David speaks with Khe Hy, founder and CEO of RadReads, an online education company that helps professionals lead productive, examined, and joyful lives.
We talked about philosophy and spirituality behind productivity, not just talking about what we should do and when we should do it, but also how and why.
You're gonna hear us talk about Telic and Atelic activities, activities that have intrinsic versus extrinsic value. The right type of goals and objectives to have in your life, but also the right kind of motivations to help drive those goals.
And we talk about the cost of success and when it is and is not worth paying the price that comes with high achievement. And Khe really goes deep on the question of what is a life well lived? And that's something he's been pursuing for himself, but also something that he calls all of us to pursue equally.
🎙 Listen in your favourite podcast player
📹 Watch on Youtube
👤 Connect with Khe:
Twitter: @khemaridh: https://twitter.com/khemaridh
📄 Show notes:
0:00 | Intro
4:32 | The problem with self-improvement
8:07 | The concept of Atelic and Telic activities
10:54 | 4,000 Weeks by Oliver Burkeman
11:48 | Grit by Angela Duckworth
12:33 | Enjoy the present or Delay gratification
17:44 | Finding a life well lived
20:21 | The money problem
27:45 | Don’t give in to fear
30:59 | What I would say to this question about fear?
35:41 | The duality in your childhood
37:26 | Children of first-generation immigrants
39:18 | You need to be on this path
41:49 | Your mindset matters more than the method
43:05 | Sustainable success
🗣 Mentioned in the show:
Kieran Setiya | http://www.ksetiya.net/
4,000 Weeks | https://amzn.to/3U7K2Du
Oliver Burkeman | https://www.oliverburkeman.com/
Grit | https://amzn.to/3gRs4qp
Angela Duckworth | https://angeladuckworth.com/
David Belle | https://twitter.com/davidbelle_
Elon Musk | https://twitter.com/elonmusk?
Ram Dass | https://twitter.com/BabaRamDass
The Maharaji | https://www.hanumanmaui.org/maharaji
RAD reads | https://radreads.co/
Tom Brady | https://twitter.com/tombrady
Sam Parr | @thesamparr
Tiger Woods | https://twitter.com/TigerWoods
Roger Federer | https://twitter.com/rogerfederer
👨🏾💻 About David Elikwu:
David Elikwu FRSA is a serial entrepreneur, strategist and writer. David is the founder of The Knowledge, a platform helping people think deeper and work smarter.
- Twitter: @Delikwu / @itstheknowledge
- Newsletter: https://theknowledge.io
- Website: https://www.davidelikwu.com,
- Podcast: http://plnk.to/theknowledge
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Khe Hy: [00:00:00]
For the first 35 years of my life, every single thing that I did was in service of bettering myself or my opportunity set. Every single thing like, I learn HTML in high school so that I could make more money, I started lifting weights so I can attract more women. I play the violins so that I could get into a good college.
So every activity was in service of an outcome that bettered my life or so I thought. And to be fair, you know, a lot of those things did, right. I made all lot of money in high school because I knew how to make webpages. I took that money and I invested in the stock market 'cause I knew how to invest. All 'cause I was always bettering myself. But I'll never say like, It's bad to do this or it's good to do that. Like I'm one person and I will try to share as truthfully the things that I did and what I think worked and what I didn't think worked.
David Elikwu: Hey, I'm David Elikwu. And [00:01:00] this is The Knowledge. A podcast for anyone looking to think deeper and work smarter. In every episode I speak with makers, thinkers, and innovators to help you get more out of life.
This week I'm speaking with Khe Hy, the founder of Rad Reads. Khe is an incredibly interesting guy, you are gonna hear him talk about his background. He had this lucrative job as a managing director at BlackRock, and one day he woke up and realized something was missing and he was willing to put that career on ice, to pursue something new, something different, something that initially he was mocked for, but eventually he's been able to carve success out of as the founder of Rad Reads, and now he helps high achievers to live productive, examined, and thoughtful lives.
And you're gonna hear us really at this intersection of the philosophy and spirituality behind productivity. And so we're not just talking about what we should do and when we should do it, but also how and why.
And so [00:02:00] you're gonna hear us talk about Telic and Atelic activities, activities that have intrinsic versus extrinsic value.
And we talk about, the right type of goals and objectives to have in your life, but also the right kind of motivations to help drive those goals.
And we talk about the cost of success and when it is and is not worth paying the price that comes with high achievement. And Khe really goes deep on the question of what is a life well lived?
You can get the full show notes and transcript at theknowledge.io. And while you're there, you should subscribe to my newsletter.
Every week, I share some of the best tools, ideas, and frameworks that I come across from business psychology, philosophy and productivity. So if you want the best that I have to share, you can get that in the newsletter at theknowledge.io.
If you love this episode, please do share it with a friend. And don't forget to leave a review because every single one helps us tremendously to reach other people. Just like [00:03:00] you.
Okay. So I think where I'd like to start is we were just talking about your interests in music, which I find really awesome and it seems like you listen to quite a variety of music, which is nonstandard maybe for someone of your caliber or in your space.
