smiley, bold, passionate, strong, determined, approachable, extra-extra, fierce, independent, sunshine and thunder. A lot of good stuff. People love you.

I love them too. I hope they’re reading this and they know that my heart is all about them.

Thank you so much for sharing your heart and your story. I can’t wait to see what’s ahead.

Thank you so much for making time. Thank you for having me a part of this show. Since the day I’ve known you, I’ve read pretty much every episode. I love that you add so much value in people’s lives. All the stories you bring on the Up And Coming Show are so effective, so vulnerable, yet so strong and happy. Thank you for considering me to be a part of it. I’m honored and I will take your voice back to India as well. Let more people know this because I think a lot of people should know you, Thane. Your heart is obsessing to everyone that knows it. I’m truly blessed knowing you.

I feel grateful. For all of you reading, we hope you have an Up and Coming day. Until next time.

Important Links: 

About Kenishaa Francis

UAC 121 | Redeeming Pain And LossI’m Kenishaa, an Artist/Singer/Performer/Dancer/Entertainer/Radio Host/Designer/Therapist, now residing in Los Angeles.

I was a finalist of ‘The Stage’ Season 1, A singing reality show in India.

I also had my own primetime radio show called ‘Keeping it with Kenishaa’ on India’s biggest radio station called Indigo 91.9.

I represent India with two Latin Dancing styles – Bachata and Kizomba.

As a therapist, I’ve been practicing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for the last 6 years. I’ve always wanted to give some form of me freely to the society, and I chose to do this with Therapy.

Connect with Kenishaa!

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UAC 120 | Pursuing Opportunity Over Passion

 

This is an interview with Johnny Youssef, the Swiss Army knife of home renovation. Throughout the years, Johnny has taken on a lot of roles including being a young adult pastor, a television news editor, a real estate agent investor, renovator landlord, interior designer, public speaker, event planner and more. Today, host Thane Marcus Ringler and Johnny talk a lot about different perspectives from the different cultures Johnny lived in. They also talk about being raised with an entrepreneurial mindset and how he views risk as a result. They also touch on learning how to say no and living in different tensions from different seasons of life. One of the large themes during the conversation was the difference between passion and opportunity. It’s chock-full of practical, helpful stories and insight. We know you are going to enjoy this interview, so please sit back, relax, and enjoy this interview with Johnny Youssef.

Listen to the podcast here:

Johnny Youssef: Pursuing Opportunity Over Passion: An Entrepreneur Redeeming Real Estate While Embracing The Tensions Of Life

This is a show all about learning how to live a good life. We believe that it takes living with intention in the tension. Intentionality is the key to living a good life in our opinion and it is a journey. It is a dance in the middle of tensions daily. That’s what we get to do as part of this community. Thanks for journeying through life with us as a fellow Up and Comer. If you are new and haven’t been with us before, the best and easiest ways to help us out as a way to give back and say thanks is leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. It’s the easiest and simplest way. It takes about two minutes of your time. We’re up to 75 reviews and I’d love to get that to 125 and you get to be a part of helping in that because it’s the best way to get us seen by more people.

The other awesome way to help out is just simply sharing this episode or an episode that you enjoyed with a few people in your community or you can also share it on the socials. That’s a great way to help out. We are on all the socials @UpandComersShow. We also have a website TheUpAndComersShow.com and you can also support us on Patreon if you wanted to help out financially. If you’ve got a business that you’d like to partner to help bring more awareness for the impactful work that you’re doing, definitely send us an email at TheUpAndComersShow@Gmail.com.

This is an interview with Johnny Youssef. Who is Johnny? He is the Swiss Army knife of home renovation. He is a real estate investor, renovator and designer. His passion is turning ugly properties into pieces of art while creating passive income. Johnny specializes in long-term rentals, short-term Airbnb properties and flips. He loves showing others how to get into real estate and has renovated and designed over 50 homes. Besides homes, he has a passion for storytelling, public speaking and content creation. His primary topics of interest are related to entrepreneurship, faith and culture.

Throughout the years, Johnny has taken on a lot of roles including being a young adult pastor, a television news editor, a real estate agent investor, renovator landlord, interior designer, public speaker, event planner and more. Johnny was born in Cairo, Egypt and moved to Richmond, Virginia at the age of fifteen. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a BS in Mass Communications with a concentration in Broadcast Journalism. You can find more about Johnny on Instagram @JohnnyYou or by visiting his website at JohnnyYou.com.

This was a great interview and one that I enjoyed. Johnny and I got connected a few years back and I’ve been following along and staying in touch with him ever since. He is an inspiring up and comer. We talk a lot about different perspectives from the different cultures he lived in. We talk about being raised with an entrepreneurial mindset. He had two parents who were both entrepreneurs and just being raised in that environment and how he views risk as a result. We talk about some of the things he’s learning, like learning how to say no and living in different tensions from different seasons of life.

We also talk about living in the middle of different ideologies from different cultures. We talk about being a first-generation immigrant. One of the large themes was the difference between passion and opportunity. Whether you pursue your passion, whether you pursue the opportunity, valuable stuff on that. The power of storytelling was mentioned and chunking down goals into smaller pieces and much more. It’s chock-full of practical, helpful stories and insight. I know you are going to enjoy this interview, so please sit back, relax and enjoy this interview with Johnny Youssef.

 

Johnny Youssef, welcome.

I’m excited to be here.

It’s great to have you here. It’s been a while in the making so I’m glad we finally got to make this happen. Scheduling is hard and when we live in two different places, it makes it even harder. Here we are and it worked out.

We’re making it happen. I’m so excited to be here and I love what you do. This is going to be fun.

I want to start here. From what I hear, you may be a pretty renowned Monopoly player.

I’m good at Monopoly. Real life taught me.

What makes you a good Monopoly player?

I feel like doing real estate day-to-day, you have to make quick decisions and you have to make wise decisions. I just learned how to monopolize, I guess.

Would you say you’re a pro grade at Monopoly?

UAC 120 | Pursuing Opportunity Over Passion

How We Love, Expanded Edition: Discover Your Style, Enhance Your Marriage

I don’t know. We’ll have to play and then we’ll see.

One thing I’ve heard that you may not be as good or gifted at is snowboarding.

Growing up in Egypt, we didn’t have much opportunity for snowboarding, but I’d like to say that on my second time of snowboarding, I was still going down the slope. Maybe it took me 45 minutes while it took others fifteen, but I made it happen.

Have you been back snowboarding since?

I’ve done it twice and it just takes me a while, but I do it.

Let’s talk about Egypt. You grew up in Egypt. Where in Egypt did you grow up in?

I grew up in Cairo in the middle of the city and I was there until I was fifteen. A big chunk of my life, all my childhood was there.

How big is your family?

I have one brother and parents, mom, dad and then a bunch of cousins, aunts and uncles.

I’ve never been to Cairo and I’m guessing a lot of people haven’t, but how would you describe Cairo and growing up there and your childhood experiences?

I grew up in a city and that was good for me. Cairo was very chaotic. You think of New York but messier, crazier traffic, less organized and less the systems in place, but I loved it. Looking back now, I can see the value of how I grew up in the city. I see friends here or friends that grew up in the suburbs and I think there’s something beautiful about that, having a big backyard, consistency and all that. I also feel like the reason I am who I am now, part of it is growing up in a city.

Culturally, what were some of those gaps for you? What age did you move to America?

I moved at the age of fifteen. There are a lot of cultural gaps and there are definitely culture shock moving. I think growing up in Egypt, one is it helped me prepare for the real world. I’m not saying growing up in the city is better than suburbs or anything like that, but for me growing up in the city meant seeing what traffic looks like and how people interact and being around stores and car accidents. I was exposed to so much. Versus sometimes when you grow up in a suburb or more rural area, it can be very closed off to your community and your friends that you can’t see the real world.

One thing growing up in the city was it exposed me to real life. Another thing is it made me hungry for new experiences. When you grew up in a city where there are new things happening all the time and new restaurants, new parks, new this, new that. I started riding the subway when I was twelve years old. I would hop on their subway to go see my friend on the other side of Cairo. Being exposed to that, it opened me up to wanting new experiences and new responsibilities. Moving here was definitely a shocker because it was very different.

What were your parents’ occupations in Egypt?

