Yancey Strickler: Bentoism For a Better World | E81
#81: Bentoism For a Better World with Yancey Strickler
Ready for a better world?
Today on the show we are chatting with Yancey Strickler.
Yancey is the co-founder of Kickstarter, father of the philosophy of Bentoism, and author of This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World.
Yancey has a lot of ideas on improving the world by realigning motives and how we value success so that it’s not just purely profit based.
In this episode we’ll discuss Yancey’s career background including his work with Kickstarter. We’ll also find out the meaning of financial maximization, how it came to run the world as we know it today, and how Bentoism can redefine our future.
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#81: Bentoism For a Better World with Yancey Strickler
[00:00:00] Hala Taha: [00:00:00] Hey everyone! Before we get started, I want to make a quick announcement. YAP is recruiting our fall 2020 interns. Internships are awesome. In fact, I interned at a radio station, hot 97 for free for almost three years. I'm so thankful for that experience without it, I would not be who I am or where I am today.
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Today on the show, we're chatting with Yancey Strickler, Yancey is the co-founder of Kickstarter, father of the philosophy of Bentoism. An author of This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World. Yancey has a lot of ideas on improving the world by realigning motives and how we value success.
So that it's not just purely profit based. In this episode, we'll discuss Yancey's career background, including his work with Kickstarter, and we'll find out [00:03:00] the meaning of financial maximization, how it came to run the world as we know it today and how Bentoism can redefine our feature. Hey Yancey welcome to Young And Profiting Podcast.
Yancey Strickler: [00:03:13] What's up. Thanks for having me.
Hala Taha: [00:03:13] Of course, I'm super, super stoked about this interview. So Yancey, just to introduce you to my listeners, you are the co-founder and former CEO of Kickstarter. You are the founder of the philosophy of Bentoism, and you're the author of This Could Be Our Future: A Manifesto for a More Generous World.
And before we dig into Kickstarter and Bentoism such an interesting topic. I really want to talk about your career journey and your childhood. So based on my research, you actually didn't really fit in growing up. Your family was even Christians. And even though your community was also a very Christian, you still didn't really fit in.
You got bullied, you were called homophobic slurs in your own [00:04:00] words. So much that you thought that you may be gay and you just didn't even know. How did this experience of being an outcast as a child really impact who you are today and some of the moves that you've made in your life?
Yancey Strickler: [00:04:14] Yeah.
Let's just, listen, let's just start right at the deepest most vulnerable spot. Why not? Yeah. It I think those kinds of experiences shape your self perception, whether they're true or not, they help create a narrative about yourself. So for me, that's create a narrative of not belonging, and even if I'm like being invited to belong, I distrust it. Because I just don't see that value. So there's just like these things just echo, they form your anxieties and your drive, for me growing up in the country, on a farm, no neighbors, I just read books all the time and that's what I love to do.
And that's still what I love to do. And so one way of [00:05:00] thinking about it is just during the times where other people were socializing which of course I still had, but, I would just, I would be reading. And so I just had a real curiosity for the world that always drove me and
even when I would have these really tough moments in life, like I just was always called by just an interest in the world, a curiosity in the world, it didn't, it really didn't beat me down in a way that it like, stopped me from moving. It's more that I was just like, I gotta get out of here.
I've got I have to succeed. And so it played out that way.
Hala Taha: [00:05:40] That's really cool. And I bring it up not to put you on the spot or make you feel uncomfortable. It's more because I have a lot of listeners that are young and probably are getting bullied. And I want them to understand that you can come out of that and you can be super successful just like you, Yancey, like you have Kickstarter is one of the most impressive companies of the last [00:06:00] decade, for you to have been a part of that and to have had a childhood where you weren't like the most popular, football player in school. Yeah. He don't need to be that to, to be successful. And actually most people who are the most popular in school are not the most successful after school, and so I just think that's important for people to know.
Yancey Strickler: [00:06:17] No, it's so important to recognize, I I lead people using the philosophy, see that we're going to we'll talk about later in Bentoism like I lead people in workshops. I help people discover what they're about. And there's an exercise I often do called draw your life, where you like draw a line, snaking up a piece of paper.
And at the bottom you write your birth at the top. You right now. And then you just fill in what are the dots of your life between here and there. And after you do that, you have to identify, what is the crucible moment? What is that moment that really shifted your direction in life? Maybe where you, instead of staying in the groove of what you were supposed to do, it just something in you changed.