So I would maybe say you're in the productivity space as a solo entrepreneur or one of those kinds of people. And then I'll add the other part is that I heard you saying that you actually listen to a lot more fiction than non-fiction.
And I'm not sure if that's still true, but that is one thing I find interesting because I think a lot of people in the business space, having gone from banking through to more creative entrepreneurship, which is what you're doing now, most people do not expand their interests much beyond things that serve those goals. I guess it's a two part question. How have you found managing that balance and what do you get from those fiction and creative pursuits that you think benefit you in a way that you wouldn't get just from focusing on nonfiction?
Khe Hy: [00:04:00] That's a, it's a great question and I would start by saying, I think like many of the stories that you might hear from me today is this kind of like a tale of two cities. And that it all it wasn't a way that's way right? I Use to take cold showers and I use to, you know beat myself up for not getting enough done right I used to believe that you had to struggle for things to be worthwhile, the scarcity mindset. So I'm sure this topics will come up throughout the conversation. So I'll give you a little reframe.
I'm 43 and probably, So I became an entrepreneur at 35, so 8 years ago. So for the first 35 years of my life, every single thing that I did was in service of bettering myself or my opportunity set. Every single thing like, I learn HTML in high school so that I could make more money, I started lifting weights so I can attract more women. I play the violins so [00:05:00] that I could get into a good college.
So every activity was in service of an outcome that bettered my life or so I thought. And to be fair, you know, a lot of those things did right. I made all lot of money in high school because I knew how to make webpages. I took that money and I invested in the stock market 'cause I knew how to invest. All 'cause I was always bettering myself, so I don't want to, and I will never say, well, we won't get into the topic of objective morality, but I'll never say like, It's bad to do this or it's good to do that. Like I'm one person and I will try to share as truthfully the things that I did and what I think worked and what I didn't think worked So I did that and to the point that it was so extreme that I would listen to audio books, what I call chipmunks speed, like 2.5 x, like writing notes on the sub New York City subway, like on my way to work, cold showers like sleep. I use to be that, [00:06:00] you know, a-hole that say things like, I'll sleep when I'm dead, or, real men take red eyes. I use to say all this like obscene and like very ignorant comments like that in my twenties and my early thirties. So that's the first part of your question.
So I did all that stuff and you can make a strong case that it help me at least like by the traditional definitions of success. But it definitely, and I could say this now with some perspective in age, is like, it definitely like hurt me in many respects from a non perspective. So I can list a few health things that I had like, there were times when I had alopecia, where's like chunks of your hair just fall out, stress related. I don't know, maybe listening to podcasts at 3x will do that to. There were times. I mean, I basically like ground the enamel off of all my teeth. So like I grind my teeth when I sleep, so I'm a very, like, anxious person. That would be another one. You know, at 40 I was diagnosed with pre-hypertension, high blood pressure. Even though I weigh, you know, you'll have to [00:07:00] do the conversion, but I weigh 150 pounds, and I exercise two hours a day for 20 years. I don't smoke. I don't, I mean, I drink, high blood pressure, I'm pre-diabetic, so like at 43, my body's starting to say, Hey, all those ways that you like, put us on overdrive, you're starting to pay the price for it now. And 43, I hope to live till I'm 86 at least, right? I got eight year old and a five year old. Like, I hope I'm here for a long time. But my body's saying like bro you did some shit to us in your twenties that we're paying the price for now. So I'd say like, don't think that there's just not a free ride. And I think, you know, they say like, youth is wasted on the youth, right? When you're young, you could just like, just plow through it one more day, right? Just like, ah, you're flying for a meeting, right? Like, but you know, if you're listening to this and you're younger or older, just don't assume that just 'cause something doesn't have a cost to you today, that it never has a cost on you. So that would be one, one thing to say.
As for the things like reading fiction, [00:08:00] listening to music, I love to introduce this concept to you, David, you've probably familiar with it and your listeners. This concept of atelic and telic activities. And so I got this from this Philosopher named Kieran Setiya. And telic activities are outcome oriented, right? You read at a digital marketing book to get better at marketing, right? Or you lift weights so that you live longer right or look a certain way. And atelic activities have no outcome. The joy in the activity is the activity itself. You don't listen to music to be better at telling stories. You listen to music 'cause listening to music is beautiful. You don't go take a hike. I mean, some people would to like get fit. A lot of people hike to be subsumed by the beauty of nature. Kids is a great example, right? You don't like hang out with your kids to be like, Oh. So I really hope that they can get in to Cambridge, right. You know you hang out with your kids 'cause it's fun to like roll around [00:09:00] and play WWE with them because that's what they wanna do.
