Marshall Mosher (@marshallmosher) is the cofounder and CEO of Vestigo, a company that uses outdoor adventure experiences to help people push outside their comfort zones, get comfortable being uncomfortable, and build deep trust with their teammates.
Marshall caught the entrepreneurial bug at the tail end of his masters program, and hasn’t looked back since. After graduating from the University of Georgia, Marshall spent time at the Singularity University Global Solutions Program Fellowship at NASA Ames and has been on the path of empowering human experience through technology since then.
This is such a fun conversation and I can’t wait for you to listen to it. We cover soo much ground. We talk about how to make product pivots and how to face down the emotions involved in walking away from a major product investment. We talk about self-identity, and how it affects our ability to pivot and learn and grow.
We spend time talking about how to cultivate trusting teams and create experiences where people deeply connect with each other, and how you can bring that to the people in your life.
Always focused on learning pushing outside his comfort zone, Marshall also shares with us what it feels like to actually fly around in an Iron Man Jet Suit!
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People, books, companies, resources etc mentioned in episode
- Marshall’s company: Vestigo
- Connect with Marshall: LinkedIn & Instagram
- Inside the Adventure podcast – see interview with paraglider Gavin McClurg
- Red Bull X-Alps race
- Marshall’s Burning Man surfboard
- Flow – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- Steven Kotler: The Rise of Superman & Stealing Fire
- Simon Sinek: Start With Why, Leaders Eat Last, and The Infinite Game
- Brené Brown – TED Talk, books
- Colin Brady crossing Antarctica solo, unsupported
- AirBnb experiences
- Singularity University and the GSP
- Free Solo
- Colin O’Brady crossing Antarctica solo + unaided
- Alex Honnold
- Transformative Technology Conference
- VR immersive plank experience
- Oculus Quest
- Pluto VR – live virtual VR office experiences on Distributed podcast
- AirBnb’s “Obama O’s” story
- Electric Unicycles
- Marshall unicycling in VR on the Beltline in ATL
- How I Built This podcast
- Primed to Perform
- Self-determination theory
- Pocket app
- iOS 13 accessibility updates
Marshall’s ridiculous Burning Man clickbait cameo [0:09:15]
Marshall’s backstory of not settling for the status quo [0:12:49]
The risks of how we self-identity [0:15:14]
The flow state in action adventure sports [0:16:29]
tapping into flow as an entrepreneur [0:17:55]
how do outdoor adventures help to innovation? [0:20:59]
The second biggest fear in America [0:24:13]
What is the role of the “debrief”? [0:27:32]
What does REAL team building require? [0:28:04]
The start of Vestigo [0:32:21]
How meaning helps people exceed theri limits [0:37:16]
How can a leader create connecting experiences for their teammates? [0:40:00]
Principles of experience design for improving team outcomes [0:43:34]
Case study: building trust within a product org [0:44:28]
How do you help people move into uncomfortable situations? [0:47:57]
What do leaders screw up culture change? [0:50:36]
Navy SEALs: performance vs trust [0:53:41]
Vestigo’s big pivot [0:56:59]
How did Marshall make the decision to walk away from his first product? [1:05:57]
Example: how to fund a B2C marketplace with B2B [1:07:54]
How our self-assigned identity gets in our own way [1:11:54]
Metrics impacted by culture & experience investments [1:16:07]
What’s next for Vestigo? Neuroscience. [1:22:18]
Vestigo’s version of the AirBnb “Obama O’s” story [1:30:52]
Marshall’s latest obsession: electric unicycles [1:34:10]
Some of Marshall’s favorite podcast episodes [1:37:42]
Book & app recommendations [1:44:59]
What practices enliven Marshall? [1:51:51]
Marshall’s hacks for reading [1:53:27]
Transcripts may contain typos. With some episodes lasting 2+ hours, it can be difficult to catch minor errors. Enjoy!
Andrew 00:00:53 Marshall, officially. Welcome to the show brother. How you doing?
Marshall 00:01:41 Doing great. It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Andrew 00:01:43 Absolutely. It’s a pleasure. So I, you know, I’ve got to start off by asking you something that I don’t think very many people on the planet can answer, but I think you can: What does it feel like to be iron man?
Marshall 00:01:56 Uh, so I think Richard would probably have a better answer to that. The jet suit is probably what you’re referring to with Gravity. It’s pretty amazing. It’s uh, for anyone who hasn’t seen it, uh, just search take on gravity, the hashtag or gravity.co on Instagram, and you’ll see what looks like the real life iron man suit flying around. It’s um, it’s pretty incredible. And it, um, it works purely based on vectoring force, uh, kind of, you know, moving those, uh, force vectors in and out to go up and down and turn left and right. So you actually pull the throttle and the, the whole way and hold it there, unlike what most people think. But it’s, it’s pretty incredible, although I will say, um, it’s, it takes a little bit of, uh, getting used to a little bit of athleticism, but once, once you can master that as it’s pretty incredible.
Andrew 00:02:52 So you gotta hold on. We gotta to go to the backstory here for a second. I’m so curious. How did that happen? How did you get involved in that, where you were suddenly like flying this crazy jet suit around, and for that matter, where was this, how did this happen? Give me the story here.
Marshall 00:03:11 So, so my involvement with gravity is on the U S team. So gravity is based at the UK, uh, right outside London in Salsbury, uh, Richard Brown and the founder, uh, is the one who invented the suit crazy story that could take up an entire podcast to tell that story pretty amazing. Uh, Richard’s had a ton of incredible, um, keynotes and toxic could look up online to hear the full story, but, um, my involvement is mainly with helping to facilitate the UAS U S based, uh, training experiences. So actually being able to get in the suit and learn how to fly yourself, um, from an experiential standpoint. So all of the pilots that, you know, the real pilots are in the UK. So while I’ve gotten in the suit and know how to fly it, uh, the people that are racing around are all the, uh, the UK pilots. Uh, you’ll probably notice that they’re all pretty small, a little bit, uh, a little bit smaller than what an American proof suit, uh, would need to be. We’re all a little bit heavier here.
Andrew 00:04:09 So they’re like the, the, this is like the whole horse jockey thing, right? It’s like
Marshall 00:04:13 Exactly because around 200 pounds is, is, um, uh, around the max I say round is cause there’s a lot of factors that go into, um, you know, how much thrust and lifted has, um, you know, out suit is one temperatures and other, but we don’t like to run the engines on a hundred percent. So usually pilots tend to be like around one 50 or even less than that. So pretty small guys, but we actually are prototyping a bigger suit, uh, that can handle a lot, um, a lot more. So any heavier pilots, uh, like us aspiring us, people have hope now, but, but yeah, the story is pretty interesting. So I have always been passionate about using technology and entrepreneurship to promote access to adventure sports from the standpoint of leading a healthier and happier lifestyle. So anything that has kind of an intersection of technology, uh, adventure and entrepreneurship is definitely something I get excited by.
Marshall 00:05:15 And my company vest ego uses all kinds of outdoor adventure experiences for innovation training for other companies where we’ll create experiences that are very first step experiences, so anyone can participate in them, but there are, there’ll be mentally challenging. And that mental aspect of pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is one of the key aspects for innovation, uh, development kind of building up that mindset. So, because I had that background in using these adventure sport experiences for innovation training, when I got connected to, um, the, uh, the leader of the U S team and started building a relationship with him, uh, that was right around the time when gravity was exploring doing these kind of experiential jet suit training events and our background at bestie go of combining action, adventure sports with leadership development, especially on the high executive level, uh, just works really well.
Marshall 00:06:09 It’s a kind of form, a bit of a collaboration and partnership together to start testing those, but the story of how we got, how we originally got st. I was pretty interesting. Um, we were just talking about this before the interview about burning man. So two years ago, my first experience at burning man, I had no idea what to expect, but from all the pictures, there’s a couple of things that are very evident and obvious. One of those is that people like creating unique ways to get around, whether it’s an art car or a mutant vehicle, whatever you want to call it, uh, essentially taking a bus and turning into a pirate ship where, you know, a bunch of people can ride on it, or whether it’s an individual vehicle, uh, you know, a lot of people ride bikes, but they all, you know, spruce up their bikes to make them look like a zebra, just all kinds of crazy stuff that there’s nothing, uh, that hasn’t been seen at burning man.
Marshall 00:06:55 I’m sure. But one thing that I was really interested in at the time was the kind of the emergence of these electric vehicles. And this was back in 2016, I think so like the hoverboards were just becoming popular. Uh, the one wheel’s like just come out, the electric unicycles, all those things. So in the boosted boards, so I wanted to make a surf board that looked like it was flying across the desert by taking a boosted board, putting it, uh, under this old surfboard and putting, um, old mountain bike tires, cutting them up and, and making off-road tires for the boosted board. And the, the surf, the surfboard is so low to the ground that the fans just cut or cleared the ground. So it was high enough to work, but low enough that you couldn’t see the boosted board,
Marshall 00:07:41 I kick up the Playa dust on the bottom of the board and then radiate out from there. So it looks like I was surfing this wave of dust. That is amazing. Like it was flying. You couldn’t tell that it had a Vista board under it as my kind of personal transportation device and one of my apply guests. So I would teach people how to surf surfing the planet. That’s still a bit different from real surfing, but, um, I thought that’d be a cool thing to do. So I was just cruising around one day and I saw this really nice camera that his guy was taking pictures of different people. And I just happened to ride by him. He snapped a photo of me, and whenever someone has a really nice camera at burning man, um, you know, that there must be some kind of awesome photographers. And I was like, I would love that picture.
Marshall 00:08:23 So I went up to him, talked to him, asked him if he could email me the photo. He said, sure. I told him name where I’m from all that good stuff. So a couple of days later, uh, I get a text that I think came through it maybe four or five in the morning. Cause that’s the only time when you actually have enough bandwidth for the signal to come through to your phone. And it was from a friend I hadn’t talked to you in years. And it was a link and a message that said most Epic thing I’ve ever seen a dot.dot, and then this link. And I was like, okay, uh, and then the link, yeah, it had a photo of me On the surf board surfing through the Playa with this, uh, you know, this article title. And it was from the sun, which is a big publication in the UK. And, uh, if you Google a Marshall Moser burning, man, you’ll find a hilarious, uh, clickbait title. And then you gotta Google it and doing it right now, burning man, where, you know, everyone wants to know about it. And there’s a lot of stereotypes on burning man. So this publication to figure it out, if we can make the most ridiculous sounding title, people will click on it. So the title is, I think I haven’t memorized now inside burning man where 80,000 party goers dance naked get high and enjoy orgies in the Nevada desert, which as a burner, you know, that that probably happens. But that’s definitely not what the event is, is, you know, encompassed in, um, it’s way different than that. But of course that’s what people are getting clicked on. And the guy who was the photographer was a guy that worked for Reuters that must’ve,
Andrew 00:09:57 Oh my gosh,
Marshall 00:09:59 To stop rambling on about it. Um, the guy that ran the U S for gravity saw that photo thought that the surfboard is a flying surf or he’s like, we gotta reach out to this guy. So, uh, he happened to be in Atlanta at the time, um, for work, just traveling and reached out, found me on LinkedIn. We met up, I started talking about what we’re doing with Vestigo, uh, and, uh, just sort of builds a friendship from there, but hilarious story of, of how, uh, how I ended up in this is amazing
Andrew 00:10:27 Looking at this article right now. And you’re your friend is right. This is one of the most Epic photos. And you totally like, we’ll totally put this in the show notes, just the photo, but the, this is a hell of a surfboard bag. This is amazing, but I’m just like, I’m having such a stature looking at these photos. Cause that was my first burn. And all I remember was just how fucking hot it was. That was like, I think the hardest year they’d ever had on record, but somehow I’m nostalgic for the Playa dust right now, looking at I’d have to, I have to close this tab or I’m just going to literally just go down a rabbit hole.
Marshall 00:10:58 Exactly. I I’m jealous. You got a chance to go this year. I was sad. I missed it.
Andrew 00:11:01 Yeah, it was, it was fantastic. I didn’t go last year. Definitely missed it. And, uh, it was, it was kinda my, my gift to myself. It was like, you know, just cleared a bunch of big milestones with work and needed to kind of unplug for a while. And it was a, it was a really powerful experience this year. So I was super glad to go.
Marshall 00:11:17 Right. Timing to go. It can be pretty impactful for sure.