And when I first went through that [00:07:00] exercise, I had thought like my key moment, the most critical thing was going to be starting Kickstarter, but that would be the proudest moment, the defining moment. And instead it was moving to New York after college is when I really looked at it, I was like, actually, that was the riskiest thing I did.
That was the thing that most changed my story of myself. And if that hadn't happened, like none of these other things, what has happened. And yeah I'm totally with you on the question and yeah.
Hala Taha: [00:07:27] Yeah. So let's talk about your career journey before Kickstarter, from my understanding you had a dream of being a writer.
So what were some of the things that you did before you actually started Kickstarter?
Yancey Strickler: [00:07:40] In college, I studied English and cultural studies and just sit a lot of writing and reading. And I got, while I was in college, I started just randomly writing record reviews and I managed to get a couple of album reviews and Pitchfork, and with Pitchfork was just starting then, but it was amazing, I was one of the first whatever 30 [00:08:00] people to write for Pitchfork and that, that was exciting.
And then I moved to New York. And God basically like entry level editorial slash production jobs. First, it like a radio station then at a website. And at the start, all these jobs were basically some form of data entry or like using a CMS, take our stuff and put it in here. So it goes on the website.
But what I found was, there's a lot of opportunity in those places, especially coming in as someone who was comfortable with the internet and technology. And this is when like the world is still shifting beginning to shift in that way. And I discovered something interesting for me, which is, I'd always wanted to be a writer.
I thought of myself as a writer. But like the organizational questions, thinking strategically, getting people to come to consensus around idea. I discovered that I, that those things came very naturally to me and I didn't expect it. I didn't even want it. I actually felt like almost like a sellout or like a class [00:09:00] trader for being good at those things, because I thought of myself as a creative person, but just being inside a young organizations that were changing
gave me enough opportunity and enough, enough challenges to chew on that. It, let me discover these other capabilities that I had. And in all cases, it came in from taking the, my first job was $18,000 a year taking that job. And then just like everyday, or just showing up, just thinking, how can I be useful other than doing the 10 things that I have to do.
And yeah. And that was really.
Hala Taha: [00:09:34] That's really cool. And like I mentioned previously, you co-founded Kickstarter, which basically created a whole new economy based on the generosity of people. Kickstarter has placed billions of dollars in the hands of creative people since it launched in 2009. More than a hundred thousand new ideas have generated because of it.
And it was actually a Perry Chen who is one of your co-founders who originally had the idea. So take us back to that moment back in [00:10:00] 2009, when Perry first brought up the idea to you, what did you think about that idea? Did you understand it and were you on board right away?
Yancey Strickler: [00:10:09] Perry first had the idea in 2001.
So our 2001, 2002. So a lot like, sitting on it for awhile and he'd wanted to throw a concert and realize that he was going to have to front something like $20,000 to make the show happen and thought what if instead, I could propose the concert to the public. People could put up their credit cards to buy tickets, but no one would be charged unless the show sold out.
And so there was this notion of conditional transaction. It would only happen if people wanted to do. And so that was the idea for Kickstarter. He shared it with me four years later. So 2005, we met in a restaurant where in Brooklyn, where he worked and I was a regular and my first reaction to the idea was actually not liking it.
I thought it reminded me of American idol [00:11:00] and it I'm just like, why do we need people voting on stuff? Is that how we want culture to happen? Really. And we just ended up talking about how, think about the niche artist or the person who has the online community.
That's so dispersed in the real world, but, if they could only gather the people on the web, something would be possible. And we started working on it and found our third co-founder Charles Adler about a year later. And what was interesting was like, crowd funding didn't exist yet.
And there've been some experiments, but it wasn't, there wasn't any kind of platform. It wasn't a normal thing. And we were focused on the very beginning on just helping creative projects and artists and creative people. That was just like, that's who we were. That's where we came from. That's what we cared about.
And to that men from the beginning, just closing ourselves off to a lot of potential opportunity, just like taking a a stronger focus than you might think, but, but in that way, just like authentically representing a [00:12:00] need, of like creative ideas, not being appreciated and especially creative people not being appreciated.
And I even think the way that creators are lauded now on the web and Patreon, even YouTube framing itself around creators. That is not a language that existed before Kickstarter, even before Kickstarter. And it's like they're musicians and filmmakers and, these are all discrete things. And instead, now we think of them as they're all a similar creative practice.
So it's, it was. It remains a great tool and something that just allows self-determination and creative ideas and things that wouldn't otherwise to happen.
