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Bo Shao'S Life Journey And Perspectives
Who is Bo Shao? (05:02)
Hello, boys and girls, ladies and germs. This is Tim Ferriss. Welcome to another episode of The Tim Ferriss Show, where each episode is my job to interview and deconstruct world-class performers from all different areas to at ease out the habits and routines or maybe frameworks, decisions, approaches. Who knows that you can apply to your own lives. My guest today is Bo Shao, B-O, last name, S-H-A-O. Bo Shao is a co-founder and the chairman of Evolve, a philanthropic investment firm composed of a foundation, Evolve Foundation, and an impact investment firm Evolve Ventures. With initial capital of 100 million from the Shao family, Evolve aims to support organizations that relieve inner suffering and facilitate inner transformation. Both stories are pretty wild. So let's jump into a little backstory. We're going to go in reverse chronological order. Prior to Evolve, Bo was a founding partner of Matrix China, a leading technology venture capital firm in China, which manages more than $7 billion and is funded more than 500 companies, 50 plus of which have become unicorns. That means valued at more than $1 billion USD. He is also a serial entrepreneur who has co-founded five companies that have either gone public or become leaders in their respective industries. Bo was born in China and was the winner of more than a dozen national mathematics competitions during high school. For those who don't know what that means, it is a huge, huge deal and a very significant feat. I'm going to leave the rest of his bio to our conversation and we will dig in very, very quickly. The website for Evolve is Evolve VF as in venture fund, venture foundation. So Evolve VF.com. He has no social media. We will dig into why that is. And without further ado, please enjoy my wide ranging conversation with none other than Bo Shao. Bo it is nice to see you again, sir.
A defining encounter with ketchup. (07:08)
And I wanted to perhaps set the stage by pulling from one of our very first conversations we ever had. And it involves ketchup. It sounds like a strange place to start for those people listening, but perhaps you could provide just a bit of context and that'll be a way we can jump in. I grew up in Shanghai, China. My father was a master teacher. I guess he's retired now. He had always been very strict with me. He had many, many good qualities of father, which I won't go into here. But one of the things he did not do so well was he was angry all the time and often for a certain period of years he was angry and also he would unpredictably get very, very angry and get very scary. So I think one day maybe when I was maybe five, no actually, I know exactly how old, I was around 10 years old. He brought ketchup in a bottle of a beer bottle. I remember it was a green beer bottle and we never had ketchup before. We grew up poor like everybody else in China. And I think I stole a taste of it without his permission. And he flew into a rage. I do not remember whether he hit me or not, but it was very scary. And I'm sure I cried and it was a terrible time. And then a couple of days later I came home and I saw him in a good mood. And I think that somehow gave me courage to ask him again, like, can I try the ketchup? Which actually is surprising because after that episode, I don't usually would not have worked up the courage to do something similar. But in that case, I did because he looks so happy. So he said to me, "Oh, you can't have my Chinese nickname is Shaobo." He said, "Shaobo, you can have as much ketchup as you like." I was shocked. And not only I tried the ketchup and he actually bent down to hug me. I remember exactly where that happened. It was in front of the kitchen. I have a mental picture of that location right now. And I don't recall too much. To be fair, I can't say he did not hug me ever. He probably did. It left such a deep imprint in me of getting this kind of, I didn't ask for a hug. And he gave me a hug in a very tricky situation. And that left a very deep imprint on me. Then later on, I found out that I won my first mass competition. I think it was in fifth grade. It was a mass competition involving all the students in Shanghai. And Shanghai is at that time probably a city of 12, 13 million people. And I was like clear number one in that mass competition. And that's why he was in such a good mood? I think so.
Visualization and coping in the face of poverty. (10:10)
Could you paint a picture of what poor looks like and what it looked like for you? Because I remember you mentioned rations and things like that, just so people have a little more detail. First of all, I didn't know I was poor. Everybody was poor. So I didn't know I was poor, which is actually a good thing. But the way we grew up is when I was four or five years old, we didn't always have me down the table. Everything was rationed, including milk, rice, cooking oil. Me certainly, very rarely any kind of seafood. I think vegetable probably was not rationed, I can't remember. And you get these little tickets you have to carry to a grocery store in addition to the money. And they were making, I think my father was making maybe certainly less than $10 a month. My mother was also making $10 a month as well. So the tickets are like food stamps, in a sense. But there's a ticket for me. There's a ticket for cooking oil, et cetera. Got it. And you had mentioned your father was a good teacher. And I'd love for you to pick up there. And also I'd love to hear how and when poker or cards may have entered the picture. Because we were so poor, we didn't have ways of setting up masks. These days we went to the Shrimati, we had lots of tools to do it. But back then we didn't even have an abacus. He initially started just writing down a risk to make problems like 5 plus 7 or 15 plus 28 on a piece of paper. And asked me to add them, he has to write hundreds of these equations and I need to solve them. But then he said, oh, he sort of had one day had an inspiration. Actually, initially he started with my sister who is three years older than me and said, oh, why don't we use a deck of cards? And obviously Ace is one and two is two and then Jack is 11, the king is 13, et cetera. And you add up the deck of cards. Initially you actually add up only 10 cards and then to 20 and then to 40 involving 1 to 10 and eventually to 52 involving 1 to 13 times 4. The total sum I think is 364. And he would take one card from the 50 card, two cards away and ask me to add up the rest. And he would set a time limit so I have to get it right within a certain time limit. And I think I trained for several years under this method. And I actually became so fast that I think I was able to add up 52 cards under 12 seconds or so. And actually just to be able to show the card so quickly. I was going to say, I don't even think I could show the cards in 30 seconds. I've developed a particular way of going through these cards. And I think I was doing gives a more or less four or five calculations a second. And it turns out actually just later on as I understood a bit more about neurobiology is that actually it takes about 100 milliseconds for the brain to recognize an image, to be able to see the card clearly and take it in and then process information takes one tenth of a second already. Or sometimes depending one tenth to maybe one six of a second. So to be able to add five cards in one second is probably at the close to the limit of human biology I guess. What else did you absorb from your parents?
The burden of childhood imprints. (13:32)
And maybe it's worth also backtracking for a second and asking the question, what lesson subconsciously or otherwise did you take away from that experience with your dad with the rage over the catch up and then the have all the catch up you want hug from your dad that seemed to coincide with winning that math competition? I'm still actually discovering how these imprints have affected me. My experience is that, you know, and my understanding is that I was so imprintable as a child, all children are very imprintable that I carried away with certain things with me and that's not his intention. I want to be clear about that, but it's nevertheless is what I carried away with. And one of the impressions that I received was that my value comes from my performance. In fact, specifically to be almost like number one, that's my value. And if I am not number one, then I'm a person with no value. And I feel heaviness as I talk about it because it's such a burden and it was a creative solution in some ways because indeed I became number one in many things and when I was growing up. I ended up winning first prize in dozens of national mass competitions in China and I felt safe. That performance enabled me feel safe. I think my impression is that I was treated better after that. My father had less of a rage. He was so proud of me. I felt my life changed for the better, significantly better because of that performance. And then as I grew up, I needed to perform well in everything. It's not just mass competitions anymore, not just college or the first job, but this kind of almost compulsion to perform, start to dominate everything, including driving. Like I need to be always on the fastest lane. The more important, perhaps I always need to plot the most efficient route to a place. I remember when I initially got my Tesla, I needed to look at the Tesla maps and look at Google maps and look at ways so that I can see which map provides the best route and I can look at postmortem and see which indeed which one was more accurate. The next time I will use this map for this route, etc. Of course, I gave a lot of pressure to my wife, enormous amount of pressure to my children. It's one of my deepest patterns of behavior.
