Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Interview on the JOurneY (tm), Part 3 of 3

Here's the third installment of my conversation with Steve. His insightful blogpost is here and he reflects on his own JOurneY and what he's currently working on. He also asks you some poignant questions to begin your own reflection process. Enjoy!

Interview on the JOurneY (TM), Part 3 of 3

Steve: All of this talk about journeying has me thinking of the hero's journey, which we’ve discussed a few times. What is the hero’s journey? What are the similarities and differences between the hero’s journey and the journeys of others?

Bijoy: Ah, the hero's journey! Joseph Campbell was a journeyer. And his journey was to map all the mythic stories and bring them together into one mega-story. What he found was that the journey has this architecture to it, and he made a model to describe it. He found that the Mahabharata and the Odyssey and the Iliad and the Native American myths were all telling the same story. But he was looking at the old stories, the mythical stories, and culture. He breaks the story down into lots of different stages, but if you abstract out, you'll see three basic stages in Campbell's model. But in terms of scope of his work, he was just trying to get us up to speed. In a sense, he was doing the history part of journeying, right? Journeying has been around for a long time. Campbell gets us up to speed on what the journeys have been and the stories that have come up in cultures that relate to journey. So, he got us to the present moment. Storytellers like George Lucas and others use that structure to create new stories. But the thing to recognize is that Campbell ended at a certain point. He implied that the work he’d done relates to all of us, but he didn’t say, “Now, let me teach you how to do this yourself.” He didn’t do that at all. I very much love his work, but I think the scope of his work is different from the scope of my work.

Steve: Then, the question Campbell left behind is how to apply the lessons we’ve learned through his historical journey work to our own lives?

Bijoy: Right. That's the problem, right? What do I have to do with Jason or Odysseus, these heroes that are so much bigger than life?

Steve: In all the times we've talked about the hero’s journey, you've never really brought those questions up.

Bijoy: Campbell says, “hero’s journey,” whereas I just strip the hero part out and refer to the journey or journeyer. You’re just on your journey. You just had a journey. Because you, essentially, are the hero of your own journey, if you want to be. You don't have to say, “hero's journey,” because it's redundant.

Steve: You don’t even have to be on a hero's journey, necessarily.

Bijoy: I’m saying you can be to the extent that you want to be the hero of your own life. You can take control of your own journey, and say, “Yes, I am on a hero’s journey,” without thinking of it in a literal sense, or, I mean, without thinking that your journey has to be like those of the old, mythical heroes that went off on these grand adventures out in the world. Even Campbell realized that the hero is actually coming into personal enlightenment. The hero thinks they’re playing this game out in the world, but actually, they’re coming to a personal enlightenment about themselves. They're actually coming to themselves, or at-one-ment, atonement with themselves and the world, right?

One of the reasons people don’t go on journeys is that they don't know that they can. That speaks to one major problem that I want to solve. I want to put it out there that, hey, there's this journey thing. You can go on a journey. You don't have to conform to somebody else’s way of doing things. You can find your own way. You can sing your own RUNE of beJOY! That's really my number one thing.

Steve: In the journey workshop, it was really interesting to see that some people didn't necessarily have the confidence to claim that they had a journey prior to the class. And then, at some point during the class, they made an important… People were consistently rethinking the way that they were thinking about things.

Bijoy: And owning things that were them or that they were before. Yeah, it was very cool. And people had different issues. That was the other cool thing. People started with entrepreneurship, and then really suddenly realized that it was in a different dimension in their life that they needed to journey. They’d journeyed in one area, but they needed to journey in another area. It wasn’t entrepreneurship they were worried about. It was something else, and they needed to go work on that, right? That's why, to me, giving the full story, providing the full story of journey is so important. And letting people know that they can do so.

Steve: I think that perhaps the different dimensions of journeying are more interesting than the one-two-three stages of journeying. It's good to know the stages, but thinking about the different dimensions is maybe more empowering for people.

Bijoy: The fugue notion of it—that the journey is not just one line of music. It's not just about your work life and it’s not just about your spiritual life. It's about the whole thing and its separate dimensions. The answers that you come to, they'll all ultimately fuse together. The final stage of journeying, to me, is bringing it all together, fully being you, which includes your spiritual, your work, your personal, your relational dimensions, etc. Bringing it all together may be way down the road, but knowing that life has many dimensions and being able to say, "Oh, wow. Look, this part of my life is in Stage One,” and, “That's great. That's no problem. That's fine. That's okay,” and recognizing that other parts of your life are going into Stage Two or are in Stage Two, is quite powerful.