Andrew 00:11:19 Sure. I know. Absolutely. And I think, feel like we’ve started at a place where this is going to probably be a recurring theme throughout this conversation where we’re talking about the impact of experiences, especially at certain times, so that, you know, dear listener prepare yourself, that’s going to be a recurring theme here. Um, but you know, one of the things I remember we were introduced by our mutual friend min and, um, one of the things that stood out to me just right away in our first conversation and I, and I think everything I’ve, I’ve learned about you since we’re still getting to know each other, but I think one of the, one of the areas where I really resonated with you and with what you’re up to you’re
Marshall 00:11:54 Really, you really strike me as someone who’s drawn almost, maybe even almost compulsively to push the limits and like challenge what’s possible for yourself as a way of helping yourself and the people around you thrive. And I just, first of all, I think that’s dope. And I’m curious, like, does that come from for you? Like how did, where do you think that that’s a good question. I don’t, I don’t really know I’m going to have to do some soul searching to figure out where that came from, but, um, but yeah, you’re, you’re absolutely right. I, I love trying to just better kind of better my ability to navigate life. And I’m a huge proponent of using, uh, experiences as metaphors for a lot of things that we experienced in life and, and pushing the limits, um, you know, everything is all relative. So something that might feel impossible a year ago, looking back on it, it might seem incredibly easy.
Marshall 00:12:49 Now you can just kind of continue down that road of constantly challenging what you can do and, and, um, uh, you know, where you think you can go with it and it’s, uh, it’s, it’s something that I really enjoy, but, um, the, I don’t really know where that initially came from. It might’ve been from my mom who just at a young age, always really encouraged me to go out and just make the most of, of experiences and of life and of what’s possible. And, um, you know, never, never settle for, um, you know, for the status quo and just kinda keep on climbing. And I think, um, I think that always stuck with me and probably ended up translating into a lot of things that I really love in the action adventure, sports space now as well. And, um, I, I really love the learning things of new things I sort of add.
Marshall 00:13:44 And in terms of different sports, I just love doing all these different things, which is sort of unique. Cause a lot of people stick to like, let’s take mountain biking. For example, people will get into mountain biking, fall in love with it, and there’ll be a mountain biker. And as much as I love mountain biking, um, and I guess I call myself a mountain biker. I, you know, I love whitewater kayaking and trail running and paragliding and snowboarding and, and all these other things that, that are just different ways to experience the world mainly because I love that first step of just feeling completely inadequate about something and is figuring it out as you go, uh, the falling down and getting back up when I get to a certain point where I’m, uh, you know, competent in that sport, there’s sort of this threshold where I can keep pushing myself in that sport.
Marshall 00:14:29 But if I do that, there can be exponentially increasing consequences to what could happen if things go wrong. So at that point, I usually say, you know, I’m, I’m happy being a class four plus maybe class five whitewater kayaker. I don’t need to do the class five plus crazy for stuff like let’s go in a new sport, uh, and just enjoy constantly challenging myself while keeping it safe by just trying new things. And there’s obviously unlimited amounts of ways that you can continuously challenge yourself by just getting into something that’s new, that you have no idea how to do and just figuring it out along the way.
Andrew 00:15:07 I so love that because I, you know, I think one of the biggest risks that Pete, this is one of those things that I think about it, but don’t often talk about, which is the, the risks of how we self identify and what I mean by that is we, you know, we’re all we’re as humans. We’re, we’re meaning making machines, we’re born storytellers, we’re telling ourselves and everyone else stories all the time and living inside those stories. And one of the biggest parts of those stories is the labels we put on things, especially ourselves. And so I’m curious if I were to try to pick a couple words that I think you would resonate with at an identity level. It seems like you really identify yourself with being an Explorer, an optimist and a learner.
Marshall 00:15:46 That’s a really good point. Yeah, absolutely. I got to write those down.
Andrew 00:15:48 Yeah. Good thing. We’re recording what I was starting to wonder about, and I’d love for you to, um, expand on this. If you’re interested is what is in the background that connects the dots between those things for you? Like what is it you’re tapping into my guess is that it’s something there’s some connective tissue in the background that they all share, even though they obviously look very different on the outside.
Marshall 00:16:13 For sure. Yeah. That’s a really good point. So I’ve recently started reading a lot of, uh, Steven Kotler, his work who’s the author of a book called the rise of Superman and studying this, um, kind of mental, psychological phenomenon called the flow state, which he did not come up with, but he’s done a lot of research in terms of how action adventure sports can trigger that flow state a lot faster than other means and how utilizing that flow state can make us more productive. And, uh, I really tap into our, our ability for kind of peak human performance, uh, in things that are, uh, obviously far, um, uh, you know, that transcend just the outdoor adventure sports, but also in work and life. And I think whitewater kayaking is a good example cause you’re literally floating on a flowing river that when you really tune into the skills that you’ll get, the more you paddle, you just feel one with this force of nature, that in any other environment you would feel panicked and terrified to be in, but because you have the tools of your kayak and your paddle and the mental ability to stay calm and navigate a changing and always different environment, purely based on what you’ve learned, how to do and how to, how to react to situations that you don’t know are coming.
Marshall 00:17:39 But when they come, you can just almost instinctually autonomously react to that, uh, because of your training and your background that, that flow state feeling, I think pretty addictive. And I think a lot of entrepreneurs resonate with that, even if they’ve never done any outdoor adventure sports, um, because you, you can tap into the flow state, um, really by doing anything that you love that has creativity or innovation kind of baked into it that, uh, you just feel like you’re, you’re on a roll like those days when you maybe just start pursuing a new idea or a new company. And in the morning you wake up at five in the morning and then all of a sudden it’s 5:00 PM. And you’re like, Oh, I haven’t eaten today. I should probably do that. That’s that’s because you’re tapped into the flow state of this thing that just makes you so effective and efficient and, uh, outdoor adventure sports are a great catalyst to bring that out. And regardless of whatever you’re doing, just being so proficient at something to the point where you can navigate this unknown and changing environment, just with your skills and instincts is a pretty incredible mental state to get in. And I love the ability for those kinds of experiences to bring that up. Now, I love that flow.
Andrew 00:18:52 Oh, I mean it, seeing, seeing the way Kotler has built on chick sent me highs work in, in sort of the idea of flow and how you can cultivate that. And, and, um, what was his, uh, there was, there was his books were, there was the rise of Superman. And then what was his most recent one about sort of group flow? Um,
Marshall 00:19:09 Yeah, I’ve heard of that. I haven’t read that one yet. Stealing fire. I’ve got it. Do my, yeah, there you go.
Andrew 00:19:15 I didn’t, and I think that’s actually a really interesting kind of transition point too. Cause I feel like that’s, that is almost the overlap between everything we’ve just been talking about and what you guys do at best ego is you think about the way human performance for anyone who hasn’t, who was not familiar with Kotler’s work on flow, highly, highly recommend checking it out. But I think the punchline, um, is that the, at least what I would say is the punchline is that every single possible measure of performance and satisfaction just goes through the roof when someone’s in flow. And so the more you can create an environment and conditions where a person or group of people are in flow, basically everything is going to be way, way better than it could otherwise possibly be. Would you, would you agree with that?
Marshall 00:19:59 Absolutely. Yeah, for sure. I definitely agree.
Andrew 00:20:03 Also, it’d be great. In your own words, how would you explain that most classic and somewhat annoying of American questions of what you do with this?
Marshall 00:20:12 That is a very classic question. Yeah, for sure. It’s, it’s taken us a while to explain what that is and figure out what the main problem we’re solving is as well, which I’m sure we’ll get to further on in the interview, but in its current state, we essentially help companies to build a culture of innovation. And at first glance you’re like, how does outdoor adventure sports have anything to do with innovation? But as we talk more into this topic, I’m like what you mentioned with flow, the ability to get outside your comfort zone and navigate a changing environment is one of the most crucial aspects of being able to innovate, um, that, that there is, of course there’s a lot of factors that go into it, but at the end of the day, you have to be willing to jump head first into some new and unknown environment, uh, where in all likelihood you will fail and be willing and not even willing, eager to seek out that environment takes a particular mindset that can actually be, um, much, uh, more accelerated, uh, in terms of building through outdoor adventure sports, just like flow is very similar in a lot of what we do is based off of, uh, chicks that may highs kind of a, um, kind of teachings around that.
Marshall 00:21:25 But essentially it’s it’s exposure therapy to a challenging and potentially sometimes psychologically stressful environments. And what I mean by that is take repelling as an example. Uh, if anyone doesn’t know what repelling is, it’s the opposite of climbing or descending down a rock face on a rope that you’re controlling your, your rate of descent, um, by the amount of friction, you’re applying it to a rope using a particular device that makes it pretty easy to do it. So it’s not just, you know, grip strength on the rope or anything. Uh, but anyone can do that. It’s physically very easy. I mean, you’re going with gravity. There’s no physical strength involved. Uh, but mentally it’s very challenging because the number two fear in the U S is fear of Heights. So something that pushes you outside of your comfort zone, that taps into some type of mental fear-based challenge, uh, in a way that helps you practice navigating that environment is a massive boost in your ability to do those kinds of things and navigate unknown and, and oftentimes scary environments and the office.
Marshall 00:22:31 And it doesn’t have to be just through outdoor adventure sports. We’ve just found that there was the most effective ways to do it. But, um, when I mentioned a fear of Heights being the number two fear in the U S uh, public speaking is actually the number one fear. So if you take your team to an improv class, uh, or a public speaking kind of training climbing that will bring out similar emotions of getting outside your comfort zone and navigating a unknown environment, that’s sort of the basis of what improv is. So just anything that challenges you to push past what you perceive your limits to be in a way that involves your team is extremely effective for creating a culture of innovation. That also has a strong foundation in trust, teamwork, and, um, effective communication. So that all makes perfect sense. And I want to, I actually want to dig into it now and go deeper because, um, I think most people listening to this, to this podcast will, will probably already be very much on board with the idea of like how trust creates connection, which enhances performance and things like that.
Marshall 00:23:32 But I want to dig into it because I’ve heard you talk elsewhere that, um, you mentioned the number two fear is falling, but I’ve heard you say elsewhere that it actually, the fear is not a falling and it’s not even the fear of, of dying, but it’s the fear of losing control. And so I’d love you to unpack that a little bit and then maybe talk about you. You mentioned a few just a minute ago about the, the really, how does one cultivate a mindset where we’re not just like interested in the discomfort, but in fact eager for it. So talk a little bit about that. You did some great research because I have no idea what, what interview I even mentioned that on, but you’re right. Yeah. That’s, that’s one, one thing that I mentioned in all the experiences that I lead that have something to do with Heights at least, is that most people think it’s fear of Heights or even a fear of falling, or a lot of people say a fear of death.
Marshall 00:24:21 Uh, uh, but it’s really a fear of not being in control. If you’re falling off something tall, you’re not scared of, uh, the fact that that thing was tired of scared about the fact that there’s nothing you can do to control the very, uh, unpleasant imminent end that, uh, you’re going to a experience unless you over-water, I suppose, but that fear of not being in control is, is, is know, it goes far beyond, um, that fear of Heights and with the repelling experience, you are actually falling to get to the bottom, but you’re falling in a controlled way. So you do have that control. So it’s sort of taking your brain’s fear of this experience and telling yourself the thing I actually fear is a fear of being controlled. And I actually am in control right now through this system that I’ve put in place.
Marshall 00:25:11 And that’s one reason why I really like, uh, another reason why I really like all these different outdoor adventure sports, as you know, a lot of people will say, Oh, that’s, you know, jumping off a mountain and paragliding. That sounds crazy. Why would you ever do that? What happens if your glider just spontaneously it’s, even though you’re in an environment like the air that feels very scary and the higher you go, if you, if, for anyone who does a firsthand and flight in Paragon in this scarier, it’s going to feel in reality to use paragliding as an example, the higher you go, the safer you are, because the more time you have to fix a problem that might happen. And throughout that entire situation, you are in control through this apparatus that you have around you, the environment you’ve created to take a experience that would normally feel very uncomfortable and not having control of your being suspended up in the air to actually being able to control every aspect of that through the skills that you have and the gear that you have to ultimately gets where you want to go. So I really like, I’m kind of practicing putting myself in those environments where, uh, at first psychologically it feels scary, but through the tools and the training and, um, through a lot of the experiences with your teams, oftentimes the help of one another, you can take this environment that feels scary or out of control, um, and, uh, successfully navigate that through these different things that you’ve put in place, including the help of others.