From shanghai to harvard (16:31)
You ended up going to Harvard at 17. How does a poor kid in China end up with Harvard on the map? I understand you won these competitions, but how did it end up that you were able to go from where you were in Shanghai to Harvard at 17 if I'm getting the age correct? I think I came to the US on my 18th birthday, if I remember right. This is largely thanks to my father. He saw it early that going to America for higher education will open up entirely different world of opportunities. So he started working on that very early. And back then, going to America for PhDs were relatively known. Quite a lot of people go because you get research assistants or teaching assistants so that you actually get paid to study. But for college, there were no such things. So he needed a full scholarship. The reason it needs to be full is nobody in China back then could remotely afford a college education in the US. But in the 1980s, when the China economy initially opened up, people who got rich first were called Wang Yeng Hu, which means people who have 10,000 RMB. That's considered very rich. You can get a special name, so like millionaires or billionaires that we use. Ten thousand RMB is a big, big deal. So actually, even when we started applying for colleges, we couldn't even afford the application fees, which is like $35 or $50. We actually had to get waivers of application fees from these colleges. Really, thanks to him, I applied to 20 also colleges in the US when I was in junior high school and got into a bunch of them and a number of them gave me full scholarship in good and Harvard and off I went. When did you start studying English? Chinese middle school and high school education have always emphasized English as a part of core curriculum. So we did study English in middle school and high school. Now the teaching quality wasn't very good because most of those English teachers, none of them, none of them have ever been overseas and their accents are atrocious. We were learning grammar and all those things. I think I was able to read, actually, I don't think my English was that good, but then I get some cramming school outside of the regular school to learn English and that helped me. So the cram school, just for people who might not know what that is, that's like an additional night school that you would go to to strengthen your abilities in a certain subject? Yes, that is correct. And remember, my English was always, definitely I was very unsure and not confident about my English until one summer, maybe in summer middle school where I spent probably half the summer listening to a few tapes. It was a textbook called New Concept English, I think from the UK, and I listened to those tapes over and over again until I pretty much memorized it. I could even talk, not just the text of the lessons, but also including the copyright, everything that the speaker was introducing the book and everything, you know, I asked for Cambridge Press or whatever. All of those things I listened to so many times. I remember it was a little recorder, it was actually not a little, it was like probably size of a laptop, kind of a several times sticker, a recorder with these plastic buttons and I'll click rewind, play, rewind, play, rewind, play, only thousands of times during the summer and I basically was able to mimic the speaker on the tape and memorized without trying to, most of the things that he was saying. And after the summer my English just ceased to be a problem, became something I became very comfortable with. What prompted you to listen to those tapes thousands of times? Was it the pending trip to the US for college or was it something else? No, I don't know why. If this is way before even going to the US appeared on the roadmap, there's a part of me that just really wanted to be excellent, I think. And this is actually a very important learning as I actually in the past few months, I'm starting to realize because we explained this is actually important. I have this sort of pattern of behavior that required me to be sort of want to be perfect in every situation, which is a burden. And one of the reasons that I was unwilling, whether it's consciously or subconsciously to let that pattern behavior go, is that I'm afraid that if I don't follow this strict pattern, I will cease to be excellent. All the things that made me great or successful will disappear. And then I become lazy and all that. And I think subconsciously I was holding on to the pattern for fear of that happening. But as I connect, however, now with, I was just talking about it, I actually, you know, nobody forced me to do this. And I did it because I there's an innate drive in me, I think, to do a good job, things I touch. And at the more in some ways I get in touch with that innate drive, but it's not a pathological compulsion. Like in certain situations, it's appropriate. And certain situations not appropriate. It's a great tool in my toolbox. It's a great trade of mine. But if I actually have more confidence, this is within me. That's my inner quality. Then the more willing I'll be letting these other pattern go. Does it make sense?
Self-awareness can break patterns (22:32)
Yeah, it does make sense. I think that if it is your default and you are not aware that you have a toolkit with other tools, and if you don't have that develop self awareness, then you're sort of sleepwalking through parts of your life with a hammer looking for nails. But as you develop more awareness of your capacities and also the side effects of misapplying the tool, both for yourself and other people, then you develop different strategies, right? And you can also be easier on everyone, including yourself in certain places. And like you said, there are times when it makes sense to pull out the big guns and focus on something intensely, but it doesn't have to be figuring out how to shave 12 seconds off your trip to Starbucks by looking at 17 maps necessarily, right? You can even go one step further that if the reason I had developed this particular coping mechanism or pattern of behavior or professionalism is because I have an innate inclination because people react to trauma. I use the word trauma, not just referring not to just a one time, big event kind of a trauma like abuse, but trauma could happen over a long period of time of a repeat exposure to certain stimulus that does not meet one's need. And I was exposed to a particular situation repeatedly, but however, my sister and I responded to that same situation differently because of our different innate inclinations. And so it's not a surprise that I developed this pattern of professionalism that's always there that I couldn't control because I had an innate inclination that's good, but then it became almost bastardized or misused to cope with the situation that was very, very difficult. And the situation was the overall household dynamic. Is that the situation you're referring to? It's difficult for me to talk about a bit here. And we can always cut things out later. Part is because it's memory, but also I want to make sure that if my parents ever hear this, they know that I love them dearly and they've done so much good for me. But there are certain things that simply when I met and one of the situations was my father was angry and very demanding and very controlling to the extreme. And also he was physically punishing as well. So I was scared. I was scared to the end of my wits, I think. Some of this rage becomes at their unpredictable times. So I think I was constantly vigilant and constantly making sure I was performing. And also another thing in the family dynamics was that there was very little attention paid to how I feel. So the feelings were for the longest time I treated feelings like an emotional evolutionary waste product like an appendix. And the analytics is what I'm built for and emotions just gets in the way. And it serves no purpose. So I think for a long time until I was probably my, maybe the first time I met my wife, I don't think I had many feelings. I didn't know what they were really. Just to speak to the epics, I think part of the reason we bonded and ended up speaking for as long a time as we did when we first met is that that's I think some shared experience that we have in the sense that when you think emotions are a liability, you compartmentalize or dissociate in such a way to focus on the things that you feel you can control and apply like rationality and become as Vulcan like as possible. But over time, and I'm sure we'll talk more about this, things have a tendency to squeeze out the corners even if you think you've put them in a nice, tidy little box. Absolutely. Yeah.
China to US, the transition (26:48)
I would love to come back to your chronology just a little bit and we're going to dip in and out of a lot of these topics. When you first came to the United States, do you remember what things or any things that were very surprising to you, whether about the US in general about the students you ran into anything at all? Did anything jump out at you? It is incredible, unbelievable, confusing. There was too many things to pound really. I came from a country back then in 1991 where people didn't even have phones in their homes. Most people when I had to call home, I needed to make sure a range of time with my parents over regular mail or over the previous phone call so that they can go to my neighbor who had a phone and they will wait by the phone when I call. But when I got to the US, I remember, I guess Vignettes might be illustrative was that when I landed in Los Angeles on my way to Boston, I needed to call home to make sure that they know that I'm okay. By the way, it's hard for me to imagine that my oldest daughter is off to college to imagine a parent sending their kids off to college knowing that they may never see him again. So I'm going to America. It's not just going to fight. Seriously, they may never see me again. The courage they displayed, the selflessness they displayed is breathtaking. When I called home from Los Angeles airport, I was using a public phone, which is the first time I've ever seen a public phone. I remember putting maybe several dollars worth of quarters into the phone, but the phone refused to connect and I put more money in. It was still refused to connect. So eventually I became frustrated and I switched to the phone next to it and that pay phone work to put in a couple of dollars or something like that and connect it until then I was okay. As I was on the phone, a cleaning lady came by, was cleaning all the phones and she puts her finger into the coin return slot, which I didn't even know existed, by the way, until she put her finger in into the phone that I was previously using and she got out a whole handful of quarters, probably $10 worth of quarters. But she was so happy. She looked at me and smiled. It took me several days, maybe weeks after I arrived in Boston to realize actually those quarters were mine. I think the phone must be full or something I miss malfunctioning. So all the quarters I put into the previous phone basically went straight down into the return slot, but I didn't realize it and it took me several days at least probably longer to say, "Oh, one day hit my goal." That's what happened. She was taking my money. What did that feel like to you? If you could describe also as you've continued on your journey, what that was like, I think this is an important connective tissue for some of the rest of the avenues we'll be exploring. When I got to Harvard, my focus was on grades. I needed to be number one. I remember taking as many classes I could, the normal course load, those four courses. How many non-Chinese had you met before you got to the US? Had you met many non-Chinese? I think I met, really spent time with, was one non-Chinese person. His name was Nicholas Christoff as New York Times columnist and now I think he just announced he's running for the governor of Oregon. Back then, he was living in Beijing as a journalist and he was interviewing for Harvard. He was an alumnus who was interviewing folks. Yes. Got it. I think I took the first train ride alone to go to Famshanha to Beijing to meet him, to be interviewed. I think he was the only non-Chinese person that I met. I met a cousin who was born in America who came back to China, but as far as a white person, I was concerned. I think he was the first one. So then you get to Harvard and you're like, "Oh my God, there's so many Lao-wai." And then you're like, "Wait a second. I'm Lao-wai." I think I was so out of it. I was so un-sophisticated that none of these thoughts much occurred to me. I was just so focused on studying. I just needed to study. You just had blinders on. You're like, "People from all over the world, whatever, distraction. We're focused on grades." One of the first classes I needed to take was exposé, which is a writing class, which supposed to be a hellish, difficult writing class for college entrance at the first freshman. I did very well. I think my first essay was read to the class, which is pretty amazing because I'd never written a English essay before until that point, not counting the application essays. The first essay got an A, but eventually my whole grade for the course was A minus. And I was very unhappy about that. I remember calling the professor and complaining that how he could give me A minus. How dare? How dare that professor? He was very confused. He was really good. It's amazing that you're writing so well, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But I said, "Well, put on right now. Why don't you get A minus?" I was so focused on grades at the time.
