From Monk to Film Maker to Builder of Communities
In this episode of Elements of Community, I interview Pedram Shojai, an author of eight books, a senior student of Kung Fu, and a Doctor of Oriental Medicine. Through his community-building efforts, Pedram has become a trusted adviser and leader in personal development and spiritual growth. He believes self-improvement is the key to helping
In the 28th episode of the Elements of Community podcast, host Lucas Root interviews Pedram Shojai, author of eight books, a senior student of Kung Fu, and a Doctor of Oriental Medicine who left medicine to write books and make films.
During the episode, Pedram shares insight on his community-building practices and what it takes to self-improvement in meaningful ways. He talks about how consumers have been duped by people in the self-improvement industry by “douchebags” (a term he uses to describe people who are trying to get your attention in order to extract something from you). To avoid falling into their traps, Pedram advocates for a practice of mindfulness and meditation as a way to become aware of the harmful tendency to stay in an “avoidance of pain” loop and shorten that loop so we can improve more quickly.
Pedram further believes self-improvement is the key to helping the world in a meaningful way – this is what drives him to keep improving himself and building community. In his communities, he has established ground rules and a common narrative framework for members to share their goals and experiences related with personal development, spiritual growth, emotional healing, or physical health. As community leader he ultimately wants his community to be self-governing instead of relying on him. He also shares his thoughts on how power can corrupt even the best of us because it is easy for us to become extraction oriented instead of wanting to help others.
In this episode, Lucas and Pedram further discuss how having a common language within a community creates efficiencies that elevate conversations from surface-level discussions toward more complex ideas and discussions.
This conversation will give you profound insights into community-building strategies, and mindful practices, as well as why it is important not only to focus on our own selfish goals but to help others in meaningful ways. Tune in now to hear how a former monk builds community in our modern world!
Other subjects we covered on the show:
- We talked about how self-improvement helps the world in a meaningful way, and how this drives him to keep building communities.
- Pedram shares how he created a community with ground rules and a common narrative framework.
- He also shares his thoughts on how power can corrupt even the best of us, and urges people to stay focused on what is important to them.
- Pedram talks about his community project called Gut Check, which is all about the microbiome.
- Lastly, we discussed the power of having a common language inside of a community because of the efficiencies it creates and how it up-levels our ability to have a complex conversation.
If you want to know more about Pedram Shojai, you may reach out to him at:
[00:00:00] Lucas Root: I had the amazing opportunity to be able to interview. Pedram Shojai. Pedram is an incredible guy, a really deep thinker, and through this interview we’ve had the opportunity to really go deep into the elements of community. All five of them, and Pedram actually had the opportunity to help me create a breakthrough.
[00:00:23] And in fact, two breakthroughs in the way that I’m building the idea and the way that I’m sharing the idea. So listen, the second breakthrough is incredibly powerful and it happens towards the end of the interview. Please do not miss a second. It’s amazing. If you love this, don’t forget to, like, comment, share, you know, do the thing.
[00:00:46] Thank you.
[00:00:48] Pedram, thank you so much for joining. I’ve been excited about this conversation since you said yes. So thank you. Would you like to tell our audience a little bit about yourself?
[00:00:56] Pedram Shojai: Sure. Daoist Abbott senior student of a kung fu Master Doctor of Oriental Medicine, left medicine to write books and make films. That was a while ago. So eight books now and 30 languages. Several films in series. Just, you know, we were losing the propaganda war, and so I needed to become a media.
[00:01:15] If I was going to fulfill my oath of, of, you know, helping the people I had you know, said I was here to help. You know, we weren’t winning when I was trying to see one patient at a time.
[00:01:25] Lucas Root: Hmm. That’s, that’s powerful. Yeah, there’s a lot of propaganda war going on these days. I had. I . Yeah, right. I had a, I had a conversation last night with one of my clients and she said, you know, this country is doing this thing and this country is doing this thing and this country is doing this thing.
[00:01:45] And I could see the sort of panic rising inside of her. And I said I hear you. And we will talk about this in much more depth, but for starters, today and tomorrow and the next day, act in love, and feel secure in the love that you have and receive for and from others. And the panic vanished. I mean, it went up in smoke.
[00:02:07] It was gone. I could, I could watch it, leave her face. It was extraordinary. The the war that you’re talking about, it’s real.
[00:02:17] Pedram Shojai: Yeah. Well, and it just, it puts you in your amygdala. It puts you into fight or flight. It puts you into this place where you know, you, you could feel that you’re in the boiling pot. You can feel that, you know, the, the end is inevitable and you have no choice but to just sit there and suffer. And that’s not, that’s a narrative that you could just step away from.
[00:02:40] And you could live in love and you could, you know, step into your power. But that’s just not how the media and the attention economy is orchestrated currently. Right. And so you, man, I’m not smart enough to listen to that crap. You know, it’s, it’s . You’re gonna get depressed.
[00:02:58] Lucas Root: Yeah. That’s funny. Yeah, me either. I, I turn it off. I haven’t used those words, but that’s, that’s it. I’m not smart enough to listen to that crap.
[00:03:06] Pedram Shojai: I don’t, I mean, listen, we have a saying in the martial arts is you stand in the, the ring long enough, you’re gonna get punched in the face, right? Like, you’re not gonna block every punch like that. It’s gonna get over the wall. You are going to be like that, that poor lady, and just be shell-shocked into thinking, you know, the sky’s falling.