There is so much push about going after your dreams. Click To Tweet

My dad is an entrepreneur. My parents met in college and fell in love and got married. They never used their degree. They’re both engineers. Instead they opened a shop for making clothes. They had tons of employees and they basically made clothes for places like JCPenney, Walmart and Target. They had a big factory with employees and systems in place. That definitely helped being with business parents just opened my eyes to entrepreneurship and business ownership.

That is interesting coming from two parents who are both entrepreneurs. Looking back on it, maybe at the moment, did you see that as unique or different from maybe your friends or other people in your life or was that normal to you?

At the time, I didn’t see it as much as now, but I did see how my parents were different in the sense of there are pros and cons. Sometimes I would envy my other friends that had parents that work 9 to 5. Life was consistent. My life was a little bit more chaotic because my parents sometimes would be busy. My great aunt, who was basically my grandma, lived with us. They had seasons in life where they had deadlines and they were working until 9:00 to 10:00 PM and they had other times where they’re more flexible. We would travel more than my other friends because my parents were able to take off work because it’s their own business. There are pros and cons, but I think from a younger age, I knew that they are different in the sense of life is going to be a little bit more chaotic and a little bit less consistent.

As you think about it now, having your parents be in those roles, how did that frame your own perspective in choosing to go the entrepreneurial route for yourself? How did that inform your perspective or your approach to that?

It did a lot. One thing is it gave me the courage to say I’m going to go after starting something rather than for a lot of people that grow in very predictable homes, which there’s nothing wrong with that. Very predictable homes, jobs, careers, maybe the corporate world. For them, the idea of starting something or saying no to corporate world is scary and a lot of times they don’t even get support from parents because your parents know you work in the same place and you grow and you make more money. If you know you’re adventurous and risky, maybe you apply for jobs in the same streamline and find a job that will pay you more. That’s as much risk as you take. I think growing up with entrepreneurship at home, it did give me the courage to say, “I’m going to try this. I’m going to see if I’m going to do it or not.” Another thing, it did help me with is I feel like I’m a lot more hungry for adventure and for new things and I’m not as scared of failure. That’s huge. A lot of times we don’t do things because we’re afraid of failure. Growing up in that culture and in that household has made me just more comfortable with trying and feeling.

I love those because it brings so much richness and joy to life and fullness a lot of times. The thing I’m always curious about is would most people benefit from that? What would you say your perspective is? I’m always curious about even being from a small town in Kansas versus now living in LA, there are vast differences in culture and types of people. There are lots of people that wouldn’t do well in LA that live in the middle of Kansas as much as a lot of people that live in LA wouldn’t do well in Kansas. That’s not right or wrong or better or worse, it’s just different. Even when you think about some of the core components of being an entrepreneur is are you able to handle more risk? Are you able to live with more risks and take on more risk? Are you able to embrace the adventure, the new experiences? These kinds of things that I think fundamentally as humans we probably would benefit from as a whole, but maybe not everyone would need that or should have.

I want to be very careful because I think something that I don’t like about a lot of entrepreneurs out there and it’s getting more popular in social media, a lot of people are sharing quotes from the big well-known entrepreneurs. A lot of times those quotes and those people make it sound like if you have a 9 to 5 job or if you are taking the safe route, you’re a loser. I want to be clear that that’s not the case at all. We need doctors and we need teachers. Without teachers, we’re going to have a failed culture and society in general. We honestly need the cashier at a grocery store. We need everyone that’s doing 9 to 5 to do 9 to 5. The point is not to push people and tell them, “Quit your 9 to 5.”

I see that a lot. I see a lot of memes like, “Quit your 9 to 5. You’re not born for 9 to 5,” and there’s some truth to that. At the same time, I think it’s about what I’m hoping even from my life is to help those 9 to 5 see the other side and learn from it and know how to adjust their own life to learn the good from the entrepreneurs. It’s like I am learning a lot from those 9 to 5s. Maybe even or small towns, they don’t go hand in hand as a small town person. For example, I can guarantee you that I can learn from you a lot about consistency, about building something slow. A lot of people that grew up in a small town or maybe blue-collar, they learn to enjoy day-to-day. They learn to appreciate the mundane. They learn to build life slowly and be okay with that.

Consistently, a lot of small town people learn how to prioritize people and family. I can learn so much, a big city guy, from a small town about those things. Learn how to use your hands and get your hands dirty. A lot of people that grew up in the city would not try to fix anything. The same is true and that’s where I’m coming in the picture where I also want to help whether you’re small town. Whether you’re a 9 to 5, I want to help you learn how to take a little bit of risk. If you hate your job, but you don’t see yourself starting your business, how to take a little bit of chances, how to figure out what you want and how to maybe do a side thing that you’re passionate about on the side without having to give up the lifestyle you want.

It’s such a sweet perspective and so neat. I’m so glad you brought that up because it’s both ends saying that, “It’s not this or that. It’s both. They’re both good. They’re both important and they’re both needed. They both need each other.” Both sides of the equation need each other and it’s not about which side of the equation is better or right. It’s about how can both sides help each other. That’s a place with more tension a lot of times because you’re coming to the middle between the two but it’s so true. I got back from being in Hutchinson where I’m from for a weekend. I love it. It’s such a sweet place and it brings me so much joy and that people are so grounded. LA is often the opposite but they’re both amazing and needed. What helps you be grounded in that? Coming from a bigger city or being an entrepreneur and being more in that non-traditional, non-typical 9 to 5 hustle, what are the things that you see that you need from the other side of the fence that help you in life?

UAC 120 | Pursuing Opportunity Over Passion

 

I lived in LA for a while. Part of the reason why I moved to Kansas City, I lived in Kansas City before LA and I moved back is because I got to a place where I was too much FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out in LA. I wanted to do so much that it was hard to stay grounded. I have real estate business in Kansas City and I wanted to be in a place where I can slow down. I wanted to still live in the city or close to the city, but I want it to be in a place where I can slow down and focus on consistency, focus on roots, focus on building things, even if it’s slower, but building a stronger business. I think for me that was a choice that I made for those things.

A quiet distraction has been helpful to me. It’s one of the biggest things I need to learn to get better on but I definitely saw a lot of improvement lately. This is one thing like decision fatigue is a real thing. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s when you have to make so many choices in a day, no matter how good of a decision maker you are, no matter how smart you are, it gets you. I’m sure a lot of people heard about how Steve Jobs wore the same thing every day because he wanted to focus his mind on things that matter. If you’re going to wake up and you’re going to have to decide, “What am I going to wear? What am I going to eat? Do I take this with me or do I take that with me to work?”

You go to work and you have so many choices and then you go to lunch and it’s like, “Do I want this place or that place?” When you get there, you’re going to go Chipotle and it’s like, “Do I feel like chicken?” When you make so many choices in a day, you get decision fatigue and you start making decisions for things that don’t matter as much, but then you don’t have the emotional capacity to go after things that matter. Like, “What career path? How do I start my business? What business do I want to start?” I think for me, I’ve been trying to simplify my life, learn to say no, not have to jump to everything and also make lesser choices.

There’s a lot of science and research that’s saying lesser choices make people happier. I know that’s crazy, but like they’ve done research on even ice cream choices. They found out that if you go to an ice cream shop where you have three options and you leave versus another ice cream shop that has hundreds of options. If you go to Cold Stone, that’s one of the basic ice cream, between the mixings and between the flavors, it was over a thousand different options. They did their research where they found out that the people that had fewer options when they went to the old school ice cream shop where it’s vanilla, chocolate or strawberry, they were actually more satisfied with their decision when they went out. They said, “It was great. That’s what we wanted.” Versus when they went to other ice cream shops with a lot of choices and people say, “I should have tried that. It was good, but there was definitely something better that we haven’t tried yet.” Trying to simplify those things has been helpful for me.

There’s so much beauty in limitations and restrictions and that’s where discipline equals freedom, which is what Jocko Willink talks a lot about. It’s true. Once we get these restrictions in place, we actually have more freedom and joy in what we can do. We thrive off of that. That’s how it gets created. For you, what has been helpful in eliminating decisions? What habits or practices that you put into your life to help with decision fatigue?

I’m talking about my weaknesses. In some ways I feel like a hypocrite because I’m still learning to master it but in some ways, I also feel like I can give some insight because it’s hard for me. It doesn’t come up naturally probably like you. Some things would be scheduling. I’m trying to have slots in a week where that’s my social slot. Just because something fun is happening, like Friday and Saturday I’m going to go out with friends one of those days. I don’t need to do both weekends because I can capture so much in those four hours in an evening when everyone is going to have fun. I can have the fun I like to have with planning business and stuff rather than going to different options over the weekend. The scheduling is huge.