SPONSOR: AG1 by Athletic Greens (32:54)
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Why apply specific focus on China? (34:15)
I want to flash forward and I'll often bookend things like this because I want to, in part, flesh out the picture in the mind's eye for listeners of China because it's very easy to look at the other, whatever the other is and be like, "Well, all people in Afghanistan X that's Chinese, Y, the Americans, Z." I'd like to humanize a bit also Chinese people because China is not as much as people might think so in the Western world. It's not a uniform top to bottom, east to west. There's a lot that happens in China, many differences regionally and so on. But you're helping, it's a present day in the last few years, you're helping bring MDMA assisted psychotherapy to China. I would like to hear you describe why you are doing that and why you think it's important, why it applies. This will just be a way of also edging into a couple of different topics. Then we're going to go back to your bio and begin to talk about BCG in 1999 and consulting projects for the Singaporean government. We're going to go there. But first, I want to just ask why MDMA assisted psychotherapy in China or to China? We are trying to work on it and I'm not sure how much progress we are making but it's very worthwhile effort for us because in some ways people everywhere share most of the similar aspirations and regardless of their color or social economic status go through very similar traumas in some ways as I got to know many of my fellow countrymen over the years, particularly the successful ones actually as they share some of the stories about themselves that they never told other people that we all have so much hurt inside of us and everywhere. These hurts could be, some could be very easily felt, some of it is deeply buried and maybe I'm in subconscious. So many people, and I would say so many of us because I'm certainly one of them, developed certain views of oneself that we somehow think that we are something wrong with us, that we are not worthwhile, that we have no value other than the things we do and just breathtaking how much suffering there is and I use that we're suffering in the Buddhist sense even though I'm not a Buddhist. And so MDMA and other psychedelic medicine that have huge heating potential that I feel really passionate about, meaning that to the world, help bring it, and certainly I'm not the main person doing it, I like to contribute what I can to bring that to the world, including China and in China in particular, China went through some very tough periods after World War II. There's a period called the Cultural Revolution and prior to that there's a rightist movement, anti-rightist movement that lasted more or less for 15 years, that really traumatized and entire generation of people.
The impact of China's Cultural Revolution. (37:19)
Can you speak to what that trauma looked like? Because I think a lot of folks listening will not have, they won't be able to conjure any sort of images of what happened during either of those. I can start with something personal, because in my family, my grandparents' family were relatively well to do. So when the Cultural Revolution came, red guards will come from house to house to search for all the valuables. You have to give them up. Every single thing you have, if the red guards want it, you have to give it. And there are stories of people as well as growing up, heard that some people bury some treasures in the backyard because they don't want to give it up, and then red guards will come and pour water on the backyard. And when the water sinks in a particular place, they will dig it up. Obviously they will confiscate that and probably either torture or kill the people who try to bury it, imprison the people who try to bury it. So it was this incredible terror that happened to people. And then there was also this race to show your purity, your ideological purity, toward this sort of proletarian, what do you call it? Politarian? What's the right? Proliterate? Yeah, a proletarian revolution. So you have to chant the right things, and you have to, in every turn... Yeah, the proletariat, the workers of the working class people, regarded collectively. Yes, that's right. You have to chant. You have to follow all the dictates on Chairman Mao. In the middle of the night, you might be forced to get up, and you cannot complain. If you complain, you are disloyal to go on the streets at two o'clock in the morning to march and to shout slogans at the top of your lungs. There's a real story that my father actually tried to help somebody. Somebody who's a good teacher was denounced at being not being loyal to the party, and he spoke after this person, and then he got in trouble for it. And later on, much to his dismay and disappointment anger, this person made up stories about him. Instead of being grateful and helping him, the other victim actually made up stories about my father to protect himself, because the more you denounce other people and tell secrets about other people, the more protected you are. You show your loyalty. So during Cultural Revolution, many children were forced to tell on their parents. And that created, you can imagine, the amount of distrust that creates amongst everybody. They were so scared. And my father was put on for a few times because he came from a rich family, and also because I think he helped this other person. He was put on a platform in front of hundreds of people denouncing him, spitting on him. He would wear tall hats that would be very heavy for hours while standing in front of hundreds of people denouncing shouting things at him. He didn't get the worst deal. There were people who got more or less lynched, thousands, maybe tens of thousands of people, maybe hundreds of thousands of people. And millions, I think it was millions of people who sent to the countryside to do manual labor to reform their thinking. It was really, this is all from second-hand because I was too young. I was only a few years, someone happened before I was born, but other times I was maybe one or two years old. So this is all through second-hand. But there's so many stories. And this is a period of time that is not often discussed. But I would say this whole country has PTSD. It's very hard to imagine going through that. I mean, war, of course, can be very traumatic in a physical form, of course, and very scary. But when a country goes through this kind of internal convulsion where people are betraying each other left and right every single day, it's hard to imagine the impact on the society of a generation of people. Thank you for sharing all that context. I think this is really important on a number of levels, I think, for people to gain an appreciation of. And I say people probably referring to those who haven't had first-hand experience. One film that may be interesting to folks, and I don't know if you've seen it. I'd be curious to hear if you have. But there is a Chinese filmmaker named, I don't know the tones on his name. But Zhang Yimou, Y-I-M-O-U, and he made a film called To Live, which is, I guess, Huajia, that was initially denied theatrical release in mainland China. But later, I believe, was made available. And it covers the working-class experience through a number of very difficult periods of modern Chinese history from the Chinese Civil War in the late 1940s to the Cultural Revolution. And Zhang Yimou has a beautiful cinematography style. It's usually very color saturated. And stars, a number of folks who have appeared in many of his films, like Gong Li, Goa ia to crush on when I was in China in '96. Oh my God. But that's also an option for people who might want to, this film, To Live was made, or released in 1994, so people can try to find it. I'd love to come back to your experience in the US.
Turning points of Lucys life. (43:32)
So we flash then to say, and you tell me if this is the right place to start. Maybe there are things that happen beforehand that are worth noting. But it seems like you have your first job, sort of real official job, BCG, where your mandate is to give advice to these big companies. And we're paying you guys a fortune. And at some point, I don't know if it was BCG, but you had a consulting project for the Singaporean government. Is it fair to say that was an important turning point and milestone for you? Yeah, that was definitely a turning point. I think I made a few big decisions in my life that all worked out. And there's a general theme of getting closer to who I really am versus what I was made to be by the environment. But one decision was starting a company, and I was inspired by a field study that I did with a couple other students at the end of my business school, studying what internet models worked at the time and which of those can be successfully adapted to Asia. And this is in 1999, really at the height of the internet boom in the US. And what we discovered was that most business models didn't make a lot of sense. There was a lot of hype, a lot of bubble, but we thought the eBay business model really is incredible. So I looked into whether anybody was doing that in China, and the answer was no in 1998. So I said, "Oh, okay, when I graduate, I will go back to start the online auction website in China." And that was a huge step for me because up to that point, I was this steady person. I was a mass geek. And then even when I got a job from one of the most established and prominent firms, it's all very understandable. It's like a very steady thing. And also I also left my backdoor, you know, there's a way to back because I actually got a deferral in a PhD program in physics when I initially took my job at BCG. So I had a backup. It was always very safe and steady. But going back to China, not getting a green car from the US in 1999, to start a company whose business model, I couldn't even explain to my parents. I think I'm convinced that this day they do not know what that business is. I don't even sell things. I don't even sell things. I was building a platform for other people to sell things. I didn't have a story even. No, no, the department is like, it's mind boggling what that platform really means. So that was a big, big step. And I didn't know what the hell I was doing whatsoever despite business school. So I want to, well, ask a couple of things.