And I think that what gets lost in productivity industrial capitalist, you know, pick your word. I'm not using a critique on any of those labels, but I'd love to debate the nuance of any of them. But what gets lost in this outcome oriented societies is that if the thing doesn't have an outcome, it's not worth it. And I think that is a sad way. It's a tragic way to live your life. Because I think what philosophy and spirituality and the study of the human condition would tell us is like that meal with your friends, that messy meal over few extra glasses of port. Like there's no outcome. It's just that moment, right? That is the beauty of life, is to have those moments. Yet instead, we turn it upside down. It's like, Well, I'm gonna have this outcome moment so that one day I can chill with my friends and just be relax. I call that the deferred life trap. Cause you just [00:10:00] deferring your happiness. Your happiness, your happiness, and we can deconstruct what I think's happening.
But I think I hit this point where I'm like, Man, life is meant to be lived, not planned, not deferred. And the indicator that I always use is like, is this thing making me smile? I have a personal mantra. Follow the fun. If it's making me smile, like just do more of it. And I think that runs counter to a lot of productivity, advice and so that maybe that's why I'm a, a paradoxical figure in the world of productivity.
David Elikwu: I think part of what you just said is gonna tie into your background, and we're gonna get into that in a second. But I'd love to just push further on this note and ask you more about, I know you mentioned the balance between focusing on telic activities, atelic activities, and then you also mentioned this idea of not pursuing things just for the end.
And enjoying the process of the activity that you're doing. And it reminds me of, I'm sure you've come across 4,000 Weeks by Oliver Burkeman, which is a really interesting [00:11:00] book that I read not too long ago. And he really talks in depth about this idea that one of the passages that sticks in my head the most, which I'm sure you can empathize with as a dad, is this idea that people say, Oh, I'm spending time with my kids.
I'm doing this with my kids, so that they can do other things, right, and people talk about making the most of the time that they have. But I think all Oliver Burkeman's idea is you can't make the most of the time, you can't use the time. All you have is the time that you have because you're not promised any more time. And so you can't really optimize for ah, wow, my child is five. We're gonna do this, so that at some later point we can do that. Actually the joy and the purposes in whatever time they are at now. But what I'm interested in, and this is what I want ask you about, is how do you find the balance between, so in another book Grit by Angela Duckworth, which I'm also sure you've come across, she mentions the marshmallow experiment where they give some kids a marshmallow and they say, Oh, if you wait for five minutes or 10 minutes, [00:12:00] or I don't think they told them how much time, but they said, If you wait for a certain amount of time, we're gonna give you a second marshmallow, or you can have one marshmallow now. And they track these kids over about 30 years of their lives.
And then 30 years later, they saw that there was a strong. A seemingly strong correlation between the outcomes that they had particularly financially or just in terms of general success and this idea of delayed gratification. The point being, if you can delay some of the gratification and some of what you might want in the immediate present, then that leads to better outcomes in the future.
So how do you find balancing those two ideas where on one hand, How do you enjoy the present moment and make the most of the time that you have now? But then how do you also be wise about thinking ahead and practicing delayed gratification, Not just giving into all of your emotions about, because I think that's also what leads to, maybe you'll just be drinking all the time or you'll just be giving into all your vices so how do you find that balance?
Khe Hy: Oh, [00:13:00] juicy, juicy question. So, I would say that delayed gratification is a tricky one. I'm a big believer in delayed gratification. And I bought my first stock when I was 16 years old and 27 years later I've never sold it. So my 16 year old self gave my 43 year old self like $75,000. And my 43 year old self might give my 86 year old self like $200,000, 'cause I don't plan on selling it either. So I definitely believe in delayed gratification. Delayed gratification's also tricky because at some point you have to cash in it. Like, you gotta cash in the chips at some point. And delayed gratification usually is talked in financial terms, right? The things lead to financial rewards stocks is a very interesting one. But another one could be like the sacrifices you make for your business, right? Like, I'm delaying gratification of having a lot of free time now to have a lot more in 10 years when the business is much bigger, more profitable, et cetera, et cetera.
So this question is like when do you cash in gratification? Well, there's a [00:14:00] very easy answer is when you die, right? I mean that's the simple answer, is like you have no choice in the gratification question when our time comes. Now presumably you would want to ratchet it in a little bit, like it would be kind of pointless to delay gratification until the day before you die. And so there's this question is like, well, you start to ratchet it in and then the thing about time and money is that by themselves, they're useless. They're vessels for something else. Like time, so, okay, you want more time, but you want more time to do what? To hang out with your kid, to play soccer, to go to a concert, to travel. So the thing that I've found about delayed gratification is that, is challenging it's actually hard to know what you would do with the time or the money. And so it becomes be a squirrel and just like hoard it away. And then when that time comes and you see a classic, classic place where you see this is in the fire [00:15:00] community, financial independence, retire early community. And so for your listeners who aren't unfamiliar and I, look, I have lived many of the fire, right? The fact that I bought a stock at 16 and haven't sold it at 43, that's fire 1 0 1, baby.
