Episode 16 - Q&A (Live)
Jen: Hey Peter.
Peter: Hey Jen.
Jen: Remember that time we actually were in the same room in New York City?
Peter: I do. I remember it fondly.
Jen: I do too. I thought we might want to share some more of that experience with our listeners.
Peter: Ooh, are you talking about the Q and A?
Jen: I'm talking about the Q and the A.
Peter: I loved that Q and A.
Jen: Recorded live in New York City: This is The Long and The Short Of It
Audience member: Yeah, I was just curious how you guys are able to communicate being so far away, when Peter, you're in a phone booth in the dark and Jen is in the light at her desk when you just clearly ended an episode by looking at each other and communicating?
Peter: Yeah, it's a great question. I would say the first eight to ten episodes I want to say, we turned the video off, mainly because we were worried about the lag, and we know that if you take video off, you get a better connection when you're recording. So that was actually the, the reason for it, it was, it wasn't necessarily that I was standing in the pitch black. And what we found, I think we might've done it by accident, eventually as we left the video on and we realized it sounded so much better when we can see each other. But to answer your question, how we did it, I think it was with a lot of pauses and silence, and basically just giving yourself permission to wait two or three seconds after Jen's finished to see if she's finished. And full disclosure, there were a few times where the silence was like eight seconds, and I edited it down to three seconds so it didn't sound awkward for the listener. But yeah, that was sort of how we tackled it.
Jen: I can see the glow of his computer screen on his face. That being said, you may have seen us taking notes while we're talking to each other. This might be a whole other episode to unpack, but the, the art of listening is really important, and one of the things that is true about us when we're in conversation, I don't mean "us" me and Pete, I mean "us" human beings, is that we're always thinking of something else to say so that we will look so smart or in charge or whatever that might be. And we try to really listen to each other. So if we have a thought, we just write it down so that we can continue to listen. And it's really useful. We also, I don't know if you felt this way pre-altMBA - I did, cause I do a lot of coaching with people, and there's a lot of silence after I say, "How was that?" - and then there's silence. You learn to listen for the kinds of silence that exists in the world, because there are different. You can like feel the different energy in the silence. So sometimes it's like the silence of completion, and sometimes it's the silence of, "...and there's more to come." So we've started to get good at reading the silence between us.
Yeah, I would say that's the other thing too is you listen to the first episode, and we weren't anywhere near as good as we are, you know, on the tenth episode, because I think we get so much better at listening to each other as we go. So again, it's just that, like, your tenth episode is always going to be better than your first episode. So it's like, how quickly can I get to episode ten? Should we do more questions?
Peter: Where are we going?
Audience member: I'm curious as to how much prep work went into creating this and kind of formulating it before you guys did your very first episode?
Peter: My initial response was going to be, "Not that much." [Laughs]. However, it depends on how you view prep work. So Jen and I have been having Zoom calls every two weeks.
Jen: Official Zoom calls every two weeks, exchanges all day every day, and then in between, Zoom calls that are unofficial.
Peter: So we talk a lot. And so, you could say that we'd been preparing for ten months prior to deciding we're going to record a podcast. Jen had an idea for a podcast, I had an idea for a podcast, Jen made the amazing, like, realization that we should do it together, and so we did. And so for us, the prep work was that. When we decided we were going to do a podcast, not much changed; we still did Zoom calls, I pressed "record" instead of not pressing "record," we got new mics instead of using our headphones, and we had, I want to say there was like five or six sessions where we recorded just conversations that we then just deleted, for me to get familiar with the technology, for Jen to get familiar with the technology, for me to practice cutting and dicing and editing.
Jen: Jen's still not familiar with the technology. [Laughs]. I know this is where the generation gap becomes very clear.
Peter: Yes, all of that to say, I think you could say we, we prepped for like almost a year, but not consciously, right? It's almost like this "content dictates form" is the form became apparent after ten, twelve months, right? Which was like, "Oh, why don't we do a podcast?"
Jen: The only thing I'll add to that is we did some thrashing at the beginning when we were trying to figure out exactly who was going to be the audience, what was the whole point, what's the "why" -
Peter: - what's it for, who's it for? Yeah.
