The process of reflection

Much of the power of the Movers Mindset podcast’s signature question, “three words to describe your practice?” comes from thinking about one’s personal understanding of the word practice. In the podcast episodes, sometimes the guest’s discussion of that understanding is a profound part of their interview. Sometimes their surgical statement of three words is its sublime culmination.

In 2019, we posed the three-words question of the project itself. This turned out to be a surprisingly fruitful exercise. We came up with three words to describe our practice, and I subsequently adopted them as the three words to describe my practice:

Discovery. Reflection. Efficacy.

If those three words describe my practice—the journey of my whole life—then what is the purpose of this web site? Why go through all this work? It’s taken me 9 years and the previous 2,499 posts to understand:

It’s a vehicle for my process of reflection.

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Tension

I’ve been thinking about ways to create more opportunity for engagement among the people who are following the work of the Movers Mindset project. We’ve reached a point where we’re creating plenty of content and sharing ideas—but currently almost entirely in the broadcast direction. We’ve a considerable collection of people who are passively consuming.

Meanwhile, every time I manage to engage with someone [in this context of Movers Mindset], it’s an energizing exchange of ideas about movement, movement’s place in society, and sometimes even philosophy in general.

The whole project is intentionally aimed at people who are becoming, or already are, reflective. Such people tend to have made the growth step beyond low-value interaction and engagement and are increasingly aware of how they engage and expend their time especially online. I suppose the key is to simply engage with them one by one, until that becomes untenable for me.

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On podcasting

The short version of this story is simply: I’m simply curious. I try things. I make mistakes. I ask questions.

My podcasting journey began with the Movers Mindset project, which grew from conversations I started having as part of my personal journey rediscovering movement. Started in 2015, at first it was just a web site that shared others’ writing. But as I travelled, I kept finding myself in cool conversations until one day someone said, “you should have recorded that. I’d listen to that podcast.” Excited, but with no clue how much work it would be, I kicked off the Movers Mindset podcast at the start of 2017. For the first dozen episodes I did far too much of the work myself, until I wised up and started finding a few incredible people to share my new passion.

By this point I was devouring anything I could about interviewing. I smashed through thousands of podcast episodes in the process of wondering, “how does everyone else do it?” Podcasts, books, online courses… Everywhere I turned I found something new to work on in my own journey.

In the fall of 2018 I had about 30 interviews published on the podcast. I was getting comfortable travelling by plane, train and automobile, being invited into people’s lives to capture the Movers Mindset interviews. I was invited to the North American Art of Retreat, a Parkour leadership retreat, in the Cascade mountains outside of Seattle. There I did a series of interviews with the event’s presenters and organizers, and handed those recordings off for Art of Retreat to create their own podcast.

When 2019 rolled around, on a whim, I jumped into an Akimbo course called The Podcast Fellowship. I wanted to search for unknown-unknowns, to rethink everything I had done so far, and much about the Movers Mindset podcast changed in this period. To my surprise, I was invited back to be part of a small group of alumni who assist the coaches for the 4th, (and then the 5th, and 6th) running of the course. It’s mind-bogglingly inspiring and energizing to hang out daily with hundreds of people who share your passion. I even tried to summarize the fun of it in The Journey.

Meanwhile, the Movers Mindset episode numbers kept climbing and I’ve been branching out to interview more challenging guests; challenging for me as I’m forced to converse and discuss topics I know less and less about, but which none the less intrigue me endlessly. In the fall of 2019, this time with help from some of the Movers Mindset team, I was invited back to Art of Retreat. There, we did a second series of interviews for Art of Retreat’s podcast. Today (circa 2020) I’ve done over 150 recorded interviews and conversations… and every time I find new things to explore and learn.

I have another fun podcast based on my ever-growing collection of quotes. You can search for “Little Box of Quotes” wherever you normally listen to podcasts, and the related posts here on my blog are tagged, as you might expect, Little Box of Quotes.

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Big changes for 2020

For the past 5 years, I’ve been passionately working on a project called Movers Mindset. I’ve been particular about keeping it separate from “me”—in the sense that I would think, “is this idea something I want to put into Movers Mindset or on my blog?” (It sounds weird, I know—why didn’t you tell me years ago?) This led me to wind up with multiple “outlets”; this blog, public Movers Mindset web site and the Forum. As part of my continued efforts to simplify, we’ve taken down the Movers Mindset public web site.