How his parents reacted to his move (46:43)
So how did your parents respond to this? Well, to that credit, they didn't say a thing. I was living at home when I got back to China in 1999. I had an office in another apartment, really. It's not an office, an apartment building. I couldn't find anybody to work with me, really. I didn't know anybody, really, other than my high school classmates, because I was out of the country forward by then, a year. So the only people I knew were my high school classmates. So the only, the first, my first recruit was a high school classmate of mine who was trading stock at home. So he didn't have much to lose. So he joined me. I couldn't find even programmers. Back then, building an internet website is not a thing. It was not a thing. Yeah. In 1999 in China, it was all dialogue modems back then, by the way. Is there some internet access? It was all dialogue modems. My kids don't even know what dialogue modems are. These days. And yeah, it's only got to have found two part-time programmers who were used to work for the Shanghai Electricity Bureau. They never built a website before ever. They were IT maintenance people, but they knew some Microsoft ASP programming language. They didn't want to quit their jobs. And so they will go to their regular bureau jobs, government jobs, and work from 6 p.m. to like midnight every night to build the website. And then they will go back to their regular jobs. Good thing the job is not very demanding. So they could sleep during the day in the office. And at night they work for us and work for me, I guess. So we have these basically four employees, three employees of me. Then they built the website after I think two months, surprisingly, I just finished the website. As soon as they launched, they promptly crashed. So it was a long, but things, my parents didn't say anything. They just said, "Oh, okay. I really, too, my father's credit, particularly." He knew that he didn't know what he didn't know. And he trusted me to make my own decisions. Do you know this is a leading question, of course. But is there any element of you already having brought honor and reputation to the family through winning the competitions, going to Harvard, where effectively you would already passed any test that you might need to pass in your father's from his perspective? Or is that, do you think that's not a factor? I think he was incredibly proud of me, for sure. Using so many mass competitions in China was a big deal. When I initially was thinking of going overseas to study, we even got a call from the Shanghai government saying that, "Oh, they wish that I do not leave before my senior year, because in senior year, I have the chance to participate potentially in the mass Olympians and win gold medals or whatnot for the country." And I will bring honor to the Shanghai government and all that. So he was very proud of me from that. And of course, going to Harvard's big deal was one of the earliest, I think another student from Shanghai and myself got the whole foreign student saying, directly coming from China started. That was the first year. I think after that, every year was two, three students getting full scholarships. So he was very, very proud, though putting myself in his shoes, like imagining my own kid, giving all of that up, even including a green card in the US, which is this incredible valuable, in the attainable thing most people view, to go back to China to start something. The startup thing, entrepreneurship isn't heard of in China more or less in China back then. If you're an entrepreneur, you get to start a food store. You don't start companies, really, back then. So for them, not to say anything to me, to question or not, I think it's still a big deal. I really... It's still a big deal. Yeah. I really, really valued them for it. So let's take a look into your experience during that time, because it does seem pretty wild given all of the factors BCG can pay well, consulting certainly can pay well.
Career Decisions And Pivot Points
Considerations factors behind his move (50:51)
You're coming out of Harvard. Your parents previously making $10 to $20 a month, suddenly you're in a position to get a green card, to take any number of jobs that would pay you. Who knows how much money? I have no idea, but 50,000, 100,000, who knows more maybe. What was going on internally in your mind or otherwise that gave you... You're a certainly highly rational person, so I don't believe the decision to go to China to be an entrepreneur was an impulsive move that wasn't thought through. So how did you think through the pros and cons and risks of doing that? Because from the outside looking in, without any explanation, it does look crazy. Well, I was very rational for sure. Actually, for a while, I was deciding between going back to BCG versus going to World for Goldman Sachs, and we're at some intern doing the middle of my business school. Yeah, both known for paying more than minimum wage generally. That's right. I think I definitely could have made more than $100,000 a year at age 25. But I was preparing even a spreadsheet listing the pros and cons. I think one person I met or the senior person at BCG in China asked me a question, I was like, "What do you want to do?" Putting aside all these pros and cons, "What do you want to do?" And that sort of stumped me actually, because I didn't even know what I want. I want it. And all my life, frankly, nobody really asked me that question what I wanted up until that point. I think one big decision I made for myself was to be with my now wife, then girlfriend. That was a huge thing for me, which we can't go back to. But in terms of career, I was just going to, through whatever the most popular thing was. BCG, when I graduated from college, was the most popular career choice, BCG and McKinsey, and got an offer from both. Then after BCG going to business school was the most popular choice after two years. So I got an offer from both Stanford and Harvard Business School. That was the clear choice. Going back to China, however, was not a popular choice. And I think about 12 Chinese students in the Harvard Business School Graduate class of my year, I think I was the only person going back to China. Now, actually a few years later, I think 10 of the 12 eventually all went back to China. That's a different story. But that was not popular back then. And starting a company certainly wasn't popular. I guess, well, take it back. I think starting internet companies in 1999 might have been popular choice. But I think it was driven by that. I think it was driven because I really saw an opportunity. And I felt that it's such a good business and it should be created. I think there was this kind of belief that this is a business worthwhile to be created. And since nobody else is doing it, I should be doing. But only even the first one to launch. But I felt like this is something that should happen.
Deciding when to pivot, or not (54:17)
If we look at that decision, you had this conversation with a BCG partner in China who asked you what you really wanted. And you saw this opportunity. Did you also have a contingency plan in the case that it didn't work out? Oh, yes, I did, actually. I told BCG, their senior partner in China, that I will start the business for a few months. After a few months, the business should be in good shape. And I'll go back to BCG. We'll have it all figured out in a few months. After everything out, it will be steady, it will be autopilot. And then I can go over and repeat this. I have no idea what he thought about my... I think his name is John Wong and what he thought about what I said at the time. But he was very generous and he said, "Okay, that's okay." And he agreed to it. I think he held my place for at least a year. So this is really important. And I know I've said that about a number of points, but it's so common for, I think... I would usually... You were talking about Dial up modems. I need to stop using the example of people on magazine covers because now the only time you ever see magazines is in the airport. It's not really a thing anymore. But the profiles and so on that you read about entrepreneurs tend to be turned into these romanticized action movies. And there's certainly a lot of action. But when someone says Zuckerberg dropped out of college, and people hear that and they think, "Oh my God, he threw it all away, burned the ships, bet it all." And it's like, actually that's not what happened because in many of these schools you have the ability to defer graduation or come back over a certain period of time or maybe at any point in time. And it's I think helpful for would-be entrepreneurs to hear that oftentimes the best entrepreneurs do take calculated risks, but they also mitigate risk. So you had had this conversation and you had in a sense a safety net of sorts so that you could do this experiment and see what would happen with the company. And I think that it's really helpful to kind of peek behind the scenes. That's a good point. So if we go back to the company at the time when you were first getting started with the IT guys who were sleeping in the office during their day job and working at night, what was the name of the company? It's called each net. Like each and everybody's net. And each net. Yeah, and Chinese means interesting exchanges. Interesting exchanges. How do you say that in Chinese? What was the name? Each. Each. Each means exchange. Each means interesting. Or fun. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Got it. The sound actually works. The translation works. That's cool. So it's a transliteration, but you also have the meaning, which by the way, anyone listening, when you ask someone, if you ever ask a Chinese person to write my name in Chinese, part of the reason is so hard is you have to think very carefully about what the characters mean. You can't just grab the phonetics and throw something on paper.
Prof Christens 'Fey Tingzhong', The First (57:25)
You have to be very careful about what the actual meaning is. And you know, I actually, I don't know if I ever told you about when I first went to China and was studying at the Beijing, what is it in English? Can you remember the Beijing? The Beijing capital university of business and economics. And I had been given my name, my Chinese name at Princeton, which was Fei Ting Chung. And Fei Ting Chung was Fei, which is like Xiaofe, the Fei, so it's sort of expense in a way is the meaning. Xiaofe would be like a tip, like maybe not Spanish or whatever. But funny enough, you're saying that your parents would call you like little, little bow, right? If people use that with me, my name meant tip. But so that was problem number one with my Chinese name. So Fei was from my last name, Ferris, right? And then Ting Chung. So the T sound was Tim and they, they used Chung with Yan Zapatin because I was always so blunt in class. It was like, oh, I see. Tim very honest, because I was a pain in the ass. But the problem with that name or one of the problems, I'll give two examples of problems when I got to China and you're telling people your name and it's a strange kind of transliterated foreign name. It's not always clear what the hell you're saying. And so some people thought my name was Fei Ji Tung, which is airport, right? So that was a problem. They're like, your name is airport. That's strange. Other people heard my name as Fei Ting Chung instead of Chung. And so Tim very long also has problems. So ultimately we changed my name to Fei Yi Chung and used like a Tu Shu Guan, the Shu but without the Ruh at the bottom. It's a pretty rare character. But anyway, so this is just a long way of saying you have to think very carefully about how you name things in Chinese. By the way, for the listeners who do not know Chinese, I would say your Chinese is actually really good. Your Chinese pronunciation is very good.