Steve: Here are my final questions. Thank you, by the way, for taking the time to fill me in on your thinking. Where are you heading next? What do you think your journey work will lead you to a year from now, or two or three years from now?

Bijoy: Gosh, who knows? You know, for me, it's my work to help “journify” the world. To make more journeys happen. To make more possibilities for journeys. I think one of the things I've definitely gotten to do here recently is to articulate this in a way that people can at least begin to digest without my having to be there. The journey workshop, or class, is one piece, but I think the class is actually a second step. The first step is maybe the journey book or the journey podcast. The workshop may have just been a precursor to those things. It’s definitely been helpful. Thank you for giving me space to do that at the GoLab. But I just think the people need a way to get their arms around journey as a thing. And I need to provide my version of journey, my synthesis of journey to them.

Steve: What you're saying is next is more of the same? [Laughs.]

Bijoy: Yeah. Maybe more of all that I've been doing this whole time, but I think what I'm saying is that…on a different level, when I see, when I talk to anybody, when I go to a city, talk to a community, talk to an entrepreneur or business, is that I'm just trying to get them to be more on their journey than they were before I showed up. That's what I've been doing my whole life, and I'm just gonna do more of that. The question I'm asking myself is how to be more effective when it comes to helping other people go on their journeys. I've worked with friends, individuals. The process is about giving ourselves time and space to think. Giving you some time and space to reflect on your journey and where you want to take GoLab and FG SQUARED, for example. But the work I’ve been doing up to this point is not very scalable. It's fun for me, it's fun for you and our set of friends, but there's a whole world out there that ought to be able to go on its own journey without having to talk to me, specifically. So, that's my question. How do I evangelize? How do I share, articulate? That's, I think, my first problem, my first challenge.

Steve: You want the world to be able to take advantage of specific models.

Bijoy: Exactly.

Steve: Certainly, you can only help so many people in person. You want to reach people who can’t access you directly, and let them know models exist.

Bijoy: I don't want everyone to have to come to Austin. I'd like them to be able to enact their own journeys in cities all over the world. In Austin, we have our journey experience (and I'll be speaking about that at SXSW 2014). We're all helping each other create it. That's wonderful, but not everyone's going to move to Austin. We don't want everyone moving to Austin! And we want to help other places, other people around the world to go on their journeys.

Steve: How do you do that? In a way, it sounds like you’re asking how to offer journey models without compromising the quality, or the core, of what it is you’re offering.

Bijoy: Without compromising the essence of it? I think the problem is two-fold. One aspect of the problem is finding the best way to make people aware of their journeys. That's what we tried to do with the workshop, to some extent. But what I don’t want to do—and what I’m not doing—is saying, "Oh, here's how you should journey." On the contrary, I'm saying that you can journey, that there's this third way of existing in the world that has to do with not going for safety and not going for outcomes. It's a journey, and it exists. The challenge is letting people know it’s a valid way of living and being and, oh, by the way, many have done it. This has happened before. It’s happening now! And you can do it, too! The second aspect of the problem is answering the question of how to journey, and answering that question requires methodology and tools.

Steve: I'm kind of going off-the-cuff here, but I’m thinking that if Austin is a journey city, the creative people who live here have something to do with that. You’ve talked about artists being here at the beginning of the city’s formation, that artists have been journeying here all along. This has caused me to wonder whether there are perhaps some cities, like Austin, that will be more inclined to be open to journey methodology, etc.

Bijoy: And I'd say it's no accident that the places I've visited, I think, are journey cities. The places I've gone that want to hear the message are places that are trying to figure out their journeys. And these are not the major cities in the world. They're not the New Yorks and the San Franciscos and Hong Kongs. Those cities already have such a formed identity, they're not looking inward; they're just looking down the road. I’m talking more about cities that are little bit off the beaten track, that are quirky and unique and have already been journeying, and are now trying to figure out their next steps. It's really fun to have that identification process happen, for instance, not with London, but with Hackney. Not with Bangkok, but with Chiang Mai. Not with Durham, but with Asheville or Wilmington.

Steve: Do you think maybe that these cities are more open to reflection?

