Open + Curious

I’m excited to share that Jesse Danger and I have begun a new podcast show, Open + Curious. I’ve been writing up my thoughts around conversation, and this podcast is a new part of the Open + Curious project. Please consider subscribing to support our efforts.

Are you looking for ways to bring conversation alive? Then you are in the right place.

In each 15-minute episode we begin with a question, and work our way to a challenge. Some questions we explore have clear answers, and some lead to more questions and further unknowns. The challenge we seek to find, at the end of each episode, is meant to help you explore each question on your own.

https://openandcurious.org/podcast-supercast/

Listening

I’ve now done a lot of recorded conversations for podcasts. I’ve spent a lot of money, and I’ve spent a vast amount of time. I’ve had every imaginable problem. I’ve been stressed out. I’ve literally worked myself to exhaustion and illness.

The line from Zeno was that we were given two ears and one mouth for a reason. That reason? To listen more than we talk.

To learn from people who can teach us. To find something that makes us better.

~ Ryan Holiday from, https://ryanholiday.net/27-things-ive-learned-from-150-million-podcast-downloads/

The rewards I’ve gotten—the things I’ve learned and the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had—have been worth every penny and every moment and every hardship.

The opportunity to speak with hundreds of people (most of whom I’d never have crossed paths with, let alone had a good conversation with) is priceless.

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Naming your audience

I recently had a conversation with someone while recording an episode of Podtalk. They mentioned the importance of naming our audience in the early moments of a podcast episode. An example they gave is: “Do you feel like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole? This podcast is for you.” (If you’re curious about this idea in the context of podcasting see, Naming our audiences.)

This idea was a quake moment for me. Because in order to name my audience—to literally say it, briefly, in a way that someone identifies with… Well, first I have to know who my audience is. I’m well aware one should know “who’s it for?” (If I just want to fiddle in my workshop, whatever-it-is can certainly just be, “it’s for me.”) It’s easy to know “who it’s for?” and to be able to talk about that when asked. It is vastly harder to name the audience, succinctly, in way a that connects with people.

Connection is precious. We can, and must, find ways to be so clear, and so vivid, that people literally feel a reaction when we name our audience. It’d be better if you heard me say this, but what happens when you read…

Are you the curious sort who leans in to find joy in learning and self-awareness? Terrific. You’re in the right place. Know anyone else who should be here too?

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Reflections on 7 years and ~2,000 episodes

Frankly, that’s seems impossible.

First, unrelated to podcasting, I’d like to jump on my soapbox about keeping a personal journal. It takes a lot of effort, but it is invaluable for getting perspective on one’s own life. It’s also just plain fun to read your own thoughts many years later. The best day to start journaling was yesterday; but today would also be good.

December 27th 2016 is my “okay, fine, I’m starting a podcast” date. The first episode of the Movers Mindset podcast (with a different name back then) came out in early January 2017. So—despite my disbelief and denial—it’s been 7 years. And 2,000 episodes? …I don’t know the exact number, but it also seems impossible.

Some things I’ve done on purpose. What happens if you try to publish a daily show for four years? What happens if you have a show you love and just ignore the urge (and advice) to publish on a schedule, and instead just put them out whenever?

Some things have just been a delightful surprise. The times people surprise me and ask me to join them on their show. The countless conversations next-to the conversation that became a podcast. The countless hours of my life spent with others who are passionate about podcasting. The times I’ve said, “Hello, I’m Craig Constantine” in person, and been recognized by the sound of my voice! And, when someone says that some podcast conversation really helped them as a listener, or as a guest.

I’ve taken the enormous amount of opportunity, resources, luck and others’ passion that I’ve been so generously given, and poured in as much of my own (passion, time, energy, blood, sweat, tears, money) as I can. The result has been miraculous.

This post is prompted by someone asking me how many years it’s been… and my stumbling over the math. Hey, thanks Özlem, for asking.

Takeaway? CYCLES!

Everything flows and ebbs. Be grateful for the flow and for the ebb. You already know that. I already knew that before Dec 27, 2016. The takeaway is to find a way to be reminded of this.

I hope you’re doing well, and I wish you the strength and courage to move along your own path tomorrow, next month, next year, and beyond.

Cheers!

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Mindset – with Rodrigo Pimentel

Mindset – with Rodrigo Pimentel

Rodrigo Pimentel discusses his catastrophic stroke, and his journey back from the near-death experience.