Hala Taha: [00:12:39] Yeah. So like you said, it wasn't a phrase that people knew about people didn't know what crowdfunding was when you first launched Kickstarter that phrase didn't exist.
You guys we're one of the first pioneers in the space. So when you were bringing on investors or even content creators on the platform, what kind of pushback did you receive in [00:13:00] terms of the idea?
Yancey Strickler: [00:13:01] Yeah. It was so painful to explain, you get lost in the mechanics of, and then there's a pledge and they don't get charged.
There's so many things that we take for granted are really hard to you explain. At first, the first two years, every Kickstarter video is someone trying to explain to their friends here's here is this new thing. Honestly business people would say, no one is going to use this. Cause I want to get it.
Like I should get it. I should get a piece of the action. And, but we would say, but listen, this is the whole idea is that projects aren't meant to be good businesses. They're just like interesting or cool or funny, or, it's all the other things. And so for a more traditionally mind, a business person, they're just like this.
What, what need does this possibly serve for creative people? They immediately would see it. They immediately saw it and said, yeah, I have so many projects and I have to go knock on doors and beg to get them made. Like I would, if I could just present my idea and I don't have to get permission from anyone that's amazing, but there was a question of what will people actually support
you, know that, cause [00:14:00] there's still, at that point, we're used to an artist's fan relationship of, I buy a ticket when your movie comes out. I buy, it's just that it's after the fact and here we're saying, just support this person for being them support an idea because it's a good idea and that's requiring a different level of trust.
And yeah, I think everyone had the attitude of sure, this sounds great. But having that, healthy, grizzled, veterans, skepticism. But we'll see, we'll see people actually do this kind of thing. But if you look at, Kickstarter go fund me Patreon, it's even now only fans, right?
I mean the degree to which we are willing and excited to directly support one another is just, it seems so obvious now, but it really was not that connection was not there before about 10 years ago.
Hala Taha: [00:14:49] Were there some sort of like a tipping point when you guys started, where you guys were trying to get people to join your platform, to use it what was the moment in which we're like, oh, wow, this is really [00:15:00] gonna work.
Yancey Strickler: [00:15:01] I was three weeks in, it was a project by a woman from Athens, Georgia named Alison Wise. It was like to make a new EAP and she was a YouTuber and she just made like the best video that was just personal and alive. And you just felt like you were with her and she offered these rewards, like writing a song about you and it.
It felt like she took this form that we've made. And she just, she has turned it into something that was truly alive. And, just seeing that was like, oh, so this is really something. And it's not like things took off at that point, but I think it was seeing a really skilled storyteller look at this and think, oh, this is I can play with this.
And you hope you dream that someone thinks of your tool that way. And Alison just nailed it. And honestly, I think like almost every crowdfunding video. And even the structure of crowdfunding campaigns is still based on her. Like she did stretch goals in the [00:16:00] first campaign, like things that people still think of as like nascent new things and crowdfunding, like she was doing it in the third week that this existed.
But it was so it's that collision between your idea and in the real world, and then finding that, oh, it really does mean that.
Hala Taha: [00:16:17] So when you first started Kickstarter or before you even had the idea for it, you were a writer. You weren't really expecting to be an entrepreneur.
You didn't go get your MBA. You were an artist and this idea came about and you went with it and you had a really good mission. You wanted artists and creators to have a way to fund their brilliant ideas. Did you have like imposter syndrome considering that you took the CEO role at the company, what were some of the challenges that you had in terms of being a leader and not really having too much business experience?
Yancey Strickler: [00:16:50] Yeah. I'm, I'm still waiting to see if imposter syndrome ends, it just, somehow, even as you change, you think, oh, but am I really this? Yeah, there was a [00:17:00] lot, there's a lot of that because. It wasn't an aspiration. I'm at Perry was the CEO for the first five years. And I stepped in after that.
And it's not something that I w wanted or had spent my life preparing for. And that's a good and a bad thing. It's a good thing because especially if you're a company like Kickstarter where you're trying to, we're trying to set a different kind of example, where, we're really trying to uphold a lot of values that are personal to us.
You don't want to do things the way everybody else does them. Cause that laziness can just trap you. We saw it happen to too many of our friends, but also, it just means that as everyone else is chasing hyper-growth and large valuations and you're not chasing those things. That other folks get their like trophy moment and you don't, yours is more subtle and there are days where you, that you can feel good about it and you could think, it doesn't matter.
