Free Transcript Project – #12

Mixed Mental Arts #302: Don Mei

Episode Show Notes : http://mixedmentalarts.libsyn.com/ep-302-best-of-east-best-of-west-don-mei-enters-the-dojo

YouTube Channel : https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCV5uJg_7m89dZ-0rqhHT1Ww

Web Sites :
https://mixedmentalarts.online

https://meileaf.com

Host : Hunter Maats : https://twitter.com/huntermaats

Guest : Don Mei :
https://twitter.com/MEILEAF_Don

https://twitter.com/mei_leaf_tea

 


 

[INTRO MUSIC]

 

Bryan Callen : Welcome to “Mixed Mental Arts”. This is “Mixed Mental Arts”. Welcome to “Mixed Mental Arts”…

 

Hunter Maats : … and then just… and then just…

 

Bryan Callen : Welcome to “Mixed Mental Arts”. This is “Mixed Mental Arts”. Welcome to “Mixed Mental Arts”…

 

Hunter Maats : Hi! This is Hunter Maats, and I’m really excited for this next episode of “Mixed Mental Arts”, because Don Mei – today’s guest – is the perfect example of a phenomenon known as “Third Culture Kids”. These are kids who have parents from one culture, and then grew up in another culture, and they find that they belong to neither culture one, nor culture two, but have evolved a third culture of their own. That was a term that I was introduced to in college, and it really fit my own experience growing up. I’m sure that it fits the experience of many of you, and it certainly described Don. Don’s dad – as you’ll hear in this interview – was Chinese. Don’s mom was Swiss, and then he grew up in the UK. His whole life has been about the conversation back and forth between Eastern and Western culture, and specifically with medicine and tea. There have long been these two different traditions – Eastern and Western medicine, [and] Eastern and Western thought – and Don has been trying to figure out, his whole life, how to have the best of East and the best of West. So without further ado I give you Don Mei… Welcome to another episode of “Mixed Mental Arts”, and today is a real treat, because [as] much as we, sort of, “ape” and pretend to have some sort of Asian credentials, and have thoroughly appropriated most aspects of Asian culture, today we have somebody with real credentials there, Don Mei. Don is, pretty much – like if you were looking for a “poster child” for “Mixed Mental Arts”, and “idea sex” between cultures, it’s Don, because Don’s mom [was] Swiss, and Don’s dad [was] Chinese, and then they’ve been doing everything that we sort of showed up to in the last few years for about half century. Specifically, Don’s mom and dad started this bookshop in London, and they were really the first onés to bring Chinese Medicine into the West, and have been acting as a bridge between cultures ever since then, and then … well, we’ll get into Don’s full story, But, essentially, [really] that’s your life, Don, is being a bridge between these two cultures. Is that fair?

 

Don Mei : I think it’s fair. It certainly isn’t something that I considered from a young age [laughter]. It’s only kind of crept up on me a little bit. But I guess that’s just the way it is normally, isn’t it? You kind of are so used to your own culture, and your own background, that you don’t realize what’s different and what’s similar. So, yeah, it’s certainly something that I have kind of taken upon myself over the last five or six years, for sure.

 

Hunter : So, just so that people know your credentials, let’s run down that list that you’re going to be very uncomfortable with, right?

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : [Because] Don has this great video that sort of sums up his life story in 20 minutes. But you’re the head of the British-Chinese – or the Vice President of the British-Chinese Medicine Association, or something?

 

Don : Okay. Well, first and foremost, I’m [the] director of Mei Group. Mei Group is kind of a cluster of different companies [which are] all focused on the same area, which is this kind of bridge between East and West. It started, as you said, with my parents opening a book shop, just kind of disseminating Eastern ideas to the West. This was in the 1970s, you know, when everything was all about the “Little Red Book”, and [all] of the interesting things [coinciding] with Nixon’s travel to China, and all of the focus that then was placed upon Chinese Medicine, and that kind of morphed and evolved into Acumedic, and Acumedic [was] probably the first Chinese medical, clinical organization outside of Asia. So that’s been running. So I’m a director of a clinic – [a] Chinese [Medicine] clinic. Other things that we do are related to the politics of medicine. So, I’m chairman of the “Chinese Medical Council”. I’m also Vice-Chairman of the “World Federation Of Chinese Medicine Societies”, which sounds very grand…

 

Hunter : [It] sounds amazing! [laughter]

 

Don : [laughter] [I know], it sounds really good! It sounds really good, but in fact that probably takes up about naught point naught… naught… naught…one percent of my time…

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : … but it sounds great. [It’s] kind of high up there on the C.V. [laughter]. So there’s a lot that’s happening in the politics of medicine, trying to kind of look forward to [different] paradigms in medicine – integrative medicine. That’s a whole other subject. Then [the] tea, [with] Mei Leaf. [It] started off as “China life” [over ten years ago ] – but now it’s morphed into Mei Leaf – and that really is looking to do something very similar. So taking the idea of tea – which is [the] most consumed beverage, after water, in the world – and yet 99.9 percent of people outside of Asia – and I have to say, even people within Asia – kind of don’t really know that much about it. So, it kind of was a really good metaphorical subject, in a way, to describe how, culturally, we think we know something, yet we don’t – or there’s plenty more to learn. So tea is a really interesting [“point of context”] that we find kind of can lead you into medicine, and lead you into all these other aspects to try and explore.

 

Hunter Maats : So, we’ll get into tea, but my father always says that nobody learns their first language the right way. I think that’s very much the thing, is that when something like tea is such an essential part of your culture it’s just everywhere and it’s unconscious. You’ve never had to really reflect on it. You’re never had to think about it, and you’re never really had to understand it. I think that, you know, [there’s] a lot [of] similarity between our childhoods – you know, the experience of being “third culture kids” – where you’ve [picked up] all these ways of being from your mom, [and] these ways of being from your dad, [and] you’re then surrounded by an entirely third culture of living in England, and [you’re] violating norms in some places, things don’t make sense to you, and so you’re having to be very conscious, and intentional about everything, and really having to pick it apart and understand the deep structure.

 

Don : Mmm.

 

Hunter : So I think that’s the interesting thing, is that as I watched all of your videos – and Don has all these great videos for Mei Leaf – that just sort of break down all the aspects of sourcing great tea, the different types of tea, what we look for, [and] this special type of brewing that is practiced. I mean, apparently, in the West, we just boil the shit out of everything [laughter] …

 

Don : [laughter] …

 

Hunter : [and] destroy the flavor, which is certainly my experience of English vegetables…

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : … as opposed to Gong Fu brewing, which is the style which really brings out the flavors. But so, talk to us about your tea journey. [It is] this great point of contact. [How] did you go down that “rabbit hole” of tea?

 

Don : It started off purely as a practical thing. It wasn’t this kind of life quest that I embarked on. I don’t think you kind of choose those things. They just fall upon you. It started off simply with the idea that we have this medical clinic, and we are serving tea to our clients. Tea is the first Chinese herb, in many ways. So [out] of the Chinese medicinal herbs tea is the first one. [We thought], “Let’s just try to up the quality.” Because at the time we were just kind of [giving just] a little bit [of] lip service to tea. We were serving some kind of medium to low-grade green tea, [and] marketing it as proper, authentic Chinese tea. So I thought, “Let me go and explore [and] see what we can come up with in terms of finding a better product.” It was literally coming at it from a purely marketing product angle. Then I started to learn how much – because growing up in England, of course, I’m used to British tea, right; you know, the classic “Builder’s Brew”, and I thought I knew enough about tea to be able to research this. I very quickly discovered that there was a whole world out there that I had no idea about, and I think that the kind of inquisitive, Western – I would say – desire to understand and put something into a [discrete] box, kind of took over, and I wanted to try to figure it all out within like six months to a year, and here I am like 15 years later still figuring out that I can’t figure it out [laughter]. So it started off purely practical, and then just tasting my way through different teas, and having these little moments of revelation where I suddenly realized that this “rabbit hole” was extremely deep, and pleasurable as well, because it involved taste [and] it involved experience. You know, I love food [and] I love cooking. It’s one of those things [where] I do enjoy that whole aspect of it. So it was a really interesting bridge for me, because it meant that I could enjoy something but also stimulate [a] kind of understanding, and try to break something down, and try to understand “how” [and] “why”, and all the different questions. So it just lead me down this path, and I haven’t looked back.

 

Hunter : Yeah, so there are these very different ways that, I mean, something as simple as tea is experienced by very different ways, and on very different level by different cultures. So let’s talk about that “Builder’s Brew”, which is the quintessential English cup of tea, you know. Firstly, even just the way — we had Sara Rose on, who wrote “For All The Tea In China”.

 

Don : Oh yeah. Yeah.

 

Hunter : Even the way that the British got tea, you know, says everything about maybe how cultural contact should not be done. Right?

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : So I’d love to hear your encapsulation – your perspective on that story – and also, what is the Chinese perspective on Robert Fortune?

 

Don : I think it that [it still] continues, and I’ve certainly noticed it in the sense that when I started at least – or when I make contact with groups of producers, they’re very reticent to give information, [and] to give answers to questions – for various different reasons. [It’s] not only because they’re protective, but also [with] some of them they don’t know the answers. That’s a whole other discussion which we can get into, [in that] just the way that they look at things is very different to the way that I look at things, necessarily. So I think that that continues – that legacy. There’s a protective nature to the Chinese, especially their approach to giving information. Certainly, the history of tea in India, and the way that the East India Company, and Robert Fortune, took this incredible product that was being enjoyed, and was growing, and was considered this medicine, and this kind of luxurious product, and they turned it into a commodity. They turned it into a commodity through “choose reduction”, which is a marketing tool which is used all the time. You know, why give people 100 choices. They’re going to spend a certain amount of money. Instead, reduce the amount that you have to spend, produce one or two different types, you’ll still get the same income, and you’ve got less work and it maximizes your profit. They did that very well, but the problem is that now everybody – especially in the UK – just associates tea with strong, black Indian tea, and all of the myriad of complexity, flavors, [and] all of the enjoyment  – well, 99 percent of it – has just been drained out of tea. So a lot of the challenge that we have – or when we started Mei Leaf – is just starting to take those blinkers off people. In fact, I have to say that the UK market has probably been the most challenging market. When you compare [it] to the US, [and] when you compare it other parts of, [like Russia], or other parts of Europe, [they’re] much more willing and open to say, “We don’t know anything about tea.”, whereas the British mentality has definitely been one of “Oh, I know tea. It’s a British drink.” So it’s been very difficult to take those blinkers off, but certainly that’s a legacy from that approach to tea – the commoditization of – which happened, you know, many years ago.

 

Hunter : But not just the commoditization of tea, but Fortune snuck into China, pretended to be from China, and then stole all these plants [laughter].

 

Don : Yeah.

 

Hunter :  [Which] is a pattern that was repeated. You know, Brazilian rubber was stolen from Brazil and then grown in Southeast Asia. This was a pattern that was repeated again, and again, and again.

 

Don : Mmm.

 

Hunter : To be fair, I mean, the whole thing was that [there] was this massive market for tea, and the Chinese, at that time, wanted to control the market, and everything. [So], you know, it’s not a clean history… [laughter]

 

Don : No… no…no.

 

Hunter : .. and it certainly wasn’t done in a way that both parties parties felt good about what happened.

 

Don : I think that there was problems on both sides, as you said, but one of the end results of that is that the East Indian Company – [or] Robert Fortune – managed to steal the tea and the seeds, and enough information to produce a single type of tea decently. But because there wasn’t a proper cultural exchange going on it meant that, yeah, the choice became reduced, the quality reduced, and the understanding of tea really became isolated to the Chinese and the Japanese, and some of the Taiwanese, and the actual – predominantly the UK – started to appropriate this drink that they thought they knew everything about, when in fact they knew nothing about [it].

 

Hunter : Well, and that is cultural exchange writ large, because [cultural] transition is so slow, right?

 

Don : Mmm.

 

Hunter : Like, if you think about a child growing up in a culture, it takes them decades and decades to really internalize all of the cultural knowledge. So to think that you’re going to show up, grab some seeds and be like “Yeah!…

 

Don : Yeah.

 

Hunter : … I now have this thing nailed!” is massively naive.

 

Don : Absolutely.

 

Hunter : One of the stories that I think points this up – just sort of as a large, cultural pattern that plays out again – is in Joe Henrick’s “The Secret Of Our Success” there’s this story about the [maximalization] of corn. So the Spanish came in [and] they found this crop that existed, corn, and they were like, “Man! They eat a lot of this stuff. It grows well. Let’s bring this back to Europe.” Then they noticed that they did this weird thing where they would mix wood ash and burnt seashells in with their corn, and they were like, “That’s gross! Like that’s not even food. Why would you do that?”  Sure enough, then, there was a massive epidemic of pellagra in corn-growing regions, and it turned out that that wood ash was actually releasing the niacin, and actually had a functional component to it.

 

Don : Hmm.

 

Hunter : But, as you’re saying, the local farmers didn’t conceptually understand this. For them this was just a learned cultural practice. So these are basic challenges of just being human, and the way we transmit cultures, and very often these things – and I think this is going to be super-important for when we get into Chinese medicine – very often, you know, it comes down to what Jenny Aguilar calls “FEISTY” – “Face It, Evolution Is Smarter Than You”.

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : So evolution [can] evolve these very, very, very, very smart solutions that the people who are practicing those cultural practices have no conceptual understand of how, or why, it works.

 

Don : Absolutely.

 

Hunter : So you’ve got – and I mean it’s just such a great example that, of course, the British think they know everything. I mean, that doesn’t remind me of high school at all [laughter].

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : But so yeah, the “Builder’s Brew”. [With] the “Builder’s Brew” not only did they commoditize tea, but then tea serves this very specific function. [There’s] this massive industrial revolution in the UK, and it’s this very functional drink that is a caffeine delivery system that is designed to basically give people a little boost so that they can be productive [and] get back to work.

 

Don : Sure, and it replaced drinking weak alcohol at the time, you know? [It] was always better to not go to work slightly pissed, you know?

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : [laughter] So it kind of made sense at the time, and it’s still being used in that way throughout the world. But there’s a big difference between using something in that way, and then being able to still get all of those functional benefits – if not more functional benefits – when you have the true stuff – the really well-made stuff – and then being able to appreciate, you know, not just the flavor, but the aesthetics of the actual drink itself, which has been totally destroyed, right…

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : … by this kind of “soggy tea bag”, right? But, you know, and I don’t mean that in a kind of imperial, “beautiful women wearing costumes with pinkies in the air” kind of ceremonial aesthetics. I mean the actual symbolic aesthetics of, you know, taking time, rehydrating [the] leaf, extracting it, and then watching it as it kind of gives up all it’s flavor and then basically dies, you know, and basically kind of becomes water again. There’s a certain aesthetic which [is so] part of tea. When you go to tea-growing regions, and you visit these farmers, and these producers, and these tea-lovers, you can so see that that’s so [part] of their life story – [those] moments.

 

Hunter : Right.

 

Don : It’s [one] of the thing that makes tea so special, and the reason why it’s been so intrinsically linked with Buddhism, and intrinsically linked with meditation, and all of those things – without going too far down the kind of “woo-woo” kind of area, it’s all about the [fact] that there’s a real, beautiful symbolic nature with tea that has been lost, and I think that people are craving that kind of rediscovery, and hopefully we can all contribute to that.

 

Hunter : But I think [that] the point is that, [well], let’s go down the “woo-woo” area, because I think [that] so much of … I mean, listen, Western culture – as it is manifested in the age of industrialization – right…?

 

Don : Mmm!

 

Hunter : … is massively practical. It’s produced all of these material benefits, but that myopic focus on that – which is what Western atomism tends to do; to myopically focus on one thing – has created a profound spiritual emptiness.

 

Don : MmmHmm.

 

Hunter :  You know, there is – I mean, I read “Man’s Search For Meaning” as a teenager – and boy did that book resonate on some non-conscious, non-verbal level, because we don’t have that experience of, sort of, that strong cultural embeddedness that a lot of people have had. So, I think – especially for sort of “third culture kids” like you and me – we then have to cobble together this global culture that draws the best from all places, and can give us those sort of rich cultural moments. So let’s talk about… Okay, just to even give people an overview, right? [Obviously], China’s huge, and there are all these different regions that grow tea. So, from what I’ve even – you know, my very sort of superficial understanding – it seems like Yunnan [province] is the heart of tea growing in China. Is that fair, or no?

 

Don : Well, Yunnan is the historical heart of tea growing in China, because Yunnan is pretty much where… Okay, so they’re still digging up the archeology of tea [and] trying to figure out when it started, and there’s some, you know, tea rhizomes from thousands and thousands of years ago in certain areas of China. But Yunnan certainly seems to be the first province that really started to grow it [and] cultivate it, you know. These tended to be tribal people – mountain people – so not the Han Chinese, which make up 90 [to] 95 percent of the Chinese population, but much more kind of mountain people that really revered this land, and revered this plant. It’s interesting, because you have to question why they started to cultivate it. It’s in the same area as was cultivating opium at the time, [and] cultivating cannabis at the time. It’s certainly an area that’s well-known for cultivating psychoactive plants that [function] psycho-actively, but also can help them get their caffeine fix, etcetera. So the background – or the real history – of tea, seems to [have been] hijacked a little bit by the kind of “imperial Chinese”. This kind of, “This [is] a great [touristy] cultural heritage thing that we can put out.”, but [it] actually comes from a little bit more, kind of, earthier roots – [we can] put it. It’s a little bit [different] to how it’s portrayed often. I think that that’s something that a lot of people, now, in the West are rediscovering that, and finding that a much more attractive way to get into tea, rather than – as I said – the very kind of surface, ceremonial side of tea.

 

Hunter : Well, and so to talk to us about the people of Yunnan, [you] talk about “earthier”, right?

 

Don : MmmHmm.

 

Hunter : So, [it sounds] like [maybe] they’re agriculturalists, but there is maybe a little bit of sort of that more traditional sort of shamanism, or those sort of hunter-gatherer practices. Is that fair?

 

Don : Yeah. I mean, I think [that] on a very practical level it’s very far away from Beijing.

 

Hunter : Yeah.

 

Don : [laughter] it’s probably one of the [furthest] provinces – you know, one of them – and it’s very close to the borders of Burma, Laos, and Northern Thailand, and in many ways it shares a lot of kind of cultural similarities to those areas. If you go there you see [that] the architecture looks very Thai. It looks very Northern Thai compared to Chinese, and yeah, they have a very different cultural approach to their land, I think. This is what’s really interesting. When they go picking the tea [it’s] a pride, and it’s a beautiful thing to watch, and the way that they treat their tea afterwards, and the way that they drink their tea, is very, very abstract. [I think] this is one of the challenges [for] me coming to understand tea with my Western education – you know, [British] private school celebrating the kind of Western logic, [and] the kind of modular, atomized way of looking at truth, and all of those things – and even though I grew up in a half-Chinese family, where my father was continuously talking to me [laughter] about contradiction, and being accepting of contradiction, and [contradiction] actually being part of truth, and all of those things, which from my very Western upbringing – and Swiss mother – [laughter] found challenging. I would always argue with my father. We would have blazing arguments  – you know, polite, civilized arguments – but still, about truth, and I would always tell him that he was copping out. It was a lazy way that he was…

 

Hunter : Mmm.

 

Don :… you know, that [he] would be so accepting of contradiction, and not ask the difficult questions, and he wouldn’t try to isolate and find the truth…

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : … and that he was too able to just kind of hide behind these kind of nice abstract concepts that kind of allowed him to get away with stuff. You know? So I came at it from that point of view, and I came to try to understand tea from that point of view, and I think [that] over the more than a decade that I’ve now been doing it – and especially the last five or six years – I’ve totally [come] to really understand the wisdom in this approach, and in Yunnan province they are particularly like this. They will never give you a straight answer for anything.

 

Hunter : Yeah.

 

Don : You know, you ask them a question, and it’s like [to them] that trying to understand things, or trying to isolate “the reason”, or trying to focus on “the why”, is in itself a very childish abstraction. It’s kind of [like] they chuckle about it, like you know, “Oh, here he goes again.. the very rigid Western mind who wants to try to fix something.” In other parts of China it’s similar, but in Yunnan province , if you don’t accept and give in to that, you’re going to have a very frustrating time as a tea buyer. I know a lot of people who I teach – you know, when we do all of these videos to try and teach – they’re [desperately] trying to fix something…

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : . [laughter] and I have to [now] be the one to go, “No.. no…no. You have to understand that there’s a dialectic in everything”, and then I start to talk about Yin and Yang, and I start to talk about … and it just reminds me of, basically…

 

Hunter : Your childhood.

 

Don : .. my father, and the arguments that I [used to have with] him. Yeah, exactly. It’s funny how it comes back. But yeah, Yunnan province is, by far, the most [like] that. They’re so abstract. It’s all about relationships. [They] never want to isolate any one thing. “Why is it? Is it the cultivar? Is it the earth? Or is it the way you’ve processed it?” No, it’s everything. You know, and you can’t isolate anything, and that is … [I’m not necessarily] saying that that’s right versus wrong, because I think that’s way to simplistic. I think that both viewpoints have a purpose, and whatever work works. But their point-of-view is that if you try to fix it then you’re not understanding what tea is about.

 

Hunter : Right. So it’s the most holistic environment, where they’re really just seeing everything as harmonizing together, rather than trying to isolate the parts atomistically. [It’s so] funny, because as you talk about this, [this wasn’t] the pattern – obviously, not that particular cultural pattern – with my own childhood. But I just have often thought that, “Man! If we took some of these ideas and just gave them to me when I was 10, [laughter] my life would have been so much easier.” Like, I feel like if I could go back and give young Don a copy of Richard Nisbett’s “Geography of Thought” that like so many conversations would have gone so much better.

 

Don : Yeah.

 

Hunter : I mean, that cultural pattern is, I think, a really important one to draw out, because [there’s] that great story about when Nixon met with the Japanese Prime Minister. He says to the Japanese prime minister, “We’re really getting fucked on the Japanese textile exports. Can you dial them down?” Right? And the Japanese prime minister says something like, “This is a matter that we will have to look into seriously.”, or something like that. Nixon, with his very rigid, atomistic mindset like interprets that to mean, “Oh, so you’re going to cut them down?” Then, the Japanese prime minister doesn’t do that, because he can’t like just destroy jobs in his home country because it’s inconvenient for Nixon, and Nixon interprets this as [the] Japanese prime minister having fucked him over, like, “He lied to me!”.

 

Don : Hmm.

 

Hunter : “He misrepresented himself!”, and so supposedly, when Nixon and Kissinger then went to go open relationships with China they deliberately didn’t tell the Japanese – which to not tell the neighboring country, that you have good relationships with, that you’re doing something that major, is the ultimate afront.

 

Don : Hmm.

 

Hunter : [Yeah], so I think that – [and] this is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot – because certain people that I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with over the last year – are obsessed with logic as the “be-all and end-all” of reasoning, and that this is how we find truth, and there are a lot of problems with logic. One [is that] if you start at faulty assumptions you reach ridiculous conclusions that don’t correlate with reality and how things actually work, and the whole point is that the western mind – that atomistic mind – just loves to dissect everything into little pieces, put them in categories, and then insist that a particular thing is that category. So even, before this conversation, we were talking about tea, right?

 

Don : Mmm.

 

Hunter : The reason why it’s so hard for the British to understand tea is because they know tea, tea sits in this bucket of “beverage”, and it is this “builder’s brew” thing, and to conceptualize that there might be other ways of approaching tea, or that maybe tea is not just a beverage but [that] it’s a medicine, and fits in this entirely different bucket, is like incredibly hard for them to grasp because they have such a clear, rigid idea of tea.