Andrew 00:26:45 One of the things specifically, while we’re on the topic of, you know, navigating challenge and uncertainty, basically, um, I’m really curious about, you know, you, I’ve heard you talk about that. One of the things that most people, when a people, one of the things that gets missed when people think about like building teams or building trust, or, you know, we’re going to go have some sort of experience that we hope will bring us closer together or whatever the case may be
Andrew 00:27:12 I mean, I think you could most broadly call it facilitation, but it’s the idea of like a kind of a, um, a debrief, right? And talking about the experience that we had and how it applies to what we do and things like that. So talk to me a little bit about how that, how that goes and, and like what difference that actually makes, especially in cultivating and really developing this mindset. You’re, you’re talking about.
Marshall 00:27:34 Yeah. The debrief is everything. Um,
Marshall 00:27:39 It is the place where you really connect the dots between what you’re experienced and how it relates back to the bigger picture. So, um, a lot of, a lot of companies that are considering doing something for team building experience, which you mentioned before, we actually hate that word team building. Cause it doesn’t a lot of, unfortunately it has a connotation of, Oh, well, we, we did a team building experience cause we went to a baseball game the other day, or we did a happy hour that that was team building. So anything that doesn’t have a debrief is not real team building, which is why we don’t even use that word anymore because people just immediately associated with these just trivial group activities that they sort of lump into that team building category. But like when was the last time you heard of the military doing teen daughters? Never, but they have some of the most effective teams in the world because their team building is carrying a log across a beach until you can’t feel your feet anymore. Uh, putting yourself in these crazy environments and watching how the team comes together because of it.
Marshall 00:28:43 And you bet that they debrief those kinds of experiences. For sure. So the debrief is really, what’s the most important where we’re taking all of these things that might be subconsciously happening in each individual person’s head and giving them time to start thinking through what those actually mean realistically for them and for their job and the company. And a lot of times when you’re actually in the experience, you might not be thinking at all, you might just be pumped up on adrenaline and love of the neuro-transmitters. They’re just immediately going off to kind of keep you in fight or flight mode of just survival. But once you push past that and you have a little bit of time to bring your heart rate down and sort of think through, okay, why did that make me feel that way? How did I push through that? How did I navigate that?
Marshall 00:29:34 Um, did I react in a way I wanted to react or did I not? And how come, when you can start talking about together as a team, you can have some of the most incredibly impactful conversations to really get to know people that you’ll ever have in any kind of scenario, because you’re really dig into what people do when they’re uncomfortable or when they’re under pressure, when they’re in a stressful environment and why they act that way and start to really build up some trust through a little bit of vulnerability with the people that you’ve, might’ve had surface level conversations with forever, but never really dug into that real impactful kind of under the surface, um, kind of psychology that everyone has in a very unique way. So that debrief is incredible for bringing out those kind of personal, uh, your personality traits that everyone has and communicating in a really, um, kind of honest, open way about that, but, but also how those experiences represent and translate into external factors and how they serve as an experiential analogy for a particular goal or theme.
Marshall 00:30:41 So if, if you have a core value, that’s up on the wall that you walk past every day, but don’t really ever talk about or put into practice, this is the chance to say, okay, how did that step that you took off the mountain in this repelling experience, link back to that core value of be comfortable with getting uncomfortable or, you know, whatever they, the kind of the connection is, how do you take this mindset and apply it back to what your company says is one of the three most important values that you need to exhibit to accomplish the goals that we have as a team. And those are really the things that people think back on as well. So if they are in a stressful environment back in the office, they’ll think, Oh, well, I was able to jump off this cliff and navigate this really crazy experience. I can definitely push through this or, you know, that time that I did that one thing, uh, that helped me to really build a connection to this particular value. That’s going to resonate with me and stay with me a lot longer and in a much more powerful way, because I had this really strong experience that links back to this particular goal or value. That’s not quite as abstract as it might’ve been at one time.
Andrew 00:31:52 Sure. So that, that makes sense on a very conceptual level. Could you, could you give me a, like an actual example of when you went through this process and you really saw it make a difference for a group for, for a team, they probably walked away with a very different and new understanding of what, what they meant by that value and what it meant.
Marshall 00:32:08 Yeah, definitely. Um, all kinds of experiences, but there’s one story that, um, that I really, really liked to tell, cause it was actually our very first corporate experience. We actually started off, um, as more of a B to C company working with individuals, uh, which I’ll get more into the history of, of that, uh, later on. But our very first company that we worked with, uh, we got lucky and actually worked with home Depot here in Atlanta. It is an awesome first client to have a, but the way that it got started is that one of their guy named Spencer, why cough? His sister was one of my good friends at the university of Georgia. And I worked pretty closely with her in the disability resource center where I was the graduate assistant in making just disability awareness and disability access, uh, better on campus.
Marshall 00:32:55 So she has muscular dystrophy, which means she’s in a wheelchair and obviously you can’t go upstairs and wheelchair. So, you know, a lot of really historic, uh, places, the university of Georgia were only accessible by stairs. So she did this amazing campaign to add in kind of a handicap access ramp, uh, around one of the most historic, uh, symbols for the university of Georgia, the arch and all kinds of things that I worked with her back then on, uh, when we graduated, I kind of continued to follow her progress of what her and her brother were doing. And in order to continue, uh, just raising awareness for muscular dystrophy and disability accessibility in general, he would carry her on his back through Spartan races. It’s hard enough to run a Spartan race on your own, let alone with, uh, your sister on your back. And he has this huge, like six foot seven guy, pretty strong.
Marshall 00:33:45 And I thought that was just an amazing way to continue that mindset. And when we were talking about, you know, what we could do are you with the home Depot team and him being obviously a part of the home Depot team, I was like, we need to do something to highlight this story, especially given your, one of your values of family and really feeling like a family team as a, as a unit, uh, let’s do something to continue this story. Can you do this impact? So we wanted to do something Epic that obviously involves and incredible outdoor adventure initiative that would ideally set a world record. So we started thinking, well, what’s the most iconic outdoor environment that we have in the Southeast or that anyone would know across the country and maybe even across the world. So really the only thing that fits that is the Appalachian trail, which is one of the biggest, um, continuous trails in the world and definitely in the U S and it starts in Georgia.
Marshall 00:34:39 The Georgia section in to the border of North Carolina is about 80 miles, like 78, 79 miles. And it’s one of the most difficult in terms of elevation change, just straight up, straight down, like the whole way it’s it’s horrible. So he came with this crazy idea to carry carton across the entire Georgia section of the Appalachian trail, broken up into nine different day hikes from road crossing, a road crossing so that, uh, different people could join it for different days. So it wasn’t just one group backpacking the whole thing. So we had anywhere from 15 to 40 people each day, come out to hike the trail with us and actually help carry cards. So it wasn’t Spencer carrying or the entire way we were taking turns to anyone on the team, the home Depot team that came out to support who thought they could help carry.
Marshall 00:35:24 And even if it was for literally five steps or our record was an hour, it was about a mile and a half per person. It doesn’t matter how far you carrier or just every single step that everyone played a role, whether it was just getting out there and hiking with us for moral encouragement or whether it was carrying the gear of the person who was carrying Kardon or whether it was carrying carne herself. Everyone played a crucial role that had a really powerful effect on their team, uh, and kind of their sense of family as a family unit. And we, we, there were some days when we, we didn’t, we honestly didn’t know if we would, we would be able to finish and we made it, but, but we, we finished, we actually finished a day early as well. We went ahead of schedule and, uh, set a world record through it. Um, had an incredibly impactful story, uh, got some decent press and news out of it. And, um, now we actually haven’t announced this yet, but, uh, we’re pretty close to announcing it. The next initiative we’re going to do is to create a similar operation, but this time it will be one group that goes the full way and not the Appalachian trail, but Kilimanjaro. So we’re going to carry car and up Mount Kilimanjaro, and then paraglide off the top to set a, another world record, cause that’s never been done in that fashion.
Andrew 00:36:47 And what an exciting, what an exciting next thing to do. So tell me, take me back to that. That’s an amazing story, but take me back to the debrief after that. Right. And what did you see happen? Uh, when you, when, you know, you talked a lot about like this family value that, that home Depot had, but what did you see happen
Marshall 00:37:06 For whether it was one person or a small group of people who were involved in that experience? Like how did that happen,
Andrew 00:37:11 Impact them. And what did you see? Like, what was the shift that you saw
Marshall 00:37:15 Look working with that team afterwards? There were some really incredible realizations that came out of it. Um, so to share one, and there were a bunch, but I’d say one of the most impactful ones was how you felt when you were actually carrying cards. And we didn’t really, I mean, everyone felt this way to a degree. We didn’t realize how prolific it was and how profound it was until the debrief when we all sort of talked about it. But when you’re carrying a backpack, you’re just like, I hate this backpack. I hate the fact that I have to carry this 60 pound thing cross this trail. But when you’re carrying carton, I mean, she’s double the weight of a heavy backpacker bag at about 120 pounds. And she actually helps you go further than you think you would be able to go because your, your backpack is now a person who is whispering, encouragement into your ear every step of the way, and really making it this incredibly, uh, just motivational team effort of, uh, just understanding that every step you take, especially when you’re going up, one of those steep elevation gains that, that are prolific on the Appalachian trail in Georgia, every step you take is getting us one step further to something that would be impossible without your help.
Marshall 00:38:33 Even if you can only take five steps, that’s steps closer. And it was just amazing to see people break their own personal limits of what they thought they could do. Yeah.
Andrew 00:38:45 Uh, because of what
Marshall 00:38:47 That mends to the initiative and to carton, uh, in a way that they never would have done on their own. If I I’m convinced that even if some of these people had half the weight of a heavy 60 pound backpack or bag, they would have given up and stop on the side of the mountain, his jobs, hadn’t been like, I’m just leaving this here. I can’t do this anymore. But, um, just knowing that as much as it sucked, every single step, it a, at least you can, you can take steps and you can walk, and you’re doing this for, for someone who can empowering her to do this thing. That would be impossible without you. That’s just a powerful, powerful motivation.
Andrew 00:39:24 Absolutely. I mean, there’s so much, you know, humans thrive on meaning and purpose, and that is such like, that’s a very visceral real thing. Um, I, I love that story. So I, I’ve kind of, I was thinking about this and I was trying to think of, as I was listening to that, I was trying to think of how to, how I would translate this. So obviously the best thing to do, if you’re interested in creating these types of experiences for your team is to call Marshall and harvest ego. But if someone’s not in a position to do that or whatever, that just for whatever set of reasons that, that isn’t in the cards for them, I’d love you to like, what are one or two things that say a product leader, you know, leader of a product team or product organization, how can they bring this back into their, into their culture, into their world? Like how can they use, what are some of the lessons that you’ve picked up over the years that they could actually apply, uh, whether or not they’re able to cultivate an arbitrary, sorry to create an experience like the one you just described. Yeah.
Marshall 00:40:15 It’s easier than people think. And, you know, as much as I would love to work with any company that would like to invest in this, you definitely don’t have to hire a company to do it. I think the biggest message that I just hope people take away is just do something that’s more meaningful and more impactful than a baseball game or a happy hour. Um, and, and you can do that in a lot of different ways, but just like you said, humans resonate with stories and making something about a bigger purpose than whatever the kind of the thing on the surface looks like, um, goes a long way. So what we’ve started doing for a lot of our experiences, because we are doing more of these recurring experiences as more of a mental mindset training program throughout the course of a year. So we’ll do monthly experiences for 25 different employees each time.
Marshall 00:41:10 Um, as a way to add all those experiences into a single theme, what we’ve started doing is saying every foot and elevation gain per person throughout all these different experiences, whether it’s, you know, hiking or climbing or caving, whatever it is, every foot and elevation gain per person adds up to this overall theme of the height of Mount Everest of 29,000 feet. So that creates this really visual goal that people have in their head and a story behind that goal. And especially if you can tie a really powerful team value to that goal of saying, you know, this the summit of Mount Everest, which is the collective effort of all of our work and training throughout all these different experiences represents this one particular goal or value, then that goal or Valley is going have so much more meaning to it, uh, than it would otherwise.
Marshall 00:42:01 So just try to find unique ways to create experiences that tap into the bigger purpose, meaning behind a particular goal or value that you have as a company. And, and that will create a stronger connection to that value and help people resonate with that value in a bigger way. And if you can create a philanthropic focus built into that as well, then, then that’s even better like what we did with, uh, Carden and, and home Depot. We’ve actually replicated that with a couple other companies where, um, obviously we weren’t, it was very, that was a very unique situation. Um, with some other companies, we, we weren’t carrying someone, but we also emulated that section of that trip through doing that section of the Appalachian trail in a similar way. But every mile height per person went towards fundraising for a organization that was sort of near dear to one of their values as a company that supported, um, something that they really believed in. So having a philanthropic approach in addition to creating a meaning, uh, goes a long way as well. But the biggest, uh, really the biggest benefit is going to come when you have the combination of creating higher purpose, meaning philanthropic value and the kind of goals and values you have as a company, all merged into one campaign of multiple experiences or one experience, um, we’ll create a deck.