[00:03:25] And then what good. Right to your family, to your spouse, to your world.
[00:03:29] Lucas Root: Hmm. True. Yeah. Failing by the principle of first aid. Right. Take care of yourself first.
[00:03:38] Pedram Shojai: yeah, yeah. It’s the old oxygen mask. Not, not to say, not to say that I’m advocating being, you know, uninformed. I’m just advocating, you know, really controlling the flow of information into your brain and managing your, your mood and your energy in a way that, that, you know, keeps you sitting on the perch, right?
[00:03:55] You don’t wanna get knocked off your perch.
[00:03:57] Lucas Root: Hmm. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. You don’t wanna get knocked off your perch. Well said. If you don’t mind me asking, can you talk about how engaging with and building community has made it possible for you to be an author of eight books and, and for you to create some of the really powerful movies that you’ve created?
[00:04:17] Pedram Shojai: Yeah, I mean, there’s need, right? And people aren’t feeling heard. So when you feel heard, suddenly you have an affinity for the individual that has kind broken that line, and has reached across and said, look, I see you. I hear you, whether that’s in print or in a film or something.
[00:04:37] And so once that has happened, you have earned someone’s trust, and that is something that is not to be taken lightly. Right? And so as I, you know, the various works that I’ve done have meandered for years now, right? Is, you know, as someone has come in saying, holy crap, oh, I get it. The world is toxic and this guy’s saying what I’ve been feeling this whole time.
[00:05:02] Then they come onto your community, whether that’s in a email list or a, you know, Facebook group or whatever the hell it is. That conversation is now one that has lit a fire around a common cause. Right. And for me it’s a little different because I do so much different subject matters. So I have trauma people and exhausted people and urban monk people and, you know, all sorts of different, demographics or psychographics in my universe.
[00:05:32] So I’ve a lot of kind of like micro communities inside of a macro community. So it’s still brought to you by the same guy right, in some way. But, and so I’ve become kind of a trusted shepherd, if you will, of information saying, look, there’s a lot of crap out there. Let’s go talk to the smartest people I know and get the real answers.
[00:05:53] And let’s help you understand. And this is, to me, this is where kinda the basis of our community building is, is I’ve been adamant from the first minute I stepped out into this world, reluctantly, frankly as a monk, right? Is I don’t wanna be their guru. I don’t wanna their leader. I don’t wanna be the guy, you know, drawing a sword and charging in front.
[00:06:14] Lucas Root: Your beard isn’t long enough either.
[00:06:17] Pedram Shojai: No, no, no. My wife makes me shave it, you know? And so, you know, but everyone’s looking for someone to tell what to do. Everyone’s looking for a leader. They want to be a follower, and that is, I think, what’s wrong with the world. And so my message has always been, I’m here to empower you with the information, the truth, the tools that you know, whatever it is, so that you could step in, stand in your own shoes, stand tall and have agency.
[00:06:43] To be a personally empowered human that can now make decisions on their behalf and for their family that are coming from a better place, right? Like the lady that you kind of talked off that cliff, you know, she’s not making any good decisions in that state of mind, right? And so you brought her back into her heart and now it’s like, okay, look, you know, you don’t wanna make any life changing decisions when you’re feeling that way. And most people feel that way every day.
[00:07:09] Lucas Root: Ooh, yeah, that’s, that’s probably true. And ooh, that hurts
[00:07:15] Pedram Shojai: It hurts. It hurts. It hurts. Well, I mean, you know, listen, most people’s lives are a string of bad decisions coming from, you know, feeling like they’re backs against the wall and they’re in duress, right? And poker. You say guy’s playing on tilt, you know, he is lost a couple hands. Now he is betting like an idiot and he’s gonna be off that table soon.
[00:07:33] Right? And most people are making financial decisions, love decisions, health decisions, all of that. It from that state of. And they’re just doomed to fail because it’s the prefrontal cortex is turned off. It’s not gonna work. It’s gonna be bad. It’s not gonna work out for you.
[00:07:49] Lucas Root: And you use you use your voice through books, through movies to help people see a, a different perspective so that they can stop feeling like their back is against the wall.
[00:08:00] Pedram Shojai: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, listen, what you did with that gal is, you know, demonstrative of it. Right? Is you and only you are capable of changing gears. If you want to go to kind of an old mechanical narrative is you gotta pop in the clutch and go to a different gear. And she was in panic and you brought her into love, faith, whatever the feeling was that recentered.
[00:08:24] But then there are very specific switches that are happening in her nervous system that pulled her out of her Amygdala. brought her into her prefrontal cortex, probably harmonized the sensory motor strip around, you know, all the hemispheric actions. And got her into a different state of mind.
[00:08:46] Now, was that what you did or what she did by you pointing the way and going, oh crap, let me get out of this phase. Right. You did not do that to her. You showed her the possibility and she went there herself. Right Now, the biggest danger there is she might come to you next week and be like, yo, guru Lucas, you changed my life.
[00:09:10] And if you were a lesser man, you would take that power from her and do a disservice, and if you are an honorable man, you would point right back to her and acknowledge that she found that within herself and what else can she find. Right? And I think that is a very subtle, yet important distinction in how people are doing things in this world of medicine, personal development, all of it.
