Break Through Anxiety and Stress Through Play with Charlie Hoehn
Hey everybody, how's it going? I'm Chase, welcome to another episode of the Chase Jarvis Live Show here on Creative Live. This is the show were I sit down with the world's top creators, entrepreneurs and thought leaders and do everything I can to unpack their brains with the goal of helping you live your dreams in carrier, in hobby and in life. My guest today is a speaker, an author, a marketeer, he's actually the creator of one of the books that's been the most impactful in my life. I discovered it at a time where I was I would say stricken with a lot of anxiety about the world, about my carrier and the book Play it away completely set me free and he's got a new book called Play for a Living, my guest is Mr. Charlie Hoehn. (upbeat music) (audience claps and cheers)
They love you.
Thanks for having me buddy.
Welcome to the show.
This is gorgeous.
It came out really beautiful, thank you.
It feels so good. Sorry, before I'm like lust...
ing over the book here on camera, a, welcome to the show, b, it's been like a year.
Yeah, it's been a long time.
Yeah, a lot's happened for you, you just released the book, self published.
That's I think an incredible I wanna talk a little bit about that but for folks who or maybe we can go back to when we first met which is probably like, was it 2000? It was single digits, 2008, nine, maybe or...
Did we, oh yeah.
We met at--
Yeah, that's right.
So you want to take folks back to a little bit about your past and our meeting and then we'll go from there.
Yeah, so, should I begin to like...
Wherever you wanna begin. Back to beginning, you were born and--
Yeah (laughs). So, I got out of college in 2008 during the recession and like a lot of my friends was sort of expecting things to just kind of fall into place pretty easily and it did not for many reasons. And spent a few months applying to jobs that I thought I was supposed to apply to, on Career Builder, Craigslist and stuff like that. And what was doubly demoralizing was I didn't want the jobs, first of all really but none of them responded. And this was happening with all of my friends and we where like what are we gonna do. This just isn't--
Yeah, I just sunk all this time and energy into college.
Yeah, yeah. No one had really taught us how to properly get people's attention like Norton got your interest. So, I told my family I just want to spend the next few months like just doing what I want to do, trying to work with people that I really admire. And if something comes of it, great, if not I'm back to where I am.
Yeah and you would have gotten some value in the interim, while you were chasing that.
Right, yeah. I actually told them I'll go be like an oil land man or something. (laughter) Guaranteed job that you're making pretty good money. So I got really lucky. Seth Godin was doing a virtual internship at that time so I was able to be one of, I think 200 people initially signed up and I was one of a dozen that were left at the end that stuck with it and so he promoted us on his blog and that was my first toehold into the working world, so I started getting job offers through that and then I started working with Rameed Satee and offered to help him with his video stuff and then I started working with Tucker Max and I offered to all of these guys that I'd work with them for free and I would give them a gift basically. I would say, here's something you can use in your business right now that, so for Rameed for instance, I made him a speaking demo reel that he could use to get speaking gigs. And--
And that's before you knew Rameet, right, is is that...
This was sort of to get their attention?
Yeah, so we had emailed a number of times back and forth but we hadn't really hung out or talked much. And so it was just to get their attention to build a portfolio piece and long story short, I ended up working with Tim Ferris, Rameet and Tucker both introduced me to Tim Ferris, said you gotta work with him. I ended up being his first full-time employee, his director of special projects and did a number of crazy, crazy things with him and that's how we met.
I'm gonna trace back a couple steps because, so it's my goal to show to help people like get into the things that they care about and whether that's as a hobby or as a career and so many folks that are a fan of the show on the podcast, they don't know where to get started. And what you just said, I think in a world where jobs are scare and mercurial and, or we're doing shitty things that we aren't programed to do or we're following some sort of cultural norm and I think it's interesting, before we go any further, I think it's interesting that you experience that and decided to try and break out of that mode. I think that's a mode that so many people, there's this realization, especially now with information moving so fast, you can see a lot of people tapping into their dreams and then but you're just kinda grinding at this job that you don't love, that's slowly wearing you down, that creates this sort of anxiety gab between what you're doing and what you wanna do and see other people who are doing the things they're supposed to be doing. How intentional was that where you realize that, I heard something in your opening sort of salvo there that it's like I was doing the things that I was supposed to do. So talk to me about that because I think that's a huge thing for the folks at home.
Totally, yeah. So it was extremely intentional and occasionally uncomfortable. So like my mom thought it would be a good idea to go back and get my MBA, that it was like a good time to do that since no one was really hiring and I just thought there's no way that another degree's gonna solve this problem of me looking like everybody else that's coming out of college. So, it was really intentional and I knew who I was, sort of at the core, I was somebody who is an ideas person, a creator and I just wasn't seeing anything that fit me on any job listing site and that's the was it's supposed to be.
Yeah, you're supposed to like lock in and see your thing and like go all in and I want to be a doctor or a lawyer or whatever you see in the world. And if you don't see that, I think that's one of the things, I just had Renee Brown on the show, we were talking about for people of color or in gender imbalances, like you nee to see your role models in your thing and without that it's frustrating and it's anxiety--
Yeah, you feel a little crazy.
Yeah, anxiety creating and I think you said demoralize was the word you said earlier like and so if you're not seeing yourself in the image of the things that you're setting out to do as a career, you have to change that and that was the impetus for you.
Well, it was just so frustrating too because the whole implicit promises like if you go through these series of steps for 17 years of your life, it will work out and then the rest is like...
There you go, gold watch 40 years later and retire.