Another thing is even for example, going to buy clothes, if I go to J.Crew or H&M and I don’t have a plan. I’ll find myself buying stuff that I like and it’s a great deal, but I don’t need versus before going, I’m like, “Here’s what I need. I need dress pants and I need a tie,” and I’m going for those purposes. I’m focused on that. I do that with life now where what do I need to do this week? If it’s not serving those specific purposes, I don’t listen to the noise. “Johnny, there is this great real state speaker. You need to come.” My goal right now is not to learn more about the real state. My goal is to manage this better so I’m not going to go. I’m not going to even distract my mind.

You have the end of mind and I’m sure you’ve heard that before. What is the end goal for this week? What is the end goal for this year? If it doesn’t serve that, then don’t let them get to you. When people call me to try to sell me stuff where I get emails about promotions, at first I would read everything because I’m like, “That’s a great promotion for this,” but I’m like, “No. Right now, I’m not trying to grow my clientele as a realtor.” No, I know that I have a free month subscription. It sounds great, but that’s actually going to take me to a different direction.

The other thing you brought up that is super important is learning how to say no. I’m curious, what would you say is still the hardest for you to learn how to say no to?

I’m a pleaser. I don’t know if you’ve heard of the book How We Love. It’s a great book that talks about how people are different. They’re pleasers and avoider, but I’m a pleaser, especially when someone invites me to something. They want me or when I get a promotion, even if it’s an email, not a personal call. They’re giving me a free month. I feel like it’s my obligation or something to say yes. Learning for me personally, to be able to say no and not to feel this tension of apologizing is huge.

You have to learn to see the opportunities in front of you to try things and to be willing to adjust accordingly. Click To Tweet

One of the things that I feel like I picked up a little bit in this conversation, it seems like you are a very self-aware person. You’ve almost had to be when you run your own business and you are going on for a route because you have to know how you can best operate for the success of what you’re trying to do and the goals you’re trying to accomplish. In your own development process and becoming more aware of yourself, what are the things that have helped you understand the way you think, the way you make decisions, the way you operate over the years in the past and the journey?

Here’s the thing that I didn’t get into, but growing up in a different culture has been a huge benefit. At the age of fifteen, when you come from a very different culture and you have to regularly go through logical reasoning to make a decision. My parents are very open-minded. I grew up going to Christian private school learning English from a young age. I’ve had it easy compared to other people that grew up in a totally different culture, but I still had to regularly compare and contrast different ideologies and priorities. That helped me. For example, things like when I moved, I knew that I had to make a decision because I saw how immigrants my age that moved to the US become more part of their culture. They find their tribe, they find their community, and I’ve seen that. I had to make a decision mentally.

I’ve seen how Egyptians that even come younger than me, like twelve years old, ten years old or maybe even born here. Their parents huddled them into the tribe of other Egyptians. Even though they may have been born in the US, they grew up with a thick accent, they grew up not Americanized at all. They grew up in a small community of their tribe and the myriad within it versus you see other people that come in and it’s an extreme. They are completely Americanized that they don’t even associate with their culture. That in itself, I didn’t want to betray who I am, but I also want it to be open. I’m part of a new culture and I want to add to it, not just take from it in my closed culture. I have to regularly contrast and even faith versus reason a lot of times honestly can be challenged.

This is what my faith tells me but reason says that. How can I reconcile both? If someone’s reading and they’re not from a different culture, it doesn’t mean you cannot take advantage of that. That has been helpful to me to be able to look and be able to reason outside of what the norm is saying. Elon Musk, Gary Vee, all these people are immigrants. Their parents are immigrants. They’re first generation. I think the two things that make those guys talented and successful, one is they had to think and compare and contrast different mindsets and ideologies. Like left-handed people can have a lot more giftings or more artistic abilities because they have to live in a right-handed world.

What happens is you have to adjust to a different environment, which makes you good. It’s like someone who’s blind can naturally start to develop good hearing. Your body wants to survive so you get better at this so that you can adjust to the environment. The same growing up in different cultures. I’ll tell people that the two keys that I think immigrants do well is one compare and contrast and always be thinking. Secondly, is they see the value of the opportunity in front of them. If you grow up in a culture where you have it all given to you, you don’t see opportunities. Sometimes a challenge for you is a setback rather than seeing it as challenges and opportunity. I would tell people reading, learn to always think even politically, philosophically. What’s good here, what’s bad here and how can I analyze it? Is it worth my risk or not? It’s a huge way to live in a way where you can grow rather than being closed up to your tribe or to your familiar environment. Secondly, look for opportunities and take risks.

I want to underscore how interesting and important it is. You said adding to the culture and not just taking from it. That’s such a powerful concept that our role isn’t to take something. What can we take from this culture? What can we have or how can we assimilate? How can we not take from but add to it and contribute to culture in a positive, healthy and impactful way? I don’t know, hardly anybody, including myself who thinks that way. We were like, “How do we start thinking more that way and what does that look like?” What does look like for you as you thought through not becoming Americanized, but not also being an American-Egyptian, but going in the middle or adding to both sides? How did you go through that in your mind or what were even phases of that like for you?

I’m trying to think of specific examples, but I knew that I regularly had to do that. For example, I grew up in a culture where being a doctor is like the best thing you can do. I felt a lot of pressure not even from my parents, just from culture in general. You get to choose your major, choose the best thing, being a doctor. I remember also seeing in the American culture how it’s like a very different ideology where it’s not to go after the prestigious and highest way to help people and make money. That’s how the culture looks. Being a doctor is the most prestigious, you’re going to make a lot more money. It’s a very safe job and it helps a lot of people.

You go after that versus American ideologies, go after what you love. What do you want to do? Do you want to be an art history major? Do it. You want to be a YouTuber, do it. That was one of the hardest things. It’s almost like I agree with both sides and I see the disadvantages of both extremes. I started college as a premed and I gave it a try. I think that’s the part where I tried to do part of my culture. I gave it a try and I took a bunch of classes, but I was unhappy, but also understood where my family was coming from and my culture where it’s like, “What’s your plan to bring something to society?” I was like, “I think I can by being an entrepreneur and I have a mass communications journalism degree.”

Learning communications is part of my gifting. This is where I was more Americanized where I said I’m going to go after something I’m passionate about. That being said, I was also conscious of I’m not going to go blindly after my passion or I would not have gotten in real estate. My passion is I wanted to be a journalist. I wanted to go share documentaries. What happened is I had opportunities that came right in front of me with real estate. American culture would say, “That’s not your dream. Don’t compromise. Go after your dream.” Egyptian culture says, “This is an opportunity. Give it a try. You don’t know where it takes you.” I did that and I’m so thankful I was Egyptian in that side of it because I realize how much I enjoy it.

UAC 120 | Pursuing Opportunity Over PassionNow, I’m in a place where I still feel like I’m a storyteller, but I don’t have to go through the system of trying to be an anchor in some new station, grow and taking ten years to make it big. I built a business and I can still be a storyteller and thank God for the direction where media is. We’re sitting together because you can start your own podcast. You don’t have to go to a radio station and get a job. You can stick it to the man and do your own thing. This is an example, my career, of how I was able to learn from both cultures and find a happy medium.

I want to go back to that time in college. How long did you go the pre-med route before you decided to make the shift and then how did you make that decision? Inevitably, there’s opposition to change the thing that you set up especially in college. You pick a major and sometimes it’s hard to shift and there are lots of unknowns, pressure from family and all those other factors. When did you make it and how did you come to that?

It took me an extra year in college because of that decision. I was biology pre-med for 1.5 years, for three semesters. At that point, I took some courses that I never needed because they were focused on that. For me, the turning point is when I went to one of the lectures one day. The professor rolled in what appeared to be a body. She said, “It’s cadaver’s day. Everyone come in,” and I remember wanting to puke. The idea that there’s a dead body in the room. I remember I literally left class and I went directly to the administration office. I said, “I’m changing my major.” Also my GPA, I was a 2.8 and I’m like, “My chances of being a doctor with 2.8 because of my Cs were all biology-related.”

