Exploring Guanxi: How Relationships Shape Our Perception of Humanity
On Elements of Community, join host Lucas Root and entrepreneur Ruoyun Xu Killian as they unravel the mysteries of Guanxi – the intricate web of relationships that shapes our lives. Trends analysts Ruoyon and Lucas delve into the tug-of-war between individuality and collective belonging, redefine success beyond wealth, and explore rebuilding modern, 'faceless' connections.
In this episode, Lucas and entrepreneur Ruoyun team up to uncover the power of connections. Ruoyun’s trend-savvy lens reveals the hidden impact of bonds on our identities and success.
In their chat, Lucas and Ruoyun dive into the tug-of-war between being unique individuals and part of a collective. They tackle today’s disconnected world, urging for stronger personal ties in supply chains and local businesses.
Cutting through the noise, they champion nurturing small circles for authenticity. Join their journey to reshape your view on success and bonds, all through the lens of Guanxi. Get ready for surprising insights that defy the norm!
Other subjects we covered on the show:
- The loneliness epidemic facing an era posthumously linked online yet starved for genuine intimacy.
- Rehumanizing faceless modern systems by rebuilding direct relationships from beef supply chains to local vendors.
- Cultivating close circles of advisors as a tether against “louder noises” bombarding public discourse.
AND MORE TOPICS COVERED IN THE FULL INTERVIEW!!! You can check that out and subscribe at https://pbp.li/eoc55.
If you want to know more about Ruoyun Xu Killian, you may reach out to her at:
Lucas Root: [00:00:00] And we’re live. Ruoyun, thank you so much for joining. For those of you who don’t know, Ruoyun has been becoming one of my very good friends over the last six months or so because we met inside the community put together by Marusha Murphy, who was on the show about six months ago. And the community is called the Revolutionaries.
Lucas Root: Ruoyun, thank you for getting to know me and for hanging out with me and for, you know, banging big ideas back and forth over the last several months and also thanks for introducing me to Guanxi.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yeah.
Lucas Root: Agreeing to come on.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Thank you for having me. Yes, it is lots of fun. We’re expecting like a typical one hour get to know each other conversation and ended up in like a what is it? A one and a half hour like deep dive of the human evolution and I was like there’s finally another human that gets my brain and when we first met Marusha was like, Ruoyun you need to talk to Lucas like your nerdiness of extreme human [00:01:00] evolution he is on the same brainwave as you and I was like yes and then it continued so…
Lucas Root: I’m glad didn’t disappoint you
Ruoyun Xu Killian: It wonderful. Yeah it’s really fun cause it’s like, I was talking, one of the things that I talked about is like, I can see, as someone that is really deeply in the trends worlds, especially people don’t realize this was so my background is social media and digital marketing. And people were like, Oh, that’s fun.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: It’s you’re just creative. And I was like no. Social media is a direct reflection of human society. And when I look at trends and analytics, I’m looking at the trends and analytics of human evolution, which as a history nerd is like, my jam, I’m like being paid to do it in real time. And so it’s really fun in that space.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And then being able to have someone like Lucas to be able to nerd out about is fantastic. So Lucas was like, I want to have our nerdiness on a podcast just so that other people that are equally interested in the human evolution nerdiness [00:02:00] can partake. So I was like, all right, I’m here. Let’s go.
Lucas Root: I didn’t realize it, but I built this podcast a year and a half ago just for this conversation.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Oh, that’s so cute. I love it. I like, it’s like everything happens and unfolds at the perfect time and perfect place as the saying goes.
Lucas Root: As the saying goes.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yes. Yes. I’m sure that is a meditation quote somewhere in the many things of combat. So I’m not going to take credit for that quote, but yes.
Lucas Root: I’m you know what? It’s probably roomy.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Probably. Probably. That human is a very deep old soul of a human.
Lucas Root: Yeah.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: That sees the world. Yes. Yes. We love it. Yeah, Cool.
Lucas Root: Yeah, so you were, I mean you and I know each other fairly well, you were saying in the green room that you’re in several different communities.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: [00:03:00] Yes, so, yes, we’re like, the joke is like, I’m an insider where I get to go into different groups because like, if you think about it, Lucas, when we were growing up, it was click based, right? Like think like early 2000s hyper click, like you must belong in a click. And I remember growing up being like, I never belonged in any single click.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And that’s the reality of being human beings is that we’re multivariants. So we have multiple different interests and multiple different groups and my background for those of you that don’t know me. I am Ruoyun. I’m a human centered marketing and business advisor and my real day to day life is like I mentioned being a nerd about.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: This ever changing human algorithm, but also at the same time, really looking at just how human beings evolve in this space of innovation and business. And what I do today is work with clients at that very deep level of creating [00:04:00] an environment that allows their human creative geniuses. Arrive and thrive and create the next innovation for their company.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And that’s what I do on the day to day. And that has evolved over the years of being a speaker to create the next evolution for me. It’s funny that you were talking about human evolution and our personal evolutions. My next evolution is creating a community called humans behind the brand, because the philosophy is that in order to do human centered business and really connect at the human level, because people do business with people, not just business.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: We have to honor the human beings behind the brand and that includes ourselves as business owners, but also very specifically our team. And so human behind the brand is a community that allows creatives, marketers, content creators, all the people that make the brand come to live.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Have a place to gather nerd, and grow as a human being along the way. So, it is going [00:05:00] live hopefully by the end of this month as we’re filming so it’ll go live as it becomes and I’m excited because being a marketer in this world is a very lonely road. You see, you’re usually the solo superhero human on your team and up until this point, it’s like all the in person mega conferences where your brain gets crammed with way too much information in three days and sometimes you have passive communities on, like, Facebook, etc. But there’s not really, like, a community to just grow and be human centered. So, this community is designed to be where I get to host a space for that. But, yeah.