[00:18:00] And then there are days where you think what if everyone else is right. And I'm like the one sucker who didn't, who did it. I realize, so I, for me it was hard that I just didn't see many role models. Like I, people on my board, I loved. And, but certainly as I looked around the startup universe, I didn't see anyone reflecting this idea of like
trying to build a longterm institution, trying to align our self-interests with our users and employees. Just the things that, to me felt like the hardest things to get. Honestly just seemed like no one else even cared about. So that's hard and it's end. And it's even something that like, even inside the company, there is because we all live in the same world.
And so employees say my one, Hey, can we raise a lot of money to go chase growth, to match what a competitor is doing. And so it's not just that there are these Scrooge McDuck, like sitting somewhere it's, we're all a part of this. I am a part of it too. And so there's a lot that you end up having to balance there, in the end, what I found that I was ultimately able to [00:19:00] just act in a way that is deeply true to who I am, I don't really look at anything I did.
See any moment where I think that I was out of alignment with what I believe is important, what I care about, did I always make the right decision now that I, things always work out? No, but on that deeper level, I think it was always on point to some degree. And and again I have friends who were founder CEOs more and more success with funny phrases that using this context with more successful became very wealthy.
Followed the same, the traditional path. And I think there you find, there's still a lot of regret. There's guilt, do I deserve this? There's you know, did I do things the right way or not? Maybe I took some shortcuts that are possibly creating some challenges now, how do I feel about that?
So there's a lot of you end up carrying, but yeah. So having, just having the confidence to be yourself in a job [00:20:00] like that, I, I definitely don't feel like I mastered that, but I think I held the line. Yeah.
Hala Taha: [00:20:06] Yeah, for sure. I definitely think that you did. Just to give my listeners some context, Kickstarter is a public benefit corporation, correct.
And that's a PBC is what people call it. And I personally never heard of this company structure before researching you. It turns out there are a few other large corporations like Patagonia and method products that are also PBC. But explain to our listeners what that is and how that makes you different from other companies and startups, or how does, how that makes Kickstarter different, because I think it will help them understand what you were just talking about a little bit more.
Yancey Strickler: [00:20:43] Yeah. PBC is a for-profit company that has taken upon itself and has a legal classification. Where it is required to balance the financial interests of shareholders, which is what every company in [00:21:00] America is held by over the last 50 years. But you're meant to balance the financial interests of shareholders with producing a positive benefit to society.
And most companies have the attitude that you make as much, you just maximize for profit. You create a corporate gift program to apologize later for all the rivers you polluted. We hope that works out long run. I think we can look around us to see how well that strategy plays out as a PBC.
You're saying that these things must be one-to-one like you're directly incorporating these things into how you act, how you behave in all aspects. When you become a PBC, you write a charter that says what you're going to be legally held liable to. And so Kickstarters lays out a dozen or so provisions that include things like donating 5% of our after-tax profits to organizations, giving arts education in schools and organizations fighting systemic inequality or pledging to not use legal, but esoteric tax avoidance strategies to [00:22:00] avoid paying the company's fair share.
What's important about a PBC structures. There, there are a lot of good companies. But those that are operating as a traditional for-profit company, they're just relying on having good people in their leadership positions. They ultimately are still being held to this goal of maximizing a financial gain and they just happen to have nice people doing it that aren't willing to do all the things that you can do as a PBC.
The company is legally held to this and it can't change like the company, I'm no longer the CEO of Kickstarter. The CEO now is Aziz Hasan has to follow the same ideals to the same will be for the next Kickstarter CEO and on. So we ultimately felt like this was a structural way to keep us honest, a structural way to keep the company
aligned with its community of creative people. And, we, as founders said from the beginning, we didn't want to sell the company. We weren't trying to IPO just can we create a thing that does what it's supposed to do [00:23:00] that doesn't screw it up. That fulfills that purpose. And so I think the PBC is a structure way to do that.
It's not perfect. It doesn't solve it, but I think it is a model and definitely more people are using them.
Hala Taha: [00:23:12] Yeah. So you just brought up financial maximization. So I think that's a great transition into our next topic, which is what you really focus on now, like speaking about and bento is so this idea of financial maximization it boils down to meaning that the right choice is whatever option makes the most money.
And this concept was first introduced by the famous economist Milton Friedman in 1970. And so we're so used to this way of the world where money drives everything, profit drives everything. Even like GDP is how our country is measured on our success as a country. So tell us about, this economist who put out this op-ed in New York TImes and how that really changed the world.
What was the world like before that? And what happened after that.
Yancey Strickler: [00:23:59] Yeah.