This is what’s happening— there’s no point in being angry or being bitter. […] and the only thing I can do about it— or rather, in many ways, I can’t do anything about it right now. What I can do is not panic. And not get bitter. All of that will only make me stop… it will only make it worse. This came sort of naturally. I think this is the mindset that I had, this sense— this is what’s happening. This kept coming back to me over and over and over.

~ Rodrigo Pimentel 19:59

Rodrigo Pimentel recounts his stroke experience, reflecting on the unexpectedness and uncertainty that characterized his recovery. He emphasizes the importance of acceptance, revealing how his introspective nature, cultivated through parkour, long-distance running, and meditation, aided his coping mechanism. His ability to embrace introspection, facilitated his acceptance of help and changed his perspective on independence. Throughout the conversation, Rodrigo shares insights on handling adversity, and appreciating the current moment.

All of man’s problems arise from not being able to sit quietly, alone in a room

~ Blaise Pascal

The discussion touches on the introspective nature of parkour and long-distance running, highlighting how these activities provide opportunities for profound self-reflection. Additionally, Rodrigo emphasizes the significance of facing pain with curiosity rather than avoidance, shedding light on his approach to overcoming challenges and embracing acceptance in the face of uncertainty.

So in the end, if you look at the big picture, it’s a big basket of the things I want to do, and it’s all in there together, and I’ll shake it somehow, and my week will come out. All this to say […] in the end, I’d describe my practice as ‘bit of everything’.”

~ Rodrigo Pimentel 34:16

Takeaways

Embracing Acceptance Amid Uncertainty: Rodrigo emphasizes the necessity of accepting circumstances, particularly during his stroke recovery, where uncertainty loomed large. He found solace in acknowledging and adapting to the unknown, recognizing the importance of this mindset in handling unforeseen challenges.

Introspection Through Athletic Pursuits: His engagement in activities like parkour, long-distance running, and meditation facilitated an introspective mindset. These pursuits prompted deep self-reflection, fostering a capacity to delve into his thoughts and emotions, proving invaluable during his recovery.

Navigating Pain and Challenges: Rodrigo’s approach to pain—advocating facing it with curiosity rather than attempting to distract from it. This perspective, learned through running and parkour, allowed him to explore pain and challenges with an inquisitive mindset, a strategy that proved beneficial in overcoming adversities.

Appreciating Independence and Accepting Help: His stroke altered his perspective on independence, leading to a newfound acceptance of help. Despite his inclination to assist others more than seeking aid himself, Rodrigo adapted to accepting assistance graciously during his recovery.

Resources

Rodrigo Pimentel’s @hashtagfeet on Instagram.

Haruki Murakami’s, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

(Written with help from Chat-GPT.)

It matters that you stop

“I wonder what would happen if I created a daily podcast, and did nothing else— if I didn’t tell anyone, didn’t share on social media, nothing. Just publish the thing every day.” So I went and made it happen, over 1,300 times. The answer to “what if?” is: I would receive a cornucopia of benefits simply from doing the work, even if no one heard a single one of them. I received: practice speaking extemporaneously, lessons in dramatic reading, countless tiny lessons of microphone technique, countless nuanced insights of physiology, and much much more.

Unfortunately, over the years, I became fixated on the least-important part of my original question: Daily.

I think this dynamic, to one degree or another, impacts anyone who has been fortunate enough to experience some success in their field. Doing important work matters and sometimes this requires sacrifices. But there’s also a deep part of our humanity that responds to these successes — and the positive feedback they generate — by pushing us to seek this high at ever-increasing frequencies.

~ Cal Newport from, https://calnewport.com/danielle-steel-and-the-tragic-appeal-of-overwork/

It’s become clear that maintaining the pace is a problem, and so I’ve changed the pace. And in a blink, I feel I’m again focused on that still-overflowing cornucopia of benefits.

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Graphic

I’ve been stumbling more over graphic depictions and graphic novels. There’s this fun book Out on the Wire by Jessica Abel which describes the storytelling secrets of the new masters of radio. I’ve read another graphic novel about finance and the visual element really brings the stories to life. (See Craig learn, sorry.) In hindsight, I don’t understand at all why this would have surprised me. I spent gobs of time reading comics like Calvin and Hobbes and Bloom County in book form and they’re graphic novels if you read the entire arc in one go.

Our thoughts are a composite process. We really do think with our entire bodies.

~ Alex Pavlotski from, https://alexpavlotski.wordpress.com/2023/07/21/habit-change-and-the-embodied-mind/

Pavlotski is another example. I had a wonderful conversation, Ethnography, leadership, and trajectory, with him for the Movers Mindset podcast. He is probably best-known for his work visualizing Parkour, but there’s much more to his work than just the drawing portion. This is not just a guy who does parkour, who also happens to draw kewl cartoons.