Jen: And we spent a lot of time on the "hows" as well. I mean we talked about do we, do we want to try to get sponsors, and like, do like an official podcast, or do we just want to talk to each other and record it and release it into the world and not have to worry about pleasing sponsors or seeking sponsors and all that kind of stuff. So we, we had those talks at the beginning, and actually if you go into my office right now, we did the same thing for something else yesterday where we laid out a bunch of ideas and asked really hard questions of ourselves, so all of that came at the beginning. We both read a ton, we listen to a lot of podcasts, we digest a lot of information, and what happens when we're talking is that we're able to just react to each other. The reason I wanted to make this point is because for those of you who are in the room who are actors, we talk about this a lot, and I think this probably applies across industry lines, the idea of getting all the information that you need upfront so that when it comes to the real thing, the only thing you have to do is react. So if what was happening is, we were scrambling to, like, Google something to say, or we, we felt that we didn't really have something to say, we would be not reacting to each other, but reacting to our FOPO, FOMO, lack of and Goliath syndromes. But instead we can just react to each other cause we do all the work upfront, and then we can just be.
Peter: Yeah. Another really smart thing we did, just to close the loop on this question, which was Jen's idea, was, okay, let's sort of get a bunch of episodes in the can, so we recorded, I think we recorded for the last four months, and we had about fifteen in the can when we decided to release the first one, which was amazing because we all get busy, you could create an excuse if you'd be like, "Oh, I've got a record, another one," and then you look for something to say, and you force a conversation, and I don't think it sounds as natural. So what's been cool is having fifteen in the can, and now we can, like, shuffle the order around based on how we feel when we listen back, like, "Oh actually that episode wasn't that good, let's just delete that one and go with a different one." So hopefully that answers your question.
Jen: And I learned that from Molly Beck and her great book, Reach Out, where she talks about blogging, and that you should blog for three months and then post your first blog post. Make sure you have something that you continually want to say, and you can structure it as a habit. And interestingly - I never connected this until this moment - science says it takes just about three months for something to actually become a habit. But she didn't point to any research around that, she was just like, "I think you should have something to say for three months." Interesting, interesting. What else from the room?
Audience member: Hi, hey, awesome. I am curious about each of you individually, and kind of like a change that you're seeking to make in the world, and how this podcast may or may not play a role or be a vessel for that?
Peter: I love that. You want to start?
Jen: Yes, sure. Okay, is this a very deep question. So, the world that I want to live in and help create is one in which people who have ideas are able to identify those ideas, cultivate them, and share them so that we can all have a better understanding of the infinite perspectives that exist in the world, and we can celebrate all the many different ways that we can be human together. Like, that is my, that is my vision. And for many years I really compartmentalised who I saw in that vision, which is so ironic considering the goal is to expand the ability to see other people. And what this podcast has really allowed is to acknowledge that ideas that I had previously reserved for a very specific demographic actually apply much more broadly. So I have a passion for identifying the ways that we can be more inclusive, and the podcast has accelerated the scaling of that for me. So whereas before I think I was really limited by knowing the people who I'm talking to, something about not knowing who's listening gives me permission to be more inclusive, if that makes any sense. So it's been really meaningful in that way.
Peter: Yeah, I mean, I'll plus one what you've said, and I guess this is why we sometimes joke that we have the same brain. My answer is quite similar in that I guess the world in which I envisage is a world where everybody is working on the change that they wish to see in the world. And so if I can help others see things that they can't see that will help them with that change, then that, like, fills me up, fills my cup up. So for me this podcast is one vessel, one way that I can help others see things that may help them with the change that they're working on. And if that empowers one person, amazing. If it empowers fifty people in this room, even better. And part of that, a part of working on the change that you wish to see in the world, I think is doing it with people you want to do it with. And for me, Jen Waldman is that people, like, is that person. So, working with people you want to work with on projects and change that inspire you and fill you up - that's, for me, sort of where I would take that question.
Jen: Let's talk about this one. "There was an episode on which you stated that you two are different because," this was directed at me, but he's going to answer it too, "There was an episode on which you stated that you two are different because you're not an entrepreneur, Jen, and yet you created Jen Waldman Studio from scratch, right? It's very successful now, so perhaps the early days seem far away," which they do, "but what makes your creation of the studio and all the other projects and initiatives you start not entrepreneur-like? How do we know if we aren't entrepreneurs?" What a great question. I do not identify as an entrepreneur; I am a freelancer through and through.
Peter: Me too, me too, I'm not an entrepreneur as well. And the distinction we can talk about, because it comes from, I think both of our, one of our favorite podcast episodes -
Jen: - of all time,
Peter: - of all time.