Lucas Root: I love it.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: That’s the evolution. Yeah.
Lucas Root: I’m right there with you too. I was growing up like you, we were growing up, we’re talking about it now, right? I was growing up and one of my friends was sitting in a classroom and the teacher, you know, looked out the class and said, Hey[00:06:00] who can tell me where beef comes from?
Lucas Root: And this is not a joke. I grew up in the backwoods of Vermont and one of my friends sitting next to me said the supermarket and meant it. And here we are in the backwoods of Vermont, where you would expect them to actually know better. And he said, the supermarket, and he meant it. Like, that’s where beef comes from, the supermarket.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: So completely disengaged from the whole entire supply stream and like how everything is interconnected. I mean, we’re talking our intention of the theme today’s talk about Guanxi and I want to give a very like Western modern tactical view of it is from the time you wake up till the time you go to sleep, or like, within the 1st hour, you actually interact with at least 20 separate different companies.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And ways of like from your electricity, your water, the air conditioning, all the things you’ve interacted with so many different things. And those all are business relationships. Like people don’t expect to have a business [00:07:00] relationship or a relationship in general with their energy company. But I’m in Texas right now with like a hundred plus heat weather.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: I am very aware of Austin Energy and what they put out there and the way that they communicate, things like power outages and stuff like that and how they’ve done it and like the nuance of how they handle that conversation builds trust at the end and that’s the point of it’s not about points of connection is how trust is being built for it.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: So yeah, yes, and that’s the measurement of success in business Silence.
Lucas Root: Yeah. But, what it illustrates is, you know, beef comes from the supermarket, or one of my favorite analogies around this conversation is, how do you make a pencil? And the illustration is that what we’ve done is amazing. What we’ve done is amazing. We’ve created an absolutely extraordinary machine that makes it so easy for us to have [00:08:00] the things that we want the picture that’s right here on the back of my wall or the couch, those are hard things to have.
Lucas Root: I can’t make a couch in a day. Like, I don’t have the skills for it. I don’t have the material for it. And yet, in a day’s worth of labor wages, I can purchase a couch that cost me a day of work. Because we built this absolutely extraordinary machine. And one of the unintended side effects of that machine that we’ve created, that gives me the capacity to have anything I want, any time I want for the most part, even delivered to me, is that it takes all of those relationships and makes them faceless.
Lucas Root: And so we’re more connected than we ever have been before.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: The more lonely than we’ve ever been before. Yeah. Yeah.
Lucas Root: Yeah,
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yeah, people are like, well, we’re all connected on social media. And I was like, ah, social media is just a reminder of connection. It is like literally someone saying hi, bye across the room from you. It’s like, [00:09:00] hello, goodbye, and that is it.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: There’s no nuance. There’s no conversation. None of that stuff. There’s DMs like, private one to one messaging, you might have a side conversation in the common threads, but that is equivalent to like, you guys are waiting in line for coffee and you have a random 5 minute conversation that like, that’s not deep at all in any single way.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And so it’s the, people feel lonelier than ever and it’s been put on a big stage like that was highlighted so much because of the pandemic of the loneliness that people occur to and then that brings forth the question of like, well, is it depth of the relationship or quantity of relationships?
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Because social media has, again highlighted and basically congratulated the concept of gaining a lot of followers, AKA quantity of relationships, but they’re all surface level. There’s literally no brand [00:10:00] loyalty at all. And if we’re talking about, if we’re switching the expectation that success is not money and material gains that you make in the world, but impact and legacy and trust that you build in the world, then that follower count is useless.
Lucas Root: Completely.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yeah.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: It’s
Lucas Root: useless. That’s funny. I connected with somebody on LinkedIn the other day, and when I connect with people on LinkedIn, the first thing that I try to do is set up a Zoom coffee date. And you know, I call it various different versions of that, but really, I just want to sit down and get to know you.
Lucas Root: At one level of intimacy closer than the vanity metric of plus one on my LinkedIn follower count.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Absolutely, because social media is not about like building connections. It’s literally a reminder. How I explain to clients is like social media is the top of funnel and bottom of [00:11:00] funnel. It is literally designed for you to remain top of mind. You catch their attention when you do expansion style content that goes onto like the for you page, etc.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Again, entertainment, these apps are entertainment apps, so you’re just landing on someone’s feed for entertainment value, and then they like you, and they follow you, but you have to turn them into a fan of your show, and social media is designed to continue warming that, but like.
Lucas Root: That’s it.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: What is the in between, like if we’re looking at the hourglass, right, if they’re going and funnel in, go and funnel out, it’s not just land and be my follower on social media, it’s like there’s an engagement point at the middle of the hourglass experience, right?
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And so for shows, it’s like, go actually watch the show, go actually watch the movie, listen to the music. Get to look at longer form content which is literally like click, watch. So very low barrier of entry. And then for businesses, it could be experience the service, experience the [00:12:00] product, and experience the community, and all of that applies.
Lucas Root: Buy the book, buy the course.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yes, exactly. But it’s more of like, not just like buying and consuming products, it’s the experience of that, right? Like, diehard Harry Potter fans are like, Die hard Harry Potter fans, despite the whole JK Rowling issue, etc. Like, it was a fan, it’s a fandom, true and true, to where like, there, I just saw trending on TikTok, a lady who completely made a Harry Potter themed realistic birthday party, like everyone, she made custom made wands for her kids and her kids like attendees.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: She made an owl, like a legit life size owl out of a cake. I mean, she’s prep, she works in that [00:13:00] background as a props artist. I think that’s her background, but I was just like that level of fandom exists in a movie that has been out for over 20 plus years. Like it was out when I was in fourth grade, but it has managed to create this legacy.