 

Don : Yeah. I think it [boils down] to the power of perspective in any ways. You know, one of the things that my father always used to say to me is, “Okay, so how do you paint an elephant?… [If] you had to paint an elephant, what would you do?… Would you just create its silhouette – a nice little outline with the trunk..?”, and you know, “.. or would you go really close, and would you look at the skin, and would you look at the texture?” You know, “How close would you go, [or] how far away?” So, just on the basic idea that, you know, truth us changeable depending on where you’re standing. Then he would take [to saying], “Well, and that’s just drawing. What about the smell, the sound, [and] the touch of the elephant? What about all of those aspects? How would you describe those things?”  Then he would say, “… and you’ve taken it out of its environment. Now put it in an environment. Now describe it. How does that change it? Do you put it in front of a sunset? Do you put it in front of a…?” You know, “How does it change? Then think about you, and how you are affecting the reality of that elephant.” Right? “Then, if you were then to describe the truth of an elephant to somebody, how far would you go? What would you talk about? And not only that, but whatever you choose to talk about – so let’s say you described it as this big, hulking beast of an animal, that would give off a very different impression to talking about it as this docile, vegetable-eating… and so your [communication] actually changes the reality in other people’s minds of what that elephant is, and therefore, their reaction to potentially meeting that elephant is going to be different, and it’s going to affect how that elephant reacts. Because if you go to that elephant scared that it’s this big, hulking beast of an animal then there will be an interaction that may lead to defensiveness, or whatever…”  So the whole idea was that you can take a very simple thing, like, “What is an elephant?” and you can turn it into this massive, you know, very, very expansive area, and the truth is in all of those things, and it’s all about depending on what you want to get out of it. I think that that’s [kind of] what I have learned in my exploration of tea, is I constantly ask the question of “Why?” to these producers, [laughter] and the answer always seems to be, “Because it works.”

 

Hunter : Yeah.

 

Don : You know? [laughter] It’s as simple as that to them. It’s like, “I don’t need to be drawn into that discussion. That’s not important to me.”

 

Hunter : Mmm.

 

Don : You know, “That’s an abstraction. It’s a nice little abstraction, [and] you can occupy your mind with it, but at the end of the day this is what works, and we will try different things, and if that works then we’ll try other things.” It’s purely experiential, and it’s purely just through time, and experience, and wisdom  – versus, kind of, analytical truth. It’s a whole different way of looking at things.

 

Hunter : Yeah, and I think that’s – [I mean], I can absolutely relate to that, and it’s amazing how often elephants come up on this podcast.

 

Don : Oh really? [laughter]  

 

Hunter : Yeah. There’s a real [abundance] of elephants.

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : John Heidt has this metaphor for the human mind as a rider and an elephant. The elephant is the large, sort of, lumbering, emotional brain, and then the rider is the reflective brain – the slow thinker..

 

Don : Right.

 

Hunter : … who can sort of nudge the elephant over time. Then the other one is the “blind man and the elephant”, that story.

 

Don : Sure.

 

Hunter : So, you know, [I just] think we should just embrace the elephant as the symbol of [“Mixed Mental Arts”].

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : But [it’s interesting] that you say that, as well, about elephants, because I was in [South Africa] a few months ago, and [again], like my conception of elephant is “Babar”. Like, essentially – and maybe certain types of chocolate bar that like, in the 90s, tried to make wildlife accessible to children in England. Then, [it’s very upsetting], because you start talking to these game wardens, and they say, “You know, elephants are a huge part of the ecosystem. They turn up all these trees. They [have] this role of almost – not pollinator – but like tiller of the land.” and you’re like, “Oh, that’s cool! Elephants are providing a useful role.” and they’re like, “In South Africa we have, actually, an overabundance of elephants, because we can’t cull them, and because they can’t wander across the borders to other countries. So they’re actually destroying the land, because they’re at too high of a density.” Of course, you know, like I’ve done this enough that I don’t just like freak out and get super triggered, but there was a little bit of like, “You’re threatening my conception fo the elephant here!”

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : “You’re saying that “Babar” is a problem, guys, and I don’t like that. Like, “Babar” is a good guy, and you’re saying that “Babar” makes problems.” So I think that [it’s] very clear that your father was a very wise man, but I think that – based on the sort of education that we received in the West – it becomes very hard for us to conceptualize that sort of dialectic, contextual way of thinking, and it just seems sort of very frustrating…

 

Don : Yeah.

 

Hunter : … because it’s like, “It’s an elephant! You’re overcomplicating this! I don’t like you! Go away! Shut up, dad!”

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : Then likewise, [with] you talking to these farmers in Yunnan, there’s obviously real value to just experiencing it, but there is value to being able to understand the parts of it…

 

Don : Mmm.

 

Hunter : … and to being able to sort of have a slightly more reflective, and intentional, understanding…

 

Don : Mmm.  

 

Hunter : … because i think [that] one of the problems with cultural transmission is that what can happen is that [if] you don’t understand what the “secret sauce” of the culture is then you can end up messing up that “secret sauce” and then being unable to reconstruct it.

 

Don : Mmm.

 

Hunter : So [you’re] in Yunnan, and [it] helps a lot to have it in the context of sort of : Burma, Northern Thailand, Laos… even, why are we calling it “Burma”?  Like, shouldn’t we be calling it “Myanmar”? Are we such British imperialists that…

 

Don : Yeah. [laughter]

 

Hunter : Yeah, so “Myanmar” [is pretty] sort of jungly, wet, [and] humid – that sort of terroir?

 

Don : Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.

 

Hunter : Then what sort of teas? [What sort] of varietals are they producing? Are we talking about Oolongs? Are we talking about…? Oh, there’s a lot of Puerh there. What is Puerh? Tell us about Puerh.

 

Don : Okay. Puerh kind of falls under a weird little category of tea. There’s green tea, there’s white tea, there’s Oolong tea, there’s yellow tea, [and] there’s black tea. All of them are pretty clearly defined in terms of process. It’s got nothing to do with the actual plant. It’s got to do with the processing that defines the type of tea, although of course there are some varieties of tea plant that are more suited to white tea, more suited to black tea, etcetera. Yunnan produces black tea [and] it produces white tea, but it’s very famous for Puerh tea. Now Puerh tea is kind of a tea which starts its life as a kind of quasi-green tea, and then ages over time and changes. [It’s] a little bit more complicated to define, but in its very strict sense it’s a tea which is made through low-heating and sun-drying. What that does is when you don’t heat the leaf up in the same way that you would heat up a green tea – [or] Oolong tea – [to over] 250 degrees Celsius, if you kind of just heat it a little bit you slow down all of the enzymatic actions, and all of the kind of microbial actions that are happening, but you don’t kill it off You don’t stop it, and you don’t fix it. So the tea kind of stays alive, and continuously changes, essentially. This is why you get people who will age their tea for 20, 30 years, [or] 40 years, because it will change over time. There’s a delight – and I guess, a passion – for this kind of tea which is forever in flux. It’s never going to be the same. It’s always changing. Every day is going to be different. [When] people start to get into tea, I think by definition, they need to appreciate and celebrate flux in general, because no tea is ever the same. But especially with Puerh, just literally, it’s continuously changing in front of you, and it’s very, very wild. It’s produced from tea trees which are – even though there is plantation Puerh  – in general, the historical, traditional, Puerh comes from these kind of semi-wild tea forests, where the tea plants are allowed to just grow freely into trees, and that means that they’ve got very deep, long roots, which [means] that they can reach kind of layers of soil that plantation teas can’t reach, and it means that the leaf just seems to have a lot more going on. Now, whether or not that be certain chemicals [or] minerals, these are the “whys” that I’m continuously trying to find out , but certainly, these semi-wild, or wild, tea forests produce the highest quality in terms of flavor and effect. It tends to be something that people who get into tea become quite obsessed with. So there will be “tea lovers” and then there’s “Puerh addicts”, you know? [laughter] The Puerh people are very, very obsessive about finding [good tea]. It’s always changing, [with] lots of different mountainous regions [and] hundreds of different villages all producing their own types, so it gets very complex. It’s a whole area that you can explore.

 

Hunter : Really, [Puerh] has sort of blown up in the last decade or so, and there are now people who are spending outrageous amounts of money on Puerh, right? I mean, what sort of numbers are we talking about?

 

Don : Oh, [you] could spend, easily, $10,000 [USD] on a 500 gram cake, or a 400 gram cake – something like that.

 

Hunter : Yeah. Okay, so we’re got Puerh, [which are] these plants growing in the wild, and then also it [basically] sounds like – to simplify this down – like it’s unpasteurized tea. So because you’re not really heating it up very hot the bacteria are allowed to keep working on it, and it’s allowed to mature over these 20 or 30 years, and so it reaches this much more satisfying [and] much more complex flavor.

 

Don : Yeah. That’s a good way of looking at it. Yeah.

 

Hunter : Yeah. So then [that’s] just Yunnan, right? What are some of the other tea-growing regions that we’re looking at?

 

Don : So around Yunnan you’ve got Hu Nun, you’ve got Guang Xi, [and] you’ve got Si Chuan. [This is] very traditional, so that more western part of China – central to western – are very, very traditional, and then you’ve got the east coast. You’ve got Zhe Jiang province, and you’ve got Fu Jian province. Fu Jian province is very, very well-known. But those areas tend to produce a little bit more – [let’s] call them “refined”, for want of a better word – “refined tea. [They’re] less raw, unpasteurized, [and] much more kind of about precision and elegance. So you get this different culture even within China, and it’s expressed very clearly through the tea. Then, if you hop across the ocean, [you] can see, in Japan, how their culture has affected the way that they produce tea, and the Taiwanese produce their own tea. It’s really interesting how tea is a fascinating market [as a kind of] looking glass at the culture of the area. So, for example, in Japan they’ve actually gone down a little bit more of the wise and technical aspects of the tea production, and they’ve kind of made almost like a production line approach to tea, where they’ve isolated each stage in the production, and they’ve really dug deep into the numbers, and figured out : What’s the right temperature? How long to steam it for? What’s the right shaking time? … and it has produced an incredibly consistent quality tea – very high quality, consistent quality. That’s why Japanese tea is so celebrated around the world, because you [kind of] know that when you buy Japanese tea it’s very unlikely that you’re going to get a dud.

 

Hunter : Yeah.

 

Don : It’s very unlikely. However, the problem with that is [that] it’s taken away all of the flexibility from the system. So now you’re in a situation where the Japanese are starting to lose the wisdom of how this all came about, and you’re getting generations of Japanese tea producers, and tea farmers, that only know how to work the machines, and only know how to work the parameters that they’ve been set, and they’ve built these entire warehouses with all the machinery in place, and then there’s the kind of annoying foreigner, like me, who comes over and says, “You know? Why don’t you try something different? Because you’re tea sales are dropping, because you’re not exciting people anymore. So let’s try something else. Why don’t you try making some Oolong teas?” [It’s] very difficult to break out of that rigidity, because they’ve set themselves up with these parameters. From the Chinese point of view it’s chaos, right? You’ve got people doing all these different things, not explaining why, [and] not caring why. Like, they’re just trying shit out, basically [laughter], and they come up with the most steller, incredible, small-batch teas, [and] you’re just like, “How did you do this? How can I recreate this?” They just kind of nod in their very classic way, and kind of nod and say phrases that are very frustrating like, “Oh, if I tell you everything you won’t come back and visit me.”

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : You know? [laughter] Those kinds of…

 

Hunter : [That’s] so funny.

 

Don : ‘It’s not about me withholding information. It’s just simply that I want to develop our relationship, [and] I want you to come back, and therefore I shouldn’t tell you everything.”

 

Hunter : Mmm.

 

Don : So you get the opposite, where you can get a lot of bad tea coming from China, but you can get this immaculate, incredible, quirky, crazy stuff which blows people away.

 

Hunter : But that’s also why we need Don, right? Because Don goes into China, and he sorts the “shit from the shinola”, “the wheat from the chaff”, [or] “the “tea gold” from the “tea junk””, and then brings back [the best] of China to Mei Leaf, right?

 

Don : I think that [the] ego in me wants to say “Yes.”

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : [laughter] But I think that the truth is much more about intention. I don’t expect that everybody is going to think that the stuff I bring back is all gold. What I’ve learned, in the 15 years of sourcing tea that I’ve been doing, is that the success comes from actually you loving it.

 

Hunter : Hmm.

 

Don : If I love it, [and] my intention is to express it authentically, then it tends to be a winner. The moment I overthink it, [and] try to think about what other people might want, that’s when I fall into traps. So it’s not black and white, you know? Some people might love a certain tea [while] I hate it, but it’s simply about me coming at it with the best intention, and being very authentic about it. It’s interesting, because when you come at it from that angle you seem to stop asking the questions a little bit more. What’s interesting is, then, the relationships that you build with [the] producers tends to improve.

 

Hunter : MmmHmm.

 

Don : because you’re not trying to back them into a corner all the time, saying, “Why?..Why?…Why? You need to explain this to me, otherwise I can’t sell it.” So when the relationships improve they pull out the better tea [laughter]. So suddenly a whole different cupboard opens, and suddenly you’re tasting different stuff.

 

Hunter : Well, and not only [that, but] the other thing that also helps the relationship improve is drinking alcohol, right? Like there’s [some] great videos of you going out there, and so much of what opens “the doors “tea-ception”” is the fact that you got drunk with them, you ate with them, you hung out with them, [and] now they feel like you have a relationship, and it’s not a purely commercial venture for them. Like they have poured their heart and soul into this tea, and they want to share it with someone who’s really going to appreciate it, and cherish it in the same way that they and their families would.

 

Don : Yeah, and everybody knows [that] when you do business in China that sharing a meal is the essential part of any kind of business deal. But you’re absolutely right. [If] you [extrapolate] out this whole idea of “holistic versus individual”, [or] this kind of “atomized versus patterned”, it really is, in China, [that] the relationships are number one. You know? If the relationship is broken, or it’s not a positive relationship, then [there’s] no point in doing any business at all. The way that they figure that out is by getting you drunk [laughter]. You know? Let’s get him pissed…

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : … to the point where he can’t stand anymore. Then we’ll find out what he’s like, and then the next day the deals can be done. Also, you know, what’s his capacity to eat weird and wonderful foods? [I’m sure] that a lot of the time they don’t eat half the stuff that they put in front of my face, but they want to make sure that I’m down with it…

 

Hunter : Yeah.

 

Don : … and that I’m prepared to eat it. Then they feel [like], “Okay. He’s prepared to eat ant larvae, and elephant skin. We’re good.” You know? [laughter]

 

Hunter : In general, “fucking with the foreigner” is a universally appreciated pastime in every culture.

 

Don : Yeah, [laughter] and I totally embrace that. I totally embrace that.

 

Hunter : [Specifically], like, I appreciated that, you know, they – because, I mean, this is also one of those universal cultural things, is that everybody does a toast with you, and so the result is that everybody does one toast, [but] you do ten toasts.

 

Don : Yeah.

 

Hunter : So you’re ten drink in, [and] they’re one drink in…

 

Don : Yeah.

 

Hunter : … and that’s really how they fuck you up.

 

Don : Oh, there’s no illusion of fairness.

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : [laughter] There’s no argument here. I mean, everyone knows that they’re being totally unfair to you, but you just have to go with it. As I said, it’s all about them trying to understand your intention, I think.

 

Hunter : Right.

 

Don : Is your intention coming at it from really trying to appreciate and understand this product that they are [making]? Or is it simply that you want to sell something? You know? So once they understand that you’re happy to get drunk with them, act a fool, and you still love their tea, then things tend to get easier for you.

 

Hunter : Well, I think that’s the interesting thing, is that what you’re really talking about is that you’re trying to, [with] sort of the “Why…why…why?”, that interrogation, right?  You’re trying to open the box with a hammer, right?

 

Don : Yeah.

 

Hunter : [But] if you just establish a relationship with the farmer then he’ll give you the key. Right?

 

Don : Yeah, and a lot of the time, when you use the hammer, you start to tread very close to challenging their face, which we all know [that] in China is a big deal, right? It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, you don’t challenge somebody and make them look like they don’t know. And a lot of the times – like we said before – this knowledge is just passed down, and there is no reason why. So the annoying foreigner commenting, and saying, “Well, you should understand why you do this, because otherwise, somehow, you are [not] taking your job seriously.” [That] is really dangerous, because that can just shut the door very, very quickly. So yeah, [I’ve] made mistakes in my sourcing – especially early on, and I still get very excited when I’m trying to understand something, and this whole debate, and questioning, comes in. But you’ve always got to check yourself, because a lot of time they don’t know. Or if they do know it’s going to come out in a very slow – over a few days. Suddenly – this tends to be what happens – the questions find their answers once you kind of build the relationship, and you start to see what’s going on. Part of [my] job, I think, is just observing, and then trying to make head or tail of it, and then testing to see whether or not… So, I am still kind of, in a very quiet way, following a western approach?

 

Hunter : Yeah.

 

Don : But it has to be done with the greatest kind of respect and understanding that this kind of pattern, and contextual way of looking at things, has lead to incredible tea, and lots of incredible things, so it’s not one or the other.

 

Hunter : Well, it’s the difference between speaker-driven and listener-driven communication, right? So, yeah, western communication tends to be speaker-driven, [like] “I’m going to ask the questions, [and] you’re going to give me answers.” I mean, even in this interview there is a certain amount of that sort of western communication. Whereas, in holistic cultures there tends to be much more listener-driven communications, where, you know, you [certainly] wouldn’t directly ask your boss a question, right? Like, your boss talks, and then you try and tease out his meaning, and that’s your job, right?

 

Don : MmmHmm.

 

Hunter : So [rather] than being very linear, like logic, where we start off, we set an objective, [like] we’re going to do a business transaction. Therefore, I now need to know this information, which I will extract from you about the terroir, about how it was grown, [and] how it was prepared, and all that sort of stuff, because I need it. Okay, now let’s talk about the a price. Now… dah…dah…dah…dah…dah…dah…dah…dah… and then we conclude the deal.[Compare this to] this very circular process of : we talk, we get drunk… and the westerner is like, “What the fuck are we doing here? I just want to buy tea. I don’t want to get drunk with you!” Right?

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : Then over the course of days we circle into ultimately doing business, but [we’ve] worked towards that. I mean, I think that the western mind… and this is something that I’ve sort of struggled with, and have been trying to conceptualize, is that [when] there’s talk about development in the West, so much of the narrative focuses on corruption, and that corruption in bad. [But] what we would call corruption – like doing things based on people that you have relationships with, is such a core part of how business is done in China, is done in the Middle East, [and] is done in most of the world, right?

 

Don : Mmm.

 

Hunter : I just [wonder] a lot about that in terms of development, whether we’re trying to impose sort of our narrative of corruption on this mechanism of Guan Xi, or “face”,  and whether… You know, [I mean], ultimately the goal is to create a society that delivers prosperity, and purpose, and all that. Does it always have to look the same way? Are there different paths? I don’t know.

 

Don : Yeah. I [bring] it back, again, to intention. [It’s] one of those things that you only discover people’s intentions through relationships. So deals aren’t done in black and white and paper. They’re done between people, and so if you need to get to know that person, and the relationship is fundamental to whether or not you do the deal, that could be a slippery slope for corruption, but it can also be a way of understanding the intention behind a deal. For example, I [was] in Chao Zhou, which is in South China, and I was looking for teaware. We went to this beautiful master clay [teapot] maker, and we’re talking about handmade teapots that are worth upwards of $200 [to] $300 [USD] dollars for a tiny 70 [milliliter] pot, or 100 [milliliter] pot. I found this pot that I fell in love with. [I] totally fell in love with [it]. [It was a] tiny little  pot, [which was] beautiful, [and] it had this tiniest little mark on it – this tiniest little indent on it, and the master refused to sell it to me. [He] just point-blank said, “I will not sell you that.” I said, “Look, I understand that there’s an error – or a mistake – or it’s imperfect there. But I don’t mind. It’s fine. I’m happy to pay for the pot. I love the pot.” He said, “No, no. I can’t do that. I cannot sell it to you.”, and I was like, “Well, we’re at an impasse here. You know? Because I want it. You’re not selling it to me. Like, you know that I love it. I’m not [questioning] your artistry, that you left this indent…” and he just – for about 45 minutes – it was just back and forth, and in the end I had to give up and walk out very, kind of, a bit sad that I’d missed out on this amazing pot. [Then] a day later the pot came to me, right? But what the master had done is he had given it to a friend of his [laughter]. [This] friend of his had been waiting for a pot to be made by the master for months, and it had been delayed. So the master said, “As an apology I’ll give you this inferior pot to hold you over, right?..”

 

Hunter : Mmm.

 

Don : “… until that pot [is ready].”, knowing full well that that person knew somebody else who knew me. So the master basically gave me the pot through three other people to get to me.

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : So that’s the really round-about way of doing something that seems – like to my mind – [it] should have been direct, but to him it’s like, “No, I need to protect all of this kind of contextual stuff. I need to protect my face, [and] I need to protect all of these things. So I’m going to give him the pot, but I’m going to do it in this roundabout way.” So yes, things take time, and relationships need to form, and [the] answers tend to come with a little bit more patience, and you eventually [laughter] kind of get there in the end, but it has to come from him understanding that I genuinely loved what he did.

 

Hunter : So beyond tea, [how] has this sort of journey over the last 15 years of sort of really understanding your father’s culture on a much more sort of primal, internalized level, how has that affected you?

 

Don : I think it’s affected me in all walks of life, in everything I do. [I] guess – [it’s not] like just the last five years, [or] ten years. I think that this has been a seed which has been growing ever since ever. Certainly, my father passing away in 2014, and putting me in the limelight – or the spotlight – of having to run these companies, and deal with Chinese medical doctors, and politicians, and this whole kind of world, which I was part of because I was working for 15 years with my father. So it wasn’t like I wasn’t [a] part. But it’s a very different thing when you are the person that everyone is looking to for direction, or answers. Certainly, that was a major catalyst of me trying to kind of figure out how I could walk a similar path, but iin my own shoes, right?

 

Hunter : MmmHmm.

 

Don : That involved me asking myself lots of questions, and dealing with this Western, kind of, analytically way of thinking, and not wanting to disregard it, because I think it’s extremely valuable, and [has helped me] a lot, in many different ways. But to find that integration – to be able to try to find that integration – [is] something that I continuously try to do, and it certainly has really shown itself in tea sourcing, but also just the politics of medicine, and [the] absurdity that I see on both sides of the ocean. [It’s] both on the very kind of pattern-based, kind of, quite [constructed] methodology of the Chinese medical traditional, to the very myopic, very absurd “drawing lines in the sand that don’t need to be there” world of medicine politics. So it’s kind of thrown me in. I’m in at the deep end, so it’s forced me to kind of really review that. Yeah, [and] that obviously filters into your personal life as well.

 

Hunter : Yeah, [and even] – [this] goes back to what your parents were doing, right? To be a bridge – and [the] thing that I really appreciated just from [the] video of your backstory – is the word “complementarity”, right? Like, with Eastern and Western approaches to things it’s not a about fetishising one or fetishising the other, and saying, “This one is the best!”

 

Don : Mmm.

 

Hunter : It’s really about what is the blend between them? How do you have that “bridge”? That’s a word you use a lot, Don, which I love, because the words I use a lot are “right?” and “you know?”, and “bridge” is an actual word rather than just “verbal garbage”. [laughter]

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : But, you know, it really is this promise of bridging East and West, and how can we get the best of both?

 

Don : Yeah.

 

Hunter : So yeah, let’s talk about Chinese medicine, and let’s talk about Western medicine, because you’ve found yourself in that intersection, and have seen sort of the problems of a myopic focus on one or the other. So what have you noticed? What have been the challenges in terms of moving ideas one way or the other?

 

Don : I think [what’s] surprised me the most – and I think that [my background] has not prepared me for this – [is] the level of entrenchment, the level of fundamentalism, [or] the level of dogma, that is on both sides. [People] are so entrenched – invisibly – in their kind of cultural heritage, that to try to kind of open eyes, or to try to have this meaningful dialogue – [not] just platitudes that kind of serve no purpose – but actual meaningful exchange. In order to find this other way, or these new paradigms of integrations where you can actually blend these different prospective ways of looking at things; these different medical approaches – which I absolutely 100 percent believe you can. Because seeing Chinese medicine in action for the last 30 years [of my] life with the clinic,  and also living in the West, really, honestly, it’s amazing when you start to look at the advice that these two areas of medicine are giving to their patients. When it evolves you start to see that there’s a major convergence – [a] huge convergence – and now we’re finally – in Western medicine, or in Western health – we are embracing lifestyle a lot more than we used to, right? We’re embracing the concept which seems very obvious, right? That nutrition is a very important thing for your health. [laughter]

 

Hunter : [laughter] What?! Don, what is this “woo-woo”  Eastern garbage that you’re peddling here?

 

Don : [laughter] I know!

 

Hunter : You mean I can’t just eat “Ho-Hos” all day and live forever? This is crazy.