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Why ever stop?

Every day, the Little Box of Quotes podcast publishes a super-short recording of a quotation. For over 3 years—1,247 times and counting—I’ve said, “Hello, Craig here! Today from my little box of quotes…”

Why do all this work? It’s fun! I love sharing quotes (and in podcast form is just one way.) The total listens is north of 60,000 and some have been heard many hundreds of times. I like to imagine all the people who smiled, or went “hunh“. Each episode is only downloaded a dozen–or–so times when published. But then each episode slowly gets heard, as people randomly stumble upon them (I know not how.)

Which episodes are popular? Here are the top 10…

  1. Habit ~ Jim Rohn
  2. Ignorance ~ Vincent Thibault
  3. Fear ~ Cus D’Amato
  4. Motivation ~ (unknown)
  5. Freedom ~ Michael Diamond
  6. Struggle ~ James Terry White
  7. Revenge ~ Marcus Aurelius
  8. Positive ~ (unknown)
  9. Stand ~ Marcus Aurelius
  10. Torment ~ Seneca

What do I think of that top-10 list? Listening to them—especially the number-1 “Habit” quote—makes me squirm. I can hear so much about them that I’d do differently now. Maybe that’s a good thing? And they all seem so silly… it’s just… Craig reading quotes. But there’s definitely something to this, about the resistance and making art.

How do I record them? They’re pretty raw. I say the entirety of what you hear in one pass. If I make a horrible mistake, I just do it over. There’s no editing—I simply have some basic export settings to set the overall level. The point of the entire thing (when I started) was to practice doing the thing. Talk to the mic. Don’t clean it up in post-production… rather, figure out how to not make mouth-noises, how to breath more quietly, how to sound comfortable, etc.

Where do I still struggle? Saying people’s names! (Pronunciation is difficult too, but that’s not what I mean.) The specifics of how I say the name carries a tremendous amount of information. The tiniest change has a huge affect. Do I sound incredulous that that person ever said something that clever? Do I sound overly reverential? Dismissive? And how long do I pause before saying their name? Faced with endless options, I just do my best and then ship it.

What’s my favorite part? (I have a rapid process: record, replay, save/export, schedule podcast episode. I can do one episode in a few minutes.) Sometimes, maybe 1 in 10, when I play it I get chills. Sometimes, the quote itself, combined with countless other details, makes something I just love.

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Movers Mindset’s purpose

Back in 2018 I traveled to an event at Gerlev in Denmark. I gave a brief presentation one morning explaining the Movers Mindset podcast. The other day, I stumbled over my notes, and felt this was worth a fresh posting.

When we move through the world we can move in an ordinary or an extraordinary way. Ordinary movement is easy; it follows established paths; and it is boring. Extraordinary movement requires excellence, knowledge, and independence. When I talk about movement, I am talking about extraordinary movement because it is much more interesting. Movement—whether that is Parkour, ADD, Freerunning—is a celebration of freedom in the context of an unforgiving reality that cannot be ignored.

These ideas form the foundation of movement: Pay attention to reality, learn as much as you can and practice. With parkour–as with just about everything in this world–the true beauty of the practice can be fully appreciated only by taking a deeper dive into it. This means we have to understand not just the physical aspects of movement but the mental and philosophical basis for movement.

As a mastery discipline—something that can be practiced for a lifetime with continued improvement—movement focuses more on the journey than the destination. Understanding the values, interests, and challenges in the minds of the best practitioners is the best way of showing the path of movement in a meaningful and accessible way. Our podcast, with its audio format and transcripts, naturally emphasizes the mental and psychological aspects of movement.

The podcast brings out the more intellectual elements of movement. My goal is to emphasize the value that movement and movers create and develop through their practice. In pushing the limits of human potential, movers demonstrate objectively that such achievements are possible. Since the physical aspects of practice can be directly observed through images and videos, the visible part is already well covered. But I believe the mental aspect is where the real magic happens, and it is less well covered because it is not spectacular. Video will grab your attention, excite you and may even get you to try some new things, but to get really good at movement you need a deep understanding.

When you listen to the podcasts, I hope you will notice a distinct difference in our approach. Our goal is always to show the guest in the best possible light. We aim to illuminate and showcase their values, ideas, and principles in a way that makes them accessible and relevant to the listener while showing the proper respect for their achievements. Each interview is a collaborative effort with that guest. Our shared goal is to clearly communicate ideas that will be useful to each listener in the context of their personal journey of exploration.