[00:09:39] There’s a lot of douche bags, being douche bags. And,you know, it’s really easy. You put out the fly paper, you catch people, you pull them into your thing, you distract them out of their time, money and energy. It’s parasitic, right? And so that model to me is not the light, right?
[00:10:01] And the light does not feel that way. And it doesn’t feel extraction oriented. And so, you know, to go back to your question, how do you build community? Just don’t be a douche bag. Do the right thing. Be there for people and they can feel the difference, right? They can feel it and they’re like, ah, this guy cares.
[00:10:23] Lucas Root: Yeah. Wow. Yeah. Don’t be a douchebag. I mean, you know, words to live by right there,
[00:10:29] Pedram Shojai: Rule, rule number one, right? There’s just so many of ’em. There’s, I, you know, I’ve been around for a minute. Again, I’m not this, look at me. I want to get famous kind of guy. Never have been, never cared. I just wanna be with my family. And I’ve had people come and go. I’ve had all these people come and build massive, like, you know, social media empires, just having hacked the algorithm.
[00:10:52] basically plagiarized my work and the work of a lot of other good people because they just know, you know, where the fish are biting and they’re out. Just trying to get fans and they’re being very disrespectful of people’s personal power and agency, right? So the, the, it’s always the narcissist.
[00:11:09] It’s always the creeps that want it, and they’re the ones that chase it and get it right. It’s the guy that wants to be left alone on the mountaintop . You gotta follow him up to the temple and say, please tell me what you got. Right? Not the guy who’s trying to sell it to you in the marketplace.
[00:11:24] Lucas Root: Mm-hmm. I, I know exactly who you’re talking about and Yep.
[00:11:29] Pedram Shojai: He’s famous for it. Yeah.
[00:11:30] Lucas Root: famous for it.
[00:11:31] Pedram Shojai: But not amongst the consumers. I can’t tell you how many times I, my, my, my son’s school teacher was like, oh my God, have you read this book? And I shake my head. She’d go, what? Because the consumer doesn’t know. The consumer’s been duped. Right. People in the industry know who the douche bags are.
[00:11:45] Right. And they’re, they’re every. They’re everywhere. It’s like I, I wouldn’t even single out names cause I’m not gonna go there. Right. They’re just, there’s a lot of
[00:11:52] Lucas Root: the whole conversation just with names,
[00:11:54] Pedram Shojai: Yeah. I mean, look, you walk into the swamp, you got mosquitoes right. And that’s it. You gotta get outta the swamp.
[00:12:00] Lucas Root: Gotta get outta the swamp. Is there a community that you’re in the process of building now?
[00:12:05] Pedram Shojai: yeah, yeah. So we moved, three years ago now, we moved a lot of my films and series and a number of other ones from all, you know, my friends you know, done them licensed several hundred films into a beta that we called Whole tv, and I rebranded it this year as a community called Letter B possible.com
[00:12:29] And it’s Streaming Media Masterclass. And, you know, coaching, telemedicine, all of it is kind of in increased because what, what I learned being in this game for a minute now, is that, you know, you could lead a horse to water. That’s one problem. You gotta get the horse to drink the water. That’s a separate problem.
[00:12:46] And so you need community, you need support, you need that last mile of service. There’s just a things, right? People think health is something that’s conferred upon them. People think that meditation is something that, you know, they can do once a day and you know, they’ve checked it off, and so there’s just a lot of unlearning.
[00:13:04] And so, you know, I had to kind of build a much more robust ecosystem, if you will, to service people’s needs, but also cure their destructive attention economy deficits and give them resources and give them the tools that they needed. And so it’s been, it’s a lot of work. You know, it’s a lot easier for me to just say, look, I’m done.
[00:13:25] I’m skiing. Right? But the world, the world is having it’s, it, the world’s an upheaval. And so if, if, if we’re not doing this for people, they’re, they’re literally, they don’t have very many places to turn except drugs. Right. And, and you know that, we know where
[00:13:41] Lucas Root: I mean, the drug shuts the noise off too. It, it’s. In my opinion, the best way to shut the noise off, but it works.
[00:13:50] Pedram Shojai: For now. For now. Right. It, it w it works. It’s the same way an Advil works when you wake up after a, a bender on tequila. I mean, was that healthy or did it, did it just take you out of immediate pain to let you stumble through another day? Right. And so the drugs don’t. They mask. And so we’ve run into a lot of problems.
[00:14:13] Yeah. We’ve run into a lot of problems. Like I had a, I had a Russian friend over and they brought like a bottle of vodka for, you know, put it at the dinner table and like traditional, it was celebration, right? So it was like we, we drank vodka at dinner and that night I slept fine, but for three, four nights afterwards, I couldn.
[00:14:30] and as I’m laying there in bed and you know, I’m not a guy that pounds a bottle of vodka very often. Right. And so you know when in Rome you do it. I’m laying there and I’m just becoming more and more aware of like my liver and how angry it is. The Endotoxicity, toxici emia that basically. It came about from having this noxious agent in my body and, and as I’m sitting there listening to what my body is telling me and how I need to kind of unravel this and, you know, detox the liver in the morning and do some sweats and whatever.
[00:15:04] I’m sitting here thinking about sleep medicine and how the entire thesis around the sleep medicine is to say, Hey, shut up. I’m trying to sleep and my body, this whole time is telling. Dude, it’s, it’s me, your liver. I’m having trouble conjugating. It’s me. Your, you know, gut, gut lining. I have some inflammatory things I need to tell you.