Yeah, so it was actually the best thing that could have possibly happened to be hit with that, like no, that's not how things work, you actually have to try and strive to, if you want a remarkable life that there is no prescription for that, there's no recipe. You just need to go and create it yourself and who better to learn from than the guys that I was working with. They were as close to role models as I could see.
Well, also implicit in that story is that you were aware of the things that like you said earlier, you knew who you were and that you at somewhere in there you're like, I'm not this maybe nine to five is not the right, I'm not cut out for the corporate world or whatever. And when you have heroes and role models and, or people that you aspire to either be around as part of the community or look and act like talk about how important deconstructing their lives was to you finding out what was important or what you want to do. Like were you looking at Rameet and was like what does Rameet do or Rameet sort of hacked his way into creating a career for himself and--
Yeah, yeah, it was really that they just had done, all of them to me had walked away from the typical path, the conventional path and I wasn't, I didn't want to do this just to be contrary and I just felt like I was on their wave length and I felt like these were guys that I could play with on the same level someday. And so I wanted to get there as quickly as possible and so I remember actually with Tucker, I didn't discover Tucker through his funny stories that were super popular for college kids. I remember reading an essay that he wrote called Why You Shouldn't go to law school. And I read it and it was around that time that I was feeling a little bit of pressure to maybe get an MBA and so I read that and I was like uh, this is truth and I loved that about Tim too. A lot of the stuff he was saying was very office space fight clubesce. It captured what a lot of people were feeling and I don't know man. Kids are smart, they can pick up when adults are not crazy about the life that they've chosen for themselves and you get that sense early on in your life. And I'm sure you got that at some point as well.
Yes, like speaking truth. You can here the truth from bullshit and maybe your truth also embedded in there when the people are living their dreams it's very intoxicating and inspiring and gives you energy. Energy is, I'm a huge believer in energy. Not this but like oh, I can feel your chakra or blah blah, like it's just energy like having some is required to do whatever you care about and it's those things that's a cycle when you see things that inspire you, you get energized when you have energy and you do those things you get reenergized and energy is the thing that propels you. Verses when you're doing something you're not suppose to be doing or what you don't love and it's draining to you and when something drains you, that only does it not give you the gas tank but there's a psychological spiral down which is a miserable and scary place to be.
Yeah, you grow to resent yourself, you grow to resent the people around you because you start to think like uh, they're part of the reason why I'm here and like...
You're keeping me down. (charlie laughs) so again, going back to your opening salvo, talking about like seeing people in the world, all them that you mentioned have bee on the show, Rameet, Tim, Seth, all exemplarily, exam, exemplary examples, can you say that.
Of what the show, what I think Creative Live stands for. If you look at the work that you did there, relative to what you thought you would have gotten if you would've followed the path that your mom asked you to go on which is spend another two years, 40, 50 grand a year to get an MBA, contrast where you went and what you learnt verses the traditional path.
I mean it's (laughs) you can't compare this.
You can, it's like...
It's a totally different world but so with, let's see. So with Rameet, so the question is basically like what's the different between if I'd gotten an MBA verses where I went.
Yeah and maybe it's theoretical verses practical or maybe it's like the real world grind or you get to see behind the scenes of what it actually takes verses learning my case. I don't know just because I think what people are setting at home right now and they're having the same conversations. They're like their parents are saying they need to go to school or their employer is, they're in a bullish job and their employer's saying, yeah you know the best chance you have to get a raise is to go get your MBA or to get your advanced degree and maybe it is in that field but I think there's something about the practicality of doing shit, of you now, it's more a portfolio world now than a resume world, is you get the core of the question. So we're going to come of the things that you picked up on.
So for people watching this, we're in a position. They might feel that getting another credential is the safe path, that throwing down another 100,000 dollars in debt is actually safer. And your face says it all.
Yeah, I just, but that's the narrative, that's why the face I made for those of you who are listening, I jut made a bad face. Sorry.
So, the way I viewed it was these guys generally are probably not going to, I wanted to work with them so I could get behind the scenes so I could actually see it. You can actually read the email, the first email that I sent to Tim Ferris, breaking down like here's what I want, here's what I can provide for you, here's why I want what I want and here's what I'm willing to deal to make this happen. And I basically said I just want to be able to see entrepreneurs doing their thing the way that I could see myself doing my thing someday. I want to know how that's done. And so I offered to work for free for them because I knew it was more valuable than paying 100,000 dollars for a degree where I could study some case studies and learn how to write a business plan, you know. So, my life, if I'd gone the MBA path I would not have the confidence in myself to know that I could play the game. It would all be theoretical. I gained...
You'd be 100,000 dollars poorer...
100,000 dollars poorer.
With less confidence and still not know what it took to do the thing.
And still, right, and still in this little safety net that isn't really real. I also gained relationships that immeasurable, the value. And I was explaining, somebody asked me the other day, what was it like working with Tim Ferris? Like what was the big change, the transformation that you had and I said, you know, the thing that I really took away from him more than anything, he expanded my brain. Like he expanded what I thought was possible in the world. A lot of people read the four hour work week and they're like what but hanging out with them was like 10 times that because of the people he introduces you to, the opportunities that you get, the work that he would hand off to me. It's just stuff that I would've never done on my own, there's no company in the world that would've handed me those things at the time. There probably are some now because they've seen like oh, that's...
That's a new thing.
There's the market there but at the time I was like I can't believe this is my job. This is unbelievable, it's amazing, it was my dream job.