[00:24:00] Milton Friedman is a brilliant economist with, many great additions to our knowledge of the world. And it was 50 years ago actually to this week that he wrote this New York Times essay that said that the social responsibility of a business is to increase profits.
And that at a moment when companies are really held to this notion of the public good. And companies were celebrated for being things like GM saying what's good for America is good for GM, that it was an argument that all that was wrong. And that actually they were over-complicating things and businesses should just focus on maximizing profits.
I think there's some wisdom to what he says, but that became a license to basically just absolve for business, to absolve themselves of any responsibility other than their own returns. And so you see this dramatic shift in how America functions that happened in 1973, where basically worker wages just stopped growing from 1973 to today.
The average American's wage has [00:25:00] grown by about 10%. That's 10% since 1973, the same year Pink Floyd's dark side of the moon came out. It's 50 years, 10% raise. Meanwhile, the cost of everything are crazy higher education, housing, healthcare, everything else. So people are like getting pinched in this crazy way.
There's a study that just came out today from the Rand Corporation, which is I write about in the book, a very reputable government organization that did a study to say, what if wages kept growing after 1973, that the way they had for the previous 30 years, would you think of as the golden age of capitalism, the average American salary today would be jumping from something like
$70,000 to $110,000. And what they found is that every single income group, like the lowest paid person would be getting $68,000 a year. And the only group that loses out on income is the 1%, even the 99th percentile person sees their incomes. But yet the way the system [00:26:00] works changed, fundamentally changed and it changed to optimizing for shareholders and that produced private equity, that produced companies off shoring jobs that produce the fragility of the American industrial sector today.
And that produce all these things. They're all justified by this notion. If it maximizes our financial interests, then it's good. But we have reached the end of that story. We've reached the end of that story. It has not worked. It has not worked. America is falling apart. Our environment is incredibly unstable.
We're going to find it very hard to just be, we already are thinking about the normal let's all grow our businesses, whatever 10%. There is so much instability and where the weather can wipe out billions of dollars of capital investment in a day, overnight. We're in a moment where that mindset is shifting, but it really took such a strong hold in the world.
Maybe my favorite place is in [00:27:00] a study of college students. That's happened every year since the 1960s. That is about their goals in life. And in 1970, the most important life goal for a college freshmen was to quote, develop a meaningful philosophy on life. 84% of college students said that was essential. That year
the number of people who said being rich was essential was about 28%, 28% of college students in 1970. The most recent year, the study came out in 2017. 82% of college students said being rich was essential and only 40% said having a meaningful philosophy on life was, and this is a rational response to how our world has changed.
And this is something that I think is at the moment of a breakdown an empire is breaking down at this moment. I really have come to feel that this invisible assumption that the right outcome is the financially maximizing one. It is, has just been this sort of invisible litmus test that is being applied to the world continually over the recent decades.
Hala Taha: [00:27:58] Yeah, [00:28:00] totally. And can you tell us more about that, this you have a chapter in your book called the maximizing class. I know you touched on it a little bit, but tell us more about who these people are, what they did, how they changed, the way that the world works and even how they ended up increasing credit card debt on society.
Yancey Strickler: [00:28:19] Yeah. There's a lot of what we're talking about is a consulting class and in particular McKinsey BCG Bain consultants coming in with a private equity background where they're being brought in by management to say, find us where we can maximize profits. Where can we cut costs? Where can we maximize profits?
I have a quote in the book from someone saying that McKinsey's responsible for more job losses than anyone else in human history. And so this was just a new strategy. And so people are trained in this strategy and business schools and law schools. And this has become just an assumed way of doing business.
You squeeze workers, you try to remove their rights. You try to dismantle the unions. You [00:29:00] take more and more profits to the top. Your board is never going to get mad at you. Your shareholders are never going to get mad at you. And meanwhile, we're heading towards a world where honestly, the future of business
doesn't really involve people. The future of business is robots and algorithms. And like the 20% of the population that will still be able to afford their products. That the future of businesses sees people as increasingly irrelevant. And yeah, it is a mindset that in a healthy society is checked by
the other parts of civil society, is checked by government, is checked by a strong social fabric, is checked by the family, and you have a business community that is serve, working hard, doing all those things, but it's just balanced in the context of everything else. This is how things work out.
This is how a rainforest stays balanced. But what we've had, especially in the U S is just the business community and the financial mindset becomes so powerful to even now, we can only conceive of answers that are like there as we want. And I fall into this too. We, one businesses, we [00:30:00] want Patagonia to solve climate change.