I was like, “My chances are I’m going to end up having a biology degree that I can’t use anywhere because I’m not going to make it to med school.” I switched and I thought, “That’s the great thing about America. You can switch. Worst case, you’re back at semester or a year.” I know that sounds dramatic, but in a lot of other places, if you choose a major or if you choose something, you can never go back. I changed my major. That semester my GPA was 3.9. I had one B and I was like, “I’m not dumb. I’m actually good at what I do. It’s just that I was doing the wrong thing.”

What I tell people is I don’t like how there’s so much push about, “Go after your dreams.” It’s such an inspiring quote. Singers sing it, writers write but that’s because they made it. How many millions of singers-wannabe never make it, but you have the one that makes? They say, “Go after your dreams,” or actors and celebrities. If we’re real, there are also 99% of actors-wannabe and singers-wannabe that never make it. They hear this message and they keep going and then it’s disappointing. Life is hard. It’s easy to play victim because you’ve done everything and you couldn’t do it. That’s why I don’t like the whole, “Go after your dreams.” I do believe you go after what you’re good at and what you enjoy. There’s something so great about going after your dreams, but you cannot do this blindly. You have to learn to see the opportunities in front of you to try things and to be willing to adjust accordingly. In the process, I do think your dreams become what you do. If not, you’re going to keep adjusting until you reach those dreams.

It’s interesting because as I say, it’s like 99.9% that don’t make it. We’re talking about 0.1% that makes any of those dreams a lot of times. That’s not to say it’s not worth pursuing, but it’s also not to say that it is what you should pursue. It’s a weird tension in the middle, but I do love the comparison you gave of passion versus opportunity. Especially in America, most people reading are in America, there’s such an emphasis on what are you passionate about. What brings you life? I think that’s helpful and unhelpful thing at the same time because that’s not the whole story. That’s part of the story. If you find what you’re uniquely gifted and talented at, that will be intrinsically rewarding. You have skill and ability there and you can bring that in a helpful way for others. That will bring you passion and joy in it, even if it wasn’t what you thought your passion was.

Let me give you an example. One of my best friends grew up wanting to be an actor. That’s all that he wanted to do. His parents from a young age have invested in him. “You’re going to be an actor.” He had the look, he had everything. He went to the best schools for acting. He has a lot of debt probably because of that school. Everything was playing for that and that was the only focus. I saw how he was struggling because he had everything it takes. He would go to so many auditions where there are 100 guys that look like him. They pick another guy just because he’s two inches too tall or the other guy is two years younger. I can see how it was causing so much pain. He grew up with the mentality that if you go after anything else, you’re in compromise.

He had to work restaurant jobs, like 99% of actors in LA, which tons of respect, but he hated the restaurant job. He was stuck. His whole life was waiting on the lottery tickets. Here’s what I’ve seen with him. He got to a point where he decided that what he loves in the process is teaching acting. He loves the art of it. Not just being on screen, but I saw how he would talk about the techniques of acting and he would get lit up. In the process, he got a job. I pushed him. I was like, “Go apply and see if you can be a cultured acting teacher.” Now he’s working in acting studio. I saw him and he’s so much happier. He loves teaching. He actually moved to Atlanta. He was stuck with LA because if you’re following your dreams, LA’s where acting is. Even though Atlanta is a great market, it’s growing, but it can feel a compromise if you’re following your dreams. Why would you leave LA if you want to be an actor?

He was willing to make the move. I went and visited him in Atlanta and his life is so much richer. One, he’s doing what he likes. He’s not working in restaurants anymore. He’s working on the skills he loves, which is the art of acting. Two, he’s still auditioning and it’s not the number one place, but Stranger Things filmed in Atlanta. Many crazy amazing things are getting filmed in Atlanta that the opportunity there is actually maybe even bigger compared to the number of people auditioning. I’ve seen how his life is no longer on a wait. It was on wait until he reaches a dream and until then he’s upset or disappointed. Now he’s like, “I love what I do. I wake up every day doing what I do. I’m no longer poor living paycheck to paycheck. I’m no longer working at a restaurant while my whole life is on wait. I’m still auditioning. If things come, awesome. If not, I don’t feel like I wasted years of my life.”

It speaks into the difference between scarcity and abundance and our mindset in that. Like it’s so easy to shift into a scarcity. That’s our default for everyone is here too like this is the only option. If it goes away, then there’s nothing else. It’s not true. I don’t think it’s ever true honestly, even though it makes me feel like it. You think about going down a path and failing at it. For me in golf, the scarcity mindset that’s natural without it is like, “I’m going to go down this path,” then it doesn’t work out and then wasted twenty years of my life. That’s never true. You’re gaining skills, talents, abilities and perspectives that are going to help you for your next journey.

It’s so hard for us all to have that shift or to be able to constantly make that shift over and over again. It’s going to keep persisting our whole lives. That’s fascinating. One last thing on this, I’m curious, feeling this is an important topic, this passion versus opportunities. Where is that tension for you now? When you think about where you’re currently at, how do you find the balance between passion and opportunities? You even talk about where you’re at in your own business and where you’re trying to shift or where you’re trying to get to. How do you incorporate that into your decision making, especially with your direction in your career?

It’s funny you’re asking this because it’s perfect timing. I’m in a place now where I was going after opportunity, knowing what my passions are and being aware of them. Doing things on the side to keep them alive, but at the same time not seeing new opportunities. My passion, I see myself as a storyteller. I have a degree in journalism. I love it when I see people’s hearts and lives change because of what I share. It makes me alive, not specifically through one outlet. Maybe that’s public speaking. Maybe starting a podcast, maybe sharing on my Instagram just thoughts. For a long time, I was stuck thinking I’m going to compromise because I’m not figuring out exactly what the outlet is and giving you all my time. I got too busy with opportunity that I let this go aside. I can tell that I was getting into because I don’t want to live my life every day doing real estate and that’s it.

If the numbers make sense, you can obsess with the perfect opportunity while losing what you have now. Click To Tweet

I’m in phase two or phase one was saying yes to opportunity and seeming busy, but not forgetting your passion. Now, I’m in a place because I’ve built that opportunity. I’ve built my real estate. I have rentals. I have Airbnbs. I’m a realtor. I can sell and buy properties. I’m an investor. I rehab houses. I have a rehabbing team. I’m in a place now where it’s like, “This is awesome, but I’m getting too busy doing that and forgetting that I have other passions.” I’m in a place right now, which is like phase two where it’s like I can be more selective about the opportunities I have. I’m going to have more time carved aside than I usually do to pursue those things. Whether it’s working YouTube channel or whether it’s collaborating with artists or interior designers, which I love doing that too, I’m in that phase.

The tension is not black and white. It depends on your career and your lifestyle. It’s how important your passion is versus your opportunity. You have to revisit. Every three months, I do like a personal life quarterly review, where I sit down and say, “What do I want to do differently for the next three months?” For example, I don’t want to buy single-family homes right now. Even if it’s a great deal, it’s a distraction. Even if I’ll make good money from it, it’s taking me away from doing things that I want to do. I’m learning to say no to those things. I do not even look online for good deals because that will be tempting. Re-evaluating regularly, seeing what do I do for the next season and then adjusting accordingly for me is key.

What else is in that quarterly review for you?

I reassess relationships. I’m an extrovert and I love people and grew up in a very hospitable home and it’s part of the culture. I love having people over, meeting new people and going deep with old people, but also reevaluating. This relationship brings life to me and I need to spend more time in it or this old friend they haven’t talked to for a while and he’s worth investing too. Being able to be aware though of which ones fill you up, which can be mutual. You can be filling someone up and bringing encouragement, but they do the same to you and which one drain you. You can love someone so much.

I have friends or friends like a little brother, a little sister that I will be for them the rest of my life, but they can be draining. If I’m hanging out with that person every weekend, it reflects on my productivity and my how positive I am. Being able to reevaluate relationships, being able to reevaluate how do I want to spend my time in career and opportunity versus passion. A challenge of mine too is habits. It’s hard for me to not snooze the snooze button or make my bed or have a consistent schedule. What do I need to do to have space to do that? Being able to reevaluate and focus on that.

That’s an important process. One thing you mentioned a couple of times is the passion for storytelling. It’s interesting because you are so heavily involved with your business in the real estate world, yet you have this passion for storytelling. You have a degree in Broadcast Journalism and it seemed like they’re not incompatible, but they’re parallel and different, divergent in a lot of ways. Where did this passion or love for storytelling come from?