The moment you know its working (59:46)
Thanks, man. It's very rusty. But I hope to get back at some point, get back to China because the China I know is 1996 China. I mean, this is like people's liberation, free jackets, Silk Road with DVDs, burners inside jackets and bicycles. I mean, that's the Beijing I know. I've got to give you back to China. You will be just shocked. You'll have your job on the floor. Yeah, visit the sci-fi future. So coming back to each net, when did you actually feel like it was working or you thought to yourself, oh my God, this might actually work? When was that moment or what were some of the signs, any signs where you're like, okay, maybe this is the thing? It's a constant bonus poster. So there are many moments I was said, oh, this is working. But then the other moments, holy shit, this is not working. There'll be times when we raise, initially we raise, I think I'd raise a small angel around like a few, three, four hundred K, but then we raise $6.5 million, I think in October of 1999. And that was a lot of money back then. And these days, a series of 6.5 million is really, very small. But back then, it's actually a very substantial amount of money. So definitely I thought, oh, things are going well. But then it turns out five months later, I spent it all. Five months. And the thing is, I didn't even know I spent it all. At one point, my financial control came to say, do you know that we have no more money that we're not going to pay able salary next month? Is it really? I didn't even know. Because that's how little I know about really running a business. It's actually really thinking about it. It's pretty embarrassing for a math champion. Look back, that's clearly things were not working. And then we need to, I guess what we call, in Chinese we'll be launching Huyatai, which means that you have to tighten your belts, I guess. Tighten your belt, yeah. What did you spend all that money on? Advertising. I think we might be the first internet company in China to do TV advertising. Oh, TV, wow. Yeah, so we had commercials made, it was very exciting and all that. And we got a lot of users and of course our website crashed all the time. And at one point, I was afraid to go onto my own website, the thinking being that I might be the last straw that breaks the count of. I don't want to add any load to our servers. That's amazing. I just give that valuable opportunity to do somebody actually who will find it so useful. So a quick question, the TV commercial, I bet you still remember parts of that TV commercial.
Star in a _______ commercial (01:02:44)
What did you say? Do you remember any of it in Chinese and then you can explain what it is in English? Do you remember any of it? I recall that our logo look like two E's facing each other, two E's with the other one being a mirror image of the other E facing each other. And I remember TV commercials around sort of like, I remember this logo of two E's, one is orange, one is green instead of talking to each other or playing with each other or something like that. That I do recall. But what they actually said to each other, I just aren't recording anymore.
When the market crashed... right after launch. (01:03:14)
What was your tagline? Do you have a tagline for the company in Chinese or anything like that? The fun in exchanges. Jao Yi, the Lutru, which in English means the fun in exchanges. That's good. I like that. All right. So awesome TV commercial. You're not even on your own site because you don't want to crash the servers and you run out of money and your controllers are like, "Oh, we have a small problem. We're not going to be able to make payroll. What happens?" Well, we were able to get everybody in your belt. That's right. I think actually got the team in play to get and say, "Oh, we have no more money and we all need to take a pay cut." So I think we all took like a 50% pay cut. Existing investors holding it up a few million dollars to bridge us. They were ultimately willing to do that, which I'm very grateful for. And then we went on a fundraising tour. And of course, in I think was around February or March in 2000, the market crashed. The initial reception was very positive. People, without knowing the company said, "We're going to write you a 50 million dollar check." But then the market crashed and all of it basically went away. Just evaporate. I remember quite a first Boston was our banker to try to raise money for us. And we had a lead which shall remain unnamed. Akshay was willing to write a... Initially it was 50 and then became 20. The one day I looked at a red Wall Street Journal and on the front page, it says, "This firm is in trouble." When I read that, I said, "Uh-oh, that's not good news. They're probably not going to honor their commitment." So I thought about what I'm going to say if the firm calls me to reneigh on their verbal commitment or their term sheet. I decided to ask them for 5 million instead of 20. I said, "If you give me 5 million, I'll first guilt trip them saying how much trouble they got me in because I was counting on their money and all that. And then I'll make a request. I need 5 million, not 20. If you give me 5, I will raise the rest of the 20." So lo and behold, the next day indeed, this person from the firm called and said... Good thing you saw that newspaper. And he said, "They need to withdraw together." And I gave him my prepared spiel and he said that he will go back internally to see what he can do. Now, if I had said that, "Thank you, I understand," or this is so good, if I didn't make a specific request and they didn't prepare, this would have been over. Instead, I made a specific request that has a chance of being honored and then I had a very good friend who went to the bus and tried to reason and try to pejole. So eventually we did get 5 million and then I begged many people to put in half a million or a million or not and eventually were able to raise 20 million dollars. And that's how the company survived and thrived. Did you have a backup plan in case the immediate answer was no? Did you have, say, if they say no to 5 million, I'm going to come back with this other request?
Bo'S Personal Growth And Life Philosophies
Bo's disciplined vocabulary. (01:06:37)
That was plan B. No, there was no backup. I think we would have to dissolve, I think. I mean, I don't know what the existing investor would have done, but I think it would be hard pressed for them to put up a lot more money without profitability insight. I have to ask you, Bo, because I've noticed this in many of our conversations, you have an incredibly broad English vocabulary, like cajole, right? You have a very nuanced English vocabulary, which is not always the case. It's actually rarely the case I find with a lot of non-native speakers. How did you accumulate such a vocabulary? I guess I have Harvard to think. Was it Harvard? Because I know a lot of native speakers I want to Princeton with to do not have your vocabulary. So what happened was when I was applying for college in the US in 1990, when I was in China in my junior year high school, I couldn't provide standardized testing results, because SAT was not offered in China at the time. Now I think it is. So I can take the toll full, which is the English test for foreigners, which I passed and did very well in, but the school still wanted some kind of standardized test results, just like the SATs. And in fact, I couldn't apply to MIT because of it, because MIT was not willing to give a waiver of SAT. If I got into MIT, I probably would have gone to MIT given my orientation at the time. But I was able to convince Harvard and other schools to take the GRE. And GRE being the graduate record examination, which is for PhD programs. And that was offered in China. So I took the GRE test and asked it. I think I got 2260, I think was like the third highest in the country at that time or something like that. And that helped the application process. But one of the GRE, I don't know if Stuart does or not, but it has had a verbal section, which is basically testing of a capillary. And I remember it was much harder than SAT verbal sections. It's much harder. Yeah, much harder. So I remember getting this huge book of words that I needed to remember. And I just spent several, probably one or two months just studying the book, remembering every word. What happens internally or what do you do when you need to focus for an extended period of time?
Bo's meditation and maintaining intense focus. (01:09:11)
Because you have that as a superpower. When you need to say sit down, if you had a new test coming up and needed to sit down and study something, what does both studying look like? And that could be things that you do or how you prepare. But it could also be your internal state shift or internal monologue or self talk, anything. I think it turns out that I learned how to meditate when not knowing that it was meditation. I have a very good ability to focus because of that. And I think the meditation I did was when I tried to add the poker cards together when I was very young. And to add 50 cards, 52 cards together in 12, that 12 seconds, I needed to give it an all thought. If I start worrying, if I start trying to consciously add it, it wouldn't work. It wouldn't be that fast. So I need to get myself out of the way. I remember looking up into the sky or into the ceiling and just there's a particular way I blanked my mind. Mike is still seeing, of course, but there is a particular process of suppressing thought, I guess, or getting out of the egoic kind of self and with no attachment also. Another key thing was no attachment to the result because the more attached I became, the more agitated and I was thinking that it wouldn't work and then I failed. And it actually would be times when I was basically cried because I could do 20, 30 times in a row and either they were wrong or it took too much time so that it doesn't count. I need to get 10 times right under the right limit every day. And the limit kept decreasing as I became more successful and my father said it that way. So it was sometimes at the end of my rope and I needed to blank my mind and also not to feel any kind of attachment to how I do. And that's when I did my best work. And to me, that's in some ways just meditation. And I think I was able to develop that muscle without knowing that it's actually really a form of meditation. Yeah, it certainly strikes me as meditation. And I think a lot of athletes also enter meditative states without calling it meditation. Thank you for answering that question. I've actually always wondered that about you.
The fate of eeachnet after Hans sold it to eBay. (01:11:49)
So if we come back to each net, have that turn out just so people kind of know how the movie ends in a sense. We can't do a whole session on this, but I want to be very short about it. But it's basically it became successful. It became the largest e-commerce company in China. We sold it to eBay for price. I couldn't say no to in 2003. And I retired after that. And unfortunately, I was planning to run it, but a family tragedy prevented me from doing it. I needed to be with my wife to support her. So I ended up not running the firm a couple months after I sold it. And then eBay did not do well. I still feel sad about it because it was my baby. And for many reasons, a multinational company like eBay couldn't do well in China. So we went from 80% market share in e-commerce down to 5% in a matter of a few years. Jack Ma at the time was in the B2B business e-commerce. He launched the e-commerce B2C, C2C e-commerce business right around the time when I sold my company. And the company is called Taobao. The new company started called Taobao, which became the biggest e-commerce player in China after about 10 years or so. And what eBay really struggled despite having a huge head start. People say this is the rest is history.