Yogis, martial artists and chess masters often describe how much they’ve learned about life from in-depth practice and mastery in their disciplines. We hear similar sentiments from musicians, sculptors, painters, hunters, and chefs. Movement as a mastery discipline is no different. A big part of its value comes from the lessons it teaches us about life and reality. Knowing your own strengths and limitations is critical. Reality is unforgiving. Physics always works and is important. You cannot fake competence. Courage is required to overcome self-imposed limitations. The list of lessons is limited only by our ability to think and to understand movement.

I am passionate about creating and promoting rational discussion. I am passionate about sharing others’ stories, wisdom, insights, accomplishments, goals, visions and delusions. Describing and illuminating the ideas behind extraordinary movement and human exceptionalism can help us all to improve our experience and appreciate the richness and beauty of life.

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Photography from Seattle

For several years I’ve been attending the Art of Retreat events in North America. Originally they were held in New York City, but the latest three were held outside of Seattle. I’ve been recording conversations for Art of Retreat’s own podcast over the years. If you’re interested in what goes on behind the scenes, I tried to unpack some of it over on a topic in the Podcaster Community, Field Recordings at Art of Retreat 2022.

I have a habit of trying to capture interesting photos from airplane windows. Often it’s solar or weather phenomenon, but on this trip out to Seattle I was surprised to see these forest fires. Fortunately, they weren’t very close to where the event was held, but “fire fog” was thing during much of the time I spent in Seattle and all of the time at the event.

A few shots from the location where the event was held…

And one last random shot from a cool, mushroom–infused coffee spot in Seattle, Wundergrond Coffee.

Quite the knitting project for someone.

Random, but fun photos — hope you enjoyed them.

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I’ll be podcasting and presenting Art of Retreat 2022

During the Sept 24th weekend, I’ll once again be recording conversations with community leaders and movement enthusiasts at a retreat in the Cascades outside of Seattle. Follow that link If you’re interested in the nuts-and-bolts of what I do in order to create some conversations. Over there, I’ll be posting replies as the project progresses over the next two weeks. I’ll be showing my work—preparation, packing, gear, field recording, and post-production. I’ll try to cover everything from ideation to the final deliverables.

The first piece of context is, what is the event that I’m attending? It’s an immersive gathering celebrating leadership in parkour. We bring remarkable leaders from the global parkour community together for 4 days of learning, sharing, and play.

https://www.artofretreat.com

The event is a concept which has been held in various locations over the years. It’s near and dear to me both in the sense that I’m into parkour and I’m into podcasting. I’m also leading an interactive session about Creating Better Conversation.

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Or not

There’s no getting ahead with your podcast. There’s only adjusting your calendar and developing the discipline to keep separation between your production schedule and your publishing calendar.

~ Evo Terra from, https://podcastpontifications.com/episode/why-youll-never-get-ahead-with-your-podcast

Terra is laying out the eternal struggle which everyone who takes up podcasting soon discovers: You are beholden to the publication schedule. I mean, sure, you get to set your own schedule, right? …but then you…

Wait, why is that again? You know you can just publish whenever you feel like it. That’s what I do and hundreds of published conversations later across multiple different shows… literally no one ever has asked me when the next episode will be out. Nor why I don’t publish on a schedule. Maybe they’re all just ignoring me, or think I’m a weird podcaster. But know what I definitely am not? …beholden to a schedule.

Instead I can do what I want to do (have great conversations) when I am able to arrange that. And then I publish them. *mic drop*

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Your best

To me, quality means doing the best you can with what you have to work with. Your environment. Your equipment. Your voice. Your experience. Your level of comfort. All of those things are part of your overall “working with” toolset.

~ Evo Terra from, https://podcastpontifications.com/episode/making-your-commitment-to-quality-podcasting

This is something I often struggle with. Terra is writing about podcasting specifically—something I spend a lot of time doing—but I have this problem more generally. It would serve me well to be thinking: Is this the best I can do now, with the tools, knowledge, situation, and skills I have now? If so, terrific! That’s great enough.

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Because enough people know

there are enough users who understand how it is supposed to work. They expect to be able to listen to any podcast anywhere they want. Most probably don’t understand why they have this ability, about the history and technology design that made it possible, but they understand that they have the ability. And it doesn’t have to be all of them or even most of them, just enough of them, whatever that means. And for right now, at the end of 2021, there are enough. Podcasting has always been and remains an open platform. I can’t say it will be for the future, but so far so good.