 

Don : [laughter] But [the crazy] thing is that I will be sitting in meetings with agencies – medical healthcare agencies – and they will say things to me that make me want to bang my head against a wall, or look for the “hidden camera”. Because [I’m saying things like], “Look, Hippocrates said ‘Let food be thy medicine, and medicine by thy food.'” Like, we need to be giving people advice about nutrition in a much more meaningful way, you know? Rather than just, in Britain we have something called “five a day”.

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : That’s about as big as it gets, right? [laughter] “Have five a day”, and then they’re taking like really sugary juices and they’re saying, “[This is] one of your five a day.” You know, it’s just like the most nonsensical thing ever, and these people who are civil servants who [not] just enforce the law, but they guide the law when it comes to medicine. They’re saying things to me like, “No…no…no! The definition of food is that it doesn’t have a pharmacological effect on your body.”

 

Hunter : [laughter] … and because we’ve defined it that way, therefore, it can’t, right?

 

Don : Exactly!

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : I’m sitting there and going, “I don’t know how to actually like respond to that.” The level of absurdity makes me feel like I’m in another dimension, you know? Then they say to me, “Oh, and also, Don, the definition of food is [that] it cannot do you harm.”

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : So I’m sitting there going, “Okay, guys. How am I supposed to have a reasoned debate with you about nutrition, medicine, [and] healthcare, when you’re talking in a way which is [so] beyond anybody’s understanding of anything logical?” So yes, that’s what’s surprised me the most, is how willing people are to be entrenched in these ideas that seem very, very absurd. So yeah, I mean, that’s been surprising, for sure.

 

Hunter : [laughter] Well, [I think] the first thing is that culture binds and blinds, right?

 

Don : Mmm.

 

Hunter : You know, [one of] the analogies that we’re fond of in “Mixed Mental Arts” is that asking a human about culture is like asking a fish if it’s wet.

 

Don : Right.

 

Hunter : Like you’re wet, [but] you may not know it. [The point] is that it’s very much like the whole “builder’s tea” thing. Like, these guys are wet. They’ve internalized a whole culture, and they haven’t had the benefit that we’ve had of having to swim in different oceans. So the majority of humanity has never really known that it’s wet. I think that part of the thing that I’ve really realized in the last year is [that] I sort of naively assumed that people with a scientific education would know how wet they were. Like, that’s the point of science – to make you aware of your biases, [and] make you aware of all the things that you’ve internalized, so you can question them, and all of that sort of stuff. But what I’ve come to in the last year is that, you know, dealing with a westerner is no different than dealing with a farmer from Yunnan, or dealing with some guy from the hinterlands of Libya.

 

Don : Hmm.

 

Hunter : Like, you’ve blindly internalized your culture, you don’t know that you’ve blindly internalized your culture, and it is driving your thinking. It really is that problem of cultural arrogance, is that you look at all the cargo, and all of the material abundance that the West has accumulated, and so not only are you wet, but you just think that – [it’s] that hardcore naive realism – where you really just think that your view of the world is the best.

 

Don : Hmm.

 

Hunter : It’s that cultural chauvinism of like, ” Listen, we did the industrial revolution, [and] we invented science, [and] we cured all of these things. Don, who are you to come in here with this crazy “woo-woo” nonsense and try and tell me that Robinson’s juice drink is not a fruit or a vegetable.” [laughter]

 

Don : [laughter] Absolutely. That’s precisely what’s happening. You know?

 

Hunter : Yeah.

 

Don : It’s this blind [belief]. That’s, [I have] to say, [why] the “Mixed Mental Arts” platform is so fundamentally important, because as your [exploration] into this has no doubt shown you that it takes time to break that down, and it needs structure to break that down, and it needs continuous spotlights being shone in areas that you may feel uncomfortable being exposed to. So that’s essentially what I’m trying to do, not just to other people, but to myself as well, because I’m just as blind and bound as other people. I mean, maybe [I] have a [slightly] more diverse – [I’ve] swum in many oceans, perhaps – but we all carry it with us, and I think [that] exposing that is so fundamental. That’s why when I go to China I’m talking the same language to them, you know? I’m saying, “Look, you guys [are] so entrenched in historical, traditional constructs – [like] concepts of Chi, concepts of [the] “five elements, [and] concepts of the “Yin and Yang theory”. That’s not to say that they’re wrong. That’s not to say that they [have no] purpose or meaning, because absolutely they do, and we’ve seen the effects, and we’ve seen results. But you have to understand that these need to be modernized as well. [The language] is constantly in flux. The moment you fix the language you’re basically saying, “No more development [is] needed.” Right? It’s the same in western medicine, right? [They’ve had] incredible success at dealing with infectious diseases, yeah? [It’s] amazing. You know, how many billions of people have lived because of antibiotics, and the understanding of the microbes, and the ability to zoom-in, and the ability to use lenses, and the ability to focus on details. [It’s] incredible. But if you just then take that success [and say], “… therefore, everything else we do is right.” You know, [laughter] you’re not evolving, and more to the point – as you say – you’re not being scientific. This is the thing that winds me up the most – this kind of “skepticism” with a “k”, pseudoscience, you know, [and] all [these] kind of “trigger words” that people are throwing out at anything that potentially challenges the paradigm. [I mean], at the end of the day Chinese herbs is not such a difficult concept to understand, right? It’s a herb. You’re eating it.

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : It’s going to have an effect on your body. [I’m] not even asking you to believe in some vibrational whatever, you know?

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : I’m just saying [that] if you eat basil it’s going to have an effect. If you eat ginseng it’s going to have an effect. If you combine some plants together they’re going to have a synergistic effect. It’s really not that complicated. So [what’s] the opposition? Why are you being so like “anti” here? Is it because we’re using the words [like] “Chi”? Is it because we’re using concepts of energy, and life force, and all of this stuff? Fair enough. Get it. Understand those are your trigger words. But you have to also understand why those are your trigger words, and [what’s] the background that has lead those to be your trigger words? On the other side, the Chinese, and these Eastern [medicines] need to understand that they can’t just keep grinding their heels and saying, “Well, we have thousands of years of history!”

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : You know, [as if] that’s like the medal. It’s like, “Yes, good. Congratulations. You have had success over thousands of years, and you’ve built up this medicine experientially. [Those are] all good things, but we need to develop. If we are going to integrate we need to develop. We need to find this complementary approach.” So yeah, it’s on both ends of the spectrum. There’s [no point] in painting it black and white, and it certainly is the case that the Western way of looking at things has lead to incredible results. I have to say – as a little side story to this – the Chinese invented many, many things, right? But glass is not one of them, and the use of glass in Chinese history is very, very low. I mean, it’s superficial, and a lot of the reason why – there is a thinking, [although] I’m not sure how accurate it is – but there’s a thinking that the Chinese really focused on ceramics [and] metal work, and that tea is best consumed in ceramics, right? Whereas the Western drink of choice tended to be wine, which was best consumed in wine glass, and whether or not that lead to a bigger development in glass, and then lenses, and then the ability to look out, and [to] look into detail, [it] may be that tea played its part, actually, in this different way of thinking – the pattern versus the detail; the pattern versus the whole. You know, we don’t know, but it’s a kind of interesting area that China has very, very little experience with glass-making, and glass in general.

 

Hunter : Well, it’s not just glass. It’s also that atomistic mindset, right? It is that desire to – [and] this goes back to the Greeks – like the desire to break up, split up, categorize, [and] figure out all the parts. I hadn’t made that connection until this conversation, but infectious diseases are really the perfect problem for the Western mind, right?

 

Don : Absolutely! Yeah.

 

Hunter : You have to isolate the thing that is the problem, and you have to fucking kill it. Like that’s just what it comes down to.

 

Don : Yeah. [laughter]

 

Hunter : You have to sort through all the chemicals that are out there, and find the one that’s going to kill that thing without killing you.

 

Don : Yeah.

 

Hunter : It’s an ideal western problem, and one of the thing that Nisbett talks about in “The Geography of Thought” is the fact that surgery never appeared in China, right?  Because the body is so integrated, [and] it is so much a holistic thing, that why would you chop out a piece?

 

Don : Yeah.

 

Hunter : So again, like surgery is very much a Western thing to have invented, but in terms of these sort of rigid lines in the sand that don’t exist, there’s a guy out here, Tony Molina, and although Tony’s name is Molina, which is hispanic, right, [actually] a large part of his childhood was spent around his Korean friends and family. So my personal feeling… and he talks about sitting on the floor, and really being like, “This is so cool. This is a real community. I don’t have this. It’s such a great experience.” I think that he’s a very holistic thinker, and I just wonder how much that was picked up from his childhood. But his thing is… and he’s brought together all of these technologies that are basically designed to get the body to repair itself. You provide the targeted signals to the body, and it is these very modern approaches. Like for example, there’s this machine [called] “bio-density”. So if you send a person into space there’s no gravity, and therefore there’s no force on the bones, and so you get osteoporosis. So this provides, you know, you get on there, you generate a force, and then you’re signaling your osteoblasts to upregulate production and create that bone density.

 

Don : MmmHmm.

 

Hunter : It’s really effective. You can bring people in with osteopenia, and they do this for five minute [to] ten minutes a week, and you can see their bone density actually build, in measurable ways, on a DEXA scan. He has had – he and everybody else who’s promoting this stuff – a devil of a time moving this in the West. Of course, where has it had the best reception? China. They’re like, “Oh, duh! Of course! It’s all an integrated system”. Again and again, everything that he’s doing is basically about dealing with these imaginary lines that Western doctors have, where you go to a GP, you tell the GP you have back pain, the doctor sends you to a back specialist. [But] the only problem is that the real source of the back pain is that you actually don’t have range of motion in your foot, and so those forces are being transmitted up and manifesting in the back. The western doctor does a scan, sees a back problem – like there’s something that shows up on the X-ray – concludes surgery – because that’s what the west does – when really, you know, these much smaller fixes, in terms of foot motility, would actually fix the issue. So the damage that is done on both sides, just by sort of blindly running your cultural biases, is vast, right?

 

Don : Yeah,… [and] so you have, [in medicine, we’ve] lost the concept of proper triage – you know, the proper, “Let’s look at a problem, and let’s really take a step back from it, and really try to understand the whole environment that has lead to this problem, before we specialize. The specialization is a great thing, because it leads to expertise, and it leads to all of [the] improved – like the Japanese tea, right? It raises the overall standards [in] exactly the same way as tea. If I come in to a tea farmer’s house, and I try to specialize too quickly – to try [to get] them to answer very specific questions – then I oftentimes lose sight of actually the environment, and lose sight of the actual question that needs to be asked, right? [Like] if I sat and I kind of just observed for a while I would figure [it] out. That’s absolutely the case in medicine. It’s a specialization that’s happening far too quickly. It’s like, we had a Chinese doctor coming to speak with us once, and he kind of just gave a very simple example of mildew in the bathroom, right? If you have mildew in the bathroom you can find out what it is, you can find out what the microbe is, you can find the chemical, [and] you can kill it off, but really what’s causing the mildew – even though the cause of it is this microbe – it’s actually the [humid] environment that has caused it. So both are causes, right? But which is going to have the best long-term results: you spraying it every couple of months, or you figuring out a way to dehumidify your bathroom in some way [laughter]. You know? It’s a very simple idea, but that’s basically the difference in a nutshell.

 

Hunter : Yeah. The challenge for us, and a lot of what I think [building] this “Mixed Mental Arts” community of all of us who have sort of wrestled with this problem of culture, in one way or another, is to basically pool our insights, and to evolve tools so that we can all have these conversations better. That’s why we’re doing the “Mixed Mental Arts Belt System” as just sort of the nine basic concepts that are most important for like giving people the vocabulary, [because] I think that if you’re going to talk to some British civil servant about this sort of stuff I think, obviously, the compounding factor is [as] Upton Sinclair said, “It’s impossible to convince a man of something when his job depends on him not understanding it.”

 

Don : [laughter] Yeah.

 

Hunter : [That’s] the other compounding thing, but the more that we can get humanity to this idea… because I think [that] the difference is, Don, that you know that [culture] binds and blinds. Most people don’t even understand that, right? They might think, “Oh, yeah, culture binds and blinds other people.” But it’s really that when you understand that. So I think it’s, A, that, and the other thing that I think is super-important is [that] for people to be able to see this – and so we can all see this better, I think that, A, you know, humans learn by seeing example, example, example, and then they go to the general principle. So you and I have had lots, and lots, and lots of examples, examples, examples, and then we sort of accepted a lot of these general principles to live by. You have a totally different set of examples from the ones that Tony Molina has, or that I have, or that – a lot of what you’re saying, by the way, have you read Mark Schatzker’s “Dorito Effect”?

 

Don : No, I haven’t. No.

 

Hunter : Oh, see [this] is what I’m talking about [in saying] “pulling toolkits”, because that book is going to be give you so much of what really sounds like science to this British civil servant, where you can talk about food in ways that they’re really going to appreciate. So anyway, [I] think that’s the point, is that we all need to band together. [You know] it’s frustrating when you’re the one person trying to mediate these conflicts. [I mean], for me – in the last year – it’s been nice to know that I’m not alone, and that there is a community of people who think like this, who can help us all have these conversations better.

 

Don : Absolutely, and a growing community. I think that there are people that are searching for this, so [the] MMA platform is really important for that, because one place to send people is a much easier way than [laughter] trying to kind of like cobble together your own personal reading list. So yeah, pooling it is very important.

 

Hunter : Yup, and to that end, I [think] what’s great is, you know, [obviously] you’ve done so much of that pulling together – in terms of tea, in terms of Chinese medicine, [and] in terms of a lot of these things – and [with] Mei Leaf you’ve created a really great set of resources there for people to begin the journey towards becoming “teaheads”.

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : [We’ve] really only scratched the surface here. Like obviously, being a recovering “WEIRD” I’ve focused on Yunnan, and I’ve focused on Puerh, but we haven’t really gotten into : How do you brew tea, right? The “Gong Fu” brewing style. We haven’t really gotten into the teaware; like what are the cups, and what should we be using? But [I’m] excited to begin that journey, [and] I’m lucky to have a great guide in Don, who – although he’s too humble to ever say he [is] an expert – he’s been on the path for long enough that he can certainly point me to a few things that might help me in my own exploration.

 

Don : Thank you. Yeah, absolutely. [There are] so many more things to talk about, and as anybody who embarks on the “teahead” journey discovers, it’s a world of absolute acceptance of flux.

 

Hunter : [laughter]

 

Don : [laughter] Right? So get ready for everything I say to be contradicted in the next moment. I know you can handle that.

 

Hunter : Yup! [We’re] all going to have to handle that, because that’s the world that we live in. All the old certainties are gone.

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : [Also] , there are some people that I want to connect you with, because I think that there’s enough of that similarity. I think it would be great for you to talk to Tony Molina, it would be great for you to talk to Mark Schatzker, and I think you’d really appreciate talking to Jenny Aguilar. That’s really a big thing that we’re going to be doing in 2018, is trying to really facilitate “idea sex” where we bring together great, fun combinations, and just watch that exchange of ideas, back and forth, happen. So thanks so much for coming into the dojo, Don. I feel like we can now more comfortably use that term than maybe we could before…

 

Don : [laughter]

 

Hunter : .. [laughter] which is exciting. Plug yourself shamelessly. Where can everybody find everything that you do?

 

Don : The best place to go is search out our channel on YouTube – “Mei Leaf” ( https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaHBABJFMRAtnKhQp2Cu5BQ ) – search for us on YouTube, and then you can begin your exploration into the world of tea. Just dip in [and] dip out. You’ll find things, I’m sure, that interest you. If you’re interested in Chinese medicine then Acumedic.com is the best place to go.

 

Hunter : Yeah, and I think – that’s the other thing, too – in terms of, as we start to help people realize they’re “wet”, [food and drink] is such a great first point of contact, because once you start to develop an appreciation for those things then it becomes much easier to get into the literature, or to get into the philosophy, or the spirituality, or the religion. So, in general, let’s shamelessly promote all the food and beverage, and maybe then people will realize that it’s not just food, [but] it’s also medicine. [laughter]

 

Don : Absolutely.

 

Hunter : All right. Take care Don.

 

Don : Thank you so much, Hunter. Take care.

 

Hunter : Bye.

 

Hunter : Well, that was Don Mei, and I was so inspired by that conversation with Don that I decided to create a special sub-group of “Mixed Mental Arts” called” “Mixed Medical Arts” where anybody who is interested in figuring out what a truly global medical system – that is the product of “idea sex” between Eastern medicine and Western medicine – would look like, can come, talk, share experiences, [and] figure out how to move these ideas both in the Eastern world and the Western world. So you can find that group, “Mixed Medical Arts” on Facebook, and there’s actually a very interesting new sub-group set up by our own Isaiah Gooley, “Mixed Musical Arts”. So if you’re interested in finding out about the music of different cultures, how they’ve blended, [and] how they’ve learned from each other, there’s that opportunity to go [to]. So thanks so much for listening, and remember, on Facebook : “Mixed Mental Arts”, “Mixed Medical Arts”, and “Mixed Music Arts” .

 

Announcer : I’d like to let you know how you can engage in “idea sex” with us by joining our online communities. If you’d like to help support us, please consider becoming a patron by visiting our Patreon page, where you can get access to behind-the-scenes content, early podcast episode releases, and much, much more. You can find our website at http://www.mixedmentalarts.online to sign up for our email newsletter. For Facebook users, you can find our Facebook page with the URL Facebook.com/MixedMentalArts . From there you can join our Facebook discussion group, or you can give us feedback about the podcast, or engage in discussions with our community members, including Hunter Maats. We also have a Reddit community at “R/MixedMentalArts”. Subscribe to our YouTube channel at YouTubecom/MixedMentalArts for video podcasts and weekly live streams, where you – the audience – have the ability to participate in our discussions. Last, but not least, please follow us on Twitter at “”@MixedMentalArts”, and [the same on] Instagram, to get our latest updates. Join the “Callenphate”, and replace that cognitive dissonance with some “cognitive coitus”. Thanks for listening.                                                                      

 

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Free Transcript Project #10

The Law Practice Doctor : Burnout Prevention and Stress Resilience
http://thelawpracticedoctor.com/podcastpauladavislaack/

Host : Sam Gaylord : http://thelawpracticedoctor.com ,
Twitter : ( https://twitter.com/sgaylordesq )

Guest : Paula Dais Laack (JD, MAPP) –  http://www.pauladavislaack.com

————————————————————————————————-

[intro music]

Announcer : Hello, and welcome to “The Law Practice Doctor”, the ONLY podcast dedicated to providing you the EASIEST, most PRACTICAL, and PROFITABLE ways to grow your firm and still have a life. Attorney Sam Gaylord is the founding partner of Gaylord Popp (http://www.gaylordpopp.com/ ), a prestigious law firm specializing in worker’s compensation, social security disability, and personal injury law. Using Sam’s unique gift for marketing and business development, Gaylord Popp  has seen dramatic growth by focusing on finding the right clients, delivering an outstanding experience for those clients, and seeing that their partners and associates enjoy a well-balanced home life. So if you’re looking for inspiration, techniques, and proven strategies on how to grow a more profitable and enjoyable law practice, you’ve come to the right place. Please welcome your host, the “law practice doctor” himself, Sam Gaylord.

Sam Gaylord : Welcome to another episode of “The Law Practice Doctor”, the only podcast designed to helping solo and small law firms succeed by providing the easiest, most practical solutions, to grow, practice, and still have a life. Today we are absolutely lucky and thrilled to have with us Paula Davis-Laack – I hope I pronounced that correctly, right?

Paula Davis-Laack : Yes.

Sam Gaylord : Okay. Perfect. Today we’re going to work on the “still having a life” portion of the “The Law Practice Doctor”. Paula Is a former practicing attorney, publisher, writer, and media contributor, on topics near and dear to, I think, EVERY practicing attorney’s heart, which are burnout prevention and stress resilience. She has [had] her articles appear in The Huffington Post, US News and World Report, and Psychology Today. And I know that she is the founder and CEO of the Davis Laack Stress & Resilience Institute (http://www.pauladavislaack.com/about/davis-laack-stress-resilience-institute/ ). We’re going to get through all of that, and where you can [get and] stay in touch with Paula throughout the course of our interview. First of all. Thank you for joining me today on “The Law Practice Doctor”.

Paula : You are welcome. Thanks so much for HAVING me, Sam .

Sam :  Absolutely my pleasure. So before we get into all of the great content which everybody can certainly find on your web site [at] : http://www.pauladavislaack.com/ . Is that correct?

Paula : That’s correct.

Sam :  Perfect…. So before we get into all of the good content, and what’s going on, I want to make sure that we get the opportunity to get to know you a little bit better. And as any good doctor knows, the idea of meeting a new patient the first time is to take a good history.  So without much ado, why don’t you give us a little more on your background, how you got to this point, and talk a little about the Stress and Resilience Institute.

Paula : Great. So, as you mentioned, I practiced law. I practiced for seven years, practicing commercial real estate law. And as we were briefly talking about, I practiced right when real estate was in a boom. It was all through the 2000s, before the economy crashed, and to say that I and my fellow real estate attorneys were busy is an UNDERSTATEMENT.

Sam :  Right.

Paula : And I found that I was burning out during the last year of my law practice, and I didn’t really know, kind of, WHAT I was going through. It was just all of a sudden feeling like, “Why can’t I handle stress? ” It seemed like I was able to before, [and] seems like everybody ELSE was able to, [so] what [was] it about ME all of a sudden that was making it so that I [didn’t] really feel like I [could] manage that. So I finally – after MULTIPLE trips to the HOSPITAL, and all kinds of other things – basically zeroed in on the fact that stress and burnout were causing all of the things that were going on.

[However] I actually LOOKED at still staying in the legal profession, because I felt like I came to a point where I really had to reevaluate  my career and [ask myself], “Is this REALLY something that I want to continue? Maybe I want to go into a different AREA or law? [Or] maybe a different area of the COMPANY I was at?” I decided that I was going to take a CHANCE.

My parents had owned a business for a LONG time, and so I grew up in a very entrepreneurial world. [I] had wanted to OWN my own business at SOME point, and thought, “Why not NOW? Let’s do it now.” And I just became interested trying to study and understand and learn more about stress, what causes burnout, and not only that, but what can you do to PREVENT it?

Sam :  Terrific. I know that as part of what you are doing  that there’s a coaching component to the materials, and other things, so I would THINK that you’ve had the opportunity to, sort of,  really ANALYZE, and get a good sense, or feeling, of what is CAUSING the stress, and then potentially how to avoid it.

Paula : Yes. It’s not only the COACHING component, – which is a little bit on the smaller side of what I do – but it’s also a lot from the training and workshops that I do. So really, in THAT sense, meeting the people and getting to have a better understanding of – ESPECIALLY in the LEGAL profession – what’s driving a lot of this.

Sam :  Okay. Good. So then there’s multiple ways in which you can provide assistance with these particular important topics, and we’ll get into that in terms of how people can have access to that. But in terms of diagnosing the problems, in terms of either stress or burnout – I mean, I can always say that, “Oh, I’m stressed.” But what are some of the SPECIFIC signs that you’re seeing , either in the workshops or the other types of [situations] where you’re dealing with people – what do you commonly see as,  sort of, SIMILAR diagnoses of problems, [or] similar things that you can,  sort of, recognize across the board?

Paula : Sure. I know that the research points to three very specific, big DIMENSIONS of burnout, and I see these three going on very consistently with the people who I coach, and teach, and talk to. The FIRST one is the sense of chronic, low energy.  So there’s this EXHAUSTION component going on. For me it [included]  having a hard time getting to sleep, having restless sleep, waking up not feeling refreshed, dreading Monday morning. Just feeling like I couldn’t get the energy to get myself motivated. One of the things to punctuate with that is that this is CHRONIC. So this is not like you wake up one day and you’re tired, or you’re having a tired week, or what-not. This is something that happens over a period of time. So there’s THAT piece.

The second piece is cynicism. I think of it as everyone and everything just irks you, or runs you the wrong way.  I always joke with people [that] it’s funny that when LAWYERS notice that you’re being too cynical, then you know you must REALLY be cynical.

Sam :  [laughter] You KNOW you have a problem WHEN ….

Paula : [laughter] Yeah. What this looked like for me – and what I hear similarly from [other] people – is [that] I was always, of course, very cordial with my clients, and always willing to help. But what would happen more and more is [that] privately, after conversations, I would think to myself, “Man, do you REALLY need my help with this? Didn’t we talk about this already? Isn’t this something YOU can fix? Why are you bringing me in on this?”