Hans's view of love and life before meeting his wife.; (01:13:20)
You mentioned your wife and you mentioned also earlier in the conversation how important it sounded like meeting her and committing to that relationship was. Could you expand on that? Especially because you also confessed earlier that you viewed emotions as distractions. So I'd love for you to say a bit more about all of that. I think I met her and I just simply fell in love with her head over heels. A truck hit me and I didn't even know what happened. Where did you meet? I was in business school and she was in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. So she was the last few months of her time there and I was doing my first year of business school. And I fell in love. Became very irrational. I started just basic things. She is meant to be with me and I'm meant to be with her. No fear, no worry. I went all out and the biggest mystery in some ways is that she loves me back. She loved me and loves me back even though I was very flawed at the time. But I guess in front of her, I was emotional. I was extremely passionate. I was considered. I let all the things I suppressed, I think, show up in a way that was not conscious. It was out of my control. And without her, I don't think I would be the person that I'm today. So it's not only I have a live companion and my best friend, but also that being with her enabled me to blossom, whatever that was hidden deep and buried blossom. Now to be clear, I only was that way with her. For the longest time, I was still the same cold, unemotional and analytical judgmental me with everybody else for many years after that. So there will be a very incongruent, jackle and hide kind of scenarios where I will be just lecturing my employees in a very analytical and judgmental way that my phone would bring or pick up. I became like a little kitten talking to her in small voices. I love you and I miss you blah, blah, blah. And I went back straight to the old, straight-faced robot that I was. Many people have commented that I was not going to do it.
The initial euphoria of early retirement and how it quickly subsided.; (01:16:10)
So you retire? How old were you when you retired? And I'm going to put that in quotation marks. I was 29 years old. I was surprised actually because after the first few months of, first week of ecstasy, I was famous on TV all the time and everything, life was the same as before. Yeah, that happens. And it was disorienting because I think I go to a picture, and the most people probably do, that somehow you sort of, when you reach that level, your life will become different. In some ways, I wasn't even sure what I was searching for. But whatever I was searching for, I felt like, well, if you get that kind of success, whatever you search for, you would have found it. But actually, it didn't happen. I was still the same old me and very little changed. We may just have to have around two at some point. And obviously we talk a lot separately, so maybe we can figure that out. But I know that we have, let's just call it, how much more time do you have? Bow, like 20 minutes, 30 minutes or so? Yeah, okay. So we have another 30 minutes. And we may dig into this separately. You ended up doing many things after that. We were a founding partner of Matrix China, which manages more than $7 billion and has funded more than 500 companies, 50 plus of which become unicorns. There's more to the resume, obviously. And you continue to be hard-charging in a lot of ways.
Bo on being a terrible father, and the emotional journey to become a better one (01:17:45)
Yeah, and the resume is not the most important part about me, which I want to talk about. Right. Well, this is the segue, which is the way we met was in part around the discussion of inner journey and turning the eye and attention inward. Right? We didn't meet at a business networking event. We weren't doing a joint venture together. We met in a very personal context. How did that start for you? How did that process, and I know process is a broad term, but when did that become a priority and how did it become a priority for you? First I would say that I had no interest in any kind of inner work for a long, long time. In fact, I would look down on people who go to retreats or meditations or what the hell are these people doing? They have better things to do in life. I was sort of, I found almost disgusting, despicable back then, actually. So I had no interest, but life, I think, has a way of, if one pays attention, I guess, to send little reminders. So the first reminder I got was, "Hey, I was still the same me with some of the same patterns, the behavior, the same level of happiness and joy that I had before the big success." And looking back, I realized that compared to the life I have today, the life back then was more of a black, white television, and today is more colorful television. It's hard to describe the difference if I only watched black and white television all my life. This example was, because I grew up with a nine-inch black and white television, which felt totally fine for all my life. And without having seen a 80-inch color television, the nine-inch black and white looked completely adequate and comfortable. And I think that's where I was back then. My life didn't have a lot of color, didn't have joy, I never cried really, I never laughed, never smiled really. I never even felt lonely, interestingly. I felt alone, but not lonely. But I think some of these things showed up a little bit, like, "Oh, I've sort of started wondering, what am I missing?" There's little, little, little things I think, but very small. On that alone, I don't think I would have embarked on a journey. Another reminder was how different my life was with Jenny, my wife, versus with other people. And also I see how she behaves with other people in a way that's sort of beyond my comprehension.
Parenting Views And Self Reflection
Why Bo felt he did not deserve friends (01:20:35)
I remember, like, one time we were having dinner with a friend, and the friend started talking about how he lost his father, and my wife just stood up and went to hug him. And I was dumbfounded. It never occurred to me to do it. She's telling a story, I'm listening, but I was not in touch with the emotional content, the story. And my wife clearly was, and she is one of the most empathetic person alive that I know. So some part of me started wondering, "What's going on? What am I missing?" And also I noticed that I could work with people for a decade and not become friends with them, but she would then go to dinner with their significant other. The four of us will go to dinner or lunch, and then she becomes friends with them. Not me. Even though I've known them for 10 years, and she knows them for like one day. So that sort of started, when I'm missing something, is friendship something, I value? Because up until a few years ago, I didn't consider myself as having friends. But I always told myself I don't need friends. I want to ask actually just to follow up there. Why did you not consider yourself to have friends? Is it because you viewed getting close to people as having little upside and a lot of potential downside? Why did you see things that way? It was not a rational decision. I think deep down, if I were to answer honestly, is because I think I don't deserve a friend. And I think I thought, and there's still a part of me, it's probably still thinks that there's something wrong with me that I don't deserve any friends. That nobody will really take an interest in my feelings and in what I have to say, unless what I have to say is useful. So when I'm in a position, I'm a board member, investor, or somebody who could educate or whatever, or help, then I feel comfortable. This relationship has substance. But if it's simply a friendship, a part of me doesn't understand it. It doesn't feel that why would you or other people take an interest in the inside of me. And I didn't have that trust. Of course, this has a lot to do with how I was brought up, and I'm still in the process of understanding and feeling fully. But I've told myself for the longest time that I don't need any friends, at least as the conscious thought. The deeper down realization happened much more slowly. And I think it's still happening as we speak. It's a continuous journey of discovery and being free from those patterns I developed. So that's the second thing that in terms of friendship and relationship with other people, I see myself with Jenny in a different way. I see Jenny with other people in a different way. That's not got me thinking a little bit. Is it okay if I'll continue on this route? Absolutely, of course.
Reflections on early fatherhood. (01:23:55)
And then, and the third, which I think is probably the biggest one that I couldn't avoid looking at was being a father. I was a terrible father. For a while on the Chinese Twitter, we were, it was a very reasonably popular and a lot of people followed me. And my model, I guess, whatever I wrote right under my name was a perfect husband but a so-so father. And I think I was giving myself too much credit. I don't think I was a so-so father. I think I was a terrible father looking back. I didn't know how to be one. I knew how to be a teacher. I knew how to be a disciplinary. But I didn't know how to be a father the way I understand it now. And I didn't know how to spend time with them. I did not know how to give them love and attention. I didn't know how to give them support when they need it. Emotional support in particular when they need it. And I also just did not enjoy being a father. I remember my wife will remind me to go spend time with my kids when it's 8 o'clock at night or something like that before they go to bed, before they went to bed. And my thought at time was, "Why should I?" And I felt some kind of resentment being called to do my job. It was really funny thinking back. But back then, I really didn't enjoy it. And that got me thinking a little bit, "Hey, there's something missing here that people talk about being a father, being enjoyable, but I really didn't enjoy it." And also I know that I knew that I was doing something wrong because I was repeating some of the mistakes that my father made that was sort of shocking because you would imagine that you would never do what was done to you that he didn't like. But I was repeating the same thing. And if my wife didn't stop me, I would have been worse, far worse. So one of the things that my father, for example, did to me is if he got really angry, he would threaten to throw me out of the hole. And I did that to my son. And that was very traumatic for him. He still remembers it today. Even for like two seconds closing the door on him. It was so bad. But I didn't know what else to do. That was all I knew when I got desperate as a father. When something happens outside of my control, I got desperate. So I guess I resorted to what worked because from a short-term perspective, when my father did to me worked, I became obedient. Thank you for sharing, Bo.