Lucas Root: And the books several years before that.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Exactly. And the people, the reason why brands like that are so powerful is not because of just the experience of the book or the movie.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: It’s the friendships people have building because they watched it together. That’s what makes it so powerful is that common interest in the fandom. And that’s when we talk about like community of like, what’s a good community versus not a good community is when a community is powerful when the host has empowered the attendees of their community members to interact with each other. [00:14:00] That’s the measurement of success.
Lucas Root: When a host has empowered the community to self interaction.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Exactly. Yes. It’s not a me show. It’s a, how do we interact with each other and build something? That’s a true powerhouse. Like think of your favorite party, like, if you go to any parties, I mean, we’re both introverts, so it’s not really easy for us to go to parties, but like think of like a party that you went to where you left feeling very energetically invigorated, like you were excited, right? Like you had solid interactions out of there, and it wasn’t like, you probably went to the party because the host invited you, and you’re like, okay, I know this person, but then you left making friends.
Lucas Root: Right.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Right? That’s what going into a community feels like, is I get invited to a party.
Lucas Root: I should feel like.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Should feel like in theory. Yes, in theory should feel like, right? There’s a lot of that [00:15:00] and so it’s like how do you create and garner that like as brands and developers of brands were play the multiple hats. We are the event host and the host of the party as much as the like talking head dictating that space like we are creating the lifeblood content that is discussed as much as creating the experience for the content in that.
Lucas Root: In the content, real time. Yeah.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yeah, like that’s the, so that’s like the western sphere of what is evolving. And I think, if you’re listening to this, if you’re a viewer following Lucas for a long time, you probably already got the memo that success is not based on materialistic gains, but based on legacy and impact.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: But if you’re watching this for the first time, let’s really reiterate this is that what is [00:16:00] counts as a loving and fulfilling and successful life is not how much money you have in the bank or power or market share. It’s about what is the trust and lasting impact that you’re creating in the world, right?
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And that’s like, and that is a concept that’s been around for thousands of years before money was a thing, right? Cause that’s how people were comfortable with trading in the beginning of civilization, right? Like money, like coins didn’t exist. Currency didn’t exist for a long time in evolution. So, which is trust. Right? And we’re slowly like, to your point earlier of like, we have everything so easily accessible where there’s a saturation.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: So now it’s like, basic survival access things no longer [00:17:00] matter. It’s about what we truly care about.
Lucas Root: Beef comes from the supermarket.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yes
Lucas Root: Now, me personally, I’ve taken that concept and turned it on its head. I personally have a direct relationship with the farmer that raises the cows that I eat so much so that I actually go meet the cows a couple of times a year, sometimes as often as once a month. Because I consider that to be an important part of me feeding into, pun intended, feeding into the supply chain that feeds me.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yeah, but if you think about that, like, that’s a for normal humans, and I say this because you and I are probably fall from the category of being naturally entrepreneurs. We get labeled as superhumans just because we’ve naturally done things not normal of the past. But like, if we’re talking about this, it’s like, I don’t want that concept to just be [00:18:00] considered like, oh, it’s a superhuman act. It’s an outlier act. And I was like, anybody can do it. And I could hear like, if someone heard you say that, they’re like, that’s great. But I have to do that for all of the companies that I interact with. That’s a lot. And I was like.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Right. I was like, well, you don’t, it’s the same thing of like, when we talk about social justice for companies and brands, right? Like so many people are like, you have companies need to be more socially aware and they have a voice. They need to say something. And I was like, okay, well, just like how we don’t expect average any human in general to like, do everything all at once because there’s just no capacity or bandwidth to that.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Why are we expecting these companies to do the same and it’s all about progress at the end of the day. So it’s that question of like, instead of spreading ourselves thin and only like hitting bare surface, what if they focus on the things that we actually care about?
Ruoyun Xu Killian: So like in Lucas’s case, he cared about like, how he’s feeding himself and in turn feeding [00:19:00] the environment. That’s something that you’re nerdy and passionate about. What is something that, like, for a listener, what is something that you’re passionate about? Like I’m super passionate about plastic and recycling and things like that.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And cause I live in Texas and I am very lucky that I live in Austin where we have good recycling systems and certain areas of composting. And then I go out to East Texas and there’s no recycling.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And I’m like just crying inside and I come out of like, I lived in multiple different countries, both in Europe and Asia and here, and I would lived in Korea and Japan where it’s like 12 styles of recycling, like ultimate use of like, they import trash from other countries because they don’t have enough to feel the way that their systems are done.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And then I come here and I’m like why is it so hard to figure out what I can or cannot recycle? So we like, so one of the things that I did was like, okay, if I can’t consciously be confident [00:20:00] in how things are being recycled in the system out there, I can at least control my purchasing style. So if I historically use a ton of paper towels, I switch to towels and then my trash like decreased and I’m going to go a little bit more feminine.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: I switched into using a period cap, menstrual cups, versus traditional tampons, which for any woman out there who’s questioning on it, you save hundreds of dollars. I have saved at least probably close to a thousand dollars now in the last five years of adoption that I’ve switched over. And you never have that moment of, shoot, I have to go to the store to buy tampons. Like as a female that’s awesome.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And that stuff is not recyclable in any single way It goes straight into the landfill you are screwed at that point. So it’s like these little points, but it’s like it’s something that I’m genuinely Interested in, and I think for every human being who’s trying to adapt [00:21:00] or evolve and change for the better of humanity, it’s about start with your interests and then branch out.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Because even if you start there, It’s gonna be nothing.