So I'm gonna grab the ball for a second say, Tim and I have been friends for I don't know, probably gone more than 10 years now, shortly after the four hour work week, yeah, came out and a mutual friend introduced us and when he had an event and at the event I remember very clearly meeting you. It was an event for maybe 100 people or something and really fun and interesting people who now I'm thinking back like oh my god, those are relic. That's where I met Niel Strouce and just a really fun cross section of people and I remember very clearly being introduced to you and was like oh, I can tell that dude is on a mission, he is an amazing executer and all this shit that's happening around us is largely as a result of the work that Charlie's doing. And I'm an idealist, a dreamer and I've always worked to pair myself with people who had a passion for the executing, like my wife Kate is a producer. She makes stuff happen and to be able to combine those tools and then we used to get, like I get a little producer love or I guess vibe from here, from Kate.
right in the organs.
Yeah and she gets a little idea, think for me and we both sort of lift one another up and I felt like I saw that in you. You were running the entire event and I could for some reason just felt connected to you and you're sponging all this stuff up. And then I realized later by reading some of your work that you were pegged, you were at 11 in sort of both a good way and a bad way. So we went through the romance of alright, you got your dream job and you worked for all these great guys and men and women who are doing things that you loved but let's here the flip side of the coin for a second.
I was going to say when you're like I was feeling the love I was like it could have been the drugs. (group laughs)
Could have been the drugs, yeah, so...
You thought I was on.
Right, so talk to me about that for a second. I think that's a think that's important for people to know.
Yeah, so I hit this peak with working with Tim. We had this wonderful, he had this wonderful success with the four hour body, we got through that launch and then the next project was the event that you mentioned, opening the kimono which was a book marketing event for about yeah, 130 entrepreneurs, people all over the world flew in, they paid a lot of money to come to this event. and I think I was 24, 25 at the time. I'm 31 now and so my experience in throwing events was like kegars in college and so I was a little freaked out how this was gonna go. And so the moths leading up to that, I fortunately had help from, do you remember Susan Dupree?
She was like working right next to me during that whole event, she reached out to me before that event and she said, I'll help you throughout this event for free and her background was she had just helped Steve Jobs launch the original iPhone and right.
Oh, that's right.
Only the biggest event.
Okay, yeah yeah, I remember her, I remember her now, yeah yeah. Okay, yes, that was the connective tissue I was missing.
Yeah and so she had an amazing background, like that was one thing of many that she had under her belt and so she helped me a ton. I couldn't have done it without her. Still, it was stressful, knowing the roster that was coming to that event and what kind of event it was and so as he event got closer, I just was like I can't afford to sleep during this entire event. If something goes wrong I need to be up, I need to fix it, I don't necessarily have anybody else who can be like as on top of the ball during this as myself so I...
Because you just knew all the ins and outs and--
Yeah, yeah and so I secretly ordered from an Indian pharmaceutical company some smart drugs that were originally designed to keep fighter pilots awake for multi-day missions and now they give them to people with narcolepsy to prevent them from spontaneously falling asleep and I was on that for, for four days I got a total of six hours of sleep.
In four days.
In four days which your body is designed for every two hours you're awake you have to be asleep for one. I was at a for every 16 hours I was awake I was sleeping one which is...
It's a bad ratio.
I can do math and that is a bad ratio.
Yeah, I mean there's a reason that we torture prisoners of war by sleep deprivation.
Yeah, because it's the worst.
It's the worst.
So, is it fair to say, I'm gonna take the liberty of putting in some words in your mouth now. Did that just bust you wide open or was that the first, was that like the tipping point that you realize that oh my god, this is not sustainable and what am I doing?
Yeah, I think it was really the push that sent me over the edge and it, I mean, leading up to it it wasn't like I was like yeah, I'm getting 10 hours of sleep at night, I was pushing it hard and I was drinking a ton of coffee, I was sitting still all day hammering stuff out on the computer. I would go to a cafe in the morning and stay till night and have happy hour there at night and like, I was living with my roommate, one of my roommates was in the financial industry and he was working even longer than I was. So he was getting up at 4:30 in the morning. He was coming home at one.
Yeah, like this was the norm around. It was almost a...
Was it in New York or where we...
That was in San Francisco.
Yeah. And I was actually working remotely at the time because Tim was traveling around so I had to really have the discipline in the way that I was doing that, a lot of the time was just like stimulants mostly, which is (laughs).
Here we are sipping iced coffee.
Sipping it nice and slow. (laughs)
And enjoying it.
Yeah, so, but yeah, I did not take care of myself and I really think that it wouldn't have mattered whether I was working with Tim or somewhere else. I was working at a startup, like it would have happened eventually, that's just my personality and...
But I think that's part of the connection that I'm trying to make for the folks at home is that sure there's a personality component of it but there's also a cultural component of it and it's really like, we have to find a way to understand what the culture is programing us and feed ourselves different information because culture says you're not enough, you're not worthy, you're comparing your dirty laundry to everybody else's highlight real. That's what social does, there's all kinds of...
The grass is permanently always greener on the other side.
Yeah, on the other side and in hearing and unpacking a little bit about your story and I guess, so many people who are guests of the show, the goal is to say that we all put our pants on the same way and we're all experiencing the same message, so what do people who have found a way to break through, what sort of things do they tell themselves? What's their self care routine? What are they dreaming about and how do they protect against the downsides of culture and get all of the upsides? So would you say that you fully crashed, crashed and burned and you're like I'm done, I'm broken, I need to go like lick my wounds somewhere and give us the low low.
Yeah, so the low low I remember, I was thinking to myself like after that event, the event went really well.