I don’t because it’s so funny. In my family, they’re all shy and more introverted. I was the loud guy that likes animating stories. I remember as a kid, my parents would be working hard hours but I’m like, “When they come home, I’m going to tell them about this story in school. It’s going to make them laugh.” I’ve always been attracted to storytelling. The cool thing is not to even go dive deep into religion, but when you look at Jesus, he barely, if at all, ever share theology. It was always stories, the parables. What are the parables? It’s Jesus sharing stories because there’s something so powerful about stories where people can remember stories well. If I ask you about podcasts or sermons that still stuck out to you, you’re going to probably remember a story or a life lesson from someone that’s sharing it versus, “It’s the three points of a happy ending.” Throughout cultures and history, stories are what kept people learning and kept people understanding who you are, what is important and what’s not.

I’ve always loved the power of a story. That can be in any form of theater, movies, sharing in a podcast. Stories are powerful. I love it and I want to do more of it. With real estate, I realized why am I attracted to remodeling homes and what is it about it? I actually realized I love the idea of restoration, the idea of something that the city can tell you, “You need to tear down that building. It’s historic, but it’s ugly and it’s going to cost you a lot.” Me taking the challenge of like, “No, I want to see it completely restored,” is a story to tell. That’s our lies. As humans, each of us believes in lies and we have our insecurities. We have our pain points and maybe on forgiveness and bad memories. Stories are what can get people out of those things. Owning your story and sharing your story with others can be an empowering tool to help others also come out of it. I think stories and restoration come hand in hand. That’s what I do full-time with real estate. I feel like in some ways it’s parallel.

It is. That’s super rad and cool because you wouldn’t assume that right away. That’s how it flushes out and it’s a beautiful thing. I’d love to hear a little bit about the real estate side. How did you end up getting into the realm of real estate initially and then how has your path been different than you expected in this career?

UAC 120 | Pursuing Opportunity Over PassionWhen I was in college, I remember doing some math because keeping an eye on the opportunity and I was like, “I’m going to be in college for four years,” which ended up being five. “I’m going to have to pay rent for some landlords for five years. After that, my brother is probably going to go to the same college.” It was pretty close to home, big university, twenty miles from parents and homes. It’s Virginia Commonwealth University. I’m like, “That means between my brother and me, that’s 8 to 9 years of college.” You do the math and that’s like $100,000 to pay a landlord over eight years.

At the top, I thought, I’m not leaving Virginia. I love it there. My friends are there, everything’s there. I thought, looking for opportunities, why don’t I buy a home close to campus and rent it to friends? They can pay the mortgage? I convinced my parents to look into it because obviously I didn’t have any credits or anything. I was eighteen. They looked into it and they were like, “Let’s see if we qualify,” and we qualified. At the time, people were overpaying for houses. It was not a good time to get into real estate. One thing I learned is people overanalyze with real estate. I was just talking to an investor. I call her investor. She’s not investor because she’s had a lot of money and for the past number of years, on and off, maybe once a year she would call me and say, “I think I’m ready to do real estate now,” but she never executed because she’s overanalyzing. She wants the perfect deal and that never comes.

One thing that I learned is if the numbers make sense, you can obsess with the perfect opportunity while losing what you have now. At the time, the economy was good, the prices were too high. That being said, it was no brainer for my parents when I was looking into it with them. They said, “You’re going to have three roommates and they are going to cover all the mortgage. That’s enough for you to live for free.” On top of that, someone else is paying the debt on the house. Why not? Rather than being like, “The economy isn’t good right now. Let’s wait for five years. Maybe the economy will feel and that will be perfect timing.” If they looked at now, “This is good. Let’s go for it.” They got the first house and that’s all I wanted, a house for me to live in, a couple of blocks from campus and have roommates.

I did that. They came to me and said, “This whole block, a lot of houses are being sold.” It was the time when everyone qualified for a mortgage, even if they shouldn’t qualify before the crash. They were like, “We went under contract on six other houses.” I’m like, “What? No.” They were like, “It makes sense. You can rent it for students and they’re going to pay mortgage and we don’t have to pay anything and we’re going to own houses.” I’m like, “No.” I’m also full-time college student and overnight, literally within six months, I was managing 35 college students, five students in every house.

That was my part-time job but, in the process, I saw how opportunity can change your life. At first I was bitter actually. I was like, “What if I want to do something else during college?” I could have said no, but I looked at it as this is an opportunity for me to learn so much about business, communications with people, boundaries, contracts and I did. That’s how I got into it. When I was in Kansas City, I moved to Kansas City for an internship and when I was there, the economy was bad at that time. I was like, “Maybe I should stick around and see an opportunity here.” That’s what got me into real estate.

You were managing 35 renters that were college students.

There were lots of stories there.

What is one of the most outrageous stories that come to mind from that?

At 3:00 in the morning getting a call from a policeman saying that, “There’s a guy peeing on the neighbor’s house at 3:00 in the morning.” I get out and I realized that one of my tenants decided they were having a party. He decided to walk to the neighbor next door and start peeing on their house. Obviously, even having to be a leader, that tenant was older than me, but being like, “Forget that I’m a college student next door. I am the property manager. I know I’m nineteen but you’re going to take me seriously and this is a warning. If this happens again, you’re going to be kicked out and you’re going to lose your deposit.” That was one of the learning stories for me too.

During this time, did your parents basically say, “We’ve funded this. Now, go take care of it?” Were they helping you and manage it or getting the system set up or were you on your own?

That’s when I say the culture is a chaotic road. They look at an opportunity, go for it and then they figure it out. They didn’t have a plan, which is part of the frustration. I’m so thankful for that looking back, but at the time it was not pretty because I was like, “What are we going to do?” “I don’t know. We will figure it out as we go. Here are your keys.” They were not throwing everything on me. They’re like, “We’ll make copies of keys and give them to people.” “Do we have a contract?” “No. I guess we need one of those.” I’m researching on Google for contracts and editing contracts and winging it as I go.

That’s the thing that I would say also is a key success for a lot of people. They wing it until they make it rather than people that research it. They need to do twenty online courses before they start anything. I was winging it and perfecting the system as I go. “Here are the keys, here are the systems, here are labels, here are contracts and here are the rules.” The first year, “People do that and that doesn’t protect us in our contract. People break this and that. Let’s add to the contract so that they can be fined if they do this.” Every year I’m editing that contract. It will never be perfect, but it’s getting close to perfect because it’s winging it as you go.

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You have to start before you’re ready and everything and you learn by doing it. It’s an experience. It’s true with this. I cringe when I go back and I’m not going to go back. It’s hilarious. Moving forward from that, it was originally that in college was a massive learning. It seems like even in the past sense, and I’m curious to hear about it, but it seems like you are a self-learner. You’re very motivated, driven and capable of learning on your own. You don’t wait to have someone give you the perfect system. When you say that’s held true as you’ve moved forward in your career, give us a little taste of what that path has been like in the real estate world.

There are two types of people. There are ones when they buy a new camera that takes it out of the box, they keep pushing buttons or a new laptop or whatever until they figure it out. There’s the type that opens the manual and reached step-by-step and figures it out that way. Both have pros and cons. I’m definitely the extreme of I will never open a manual on board. That gets you in trouble with IKEA, by the way. IKEA assembly without reading those things, you build a table and you realize you did it all wrong and you start over. There are pros and cons to both. I would say though, in our culture in the West, I think there’s too much emphasis on go by the book, follow the manual. I would say go for it, figure it out as you go. From what I’ve seen, that typically works better. If you’re naturally someone that goes step-by-step, that’s great. Let yourself have the courage also to go forth and learn by mistake and wing it a little bit. If you don’t, you’re doing what everyone else is doing. It’s following the manual and if you do that, you’re not going to stand out. Sometimes following the rules and the manuals actually ruin us. It puts you in a box rather than also realizing, “Why do we have to do that?” That’s been good in this business with my dad. For example, this is silly, but I’ll share an example.

Garbage disposal is one of the costly things and I know that’s a silly example, but I can give you an idea. They are $150 to replace. With college students, you have a lot of people deciding to throw the little metal beer bottle tops and they get ruined. I remember my dad is like, “We need to put that this is not covered in the lease. If you break it, you pay to fix it because they’re costing us a lot every year.” I’m like, “No, dad. The rules are the landlord fixes these things.” I’m refusing to remove that. That’s our job. I later asked an attorney and he said, you can absolutely put that as something outside of the lease.