~ Dave Winer from, http://scripting.com/2021/12/21/124205.html

I like Winer’s point that the web (websites, web browser, blogs—not asocial media platforms) and podcasting are not dominated by any one large company. He’s pointing out that we’ve two examples of things not centrally controlled—two examples of success (so far, things could always change.) And therefore it’s quite possible that we could build something else, another new media format, which is also free, open, and not centrally controlled.

But I don’t like that Winer has glossed over the fact that podcasting only appears to be open, (in the way that the web is open.) Podcasting appears to be open, and isn’t yet dominated by one large company, because the podcast creators individually go to great lengths to make their shows available everywhere. There are multiple large companies trying to leverage the listeners against the creators. I’ve given up on trying to lead podcasting to be open, the way the web is open; I simply hope that someone else sees what I see and that I live to see podcasting grow to be a first-class, truly open, platform, (the way the web is.)

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Safety netting

I spend a lot of time trying to imagine people’s experiences of things I create. Partly that happens as a direct result of my having empathy and being compassionate—once you start, you can’t stop. (“My mission is creating better conversations to spread understanding and compassion.”) Sometimes my efforts pay off big with a blinding flash of clarity.

I’m regularly doing outreach to people who know me well, a little, or often not-at-all. I’m inviting someone to join me, for a recording of a conversation… which I’m going to immediately publish, without editing. It turns out that scares the crap out of most people. (Are your palms sweating just thinking about it?)

Well, I solved that problem a while ago: When we’re chatting, before we start recording, I explain there’s a safety net. They get the option to veto. I explain that after we stop recording, I will ask them if they’re okay with what we recorded. If they’re not happy, it just gets deleted. And I’ll still be happy because the conversation we had becomes that much more special because I got to experience something that no one else will ever hear.

Today it occurred to me that I should explain that even farther up front. Like right up front on the invitation page that I send people to. If your palms were sweating up there, thinking about being recorded, consider this…

Safety net
After we stop recording, you decide if I publish it. Seriously. You get a big, safe, veto option. Published or vetoed, I’ll still be glad we had a chance to have a cool conversation.

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Eureka

But this moment cannot come without the days of frustration at the blackboard. “You can’t really blame the storytellers,” Rockmore writes, “It’s not so exciting to read ‘and then she studied some more.’ But this arduous, mundane work is a key part of the process.”

~ Cal Newport from, https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2021/07/16/on-the-myth-of-big-ideas/

And Niels Bohr said something similar about Painful experience. And I bet your experience agrees. I know mine does.

Nobody sees how much time I spend working on podcasting. Every facet is complicated. I’m regularly noticing new things, picking up interesting skills and ideas from nearby areas of expertise. Structural wisdom from the field of authors. Empathic skills from the field of therapists. New kinds of questions from the field of hosts. New vocal skills from the field of speakers. And teachers and mechanics and on and on.

The eureka moments get the attention but they’re very few and very far between.

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Difficult questions

What would be a good question to ask? How do I evaluate a potential question, in real time during a conversation, to decide if it’s good? What can I do to make this guest enjoy this conversation? In the same vein: What should I do? And what, if anything, must I do? What does this person really want to talk about? What don’t they want to talk about? And if I figured that out, is the right thing to, to honor their desire to avoid it, or to help them face it? Can I help them more by letting them find their own energy level, or by trying to help them change their energy level? Would calming down enable them to communicate more effectively? Would riling them up help them work through their feelings? Should we explore how they are feeling, or how this event we’re discussing made them feel? Should I be more open, and share more with them? Or would my consuming our time doing that, block them from doing what they need to do, or from saying what they need to say? Should we be having more fun? Should we be more serious? Should we instead do the opposite, (make light of a serious subject, or vice versa,) of that society would normally expect? Should I ask them a deep question? Should I ask a question on the same line-of-thought and take us even deeper? Deeper a third time? Or should I pivot to indicate that I want to follow them, not drive them into a corner?

What’s that? …oh, you thought I was going to be talking about the actual questions one might ask another person. Yeah no that’s another question altogether. :)

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Tetris

As I mentioned last week, I was recently on a rather long road trip doing some recording for the Movers Mindset project. I took a lot of stuff on the trip, but here’s the two bags which comprised the complete podcast setup—everything I need to press record is in these two bags. The rectangular bag is a proper, no-cheating, most-stingy-airline carry-on size.

And here’s what’s inside: Two full-size (albeit lightweight) mic stands, 2 sets of full-size headphones, and 3 containers of all the podcast recording and listening electronics. (And it’s all battery powered to boot.)

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