It did, it was awesome.
Yeah but after that event, shortly after we dove into his next book, the hour chef. And we were working on that for a while and I remember thinking I don't know if I'm gonna be able like, I feel different after that event because of how hard I pushed myself, I know how intensely Tim goes after making a great book and I know the ride in front of me, I don't know of I'm gonna make it. And so, I remember there was this one weekend where a family member passed away, close friend of mine attempted suicide and then the deadline for the four hour chef got pushed back six months, I told Tim I was like I gotta take the next week off or something because I just don't, I don't know. And I came back from that week and like going to meet up with Tim, I was like shaking because I decided I had to quit because I was just toast, I was done, I was a wreck. I was super fragile and spent a long time after that just kind of spinning out and trying to figure out what was going on with me and how I'd felt in which I'd never felt that way before and yeah, that was really kind of the lowest point I think or one of them.
What helped you turn around? What was the, when you said you were spinning and let's just, I don't wanna glorify it but, or I don't wanna linger on it too much but also I want to glorify you're spun out, you're like I'm broken was what helped you get through it and what it looked like when you realize something and you're sort of climbing back out of the hole.
Sure, yeah, so I'll tell you what got me out but first I do want to note there were a lot of things that I tried, like basically everything that doctors tell you to try if you're anxious, depressed, you name it, I did it and none of it really worked. It would work for a few hours or maybe a couple of days and then it was...
What were some of the things that you tried.
Yoga, meditation, therapy, journaling, going on extreme diets, trying every supplement you can list, all forms of exercise, I was volunteering, I was praying, I was doing flotation tanks regularly.
This is a good list.
Psychedelics, you name it, I did it and I even took a six week course. Once I realized it was anxiety I took a six week course for men struggling with anxiety, that didn't work. I saw my doctor, that was the first step, I saw my doctor and she was like hey, take theses pills and then I looked up the pills and it was like wow, these are some narly side effects, I'm a little afraid of taking these so I decided to go the natural out. What worked, to your question was play and I discovered it at a friend's house, at Tucker Max's apartment, he on his bookshelf had this book Play, by Stuart Brown, sat down, read the book in a sitting and it was like so obvious. This book is, it talks about the evolutionary benefits of play and like why play is the key to creativity, it's why human beings are able to bond with each other and form communities and connections and like plays this essential ingredient in life. You can deny work. A person can go their whole life without working, human beings are designed to play. You cannot prevent a person from playing. And they have done tests on animals where, primates and lab rats, were they stop them from playing, they give them everything else that they want, they give them food, water, love, nurturing, shelter, everything that they need but when they stop them from playing, they develop emotional and social handicaps, they're crippled. They lash out at their environment, they're afraid to explore they're afraid to interact with their peers and then they'll just like lash out angrily at them and I started digging more and more into like play deprivation, what happens. There's another great guy, have you heard of doctor Peter Gray.
He's a play researcher as well and he's measured and studied what happens, how our schools have changed from the 1950's up until now and across the board, play has plummeted and anxiety and depression in kids has gone up and obviously like correlation doesn't equal causation but the corelation was very tight. As play goes down, mental illness goes up. And so I started thinking to myself, maybe this is all I gotta do. Maybe I just add play back into my life and as I started adding it back in everyday within a month I had no symptoms really of major anxiety. I just felt normal again and I was back to who I was.
So, a, thank you for sharing that. b, when I, I don't know, I think you sent me a draft of the book before you released it. The book is called Play It Away and in the intro I said it was like one of the more profound books that's affected me and this is why I'm gonna connect a couple of dots we've talked about here, I'm gonna try. So, we talked about cultural, the nature of culture right now is sort of comparing ourselves to others and there's a lot of benefits of social but there's also the challenge of you're looking at your real life and everybody else's highlight real and the fact that we're working so much and that with technology there's all kinds of upside but there's also isolation and plenty of downside. And when the book came out, I am a type a person, I have a ton of energy and I would never have speak in front of 10,000 people, I would never describe myself as having anxiety until I started feeling different and I thought different was part of success, like as the (Charlie laughs) No, I really did. I was like oh wow, this is a byproduct of success is maybe it's intensity or I don't know what the thing is and I still to this day don't do a very good job of describing it but what I felt was there was a hamster wheel and it was self talk and it wasn't bad, it wasn't like you're horrible but it was like you do this and this and this and with this the stakes are higher and you get, it's like kind of what you described earlier is like when you're planing that event. I can't drop this ball, I gotta make this, this is really important and what if I you know, and I realized that that, so that was a nonstop dialog in my head and that that actually equaled anxiety, that was anxiety just sort of sitting in my back pocket going everywhere with me. And the, certainly I had gone through some hard shit and when your carrier is on and this is the soundtrack that's in your brain and everyone else is like oh my god, you're killing it, things are blowing up. You get this weird association with I don't want to give up all the rewards, social rewards that I'm getting, let alone money or attention or fame or whatever the thing is and when you sort of there's this corelation of that positive with the negative that's going on in your brain and there's for me it was this, this and like something is off. I read your book and I was like holy scrap, that's what's happening. This is anxiety and again, to this day I don't consider myself an anxious person but I learnt that anxiety is like right under the surface for so many people and whether it's I don't even wanna use the word diagnosis but I get the sense that it was a little different for you, that you were aware that this is anxiety, I'm seeking medical professions and seeking therapists and what not and it sounds like your play, it was a very intentional thing, like I'm gonna try this. And so, what I'm gonna, this is the leap here, this is my tune it, my monologue here is that whether intentionally you have anxiety and you suffer from it and you can get out of it through play or if any of the things that I described like just the running monologue and self talk it's not...