I was thinking too much in the box. Every lease I read this, not have that. Being able to think outside the box, we can actually make a different rule about this. Since we’ve put that in the contract, we’ve never had a complaint or someone putting stuff that they shouldn’t put in the garbage disposal. Literally this saved us thousands of dollars in the past several years. It’s being able to look at the manual, look at the standards because they’re there for a reason and if it’s not broke, why fix it in some ways, but at the same time be able to ask why and go your path if you need to and learn from it.

That’s such a massive thing. We all struggle with this and that’s thinking critically and intuitively about anything. It’s so much easier to say, “What are the rules or what are the steps as you need to follow it?” You have to think about it, you execute and that’s helpful in some things. Some things like, “This has already been predetermined. It’s the best route for assembling an IKEA table. I need to follow that.” A headache saved, but there are lots of things like where that’s very limiting because you put boxes around everything. It’s the same with golf. For me when I turned professional, I remember I kept looking for the perfect formula for success. I kept looking at other professional golfers and their games and their techniques or strategies and how they brought out their best results. I didn’t realize that that was best for them but not for me. I’ll learn what’s best for me and not for them if I was going to be successful.

This reminds me of going back to the snowboarding part, but let’s not talk about snowboarding as much. We’re going to talk about surfing. I’ve surfed a couple of times and I remember the first day of surf, the guy just gave me instructions, but I was so focused. I wanted to get up. I wasn’t paying attention much to the instructions and I was following my gut. I stood up and I remember on the first day of surfing, I stood up several times and I was excited. The second day I was like, “I get to perfect my techniques.” I was listening to everything he said. I was like, “Put my foot, do this, do that. Step 1, 2, 3, 4.” I lost touch with the gut of like, “Here are the waves and I think I need to balance myself like that. You just do it.”

The second time I could not stand up and I’m so frustrated. Why was it I was able to stand up the first time when I wasn’t paying attention to the instructions? The second time I actually listened to everything and I was like, “1, 2, 3. Dang it.” That’s where his instructions are true and good and I need to listen to them. When you get to a point where you are putting too much emphasis on it, you are not even true to what your body is telling you. You need to curve it a little bit without him having to tell me that’s all you’re going to fall. That’s where you learn from both. If you put too much emphasis on step-by-step with work, with career, with relationships, even if you’re not behind, you’re not going to excel or shine.

It’s even like the difference between practicing and performing in dance or in golf or other sports. One of them, you have to be in your head and super analytical. The other is you have to be in your body and let go of the mind. Both are useful, but you’ve got to recognize when it is useful. It is a beautiful dance. In the career trajectory, give me an overview of how you went from managing 35 renters in college in these properties to where you’re at now with your current portfolio. The business you’re running and the pivot where you’re making, it’s been quite a journey. I know that. Could you maybe give an overview of maybe some of the different phases you found yourself in the real estate business as you went through it? What each of those phases gave you with your business?

I started again with nothing. When I moved to Kansas City, I was there for an internship and I didn’t have anything. The properties in Virginia were managed pretty well and my parents learned those systems that I created for the most part. They were doing that on their own. I didn’t have money or anything to start. Instead of getting obsessed about how do I become an investor, what are the steps, what courses I need to take or that’s not even my passion, I’m going to move. I spoke to the opportunity in front of me. The only opportunity that I had in front of me was to be a realtor. I knew I can afford to do that. It’s a few hundred dollars but I knew that this opportunity will teach me so much about real estate. It will get me connections. It will get me familiar with the market.

UAC 120 | Pursuing Opportunity Over Passion

Rich Dad, Poor Dad

That was the only opportunity. I got in it because I saw that you can buy at the time $25,000 houses. I was like, “I’m going to be a realtor.” I got my license and I started being a realtor. Many agents didn’t know that I was working with and did not see the opportunity. With the economy being bad, they were complaining about, “We used to sell $200,000 houses. Now, it’s only investors wanting to buy $50,000 houses. Our commission is cut in the quarter.” People were saying that, but I was saying this is an opportunity where we can still get paid to learn to help investors. I’ll tell agents, “If you guys have a deal that’s too small or investor that wants to buy a bunch of small houses and it’s not worth your money, just send them my way.”

I looked at that and I said, “I’m going to learn from them and I’ll get paid some money.” Not much, but I’ll get paid some money. I start working with investors that literally handed off from agents but in the process I learned, what do sophisticated investors look for? What is a good deal? What’s a bad deal? What are areas to invest in? I started making commission saving money while keeping my eyes on the best deals. When I was in a place where I can qualify for a loan and I have some cash for down payment, I was in front of the line with opportunities. I have access to find those houses before they’re out to the public on Zillow. I started buying in that way. I started buying 1 rental, 2 rentals, 3 rentals, my own house and in the process, fast forward, I owned around 30 homes.

That’s when I also started listening about the Airbnbs and how it can be profitable. I decided that I’m going to try Airbnb. How much would it cost to put furniture on it? One thing I’ll tell people is when something feels too overwhelming, break it into pieces. I don’t know if you’ve heard this before. It’s like, “How do you eat an elephant?” You’re going to cut it into chewable pieces. It can feel overwhelming, but instead of being overwhelmed, I’m like, “You’re being mean. I’ve never done that. How do you do it? What are the rules? How can I afford furniture? What about cleaning?” I took one a step at a time. “This house is in a great area. I own it. Instead of flipping it and making some cash and leaving, what if I get some furniture and I do it affordably?” By the way, Amazon, IKEA and all these places you can get great stuff now for way cheaper. It’s so much easier now to get into anything you want. There’s more competition, but it’s a lot easier to furnish. It’s a lot easier to start your podcast. It’s a lot easier to start your YouTube channel and that’s such a great time we’re living in. There’s competition but we have the opportunity to just go for it.

I literally furnished the first house for $2,500, the whole place. I got some pictures. I took pictures of myself because I didn’t want to pay for a photographer. Now, I can afford a photographer and I put it on Airbnb. I was expecting that if I would have rented this place long-term, it would have made maybe $1,500 a month. It went on Airbnb and it was netting $4,000. It was more than doubled. That’s when I was like, “This worked.” I had plan B, what’s the worst case? What’s plan B if Airbnb didn’t work? I need to move this furniture in storage or sell it and lose some money and then I’ll flip it or make it a rental. I had a plan B fall to and that’s one of those things that yes, I’m a risk-taker, but because I take calculated risks, I do the math. It’s lot less feeling and more numbers.

After I do that, I always have a plan B. My key for people when they’re like, “Should we buy this? Should we rent it? Is that a big deal?” I say first of all, break it down to pieces. What are the steps and get the numbers in place because that makes it easier. The worst case, I can flip it for this much, the best case that much. What happens if it’s the worst case, what do I do? I’m stuck with it. I’m going to foreclose on my own house. Don’t do it. If plan B is, “If that happens, I can still rent it and cover myself for a couple of years until the market is better or until I pay off some debt,” then do it. Do plan A, plan B and do calculated risk. Take it down from emotions to numbers.

That’s good because emotions are so misleading. They’re not bad, they’re just super misleading at the moment. I love breaking it down into sizable actionable steps of how can I take the next step? One of my favorite sayings is, “Baby steps to greatness.” It’s one step at the time, it’s baby steps and how can you take as many baby steps as possible in that? It’s funny because a lot of times I’m guessing that when people see your portfolio and where your business is at, it can feel like, “That’s so crazy. How did you get there? How is that possible? I’d feel like I’ll never get there.” What isn’t often seen is that it doesn’t feel like that ever in a moment for you. It wasn’t your magical plan to get there. It wasn’t like, “This is where I want to be and now I’ve drawn it up perfectly and here I am.”

Not at all. Not to compare other people and stuff, but I did a lot of mistakes. I hired the wrong contractors. I lost money. Thank God, because I did calculate risk, the worst deal I’ve done, I flipped the house, took a lot of time and effort and I sold it. I basically broke even or maybe made $500. Even that was a learning experience. It looks that way. If everything was perfect, like people can assume that everything was smooth, I would have probably had tripled the number of homes. If I had more discipline and better at habits and better at saying no years ago, I literally would’ve had triple the number of properties. My point is because I still tried despite my failure, mistakes, bad habits and sometimes laziness, I was still able to accomplish that versus those who are perfectionist. They’re waiting and over analyzing but they’re not doing anything.

