The Tracking Wonder podcast, hosted by Jeffrey Davis, is all about helping agile creatives and curious entrepreneurs advance their most important ideas even amidst inevitable challenges. Each week brings you in-depth conversations with leaders, stories from change-makers, and provocative ideas from artists and scientists - all designed to inspire you to shape your best work with more possibility, impact, and - yes - wonder.
S3 EP1: Prologue: The Beauty of an Excellent Life
Have you spent years building your one business or brand, honing your craft, refining your core skill set to build out a set of services around your distinct expertise?
Or do you experiment with multiple fields, crossing boundaries to pursue excellence with your diverse background? Fearlessly shifting shapes and testing your versatility in new spaces?
Is your motivation to excel at your work born from a need to be the best? Or are you driven by something deeper?
Today, Jeffrey introduces us to the focus of Season 3, an exploration of the beauty of pursuing a life of excellence. He shares two different approaches to excellence, comparing the song of a wood thrush with that of a lyrebird and offering examples of legendary creatives who fit into each category. Jeffrey also reflects on what motivates us to excel, challenging the idea that we’re driven solely by the desire to compete and survive. Listen in for insight around how we’re motivated by our admiration for others and learn how the beauty and sorrow of the human condition inspires us to “sing” —and create exceptional experiences for each other.
Are you a wood thrush or a lyrebird?
Key Takeaways [1:38] Season 3’s focus on the beauty of an excellent life
Transcend cultural ideals of success Excel at what we do AND how we do it [3:43] The wood thrush’s approach to the pursuit of excellence
Learns core phrase, builds out three-part song Create variations to develop 50 distinct pieces [5:18] What drives the lyrebird’s pursuit of excellence
Biological need to outdo rivals and protect legacy Beauty of yearning + sorrow of human condition (Legend of Three Sisters) [9:22] Examples of celebrated wood thrushes and lyrebirds
Lyrebirds Lady Gaga, David Bowie, Pharrell Williams Wood thrushes Frank Sinatra and Billie Holiday [11:24] What motivates us to excel
Desire to compete and survive Ability to admire other people Capacity to appreciate beauty [15:40] What to expect in upcoming episodes
Dialogue with Charlie Gilkey on Start Finishing Excel at finishing best work despite challenges Connect with Jeffrey Tracking Wonder
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Jeffrey on LinkedIn
Resources Little Drummer Boy with David Bowie & Bing Crosby, produced by David Bowie
Lady Gaga’s Tribute to David Bowie
Simone Biles at 2016 Olympics
Haidt & Keltner Motivation Study
Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done by Charlie Gilkey
S3 EP2: The Art of Finishing Our Best Work — with Charlie Gilkey
Do you have an abundance of ideas for potential projects? But never enough time to reach the finish line?
What holds you back? Is it really that there aren’t enough hours in the day? And what’s the cost of not finishing the projects that matter?
What if you could take steps today to act on your most essential ideas—and get closer to your vision for an excellent life?
Today, Jeffrey explores the idea of finishing our most important work with Charlie Gilkey, the Business Growth Strategist behind Productive Flourishing and author of Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done. Charlie shares his strategies for deciding what projects really matter, explaining how finishing important work bridges the gap between where we are and where we want to be. He also weighs in on the pursuit of self-mastery to embolden our courage, discussing actionable practices for expanding our comfort zone and making meaningful progress in the age of distraction. Listen in to understand how Charlie navigates unbidden surprises without abandoning his most important work and learn how to excel at finishing what matters.
Key Takeaways [4:16] How Charlie’s young genius informs his work as a writer
Use what’s available to get things done Joy in building and creating in community [11:00] What pushed Charlie’s personal limits in writing Start Finishing
Comparison to others (something valuable to say) Expand productivity to tie purpose with action [17:16] Charlie’s take on living a life of excellence
Start with self-mastery, channel resources in best way Inspire others to become best version of themselves [22:45] Charlie’s advice for deciding what projects to pursue
Heart-space to push forward (painful if left undone) Someone you know will benefit from undertaking [3:08] Why courage is crucial in achieving our vision of an excellent life
Allows us to claim space and bet on ourselves Expand comfort zone by working through fear [45:03] Charlie’s top practices for self-mastery
Reframe I am … to I feel … Move body to achieve calm Learn to ‘go back in’ [53:45] Charlie’s insight on technology and distractions
Anchor device to specific task Limit entry points (no door, no distraction) [59:38] How Charlie navigates unbidden surprises
Treat situation as emergent project Reallocate in alignment with values [1:12:28] How Charlie is celebrating the launch of his book
Share success with friends and enjoy seat at table Finishing important work detangles ‘faulty wiring’ Connect with Charlie Productive Flourishing
Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done by Charlie Gilkey
Resources A Wondrous Mind
Dao De Jing by Laozi
“Self-Mastery” by Henrietta Cordelia Ray
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Duct Tape Marketing
The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur: Daily Meditations to Feed Your Soul and Grow Your Business by John Jantsch
S3 EP3: Mastering the Entrepreneurial Self — with John Jantsch
We are barraged by digital distractions to the point where it can warp our perspective.