Constant worrying. What I would encourage to anyone who's listening or watching to take up play. So now I'm a hand the ball back to you and say so what were some of the things that you did. Go ahead, take it away.
Yeah, just to add to what you were saying is, I think it's important for not only the people who are having that constant worrying like you're talking about but some people are watching, I'm sure like I'm anxious and I feel anxious. It's a feeling, it's not the constant, there's like the rapid heartbeats, short breath, that sort of thing. It applies to both. Play can help both.
So now let's get real tactical. So what did you, because saying play is very ambiguous.
And it sounds a little childish, yeah.
We're playing like what is play, it sounds childish, you're right.
There's a lot of stigma around the word.
Yeah, let's go play. Play house, play dolls, play football, play, so, when you said you started to introduce play into your day, get tactical, what does that mean?
I just mostly played house. (laughs) Yeah so, for everybody it's what is your play history? When you were a kid when adults weren't forcing you to do anything, you weren't getting graded, you weren't getting judged, like what were the things that you and your friends were just naturally drawn to and would do for hours and hours at a time because it was fun and like put you just naturally in a flow. So for me that was the first step, was reassessing like okay, I know who I am, I just have not been in touch with that individual for a while. And so when I did that exercise I found playing catch, playing home run derby were two big ones. I created art, I built things with my hands.
And this is your, sorry to interrupt, so you're looking but you're just like what did I do when I was 12.
When I was growing up, yeah.
To bring joy when I had a lot of time and what was the like you look back, you're oh my god that was fun, whether it was like...
Did that all the time.
Riding a little mini bike around on the backyard or like you said playing football or whatever. It's like literally go back and survey the things in your history. What did we spend the most time on and it gave me this cool excuse to call up some of my childhood friends. And I was just asking them like what do you remember us doing and they were like dude, you played so many freaking pranks on us like it just drove us nuts. And so pranks, practical jokes, I loved doing sketches like filming sketches with my friends. So it was, I had this list of things that I just hadn't done in a long time or if I had done them, I didn't allow myself to enjoy them. And so I was, my mind was always either backtracking on the stuff that I'd screwed up or the work that I needed to be doing in the future. So yeah.
How much do, what's the connection if any and none is a fine answer by the way but what's the connection or do you see a connection between mindfulness and presence and your experience with play?
100% yeah because it brings you into the present if you allow it. If you're enjoying yourself, if you're enjoying your life you're not in the future.
Yeah, you're present.
Right, yeah and play is just an activity that just brings you straight into mindfulness. Or it could be work, it can be conscious work where you're just fully present. So to answer your question of what I was doing. So, I just started looking at, I thought I'm just gonna view the world in terms of play. So, work opportunities are play opportunities, people are potential playmates, world's a playground not a prison the way I've been thinking of it and this place that where things can go wrong. And people are not transactional. So, the next day, a friend of mine introduced me to his friend because I just moved to Austin and he said you gotta meet this guy and he was like hey, let's go meet up and have coffee, talk about how impressive we are to each other. And I wrote back to him and said why don't we go play catch at the park instead. And he was like hell yes, let's do it. So we ended up doing that. And after that experience I came back and I felt noticeably lighter and so I just kept doubling down on that so I signed up for improv and that was extremely liberating. That was like tapping back into my soul. Tucker and I were playing home run derby on the weekends and...
I used that example when I and before we started recording, Nasie here who's behind one of the cameras was saying like Chase is always talking about the book that you wrote, Play It Away and this follow up Come Play For A Living where like almost like goofing off is a way of furthering human connection and what I've also found in employing a lot of these techniques that you're talking about is not only do I bring joy to myself but when you like the example you just gave about hey, let's meet up for coffee, when you say let's actually we'll talk about whatever we talk about but let's go play catch at the park, or let's go shoot baskets or let's walking meeting or ping pong meeting or like what I've found as the other person, you rock them out of the sort of the normal rut. And when you have a walking meeting or you say let's go play catch at the park while we're talking, it has this sort of experience of bringing others along and getting them out of their world and so there's this sort of other positive juice that you get because you're like oh my god, that was so awesome, thank you for, or walking me or whatever, just something that's different. And that was like a side benefit that I got. Specifically home run derby to me is hilarious. And that is just you went and bought a bunch of baseballs and some bats and then you just take turns with your buddy pitching and then you'd hit them all over the park and go pick them up and trade.
I did that every week with my friends growing up. We loved, in my backyard was perfectly designed for that. It drove our neighbors sort of nuts but our whole neighborhood was friends so we were pelting tennis balls into their windows (laughs).
So this is as a full grown adult, you went back to the things that brought you joy as a kid.
Yeah and I've heard from, I mean that book's been out for a few years now. I've heard from a lot of people who've had those experiences that you've talked about. I've heard from sales guys who were like I'm really good friends with my clients now. I never had that before because we change how we did meetings. I had a guy who was like I was able to get a girlfriend because we went on a like a catch date or you know, they actually did fun stuff rather than going to bar and like let's stare at each other and drink alcohol to (laughs) calm our nerves.
Right, until we can't remember why we're there in the first place.
Right, yeah. So it's like such a simple easy thing to do.
And so this within 30 days. How long have you been suffering?
About a year and a half.
So what did you call it depression? Would you call it anxiety?