So, I have lived many of the fire principles and I think that a lot of them are worthwhile. But the thing about fire, for those of you who aren't familiar, fire is a lot about sacrificing today for a better tomorrow. So it's like, specifically so you can stop working and there's this like classic tropes about fire you know, its like they're like an investment banker, but they wait until the supermarket. Like discounts all the food that's about to perish. And then they like go buy bananas for like 30 cents instead of $2. But they're brown and moldy. And so like that's the whole thing about fires, like an intense sacrifice today. But what happens with the fire people is that once they get their fire number, a huge number of them are lost. 'cause fire doesn't tell you what means to [00:16:00] be happy, fire doesn't tell you what is a life well lived, fire doesn't teach you how to increase your capability for love and your capability to receive love. Fire is absolutely silent on all of those questions. Fire is completely silent on that. Now in theory, what the fire people will say is like, Well, I can't think about what it means to be a live a life well lived while I have to worry about making money. And I think that's hogwash anyone listening can think about. What is the life well loved? And if you're confused think about this question, Would you rather be happy? Would you rather have a happy life or a life that's well lived?
There's a lot to unpack there. You don't need fricking fire and brown bananas to start thinking about those questions. You can start right now listener and so I think the challenge with delay, like I have no problem with delayed gratification, but delayed gratification, does it tell you what is a life well lived? That is a hard question that philosophers have wrestled for from the beginning of time. And [00:17:00] just because you think that you can live off of your 4% interest or whatever they assume in their fire model, we'll tell you what is a life well lived. You are dead wrong. And, so to go back to your questions, like there's nothing wrong with delayed gratification, but what is it in service for? I would presume it's in service for happy of happiness, of a life well lived, a peace of mind, of contentment, of life satisfaction, like kind of the things people want for their lives. Go Fire away. No pun intended. But Every minute you spend firing, spend an equal minute asking yourself, What is that life well lived? 'cause let me tell you that, that the day you don't have to pay a bill does not mean that the answers to those complex questions of life will snap into place.
David Elikwu: Yeah. What do you think it looks like to go about that process of finding that. Because I think maybe the precursor question is, I know from your journey that you've gone on this journey of finding that for yourself, where you started as a banker, you worked your way up the ladder, you became extremely successful in [00:18:00] the conventional sense, the typical model of what people think success looks like. And you live that life for a while, and then eventually you decided to strike out and find something different and optimize for something else, and find something else that would make you happy, give you fulfillment, give you all of those things and redefining what you considered a life well lived. But I have an interesting question, and I asked this to someone a while ago. I was speaking with someone called David Belle, but I'm interested in your perspective on this. Do you think that it is possible to start and find that Ab initio, or is there a sense in which you have to get it wrong before you get it right.
And the reason I ask that is because I think you hear a lot of people that are also not necessarily in the same sense as you, but you hear a lot of conventionally successful people that have done really well and almost universally. Everyone gets to 60, 70 years old and they say the only important thing is family. I wish I spent more time with my grandkids. I wish I spent more time with the people that I love, I wish I spent more time doing all of the things [00:19:00] we just mentioned. Hiking, reading books, spending time with doing all of these things. And maybe that's not universal for everyone, so I'm not gonna project that. But it seems, from what I've seen, quite universal in that a lot of people have that experience where they realize that these are the things that end up being important.
Khe Hy: Oh, I was just gonna say, there's the classic, the five regrets of the dying, right? I wish I hadn't worked so hard. I wish I had been true to myself. I wish I had spent more time with my friends. I forget the other two, but similar vein.
David Elikwu: But why is it that the people, it seems very often that the people that have those things look on the other side of the grass and say, I wish I had more money and I wish I felt more secure and I wish I was more successful. But then the people that optimize for the other thing, success and the outward signs of success and health and love and joy and those things. Then turn around say actually this other thing was the better thing. So how do you maybe outside of that spectrum, find the life well lived. But then also do you think that in some sense you need to, I don't know [00:20:00] if it correlates with maybe Maslow's Hierarchy of needs where maybe you need a certain sense of security, maybe you need enough financial success that you can feel comfort and feel safe, and then that allows you to find self-actualization in friendships and love and happiness and all of those things or is that something that you should just find from the beginning.
Khe Hy: Yeah. Wow. so I think the money thing is always an interesting one, 'cause I get this all the time. They're like, Khe, you probably have this much in savings and like, you know, great, you could spend all the time philosophizing, but like I still got college loans. And I don't want to dismiss that at all. But I do wanna say like, categorically, like there's all these studies between like money and happiness and like it flat lines, or it like it, you know, it slows down, but it's hard to see it like that it continues to go. I mean, just look at some of the richest people in the world, you know, Buffet, two wives, Elon Musk, like guys tormented, right? Like there's [00:21:00] something if someone's like, you could have Elon Musk money, but you gotta have his inner monologue. You're like, no thanks.
But I often think about this story. There's a, guy, a investor or a multi billionaire in Germany, and he lost like 50% of his networth when I remember a few years ago Volkswagen got short squeezed and like the stock lost like 75% in like one day. It's like maybe a decade ago. So this, billionaire lost like 75% of his networth and he walked in front of a train and the train killed him. He committed suicide. When he died, he went from 5 billion to like 750 million, he felt so broken and maybe he felt poor or maybe he felt shame. I don't know. But whatever it is, he had 750 million dollars in his bank account and you walked in front of a train 'cause something was missing in his life. On both ends that's an extreme example of, you know, very, very high enough financial security on the very, very Low and obviously, like if you are struggling to make [00:22:00] rent, you live in a state of fight or flight that I personally, I can't even relate to. I've never lived that way, so I would carve out that side of the population as well. I have a lot of empathy, but I don't have a lot of shared experience with that type of family situation.