* We didnt literally turn it off, but it’s just a static page about the project, and it powers the technology to make the podcast work. There’ll be nothing new posted there, and everything that was there will slowly appear in the Forum.

The entire Movers Mindset project grew from conversations I started having as part of my personal journey rediscovering movement. The project started late in 2015, under a different name, and it was initially simply a web site that shared others’ writing. The project grew, and in 2017 I started a companion podcast involving a team of people. In 2019 I created the Movers Mindset Forum. I’ve worked extremely hard, but none of this would have been possible without so much help from so many people.

The Movers Mindset Forum

Everything Movers Mindset does, everything we create, all the people who work on the project for fair pay—  Everything is made possible by people who value what we create and support our work by joining the Forum.

If you’re already a Forum member, thank you for your support.

If you do join the forum, you instantly gain access to everything. I hope you will consider supporting our work. To learn more, see  Welcome! Join the Movers Mindset Forum .

A note about “access to everything”: I’ve a tremendous amount of stuff to repost into the Forum. I’ll be chipping away at it, but it will take months as I work through it. If there’s something in particular you’re looking for, let me know.

Podcast

The Movers Mindset podcast is available wherever you normally listen to podcasts. Just search for movers mindset and you should be set. You can also find a listing of the podcast episodes in the Movers Mindset Forum. See the topics tagged “podcast “.

The public topics for each episode have only the show summary. Forum members can see the members-only Podcasts category where everything else is actually posted.

Thank you!

I hope you find my blog, the Forum, or the podcast interesting. Please consider sharing if you do.

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Nobody cares

More specifically it’s, “Nobody cares. Do it yourself.” This is a terrific splash of cold water from Jason Korman, (or maybe it was Hugh Macleod?)

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I interpret this not as a pessimistic, “people suck.” But rather, a catalyst to, “simply start.”

Nobody cares in the same way one cares about one’s own projects and ideas. Obviously nobody cares like that! But why do we—ok fine yes I’m projecting my behavior onto you… Why do we look outward for the external validation? Certainly, the real world is the ultimate arbiter of truth. (As opposed to one’s thoughts.) But no amount of external data is going to create or destroy your true passion. If you have a project that you cannot put down because you’re passionate about it to the extent that it consumes your life, then whether or not you have external validation is irrelevant.

Do the thing. Make the art. It doesn’t matter that nobody cares. Do it yourself.

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No smiles

We left feeling sorry for the whole thing. The people who worked at the theater weren’t trained to know how to deal with the problem. They probably weren’t empowered to do anything about it anyway. The technical staff apparently doesn’t work on the premises. The guy at the box office wanted to help, but wasn’t granted the power to do anything. And the manager, who was last in the line of misery, to have to manually, and slowly, process dozens of refunds on his own. No smiles entered the picture.

~ Jason Fried from, https://m.signalvnoise.com/i-went-to-see-a-movie-and-instead-i-saw-the-future/

This is a delightful anecdote which highlights a key element of what we are doing in the Movers Mindset project. We are trying to stay closely engaged with the people we are serving. In order to do that, we can’t use fractured communications mediums (like Instagram direct-messaging, Facebook messenger, and so on) — there’s simply no way I would be able to interact with a meaningful number of people if I had to check a dozen different communication mediums every day. Generally, this is referred to as the Network Effect; the value of the network increases dramatically (non-linearly that is) as the number of people in it increases. So my maintaining (I don’t do this, but if I did…) my participation in many different networks would be needed to reach people.

Instead, I have focused on creating a functioning space where people of like mind can gather and communicate. The challenge is not that the network needs to reach a certain size to be “useful.” No, already one person there can interact with another person and get the full value out of that interaction.

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The Movers Mindset Forum

What is the Forum?

The goal of the forum is to facilitate self-improvement. In the forum we focus on movement as a mastery practice and highlight the processes of discovery and reflection. The forum provides the opportunity to interact with and learn from podcast guests, athletes, experts, and like-minded others.

https://forum.moversmindset.com/

Why the change?

We used to call it “the Movers Mindset community” site. There are some key reasons why we feel “forum” is a better word choice:

It removes confusion

While it’s not confusing to us on the team, there was a lot of confusion from everyone else who encountered Movers Mindset. I had to really pay attention before I realized this. People heard us say, “the movers mindset community,” and they were thinking, “the collection of people who are interested in Movers Mindset.” They were thinking community as in: The skate-boarding community. The parkour community.