The three foundational components of parenting. (01:26:40)
I'm really glad that we're having this conversation. I think it's going to be meaningful to a lot of people. And I'd love to hear as you began observing these behaviors as perhaps Jenny called things to your attention and you decided to try to change or at least become more aware, what are some of the things that you found helpful? What are some of the tools or modalities that ended up being helpful? Because I would imagine in the beginning, certainly I had this experience myself. It's hard to know where to begin. It's kind of like a chimpanzee with a mirror or something. Like you're looking behind the mirror. You're like, am I supposed to see something over here? Am I supposed to see something over there? And I would just love to hear because I know that you have tested many, many, many different things, what are some of the tools, modalities or otherwise that you have found to be personally helpful? I definitely try many different things. In some ways, I like you, Tim, that when I get on something, it's really important that I would want to get to the bottom. I want to learn the best or from the best. First of all, I would say that there are three components to being a good parent that I've learned. And these are non-necessarily, they might be orthogonal each other, meaning they're being good at one component doesn't mean they're going to be good at the second component. So the three components in my view is one is understanding what's going on inside of our children's heads and what's going on in their biology, in their psychology. And the main thing is we are, children are so different from us. We assume that they should have executive control of their body or of their mind or their actions. But the reality is, for example, for a boy, their prefrontal cortex doesn't fully develop until they're in their 20s. So when they are 12, expecting them to behave in a disciplined way is simply not right. So understanding what's going on inside of them is hugely, hugely important. From a developmental perspective, you mean? Right. From a developmental perspective, both from a physical, neurobiology, as well from a psychological development perspective. And there's a huge amount of science out there that unfortunately hasn't been made available and accessible to parents, which is one of the things one of our companies is working on. And a second is as parents, why do we get triggered? Why did I get triggered in certain ways? My reactive patterns, which were usually formed very early on in my own childhood, maybe my own insecurity gets reflected in certain things. And then that's why we get triggered. So for example, if a parent always wished they went to the best schools and they were feeding down on themselves and not having gone to the best schools, they're probably going to be more demanding of the child. If the child has bad grades, they probably tend to be more triggered. So there's all sorts of things we need to understand about our own self and our own childhood that would enable us to be a better parent. And so in some ways, I went into a lot of these workshops thinking that I just need to learn a tool or a trick or some kind of way like positive discipline or whatever it is to be a better parent. And to a certain extent, those tools and modalities help, but foundational wise, I needed to become a better person, quote unquote, in some ways, to be a better parent. And that has to do everything to do with our inner journey as an independent person and has nothing to do with us being a parent actually. It's just that something that it's really, really foundational. And then the third is what's in the relational field between a parent and a child and becoming aware of that relational field any moment in time is really critical because when a relational field is not right, no amount of teaching on the rational side and analytical set will help because the kid's brain is underdeveloped. So when they don't feel safe and connected, they can't listen. When a typical parent sees a child, children not listening, maybe their reaction is tried to say things more clearly, you know, repeat things. It doesn't really help. And what's needed is for the children to feel safe and connected. And then they will listen a hundred times better. So these three components, understanding the children inside of them, understanding ourselves, understanding the relational field, for me, that's the foundation. And on top of them, foundation, there are lots of tools that's actually very useful. I find that to be so important, it's shocking to me that not looking back, that being a parent is probably the most important job in one's life. There's nothing more important. It's probably the most difficult job and we are least prepared for in our lives. We go to school for teaching math, we go to get driving lessons to get a driver's license so we can drive. But to be a parent, there's practically no preparation. So if we look at those three foundational pillars, and I think it is really, it's a really good reminder to look at the first principles, at least as you've sort of arrived at them as these pillars so that you don't get lost in a sea of tactics without any elemental discipline about how you approach them. Right? Because you can just end up with this Frankenstein's monster of approaches that doesn't really have any focus to it. I know that, for instance, you've explored nonviolent communication. I know you've explored the work, so testing beliefs that you have in certain ways. People can find more on that if they look up the work and buy on Katie. What are other books or resources or tools that you have found particularly effective for you in helping any of the pillars that you described?
Different tools for different parents, different kids (01:33:03)
Any of those three? Yeah. Well, we are working on it. Right. And we, when I see we, that means we are starting, I've started a company three, four years ago that we have done now, really three years of research and development, trying to collect the best parenting tools, the best research around child psychology and development into something that's accessible and easy and customized for parents to understand. No, that's ongoing and we have a product, but I think we'll get better in the next couple of months when we launched the full version. But one of the things I find, and the reason taking so long is I feel that there are so many different kinds of kids and parenting challenges can be very different. And then certain ways of parenting works for certain kids in certain situations and there's no one size at all. So it's really important to collect all the tools out there and develop a framework, a knowledge graph so that the right tools and modalities and tricks can be recommended to the right children, the right parents, the right situation. For myself, as we work on this, one particular thing that has worked for me is a something called hand in hand parenting started by this lady, Patty Whiffler, and there's a website called Henning. I think we search for hand in hand parenting. I find there are tools to be very useful for me. They have a particular emphasis on the relationship between children and parents, but that's a particular emphasis. But I'm not sure they would necessarily help everybody, but I think they can help a lot of people. So I think there are other more that I don't want to mention it because I don't know them as well. But I think in the next couple of months, our app should be ready for prime time. And then I think I'm hoping that will help a lot of people. So hand in hand parenting.
The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership and implicit assumptions (01:35:11)
I believe you have also, correct me if I'm wrong, spent some time with the 15 commitments of conscious leadership. But a lot of those commitments, I've had Jim Detmer and Diana Chapman on the podcast, applied to personal relationships, not just leadership. And this is actually something my girlfriend and I are spending a good amount of time on right now is trying to make implicit agreements, which really aren't agreements. They're assumptions, implicit assumptions, explicit commitments so that there's cleaner understanding, less misunderstanding, et cetera. We can go in a number of different directions. And I know that you're doing certainly a lot with evolve, both on the foundation side and on the evolve ventures impact investing side, people can find both at evolve VF. That's V is in Victor, F is in Frank. So evolve VF.com.
What is missing from the current psychedelic discussion? (01:36:14)
I would like to ask you because I know that you have supported research and developed quite a bit of familiarity with the field. What do you think is missing right now from the discussion around psychedelics or therapeutic really to psychedelics at the moment? I think psychedelics is one of the most powerful tools that we are given, both for healing of trauma, as well as opening ourselves up to a certain aspect of reality that has profound love and unity and safety that's inherent to us and to reality that we normally do not see. And those experiences simply just can be profound. For me, these experiences are the starting point rather than the end points of one's personal journey. I think they play an incredible role to motivate people. It's almost like, here, let me take you on a helicopter tour of the terrain so you can see what the big picture is. You can see what the destination looks like. But then the helicopter will lend you back more or less where you started, but then you need to do the personal work so that you could experience that one time inside more regularly in life. And also to apply it in one's life is really difficult. I think spiritual experiences tend to be overvalued. Oh, I had this incredible breakthrough, I saw what I got, Buddha or Guanying or this incredible vista of reality. But these are so clear and our culture values these kind of milestones or things you can talk about so strongly, so highly, that the hard work almost, there's this kind of myth of medicine doing the work for us, which is almost the model of the Western medicines if it takes medicine, cures you, and psychedelics kind of fit into that kind of conversation or framework. But for me, it's incredibly. Maybe the most important tool we have for healing and for opening up. But then one needs to do the hard work to integrate those experiences into our daily lives as a father, as a wife, as a spouse, as a friend, as a CEO, as an investor, as an executive, as an employee, all of those things. And we have so many patterns of behavior that's deeply ingrained in us over our childhood and growing up that one or two or 10 one time experiences do not erase them. So a teacher might talk about waking up and waking down. And waking up is actually not not easy, but it's easier than waking down. And when I say waking down means integrating the waking up experience, which you see into them back into our body, back into our daily lives and work and practice it and then overcome the patterns. And that's the hard work that maybe do not get much attention, I think. Yeah, it's easier to spin a colorful story about the waking up. And it's very understandable and it's compelling. And it's often fleeting if we sort of return back to all the invisible scripts that run each and every one of us, like you said, right? It's very easy to step off of the helicopter and just turn around away from the train. You just surveyed and walk back to where you were. If anything, sometimes can even add to your ego. Oh, I had this experiment. I'm enlightened now, right? For certain personalities, having some of these experiences that should be negative. Yeah, this is true. It's perhaps surprisingly common how Messiah complex is. And it's good to be cognizant of. Now, if people go to the evolve VF.com website, they can see on the for-profit side, they can see your investments, which I think is actually it's a fascinating read. People can look at the investments on the for-profit side. They can look at the grants on the foundation side, certainly learn more about what evolve does and what evolve doesn't do.