[00:15:29] There’s some, you know, intruders that are, that are starting to, you know, whatever. But the entire model is, Hey, shut up. shut up. I’m trying to say, let me narc out, let me, let me go down so I could get up and pretend to be the same moron I was yesterday. Tomorrow. Right. And so that is, it’s insidious. It’s a spiritual malady, right?
[00:15:52] Hey, shut up is the opposite of, hey, wake up. And so, you know, like I, you know, I’m sitting here just thinking about how we do medicine and laughing about it, right? And so, you know, Endotoxemia. Let’s deal with that. Let’s deal with, let’s deal with all of the things, cuz when you’re vibrantly alive and awake, you’re not having trouble sleeping either , right?
[00:16:14] Like you, you’re, you’re solving problems and you’re sleeping like a baby.
[00:16:19] Lucas Root: Hmm. Wow. What a powerful statement. The whole model is, Hey, shut up.
[00:16:26] Pedram Shojai: Hey,
[00:16:26] Lucas Root: I see.
[00:16:27] Pedram Shojai: to all it. Yeah, yeah. It’s, you know, and the chiropractors use this in a kind of a douchey way, I’d say, but, you know, because then they’re like, well, pain is, pain is the, you know, it’s like a, if you had a, a smoke detector and you go, you hear the smoke detector going off and you go take the battery out of the smoke detector.
[00:16:44] Instead of looking for the. Right. They overuse it cuz they’re trying to sell you a
[00:16:47] Lucas Root: did. It did. Quiet. The noise,
[00:16:50] Pedram Shojai: right. It quieted the noise, but now the house is on fire. Right. So it’s, it’s a very, it’s a very appropriate metaphor for that. I think.
[00:16:59] Lucas Root: Wow. Yep. Yeah. No more. Hey, shut up.
[00:17:03] Pedram Shojai: No more, Hey, shut up. No. Hey, shut up. Hey, shut up is for the zombies, right? Hey, shut up. Is, is not going to get you any further in. It’s gonna sedate you into soil and green, right? Like you, you, Hey, shut up is not the way.
[00:17:18] Lucas Root: That’s right. Soiling green. Perfectly said. Yep. You Oh, mm-hmm.
[00:17:30] Pedram Shojai: What’s a problem?
[00:17:31] Lucas Root: It cycles back to rule number one. Don’t be a douche.
[00:17:35] Pedram Shojai: Don’t be a douche and wake up, right? That’s it. So, you know, the douche bags are trying to look, it’s the attention economy, right? The douche bags want your attention cuz your eyeballs are worth something, right? Your money is obviously welcome. You know, they want your likes, they want your time, they want advertisers paying for your eyeballs.
[00:17:51] There’s, you know, there’s a whole game going on. And so if you fall into it, you’re in the system and you’re just getting, you know, you’re just getting extract. Upon Right. And so, you know, don’t be one of those guys cuz the world’s got enough mosquitoes and then just wake up. You know, just understand that if the mosquito’s on your arm, you gotta brush it off, you know, you don’t leave it there.
[00:18:12] Lucas Root: I. Yep. Don’t take a drug so you don’t feel it. You can just brush it off. Like there’s a different way to make the pain go away.
[00:18:20] Pedram Shojai: Well, right. And is, and, and that, you know, traditionally is not how our culture is wired. Right. We have a very well. ingrained tendency to avoid pain, right? The aversion of pain. It’s one of, you know, Buddha talked about this, right? The aversion of pain is just part of, you know how we are. It’s like, you know, if something hurts, you move away from it.
[00:18:42] But when it comes to the problems that we’re having is something is a problem, you don’t look away from it. You don’t move away from it, you face it, you heal it, you grow through it, and you move into. A level of evolution beyond it that isn’t this aversion and running, which is what we all do. And I don’t care if it’s social media alcohol, weed you know, pharmaceuticals, pick your poison.
[00:19:11] There’s a lot of ways, there’s a lot of ways to run.
[00:19:14] Lucas Root: Yeah. Yeah. Powerful.
[00:19:18] Pedram Shojai: guilty of it. Look, you know, I’m, I’m guilty of it probably 27 times a day, right? We’re all guilty of the, you know, the tendency to move away from pain.
[00:19:29] Lucas Root: Sure. I’m not sure I’m guilty of it 27 times a day probably because the times that I’m guilty of it last longer than they do for you. I’m, I’m less good at stopping it when it happens. I’m like, damn it, I’m st. I’ve been stuck in this thing for 20 minutes now.
[00:19:46] Pedram Shojai: Totally. Totally. And that’s where I think meditation specific specifically in this context, I really like vipasana meditation. It is unbelievable in allowing you to become. Of those tendencies to shorten the loop. It’s not to say it doesn’t happen. You know, the Dai Lama has this happen, you know, 27 times a day, right?
[00:20:09] Like it, it just consistently is happening with every human brain and consciousness. The mark of the kind of enlightened versus the lost. is, you might spend three weeks going down one of these tangents if you are going to allow yourself to get indulged in ’em. And someone who’s a little bit more trained to wake up to these things is like, Hey monkey, no.
[00:20:35] Right. Come back, come back. Come back. Right. And so if a pasta meditation is wonderful for that. Right. And you know, am I guilty of going down these tracks? Absolutely. Like I said, you know, when I say 27, it’s right. 2,700. Right.