It’s profoundly challenging to hear ourselves think, let along carve out an identity of our own. So, how can we step out of this Matrix-like web of endless bombardment and live our own version of an excellent life?
How can we learn to listen to and rely upon our own point of view? What does that take? Are there skills of self-reliance we can practice?
Today, Jeffrey explores the art of mastering the entrepreneurial self with John Jantsch, the founder of Duct Tape Marketing and author of the forthcoming book, The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur: 366 Daily Meditations to Feed Your Soul and Grow Your Business. John explains how his curiosity informed his early days in business, discussing what living a life of excellence meant to him then and what it means now. He describes how the ideas of great mid-nineteenth century American thinkers like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Margaret Fuller apply to contemporary entrepreneurs, challenging us to foster the self-trust necessary to uncover our personal passion and purpose. Listen in for John’s insight around the characteristics of a self-reliant entrepreneur and learn to listen to your own authority, nurture a sense of empathy and openness to growth, and evolve to become even more of yourself.
Key Takeaways [0:02] Our addiction to information and digital distractions
Challenge to hear self think, carve out own identity Learn to listen to + rely on distinct point of view [5:35] The portrait of a young John
7 of 10 children, freedom of time spent in woods Characterized by curiosity (attention-getting device) [8:57] How John’s curiosity informed his early days in business
Confident in staying one step ahead of client Served in emerging digital marketing space [11:17] How John built and scaled his marketing firm
Sell system to small businesses (traditional agency model) Back to working alone after 9/11, create online course Speaking, writing and building network of consultants [15:45] What a life of excellence meant to John early on
Help clients develop strategy first, then tactics Explore link between curiosity and creativity [18:19] What inspired The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur
Affection for mid-nineteenth century American thought Apply ideas to life of contemporary entrepreneur Need for self-trust and empathy to see connections [28:49] How John’s writing voice has evolved over time
Write as member of audience (no first person) Hone art form of writing short passages [36:08] The relationship between self-trust and purpose
Stop letting others control, trying to control outcomes Self-trust necessary for purpose to find YOU [38:19] The tension between the values and practice of self-reliance
Technology + capitalism denies us pride of workmanship Disrupt digital matrix programming view of what’s true Foster wonder and appreciation of beauty as antidote [41:45] John’s practices for listening to our own authority
Quiet the noise and seek solitude Seek opportunities to experience new things Get outside in nature, foster spiritual connection [45:36] How self-reliant entrepreneurs will change the world
Goal to work much deeper on fewer things Nurture sense of empathy and openness to growth Give self break from judgement, need to compete [55:00] The evolution of a self-reliant entrepreneur
Shift focus from passion to success to impact Continue to embrace change and growth Prioritize mentorship, most important work [1:03:14] The value of change by evolution vs. revolution
Make profound change without crisis or drama Progression toward depth and richness Become more of self, able to engage and serve Slow down long enough to hear own voice Connect with John Self-Reliant Entrepreneur
Duct Tape Marketing
Resources A Wondrous Mind on 1440 Multiversity
The Self-Reliant Entrepreneur: Daily Meditations to Feed Your Soul
S3 EP4: Excelling at Tech, Entrepreneurship and the Art of Not-Knowing — with Sequoia Blodgett
Corporate culture perpetuates the idea that we need to fake it ‘til we make it, pretending to have all the answers and projecting confidence in our abilities—whether we feel it or not.
But what if there are advantages to not knowing?
What if living rich, creative entrepreneurial lives requires that we let go of what we think we know, step into new territory and expand our mental map of the world?
Today, Jeffrey considers the benefit of naïveté in creativity and entrepreneurship with Sequoia Blodgett, former music video director and founder of Commas, a tech platform designed to help founders build sustainable businesses. Sequoia shares her journey from directing music videos to the tech world, explaining what she did to secure VC funding for her first company and how the failure of that venture led to the creation of Commas. She addresses the vast disparity of women of color in tech, discussing the unconscious bias prevalent on both sides of private equity and her mission to even the playing field for multicultural entrepreneurs. Listen in to understand how travel enhances creativity and learn how to navigate your own knowledge gaps in the pursuit of an excellent life.