In talking to some of your community, one of the things that are mentioned often and I would agree is that you’re incredibly smart when it comes to business, running the numbers and finding out what makes sense and what doesn’t and acting on it. There are many people that praise your business sense, savvy and saying how incredibly great you are. I would agree with what I know. I’m curious about that. Would you say that it has come through the amount of experience of doing it? Has some of it come naturally from who you are from birth? What would you say has contributed to that business sense or savvy?

I appreciate the compliments. Here’s the funny thing is my gifting is not Excel sheets and numbers and that worked for my favor and not at the same time. A lot of investors I know are successful because they are able to take 100% of their emotions out of it. They look at deals and they look at it as numbers. They decide how much it’s going to make them money versus how much time it’s going to take. They calculate that perfectly. That is not my gift because if I don’t have my heart in it and there’s no creative aspect in it, I don’t go for it. I’ve had deals that are not that great but I was excited and there are little bit of emotions there. I was excited about the process that I went forth and I’m thankful for that. If I’m gifted at numbers, I would have done a lot more. I would have had a lot less hassle in some areas. I’m also all about being true to your passion. For me, if I would just look at numbers, I would have bought a lot more rentals in not great areas that I don’t believe in. I had Section 8 tenants where the government is paying for guaranteed checks.

A lot of investors go those routes because they are guaranteed money and it’s like the best for your buck. I still have to do the equation on numbers. I learned that over time because it’s actually not naturally me. I’m much more of a creative person. Over time I had to learn to slow down my creativity and also look at numbers. I’m not getting into something that’s going to take me six months and no profit. I still want to stay true to myself where I’m a creative person, I want to believe in the product and I’m excited about it, even if it means less money. I would say for me, it was the muscle that had to be worked. It’s how can I be creative, but also how can I be smart? For me, that’s a muscle that was worked. It’s not natural.

Putting in the reps that you have with the process. You can speak to any part because I know you have a multifaceted business within it right now. Within the process of your business along the way and even now, what is the hardest part for you? What is the thing that’s still the hardest part or the things that people don’t see about this work?

People are very hard. I say that even though I know one of my gift is in people. I know how to communicate well. I’d like to think I treat people well. I sometimes worry too much about how everyone is doing and how everyone’s feelings and how the deal’s going too much. That being said, people are complex. I heard Warren Buffett said, “Systems are easy. Making money is so easy. It’s working with people that’s hard.” It’s because when you’re leading, you have to learn how to win people over, how to win trust. You get to a point where you can’t do it all by yourself. I was able to do with 35 students because I lived on the block. You get to a point where you need to delegate and people make bad decisions or they will overspend.

Being able to think outside the box can actually make a different rule. Click To Tweet

Learning how to mentor people, how to coach people and how to delegate and let go. Sometimes it’s like, “If I give it to someone, they’re not going to do it as well, but it’s also going to save me ten hours this week so I should, even if it’s going to be 70% return.” Learning that and learning when to say this person is not good for the job. I’ve had it before where I kept dragging the wrong people, believing in them. Being able to learn now to say you can believe in someone, but they’re not in the right place and they’re actually making you lose money. For me that’s a big chance, trusting. When I overtrust the contractor because they’re recommended or whatever and then I realized they’re not honest, that can get to you. Learning the skill of being business savvy and smart and having good boundaries and not taking people’s crap, lies, deceit or even lack of drivenness, but at the same time still being good with people and loving, caring and making people want to work with you is a trick and it’s aligned. It’s hard to do well.

That is definitely a tension and challenging. In the past or in the career path or even in the journey over the past few years, what are some of the lowest moments that come to mind?

I’ve had a couple but it still has to do with people. Learning to love myself and to trust myself and in the process. I’ve had several and sadly a couple of them have been more recent. I’m going through one right now. I would like to say it was very similar to one that happened before, but it’s not as low. Even though maybe it’s even worse than before because I learned so much from the first one. It gave me the strength to know how to handle it. I’ve had a house before. It was an elderly caregiving facility. It was a huge, massive, weird-looking building. It was designed for an elderly caregiving facility. It was abandoned and it was on an awkward street. There are only three other houses on the whole street and it was left. No one wanted it.

I saw an opportunity for a bed and breakfast and it was next to a ministry that people travel to. I thought, “This would be great bed and breakfast place.” It’s before Airbnb was big. I approached the process to do a bed and breakfast. I had a neighbor that was so nasty. He was used to the property being empty. When I bought the property from the elderly caregiving facility, after signing the paper, the guy met me and told me, “I will warn you, you have a terrible rude, mean neighbor that doesn’t like anyone on his street.” I went through the process of trying to get the licensing before Airbnb to have it as a bed and breakfast. I got support from the city. The city was excited because they’re like, “We don’t know what to do with this awkward building. This is great.”

That guy was so nasty in the sense of like he would lie about me. He would take pictures. He would be hiding behind a tree taking pictures trying to find anything wrong, too many people are coming in. He was just trying anything, try to find trash and take pictures of it. He was going to fight it because he didn’t want a bed and breakfast. In his head, bed and breakfast means we’re turning it into a hotel and unsafe people are coming to my street. I remember taking it so personally, “I’m a good person.” He rallied the other three neighbors. One of them was neutral, but the other two like had this picture that I’m this thief coming to the neighborhood. I’m going through the same thing where I was trying to get this massive building become a six-plex because it’s huge.

It’s an old house. It’s 6,000 square feet but it was left for years. No one wants to buy it because it’s too big to remodel. I figured 6,000 square feet, 1,000 per unit. That’s a great size apartment to have luxury high-end quality tenants in an area that’s full of apartments. The neighbor right across, she’s an attorney and she happened to be the ex-president of that neighborhood association. She is doing the same thing that happened to me with the first guy. The first guy ended up saying it’s not worth the fight. I felt like I can put it on Airbnb because they review becoming popular and he can’t do anything because you can just tell me no and tell the whole world yes.

The city was like, “You can put it on Airbnb and then he’s going to get mad, but he can’t do anything about it,” or I can sell it. I prayed about it at the time and I felt this piece of like, “Do you want to fight this? See if you can sell it for profit.” I put a crazy high number for the sale price and double of what I bought it for a year before. I thought, “If I sell it for that number, I make great profits, then it’s like God confirming it’s not worth the fight. If I can sell for that number, I’m going to put it on Airbnb. I wanted to put it out there.” I did and it sold so fast. It made no sense. It’s funny. It got sold to a drug rehab center that doesn’t require rezoning.

The guy now is probably dealing with ex-druggies, trying to get out of drugs. It’s funny how it all panned out. The same thing is happening right now with this lady where she’s like, “I’m going to fight it. We’re not going to have enough another apartment on my street.” The way she is doing it, she didn’t come to me. She rallied all 70-plus-year-old tenants in the neighborhood and they’re all terrified. They are thinking, “This young guy is turning our street into mayhem.” The way she’s doing it is mean. She wouldn’t even talk to me. I tried to meet with her. That’s a low point, but it’s not getting me this time because I know myself. I care about people so I’m going to go for it. If it doesn’t go through, I have plan B and plan C. That’s what I learned.

People are hard. We’re complicated people. One of the things that’d be remiss if we didn’t chat about this, your faith and how that incorporates. One of the people I get to talk to is a pastor and mentor of yours. It was cool to the perspective you brought up that the redemptive story is so it’s seen so beautifully even in the work you do. As Jesus’ followers, it’s a big part of my life and knows it’s a big part of yours. I’d love to hear a little bit about how you’ve seen God use your work for His kingdom and also how your faith impacts what you do and how even the real estate business you’re a part of is an illustration of even what he does in our own lives.

When I say that, I tend to lean and advise people to lean for an opportunity before passion. I say that then I shrugged because I’m like, “That sounds so anti-American culture,” because I’m also passionate about passion. The downfall that is I got to a place where there are so many opportunities and we live in the land of opportunities. Many opportunities and business deals and other ideas that can make more money. It’s overwhelming when you don’t know who you are and what your passion is. That’s where passion is so important. What are you passionate about? In 2019, I’ve been taking steps back and saying, “What is my God-given passion?” Not just chase opportunities. In the process, I realized one thing that’s important to me is to be able to give back and help others that are in need that have no way out.