Personal Development And Parting Thoughts
Find the right teacher for your inner work (see: podcast/interview transcript version) (01:40:56)
The leadership team, is there anything else that you would like to say or share about evolve or any requests you'd like to make of the audience or suggestions or anything, really, that you'd like to add to the conversation? I guess I would say one thing, which is I think I'm coming from the rational point of going back to rational. Okay. And what I find is we spend a lot of time optimizing our lives, particularly our work, finding the right job, negotiating packages. You know, we think about doing, you know, if we assign a task and work, we prepare a lot for it. We spend hours and days and weeks on working on particular things. If we need to learn a skill, excel or whatever it is, we spend all time learning it. However, when it comes to internal work, whether it's to understand ourselves or understanding ourself as parents, parenting skills, finding a meditation teacher, all these things, what I find is most people don't spend nearly as much time finding the right teacher, finding the right material. It's almost like this kind of latch on to the first one. If it works great, if not, I give up on it or whatnot. It's not the approach one normally takes in other work. But for some reason, when it comes to inner work, there's a bit of almost casualness, maybe because they don't know there are better resources out there. Like, so one thing that I would encourage everybody to do is when it comes to inner work, whether it's meditation or trying to become a better parent or whatnot, really spend the time, at least as much time as what you spend on doing external work. Yeah, it's very good advice. It's really, really good advice. It's so easy to become attached to the first teacher you find in a given discipline with respect to inner work, which is very understandable, right? Because you are sort of on some level shown aside of yourself or a side of reality with or without any type of pharmacological intervention that is so unusual, perhaps so compelling, so beneficial that you can attribute that experience and the value of that experience to the person who helped facilitate it. And sometimes it's well-founded, but sometimes it's misplaced and you can become attached to an external agent who is acting upon you, which can be disabling in a way. Yeah. Oh, one more thing, Tim, if I can say. Absolutely. Is that we started this conversation, I think, talking about, I find people who are dedicated inner work, like despicable or discussed or whatnot, right? And it's so funny that my views are so different now. And for a long time, I didn't want to commit myself. And for me, inner work has always been kind of afterthought. Like I fit into my schedule, my calendar, I would do it. Maybe once a quarter, once a month or something like that, it was never my priority. And at one point, I think maybe three, four years ago, I said to myself, you know what? For the next quarter, three months, I'm going to place as a priority, my inner work. Whether it's therapy work or different experiences, whatnot. I said, that's while finding the right teacher, we're not going to retreats. That's my priority, but only for three months because I wasn't ready and willing to commit too much. And once I made, however, even that temporary commitment, my progress changed. So if there's one thing I can say, one more thing I can say is just it's around that is giving yourself the space to make a commitment, at least a temporary commitment. See what happens. You say, well, this is only four months. I'm going to do this regularly or whatnot and places a priority on top of everything else I do and see what happens. Excellent advice. Well, it is so nice to see you and hear your voice, my friend. It's nice to reconnect.
Where Did the Phrase "Long Time, No See" Come From? (01:45:22)
You know, I want to say, how do you open? How do you open? I'm going to send you out. And which, by the way, folks, if you've ever wondered where a long time no see comes from, it comes from Chinese. And people can learn more about Evolve. I recommend people check it out. Evolve VF.com. And I love that in your bio, there is no social media. And that's a rarity. You're one of, I guess, two guests. Are you active at all on social media or is that something you have deliberately removed? I deliberately removed myself on way more like 10 years ago or something like that. When I noticed that I was posting to please other people, it became something that added to my ego and then started to grab me. And I started tracking how many people replied, how many people forwarded, how many people plotted. And it was not source of happiness. Good for you. Good for you, man. So good.
Tim Byung-kuks advice (01:46:27)
That is, uh, that is inspiring. I may need to, I may need to pursue that. And those are anything else you would like to say before we wrap up this conversation. One company I didn't mention. This, you know, this parenting thing, which I thought was, what wasn't quite ready yet is called parent lab. Lab is a laboratory. I hope that company will help a lot of people. And in the next month or two, depending on what its postcards gets. Out there, hopefully people find it useful. Wonderful. And I will also for everyone listening, provide show notes for this episode. So we'll have links to everything we've discussed and if that is live, we'll have a link to that. And you can go to Tim. Dot blog slash podcast to find all episodes, but you can go to Tim. Blog slash bow the O will create a short link and that will forward directly to the links and resources and so on from this particular episode. Well, both, thank you so much for carving out the time today.
Parting thoughts (01:47:23)
It's my pleasure. I was fun. Thank you. Super fun. And to everybody listening, be safe, experiment often, be easier on yourself than you think you should be. At least at times. Give exception and be merciful with yourself. And thanks for tuning in. Hey guys, this is Tim again. Just one more thing before you take off and that is five bullet Friday with you. Enjoy getting a short email from me every Friday that provides a little fun before the weekend. Between one and a half and two million people subscribe to my free newsletter, my super short newsletter called five bullet Friday. Easy to sign up, easy to cancel. It is basically a half page that I send out every Friday to share the coolest things I've found or discovered or have started exploring over that week. It's kind of like my diary of cool things. It often includes articles I'm reading, books I'm reading, albums, perhaps, gadgets, gizmos, all sorts of tech tricks and so on.
The most fun you can have in your inbox without getting arrested: Five Bullet Friday! (01:48:28)
It gets sent to me by my friends, including a lot of podcasts, guests and these strange esoteric things end up in my field. And then I test them and then I share them with you. So if that sounds fun, again, it's very short, a little tiny bite of goodness before you head off to the weekend. Something to think about. If you'd like to try it out, just go to Tim.blog/fryne, type that into your browser, Tim.blog/fryne, drop in your email and you'll get the very next one. Thanks for listening. This episode is brought to you by eight sleep. My God, am I in love with eight sleep? Good sleep is the ultimate game changer. More than 30% of Americans struggle with sleep.
Mattress evil. (01:49:08)
And I'm a member of that sad group. Temperature is one of the main causes of poor sleep and heat has always been my nemesis. I've suffered for decades tossing and turning, throwing blankets off, putting them back on and repeating ad nauseam. But now I am falling asleep in record time faster than ever. Why? Because I'm using a simple device called the Pod Pro Cover by eight sleep. It's the easiest and fastest way to sleep at the perfect temperature. It prepares dynamic cooling and heating with biometric tracking to offer the most advanced, but most user friendly solution on the market. I polled all of you guys on social media about best tools for sleep and dancing sleep. And eight sleep was by far and away the crowd favorite. I mean, people were just raving fans. So I used it and here we are. Add the Pod Pro Cover to your current mattress and start sleeping as cool as 55 degrees Fahrenheit or as hot as 110 degrees Fahrenheit. It also splits your bed in half so your partner can choose a totally different temperature. My girlfriend runs hot all the time. She doesn't need cooling. She loves the heat and we can have our own bespoke temperatures on either side. Which is exactly what we're doing. Now for me, for many people, the result, eight sleep users fall asleep up to 32 percent faster, reduce sleep interruptions by up to 40 percent and get more restful sleep overall. I can personally attest to this because I track it in all sorts of ways. It's the total solution for enhanced recovery so you can take on the next day feeling refreshed. And now my dear listeners, that's you guys, you can get $250 off of the Pod Pro Cover. That's a line. Simply go to eight sleep.com/tim or use code TIM. That's eight all spelled out E-I-G-H-T sleep. Dot com slash Tim or use coupon code TIM. T-I-M eight sleep. Dot com slash Tim for $250 off your Pod Pro Cover. This episode is brought to you by Four Sigmatic, which is part of my morning routine.
Closing Remarks And Recommendations
Four Sigmatic eats & drinks. (01:51:08)
Also part of my afternoon routine, routine saves me. So there are a number of ways that I use Four Sigmatic. In the mornings, I regularly start with their mushroom coffee instead of regular coffee. And it doesn't taste like mushroom. Let me explain this. First of all, zero sugar, zero calories, half the caffeine of regular coffee. It's easy on my stomach. Tastes amazing and all you have to do is add hot water. I use travel packets. I've been to probably a dozen countries with various products from Four Sigmatic. And their mushroom coffee is top of the list. That's number one. I travel with it. I recommend it. I give it to my employees. I give it to house guests. So if you're one of the 60% of Americans or more who drink coffee daily, consider switching it up. This stuff is amazing. That's part one. That is the cognitive enhancement side, easy on the system side, energizing side. The next is actually their chagaty, which tastes delicious. It is decaf, completely decaf. And some may recognize chaga. It is nicknamed the king of the mushrooms. It is excellent for immune system support. So needless to say, I'm focused on that right now myself. And so I will often have that in the afternoons. They make all sorts of different mushroom blends. If you are doing exercises, I am on a daily basis to keep myself sane, cordyceps, excellent for endurance. They have a whole slew of options that you can check out. Every single batch is third party lab tested for heavy metals, allergens, all the bad stuff to make sure that what gets into your hands is what you want to put in your mouth. And they always offer a 100% money back guarantee. So you can try it with a creek. Why not? I've worked out an exclusive offer with four segment on their best selling lion's mane coffee. I literally have a mug full of it in front of me right now. And this is just for you. My dear podcast listeners receive up to 39% off. I don't know how we arrived at 39%, but 39% off the slot. They're best selling lion's mane coffee bundles. To claim this deal, you must go to foursigmatic.com/tim. This offer is only for you and is not available on their regular website. Go to foursigmatic. That's F-O-U-R-S-I-G-M-A-T-I-C. Dot com slash Tim to get yourself some awesome and delicious mushroom coffee. Full discount is applied at checkout.