But everything in between, And I would assume that many of your listeners are not scared of not making rent or not being able to feed themselves, right. Your blog is called The Knowledge, right? I think that's presupposes a certain amount of financial stability to be pursuing the knowledge. And so to go back to your question like, is the grass always green, I would take a starting point that once your basic needs are met and it, I suspect if you're listening to this podcast, your basic needs are met, then money is just another thing and you could have 750 million dollars and feel poor and kill yourself or you could have college debt and feel like you'll never be able to buy a house [00:23:00] and think that your life is over, right? Like there's every permutation so I think that the grass is always greener and kind of what would I tell myself I think that, one of the questions is, it comes down to what I think is it comes down to how well you know yourself. And so what do I mean by that? right. Let's say, let's use myself now like I'm an entrepreneur, you know, the market has changed significantly. My networth has gone down significantly from my investments, the cost of acquiring a new customer has skyrocketed, conversion rates are going down. It's just a very challenging environment right now. So my first reaction is like, I need to work two extra hours a day. And so when my kids come home, they're like, Daddy, daddy, daddy. Like, literally, I was like listening to a podcast, so like, No, no, no. You know, I did the stiff arm thing. Like no Daddy's on a call and I'm listening some like Lenny, you know, [00:24:00] product thing on like product positionings, you know, like that's my first reaction is like, you know, the world's, you could say, I'm kind of like that billionaire that feels like the world's crumbling around them Like, no, no, no, kid. Like the thing that I purport to stand for is actually I'm putting it away. Like, no kids stay away. And I'm I gotta listen to like how to create the perfect positioning statement during turbulent market. And so the self-awareness would say be like, Hold up Khe, time out. What is really happening here And I'm fortunate that like even in a market selloff, like my family's survival is financial survival is safe. it's not survival. Let's not pretend like it is either. So what's at stake here? Maybe my pride, that I'm not the entrepreneur, a bull market entrepreneur is a very different type of entrepreneur than a bear market entrepreneur. And maybe my pride, maybe the expectations that I set for myself, I'm not hitting. Maybe my sense of self-worth [00:25:00] feels attacked, that like, all these people thought Khe really had cracked the code, but he's actually struggling, right? So then you could see it's actually not about entrepreneurship. It's not about money was easy. Money was the gateway into, right. Stock market down, conversion rate down, cost of acquisition up. Money was a starting point. That's not what's really happening. What's really happening is that there's a part of me that's unsettled and it's easy to point fingers at work and conversion rates and money and so on. It's not about that though, it's about something else, and that the challenge is like, what is that something else? Is it how others perceive you? And if it is, why does that matter? Is it how I perceive myself, like I feel better about myself when my lunches are better and I feel worse about myself when my lunches worse. Does that mean I'm a worse person when my launches are worse? Absolutely not, intellectually, I know that emotionally in my heart, I can't feel that, I feel like a worse person. So in those cases the self-awareness, [00:26:00] whether it's the law partner that said I should have spent more time along the way, the whole journey they should be asking themselves like, why am I really doing this? Like, really why am I doing this?
For a lot of us, we are so attached to playbook, the media and cultural playbook of status, that when someone, when a bunch of people around us be like, That guy did a great job. That gal is incredible. Then we keep doing that thing, but they don't know what's going on between those two ears. They don't know what's going on between you and your spouse. They don't know what's going on between you and your kids. And if those are the things that matter, then I would argue that those are close to universal things if you have a family. Then whatever they point and say about your life doesn't freaking matter. What only matters it's is like what's in your heart? What's the conversation that's having in your head, and what is the relationship that you have with the people you care about? Nothing else matters. But the thing is that we can't, We get so locked into like, Oh, well, you know, I should be doing [00:27:00] this. My parents expect me to do that, my neighbor expects me to do this, my audience expects me to do this, that we're borrowing someone else's goal. We're borrowing someone else's life. And so I think that this question and money, it's easy to just say like, Oh, if you had more money, it's like fire. If you had more money, you'd be a better, I mean, you'd be a better dad. Think about all the people that have a lot of money and are not great parents. Think about the divorce, I bet the divorce rate amongst wealthy folks is much higher than the divorce rates among people who are middle class. So I would say like, it's easy to use money as a crutch in those situations, but instead I say, use it as the clue. Use it as a clue, like, what's really happening here? What's really going on?