Lucas Root: Start with one thing.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly. And just being aware. I think the biggest thing that came out of that earlier conversation of beef from the supermarket is like, to your point, they’re just not aware of the intercanality, intricacies of it. I think people are starting to slowly be aware of the intricacies.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Like the supply chain, like everybody’s like everything is more expensive and I was like, welcome to trade wars fueled by gas which then makes and then I was like, let’s actually question how inefficient our distribution systems could be.
Lucas Root: Right?
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Like, we get avocados from Mexico, and then we get this from, like, another state 20, 000 miles away, and I’m like, eat locally, eat seasonally, like, [00:22:00] where’s that go?
Lucas Root: It is very cool that we have avocados from Mexico available in our grocery store all the time. It’s really cool.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yeah, it’s a lot. It’s unseen oversaturation though. I like I have friends that I used to have a lot of friends from Japan because we were, I had a, in my university, we had a sister city in Japan and I was part of their exchange system program. And so I just remember distinctly one of my friends coming to the U. S. for the first time and we went into the bread aisle and there was like, you know, 30 different versions of bread and she was just like, I’ve never seen this much and she’s coming out of Japan and that is like product marketing central and she was even shocked.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And then my nerdiness was like, okay, let me compare like the variations like even in Japan in like their most common form. They don’t have the level of saturation as [00:23:00] we do, they have really genius product marketing, but like, they only have like, 10, maybe 20 versions of something. Whereas we have like, 30 to 50 versions of something instead.
Lucas Root: Yeah, go down the cereal aisle.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Oh, God, I mean, I appreciate it.
Lucas Root: How many different ways are there to corn?
Lucas Root: Diabetic
Ruoyun Xu Killian: friendly cereal. Yeah. I mean, like, I appreciate it. Right? Like, I have diabetic friendly cereal that’s now available to me, although it costs like triple the price of my favorite thing. But like, and then we questioned why do we eat cereal? But that’s a whole other kettle of fish.
Lucas Root: We can go there if you want. I’m there with it.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: No. That is like a lot of if people are interested in a part two of questioning why we have so much things, that could be a second episode. If the viewers are interested, we can go down that route. But everything is interconnected and I feel like people don’t recognize the [00:24:00] interconnectedness take it for granted. A lot of the things that happen.
Lucas Root: This amazing machine that gives me anything I want whenever I want, right here at my doorstep, and it’s faceless.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: On steroids, like, look at Timu, Xian, there’s a lot of ethical problems in association to why that is so cheap, but that aside, like, that is, like, capitalism on steroids.
Lucas Root: Yeah, it’s amazing.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: It is, but also like the and it’s faceless. Well, I invite you to look at there’s a if you ever get a chance you could look at the Swoop documentary on Xian.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: I think I sent you the link for it there’s a reason why because you can always the reason why it’s faceless points back to the intention of the owner.
Lucas Root: Yes, that’s part of it. And it’s a part we shouldn’t ignore. But another part of it is how [00:25:00] do you make a pencil like the paint for a pencil comes from Vietnam and the graphite comes from Afghanistan and the wood comes from South Africa and all of that plus the rubber which comes from South America.
Lucas Root: All of that needs to be shipped to Taiwan where they’re all assembled into a pencil and then they’re shipped here. It’s not even practical for it not to be faceless. There’s so many moving parts, it is actually impractical for it to not be faceless.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Right, well, there’s also a difference of like, there’s like one single pencil coming from the Taiwan manufacturer then gets rebranded into 20 separate brands. There’s also that point too, right? So there is like, literally no tracking at all. But all of that is like classic industrial era thinking, like the reason why it’s faceless is because it was designed in the industrial era. Whereas.
Lucas Root: My beef is no longer faceless.[00:26:00]
Ruoyun Xu Killian: True, you get to talk to, yes, and I mean, like, my eggs are no longer faceless. We buy, like, the really fancy eggs, because my husband went down the research realm of, like, Omega 3 eggs. So we use this specific brand, and they literally, in every box, has a hint of the week. Like, as Peggy loves to run around in the sun, like full on descriptor, which from a marketer, I was like, I appreciate what this is cringy.
Lucas Root: Yeah.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: But it builds brand trust and loyalty. Right. And so it’s like, it’s a difference of that. But it’s also interesting to think about like how much trust it took to build that because yes, while it is faceless, it is massively powerful.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Like think of the volume of materials that goes in the amount of dollars. That’s a billion trillion dollar industry, at least.
Lucas Root: Yeah. It’s amazing. So.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: In that space. Yeah.