For me personally, because I grew up in a third world country and I’m not dismissing poverty in America. It’s real. Addiction is real and homelessness is real. I’ve also grown up in a culture where you can have families on the street, not because of drug issues, not because they are lazy, but literally because there’s zero opportunity. They are willing to take any jobs and they don’t know how to feed their kids and they’re on the streets begging, but they’re trying to do it with dignity. They try to get towels somewhere and wipe the car in a stoplight just to get any money without feeling like they’re begging. I’ve seen so much of that. Kids on the streets because mom and dad died and there’s no family and they’re literally on the street trying to survive, which makes them very vulnerable in society for a lot of bad things.

I’m going to Egypt because I’m coming to a place where it’s like, “How can my faith actually reflect in my life?” I’m going on a journey trying to figure out what do I do there? In the long run, I would love to use real estate to do that, to give back. I’m looking into how much would it cost to build a building in Egypt? Material and labor is so cheap. I found out that I can build an orphanage that can fit possibly 30 to 40 kids for $70,000, a three-story building for $70,000. Obviously, there are a lot more complexities like teaching, educating, funding and all that.

For me with faith, I want to remember always how important it is to do things that I believe in. I’m not living on my own in this life to make money for what. I’m going to die. For my kids, great but how am I changing lives? I think the church in a lot of ways has had bad rep because it’s so easy for us to preach without doing. I also recognize that I would like to remind people, if you look at history of the church, the church has done so much. Despite the brokenness of the church, so much good has come out of that. I want to be able to continue that in a way that is actually helping people in need and contributing to society.

It’s been a journey with God because this year has been hard with faith. You’re being exposed to more nonbelievers, working with nonbelievers. You’re working with people in different faith and working with people that are angry at God. I have that too and not being in the Christian bubble, which I’ve always been to until college. In some ways, I was thankful that I was somewhat in a Christian bubble because it’s helped me have the friendships I have right now and learn a lot about God. Now that I’m outside, exposed to so many different beliefs, mindsets and even doubts, I’m starting to have doubts that I’ve never had before. At first it was scaring me because I’m like, “Am I becoming non-Christian heathen?” I’m actually so glad I’m able to ask the hard questions for God versus a lot of people in the church and close cultures or environments. We have those doubts but we shut them down. I’m asking the hard questions with God but in the process of not even having some answers. I don’t want to put my whole life on pause trying to figure it out so I can continue my faith. I want to be able to still continue. How can I build something in society? How can my faith, the goodness of God, reflect in what I do?

If we aren’t asking questions and I don’t know if we’re operating on faith. Faith asks questions that don’t have explicit answers for it. That’s what faith is.

A lot of people may not be familiar with this. There’s a story about how when Jesus was raised from the dead. The twelve close friends of Jesus heard that he was alive. There was a guy named Thomas who said, “I don’t care how many of you guys say that he’s alive. I don’t care even if you have Instagram pictures of him that you can show me. If he doesn’t come in person and if I can’t touch him, I don’t doubt that it’s my eyes and actually see the piercing of his nails on his hand because maybe it’s his twin that we never met. If I don’t see those things, I’m not going to believe he’s alive.” Growing up, I was exposed in Egypt, Cairo, to culture and all that. Growing up in overall is still like a Christian bubble.

I remember praying as a kid, “I don’t want to be like Thomas, God. I want to be the guy that believes without seeing.” Jesus later sees him and Jesus lets him touch him, where he was crucified. Jesus still met him in his doubt. Jesus said this quote, “Blessed are those who believe without seeing.” That’s an invitation from Jesus. I want you guys to believe without having proof. Growing up I was like, “Jesus, I want that too. I want to be able to believe you.” That’s a great prayer. I’m in a place in life where I’m like we get sometimes in places in life where it’s like, “Jesus, if I don’t see and if I don’t touch, I don’t know how I can believe.” God is not offended by questioning. God is not upset because we see here. In his humility and kindness, he still came and said, “You can touch it,” instead of like, “How dare you?” I think it takes courage to say, “I don’t have the courage to believe. Can you help me with that?” He comes to me and meets us there.

I interviewed this guy, Lanny Hunter and his book, Stories of Desire and Narratives of Faith, which is good. He’s 83 and just so wise. He said in a chapter I read that the opposite of faith does not doubt. The opposite of faith is servitude. It’s so good.

One thing that I actually like. I heard this before, so I’m just going to quote it, “Faith is spelled RISK.” I would like to think that me being able to ask God and say, “God, I want to take the risk of saying I have a lot of doubt and I need you to come in a crazy way,” that’s a risk. If it doesn’t come, then that can cause some people offense. It can cause anger, it can cause more unbelief. It’s risky to ask questions like that to God but “Faith is spelled RISK.”

A few one-offs before we’re done. The first question is what question do you ask yourself the most?

I ask myself often, “Am I maximizing on who I am now?” I’m always thinking, “How can I shine my light?” We all have light and we can get distracted or do the wrong things or waste time.

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

I would tell myself to love yourself better. That’s self-care. That’s being patient with myself when my deadlines are not met. It’s good to have great goals, but it’s also good to just know that it’s a process. I’d say love myself better. Loving myself better also means being able to say more noes or being able to not let people’s opinions touch me as much. I’ve seen tons of improvement in all these areas, but I’ll remind myself, love yourself better, treasure your time. Treasure what goes into your heart. Be okay with things slowing down, be okay with mistakes and be okay with failure. That definitely would be my number one.

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

A business one would be probably Rich Dad Poor Dad. Everyone recommends that. I would recommend it. I would say I recommend it with caution. Even though I don’t think it’s meant to be, some of it can come across a little bit selfish or too hardcore and I have to have my heart in any deal. I would say Rich Dad Poor Dad is a good, eye-opening book. I’ll throw another one in business, The E-Myth, Entrepreneur Myth is really good. If you want to start any business, it does help you know how to run a basic business. I’m not a great reader. If it’s too deep and intense, I don’t know how to deal with it as well, but that one is pretty simple. It’s captivating for a business book. As far as personal, there are a lot. One that changed my life is called Is That Really You, God? by Loren Cunningham. It’s this guy that started this ministry, youth with a mission that’s one of the biggest ministries. It has an entrepreneurial side of it, but it also has it in a beautiful, captivating story of trust and of saying yes when there’s so much uncertainty. In some ways, it’s for entrepreneurs.

The Hiding Place is a great book by Corrie Ten Boom. She was in Amsterdam during the Holocaust and she was able to save 10,000 Jews by hiding them. They will go in and out, but she created a fake closet and she hid them. I actually went and saw the house and I was just so emotional being there. In the end she got caught, she and her family and they went through concentration camp. Her entire family died, but she came out and she was one of the most cheerful, loving and kind people. She will teach you so much about taking risks for the sake of people and having faith and even having faith and forgiving those who wronged you. It’s a great book. It’s easy and super quick to read.

We ask every guest this question. If you could send a morning text reminder to every Up and Comer out there, it’s a text that they would get on the phone each and every morning, what would you say and why?

I would say, “Don’t overanalyze. Go for it. The relationships around you determine your future.”

Johnny, this has been awesome. What are your places for people to find you, your work and to see what’s going on or reach out and say hi?

I’m working on a lot. That’s going to come up soon, but I would say a good place to start is my website is JohnnyYou.com or my Instagram, which is the same is @JohnnyYou. Those are great places to start.

I’m excited to see all of what’s ahead for you and what God has in store because it’s going to be some awesome stuff. Thank you again for coming on and sharing the day. This has been a blast and I know it’s going to encourage so many people. Until next time.

Thank you.

We hope you have an up and coming week.

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About Johnny Youssef

UAC 120 | Pursuing Opportunity Over PassionJohnny Youssef is the Swiss Army knife of home renovation: He is a real estate investor, renovator, and designer. His passion is turning ugly properties into pieces of art while creating passive income. Johnny specializes in long-term rentals, short-term (Airbnb) properties, and flips. He loves showing others how to get into real estate and has renovated and designed over 50 homes.
Besides homes, he has a passion for storytelling, public speaking, and content creation. His primary topics of interest are related to entrepreneurship, faith, and culture. Throughout the years, Johnny has taken on a lot of roles including: being a young adult pastor, television news editor, real estate agent, investor, renovator, landlord, interior designer, public speaker, event planner, and more.
Johnny was born in Cairo, Egypt and moved to Richmond, Virginia at the age of 15; A graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University with a BS in Mass Communications with a concentration in Broadcast Journalism.
You can find him on Instagram at @johnnyyou and by visiting his website at johnnyyou.com

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