No Patagonia will never solve climate change. The states will solve climate change. Science will solve climate change, but yet we've put so much of our faith. Business and entrepreneurship, which I believe in which I believe in, but they are just a part of the piece of the puzzle. And every time we continue to rely on the business community as solving that, creating that answer, ultimately we are tilting more and more of our society to a ultimately a financial outcome.
So it's we're stuck in a dangerous loop, but I think it's breaking. I think that the disaster of where we are is breaking.
Hala Taha: [00:30:35] Yeah. So let's talk about values a bit, because I think values are really important in this whole conversation. Right now, the world and America, and with capitalism, we value money and maximizing money.
What are some of the other values that we could have in play that could mean success? Like what other measures of success are?
Yancey Strickler: [00:30:59] Yeah. I think [00:31:00] that, mastery is a great one. Mastery is the act of just getting better at something. If you follow like the James clear atomic habits world, that, that is like the true art of growth is actually you yourself getting better.
You're not demanding anything more of the, of anyone else you are just personally improving their values, like fairness their values, like community ship. There are our values, like purpose. That we see are incredibly important, we see it. We assume that all those things must take a back seat to providing for your own financial needs.
Does to pursue a job or a career with purpose and to some degree is seen as indulgent it's privileged. And in a sense it is because for half the population that really is okay. A hard ask to make, just because of the degree to which opportunity is being not being evenly distributed.
So I think that those values are very alive. In that survey of college freshmen, the same percentage of college freshmen want to have a family every year. That has not really changed. We still values [00:32:00] the same things, but the issue is that they're getting more and more squeezed
by our need to make financial ends meet by our need to have healthcare. And then we tie our notion of self-worth and self-esteem to getting those things. And then you get into that dangerous loop where you are making enough, you're making more than enough, but you build a lifestyle to match it. Nothing feels like enough.
And then you become the heavy polluting Uber consumer that is making themselves unhappy and is destroying the earth at the same time. And you look at anyone that has like a VP, SVP level job at a big company. There's a high chance that their life is something like that. And this is like these notions of success.
They box us into these, just these corners where we're really causing a lot of damage, even though we don't know recognized it.
Hala Taha: [00:32:52] what a role models, how do role models impact the way that society views our values and what [00:33:00] values that we find, most impressed.
Yancey Strickler: [00:33:02] They really, they embody, we embody them and there's such a funny degree to which in the U S, who's president really does seem to set a kind of a tone for the country.
I've lived through five or six presidents at this point, and it's really true. I was seeing something the other day that said it was like the most desirable brand attributes and. Some 20 15, 20 14 smart and social we're like the two most desirable brand attributes. The most desire brand attribute today was talks like a regular person.
And I thought, oh, Obama smart. And smart and social Trump talks like a regular person. Like we are like, they're these sort of models we're being, we're seeing. And we embody, for me as a, when I was in the CEO's. I read, all the fast companies, the inks, all those sorts of things.
And you're just, you're looking for tips. How could I be better? And of course, I'm just drawing so many hidden assumptions in doing that, just ways [00:34:00] of working that, I either judge myself for not having or think, do I need to develop this more? And so they have a huge impact.
Now we're in a funny world. We have, micro role models, right? I like the other week, I got a retweet from someone that I'm sure no one on this listening to this podcast has heard of, but it had me like in my office jumping up and down, excited. Cause I felt seen by this person and that to me is a hero, they, they might even be surprised to hear that.
And so I think today it's, it's a bit different where we look to for that inspiration.
Hala Taha: [00:34:36] So let's get into Bentoism. And from my understanding it's a tool or a values processor that can help people decide which four different choices they should pick and every different scenario the choices include now me, now us, future me, and future us.
Can you talk to us about this decision-making methodology that you've came up with? Maybe give us a real example of [00:35:00] how you can use it?
Yancey Strickler: [00:35:01] Sure. Yeah.
Yeah. So one day, while I was working on the book, I was sketching in my notebook and I drew what's called a hockey stick graph. You know what, just a simple X, Y axis chart, and then a line sloping up into the right.
And I drew this as a graph of self-interest. What I thought we thought of is self-interest today. Then after I drew that graphite, I realized that the X axis, which represents time. It can extend. It can go from all the way from now to the future and the Y axis, which measured, which I thought reflected your self interest how popular you were or how, how powerful you were becoming that also had a dimensionality because as our self-interest grows, so does our responsibilities.
