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.

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