Andrew 00:43:29 It makes a lot of sense. One of the things I want to actually want to push it a little bit deeper here, because I feel like there’s one or two more kind of bedrock principles that I, you know, one of the things it seems like you’ve, you’ve had to get very good at, and maybe you always were good at this, or maybe it’s something you acquired through the course of what you’ve been doing. And again, we’re going to shift to talk a little bit more about some of those pivots and the history of a stego here in just a minute. But if you’re someone who’s clearly had to think deeply about experienced design, right. And how you don’t just take a stock experience, but how do you customize that to achieve a certain outcome to deepen certain values and experiences and meaning like you were just describing, one of the things I’ve heard you talk about is that a lot of your work is, um, I don’t remember exactly how you said it, but it was predicated on Bernay Brown’s work really around vulnerability in particular, which is I think a really important idea. And it’s one of those things that people can get a little bit squeamish about, which I think is unfortunate, but I think it is also somewhat reflective of where we are today. So talk to me a little bit about that. Like, so if let’s say let’s do a little hypothetical here, let’s that I’m
Marshall 00:44:32 Like a director of product for a startup in Silicon Valley, right? So I oversee a couple of product managers and several product teams. I’m part of the leadership group of a, of a whole product organization here. And I’m really thinking about, I’m not just spending all my time. My cycle is thinking about the products itself. I’m also thinking about the environment, the people that, their development, et cetera. Um, as I go forward, trying to create some experiences for, for my people to grow, you know, to do, to build trust, to really get to know each other better, uh, to connect much more deeply than they would otherwise. What are the things that I need to keep in mind that we haven’t already covered? Yeah, that’s a great question. Um, the first step of all of our experiences is bringing in a speaker or at the very least, uh, delivering content, whether it’s a, you know, a podcast like this or a YouTube video to help people get in the right mindset to understand why they’re doing what they’re doing.
Marshall 00:45:28 And I think that’s a really powerful and important launching point. Um, but that I think, uh, can, can definitely be achieved if the main focus is on Villanova vulnerability by watching Bernay Brown’s Ted talk, uh, or even your reading her book, if you want a little bit more of a in depth, um, uh, kind of mindset shift before you even get started. So putting people in the right mental framework before launching into an experiential form of, um, a lot that we’ve talked about can really go a long legs. People already have that framework of understanding why, what we’re about to do, or what we’re currently doing is important and how it is going to relate back to some of those, um, uh, takeaways that, that we want. So it can really be done as, as easily as watching a YouTube video or, um, or if you really want, uh, uh, kind of a, to do it in a bigger way, uh, like what we do.
Marshall 00:46:26 We always bring in a keynote speaker to talk to the company about, usually it’s someone who’s done something amazing in the outdoor adventure space. Like we had a culinary Brady come in, uh, recently to talk to one of our groups before launching a campaign with them where he just set the world record for the first person to walk across Antarctica, solo, and unsupported, caring, or not caring, really dragging a 300 pound sled full of all his food and spies the whole way. And no one’s ever done that ever. Yeah. Uh, unsupported, which means, you know, no dogs, no wind power, just legs, which, um, you know, when you have someone like that, come talk to your company, uh, people, you know, everything’s relative. So that story just makes people understand how the only thing that he had that was special. I mean, he doesn’t even have that much polar exploration experience. The th the, the main factor was his ability to keep putting one foot in front of the other, which purely comes from mindset and your willingness to just keep pushing yourself. So when you have a story like that, it really inspires the hell out of everyone to want to challenge themselves in that way as well. So it really helps to jumpstart a program and give a lot more power and impact to it. I love that. No, cause one of the things I had been, I was, I wanted to ask you,
Andrew 00:47:51 You know, especially if you consider you like the idea of vulnerability and Renee Brown’s work is, is, you know, how can you help people move? It’s basically, how do you help people move into discomfort? Cause there’s always some resistance to that idea. But I think what you just said is a really cool way of doing that. Are there, are there any others that you’ve noticed, like if you know that there’s going to be like, you know, you can imagine every, every team leader deals with this, every organizational leader deals with this there’s there are just moments of discomfort moments where you’re like, yeah, this is going to be tough. And are there are w what have you seen about how to help lead a group of people into what you already know? And they already know is going to be uncomfortable?
Marshall 00:48:26 Yeah, for sure. Uh, one of the most important things is for that team leader is just being great at exhibiting and demonstrating what you’re trying to preach. So to go back to that vulnerability piece, if we’re taking a team out we’re paddling, then we’ll actually sit down with that product leader or the CEO or whoever the leader is. That’s on that experience and, and say, you know, it is going to go a long way for your group. If, if let’s say you are assuming you’re somewhat terrified of this as well, especially if you have a prolific fear of Heights, tell the group that say like, I’m scared of shit right now, guys, if I can do this, um, and use that tool
Andrew 00:49:16 Support to go first and accomplish it and just be vulnerable,
Marshall 00:49:22 Don’t try to, to be the macho leader that we feel like we need to be, and just be vulnerable with, with the team about how you’re feeling, if, if you’re feeling that way. And that gives everyone sort of this unspoken permission to feel that way as well. Cause they’re all feeling it too. And you know, whether it’s back in the office and in accomplishing this really ambitious deadline that you have, and in launching this new product as a product leader, um, it’s OK to exhibit that vulnerability yourself. And when you do that yourself, you just immediately, uh, get the trust and buy in of your team to perform, um, in a way that is built on trust and teamwork, instead of on some other, um, values that sometimes come with the type a personality, um, of just competition and you looking the best instead of creating the best outcome for them.
Andrew 00:50:19 Yeah, for sure. So conversely then, so that’s what people should do when you know, where you could look at what you’re describing here as sort of a, of a larger type of cultural shift that a leader might want to undertake in their organization. What, what do leaders, or what do most people who are trying to affect some sort of cultural or environmental change in their teams or their organizations? What do they usually, from what you’ve seen, like, where does this go wrong? Where do they trip and fall and get in their own way? And like, how, how does, you know, what basically most people think is going to work that never.
Marshall 00:50:52 Yeah. Um, that’s a good question. So I’ve got to kind of preface this by saying, you know, we only see this from the outside, um, in terms of the companies that we work with, but a lot of times when it doesn’t work well, or when people aren’t willing to exhibit that vulnerability to kind of go back to what I was saying before, it’s, it’s as impactful as it is when you take the things I was just saying and put them into practice and exhibit that vulnerability with your team, it’s equally detrimental, if you don’t. Um, and I can, I wouldn’t share specific names, but there’s definitely a competitive scene that, um, unfortunately the leader just doesn’t get that and does that, and we see how it, it affects the rest of the team, um, and awesomely your ability to achieve the overall team goal that you’re shooting for, um, you know, diminishes. So it, um, yeah, it can be, it can be bad if you don’t put those into practice. Um, just as much as it could be good if you,
Andrew 00:51:58 Yeah, yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. It really reminds me of, um, one of my, I think you and I share a massive, uh, fandom for this person. So one of my favorite authors and thinkers and optimists is Simon Sinek, who I think you’re also quite a fan of. And have you, have you seen his new book by the way
Marshall 00:52:15 We checked it out? I haven’t yet. No, I really want to,
Andrew 00:52:19 Yeah. The, the infinite game highly, highly recommended we’ll link to it in the show notes. Of course. But yeah,
Marshall 00:52:24 I mean to start with, why’s one of my favorites, so it’s,
Andrew 00:52:26 Yeah. I mean, all of his work is fantastic, but I have to, I have to confess as a quick, quick aside here, quick like side, side thing. I have been waiting for this book for two years. I have followed the development of like, I’ve watched all the, I could see and like his different things that I was following him, developing these ideas. And I, I literally like woke up at six in the morning, excited to read that book on launch day and like devoured the entire thing by lunch. It was that good
Marshall 00:52:51 Felt that way of waiting in lines for Harry Potter and like waiting for game of Thrones
Andrew 00:52:55 Come out. Oh my God, I am that much of a nerd. That’s incredible. Yeah. But I mean, you know, if you ever needed proof that I’m a total geek for like building teams and products that there you go. Um, but, uh, where was I going? I had, I had a reason I brought that up before. Um, but I think the reason I was, Oh, that’s why. Okay. So the reason I thought of that was there’s a, there’s a whole thing in there where he talks, you know, one of the core pillars he talks about in playing the infinite game is, is building trusting teams, which is exactly what is his last book leaders eat last was all about. And one of the examples he give that he gave that I was really surprised by, but in retrospect makes perfect sense was, was the Navy seals, right?
Andrew 00:53:41 So the Navy seals is perhaps the most, one of the most elite performance organizations ever in, certainly in current existence. And I don’t think anybody would debate that. And he gave several examples and he talked about at length. Um, and you kind of, you kind of, sort of alluded to this earlier, when you talked about sort of the activities that really engender trust between people like carrying a log around on a beach until you can’t move. Basically, that’s definitely a part of seal training, but he talked about literally the seals value trust and trustworthiness. Overperformance like they have a holistic view of a candidate for it to be a seal and that they actually ahead of someone’s technical capabilities, they value trustworthiness and the ability for those people to like bond and B to, to meld into a unit. And I thought that was amazing, like the most elite performance group that I know of values something more than performance.
Marshall 00:54:31 Yeah. It’s, it’s super interesting. I’ve had some, some friends that, um, have come from the military background that had, have told me that in, you know, training for, you know, the seals team or Marines or anything else. Um, it’s not necessarily what happens when you say you can’t keep going, uh, or when you, you know, when you fall, but what happens when you get back up and how you support your team to keep going, instead of thinking about yourself. So I think they were, they used this activity that something like they were swimming some crazy distance in the ocean, like next to a boat until he couldn’t swim anymore and you drown or something and you have multiple people and they were looking for, you know, when one person would help someone that couldn’t keep going, uh,
Andrew 00:55:19 Necessarily the fact that you could go the longest, but when you can,
Marshall 00:55:23 Or team that feels like they can’t keep going. That’s really what, what the, um, the that’s, what they’re looking at as to outcome is right. Yeah.
Andrew 00:55:31 I love that. Right. Cause it’s, it’s, especially because so many people in, in certainly in business, um, you know, they, they Excel as an individual contributor. And then because of that, they get promoted to a position of some, at least some level of authority or assumed leadership, right? Like they’re, they run a team or whatever the case may be. And it’s a totally different thing where suddenly you’re not responsible for the work anymore. You’re responsible for the people who are responsible for the work. And it’s like, well, what do you do? It’s not, when do you fall down? It’s what do you do when that person falls down next to you? And I just think that’s a really great, um, analogy. So
Marshall 00:56:03 Yeah. You know, there’s just, I think there’s one of the issues is that sometimes people will have this, um, just, you know, I want to look better personally rather than the team looking better as a whole. And just understanding that it’s, um, you know, it’s a, it’s a team effort when you’re a part of a company and really helping to build that trust and collaborative net, uh, you know, nature so that people don’t withhold information or backstab people or whatever like that, just, just to make them
Andrew 00:56:39 Yeah. Or even like, even if it’s something that Ferris, like, just, just, um, you know, they might fake it, right. They might be faking that they know something or whatever, but whatever the case may be, you know, you’re not getting access, you’re blocking, that’s blocking people from actually stepping into their full level of performance and potential and all that sort of thing. Yeah. I think that’s a great transition point. I want to, I want to talk more about vis Diego now and your journey as a company, as a company leader, as, as a leader of a product. And I think where I want to start is, you know, Vista has had to make some tough calls over the years, right? You guys have been around for what, four and a half years now. I, for sure. Yeah. About four and a half years now and where you started, sorry, your entire product strategy and vision for where you started, it seems like it’s, well, maybe your vision hasn’t shifted, but certainly the product you were putting out in the world where you started is radically different than where you are now. And I’d love for you to talk about, talk to me about that pivot. Talk to me about the BTBY to the BDC pivot
Marshall 00:57:38 Yeah, yeah, yeah. I can’t keep the acronym straight out anyway. Right, exactly. Uh, when we first got started, I was personally really passionate about helping people take that first step experience with the end goal. Not necessarily being better, more effective productive teams. Cause we were working with individuals. The goal was my personal experience as a guide with the outdoor rec program at the university of Georgia, where we’d take students on usually first step experiences in all these different outdoor adventure sports, which is the time when I fell in love with a lot of these things I saw firsthand how learning, how to whitewater kayak, uh, you know, saved some friends from drugs and depression and getting into even something as simple as hiking helps other friends lose 30, 40 pounds and be more active and healthy. They just because they’re having fun on the weekend, but this kind of fun translates into amazing personal health benefits, both physically and mentally.