Key Takeaways [0:02] How naïveté can work to our advantage
‘Fake it ‘til you make it’ = destructive business advice Wide-eyed not-knowing benefits pursuit of creative life Let go of what think know as step into new territory [4:44] How Sequoia’s creative genius expressed itself early on
Organize ideas + people in form of magazine, film Exposed to father’s creative work at Pixar Studied TV, dance and film at Loyola University [11:47] Sequoia’s frustration with the business of making music videos
Can’t just create what you want (write hundreds of treatments) Must prove yourself over and over again Politics means work may never be released [17:43] What inspired Sequoia to step into the tech world
Learned about VC working at tech camp for girls Crowdfunding to attend Draper University Tim Draper invested in first tech company 7AM [29:59] How the failure of 7AM informed the creation of Commas
Didn’t understand business, burned through capital Platform to help entrepreneurs build profitable business [34:46] The navigation of knowledge gaps in pursuit of excellence
Access to much info, yet rapid change renders us ignorant Learn to recover from failure savvier but not jaded [39:10] Sequoia’s mindset shift around what it means to fail
Mentor explained that failure necessary for learning Freed from weight of having to be right [40:04] The vast disparity of women of color in tech
Issue on both sides (i.e.: unconscious bias, pattern matching) Mission to even playing field for multicultural founders [46:01] Sequoia’s insight around trying to do it all yourself
Scale with systems when small, leverage automation Tech to build cashflow business and then hire team [48:06] What Sequoia is doing to foster a strong inner life
Hire coaches to make sure Commas is successful Support with business and self-development [51:20] Sequoia’s take on the necessity of wonder
Travel to experience other perspectives Creativity improves when embrace other cultures [57:27] What Sequoia is learning to say NO to
Reject opportunities not necessary for growth Left Black Enterprise to say YES to other opportunities [1:02:22] How to expand your mental map of the world
Know what you don’t know + create support pack Create nurture pack to foster inner awareness Learn from people your brand elevates Get outside yourself to shake up perspective Connect with Sequoia Commas
Resources A Wondrous Mind on 1440 Multiversity
Sequoia’s Dad’s Blog
Sequoia’s Music Video
Adobe Creative Suite
Black Tech Mecca
Sequoia’s Article on BTM
Black Enterprise Magazine
S3 EP5: Designing for Excellent Wow — with Meow Wolf Founder Vince Kadlubek
As humans, we yearn for artistic experiences that disrupt the day-to-day and wow us with a greater reality beyond our to-do list. That’s what draws us to the wonder of film and literature and art exhibits.
In the absence of such experiences, we fall down the rabbit hole of digital distractions, scrolling Instagram for the unpredictability, the excitement of discovery we’re not getting from our physical environment.
But what if we didn’t have to go to a gallery or a theater to encounter these transformative moments? What if artful experiences were available in ordinary places? What if you yourself could design for disruption and delight on a small scale in your own business and brand?
Today, Jeffrey explores the impact of artful, transformative experiences with Vince Kadlubek, cofounder and executive advisor of Meow Wolf, an award-winning immersive arts production company out of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Vince explains how he went from struggling artist to head of a company valued at nine figures, describing how he thinks about the tension between art and commerce. He speaks to what he calls the crisis of imagination, discussing why people are hungry for imaginative analog experiences and what businesses can do artfully in response to the crisis. Listen in for insight into how the emerging experience economy is changing the way businesses engage with customers and learn the design parameters Vince uses to create the kind of reality-bending, transformational moments that make for an excellent life.
Key Takeaways [0:02] The human desire to be moved by artistic experiences
Want to be surprised, disrupt day-to-day doldrums In lieu of such experiences we seek digital distraction Potential to design artful moments in business/brand [5:17] How Vince’s creative genius expressed itself early on
Desire to serve + engage creatively (host sister’s sleepovers) See world with critical eye, ironic commentary on capitalism [8:34] What moved Vince to disrupt the mainstream Santa Fe art scene
Disconnect between gallery owners and creative energy of city Experience at Warehouse 21 inspired to uplift true creative spirit Opportunity to save economy by appealing to Gen X tourist [16:23] The early days of the Meow Wolf arts collective
Dumpster dive for materials at Salvation Army and Goodwill Build large sculptures from trash out of necessity [20:20] The turning point when Vince was arrested for shoplifting
Doing media literacy art program in Santa Fe elementary schools Caught stealing video games at Walmart to fund project Arresting officer supported in court, got into 12-step program [26:36] The mammouth growth of Meow Wolf in the last four years
Took business course in creative startups, shift to for-profit Wrote business plan and pitched to George R. R. Martin Opened House of Eternal Return ($9M revenue first year) Currently expanding art attractions to other cities [34:35] The opportunity around our shift to an experience economy
Disrupt default drive for mere efficiency or profit Use creative spirit to design memorable events for customers Engage on physical, emotional, intellectual or spiritual level [37:10] How Vince reconciles the tension between art and commerce
Used to strive for predictability, efficiency in value exchange Addicted to unpredictability again with advent of internet Gives creativity opening (billions willing to pay for experience) [43:04] Why people are hungry for memorable analog experiences
Built reality needs art + imagination to compete with phones Creative economy will transform how we think about value [46:44] Vince’s description of the House of Eternal Return
Through dark hallway to front yard of Victorian house at night Visitors have agency to go anywhere they want from there Access to portals to other worlds (e.g.: refrigerator = hallway) [52:03] The design parameters for creating transformative experiences
User must own experience Operate on gradient (blended vs. sin
S3 EP6: The Art of Life Design — with Marc & Angel Chernoff
What happens when the personal and professional life we have planned comes unraveled with a series of setbacks?