It was a little bit of both. It was primarily anxiety. When I say anxiety I think that word unusually gets thrown out a lot these days. Like people will be like uh, I'm gonna have a panic attack if I don't blah blah, it's like no, (laughs) not like that, yeah. It was debilitating. It was to the point where I was afraid to interact with people because I always felt like they were judging me or criticizing me or like about to, it was this weird feeling like I was about to get attacked. It's exactly like it does, like the lab rats and stuff, like it was that primal fear that just sort of dissipated, went away.
Yeah, I think I've heard anxiety described as like you're planning for, or maybe this is just sort of an aphorism. You're like most of anxiety is planning for things that never happen and so you're always solving problems that aren't there. Like what if that person over there attacks me then I'm gonna go over here and do this or...
Basically, every prepper is struggling with emotional issues that they're not addressing.
And so within 30 days, by simply introducing play, you I don't know, do you use the word cured or fixed or were yourself again or like...
For myself it was cured. It was cured because I knew if I ever had that sensation again I had zero fear of it taking over my life.
You had a solution.
And I knew it worked.
Here's a confession that sounds a little bit like I'm very happy to share with this with you is that because of your book I track 10 habits that I do everyday. One is try and be in bed for eight hours. Not necessarily sleep because I can do that but try to be in bed and if I can great and I meditated in the morning and the evening and there's a list. I shared it pretty widely. And on that list is play. And because of your book I try to play everyday and the way that I track this is not sort of did I play accidentally but did I play intentionally. Did I say, I'm gonna look at this as a game and I'm gonna try and make it fun and goofy and whether it's...
Do you have your phone?
Can I see like...
How the progress is going? What have been some of the things that you've intentionally played?
So, this, for those of you who are listening and not watching, I use an app called habit list which I've talked about widely about.
You're five days in a row on play or make.
That's pretty good.
Yeah and if you track and I don't remember how. Oops, that's not what I was looking for. Where's my data, oh, there you go.
Oh, nice. Just hold that up to the camera, that's really good.
So those are all the green or in this sense we're black and white, this is all the light gray highlighted areas are. So I didn't play on the 5th of September, didn't play on the 8th of September and the 13th but all the other are clear examples of play.
Glass half full. Yeah, you got a lot.
There you go. And so a, thank you.
Thank you, I'm thrilled.
B, that has been a massive catalyst for me I think creatively and it is the sort of the lightness with which it reminds you to live life and it's both overt and sort of subtle that when you're playing and you can laugh, intentionally, remember this is not just did I have fun and is this like did I say, I'm gonna make something or I'm gonna go goof off with my friends even just for 30 minutes or I'm gonna send five friends funny internet videos or do something that is goofing off, that it has wildly transformed my life. So I've been wanting to have you on the show since then so a, thank you for making time.
Thank you. Can you tell a quick story about a time where it really stood out to you, where you did that?
I'll use home run derby as an example and it was not too long ago. Again, I've been doing this now for, I think I've been tracking data for about two years but this was something that was really recent and it was home run derby and I used home run derby and I say oh yeah, my friend Charlie wrote this book and when you're thinking about playing, for Charlie it was home run derby, something he did every couple times a week when he was a kid growing up and the philosophy's really simply look at what brought you joy as a child and you go do that as adults and you feel like you're getting away with something and it's light and you bring work and those two things together and so for me I had been tracking my data for two years, I was realizing that I was about to play in a celebrity softball tournament. It's safe co field in Seattle with, before an event so they were like many thousands if not 10,000 people and I was with the Macklemores and the Sea Hawks and I don't know how I ended up in this side. A friend of mine puts the charity, it's a charity event and I was thinking to myself like oh man. I'm gonna have to take, I'm gonna have to hit a baseball in front of 10,000 people and I haven't hit a baseball since I was like 15 or 18 so I should probably do that and it was like wait a minute, this is literally and again, I've been tracking my habit for a long time, playing.
Been training for this moment.
But I was thinking like I'm gonna actually do home run derby. So, close friend of mine and the COO of Creative Live, a guy named Mac Azoty who's an incredible human. He makes the operations and all the day to day stuff happen at Creative Live, an incredible operator and great human. His son is on a baseball team and they have a coach. And after we got out of work at Creative Live and we went and picked the son up and I saw his baseball coach and I was like is it kind of weird. I've got this thing coming, I use the game as an excuse to play home run derby but I asked if I could hire their hitting coach to take me to a park and pitch softballs to me for an hour while I just roped them all over the place. And it was again, I use the rouse of I've got this celebrity softball tournament, I don't want to embarrass myself but it was in part just absolute joy and so, the guy was awesome. He got me back into my little hitting, my groove that I was in when I was a younger human and it was unbelievable. It was the most fun I've had in an hour in so long and it was like I use your example literally as a thing, like I'm gonna do that and I'm, I used money to pay for it, I don't own 100 baseballs and a bunch of aluminum bats and I don't have a friend who's good enough to throw strikes over and over and over so I can just rope them all over the field but I did it and it was incredibly joyful. I will say that when I actually got to the game I'd one single low grounder, and I had a line drive shot that was going over the fence, and it was literally caught at the fence by Jay Buhner.
Oh, that is an honor.
A major league center fielder who is now retired and was part of this, part of the charity and he only got off a dead sprint. And I was like really Jay Buhner you ripped off my home run thing. But the point is not the result, the point is the play. And so...
That's so cool.
Thank you for sharing.
What a trip. That blows my mind.
It's literally home run derby.
That's so cool. I mean you write a book and you're like this is such a pain in the ass, and then you hear stories like this years later and you're like awesome.
So glad I did that.