David Elikwu: So I just wanted to double tap on something you just mentioned. I wanna ask, how do you lean into conviction instead of giving into fear? Because I think very often, part of what makes us make some these decisions that are suboptimal. And maybe in another context, if we were giving someone else advice, we would know that this [00:28:00] was not the best decision. But sometimes we make that decision, like you were saying, either because our identity is connected to something or our internal identity, or our external identity. And it's about how people will think of us and how people will perceive the decision that we're making. And then I think that the other level is about the psychological safety of doing what everyone else is doing or doing whatever you think will give you the most safety and earlier on you talked about the optionality and being able to cash in your chips, and I think it's a lot easier to conceptualize how you cash in money. If you save money, you can think in your head about how you can cash that in versus if you spend that time on love, if you spend that time reading books, if you spend that time, you know, bettering yourself in some other ways caring for yourself, getting enough sleep, it's harder to conceptualise how that would benefit you or how you can cash that in. And so I think very often, people choose to optimize maybe the money or the finance because it's easier to think about how [00:29:00] that could give you some kind of safety. And so you have this fear of, even though you might internally have the conviction of knowing maybe this is the decision I should make. Very often people default to, we have more fear of what we could lose rather than the optimism of what we might gain. So how do you find that balance?
Khe Hy: I think fear, anxiety, worry are, they're very powerful motivators for action or inaction. And I think that I'm definitely one of those people that doesn't like, just like stare, you know, stand down your fears, like all that. It's like, no, like try to really like, let it consume you and like be in it. Not consume you, but like really be in it. And so I like this kind of funny story. I listened to a lot of Ram Dass and for those of you don't know Ram Dass he was like a former Harvard professor and then he took a ton of psychedelics And then he walked away from his life, kind of similar stories of many of us with more extreme externalities[00:30:00] and then he went on the life of enlightenment in India, to become a guru. And so I forgot his guru's name, but he goes to The Maharaji and there's a story that he tells on his podcast where he gives the Maharaji LSD and The Maharaji takes the LSD and he's exactly the same person, like as he was without the LSD. And what I took away from that story is that the Maharaji was so aligned and just so clear on who he was and what his shadow was and what his insecurities were. He had this like almost like perfect clarity on himself. And I think in the West we definitely, we don't even try to have perfect clarity on ourself. Cause every time we go for it. We like get high or we drink or we like go work, become workaholics or we like binge on Netflix or TikTok or whatever. Like, it's almost like being clear on what's going on between these two ears is like frowned upon. So what I would [00:31:00] say to this question about fear is like when you like open your head, is it like Perfectly, it is like, Imagine the inside of your head is like a camera. Is it like the iPhone 14 pro or is it like the iPhone three camera, right? Like all fuzzy and blurry and like all of right. And so when you have that clarity, there's a few ways to get that there. You can kind of sharpen what you're seeing or you can let all the noise drop away. And so that achieving, so achieving that clarity makes the fear seem much more, defanged so speak, right? So if I'm going through my example, I'm like, Oh, like we're gonna miss our numbers this quarter cause of the. recession. So what's the fear? And I used to do it philosophically. Like what? Like what are you, are you scared of being homeless? No. Are you scared of like, being, you know, not making your car payment? No. Are you scared of like, No. I'm like, what are you scared of? Like, oh, I'm scared of, you know, people who thought I was a great creator, think that I'm a [00:32:00] second-grade creator or Oh, maybe I'll have to pivot much harder in my business than I'm used to. So you go through these different story and like once with the clarity, all the stories, they just, they kind of fade into the background. And what you get to is you get to these like kernels of truth about yourself. And one of the kernels of truth that I have about myself is I fear my own Irrelevance. Like when I see movies about space, it's they scare me cause they show me how irrelevant I am. I'm just a piece of dust. And so, so much of my telos, so much of my doing, so much of my entrepreneurship is my combat mechanism to not feel irrelevant in the grand scheme of this earth. And so I can see that kernel and almost every time I'm in misaligned, fear, worry and anxiety. It comes from this tension that I have with this kernel, which is like, Khe you're irrelevant. [00:33:00] But the other side that thing is like, Khe you are everything to anyone who needs you to be something. You're everything. And so, being able to sit with those dualities, actually makes the fear. It's, there's not even a fear, it's just this clarity of like, who you are and what you stand for. It makes it easier, but the clarity and the fear and the anxiety, you just realize that's just like stirring that pot. The pot, the elements are still in the pot, but they're perfectly clear in what they are, and you can see them for what they are. And I've spent enough time observing them. That they just don't, they're not scary anymore.
David Elikwu: Yeah, I love that idea of, it's not necessarily running towards or away from the fear, but understanding the fear and having clarity and then being able to sit with it and then being able to use state of clarity to make great decisions.