[00:20:47] Lucas Root: Mm
[00:20:49] Pedram Shojai: But it’s really the, the function of being able to come back quicker and come back to yourself and be like, well, I certainly didn’t need to go down that route.
[00:20:58] Right? And so we, we bite and we go down the whitewater with all of these like really aberrant tracks of thoughts, emotions, you know, man, if that guy, you know, what I should have done is stood up and told him to shut up, you know, or I should have punched that guy. You just run these stupid things through your head for days if you’re not.
[00:21:18] instead of staying in the moment and letting it pass, right? And that is not something you figure out on a podcast that is not something you read about, that is not something there’s a pill for. You gotta sit your ass down on a meditation cushion and learn to examine your mind and learn to become less reactive.
[00:21:38] Anyone who’s trying to sell you anything outside of that is brush ’em off your arm.
[00:21:44] Lucas Root: brush the mosquitoes off. On the plus side, and there is a plus side. All of this attention economy is building the capacity for you and I to have this conversation and for us to take this conversation and give it to people who are dying of thirst, waiting for somebody to come along and give them anything other than just mosquito.
[00:22:05] Pedram Shojai: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. It’s, it’s a very, very, very interesting phenomenon. It’s like frodo’s. To me, Gandolph wouldn’t, Gandolph wouldn’t dare wear it. Right. But it’s where people are interacting. It’s where I wouldn’t call this community. I really wouldn’t. I don’t think social communities are, are true. The only way I’ve seen community happen online in a meaningful way is, you know, with people you’ve already met, that you stay in touch.
[00:22:36] right? Like, so I’ll do a workshop with a couple hundred people, and then you do a little group where they can all kind of interact and it feels real. And I know, you know, you have some really interesting thoughts on community, but just, you know, joining some Facebook group with some, you know, nameless, faceless, you know, Russian bots or who knows who these people are, it just doesn’t feel real because a lot of times it isn’t.
[00:22:57] Right. And so it’s hard to approximate community online still, but I think we’re getting a little better at it. But yeah, I mean, look, , I could stay up on my mountain and meditate and ski my days away and not put the effort into helping the world in a way that would be meaningful. And to me, that’s self-indulgent.
[00:23:19] So I
[00:23:20] Lucas Root: I feel the same.
[00:23:21] Pedram Shojai: Yeah, you gotta keep doing it. You gotta keep working and finding ways to help folks and, and. being relevant in a way that is meaningful and, and not extraction oriented. Right. And it’s hard because the guys that are extraction oriented, you know, have 40 million followers and, and you know, are do, are playing the game and you’re like, oh my God, look at that.
[00:23:41] And so you, you know, I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna be that way. I’m just gonna keep doing the, the good work that I do. Right.
[00:23:48] Lucas Root: And that’s a monkey No, for you and me. Like I see that and I’m like, I, I’m, he’s doing it. It’s working. I want to go there. No, no, no, no.
[00:23:57] Pedram Shojai: that’s Frito’s ring, right? It’s a ring of power. You put that on and you will see the results, but you are now under the dark Lord. Right? And you are, you are playing a very different game. And it’s not, it’s, yeah, it’s, it’s not the light team. Right?
[00:24:15] Lucas Root: Thank you. Yes. I appreciate the reminder and you know, I need it just like everybody else does.
[00:24:22] Pedram Shojai: Yeah, we all do. We all do. Remember Gandolph, if you wanna geek out like that, was absolutely intrigued and reached for the ring and stopped himself because even, even the white wizard can be corrupted by power, right? And so you have to be incredibly mindful and diligent to stay in the light, right.
[00:24:48] Lucas Root: And some of that is going.
[00:24:51] Pedram Shojai: It’s my drug of choice, right? Like I, you know, some of the best meditations I do is dropping through a shoot between trees. I can’t, I, I cannot afford the indulgence of a thought in those moments,
[00:25:02] Lucas Root: Mm-hmm.
[00:25:03] Pedram Shojai: right?
[00:25:04] Lucas Root: A hundred percent true. I grew up in northern Vermont and skied. Yeah, I know exactly what you’re saying.
[00:25:11] Pedram Shojai: Yeah, I might go later today. You got, you got Chris Kresser up here who’s dragging me out like multiple times a week. He’s just like a, he’s, he’s become like this ski addict and I’m just like, man, I got stuff going on today. But that sounds really good.
[00:25:25] Lucas Root: That sounds really good. Yeah.
[00:25:26] Pedram Shojai: really good.
[00:25:30] Lucas Root: you know, if you get your stuff done, man, go
[00:25:33] Pedram Shojai: That’s it. That’s it. Do your homework. Go outside,
[00:25:37] Lucas Root: Yep, I’m in. I’m in. Sign me up how does your how does your community become your be possible community? How, how have they engaged with some of the thoughts that I’ve had or sort of shown up in some of those ways?
[00:25:53] Pedram Shojai: Common language around a narrative. I mean, look, we spend 18 months and multiple millions of dollars creating a common language narrative around, you know, a thesis, right? So we have a one right now called Gut Check. It’s all about, you know, the microbiome. Very specific conversation, but very specific conversation around people who are ailing and are looking for solutions and are finding it right?