Is there a way to reframe the most stressful period of our lives as an opportunity?
Marc and Angel Chernoff contend that the way we spend our days is the way we spend our lives, and when they came up against back-to-back tragedy, the couple ruthlessly examined their everyday habits.
And one by one, they started to incorporate new daily rituals. Little things that got them closer to where they wanted to be. So, how can we work through our own tornado moments and use the experience to grow? How can we learn to excel—even as our world is falling apart?
Today, Jeffrey examines the art of life design with Marc and Angel, the creators of the Marc & Angel Hack Life Blog and bestselling authors of Getting Back to Happy and 1000+ Little Things Happy Successful People Do Differently. Marc and Angel share the series of personal tragedies that led to their work in the personal development space and the challenge they faced in shifting their own daily habits. The couple discusses what they had to unlearn to build a collective personal brand and speaks to their ability to translate complex theory into actionable insight. Listen in as Marc and Angel challenge us to ask what’s worth suffering for and learn why rituals are essential in shaping our days along the journey to an excellent life.
Key Takeaways [0:02] How to turn tornado moments into opportunities
Ruthlessly examine every part of daily habits Muster courage to shape life of excellence [5:51] How Marc & Angel’s young genius informs their current work
Marc given freedom to explore spirituality at young age Angel always driven + competitive, desire to be #1 [10:22] What Marc & Angel’s life was like before their tornado moment
Pursuing careers in computer engineering + business Unrestricted, relatively carefree young adult life [12:31] The series of tragedies that led Marc & Angel to personal development
Mutual best friend passed away and Angel’s brother committed suicide Angel lost job (primary source of income for couple) Turn to distraction to numb pain, avoid real conversation [17:32] The challenge Marc & Angel faced in shifting their daily habits
Difficult to acknowledge that daily habits not serving them Do one thing to break cycle (started with 45-minute walk) Add daily rituals like reading + blogging for accountability [22:50] When Marc & Angel realized their blog could be a business
Audience resonated with story, asked for one-on-one help Several articles went viral and fueled traffic to site [27:14] What Marc & Angel had to unlearn to build a collective personal brand
Define specific roles, afford each other autonomy and respect Embrace mantra ‘this is not my job’ [31:48] How Marc & Angel developed the discipline to turn theory into actionable insights
Identify principles to take us from where we are to where we want to be Make ideas simple to digest, help remind us of our better judgement [35:56] The three critical actions Marc & Angel took to excel in the wake of upheaval
Get outdoors every day Habitual, honest self-reflection Recognize business opportunity [39:13] Why rituals are essential in shaping our days to help us be our best
Daily practices help us reach goals, get us closer to/farther from target Changing one ritual slowly changes entire trajectory [45:42] Marc & Angel’s take on the adage to ‘follow your passion’
Start by asking what current job allows you to do Appreciating where we are puts us in position to make better decisions [52:31] Marc & Angel’s insight around what’s worth suffering for
Progress leads to happiness Not growing until hit discomfort zone, push self to achieve [57:06] How to see the beauty in intense moments with other people
Ask if person has ever walked same path Take deep breath and remember they have own pain [1:04:32] The advice Marc & Angel have revised over
Inspiring and Relatable
A must listen to for any creative who is challenged by maintaining their values and "productivity". The most recent interview with Charles Gilkey offers a deep, yet relatable, practical, yet thought provoking, inspiring, yet grounded conversation between two successful thought leaders. Thank you!
So much good in this!
Powerful and provocative
These podcasts have effected magnificent change in the way I think about a host of things. I'm trying to resist binge-listening, but it's hard. Highly recommend for anyone--fascinating, provocative and full of wonder. Well done on every level.