And, of course, I never SIAD that to anybody, but that’s how I felt. So that was the cynicism at work.

Then the last big dimension is something called “inefficacy”. So feeling like you’re not able to produce the results you were once able to. Like you’re trying, and it’s like, “Gosh, I’m, showing up and I’m really trying to get my work done, and get things done and out, but I just don’t have that same sense of connection, or engagement, with what I was doing.” So those are three big ones, for sure.

Sam :  Okay, so now that I’ve checked off ALL THREE [laughter]. Seriously [I assume that] when you’re talking to people, I’ve got to imagine – with a room full of lawyers – that there’s this, sort of, this “Ah-hah!” [where]  people are out there in the audience like, “Oh yeah. That’s me.” And there HAS to be sort of a sense of relief, that it’s like, “Hey, I’m NOT messed up. There may actually be something REAL out there?”

Paula : Yes. What’s funny, though, is that there’s still RELUCTANCE for somebody, or for a couple of people in the audience to raise their hand and say, “Yup! This sounds like me. I’m going through this.” Because I think there’s still a bit of a stigma attached to SAYING that you’re burned out.  [It seems that] the fear is that you might be perceived as not being TOUGH enough, not being able to handle it, maybe you’re not as serious about your career as these other people over here who seem to be able to handle their stress just fine. In reality, [though], LOTS of lawyers are having a hard time managing their stress, and I feel like if we could just TALK about it a little more it might be a lot easier for people to get some tools. Because often times, when I’m talking about this, people are definitely looking at each other and shaking their heads, and I often don’t get the full story until after I’m done speaking, and [then] someone will grab me at a reception or something and tell me a little bit about what’s going on, or they’ll contact me after the fact.

Sam :  Right. Well – and I have to say in all fairness, 1000% – I mean, how many bar association functions or events have you been at where we’re all sitting there saying the same thing, like “How’s it going?”, “Oh, it’s going good. How are you?, “Oh, I’m fine.” And nobody has a REAL conversation about what’s ACTUALLY  happening. Then if somebody was to say, “Oh my God. I’m dying, and this is going on…I don’t know what to do..” You’d be like, “Uh, why are you dumping on ME? I don’t know what the heck to do [to] help you.” Right? It’s like we’re almost INSTRUCTED or almost TRAINED to NOT talk about it.

Paula : Exactly, and I’ve done a lot of work with soldiers. My post-graduate training for my master’s degree – once  I stopped my law practice and went back to school [to] get] my master’s degree in something called “Applied Positive Psychology” – my post-graduate training was spent teaching drill sergeants, and other soldiers, stress management and resilience-building skills. So one of their sayings is, “Suck it up and drive on!” And I feel like there’s a “Suck it up and drive on!” mentality in the legal profession, and until we can start talking about the fact that, “Yeah. I’m going home and having three beers and seventeen chocolate chip cookies every night just to try and cope with the stress of what is going on”, I think it’s going to be a struggle to make headway with the issue.

Sam :  Nope. I couldn’t agree more. Okay. So now that we’re identified, or diagnosed, some of the issues and problems that you typically see, let’s get to the meat of the things. How can we FIX some of this stuff?

Paula : Mmm…Hmm.  So I’ve basically [taken] the best of what we know about stress – the latest and greatest – and mixed that with the best of what we know about how to help somebody BUILD their RESILIENCE. That’s really ultimately what I a trained in. [That] is, the SOLUTION side of it. How do we build our resilience? I define resilience as “a person’s capacity for stress-related GROWTH”.  So how can you get GOOD at stress? How can I make you better at stress so that you’re GROWING from it, instead of CRUMBLING from it.

So I just created a little sub-category of resilience called “stress resilience”. So how can I help make people better at stress? So there are FIVE big categories that I have come up with in my little model here. The first one is something that I just call “Practice Safe Stress” [laughter]. It’s really just a combination of incorporating more positive emotions into your diet, incorporating a couple of very key MINDFULNESS strategies and techniques. Then just generally figuring out a different mindset when it comes to stress, and there’s some really cool research around how to do that.

Sam :  Okay.

Paula : The second component is just building more motivation,  engagement, and energy. We know that a big part of what causes burnout is that you’re “unplugging”, as I call it, from the things that give you a lot of energy, and vitality, and zest, and enthusiasm. So we have to figure out how to get you plugged back in.

Sam :  Mmm…Hmm.

Paula : The third component  [is what I call] being a “FAT” thinker. So it’s “Flexible, Accurate, and Thorough” in your thinking. It’s figuring out how to turn that inner critic in your head into your “inner coach”. So how do you think better under stress, pressure and challenge?

Sam :  Okay.

Paula : The fourth component is just maintaining high quality connections with other people. So having really solid relationships is a great way to build resilience. And the last one is something I call “Improve your meaning quotient”. So, what are the sources of meaning in your life? What’s giving you meaning at WORK, [and] HOME? I know these are not conversations that lawyers often have [laughter], especially about, “What’s giving me meaning at work?””

Sam :  Right, and instantly I’m [thinking], “Oh, great! We’ve got “warm fuzzies”, and we’re going to be doing woo-woo in the office, and burning incense, right?

Paula : [laughter] Yeah right. Now that would be the case if I didn’t have TRUCKLOADS of evidence, and data, and research supporting how GREAT a lot of these tools are. So believe me, I am not a “woo-woo, warm and fuzzy” [laughter].

Sam :  [laughter] No, and I am just teasing you.

Paula : Of course.

Sam :  But right. What is it? The little box of feng shui sand in my thing, with the little rake, and all the other things, right?

Paula : Sing a lot of “Koom-ba-ya” [to get focused?]

Sam :  There you go. Terrific. Well there [are] a couple of things that I really want to try and highlight, because I think they’re really critical, [and they’re] certainly some of the things that I practice, or try to as best as possible.  The first one I actually like [is] that “Practice Safe Stress”. But from what I was gathering from what you were saying it really does talk, to me, about somebody’s mindset. That [is] that if you have more of a GRATITUDE thought process, or allow yourself to be grateful, and express that, kind of, gratitude – even if it’s just out loud, to yourself – saying, “Today I’m grateful for the fact that the sun is out, [and] that my wife and kids are having a good time at the Jersey shore today.” At least VERBALIZE some of those things POSITIVE though processes, that that actually provides – for ME anyway – some help.

Paula : Spot on! And I think it’s EVEN MORE important for lawyers, because we are trained pessimistic thinkers. We are trained to see : What could go wrong? Who’s responsible? Who’s at fault? Where’s the bad thing? What’s the problem in the contract lurking that I have to find so that my client doesn’t get sued? That’s just how we’re trained. So we OVER-EXPERIENCE pessimistic thinking, and so we also then over-experience a lot of negative emotions. We over-experience a lot of anxiety, anger between us and opposing counsel, frustration, [and] all of those things. So what THIS is meant to do is just, sort of, tip the scales at least a LITTLE BIT in the other direction, so that we can at least have a little bit more of some of that other stuff in our diet.

You mentioned gratitude, and gratitude is, sort of, the granddaddy of positive emotions, in my opinion. The research shows that when you have enough, or start to take that stance of incorporating gratitude into your life, you see greater life satisfaction, people are more productive, they sleep better, they’re less depressed, they have fewer physical symptoms in terms of colds, headaches, and fewer biomarkers for inflammation. So there are just these great BENEFITS that come from just introducing little things like gratitude.

Sam :  Sure. I also – and again this is just  from my own personal experiences – have found that even doing SMALL things, which may NOT – in the grand scheme of things – SEEM important, but where, like for example, you hold the door for somebody and make eye contact and say “Thank you”, or, “Have a nice day.”, as silly or simple as it may seems, to me it’s a way of saying, “Look. I’m trying to connect.”, and it’s as simple as just wishing [someone] a good day, or holding the umbrella for somebody, [and] silly things like that. But they really provide that, sort of, BOOST to whatever it is that makes you feel better, and eve n if it’s just a LITTLE bit, it makes you FEEL better.

Paula : Yeah. It really is THAT SIMPLE. I think we’ve gotten away from – especially in our “hustle and bustle, 24/7, always on busy, law firms and workplaces” that simple things like when your assistant hands you a redline of a document that he or she just did, say, “Thank you.” Actually look up from your computer, or iPhone, and say, “Thank you. I appreciate what you just did.” I mean, something that takes five seconds is really something that can have a lot of feedback.

One of the things that I talk about, too, is something called the “Ten-Five Rule”. So if you’re within 10 feet of somebody, actually look them in the eye and give them a nice little smile, and if you’re within five feet of somebody, actually say hello to them.

Sam :  [laughter]

Paula : Yet it’s easy to SAY, but it’s not necessarily easy to DO, because we’re so stuck to our devices, and we’re thinking about the court case that we have to deal with later on this afternoon, and so we’re not PRESENT often times.

Sam :  Well, and there’s the phrase. I think it was Brendan Burchard, but I was at a conference, and the discussion was that we are becoming a society so focused on always looking forward into the future that we’re really forgetting about trying to enjoy the moments that we’re IN, and not having an appreciation for how well things are going RIGHT NOW as you’re going through them. And the more you can DO that, [to] BE PRESENT, and  if you’re at a baseball or soccer game for your kid, NOT be on your device checking email, but actually be present and involved and engaged with that particular moment [which] provides you with a better sense of self.

Paula : Oh, without question. And I think you said it perfectly, and that’s the challenge. When you’re watching your kid’s ballgame, can you actually sit there and focus on the game for 45 minutes or an hour that the game is going on WITHOUT having seventeen side conversations, and looking at your phone every three minutes, and slipping out to make a call that you have to make?

People FEEL that. I had a boss – one of the only boss/partner folks who I worked with – who was SO good at this. So whenever I went into his office and had a question, or needed to talk to him about something, he would actually shut the lid of his laptop and actually look at me and listen to me, instead of typing and texting and all of the other things.  So I really, actually felt heard and listened to, and it built a really solid relationship between the two of us.

Sam :  Yup. No doubt. Then that goes down to the FOURTH item, which is the connection with people. You were talking about connections , and as you were saying it I immediately think [about] my family – my wife and kids – but then I start thinking of all of my friends – my non-lawyer [and] lawyer friends – and I always try and think of when I’m doing things during the course of the day, whatever it may be – where I’ll read an article, or see something – and think, “Hey. John might really like that. Why don’t I print that out and send it to John?” So it becomes a situation where I try and continue to keep that connection going so that I feel better.

Paula : Absolutely. And, you know, relationships take work. They’re, kind of, a living thing that has to actually be nurtured if you want it to continue to stay strong and go in the right direction. So I think that’s a mistake that sometimes lawyers make – especially with our FAMILY members – because we get so focused on work and we think, “Ah yes! My wife or husband, or significant other, and my kids are always going to be there, and they’re [people] I can just ignore for a little while, and not spend as much time with.” And I think really, at the end of the day, comes back to bite you on some level.

Sam :  Oh, no doubt. Again, from my own personal experience, [when I was growing up] my father was always traveling for business, was never around, didn’t get to the games and all of the other stuff, was always working , and we understood what it was all about. But that was one of the [reasons] why I left a big firm and went and set up my own law firm, because I swore to myself forever ago that if I were going to start a family that I was going to have the ability to go to the school events, and teacher things, and sporting activities, and concerts, and all of the other things. I wasn’t going to miss ANY of that.  I think that experience then creates the experience that I pass forward to MY children.

Paula : Absolutely. And you know, quite honestly, in thinking about whether to stay in the legal profession or start my own business, one of the things that I thought about too was the fact that MY parents were always [there] – my brother and I each played three sports, so we were constantly playing SOMETHING during the school year. And having your own business DOES give you a measure of autonomy and flexibility to be able to say, “Yup, sorry. I really AM leaving at 4:30pm today to see my kid’s game.”  That was appealing to me. I saw that, and it made an impact.

Sam :   Right. So these tools that you’ve now discussed, I would say, “Okay. So now we’ve been able to IDENTIFY some of the things that you can say, “Yeah, I’m falling into that category.”” Now those are some of the TOOLS that you can say, “Okay. If we do a FEW of these things…” One of the thing that I like to try and do as part of “The Law Practice Doctor” is to say, “If tomorrow I open the book to page one, and I started in the top left-hand corner, by the time I got to the end of page twenty [of] chapter one I would know the first two or three steps to do.” Is there something that you can [advise, such as] “Okay. You really want to try and work on THIS first, THIS second, [and] THIS third, as part of taking those tools and putting them into practice”?

Paula : That’s a great question.  Thinking back to the three big dimensions of burnout that we talked about, with the exhaustion and cynicism and inefficacy, I think the great place to start is to start to chip away at ALL THREE of those things. So one of the easiest things you can do is start to BUILD that sense of energy, and get that sense of energy back. One of the things that I do with folks is have everybody do [what I call] an “energy audit”. So I actually have them track, “How are you spending your energy – not your time – both AT WORK and OUTSIDE of work?” Then I have people assign percentages to each of the categories, and it’s amazing how many people go, “Whoa! I’m spending a TON of time – like 60% of my time – on things that drain my energy, both AT work and OUTSIDE of work.”  So then the question becomes, “Okay. What can you start to DO to get some of that back? Can you delegate things? If you have to deal with it then you have to deal with it, but start thinking about them. What can you offload? What can you change? What can you modify, to get a little bit of that energy reserve back?” Because we can’t go and go and go and go. It’s unsustainable, without taking some sort of a break.

Sam : Okay. So then what’s next?

Paula : Then I think the part we were talking about with the positive emotion piece. [That is] just injecting more little moments of positive emotions on some level during the day is NOT ONLY going to give you energy, but it’s also going to combat that cynicism piece. We’re going to start to swing the pendulum back in the other direction.  So we talked about the importance of gratitude, and just saying, “Thank You”. There’s [another] skill that I teach all of the time, and it’s something called “Find the good stuff.” Typically people do it at the end of the day. A lot of people tell me that they do it in the car when they’re leaving work and going home. They just think about a couple of good things that happened during the day, and why those things were important to them. We know that people who do that SIMPLE activity on regular basis report better sleep, less depression, better relationships, and higher life satisfaction.

Sam :  That’s great.

Paula : It was actually really interesting. I was teaching this skill to some law students that I have, and I think it’s because of just doing this for five minutes in the evening before I go to bed.

Sam :  Right. Neat.  It’s funny, because one of the thing in terms of energy, [is] I recently attended Tony Robbins’ “Business Mastery” out in Las Vegas. It’s an event where you’re in a conference room for the better part of anywhere from  15 to 17 hours [on] any given day. You’re there, and it’s like 12 o’clock at night, and you still have all of these people jumping up and down in a constant form of energy. And one of the things he always talks about is “being in state”. So just thinking to yourself, “I AM going to succeed. I WILL do better. This is not going to BREAK me.” Creating those kinds of MENTAL STATES really generates that kind of energy that I think you’re talking about.

Paula : Yeah, absolutely. And you can do that very intentionally.

Sam :  Yeah. And it’s not just MENTAL either. It’s [also] PHYSICAL. For example, there are times during MY day where I’ll get up and actually work standing up. I’ll make phone calls, but I’ll actually be walking back and forth in my office while I’ve got a headset on, because it’s a change of direction [in getting]  the blood flow and motion going. I’m a big Red Sox fan, so I’ve got a Louisville Slugger baseball bat. So I’m walking up and down and I’m just grinding away at the bottom of the bat. But it makes me FEEL good. It’s like [getting] the energy going, get some pumping going, or music, or any kind of thing that,  sort of, changes you mental state to [help] make you feel better, gives you that energy to get through the day.

Paula : Absolutely. And what you’re actually giving examples of are {pieces of research] I talk about which points to the fact that we need to be taking BREAKS while we’re at work, during our day, every 90 to 120 minutes, to stay in peak performance. So when I cite that research to folks a lot of them either just roll their eyes, or they outright LAUGH, because not many people are, with any sort of regularity, taking a break every 90 to 120 minutes. And really what it is is doing EXACTLY what you were just talking about. [It’s] grabbing the Louisville Slugger and just walking back and forth, just so you can think.  It switches the channel of your brain for just a little bit. It’s walking to grab a cup of coffee. It’s going next door to the next office to say,  ”HI.” It’s the same type of listening to music [type] strategies that you were talking about.

Sam :  Yeah, and it’s interesting because the articles that I’ve read [suggest] LESS than that. They [recommend that] out of every hour you really want to try and work 45 to 50 minutes and then take that 10 minute break, [or] whatever it may be, and refresh. Then actually, what I’ve started to do – although I’m trying to get better at it – is to keep a CLOCK on my desk – a countdown clock – so if I say, “Okay. I’m going to work for 45 minutes on THIS.”, then try to block that time to just work on that, and at the end of 45 minutes –done or NOT – “Okay. Now it’s on to the next thing.” I’ve actually found that it becomes MORE PRODUCTIVE. It’s almost like you’re PACING yourself, or RACING yourself, to try and get done as much as you can in that project for that set period of time.

Paula : Yes, and you’re also FOCUSING yourself as well., which is important. What you’re doing is an example of “chunking”. Chunking is a really great strategy to help people e more productive, and manage their time better. Because one of the problems that we have is that we, sort of, unintentionally come into the office and maybe check a couple of emails, and then we see an email [where] we go, “Oh, I have to address this right away!” Then that takes us in one direction. I’m reading a great book called “Two Awesome Hours” (http://www.amazon.com/Two-Awesome-Hours-Science-Based-Strategies/dp/0062326112 ), and one of the things that the author talks about are the decision points that we have when we’re DONE with a project, and how important it is to be really INTENTIONAL, when we have those pauses,  to make the decision points, because you might only get a FEW of them, really, during the day. [It’s important] to say, “Okay. I’m done with this project, and I’m now going to focus on THIS.”

Sam :  Yup. And email is a perfect example, where if you come in with a PLAN, and then you start checking email, you’ve now immediately thrown out what’s important to you, and now you’re basically being reactive to whatever everybody else’s agenda is, and you’ve lost your own agenda.

Paula : Absolutely.  Stephen Covet [in his book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People]( https://www.stephencovey.com/7habits/7habits.php ), I believe, is the one who talked about distinguishing the difference between what’s urgent and what’s important, and we’re making EVERYTHING urgent and important, and NOT everything is.

Sam :  Yup. Absolutely. That’s 1000% right. Okay. So now the last question I have in terms of what we’ve been talking about is, have you seen a scenario where things are just so bad that you have to take the patient into the emergency room and chop off the arm to save the patient, in terms of all of these burnout and stress thing?

Paula : [laughter] That’s actually what happened to ME! I landed in the emergency room a few times just with various stress-related ailments and illness and things that had gotten a little out of control. So I DEFINITELY DO NOT want people to get to that point.  So there’s a number of different tools and strategies that I can work with folks on. A lot of people come to me and they’re like, “I DON’T want to LEAVE my job? Can I do something and not have to leave my job?” And leaving your job is NOT the answer for everybody. In fact, it’s not the answer for MOST people. I’m probably the exception to the rule. So anytime I’m able to help people AT LEAST work through the process of INTENTIONALLY making their NEXT STEP is something that gives me a lot of joy.

Sam :  Terrific. Excellent. Well listen, I want to thank you. It has been AWESOME, and I’m sure [that] my audience has gotten as much out of this as I did. I now have two full pages of notes on a yellow pad which I’m going to convert into my own diary. [So] I did want to say thank you. I absolutely appreciate you’re having taken the time to join us today on “The Law Practice Doctor”. And before I let you go, if somebody is interested in getting more information about what it is that you’re doing, and how they can hopefully reduce their stress and prevent burnout, how is it that they [can] get in touch with you? What’s the best way to contact you and get that that great information?

Paula : Sure. So I have lots of resources on my web site, which is as you mentioned earlier : http://www.pauladavislaack.com . It [presents] all of my speaking engagement type topics, my workshops and training programs and my one-on-one coaching. Then if anyone wants to email me directly it’s just paula@pauladavislaack.com .

Sam :  And just so everybody knows, it’s Paula Davis LAAck (with TWO “A”s).

Paula : Thank you.

Sam :  Oh, my pleasure. Listen, it’s been great. Thank you very much for joining me, and I just want to say [that] I hope everybody – and I’m sure they did – got as much  out of this as I did. I want to thank you for joining us on “The Law Practice Doctor”, the only podcast designed to helping solo and small law firms succeed by providing the easiest [and] most practical advice to grow a practice and still have a life. Today we were privileged to have with us Paula Davis Laack talking to us about burning out and preventing stress and burnout, and all those good things. Definitely please try and go to her web site. There’s some GREAT information [at] : http://www.pauladavislaack.com . Thanks again Paula.

Paula : Thanks so much Sam.

[outro music]

Announcer : You’ve been listening to “The Law Practice Doctor” podcast. “The Law Practice Doctor” features Sam Gaylord’s unique gift for marketing and business development, each week showing you the EASIEST, most PRACTICAL, and PROFITABLE ways to grow your firm AND STILL have a life. To make sure you don’t miss a single business-building show, SUBSCRIBE to this podcast at http://www.thelawpracticedoctor.com . If you know OTHER attorneys who want EASY, PRACTICAL, and PROFITABLE ways to grow their firm and STILL have a life, please tell them about “The Law Practice Doctor” podcast. To learn more about Sam, and how he can help YOU grow YOUR law firm, please visit http://www.thelawpracticedoctor.com . Now, go and implement what you’ve learned, and we’ll see you next week for MORE of “The Law Practice Doctor”.

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Transcription service provided by : http://www.diaryofafreelancetranscriptionist.com

Free Transcript Project #8

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Source video
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Title : “Bitcoins & Gravy” podcast
Episode 17 : “Solar Power & World’s Smallest Computer

URL : http://youtu.be/qFplul7dbX8

Organization         : “Bitcoins & Gravy” (podcast)

Web Site
http://bitcoinsandgravy.com
https://letstalkbitcoin.com/blog/post/bitcoins-gravy-17-solar-power-worlds-smallest-computer

YouTube Channel

http://bit.ly/1urBhr0

Co-host #1               :  John Barret
Contact                     :  howdy@bitcoinsandgravy.com

Co-host #2               :  Lij Shaw
Contact                     :  http://www.thetoyboxstudio.com/

Guest #1                   : Nissan Bahar
Web Site                   : http://keepod.org/

Guest #2                   : Nick Gogerty
Contact                      : LinkedIn Profile : Nick Gogerty
Web Site                    : http://www.solarcoin.org

Announcer                 : Adam B. Levine (Founder of the “Let’s Talk BItcoin” network)
Contact                      : adam@letstalk bitcoin.com
web site                      : http://ww.letstalkbitcoin.com

==============================================

Transcript
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Announcer (Adam B. Levine) : This program is intended for informational and educational purposes only. All views and opinions expressed are the views and opinions of the individuals and sponsors presenting them, and not the LTB network. Enjoy the show.

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John Barret (Co-host 1) : Welcome to “Bitcoins and Gravy”, episode 17.

Lij Shaw (Co-host 2) : On http://www.bitcoinaverage.com, Bitcoins are trading at $0.49 per millibit. That’s $490 per Bitcoin, a significant increase this week over the last few weeks, where Bitcoin was hovering in the lower 400s to mid-400s. Sounds like Bitcoin may have been listening to our last podcast – Episode 16 – talking about Greek coffee, finding the right dire, and a proper rise for Bitcoin.

John Barret : Mmmm… Mmmmm… Mmmmm. Now that’s gravy.

[intro music]

John : Welcome to “Bitcoins and Gravy”, and thanks for joining us today as we podcast from East Nashville, Tennessee. I’m John Barret.

Liz : And I’m Lij Shaw.

John  : We’re two Bitcoin enthusiasts who love to talk about Bitcoins.

Liz : And share what we learn with you, the listener. Welcome to “Bitcoins and Gravy” and thanks for listening.

[end of intro and music]

On today’s show Lij and I travel to Tel Aviv, Isreal to speak with Nissan Bahar. Nissan is one of the core developers of “Keepod” – a simple and inexpensive technology that may be able to help to bridge the digital divide that we  see in the world today. Together we discover that there are over 5 billion people – that’s 2/3 of the world’s population – who still don’t have access to a computer or a smartphone. Hey people, that’s a lot of people!