[00:26:14] So the purpose is obviously, you know, to heal right? And to come together. Projects we’re working on in terms of, you know, group dynamics and group coaching and group engagement and working with each other and, and, and doing stuff on with yourself and, and kinda reporting back to the community. The value is obviously health and healing and getting your life back, right?
[00:26:35] The energy of life is, you know, you know when it’s. , dunno what you got till it’s gone. Most people don’t come to health until it’s gone. Right. And so the value is obviously there and then, you
[00:26:47] Lucas Root: true of me too.
[00:26:49] Pedram Shojai: right. Like, you know, I got, I got other things to worry about. You know, I was very, you know, very distracted in life.
[00:26:56] You know, until I hurt my hip and then all of a sudden I, I noticed I had a right hip , right? Like it was a thing, right? Like, it, it was, you know, for me it came Yeah. Screaming. Screaming, right? I tore my labrum and, you know, it, it, it wouldn’t let it down, right? You can’t walk away from that. You can medicate it.
[00:27:12] The bad move, right? And then common heart You’re kind of the bidirectional enrollment is, is something that we’re, it’s because it’s new. The community aspects are new, and so we’re still working on that. I did a lot of that in my urban Monk communities. Still do. I have a very strong community with the urban Monk and people do these things called the hundred Day Gong.
[00:27:31] It’s a hundred days of, like, it’s a challenge basically, where you set your own deal, where you do it every day for a hundred days, and if you miss a day, you start.
[00:27:39] Lucas Root: Yeah.
[00:27:40] Pedram Shojai: exceptions, and I’ve missed a few, right? But you know, the, the, the operant kind of quote there is from the Bodhiharma, which is fall seven times, rise eight.
[00:27:51] Life begins now. Life begins now. So get back on the horse. Pure and simple. Stay focused on what you said was important to you. I don’t tell people what to do in their lives. They, they make up their own gongs and they do it. And then when they realize it’s not like daddy yelling at ’em. And the community is there supporting each other on their gongs.
[00:28:10] It creates a. A real magic, right? And so I have a really strong community of folks that are just working on themselves. And, you know, every once in a while some douche bag pops up who’s just like, Hey, look at me. I’m a coach. Like, you know, trying to extract business from the community. And they kind of police ’em out.
[00:28:26] They us ’em out, right? They’re like, oh dude, we’re not, we’re not here for that. You know? Did, did you just find a market? Right? And so you just have to. , let the community build its own ethos. And, you know, so what, what did I do? I, I created some ground rules, right? Which is like, don’t, don’t sell your crap and, you know, don’t do X, y, z, don’t talk about politics or, you know, all the kind of divisive stuff that will tear apart a group in this day and age.
[00:28:50] Right? And allow people to just kind of, you know, state their goals and their, whether it’s personal development, spiritual, emotional, or physical. And say, look, here, here, you know, I’m either gonna disclose or not disclose what I’m doing, but I’m going to, you know, do what all the rest of you are doing within a common narrative framework and I’ll report back and, and part of the kind.
[00:29:13] open sourcing of the code, if you will, is look, I’ve been doing this for 25 years, publicly, 30 some, like about 30 years since I was a young man and. it, it always was like, Hey, I did it a little bit differently this time and I got this really interesting result. Let me share that with the group. Right?
[00:29:33] And so that’s how, that’s how things evolve, right? Is like, look, I’m not setting this in stone. This ain’t some book in Aramaic that was written 2000 years ago, right? Like that’s, that’s not, that’s not how things move and evolve. So why don’t we continue to iterate on this? And you know, like there’s a lot of thinking around that in blockchain now too, right?
[00:29:53] Is you, you allow the community to kind of, you know, enhance the body of work, right? Which also, you know, helps people feel like they have ownership. Right. This isn’t the Petra show, the the, they’re doing this for, for themselves. I just happened to be the guy that showed him, and frankly, the, the, the faster I can get out of the way, the more I can ski.
[00:30:11] Right. I don’t, I don’t need to be, I don’t need to be the look at me kind, guru.
[00:30:18] Lucas Root: That’s, and, and that too is Words to Live by. The faster I can get out of the way, the more I can ski
[00:30:24] Pedram Shojai: That’s it. That’s it. Well, and, and, and the pe and the people who wanna be in the way. You gotta look at trauma, you gotta look at mom and dad. You gotta look at all the things that are driving someone to demand those. eyeballs to need that attention to be, to, to have people validate who they think they need to be in the world.
[00:30:47] You gotta die to all that shit, right? Like, that’s all, that’s all just noise. You gotta die to it. You have to learn that that isn’t the true essence of who you are. And getting that external input. You know, epic Titus said this, I think really well, you know, Greek philosopher is anything that’s outta your hands, you’re gonna suffer if you need that from others.
[00:31:07] Right? And so, if I need fame or, or you know, clout from my community, I’m miserable cuz I will constantly dance like a monkey to get what I think I need to feel to fill an empty hole inside of me, which is unfillable from external means.
[00:31:25] Lucas Root: Yep. Now if you’re dancing like a monkey for fun with the camera off, do you,
[00:31:31] Pedram Shojai: That’s it. That’s it.
[00:31:33] Lucas Root: but if the camera has to be on maybe you need to ask some questions.
[00:31:37] Pedram Shojai: Yeah. Yeah. You gotta que you gotta question your motives and then you gotta look underneath that for, for the why. You know, why, why do I need this?