Lucas Root: [00:27:00] Tell me about Guanxi.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Right. Well, it’s actually funny that we like, it’s a great segue into talking about Guanxi because…
Lucas Root: It’s almost like we plant now.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: We eventually tangent our way back into topic at hand. If you think about these the weight of impact built in these business deals plays a huge amount of role. So Guanxi is, in Chinese, the concept of relationships and when you deal with collectivist countries, like China. And different places, like relationships is the key.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: It is about how you build trust. Like there is a saying in Chinese culture, you don’t make a business deal with someone unless you eat dinner with them five times because you have to get to know about them and all the things. And if you think about it in concept of like these deals that ended up where the manufacturers in Taiwan that took at least five to [00:28:00] 20 meals, cause that’s a trillion dollar deal.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: That is being decided over, it can’t be done in 2 sales calls. People need to know them and trust them because it’s shifting and building a whole industry infrastructure. Like, think of the millions of lives affected by this, not just as consumers, but the employees, which is the most important factor because we are humans.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: We are consumers as much as we are employees. And that is the factor, so Guanxi is huge in the sense that Guanxi in English means relationship and the reason how we got on to the subject of Guanxi is because we were talking about the meaning of humanity and I was like, you know, English does not have a sufficient enough word to describe the meaning of connected humanity quite like the way that you could hear it in like a 4, 000 year history language.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Like, if we need it in [00:29:00] English, we go to Latin, which is the historical marker like, to give the depth that is there. And in Guanxi, it literally translates to, like, the threads that uniquely combine everything together. It is the social ties and threads, and it basically says everybody is uniquely connected.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And it really came from kōng zǐ, which is going back to Confucian, and I’m looking to the side, so basically from Confucianism, it’s like they’re, a human being’s identity comes from both who they are, but also who they are in relationship to others.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Now, in Confucianism, it literally boiled it down to, you are, there’s the saying that you are the average of the five people that you surround yourself with.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: That saying is, that’s what it boils down to, which applies in [00:30:00] collectivists thinking, because it’s like the individual is not important in the collectivist world. But it’s a combination like individualism and collectivism there’s not one is better than the other, it’s actually a combination of both.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: It is what really it boils down to is what we talked about earlier, which is, how we, as an individual is contributing to our society through the relationships that we are building with our friends, our family, our business and everything in between. And that would be a more modern take on Guanxi today, using both an individualistic and a collectivist lens, like, if you use Guanxi to recap and cliff notes, if you’re looking at Guanxi from a collectivist standpoint and viewpoint.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: It is the, you are the average of the five people around you, but if you take away an other ism formatting, which is collectivism versus individualism, and you just purely look at it from a human, [00:31:00] humanity perspective, it is about how an individual is contributing to the greater good overall, at that point.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: So that is Guanxi in a nutshell, and we’ve talked a little bit up to this point. About how it shows up in the Western world, like all the way that you touch a single decision of having a direct relationship with your beef provider or deciding to purchase from a smaller good company is huge. Small businesses in the U. S. is actually what drives the economy, not the trillion dollar businesses.
Lucas Root: Yeah. Well.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: But everybody only talks about the trillion dollar businesses.
Lucas Root: Let’s let’s pull in a different version of this and tie it together to something that we can collectively really anchor the idea with. So, Joseph Goebbels was the brilliant, horrible psychologist [00:32:00] and master marketer of the Nazi party.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: To World War II. I am here for it because I’m a nerd.
Lucas Root: Your here for it.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yeah.
Lucas Root: I I love this. But I love it for a reason that’s not immediately obvious.
Lucas Root: Although anybody who’s a veteran of mine already knows where this is going. What Goebbels said in German effectively was, if you tell a lie loud enough, often enough, it becomes the truth.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Inception.
Lucas Root: Inception. He was brilliant. He was absolutely brilliant, and he went and proved that this is indeed true. And what I took from that, me personally, what I’ve taken from that as an adult, as a child I learned different things, right? But what I took from that as an adult is that we cannot step away from collectivism. We cannot divorce ourselves from those five people closest to us. There must be five people closest to us and that’s a part of our identity and there’s no version of me Separate from those [00:33:00] five people closest to us in isolation.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: No, I think it’s more of like, it’s a combination, right? Like going back to my earlier saying, human beings are multivariant.
Lucas Root: That’s right.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: So, you are equally in connection, like, if I asked you to describe yourself, like, or if I describe myself, I’m like, I’m Ruoyun, I’m an entrepreneur, which puts me into one community, I am a wife, which is to my nuclear family, I am a friend to some of my closest friends in that space, so like, there are multiple things, I’m also a K pop fan, which Puts me or specifically a Mamamoo fan, which was me in a very specific fandom and that space, right?
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Like there’s also like all these different things that falls into it and that feeds into who we are, but all of that is tied to, that is just how our rainbow shows up out into the [00:34:00] world. I always like to say every human being has a light inside of them.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And then how it shows up tactically is the rainbow of which we do, right? And so like, think of Oprah. Oprah owns, Oprah 50 things. Richard Branson owns Fifth Virgin, 50 different thing things, right? Like they are equally themselves as much as a collective version of all those things that they owe.
Lucas Root: But the point is it’s neither in isolation so you can’t be collectivist Isolated from individual, and you can’t be individualist isolated from collective. It actually, like our safe, healthy existence requires both of them in balance.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Right, exactly. So, and I take it to the next level of saying like, instead of saying that you need both, it’s just like, how about we just take those descriptors out of the equation and just saying, at a human level, you need to be. clear in how you’re contributing into the world [00:35:00] and your intention in how you contribute to the world.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And hear and listen from others in your evolution. Right? Like, so again, like, you can’t be like, I’m all about evolving myself. Nobody’s opinion matters because that’s how World War Two actually probably started, if we really think about it.
Lucas Root: Think of how it happen.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yeah that’s like, if you really look at the mental health of the the Nazi party leaders, that is quite literally what happened and they’re like, well, they’re in the collectivist, they average themselves with other sociopaths, so it was literally an oligarchy of sociopaths and psychopaths which relevated into that, and I was like, yes, and this is also why we say, culture problems don’t happen because of the culture and environment as a whole. It happens because leadership needs therapy because they’re not ready to face the different things that happen in there. Right?