Bijoy: Yeah, I do think they’re open to reflection. They don't have an identity that's already dominating them. There's more flexibility and openness. Maybe they’re questioning. Maybe they've hit a roadblock somewhere. Those types of things are the things that are gonna make you think, right?

Journey work happens in life. It doesn't happen in a classroom. The reflection part can happen in the classroom, but the work is happening in life. Life is the dojo. When something happens in the world that causes you to interrupt or change or stop—and that thing can be a death of a friend or an accident or failure—something, that's when you are doing the work. That’s when you have an opportunity to say, "Oh, maybe what I've been doing isn’t the only way to do it." I think people are curious about that. When they ask the question, “How do we reinvent ourselves?” they're really asking the question, “How do we find ourselves again?” How do I express who I really am? That's different than reinventing. Because reinventing says you've got to manufacture and make up something or create a story. That's not what we're talking about here.

Steve: You're saying your journey could come full circle, ultimately, if you stay at it long enough.

Bijoy: Yeah. It always does. Once you get to the stage three part of your journey, in some respects, you continually never stop. You're always going to curate.

Steve: Well, thank you very much, Bijoy. I’ve enjoyed interviewing you. Any last words?

Bijoy: Happy journeys. Happy trails!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Interview on the JOurneY (TM), Part 2 of 3

Here's the second installment of my conversation with Steve. His blogpost is here

Steve: So, bringing the conversation back to entrepreneurship and talking about journeying. Tell me about journeying. Who are the great journeyers in the history of the world? Who are the greatest journeyers, in your mind?

Bijoy: Wow, well, look at all the structures that exist today as big large entities in the world and you'll very likely find a journeyer who started it. And now we can talk about domains of journeying. We've been talking a lot about entrepreneurship. In the domain of entrepreneurship, you've got people like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Anita Roddick. People who were trying to express their own unique vision in the world. People like Akio Morita from Sony, the founder of Toyota, Kiichiro Toyoda. So you've got entrepreneurial journeyers and you've got spiritual journeyers. I see someone like Jesus or Buddha as a spiritual journeyer. They went on a spiritual journey to find out what they wanted to understand about God and the universe. They came back and shared their journey with other people. You've got journeyers in art. You've got journeyers in music. Bruce Lee, one of my favorites from Hong Kong, was a total journeyer, trying to find his own way of expressing martial arts. You can tell a journeyer because there is only one of them, like there's only one Bruce Lee. There's only one Jesus. There's only one Steve Jobs. Yes, there are a lot of entrepreneurs, but there's only one Steve Jobs.

Steve: They're truly different.

Bijoy: They truly are. They're just completely themselves. I think it was da Vinci (another journeyer) who said, "A man can be a master many things but to be a master of himself is the most important of them all."

Steve: Not only truly different, but being comfortable being themselves.

Bijoy: Yeah. Exactly. And they've done the work. So the thing with journey is, underneath a journey, how do you become yourself? It turns out there are stages to that process. The process of individuating or becoming yourself starts in the first stage, where you're given an imprint from someone else. Someone else tells you what the way is in that domain of your life. And the journey really starts after that, where you say, "Wait a second. That's just one way of seeing the world." I was raised a Catholic. Well, that's just one way of seeing God. And then I had to go and embark on the second stage, which is letting go of that first way of seeing the world. And you might use an alternative way of seeing the world to fight the battle against the first way. That's all part of that second stage.

In Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, heroes start to embark on this quest not necessarily knowing that the quest is to find themselves. But they embark on their quest by leaving, by pushing off from leaving the world they know, the stage one world they know. The world where the answers are simple because someone else told them what the answers were. Those answers are likely the result of a bunch of other people's journeys. “I went on this journey, here's my answer,” which is taken as, “Here’s THE answer.” Well, you haven't gotten your answer. You're not a journeyer yet. You're just adopting someone else's journey. So in that second stage you have this letting go process, letting go of that first, that one dominant modality. You're really going from a mono-model of the world to realizing that there are many ways—or at least two! And this is which is what you experience in stage two. And then in the third stage you curate and pick these different parts from the world from your experience, from yourself, that resonate with you. You go from a consumer in Stage One to a curator in the third stage.

Steve: You're saying that you become aware of more of the opportunities or choices that you have, and at that point you're able to be a little bit more selective about what would be the right way to approach the particular moment that you're in. What works for you. What is your way.