Khe Hy: And that's the beautiful thing of it is like, anytime there's an internal conflict, like I wanna be successful, but I wanna spend time with my kids. That tension [00:34:00] eats away at that clarity. And so the more, and this is why like I journal a lot and I meditate and I just, that's why I don't listen to fiction, you know, business podcasts cause I want that clarity to really, like, I want to know who I am. And that doesn't mean that like I think I'm a freaking badass entrepreneur, I'm not attached to that identity or I'm trying to detach from that identity. But I see that plays a role in my psyche that is, can cause conflict. And so I just know how to tread around that, I know how to honor it. And I know that it all comes from this root feeling of like, I just hate it comes from being a child where like, I felt like everyone ignored me, and so I think the childhood mechanism was like, okay, you're ignoring me now, but one day not only will you not ignore me, you will listen to me. And to see this like little boy, this like 12 year old boy that like, kind of was ignored by a lot of people. Not my parents, but like social life [00:35:00] to be like, I'm gonna show, like, he's still waving his finger, this 12 year old boy. Like, I'm gonna show you mother, you know, and to be like, that's why you're stressing when the market's down 15%, cause that little boy's like wagging his finger and it's like, Oh, maybe I can't show you cause my stock portfolio is down 20%.
Philosophers or life coaches wouldn't say this, but like, I kind of laugh at the whole thing. Not in a way that's like mocking, but I'm just like, this is so, like, aren't human beings so silly? Like, you know, there's kind of an absurdity to it all. A playful absurdity. I think it's kind of endearingly cute that humans act this way.
David Elikwu: Yeah, I love that. And just what you were mentioning as well about the duality even in your childhood. So I'd love to ask you a few, maybe it's a multipart question, but I'm interested to know, earlier on you were talking about when you were younger and you maybe optimised for the wrong things, but you were doing things that objectively may have been great, but you were perhaps doing it for the wrong reasons and so even though [00:36:00] you may have got some of the results, the positive results that came with doing those things, you may have also had some negative externalities. So, for example, you mentioned you started working out, which is a great thing that's good for your body, but you were working out because you wanted more attractive mates. You wanted to meet girls, you wanted to do lots of other things. You mentioned you started designing websites, to make money, which is also great. Both for your creativity and then also for your financial success. But it maybe The reasons for which you were doing it were not be the best for you personally and didn't lead to some of the best outcomes, their anxiety, all of those other things that you mentioned.
So I'm interested to know, I think you have mentioned before, I think it was your dad that once said something like, if you are looking for happiness, you have too much time and you should go to work. And I know that you are second generation immigrant and I'm interested to know how much of that identity came through in those actions that you took and the resulting, I guess, persona [00:37:00] that you developed, how has that helped and how has it harmed? I know you've talked some about how is it harmed, but maybe, obviously you've also gone through this journey of going into banking, like how might that have driven you to the top of this field where you became incredibly successful. How might it have also helped maybe in your field of entrepreneurship? So do you think that some of that has carried on or have you had to cast that aside completely in order to get to where you are now?
Khe Hy: Yeah, so I'll answer the question about a child of first generation immigrants. Because I think that there, I mean, first there's just a cultural, right? Like my dad grew up in Cambodia with barely any money And then I was born in New York City and I went to private school, right. It's just the starting, the starting line is just within, the family is different, right? It's like so different. At 22, you know, I speak two languages. I have a Yale degree and I know how to program and I've already got an investment portfolio, right. At 22 there's genocide, crashing [00:38:00] around everything my dad knows, So, I think this is definitely not for this conversation, but one thing that I've gotten thought a lot more about is I want to investigate what, you know, field called intergenerational trauma, where like the rational part of me is like, no, like trauma just sticks, but I'm very curious 'cause I see a lot of my tendencies are actually very related to how my dad would act in many of these situations.
And so there's just an acknowledgement of a difference. And I think every generation wants what's better for the generation that comes after them, right. So my parents made financial sacrifice, lifestyle sacrifices so that we could have career financial stability, right? And, maybe I overshot that and I was like, I got career stability, but I want happiness. And like, I might look down at my kids and be like, I don't want you to have that unseen feeling that I had as a child or I was not encourage to look within. I want you to like look within at age five, right? Like, what do you see? I want to talk about death and, and things like that.
So [00:39:00] every generation does the best that they can with the tools that they have and the circumstances that they have, and then wants even better for the next generation. I think that has always been the case and it will continue well beyond you and I, David.
So that's kind of how I think about I do think that there's probably a lot of intergenerational trauma that I have been processed. In terms of like, well, you needed this path to be on this next path. Like you needed to have gone through a banker to be an entrepreneur and Absolutely. People always ask me, Do you have any regrets? I have no regrets, because I am the some product of all of my experiences, right. RAD reads wouldn't exist if I couldn't have reflected about what it was like to leave a corporate. Like it had to exist by definition, the corporate job, I would've nothing else to write about, And then you start to see, as you get older, you start to see these through lines in your life. One of them for me that I've started to see is teaching and mentoring. Like I've always, when I worked on Wall Street, I taught people GTD on Wall Street. Like, [00:40:00] duh, he is teaching a product, supercharge your productivity course now, like. It's the captain obvious, right. You know, just take that through line. I've always really cared about getting community, getting groups of people like finding people together. That's always been a thing, I did that as a nerdy magic, The Gathering Kid in you know, 1990's and I do it now on digital Slack communities for creators.