Lucas Root: George Washington said anyone qualified to take the job would probably say no to it.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Accurate, [00:36:00] accurate. Like I said, being an entrepreneur leader is definitely not for the faint of heart. It’s not, it is not. Being an entrepreneur is definitely not for the faint of heart. Every human being has the capability to be a leader in their own right. Doesn’t mean you have to be a CEO. It doesn’t mean that you have to be an executive.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: You can actually be a leader in your own right, because the definition of a leader is someone who inspires others to own their own power, which is very different from managers.
Lucas Root: Yeah.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: That’s a totally different thing. Managers manage people. Leaders inspire people.
Lucas Root: So, take the facelessness one step further. I don’t think that managers manage people. I think managers manage tasks and there are people who complete those tasks.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Correct. Managers manage the end goal versus leaders observe the end goal progress [00:37:00] in humans and so leaders are designed, they nurture it. Leaders are goes back to that example of being a host of a community, right? It’s they inspire innovation and it literally starts with realizing that they can’t be the answer to everything. That’s like step number one and realizing that in human creativity and collaboration is where innovation thrives.
Lucas Root: Yeah.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: That’s like the big part of it. But that starts with trust, right? So like the big, if there’s like one big cliff note that I would leave people with is that the definition of power and success in this world is the trust again, the guanxi that is built because it’s all threads, you literally are hanging by a thread or you have a very strong [00:38:00] rope, iron chain, link, something.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Like, think of like the gold struts. There’s actually a concept of emotional strands, which is about energy use, which is a whole other kettle of fish. But people are built on connections of that thread, and that connection is equal, right? Like, you hold one end and I hold another end. That should be the proper way of a relationship versus power dynamics. Yeah, no one should have a hook inside of you. And if you have a curiosity what that means in power dynamics, I suggest people go watch the Colleen Ballinger.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: That’s a clear example of threads in power dynamics. In a very scary way, because her audience are kids. Like, people get all caught up in like, Oh my god, she’s like grooming them for sexual stuff. But it’s like, [00:39:00] it’s about power. It’s not about how she did it. How she did it, absolutely horrible, but it’s power. World War II, very deplorable ways, but it was all about power. If you hear the manifesto of Hitler, it’s about power.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: His end goal and intention is power. And he just decided to choose the worst ways and he managed to do it.
Lucas Root: Yes. And you should read it.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yes, you should. There’s a reason why it exists. There’s a reason why it’s not banned. People are like, why is this still available? It should be censored, da blah, blah, blah. And I was like, if you actually go into a library and look at the manifesto, they actually have the manifesto. And there a lot of the published works are, here’s the Hitler Manifesto, and then here are all the historical notes on the side.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: So it shows you, the intention of the published work that’s available of the Hitler Manifesto [00:40:00] book, it’s designed to be a historical lesson so we don’t forget. And that’s the published work that’s available now. A lot of people are like, oh, it should be censored because we’re afraid of neo Nazis, and I’m like, well, those will be used in any way, but for the greater public, they need to know.
Lucas Root: Well, we are forgetting.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: won’t realize it.
Lucas Root: That’s why you and I are having a conversation about Guanxi.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yes, because I’m like, yeah, like, because it’s like, again, like, if you are lonely, that means that, you have not had a chance to invest in deep relationships and If we pointed back to the biggest lesson that we learned from the pandemic, which is there’s a chance of not existing in 72 hours, because that’s how deadly COVID was, what would you regret?
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And most humans regret the time that they didn’t spend with [00:41:00] others. They don’t regret not making enough money, et cetera, et cetera. They regret not spending enough time with others. Even the most powerful people, making the biggest amount of impact, probably regret not spending enough time with others because they hustled and grinded their way into it.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yup.
Lucas Root: So what’s the opposite of louder and more frequent? So let’s say somebody is saying something, even if it’s not a lie, let’s say somebody is effectively filling the air around you with the same message over and over again. How do you step into a version of truth that’s different from that noise?
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Critical thinking. I mean, people are, I always say if people are willing to be a little bit more compassionate.
Lucas Root: I’m gonna tease you, because the answer is Guanxi.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Oh, like trust, like.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: The
Lucas Root: answer isGuanxii. If you’re surrounded by loud noise[00:42:00] the path forward is for you to get tighter. Not inside yourself, but inside your community. Bring in the closest relationships and work to maintain the version of reality that’s important to you inside those close relationships.
Lucas Root: So you with your husband, you with me, you with the revolutionaries.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Right. That is, if we factor in the variable of the, if that person who seeks this advice is actually hosting healthy relationships.
Lucas Root: So we must.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Right. Most humans don’t know how to foster healthy boundaries and relationships.
Lucas Root: That’s why we’re having a this.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yeah. Like boundaries again. So what I talked about, it’s like equal. So to your point, I agree. If someone is understanding of how to foster that emotional strength. So if we use that emotional strand [00:43:00] analogy where you and I are equally holding both ends, no one is holding a hook into another, then it makes sense to like, if there’s a lot of noise and you feel untethered.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: You look at yourself and you’re equally holding your end and then building relationship with the other person that you’re holding on, that makes sense. But if there’s a power dynamic difference, if someone has bad boundaries, and the stealthiest one is a family member that you grew up with and then they lost their privilege to be on your one inch by one inch advisory Council, aka that close niche list, you have to make that decision to decide if you want them on that list or not.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: It is a privilege for someone to be on that one inch by one inch list. And if those of you are listening, hearing that sling lingo for the first time, it is coined by Brene Brown. She literally says you have one inch by one inch list like, that is a tiny little thing of paper. There are only so many names that exist on that [00:44:00] paper, and no one has direct access into that. Not your parents, not your husband or wife, not your significant other, not no one, not even God, or whatever you believe.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yeah, I’m saying that, I’m calling that, not even religion. Because usually religion is dictated by a messenger, and that is another human being that may or may not have privilege. Now, how you perceive the actual written text is different. But, yes, not everyone has privilege to that. Now, yeah, so to your point, like, to get out of the noise, being very intentionally clear of who you add into that is huge.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And to my earlier point of critical thinking is always being open to new ideas. A. K. A. when I say critical thinking it’s like in the back of our brains there’s that filter of relevant [00:45:00] information and not relevant information. People need to be able to know how to use that muscle properly.