Marshall 00:58:39 So I just wanted to help unlock those first step experiences, which tended to be why people didn’t do them in the first place, because they just didn’t know anyone who they could give them, could show them those experiences. And we’re just going to go try it on their own. And I wanted to make it easier for, um, for someone to find the local that could guide them on those kinds of experiences. So the first idea was exactly what Airbnb experiences is now doing. Um, they started about two years after we started, but for anyone who doesn’t know what Airbnb experiences is, it’s the same model as Airbnb, the sharing economy model, but instead of a guide or instead of a host, you know, hosting their house, they’re hosting a guided, uh, you know, whether that’s a photography tour around a city or surfing lessons, you know, off the coast of, you know, wherever your house is. I think at first it was paired with like, if you were host, you could also had experiences, but now it’s this completely separate thing where it doesn’t have really anything to do with staying in a house it’s just connecting local guides who can facilitate these really awesome experiences with people who want to do something cool on the weekend, whether they’re traveling or not. And that was the original idea for best ego is specifically in the outdoor adventure world, because there were a couple issues with the outdoor adventure guiding world. Um, for one that’s just old school mom and pop shops.
Marshall 01:00:02 And if you’re a guide, most of the guides are, uh, you know, college students that are just doing something for like summer beer money. Let’s use whitewater rafting as an example. Um, you’re never going to go whitewater rafting and like ask your guide for business advice. And they’re probably not going to connect the themes of what you experienced on the river back to like any higher level purpose. So we, when we first started creating this platform, we were similar.
Marshall 01:00:33 But we wanted, surely to have these experiences be more meaningful than, than just taking people on that first ever experience. So we started playing around with working with company is and connecting more of the dots between what you’re experiencing going through this really impactful first step experience back to how you can actually take a business, um, outcome from that experience. And yeah, there were a couple of reasons why we made the shift in addition to just wanting to have a bigger impact
Marshall 01:01:00 That, and connect the dots on that that actually can translate into your life and your work in a bigger way. But the main reason was that just building a B2C company is really hard and takes a lot of funding. The cost to acquire a new user is relatively high.
Marshall 01:01:16 It takes a lot of advertising and marketing. So we started having some companies reach out to us to do company experiences. We started catering more to that and realized that the first like two or three company experiences we led blew the revenue numbers out of the water from what we could get from just the BDC side. And the impact was higher. Um, both in connecting the dots between how the experience actually relates to other factors outside of the experience, but also in the sense that people that were coming with their company,
Marshall 01:01:49 Where people that never in a million years would have signed up for this on their own, even if there was a tech platform that made it really easy to do so they would just be like, no, I’m never doing that. And oftentimes we would notice because we do pre and post surveys, we’d noticed the people that were the least excited for it were oftentimes people who were the most scared about doing it, but after they did it, they were the ones that had the biggest impact. We realized that working with companies on the B2B side actually opened the door for us to work with more people than we ever would be able work with on the B to C side, because those people just wouldn’t ever sign up to take that first step in the first place. But when doing it with their company and supported by their coworkers and peers, it helped them take that first step. So there were a couple of reasons why we made the shift. Honestly, the biggest reason was because B2B kept the lights on and B to C didn’t. Sure. Um, unless we went out and fundraised, which we didn’t want to do so working with companies was way better from a financial standpoint, but all the impact, um, kinda metrics that we were seeing were actually a lot higher on the B2B side as well. And we were really excited by where that could take us. Hmm.
Andrew 01:02:55 So w was that a hard choice for you though?
Marshall 01:02:59 Yeah, it was for sure. So I had this dream of making this super techie outdoor adventure company, like what Airbnb experiences ended up doing. And I had just come back from singularity university where I know you, you participated in that program as well. And we just have this mindset of, you know, think 10 X bigger that Peter Diamandis drills into our head whenever we talked to him. And, uh, just the idea of switching from a very techie B to C outdoor adventure platform to a essentially services based company that I have no idea how this can scale bigger than for every one input we put into it. We get one output is definitely not scalable, like the B to C side was. Um, and it was really hard for me. It’s a take that tech excitement that I had coming out of singularity university and say, you know, the most important thing before we can talk about how we bring this to, you know, a million or a billion or however many billion people, um, uh, the first real problem was how do we just pay our rents as a company?
Andrew 01:04:08 How do we make this work financially? Yeah.
Marshall 01:04:11 Um, so I had to put my business owner hat on and sort of take off my aspirational, you know, big tech company, entrepreneur, scalability hat in order to just make it work. And now we’re finally starting to get back to that idea of how we can make this more back back kind of bringing the tech company piece back into it, how we can scale it a little bit more. And we’re doing a lot of really amazing work with virtual reality experiences and a lot of other, uh, exciting stuff from a tech perspective to bring it to a bigger audience scale a little bit, a little bit more than just the services based company could. Uh, but without what we did before. Um, I don’t think we would still be around today to do what we want to do in the future.
Andrew 01:04:53 Oh, for sure. So the decision in, you know, it’s hindsight is 2020 looking back. It makes perfect sense, but I want to, and we’re going to move on here to the future of where you guys are going next in a second, but I think there’s actually some, some, some really valuable lessons in that in making that hard choice that I want to dig into for a second. So, you know, I’m imagining, I’m trying to empathize with who, who else might be, you know, the people who might be listening to this. And one thing that comes to mind is, you know, this is your baby, right? You’ve thought about this thing. You’ve dreamed about this thing. You’ve poured yourself into this thing and it’s not working, right. It’s not working. And it sucks. And that is such a rough place to be like that decision in, first of all, like the honesty it takes is, is impressive.
Andrew 01:05:34 So good on you for that. But I’m really like, take me back to where, like there had to, there’s always a moment I found where you finally can, like, you finally realized that the totality of the situation, and then you have to really make a decision. So if you would take me back to, when was that and how did you finally make this decision? Because I’m sure. Well, if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably dragged your feet a little bit longer, you know, it probably took longer than it otherwise should have if, you know, how’d, you know, that what you know now, but, you know, take me back to that and te tell me about what, what was that like, what did that feel like? How did you do it? How did you and your cofounder deal with it? Have the team tell me that stuff
Marshall 01:06:13 For sure. Yeah. I mean, it was, it was more difficult than it should have been because I made it psychologically, immensely more difficult than it should have been. Uh, I almost felt like, I mean, coming back from this super tech focused incubator, like singularity university, I almost felt like a bit of a failure of not focusing on just what the high tech solution was. And just saying, we’re going to create outdoor experiences, that impact companies. I don’t know what about that is techie other than the fact that we had a way more expensive website,
Andrew 01:06:54 But I just, I sort of
Marshall 01:06:57 Solid amount of time. I almost felt embarrassed to like, to catch up with some other friends from singularity, just in the sense that I just felt like I wasn’t, I wasn’t living up to that exponential dream that we’re just we’re, I’m constantly reminded of. Um, but one thing that really helps me was I, I tried to get as much advice as possible from other entrepreneurs, especially in the community here in Atlanta that were doing something similar that I looked up to that I felt like their model had something similar to do with us. So one story that I was going to share that I really, I really took a lot away from was a company called Roddy here in Atlanta. Um, if you’ve ever wished you could hire an Uber driver just to send your, you know, backpack that your friend left in your car back to their house, instead of driving it back there, that’s what roadie is there, Uber for shipping. Okay. I’ve actually called her. Uber wants to, apparently you can just drop things off at Uber and they’ll take us to the destination, but I don’t think you’re supposed to do that.
Andrew 01:08:07 It’s just, it’s using the exact same models, Uber to ship things. So a very B to C company, but most of their revenue comes from businesses on the B2B side.
Marshall 01:08:16 So after talking to their founder, I was trying to figure out how do you solve this chicken and the egg problem of a B to C platform idea where you have to cater to both the supply and the demand at the same time, in the same place with a very low budget. And he was telling me how they worked pretty extensively with company is to actually fund the early days of the platform. So, one example with roadie is that Delta also headquartered in Atlanta, um, is obviously a massive airline. And the Atlanta airport is one of the biggest airports in the world. Whenever you fly into Atlanta on Delta and your bag, for whatever reason, doesn’t get on that flight with you, um, you don’t have to hang out at the airport until the next flight comes in. You can just go to wherever you want to go. And Delta will deliver that back to you. Well, they have to do that somehow. And roadie is a great way to do that. So roadie sold Delta to be their solution, to delivering lost or delayed baggage to
Andrew 01:09:16 Those customers. So
Marshall 01:09:18 Even though they are a very B to C company and on the outside, you would never know that they work with a lot of companies. Most of their revenue, or at least this was years ago when I talked to them at the time, um, came from B to B engagement. So that sort of got me thinking, well, maybe we can actually still make this B to C platform idea work. We’ll just go out and do the same thing. Work with companies, develop a bunch of, of, um, engagements with companies that can then be a great lead gen in terms of getting those individual employees to come back, use the platform, maybe with their family or friends on another experience and a really fun the company through B2B revenue. So we, we did that for awhile. We did a combination of the two. The only difference was that even though roadie brilliantly found a B2B way to make revenue to fund the B to C side, they didn’t just use that to fund the B to C side.
Marshall 01:10:15 They also raised, you know, like four or $5 million and their founder had a successful exit before that and all that kind of stuff, which we didn’t have. And we were first time founders. So we realized that we were just still, it was making the company profitable, which is great, but we’re still operating on a bootstrap budget. And just, we couldn’t do both at the same time. So we decided turn off the C side, maybe temporarily, maybe forever focused on the B2B side. And we can always bring the B to focus on the B to B side, mixing up the acronyms. We can always bring back.
Andrew 01:10:48 I’m just going to say the business and consumer, cause the acronyms are killing me right now. I shouldn’t have said exactly. So, all right. So you make the tough call to shelve the consumer, the consumer angle, go with the business side because you can actually see a pathway to not only profitability, but sustained.
Marshall 01:11:03 Um, but one of things I’m curious about it, like in that moment or in, through that process, if it did,
Andrew 01:11:10 How did your, how did that affect vision in your team? Like, was that, did you see this as just an alternate path and a different strategy to the same vision? Or was this like, you had to go through the entire thing of saying, wow, I, somehow I like the picture, the picture on the puzzle, on the picture on the outside of the puzzle box is, is changing. Like how big of a shift was this? Well,
Marshall 01:11:32 It’s been easier for me in terms of convincing the team because they were really the ones convincing me to go to the B2B side. They were all very much for it. Um, and I was really the, the one that was hesitating. So why were you hesitated for a lot of those reasons I described earlier about just, I just want it to be a tech company CEO, and it felt like I wasn’t a tech company anymore if I just went the BTB route. Yeah. Right. Yeah. Kind of going back to your, the identity thing you were talking about. Um, so I sort of had to just get out of my own way to do what we had to do to make it work. But, um, but the team was all on board with working with B2B. I mean, it was, it was obvious from a revenue standpoint. Um, like after we did more in revenue from like the first three engagements with companies that we did in the previous a year or something like that, it was just clear. It was pretty clear. Yeah. So it wasn’t too hard to get them on board. Yeah.
Andrew 01:12:32 I so appreciate you just sharing all that so openly and I can actually directly personally empathize with the experience you had after SU SU is an a for anyone who’s not familiar with it, it’s an amazing program, but it’s so, um, you wanna talk about a group of people who are good at experience design. That is a group of people who are very, very effective at experience design. And when I say that, what I mean is anyone who goes through that program is deeply impacted by it and so much so that it actually takes a while to kind of like once you leave that bubble, it takes a while to kind of sort yourself out about weight. Like how to, what do I, what do I do with all this stuff? Like it? And it’s pretty, I mean, it’s a whole other, we can talk about that for that alone for at least an hour, for sure. But I, I hear you, man. I, I totally, I feel your brother. Um, so talk to me now about, so you, you, you made this pivot a couple of years ago, like keep the lights on pivot made a lot of sense. One thing you mentioned was you started seeing your, the impact was actually greater. So I’m curious, like what are the, what are the metrics you look at to assess your impact and did those change before and after the pivot? Yes,
Marshall 01:13:34 We, we actually, we’re not that focused on impact before the pivot, um, as makes sense. Cause the rest of the industry, it wasn’t focused on it. Like if you go whitewater rafting, they’re not gonna send you a survey that said like, how much did this impact you as a person or their team? And they might send you a survey that was like, how good was your experience generically. Um, but it’s more of how much fun did you have?