Lij : We also continue our “To The Sun” series, as we talk with SolarCoin’s very own Nick Gogerty – the founder of SolarCoin. Nick wrote the whitepaper on SolarCoin, and he’s just the guy we’ve been waiting to talk with to get the final details on the SolarCoin project, and what we can expect to see in the years ahead. The future definitely looks bright for SolarCoin, and for solar energy. You know, maybe it really is time we started paying more attention to that massive, flaming ball of nuclear energy in the sky. After all, it really is our very own, naturally occurring nuclear power plant.  Oh yeah, but without the problems like nuclear waste and Fukushima-style meltdowns.

[music]

John : Today Lij and I are thrilled to be speaking with a gentleman in Tel Aviv Isreal, Nissan Bahar.

Lij : Hey Nissan. Welcome to the show. Welcome to “Bitcoins and Gravy”.

John : Welcome to the show Nissan.

Nissan : Thank you. Thank you for having me here.

John : Nissan is one of the core developers of “Keepod” – a simple and inexpensive technology which may be able to bridge the digital divide that we see in the world today.  Nissan, can you tell us – first of all – all little bit about yourself and then tell us about Keepod.

Nissan : Yeah, sure. So I was born in Isreal, and living in Italy actually in the last 10 years or so, where I met my business partner, Franky – who is the co-founder of Keepod. I’m coming from a background in technology – mainly information security. I’ve been doing security for many large enterprises : banks, telecoms, energy companies, and so – in Europe. We started with Keepod a few years ago as a security product, which was targeting that market. Then about a year ago we decided that it was time to do something better with the technology that we developed, and with the knowledge that we gathered – and started what you see today as the Keepod project.

Lij : Wow, interesting. So it started out as a security project, and it evolved into this miniature computer that’s going to save the world and bring computing power to the other 5 billion people in the world.

John : We hope so. Yeah.

Nisan : Well, yeah.

Lij : So tell us what Keepod is now, because it’s pretty fascinating.

Nissan : So Keepod is a project, first of all. It’s not just the product, because it’s an ecosystem of tools, conditions and organizations that are making this happen. First of all we have the actual operating system. Keepod is an operating system which was designed to jump between one computer to another. We are not inventing here anything new, because “OS-on-a-stick” is something that geeks and hackers have been using for many years now. What we are doing here is really targeting it as the main system of the user – which is not something that is being done today. So we decided to go with Android, which is the most common operating system today, in the world. So we are running Android 4.4 Kit-kat on your desktop. And it is beautiful. So imagine having “What’s App” and your favorite applications on the big screen. It’s very lightweight. It’s very powerful. We’ve reduced the footprint of the system to something like 300 MB, which is really tiny for a desktop OS. And it is very intuitive. So where we are going – where people don’t have access to computers – they find themselves with something more familiar, because there are markets, like India – where you have 94% penetration of mobile, and over 50% of which is smartphone. So they find something that is familiar to them – very intuitive. And people who don’t know it at all, the learning curve is very fast. The biggest and best example I have is the project we just did in Nairobi. We went to three schools there, and kids who were 9 to 13 years old – something like that, who never saw a computer and never worked on a computer – after two hours they were sending us emails.

Lij : Wow!

John : So, Nisan, how did you decide to go to Nairobi? And can you tell us a little bit about the “Why Not Academy“? I’m sure there are many acadamies like that in the world, but why Nairobi? And what city were you in there?

Nissan : Yeah, so we went to Mathare, which is one of the largest slums in Africa. It’s the second largest slum in Nairobi, after Kibera. It’s home for 500 thousand people who live in incredible conditions. We were looking for a first project, and our interest was to go and do it in a place where the conditions would be difficult for implementation – where we were going to find ourselves in an environment which was not so “tech ready” – like we might have in other areas. From the other end, it is a perfect place for starting people, because the language barrier is not so big, because they speak English there – quite good. And there is connectivity. We can get 3G access in Nairobi.

We went there an we met the guys there at “LiveInSlums” – it’s an NGO that works in slums around the world. They work in Brazil. They work in Cairo – if I’m not mistaken. They work in Nairobi. And they presented to us the “Why Not Academy“. It is a school that they have built in Mathare. They support this school. It’s a “street school”. It’s one of many. Kids there don’t have the means even to go to the public schools. And those street schools – that are mainly supported by charity – are the only thing the kids have.

John : The “Why Not Academy” is a new school, is that right?

Nissan : Yeah, it is a new school. The guys from “Liven Slums” built it. They practically built it, really. They sent a group of people. The designed it. They build the school, the facilities. They built a vegetable garden – which is feeding the school – inside the slum. It’s an incredible agricultural project. They hooked it to the power – although it’s not really legal, the power – there is power. Also it is operating, and it s a really nice initiative. And when we heard about it we felt that Keepod might be a good fit, and that we could bring — with access to information in the end, which is what Keepod is all about – education might be empowered there. And also, not only that, that school is actually a base for other projects like the organic agriculture, which require information and access to techniques. Also an HIV prevention initiative, human rights initiatives, and so on. They are all gathered in that place. So it is all little projects that require access to information, to technology, and to computers, for different reasons.

John : Wow! How did you first hear about that.

Nissan : We met in Milan. “LiveInSlums” is an Italian NGO. So we met with the NGO looking for one of their projects to see if it is interesting. They told us about Mathare, and we met some members of the community that were brought to Milan by the “LiveInSlums” team, and we really fell in love with the place – the people and the stories. And when we went there it was quite an incredible thing. So, Nairobi is not the safest place in the world, you know? But in the slum, we felt really calm. People were expecting for this. People really embraced us. We went inside the slum and lived with them for more than a week there – just setting up the place : the hub, the school, the connectivity and everything. And we never felt so secure. And the reaction and the hunger there is for these kinds of technologies is incredible.

The more amazing thing is is that there are connected to the world in terms that they know there is Facebook, they know there is Google, they know there is Apple, and so on. If you go outside of Mathare and just go to the highway, you see billboards for the new “MacBook Air” that it looks like you are traveling in California. They don’t have access to it, but they are absolutely interested in it. So the moment we presented it the first thing that they started doing was actually creating an email account on Gmail, or a Facebook account, or stuff like that.

Lij : Wow! That’s pretty fascinating. So I just want to jump back for a moment and clarify a little further. We’re talking about an operating system for Android on a USB stick that is called “Keepod”, that can be given to people –  since USB sticks are extremely afforable and much easier to get to people who can’t afford something like a “MacBook Air” in Nairobi. So this system can recycle and reuse older computers, right? Is that the way this works? You can take an old PC laptop, or an old Macintosh that somebody else has discarded, and use this system with the USB stick to bring it back to life and use Android on it?

Nissan : What we do here is we break a few paradigms, that breaking them will allow bridging the digital divide, in our opinion. The first one is we don’t think that it is sustainable or possible to bring a laptop per person in the world.

Lij : Sure.

Nissan : Okay? That’s just impossible. It’s not scalable. It’s not sustainable. There’s not enough material in the world for that. Okay? So this is the first thing. In order to bring personal computing to everyone we can use shared computers wisely. And in order to do that we separate the operating system from the host. So the operating system is not sitting inside the hard drive, but it’s sitting on a thumb drive. By doing that we actually are able to guarantee all kinds of things – especially better privacy, better security, avoiding malfunctions misconfiguration of the host, or virus spread on the old system – and so on and so on. And the computers live longer. Another thing that we do is, we say that instead of trying to manufacture cheap computers – which is what everyone is trying to do : cheap laptops, cheap tablets, and so on – they will never be cheap enough. Even $50 is too much. And in a world where only in the United States there are 85,000 computers thrown away each single day.

John : Wow!

Nissan : We can find computers. We can bring them to a new home. And yes, if they are old computers I can use Keepod in a very smart way, because it is going to be a shared computer with no hard drive, with no host operating system. You just go there, plug in, and “Boom!” Android is very slim. It doesn’t require a lot of power. It doesn’t require resources. When I remove the Keepod the next user can go there and have his own private operating system – his own private computing environment. We compare ourselves a little bit to public transportation. Think about it. It’s like everybody would like to have a nice car. Not everybody can afford it. So you hop on a bus. It’s not as shiny. Sometimes the air conditioner is not working, but it gets you to work, right?

John : Yeah. That’s a good analogy.

Nissan : So, we’re doing the same thing here. The same thing. But we do it at the street level.  We do it in a way that the distribution model that we have chosen, and the approach to it is going to work from one hand – yes – through organizations, through people who are active in the field, and so on. But we are also going to enable this to have direct access.  People will be able to download the operation system for free. People will be able to create grassroots projects – which is what we are all about. Since we have started we are saying to people, “Okay. I am traveling next month to Kenya. I want to bring with me my two old laptops and – I don’t know – 20 devices, or 40 devices. Let me know where they are needed.”

John : That’s really cool.

Lij : Yeah, it’s fascinating. I think the first thing that was a little hard for me to understand was the concept of, “How do you get a laptop to live on a USB stick?” But the brilliant thing about what you are doing is that you don’t need to use all of the massive processing power of the laptop. By using the Android system it’s very simple. It’s as simple as what I am used to on my phone, which is already super capable and powerful.

John : Let me ask you, Nissan. Are they taking the hard drives out of these used laptops first? Is that the first thing, to just get the hard drive out of there?

Nissan : Yeah, so we prefer that the laptop will arrive without a hard drive. We sat with local technicians — like in Mathare we did exactly that. So we get the computers, and some of the computers still have hard drives. He provides services to the school. He goes and fixes what is not working, and so on. He removes the hard drives. He can keep them, and he can sell them. And actually it is a pretty good deal for these guys. So he can get up to $60 or $70  for a hard drive there, which is quite a lot for Mathare.

Lij : Also, you mentioned security – and that’s how you got into this. Does this actually increase your security and protection from viruses and things of that nature – from the internet – by not having a hard drive, and just using this Android operating system?

Nissan : Yup. First of all, if the user got infected by malware or a virus, it doesn’t affect the next users. Okay? Because, think about it, you use the computer – the operating system – and then you go out and there is nothing on the host. The next user is booting his own operating system, which is completely separated.

John : So that person goes away with their Keepod that has the virus on it, and if they knew that they could just get another Keepod. Is that right?

Nissan : Yeah. They can just reset it – flash it – and “Boom!”

John : Is there a  way to fix, or to get rid of a virus that gets onto somebody’s Keepod so that they don’t have to erase it and all of their information is gone as well.

Nisan : One way – and it’s actually a prevention way, which is ideal – is just go to the app store, download an anti-virus software and then you are covered there. If not, you can always reset the device and just restore to the manufacturer settings, and you get to OS fresh and new. Then you restore your data and you’re good to go.  So this is one thing.  The second thing – which I think is even more important – is that you are not leaving any footprint of your activity on the computer that you used. Data is not linking from one computer to another. And – if you think about education and shared computer environments – I actually got this comment from the United States, and it was so true. I was speaking with one school, and they were saying, “This is ideal for us, because kids always go to the library or to the computer class, and they log in to Facebook but they don’t log out. And if another kid goes to that computer, he can ruin your social life in five minutes”.

Lij : [laughter] Oh man.

John : Sad but true.

Lij : So it’s cool what you say in your analogy about footprints. It reminds me of when you go visit a national park and they say, “Take nothing but pictures, and leave nothing but footprints.” But with Keepod you can take just about anything you want and not even leave footprints behind.  That’s pretty cool.

John : Nice. That is cool, man. That;s great.

Lij : What are some of the limitations as far as which computers this might work on, or might not work on.  Is this going t o work on just about anything?

Nissan : We’re targeting desktops, first of all. So at this moment we are not working with or targeting tablets, and obviously smartphones. That is real-time ability, and we categorize it as — actually there is a good balance between the two if you want to discuss this. Now we’re targeting [X86?] systems, but we prefer not older than 2006 computers. [This is] because we don’t want to get, first of all, junk – because there is no sense in bringing in something that won’t work properly. And because of – in terms of computing power – any news web site, or whatever, will require some computing power, right? And if the computer is too old it’s just not up to the latest web sites and web apps. So we need to have 1 GB of RAM. We want to have at least a first generation of Dual Core. This means 2006.

Lij : I was going to say, “Yeah. Whew! My laptop is just going to make the cut.” I think I’m still running a 2007 MacBook.

John : Oh man. So, as far as the United States – let’s take Nashville, or any other city that has public schools, and that has, let’s say, maybe not the best educational system set up with the US public schools. My friend works in the public school system in the south side of Chicago, and I would guess that the students there are less interested in learning than some of the students you met there in Nairobi. So there are lot’s of problems in the public schools in the south side of Chicago, as there are in other cities in the U.S. Do you have plans to bring Keepod to these cities. Are there organizations that are interested in Keepod now in the U.S.?

Nissan : It’s actually happening right now. The cool thing about it is that in the last ten days , since there was a major story in the BBC about us, and then “Boom!”, things started to roll really quickly. We got a lot of requests from the United States. Both from the more charity side, and on the other, from the education side. The U.S. is very interesting for us. I don’t know if you know this, but 20% of the U.S. population don’t have access to computers at this moment.

John : I believe that.

Lij : Yeah, I believe that too. I work in the public school system here in Nashville, and I’ve worked with many kids who don’t have access to computers – other than at school itself.

Nisan : So, first of all, yeah. So definitely the United States is currently a target for Keepod. The idea is that we don’t require – and we don’t need – distributors, or official channels in order to move. What we have created is, from one end, the possibility to do a grassroots project, So, anyone can decide to start a Keepod project. And in the United States this is happening. We’ve got people who have started to order devices. They get our computers. If they need our assistance to get refurbished computers, we help them – if it’s a school or if it’s a community center, and so on. The second that we did is we started the program – now it’s in beta, and we are getting applications at this moment – for what we call a “Keepod Point”. A “Keepod Point” means that anyone – really anyone – who has the space to do this, can be a Keepod reseller. What does it mean? That you can get Keepod and sell them to your local community. The condition is that you have at least two computers that are available for public access. Okay? So you can be a little coffee shop, you can be a bar, you can be community center, you can be anything. This is starting to get really popular. We’ve got a lot of requeats from the United States, actually, – form the different states. So we are working on both directions. From one hand helping people and organizations who want to do this as a project, and from the other end people who take the initiative and want to create their own Keepod point and enable access to information.

John : So hey, is there any way that we can get you and Franky to come here to the United States, and maybe we can all take a trip up to Chicago and do one of our shows from there?

Nisan : We would love that?

John : Or right here in Nashville, right? We could do a show right here in Nashville.

Nisan : I’ve never been in Nashville. I play guitar, and this is one of the places I want to go.

John : Hell yeah. You know, Lij has the Toybox Studio. This is perfect. You can come here and record. And, you know, this board that he has here is the same board that recorded “Hotel California”. I don’t know if that, Nissan.

Nisan : Are you serious?

Lij : Yeah, it’s the very same one. It makes sense to me that you would be a musician. When I first heard about Keepod I thought it was some sort of MIDI control or a keypad. Then I learned that it was just to help people get smarted and connect around the world.

Nissan : We are really connected to the music world. It is one of the things, if you look at how we move and how we do things, we are working as a startup. But the mood there, is really, really a lot about the artistic side. Not only [me], but my business partner is actually a filmmaker, Franky. He’s not coming from technology. This guy did videos with Red Bull and Barton snowboards in the last 10 years, doing extreme sports.

John : Oh wow. You know, when I watched the BBC special it looked like you guys were having a lot of fun and I enjoyed that so much. I got really excited when I first heard about Keepod, and I started combing the internet for more information about it. That’s when I landed on a Reddit page,  and they were discussing Keepod. One of the posters there – one of the people who wrote in –  wrote that you were considering including a Bitcoin wallet on every Keepod flash drive. So we would love to know that this is true, but at this point it is really just a rumor. And we actually don’t really enough know if you know what much about Bitcoin, or if you have interest in Bitcoin. I am guessing you might.

Nissan : So, it is a very interesting opportunity, because we think – we don’t know yet. Okay, so we are actually studying this – and actually anyone who can contribute to the idea, and to us understanding better – is very welcome to do that.  Because we are trying to understand if this is something that can actually empower the people we are targeting. My feeling is that, yes. And my feeling is that Keepod feels like a very good match for Bitcoin, both from the OS side, and the fact that you have your own hardware is perfect. And the idea that you actually bypass so many limitations that we have today when it comes to money transfer, and getting funds from one place to the other or one person to the other, this might be very interesting. In Nairobi we see something that is called M-pesa. I don’t know if you know that?

Lij and John : Yeah.

Nissan : Yeah, so they do everything with mobile payments. They don’t use cash. And I don’t see any reason why they would not be eager to do that with Bitcoin. So, you know, it’s an opportunity.

Lij : Yeah, I mean in the Bitcoin world, just the concept of having an operating system built into a USB flash drive and using that in order to create wallets and sent Bitcoins back and forth. That’s already in existence. That’s already the smartest way to carefully and securley create your wallets.

John : Right, and I think that anybody using Bitcoin, if they can take their Keepod out of the computer, knowing they’re not leaving any trail at all, what a thrilling thing for new Bitcoin adapters, and really for anybody that uses Bitcoin on their computer. Because that’s a big fear is that after you’re finished doing whatever you’re doing with Bitcoin, or with this site or that site, you’ve left information there, and that computer can be hacked, and then people can steal your private keys for the Bitcoin. So that’s something that seems really important. You know, Andreas Antonopoulis, I remember him talking about how it’s difficult here in the United States to get people interested in Bitcoin because you have to go through this long explanation, plus you’re fighting what the media has to say about money laundering and all these scary things. But when he went to Kenya, and he talked to the people there, as soon as he said, “Oh, it’s like Empesa.” they immediately understood what Bitcoin was. I thought that was so cool, so I think the same thing would be true in Nairobi and other places in Africa.

Nissan :  Since the Reddit discussion started, I’ve gotten requests from India, China, Malaysia, and some other countries saying, “Are you going to do that?” And they really dig this. It looks like they completely understand what is the potential here. You have a strong community there of people who understand what Bitcoin is, so we will be happy to get some advice there, and to see if we can design something smart into this. Because, indeed we don’t know this world very good. We are not experts in Bitcoin, and if the scale that we are looking to do here with Keepod, and for the project to work, we need to design it properly, and make the right choices.

Lij : Well Nissan, let’s use this opportunity here to put a call out to our listeners, and ask them for contributions of any comments or ideas they may have for what will work well for Keepod. We’ll make sure that that gets to you.

John : Calling all listeners. Calling all listeners… Yeah, yeah, absolutely Lij.

Lij : Well Nisan, thank you so much for joining us here on “Bitcoins and Gravy” today. The Keepod project is just really fascinating stuff. And the concept that you might be able to bring this together with Bitcoin just seems to make a whole lot of sense. I know that there’s lot’s to explore, but it sure sounds like it’s a perfect fit.

John : It really does, and just thinking about the disenfranchised people here in the United States – in the cities, and just throughout the country – who really don’t have any access to what a lot of other people do. It just seems like such an important thing that you guys are doing, and it sounds to me like you guys are not doing this to try to make a bunch of money. You guys are doing this to really help, is that right?

Nissan : That’s true.  Everybody looks at me kind of weird when I talk about this. We went to our accountant, and he was like, “Okay. I’m not used to having customers like you. I don’t know how to handle this.”

John : Oh, man.

Lij : It’s a little bit like when Nicola Tesla was talking with J.P. Morgan, and Morgan looked at him and was like, “How are we going to charge for this? I don’t understand?” And he was offering free energy to the world.

John : Oh, man. Well, I think that what you guys are doing is fantastic. And again, watching that BBC video, everybody should watch it. Can you tell our listeners how they can watch that BBC video, and also how they can find you, and how they can get involved.

Nissan : “Keepod BBC” on Google will definitely bring that up. Keepod.org is our url. You can go there. There are a lot of links in the blog. For sure, you will also see the video for the BBC. And that’s it. Guys, it was really a pleasure talking with you, and I really thank you for the kind words, and the ideas that you’re pitching here with the Bitcoin is amazing for us.

John : I would have to say that if you get a chance to listen to Andreas Antonopolous, he’s the Bitcoin guru, really. Just go and listen to some YouTube videos, and listen to him speak. He’s a great educator, he’s a great speaker, and his heart is in the right place. He’s the one that talks about the other 6 1/2 billion other people in the world that don’t have financial systems – or access to financial systems – like we do, who are basically financially disenfranchised. So when you’re talking about helping the 5 1/2 people who don’t have computers and don’t have cell phones, and access to that, he’s talking about pretty much the same thing. So I think you guys could work hand-in-hand. I would love to see, somehow, you and Andreas get together and have a meeting of great minds.

Nisan : That would be amazing. It sounds so in line with what we are doing. I told you, Keepod is about not only the operating system, but about an ecosystem.  Ecosystem means a lot of things around it. It can be from the more simple things we’ve been talking about, like refurbishing computers – how to get the 85,000 computers thown away each day, to Nairobi or whatever. But it’s also what’s surrounding it. And the financial system is a key, key element in this. You know?

Lij : I like it when you say “ecosystem”. It sounded a little bit like “equal system” to me. You’re really, kind of, creating an “equal system” to just bring equality of computing to people around the world.

Nisan : That’s actually the idea.

John : Nice.

Nisan : Guys. This is amazing. So, I’m so happy we connected. Really. Let’s talk soon then. Keep in touch. Really.

John : Thanks Nissan.

Nisan : Cheers. Bye bye.

[music]

John : So Lij, I need to talk about the “Bitcoins and Gravy” contest for a minute. On last week’s show we told our listeners about how they can enter to win 0.25 Bitcoins. That’s one quarter of a Bitcoin, and that calls for a hearty : “Mmmm…Mmmm…Mmmm”. So if you’re interested in entering the contest, here’s what you do. Using your Smartphone, video camera – or any video camera – record yourself singing along, playing along, or dancing along to the song “Ode To Satoshi”. You’re performance can be ten seconds long, or three minutes long.  That’s up to you, the listener, and how creative you feel like being. Once you’ve recorded you’re performance, upload it to YouTube and give it a name. Then email us, or call us on the hotline, and let us know how to find you on YouTube. If you need further technical assistance, just ask. We’re happy to help. That’s right, we’re making a music video for the song, and we want you the listener to be in the video. Since we know that we’re going to get more than just a few submission, Lij and I have decided that we’re going to include at least a half a dozen or more of these performances in the video. So how are we going to decide who the winner is? That’s easy. The winner is the one that Lij and I like the best. So get out your video cameras and start creating for the chance to win 0.25 Bitcoins. “Mmmm…mmmmm…mmmmm. Now that’s gravy.”

[segway music]

John : So today we welcome Nick Gogerty, the founder of SolarCoin, and principal of value-creation consulting firm “Thoughful Capital Group”. Nick, welcome to the show.

Nick Gogerty : Thank you very much. I’m excited to be here.

Lij : Nick, it’s a pleasure to have you here on “Bitcoins and Gravy” with us.

John : So Nick, where would you like to start? I know that you’ve written a book titled “The Nature of Value : How to invest In the Adaptive Economy”. Can you tell us what you mean by the “adaptive economy” and how that fits in with SolarCoin? I know you have an extensive background in investing and economy. How does all of this fit into SolarCoin?

Nick : The book “The Nature of Value” deals with the economy, and the creation of economic value as an adaptive process – and the process acts a lot like nature. I spent personally about 25 years investing, and working with different groups – including the world’s largest banks and hedge funds – and in four years of that research I boiled down to that book. Part of that book deals with money, and how money works, and that kind of deals with SolarCoin, and the creation of that.

Lij : MmmHmmm.

Nick : Basically, the thinking behind SolarCoin is that a currency, or a form of money, effectively is – and this is going to sound  a little strange – but it’s really a social protocol. Money is a way for all of us to exchange value efficiently. And so as a social protocol, the more people that agree to and accept a form of money – whether it be dollars, gold, Bitcoin, SolarCoin, etc. – the more utility, or the more value, that form of money  – that currency – has.  And that’s part of the research that came out of the book, and the part of my work involved in that. My background in foreign currency goes back to the age of 17, when I was trading Japanese Yen futures. That was back in 1987. So being a proprietary trader for one of the world’s largest banks in London – which is, kind of, the ForEx headquarters of the world – and having worked for various hedge funds here in the states. So a bit of background in money, and some other things. And, of course, the book is being put out by Columbia University – the same place where Warren Buffet went to school – and the book is on value. So, I’ve got a bit of a background in economics and money.