Lucas Root: I like it.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Boundaries.
Lucas Root: Boundaries.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Everything starts with boundaries. I mean that’s what builds a very powerful relationship, a Guanxi, is boundaries.
Lucas Root: First we don’t do any business until we’ve had dinner five times. Like that’s the first boundary.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: it. That’s a filter. It’s a filter. It’s a boundary. It’s designed to test people and assess if we align and correct expectations, because if we sit on, when we build a relationship, there’s trust and that trust is a privilege to be earned and It’s more of like, I think back to legal days of like, if shit hits the fan, excuse me for my French, but if shit hits the fan, then [00:46:00] can you trust that person is going to do what they say?
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Because adversity and challenges will always appear. Can you trust that person in good faith to do that?
Lucas Root: Yeah.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: So, mhm. The same thing applies for interviews. I feel like people go through this very transactional experience of interviewing someone to work under them, or work with them, and I’m like.
Lucas Root: Yeah.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Like, think about it. It’s very transactional, and I’m like, but why?
Lucas Root: Never thought about it this way.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yeah, like, it’s so, like, transactional in the recruiting world, but I’m like, if this is your business, babe, so like, say you’re a business owner and you’re hiring, like, your first 20, your first 40, right, like, this is your baby, and you bring some aunties and uncles who are gonna be helping you nurture this baby, are you gonna, like, do you trust them to do that? That’s why the interview process should be intentional.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And
Lucas Root: some of [00:47:00] them you’re gonna spend as much time with every day as you do with your spouse.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Exactly. So like, can you actually handle them? And it’s also, again, based on your mental health prowess, right? Cause culture problems exist because leadership needs therapy as it goes. And so it’s like, if you heard us say that and your instant reaction is okay, well, I’m going to hire people that I vibe with and not hire people that I contradict with.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Okay. Then that is a reflection of your mental capacity for change.
Lucas Root: Listen, I have a difference of opinion with my wife at least once a day.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: My husband is my opposite and he’s so intentionally like sad, like, like confident who he is and half my life as I’m an anxious little bean. I sound very confident and I come across very confident, but I grew up being a very highly vigilant, anxiety survival bean coming out of my background and depression.[00:48:00]
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And that’s why I come across as confident, but he’s just content and thriving. And my goal in life is like, how did you do that? And then how do we replicate it for our future kids? So they don’t go down my route and go more real route. Like, how do I reduce the suffering for my future children? That is my goal in life.
Lucas Root: Yeah.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yeah. And that’s, we’re different, but we’re also like at the same time, that’s kind of the beauty of it.
Lucas Root: And you have your difference of opinion you have your disagreements and like you work through it.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Right.
Lucas Root: All the time.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yes, and what gets created is way more powerful at that point too. Yes.
Lucas Root: And you’ve had dinner more than five times.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Exactly, definitely, yeah yes. Well, it’s saying it’s okay to do that. Like, I feel like we live in such an insane hustle and grind environment that there’s this like rush [00:49:00] to form something and I’m like relationships and progress and change doesn’t happen overnight.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Rome doesn’t get built overnight. Like the creation of the pencil and the easy accessibility of the pencil is a hundred years. Yeah.
Lucas Root: It’s a hundred years old and it took decades to get there.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. And so, and I feel like people only think in like two year timeframes at most in the U. S.
Lucas Root: At best.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: At best. Whereas in Asian culture, it’s like we think in hundred year impacts. We think 25 year goals. We think those and it’s not like we’re tied to those longer impacts. We’re here’s our general direction. That’s basically like, here’s the X marks a spot and then it’ll take us like 20, 000 winding pathways to get there. And that’s okay, [00:50:00] right? Like, that’s like the things that we’re tied to is our short term goals and I even noticed like companies who are like, these are our goals, but we’re constantly in review.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: A lot of people also think like create the goal and set to the goal and stay forever to the goal. And as a J admires Briggs, I 100% get that. And I also 100% get the anxiety that comes with not being able to hit that. And what I find really powerful in older countries and brands, like Toyota does this really well, is like they have a goal, they have a system, but they were always okay to say it, stop and always okay to call pause, to say stop to adjust and tweak.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And I think that’s really powerful to learn from and that’s like Guanxi is about like building relationships and they do it but it’s like constant relationships, right? Like the U.S is like one or two sales meetings done Make the experience and never come back again.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And I’m like, did you just waste money [00:51:00] on getting that customer to come through? Like get them the value of a customer should actually be that the customer is making you money. Right? Like, think about cost of acquisition and I’ll like if people have been listening and they’re like, still not convinced on Guanxi and the concept of Guanxi, let me put it in very tactical Western marketing number terms. Guanxi and focusing on human centered marketing or anything like that with that lens is the way to make your brand resilient and reduce your costs because there’s cost of acquisition in getting a customer through the door. So say for example.