Andrew 01:14:05 How much did you learn or grow from this experience? So,
Marshall 01:14:07 Yeah, we really started measuring the impact once we started working with companies and it actually took us a while to figure that out too. Cause that at, in the beginning we were just about, let’s create Epic experiences that are just way better from a generic team building standpoint than the alternatives. And that’s, that’s sort of why we hate the words team-building now. Um, because that was sort of the old model of what we were doing and we would work, you know, mainly with HR and every time we would say, you know, what are the main outcomes you want to have? They would just generically like literally every time generically say, you know, we just want people to get to know each other better. We’re hiring a lot of people and just building relationships is really important to us, which is not wrong. And that’s very true, but that’s a very generic thing for literally every single company to tell us.
Marshall 01:14:55 And we’re like, you know, every company is different, there’s gotta be more specific outcomes for each individual company. And we didn’t really realize that until we started talking with the, um, you know, the VPs, the CEOs, you know, sometimes the director of products, um, and just people that were, uh, had more of the vision for, you know, where are we going instead of more of the HR mindset of, um, just kind of general relationship building trust building, which are all great. But when we started hearing the problems from the leadership of what is the big issue you have as a company, a lot of it stemmed from, we really need to build a stronger culture of innovation in the standpoint of how can we move faster, uh, encourage our employees to, to, you know, jump into a new problem, not be afraid of the unknown. So that’s really when we started creating more of a focus on using these experiences in, uh, as a part of the learning and development initiatives of companies and the executive training of companies rather than the HR initiatives with companies. So the, um, that was kind of a big lesson for, for us to learn. And now I completely forgot your original question after I, sorry.
Andrew 01:16:07 Okay. I haven’t asked you what, what were the, what are the impact metrics you look at? Like the, I think the larger question I’m getting at or wondering about is, you know, let’s say, let’s say I’m, you know, continue with our example here. Let’s say I’m a leader in a company, right. A team leader. And I’m whether or not my overall company is going through some sort of cultural transformation and is like actively on board with that, like independent of that. Let’s say I have a vision for what I want the culture to be in, in just maybe just in my team, in my, in the orbit I’m directly affecting, you know, and I’m taking steps to do it. Like we’ve talked about a bunch of that already. One of the questions I would ask is if I’m that person, how do I know if it’s working? Like what do you, what do you look at working? How do you, what do you steer by?
Marshall 01:16:49 Yeah. So measuring the impact is definitely challenging because there’s so many factors that, um, kind of go into your bottom line as a company, but there’s several ways that we approach it. And there’s several things that we’re developing and we’re really excited for the future in terms of more effective ways to approach it. So traditionally the industry kind of around learning and development has measured through service. So, you know, surveys are great. We can do pre and post surveys for every individual experience. And every person that goes to those experiences and ask really targeted questions that can help us to figure out how much of an impact those individual people had and then measure that throughout the course of time after multiple experiences and see how that’s changing, you know, things like how much did this experience, um, you know, affect your ability to navigate unknown environments?
Marshall 01:17:35 How supported do you feel by your team? Um, during times of turmoil or stress, all kinds of things that can directly translate back into your team’s ability to get outside their comfort zone and navigate change and adaptability. But we also try to measure some company-wide stats if they will give it to us things like just how is your revenue, his company. There’s so many other factors that go into that, but also your retention rate, attrition rate, things like that. Um, it tends to have a really big effect on attrition rate, like for instance, um, a lot of the numbers that we see drop attrition rates of the number of people leaving each year, um, by around 25 to 75%, somewhere in that kind of, you know, 40 to 50 usually. So like our last company that we measured, um, had a pretty consistent 14% attrition rate every year.
Marshall 01:18:31 And then after the first year of working with us and dropped down to seven. So just the retention aspects alone is pretty incredible. But, um, in terms of measuring the actual innovation impact and your, your team’s ability to innovate and create, that’s definitely a little bit more challenging, but through those reports and surveys, we can get a good sense for, um, an idea on how that hopefully impacts your team. And hopefully we see a change in the company’s revenue, but there’s so many other factors that go into that. One of the other things that we’re developing that we’re really excited about that definitely goes back to more of the high tech singularity university approach to things is that we’re working with a neuroscientist to create a, uh, an innovation score, essentially measuring the decrease in brain activity in the part of the brain that’s associated with fear and your ability to push through that fear.
Marshall 01:19:27 If anyone’s ever seen the movie free solo with Alex, Honnold who a free climbed El cap in Yosemite, there’s a part of the movie where he gets an MRI to figure out there’s must be something wrong with his brain to do this. And they noticed that he has a, he’s very resilient to things that usually cause more stimulation in the party of brains associated with fear, obviously, cause he exposes himself pretty crazy environments on a daily basis, sort of exposure therapy, really similar to that. We actually can measure that as well through consumer grade, uh, you know, FDA approved technology, a headset that you can put on that measures certain parts of your brain while you’re experiencing the activity. After you experienced the activity and actually measure a decrease in the activation of that part of your brain, that’s normally associated with fear and your ability to push past fear. There’s different parts of the brain that are associated with different factors that ultimately lead to what that innovation score would be. Um,
Andrew 01:20:28 This is the way this is so fast because I think neuroscience is totally fascinating in the way the brain works is sort of the seat of all this. So did you guys hack a muse headband to measure the activation of the amygdala? Is that what you’re doing? A pretty much. Yeah, I love it. So there’s, there’s a, there’s a couple of
Marshall 01:20:43 Different, um, uh, different companies that are, are making headsets. Yeah. I’m used as one of them, but, um, there’s a bunch of really exciting consumer grade tech that’s that’s out there, uh, that we can use for sure.
Andrew 01:20:56 So it actually reminds me for some reason, um, well actually reasonably obvious in a second, there’s a conference at a community that, um, another podcast guest, uh, introduced me to that. I think you might find very interesting for exactly what we’re talking about here and it’s actually also out of the SU universe. Um, are you familiar with the transformative technology conference? Does that ring a bell? Sounds familiar. Basically. The entire idea is how do you use tech for sort of inner wellbeing, cognitive, cognitive, flourishing
Marshall 01:21:28 Bradford. Probably. Yeah, she was in my class. Okay. So there you go. So, so I I’ve, I know about her conference. I didn’t realize that that was the name, but yeah, she does. Amazing.
Andrew 01:21:37 Yeah. I was going to say you, I feel like y’all, you guys should reconnect and look into this some more because there’s a lot of stuff I went last year and I’m going to go again this year, it’s in about a month and there’s a lot of, a lot of tech there that is really, really interesting that I feel like is going to be, um, in line with the kind of transformation transformations, your transformative experiences. You’re trying to cultivate, um, through your, through your work. So just as a quick note, check it out and you dear listener you to check them out. Um, so yeah. Tell me a little bit more, and then we’ll kind of shift gears and start to wrap up here, but tell me a little bit more about where like what’s, what’s next for us, Diego, where are you going? You mentioned VR, but tell me a little bit about what, what, uh, what, what we could expect to see next. Yeah,
Marshall 01:22:19 For sure. Well, so the neuroscience thing, and that’s something we’re really excited about, cause that is a, I are a lot of players in the kind of Evan D P performance innovation training, executive training space. No one has a better solution than surveys and we’re just a small fish in that space for sure. So if we can create a approach is actually based on science, um, then that’d be pretty exciting. So that’s something that we’re, we’re really interested in building out further. The virtual reality, like we mentioned before is really exciting. So that was actually a bit of a, uh, a heated topic for us as a team, because obviously we’re a bunch of people that are passionate about people are getting outside and using those experiences for growth. And the idea of essentially using video games as an alternative for that was not the most, uh, exciting idea for, for a lot of our team.
Marshall 01:23:08 And I, I definitely share that as well, but the fact of the matter is that no company is going to force their employees to go on and experience with us. And the easiest experience we can create still will not make everyone feel comfortable. There’s always going to be a percentage of employees that even an easy hike, they’re like, Nope, I’m sorry, I’m not going to do it. But those people oftentimes will put on a headset, a VR headset in an office. So if you think of don’t have the ability to jump into these new and unknown environments as a scale from zero to 10. And let’s say an easy and easy entry-level hike is maybe a two. There’s still people that are at the zero and the one scale, um, which is normal. And, um, we don’t want to leave them out of this experience.
Marshall 01:23:59 Um, so the virtual reality has been a really great way to come into the office, put people in an experience that they are not acting is going to be as difficult as it is, um, and have them start to have an experiential form of that mindset shift using something that can be done in 30 minutes instead of taking the entire team out to an actual experience. So one, one activity that we use, um, this is not that we developed ourselves has been around for awhile, the virtual reality plank walk experience where you’ve probably done it before I did something similar, but keep going. So essentially you have a plank and plank that’s on the ground that when you set up, you scan the plank and make sure the dimensions are the same. And then you put the headset on and you’re in this virtual environment with an elevator.
Marshall 01:24:51 You walk into the elevator, right. Go to the top floor. And when the elevator opens this plank is now is now coming out of the elevator that looks like you’re on the roof of a, you know, three, four or 500 foot building here. You’re high. I don’t know how high it is, but it, it gets here. It gets your heart going. And when you step up on this real plank, cause it’s real plank on the ground, um, the headset knows where you are in space. As you move across the plank, you’re actually moving across the real plank and it plays creaking sounds in your headset. So it tricks your brain very effectively into feeling like you’re on this plank, that if you fall off, you’re going to die. It gets your heart rate going in a way that is remarkably, uh, immersive. So we can use this experience to create a very similar mindset shift, uh, that repelling can experience. It’s obviously never going to be as impactful as a real thing, but it works to some extent. So we can use these experiences for people that just would never sign up for the real experience in the hope that it can be that first step experience on an easier, um, kinda more accessible way to then get people to continue on the real experiences. And the other cool factor with virtual reality is is that with the new headsets that are out, um, especially with the Oculus quest, which is what we use,
Andrew 01:26:12 You don’t have to be hooked up to
Marshall 01:26:15 Big, fancy gaming computer to run it. But the quality is still very high. It was the first time a headset has had very high, uh, immersive quality that doesn’t require a gaming computer. This is really the first headset that I think could start creating mass adoption of virtual reality. Cause no, one’s going to buy a big fancy gaming computer to run a VR headset, but people will buy the Oculus quest. And it’s almost as good if you don’t. I own a Oculus rift as well. That is amazing. But I mean, I had to do the exact same experience on both headsets side-by-side to even notice the difference it’s it’s incredible. Wow. Okay.
Andrew 01:26:49 So because of that, we can actually ship,
Marshall 01:26:52 It was VR headsets with all the concept already loaded all it to remote employees and have them in the same virtual space with the employees that are here in town to do an experience that everyone’s a part of, regardless of whether you’re in Australia or the U S so we can break down these physical barriers in a way that previously were impossible to break outside of a plane ticket, purely by mailing them a headset.
Andrew 01:27:14 I love that I am totally adding Oculus quest to my little Amazon wishlist and going to play, going to go play with it.
Marshall 01:27:21 It’s, it’s pretty amazing. And they actually was just a software update are going to be able to, uh, remove the need for the controllers and just track your hands. It’ll have the virtual hands, just with the cameras on the front of the headset. And then next year they’re coming out with, um, uh, the Oculus horizon, which if there are any ready player, one fans out there as soon as similar to the,
Andrew 01:27:43 Uh, which is sort of scary that Facebook’s building the waste, but that’s a whole nother topic, whole other topic, but it’s a really good point. I was just thinking that I’m like, wow, you’re basically doing ready player one for people to help them go through these experiences, which is awesome. And yeah, I mean,
Marshall 01:27:59 It’s out of the scary implications of what could happen if the ready player one style world happens on Facebook controls that, uh, the cool factor is that you’re now going to have access to these really amazing virtual environments. You can interact with people, uh, in a way that’s going to feel like you’re actually there with him that already exists right now. Uh, it’s just not as good things like Altspace VR chat, um, ways that you can interact with other virtual avatars, but, but it’s, uh, it looks from what I can tell it to be a much higher end version of those things in a way that’s a lot more accessible.
Andrew 01:28:33 There’s an, there’s a podcast episode that I’m trying to find right now, uh, that I feel like touches on exactly this. Let me just find it really quick. Uh it’s it’s on the podcast by it’s podcast called distributed by Matt Mullenweg. Who’s the founder of WordPress, um, or automatic the company behind WordPress. Um, it was this idea of having live virtual co experiences sort of live virtual experiences where like you’re over there, a here on the East coast, I’m on the West coast, but we are live in virtual reality together and sharing some sort of experience. And it was sort of trying to apply that to, I think, to the workplace to really get over, like for example, the video conferencing problem, where it’s like, Oh, you know, video conferencing is great. It’s great. But it’s still not the same as like being in the same room at a whiteboard with somebody, for example. Yes. Which is one of those things that I think would be so dope to see somebody solve.