Jen: Which, I can't believe wasn't on the Favorite Things episode, because when this episode was released, I listened to it four times in a row. I looped back four times because there was so much in it and I was so struck by the content.
Peter: Yeah, this was one of those times where we had an impromptu Zoom call because we both listened to it.
Jen: So we were like, "Oh my gosh, we have to talk right now."
Jen: So what was the episode?
Peter: So the episode was an episode of Akimbo, which is by Seth Godin, who we've talked about a few times today, and it was called, literally called "Freelancers." And so in it he drew the distinction between the two, which he did so in a way that I had just, I'd never heard it said with such clarity. And that, like, I had a story about what a freelancer is and what an entrepreneur is in my head, and it was quite a limiting story to be honest. I thought a freelancer is, like, someone who's on Fiverr designing logos for five dollars for your creative endeavor, right? And so I don't want to be a freelancer because that's like a race to the bottom; it's, "How cheap can I be? How quick can I be? How many clients can I have?" And that's definitely not the story that I want to tell myself. So I was not necessarily someone who identified as a freelancer, but having heard the podcast, and maybe you can unpack how he made the distinction, I now, like, raise my hand quite proudly to say that I am a freelancer.
Jen: So the, the basic gist, and tell me if you think I'm butchering this, is that an entrepreneur is going to make something, and then move on, and make something else, and the thing that that person has made is going to be run by someone else. Like, "I'm going to make this thing, someone else is going to take it over, and then I'm going to move on and make something else."
Peter: And make a bunch of money.
Jen: And make a bunch of money. And good for them; we need those people. And a freelancer, they make their work, and then they continue to make their own work, and they don't make work so that someone else can make their work.
Peter: Yeah, the freelancer is the product.
Jen: Yes. They want their work to spread, but they're not going to stop making the thing. They're going to keep making the thing. And the ideas, the art, the concepts can only really come from that person, and so they become the thing. So I see myself as a freelancer because I have no intention of franchising the studio. I intend to keep making things. I will enrol other people to help me share the ideas, other teachers and coaches, etcetera, but I'm not going to open another location of this and then have someone else go in and run it, and then I'm going to go do something else with my life. That's, that's not exciting to me in any way.
Audience member: Um, so I actually wanted to touch back on something you mentioned in passing. You said something like "information digestion," and I just wanted to know some strategies you guys use when you're inundated with a lot of information, whether it be, you know, books, podcasts. So yeah, what strategies you guys use to digest it and...?
Peter: So, I have a couple, but I also would call out, first of all, that the overwhelm is always real. Like my list of books to read is definitely not going down; it's always getting larger and longer. And so, I have a few things that I do: one is - and we have this in common, Jen - I don't watch TV, I don't really engage in Twitter or Facebook a little bit, Instagram I do a little bit, but I try to limit the inputs that I have from things that aren't adding any value to my life. I mean, I'm human, I watch Netflix every now and then with my girlfriend, you know, an episode here and there, but I don't sit down for four hours or I don't sit down for eight hours on a Sunday and watch TV, which I used to do, I used to do it. And what I realized was there are so many books and resources and podcasts that I want to consume, I need to create space to consume them. So I actively create space to read books, but I also throw books into my ears through Audible when I'm commuting, or when I'm doing the dishes, or when I'm cleaning my room, sometimes when I'm in the shower I'll put it on my speakers so that - and I probably take this too far so that almost any downtime for me is now productive time - and I do the same with podcasts. So they're, they're kind of the ways at the moment that I try and continually learn and grow and stretch by filling those commuting gaps, by filling those, you know, waiting-at-the-doctor-surgery kind of gaps with proactive listening to a podcast, or a book, or reading a book.
Jen: I write in my books. I have, like, a system for note-taking in my books, and I actually love going back and looking in the margins and seeing what I had to say, and figuring out - cause what I'll do is, like, right now I'm rereading Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek, and what I'm trying to do is connect his ideas to some of the other books that I've read. So on this pass, that's what I'm doing, I'm writing in the margins: "reminds me of..." "sounds like..." things like that. I also created for myself a podcast Google Form, so if I'm listening to a podcast and something strikes me, I can open my Google Form and write down, I type in, so the fields are, "podcast title," "date," I think it says "episode name," "timestamp," and then "notes." So if I'm listening to Akimbo and the, and Seth says, "and my definition of a freelancer is..." I'm going to be like, "Ah, okay, Akimbo, freelancer, entrepreneur, 12:46, definition of freelancer," and then it auto-populates a spreadsheet, and then I can easily search for what I'm looking for. And then the other thing that I have on my phone is an app called Captio. So some - actually we haven't ever released this episode - but I have a very dysfunctional relationship with email. I try, basically never look at my email, which is why if you've sent me one and you're still waiting for a reply, that's why. I just, I get very overwhelmed by it cause then - don't look at me!