Absolutely worth it.
yeah that's amazing. I love that.
Well, what I'd like to do now is talk a little bit about, you know is it fair to consider this an extension of Play it away?
Yeah, so in Play it away there's a section that I loved which was quotes from the worlds greatest workers that I was showing like, no these guys are the greatest players. They love their jobs. They thought of work as a game. And they used it as a vehicle to have fun. And I love that part of Play it away, so I made it into initially a slide share and that blew up, and so I realized oh it would be really cool as a book and that's how it got started.
So it's called Play for a Living. You had a coauthor here, Mckenna Bailey.
Yeah she was the project manager. And it hit a point where I was like, look you're co-author. There's so much work.
You're name's on this thing.
Your names on this thing. Quotes from people who've found their joy in their work and changed the world. So give folks at home who can't, who are listening right now who can't see this, describe it. It's basically a quote and then art from how many different artists?
43 artists around the world.
Contributed to, every chart this is a Picasso quote I'm reading here, every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist once he or she grows up. Steve Martin, I loved to make people laugh in high school and then I found out loved being on stage in front of people. Peter Jackson, the most honest form of filmmaking is to make a film for yourself. This is great, this is like 8 bit emogi art in here.
Yeah so I tried to have the artists match the personality. To kind of capture the essence of the person. And really I mean to that Peter Jackson quote, I feel like the most honest form of writing is to make a book for yourself. I definitely made that book, primarily for myself, as just a reminder and just something to turn to throughout life and ended up just being a really fun group project.
Oh it's beautiful and as we were joking I think before we turned the cameras on, or maybe after the camera was on, I forget where we turned them on and started recording as we were talking before, but, that your friends kid stole the book and won't give it back. Kids they got no, it's real right, if they love it.
And it's beautiful. Congratulations on that. And what's the best place for people to pick that up if they wanted to pick. That and or Play it Away.
It's on Amazon now. Just went on Amazon, so you can get it there. Both books, of course I launched that on kick starter earlier this year, while my wife was pregnant. I had to make the decision, I was like I either have to come out with this thing before the kid or after the kid. I don't think it's gonna happen if it comes out after the kid, so I gotta launch this thing now. So April was one of those tough months.
Yeah well, before I let you go I wanna pick your brain on a handful of personal things. 'Cause I like talking about work and theoreticals and all that stuff. But a couple of tactical questions that you can answer for the folks at home. You mentioned speaking of family and having a child, a congratulations.
You're months in?
You look great, for a three month, father who's got a month old.
Back on drugs. Not really.
So number two--
Yeah so number two is we were talking about you've got a thing that you do with your family and it's a maybe a derivative of like a family board meeting.
I thought that was fascinating, I thought folks at home might find this interesting so can you share that?
So my friend Jim wrote a book called Family Board meeting. I actually met him at an American Dream U event. Which is he takes his family out, once a quarter, does a special day, and I thought every quarter? It needs to be more frequent than that. So my wife and I do what we call a marriage meeting.
Where we compartmentalize our finances, ways we can--
Responsible (talking over each other).
Yeah responsible adult things that'll come up. So we set an agenda basically throughout the week, like here are all the things that we wanna cover and then we, every Sunday we'll go somewhere kind of fun and somewhere scenic and then we'll just have this meeting. And sometimes it's 45 mins, other times it's been three hours where we're just talking about stuff.
What are some of the things that are on your agenda?
Some of the things on our agenda, so--
It doesn't have to be private, I'm not asking you to share all that, we gotta work on that personal problem.
Yeah something deeply personal. We've had ideas. Like right now we're researching, just learning about co-working spaces. 'Cause we're just both interested in both of us, like she's an interior designer for Gensler, which is this architectural firm. She's done work for Facebook and she, like I was working a We Work, earlier in the year and she was like oh yeah I worked on that. And so both of us are just learning about it because we want to. And to see if potentially there could be some business thing there. But one of the cool things that came out of it was we were talking about finances a lot, so we've been doing this for about nine months now and we realized the problem with some of the spending stuff that we kept visiting was we just don't have a dashboard. We don't see that number throughout the, like at any given time, you have to go out of your way, so we mounted an iPad in our kitchen that has Mint up 24 hours a day, so that we can always see, what the number is.
Yeah. We can always access it. And it's easy. That alone has just like diminished our stress. And most people will avoid financial stuff, because they're like, it's a mess I just don't wanna look at it. But you can't make it better unless you're confronting it on a daily basis.
So you talked about family meetings and vacations and finances and lists of stuff to do and you compartmentalize that, and it allows you to enjoy the rest of your week.
Enjoy the rest of the week yeah. 'Cause stuff will come up and we'll just be like put it in the meeting.
In the meeting, the meeting.
Yeah 'cause if you get a bill at like, like if you get a traffic ticket or something and you ran through a red light and it's a couple hundred bucks, you're like (groaning). You don't wanna fight about it then, just put it aside. Save it for the dedicated time.
Cool, that's a beautiful technique. Thank you for sharing that.
What are you doing for Play now? List a couple of things that are maybe new to you. We talked a lot (muffled talking). But something different.
Give some folks at home some ideas.
Right now honestly, one of the big, it sounds so ridiculous, but when I wake up in the morning I change my daughters diaper and the look on her face when she sees me every morning is like oh my gosh this is the greatest. Like she's so happy to see me and so it's starting out my day is immediately me just like--
Wanting to be with her.
Playing with her basically. I have dogs, we play together but I host a thing, I've done this for the past few years, a group called the Recess Project, which is basically we go to Zilker park in Austin. Have you been to Zilker?