Bijoy: Yeah. I love the color orange. It's not because orange is a superior color to blue. It's just that, I like orange. It resonates for me on an intellectual level. Orange does not rhyme with any other word. Saffron is the color of yogis in India and I've officiated a number of friends' weddings. It's vibrant. It's bright. I like oranges, especially in my HefeWeizen beer. I’m an Evangelist, so there's another reason. But it’s all for me to discover what color I like, not to tell you that you should like orange, too.

Steve: You recently launched a journey workshop at the GoLab workspace. What did you learn from that? What was that all about? Why did you do that? How does it fit into your thinking about journeying? What kind of people attended it? You know, tell me more about it from your perspective.

Bijoy: I’ve been journeying since the age of 9, but it’s really over the last 10 years that I rigorously worked on it by creating these different models: MRE, Bootstrap, youPlusU, etc. And what I've realized over the course of last couple of years is that it all amounted to building blocks for journeying. It was the central model that informed all the others. And so part of doing the class was to synthesize all of that for myself. As a journeyer, I'm the primary user of my journey and my models. So it was more for me, first of all; and secondly for others—to expose people to these ideas.

Steve: The journey workshop was for you and what you were learning or what we were experiencing?

Bijoy: Well, number one, for me, was how to articulate some of this and do so in a way that I can understand it, but also in a way that other people can understand it. Like with the sequence of explanation. How do you explain something like journey, which is simple at one level but really complex at another level? So that was the first question for myself… And the second was how to express this to other people.

Steve: This really integrates with the whole spiritual side, too, which has been something you've been trying to resolve for a long time.

Bijoy: Absolutely.

Steve: So your answer for that is more or less the journey.

Bijoy: That's right. My answer for all of it is JOurneY! You can think about the many dimensions of our life, the spiritual dimension, the work dimension, the relational dimension. How do we relate to others in the world? We've got culture, identity, aesthetics. These are the major questions or areas of life that we have to put together to make our life. My perspective is that I've been lucky enough at the start of the age of 9 to do this journey process. First, with my cultural context from 9 to 18, then with my spiritual, from 18 to 27, and then with my work. This whole class was about how to bring it all together under one umbrella. I knew it was already one, but how to bring it all into one cohesive concept, and so it was as much an evolution of my own thinking and continuation of my journey as it was…

Steve: And about the question that you keep asking that never changes, that we talked about earlier. [See Interview on the JOurneY (tm), Part 1 of 3.]

Bijoy: Yeah. At the center of every journey there's a question, and my question is: How to Bijoy? It has a dual meaning, right? The first is: How do I Bijoy? How do I be me? The second is: How do I be joy? It turns out in the being of myself I be joy as well. The joy ensues from that. So, I brought into the workshop the idea of mining for your core question, and also, the idea of what animates us. Why does a bootstrap entrepreneur choose this path? Even if they might not be conscious of it. For example, you’ve been a bootstrapper all your life, but when we talked about it, at the core you wanted to Steve; you wanted to GoLab, as a verb, which is apparent in your decisions. We talked about how if you got investors, for example, they would start to impose their idea of what's supposed to happen in your venture. They would start imposing growth targets. They would say you've got to go after this market and not that market because there’s more money here, and so on and so forth. And all of a sudden your journey would get hacked and your painting would be messed up by a bunch of other people.

Steve: Let me just say, for the record, those strategies would move very slowly in our company.

Bijoy: Exactly. That's both a blessing and the curse of being a journeyer, right? You guys can't be anything but yourselves at this point. FG SQUARED, GoLab can't go back. There's no, “Oh, maybe we can do it like someone else.” It's just over. You have to give up the ghost and move on and be more yourself.

For me, as I was trying to work on all these things, I didn't know that what I was really asking at the core is: How does one journey? What animates a journeyer? And then I realized that a journeyer is just trying to express themselves in the world—their unique vision, their unique idea of what the world is and what life is. In whatever dimension we're talking about, they’re going to discover that and express that. That's what's really at the heart of journeying.