John : Well, that’s pretty impressive. I think we should begin by maybe bragging about you a little bit. You worked with the world’s largest hedge fund, “Bridgewater Associates”, $150 billion. Being a quantitative ForEx analyst for “Banque Nacionale De Paris”, $2 trillion balance sheet. Founding software startup and strategic risk firms. Chief analyst at Starlab, a deep future, multidisciplinary science research institute. And I think there was something in there that had to do with research into time machines, or something like that? Black holes and time machines?

Nick : [laughter] Exactly. At one point the institute was modeled on the MIT Media Lab, and had some people from the MIT Media Lab on board. And there was a theoretical physicist who was researching some of those things, among some more, let’s say what we call, “applied science” areas – material sciences, life sciences, media studies. I was overseeing three different schools of artificial intelligence at one point, in terms of research. So, it’s some interesting stuff.

John : Wow.

Nick : Yeah. It’s really fun.

John : And building risk models for global banks. I wrote that you had done that.  That’s some pretty heavy stuff, man. So you’re background in finance and investing, it seems like anybody who’s interested in investing in SolarCoin, they might want to listen to you.

Nick : [laughter] Well, ultimately everyone has to listen to themselves, and look around at what they think is correct, what they think is true and is going to be most interesting. But feel free to read what I have to say, and if you agree with the arguments it might be very interesting.

Lij : Well, so tell us more about SolarCoin and why we should be interested in investing in it.

Nick : Sure. The original idea came from a whitepaper that I drafted with co-author Joseph Zitoli, who you’ve interviewed earlier. And in that whitepaper there was the concept of an energy-backed currency. And at the time, in 2011, that concept really wasn’t feasible unless you had your own central bank [laughter], to implement. Now, with the provability, or the fact that Bitcoin technically works, and that anyone in a sense can issue a currency that is robust and transparent to over-issuance or over-circulation, that premise became viable – potentially viable – an energy-backed currency. And then, looking into it, realized that it could be used to do good by backing solar energy with that currency, and then having that currency represent solar energy. The SolarCoin idea is a subset of this energy-backed currency idea, and the realization was that the “proof of work” inherent in acting as a distribution mechanism, and as a verification mechanism, Bitcoin, instead of using a purely cryptographic “proof of work”, why not use a real-world, physical “proof of work”? And that real-world, physical “proof of work” is the production, or generation, of solar energy. And so that’s tied into SolarCoin.

What ends up happening is anyone who produces one mega-watt hour of solar energy in the world – anywhere with the facility – can claim on of these SolarCoins. And that’s viewed as an equitable means of distributing the currency, while also acting as an incentive to produce more solar energy globally. And there’s a pre-mine that was set up that’s participated for the last, at least 40 years, to incent solar energy globally.

John : Can you tell us about how the SolarCoin mining differs from Bitcoin mining?

Nick : Sure.Most of it is similar. It’s based off of a Litecoin fork, and that will produce – roughly based on the design – about 105 million coins, based on the half-life, etc. The rest of the coins were pre-mined, and so the only way to earn them – or the “proof of work” required to get those coins – is to submit a verifiable “proof of production ” of solar energy. So each verified one mega-watt hour of energy produced entitles the claimant to a SolarCoin. And to date we’ve had claimants from 11 countries, so it’s rolling out pretty well. We just gave coins out to Cypress and Austria over the weekend, and we look forward to adding more countries.

Lij : Help us understand a little bit. Scrypt mining is going to get more and more difficult as more miners get involved. It is similar to Bitcoin in that way? Will the mining become more difficult?

Nick : It’s similar to Bitcoin in the fact that the algorithm, and the effort required – something called “re-targeting” – so that it adjusts relative to the effort applied to it. So there’s a constant issuance of rate of the coin.

Lij : Okay, and them when it’s issued to people who are generating one mega-watt of solar energy, it seems that one mega-watt of solar energy is going to become easier and easier to generate as solar energy is adopted globally. How does that translate?

Nick : Yeah. So here’s what ends up happening. The mining [?], because the half-life only lasts, really, for four years. So there is a one year half-life, and about 95-95% of the coins we’ve mined in the first  four-and-a-half years. So what will end up happening is that as the mining tapers off – with the exception of, let’s say, transaction-based rewards – the real circulation mechanism will become the granting, or the basically “giving away”  of SolarCoins to people who produce solar electricity. Now one mega-watt of solar electricity is quite a bit. That’s about enough to keep the average American home powered for a month. So, what’ll end up happening is – over time, for example last year – globally there are estimated to have been about 160 million mega-watt hours of electricity produced with solar energy. That would equate to 160 million potential claimable SolarCoins. That amount grows – or is anticipated to grow – 20-30% per year, over the next 20-30 years.

John : That’s good news.

Nick : Yes it is. And the neat thing about energy – in almost any economic process, and part of the research for my book “The Nature of Value” – is that any manufacturing or production process gets cheaper as you make more of it. As more value flows through the economic system, it gets cheaper. And the cool thing about solar energy is every time we, globally. double the number of solar panels we produce – so we shift, let’s say, an extra 2X gigawatts of solar panels – the cost drops 22%. That’s kind of like a “Moore’s Law” of solar energy, and that’s held up for the last 20 or 30 years. So, to produce one solar panel that would make a watt of power, back in the 70s, cost about $1, 000. Now, it costs just under $1.

John and Lij : Wow!

Nick : And as energy is a pure commodity, it’s a price thing. So what ends up happening is you have this commodity that’s dropping in price by a factor of 22% every time you shift 2X more.

Lij : It’s quite different from gasoline.

Nick [laughter] Exactly. It get’s more difficult — well, parts of gasoline get cheaper with [drilling?], but also it gets more difficult to find it as it gets in more deeper rock formation, etc. – with the exception of shale, but we won’t get into the technical discussions on that. So the interesting thing about solar is it’s one of these things where, as you ship more solar panels and produce more energy, it gets cheaper, so you sell more. And as you sell more, it gets cheaper, faster. So, solar energy is going to be one of the most interesting things right now. It’s cost is not fixed. It’s a moving target, and so it’s going to get cheaper, better, faster, globally, very quickly. And you’re in a space – namely “global energy” – where you’re talking about $100 billions and trillions of capital investment.

John : Wow.

Nick : Solar coin acts as an incentive to help people make that choice. So, let’s say a SolarCoin – which right now has a de minimus value – but let’s say that as we grow the economy of SolarCoin holders, if it were to go to $10 per mega-watt hour, all of a sudden the individual looking at putting solar panels on their roof, or in a village or [other?] area, might say, “Oh wow! Not only do we get the solar energy, but we get the benefit of claiming the SolarCoin as an incentive. That’s pretty cool.” Now the value of a currency has two factors that drive it. One is speculative, and the other one is transactional. Economists call these two “utility functions” of a currency. So the more people that hold, or agree to, or believe in a currency, they more transactional value it has. So a dollar you can use almost globally, because everyone agrees, and they understand, what a dollar value is. The dollar protocol is global.

So the current universe of Bitcoin holders is estimated, I think, at about a half million to two-and-a-half million users – last report I saw. Now the cool thing about that is that’s pretty small in the internet world, and yet Bitcoin has the market cap of $5 to $5.5 billion dollars.

John : Right. Almost $6 billion. I like to say six billion. It makes me feel better.

Nick : So the cool thing is we are at what I call the “Compuserve Era” of this technology, or this protocol. Compuserve – if you remember back in the 80’s – everyone had email addresses that were numbers. It was clunky. Nobody used it. Nobody liked it. It was ugly. And that’s really the great news for Bitcoin. The software is horrible. The wallets aren’t user-friendly. Your aunts or uncle can’t really figure it out, etc. The great news is you’ve got a $6 billion economy out there, with something that – engineering-wise – works, but from a useability perspective is horrible. Once that useability gets solved, or improved, and we move from the “Compuserve Era” and have what I call the “AOL Moment”, you’re going to see an explosion into something really interesting, for a lot of the alt-currency spaces. What I mean by that is that is you move from a $6 billion economy to a 10X or 100X one. Whether that happens in the states, or in some other country that adopts the currency and the protocols, that remains to be seen. What isn’t known by a lot of people is the average fiat currency – or government currency – lasts 27 years. That equates to about a 3% failure rate, and I can give you guys the links on that. Now we’re used to the dollar, and the pound, and these other currencies that have been around for hundreds of years. But depending on what country you’re in , if you have a very unstable currency, and there is a problem, you might be very interested in an alt-currency that is easily accessible, not as controllable, and easy to park into a smartphone. And with $20 and $40 smartphones emerging in the next two or three years things could get very interesting, both for Bitcoin and the alt-coin space. And we think SolarCoin is going to ride along with it, and we hope to do a lot of good.

Lij : Mmm Hmm. To focus on the value of SolarCoin, in the future, wherein Bitcoin becomes harder and harder to create – and the value goes up partly through that, I think . In SolarCoin, the value is going to rise, or fluctuate, with the speculative volume, and also the ability to trade in SolarCoin and use it for transactions down into the future, even though it’s going to be easier to acquire.

Nick : Yeah. You have two sides to that equation – supply and demand. The supply side is the granting andthe mining. So the more people, the easier that it is to get SolarCoin by receiving a grant for generating electricity. Or, if mining gets harder – that’s the supply side – the demand side, which is like, “What the heck is this thing worth? What’s its value?” is going to be a mix of the speculative belief in how high, and where, it’s going in the future – and the utility function. How many people can you trade, swap, get something with this currency for. That’s about it. We’re very focused on “ease of use”, growing that economy via “ease of use”. We’re working on improving our communication and our messaging, etc. to try and get to the broader audience of people who aren’t as familiar with — and frankly, don’t even really need to know all of the plumbing under the coin.

John : Nick, one thing I’m still unclear about is, how do the producers of solar energy prove to you that they;ve produced the solar energy? What is the proof that allows you then to award them SolarCoins?

Lij : Yeah. Where’s the “proof of work”?

Nick : Sure. Exactly. The “proof of work” is a submitted verification from the energy meter in the home. So, if you have a solar panel on your roof, it produces DC power, and that gets converted into AC power for your house. That conversion goes through something called an “inverter”, and that inverter also works like a meter, and it shows exactly how much has been produced. And a lot of these things are online. So our first grant, for example – to a woman named Lisa Shockly, in Arizona – she just sent us a link to her inverter. And that feed was online. I think she is a “Solar City” customer. You can look it up online, and say, “Oh yeah. She has “X” number of solar panels on her roof” – and you can verify that in lots of ways. It ties out to what she says she claimed on the power. And the converter images and documentation all looked like that was verified.

We’re working on developing software so we can show those verifications to the community. So you’ll be able to dial up – especially for the larger solar farms – and say, “How were these verified? Who verified and said these were okay? And what was the means?”

John : I always want to say, “Can’t we just throw it onto the blockchain, time-stamp it, and say, “this is proof?”

Nick : Well, what we’re going to be doing is the grants will all go onto the blockchain, and there’ll be a transaction message that will tie out : Who the generator was – in terms of what the source was. Who made the claim? How much the claim was for? And that data is going to include the latitude of where the person is at, what’s called the “nameplate capacity”, or the capacity for the solar generating roof. So it’s going to be, “Bob Smith… Five kilo-watts on the roof… Between June and July, in Arizona.. and claimed 5 SolarCoin.” etc.

John : Nice.

Lij : Okay, cool. So for our listeners – say for a listener who is an absolute beginner at this – how would they about, right now, getting some SolarCoin? Can you  explain the basics?

Nick : Sure. There are a couple of ways. Obviously you buy on an exchange, and those are listed on the site. As a claimant – let’s say you have solar panels on your roof – just go to the web site, download a wallet, and then fill out the form – submit the claim. There are about 10 or 15 pieces of data we need, and if you have solar on your roof you”re going to know – pretty much – what those pieces of data are, in terms of, “Oh, here’s the type of meter. Here’s how much [you’ve] generated.” The same way that you might look at your electricity bill and say, “I used 50 kilowatt hours last month.” You’ll go online and be able to look — because you’ll get it from whoever is providing, monitoring and managing your solar panel. You’ll have a little report that will say, “You generated 50 kilowatts.” You just put that in the form. It usually takes 10 to 15 minutes to do the first time.

Lij : Okay, and so for somebody who might be a beginner — for example, they may have experience with solar panels, and having solar energy, but this whole concept of SolarCoin and Bitcoin may be new to them. How would you describe what downloading the wallet means to them?

Nick : Sure. Just go to the homepage. You’ll download a piece of software that will sit on your computer. It will sink up with the blockchain – or this large ledger of all the transactions –

John : And we should let people know that the faster your computer is, the faster it will do that. And that if you have a really slow computer, it could take half of your day.

Nick : [laughter] Yeah. It just runs in the background, so you have to be patient. Inside that piece of software – which is called your wallet, which is basically where you’re going to store your coins – you’ll get an address that will be the receiving address. That’s basically where you ask people to send your SolarCoins to. Take that address, put it – with your other information – into our web site, on the claim form. It’s right up there on the homepage. There’s a button for claiming SolarCoins. And usually, within three to four days, your SolarCoins will be sent out, and you’ll get an email, and you’re part of the process. You’re part of the SolarCoin community.

Lij : That’s cool.

John : That’s well explained. And I guess the form that they fill out to verify the production of solar energy is also probably fairly straight-forward?

Nick : Yes, it is. We’re designing it to be as simple as possible. And right now – because we’re in the early phases – we’re learning how to make it as simple as possible, and just building out the database to automate it more. So right now, for all the volunteers in our community, it’s a very manual process to do all of that stuff, across 11 countries – as you can imagine.

Lij : So do you have a term, or a name, for the people who have downloaded wallets? You know, the volunteers in the SolarCoin community? Are they referred to as “the planets”, or the [?], or-

John : How about the “Sun Gods”.

Nick : [laughter] You know, we don’t. One of the fun things about the whole process is the communities come up with some great names and concepts, and it’s fun to watch the whole thing grow organically. So, from the name of the smallest unit being a “photon”, instead of a “Satoshi”. Someone refers to the currency now as “Solars” – which, kind of, seem like “dollars”. So, we’ll have to see. Again, let people self-identify. It will be one of the great things when people come up with the nickname of how they want to be called.

Lij : Okay. So now do we explain to the beginner how they might go about mining SolarCoin at this point?

Nick : Yeah. Mining SolarCoin is really like any alternative currency. There are a couple of ways to try and go about that. One is the wallet itself. If you download the piece of software from the web site, it allows you to mine the SolarCoin. That being said, the difficulty now found in the currency is so high that really mining with a PC isn’t worthwhile. It’s not efficient. So, if you really want to get into mining, it’s really for the techie people – who probably are already miners.

John : Or the gaming folks, that have GPUs sitting around?

Nick : Yeah. They can either use a GPU, or you go and join a mining pool and lease a mining rig. I’m not going to try and explain that to people. I think that they can probably find better explanations online to do it.

John : There’s a lot of information online about that.

Nick : Exactly. It’s just like any other coin, from that aspect of the mining.

Lij : Great. Well thank you so much. That was a lot of great insight into SolarCoin, and just the process of investing, and the value of money.

John : I agree. And, you know, I still like to think of the sun as the giant nuclear energy plant in the sky, without the associated risks of radiation, without the associated risks of nuclear waste, and Fukushima-style problems. That’s my perspective.

Nick : Yeah. I’m actually working on reviewing a paper for an astrophysicist at Harvard.  He’s doing some stuff on economics, and he’s under the same agreement that the most effective means of energy – from a safety perspective, a bio-safety perspective, for 100 or 200 years – is solar. Because it doesn’t have a thermal footprint, which nuclear, fossil fuels, and other things have –

John : Right, and yet we still have goofy people out there saying, “Why solar? We have plenty of coal?”

Nick : Well, it’s always good to have a diversity of opinions, and well thought-out arguments. The good thing is that solar is getting cheaper all the time. So eventually it just becomes a simple, economic argument.

Lij : Yeah.

John : So the last thing I’d like to ask is you wrote somewhere, I read, “The nature of value is the economy of life.” Can you close our interview with some words of wisdom for our listeners?

Nick : The economy, long term, will continue to grow, find, and invest and allocate to stable things that contribute value to us all. And those will grow.

Lij : Like the sun.

John : Nice.

Nick : There we go.

John : I’m investing in the sun. Thank you so much.

Lij : Nick, thank you so much for joining us today on “Bitcoins and Gravy”, and we look forward to seeing what happens with SolarCoin, and hopefully speaking with you again down the road.

Nick : Great. Thank you very much.

John : Thanks Nick. We really appreciate you being here.

Nick : All right. Take care. Bye.

[outro music]

Lij : Thanks to today’s guest on the show – Nissan Bahar of Keepod, and Nick Gogerty of SolarCoin. To find out more about our guests and sponsors, visit our show notes at http://www.bitcoinsandgravy.com/episode17 . Thank you so much for listening to our show. We greatly appreciate your time and attention. If you like the show, please remember to go to ITunes and leave us a review. Also, hit the “subscribe” button if you would like to hear from “Bitcoins and Gravy” each week.

John : And remember the “Bitcoins and Gravy Hotline”. Have you ever wanted to be a podcaster? Then call us at 615-208-5198, and leave us a mesasge with your comments, questions, or complaints. This is your opportunity to tell us what you think. If you give us permission, we will put you on the show. So call the “Bitcoins and Gravy Hotline” at 615-208-5198. That’s right, that’s the “Bitcoins and Gravy Hotline”. And, of course, we offer a number of ways for you to download all of our past podcasts. You can go to http://www.letstalkbitcoin.com, or directly to ITunes.com, or you can go to our web site : http://www.bitcoinsandgravy.com

John : If you enjoyed this show, please take a moment and leave a review, or comment, on ITunes, or Soundcloud. Let us know what you like, or where we can improve.

Lij : And remember, it’s your reviews and comments that help new listeners discover “Bitcoins and Gravy”, plus all the other great shows on the “Let’s Talk Bitcoin” podcast network. And we thank you for your generous tips and donations.

John : I”m John Barret.

Lij : And I’m LIj Shaw. And you’ve been listening to “Bitcoins and Gravy”, from East Nashville, Tennessee.

[end]

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Feel free to donate some Bitcoin to support the research and writing effort of this blog.

Donate some Bitcoin to support the research and writing effort of this blog.

Day 11 : Online Transcription Is A Paid Joy Ride Down The Information Superhigway

rugged road sign

As the late, great Terrance McKenna opined : “The world is made of words.” Throughout history this theme has consistently reemerged in various forms including : the concept of the fundamental universal “Aum” vibration underlying reality in the ancient Indian philosophical system, or “the Word” which was spoken into existence as the primal act of creation being a main tenet of monotheism. The reality is that we are, have always been and will always be swimming in a sea of electromagnetic radiation – a significant portion of which vibrates within the frequency range of  “mouth noises” which have traditionally been categorized as “words” – which in themselves can be broken down into subcomponents (ex. phonemes, morphemes, etc.). And although that percentage of this electromagnetic spectrum which falls within the realm of words and their related counterparts seems to be on the decrease (competing more and more with visual information in the modern age) the bottom line is that the spoken word has always been and will always occupy a primary place in the human experience.

Here is an interesting lecture by mathematician and social scientist Dr. Courtney Browne, founder of the Farsight Institute and researcher into the phenomenon of remote viewing and the link between consciousness and multiple dimensions. In this lecture Dr. Brown explains the theory that thoughts are vibratory physical entities which have mass and energy, like all other entities in the material universe. I find this concept intriguing, as it reinforcement by intuitive sense that all of the information we receive through the senses – and in the case of transcription, through the process of listening to audio or watching video and then transcribing the information contained in it – has a tangible effect on our mind and physical body.

As I continuing evaluating and working through the various audio and video files which come to me through my transcription efforts I find myself taking some time to pause and reflect on the variety of “sound bites” which I subjected to in the process, and the effect that they may be having on me. Sometimes I will work through a file which is especially interesting and has an immediate (often positive) effect on my mental life. These include the many podcasts I have edited or transcribed which deal with interesting issues of technology (ex. internet privacy, social media marketing, the newest startup businesses, etc.), economics, education and other humanitarian issues – some of which I hadn’t even known about before listening to the file. Other times, I find myself deeply entrenched in a serious dialogue between two people sharing quite intimate feelings, thoughts, concepts, and beliefs which can require quite a bit of energy to process. In more demanding instances, I find myself in a bit too deep – working through feelings of discomfort and even turmoil as the speakers in the audio or video files battle their interpersonal and/or intrapersonal demons.

One thing it may be good to share at this point is that I actually have extensive experience exploring the realms of metaphysics and meditation techniques in various world traditions. I’ve spent week-long periods living in Buddhist temples in remote mountainous regions of Asia (ex. Thailand), spending hours each day in walking and sitting meditation. I’ve extensively read some excellent books on mindfulness meditation, such as “The Teachings of Achan Chah” (<- free ebook), the transcendental sciences of Yoga and Pranayama (the Yogic method of attaining higher awareness through advanced breathing exercises) and the energy-centered science of Chi Kung (and various other disciplines) from the Chinese system. In addition, I have some knowledge and competence in the languages on which these systems are based, in addition to a serious interest in the sciences of linguistics and information technology.

Each of the philosophical traditions mentioned above is based on the fundamental concept of observing the flow of the nature as is moves around us according to its own logic. And so it is of no surprise that I find transcription to be a spiritually stimulating and often enlightening process. In fact, in my extensive experience with various endeavors in the digital and physics realms it seems to me that the emerging digital world is essentially becoming MORE quantum-like, and in line with the less linear,  higher-dimensional nature of reality. Each day we are bombarded from all directions by an increasing barrage of sound bites, visual flashes, and information which is connected in increasingly intricate ways. The term “surfing” is becoming only more accurate in terms of the mode by which we move through a cyberspace whose boundaries are also becoming progressively thinner as the information that we process and the method by which we process it becomes more integrated. For example, the Smartphone is processing more information about us in ways which effect our experience and productivity in deeper ways than ever before. There are now apps which can measure and track our behavior (ex. exercise apps which track distance/time of running and then produce a customer exercise program from that data) and even help organize ourselves better (ex. apps which provide detailed scheduling and reminders for people who struggle with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)).

Ultimately, this advancing technology holds great potential to improve our lives in many ways. However, it also holds potential for us to get caught up in all of the gadgets and applications, which can lead us to become LESS in touch with reality and the needs and pleasures of everyday living. While I am enjoying the process of learning about and utilizing the various technologies which are being developed and applied specifically to the transcription process, I am also being careful to keep my personal goals in mind and to focus on the more practical elements of the process and the technology. My main goals at this time include : developing my transcription skills and knowledge, applying my transcription skills in order to earn income to survive, making more connections in the industry to further the first two goals, developing my blog through writing about the experience for the benefit of future beginners, and discovering some new and interesting topics (through the transcription effort) to integrate into my other research/writing efforts. I believe these goals are grounded enough in the real world to prevent me from getting too sucked in by the technology while producing benefits to my physical, mental and spiritual existence at the same time.

The best thing about transcription work is that you are exposed to new ideas (some of which haven’t yet even been revealed to the general public) related to often interesting topics (ex. latest technologies, scientific theories, academic lectures, etc.) and in the process you are actually PAID for your efforts. It is similar, in many ways, to being a movie or restaurant reviewer, but also goes a bit deeper in that you are often working with audio and video files which tackle more serious and important subject matter (ex. confidential interviews, undercover audio/video footage, etc.). In addition, as transcriber you are required to implement a number of techniques and skills which are learned through experience (and some formal and informal education). It is NOT an easy job when you consider all of the factors involved (ex. audio/video quality, deadlines, demands on physical and mental stamina). In the end, however, your horizons will be widened as you listen to all of the different people from various walks of life doing various interesting (and not-so-interesting) things, and to be paid for your effort in the process. Plus, the better you get at transcribing, the more money you can make and the more interesting audio/video files you can choose from as you connect with more and more professional organizations (ex. film/television production companies, law firms, podcast producers, educational institutions, etc.)

As part of the process of familiarizing myself with the TranscribeMe system I spent around two hours today browsing through the posts and groups of the Yammer forum, reading through several more pages of the style guide, and working on two of the approximately one-minute transcription files on the “jobs” page. Transcribing the short audio files is quite different from the long files I have been working on the other company, which are often over 30 minutes long, have deadlines of several hours and require roughly one hour of listening and typing for 10-15 minutes of audio in the file. Although these short files are generally easier and quicker to complete, they do introduce some problems. One thing is that you have little context by which to help decipher some of the less decipherable words in these short files compared to the longer ones, where formal nouns and words specific to the audio in the file are repeated multiple times and in multiple ways. This makes the research skill more necessary, but also more difficult as you have less context to even apply the research task to.