Lucas Root: A vendor.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And a vendor, all things. So let’s say. Exactly.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: All of the above, right? There’s costs to all of that. So let’s say hypothetically you have 600 to get a customer through the door. If you do the typical hustle and grind to sales calls, never touch on them again, you just wasted 600 and you never got anything from it. Like if they, [00:52:00] it costs you 600, they spend a thousand, you make 400 profit.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: But if you never rebuild that continuous Guanxi or relationship with them, or even think about it through that lens, you only get 400 from them, but if you focus on rebuilding that relationship, they come back again and again. So that builds and they bring a friend, which is the free most powerful and brand resilient form of marketing ever.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And that’s actually how businesses build. There’s a reason why there are hole in the wall restaurants that do zero marketing. Word of mouth.
Lucas Root: Bring a friend.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Bring a friend.
Lucas Root: My experience was so good that the next time I go, I can’t go without sharing this with somebody. My wife, my best friend. I have to share it
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Exactly. And so that customer goes from a 400 profit [00:53:00] to maybe each time you’re making like 1, 000 because you have now done that and they bring a friend which then gives you another 1, 000. So their value just goes from a 2, 000. So that becomes an infinite amount. You shouldn’t be spending more advertising dollars each year and year as you build your brand. Like there should not be that. Otherwise you hit a plateau and you get diminishing returns. Yes.
Lucas Root: And it happens at about 3, 000 a month, by the way.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yes.
Lucas Root: You’re all wondering.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yeah, it is 3, 000. I did 600 for easy math, but it is usually more than that.
Lucas Root: Thank you.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yeah. Thank you for having me.
Lucas Root: I like to close my interviews with three questions. The first is, for the people who have been inspired by you, what’s the one best way they can find you?
Ruoyun Xu Killian: They can find me on any social media platform, or they can go to [00:54:00] RXUConsulting.com and they can follow me on their sign up for my newsletter. RXUConsulting.com. Yep.
Lucas Root: Yeah, awesome. Second question, this is a curveball. What is the one question you wish I had asked?
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Maybe what is the one step a human being can take to start activating Guanxi? Because I feel like our conversation has been about explaining why Guanxi matters, which honestly has been the thesis of the last three years is like, why does it matter to humanize humanity? Yes.
Lucas Root: It’s a fascinating conversation. Like, it never occurred to me that when I grew up, I’d be trying to tell people how to human better.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yes, because we take it for granted. Yeah. Yeah. Well, it’s like the beef in supermarket, right? Never in a million years will we have to explain like, yeah, you should have a relationship with who you purchase from.
Lucas Root: And [00:55:00] yet. So what is that one best way? How do we get kicked off for those people who don’t intentionally cultivate relationships?
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yeah, it goes to the starting part of our conversation is boundaries with people that you vibe with. I think the biggest thing when you’re talking about building Guanxi is like, are you clear on your boundaries and intentions of how you choose to build relationships?
Lucas Root: I like it. Now let’s remind people that the first and most important boundary that we talked about was five dinners. So boundaries aren’t just about stay away. They aren’t just about don’t cross this line. Boundaries are also about, as I am bringing you in, this is the path that I’m going to bring you in on. You want to get close to me. If you want to take the next level with me, we’re going to do five dinners.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yeah, it’s a friend quest. Doesn’t have to be five dinners, but it’s a friend quest. [00:56:00] Yes. Yes. Exactly. There’s a friend quest involved. And not everyone has to pass a friend quest. That’s also my thing. Some people, like, there’s, again, there’s only so many people that you can fit on that one inch by one inch list. And people also ebb and fall off depending on a person’s mental health journey too.
Lucas Root: Yeah.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Just because they got the privilege on five years ago doesn’t mean they have the same privilege five years later.
Lucas Root: Completely appropriate. Maybe there’s like a time horizon to the five dinners. Like, two months, one of your dinners has expired.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Well, it’s just checking in with people, right? Like, people go through deep self discoveries. Like, I had a friend who’s like, I’m going through this deep self discovery, and she’s like, Okay, now what? How do I build this business? And I’m like, You literally did this for like your last iteration of your business.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Go back to those same people and update them.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: You already got the trust built. Why are you trying to do cold calling? Yeah.
Lucas Root: Do you have [00:57:00] any parting thoughts for us?
Ruoyun Xu Killian: You are Operating at your own unique pace, if you are watched all the way to the end, you’ve heard Lucas and I talk about how his podcast has evolved perfectly to the perfect time for this conversation, how my community is coming to fruition in the perfect time and perfect place. Those are each of our own unique paces and is now defined by society.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: It’s defined by what we’re aligned to. There’s no right or wrong to that.
Lucas Root: What a lovely message. You’re operating at your own unique pace. We all do.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: And that’s what makes you, yeah. And that’s what makes you awesome.
Lucas Root: Amazing. Ruoyun, thank you. I appreciate you. Thank you for coming.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Of course. Thank you for having me and having a chance to nerd out about all the things. We’ve covered a lot of layers.
Lucas Root: We covered a lot of [00:58:00] layers. We’ve peeled several layers off that onion.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yes, humans are like onions and we’ve filled off quite a few layers. Yes.
Lucas Root: Awesome. Thank you.
Ruoyun Xu Killian: Yeah.
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Lucas is the host of Elements of Community. He is a community growth strategist and works with mega companies like The Pokemon Company to help build and foster community. This podcast is Lucas' way of giving back what he has learned about the magic of building and growing community.
Join Our Inner Circle
Like what you hear on the podcast? We have more secret recordings from every guest. We keep the microphone rolling after the podcast is done and get our guest to spill the beans on the best tactics for growing their communities profitably. You don't wanna miss this.