You have to go man. This is my number one favorite place in Austin.
Okay my trip, I'm on a plane here in three hours. So my next trip.
So it's this big beautiful park, you can walk around barefoot. It's so fun and so every other week I'll go there with friends, I've got a Facebook group now, that has swelled over the years. It's not that big, but, people come they show up and we just play catch. We play soccer.
The recess club.
The Recess Project.
Yeah so it's just a dedicated group it was really to hold me accountable.
To keep playing.
Yeah. So that the big one.
So books? Inspiration. What's on your hot list right now? It doesn't have to be the best or the thing, just like give, again keeping tactical, what's inspiring you right now?
What's inspiring me. So I've been doing a podcast, for my job called author hour. And I just talk to authors a couple times a week and I just get to, I basically get them to deliver their book in conversation form to me. Which has been really expansive and wonderful. It's expanded my thinking in a lot of areas. And that's been really wonderful to me personally, because I always have a long reading list. Non Violent Communication, the book has been on my to do list for ever. And then I got to talk to a guy who runs the non violent communication center in New York, because the guy who wrote the book has passed away. So just being able to talk to authors has been awesome.
Can I share that Non violent communication was something that was on my, my wife and I have a list of just a couple of goals each, we try and keep it pretty tight each year, and we made that, reading that book, and putting that into practice as a daily habit and something that we were going to at the end of year, we could look back and say, and it has been hugely impactful. Just the fact there's a couple key principles and non violent communications, like observe without judging. So you're looking around at why am I feeling like this? What's happening. Help me with this one, the second one is stating, the third one is human needs, the second one is...
I cannot recall.
No I wanna do this. The wording is important because I wanna make sure to get it right. Watch this here one second. The word is right, okay so, identify and express your feelings not your thoughts. If you're saying I think that every time you do this that's not, a, it's about you, so I'm using the word you and I'm saying what I think versus if you say when you do this I feel scared. I feel afraid, I feel hurt, I feel upset, I feel nervous. And make it about you as opposed to the other person.
Or you're observing and I observe that when this happens we assign a feeling, what it does and you put it on you, the other person is immediately more disarmed. Their hackles aren't up. Then the third step is saying, understanding rather what human need it's violating. I need to feel safe. When you do this thing it makes me feel scared. When I feel scared I feel unsafe. And so next time, and then you make a request that would make your life better in some way, shape or form. So next time if you, you know you have somethings, some criticism for me could you say it in a different way.
So is it with you and your wife? Is it pretty fluent now?
Actually it's not and so, it's September and we orginization for nine months and it's still very intentional. We walk one another, and we find we're in a disagreement or when we're observing something else and we hear the other person going down a bad path. Words matter. Words matter deeply in your phycology so how can you change this and and frame it in terms of non violent communication. So it's still an exercise that we feel like we're doing, but so powerful. And I've used it in expressing how I feel, it helps me feel better and I think it contributes to a vulnerability which increases connection. And in observing other people who are struggling with that. I've used it in a professional setting. And it has completely disarmed what historically have been a really volatile situation where you start saying, I think something. I think you're pissed. To me that's like, a, thinking is not feeling and so when you're saying you're thinking you're describing that to somebody else. And I mean you're saying things like--
And you're saying I think therefore I judge.
Yeah so there's judgment in there.
It seems like.
Or I'm observing that.
Rabbit hole, but I think the point of your ability in this podcast to connect with cool, interesting people, I just wanted to share that nonviolent communication this is like a side reccomendation.
No it's a good one.
It's a technique that was, what's the authors name who wrote the book?
I think you're right.
To add to what you're talking about so communication during hard convversations, volatile conversations. Have you read never split the difference, by Chris Voss?
I see Chris in my social feed. I follow him and I read secondary materials of it, I haven't read the source text.
The book is pretty mind blowing. (muffled talking) Yeah so his background is he's obviously FBI hostage negotiator. So he's got some crazy stories and his breakdown of these types of conversations, was I found extremely helpful as well.
Yeah. What about you? What are you reading these days?
Well just nonviolent communication is something that I think I'm putting that into practice. I've always got three or four books. Brene Browns most resent book.
Yeah what's her newest one?
Braving the wilderness.
Braving the wilderness.
You know the wilderness has always been this great metaphor for solitude and adventure and so many things that we think about like on the heroes journey. Ding ding. Oops that was bad. And what she has done with braving the wilderness is helped people understand that it's not that you are in the wilderness it's that you are the wilderness. So what can you do to stay true to yourself and be wild, rather than allow yourself to be in the wild. Like the wildheart what does that mean? Awesome book. (muffled talking) Ryan Holiday. It's about making work that is meaningful to you and has lasting power rather than a flash in the pan. Like how to do Facebook posts. So something like that versus what does it mean to turn 30. Because there's always someone who's turning 30, and so how can you make this a classic. Like communication. People are always going to communicate. So Nonviolent communication for example. And those are a couple of the hot ones. But thanks for asking. Grateful to have you on the show. Thank you very much.
Play for a living and Play it Away two amazing books you should check out. And what's the place they can follow you? You just @charliehoehn?
There you go. And anywhere else you wanna send folks? Amazon to get the books.
Yeah go on Amazon and get the book. That would be awesome and if you're a company that needs an annual retreat gift. Boom.
Hit me up.
Play for a Living beautiful. The sirens are coming.
Is that the signal that the show's over?
I think so. I think so. Thanks for being on the show. (muffled talking) (upbeat music)