Overall, however, these short files are good for practice. There is less pressure and stress to complete a long file. You don’t need to worry about scheduling breaks to rest your mind, fingers, etc. You also don’t have to worry about something unexpected coming up (ex. sudden obligation such as having to pick up a sick kid from school) before the deadline and thus having to forfeit hours of work and income. Especially during this period where I am new to the whole transcription process I think these shorter files provided by TranscribeMe are a good complement to the longer files provided by the other company. In addition, the training and communication elements provided by the company are valuable to improving my skills and making connections. These will benefit me in the long term and so it is worth the time utilizing what TranscribeMe has to offer, while getting paid in the process.

In the next post we’ll examine the importance of pacing in the process of developing and implementing the skills of transcription.

Feel free to direct any questions or project proposals to:

freelance_transcriptionist@hotmail.com

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Feel free to donate some Bitcoin to support the research and writing effort of this blog.

Donate some Bitcoin to support the research and writing effort of this blog.

Free Transcript Project : #3

Source audio

Title : “Unstuckable – Episode 20 : Create Your Own Job Like Jon Spitz”
URL : http://unstuckable.co/episode-020-create-your-own-job-like-jon-spitz/

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Organization : Unstuckable Podcast

Web Site
http://unstuckable.co
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCU07xkEbTzsD6u8xz4_tNTw/videos

Host 1 : Stephen Warley
Contact : LinkedIn profile

Host 2 : Chris Wilson
Contact : LinkedIn Profile

Guest : Jon Spitz
Contact : LinkedIn Profile

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Transcript :
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Announcer : It’s time to get unstuck.[music] Welcome to Unstuckable episode 20. Need a mentor? Email someone you admire today and ask them to meet. I’m Chris Wilson and now here’s Stephen Warley with today’s unstuckable story. [music]

Stephen Warley : Thanks Chris. Why wait for someone to hire you? Why is it that the only way most of us think we can ever get a job is by applying for one. In today’s very competitive economy the very best way to stand out from the crowd and eliminate the competition is to create a job that only you are uniquely qualified to do. Meet Jon Spitz. He just got a job as the operations manager of 43north.org. It’s the world’s largest business plan competition, with $5 million to give away. He recently brought “Startup Weekend” to his home town of Buffalo. He produced three different events in just one year attracting 350 entrepreneurs, and wasn’t paid a dime for his work. Jon doesn’t wait for job openings – he creates them. On three different occasions Jon basically created his own job. Once he pitched a local juice vendor on how he could manage their social media for them. He got noticed on LinkedIn for his social media abilities and then landed his next job as a director for online recruitment for a local college. Finally, he landed his current job by connections he made by bringing “Startup Weekend” to Buffalo and showcasing his ability for bringing entrepreneurs together. As you listen to Jon, think of a couple of companies you’ve always wanted to work with and spend 15 minutes thinking about what you could do for them that noone else with your qualifications can. Hey John, thank you so much for joining us. Our good friend Griffin Jones – our mutual connection – I’m so glad he got us together.

Jon Spitz : Hey, thanks for having me. Happy to be here.

Stephen : We’ll be talking to Griffin in a future podcast, because he’s galavanting out in Boliva right now as the both of us are enduring a hard winter. So Jon, tell me how you think you’ve been unstuckable in your career.

Jon : Well I guess when I graduated college I was working for a supermarket – granted it was the biggest and best, and still is, the best supermarket in the world – Wegman’s –

Stephen : They’ve finally come to Massachusetts.

Jon : Yeah, that’s a big deal. You should go there. It’s good stuff. Great prepared foods. Can’t say enough good things about the place. I worked through high school and then I got a full-time job, had a great management role people would have killed to have. I did it for about two-and-a-half years, but probably after a year-and-a-half I kind of realized that this is not what I wanted to do. So I did feel stuck. I was in retail and I wanted to get out of retail as bad as I could, but I couldn’t dream of the day that I could put on a shirt and a tie. That was my goal.

Stephen : Really? See, I was dreaming of the day when I didn’t have to put that on anymore.

Jon : Yeah, I’m at that stage now. But at this stage I was like, “God, I don’t want to have to put on a uniform. I want to put on a shirt and tie and go sit in an office.” So what I actually did was – it was long talks with my folks at home, my support network – and I basically was like, “I can’t do this job.” I had to quit, and that’s exactly what I did. I quit and I didn’t have anything lined up.

Stephen : Really, it was that bad?

Jon : It was that bad for me, yeah.

Stephen : What was it like towards the end? How did you feel going into work?

Jon : I dreaded it. I would have to get there by 6:00 am – it was a thirty minute drive. The only thing that kept me going was the thought of getting my coffee in the morning, from Tim Horton’s – which was really good coffee, but it wasn’t that good.

Stephen : What was it about the job that you were like, “This is so not for me?”

Jon : Well, I was 22 or 23 at the time, and I’m working retail. So the busiest days at a grocery store – if you were to guess – would probably be what? What days do you think people usually shop at a grocery store?

Stephen : Oh, weekends. Isn’t Wednesday the best day to go shopping?

Jon : Yes it is.

Stephern : That’s when I go.

Jon : Yes, weekends. So that means that as a manager you’re there on the weekends. So when all of my friends are out having fun on the weekends I’m getting up at 6:00 am to go into a cooler and then empty the cooler and bring it out to the sales floor for people. So just being in the retail environment, working weekends and holidays, I knew that was something I wasn’t going to be doing for very long. I guess at the end there I actually tried to get to Boston when they opened up those stores. I was like, “Listen, I’ll go to Boston. I’ll help them open the stores and show them the Wegman’s way.” and when I got rejected for that, and upon getting rejected for a couple of other things I kind of thought that the company wasn’t on the same career trajectory so I had to make my own career trajectory.

Stephen : That’s interesting. Also, that seems like a big part of it. Maybe if they did give you some advancement opportunities you might have stuck around a little longer.

Jon : Yeah, but would I have been happy? Maybe temporarily.

Stephen : Right, it’s true. We always think that small change sometimes can be a good thing, but if it is more of the same thing you’re stuck a little longer in a place you don’t want to be.

Jon : Exactly.

Stephen : So you quit. I know you were probably raised this way. I was raised this way. It’s like, “Oh my god! Don’t quit your job until you have another job.” I have to say that I feel my mindset is changing. I mean, if you’re not happy and as long as somehow you can financially take care of yourself and you’ve found an alternative way to do that, I think it’s not a bad thing if it puts more time into focusing on what you really want to do.

Jon : Right, and to me – at least from my experience, as I’ve done it recently again – looking for a job really, for me, is a full-time job. So what I did when I walked in and quit – I didn’t do it like a maniac or anything like that, I did it politically right – was I created my own job. Then I was a juice vendor who worked at Wegman’s that was locally in Geneva, New York. I basically reached out to them and was like, “Hey, I can help you guys. I love social media. Let me build something for you and be the social media guy.” Basically what they said was “Come back to me. Write a business plan on what you’re going to do for us and break it down…” So, long story short, I got a job with them and started working with them. So I kind of created what I wanted to do which at that time was social media. Social media was just getting into businesses, and I was like, “Okay, this is my ticket out of the grocery store.”

Stephen : So was it a ticket out of like, “Cause I didn’t want to do that.” Or were you generally really interested in it?

Jon : Really interested in social media. Can I say I was really interested in the juice company itself? No. But to this day, Red Jacket Orchards is the best fresh juice that you can get. If you’re in New York City they have it in all of the Green Markets there. I don’t know about Boston. It’s great stuff. It’s like Bolthouse juice basically, if you’ve had that before.

Stephen : So where did the idea come from? Did you ever think of working for yourself before? Where did that idea or urge come from?

Jon : No. I just had a connection there with one of the vendors and I was like, “I’m just going to try and create my own job there.” I ended up doing it. Then three months later, all of a sudden via LinkedIn, I got a phone call from a recruiter and then I got my next job and I had to leave that place. I kind of created that momentum, because I wrote that business plan. I told those people, “This is what I’m going to do for you.” You can send your resume all over the place, but – I don’t know what the numbers are – I think it’s about a 10% chance that you’re going to get that job, compared to knowing somebody.

Stephen : It’s so interesting. That’s what I’m increasingly advising people to do, is – not that we want to work for free, we want to be rewarded for our efforts – but show what you can do. Bring ideas to a company you want to work for instead of waiting around for a job opening, because your initiative is going to really stand out rather than just a long line of people asking for a job.

Jon : Right, exactly.

Stephen : So you got called by a recruiter.

Jon : I got called by a recruiter. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been called by a recruiter, but usually it’s for insurance – at least that’s usually my experience, they were like, “Do you want to sell insurance?”. So I kept getting these calls and I was driving on the road selling juice in Binghamton and I got the call. I kind of answered snarky at the time [crosstalk], and it turns out that it was this great opportunity at this college. So I was like, “Yeah, I’m definitely interested.” To make a long story short, I interviewed on a Thursday and Friday morning at 9:00 am they tell me I got the job. All of a sudden I’m in a shirt and tie in the office I’ve always dreamed of –

Stephen : What were you doing at the college?

Jon : I was supposed to be doing a lot of social media. What it turned into was more sales admissions, but it was still a great learning experience, learning opportunity and I ended up getting my MBA through them. Never in a million years did I think I would go back to school at the time.

Stephen : Hey, and it was paid for.

Jon : That’s a good thing.

Stephen : That’s the best way to get an MBA.

Jon : Right. So as I was doing all of that I kind of started realizing that maybe I was a little stuck again. So I was like, “What do I really like to do?” and that’s when I went to a “Startup Weekend” in Rochester. For those who aren’t familiar with the “Startup Weekend”, it’s a 54 hour event which brings like-minded people of all different skills sets – whether you are business folk, a designer or developer who develops web apps or whatever –

Stephen : It is an awesome event. Chris and I did the one in Cape Cod last year.

Jon : Oh, it’s great. To me it’s the best learning experience. It’s just a great way to get around people who have the same interests as you.

Stephen : Yeah, and at a lot of conferences you’re just sitting there listening to panels or lectures. This is very proactive. You really get to be involved and it’s awesome.

Jon : Yeah, so I did that and I left that weekend and I was like, “Wow! That was just amazing.” and I’m like, “That really needs to come to Buffalo.”

Stephen : So they had not had one in Buffalo.

Jon : No. It just hadn’t happened, because, it hadn’t happened. So I reached out to a couple of people I had met at the event, and I’m like, “How do I bring this to Buffalo?” and I get connected to my buddy Dan and he was like “Yeah man. We totally want to bring this, but we don’t have the bandwidth. We need someone to lead the way.” I naively was like, “Oh, sure. I’ll do that.”, not knowing what I was signing myself up for at the time.

Stephen : I think it is so awesome. I mean, you brought a Startup Weekend to a city. That’s awesome.

Jon : I did. I signed up it, but there was an army of awesome people I met along the way that helped bring that to fruition. Really, without them it wouldn’t have happened. But yeah, I was kind of the thing that pushed it over the hill. I was like, “We’re just going to do this. I’m going to sign us up and then we’ll figure out how it happens after.”

Stephen : How long did it take to put together?

Jon : I want to say we took about four to six months for the first one, and then we’ve launched two others after that, so three total in almost less than a year – which is a little aggressive – and I’m a little burnt out.

Stephen : And how many people participated?

Jon : I’d say over all three events we’ve had about 350 people participate –

Stephen : That’s awesome. Congratulations.

Jon : Which, in Buffalo, it’s really exciting because we’re trying to change that blue-collar mindset where you have to graduate college and go work at a bank or just go get that job. Maybe you can create your own job, right here in this community. We want that encouragement and support and make people realize that it’s okay if you try to start a business and fail. It’s going to be rewarded, and then you can try and start the next one, and you’re going to learn a lot from doing that. So, we’re trying to create that environment here.

Stephen : That sounds like a very unstuckable philosophy.

Jon : Absolutely.

Stephen : And you’re trying to do it to a whole city.

Jon : A whole city, man. It’s grassroots. My one buddy, whose really involved in this too, posted an article about Detroit. Maybe he can get connected somewhere in there. The guy was saying that the real entrepreneurs are the people that are trying to build an entrepreneurial community in their communities – like Detroit, like Pittsburgh, like Buffalo – these cities that are rust belt. They’ve been destroyed by businesses leaving and they’re trying to build that community back up. I like that because I’m in Buffalo. Nothing against being in Boston and New York and San Fran, right? Those are already built.

Stephen : Well, you never know what could happen to the economy… How do you know when you’re stuck? It seems like you have this – you just know when you’ve had enough and it is time to move on, and then you just jump into things. So how do you know?

Jon : For me it’s like every job that I go to I’m trying to learn whatever I can from that job. To me, you kind of get that feeling that you’ve taken all the skills – you know, you’re not going to be a master or expert of anything – but you get a feeling that like, “Okay, I think I’ve kind of used everything I’m going to get out of this employer.”. And if there is no room for me to get higher up and learn some more new skills, to me, that’s when I’m stuck. That’s the scariest thing to me, when I’m not learning anymore, or developing my own skill sets. Because in the end, everybody is in the business of themselves, and if you aren’t in that mindset – that you’re in the business of you – you’ve got to get in it, because nobody cares about your brand more than yourself. That’s the way I look at it.

Stephen : It is. It’s so funny. I always say the most important skill in business is communication – and I would say, sales. Yet, what don’t they teach you in business school? How to sell! So none of us know how to sell ourselves.

Jon : It’s an awkward thing, too, usually. People aren’t comfortable bragging about themselves – some people are – but not everybody is comfortable selling themselves and bragging about what they’ve done. It’s just an awkward thing sometimes for people.

Stephen : Yeah, what is your quick story? I think that’s a big thing that we’re trying to make people aware of, is how to tell your story. What’s the quick story that you tell about yourself. What’s your quick pitch about why Jon Spitz is so awesome.

Jon : Oh man. You’re putting me on the spot? I guess I’m a doer, right? I’ve done a lot of things, from being the guy who brought Startup Weekend here, and now I’m going to be one of the guys, and gals, that brings the world’s largest business plan competition to the city of Buffalo. I don’t know. You’ve put me on the spot and I didn’t have a good response.

Stephen : I think that’s a good answer because I think that’s what it’s about when you’re selling yourself, right? You have to have that answer ready to go, because how are people going to remember you. I’m sure there are already people in the community of Buffalo who know “Oh gosh, if we need to get this thing done, you know who we need to call? Jon Spitz.”

Jon : I’d like to think so. My new boss – who is awesome – says “Your reputation is the one thing that you have to hold near and dear to your heart, because when you lose that reputation it is very, very difficult to get it back. So you need to be known as someone who follows through, gets things done, that can be relied on. If you are known as that type of person I think that goes a long way. Then you can help other people through networking and volunteering – I think volunteering is probably one of the number one things I recommend to anybody to get unstuck.

Stephen : Yeah, and I think it’s amazing – you didn’t get paid for anything you did for the startup weekend, correct?

Job : No.

Stephen : That is a ton of work, but tell me – what do you feel? What did it give you back? Why was it worth it?

Jon : Let’s say I didn’t get this job I have now – which I attribute to Startup Weekend – still, just like the relationships I have now in the community with like-minded folks. The feeling you have when you’re at that event, and you see the energy in that room and all of the people – whether it’s 70 people or 100 people – that believe they have the next Facebook, the next big thing. Man, it’s just such a high that your high on it for that whole weekend, and then a couple of days after. That’s why we keep doing it, because it’s just an incredible feeling to see these people and this energy. You’re bringing strangers together to try and accomplish something huge. That’s why I did it and that’s while I’ll probably continue to do it.

Stephen : I want to ask you in a second about your new job – about the new chapter in your career – but something else about the Startup Weekend, or your experience in building communities. What do you think are the ingredients to build a community that cares?… That’s hard.

Jon : It is. It’s a slow burn, but it really starts with a couple of passionate individuals really spreading that energy. That energy is contagious, and once people see that they’re not alone and there are other people who feel the same way and have the same ideas and think the same way they do, then it starts spreading. It’s slow, but to get people involved what really probably should happen – what I keep telling the folks that we do Startup Weekend with – is that we should really probably pass that event off to somebody else – as much as I love it – and let them run with it, bring their communities into it and let it even more. Then we go on to do a different event. So we keep getting all of these different events which are running simultaneously so there’s just a ton of entrepreneurial events happening in Buffalo, and we turn into this hub of – nobody would even think right now to start a business in Buffalo – but I’d like to think that in ten years that’s going to be a very, very different story.

Stephen : Well, just the standard or cost of living is so much less expensive than Silicon Valley or New York City, that I think that is a story that Buffalo needs to tell. That is, the dramatic cut in startup costs just because it’s going to be so much cheaper to live and have office space, etc.

Jon : Yeah, I own a house – which is just stupid to me that I can own a house. You can do that in Buffalo. Your friends in New York and etc. – they can’t do that. That’s one of the big advantages here.

Stephen : Absolutely. So you were at the college. When did you know to leave that and what did you leap into next?

Jon : I left Medaille College. I think both parties knew it was time. It was just, a lot of things went on there. Half of my staff had gotten fired, and they had been there for 30+ years. So it was just a really negative atmosphere, and I knew that I couldn’t keep doing this to myself because I started to feel like I was back at Wegman’s. Nothing against Wegman’s – because they’re a great company – but I just didn’t want to feel this way. Life is too short to feel this way. So it was really a mutual part. I told them, “Listen, I’m just going to finish up my MBA and I’m out of here.” Then I was finishing up my MBA and this job opportunity popped up – through one of the connections through Startup Weekend, giving me the introduction to the hiring manager – and then , long story short I ended up scoring really, right now, the dream job. I’m basically getting paid to do Startup Weekend, which is like “Wow!”.

Stephen : Awesome. So what’s the company? What do they do?

Jon : So, it’s “43 North” It is the world’s largest business plan competition, and by that meaning we have the most money. So it’s almost like a mass challenge, except there’s more money in the line. So we have $5 million total in prizes, and there’s going to be a million for first, there’s going to be six half million prizes, and I think four quarter million prizes.

Stephen : Wow, and what are you doing for them?

Jon : I’m the operations manager, so I’m really trying to build the competition – like I built Startup Weekend. So, what are the requirements to join the competition, getting judges, getting mentors. Then I’ll be traveling. So I’ll be heading up to Washington, New York, Boston – trying to recruit people.

Stephen : Well, you have to stop by and visit Chris and I.

Jon : Yeah, I’d love to. I’ll be in Boston, I hope. So , it’s like unbelievable. It’s a really small team, but I’m interfacing with some of — like, some of the people I’m sitting next to in meetings I’m like, “God, I can’t believe I’m sitting next to this person.” You know? Because they’re really successful people in Buffalo, and just sometimes I pinch myself, because I’ve never liked a job where I woke up and didn’t mind going to work in seven degree weather, like today. Or brought work home, and was just doing it because I wanted to do it and not because I had to. It’s like a strange feeling, and I think that’s what everybody is looking for. It doesn’t necessarily have to be you starting your own business, but finding that company where you have the same belief system, and you like the mission that they’re going for and things like that. I really wish it upon everybody, because it’s really an awesome feeling.

Stephen : I’m really glad you said that, because that’s something that we’re trying to do – that idea of entrepreneurship. That you don’t have to be that person that’s going to go get VC money and start your own business. You can find that right opportunity. It’s about being empowered. It’s about really knowing your story, knowing what you want and the people you want to work with, and going out there and finding it. It sounds like you’ve gone through a lot of trial and error to find it, but it seems like it was so worth it.

Jon : Oh my god, yeah. I probably wouldn’t have it any other way, but if you would have asked me when I was at a couple of those jobs, I probably would have sang a different tune. But now that I’m where I’m at today, you kind of see why it all took place, and all of the things you learned throughout those jobs.

Stephen : Well this is really awesome. I love your unstuckable story, but now it’s time to turn the tables. Are you ready to help our listeners get unstuck and take action?

Jon : Of course.

Stephen : So, how would you describe someone who is unstuckable?

Jon : I guess if you’re in a place where you just know that you’re not happy. If you’re not happy going to work – which I don’t think most people are for the most part – you’ve got to do something. For me, I took a drastic move and quit my job. I really don’t recommend that to anybody unless you’re in a position to do that. Other than that, my first thing would probably be networking. I think networking is the #1 thing to do to get unstuck, wherever you are. By that, try to find a cause that you really believe in. There’s tons of non-profits in any community. Maybe create your own, but just get involved and help people. When you truly try to help somebody, it seems that it comes back to you. By that I mean that if I help connect you to somebody else I know that’s somewhere else in the country, you’re going to be more prone to help me do something. It’s just human nature. If somebody helps you you want to return the favor. So to genuinely help people by volunteering, I think good things just come your way. Not only karma, but at the end of the day, I think job opportunities, etc.

Jon : Yeah, I think even when you want to go to a conference or an event that you’re really excited about – the people who are going to be there, the speakers, the content. Take the next step and actually volunteer and see if they need any help, because you are going to meet that many more people because you’re going to have an integrated role into how that conference is run. You know that better than anybody.

Jon : Yeah, that’s actually great idea.

Stephen : Right? You were kind of like. “I’m going to sit at the registration table so I can meet everybody and they come in, absolutely. So, excellent point. I really am such a firm believer in just meeting somebody and doing something new. That’s a great way to get unstuck. Is there a particular resource, a book, podcast, quote – anything like that – that you use regularly to help people get unstuck?

Jon : There’s a couple of books. One of them is, I think it’s “The Magic of Thinking Big”. I don’t know who the author is. I gave the book to my sister because I loved it so much, and I wanted to make sure that she read it. Really good book. Just really on the magic of thinking big. So thinking positive and all of that stuff. I highly recommend that book. I also really like Gary Vanderchuck.

Stephen : Oh, yes.

Jon : I’m a social media geek –

Stephen : I love “Crush It”.

Jon : Yeah, “Crush It” was actually the book which made me quit my job.

Stephen : Wow!, Thank you Gary V. Look what you did for Jon.

Jon : Those would be the two which come to mind immediately.

Stephen : Is there anybody you would like to thank, that has helped you get unstuck, and how did they help you?

Jon : I always think that getting that job at Medaille. Jackie Matheny was the hiring boss. For her to give me that opportunity – because I was hired as the director of online recruitment, which at the time after I got there I realized that I probably had no business getting that job. She really took a leap of faith on me, and it probably changed the whole course of my career trajectory. So that would be one of the first ones. I actually wrote her a letter after they fired her that said how much I owed to her. Then [Ad Harrigon?] –

Stephen : I think that’s awesome by the way. I just think it is a reminder. For those people that – you don’t even realize – it could have been just something they said. But it affected your life. I think, write a note, send an email if you’re able to contact them somehow, and just let them know how they changed the course of your life. I think it’s such a nice gesture back to what you were saying about helping people out, volunteering, and giving something back.

Jon : Oh, absolutely. Then Ed Harrigan, he was my manager over at Wegman’s. It was not until I got into my MBA program, and they started doing the leadership courses, that I really realized like, “Wow. Ed was telling me all of this stuff for free at work.” So I was learning leadership way back from him. I guess to my last point on really how to get unstuck – and my boss kind of reiterated it – and I’m going to try and pursue this myself now. You need a mentor, and you probably need more than one. Just reach out to somebody. He suggested you reach out to somebody in the community that you admire and it doesn’t matter how big they are. He goes, “The worst thing they do is don’t respond or say no. But everybody likes to get their ego stroked, so write them an email and say, “Hey, you have a phenomenal career background. I would love to grab a coffee with you and chat.”. Then just take it from there. So I actually reached out to this gentleman I’ve met through my new job, who has just an incredible resume, and said, “Hey, I had a great time meeting you the first time. If you’re available, I’d love to bounce ideas off of you from now and then, over a cup of coffee. He’s like, “Sure, no problem. I would love to help out.” I think you don’t know until you ask, but we’re all afraid to ask. So I think, just getting somebody you admire that you don’t work with but is in a different industry, I think that is probably a huge thing that most people are afraid to do,

Stephen : I think that’s great advice. What I always tell people is everybody likes a compliment. Something they wrote or did that you genuinely really liked, and influenced you – let them know. That is a connection, instead of just saying, “I want to make a lot of money just like you!” And maybe that is an approach, who knows. You never know who you’re talking to. Even for our podcast, it’s amazing how many people who have been so generous with their time who we thought would never want to give us the time of day. It’s been a tremendous experience.