So I thought that actually goes from me to us. So I had to extending these lines and instead of this simple hockey stick graph, I had these four quadrants and I labeled each one. Now me and the bottom left, what I want to need right now, future me and the bottom what the [00:36:00] older wiser version of me wants me to do.
Like that person becomes real or not every day based on my choices. There's in the top left. Now us, my friends, my family, the people I care most about they're impacted by everything I do. And then in the top, future us, my kids, or if I have them or everybody else's kids. And I realized that even though when I'm making decisions, I'm really only thinking about now me for the most part, actually every choice I make leaves a footprint in all of these spaces, I'm constantly shaping them.
As I wrote down next to this, a simple description of what I draw on. And I wrote beyond near term orientation. This was like a simple graph that helped me see beyond my near term orientation. And I just suddenly realized that it was an acronym for bento. And I thought about the Japanese bento box that has four or five compartments in a lid that lets you carry a variety of dishes.
So not too much of anyone being it's all about balance. And the [00:37:00] bento also honors a Japanese dieting philosophy called Hara Hachi Bu which says the goal of a meal is to be 80% full that way. You're still hungry for tomorrow. So I thought bento, the Bentoism. Bentoism is the same thing, but for my values and my choices, a way for me to not just listen to what now me wants, but to see this bigger picture.
So just as a simple example is you can imagine a smoker asking their bento because it's a, it's actually tool, a UI Vento, a smoker, asking their bent to whether they should quit smoking. So what you would do is you'd ask each of these boxes individually and just see what it has to say. So a smoker asks their now us, which thinks of their families.
Should I quit? And that bento says, yeah, you should quit. We hate that you smoke the smoke or ask their future us, which thinks that their children should I quit smoking. And it says, yeah, what if I smoked because of you quit the smoke, harass their future me. Should I quit smoking? Future me says I want there to be a future
me, let's quit. And then the smoker [00:38:00] asked her now me and then now me says, hell no, I'm addicted to nicotine. Quitting is going to suck. No, we definitely should. And this is where we often get stuck. We listen to this now, me voice. We have a harder time seeing these other spaces. They're irrational, they're deferred.
The outcomes are deferred. They're harder to make those kinds of decisions, but this is where we individually get stuck. And this is where as a world of gun stuff is just optimizing for now, me and not doing a good enough job. If thinking about the people in our lives and thinking about the long-term impact of our decisions.
And so the bento is as simple as you could get four boxes and you can build your own values inside of them. And I lead a community called the bento society, several hundred people. And we come together every week to build our bentos, to go through creative exercises to better understand what we want to better think about the future, what we're working towards to feel connected with others and the [00:39:00] goal of all this work.
Is to redefine what the world sees as valuable and NR self-interest in 30 years by 2050, this can happen by 2050, the same way that we've used short-term individualism that every decision is about now me, that we just take that as a gift. In 30 years, this notion this bend to us view that now in the future, me as an individual and me as an us, as a group, those are all things that I must balance that way of thinking can become just as assumed, just as deeply ingrained as society.
And that's what begins to unlock. What are the next evolutions? That is what allows us to deal with climate change. That is what allows us to better create social value with one another, to increase the trust with each other. It's this kind of thing. That I think unlocks all of our best outcomes.
Hala Taha: [00:39:53] Yeah. So 30 years from now is really, actually not a lot of time at all. So why do you think [00:40:00] that we have a chance to do this within 30 years?
Yancey Strickler: [00:40:02] There's a lot of in my research for the book, I found a lot of history, meaningful ideas going from really nothing too, just so deeply ingrained in 30 years.
And I think that there are those generational shifts that happen some 30 year changes are things like exercise. Believe it or not. Before the 1950s, like exercise, wasn't a thing that people did, like exercise had to be invented hip hop, Not existing to dominating the charts in 30 years, gay marriage goes from like unthinkable to normal.
Within 30 years, there are these incremental changes this exponential growth that happens in that kind of time. And I think that why this happens with us is that really, for anyone under the age of 40, you are growing up already with a network's notion of the world. Like the internet is built into our mind.
The way that we're connected to each other is like deeply part of us. Yes, we feel lonely. Yes, but we're so much more connected than other generations [00:41:00] too. And ultimately the challenges that we face are forcing us to think about the future. COVID is forcing us to think about the future.
We can do those things blindly. We can do those things feeling lost. We can do those things feeling defensive, or we could do those things in a way that we have a structured way of thinking where we have a shared map that we're using. And maybe we can start to create almost like genres of value. What does it mean to create future us value?