Peter: I didn't say anything.
Jen: I know, but I know what you're thinking! We're very alike, except in this way. He is organized, and I'm not. So, Captio is an app on your phone where you open the app, you type in whatever you type, and then you just click "done," and it sends you an email. So I don't have to open my email to send myself an email. And then if I know what I'm looking for, I type "Captio" into the search, and all the notes I sent to myself come up. It's so good. It's like two ninety-nine, so worth it.
Peter: I just text myself. I send myself a message.
Jen: Well you've seen my text messages as well.
Peter: Any other questions? Here we go.
Audience member: So, this question was kind of inspired, was definitely inspired for the theatre perspective, but I think it probably applies to other industries as well, but in theatre, as an actor, I feel like we're constantly asking other people to give us permission to do what we love. And I'm wondering if either if you have any ideas on how to adjust our own behavior as actors to help restructure that process.
Peter: You have to start.
Jen: Well, okay. Two big points I want to make. Remind me to make the second one. The first is, some of you have heard this before, but I don't think I've ever said it on the podcast, so I'm just going to share this story because this perfectly illuminates the point I want to make. I was working at the National Young Arts Foundation and the extraordinary artist Bill T. Jones was one of our guest artistic directors, and he came down to do an interdisciplinary artist workshop. So in the room were, just to give you a sense of the, of the talent level, we had over eleven thousand applicants that year, and there were about a hundred and forty, a hundred and fifty selected across, I think that year there were eleven different artistic disciplines. So, a very small group of instrumentalists, vocalists, dancers, choreographers, directors, visual artists, architects, designers, filmmakers, poets, novelists, actors - I don't know if I said actors already, but you get it. Like, if it falls under the cat - uh, spoken word artist - if it falls under the category of Art, it was present in the room. And so, this was the one workshop where all the kids were gonna be together - these are ages fifteen to eighteen. And so Bill T Jones, genius, says, "Please raise your hand if you're a creative artist." And so everyone in the room raised their hand. And he said, "Oh no, no, vocalists, put your hands down. Dancers, put your hands down. Actors, put your hands down. Instrumentalists, put your hands down," and you could sort of feel the room be like, "What the hell is happening right now?" He said, "Your hand should be up if you are a writer, a painter, a filmmaker," and he, he went on to name these disciplines. And then he said, "Now raise your hand if you're an interpretive artist. Dancers, put your hands up. Vocalists, put your hands up. Instrumentalists, hands up. Actors, hands up." And you could just feel the lightbulbs exploding in people's minds, where they're like, "Oh my gosh, I'm an interpretive artist." "Oh my goodness, I'm a creative artists." And then there are some people, like Lynn, who straddle the line of both. So what I think we need to recognize is that interpretive artists don't need permission to do their work; they need someone to create something so they can do their work. And when we look at it through that lens, then the creators and the interpreters start seeking each other instead of seeking permission. So I think that reframe is so vital because actors often are seeking non-creators to assess their work, and the people we need to be reaching toward and connecting with are the creators, because they need interpreters. Like my guess is that Jeanine Tesori for example, doesn't want to play Medium Alison in Fun Home, that she needs someone with the skillset and the persona and the depth of character to get on a stage and interpret her music and her words so that character can have a life. Without the actor, Medium Alison is just a figment of the imagination. So we need each other, and yet many artists are seeking non-creators to assess their work. And I think that's a big piece of the broken puzzle. Second point is really simple: people can only know what you want if you tell them. And we hold our cards very close to the vest because we're so afraid that someone will think that we are so audacious for asking for what we want. And yet we know that when the thing that is meant to be comes together, everyone involved feels an overwhelming sense of relief that the, that the artists we needed showed up.
Peter: So this is not my area of expertise, so I'll keep it brief, but I think the answer lies in the question. What you said: "So often we ask for permission." And so I would say to you, "What would it look like if you didn't?" And just leave it at that.
Jen: And that is The Long and The Short Of It.