Marshall 01:29:29 Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that, that is one of the things we’re really excited about where VR tech can go. Cause now all of a sudden we have a way to bring back the scalability question to the, the new approach, to what we’re doing with teams and companies, especially if we can find a way to create a virtual facilitator, that’s facilitating these virtual experiences, that team members from all around the world, regardless of remote or non remote can join at the same time to have a kind of a hologram facilitator leading you through that debrief after you do the experience. Um, that’s something that, uh, is, is definitely more exponential than what we’re doing right now, for sure, in a way that starts the conversation in house. We will take that first step without, um, you know, our, without every one hour of our time leading to, you know, one hour of experience served, it’s a way to scale that, uh, that effect, which,
Andrew 01:30:24 Yeah. Right. And that’s what you’re always looking for is some sort of nonlinear relationship between your inputs and your outputs, which is exactly. I mean, that’s, that’s gorgeous when you can get there. So we’re going to go, I want to go ahead and just sort of wrap up here with a couple of rapid fire questions. They’re the short questions. Your answers don’t have to be short, but, uh, um, just sort of a bit all over the place, but one, I just wanted to follow up on something you mentioned before we started recording, but it sounded like a good story. Could you tell me a little bit about Obama O’s moment and what that whole thing was?
Marshall 01:30:53 Yeah, for sure. Um, so we were very inspired by the starting story of Airbnb and how they bootstrapped enough money to get started when all the investors said, no, your idea is ridiculous. A note, why would anyone stay at some random person’s house, which is just hilarious thinking back on that. Uh, so what they did was what they did to raise money for the earliest, keep the lights on was they created this, uh, Kathleen crunch style of cereal called Obama O’s during the initial election with Obama, where you have like a, a cartoon version of Obama on the front of the box and sold this, uh, kind of election gimmick at the democratic national convention, because they, they knew conventions better than anything else they were in New York. Um, conventions were the times when the demand for Airbnb was the highest and back then Airbnb was, you know, two guys in an apartment.
Marshall 01:31:51 Um, the reason why people use Airbnb is not because they were like, Oh, that’d be cool to stay at some random person’s house. It was just because there was a conference on, in a city like New York that literally booked out every single hotel room in the entire city. And the only alternative to not sleeping on the sidewalk. I don’t know where staying at a friend’s house was Airbnb. So they knew conferences really, really well. And they used the democratic national convention to sell Obama O’s and raise $20,000 from selling Cheerio’s, uh, as a way to keep the lights on. And, um, we were like, we gotta have our Obama O’s moment. Uh, you know, what can we sell that we, we know where they well, and, you know, personally, I just like, like I said earlier, I love her to think that combines adventure, entrepreneurship, and technology.
Marshall 01:32:38 And that was right around the time when these electric personal or transportation devices were coming out. This is a prefer before bird and lift and lime and all the electric scooters blew up. This is when hoverboards just started appearing in videos on YouTube, but no one actually knew where you could buy one cause you couldn’t, they were just, they were just these things online. You couldn’t even order them online. So right after singularity university, where we actually, uh, got a couple of hoverboards from a factory in China, that some friend had a connection to these, some of these factories were just starting to make them because of the craze on YouTube. So we buy it a shit ton of hoverboards. And then we put it in an initial order, like 50 and sold them on Craigslist. And they with no advertising at all. And we jacked up the price like 200, 300%, uh, you’re just sold out instantly.
Marshall 01:33:27 So we just started buying wholesale hoverboards from a factory in China where we had to have my lunch and his friend like translate for us and send a lot of the messages. And, um, it was pretty sketchy, but, uh, yeah, we just got a bunch of these hoverboards I’m Gianna and a, and sold them as a way to promote it, you know, adventure in your daily commute. So it’s relevant to the theme and the brand a good way to just make money. And, um, when you’re raised enough from selling your hoverboards to get our initial start. And that was actually where I personally fell in love with electric unicycles, which is now, uh, how I commute around pretty much everywhere. Um, they, the factory that had the hoverboards, uh, in their catalog, uh, of random electric things they made, they had this, this thing that I had never seen that I just thought was fascinating, electric unicycle.
Marshall 01:34:20 It was a early version of that. I never seen a video of it. I had no one ever knew about them. And when we were putting in the order, I was just like, guys, can we add on this random thing that I’ve never seen before that I just really personally want? And they were like, will you pay for it? It’s like, yeah. So, so we threw that in the order and I got it. And it’s this thing you’re just going to have to Google that you’ll listen to this. It’s very hard to describe. But at first I thought it was the stupidest. I was really mad. I got it. Cause I was like, you can’t, this is impossible. You can’t ride this. Like what, how did, how does this work? Cause I just kept following up and just thought it was impossible. It eventually got the hang of it and then was obsessed. I mean, it is take this from someone who’s flown jet packs. It is the best electric technological form of personal transportation.
Andrew 01:35:09 That is some high praise, my friend.
Marshall 01:35:11 Oh, I know, I know. I mean, you’re not going to fly a jet pack to the grocery store, but I ride my electric unicycle grocery store every single day. Uh, I actually commute on them now cause they have really high powered ones that my current one goes 40 miles an hour, a hundred miles on a charge and I can pick it up and carry it on a bus with me or take it on a plane with me, although I’m not supposed to take it on planes, but I do anyways. Wow. Um, or, uh, you know, right on the sidewalk when traffic’s bad on the road when traffic’s good. And uh, now I’m, I’m obsessed with electric unicycles. It’s almost like, um, you know, just the new form of, of human evolution of mobility.
Andrew 01:35:49 This is like what the segway hoped to be. Oh yeah. It works the same as the segway except yeah.
Marshall 01:35:54 It’s not massive and ridiculous looking and you can actually pick it up, but it’s cool.
Andrew 01:36:00 Actually, it’s funny. I Googled it as you were talking about it. And I saw a bunch of people bringing these to burning man this year, which I, I don’t think they were supposed to, but I saw it. I remember being out there on the Playa and being like, what is that? And now I know. Yeah.
Marshall 01:36:12 Yeah. So I brought one, a two, three years ago when I first went and I was one of like the only people that was there with them and I saw a bunch of people that were just, yeah. And now I guess everyone’s got to let you use, I guess, but um
Andrew 01:36:27 Sure. Ironman and trend starter, right? Yeah. It’s actually a,
Marshall 01:36:35 It’s a great way to, uh, to travel with your girlfriend as well, actually, uh, carry Lindsey on my back and we can, we can just ride around on the unicycle and it works easier
Andrew 01:36:47 Is better than the new, okay. So electric things I need to buy now, electric unicycle and Oculus quest. That’s, that’s my lessons for today.
Marshall 01:36:55 I love it. I actually have a video where I was just like, I just want to mess with people and see what people would do. I was unicycling with the quest, I’m acting like Alice fighting aliens or something down this really popular walkway called the BeltLine in Atlanta and had a friend that was like hiding in the woods, filming people. And it was hilly.
Andrew 01:37:11 Okay. Please, please send me that video and please let me put it in the show notes. I definitely will, for sure. It makes me very happy. Okay. So another question. So for w I think we mentioned it throughout, you know, once or twice throughout this conversation, but, um, over the last couple of years, you guys have actually developed an amazing podcast as well called inside the adventure. So everyone who’s listening to this, if you’ve enjoyed this conversation, absolutely go over and listen to inside the adventure and we’ll link to that, but you’ve had some incredible guests, if you know, you’ve had some totally mind blowing people on your show. And I’m curious when you look back over those, obviously there’s a lot of amazing episodes, a lot of amazing conversations, but just off the cuff, is there any, any like particular conversations that stood out to you for whatever set of reasons, but maybe
Marshall 01:37:56 It really impacted how you saw something or something you learned in that conversation just changed how you approach things for sure. Yeah. One of ’em, one of the reasons why I started that actually is because I was really inspired by the, how I built this podcast with guy Roz when I was first getting started in the entrepreneurship space. That was sort of what gave me the inspiration to say, you know what, I’m just going to give this a shot and go for it. So the, the theme behind inside of the adventure is very similar to how I built this, where we’re interviewing people to hear really their whole life story of, you know, what, what made them the way they are and not just what made them famous. And instead of for entrepreneurship it’s for outdoor adventure and travel lifestyle or athletes, um, whether it’s, you know, a gold medal, um, you know, kayaker to a, uh, person who just never really traveled much, but wanted to do something crazy.
Marshall 01:38:54 So bought a bike and rode to South America and back and all kinds of crazy stuff. Um, and just hearing the stories of really how they took that first step to kind of go back to that first step theme. That’s been a kind of central to what we’ve always done. It vest ego, and all these stories are just incredibly impactful. Um, and I, it’s hard to pick a favorite. I tend to sort of resonate with whatever one I had just interviewed with recently. Cause they’re all amazing. But one of the last ones that we interviewed that’s not even live yet, um, has been kind of one of my inspirations in the paragliding world, which has been the most recent of adventure sports that I’ve I’ve gotten into and been obsessed with, which is what happens whenever I get into a new sport. And, um, he’s got a fascinating story.
Marshall 01:39:38 Uh, I got him Gavin McClurg, who is, uh, one of the best paragliders in the United States, which is a country not known for his paragliding. Um, most of the Paragon in community and most of the amazing athletes are from Europe. So there’s this one race called the red bull X Alps, which is the really the most intense adventure race that exists in the world. Um, the most intense, not very well known race for sure. Uh, in Europe, it’s very well known, but because paragliding is not big in the U S most people don’t know about it, but it’s a race across the entire Alps in Europe where you’re flying and trail running and the first person DeMonaco wins. So it’s a car you can fly or you can run or walk, but you can’t take a car or any other form of transportation. So it’s as combination of people who are very good runners, but also people who are very good flyers, obviously the more time when you’re air, the more time you have in the air, the more, uh, likely you are more efficient, right?
Marshall 01:40:37 The more efficient you are, but it’s constantly navigating all these other factors like weather conditions, uh, you know, which route is the best way to go based on those weather conditions of wind conditions, not just what routes, the most direct way there, um, when to, you know, when to run of when to try to fly and just sit on the top of the mountain forever, cause the conditions aren’t good and it’s just fascinating. And he’s the only person from the U S to ever even place in that race. So it kind of shows you how, um, just, uh, outpaced the, uh, the rest of the world. Isn’t paragliding than the U S but had him on the show recently. And as someone who’s this incredible world athlete in paragliding, um, he didn’t get into paragliding, you know, all that long ago. It was pretty recent actually.
Marshall 01:41:23 And he actually started as a, in, in high school, he was a professional skier wanting to go into the Olympics, you know, blew out his knee, realized he can’t really be an Olympic skier with a bad knee. So he went to college. Uh, it really just because his parents wanted him to and realize that you just really does, is not meant for a desk job. I hated tying a tie and had an office in a building with no windows. And that just wasn’t for me. So left, uh, and went to start the whitewater kayaking and became a professional whitewater kayaking, uh, uh, you know, athlete had an incident in Mexico where almost drowns and say, you know, I, maybe I should pause, press the pause button and went, we’re already kayaking. So we started, uh, a sailing company with really not that much sailing experience where he took people on these kind of chartered, um, sailing trips around the world.
Marshall 01:42:18 And, uh, through that, I did that for like 10 years where he was saying in the early days, he didn’t know anything about sailing. So he would, they would be a lot of days when he would have clients coming and he would be reading about the lesson. He was about to teach the clients like in, in his cabinet, in the bottom of the boat, literally right before the clients actually got there that made the sailing business where you just took people sailing around the world. And circumnavigated the world you’re twice and had a girlfriend that, uh, introduced him to paragliding. And what she said was funny because the paraglider became his one true love and ended up breaking up with the girl, uh, unfortunately for her, but you got into paragliding. Um, and, and you just had all these crazy careers in all these different adventure sports, which I really resonate with.
Marshall 01:43:05 Cause I, it’s rare to find people that, that do a bunch of different things. Usually people stick to that one thing and that kind of becomes their identity. Um, but the, the thing that I found the most fascinating thing about this guy’s story is that he didn’t let anyone else’s expectations or fear of failure, stop him from pursuing the things that he loved, even when he had no experience in those things and is built this incredible story in life around follow just the pure outcome of following your passions. And since then, he’s been named as one of the national Geographic’s adventures of the year said multiple world records, um, and live this really, uh, incredible, uh, life with some amazing stories, a lot of which have just come out from that, that passion for following your dream, regardless of the probability of failure that might happen, uh, in any given scenario, when you do that, I love it.