When we said, “join the Movers Mindset community,” people’s first instinct was that we meant for them to become  interested in Movers Mindset, follow us on Instagram, or start listening to the podcast. None of that entices people to join a for-pay, members-only thing. Oops.

The word “forum” does not carry the same context as “community”; when people hear, “the Movers Mindset Forum,” or, “join the Movers Mindset Forum,” it stands out. Even if it stands out only because they don’t know what it is, that’s better than them thinking they know what it is, and having the wrong idea.

Forums are old-school

If by “old-school” you mean more considered, slower paced, and higher information density, then we’ll take that baggage because that’s exactly what the Movers Mindset Forum is meant to be. The work before us now is marketing the forum as interesting and useful, rather than a dusty old forum not worthy of attention. We think by stating a clear goal for the Forum and by stating what the Forum provides people, that it creates a meaningful opportunity that people will consider.

It’s simply shorter

I know this seems trivial, but it adds up over time. “Forum” is just that much shorter to have to include in URLs, and it’s two syllables shorter to say.

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Someone has to be the first guinea pig

(Part 4 of 4 in series, The interviews from my perspective)

Adam McClellan / Episode 1

The story behind episode one is challenging. How much do we want to know? How much do we want to share about the birth of the podcast? That all plays into Episode One. I picked Adam as the first guest because I wanted a guinea pig. I had bought a Zoom recorder and some microphones and cables. There’s a guy who did our audio editing for the first two years, and I had sent him some test audio files just to verify that when I press “Record” it does what we think it does.

I had been training with Adam for years, so I approached him and said, “Hey, I’m thinking about starting a podcast. You want to sit down and have a conversation?” In hindsight, I now realize it takes a lot of chutzpah to actually say, “Okay, I’ll sit down with microphones,” but he was totally up for it. I said, “I need a guinea pig. I’m going to screw it up, and I want you to just be game for a radical F-up.” And, sure enough, now I realize the zeroth rule of podcasting is always press “Record” and then double-check that you’ve actually pressed “Record.” These days we actually have a system, because sometimes it still happens. The person who sits in and listens actually takes notes and uses the time codes from the recorder. So you have to actually look at the recorder, and if the timer isn’t running, we know that I haven’t pressed “Record.”

So, of course, when I sat down to record the podcase with Adam, we started right into it. I had looked at my watch and noted the time when we started, but 13 minutes into it I looked at the recorder and realized the recorder wasn’t recording. I said, “Hey, Adam, remember when I asked if you’d be a guinea pig because I’m going to mess it up? I messed it up. We’re not recording.” So then I pressed “Record” and we started over.

In hindsight, I’m really glad I fell on the sword on the first episode, because it taught me to be humble about when I screw up in a recording. If we’ve gone down the wrong path or I ask a dumb question, I immediately own up to it, like, “Whoa, we screwed this up,” or “You know what, that fire engine went by and screwed up your answer.” It taught me a lesson right out of the gate about being humble about the physical craft part of podcasting, because we really only get one chance. If the take that we get isn’t the greatest … It’s our responsibility to present the guest in their best light, and if there’s something wrong with the take, we need to own up to that. So that was the technical side of the first episode.

Tracy was helping at the time and doing some guest research. We had done a bunch of research on Adam and I had even written out some questions. Looking back now, I realized that writing out all your questions is the right thing to do, although I don’t do it now. But what I should’ve then done is crumpled up the list and thrown it away and gone into the interview with nothing between me and the guest. I had a piece of paper—actually, I think I had my computer. I realize now that, yes, you want to think of the questions, but then you also want to just try and forget them.

I stuck to the script with Adam and it worked out well. Adam is very good at talking and finding a thread, but I really wasn’t helping him very much by providing him with a conversation. That’s one of the things that I realize now is really important for guests, especially some guests who are a little more reticent to talk—not just to have the recording equipment and be able to create the physical space, but to create a conversation between myself and the guest where the guest is interested in continuing to talk.