Jon : Awesoe.

Stephen : So John, thank you so much for all of your awesome advice. There’s a lot of great nuggets in there for people to go back and listen to on how they can get unstuck. Hopefully, we’ll have you back one day. And good luck with the new business plan competition.

Jon : Yeah, and people should check it out at 43north.org. You can apply, register, and maybe you can get unstuck by starting your own business and bringing it right here to Buffalo, New York.

Stephen : Love it! Thanks so much Jon.

Jon : Alright, thanks.

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***If you are the producer or host of an interesting YouTube video, podcast, etc. which you would like transcribed, I may be interested in taking on your project, free of charge. If the subject of your production is something which is especially interesting to me (some favorite subjects of mine include : technology, health, philosophy, media, psychology, art, economic, globalization, cryptocurrencies, and many more) I may decide to work it into my “free transcription project” schedule. I am currently working at the comfortable pace of  one or two transcription projects per week. I prefer audio/video files which are in the range of 15 to 30 minutes in length. It requires roughly one hour to transcribe 15 minutes of audio. I also ask that the audio of the production be of professional quality, since I post the audio/video on the individual transcript page and prefer to fill my pages with high quality content which maintains the integrity of the site. Please email : freelance_transcriptionist@hotmail.com to discuss this potential opportunity further.

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Free Transcript Project : #2

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Source video
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Title : “15 Minutes Of Fact : From Graduating to Indentured Class — Will America Continue to Eat its Young?”

URL : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1LRmgIr0xI

Organization         : 15 Minutes of Fact podcast :
Web Site                 : https://www.youtube.com/user/15MinutesOfFact
Host                        : Jerry Ashton
Contact                  : jerryashton1@gmail.com

Guest                      : Cryn Johannsen
Web Site                 : http://alleducationmatters.blogspot.com/
Contact                   : https://www.linkedin.com/in/chasecrynjohannsen

Transcription Notes : This project is a good example of how transcription can remedy some of the problems which accompany less-than-ideal audio. There are numerous reasons why the final audio of a production may end up less than ideal. It may have been an on-location live interview in which there are many uncontrollable factors involved. It may be that the communication channel (ex. phone, Skype, etc.) had problems. It may be that the producer/host just didn’t have the resources and/or skills to apply the proper recording equipment or techniques or hire a competent person/organization to do it. In the end, what good quality transcription can do is make words which were inaudible clear (for instance, through figuring them out through context and/or research) and represent the production in a more accurate and complete form in writing.

In addition, YouTube actually has its own speech recognition (transcription) software for video. To show it, just click on the icon which looks like a page, immediately right of the “add to” link on the video page. To save you the calories and bewilderment of doing so, let me present for you here the exact text which is generated by the YouTube “transcriber” for this specific video :

YouTube automated transcription
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“0:00
from graduating class to endangered class
0:03
American pieces all showed almost two years as I’ll ask after the time and
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attention over yesterday
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mes creating your handsome evolve its Keisha matters
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back in march it 2011 and still basking in the chilly spring up the Occupy
0:19
movement
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Trenton I was working hard to see that student debt goes much attention is more
0:24
realistic
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this means we’re going for her and I believe”

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As you can see, the YouTube computer-generated transcriber is about as accurate as the subtitling on a bad Chinese Kung Fu movie – without all the funky acrobatics and scenery. As a result of this, a proper transcription by an experienced human transcriptionist does justice to YouTube videos.

Transcribing YouTube videos has several important benefits. It extends the reach of the video outside of the already very powerful YouTube marketing platform. It makes up for the horrible YouTube automated transcriber/subtitle generator. It also gives your videos more marketing punch as it provides many more words than the limited number of tags allowed for each video (around 50 I believe), and this enhances the SEO potency of the production.

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Transcript :

Jerry Ashton : From graduating class to indentured class, America eats its own. It’s been almost two years since I captured the time and attention of our guest today – Ms. Cryn Johannsen of “All Education Matters”. Back in March of 2011 and still basking in the chilly Spring of the Occupy movement, Cryn was working hard to see that student debt got as much attention as mortgage debt. It’s been slow going for her, but I believe however, that she and other education militants have finally achieved that attention. Just how far they’ve come and how far they have to go in freeing generations of students from a lifetime of debt will be our subject for today. So welcome to the show Cryn Johannsen.

Cryn : Thanks, but I do not consider myself a militant. I’m actually, truly a pragmatist. You’re right that I suppose the work has been slow-going – there’s been a lot of behind-the-scenes that I do on the hill. But I can tell you one thing – and I can’t divulge the particular office that I just went to recently – but from a wonderful staffer of a Congressman’s office, who I know quite well – maybe it is slow-going but they are listening. They are definitely listening, in such a way that I can actually say that I am incredibly hopeful about.

Jerry : Well, before we dive in then – and, by the way, I want you to know that you may not be an activist, but you are hardly a milktoast either. I would like you to give the listener a bit of your background in the world of student debt. How did this come about for you personally, and where do you find yourself today in this world of trying to make a change on student debt?

Cryn : Sure, well like many people my age I do carry student loan debt, but it is more than manageable. I have never been deliinquent on my loans. It’s never been a problem. I am very lucky. I consider myself blessed. I am a religious person – so I will say that on the radio. But in terms of diving into it, I myself have been working on my PhD on the intellectual history of Europe and there was a lot of conversations we always had about student loan debt. This was around the time of the housing crisis, in 2008, and I just began to piece together the parallels. The big difference was that you can walk away from your home – as we all know – if you’re underwater. However, with student loan debt you can’t do that. So, there was an intellectual curiosity with how the student loans and the U.S. government, and how these institutions were related to financial markets. It’s incredibly complex because you are talking about the U.S. government – “Uncle Sam” – they’re the biggest lender. Then you are talking about the universities – where the money is being funneled to. Then on top of that you’re also talking about a lending industry that was born out of the federal government. These are all very complex institutions, and all of them are interconnected because of the student loan debt.

Jerry : Okay, I’ve got the fact that there is a macro level at which this is being approached, but let me get to the thing which seems to be catching the attention of people right now. Student debt exceeds one trillion dollars. It is considered to be the next bubble to pop. So let me give you a couple of Time Magazine article facts. In the last five years the average student loan debt has risen 30%. More than half of student loan accounts add up to more than 40% of the total dollars owed, and they’re in deferral status – meaning that students are looking for a reprieve for a few years before they have to repay. But these delinquencies are increasing by 22% over the last five years. So how can any of us have hope of a way out in the face of these statistics.

Cryn : Well I think that’s a really good question, and one of the things I wanted to say though about my interest – just to return to my original personal interests – is that I have a deep love for people. And these people with student loan debt have opened up to me tremendously – because Americans are very ashamed to talk about debt. They are hopeless, and as your probably aware, I wrote an article for the Huffington Post which I received a scholarship from the “Economic Hardship and Reporting Project”. Barbara Ehrenreich, the author, and also Gary Rivlin – who’s also an author – they were the editors for my piece. It was about people who were committing suicice, and I continue to get these notes – it’s incredibly troubling. But I guess one of the things is that – I have a feeling, and I know that sounds odd – but I just have a feeling that 2013 is going to be the year for us – the indentured educated class. One of the reasons why is because I’ve gone through – and I’m not going to go into the details – but I’ve gone through a significant loss personally, very intense. I’ve prepared myself tremendously. The reason why I’m saying this is because I am so ready to get this done, more than ever before. And I’m not the only one. That’s what’s great. The more the merrier in my opinion, There’s a lot of us out there [crosstalk] and I think this is going to be the year, despite all of these terrible statistics. And they are terrible.

Jerry : Okay, well first of all, Gary Rivlin – I’m a fan of – when he wrote that book called “Broke USA” and he talked about how banks supported and financed loan companies, pawn shops, mortgage people – predators. So anybody who can align themselves with that guy automatically wins with me. How many people would you consider to fall into your category about being at least militant about changing the world of student debt.

Cryn : Well, again, I’m hesitant to use that word. I guess I’m more insistant through the power of love – as cheesy as that might sound, and people might say, “Oh, she sounds like she’s from the 1960s” – well so be it. Well, there’s plenty of us. I know that Robert Applebaum is still doing quite a bit. I believe Alan Colinge is – to the best of my knowledge. But they’re not the only ones out there. There are so many groups doing things, and the reporters continue to write about this left and right, and I think that’s fabulous. The more people talking about it the better. That’s the way it should be. So the more of us out there, the better. And I think the more and more people join our ranks [all with?] different approaches. I think it’s great.

Jerry : Well I know that you came up to New York City when Occupy was still blooming at Zuccati Park. Shortly after, of course, they pulled it out by the roots and thought that would get rid of it – but that didn’t happen. What was your impression of Occupy, and do you think Occupy has been an important force.

Cryn : Oh, it absolutely has. It’s a collective voice of people who are deeply in debt. These Americans having the courage to go out there with the placards showing how much debt they owed – bless their heart. That was the most powerful thing about that, because we hide the debt we have. We pretend because consumer capitalism – that everything is okay, and it doesn’t appear that there’s any trouble – but we all know that that’s not the case. Americans are just drowning in debt, and not just student loan debt. I was just in awe of the fact that these graduates were walking around with a placard showing how much money they owe, and saying, “This is really a part of my identity.” I think what we need to work on is moving away from that just being your identity, but it needs to be solved. It just needs to be solved. That’s one of the reason why I come to D.C, – where I am right now, because we’re trying to get this done.

Jerry : Okay. Let’s talk about that. Your way of being able to make a difference is by – instead of picketing governmental offices – you’re actually walking through the doors and talking to people. So give us some history about that, and how is that making any difference.

Cryn : Well I run “All Education Matters” on a shoestring budget, as I said. I’ve been very lucky to have people who have debt send me $5 here and $10 there. That’s enabled me to come to Washington DC and walk the halls, and knock on the doors and have the conversations. Because these offices are lobbied 24/7 – including the White House, of course – by the lenders. The Washington Post ownes Kaplan – which is a for profit school. So the Senators and the Congressmen read those papers and they say, “Oh, what the problem? There is no problem.” Well, but that’s changing , and I don’t think I’m the only one. I’m not going to toot my own horn but I have to walk these halls. I have to have these face-to-face interactions – which I’ve been doing for years. It used to be that when I first started doing this – when I came back from South Korea after teaching there – they were telling me behind closed doors, “Yes, we agree with you. There is a student lending crisis.” but they wouldn’t say it publicly. This last summer I was on a phone call with several Senators – including Sharon Brown, and I’m forgetting the Senator’s name, I apologize – but this was with hundreds and hundreds of people who represent millenials – the youth generation. I brought up the problem of suicide, and a Senator publicly thanked me for having my ear to the ground, and let me know that I remind them – and I’m not the only one, of course – but he told me that I remind them that the current borrowers are struggling. I thought that was a huge moment for the indentured educated class, to be recognized publicly on a phone call in that way, and to be thanked for that. It’s not me . I’me streaming voices of other people. That’s what I’m doing.

Jerry : Well you are channeling the essence of the spirit. So let’s talk about that. Let’s say that you have been serving your role and your function in getting out this word and we also talk about the fact that if a student is willing to put a placard in front of them saying, “I owe $80,000 of student debt.” I think that their willingness to do that isn’t to show themselves as victims, as much to publicly acknowledge that, “Guess what? I don’t know what happened, maybe, but I’m up [a creek?] without a paddle”. So, I think its important that it has to be brought to people’s attention however it is done. And you’re doing your job on that. Now I’ve heard that there are some governmental agencies investigating the relationship between college administrators and bankers. Do you know anything about this?

Cryn : Um, if memory serves me – and if I’m following it correctly – the new consumer financial bureau, the new bureau which is the brainchild of Elizabeth Warren. I’m so glad she’s Senator now. They have been doing excellent work on investigating the “for profits” and putting out supurb reports about student loan debt. This is a very good thing, and so if this is what you are referring to. They’re doing some great stuff. That’s our tax dollars at work right there, and I’m delighted at this new bureau. The other thing is that people are not aware of IBR (Income Based Repayment) program. Now there is a problem with that thought, which I want to make clear to the listeners. This is a loan forgiveness progress if you have federal loans, which is forgiven after 20 years, which is good. However – and hopefully this will change, and a staffer told that it probably would or should – you will be taxed on the remaining amount that has been forgiven. So the year that your loans are forgiven, guess who’s going to come knocking at your door? The IRS, which is not good. I don’t understand why they put this in, why they have that, but this is something that absolutely has to change, because then what is the benefit of the loans being forgiven [crosstalk] when you owe $10,000 or more that year for taxes.

Jerry : Well, let me address that. There is no such thing as loan forgiveness. As far as I’m concerned there is just loan trickery. It’s a form of a shell game. When you think of it, the American student is the only class of citizen – other than a felon – who can not declare bankruptcy on their debt.

Cryn : Right. It’s ridiculous.Punish people for getting an education. Why? Why are we like that? It’s very odd. I don’t get it.

Jerry : It isn’t odd if you happen to be on one side of the political spectrum in which you hold the fact that, number one, everybody has to be accountable and responsible, and, number two, you also fill up your wallet at the local university or college so that you can continue your campaign of good citizenship. That’s a personal gripe of mine, and I think that the relationship between college administrators and bankers has got to be put out into the spotlight.

Cryn : Right. But I think that more than that, Jerry, for me I guess I’m at the point where it’s no longer about pointing fingers and blaming. It’s more that this is a systemic problem – and I’ve said this many times – that this is a terrible systemic problem. And it can be sorted out. Lightning can strike down in D.C., as a matter of fact, and things can change. I know that people might think that, “Oh, she has rose tinted glasses on.” but that’s happened. Especially if there is the power of the type of movement you see with Occupy, and you’ve got lots of “busy beavers” – if you will – people like me, who continually bring it up and bring it up. There can be push, and there can be movement. You can look at the civil rights movement to see that sort of thing. And that started -many people argue, historians – that the civil rights movement began in the early 1900s. Then we moved forward with Martin Luther King in the 60s. This stuff takes time, and that’s alright. Now I wish it could be stopped immediately because of the people who want to kill themselves. It’s horrible. It hurts me in my heart, deeply. But it takes time.

Jerry : Speaking of time. We could do 15 hours and not 15 Minutes of Fact, so what I must do is end the session now, but please let the listener know how they can reach you. For example, do you have an email address, a web site, a Twitter account,. How can they reach you.

Cryn : I want them to follow me on Twitter. I’m very responsive on that. My name is @Cryn_Johannsen. They can also subscribe to me on Facebook. Just look up my name. They can also email me. It’s ccrynjohannsen@gmail.com. I promise to try to get in touch with them as soon as possible. I’m lso a teacher and I’m writing a book about the student loan lending crisis, So, I’ll keep you posted on announcements about that. There’s a big thing coming out about that. I’m very busy at work and I’m also teaching English as a Second Language, which is a big honor. So, I’m [heavily involved?] in education, as you can tell.

Jerry : And what do you do in your spare time, Cryn.

Cryn : Um, [inaudible], I’m just very busy. Busy, busy, busy, solving problems.

Jerry : OKay, well one thing I will do is ask you to give us a final word before we sign off.

Cryn : A what? A final word? Well I guess it’s all those people who are out there suffering. I want them to know that they’re not alone. Especially those who are suicidal. Please don’t be that way. I want them to turn to people they trust – family and friends. People they can speak to about this. This is not something that you should end your life over. I cannot say that enough times. I’m also speaking from a personal perspective, not about debt, but a great deal of suffering. Through suffering you can see solutions and things can get better. That’s my final thoughts on that.

Jerry : That’s a wonderful thought, Cryn. This is Jerry Ashton here at WGRNradio.com, bringing you “15 Minutes of Fact” as an innoculation against the many hours of foe which is usually generated by mainstream media. So I want to thank my listeners for attending to this show. Be reminded that you are searching out my blog at the Huffington Post, and friending me there would be appreciated as well. Signing off, Jerry Ashton.

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***If you have an interesting YouTube video, podcast, etc. which you would like transcribed I may be interested in taking on the project, free of charge. If the subject of your production is something which is especially interesting to me (some favorite subject of mine include : technology, health, philosophy, media, psychology, art, economic, globalization, and more) I may decide to work it into my “free transcription project” schedule. I am currently working at the comfortable pace of two transcription projects per week. I prefer audio/video files which are in the range of 15 to 30 minutes in length. It requires roughly one hour to transcribe 15 minutes of audio. I also ask that the audio of the production be of decent quality, since I post the audio/video on the individual transcription page and prefer to fill my pages with high quality content. Please email : freelance_transcriptionist@hotmail.com to discuss this potential opportunity further.

Day 9 : Podcast Transcription : Unleashing the Full Potential of the Spoken Word

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Today I spent another hour working through the remaining TranscribeMe training modules while simultaneously going through the style guide one page at a time. The training modules provide good information and some practice on the kinds of grammar and proofreading skills you will commonly use when transcribing the audio, in addition to the markup tags which are used to deal with any factors in the audio which are either not formally in the realm of speech transcription proper (ex. [silence] to denote a speaker’s silence for tens seconds or more, [inaudible] to denote that the speech is simply too unclear (at least for you) to decipher, and various other useful ones). Learning to use the tags properly allows you to deal with essentially ANY issue which comes up in the audio which acts as an obstacle to you properly transcribing every word in the project.

When I completed the training modules I simply moved in the same manner through the test. Since it is possible to answer a few questions and then log off of the internet, log back on and simply resume the test, I proceeded to take my time with the exam while also continuing to work through the style guide. During the test itself there were a few instances where I needed to directly refer to the style guide in order to answer a question (or transcribe one of the audio files) properly.

Most of the test was straight forward and the questions could be easily answered correctly by anyone who had paid attention during the training and read carefully through the style guide. For some reason, however, in the second part of the exam (right before the end) I ran into some difficulty in the transcription section which I couldn’t seem to figure out. In fact, they give you a certain number of tries to get it right and then, if not successful, you must restart the whole test. So after trying twice I was getting worried that I would have to do all the work of restarting the exam. Luckily, my research instincts came to my aid. After carefully re-reading the style guide a few more times and still not being able to get past the trouble spot in the exam I decided that I needed to try and find additional information about the TranscribeMe system. Luckily, my instincts were correct and I found the answer in one of the videos on the TranscribeMe training videos YouTube channel. In the video they explain that since the audio files have been broken down into micro-chunks then you can never be fully sure if the first word in the file you are working on is the beginning of the first sentence or a continuation of a sentence or questionfrom the previous chunk. Therefore, you are suppose to NOT add ellipses (…) at either the beginning or the end of the file. Unfortunately, although the style guide is generally quite good it does not make this point clear enough (which is the main reason why I don’t feel guilty for mentioning the issue here). I am also aware from a contact who was doing the exam at the same time that they were getting stuck at the same point in the test. I was also to find out later – once I had access to the internal social media message board – that many people had had this problem at this same point in the exam. Fortunately for me, my research training had saved me from unnecessary hassle. Again, the strategy of taking in as much information about a subject from as many sources as possible enabled me to find a solution to this issue without having to bother anyone or wait for a response. This same research strategy has safeguarded my from various problems in the past. As a result of my diligence I avoided the frustration and waste of time of having to repeat the test. In fact, once I found the solution I gave the test one last try and – with fingers crossed and by making the appropriate changes – this time I was relieved to see that I passed.

Once the exam was passed a page came up which explained that I would be contacted shortly by an administrator who would direct me in how to access the workhub and begin working on audio files, interact with the community, and all of the other good things that certified TranscribeMe transcriptionist are able to do. At this point I simply continued working through the style guide, blog posts and other resources I had collected (of which there were already enough to keep me busy for months). Once the administrators contacted me and gave the green light I would simply add the new resources and tasks which then became available available to the overall mix and “things to do” lists. It is all just one continuous training process.

The Connection Between Transcription and Podcasting

I have always had a serious interest in podcasting. I am constantly listening to various podcasts each day and I find that the format has some unique features which make it better than printed text or video in some circumstances and for certain purposes. For instance, on many days I spend so much time sitting up looking at the computer screen and I just want to be able to lay down and listen to some interesting content. In fact, I often schedule my research to alternate between “sitting up” tasks and “laying down listening” tasks. This is much healthier for the back and eyes than constant screen exposure. You can imagine what great pleasure I have found in the fact that the first transcription company I started working for within the last few weeks issues a continuous and eclectic supply of podcasts for transcription and editing.

Here is an excellent video produced by Cliff Ravenscraft, a well-known podcasting expert and consultant, where he discusses four of the top unique benefits of the podcasting format over other forms of modern communication :

Two of the unique benefits which Mr. Ravenscraft’s discusses and which I agree are most interesting are

(1) the effect of the increase in smartphone usage to provide a rapidly growing audience for podcasts and

(2) elimination of mandatory “screen time” (looking at the computer screen) to consuming podcasting content

These are two important factors which I believe will only increase the popularity and consumption of podcasting into the future. For instance, think about all of the people who are willing to listen to a podcast while driving to or from work (especially in traffic), or while doing chores, or as a break from sitting up looking at the screen.

The people over at TranscribeMe have devoted a whole blog post to the issue of podcasting and its relation to transcription : Podcast Transcription where they point out the essential benefit of podcast transcription lying in making the podcast more possible to be indexed in the search engines, since search engines only index text – not audio. They don’t index video either and so the same benefits of transcription apply to video as well as explained in the article Reach More Clients by Transcribing Your YouTube Videos.

Here is an example of a reputable podcast production which includes the transcript for each podcast right on the main podcast page : The Paleo Solution – Episode 112. On this page you will see a link for downloading the (audio) podcast itself and a seperate link for downloading the transcript (in pdf format).

It’s important to keep in mind that one of the most beneficial reasons to transcribe a podcast of video is that it then enables disabled people to access you content. For instance, deaf people specifically can consume your content by reading the transcript. Blind people would naturally be able to consume the audio podcasting content unassisted, but for video they would need a computerized reader device to read a transcript of the content. In either case, transcribing helps to include a wider audience of people who can benefit from your production. For some podcasts, this group of people may constitute a significant portion of their target audience.

Another interesting article from Forbes Funnymen and iPhones: Why the Podcast is Finally Coming Into its Own looks at hot the podcast has allowed those who have less mainstream views to enter the broadcasting market whereas they would have little success approaching traditional networks. Some of these avant garde podcasters do indeed end up succeedin either through the growth of their podcast alone or through being picked up by one of the larger mainstream networks. Therefore, podcasting is a sort of experimental medium which enables new ideas to build ground and eventually become successful.

As I mentioned before, I have been focusing on editing the audio files (including podcasts) from the one company I work for as the transcription files are rather long and difficult for me at my current experience level. Editing these files, however, is very productive and enjoyable. Since most of the transcription text which comes in attached to the audio file as part of the editing project is of relatively decent quality (some more than others) the reality is that if the content of the podcast is straightforward (ex. not too technical) and the quality of the audio is decent (which is usually the case, since most serious podcasters who are actually willing to spend money on transcription spend considerable effort trying to get the best quality production that they can) the process of editing basically involves a rather leisurely listen to the audio file in real time and following the text to proofread for mistakes. This is called “proofing to audio” in transcriptionist jargon, by the way. If there are errors they can usually be spotted and fixed quickly by stopping the audio for a few seconds and making the quick adjustment. Common errors which occur include : the transcriber omitting an important word, simple spelling mistakes, simple punctuation mistakes, the wrong word which can often more easily be deciphered by the editor who is approaching the audio with fresh ears, etc. The editing step of the process certainly IS important as just having an additional person (who naturally possesses a unique skills set and often a higher level of experience in order to reach the editing level) to go through the transcript and audio can catch most of the mistakes made by the original transcriber. I could safely say that in EVERY SINGLE transcript I have ever edited there has been AT LEAST one error which I was able to correct. Most of the time there are several. So, I don’t feel guilty for choosing the less stressful editing jobs for now, since my work as editor actually DOES improve the final transcript product in some way.

Ultimately, working as a transcriber puts you into contact with a regular stream of interesting and new podcasts. There have been numerous cases where I received a podcast from the transcription company which I enjoyed so much listening to during the editing process that I went out to locate the podcast, subscribe and become a regular listener myself. This is just another one of the juicy perks of being a freelance transcriptionist.