Andrew 01:44:06 Right. I cannot wait to listen to this episode. This sounds like a fantastic conversation. So I definitely will be listening to that one, for sure. So, my last question, I’m going to, I’m going to tell you the question and give you a second to think about it, cause I’m going to answer it, um, for you or, sorry, not for you, but it makes it easy for me. I’m going to cut all this out, but anyways, my last question I was going to ask you is, um, is there, uh, any particular book or a few books that have really shaped how you view things or that you’re finding to be very impactful on you on your journey with this Diego? So I’ll give you a second to think about that because I also actually have, um, as it just sort of hit me, I was thinking back over the conversation we’ve just been having.
Andrew 01:44:46 And there’s two books that really stand out to me that I’ve read and loved in the last year that I feel like if you haven’t read it, you would really enjoy. And I think people who’ve enjoyed this conversation would also enjoy actually three come to mind. Uh, one, the first two are specifically about you. The third one is more about like kind of company culture and all that. So the company culture one I’ll start there is, um, a book. I actually just, just discovered and read recently called primed to perform, are you familiar with that book? No, I’ve tried this. So I just came across this Reddit loved it. And it was fascinating because what they did was they basically aggregated a lot of research. It was this, this duo out of Harvard came out a couple of years ago. I’m not sure exactly when, but they aggregated a ton of the research around like motivation and psychology and kind of everything from like self determination theory to kind of flow and all those sorts of things.
Andrew 01:45:38 And they, they put it into a very simple, but I find to be useful model that has really, I read it. And I was like, Oh wow. I feel like these people actually came up with a workable, useful model that helps me understand what really drives and also detracts from that sort of inner motivation and drive that people have. And I, as someone who thinks a lot about creating environments for people to thrive, that seemed pretty relevant to me. So I wanted to just recommend that. I think you would both enjoy it and also find it useful for the work you do. Awesome. Thank you. So that’s that’s book book, what rec one. You’re welcome. Um, number two, and this is more specific to what you were saying just now about like how, you know, you, you love, it’s so obvious, like how much you love the, the rush of taking on a new thing of pushing your limits in a new space.
Andrew 01:46:23 Right? You talked about like, you’ll take, you know, you’ll become a level four class four, like whitewater rafter, but not really interested in the five cause you don’t want to die and you’ll, you’ll go do something else, which by the way, good call, I think. Um, but you know, really talking about being like one of the things I find fascinating is I guess it’s called metal learning, right? Like the art of learning, being like learning how to learn better. And there’s a lot of great material out there about that. But one book in particular that came out recently is called ultra learning by a guy named Scott Young that I find to be a, I found to be really, really good. That’s a topic I also deeply nerd out on. So that’s another one to check out that I think he might like. Um, and the third one and I don’t, this is the recency bias coming into play.
Andrew 01:47:06 Cause I’m rereading this book right now, but, um, it’s a book called mastery by a guy named George Leonard and he talks at great length about what does it mean to truly master something? And what is the journey? And the path of mastery really look like, whether that’s, whether that’s something is programming or white water rafting or dance or painting or whatever, it doesn’t matter what it is, but it’s like, what does that, what does the path of mastery, regardless of the domain look like, and what are the pitfalls and the lessons that we can all take advantage of there. And as someone who is obsessed with learning and loves all the things we’re talking about here, I thought it would be something you, um, you, you also found useful and enjoyable. So check that out. Awesome.
Marshall 01:47:50 Yeah. I’ve actually got all three of those additive LS now. I can’t wait. Boom
Andrew 01:47:55 Done. All right. So now your turn, so is there a book or a few books that have really impacted you, you found them incredibly useful or you just enjoyed the hell out of yeah.
Marshall 01:48:03 Yeah. We actually, I think this is the sign of a really good podcast host when you get the guests to talk about those books and other questions. I think we already talked to a lot of them actually, it’s the rise of Superman and a lot of Steven Kotler has worked for sure. I’m ready. Player one. We mentioned with the virtual reality, that’s probably one of my favorite, um, fiction books, uh, start with why, when a Simon Sinex earlier books, um, a lot of Bernay Brown’s work. So, uh, yeah, a lot of those have been really foundational to kind of what we’ve developed at Vesta Diego, um, and have really kind of put some of the kind of framework in place for us. Um, lately I’ve listened to a bunch of, um, kind of podcasts and, uh, this app called Blinkist as well. Which have you ever heard of that?
Marshall 01:48:54 Um, it’s sort of the spark notes for books. So I, it has a really great recommendation engine for saying if you liked X book or some other book, you’ll probably like this one and it’s, it’s not really reading a book, but it’s sort of the like 30 minutes summary of the message of that book. Um, and that’s been an awesome app for, for books for anyone out there. Who’s just looking for better ways to find books that’s been, been really great. But yeah, so those ones I mentioned are really probably the most foundational ones for me. And I’m excited to read those ones that they suggested.
Andrew 01:49:26 Thanks for that. Awesome. Yeah. Yeah. You’re welcome. I always love talking about ideas and books and stuff, so let me know how you like them. Um, and yeah, when actually one way I’ve seen people use Blinkist, um, sort of very intentionally is not just the discovery thing, which I actually didn’t know about. So thanks for sharing for explaining that. But the other way I’ve seen it used that I thought was actually, Oh, that’s a really good idea is to, um, actually test or quickly test, like, is this book worth going deep on? Right? It’s like, you can read, you know, listen to this, like whatever 20 minute sort of snippet and, and little SparkNotes thing. It’s like, okay, like sometimes that’s sufficient and you’re like, Nope, cool. I’m good. And then other times you’re like, okay, yep. I definitely want to go deep on this thing. I’m going to go actually read the whole shirt,
Marshall 01:50:08 Any book recommendations for, you know, everyone out there listening, do you get any read the first quarter of the book and then you never finish it it’s it really helps you avoid that, uh, of kind of like getting into a book and being like, I’m not really engaged in this anymore. Cause you can get the theme of what the book’s like and then say, Oh, well that was okay. Or give me more of this. I need it right now. So
Andrew 01:50:29 Yeah, it helps. Especially, especially true. Unfortunately for business books were far too common, any sort of business or leadership book would have been better as like a long article than 160 page book or whatever. Right. Like, unfortunately that is, that is really, really common. It’s a, a lot of,
Marshall 01:50:44 I have to have a book these days, so it doesn’t,
Andrew 01:50:47 I get it, I get it. But, uh, you know, just saying as an obsessive reader that a lot of them don’t need to be books, but, um, so, and then related to that, actually there’s a practice that somebody I worked with recommended to me that I I’ve been trying on, which as an obsessive reader has been confronting, but I’m finding it to actually be very, very helpful. And he said one of the most powerful practices or like just habits he took on, was he stopped. He started putting down books if he wouldn’t want to read the book anymore. Like if he got bored and he was, you know, halfway through whatever, he would just put it down and he’s like, no other practice you could think of in the last six months has made a better, like a bigger impact on his life. And I was like, Oh wow.
Andrew 01:51:25 So I’ve been trying that. And despite my sense of compulsion that I must finish the book, I have to agree. It is actually been a really, really good practice. And so kind of my, my, um, one, one question I wanted to wrap up here with, on the rapid fire ones is, is there any practices like that for you that have it doesn’t have to be about books and reading, but are there any personal practices that have come into your life somehow in the last year or two years, whatever that have really made a difference for you?
Marshall 01:51:50 Yeah, that’s a good question. I would love to, uh, uh, ask you the same after this as well. Cause as an avid, as much of an avid reader as you are, I’m sure you’ve got some, some really good ones that are probably a lot better than mine, but, um, the big thing for me is that I’m just a very slow, uh, text processor. So I, I actually, um, you know, had extended time in college for tests that had something to do with just reading a bunch and processing. So even stuff like the sat and things like that. So it takes me forever to actually read a book, which is why I can’t tell you the last time that I physically read an actual book. So what I do is I listen to audio books. I really like podcasts. Um, any kind of audio content. I, I absorb it a lot faster and uh, you know, not everyone’s like that.
Marshall 01:52:40 A bunch of people are like, I have to have my physical book. I like turning the page. That’s great for those people am not one of those people. Uh, but I also just love having, you know, a million books in my pocket, on my phone. And even the, you know, the text version of the books, a lot of people say, Oh, well, like highlighting stuff. Um, you can have Siri read that the text version of a book that’s on your phone without actually buying an audio book. And a lot of times those, um, it’s called the pub format of a book sort of just looks like a PDF they can interact with. Um, those are all oftentimes as much cheaper than audio books. So if you don’t mind a semi robotic, uh, sounding voice, which Siri gets better every year. But if you don’t mind Siri reading your books, you can do this thing.
Marshall 01:53:24 You have to enable this and settings, but it’s a two finger swipe down from the top and Siri will read you the contents on any page. So even with the articles as well, I’ll use this app called pocket to save an article to, to the app. And what, what pocket does is it gets rid of all of the ads, all of the unnecessary text, other than the article. And then I have Siri, I do the two finger swipe down and Siri starts reading all the texts on the page. If you don’t use pocket to do that, it’ll literally read you out like www dot blah, blah, blah. Like today’s day, all this stuff you don’t, you don’t want us here to read you pocket eliminates that. And then it just turns any article into an audio book that you can listen to on one time speed on 10 times, speed. I usually do like 1.7, five or two, and I’m pretty much allows me to turn any written content on my phone, into audio, even email. If I get a long email from someone, I’ll have Sarah read it to me, instead of I’m just sitting there,
Andrew 01:54:23 Wait, what a cool way to like adapt, adapt tools to year to yourself, right? To like what, you know, works best for you. I love that. Thanks. Accent
Marshall 01:54:31 Ability setting is literally in the accessibility, um, settings on the iPhone. So it’s for people who can’t see the screen well, or if you’re blind and you can’t see it at all, um, to be able to read the contents on your phone. So, um, there’s some amazing accessibility updates in iOS 13, that it would blow people’s mind that are technically, uh, meant for someone with some type of physical disability, but from a productivity standpoint, it can really be a game changer. So you can actually, you can talk to your computer and do anything on your computer just by talking to it now, same with your phone, uh, not just dictating texts. You could, you could open apps, uh, you know, move your mouse around, um, purely from voice interaction with your computer and your phone. So I dictate almost everything. I dictate my emails now because I’m faster at talking than just writing. Uh, and it takes some practice, but, um, there’s some amazing productivity hacks built into the accessibility settings that a Mac users should definitely check out.
Andrew 01:55:31 I love that. What do you call it? You know, who like seems like a little bit of a missed opportunity from them from a marketing angle. So all the product people take notes, sometimes your accessibility stuff has completely different utility to a group. Exactly.
Marshall 01:55:44 That’s very true. I love that. I love that.
Andrew 01:55:47 Cool. So, um, just kind of in closing, I wanted to ask, um, first of all, you know, where can people connect with you online and also, is there any, um, anything you want to leave the audience with or any requests you have for someone listening to this? Yeah, it will definitely connect with me
Marshall 01:56:01 If there’s anything I can do to help, even if it’s just through advice. Um, there have been a lot of people in my life that I’ve gone way out of their way to give me advice that really changed the trajectory of, um, what we ended up doing and, and, uh, the things that I’m passionate about. So I, um, I’m definitely very bought into the, kind of the pay it forward mindset and would love to help. However I can with anyone listening. Um, connecting is usually best via, um, LinkedIn or Instagram, um, LinkedIn for the boring stuff, Instagram for the fun stuff. Uh, if you want to watch all the fun adventure stuff, you can follow me on @MarshallMosher, if you type in Marshall and then just M it should come up. I’m actually right above Eminem, which that was like, what? I’m like, wow, that pretty honored, like, wow, I made it. I made it. And, uh, hopefully it’ll pop up somewhere up in the top several, but, um, yeah, shoot me a message on either one of those happy to help, however I can. And, um, yeah, if there’s one takeaway I can say from sort of the message today, the theme is, you know, don’t be afraid to get outside of your comfort zone, use that in a vulnerable way to encourage and engage your team, to push past their own perceived limits in a way that can connect you and the rest of your team on a deeper and more meaningful level. I love it
Andrew 01:57:29 Thank you so much, brother. It’s been a really fun conversation and I can’t wait for people to get a chance to tap into the wisdom you just dropped all over it.