So these are different ways in which I never look back, I'm like, I needed this last thing to happen for this next thing to happen. The only thing that I, I wouldn't even have done it differently, but if I wish I knew is like, if you look at the chatter, the internal chatter in my head, from ages, 0 to 35, it was 90% negative voices. You suck, you're not good enough. Try harder, do more. And 10% like great job. Like I really see you. I recognize what you did. 90 10, 90 mean 10 nice. I've flipped those since I [00:41:00] turned 35 ish with a lot healing and therapy, and now it's the opposite 90 10. So it's always like that a boy, like you get, you know, like, I see you what you're doing, and people often say like, Do you have to beat yourself up to be successful? I don't know the answer to that, but I'm pretty sure that I could have kept that same mindset and, you know, again, conventional success wouldn't have been impacted, probably would've been even higher. Again, what's the point of debating that's like would the Bulls beat the Laker, like the nineties bulls beat the two thousands Lakers, like this is a stupid conversation. But that's the one thing that I was like, Oh man. And I tell younger folks just pay attention to that voice in your head, right. Just shift that ratio, if you don't believe me, just experiment with it. Shift it a little bit.
David Elikwu: I think so much of the conversation that we've had has been around this idea that the physical and tangible aspects of something that you're doing matters maybe less than the mindset [00:42:00] with which you approach it. And so this even ties to a lot of what you're doing now with 10K work. And I'm really interested to ask a question around this, which is you have always been, you know, ambitious. You've always worked hard, you've always been focused on trying to do your best work. I'm sure you did the exact same as a banker, and you're doing it now as an entrepreneur. But the mindset and the approach is different. And before maybe you are burning yourself out. Pre- before you turned 35, you are working super hard, you were being successful, burning yourself out, going through, the anxiety and then gnashing your teeth and all of those things. But now you're still trying to do your best work, but then you are making time to surf and you are prioritising your family and you're prioritising other things even though the outcome that you are looking for is still the same, quote unquote in theory. And so how do you think maybe you can expand more on this idea of 10K work and then also, for the people that I'm sure everyone listening to this wants to do their best work, right? No matter what [00:43:00] outcome, what actions they take to bring that about, they are ultimately trying to reach that goal. And how does this mindset shift help us to achieve it in a more sustainable way?
Khe Hy: Yep. Yep. It's a great question and, you I think there's a starting supposition, there's a starting premise in your question that you have to grind for excellence, right. We look at like Tom Brady and, you know, Ronaldo and the Greatest, they grind so hard for their excellence, and maybe you do in those crafts. Although I would argue that there's a lot of, you know, I think Sam Parr was one where he didn't even start, no Federer sorry, like he didn't start playing tennis till he was like 15 years old. You know, there's a lot of like, you know, there's like Tiger Woods. Where like they put the golf club in the, in the nursery, and then there's Roger Federer where they're like, Just play whatever sport you like. And then at 15 he is like, Oh, I'm good at this tennis thing.
So again, I'm not here to say one is right or wrong, cause I have no [00:44:00] fricking clue. But what I do know is that whether you call it flow, whether you call it zone of genius, but when things come naturally to you, you're unstoppable. And so for me as an entrepreneur, what are things that come naturally to me? And like to me it's like live video, it's writing, just like talking off the cuff. What doesn't come naturally to me. Production quality video, visual, photography and so you could see from like the way our business has grown, like there's no Instagram, there's no YouTube, but there's a lot of writing, there's a lot of podcast interviews and so I'm always like yeah, it would be great if we had an Instagram presence, but it would be so grueling to do for me cause it's just not what I enjoy but, what if I just take that, you know, I don't have infinite resources, so why don't I just take that energy and apply it to something that I love doing. Like I could write two blogs. I've thought about upping my rate of writing to two times a week, from [00:45:00] up from one. Cause it's so natural, I just see something in the news and I'm like, I gotta write about this. You see how this weekend I'm gonna write about Tom Brady and ambition. Cause I saw this quote he made how he hasn't had Christmas at home for 23 years. And I was like, Okay. Like that's an interesting concept. Like would you sacrifice 23 Christmases to be the best in the world? Let's explore that. And so I think that a lot of people are wired. I was wired that like, stuff's gotta be hard for it to be good. And I'm just like, I'm just open. I open myself to the perspective that like things can be easy and still be great, doesn't mean you're not gonna have bouts of adversity, but it means a thing that you dread doing, like maybe you shouldn't do it. And I think that's a little bit contrarian of a perspective. And again, I think many realist will be like, Well, he can say that 'cause you know, he saved this much money doing. Yeah. But like, you know, as an entrepreneur we're still in like the first inning. We're nowhere. We're still like wrestling for product market fit. We're not in the series D phase of our business. [00:46:00] So that's kind of how I would think about that question of ease and effortlessness.
David Elikwu: Awesome, Khe, thanks so much for being incredibly generous with your time. I've definitely got to have you back for a part two. There's so much we didn't get to touch on, but thanks again for coming on.
Khe Hy: Awesome David and all the listeners, thank you so much. It has been a true joy. We'll do round two soon.
David Elikwu: Love it. Thanks a lot Khe.
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