With Adam, I served him these individual questions tennis-style and then asked a follow-up question or made a comment while he was answering. I pretty much just let him run on his train of thought and then I would present him with the next question. The episode is interesting though. The material is good; it still holds up three years later. But I can hear that it’s just me serving him simple questions. I love listening to it occasionally, because it reminds me of how the way that I craft the story that the narrative in each episode is vastly different, which is just a result of me listening to other people’s podcasts and listening to how people structure them, how the craft works, taking courses, and things like that. So that’s a bit of the technical and a little bit of in front of the mic.

There is a moment in that episode pretty early on where I mention an essay that Adam wrote. I don’t know how we found it, but we had come across this essay on the internet that was actually from Adam’s entrance application for college. I said, “Elsewhere you’ve written about … ” and named a couple of things that were in the essay, and it really made him do a double-take. He said something like, “Wow, you really, really dug at me. I kind of wrote that satirically. I don’t know how you ever found that. I need to go look at my social media to see where I had that online that I had forgotten about.” It was a fun moment where I had caught him off guard and at the time I thought, “Oh, that was interesting.” It took me a while to learn this lesson, but, looking back, I realized that just because I have information that’s interesting or even something a little bit controversial about a guest doesn’t mean I actually want to use that.

I’ve found that it can be hard sometimes if I know too much. You can’t forget something, it’s always going to be in the coloring of your questions. But if I know too much and I say, “Hey, I know about this,” that can really change the tone of the conversation. It can be too big of a gun to bring into the conversation. A lot of times it’s more fun to just know all these things about the guest and then to ask them a leading question to give them the opportunity to bring it up if they want. And then if they choose not to, the conversation just flows where they want.

Sometimes I feel more like I’m trying to create rapids in a river and then see how they whitewater raft down what I’ve created. It’s more like creating opportunities. “Hey, I have a couple of these obstacles and we’d like to roll them into the path. You want to go over this one or do you want to go over that one? Or you can go through the open field.” It took me a long time – maybe 50 interviews – to really figure out what I need to bring in, in terms of knowledge about the guest. 

Sometimes there are things that the audience needs to know about because they’re just so awesome and the guest is just going to be too humble and, I’m like, “I’m sorry we have to talk about this because it’s awesome.” But a lot of the time, the things I know about the guests don’t really need to be brought in. It’s just background that helps me color what we’re talking about. So that first interview really went amazingly well considering how I just leapt into it like, “What could possibly go wrong?” There’s a lot that can go wrong, but it really, really well.

I would say the greatest lesson I learned was having nothing between me and the guest. It took me a while to really learn the lesson to literally not put things between me and the guests because I continued doing that for several episodes, but that was the only interview where I showed up with a script or list of questions. I had an idea about how the whole interview should go and that, in my opinion, does not work. It certainly doesn’t work for the way that I do interviews and the way the podcast works.

You can totally think about how you want it to go, but don’t bring that plan to the actual interview. Don’t attempt to lead the guest to a particular place that you have in mind. That was the takeaway. I didn’t learn it immediately after Episode One, but that lesson is there in that first episode. I would say it’s probably in the first six episodes, because there’s some things that changed with seven – it became a lot more nimble at seven and beyond. I think that’s the biggest takeaway: Don’t go in with a preconceived idea of where the conversation is going to go.

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Is movement an integral part of my life?

It certainly is an integral part of life, in general. But the vast majority of my life does not involve movement. I probably move more than the average American my age. I certainly moved a lot more in my 20s when I had a job that involved doing things. (Make this, move that, go over there, etc.) But today, movement is something that—I don’t quite have to make time for it, but I definitely have to be mindful of it. I generally plan to do something every day. Usually that’s a multi-mile walk, a leisurely bike ride, an hour wrestling with firewood, etc..

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Road trip to Dylan’s

(Part 3 of 4 in series, The interviews from my perspective)

Dylan Johanson / Episode 15

I met Dylan Johanson in 2013. I went to an ADAPT certification course at Kutztown University run by Parkour Generations, and Dylan came down from upstate New York. He hadn’t really had a chance to train with a lot of other people, so this was the first time that he had had a chance to be in a group of roughly 27 candidates for the course, which was enormous. He was just so happy. He was basically running, jumping or laughing the whole time because he had never found such a large group of people with the same passion.

The first day he was sort of playing the, “I’m old,” card because he was in his late 30s at the time, having started parkour after quitting his previous business life. When he eventually bumped into me, it was like, “hey, fellow oldster!” We just sort of clicked, and we wound up walking from the training spots to where lunch was and back and forth. When I started doing the podcast years later, I was always thinking his story was interesting because of—as he talks about in the podcast—his early “days of the ninja”; He would just pick a straight line through Kingston on a Sunday when everything is closed and run over fences, dogs and all that.