What kinds of actions do that? What kinds of actions harm now? And as I look at the 30 year process of this change, I think it starts with individuals just seeing their own lives differently. And this has now happened for thousands of people at this point. And the bentos society is like a weekly practice at that.
The second step is people sharing this perspective in their workplaces and their homes, like the other places where we're leaders. Just Hey, have we thought about the future us consequences of this. And just beginning to share this perspective. It's [00:42:00] not hard to get ahold of, and it instantly clicks for people I find.
And finally, the third one. The slowest moving flywheel, but the biggest is how our norms get redefined by these kinds of changes. And this is where I think you're getting to that 30 year perspective of can we define new sorts of values and metrics that businesses use to guide behavior? Can we
say, normalize a long-term short term, thinking through like our digital products somehow, like how, what are ways that these things can be just practically a part of our life and that takes longer time. And so the bentos society, we're thinking about all three levels of that. And those longer term projects, the goal is to be funding things, to be just supporting, Businesses one-off projects, art that are fulfilling this notion of growing non-financial values in balancing our self interest.
And I think just stepping up to where we are in the world, like just staying up as humans, do, [00:43:00] doing our ancestors a solid and not blowing this, this is like where we are. This is like the biggest choke job, the biggest choke job. The fact that we are struggling so much from where we are. We're just giving this away.
And so I think that we have to get real and to me, it's at this level of structural change isn't huge, but it's just how we see ourselves and our responsibility. And that is more powerful than any technology or anything else. And I have a lot of faith.
Hala Taha: [00:43:31] Yeah. When I was reading your book, I was like mind blown.
I really helped open up my perspective to all of this. Especially when you were writing about how the population is exploding right now. And think about how much garbage we have, right. Carbon, pollution, and all of that. And just thinking about how many more people are going to be around and even with COVID and who knows what that's going to be like with an increased population.
And it's just scary and we do need to change what we [00:44:00] value and how we work as a society. For sure.
Yancey Strickler: [00:44:02] Yeah. We're going over a precipice right now. And I think that a certain regime is ending. And I think the falls of regimes are messy and scary and painful and are often violent and deadly. And there is much to be fearful of, but
my feeling is that 15 years from now, 10 years from now, I think we're going to find ourselves in just a dramatically better position, asterisk climate change, asterisk climate change in a major way, who knows what that is but I have, I'm an optimist about human beings. I think we always do the best we can with what we know and part of my drive and thinking about Bentoism and this model was
what new knowledge could we possess that would really allow us to step into our responsibility to see it because no one wants to leave a worse world. Like no, no one intentionally desires these things, but we've become so careless and we've become so trapped in our narratives, [00:45:00] but the world is going to take them away from us, whether people are ready.
Hala Taha: [00:45:03] Yeah. So my last question before we close out is really on Tesla. So I think they're a great example of how you can prioritize future us instead of me now. Could you give us that example?
Yancey Strickler: [00:45:16] Yeah just Tesla. Not only that it's an electric car company, even Tesla's patents that they developed several years ago, I think in 2014, Tesla and Elon Musk decided to make all their patents available to anyone and said, our goal is not to be the biggest electric car company in the world.
It's our goal is for electric cars to be what everyone drives in the world. And we think that this is what makes this happen. That's a, the perfect kind of decision that we need, because. We are we tell ourselves a story that we are competing, but we, there is one planet here and all of our competitions are so puny and so small compared to what's really at stake.
And so I think gestures like that show the truth of our situation. And I think they're more of those comments.
Hala Taha: [00:45:59] Very [00:46:00] cool. And the last question I ask all my guests is what is your secret to profiting in
Yancey Strickler: [00:46:06] I think it's really knowing yourself. Acting in a way that's an integrity and coherent with who you most deeply are when you're doing that, it's hard to go wrong.
Hala Taha: [00:46:19] And where can our listeners go to learn more about you and everything that you do?
Yancey Strickler: [00:46:23] Yeah, my, you can find me online at ystrickler.com. You can find out more about Bentoism at bentoism.org. And if you want to join the weekly practice we do, that's just bitly/weeklybento. We'd love to have you there.
Hala Taha: [00:46:37] Cool. Thank you so much, Yancey. I loved this conversation. Thank you so much.
Yancey Strickler: [00:46:41] Thanks you too.
Hala Taha: [00:46:43] Thanks for listening to Young And Profiting Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider leaving a review on Apple podcasts or comment on YouTube, SoundCloud, or your favorite platform. Reviews make all the hard work worth it.
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