It’s really funny because I've talked about so many other entrepreneurs and bootstrappers, but the guy that has expressed these ideas most beautifully is Christian Louboutin. I started the journey workshop with a Charlie Rose interview with Louboutin. He makes women's shoes—and men's shoes now, as well—but women’s shoes, primarily, with the famous red soles. And when he tells you what drives his decision-making… One of the funniest things was when Charlie Rose asked, "Why don’t you go into fashion? Fashion is such a huge thing." And he says, "You know, Charlie, people say I should go into fashion." I'm doing a really bad French accent! "I should go into fashion, but I don't care about fashion. People put me in fashion, but I'm not a fashion. I love shoes. And I love shoes on beautiful women. That's what I love." So, he's probably walking away from a billion-dollar opportunity, which from someone else’s perspective would be ridiculous. And he's like, it's not like that. It's not about maximizing my revenue. It's not about having a big house on the hill. It's about this other thing. And as long as I'm true to myself, I'm winning. That’s the win. And if I can support it—I have to support it in the world, so it has to make money and serve customers—but I know that being true to myself will allow me to build a viable business. And he clearly has.

Steve: There were 12 to 15 participants in the journey workshop. What was the greatest lesson you learned throughout the process? What did you take away from it that you didn't anticipate you would take away? Because I know you spent a lot of time thinking about the content that you were going to present.

Bijoy: Right. It’s that people don't have a forum in which to discuss their journeys. That became one of the biggest things that people got out of it, just simply looking at their own history, looking at their own journey, being able to share that with each other, getting reflection from other people about their own journey, the power in it, the uniqueness in it. That was unexpected. Those discussions took a huge amount of time over content.

You know, I think the biggest thing that I kept saying to myself and that I think was true, was that the workshop was most about giving people space to step back. A journey cannot happen without reflection. You can't be a journeyer without stepping back and reflecting. You've got to look at what's happening in the world and then think about how that resonates with you and what is working and what's not working throughout the process. The stepping back, I think, is the biggest part of it.

Steve: That was a lesson for you, the fact that they need even more space.

Bijoy: Yeah. More space than they’re getting in their lives… They really do. So, that's one thing. Another interesting thing I learned was this: It's one thing to communicate what the journey is; it's another thing to do the work of the journey. Those are two fundamentally different things. I'm doing the work of my own journey, my life, but I'm not doing the work of your journey. You’ve got to go do that work. I can articulate; I can provide a map. That's my job in the world, to provide the map, but that does not mean you're actually walking the terrain. These tools are just a way to start, whether we're talking about the quest-ion or MRE, mapping your journey, the stages, we're just giving you ways to start to go down a path so you start becoming more congruent with your journey. I think maybe the most we accomplished was awareness of journey, but that doesn't mean that people are actually journeying at the end of this class. I don't think that's a guarantee. Someone might even come to the conclusion that, hey, maybe I'm not a journeyer. I don't want to do this journey thing. It's too hard. It's too much work. I’d rather just go after a different model or stay with my current one. I'd just rather go after a big market. I'd rather just take a safety path. That's fine.

Steve: We had a few of those.

Bijoy: Absolutely. Like anything else, journeying is not for everybody. It's a lot of hard work, especially in that second stage where we are breaking down. The breaking down process is really not pleasant for a lot of people. It's very hard to abandon things that you hold as true. It's really hard to kill a concept that you've lived with. You know, it was hard for me to get rid of Catholicism after 18 years of being a very happy altar boy who told my brothers to “sing to the Lord!”

Steve: For me, it's really easy to be broken down in an entrepreneurial sense. Like, I am constantly doing that myself. But what I've learned through this process is that there are other areas in which things are ingrained in me and I’m simply following what I've been taught.

Bijoy: Yes. Journeying in one aspect of your life doesn't imply that you’re journeying in other aspects of your life. And that's really important to understand. But the beauty for someone like you is that you have this experience in one domain, so you know what that feels like and now you can choose to say I'm going to apply this process to another dimension in my life. Now, someone who has never left Stage One in any area of their life, they're gonna have to make that first leap, which is really tough. We’re coming into dangerous territory in the sense that we're dealing with interpretation of events in your life… A journeyer looks at a breakdown as fundamentally important and intrinsic to their life. That's the thing that sends you on to stage two. Whereas from the stage one perspective, when things break down, when death happens or failure happens, a business fails, "Oh my God, it was the end of the world. This was just horrible." Because it didn't happen in the “right” way. So we're also asking people to reconsider the narrative they're putting on top of their life story, and that's delicate.