He’s over 3 hours by car from me, but I kept trying to find ways to get up and train with him. I made a couple road trips up to his different iterations of the gym. When I finally got a chance to interview him, it was so fun to sit down with no distractions because normally the people that I hang out with, we’re meeting at events, we’re meeting at parkour gyms and things are crazy. For this interview, it was just this chill opportunity for us to sit at his house and relax.

The story of how I got to the actual pressing of record was that I went to a winter retreat that was held in the Catskills. After the event was over, instead of driving the four hours back to where I live, I just drove 45 minutes across the Hudson River. It’s a fond memory for me because I had the quiet drive-time to myself, and I was driving west into a glorious sunset after a deeply introspective, winter immersion retreat.

I drove across the Hudson, and I went directly to the third incarnation of his gym; The gym that I had not yet been to. Everything just came together. There was an adult birthday party happening that evening at the gym, so when I got there, the place was packed with people and all his instructors. I showed up, dropped my bag and went to play on things. It was like the very beginning, “Hey, Dylan, how are you?” “I’m cool.” …and right into showing each other things to try and challenges. It was this perfect, closed loop back to how we met simply jumping and playing.

Eventually the birthday party ended, they closed the gym down, and I went back to Dylan’s to crash for the night. When I travel for podcasting, everything goes with me in one backpack with the rest of my stuff, and normally I just sleep on the floor with my favorite little air mattress. After dinner, I got upgraded to a futon, and it was a great end to terrific day.

In the morning, we sat around his house chatting. His house has some terrific quiet space where you can really recharge. There’s a lot of wood. It’s very much a home. There’s also Tesla, Dylan’s super-sweet love-hound pitpull, and she’s in the podcast too; You don’t hear her, but we talk about her. We sat in his living room with our feet on his coffee table, drinking coffee out of silly-shaped coffee mugs, and just talking about our ADAPT course and other random stuff. I often say that all the episodes are my favorite, but Dylan’s is one of the first where I realized how much having the chance to spend time with the guests before we do the recording changes everything.

The interviews always show the guests’ personality, and you can really get to know them, but it doesn’t work if I literally just walk up and say, “Okay, you ready?” “Yes.” And then press record. It’s priceless to have spent the day before jumping and playing at the gym, dinner at his home, and all night we’re thinking, “what are we going to talk about tomorrow? A leisurely morning with the dog, coffee, and then when we finally did press record, we were just so ready to talk that his interview just clicks. They just fall out like that. There’s little bits here and there that get cut or some do-overs, but it was just so fun.

His story that he tells in the podcast about making ninja lines through quiet, downtown Kingston… that’s literally who Dylan is. Not that he does that every day, but he is literally the person who runs and jumps and plays. In the episode, he talks about some of his favorite spots in Kingston. After the recording, we threw down the recording gear and drove down to Kingston. We went to some of his favorite spots, just randomly jumped on stuff, playing and enjoying ourselves for hours.

It was a fun session for me because it was just the two of us, and we’re both a little older. Now, he’s way better than me athletically, but to get a chance to once again move with this guy that I enjoy training with so much, and in the spots that are his places where he just kept going, “Oh, you got to try this. Oh, you got to try this.” I never had a moment to get bored, he always had the next place in mind. He’s super energetic and fun to follow around.

I didn’t know Dylan when he had his day job. I only met him after he had quit and started working on parkour as a full-time, “how am I going to turn this into an actual project?” job. Simply put, he was trying to create a community. It was in that timeframe when I met him at the ADAPT course. I started running into him at other events, and when he created his first gym I went up. I made another visit when he opened the second incarnation of his gym. I didn’t go up and train with him when he first started his community, but I’ve known him for that whole time.  Eventually he had created the third gym, and that’s when the random confluence of events created the chance to go up for an interview. As I was driving up I was thinking, “I don’t know anybody who’s opened three gyms.” Like three iterations of the same community gym, and that was why that kind of became a thing in the episode; It was me coming to him at the point where he had now done the third one. That’s why when I ask him for advice, he’s very much like, “Yeah, don’t do it. Don’t open three gyms.”

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