[00:31:46] Lucas Root: Can I take the ring off?
[00:31:49] Pedram Shojai: Can I take this
[00:31:49] Lucas Root: am I capable of getting this thing off my finger?
[00:31:52] Pedram Shojai: Right, right. It’s a bold act.
[00:31:55] Lucas Root: Yeah. Amazing. Yeah. And so you’re your B possible and, and the urban mon community, you, you’ve, you’ve paid attention to the way that engagement sort of grows inside that community. That people start showing up for each other, caring for each other paying attention. This, this idea of self-policing is, is a beautiful one.
[00:32:16] Like, listen, you. We got no problem with you, but this isn’t the place for that.
[00:32:22] Pedram Shojai: Yeah, and I’ll run experiments, well, I’ll do kind of like extended periods where I just kind of, I’m less in there and I just watch almost as like a sociological experiment to, to be like, you know what, what, what are these folks doing? In the absence of ped. and if it’s fallen apart because I’m not there, what have I done wrong to steward a community that can be self-governing.
[00:32:46] Right? And if it’s thriving, Without me, that feels great. Now, am I gonna, now, do I feel like I’m less relevant in here? And what are those feelings evoking in me as a, as a leader who needs it? It’s, it’s just, it’s all fun, it’s all growth, right? Like, you’re like, what, what, what’s happening in here? So I’ve, you know, I’ve been laissez fair, I’ve been more involved.
[00:33:05] And, and I’ve kind of tethered in and out because, you know, in, in, in all candor during the coronavirus meets political divisiveness, That like couple years, I just, man, I was puking in my mouth. Like I just, I couldn’t, I couldn’t stomach Facebook in particular. You couldn’t say anything without getting attacked in any direction and you couldn’t have an opinion that you could even stand for without getting assaulted.
[00:33:36] By brainless mobs. Right. And so I was really kind of put off by the social media thing for a couple years. I was just like, man, I don’t need this shit. I’m just gonna go make another movie. Right. I just, I, it, it got really gross and dark and I just don’t, I don’t swim in murky water. Right. Like, I’d rather, I’d rather be a better dad to my kids for a couple years.
[00:33:56] Lucas Root: Yeah. If you don’t mind when we were talking through the five elements of community at the beginning you, you connected a dot for me beautifully when I was talking about common language and I gave you an example of what it is and you said, oh yeah, it’s a macro Amazing. I, I mean I even then I burst out into laughter cuz like, it’s so simple. Like your, the way that you connected that for me is so simple. Can you talk about that for a moment?
[00:34:22] Pedram Shojai: Yeah, I mean, we were talking about. The dinner at the Shojai family table and how there’s a common language and how, you know, there’s just so many conversations that are layered and understood, one upon each other that I can just say a word like, you know, Meatball and it re references a story that referenced a tantrum, that referenced a lesson that we all can just circumvent and just, you know, understand and allude to.
[00:34:52] And to me, and I’m not like a technical dude, right? But to me that’s exactly what the kind of coding language and macros are, is like, you know, you roll all these things up into like a cluster of stories that now have like a meaning family, and it becomes, it’s just. . Right. And so what you’re alluding to in this common language of community is, you know, efficiencies that are built.
[00:35:17] To, you know, narratives that have already kind of been read up and stuff. It’s like, you know, you go to school, you do the, you do the, you know, the intro classes and the 1 0 1 classes. And so, you know, you just have to say kard. You don’t have to allude to, you know, 300,000 words that Kard wrote about something, you know, his thesis, right?
[00:35:35] So just say referencing Kier guard is a macro in a lot of ways, right? And so,
[00:35:40] Lucas Root: Yeah.
[00:35:42] Pedram Shojai: Yeah. And so to me that’s just efficiency and intelligence and, and also just, you know, growth, right? We like to compound complex ideas and understand and move on, but if we can’t have that, then we’re never having meaningful conversations to your point.
[00:35:58] Lucas Root: Yep. And the, one of the things that really stuck out to me as I was learning about common language and really understanding how that deepens and, and becomes so much more efficient inside community is I, you know, this idea is unpacking in my head and I would go and have a conversation with somebody.
[00:36:16] With whom I am not in community. And I noticed that that conversation was limited to basic communication. Like I could not be complex with them. It, it’s not available. I, we hadn’t reached that level yet.
[00:36:31] Pedram Shojai: Yeah. I also think there’s a dark side to it. Like I have been witnessing massively this. community of, you know, spiritual enlightened people who have now created this kind of group thunk and macros that are now kind of like reinforcing on each other. So they’re like, you know, I’m the Burning man crowd.
[00:36:52] I’m the spiritual psycho, like psychedelic psychotherapy crowd. And then they all start to kind of roll up into these. , almost viral bundles of macros that go unquestioned. And so I’ve noticed inside of some of these communities now, now that they are incredibly sub subjective and, and they get subjected, let’s just say, to things that are unbecoming of the individuals.
[00:37:21] Like, so I have these people in these like spiritual communities that are absolutely guilty of now living in infantile magical. So because they have now identified as like their new spiritual self, or I’m a shaman, or I’m a, like, I had some fucking guy tell me he, he’s a warlock and I know someone who studied with a druid for 35 years who became a warlock.
[00:37:44] So you don’t go to England for a weekend thing and come back and call yourself a warlock. That’s just not true, right? Like that means something in a different narrative, but they’re stealing macros and words from other narratives and, and assembling them in a way that. Baseless and doesn’t have a foundation.
[00:38:02] And I’ve, I’ve really like, this is a, this is the first time I’m speaking about this publicly, but it’s a friend of mine calls it infantile magical thinking. And the more I think about how some of these folks have foregone all of their reason, and now because they have this new spiritual identity, Sidestep their, their, their faculties and say, oh, this must be true cuz me and my, my drug friends, you know, think this way now.
[00:38:30] It’s insane and it’s culty and it’s also an endemically dangerous path that I’m also witnessing. And this is a guy who, you know, I’ve spent my life as a monk. Like I, I understand. I appreciate that stuff. I’m not making that trite, but what I’m saying is, you, you can’t couch being an idiot under spiritual.
[00:38:51] Right, and I see it everywhere now.
[00:38:53] Lucas Root: Now I’m, I’m hearing a different angle here, which is fascinating. What I’m hearing is and correct me if I’m wrong, what I’m hearing is using a macro approach inside language and, and. And inside a a, a healthy community using macros is really powerful. But, but, but once we un, once we open that up inside of ourselves, it can be hacked.
[00:39:17] That’s what I’m hearing.
[00:39:18] Pedram Shojai: Yeah. And, and, and so, you know, I, I say this, I spent 35 years as a Daoist monk and a priest and all these things studying the dowist cannon. And some guy goes and gets a, you know, gets drunk and gets a yin yang tattoo and calls himself a dowist and, and references things that he has never read or understands.
[00:39:40] Subverts an entire macro and the imagery of a macro and the idea of a macro with the symbol mistaking the, the, the map for the terrain, right? And so you’ll see that with the warlock, you’ll see that with the shaman just cuz you did ayahuasca this weekend doesn’t make you a shaman dude, right? And so you, you’ll see these massively powerful macro.
[00:40:03] That then get unpacked and usurped and repackaged in ways in the, in the kind of neo modern world that are also incredibly pervasive and dangerous, right? So the, the community needs a root and the community needs to be rooted in something that’s real. And so I think that, that people are like macro shopping and doing it in a way that can be
[00:40:26] Lucas Root: Macro shopping. That’s awesome. Wow. Thank you.
[00:40:33] Pedram Shojai: Right.
[00:40:34] Lucas Root: Holy crap. That is so powerful. Macro shopping. The, it’s the dark side of, of biohacking.
[00:40:41] Pedram Shojai: It’s the dark side of biohacking, you know?
[00:40:43] Lucas Root: of back biohacking.
[00:40:44] Pedram Shojai: And it’s the problem with the Google world, right, is I can, I can have a superficial understanding of anything and never dig deep and create a new identity that has done no. And is is built on you know, kind of a multi nodal synthesis of, of kind of sometimes disparate ideas.
[00:41:05] But I’m gonna, I’m gonna build it on this, it’s like a Brazilian shanty town. , it’s not a deep foundation, right? And so you, and you meet a lot of people that are, that are jiggling around on a Brazilian shanty town foundation, throwing around Buddhist or, you know, capic terms as if they know what the hell they’re talking about.
[00:41:23] And they’re just doing that to hide their own trauma. They’re just doing that to, you know, they’re, they’re, they’re not doing the work. And that’s also a danger that I have seen emergent in, in, in our culture, right. That, you know, You know, I’m just a, I’m just a guy observing
[00:41:41] Lucas Root: Pedro, you, you’re amazing, and I’ve really enjoyed this. I have three questions that I like to close up with. First is, where can people find you?
[00:41:49] Pedram Shojai: Letter B possible.com or the urban monk.com. Easy enough. I’m on some of the social I don’t love it, but I do it because if not, no one’s gonna know right.
[00:42:00] Lucas Root: Because, because people are thirsty. And, and they’re dying for a drink. And you have a drink.
[00:42:07] Pedram Shojai: yeah, yeah. So I’ve, I’ve actually kind of begrudgingly accepted the fact that I need to step back into it, because if, if not, it’s just the puppeteers that are doing all the talking and that’s, that’s more dangerous for the world.
[00:42:19] Lucas Root: it really is.
[00:42:20] Pedram Shojai: lot easier for a guy like me to shut up and ski. But, you know, here we are.
[00:42:24] Lucas Root: Thank you for stepping back into it. Second question. This is, this is a curve ball. Question have I not asked you that you wish I had?
[00:42:39] Pedram Shojai: Do I think any of it’s gonna work?
[00:42:41] Lucas Root: Hmm. Ooh.
[00:42:44] Pedram Shojai: Right. And, you know, in the, in the zero time we have left, that could be another show. But, you know, is, is all this fornot and is the media messaging and communicating through the media, just using, you know, the devil’s tool and not going to work. I mean the, the, the real ways to, you know, huddle in a grove of trees and, and, and listen to the stillness behind the infinite breath.
[00:43:06] So is this even, is it fut. Going this path. And that’s, you know, that’s a can of worm. So we could talk about that later.
[00:43:17] Lucas Root: Oh yes. Hmm. So much. Yes, Pedrom. Thank you. I appreciate you joining.
[00:43:25] Pedram Shojai: Thank you very much. I appreciate you doing this. And it was, it was fun.
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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.
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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.